Magic: Expectation via Reality.

A bit of magic helps us go forth on a January day…

In my last blog I wrote about the lull that follows the Christmas break; how I struggle with letting go of the festivities and try to deal with post Christmas blues. I talked about how we can learn from children – how they enjoy the moment and then move on and run headlong into the New Year, with all the new experiences and occasions.

I still find my emotions lurching about this week, especially after being laid low with some sort of bug that has been doing the rounds. When I say lurching, I mean the sinking feeling that creeps up unannounced and makes you miserable even though you are trying to be positive. (There is a great advert on television doing the rounds at the moment; the insurance it is trying to plug is by the by, but it features a boxer dog asking with a shocked expression if Christmas is over. His plaintive response of ‘Oh No!’ when he realises this is the case is priceless and absolutely sums up how I feel!).

I think one of the reasons for the blues this time of the year is the fact that we realise we have to get back to the normal routine; life takes on an ordered pattern again, and it can be difficult to be motivated when the days are still short and celebrations are over. Then again, some people relish the new year and the very fact that they can move on with plans and look forward to what is in store. We are all different and whilst I think too much time making plans means we don’t concentrate on today, I think the optimist who relishes looking forward is to be envied.

But I have come to the conclusion that I need to fall back on the inspiration that lies around me to make progress. This is my way of looking forward. I need to look for magic. I heard someone say the other day that they didn’t believe in any form of religion because they didn’t believe in anything they couldn’t see. I couldn’t disagree more with this; I am not necessarily focusing on religion here, but there are many things we cannot see yet know exist. Think of the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze – we cannot see the wind yet we know it is there. Think of the electricity that brings power to our homes; we cannot see it yet we still touch the light switch knowing the power is there to lighten our darkness.

Sometimes it is easy to ignore new ideas and inspiration when we are busy getting on with everyday challenges. But it is at these times when we need magic and inspiration the most. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is an overused expression but is applicable here. For on a grey January day when we feel we are caught up in ordinariness and routine, it is the time to do just that. There is no ordinary day. Every day contains some magic whatever our situation and if we are open to it.

In a way, magic is difficult to define. I have looked up the definition in the Oxford Living Dictionaries. One says: The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces…hmm I’m not sure that is how I think of magic. Another says: Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and reappear, performed as entertainment… that is not my favourite idea either. But this – this is the one I really like: A quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life.

I don’t take the above expression to mean remote in a negative way, I take it to mean something that takes us away from normal routine and injects some sparkle into our life and our thinking.

Magic isn’t about waving a wand. We can find magic in small things. To me, the early snowdrops appearing in the churchyard are magical, as is the sunlight sparkling on the river on a frosty day.

The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper’.
W.B. Yeats


‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’.
Roald Dahl

I think magic is all around us, even in everyday things and somehow it crosses the divide between itself and reality. Magic and reality can exist together. Think of advanced technology – it is indistinguishable from magic.

When I look around the countryside this time of the year, I remind myself that although all appears quiet and bare, new life sleeps as yet unseen, ready to burst forth and enchant us in the spring; soon nature will make a brand new start, never stopping to question the mood of its heart.

So let us rely on a bit of magic this time of year. Let’s gain inspiration from ‘feel good’ stories and acts of kindness and believe in ourselves. With faith, good times will be more likely to appear.

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen’.
John Wolfgang von Goethe

Just before writing this blog I had sent a text to my son who is on a business trip abroad. I asked him how things were going. I just received a reply from him – ‘All gold, mum’ x . There is some magic there somewhere!

Wishing you a magical week.

close up photo of a bed of white flowers
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Nostalgia at Christmas and Learning from the Children….

Do you find it hard to let go of Christmas?

It’s that time again when we have the slight lull that follows the festivities of Christmas Day with all the celebrating, eating and family time, before gearing ourselves up for the onslaught of the New Year. It is one of the precious few times of the year when we have several days off in a row (at least in our house), forget which day it is, and where we have time for lay-ins and cooked breakfasts before a leisurely walk or perhaps a trawl through the sales.

I always struggle with this time of year; I don’t like giving up on Christmas. I cling on to the twinkling lights and the decorations for as long as possible. I inwardly cringe when I hear people saying they can’t wait to ‘get back to normal’, or that they have already taken their decorations down the day after Boxing Day. I don’t get it. It’s dark. WE need lights. WE need to keep the fun going as long as possible and enjoy the time of year that allows us to slow down.

Whilst saying all this, I appreciate Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. For those struggling with illness, financial problems, or loss, it can be hard to face all the Christmas festivities. There is something so poignant about this time of year; it’s as if the world around us has altered in readiness for the revered time, and in the midst of the hectic build up there is a certain heightening of emotion which can be hard to cope with at times. For me, this was my first Christmas without my beloved dad; we missed him hugely, and I’m sure we weren’t the only family struggling not to look at an empty chair at this time.

I consider myself to be fairly senior now and I look back down the years with more than a little nostalgia, especially at this time of year. Memories flood back from Christmas’s past and I am plunged into certain wistfulness. The seasons seem to be getting shorter and shorter with the space between them constantly shifting and moving on before we have had chance to enjoy the present. At our local garden centre, Santa had moved in in October and was back in the North Pole before we knew it. (Although the grotto was amazing). All that remains in the Christmas store now are a few sad and bedraggled decorations selling at knock down prices, whilst the summer barbecue equipment is coming back in through the door, along with the garden furniture and the patio heaters. I have never been able to work out who would buy these things in the still dark days of winter, but obviously some people do. Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t cling on to Christmas for too long, but surely we can wait a few more weeks before calling time on everything festive.

I am sure now I will never be the Queen of England. I would put money on it. I’m not even remotely in line to the throne, although I must say, I can do quite a good royal wave, but if I WERE ever to be Queen, or Prime Minister (now there’s a thought) the first thing I would do would be to create a public holiday at the end of January. I have always thought that would be a very good idea. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad clearing up after Christmas if we knew there was another holiday on the horizon. Like a ‘Goodbye to Winter, Spring is on the horizon’ sort of holiday.

I don’t want to see chocolate creme eggs in the shops during the first weeks of January, and although I am a romantic, I’m not yet ready to see Valentine’s cards either.

You have probably deduced that I don’t bother with starting a new diet or a new project on January 1st. I will just try and stick to the healthy diet I have always tried to follow, not always successfully, but then we all fail from time to time. I will try and keep up my daily walks and do the odd bit of meditation, but I won’t be setting any rules that will be broken a few weeks down the line. Yet I think I need to view things a little differently. One thing I have noticed this season whilst watching and listening to my grandchildren is this: children love Christmas and everything about it. They are able to plunge in to all the happy things about this time with more or less total abandon. They are (usually) happy to wear a tea towel on their heads and pose as a shepherd, or as an assistant alien as in our grandson’s case, and wave happily to an adoring audience. They think it is quite normal to listen out for distant bells and gaze expectantly at the sky on Christmas Eve. They are more than happy to get up in the early hours of Christmas Day and jump up and down with excitement. But as Christmas draws to a close they move on to new days and new experiences, running headlong into the New Year and all the new experiences it will bring.

That seems to me to be the best way to go about things.

So as this year draws to a close I wish you all good things – a chance to walk in frosty lanes when all the world is quiet, stillness when you need it, and joy and laughter too. The love of family and the familiarity and warmth that lasting friendships bring. And for all of us, I wish us the gift of peace.

Ps. Perhaps keep the fairy lights going for another week…….

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What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

What Does Home Mean to You?

I put a post on Instagram (thehappyscribe) this morning  about home. It seemed popular and so I started thinking about home and what it means to me.

The route to where I live now has been a long and sometimes winding road! ( Had to use that  – The Long and Winding Road is one of my most favourite songs). For someone who’s home and surroundings are one of the most important things in life, moving several times over the last few years has been unsettling and at times traumatic. Several times I have had to pack and unpack my treasured and various possessions, some of which have become more battered and forlorn which each and every move. But with my footsteps still echoing in a bare and empty room, when I started unwrapping a well-loved piece of china or a cosy threadbare throw, the look and feel of these familiar things seemed to bring immediate comfort. As my home has scaled down in size progressively with each and every move, my belongings have had to be pared down accordingly, but some precious things remain, like the beautiful wooden chest decorated with painted birds, and the pretty gothic shaped mirror given to me by my elder son, and the chalkboard with the words ‘I love you mum’, and a picture of a jug of flowers, both drawn and  painted by my  younger son. They go with me everywhere.

Life has twists and turns; we end up in unexpected places. But once we make our mark on a house, wherever it is, it turns into home. Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the dark.

‘The house shows the owner’.              George Herbert (1593-1633)

As we approach Autumn, the cosiness and warmth of home seems to be more important than ever; we yearn to brush off the chill of the day, to hasten homeward in the misty, dusky light, turn on the lights and curl up in front of the fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

“In happy homes he saw the light of household fires gleam warm and bright’.

Henry Wandsworth Longfellow 1807-82

We all need a place that we can call home: a place to rest, recharge our batteries and sometimes retreat from the outside world for a while. Whether we are a large family or just one person, our home reveals in all its artefacts ( those precious keepsakes, and the everyday and  ordinary and extraordinary things that surround us) the story of us, and of who we are. We may think that style and inventiveness, as well as hard work and money, are what is needed to transform a house or an apartment, and it’s true, those things help create the space we yearn for. But what really matters is that we creat a place of security, a place of love and warmth, where children and grandchildren can grow and turn to, especially when the outside world seems to be creating stresses and strains.

The place we call home needs to keep peace within its boundaries, welcome within its walls, shelter for its friends, and a cake in the larder.

So when you feel unsettled, have to move house or change your surroundings for whatever reason, remember  that home is where you and your loved ones are – it is not dependent on fancy fixtures and fittings, palaces and mansions, but on you and the people you love, and in the cosy place where you gather together.

‘And a single small cottage, A nest like a dove’s, The only dwelling on earth that she loves’.                             William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

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