Finding Things to Enjoy Right Now…(and what not to).

How do we embrace the Autumn?

We may be finding ourselves sliding into worry again (if it ever really left) – for the world is insane, unfathomable, and the news almost offensively-familiar. Some people are back in lockdown and others wonder if and when it will be re-instated. We wait for the doors to shut and try not to think about all the repercussions once more. And this time we will not have the luxury of the long daylight hours, and the beautiful warm weather we enjoyed in the spring. We cannot help but think it will be a phase of quiet dullness with no novelty this time round – we have slightly tired of the ‘well this is making us appreciate reading/ catching up on box set viewing / home cooking’ etc. phrases. Second time round we really don’t want to think about the tiresome problem of finding somewhere that stocks plenty of loo rolls and has a good supply of marmite. We don’t want to plan our wardrobe so that we can look good from the waist up when taking a zoom call. We want to dress up properly and go out! We want to be able to choose a new winter coat and some snazzy boots that we might even be able to show off! For me, even the online yoga has palled a bit, as has the indoor walking. All these things have had their place, and indeed, still help keep us sane, but when we knew the restaurants were open again it didn’t take us long to drop the ‘woo woo’ stuff and leap off out. We don’t want half-hearted any more, we don’t want sorry attempts at being normal, yet at the moment that is what we have to accept.

But we are nothing if not resilient. We may fold our arms for a moment or two and grimace at the thought of what could lie ahead, but then our hard-core, steely reserve kicks in and we make the best of things. Again. That is what we do and what we are good at. And deep down, most of us do enjoy the small things.

So here are a few things that help me find some comfort now that a different kind of Autumn beckons …

The moon – Dust off those binoculars and get ready for the eleventh full moon of 2020. October’s moon was dubbed the Hunter’s Moon because preparations for winter began around this time. The next full moon doesn’t grace our skies until October 31st, but each night I have been moon gazing; the position of the now waning crescent moon is low in the sky and has taken on an extraordinary golden colour. One can only look and marvel at this loyal companion.

The colours – Oh the beautiful colours and traditions of autumn. From walks among the crunchy fallen leaves, to harvest festivals with the wonderful, abundant fruits and vegetables, the golden colours envelop us. The pumpkins in particular, grace our window ledges, stacked in all their golden glory, waiting to delight us with their spooky glow at Halloween. In October, the sun sinks low in the sky, the light mellows and takes on a rich amber hue so loved by photographers. Perhaps it is because my birthday falls in October but it is one of my favourite times of the year. The cosiness is there without the bone chilling cold of deep winter. And one can have an enormous bowl of porridge for breakfast with a drizzle of cream knowing it will bolster you up for the day….

Then there is the wildlife to beguile us. The pheasants, scampering and squawking through the ploughed fields and the geese who seem to fly over our rooftops most nights in their amazing v – shaped formation. The last few nights I have been lulled to sleep by owls hooting. Sometimes it sounds like just one, other times perhaps two, hooting back and forth in their night-time conversations . Looking in my bird book, I learn that great horned owls begin setting up territories in October. Apparently, they mate for life but begin their courtship about now. Perhaps I am lucky enough to have a pair of great horned owls living nearby! Some say the sound of an owl hooting foretells something untoward but I like to think it is something rather more romantic.

Hello Comfort.

Autumn lovers wave goodbye to those pesky tee shirts that show the worst bits of your arms and the skimpy sandals the cover your feet in blisters. We can welcome fleeces, UGGs and an abundance or warm, soft clothing. We can drink hot chocolate and eat home-made apple pie whilst wrapped up in a cozy throw on the sofa. Or how about some hot apple cider? If you have never had mulled cider before why not give it a try? Just pour a bottle of your favourite apple cider into a pan, with 3 cloves, I cinnamon stick and a sliced orange. Gently heat for ten minutes so that it infuses, cool slightly, then pour into glasses. Tastes delicious and so reminiscent of the days when we could meander round Christmas markets.

I guess we all want a bit of decadence in our lives; to relive the joy of dancing, and have a bit of a knees up from time to time. We can’t have that just now but we can dream of good times that will come again. Perhaps until then we can adopt a sort of sanguine resignation to the latest restrictions, look after ourselves and our mental health, and toast ourselves with a glass of cider.

The Bigger Picture

Thoughts about believing and keeping the faith…

It is hard to focus at times. Easy to lose faith and wonder what on earth is going to happen next. The ground seems to be shifting under our feet as we await the latest news and feel like we should hold our breath. That’s how it feels to me some days anyway. I am a bit of a thinker and I regard myself as a believer… I believe there is a bigger picture even if I can’t totally understand it and sometimes need to re-affirm my faith in it.

If you feel a bit like me, I hope these words might help a bit….

 

The Bigger Picture

We are part of a bigger and better picture

Even if we cannot see it,

Part of a Universe where we are free,

Even when we cannot feel it.

Part of a humanity where we see those who are invisible,

Rather than those who are in the limelight;

A place where we don’t nurture our fears

At the expense of others,

Or turn our backs when others weep.

In the quiet, long hours

With the challenge of despair,

We long to find this place of hope and new life,

For here is where all the bad things are banished,

No explanations are needed,

Yet we know all we need to know.

Now broken hearts are settled

And all that went before

Drops into an ocean of understanding.

And it is here, this place,

This bigger picture…

Waiting to reveal itself

When powerful hands let go of the reins

Review the compass

And allow us all to find the right way.

Here in this all-loving Universe,

Generous, kind hearts

Do their best for the common good.

(C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

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What Is Normal? A poem for today…

How are you adjusting to the ‘new normal’?

 

 

We used to talk about the weather

And should we take a coat?

It can always rain here

Even if the chances are remote.

 

We used to make plans

To meet in steamy cafes,

And huddle together in busy places,

To pass time in a multitude of ways.

 

And what of the theatres –

With the nightly applause

For the actors, with their names in lights,

Bowing for their artistic cause?

 

And we waited all year

For the holidays, for fun,

And the long-awaited chance

To turn our faces to the sun.

 

We held hands, and each other,

Never knowing we could be denied

The chance to come together,

By a fierce and changing tide.

 

For the whole world held its breath

As we awoke to a different day,

And fear lodged in our homes

And edged the normal away.

 

Yet written in the dusty catalogues of time

Were reminders that would last,

So that history would beg us listen

To the warnings from the past.

 

Normal is just complacency of sorts –

A comfortable, unchallenging way to go,

But who could even blame us

For going with the flow?

 

Now life is forever altered,

And we step up to the mark,

And boldly gather up ourselves

To chase away the dark.

 

(C) Lyn Halvorsen

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Checking The Apples and Time Passing During Coronavirus Lockdown ….

How do we feel about the passing of time?

 

I was looking at an apple tree in our garden which we planted about eighteen months ago. The first year after planting it didn’t blossom and we were worried that it would never be pollenated. This year, however, we were pleased to see buds forming in early spring. As I wandered into the garden last night for some air, I looked at the rosy apples on the little tree – shiny, healthy and covered with raindrops, and I realised that the span of time from the early buds, to the now almost mature apple harvest, was the same as that of the start of lockdown to now – a time when we are seeing the loosening of lockdown and the re-opening of hospitality services. Apart from thinking about the quiet confidence and constancy of Mother Nature, it made me think about time.

Does time pass differently during times of great change or worry? If we think of the first day of quarantine, does it seem like yesterday, or a lifetime ago? I have heard many people say that during the coronavirus crisis they have noticed time passing more strangely than normal. Some complain of days dragging on and on, yet others feel the past months have passed eerily quickly. In can feel in our minds that time ‘warps’ very easily. Perhaps this is to do with our worlds shrinking and being kept between our four walls. We have stayed at home for the majority of the day, with the highlight of the day being a walk or a visit to the supermarket. We haven’t been performing many memorable activities, necessarily, although that is beginning to change now. We have missed travelling, missed going out for dinner, and days have blended into one, with weekdays feeling the same as weekends.

Perhaps, because we haven’t made so many new memories or been on holidays, we perceive time has passed swiftly.

Key workers who haven’t had the opportunity or luxury to stay at home and isolate may look at time entirely differently. It may seem as though the period of time lasted longer than normal. Many people have been busier than ever, whether working on the front lines or at home balancing a full work schedule while trying to home school their children.

When we eventually emerge from this time of immense challenge and isolation, perhaps some of the more mundane routines we have had to follow will turn out to hold more memories than we think.  We have been challenged to spend time alone or with others in our household and have been given a chance to learn how to cope with boredom and isolation. We have learnt how to set goals, however small, taken time to read, or engage in other quarantine-friendly activities in very tough times. Perhaps we have found the time to engage in those important conversations we have put off for too long. Perhaps we have found time to look inside ourselves and even look at life through fresh eyes. Perhaps we have taken the time to really think about others and rediscover compassion that sometimes can take a back seat during busy lives, no matter how well-meaning we are.

We don’t always realise how much time has passed, until we look back. And we are going to look back on so much. Heartbreak and fear have walked hand in hand with just trying to ‘get by’. We have seen fear take over and people lash out, and we have seen staggeringly good deeds carried out by those who have put themselves on the line. We have seen human nature pushed to its limits. We have all been hurting – everyone of us, for others and ourselves. Thank goodness for the small things.

I am grateful for my apples

 

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The Place We Call Home….

Time to show your home some love….

 

Most of us have been living in a lockdown situation now for about three months. We have got used to every inch, every nook and cranny, every quiet corner of the place we call home! Perhaps we have got to the stage where we may be taking it for granted, and yet in another way, nervous to take those new, tentative steps out again and reconnect with the world. Some of us are starting to venture out now, but more than ever before, we have needed the safety and the anchor of home, and the roofs that cover the place where we truly have the space to be ourselves. Sometimes I, and perhaps many of us, have a fantasy which involves roaming free and letting go of all the restrictions handed out to us that hold us back. But no matter (in normal times) where we may travel, it doesn’t take much – a familiar smell, the sound of a distant lawnmower, or a warm light shining through a chink in the curtains of an unknown house, to fell us with a surge of homesickness.

The structures of our homes are more than just bricks and mortar, for within our walls are the people we love and care about, and where we share our hospitality with those we hold dear. It is interesting that the bond we share when we have lived in the same home with family members never leaves us. My beautiful sister was only five when I left home as a teenager, yet the times of being together under one roof has bonded us in a circle of love that can never be broken. Of course the family ties bind us, but the familiarity of homes we have shared stays forever too. It is the feeling of connectedness to others that home symbolises.

  ‘Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the darkness.’

I think of those people who do not have a home, now more than ever. For those who are homeless through no deliberate choice, I cannot imagine what living through these times without the comfort of home must be like. Somehow, there must better ways of supporting those who would love to have a more permanent place to call home.

This is the time to express gratitude for home. Our homes have probably taken a bit of a battering lately but they don’t complain! Perhaps we should give them a bit of TLC! A good spring clean may be on the agenda, some new leafy green plants to freshen the air and a change around of the furniture. It all helps us to see our refuge with fresh eyes and give us a sense of achievement and a sense of progress. And as I get out my warm blanket, folded to sit on for my yoga practice, and light a candle, I can feel a sense of appreciation that I am home, and comfortable, and that warms my soul.

Home is the nicest word there is.’ – Laura Ingalls Wilder

‘If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.’ – Malala Yousafzai

‘A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.’ – George A. Moore.

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, 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.

Welcome Home ❤️

 

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Can’t Say No to Tomorrow

 

For those of us thinking about the next step out of lockdown …..

Time has settled round us –
Yet drifted like a stream
That slowly meanders,
And passes us unseen.

A day is a year, a year is a day
When life is put on hold,
Too many separations and longings,
Too many stories left untold.

But don’t forget to greet the sun,
For it will always rise
Like a beacon, for us waking
To these uncertain skies.

So the blackbird sings louder,
As if with a message in his song –
We cannot stop the summer
Tho’ the winter has been long.

Yes it’s going to be a new day,
But the memories we will keep
Of a time that brought a new way,
To live, and love, and weep.

© Lyn Halvorsen

 

The fields looking extra green this year…..

 

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Finding our Way Again…First Steps Out

From a distance that seems safe, I wave ‘hello’ to a neighbour. ‘How are you?’ we ask each other. We both say ‘fine’. These days, ‘fine’ is what we want to hear. Small, daily interactions are not meaningless these days. We have all been stuck behind closed doors and isolated during lockdown, with upsetting and frightening news seemingly assailing us hourly. Heartbreaking scenes have played out before our eyes via the media. So when we hear ‘fine’ we relax a bit and feel thankful because we care. We care because life has become so fragile all of a sudden. And when we hear someone isn’t fine, we feel concerned for them, and also for the risk it poses generally.

Strangely, when things are easing a little, and we can get out and about a bit more, I have found the enormity of things hitting me again. Seeing the garden centre looking, well -different. It seems strange and unintentionally neglected, with its slightly straggly plants, and rather unkempt appearance, so different from normal years, and feels slightly eerie with fewer people who have to keep their distance. People look wary and nervous, not wishing to step in the wrong place, or do the wrong thing (mostly).

It may take us all a while to adapt again; to do things we once did without a second thought. Lockdown has given us a certain security, a knowing that being in our own homes brings safety and freedom. It is familiar and comfortable. When we know that our loved ones are in lockdown too, we feel relief because we know where they are.

But now we are starting to take the very first small steps towards a less restrictive way of living. Deprivation has hurt us. Uncertainty and scarcity, fear and , in some cases, separation, have taken their toll, but perhaps soon we can tap into some of the precious parts of life we knew.

Who knows what will happen over the coming weeks? There are so many who long to heal, so many who grieve and so many who long for life to be as it was before.

We think of cancelled holidays, cancelled weddings, jobs lost and so much more. Many people’s lives have been broken. Who knows how long it will be for lives to heal, physically, mentally and financially?

All I can say for some comfort, is that this has been a time to listen to every bird singing its heart out in the beautiful spring sunshine, a time to examine every bud on the rosebush, every sunbeam and every shadow. A time to cook up imaginative meals, read books we may not have read. I have experienced lovely acts of kindness, such as a friend sending little gifts and notes in the post. We have learned some things we may not have learned. Learned to say how much we miss each other. Learned to say ‘I love you’ more often.

Hopefully, we are  now edging to a post-pandemic situation and a time when we feel more ‘normal’ again. Can we stay as we are in some ways I wonder, even though we move forward? Can we remain flexible, keep the ‘gung ho’ spirit even when we are anxious, and remain resourceful? Let’s hope so.

I hope you are ‘fine’!

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A Walk in a Different Springtime.

Lifting Our Mood in Challenging Times …reposting a blog from last spring , with a few changes …..

Now more than ever, the benefits of getting out into the countryside are immense. The  allotted hour in the green fields manages to lift the spirits for a while at least. Pathways are lined with burgeoning cow parsley and the gentle scent of lilac and hawthorn fills the air as nature carries on regardless. No need here for a ticking clock to hasten the plants and trees to blossom  – they know when the conditions are right.

It’s always a comfort to see the same trees along the way standing stoically strong; their trunks immovable and their roots firmly planted alongside the fields where we often walk deep in thought. I am particularly fond of a tree I have yet to identify (possibly beech, though the leaves appear to be heart shaped) which I pass on my newly favourite walk, (having moved here eighteen months ago, its taken a while to find a regular walk I really enjoy and have settled on), the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves sounds just like a fall of gentle rain, and high on the trunk is a hole where you can imagine a friendly, wise old owl holding court. How many footsteps must have passed by this ancient tree over hundreds of years and how many more still will? I can sense a benevolent charm in its being and almost see a kindly expression in the depths of its bark. And then I can look up and see its lofty branches reaching for the light. It knows what to do, my tree, it doesn’t need a set of rules or list of suggested requirements for better tree development.

I am a bit of a scaredy cat – I have even written a book about a scaredy cat. I am a person who has to cling on tight to the things I hold dear in times of strain and here is where I find nature has a way of literally grounding me. We may not know why things are happening the way they are, and we may have many questions in our minds left unanswered, but we can, at least for a while, soak up the healing powers of nature. I can’t recall a time the countryside has ever looked more beautiful, or the birdsong more prolific, but maybe the spring has a way of renewing our outlook and refreshing our surroundings so that every time we revisit it is like the first time.

In some ways, it feels as though we can breathe in new life from the abundance around us and renew our hope for the future, and that has never been more important than now.

So when we are being a scaredy cat – and that’s probably quite a lot of us at the moment I don’t doubt, it is good to look at all the signs around us and take the reassurance that everything turns and moves and goes full circle. When I was out striding about, I could almost hear Pamona the wood nymph, who was reputed to be the goddess of fruitful abundance, talking to me with all her ancient and modern wisdom. I certainly felt she was making me welcome – her light laugh mingling with the surrounding sounds.

I think she was saying “I do love this time of year best, although I shouldn’t have favourites; it is dear to me because it is all about life – and the promise of good things to come later. And remember, dear one, no winter lasts forever.”

And that is what I feel we need to remember – good things will come.

And even if we are walking alone at the present time, remember that love knows no distance; when you think of those you love, and those who love you, it is almost as though they are there beside you.

 

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Love in the Time of The Coronavirus…

 

‘To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting, it is at the core of everything.’

Life for all of us has been put on hold except for all but the most necessary of tasks and the most basic needs. Time seems to be suspended and yet the days pass quickly; the world is unusually quiet but the morning light still shines through the window and throws shafts of sunlight across the floor every morning. Perhaps we appreciate it more today than we did a few weeks ago.

Going through the motions of a different daily life, we are coming to know more about love and kindness than ever before. When we are in a ‘normal’ state; on an even keel and just following routine, we don’t always stop to notice the small but profound things that are ever present yet not on our radar during the bustle of everyday life. But in a state of great, and sometimes frightening change, normal and trivial irritations lie unnoticed;  worries about work deadlines, so important last month, stay in the ‘in-tray’ because we can’t do much about them even if we want to, and the cloak of regularity falls from our shoulders. We are having to view our lives with a much different perspective.  We do have time now to notice the small but important things, after all these are the things that are essential now.

Most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that love us; maybe we have taken that fact a little for grated at times; sometimes complacency can come with familiarity, but perhaps when we are sad, worried or in pain, even if we are not always vocalising what we feel or are going through, our vulnerability opens us up to others and their natural and inbuilt ability to reach out, even across the airwaves. And if we do open up, more often than not, we are treated with a compassion we needed just at the right time, and we can also show the same in return.

There cannot be many times in our day that are not touched by love in one form or another; it may not always be obvious but it is there. It is waiting in the wings – an unceasing energy and in limitless supply. Even when doing a mundane job like housework, chances are you will have the radio on in the background and before long you will be humming along to a love song. At the moment, happy memories evoked by music serve us well.

When we love deeply there are no boundaries. The heart finds a way to love no matter what the circumstances and the heart knows that love reaches us even when we are in isolation. We need courage today, and when we send love out we are rewarded a thousandfold. Love can be gentle when it needs to be; it can be held in a reassuring smile on FaceTime or in a virtual hug. It can be there in a row of emojis sent to our children in a text. And when we think in a loving rather than fearful way, the good vibration is felt across the miles, the fields, the oceans and beyond, just like the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings can be sensed across continents ( The ‘butterfly effect’ is an idea more commonly used in chaos theory. It shows that a small change can make much bigger changes happen; that one small incident can have a big impact). Love is borderless.

Love crosses realms. In fact, it never leaves us; it sits in our memories, it stirs us when we least expect it and again, when we need it. It appears in our dreams and runs through our veins. It is part of us.

 

‘Only from the heart can you touch the sky’.       Rumi 

 

We need to dig deep at the moment and find those inner resources that will get us through. Our moods may dip from time to time, but when we remember what we have – who we have, and who we love and have loved, we can find our way through.

 

  ‘One thought I carry in my heart

For all the times we are apart

Is that the moon that I look up and see

Shines above both you and me.’

 

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How Do We Stay Calm During a Crisis?

What do we think about when fears are heightened ? ….

 

Up in our attic room with the wind howling, seemingly day after day, and the rain beating against the window, it is easy to question things and wonder if there is something out there conspiring to shake our stability.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has taken us into uncharted waters and for many it feels unsettling to say the least.

During scary times what do we do? We all have our own ways of coping with worrying times, but when we are bombarded with unsettling news it can be easy to lose focus and panic.

Many of us have to accept that situations we had planned so perfectly go left instead of right when the universe has other plans!

Here are just a few of my thoughts on coping during times when normal living may be temporarily (hopefully!) restricted.

Aiming to disconnect from our concerns – if only for a while, gives us time to process a dilemma and the surrounding emotions, and then we are able to approach a situation with fresh perspective.

It makes sense to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of sleep – well rested people are better at fighting off viruses.

It’s good to take a walk in the fresh air and look at the spring flowers – the banks are starry with beautiful yellow primroses and the blue crocuses are peaking out in clumps in gardens everywhere. That must make us feel hopeful. Nature always finds a way and Mother Nature is on our side.

If we can develop a ritual we enjoy – perhaps some meditation or some exercises we enjoy, we can increase our stamina. These simple routines can help us feel more empowered to handle trying situations.

It’s good to talk! When we call our friends and have a chat, we can tell each other how we feel. This helps us avoid feeling too isolated. Personal relationships are crucial in maintaining perspective, elevating mood and allowing distraction, taking us away from concerns that trouble us. Even in imposed isolation, it is important to combat loneliness and keep talking – for example, via video chats.

Continuing normal activities where possible and maintaining perspective will help us reduce unnecessary stress and is the key to psychological survival.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset’.   Saint Francis de Sales

I am going to try and make the most of it if I have unexpected time on my hands. I might get out my favourite books and re-read them. Perhaps I will start a journal and write down my daily thoughts – this is something I have been meaning to do for ages. I have a simple hardback book with unlined pages ready for me to decorate, write and doodle in! I also have a glue stick so I can paste in things of interest I have found.  Writing and being creative is marvellous for channeling our concentration. In fact, I think creativity is medicine. Since way back in time, humans have been soothed by making things with their hands.

Something I love doing when I write is to play some well-loved music in the background – I browse Spotify and listen to stuff I haven’t heard in a while. It’s good to go back in time a bit and reminisce!

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us’.  Martin Luther

I am regularly going to remind myself that things are happening that we couldn’t have imagined but that we are all in it together.

Man is Not Free From Conditions’ – Victor Frankl.

We are dealing with this virus as one world. Draw strength from loved ones, and in turn, stay positive and support your family and others around you. There will certainly be light at the end of the tunnel. And maybe, allow yourself to listen to the news, once, or twice a day at the most. It is good to give our brains time to rest and avoid overthinking what we have watched or read. Watch other shows apart from news, and talk to people about other topics.

If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbours.

                                                                                            Frank Sinatra.

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