During lockdown, with all the stresses and strains involved, walking in the countryside has been a salvation for many of us. Walking up hill and down dale, I have found helpful spaces in which to walk, and think, and sometimes, not to think!
Not thinking can be hard! Where do we start with ‘not thinking’ when all the days thoughts swirl round and round in our heads, and the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ won’t be stilled? There is certainly a skill to learn, to apply to ‘not thinking.’
Left to one’s own devices, it can be easy to listen to those churning thoughts that bob up to the surface in an unwelcome fashion……
So I wanted to concentrate on ways of ‘not thinking’ – or perhaps thinking in a different way. Taking time to focus on the small but important things in life. Then I thought about the fact that thinking can be good even when there is turbulence. We may like calm seas, but actually, it’s when the ocean is at its most choppy and the waves are hurtling to the shore that it deposits the most beautiful shells at our feet. As long as we can look at problems from within a deep and calm mind we can find the strength to cope with what life throws at us.
I must have been so busy trying to think about the art of ‘not thinking’ that sadly I hadn’t noticed that most of long blog I had written above hadn’t been saved! I was pleased with it too. I felt I had some real gems to share with you. I put my head in my hands. I used some bad language! Then I thought – perhaps there is a reason for that, and I tried to calm down.
So, dear reader, this isn’t the whole blog I had written for you today. I had written about how we can always feel better after a walk outside. And how we can feel better if we talk things over with a kind friend. But I have written a poem for you that I hope might help get my point across. For those days when our thoughts get the better of us, I hope my words help a little bit!
When Nature Smiles
'Oh, my!' She said,
My mind is just a jumble
Of broken thoughts,
And morbid fears that I will stumble.
What if I can't find a way
To calm my heart
And stop my world
From falling apart?'
'Come and walk'
Beckoned the sun,
'And just talk'
Said the wise one;
'Tell your woes to the trees
And they will float
Away on the breeze.'
And so she did just that,
And nature smiled
As she sat
Curled up like a child.
'Oh, my soul is free!' She said,
'Today is a new day'
And she waved to the sun
And went on her way.
It’s extremely windy here today on this late summer day. The colour of the sky and the dip in the temperature warns me that Autumn is approaching. Normally I would be out walking early in the morning, but as the grey light filtered through the window and the rain pattered hard on the glass I preferred the comfort of my cosy bedroom and a hot cup of tea. Looking out, I could see the flock of crows flying haphazardly in the wind, their raucous noise silenced for once. I wondered where the friendly blackbird was – I have often seen him flying in and out of the garden, sometimes stopping to perch on the shed roof or rustle around in the flowers beds. I miss his sound and his company; he has been singing beautifully recently, even in the early hours. I hope he will return. I have been lucky to spot a song thrush recently too. In Irish mythology it is said that the fairies, the underground people, like to keep song thrushes at the gates to their underworld, because they like the sound of the music echoing down their long halls.
There is a sycamore tree at the end of the garden and I lay watching its sturdy branches swaying in the breeze. Maybe my blackbird sits hidden in its comforting branches.
I once read an article about the healing power of trees and learned that sacred trees with healing powers are found in every culture and age, and seen as a gift from the Earth Goddess. I was urged to go out and find a tree I was particularly drawn to and sit and lean against its trunk. This I did (feeling a little silly). But as the sun filtered through the leaves and my feet connected with the earth, it did feel like a positive experience.
Now, with the world feeling so different it is these simple acts that can help us feel more connected with nature, with the essence of life, and the healing power of our Earth. Our surroundings have been far more quiet lately, but now as we emerge and adapt, we can hold on to the stillness when we need to.
Here are a few of my poems about trees….
Just off the path in the leafy wood
Stands an old majestic tree,
Its branches spread like open arms
Reaching out to me.
There’s a canopy high above my head
With leaves of green or gold,
Depending on the time of year -
The seasons that unfold.
I can lean against the roughened bark,
Plant my feet upon the ground,
And feel the gnarled and twisted roots
That are circled all around.
And I can dream of all that happens here
As I lay tucked up in my bed,
Hear the hooting owl who roosts aloft
And nods his wise old head.
I think the fairies alight there
After their midnight flight
From their magic city underground,
To frolic through the night.
And in the early morning sun,
Like a landmark to show the way
The tree stands in the breaking light
Of yet another day.
Leafy boughs dip and bow
And freshen the dampened air;
They bend to sweep the forest floor,
So tread softly if you dare.
Where I’d Like to Be
I’d like to be up
In my favourite tree
Where the wind whispers
Through the beech leaves
And sounds like softly falling rain.
Here, the wise old owl
Looks benignly on
The troubled ground
As if he knows
The world will heal again.
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.
I was thinking of my beloved dad today especially in the wake of storm Dennis – he was a Dennis too but a much gentler version! He passed away two years ago this week and I miss him and think of him every day. A lot of things comfort me though; the fact I can hear his voice when I am doing something that would worry him, or when I myself am bowed with worry. I hear his laughter when I watch a programme on television that I know he would have found funny, and then I have his amazing collection of books which I have been looking through and which have taught me much about his character. Of course I knew him well; we spent so much time together and talked of many things, and yet I have found a new side of his character, or maybe a new way of understanding what contributed to his loving and interesting character. One book I have been reading is entitled ‘In Tune with The Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Trine, which was first published in 1897 and which I have found to be full of profound and valuable teachings. It was enlightening, not least because it led me to realise that there are no new observations or astounding revelations ready to be unveiled in this life – they have always been there and are part of our being. So why do we forget this?
In life, if we are not careful we can be led by old negative thoughts and ideas about ageing, and cling on to old perceptions laid down over the years; perhaps we find it easier to accept a doctors pessimistic diagnosis than to fight to change it, or work at changing our body’s chemistry so that we can renew ourselves. But the moment we come into a realisation of our true selves, and so of the tremendous powers and forces within – the powers and forces of the mind and spirit, hereditary traits and influences that are harmful in nature will begin to lessen.
When we are re-introduced to the wisdom that has been in our soul since time began and runs through our DNA we can draw from the intrinsic and deep-rooted strength that is at our core.
‘There is a golden thread,’ writes Trine, ‘that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power.’
It is interesting that Trine opens the book with a message for us – one that would be every bit as fitting today as it was in 1897. He notes that (then) we were born into a strange time – a time that tries men’s souls. Also, he states that bewilderment and fear hold many and that change and uncertainty stalk through the land – all lands. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
So many times we are bombarded with disturbing news from the media. We are staggered by the dreadful events that unfold in front of our eyes on our television screens. We wonder if these things can really be happening. Perhaps in our darkest moments we try to apportion blame, or divert our attention elsewhere. But deep down we know there must be a better way. And we are not alone. Between us, we have the enormous potential to bring about change, both in businesses, our own lives, and all around the world. We may think we cannot make a difference – but we can. When you throw a small pebble into a lake, the ripples spread out and reach further than you could imagine, and so acts of positivity, however small in your eyes, will make a difference.
Stephen Hawking who also died two years ago, was one of the greatest scientists of modern times; at the age of 21 when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease he is quoted as saying:
‘My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.’ Just think of what he achieved is his lifetime and the amazing legacy he left behind.
We all cope with life’s trials and tribulations in different ways. Some of us take smaller steps than others but it doesn’t mean we can’t get there in the end – we may just take a little longer, and that is not a problem – we may meet others along the way who help us find our feet! We don’t need to be perfect either – to quote Stephen Hawking again: ‘Without imperfection, you or I would not exist.’
I am still going through my dad’s book collection. It may take some time, but I feel all these books and words have been left to show me the way forward; perhaps my dad is finding a new way to help me now that he is not here in person. I have always loved books, and these books tell more than just one story. I have been amused and touched by the amount of self-help books I have found and I realise now where my own interest in self-development has come from.
We are all a mix of so many things – much more than we could ever possibly know. Take heart when you feel low or anxious – you are made up of miraculous things and you will find them reflected in unexpected places.
Oh and I especially like ‘Mr. Thrifty’s How to Save Money On Absolutely Everything, but that’s probably another side to my dad’s character, as is ‘The Pocket Pal of Magic Tricks, which I will take time to study one day! Who knows, maybe I could be an undiscovered magician! Then again, I have always believed in magic.