2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work


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Why is noticing nature important?

We’re all busy. It doesn’t matter if we only notice nature at weekends or on the telly on Countryfile, does it?

Well, any awareness is better than nothing, but it’s the daily stuff that makes the difference. It means we’re pausing out of our oh-so-busy lives and noticing what’s actually happening, right now. You can call it mindfulness if you want (very fashionable just now), but really it’s just being prepared to pay attention, to be alert to the possibility of wonderment in everyday life.

I’ve just walked into our kitchen to make a coffee, and a charm of goldfinches alighted at the top of our cherry tree for less than a minute. No time to take a picture – soon as I’d registered them they were off, away in a dipping and soaring cloud to their next vantage point. But they brought a smile to my face, and reminded me that this is the third time I’ve seen them this week, but with bigger numbers in the group each time.

I find that the things I notice in nature – the barn owl swooping over flooded fields seen from a train at dusk, the birdsong while I’m writing my to-do list at the start of the day, the daffodil giving me the first real hit of yellow this year – are the things that stay with me through the day and beyond.

Daffodil February GoldAnd I think that’s why we all need nature regularly – it’s the stuff that feeds our souls, that lifts us out of ourselves and helps us to notice what’s happening in the huge amazing world we inhabit. And yes, a flowering daffodil is just as much a part of that as the Amazonian rainforest, the Alps or the icy landscape of the Arctic – and it’s right here on our doorstep.


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New starts

Helleborus orientalis Feb 2016

Hellebore Oriental hybrid in vase

So with the sunshine today, felt it was time to dust off the blog and start to write again. I’d begun to feel tired with my old blog – it had been fun to keep a sort of online diary of things outside work, but there wasn’t a lot of purpose to it other than that.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking about taking it up again, and although the theme is still taking shape, I know roughly what I want to write about:

  • The importance of paying attention to nature on a daily basis – especially when you live in a town or city
  • The increasing ‘tidying up’ mania that seems to be affecting the few wild spaces in those areas
  • The need to manage our own space in a way that encourages nature even on a tiny scale – I call it ‘micro-wilding’. It’s not quite the rewilding movement (I’m not planning on any wolves in my garden, though we do well for smaller scale wildlife), but it’s a start.
  • Using what we see in nature as a source of inspiration for creative activity

I’m not sure yet how that will pan out, and I may ultimately move away from this blog to start a new one – but for now I’m just experimenting.

So the pic above? A Hellebore – one of the orientalis varieties, and flowering much earlier than usual after such a mild winter. A plant that really benefits from a ‘laissez faire’ approach to gardening. Notoriously difficult to raise from seed yourself (the seed has to be really fresh), left to their own devices they’ll happily provide you with lots of new seedlings each May/June that you can easily transplant elsewhere. If you’re an enthusiastic ‘weeder’ though, forget it, as you’ll have them up before you’ve realised what treasure you were throwing away. And treasure is the right word: you can easily pay between £5-10 for one of these at a garden centre.

Helleborus orientalis centre Feb 2016

Centre of Hellebore Oriental hybrids

Let nature do what it’s good at, and you’ll maximise beauty and save money. Not a lot in life that you can say that about!


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On making time

Title of this post is quite ironic really as my poor OH has just spent the last half an hour trying to get WordPress to upload my pics – don’t know if any of you have had problems with this in the last week or so, but looking at the forum it seems I’m not alone with this glitch. Photos keep vanishing and reappearing on my site. But they’re back for now…where was I? Ah yes. Making time.

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IMG_2496If a sunny Saturday morning isn’t a good reason to create some time, I’d like to know what is.

IMG_2497A bee floated by me as I took the photo above and the garden was full of birdsong.

IMG_2498Laptop & weekend work schedule abandoned, we headed for the woods and the sea:

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IMG_2504The storms here on the north west coast haven’t been as bad as many other parts of the UK, but there’s still been a fair bit of coastal erosion. The dunes in particular have seen some dramatic ‘blow outs’ – in one place the sand had virtually covered a small wood and it was extremely weird to be wading about in sand amongst the tops of its branches…

IMG_2505It’s hard to tell scale here, but this ravine is about 50 feet deep, amazing wind sculpture on the sides, looks like sandstone until you touch it and realise it’s actually still just sand.

IMG_2506Clear skies across to Wales – and so much sand blowing along the beach that we felt like we’d been scoured by the time we got back to the woods.

January and February have been busy, exciting and rewarding months, but what I need more than anything right now is some calm, settled weather, sunshine and longer days, and a gentle glide into spring.

 


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Recharging my batteries

It’s Friday afternoon, I have a host of work that I should be doing, but I know my brain is tired. So I’m stopping. Doing stuff I enjoy, that engages my senses, reduces the stress response – and returns me fresher and brighter afterwards. So on the agenda is:

Embroidery – I’ve been working on this kit since Christmas and am so enjoying doing this for the first time in years.

IMG_2399Stroll round the garden – looks like it’s going to be an early spring this year with a few flowers already out like hellebores,

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IMG_2405heather,

IMG_2402and the silvery seed pods of honesty just hanging on.

IMG_2411A little light baking – I’m planning on making a lemon drizzle cake from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine.

Reading – currently enjoying ‘By Blood’ by Ellen Ullman, unsettling and gripping tale of someone who overhears sessions with an analyst in the room next door…

A long, hot bath with the luxurious smellies I got for Christmas.

Browse through the blogs I follow.

Spot of meditation…

I feel better already – what have you got planned to help you wind down this weekend?


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In every end is a beginning

IMG_2389It might be the end of 2013, but nature isn’t seeing any cut off point and has already started preparing for another year. The first bulbs are pushing up all over the garden and with a bit of luck and not too much cold weather, we’ll be seeing flowers before the end of January.

It’s also the end of calling this blog ‘2013: The Year of Being Me’, because quite frankly that just isn’t going to work from tomorrow is it? When I started this blog back in March I never thought it would last so long, and so didn’t really worry about the longevity of the name. Have I achieved my goal of ‘being me’? To a degree, yes – I’ve certainly taken time to appreciate the smaller things more, and I think I’ve noticed things more this year through blogging. I still think there’s work to do though on creating a life that feels balanced and authentic – and so have decided to call next year’s blog ‘2014: The Year of Discovery’ as a gentle reminder to keep on exploring and finding out the best way forward.

If I hit 2015 with it, I can worry about another name then 🙂

IMG_2388Wishing you all the very, very best for 2014 and hope it holds lots of wonderful things for us all to discover.


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Quiet Time

IMG_2373This past week has been soooo relaxing. It’s been great to get up when we like, eat when we’re hungry, and get out and enjoy the weather between storms. We had a fantastic walk down by the salt marshes on Boxing Day where the sky was just full of different flocks of birds – think a lot of them must have been sheltering there from the gales.

IMG_2367Yesterday we headed up to the Lakes. OH had some Christmas money to spend and his eye on some new trail running shoes, the ones he plumped for eventually are indeed things of beauty.

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It was perfectly clear with lots of snow and ice on the highest mountains: discretion was definitely the better part of valour and we admired from a distance, choosing instead to wander on some of our favourite lower paths.

IMG_2377This is down near Friar’s Crag in Keswick, one of our regular walks. We both love the huge pine trees down there, although sadly they’ve had a bit of a battering in recent years from the high gales that sweep down the lake to this little outcrop.

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IMG_2379The light looks like summer, but the wind was stingingly icy, and we only lingered for long enough to take the photos. In summer, we can sit here for ages looking out at the water and hills…this is one of my favourite spots in the world. It was also a big favourite of John Ruskin: this place was his earliest memory and there’s a memorial to him here which you can see if you click through on the link.

IMG_2378Even the roots are beautiful!

It feels easier and easier to slow down the more time I take off…I want to try and hold on to this feeling when I return to normal routine in a few days time, and remember to allow myself space for regular pausing and appreciation. I’m really looking forward to 2014 and what it holds.

Later edit…OH insisted I add a pic of his new shoes – they are rather beautiful!


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It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas…

I have so missed blogging! The last few weeks have been so busy – so much for my motto ‘because there’s more to life than work’: for the last few weeks there has been nothing but work! All good – but it’s so lovely to now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and am starting to feel really excited about having some time off.

What’s helped during the last few manic weeks?

  1. Running – just a bit of time out in the open air is an instant de-stresser, and we’ve had some beautiful sunsets too.IMG_2283
  2. Chatting to others, especially online – sharing comments with other bloggers and talking to others in similar situations is a great way to feel you’re not alone when you hit a difficult patch. I follow so many wonderful, inspiring and creative bloggers, and however busy the day, it’s rare I don’t make time to have a quick flick through my reader and see who’s doing what in various corners of the globe. So a big thank you to all of you for really extending my horizons this year.
  3. Staying in the moment – I think we all get overwhelmed if we look at the whole of what we have to do. By picking just one of the most important things, and doing it until it’s done, all the energy goes into the doing, rather than the worrying.

And so, tonight, finally, I have finished posting my Christmas cards and got the tree up. With a whole week to go as well!

IMG_2326The pic’s a bit blurry, but I’m loving the smile on the angel and a bit of sparkle never hurt either…bring it on Christmas, we’re ready for you!