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Category: Nature (page 2 of 4)

Being what you believe

You know how you can just be mooching about a website, aimless, (which is very nice) and something piques your interest and you have a closer look and next thing your mouth opens, you take a sharp intake of breath and suddenly the whole world is a more magnificent place?

This exquisite short film gorgeously directed by Pascal Perich with ‘Whispering Trees’ music composition by Marcy Hokama follows the beautiful gentle soul that is painter and sculptor, Jason Tennant who is such an inspirational example of being what you believe and aligning your life with your values that I wanted to share him with you.

Jason gathers vintage, sinewy remains of American Chestnut trees, cut in the 1930’s in an attempt to save the forest from blight, carries them in his arms back to his workshop cabin in the woods and then he honors these natural masterpieces with his potent artistic spirit, sculpting them into wildly majestic art.

“I look for really deep forests that look like they haven’t been tampered with for at least 50 years” says Jason. “I try to tell a story;  nature vignettes ….. I want to maintain a sense of wildness in my work.”

In this beautiful film, created for Etsy as part of its This Handmade Life series, Jason talks quietly about his ethos – in creating his “Nike of The Forest” series he says “the Greek Nike is one of my favorite gestures … it’s a hopeful choice, a triumph of the balance of humans and nature ….humans learning to respect nature so we can temper our greed, so we can maintain this beautiful planet for our children.”

Image, Nike of the Forest III, is borrowed from Jason’s Etsy shop – Available to buy! What a wonderful world we live in.

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Wild is the wind ————> and so are you

Recommended: listen to David Bowie’s beautiful rendition of Wild is the Wind by Dimitri Tiompkin and Ned Washington while reading.

It’s so easy to forget about nature and the wild forces that are the backdrop to our tiny life plays and sit-coms.

We knew it was windy. We even heard the shipping forecast that morning spoken in hushed, hypnotizing tones telling of gale force 11 winds gusting to … something, I forget now. And out we went loving the gusting, the big breezes and the clouds spinning in the sky as though the universe in which our Earth resides was a centrifuge.

Off we went, skipping, to walk the dog with — what else but a huge, bright pink balloon? I made absolutely no connection at the time about the powerful affinity of the wind and a helium-filled balloon.

Let me introduce you to the balloon. My child had given it a name. I’ll just let that notion sink in for you. OK, it was called “Alice”. And Alice had already had many adventures as a balloon-person with a pink ribbon tail and a face drawn in black felt pen – it was a “she” and my child had chirruped various stories about Alice.

She was doing this when suddenly I heard “MY BALLOON!”. Balloon? Oh yes ‘she’ was a balloon and here she was, no – I mean there she WAS for now she was already metres up in the air and as I felt relief flood me that some angel had stopped my child from instinctively reaching for the escaping balloon and her pink ribbon which would have taken her onto the road, I also felt the rising of a quagmire of conflicting emotions.

It was exhilarating watching Alice the pink balloon with a felt-pen drawn face and pink ribbon zipping higher and higher, further and further away with a speed that had our mouths hanging open.

The wind. The wind had snatched Alice and she, so floatily, fit-to-bursting full of lighter than air helium was crescendoing with her natural element. We stared, we saw again the pale gray clouds slewing like a torrential, flooded river across a vast sky. Alice the balloon becoming smaller and smaller in our sight as she was carried by air currents higher and further away, away, away, northwards.

It was exhilarating to imagine how that must feel, to be in the wind and part of it, losing yourself to it, having no sense of where you end and the wind begins (I am an Air sign, can you tell?!) the freedom of flying with no attachment, being freed from a ribbon anchoring bond to earth via a child’s hand.

But it was also achingly sad. We were bereaved. We weren’t ready for Alice to go, to be snatched away so suddenly in her prime, not even a little deflated yet. A shock. Watching her, a lone, alone little balloon person in a vast sky of gray wind was stunningly upsetting. How awful it would be to be so alone in such vastness.

We stood and watched and in about a minute Alice was so far away she disappeared completely. Gone.

What would happen to her?

I will spare you the hideous thoughts of seals choking on a pink balloon burst on rocks in the North Sea or a small plane crashing because of a large balloon being sucked into an engine. I could make a very long list here of horrible consequences but notice I am not. That way desperate sadness lies.

And so  I brought all my snatched remembrances of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull to bear on the situation. Pink balloon named Alice not like a seagull at all but no matter!

I began a monologue about Alice dancing with the wild air currents, soaring and sliding, moving so fast she might make it all the way to Greenland, or Sweden, Norway or, if the wind changed direction, America even.

Alice was going wherever the wind took her, floating high and light and with no attachment whatsoever, the dangle of her pink ribbon a kite tail now. She was filled with air, like the wind, but helium weighs less that the wind I said.

My child was sad – but good, healthy sad. And she did not fixate on the balloon that was Alice nor the excitement of the wind and so it all seemed fine. Natural.

All things have their own lifetime, short or long and we need not grieve when they go for something else awaits to replenish our joy if we can but see it instead of staring too long after a disappeared balloon and wallowing in the torment of relating ourselves to imagined things like Alice’s situation, projecting our own neuroses on it with what might happen to Alice, for example, as though we were experiencing it ourselves. (This is one of the down-sides of having a well-honed creative imagination.)

The positive carefree soaring high was as powerful and real as the sad sense of bereavement and loss. Both are important emotions to feel and deserving of attention.

As humans we are made to, like flowers and plants, always turn to the sun; to please the mind with thoughts of wonderment and things that make us happy, to notice in things as bizarre as the sudden flight of a pink balloon named Alice with a felt pen face ways we can be braver, better and more inspired. And always know that nature is with us, helping us and showing us if we simply watch and allow ourselves to feel – to be like a beautiful balloon tossed and rushed by emotional forces, going with them, letting them blow all around us not matter how stormy or conflicted they feel because we are human and being human is a fine thing.

Image “Sending and Receiving” borrowed from Keith Dotson — Fine Art Photographs. Visit his Etsy Store for more beautiful images. Thank you for making the world more beautiful Keith.

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The case for constraint

Perhaps like you, I resent being thwarted or trapped by some external constraint.

I have often rushed at these immovable things like a bull at a gate, with the same results of a sore head.

However, that was until recently. I’ve discovered, through nature, how fruitful such solid outside constraints can be. Twice this year I’ve seen the kind of ripe power that can burst forth after a period of life-strangling tight confinement.

‘How strange that constraint can create a build-up of awesome energy’ I thought (completely forgetting about bondage restraints and water dams) as I watched my “winter pansies” and “Lidl strawberries” produce flowers and fruits at an accelerated rate after my negligent containment of them.

I bought fifty tiny “winter colour” seedlings ultra-cheap from a Guardian offer in the Autumn. I potted them up with zealot gardener dedication.

But I was too late getting them into the flowerbeds and between one hard frost and another, followed by inches of snow on frozen ground, too cold and hard to gouge the trowel into, they were abandoned in their tight little containers.

In the Spring I noticed they seemed to still be alive, had even managing a bud or two in their tiny cells. I planted them out randomly in the garden and in the window boxes, what the hey.

Whoo-o! Within two days they were three times their size, bursting with new leaf and bigger buds, new buds and some had even flowered! They embraced their liberation with a force they must have been building and building after surviving the dormant freeze of wintertime. They have since produced flourishes of bright, joyful flowers for several months.

Similarly, the box of strawberry seedlings a friend gave me a couple of months ago which became root-bound. I fretted mildly about where to plant them and putting straw around the plants and what about losing them to our snails and slugs who rampage with full territorial rights through our garden and was there any point really in planting them out at all?

What a thing to admit to! And yet it reminds me of the fears we sometimes have about starting any creative project – our mind throws up all kinds of possible obstacles and fears which often prevent us from doing anything at all.

What is the point of spending hours of my life on this novel if it is never published? What is the point of buying a paint set if I never have time to paint? And so on, you get the idea.

I planted the strawberries out last week and already there are bunches of hard creamy strawberries beginning to blush with pink – the bright red one of a few days ago has already been eaten by a mouse or bird.

There are so many basic and complex examples of solid, external circumstances that confine and constrain us in our lives in just the same way ice forms in the stems of pansies. A lack of funds, the death of someone, a locked door, a phone not answered, a Visa expired, love rejected, a bus that breaks down.

So often our response is to try to fight the constraint, push it away. Maybe even deny it altogether. And yet look what nature tells us about the power external constraint can give us. If we freeze, pause a little and then allow ourselves to build our energy it will be there as a huge reserve you can let burst when external circumstances change, as change they will.

I am going to be more pansy and strawberry plant like from now on when I’m forced by external circumstance and situation to be dormant, pull my feelers in, remain alert and unmoving – be patient within a prolonged pause.

I am not talking here about in-between fallow periods. I am talking about those very real, very tangible forces outside of ourselves that stop us in our tracks and which we cannot change by force or any other method.

If my pansies or strawberries had fought against their confinement they would have lost a large reserve of stored energy. Instead, by pressing a natural ‘pause’ button they have given themselves the energy reserve to, at the slightest lessening of their confinement, burst forth with a huge force of raw, flowering and fruitful power.

And so it is with us. Instead of fretting and fighting about a confinement we might have – traveling to work, a difficult relationship, a tight deadline, an enemy setting us up for a fall, a pay freeze, a drain on cash flow – so many situations come up in life that press our ‘pause’ button.

I’ve noticed that many people advocate pushing through these forced constraints and I agree it is a good idea to test the strength of it initially. But then we must pause and wait, always knowing the release may not come but quietly containing our energy so we are ready for the dam bursting, the bonds removed, the money flowing and we can enjoy the hugely magnified power we had in only in potential before the constraint.

Constraints are good. They dam our creative power. And that means our creative power can explode like a new universe from a black hole.

If you, like me, are hoping that the photographer, Kalpana Chatterjee, who captured the image above immediately pulled out a pair of wire cutters and cut that barbed wire right off, you are only showing the positive spirit of humanity that has us always turning towards life and growth. Let us imagine the divine release and how the tree sap flowed after that snipping.

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Why do things die, mama?

“Why do things die, mama?”

My child and I had walked and talked for about ten minutes after finding a young fox dead on the roadside before she asked this question.

We were on a nature walk, an “adventure” and I gasped when I saw it lying there, all soft chestnut fire glory against hard grey tarmac and sharp curb.

So extraordinarily beautiful. So young, only just an adult, smooth, soft, mange-free fur and white teeth, brand new. Still warm, but dead.

Cars whizzed past, fast. I picked the fox up, its head flopped and I cradled it, blood dripping a little from its mouth.

I carried it and laid it reverently in some bough-heavy bushes, curled it around nose-to-tail as though it was sleeping, closed its eyes.

My daughter wanted to touch it too. I was proud of her. We stroked it. Her emphasis was on its wild eyes. Mine was on its youth and splendor.

We talked about it being an instant, painless death, that looking at the road, the driver couldn’t have stopped in time. We noticed the globy blood splatters. My girl asked would the fox’s parents be looking for it?

I began to cry, just a little. I was thinking of the utter, desolate waste. The youth and vitality, the care the fox’s parents would have taken to protect, feed and teach this little one through cold Spring and wet days and nights of scarce pickings. And now too quick across the road and gone.

My quiet tears as we walked were not just for this young, healthy, fit fox. They were for my own death kisses: my dogs, my cats, my mother, my self, my best friends, a boy I found dead in his car, who had fed a hose from his exhaust pipe in a lonely place . Suicides, bizarre accidents, fatal medical mistakes.

I don’t mind at all that my child sees my tiny tears or feels my sadness. I think of other children who are not given opportunities to see and feel raw, wild life and learn about death gently at first through the natural world. Who do not go on nature walks. Death on a nature walk, what could be more natural?

We have ten minutes of discussing the fox, sudden death and the consequences for everyone involved, my child asking me all kinds of questions.

And then she asks me, as she has asked me several times before, “why do things die, mama?” And I say, without hesitation, “because without death there is no life”.

I use my quaint, simplistic theory of opposites to explain things a lot. Without darkness light doesn’t exist. And yet, when we happen upon death suddenly and unexpectedly as grown-ups we are thrown out of our complacency. Children accept.

I feel odd writing about our young fox – and this is a documented syndrome you know, that when you happen upon a dead body you feel a primal sense of needing to protect it, an askew sense of it being your responsibility – I think of him still curled up and getting wet in the rain, I wonder should I have carried him all the way home and buried him here though that didn’t feel at all right at the time. I feel a little dishonorable documenting our experience in a blog post.

All of this is perhaps less about the natural, wild fox still in his natural element in the bushes and more about the wondering over death his has stirred up in me.

Yet, I want to say that I am glad we came upon the fox when we did, that it was us and not some other, stray dogs even.

I am grateful that the fox in his death gave several gifts to my child: a chance to touch wild, to stare at stillness, to learn about death in all of its complexity, to honor the found dead, respect and revere them – and more, that crossing roads is a dangerous thing, impulse must sometimes be tempered, consequences of decisions can be catastrophic …

I see her beautiful mind absorbing all of this. And she does not cry. As with so many other things, she understands it all far better than I.

Image “An Angel in the Woods” borrowed from artist Karen Davis. Check out her Etsy shop,  Moonlight and Hares + follow her on Twitter @moonhare Thank you Karen for making our world more beautiful.

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Nature: is it in your nature?

Do you think about yourself in relation to nature around you? What is your relationship with nature?

Are you intertwined like ancient roots or curved branches? Do you blend in? Are you detached?

I have just realized that the more I am in nature, the more I details I notice and the more supported I feel.

Yes. I was going to say ‘healed’ and there is that too. But it’s supported that I mean. And feeling supported, as my extraordinary homoeopath once told me, is the number one most important factor in anyone’s healing.

Last night I noticed that the bees were still busy caring for the pinky-purple flowers of the giant rhododendron trees in our back garden as dusk was darkening thickly around them and the wind was gusty and hard. Yet even with their aerodynamically-absurd tiny wings and big, fluffy bodies the bees kept going.

Suddenly I’m thinking the quickening dark is an analogy for depression and that bees are a wild inspiration to us for mindful activity in the face of impending mental angst.

I am seeing these kind of tiny, potent metaphors and analogies everywhere I look in nature now.

It’s quite overwhelming.

It’s like I knew all this but now I am being shown, blinkers off, eyes wide open.

I’m frightened yet thrilled. Like when a child asks for some “danger” within the safety of a familiar, loved story.

A single happy moment. Unbidden. Arriving during a simple, productive task.

Cherished.

I feel we have lost much of the support of nature, the bracing perspective it gives us, and the multifarious, analogous aids we have in seasons, plants, birds, animals – aids we can easily find in every living thing if we simply look.

I think we humans have simply taken it all for granted, simply not really noticed it and furthermore we’ve been hugely attracted, like bees to blue plastic flowers, to gadgets and gizmos and fripperies that provide saccharine nectar for us which doesn’t sustain and nurture us but gives us hedonistic, too-quick highs and cravings for more.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as easily seduced by shiny as you or anyone else. But now I am feeling a different seduction that’s much more rewarding. A primal craving. And a deeper level of satisfaction.

I’m Noticing Nature.

Feeling supported by it.

Which in turn makes me Notice Nature more.

And feel ever more supported.

Why should this be such a surprise to me when it’s in my nature? Is it in your nature too?

Image “Forget Not” above borrowed from Mae Chevrette Art – Original Paintings and Mixed Media. You can buy this and other art such as “In the Sea” and “The Love You Make” oh, and “To Be Brave” from Mae’s Etsy store. Thank you for making the world more beautiful Mae.

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