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Category: Nature (page 3 of 4)

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. Oh, the rhythm of the tango.

If we dance through life then the tango is my dance. What’s yours? Waltz? Foxtrot? Tango? Maybe a bit of line dancing – why not?

Even while I’m a person who’s happy to go from sound asleep for 10 hours to massive, intense, multi-tasking action to ‘make up’ for my love of sleep, I’m feeling a pull towards a slow waltz. Yes, I think I’m gonna take the slow road, even while as the picture above shows, that’s a topsy-turvy, new perspective for me.

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing a deep, quiet yearning for a slower pace.

So I’m now evaluating how I dance through life on an every day level. One step at a time.

Time. Well let’s forget about that. Let’s consider for a moment perception. Perception of how we move in the world. Do you rush? Do you walk slowly?

A lot of the pace we find ourselves setting is not just about the tasks we set ourselves each day but also, quite simply, where we live.

City dwellers always move and talk faster as a general rule than those living in rural areas. Living in the city and attempting to slow down requires a conscious swimming against the tide of, (sometimes pretty frenetic) energy that surges around you every day.

While in the countryside, surrounded by powerful manifestations of natural cycles through plants and animals, the seasons and an overall sense of a ‘slower’ pace, the full force of Mother Nature is setting your internal pedometer and mental acuity without you even realizing it. You are HUMAN after all.

So now I am noticing these differences. I’ve become aware. I’m aiming for slow-slow-slow-slow-slow —s-l-o-w and will be happy with a little quick-quick in there now and again, of course.

Even in nature a slow-grazing rabbit must be ready to run fast, a lazing, energy-saving lion to dash for a gazelle, a feather light seed to move quickly in the wind, a snail to tuck itself into its shell.

Snails. We love snails here. Having had a dry spell there have not been many about. But during lovely, saturating rain yesterday we had a snail encounter that illustrates several of the points I think I am making today.

Our bus broke down. Us passengers were off-loaded. Some were grumpy. I just don’t see the point of grumpiness about things like this. We were standing on the pavement about to walk when I realized a woman was calling a taxi.

Ever the friendly opportunist, (I’ve always lived with dogs and cats) I asked if we could split the cab with her? She was very sweet and happy to tell me in her Irish accent that it was a free ride on her employer’s account. Lovely!

As we waited in the drizzly rain my daughter excitedly drew my attention to what she had been studying – three gigantic snails in full slither all over the top of a garden wall in amongst lush green shrub.

Wow! They were beautiful. We stared and stared. They were moving pretty quick in the rain, in their natural element, out in the morning, happy and getting to it after being in their shells so long. My daughter wanted to give them something to eat.

I had a few big crumbs of bread in my bag (yes, I know that is a bit weird, but I AM a fairy story character, OK?) so my girl put the crumbs in front of one of the giant snails and he/she slithered at it and ate it while we watched, enchanted.

I am telling you this, possibly tedious, (slow?) story to illustrate how magical experiences have the space to happen in those slow moments when we are forced to wait, to look around and wonder. (Remember “the waiting place” in Dr Suess’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go“?)

While some people might say it was a nuisance to have your bus (or car) break down with a different perspective it can be a gift out-of-time, a valid excuse to not just embrace but fully indulge the slow. Even witnessing, as we did, one of the natural leaders of the slow movement – and pretty mascot of the Slow Food US / Slow Food UK – the snail.

I am loving the Slow Movement, Slow Food (follow it slowly, of course, on Twitter) and slow everything else even while I am still catching myself doing a bit of quick-quick quite often. But then snails slip into their shells very quick-quick.

So maybe snails understand the rhythm of the tango just as much as me but prefer a slow waltz generally. I guess they keep their schedules pretty open: find food, eat it, evade death, appreciate your amazing hermaphrodite-ness, enjoy slithering and making out with other snails.

There’s a lot of good stuff to learn here. I am going to stop setting myself a ridiculous number of things to do each day. I am liking this idea of taking the slow road and making a slow, mindful, energy-saving and aware mindset my default position.

You gonna make like a snail or are you enamored of the cheetah? Unlike most animals in the wild, we have a free choice (if we allow ourselves to live wild that is).

Footnote: I must add that I’ve actively practised s-l-o-w while writing this post, by putting back the delivery time on your email subscription instead of rushing to make it by 11am AND forcing myself to not check the 26 emails which arrived tantalizingly in my inbox while I was writing it. This was NOT EASY for me! But change never is, is it? Also, thanks to Bindu Wiles for her wonderful 21.5.800 project which has supported me in staying focused and centered today. What a gal is Bindu – check her out.

PS Lovely Jackie Stewart of Flowerspirit has a wonderful post about the healing effects provided by a particular flower essence on this very issue. This flower helps us, as Jackie says, ‘slow down and be present’, can you guess it’s name? I love flower essences.

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Hello authentic life

Yesterday I talked a little about how we could all be more ourselves – the individuals we are – and feel more empowered instead of running around like Loraxes.

But how exactly to do that? How do you live your authentic life?

First of all, you are an individual. It follows that your life ought to be one based on your individuality. You are not just a person in the system, a potential customer, a consumer or one of the target market. Yet so many of us are unwittingly brainwashed and just bob along with the waves of patterns of behaviour that move around the ocean of our populace.

It seems to me that while most people understand we have free choice – and so many less fortunate people in the world do not have this essential foundation of a free society – they don’t use their free choice. (However, there are anomalies in our society, for example, parents-to-be in New York have no choice about whether to have their baby at home or not.)

Free will and free choice means we have the luxury of being more conscious of the tiny as well as big choices we make every day.

Each choice has a consequence. When we choose carefully and thoughtfully, when we ask ourselves what we want to do instead of just automatically doing what we think society wants us to do, we instantly empower ourselves.

The more we listen to our inner Self, and act on our intuition, the stronger we feel, and co-incidentally happier. The more we consciously strip away unnecessary things by de-cluttering, creating breathing space in our lives, being more mindful, honoring the things that make us feel good and doing more of them, the more authentic our lives will be. Our lives reflect who we are.

So in the hope of inspiring you, I gave myself 15 minutes to write a little stream-of-consciousness list of my ways of authentic living – practical choices I’ve made and continue to make that have helped me strip away layers of accidental falsity and live a more fulfilling life.

Hello authentic living –

Hello handmade, nature, wilderness and conscious living. Hello make-do-and-mend and minimalism. Hello connecting with my community and guerrilla gardening. Hello buying local produce and seasonal food.

Hello stripping away unnecessary things, including people and ideologies. Hello looking at bees and butterflies instead of watching them on TV. Hello letting children feel free and safe and able to play without adult supervision and interference.

Hello walking instead of driving. Hello knowing more about my family and friends than I do about celebrities and TV characters. Hello Waldorf / Steiner education and toys made of things that once lived like wool and wood. Hello not window-shopping and buying into retail persuasion.

Hello wearing the same dress I wore ten years ago because I love it (fashion doyen, Vivienne Westwood would approve). Hello making your own clothes, buying vintage clothes, revamping your old clothes, buying clothes from charity shops and expressing your individuality through the clothes you wear.

Hello being indecisive so you are always open to something new happening. Hello being spontaneous and going with that whole “who moved the cheese” thing.

Hello learning to be storytellers again instead of always reading books. Hello buying online direct from artists and creators on Etsy instead of big brand manufacturers. Hello upcycling and finding new uses for things we might otherwise throw away. Hello guitars around campfires, sleeping  under the stars and taking courses like Guy Mallinson’s woodland camps.

Hello farmers markets and people raising animals and crops the old-fashioned, expensive way. Hello curative classical homoeopathy and the slow movement. Hello creating communities of like-minded people online so it’s like we all live together in a village. (I’d like WildelyCreative as a neighbour.)

Hello supporting the people working with white knuckles, gritted teeth and in tears to save our planet, the species we share it with and the welfare of animals. Hello the rebel, the maverick, the weirdo who stands up and is not afraid to go against the tide.

Hello having your baby at home, being supported by other parents and breastfeeding for as long as you want. Hello hand-me-down clothes that have the energy of other children about them. Hello dads being good at supporting and protecting their family and moms being good at nurturing and home-making and hello all parents feeling supported and confident instead of thinking they need to read parenting books <– although I recommend that one).

Hello feeling connected to people via the magnificent universe that is Twitter that you’d never meet in real life. Hello listening to our instincts and acting upon them so we get more gut instincts and start to rely on them instead. Hello thinking for yourself instead of what everyone else seems to think.

Hello doing the exact things we loved as children, not matter how childish like playing with modelling clay and crayons, making things from twigs and collecting feathers. Hello not feeling you have to see the latest movie. Hello walking barefoot and getting your hands dirty.

Hello attempting to fix something instead of just buying a replacement. Hello getting to know your neighbours even if you don’t like them. Hello having a cat or dog in your life to teach you important life lessons and bring you companionship, fun, love and joy.

Hello photographing wildlife instead of shooting it. Hello going on guided nature walks instead of shopping trips. Hello home baking, making meals from scratch and growing our own wild foods.

Hello taking things out of skips and picking up things off the street that people have put out as garbage (we got 4 rolls of thick cream wallpaper on the street yesterday, great for HUGE painting and pastel works of art).

Hello looking up old friends and just saying hello. Hello realising you are beautiful. Hello loving what you have and being grateful.

Hello more displays of public affection. Hello more adventurous sex. (Bye bye stupid inhibitions.) Hello sharing secrets and talking more about what you feel. Hello writing silly notes and saying thank you.

Hello finding out about the insects and other little beasties you share you home and street with and looking for them and being able to name them. Hello smiling at people and acknowledging people more.

Hello realizing how far you’ve come and helping those coming up behind you. Hello leaving whole days open and unscheduled to do what you like in the moment. Hello risking looking foolish when you ask a stranger if they need help with their bags, car, crossing the road or anything else. Hello getting better about saying ‘no’ without giving an explanation as to why not.

Hello having wildflower meadows and wilderness areas in our gardens. Hello making gifts and cards for friends and family instead of giving money to a shop. Hello more people doing things like moving your tomato plant so the noise won’t disturb a leafcutter bee’s nest.

Hello healing ourselves by listening to our inner wild.

I’d love it if we did a kind of brainstorming thing here and you added your individual ‘Hello‘s in the comments below. I might add a few more too.

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Smearing stickiness in the dark

So now I’m into a whole new kind of smearing of stickiness in the dark.

OK, I know I’m being a bit indulgent with that title. Let’s face it, I’m cheap. Anyways, I’m having a little dalliance with the idea of going on a moth hunting party.

Uh-huh. That’s right, a moth hunting party. But no moths harmed!

A schmear of stickiness, slick sweetness on a tree. A moth alights. Unfurls its science-fiction spiral tongue and licks away and there’s you with your wee torch (or candle if you’ve uber rustic) getting to stare at the glorious wings and dark wonderfulness of the rather maligned night creature you’ve attracted.

I’m intrigued by the idea of how I might attract winged creatures of the dark. And be a “moth-er”. What about you? You into that idea?

Sure, butterflies are gorgeous. All flamboyant giddiness and elegant sunbeams on flower petal visits.

But moths.

Ooo.

Moths are sensuous and, and, – and they are nocturnal and therefore thrilling! Surely all of us have gotten a fright by a moth suddenly fluttering around at us when we’ve put a light on in the dark?

Moths to me are forever connected to childhood semi somnambulant midnight visits to outside dunnies slipping down rotten wooden steps, squatting over long-drops, perching on the wobbly rims of port-a-loos on sandbanks and various other basic toilets or plain old alfresco peeing and squeals of argh! what’s that fucking soft fluttery erratic cobwebby thing flitting at me, all shadows and confusion and ARGH!

You can’t swat at it because there’s the very serious issue of their dusty wings being so excruciatingly delicate and you killing something in your fearfulness. ‘Do not touch me!’ say these wings. ‘Do not touch me or I will die!’

This sort of do not-ness is very hard for us humans to deal with. When I first learned that if you even delicately, reverently, lovingly touched a moth’s wing you brushed off the dust leaving it crippled so it would die a horrible, long and torturous flutters of helplessness death something inside me wept for the delicacy of life and the colossal power humans have over it.

So, having discovered some months ago a recipe for luring moths to your garden for mutual gain – they have an easy meal, you get to stare at their loveliness and know you attracted them – I am keen to do this, but also strangely frightened. Not of the moths. I don’t know what. Something in me?

Maybe it’s the furtive creeping about in my garden at night and its big bushes and old trees, loud snuffling hedgehogs, previously mentioned foxes, an odd deer(!) as well as the usual squirrels, mice and spiders. [Oh God, one of the cats brought a dead young squirrel to the door today. I think the squirrel fell out of a tree. I took it off the cat since he had already eaten and we left the squirrel on the fox path. The fox has now had it for its supper.]

It’s their world I’d be in.

But. A-ha! It’s our world. Now I discover Moth Hunting Parties arranged by people who can even name the moths you’re looking at! Now, I must confess to having at the moment a very large and spiky bug up my ass about entomologists because of their infuriating continuation, in these days of diminishing and endangered wildlife, to collect bugs and other insects.

It’s estimated that in the UK numbers of moths have HALVED since 1975. So if you ever splatted a moth, I’m sorry to say, you’re part of that dessimation.

However, I do believe that at moth hunting parties collecting is not allowed. No more moths pinned on white card under glass, thanks very much. Now we get to paint sticky fruit on trees and see them at their happiest; alive and eating – even drinking beer! Now that’s the kind of wild party I like.

RSPB’s fabulous, comprehensive resource for attracting moths (and butterflies)

Moth watching in your garden

Recipe for ‘moth brew’ stickiness to attract and feed moths

Moth activities, fun with moths

The Amateur Entomologists Society (UK) Join to go on a moth hunting party but don’t let them persuade you to collect!

The Royal Entomological Society

The image is of a moth resting on a moth whisperer’s hand so it is very safe. It’s a polyphemus moth (whose wings look like another night hunter, the owl, to scare away predators – moths are very smart and know the dangers of the dark, huh?). Photo borrowed from moth whisperer herself,  Lisa Ellersf.

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Fox in Box Fable

The other night I found myself in a fairy tale.

It was about a captive animal and the central character was that traditional hero, (more often anti-hero) of fables: a fox.

I don’t know about you but I can understand why foxes feature in so many traditional fairy tales.

It’s partly their wild beauty, mystery and mostly I think their bold, brazen nature towards us humans. Like their American counterparts, coyotes, foxes have adapted to city life. They refuse to be tamed, dominated, pushed out of their homes or used by us and yet live alongside us.

These howling, baying, screaming, fighting, scavenging, savage cat-dogs roam the streets, gardens and parks of the town where I live. It is a joy to hear their primal howls in the night reverberating off the sandstone tenements.

Close to midnight, I sat in my living room with the curtains of the window wide open. Outside, the back yard with its jungle of rhododendrons, holly and clematis-tangled hedges, mature oaks, beech and pine trees and various bushes and small plants was shadowy and black. I was reading and all was quiet.

Suddenly, a lithe shape at the window.

A fox stared through the glass at me.

His paws were planted in the window box and he just stood. Still. Unafraid. Staring into my eyes, his nose close to the window but not sniffing it. I stared back. I didn’t move. I expected him to flee at the sudden sight of a human like any other wild animal. But he just went on staring, at me.

He didn’t cast his eyes around to survey with curiosity the room I sat in. He didn’t nervously glance behind him or check his footing was firm. He just stared and stared into my eyes for endless seconds. Such a long time.

His absolute wildness made him unfathomable to me. Deeply unrecognisable. His wildness was both alarming and alluring. We held each other’s stare, and hopefully mine was as unjudgemental as his, then he was gone. I didn’t even see him move. He was just gone.

How remarkable. How gloriously extraordinary. To sit on my sofa in my living room in the city and have a fox in my window box stare in at me.

I, the zoo-hater, in my little enclosure.

“Little Fox Prince” image borrowed from Melissa Nucera, one of a series of fine art prints available from her This Year’s Girl deviantArt shop and Etsy shop.

Post Script: “The Fox in Animal Symbolism” – artist BeccasMuses very thoughtfully sent me this wonderful link on Twitter. I’m very grateful. Hope you like it too.

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Seduced by peachy breast feathers

I’m a ‘Fierce Invalid Home from Hot Climates‘. Coming back to Scotland after twenty years I’m experiencing various culture shocks, thrills and a weird sense of re-booting my system by coming home to a place I’ve only previously lived in as a child.

One fundamental and enduring thrill is appreciating British garden birds. Every day my world is better because of our darling garden birds. I love supplying nesting materials (wool) and boxes, feeding and watching our garden birds.

I have been diligent about daily feeding ‘our’ feathered flocks over the past 2 years. And we’re members of the RSPB which has wonderful magazines for children and grown-ups for a tiny family membership fee. (Join the RSPB now.)

Robins, wrens, blackbirds, crows, chaffinches, wood pigeons, song thrushes, blue tits, great tits, dinnocks, damn feral pigeons … once we even had a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

It’s a delightful birding paradise in our back yard. I love all these beautiful birds. Yes, the robins are clever and come real close to me now which is heart-warming. And the great tits are precious and strikingly-marked. I’m naturally a very egalitarian person, not given to favoritism. Or so I thought until recently.

Oh foolish pride!

Several weeks ago my mouth hung open and I felt like calling some birding hotline at the stunning sight of a male bullfinch enjoying bird seeds and nuts from my home-made, and as such weirdly-designed, bird table. He had the most outrageously gorgeous rose pinky peachy breast feathers and stark black cap.

I felt so honored.

Honored?! Who knew I was so shallow? I am mortified to have been so easily seduced by bullfinches, both male and female, just because they look really pretty! I kind of like them better than the others, I watch for them especially each day – because they are so beautiful. Their beauty enriches my day. Argh. I hang my head in shame over such favoritism based on looks alone.

Do I do this with other things and just don’t know it? Am I so easily beguiled by prettiness? I think I will research bullfinches so that at least from here on in I can demonstrate some kind of knowledge rather than mumble about my little love birds’ fine feathers.

What birds do you have at your place? Have you noticed them? Do you watch them?

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