May 28, 2014 - Spirituality    No Comments

Dreaming

Picture of a cloudy sky

There’s something about this kind of weather – a steady, soft, misty drizzle – that sends me into a bit of a dream state. I find myself staring into the middle distance, watching the shining drops drip one by one from the thatch and not consciously thinking about anything.

However, these dreamy days of May have actually proved quite useful because, whilst I have been practising gratitude and staring at the sky, my subconscious has been steadily working away and a new vision for my work and for this blog is beginning to emerge from the mist.

So, in a couple of weeks everything will be changing – the blog address, the design and the content. I will be expanding this site to reflect more of what I do and more of what matters to me in life.

I hope it will have stopped raining by then, and I also hope you’ll come along for the ride…

May 7, 2014 - Reviews, Spirituality    No Comments

Gratitude

Picture of a country field

Firstly I should apologise for my brief blogging hiatus. This has been due to a deliberate online break (good for the soul), a number of outings and projects (some of which you’ll read about over the coming weeks) and a bit of a broadband fail (one of the hazards of rural life). Anyway, I’m back!

You may remember that back in March I talked about introducing a gratitude practice for Lent. Well, my list of things to be grateful for grew to include some 95 items, many of which I noticed, and gave thanks for, repeatedly over the 40 days. Some interesting themes also emerged – it appears that I particularly value natural beauty and wildlife, being surrounded by happy people doing their own thing and those moments of free time that allow us to sit back and notice everything good around us.

I so enjoyed the experiment that I’m continuing it through a project called Grateful May. This is being run by the lovely Satya Robyn over at Writing Our Way Home and consists of daily blog posts where anyone can share their joys. It’s well worth checking out if you need a shot of positivity in your day!

I’ve also been lucky enough to read a preview copy of a fantastic new book on the power of gratitude: The Gratitude Project by Eli Trier. Here’s my review:

“Eli Trier’s new book, The Gratitude Project, A Year of Saying Thank You, written during her remarkable recovery from breakdown, is a series of 52 letters and pictures sent to people who have made a difference in her life. The book is shot through with creativity and each entry is an expresso of inspiration, reminding us of the wonderful people and things that are woven into the fabric of every life. Riding her ‘trusty steed’ of gratitude, Eli visits artists, writers, poets, chefs, educators, musicians, visionaries, entrepreneurs, scientists, loved ones and friends who have offered her safe places to dream, to make connections and to be vulnerable. These are people who go their own way and who encourage others to do the same. There is something very personal about the juxtaposition of Eli’s paintings with her letters to her heroes and I was drawn into her world as well as thinking about the people who might make my own list. Some of those featured are individuals whose work I already knew, and others I will now seek out (the book includes an appendix full of links to things we can read, watch and listen to). Eli says ‘the simple act of making art everyday made me an artist’, and the simple act of pausing each day to consider all we are thankful for would undoubtedly make most of us more content with our lives. This book is the perfect place to start and will be a constant source of reference for the future. Thank you Eli, for sharing your journey and your beautiful creative world.”

At the moment Eli’s book is only available in hardback format – which is the best way to appreciate her beautiful art – but she hopes to add an ebook version to her site very soon.

 

Mar 25, 2014 - Haiku    No Comments

Hanging on to spring

Picture of a primrose

It has been a spectacularly overcast and chilly day in Wiltshire, so much so that it’s hard to believe spring is really here. However, looking down from the grey there is a definite carpet of new shoots to be found at my feet, along with these cheerful little faces.

Here’s a haiku I wrote to remind myself that spring is, indeed, with us:

Dark grey day glowers
Damp dense air but, looking down,
Sunlight in a clump.

 

Mar 18, 2014 - Reviews, Wonderful words    No Comments

Exploring the past in Bath

A bridge in Bath

I recently had the pleasure of a day out at the Bath Literature Festival, attending two talks by the wonderful historical novelist Sarah Dunant – the first an exploration of how Rennaisance Art has informed her novels and the second a Q&A with fellow historical writer S J Parris. Here are some of the things that I took away to inform my own research:

  • Sometimes the more you get lost in research the more you will find
  • A lack of evidence can also be something that gets you thinking…
  • Look at period paintings (especially backgrounds) for information on architecture, society, clothing and customs
  • Unusual sources, such as ecclesiastical court records, can be very revealing
  • Occasionally you will have to work through centuries of encrusted gossip to get to the facts about a person or an event – political spin is not a modern invention!
  • If something unexpected arises during your writing, follow it and see where it takes you
  • If you get stuck whilst writing then something is wrong – take a step back and examine what you are thinking and how you are feeling about your subject
  • The best stories are often found where there is a scaffolding of facts, but still plenty of room for the imagination
  • The cardinal sin of historical fiction is applying modern sensibilities to past events!

Both of these talks were absolutely fascinating and the Festival itself was extremely well organised, with the added advantage of being set in a beautiful city that is just dripping with inspiration for those who are fascinated by the past. If you plan to attend next year then I can also recommend a visit to Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – an outstanding independent bookshop with some quirky and creative features.

Mar 6, 2014 - Spirituality    1 Comment

Inviting something in for Lent

Picture of a tree surrounded by spring bulbs

There’s something about this time of year, the arrival of spring and the beginning of Lent, that encourages a degree of introspection and self-improvement, whatever your spiritual beliefs.

However, I have never been a fan of regimes that involve denial or giving things up. I feel that whenever I have focused on trying to cut something out of my life I have ended up giving far too much mental attention to the unwanted habit or behaviour in question.

So, I’m trying a new way of doing things. For Lent I will be inviting something positive into my life on the basis that the more good habits I develop, the less room there will be for bad ones.

This year I have chosen to introduce a gratitude practice. For each of the 40 days of Lent I will be keeping a list of all the things I am grateful for – from big wins to the small things that are so easy to overlook or take for granted.

We’re only two days in and I already have 20 things to be grateful for. How many do you think I’ll end up with…?

Check back in at Easter to find out!

 

Mar 1, 2014 - Haiku, Wonderful words    2 Comments

Creative Collaboration

Image of golden drops

One of the best things about blogging is the way in which it enables you to make connections with like-minded people, and to collaborate with them on creative projects.

This wonderful image was created by Sara Moss from ‘we are the treasure hunters‘ – a fantastic resource for curious souls who enjoy collecting new people, places and ideas. Sara has taken some of the haiku that I wrote in January and added her own beautiful artwork, publishing the end results on her Facebook page. I’m sure you’ll agree that these images really bring the words to life. Thank you Sara!

I’ve also been lucky enough to contribute to Morgen Bailey’s amazing writing blog - a mine of inspiration for writers everywhere, crammed full of useful content such as interviews, top tips and reviews. Morgen has even created a podcast from some six word stories that I submitted to her site. You can listen in here by selecting episode 37. My thanks go to you too Morgen.

Have you collaborated on any creative projects lately?

Feb 19, 2014 - Haiku    No Comments

Dusk

Reflection of the sky at dusk in a still pond

After all of the stormy weather that we have endured for the past few months, it’s lovely to go outside and find a sense of stillness and peace.

I went for a much-needed nature walk at dusk today and soaked up the soft light, the birdsong and the reflection of the sky in a local pond. This haiku was the result:

Dusk brings a stillness
Quiet sky, resting water
Lavender moments.

Feb 8, 2014 - Nature notes    No Comments

Snowdrops

snowdrops

With the whole of the South West under seige from wind and rain, spring seems an awfully distant prospect. However, on a wintry walk earlier this week I found an encouraging sign – this lovely clump of snowdrops growing on a wooded bank.

“The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day.”

As this folk rhyme points out, the beginning of February is traditionally about celebrating light and the return of longer days, and the delicate beauty of these white flowers is a fitting reminder that life is beginning to return to the land .

Hardy little plants that prefer partially shady spots, the Galanthus family was probably introduced to the UK in the early part of the sixteenth century. Their hardened leaf tips are tough enough to push through snow and frozen ground, although this year they might find a set of gills more useful!

Medicinal uses for snowdrops include management of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and the treatment of injuries to the nervous system. They are also known as the ‘flower of hope’ and that’s exactly what they gave me during these blustery times.

 

Feb 2, 2014 - Haiku    No Comments

Small Stones 2014 part three

Picture of Bondi beach

So, at the end of my last post I left you hanging… but that’s because I was off to Australia!

I spent a wonderful two weeks exploring Sydney and Melbourne, attending the Australian Open tennis tournament, looking at Aboriginal art and experiencing a very welcome ‘summer in January’. As a result, the rest of my haiku for the month of small stones took on a much sunnier flavour (with one or two exceptions). Here they are.

14 January 2014

Up high, beyond clouds
A day slips past, unnoticed,
Lost in vapour trails.

15 January 2014

Palm tree silhouettes
Spiky black against mountains
Rolling misty green.

16 January 2014

White sails fluttering
Between blues of sky and sea
Flying lightly on.

17 January 2014

A myriad of
Tiny dots, vibrant colours
Merge to form a whole.

18 January 2014

Blue court, white lines, balls
Flash back and forth like shooting
Stars across night sky.

19 January 2014

A beautiful face
Painted on a red brick wall
Gazes out, serene.

20 January 2014

Wind swirls, rippling the
River basin as leaves drop
Early golden fall.

21 January 2014

On the horizon
Grey sky builds, shadows darken
Humidity climbs.

22 January 2014

Black bamboo reaches
Skyward, rustling shadow lines
Above koi-filled pond.

23 January 2014

Fin breaks the surface
Of a slate grey bay, we freeze
As it rolls and sinks.

24 January 2014

Rivers of red sand
Compressed into cliffs, layered
Through wind, rain and time.

25 January 2014

Vines, row upon row
Squat, close to the parched brown ground
Nurturing ripe fruit.

26 January 2014

Flotilla gathers
Sail and steam, cloth and metal
All stream together.

27 January 2014

Trees rustle gently
Shimmering in a sea breeze
Shade, comfort and peace.

28 January 2014

Red, orange, yellow
Below layers of turquoise
Unseen from below.

29 January 2014

Familiar birds
Their song a reminder that
Home always remains.

30 January 2014

A white mist rolls in
Hiding shapes, shrinking the world
To one murky glimpse.

31 January 2014

Rain drips from beige thatch
A curtain of droplets, each
A  fine silver bead.

Jan 13, 2014 - Haiku    No Comments

Small Stones 2014 part two

Spring bulbs under a winter tree

Here are the haiku that I’ve come up with during the second week of the small stones mindful writing project. I know I’m one short but you’ll find out more about that in a couple of weeks time…

Enjoy!

8 January 2014

Winter branches, black
Against a sky, deep, dark blue
Fingers on velvet.

9 January 2014

Sun sinks low, the light
Reflects gold, caramel, fawn
Highlights on old stone.

10 January 2014

Roast potatoes, crisp
Golden shells, light and fluffy
Inside, warm my soul.

11 January 2014

Whispy white tendrils
Whizz across washed out sky blue
Palest candy floss.

12 January 2014

Sofa cushions sink
Mould themselves to cradle me
Soft velvet support.

13 January 2014

Condensation fogs
Each pane, a misty field glints
Like strands of seaweed.

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