Social Experiments

Over the years, I have tried out various kinds of things. Dancing, for instance. I have done classes in salsa, set dancing, African dancing, zumba, flamenco and blues. I believe I have great rhythm but the problems set in when I try to coordinate with another person. Maybe I am destined to be a solo dancer. I don’t mind, because I will keep dancing anyway, no matter what. At the last family wedding, I was quite tired and therefore looked a bit less mad than usual on the dancing front. I heard that some of my family were relieved. I can’t imagine why. Last weekend, I tried out something new: Chanting and Chai. It was the singing of kirtans (devotional singing, non denominational, in English, Hindu, Sanskrit and possibly a couple of other languages.) It was great fun, followed by a meditation where the man played a sitar (very relaxing) and followed by (in the Irish tradition) big mugs of tay and hefty doorstep sandwiches. Food for the body as well as the soul! I had a ball. I even met someone with the same first name as me, who put me in the direction of a new type of dancing I haven’t yet tried. So even though it’s freezing out and snow is forecast, I feel cheerful and am already looking forward to my next dancing experiment. Watch this space!


The Kindness of Strangers

Today was the day my ancient Nissan Micra offered its clutch to the great God of defunct cars. There had been signs but I was hoping to get a few more days out of it. It was not to be. I went around a corner through a set of traffic lights and that was it. No gears to be had. I prayed to the angels for help. What I had in mind was being able to find any gear other than reverse and get it home, ten minutes away. It was not to be. However, two hefty young Gardai out of the Traffic Corps appeared within three minutes (thanks angels and Gardai) and pushed it off the road. Shortly after, two women helped me reposition it. A man stopped in traffic, pulled in and got out to see if he could help. The breakdown assist man appeared within twenty minutes (thanks angels). I went into the nearby shopping centre to find out about buses and went into a shop. The manager offered to loan me twenty euros to get a taxi home – and “I could drop it in to him the next time I was around.” I kid you not. When I got home, two sets of neighbours help me round up the cats as I always try to have them in before dark but I was late home of course. I got three in and then one escaped. Amazingly, I got her back in nearly immediately (thanks angels) as by this time I was pretty exhausted. A day like today reminds me of all the things I appreciate about the friendliness of Irish people as well as my neighbours from other countries. And of course, the angels. Thank you all. I feel blessed. 🙂

Happy Choose-Day

Apparently 13 million people watched the Blue Planet 2 series. I was one of them on Sunday evening. Over the last three years, the Barrier Reef has had an exponential increase in the amount of dying coral. Where before there was a beautiful smorgasbord of colour, life and movement, now there is just the bones of bleached and dead coral. I was horrified. The cause? High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which turns into carbonic acid in the sea and dissolves the coral. And the main cause of high levels of carbon dioxide? Burning fossil fuels. I looked guiltily at the open fire and the coal burning in it. Yesterday evening, I declared an amnesty on my guilt as I could either hold on to feeling guilty and do nothing, or forgive myself, change my actions and do something positive. I looked up carbon neutral wood as a solid fuel alternative. Interestingly, many of the sawdust briquettes I looked at had the word Eco attached to them. I emailed one of the suppliers and asked were they produced in Ireland? The answer was no. So I wonder how environmentally friendly an Eco log or briquette is if it involves much burning of diesel while being transported across Europe. Anyway, today I found an Irish version. And the news gets better. There is no VAT tax on sawdust briquettes, and they also produce low amounts of ash. This means less weight in the dustbin. The ash can in fact be used as a fertiliser.

The second thing in the program that horrified me was that 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the sea every year. It breaks down into microplastic beads, which is eaten by plankton. The plankton and the plastic makes its way up the food chain and may be responsible for the death of young dolphins, poisoned by their mother’s milk. The program didn’t say it, but obviously the same plastic is in the human food chain. Those who eat fish may well have toxic plastic residue in their systems. Who knows the effect of such pollution? Who knows how much cancer or infertility it causes? In any case, all I can think of to contribute towards a solution for the plastic problem is to share with you about Prill Beads. Years ago I used to use a water filter, then went through a phase of buying bottled water – until I discovered Prill Beads. They are made from magnesium oxide and you put them in a large glass jar, then top it up with tap water. One hour later, you have great tasting water to drink. They last forever, although you may need to change the small net bag they often come in. I’m still using beads I bought nearly five years ago. No plastic bottles involved, which is better for the planet. No more buying of plastic bottles of water, which is good for your pocket (and your back, with the weight of said bottles!) So today has been a Good Choose-Day for me. Hopefully I will continue to find new ways to be kind to this beautiful planet of ours. We are all connected. What we choose to do, or not do, makes a difference. Imagine if 13 million of us all make one small change!

Garden Eyes

I had left pruning back the passion flower in case there were any late bees, but yesterday I got stuck in to it. As I cut back the wisteria, jasmine and passionflower, I began to see the amount of dead wood on the honeysuckle behind it. No wonder the poor lilac tree had not blossomed so well, with such competition for light and nutrients. The cats were delighted as they get energised when I work in the garden, and Harry Three Paws was bombing around the place like a lunatic. I filled the brown bin with greenery, then put the ladder beside it and jumped into it to stuff it down more. This was better than Miramax to the cats, who were thrilled to see Cat Mammy losing the plot and jumping up and down in a bin. When I finished working I looked at the end result with Logical Eyes first. The place looked like a tornado had hit. There were piles of cut raspberry canes (fantastic harvest during the summer) and piles of greenery that wouldn’t fit in the bin. It looked awful. Then I looked at it with Creative Eyes. I could see where I had planted giant borage (ecchium) (thanks for the seeds, writing buddy Dolly!) as a Bee Hotel for next summer. I had uprooted the fatsia japonica and relocated it to a young friend’s garden as she does floristry, and in the space where it used to be I had planted many daffodil bulbs. I hope they will bring cheerful yellow to tide me through the darkness of winter, which I will be able to see from the back door. I want to change what is usually in one flowerbed, but I don’t know to what just yet. It’s full of potential. I decided that Logical Eyes are overrated. The garden is like myself, a work in progress. I can live with the mess and choose to see only the potential.

Animal Teachers

Cats know how to be still. We have a lot to learn from them. Outer stillness can give rise to inner stillness, with practice. The outer stillness is a necessary first step. Then comes the lion-taming bit (learning from bigger cats) where we try to practice becoming a witness to our thoughts. It’s where we try to imagine that we are the blue sky and our thoughts are the clouds. Another analogy is trying to keep a puppy or a toddler on a blanket. They keep wandering off, and our job is to stay calm and gently bring them back. That’s all. This is a process that we practice, not a goal to meet. The benefit of such practice is being able to respond instead of reacting, being able to be patient when previously you wanted to knock someone’s block off. The cause of suffering is our reaction to what happens, not what actually happens. I was walking a golden Labrador on the seafront this morning. He was full of the joys of life. Dogs are so enthusiastic! I had one of those bendy sticks. The plan was that if I was going one direction, I would throw the ball back behind me to increase his exercise. Well, that was Plan A. What actually happened is that the first few times, he didn’t see where the ball went so I had to show him. Then I had some abortive attempts at throwing the ball at all because I had jammed it too hard into the end of the throwing stick. Hmm. What’s the lesson here, I wondered? Might it be about holding on too hard and then not being able to let go? Quite possibly. Also about being out of practice with said stick. So Plan B involved me burning more calories than I expected to (good news) and eventually using a two-handed approach that would have put Tiger Woods (more cat references!) to shame. So it didn’t quite go to plan, but the important thing was that the dog was happy. Me too, considering that (a) it was cold but dry unlike Wednesday morning and (b) my serotonin levels were up with all the extra throwing and walking. A good time had by all.