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!

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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.

The 3 Best Things in Life

As I try to write this, one of the best things in life is currently sitting his black furry bottom directly in front of my screen. Make me the No. 1 Bestest Thing Ever, says Sid. Okay, no problem. I definitely believe that cats are God’s best invention. I was trying to do my end of year tax return this week, and Felicity insisted on sitting on my knee, which meant that I had to type with one hand while the other hand stopped her from slipping off. I have to say Knee Cats should be part of every stressed office. It would bring down the nation’s blood pressure by ten points per session. Health Minister (whoever you are – I don’t watch the news) take note! There was a psychiatrist called David Hawkins who used kinesiology to measure the vibrational level of various feelings and states. Love was measured at 500 out of 1000, and a cat’s purr was at 540. So there you go. Scientific proof that cats are good for you! The second most wonderful invention in life is the book. I love books. Just today I went into yet another wormhole of a different space-time continuum (“I’l just pop into the library for 5 minutes to collect a reserve”) and staggered out with a large basket of books an hour later. You are allowed take out 12 books at a time now. 12! And sometimes if I am stuck the library staff let me take out an extra couple as well, just in case! It’s a whole universe of possibilities. The third best invention in life is chocolate. I have been vegetarian most of my life but went vegan a year ago. I was a bit worried about my chocolate intake but have been able to relax by keeping about 6 bars of dark chocolate hidden from myself in the press. As Homer might say, Mmmmm….chocolate! Okay, that’s it, I have to go and have some chocolate now, while reading a book and with at least one cat on my person. Could Nirvana be any better than this?!Nov & 8 Dec 2015 566

Tai Chi Lessons

I have always believed that you can change by starting at either a physical or psychological level. I have been studying Taoist Tai Chi for a year now and it confirms my belief. I have noticed myself becoming more able to let go as I do even five minutes of practice a day. The teacher we had on Saturday explained how a slight change in posture made all the difference. “So we are aiming for lightness, ease and letting go of struggle?” I asked. “Exactly,” she said, as one of the lads giggled and said, “You should put that on a T shirt!” I had already known that at times I put too much effort into trying to make things happen as opposed to doing my best and then letting go. Tai Chi is teaching me how to use minimum effort to achieve the same result. It takes a “Head” understanding down into the body and effects transformation easily and subtly, once you continue practising. I have also finally learned in the last year or so that simply going to a class once a week is not enough for me to actually learn a new skill. Doing a small bit each day is the key. For me, the best thing about Tai Chi is knowing that it really doesn’t matter whether I get it right or wrong. It feels good, it feels relaxing and enjoyable. It requires focused concentration to get the “form” or sequence of movements correct, and because you have to focus, the mind quietens down. Meditation in motion. How peaceful is that.