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.

Grace Bringing Favours

It’s been a rough year, and it’s only May. I won’t go into the gory details of why, except to say that an elderly mother is part of the equation. For those of you caring for an elderly parent, enough said. So I have needed to regroup. Part of what I have done in the last few months was to take a sabbatical from writing anything other than my Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.) It has been a time of paring down commitments in order to give myself time to recover. One of the great things that has supported me is the Tai Chi class I started going to last October. I love it. It requires total attention to detail so the thinking mind has to go on holiday. It’s also very graceful and flowing, like a slow dance. We do the form, or practice of the 108 moves, in total silence. I find it incredibly peaceful. Mobile phone off, quietness, and moving meditation. It teaches you patience, because you practice and practice and then one day, you find that you know a bit of it, and gradually add a little more to what you know. It can’t be rushed. I know about the first eight moves and the two snake movements, that’s all. I bought a bamboo plant and put it in a pot in the back garden. The bamboo is on one side of me and the shed is on the other in a very small space as I try to practice the little I know out of sight of the neighbours, so that they won’t call for a strait jacket for me. The second string of my regaining my equilibrium has been my daily meditation practice, a godsend in tough times. It’s a lovely rest for the mind and helps me focus on all my blessings, of which there are many. Of course the cats are a great help too. Felicity leaped on a sheet hanging over the stairs last week, and slid down the bannister with claws stuck in the fabric, a look of total shock on her face. It was the funniest thing I have seen all year and gave me a much-needed belly laugh. So I am grateful for all mercies, large and small, and especially the way the Universe responded when I asked for help in regaining my joie de vivre. Try it. Sure what have you got to lose?! 🙂

The Comfort of Old Friends

On Saturday I met my friend for lunch. We met at secondary school many, many years ago. We were in the same class. I distinctly remember being behind her on the stairs and noticing with awe and admiration her high heeled blue shoes which were anything but regulation school wear. She still has great shoe sense and I still admire her greatly. As we chat, we invariably say “I can’t believe that was twenty/thirty/forty years ago!” It does indeed seem unbelievable to both of us, because inside we feel eternally young. Personally, I feel like I am about thirty one inside: old enough to be gaining perspective on existential angst, young enough to do cartwheels, although I was never great at them. I notice that these days, my mind is better able to grasp complexities but there is the occasional click of neck or knee to remind me that time is moving on for my body. I also notice that it takes a lot more maintenance than previously to keep my body working as well as it can! I used to do yoga once a week. It was optional. Now I do it every day and it’s not optional – I seize up if I don’t do it! However, on the positive side, I recently started learning Tai chi and I absolutely love it. I had tried to learn it years ago but didn’t stick with it. This time around, I have found a class that is ongoing, with really committed teachers, and I am in it for the long haul. When I am doing Tai chi, time stops. I am completely focused on trying to do the movements correctly and in the correct sequence, and my mind is at rest. It is meditation in motion. There is a palpable sense of peace in the room. It was one of the things my friend and I chatted about at lunch. Another thing we giggled over was how Sister Camillus told us to go our separate ways when we ended up in different classes, and that she didn’t want to see us trying to keep in contact on our lunch breaks. Yeah, right. Great judge of people she was! Oh it’s great to be grown up and mature all right!

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Simple Pleasures

Yesterday I went to the library and emerged, as usual, with a basket of books and a big smile on my face. I have never lost my enthusiasm for going to the library and to me, it is like an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures and possibilities. Not only do they offer books, but of course there are audio books, CDs, MP3s, and DVDs. It’s like a permanent and ongoing lottery win. I’ve just finished listening to the mellifluous voice of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes telling wonderful archetypal stories on the mythology of the crone, while driving my ancient Nisssan Micra grubby with dog hair and cat fur. Quite subversive, don’t you think?! A couple of years ago the library increased the number of books you are allowed to take out to twelve. Twelve! I was thrilled! My motto is that a book and a cat in each room in the house makes a happy home. Yesterday afternoon I turned the phone off and delved into a selection with large, black, furry Sid on my knee. This afternoon it was Felicity’s turn. Could there be anything better than having a purring cat on your knee in front of the fire as you read a good book? Seriously? And as a writer, I can call it “research!” Way to go. The simple pleasures are always the ones that delight the heart and fill the soul.

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