Pause for thought

Sometimes, when reading other people’s blogs, we find just what is needed to make us re-think and remind ourselves what matters.

Yesterday, after visiting someone in hospital – one of too many friends and acquaintances who are suffering one way or another, I wasn’t feeling very positive. 

Today, I had a very timely reminder when reading Jan Fortune’s blog. She was quoting GK Chesterton –

In his autobiography G K Chesterton wrestled with the issue of how we retain a sense of wonder and concluded:

At the back of our brains… there is a forgotten blaze or burst of  astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and  spiritual life is to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he is actually alive, and be happy.

Sometimes we have to dig deep to find a submerged sunrise of wonder. we need reminding to look outside of ourselves, to forget back pain , forget the troubles of those around us and just appreciate the wonder of the natural world. That world can help to keep us sane when the world of politics, war, poverty, climate change and so on and so on can leave us totally depressed.

WH Davies wrote

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Inspiration can come from anywhere

Sometimes it pays to stop looking too hard for ideas, for inspiration. Faced with making a large garden manageable for one person and aiming for a  more low maintenance design, I’ve been turnng to books by Monty Don, copies of Gardeners’ World magazine and any books I can find that will help.

I like the idea of rewilding some areas but am well aware that this does not mean just leaving them alone – they still need to be monitored and managed. I am also intent on scouring beaches for driftwood that can be used as natural sculptures. This could take some time!

At the moment, the garden is definitely ‘work in progress’ and I am under no illusion that all will go smoothly but it’s an enjoyable journey. This morning, after my daughter sent a photo on facebook, I was inspired to create a quirky and temporary ‘sculpture’ by the shed.

I had wondered about including some sculptures made out of recycled objects. This will obviously be a temporary addition, but it made me smile and led to me thinking what else I could do that would be more permanent – watch this space …

Tolstoy and Happiness

Tolstoy – I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good and who are not accustomed to having it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbour — such is my idea of happiness.

I can identify with the above quotation. I am finding that, although it may surprise some people,  I wake up each morning looking forward to the day ahead. Yes, I am now on my own and I have many challenges to face, things to do that I hadn’t needed to do before, but I am enjoying finding these are not too daunting. I am relishing the opportunity to develop new skills.

There are those who need my support, sometimes due to distance that can only be by phone calls, but others are nearby. The garden is a place which continues to be very therapeutic and time spent there passes all too quickly.  The surrounding countryside is a constant source of inspiration and solace. I have freedom to ‘stop and stare’-  no need to watch the clock, my time is my own and yes -books, poetry, music, good friends, family (although these are not nearby) the beauty of the surrounding natural world – all make for a good life. Like Tolstoy, I am happy.

Grief and Grass

In the last four months I’ve been on a fairly steep learning curve. Especially when it comes to gardening and IT. The latter is still causing some challenges – I still haven’t mastered using three remote controls and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to put the theory of page layout design into practice. I’ve learnt over the years, by living with someone who was talented in this field, the principles of what makes a page look attractive, whether it’s in a magazine, a newsletter or a book. Knowing how to use packages such as ‘In Design’ is another matter.

 I’m doing better with gardening. At least there are books, magazines and programmes to guide a novice – with instructions that I can follow. Monty Don’s books and Gardeners’ World magazines and programmes are essential to my daily life now.

However there has been one aspect that has caused me more than a few hours of consternation. In the garage there lurks a rather daunting machine – a petrol driven lawnmower. This is one that I had only ever tried to use once in the past and given up as I felt it was in control, not me.

Fortunately grass grows more slowly in winter, even here – an area known for good grass – hence the many dairy herds. But now, the clocks have gone forward, the temperatures have risen (most days) and the grass is looking decidely shaggy. yesterday was the one dry and sunny day forecast this week, so I decided it was time to stop procrastinating and overcome the wimp in me that has an inbuilt reluctance to handle machinery.

After asking a neighbour how to start it (what an admission to have to make) I hesitantly moved forward. Once I’d found out how to slow it down, it wasn’t too bad. Every step forward brought more confidence although I’ve yet to find circular beds and curved edges ‘nae bother’. The lawn at the back was more straight forward – literally. Here there weren’t quite so many challenging corners.

One part of the garden I’ve already started to turn into a shrubbery and I’ll sow wildflower seeds in another area. Creating the garden so that it suits my age and abilities is proving to be an inspiration and grief, along with the grass, is being composted to benefit future growth.

Cutting back, Seeing Through

This is  a time for reassessment in many ways and I’m finding that it’s not only the garden that is benefitting from a season of pruning and clearing out .20230212_133312_resized

There are times when you have to shed too many belongings, times when overgrown shrubs and plants need to be cut back and times when you look at a poem and find there are too many unnecessary words that can be cut.

Out in the garden yesterday I decided it was time to tackle an area that had been neglected for too long. It took far longer than I thought, but as I worked away I found it was very therapeutic. I was left with a pile of stuff to be either shredded,  composted or binned but I was also left with the feeling that I’d also shed a lot of thoughts that had been troubling me. As well as the garden looking clearer my mind was also. 20230212_142942_resized

Time to look at some poems and cut out the dead wood from those!

Winter Sleep

It’s New Year’s Day
the garden has been left
left to sleep under a blanket
of wet leaves for weeks

Leaves have been caught
among marjoram and sage that
overhang the bed of herbs
in the Buddha garden

Buddha observes silently
his ‘teaching’ hands fixed
in position as I cut back
and pull up unwanted ivy

Ivy provides birds with berries
but also chokes the clematis
with strangling tendrils
in a cat’s cradle of tangles

After a day of flooding
the sun is shining    no wind
disturbs the peace as I
work while the garden sleeps

Pruning Back

New Year’s Day         the garden
sleeps under a blanket of wet leaves for weeks

Leaves   trapped among marjoram and sage
overhang  beds of herbs in the Buddha garden

Buddha observes    his ‘teaching’ hands fixed
in position as I cut back     pull up unwanted ivy

Ivy provides birds with berries       also chokes the clematis
with strangling tendrils in a cat’s cradle of tangles

After a day of floods                    the sun is shining   no wind
disturbs the peace as I work        absorbed

I look forward to the first signs of spring           spears of
snowdrops appearing        white lights to pierce the dark


One Step at a Time

It takes a lot of getting used to – finding out just how much there is to do, just getting by after the death of a long term partner. In most marriages there are many things that are shared but also many things that are left for the other person to deal with. When that person is no longer there, then there are so many questions – how did he do that? Where did he keep that? What do I do to fix this? And so on….

It can be daunting – it is daunting! It’s also very easy to get snowed under with piles of paper waiting to be dealt with, a to do list that gets longer in spite of crossing  some things off.

How to get through all the unfamiliar tasks, how to stay calm, how to cope? Life is full of questions after a death. One thing at a time – take time out to meet friends, don’t hide away, go for walks, spend time in the garden, don’t be overpwered by the feeling that everything needs to be done now. Take time to adjust, take time to focus on what you have to get used to as being the new ‘normal’.

I’ve realised that it is still possible to be happy when still grieving – strange as that might seem. There are still beautiful sunsets and sunrises, friends and family are like a comfort blanket, life goes on, we still have happy memories. I can look back on our time together  – better to reflect on that than feel resentment about not having more years together.

There are times when just looking at a photograph will bring tears, listening to a piece of music will bring a lump to the throat and be painful. That’s not unusual – just normal. Sorting out clothes and other belongings is hard – one of the hardest things. I’m finding that having those around for a while does help, but not everyone does.

For me, taking one thing at a time, not trying to cope with everything at once is the way to stay sane, to stay on an even keel and keep positive. Life after a death is like climbing a mountain – we have to take it slowly, not rush, not be daunted by the steep climb of the unknown that looms ahead.


Life and Loss

Since 23rd November it feels as though my life has been turned upside down. My husband of very many years had a stroke and we said our final goodbye on December 7th. We have always spent so much time together walking in the beautiful countryside and along the coast. Although he wasn’t a writer, we both shared a love of photography and he was always there to help me with selecting a good composition.

A few days after he had passed away I was out on a sunny, frosty morning with my camera and was very aware of him and what he would have been saying to me as we walked through the woodland and by the lochside. Moments like this I still feel that he is with me. The beauty of the natural world is a great comfort.


Love Endures

Questions remain,
faith suspended,
doubt always there,
belief upended.

of what lies ahead,
what faces us beyond
that final curtain.

When we face the end,
will we see and know
beyond that cloud
of unknowing?

Live for the now.
Of the present we are sure.
Though our lives will end,
love will endure.




Days of Rain

The last  couple of months have been very wet. A week that has more than a couple of dry days is a real bonus. I guess we have to get used to more stormy weather, more rain and more unseasonal high temperatures. Recently we had an overnight temperature of fourteen degrees – that’s ten degrees higher than we’d  expect at this time of the year.

Now we hear of severe floods in Pakistan and various other places. What we have to cope with pales into insignificance. OK, the grass is six inches high in places and we are still waiting for it to be dry enough to cut, but that really doesn’t matter. We are fortunate.

Donning waterproofs before heading out for a walk is becoming a daily routine.If it’s not raining now, it probably will be before we get back home. There are some compensations though. Without the days of sunhine and showers we wouldn’t get rainbows. And what gladdens the heart, lifts the spirits and makes us smile more than a rainbow?


Being a Willow

We’re nearing the end of yet another eventful year. Autumn is a good time for walking in woods, for remembering and reflecting. It’s a time for looking forward, not just for looking back. A time for looking for the positive, for being hopeful.
For some the autumn is a sad time – they look on the fallen leaves and the flowers dying, going to seed and find that depressing. Much better to think of the new growth that will come in the spring. Much better to love the autumn colours, admire the silhouettes of the bare branches, the delicate tracery of the finer branches that stand out against the blue sky.

A recent walk through one of the nearby woods, reminded me of the advice given by a dear friend many years ago –

Being a Willow       i.m. of HW

You always told students
to be a willow not an oak

to play a violin you need
willow flexibility not
solid rigidity of an oak

bend as you bow
let music flow
through you

remember those words
that also ring true
weather life’s storms

not by putting down
stubborn roots
like those of an ancient oak

be like willows- bend then
you can find strength and survive


A time for reflecting …

Schopenhauer & Waterfalls

One thing leads to another – I have been enjoying re- reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. The last time I read it I was in my teens – a very long time ago. Now, I am appreciating it far more.

It also made me want to read more about Mann, so I started to read Ronald Hayman’s biography of Thomas Mann. This led to more reading about Schopenhauer (as Mann was influenced by both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche). In Nigel Warburton’s book Philosophy:The Classics 2nd Edition, there is a section that particularly interested me –

Schopenhauer and Art – here he explains how ‘ art has a pre-eminent position in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. When we contemplate a work of art we can, and should, set aside any practical concerns and cares, any notion of the work of art serving as a function for us. We lose ourselves in contemplation. The same is true of our experience of beauty in nature: we can achieve this state of peaceful contemplation looking at a waterfall or a mountain just as much as a great painting.

Today, this passage seemed even more relevant as we walked in soft autumn sunshine through the Wood of Cree.