Thursday, April 28, 2016

Earth Day

Yes, I'll celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the death of Shakespeare . . . where would the English language be without him?
Yes, I'll honour the Queen's 90th birthday . . . her years of service deserve our gratitude.
I'm even willing to give thanks for St George . . . a fine man, I don't doubt, although probably the dragon would disagree.
What seems a little unfortunate is that these three anniversaries should have coincided last week, and, even more unfortunate, that they squeezed out Earth Day.

Did you know that it was Earth Day last Friday?
I saw no mention in the media, and it was only thanks to the internet that I was able to access the many speakers called upon to mark the occasion.

Yet, without the Earth there would be no Shakespeare, no Queen, no St George.  Whilst the sobering discussions I heard online underlined the seriousness of the Earth's fast-changing situation.

Listeners were reminded of the increase in erratic weather patterns, the worldwide shortage of fresh water, the loss of fertility in the soil.  And did you know that there will be no more expeditions to the North Pole?  The ice has become so unstable that rescue aircraft, if needed, can no longer rely on landing safely.

The Earth will survive . . .  but, unless we dramatically change our abuse of available resources,  we could be the ones to go.

We've lost touch with the Earth . . . physically, mentally and spiritually.  We concede that it produces our food, our air, and our water.  But, in our hubris and self-detachment, we imagine that we'll always be able to bully it into contributing enough for our needs.

I say we've lost touch with the Earth, and this is physically all too true.   When did you last walk barefoot in the open air?
Not easy, I grant, for city-dwellers . . . but there are always parks and gardens.
Our ancestors often walked barefoot.  Not because they had no shoes, but because they valued the vital connection with the soil beneath their feet.

They knew instinctively that this contact provided the anti-oxidants that improved their overall health,  and added to their energy levels.

We've literally lost touch with our base.
And, although we badly needed a wake-up call,  Earth Day came and went largely unrecognised.

So, what can we do?  Time isn't on our side.
We can reduce our consumption of the world's resources, even a small reduction in the amount of meat consumed would make a major difference.  We can promote locally-grown produce, we can treat water as a precious commodity, and we can take steps to slow down the rapidly increasing problem of air pollution . . . in the UK alone, air pollution kills over forty thousand people every year.
The one certainty?  Something has to be done.

Who better than Shakespeare to sum up our current dilemma.
To be . . . or not to be?  That is the question, the vital question . . . and it's one we need to answer.

But, if we're such stuff as dreams are made of, then let's dream of a profound change of heart.
Let's dream of a heart that enables us to recognise where we've gone so badly wrong, a heart that encourages us to put things right.

Will it be a case of 'all's well that ends well'?
As Earth Day demonstrated so profoundly  . . . that's entirely up to us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just say "Yes!"

May I share a positively magical piece of advice?  It was offered to me the other day and, much to my surprise, I discovered that it works!

For all the wonder of their construction, and the infinite complexity of their design, our bodies are still amazingly gullible . . . they believe what we tell them.
You're doubtful?  Then try the advice I was offered.

Say "Yes!" out loud . . . and see what happens.
Your mouth will turn up at the corners and your cheeks will lift.   In response, your body will sense that you're smiling and interpret this smile to mean that you're happy.

So, what does it do?  It sends out a flow of endorphins which, in their turn, give rise to an all-pervading sense of wellbeing and relaxation.
Life, it tells you, is good . . . you feel grateful and integrated.

Now, try the alternative . . .  say "No!"
Did you feel your mouth turn down and your cheeks tighten?  Your body, sensing this time that something's wrong, responds with the fight-or-flight stress hormone, cortisol.  Very quickly, you become tense and anxious.
Life, says your body, is something to be feared . . . you feel worried and isolated.

And remember, we were just saying "Yes!" and "No!"  The words bore no relation to any particular thought or situation.

There are other words that have a calming, uplifting effect.  Try saying "Pleasure", "Peace", or just simply "Happy".
Feel your eyes crease up at the corners, your shoulders relax and your breathing slow down . . . doesn't that feel better?

We live in stressful and fast-moving times, protesting "No!" won't help us to acclimatise to the impetus of events.
But if we allow whatever arises to come and pass with an acquiescent "Yes!", then surely it will be easier to cope with demanding situations?

So, shall we put the advice into practice?

Oh, yes . . . Yes . . . YES!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

A young cat's fancy . . .

Hello, it's Chloe here . . . have you a moment to spare?
I thought we could have a quick chat and catch up on things . . .  like Spring.

"In the Spring," my Mum said to me the other day, "a young cat's fancy lightly turns to climbing trees."
True, I was balancing on a tree-stump at the time, but there's no doubt she'd got the right idea.

There's something in the air at the moment, something in the increasing light.  It tickles your whiskers and gives a cat an unaccountable urge to move upwards . . . preferably up a tree.

According to my Mum, this spring in the step could be something to do with what she calls an Equi-knocks.

I must say I've never come across an Equi-knocks, have you?  But what with the birds singing so loudly, and all those flowers suddenly coming into bloom, well, it certainly knocks a lot of extra bounce into a cat's spirits.

Mind you, I wouldn't agree that cats take the idea of climbing trees lightly.  It's nothing like as easy as some ignorant people might suggest.
Oh no . . .  it takes careful planning, a lot of digging in of claws, and you have to hold on very, very tight.

It also helps if you've got a Mum at ground level who'll give your backside a push at the critical moment . . . and negotiate you down again if you get a bit stuck.

Coming down is always the tricky bit.
You have to do it very carefully . . . backside first.
And, between you and me, knowing that those pesky squirrels are watching doesn't help . . . a cat has her pride.

As you can see, we practiced hard in the garden, and then, when I was really good at both going up and coming down, my Mum took me on an exciting outing to Richmond Park.

Did you know they've got some very hard-to-climb trees in Richmond Park?   Not only that, if you look at these pictures you'll see all the water underneath.  Good balance and steady paws are essential!

Oh dear, is that the time?
I'm so sorry, it's been lovely to have a chat but I must be off.

A cat can't waste Springtime pawing at a keyboard when she could be climbing trees in the garden.

I wonder what a young cat's fancy turns to in the Summer . . .  swimming, perhaps?
I'll let you know!

Friday, April 1, 2016

We can't do without it . . .

I'm delighted to have some good news to share with you.

Do you remember how concerned we were about the plastic in the oceans . . . worrying about the fast-expanding 'islands', and overwhelmed by the vast quantity of non-degradable plastic that's discarded daily?

Well, I've just read about a new type of plastic, a very different type of plastic.

This product is made from algae, and has evolved after careful research at the School of Packaging at Michigan State University.

The material can be made into a bottle that is not only biodegradable, but, if you fancy an unusual snack, can actually be eaten.  The bottle retains its shape just so long as it contains liquid, but will start to decompose the moment it's empty.

Whilst not the final solution to a worldwide problem, it's undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

But if this new development has produced answers, it has also raised questions . . . the foremost being: why do we want to manufacture so many bottles in the first place?
The answer, of course, is because they can be used to contain water . . . water, the vital substance that plays such an essential role in all our lives.

You and I take fresh water for granted, we use it unthinkingly, we leave taps and hoses running, we waste it when we should be treasuring every drop.

Did you know, I didn't, that nearly one billion people in the developing world lack access to safe drinking water?
How would we feel, I wonder, if we needed to spend over four hours a day walking in search of water?  Yet that's what many women and children are forced to undertake.
Would we, in the west, accept it as inevitable if thousands of us died each year from water-related diseases?

Take the situation in India where, it seems, nearly eighty million people lack access to safe water.  Click here to witness a disturbing situation, one that exists at the present time on the heavily polluted and often stagnant River Ganges.

Just think about it for a moment . . . without water we wouldn't be here, it's as simple as that.
Water is the basis of life . . . the essential ingredient in our physical structure.  Over fifty per cent of a human body is water.  Yet we let it run through our fingers not recognising that it is our fingers.
'Thousands have lived without love,' wrote W.H. Auden, 'not one without water.'

Just look at how, in our thoughtlessness, we behave. We inundate our oceans with plastic . . . we discharge sewerage into the waterways . . .  the chemicals we spray on our fields drain off and pollute the rivers. Even the rain, falling as it does through polluted air, becomes itself polluted.

Water is a miraculous substance. . . yet we abuse it.

But don't take my word for it.  There's someone who can explain the magic of water far better than I can.

 Have you two minutes to spare?  Then click here and listen to the American scientist, Bruce Lipton, describe just what it is that, in our blindness, we fail to value.

Deprived of water, a tree topples.  Deprived of water, a flower withers.  Deprived of water, we die.

Water is not a problem to be solved, it is part of us . . .  and we can't do without it.