Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On full whiskers alert!

Hello, it's Chloe here . . . and I really need your help.
You know my Mum, so could you please have a word with her?  I'm sure she'd listen to you.

Let's put you in the picture.  I'm sure you've noticed the leaves changing colour and the trees dropping their nuts.  Conkers are coming down from chestnut trees, acorns are coming down from oaks.
Now, and this is the important bit, hungry squirrels feed on conkers and acorns, and field-mice feed on the chewed up bits of nuts that the squirrels leave behind.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Our garden has lots of chestnut trees and oak trees . . . so, at the moment, it's full to bursting with hungry squirrels and excited field-mice.  And I need to be out there, paws on, keeping things in check and making sure they all know who's boss!

The problem lies with my Mum, she will insist on bringing me indoors for what she calls 'cat naps'.
'Cat naps' be blowed!  Have you ever heard such nonsense?
She just wants more time with her computer, that's the truth of the matter!
Any conscientious cat, with the needs of the garden in mind, must be outside in the autumn . . . and it's a full-time job!

To show you what I mean, I actually caught three field-mice last week.
Well, I did and I didn't . . . the trouble was that my Mum tried to help me!

I asked her to keep quiet, and stay in the background.  But what did she do?
She grew all excited and, each time I lifted a mouse out of the ivy, holding it carefully in my mouth, she stuck her fingers between my teeth.

A cat's mouth isn't big, it can't possibly cope with mice and fingers simultaneously.  So, when this happened, I promptly dropped the mouse.
Off they went, scuttling away to tell their friends and families about lucky escapes and clumsy cats     . . .  believe you me, I could do without an over-excited Mum trying to help!

However, when it comes to the squirrels we're tackling something quite different.

Squirrels are tricky.  I don't like to criticise my fellow creatures, but, unlike well-behaved cats, I must say that squirrels are noisy and cheeky . . .  very cheeky!
And do they respect my need for privacy when I try to dig a toilet hole?  Not on your life!

My Mum and I met one of the cheekiest squirrels last Friday when we were enjoying the sunshine by the pond.
I was stretched out on the ground, eyes closed, minding my own business.  It was all beautifully peaceful . . . 'tranquil' is the word I think my Mum would use.

All at once, a pesky squirrel came rushing out from under my Mum's seat and do you know what it did?
On its way to the oak tree it leaped right across my backside!
It then shot up the tree, positively jabbering in triumph!

"What a nerve!" exclaimed my Mum.
She took the miaows right out of my mouth.

So, as you can see, I need to be on 'whiskers alert' in the garden to keep those cheeky squirrels in check . . .  and to tell the mice in the ivy that I've got my eye on them.

And I'll tell you something else, all this activity gives a cat a very good appetite!

But I can't stay here chatting . . . those conkers and acorns are still falling and I must round up my Mum.

So, please . . . now that you understand the importance of the situation, will you have a word with her?
Full-time in the garden, remember?
There's more than enough time for 'cat naps' and computers in the winter.

Many grateful purrs from your loving and very busy friend, Chloe.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Good news . . . green news!

I wonder if you share my sense of trepidation when you turn on the news?
Never before have I used the television mute button with such enthusiasm!

On the surface, our current world appears chaotic and confrontational . . . which, when taken together with the hurricanes and volcanic activity, makes it also seem rather scary.

So . . . how about some good news for a change?  I think it's just what we all need.

When we last exchanged ideas we pondered on the crumbling walls of our political and social society.
What I didn't know then was that a special kind of wall is being constructed in Africa, one that's wholly beneficial.   It could, in fact, be looked upon as a wall that's coming to our rescue.

No, it's not a stone barrier, nor is it a divisive wall made out of brick or constructed from mud.
This is a wall that is living, growing and uniting, it's a green wall . . . a wall consisting entirely of trees

Since its inception in 2007, this inspired project has spread.  It now involves eleven African countries and has already transformed countless lives.

At total variance with Donald Trump's plans for a restrictive barrier along the Mexican border,  the Great Green Wall is wholly welcoming.

Eventually it will span the entire width of Africa and, from Senegal to Ethiopia, the countries participating are confident that it will help to counter some of the world's most pressing problems . . . problems such as climate change and the current migration crisis.

Not only that, amongst its many other benefits will be the restoration of arable land, the provision of economic opportunities and the stabilisation of communities.
Click here to read  the impressive details for yourself.

This ambitious enterprise could be termed a social and economic miracle, one brought about not by man's technology, by quite simply by the unquestionable power of trees.

As a wise person once said, 'it's not the survival of the fittest, but the survival of what fits best'.

Trees, as Africa is discovering, not only produce the oxygen that is vital to our existence, but can help our communities to survive if we're wise enough to fit them into our lives.

Could it be that we're finally waking up to our inter-dependence with the living world, our total reliance on the myriad life forms that share this planet?
If so, Africa's Great Green Wall is leading the way, and it's one we all should follow.

So, where should we place our trust . . .  in the branches of a poplar or in the hands of a politician?

No, I don't think we need to answer that question!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Over the wall!

By one of those timely gifts of fate, the picture you're looking at arrived in my email box earlier today. 
It was just what I needed to see . . . could it be that you need it, too?

In so many ways it epitomises our current situation.
After the events of the past week, the base of our ladder, here in the UK, is embedded in the smouldering ashes from an appalling and avoidable fire.  It's leaning against the unstable and crumbling wall of a hung parliament.  The ladder itself is precarious, and all that's visible on this side of the wall is in a state of dismemberment, disunion and fear.

But, as we can see from this picture, if you climb up the ladder and look over the top it suddenly becomes clear that there's life beyond our crumbling world.
It's hard to make out the details, when you've lived in the dark you can be dazzled by the light, but it's undoubtedly colourful, energetic, and alive with potential.  Look at our bowler-hatted representative who, having climbed to the top, is clearly entranced.

And can you read the message that someone has written on this side of the wall?  It isn't a prophesy of doom, there's no mention of the end of the world being nigh . . . on the contrary, it promises that the beginning is near.

So, what can we do?  Surely we can start creating ladders?  We can learn from our mistakes and, supporting each other, climb up out of the past and into the future.

But we should probably get a move on . . . by the look of it, that wall won't hold for ever!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Phoenix Needs The Ashes

An organism crumbles from the core
And we, who dance on the circumference,
Stick paper on the cracks in the pretence
That they will disappear if we ignore
The stench of death. It all took place before,
Man's empires come to pass and no defence
Of the perimeter can check the sense
Of creeping rot within. What lies in store
Is lawful and deserved; we should not mourn,
Or curse the fading light, lest inner eyes
Grow dim and fail to see a seed is borne
In rotting fruit, a seed that never dies.
In Winter's discontent is Spring re-born,
The phoenix needs the ashes to arise.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A time for hope

Wouldn't you agree that, at the present time, we're all of us much in need of a restorative dose of hope?

As we look around, or listen to the news, our turbulent world feels rather like this disturbing picture.

It's a picture in which everyone is anxious, competitive and fearful, whilst at the same time governed by a fierce sense of tribal loyalty.

See how each person clings to the precarious pyramid . . .  struggling to ascend whilst peering in suspicion and fear at any other pyramid that might be in sight.

In happy contrast, I was grateful this week to hear an inspiring talk on the subject of hope . . . a theme perfectly summed up in the words of Bernard Williams: 

"There was never a night or a problem," he wrote, "that could defeat sunrise or hope."

Tell me, as you read those words did you feel your shoulders drop and your breathing deepen?
I did.

His words remind me of another important issue that was discussed in the talk.

Telling us that we were living at a time of global emergency, the speaker asked if we knew another interpretation for the word 'emergency'?
Apparently it can also be seen as a time to 'emerge and see' . . .
a time to wake up.

After all, it's only if we wake up, only if we emerge from the claustrophobic confines of that unstable pyramid, that we'll be fired by the energy of hope that's waiting to guide us.

This is something that must have been borne in mind by the organisers of a recent service at Westminster Abbey, the service held to honour the life and tragic death of  PC Keith Palmer.

I wonder if you noticed that this wasn't called a Service of Remembrance, instead it was called a Service of Hope.

It has long been accepted that without a vision the people perish.
But how, in stressful times, do we cultivate what Barack Obama calls 'the audacity of hope'?

A fellow American has some good advice to offer.

"Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space,"
wrote Maya Angelou,  "Invite one to stay."

Shall we issue that invitation?
Let's emerge and see all that hope has to offer. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The caring cupboard!

Hello, it's Chloe here.  Have you a moment to spare?

I've a feeling in my whiskers that my Mum is about to tell you a story about me, so I think I'd better tell you first.
Well, you know what mums are like. There's not the slightest doubt that she'd get it muddled, and you deserve to know what really happened.

I had a very good time last week.  First of all we visited our favourite park, and then, at the end of the week, my Mum told me that we'd been invited out to lunch by a friend of ours.
Not that I get any actual lunch on such occasions, my Mum has this strange idea that cats should only eat at home.
But this doesn't really matter, I love visiting and exploring other people's houses.  I'm a very sociable cat.

This friend of ours has a great house to explore.  It has lots of stairs, lots of room, and there are plenty of intriguing things to inspect and get your whiskers twitching.  As my Mum and our friend ate their lunch, I had a very busy and exciting time.

Mind you, I tried to be polite and to share my excitement by going back downstairs every now and then to tell them what I'd found.  But they were so interested in their food that they didn't really listen.
Which, between you and me, was just as well.
All this exploring was proving rather tiring.  I felt in need of a rest.

So I went back upstairs in search of a comfortable chair for a short nap.
And guess what I found?

A door I hadn't noticed before was slightly open, I pulled at it with my paw and found myself in the most welcoming of cupboards.  It was very warm, and there were shelves all covered with clean sheets and blankets.  The perfect place, as I'm sure you'd agree, for a weary cat in need of a nap.  In fact, I was certain our kind friend had left the door open for that very purpose.

As I pushed my way in the door closed behind me.  All the better as the warm cupboard was now also dark . . . perfect for a good snooze.

I don't know how long I slept, but I certainly know what woke me up!  It was my Mum yanking me out of the cupboard in a very rough and ready fashion.
"So this is where you've been hiding!" she exclaimed very crossly, "I've been looking everywhere!"
Hiding?  I blinked at her in surprise.  I'd no idea what she was talking about.  I'd only found the warm spot that our friend had made available for me . . . how was that hiding?

It seemed that she'd been searching and calling for quite a while, but how can you possibly hear someone calling your name when you're fast asleep inside a cupboard?
Our good friend was smiling at me, so I don't really think my Mum needed to have been so upset.

It seems I'd been sleeping in what my Mum called an 'airing cupboard'.  But I feel confident she's got the name wrong, surely it must be a 'caring cupboard'?

Back home, after all that excitement, I finally went to sleep on the sofa.
If we've got a 'caring cupboard', my Mum keeps it well hidden.
I wonder . . .  do you think I could ask for one as an extra birthday present?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Water Day

It was only a few days ago that I learned of the UN's World Water Day, an event which is taking place today, and being celebrated worldwide as I write.
Clearly the rain knew before I did.  It must have taken quite a while to accumulate the torrential downpour that's currently beating against the window.

What's more, by a remarkable coincidence, it's on World Water Day that Thames Water has received a record-breaking £20,000,000 fine for seriously polluting the River Thames.

Do we need World Water Day?

As I'm sure you'd agree, those of us in the western world are prone to take water for granted.  We rarely marvel at the outcome when we turn a tap, or express gratitude when we fill the kettle.  Sub-consciously, we consider water to be little more than an amenity, and the supply of water needed to be fully under our control.

How different in the parched areas of Africa, where millions are currently suffering in conditions of severe drought.
Or in the inundated regions of South America, where homes and lives are being swept away in severe flooding.  The vital water that sustains can just as easily destroy.

But, just think about it for a moment . . . and, as you do so, pause and look down at your hand.
If water is no more than an amenity, how is it that over sixty per cent of your hand is made of water?  What's more, the water isn't static and personal to you.  Tomorrow it could have moved on to be the burgeoning bud on a tree, or perhaps activating a cat's paw.

It's also true that, aware only of the unity of life, and not of mankind's manufactured differences, the water that flows through a monk one week could just as easily be empowering a terrorist the next.

Ultimately, as the scientist Bruce Lipton tells us in a short video, without water there is no life . . . click here to enjoy his thoughts for yourself.

Today, as part of the worldwide activities, people are gathering at water sources to reflect, give gratitude, make music and celebrate.
For this one day at least, water is being recognised for its unique and vital role.

As I write these words I can see that the the rain has stopped, sunshine is filling the room.

Before the clouds return, I must go out and give gratitude for every puddle!

Friday, March 10, 2017

All about weeds!

Spring is in the air, I'm sure you've felt it.  The days are lengthening, the birds are courting, and those of us with gardens and window-boxes will soon be immersing our hands in the soil.

Which leaves me with a question . . . what would you say is a weed?

As I'm sure you'll agree, strictly speaking there's no such thing as a weed.  Every plant on earth demonstrates the wonderful diversity of creation.  Every plant has its own intricate beauty, the design of every plant is unique.

So, why should we call one unfortunate plant a weed?
Only because, in the opinion of the human concerned, this plant is growing in the wrong place.  A matter of bias rather than fact.
And, who knows, a so-called weed might well be a prized source of nectar in the eyes of a discerning bee.

Yet weeding is something we humans are doing with ever greater enthusiasm . . . and our weeding is not restricted to the plant kingdom.

Have you noticed the amount of social weeding going on recently?

Loudly proclaiming the rightness of our cause, we weed out faiths, nationalities, political persuasions, gender and social strata.  Increasingly we choose to ignore the fact that humanity, when mutually supportive, can become a peaceful, verdant landscape.

The exclusion of any one sector, by declaring it an unnecessary or troublesome weed, creates areas of wasteland that damage the integrity and unity of the whole.
Our critical weeding is doing us harm.

Mind you, if our long-suffering planet was feeling judgemental, it might well describe the human race itself as little more than a troublesome and unwanted weed.

Just think about if for a moment . . .  we bear all the hallmarks of a weed.
We are rampant, invasive and detrimental to the well-being of ourselves and all other living species.  To add to our misdemeanors, our thoughtlessness is fast changing the climate.

Might it be wise to change our ways before the Earth decides to undertake some serious weeding?
After all, let's admit it . . .  we need this planet,  it doesn't need us!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Good news is good for you!

In a world of great uncertainty, there's one thing I know with absolute conviction . . . and I'm confident you'll agree with me.
What is it?
It's the simple fact that bad news is bad for you.

Whether it be 'fake bad news' or 'genuine bad news' doesn't matter . . . the effect is the same.
We absorb it and are instantly captured by apprehension.
 Our creativity dries up, our hopes disappear . . . we are rendered fearful and incapable.

As for good news, this is wholly beneficial . . . being inspirational, invigorating and sustaining.

To demonstrate what I mean, let's carry out a short experiment.
Look closely at the picture below .  . .

First of all, focus on the scene of mayhem and destruction on the left . . . did you feel a constriction in your chest, a sense of horror and helplessness?

Now, switch your attention to the alternative view on the right . . . did your shoulders relax?  Did you find yourself smiling, your breath easing in appreciation of the peace and harmony?

If you need further proof of the benefits of a positive approach, this was clearly illustrated this month in an inspirational address given to the United Nations by Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

"When faced with citizens' anxiety," he declared, "we have a choice to make, do we exploit that anxiety or do we allay it?  Fear has never created a single job, or fed a single family."

If it does you good to read those words, I can assure you that you'll feel even better if you hear them spoken.  Click here for a short extract from the speech . . . you'll be strengthened and empowered by its positivity.

Good news is good for us, and good news also gives rise to gratitude . . . which, as we all know, is 'the key to joy'.
So, thank you, Justin Trudeau!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A very caring cat!

Hello, it's Chloe here . . . have you a moment for a chat about my Mum?

Please don't think I'm complaining . . . as Mums go I've done well.  It's just that, as Mums go, she doesn't go as much as she should.

Let me explain.

Wouldn't you agree that, especially in cold weather, humans need to keep moving? 
After all, they haven't thick fur like cats, they need to keep active to keep warm.  So, as she always tries to do her best for me, I make sure I give her plenty of exercise.
I take good care of my Mum.

To show you what I mean. 
After I've taken her out for an energetic walk I sometimes feel quite sleepy.
But do I lay down and rest?
Not on my whiskers!  I know what's needed.  And what's needed is to keep my Mum active and warm.
So, even when I'm tired, I bring out my toys and insist that we play a game.

I know you'll find this hard to believe, but she doesn't always appreciate my unselfish intentions.

Between you and me, she even thinks that I bring her the toys because I'm the one who wants to play.

It's sad, isn't it, how a cat''s finest motives can be so misconstrued.

But do I give up?  Never! 

On the contrary, I insist on taking her out for three walks every day . . . proper walks, not just a quick sniff of fresh air.

Then, when we come indoors, if my Mum sits down at the computer I get on the back of her chair and rub my head against her hair . . . this takes her mind off what she's doing and encourages her to get up.

Alternatively, if she sits down on the sofa, I go and fetch my favourite mouse and drop it in her lap.
So, with my persuasion, she's soon on her feet again  . . . and playing with the mouse and me.

Now, if you saw my toys, wouldn't you want to play?
In addition, there are all sorts of wonderful and warming games to keep us busy.

Wouldn't you leap out of your chair to play 'carry-me-in-the-cardboard-box' . . . or 'hide-and-seek-in-the-cat-villa' . . . ?

Thanks to me, my Mum never has a dull moment . . .  I'm a very caring cat.

And if you want proof that your cat cares for you . . .  then just click here!

Friday, February 3, 2017

The bigger picture

With so many splits and divisions in our world at the moment, might it be a good time to remind ourselves just how integrated and inter-woven we really are?

This was brought home to me when reading the thought-provoking views of the scientist, Brian Swimme.

More than anything, they demonstrate the truth of evolution . . . how we are evolving creatures on an evolving planet in an evolving universe.
A planet which was once a state of molten rock and now sings opera!

And yet, and this is where it becomes so fascinating, evolution is taking place with no additional components . . . every atom that is here now was here at the very beginning.
But each atom is constantly changing . . .  inhabiting, as it does so, a sequence of different forms.

"The universe," according to Brian Swimme, "is an inexhaustible celebration of ultimate mystery!"

Let's celebrate this mystery by looking at the bigger picture . . . and by asking some questions.

Have you ever stopped to think that the water which once gave buoyancy to Noah's Ark could, in its present embodiment, be trapped in plastic bottles in the local supermarket?
That the air we are breathing could well have flowed through the nostrils of the dinosaurs?
That the skeletons of our ancestors could have evolved, through time, to become part of our own bodily structures?

You've a new pair of shoes?  Don't you believe it!  The only thing that's new is the idea that conceived them . . . the creativity flowing through us which has flowed since the start of creation.

And where is consciousness in all this?
At one time it was thought by scientists that consciousness was unique to human beings.
Now it's recognised that consciousness is universal, a life-force that illuminates all living things . . . what's more, together we shine more brightly.

In the words of Brian Swimme:
"We are the universe reflecting upon itself". . . reflecting whilst evolving, constantly evolving.

But this is a time of major transition, and all birth is painful.  So let's end with the reassuring wisdom of the Hopi elders, who have just released the following statement:

To my fellow swimmers:
Here is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid, who will try to hold on to the shore.
They are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river, and keep our heads above water.
And I say see who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves.
Banish the word struggle from your  attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a  sacred manner and in celebration.
For we are the ones we have been waiting for.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A time for hope

Have the past weeks left you feeling exhausted, disturbed and anxious?

If so, you're not alone . . . it's definitely a time to hold tight and fasten our seat-belts!

On the credit side, I've just had the benefit of listening to an inspirational talk on world events.  It was given by the scientist, Gregg Braden.
May I share some salient points?

I hadn't realised that, from a scientific viewpoint, we are at this moment in an unprecedented situation . .  . no less than three large cycles are converging.

We are all aware of the disruption brought about by climate change, but did you know that a long-term economic cycle is reaching its end?

In addition to this, and fueling the troubled situation, a solar cycle is reaching its peak and greatly influencing the magnetic fields on earth.  These magnetic fields have a profound effect on our minds and our emotions.  Whereas before we might have tended to be co-operative, under this disruptive influence we are far more likely to opt for discord and conflict.

It's a time of contrast and division.  Some suffer from severe flooding, others suffer from equally serious drought.   A great number of people are critically deprived, many are mega-rich . . . situations exacerbated by solar flares which provoke a surge in anger and resentment.

Apparently it's the first time in history that these three cycles, climatic, economic and magnetic, have converged.
The outcome is correspondingly dramatic . . . a period of volatility, uncertainty and rapid change.

If that's the big picture, how does it relate to the here and now . . . what's the answer for you and me, for those of us struggling to cope?
It sounds as though we should be jointly pleading, "Stop the world, I want to get off!"

Far from it . . .  a reassuring Gregg Braden was advising his listeners not merely to be resilient, but also how to thrive under these extreme conditions.

It seems that we need to relinquish nostalgia for past certainties, and to look into the unknown with positivity.  Resilience is achieved by an acceptance of constant change . . .  washed down with a large dollop of hope!

It also calls for loving relationships, a sense of community, the benefits of music, the sanity of the natural world, and an ability to step back and observe the changing situation with detachment.

True, it can feel as though we're driving through a busy city when the traffic-lights fail, when order turns to chaos in an instant.  We must learn how to react . . .  how to cope.

So, when next we're tempted to be carried away by a rush of indignation and outrage, let's remind ourselves that it's only the result of magnetic pressure, . . . and opt instead for a calming cup of tea!

A great deal is breaking down, but, with hope, awareness, and a reverence for the natural world, there are reparations we can each of us set in motion.

You want proof that change can be beneficial?
Then click here to enjoy a heart-warming video.

And, finally, who better than Desmond Tutu to show us the way . . .

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The gift of happiness

What is it that we all most need in the year ahead . . . ?

With so much turbulence in prospect, could the answer be the simple one of 'happiness'?
Not that this answer is simple . . . it leaves us with a question.
What makes us happy?

A recent survey of lottery winners and their subsequent lives proved conclusively that the answer isn't money.
But I've just learned of something that's guaranteed to make us happy . . . I say this with complete confidence as it comes with the authority of the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Scientists in Montreal have proved that dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for pleasure, is released when we listen to certain music.  This music can change the heart rate, the temperature and the breathing, not to mention creating those shivers of pleasure that we've all experienced running down the spine.

But, and this is where it gets really interesting, the scientists have identified the three pieces of music most likely to bring you happiness.

Yes, I agree, we all have our own favourites, but let me give you the scientific order of preference.

First comes Debussy's 'Clair de Lune', this is followed by Beethoven's 'Piano Sonata No. 17', with Samuel Barber's
'Adagio for Strings' running a close third.

You'll notice that I've underlined each of those titles and, should you wish to enjoy them, you've only to click on the name.

As I promised . . . a guaranteed gift of happiness for the New Year!

'Fear is noise,' it's said, 'and love is music'.
Let's turn away from our noisy, fear-filled world and have a loving, musically-enriched 2017.