Friday, December 1, 2017

Going . . . going . . . gone . . . ?

Tell me, what decorations do you plan to put up at Christmas?
Will they include holly and mistletoe?

If the answer to that question is 'yes', might I suggest you make the most of them . . . it's possible they won't be here for much longer.

There is one vital necessity for the production of holly berries and mistletoe . . . that's right, it's insects.
Insects pollinate our gardens, fields and orchards.  Without them there would be no flowers, no berries . . . without them we would have no food.  And insects are critically endangered.

A disturbing report published recently states that flying insects worldwide, including honey-bees and butterflies, have seen a seventy-five per cent decline in the past twenty-five years.


The study's co-author, Prof. Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, didn't pull his punches, "we appear," he wrote,  "to be on course for an ecological Armageddon."

Wouldn't you agree that, although the human race may be at the peak of the natural pyramid, this position brings with it a responsibility that we haven't fully absorbed?

Those at the peak, if they're to remain safe and secure, are totally dependent on the  strength and support of those at the bottom.  We act as though we don't need that supportive base.
Even worse, we seem to have decided that we can dispense with it.
This fact was endorsed by another disturbing report earlier in the year, it was published by the UN who revealed stark news about our behaviour.
"Pesticides," it stated, "which are aggressively promoted by chemical industries, have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole."

Has no-one told the investors in those chemical industries that, when the soil is finally sterile, no nourishment will be found in their share certificates?

The recent television series, 'Blue Planet II', has been spell-binding . . . click here to see what I mean.
More than anything, it's brought home to us the intelligence in our oceans.

A small fish drags a coconut shell across the sea-bed to provide its mate with a suitable place to lay her eggs.  Dolphins delight in the joy of play.  The ingenuity of a female octopus enables her to outwit the plans of a predatory shark.
The series shows, in all its complexity and beauty, the highly intelligent, perfectly balanced world of the ocean.  This same intelligence and balance was once demonstrated on dry land . . . no longer.

Just think about it for a moment . . . when did you last see a fly in your home?  Yet it wasn't so long ago that fly covers were an essential component of every kitchen.

What's more, in bringing about the near-extinction of flies we've also unthinkingly brought about the near-extinction of the Flycatcher.   Along with many other fast-vanishing, insect-eating birds, it has done nothing to deserve the cavalier removal of its daily diet.

It seems incredible that our species, who can fly to the moon and create artificial intelligence, lacks the wisdom to recognise its total inter-dependence with the natural world.

To hold the view that we can pick and choose what we'd like to exterminate, and that we've the right to do so, is both arrogant and ignorant.

It could even involve us in the same mass extinction . . . something that we alone would deserve.

So, appreciate the holly berries, kiss beneath the mistletoe and enjoy all that Christmas has to offer .

But, if you happen to see a house-fly, and I haven't seen one for quite a while, don't swat it . . . just recognise that we're in this together, and wish it a happy and healthy New Year.

As for a New Year resolution, what about vowing to reject all pesticides?

And if we need to be reminded of what we're in danger of losing, . . . quite apart from our daily bread . . .  then let's watch this ....



Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Like/Dislike World?

The Referendum to leave Europe was memorable for many reasons. One of which was our realisation of the simplicity of voting either 'In' or 'Out', 'Yes' or 'No'.
So simple, so decisive . . . so irreversible.

And have you noticed that this same simplicity of action features ever more frequently in our daily lives.

As an example, look at social media . . . each time we go online we are invited to register either 'Like' or 'Dislike'.

But let's give this a little thought.
Is life really like that . . . and should it be like that?

I can't help wondering whether, in an effort to simplify, we have unwittingly helped to create a divided, polarised world.

After all,  what if the thing we claim to like today is the very same thing we claimed to dislike yesterday?  People can change their minds.

Life is complex, we are complex.  Likes and dislikes are  based on impulse, often irrational and rarely the outcome of careful consideration.  What we like for breakfast we are unlikely to like for lunch.

More than that, we don't necessarily 'dislike' those things we say we don't like . . we can be ambivalent on the issue, open to discussion.  Yet, by being pushed into a 'like/dislike' situation, we are depriving ourselves of the possibility of thoughtful consideration.

In addition, we are relegating all those things we 'don't like' to a different strata . . .  creating a 'them and us' situation, one which is often painful and hard to understand.

Just look at the cacophony in the world today.  Wouldn't you agree that our 'like/dislike', 'for/against' culture has greatly added to the tendency to be judgemental, and is compounding the many divisions in society?  Mightn't it be wiser to be a willing part of the flow of life itself rather than constantly critical of the process?

Let's pause for a moment and look at these skilled surfers.
If a surfer passed judgement on each wave, he'd be making life difficult not only for himself, but also for those surfing with him.
But see what happens when a group of them just go with the flow.

To be a part of the flow involves trust, a trust in life to bring what is needed.
What's more, being in the flow is effortless . . . taking a stand, as we know to our cost, consumes a great deal of effort and energy!

So, if we can lay aside the constant need to judge, and replace it with a more flowing, holistic view of life, wouldn't everyone benefit?

You think that sounds a good idea?  Then you know what to do.
Ponder on it, mull it over . . . but don't be tempted to click on 'Like'!




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Blessings of Blue

I wonder, have you noticed that a large proportion of the people we see nowadays are dressed in black?
Are we all in mourning . . . in mourning for a happier, less stressful world?
Look in the windows of clothes shops or department stores, it's black that dominates.

However, although we might be spurning colour, the natural world compensates for our drabness, particularly in the autumn.

So far this October we have been offered not only the brilliance of the turning leaves, but also a magnificent and totally unexpected tangerine sun  . . . did you see it?

All these thoughts came to mind the other day when I heard of a report published by The Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

Scientists at the Institute have been carrying out an intensive study into the power of colour.  Not autumnal colour in this instance, but the power of the colour blue.
Their conclusions make interesting reading.

According to their research, 'outdoor blue spaces have potential benefits for health, particularly in terms of mental health, general well-being and physical activity.'

Why are we drawn to the sea for our holidays?
Yes, I know we enjoy swimming, and we also love to relax on a sunny beach, but has it occurred to you that we're also drawn by the colour of the sea itself, by the largely unrecognised benefits of blue?

It would seem that whilst we create the world's stress, colour holds the antidote.

So, how better to alleviate the current sense of anxiety than by applying blue therapy?

We can't all look out of our windows at a natural source of water, but we can all look up at the sky.

True, there are times when it's cloudy and overcast . . .  on such occasions photos like these will go part way to offering what we need.

May I recommend that you sit quietly for a moment looking at these two seascapes.

Relax into the depths of the blue sea, let your mind expand into the infinite brilliance of the blue sky.
Feeling better . . . ?  I'm sure you are.

And if you are still troubled by a nagging unease, a sense that harmony and order are disappearing, then click here.

However chaotic our world may appear at the moment, this video from Harvard University puts things into perspective.
We humans have created plenty of turbulence on the surface of life.  In this video the scientists demonstrate how the underlying energy frequencies can reclaim order from chaos and maintain a beautifully harmonious, rhythmic pattern.  A rhythm similar to the one we feel when gazing out to sea.

So, with the reassurance of the scientists from Harvard, and the recommendation of the scientists of Barcelona, let's relax, rethink our wardrobes . . . and bask in the blessings of the sky above us.

What if, instead of 'seeing red' when provoked, we consciously chose to 'see blue'?
Could blue-sky thinking help stabilise society . . . ?
Who knows . . . but let me leave you to be inspired by Stephen Caudel's beautiful music, 'Reflections in Blue'.

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!