Sunday, 18 December 2016

#changingmyworld

This became more difficult as the year went on. Partly due to other commitments, and partly as the challenge became harder and I was unable to dedicate the time to research and finding out better paths to take on my progress through the world. I would still like to review this though, and outline some thoughts for my future as well.

Let's consider the months in proper order and through each subject. This might be a rather weighty post, so do bear with!

January: Clava Cairns, Inverness
January was just the beginning: the consideration, what I was going to do and how it was going to happen. Let's leave January for now...

February - what makes me: the foods I eat and the way I eat it:
February: Lichen on a post, unknown location
This has been a major consideration through the year, especially as long-running dietary something became an almost diagnoses of probable IBS. This means that food has been at the forefront of my mind this past year. 
It has become intrinsically linked with how I feel. Poor food, even just food that's linked to wheat, leads to very low energy, bad moods and general poor wellbeing. This, of course, becomes a downward spiral as less and less energy (coupled with a very demanding job and lots of overnight stays) makes it harder and harder to fuel myself properly. 
Food wise, I try to do well, I do buy organic or local when I can, but it's not really worked out very well for me. As I say, a lot of overnighters mean that often my cupboards are empty, and the food relationship becomes more and more skewed. Convenience means I go to the nearest supermarket, Tesco's, and so the local food ideal hasn't really worked out either. 
I'll put this down to a learning process...

March - Externalising; what I put on me and why: 
April: Cycling in Barcelona
This has been a lot more successful, as I've basically stopped using any chemical rich anything on my body. 
Except toothpaste. The search for eco toothpaste just left a bad taste in my mouth, and mouth health is important so I'm leaving that as a compromise at the moment. Lush does do toothy tabs though, which are great for camping etc as you can clean your teeth with very little water. But every day? I still use colgate....
Otherwise it's good: 
Soap: any natural soap I come across on my travels

Make up is a work in progress(ish). I wear makeup so rarely that I don't really replace it that much (is that disgusting?) but when I do replace anything I will be heading to The Body Shop, Lush or the likes to try and get something chemical free. 
Overall I've found this pretty easy: there are good effective products for the skin that are good for the planet too! 

April - How to clean....the home:
April: Female Rannoch Brindled Beauty, Corrimony
I mostly transferred my cleaning to Ecover and Ecloth. Not much to say there- it's not the most interesting of topics, hmm? 

May - Travel and all that jazz. Seeing the world eco-ways:
May: Camping with friends above Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
I didn't really do this...at all. Didn't look into it or anything. It's certainly something to consider, and with the amount of driving I do it's really worth thinking more about how I can reduce miles, be more efficient, or just something. Saying that though, I did take an Advanced Driving course this year and that increased my miles per gallon from 50 to 55, so that's something! Eco-driving.... 

I will think of this more in the future. 

June - Dressing one's self:
Well, this is the one that put a stop to everything. I was doing lots of research and then a discussion with one person really put me off my stride. 
To be honest, I thought I was doing alright here. I don't buy many new clothes: I tend to wear what I do have to the death and then deliver it to charity (and they can get money for it by fabric recycling if it's no good to sell). I also make my own clothes by knitting and sewing, and have been spinning a little. 
June: finding hope in regenerating Alder
I always thought I was quite a conscious clothes consumer. That is, until this conversation when I was explaining I'll no longer buy Converses due to their bad eco-rating (see www.ethicalconsumer.org for more information), and they're response was that they'd heard that you need to keep buying these things otherwise people that are already being treated badly will receive even less wages etc etc. And I cannot explain the number of times that I tried to write this and I tried to figure this out, but it basically just put an absolute stop to this whole #changingmyworld thing - which isn't great for many reasons. 

Surely a challenge is what I wanted? And all of a sudden I was being challenged...

Here's a solution: stop buying these things, but tell the company why. Back up your beliefs with strength and dedication. Follow it through. Write a letter. Explain, and ask for change. And that is something that I am going to do. 

July - My home; energy:
July: on the trail of a toad underwater, Tracking Course, Kindrogan
Well, I did need to change my energy this year but: 
1) The 'green' energy is all much more expensive than the regular energy
2) I have a flatmate who pays half the bills and I do not really see that I should be forcing my ethics on him... 
3) As I work in the sector-ish, I have the understanding that green energy is not always as green as all that - all energy produced goes into the same grid, we all receive the same energy, but we just pay different suppliers. I haven't quite figured out exactly what to do hear, but I do realise that by buying green energy, a consumer is making a statement about what change they want to see, and also putting money into the production of more green energy. 

This is a constant consideration for me, and I think you will all agree it's rather complex. I don't have the answer here, sorry. 

August - Working and changing bad practice:
Close encounter with a curious deer, Dumfries and Galloway
Yeah, not really sure what this means? Does it mean me personally in my work? Or does it mean in the workplace in general. Don't really want to think about work right now so this is getting skipped...Next!!

September - Charitability:
September: Trees for Life heaven in Glen Affric
Give to charity. Next!
Hah. Basically I was going to look into what I give to whom, and who are the most effective charities to use (i.e. donation to charitable function rather than wages of staff etc.) but I've not yet done that....

October - After life and the legacy we leave:
October: Falling in love in Ardnamurchan
Euch, not done this either. Death is weird - the things that happens to our bodies after we die just seems to be ridiculous. Formaldehyde anyone? But...I've not looked into it at all so I have no information. My family are aware that I will want to be buried, within a wicker or cloth casket, and have a tree planted over me. Otherwise, I guess I'll leave that another forty years or so before I consider it again ;)

November - Reduce, reuse, recycle:
November: Discovering the wonders of Marrakech

December - Celebrating with a conscience (and what happens next):
I'm going to ignore the celebrating with a conscience at the moment and jump straight to 'what happens next'. This year I have learned this about myself: 

1) I am a stress non-eater
2) I need to eat well
3) I need to practice yoga on an almost daily basis for me to connect fully and happily with myself
4) Exercise is good good good. I must move every day, climb once a week and do proper cardio once a week as well. 
5) Loneliness is becoming a bit boring - I must work harder to foster friendships and shake off the 'independent hat' and open my heart to other people
6) Loving my job is important to me
7) Nature is a salvation and I must experience nature, outside of work, regularly to feel healthy, happy and whole. 
8) Crafting is important for my sanity. In knitting I witness total relaxation, in creating something beautiful I find peace.
December: Building an otter couch, Highlands

These eight guidelines should help to keep me on the straight and narrow, but this isn't always easy. Maybe 2017 will be about connecting with my self again, soothing out the weaknesses in my chakras and really dedicating myself to becoming whole. 

PS. I guess this post turned into a bit of a pictorial review of the year as well: Each picture was taken within that month (except I visited Barcelona with my sister in April, not March, but apparently I took no photos in March at all *shocked face!*) and with some months being harder than others, these photos show important moments for me. 

It's been a year, it's been a great year in some ways: I've fallen in love with a wonderful man; I've met great people, partied hard and had wonderful conversations long into the night; I've discovered more about myself. But it's also been hard. A great man and amazing friend committed suicide in April, there have been ups and downs with a job that I moved to the Highlands for, and (who knew?!) it turns out it's difficult to start anew in a place and move away from family and friends, especially when times are tough and all you want and need is the familiarity of an old friend. 
August: Nairn beach with a favourite old friend :)

But life battles on regardless. The world has become a strange place this year, but also seems to be forming more of a global community than in the past. Maybe this is the time that we all really do start to change the world. But I could talk till I'm blue in the face, and still the moon shines. The earth turns, the sun shines, the rain falls and the wind blows. We breathe, and we experience and we live. 

And the year again becomes new.  

Friday, 16 December 2016

Friend

Friend,

I have been writing a letter to you for almost eight months now.

Since you decided that your future was not worth the battle.

There is still so much regret about the way things ended - how I should have been the friend to you that you were to me. The advice and help you gave me went a long way towards my own healing, and I only wish that I had been able to help you in the same way.

Know this though: I have your memories, and though I knew you but a short time, I will have those memories forever. Places we went, and of those, Nairn beach is the one that I will always remember the most.

Remember when we visited the beach the day of your diagnoses? You were just back from the doctor and we met up. Went for a walk along the beach. It was a lovely day, bright sunshine in January (very cold as well - you were in shorts and your big blue jacket). It was a slow walk, but I think although the COPD diagnoses was weighing heavily on you, this was before you'd really looked into the disease, and before you'd discovered the worst.

I think you're still here. With the trees, the grass, the clouds and the flowers. I cannot see it any other way: We come from stardust, and we return to the earth, and I hope that you found your peace. The people you left behind may never know the answer to that, but I think that that's what we have to believe.

This letter is for you, but it's also for me.

I want to say thank you. For what you gave me - thank you. 

You are often in my thoughts, and as another winter comes around, as does the anniversary of our friendship, your diagnoses, your travels and all to soon, your death, it brings a moment of reflection and thought, and a realisation - you will never be forgotten; for the brightest lights still shine when all else fades.

Love,
Me


Birds

I dropped my car off at the garage this morning and walked home - back in time to do some computing work while the garage carried out the work, and then back by the same path to collect the car once it was ready.

Both walks, I took the most direct path, which, luckily for me, leads me through woodland. Inverness is a very green city, I feel, but it is still a city and living in the suburbs can take its toll. City or not, the walks were magnificent - a bright spot in what has otherwise been a challenging week.

It's almost the time for Christmas, and there's a feeling of wanting to just curl up and hibernate this winter away. It's not cold really, though there has been a biting wind. There's just a tiredness deep inside that comes for many reasons, and doesn't easily disappear.

The cure? Nature. To step outside and feel the wind in my hair. To hear the birds sing as I did this morning. To smell the cold frost and all the scents. And yet sometimes, to reach nature in the way I need becomes part of the challenge. To stomp, to get out of breath, to laugh, to dance over stones - sometimes that feels completely out of reach. I think I need a challenge again. To find my feet again, and to listen to the stars.

Glen Affric winter camping Coire Loch

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Autumn

It's gone in the Highlands now, the calm days of autumn. Winter has just suddenly arrived, with -3 degrees, and snow and so for another year we say farewell to the autumn.

I find that it's always too brief. Blink-and-you-miss-it-brief, but those halcyon days are my favourite. Drifting birch leaves, a quiteness in the air, willowherb seeds being lifted by the lightest wind, and always in my favourite spaces, the sounds of water.

Falling birch leaves are my visual memory of autumn. I remember being in the 'vat' part of the Burn o' Vat and being there early morning with leaves snowing around me.

I remember standing in a birch woodland watching the leaves fall to the earth and feeling like my soul could lift straight to heaven for the beauty and the quietness of the autumn happening all around me.

Both those memories are several years old and yet they're still within me as some of the best memories of autumn I have. But those days are so fleeting. It's a matter of being in the right place/ right time, and we cannot force this. Summer left a while ago, and now Autumn has gone and we enter the most silent time of year: the time of little daylight, of soft footprints, of white mountain hares, and of hibernation.

It'll come again, autumn will, and that's the joy of the seasons. As sure as the day will turn to night, the summer will turn to autumn and the leaves will again begin to fall. And my soul will again rejoice at the perfection of our natural world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Feet / Paths

Sometimes the past and the present merge, and we no longer know where our feet are taking us. Sometimes, the planets have shifted enough so that our locations are no longer straightforward and our path seems warped and uneven. Sometimes, the past and the present become both part of the future, which stretches out, unknowing, unknowable and nothing is as it seems. Sometimes the freedom we taste is leftover from another time, a memory of a past life where constraints were only in our head. Sometimes, the romanticism becomes overwhelming and sometimes, the present is the only place to be. 

Sometimes (farming, creating, painting, dancing, making, telling, crying, laughing, planting, harvesting, living, breathing, dying, floating) are all intertwined and we don’t know which way is up, which way is down but for the fact that our feet are still stable on the ground. 

Sometimes the past and the future link up and it seems an endless cycle which we go through again and again and again. For sitting in this chair, hearing that bird, taking that step are all memories that we did not know we had and might never have had in this lifetime before. 


Crossing a bridge, I knew it as a memory of the soil. Feet have crossed this bridge before, hearts have gone this way. Not just human, but human and animal and spirit intermixed: we are all new and we are all ancient. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Autumn / Foghar

Autumn.

It’s really has to be one of my favourite seasons (along with winter, spring and summer...), for it really is glorious. And it’s coming.

That crispness in the air when you awaken.

That bright, clear harvest moon.

Those glittering stars with the promise of frost.

The geese returning, animals' habits changing. The wolf coming back to the forest.

Yes, it’s a good season.

For me, I’m thinking about hibernation. I’m thinking about down sleeping bags and blankets, and a crisp layer of dry leaves to curl up in with a warm body beside me. And of course, I'm thinking about making, creating, knitting, painting.

We’ve had the heady days of summer, we’ve had the insects, the endless days which last from before you awaken until after you go back to sleep, and we’ve had the sunburn, the swimming in the rivers and the endless green haze of the hills and forests.

Now we’re retreating back to our caves, back into the warmth. We’re lighting fires, gathering fuel. Checking out mushrooms and harvesting fruits. People are coming together again; it’s the time to rejoin. Enjoy the heat of the fire before you wrap yourself up warm again and go out to rosy cheeks and white breath hanging in the air.

It’s not winter yet, it’s autumn and it’s heavenly. The colours, the yellows, the reds, the oranges: The colour of fire for the fire is still there in the residual warmth coming from the earth and the last gasp of heat from the sun. Autumn: the season of red, fire, warmth, plenty.


It’s early days yet. The days are still t-shirt warm. But the nights are getting cooler. The urge to gather and retreat from the frost is coming... And I’m going to do just that.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Athnamulloch Bothy and the Meaning of Life

Spending a week in a basic bothy is the most surefire way I have ever come across to remember your priorities.

Imagine living in accommodation with no running water, a non-flushing toilet, no fridge and no heating. Imagine then living in this accommodation with strangers, and having to reach a level of living that you're all comfortable with.

Every morning, being first up, I would make it part of my routine to fill the two water containers that would get us through the day. The first day was a struggle, but it gradually became easier as I became more adept at handling big water containers and also, as my body started to become stronger.

There is nothing like having to work for your water to make you appreciate it.

And then there was lighting the fire. Every evening, as the drying room became more and more crowded with wellies, waterproofs and wet socks, a fire was required in order to dry these things off. Firstly, I'd cut some kindling with a blunt axe. The first day was a frustrating experience, with very little success, but the second day was better and by the end of the week I was handling that axe like a boss.

It came to me that actually, the success in life is so often deemed to be material wealth, possessions, and the number of Facebook 'likes', but that in actual real life success is being able to keep hydrated, to be able to keep warm and to be able to survive in hostile environments. What good is your smartphone if you don't get a signal?

This past week my priorities have changed again. I want this: I want to bring the wild back to my life. Talking with my co-focaliser on the last night I realised that my desires are simple. I want to have to light a fire every day to keep warm. I want to have some land. I want to have some sheep: I want to work with wool, I want to paint, I want to write. I want what we had in the bothy: stories and music and conversation as entertainment.

I want the dark stars of wilderness places, I want the feeling in the muscles of having worked, and of being tired physically and mentally. I want to make my clothes, spin with nettles, dance under shooting stars and rise with the sun. Brush my teeth outside and climb mountains in order to do handstands.

Thanks to a wonderful Trees for Life week, a wonderful group and a wonderful location.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Tracking and Trailing

I've covered this before. I think. Since spending a week in the woods last September, tracks and trails have been a bit of a hobby. Sometimes I tell myself that I don’t have the time to explore them fully. But what is time? It’s just nonsense, and to say I don’t have enough time...well, that’s a habit that I’m trying to get out of. And then I went on a course in July, where we studied tracks and trails in such depth that my brain started to hurt, and then to sing. What a course! Fantastic!

 Stuck in the forest it’s the track and the trails that help keep things interesting for me. I've been able to identify two kinds of deer that use this woodland, both from the footprints (checking for size, shape, presence of dew claws) and from the droppings.

Sika (deer – but sika means deer, so to call it a sika deer means that technically you’re calling it deer deer – oh dear, dearie me) have footprints with a bit of a pear shape. A bit angular (concave?) on the side, and about 5-6 cm long. Droppings – oval, with a small teat at the end, smaller than red, but bigger than roe’s...

Roe deer have tiny footprints, which look like wee hearts and can splay out quite easily in soft mud. Also in soft mud you can normally see the dew claw, making small indentations behind the actual hoof prints. The droppings also appear to be faceted (or to have faces, but not of the smiling variety as was mentioned on the course) and pretty dinky. Shiny and dark.

Through identifying these tracks and signs I was able to say that there are two kinds of deer in this forest, name them, and since then be on the lookout for any further signs. Thanks to that, I am building up a wee bit of a picture of what they do, where they go, and when new footprints appeared during one survey, when I might have disturbed them (it looked like two sika, moved from within the forest out to the open area, though they probably passed into a new, quieter bit of the forest to escape me. Both adult.)

The possibilities are endless. The other day while passing a lovely muddy puddle at the roadside (which has now been filled with stones, unfortunately) I saw the most perfect trail of toad footprints I've seen yet. Perfect. Well, the most perfect except for the ones that walked directly into a puddle that would have submerged the toad and then out the other side....zombie apocalypse, anyone?!

So much to explore: the difference between a corvid footprint and a pigeon’s. Or how about the gaits and what they mean for the animal and what action it was undertaking.... There are so many wonderful opportunities to investigate, discover, delve into.

Ah, isn't life just blooming inspiring sometimes?!


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Changing Opinions

I used to hate Sitka spruce forest. I hated it so much that contracted work within the forests of Ayrshire almost made me quit ecology altogether, and with that: conservation. I almost stepped away from something that has been my life work, because of Sitka spruce plantations.

Our most common forest in the UK, they are popular because of the wood. Sitka spruce grows fast, pretty straight and is pale: all things that the modern wood industry like, whether this be for paper pulp, construction, or fencing materials (or the myriad of other uses for wood in the UK today). It is planted in straight lines on marginal soils and still creates a crop worthy of harvesting. Sitka is planted in narrow lines, which are then periodically thinned to create better and better crops, and to remove the slightly less straight, or more branched (hence more knotty) specimens from the forest.

Sitka forest covers approximately 690 000 hectares within the UK, most of which is within Scotland. This is a vast area, which has a surprisingly low biodiversity when compared to native forests. I say that, but I’m just about to make the case for how my opinion has changed, and how I’ve developed a respect bordering on appreciation for our Sitka.

I disliked Sitka plantations for the way I was feeling at the time. It was a miserable summer (both in my mood and in the weather), and spending entire days, weeks, in Sitka plantations and never seeing the sun brought a whole new level of despair into my soul. This was several years ago now, and it’s about time I stopped associating these forests with the way I was then, and this year I’ve found a wee redemption.

A site I’m working on at the moment is stuck in the middle of a Sitka plantation. This needs to be monitored for ill-effects caused by the works the company are undertaking. As Ecologist, that role falls on me. This means that every day I am walking through the forest, along the rides and into the outer edges. At least once a week I have to delve further into the hidden reaches of the forest, follow the ditches and drains and check for pollution within the water.

This takes me into areas of the forest that if I did not have to, I would rather not go to. But through this, I have come to appreciate them more. They’re spiky, yes, and very unwelcoming. But that requirement for silence, for careful steps and of being made to feel inconsequential brings to mind a cathedral, but one that is more immediate and present than one made of stone and mortar.

I’m getting to know the creatures of the forest. There are sika within, and tiny roe deer. I’ve found fox scat, seen a red squirrel, observed two buzzards interacting and watched a weasel family. I caught a glimpse of something that I suspect was a goshawk, seen common lizards galore and I know that there are adders in here. I just need to find one to confirm. The birds are everywhere. My every step is echoed by a robin’s click. Wrens dart about, and several times I’ve seen mixed groups of tits flying. We’ve got crossbills, and once, I’m sure I saw a goldcrest.

These forests are not deserts. Better to have slightly suboptimal trees than no trees at all. The plantations also hold stories of what was here before. The other day I came across an old farm steading. The roots of ancient woodlands may be seen, or a small burn with rowan and alder in the middle of a plantation can hint at what was there before. I want to explore further. Seek more stories and hear more tales.


The silence can be oppressive, but it can also be welcome. It depends on your frame of mind. The air is heavy, but it’s humid and warm and breathing deeply can refresh your lungs. Stillness reigns, no breeze disturbs the heavy branches and needles. But sometimes stillness can be welcome and can help us to find that same space within ourselves. Eyes watch, but that no longer feels lonely for I no longer view these trees as an enemy. We’re maybe not friends yet, but the respect I have for the forest is helping the appreciation grow.   

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lighting the Fire of the Future

Do you know how to light a fire? Set a fire? Get warmth to seep into your bones? How about if you don’t have newspaper or firelighters? Or logs, ready seasoned and cut? What if it’s windy or the skies have been soaking the world with rain for the past week and nothing seems dry any more. What if you don’t have matches? Or a lighter? What if you don’t have a steel, flint, or any other fire-lighting tool?

Do you still know how to light a fire?

I visited the Crannog Centre on Loch Tay recently (what a place: the best visitors attraction I have ever been to) and we tried to light fire using the bow method. In the woods last year we tried to light fire using the same method. Some succeeded; I did not. It came to me recently that actually, while I can light a fire without newspaper, seasoned logs, and in adverse weather (though Scotland hasn’t tested me that much yet), I still cannot light fire from nothing at all. I have managed with a steel, but the sparks were landing on Vaseline covered cotton wool – not exactly the stuff you’d have in an emergency situation....

This is a lacking skill.

Once, and maybe still, fire meant survival. Anyone would be able to get a fire started: know which wood burns when wet, where to find dry tinder, how to get that spark, how to keep that spark going, and now where is that skill? I read something recently – it may have been one of the information boards at the Crannog Centre – and it talked about primitive people. And yet, it came to me that actually it is us that are primitive. We cannot light fire, build shelters, hunt, forage, dress ourselves, protect ourselves and our families. Basically we are lacking the ability to actually survive in our natural environment.

We are evolving backwards – we are becoming more reliant on technology and less able to survive with each passing year. I want to change this. I want to take this back. I want to empower myself again and restart my evolution. I want to relearn these ancient skills of survival. Let’s all open our eyes again, shake off our presumptions of superiority, widen our arms, stand true on our feet and see what the world actually is.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Renewing Fading Hopes

In times of turbulence and change it becomes easy to wonder what's happening to the world. Hope can disappear. Heads down, we go on with life, but with a little heaviness in our hearts that can be hard to shift. It's times like these that mean we need nature more than ever. Here in the UK, when all of a sudden our nature is threatened in a way we could not imagine, we need nature now.



It calms, reassures, reminds us that life goes on, and I experienced this this week in a way I did not expect.

An alder. Clearly chopped down with someone lacking respect and care for the task at hand. An old alder, part of an ancient woodland. Alder. I love alder: one of my favourite trees. A tree that lives by the water (therefore I often find it in my favourite places as I am drawn, always, inexplicably, endlessly, towards water...) and which features in many folklorish stories and tales. It's the wood to use for foundations, as it does not rot in wet conditions. It is used to make clogs, and is associated with outlaws and hiding. Alder - go out and greet an alder this weekend. A weekend for appreciation.



Anyway, I digress. It was an alder, you see. Chopped down rather brutally approximately three months ago (I know this as I saw it just after it was cut down and a part of me felt cut down too - how good we are at destruction, we humans...). And yet now life was springing out of it at all sides. It was refusing to die. What caught me was the speed at which this tree had sent out new shoots. It wasn't giving in, or resting a while, it put all it's energy into fighting to stay strong, alive and to keep going forward. And that's what the world needs from us right now. We must not give up. We must keep looking forward. And we must always, always, always keep our hope in a little safe place next to our hearts. To lose our hope is to lose our souls, and once they are gone we won't care for the future and it is that that's most terrifying of all.




Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Aura of an Animal


I'm lucky enough to be in a job now that takes me to incredibly beautiful places, and special areas that are a wee bit off the beaten track. And none more so than when I put on my waders.

I recently had to survey a loch. An entire loch, but a third of it had banks so steep that the only way to carry out the survey was from within the water. It was a pretty isolated loch, not many visitors and I was alone. On with the waders. And wading commenced.

The walk/wade took all day. I was there until the light faded (this was several months ago now so we had short days) and I managed half the loch. But oh my, was it an experience!

Otter signs like I've never come across before. It was like otter heaven. Eau de otter did actually haunt me on the way around the loch. I was much quieter than I would normally be, being in water, sometimes up to my waist, and in an unexpected place, and though I never actually saw an otter I have no doubt that it was there for the smell was so strong and some of the spraints so fresh that I cannot see how it couldn't have been there.

It was sunny, and it was a kind of heaven. Otter loch. Dobhran Loch. That's what this place will always be to me, no matter if it is really big loch of the hind. Or something similar. Otter Loch.

The smells an animal leaves behind, the aura, the mysterious something that marks it for this animal. When taking groups out for education purposes I always try and get them to smell a poo. At first they laugh and turn down the offer, but there are always some with whom curiosity gets the better of them, but it's hard to encourage those that don't want to. It's more than just smelling poo, it's more than just trying to get a reaction. It's about getting to know an animal in more ways than one: sight. It's about using our other senses to survey. It's about becoming more animal.

To smell an animal is a privilege as it means we're close. To smell remains such as faeces helps tune our senses so that when we do smell something on the wind, it might, just might, mean that our animal is near.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Dreams and Fevers

Dreams
Fevers
Spring returning
Colours abound
Birds singing
Leaves unfurling
Another year passing
Nothing has changed
Within the chains of despair;
Hope is lacking
Oblivious
The badger digs
And the sandpiper
Raises her young
Oblivious
The shoppers shop
The clock keeps turning
And time just slips away
The cuckoo flies
The meadow pipit panics
The wheels of time don't care
Year passes; chicks fledge
Politicians keep lying
Weaving tales to confuse
Promising fiction with conviction
Purity is forgotten
The roe deer pauses
Barks and her young
Hides in the undergrowth
Like a stone
People march
People protest
For bread, for milk, for freedom
The state reacts with anger
The hills grow quieter
With each passing year
One fewer songbird returns and
The wind blows harder
A little more fury
A little more hate
Keeps on building
With each passing year
Where does the night go
And the sun and stars?
Where does the wind blow?
And joy and freedom abound

Remember the saplings?
Remember the songs of hope?
Turning fortunes:
Freedom beckons

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Perfection in Miniature

Life tends to be about the large. We focus on the mountains and the vast landscapes. We hear about the wars, the shootings, and the politics. But sometimes solace can be found in the small.

When was the last time you lay in a meadow and looked down, rather than up? Into the grasses and you really looked? Looked so you noticed the dangling stigmas, the tiny glumes. Understood the perfect forms that make up what we so often just tread on? Without the names it does not matter. A rose is a rose by any other name, no? And beauty can be appreciated even without the knowledge of what it is you're looking at.

Looking down, you can see more. Can see the tiny mosses, miniature flowers and the wee beasts that walk over them all. The hunters and the hunted, and the oblivious too. All within their own niche, their own system of care and you are nothing more than a shadow.

It soothes me to do this. In my back garden in the suburbs of Inverness, I am creating a meadow. Part of it is mown (in order to appease my landlords and the neighbours), and part unmown and the unmown part is magical. There are flowers appearing, speedwells and fumitories, and so many species of grass that at the weekend when I got back from a botany field trip and returned to my back garden to relax, I idly thought about how it would be a challenging exercise for me to identify all the grasses within my back garden. I don't need to travel far for botany any more!

It's peaceful. It calms while reminding the soul that it is not at the centre of the universe: the universe is not us. Maybe it's just me but it does me good to be reminded of my place in the world. I am nothing in the grand scheme of things and this is extremely reassuring.

To lie in grass and to breathe. To be in nature and to breathe. It's all one and the same. I recommend long grass, and I recommend wild woods. But even then, to sit on the grass in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens is one of life's true treats. But this time when you do, take some time to look down into the grass and see what's there to be seen. It might surprise you, and it might just make you smile.

PS. To do yoga in a meadow is to find a whole new experience. I beg you to give it a try. You'll find it hard to return to the indoor space that the normal class is within!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Changing my World: Six Month Review


Well, changing my world is still ongoing, though I'm not managing to blog about it very often. It feels very much like there's more consideration going into everything, but sometimes it can be a tad detrimental.

I recently had to attend a meeting for work which was quite important (the quite is a bit of an understatement). However, when it came to putting an outfit together, I realised that as I do not buy clothes as a general rule, I had nothing smart enough to be appropriate and all of my everything is starting to look a little shabby. I still wear clothes that I bought when I was 15. While that's a great testimony to an unchanging style and the longevity of the clothes, there are somethings that really do need replaced.

It's appropriate that this has come up as June is 'clothes month' and I'll be looking into sustainable ways of dressing myself this month.

Other things that have changed, slowly but surely, is the things that I put on my body: I've cut out 'normal' deodorant (using Salt of the Earth instead) and facial moisturiser (now using a lovely tahini-esque moisturiser from Lush). I am also considering my summer holidays and how to do them sustainably, for although I holiday a lot at home in Scotland, I do have a wee bit of wanderlust which will probably see me getting on a plane at some point. I've flown to Barcelona already this year to have a weekend away with my sister, and I've done a wee bit of holidaying here in Scotland. It's worth mentioning that holidaying in your own country is easy to do by car sharing or on the train, both of which apply to my main weekend breaks. The car is handy to get to hard to reach places, or places that you want to take your bike to too (trains take bikes, but unfortunately most buses do not) but really if you use some alternative form of transport surely your holiday then starts from that moment, rather than four hours later when you arrive at your destination?

This year it has been brought it home to me how wee changes add up and can help the wider situation (i.e. the world). A couple of years ago I started to use the mooncup, and introduced my sister and friend to it. Now both of them (and I) would never even consider using anything else - thus my initial impact of reducing my waste has tripled. That's why sharing can be so effective. If you're trying to make a difference, that difference can be multiplied ad infinitum if you speak up. No one ever changed the world by remaining silent, and though I know my impact is tiny (I ain't no Martin Luther King) my point is that we don't all have to have a huge impact: we can change the world if we open one other person's eyes. That's all it takes for change to start to occur.

It's an interesting exercise this one. It's given me good opportunities to try new things and to keep experimenting and, best of all, to keep questioning. When I try to purchase something new, there is a definite question in my mind of but do I need it and this has cut down my spending somewhat, but I never was a big spender to begin with. There is also the desire to go too far down that route of not needing, but finding a healthy balance is good - something that works without guilt while still enabling us to be fully functional in our lives.

What do you think of the above? Have you done anything to change your world this year?  

Monday, 6 June 2016

Plants (what they mean to us: Tools, joy, love)

Spring

What does it mean to you?

Life returning to the bleak hills? A touch of green? And here and there a touch of purple, yellow, gold, blue, red, splendor, glory, richness.

But what do the plants mean to us beyond a wee appreaciation for their looks? Surely we consider them more than just beauty? Within us, there is an aspect which harks to the coming spring as our ancestors' ancestors once did. For the coming of spring would be the signal that you survived. Survived the harsh realities of winter with the constant battles of a lack of food, short days and real, bone-chilling cold. Spring and the colours returning to the hills means more than just poetry. It means survival, a glimmer of hope and a breath of fresh air.

I wanted to carry out a wee review of the plants of Sandwood and look at what they mean now to us, to our past generations and what the might have meant to the ones that came before:


Tormentil Potentilla erecta
Meaning of name: Possibly from the latin tormentum, a torment of the stomach that the infusion of the root is meant to ease. In Orkney tormentil is known as 'bark' which refers to the use of it's tough roots for tanning (barking) fishing nets.
Uses: It seems that this modest wee plant is very useful! You can use the roots to tan leather, and people did especially in areas, such as Orkney, where trees were scarce. The roots could also be boiled in milk and drunk to help sooth diarrhoea (that torment we've all experienced!) and the effects could also help expel worms from the intestine. Applied to the skin, the plant could also cure cold sores and help soften corns.

Primrose Primula vulgaris
Meaning of the name: Unknown, though it's obviously English. I can't find any reference to local names for this flower.
Uses: Used to heal abscesses on the skin on Lewis, used for coughs and colds, and that's the only references I can find. Not the most widely used plant, it would seem... The primrose, however, heralds the spring. It signals the changing seasons, and it's one of the first flowering plants I look for and appreciate during my work. Find a wee nook and a wee sheltered spot, and with the first glimmer of spring there will be a hardy wee primrose promising good things and bright days to come.

Moss Campion Silene acaulis
Meaning of the name:Probably pretty obvious, being a moss-like campion, but local names might be more interesting.
This plant grows on the mountains and the coast: extreme places with extreme weather. This explains the shape, the round compactness evolved to cope with harsh times and to get through them intact. I can't find any reference to what the plant was used for, or alternative names for it. It's bonny enough that I'm sure there will be something somewhere. This is not one that would go unnoticed. A name will be there, and it won't be forgotten - someone will still use it now. However, it does beg the question - does everything have to have a use? Must everything have been useful at some point? When dried it may be tinder, the flowers may form a tincture, but really the wee moss campion creates food for insects and it manages to exist which is, at the end of the day, the whole point of life. Really, to be essential is not the highest requirement: to be will do the job just nicely.

Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica
Meaning of the name: (There's gotta be something wonderful for this!). Well, locally on Shetland it appears that this was called 'honey flooer' so I'm definitely going to be tasting this next time I see it! Apparently lousewort gives livestock worms - though I think blaming this one on the plant is a bit cruel, it's undoubtedly more to do with the livestock grazing in the damp ground that lousewort grows in. I am sure that this would be known - I've never met a farmer yet that didn't have a good understanding of the plants and what they tell you about the soil on which they grow.
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And what about the others? The cuckooflower, called that because it flowers when the cuckoo begins to call, or the silent sedges, rushes and grasses that don't need to shout to still be beautiful. What about the honeysuckle - the name literal (have you ever tasted the sweet nectar?), or the hawthorn and the blackthorn? All the plants have the stories and contain the lore, and it's up to us to remember them. If we forget, and our generation is definitely on the brink of doing so, then future generations definitely won't remember. It's our legacy, our stories and it's our fight. No one else is going to remember our past for us.

Tell me: what's your favourite plant story?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Sandwood Bay - Movements of Time

The dominant question last weekend was "what would this place have looked like 10,000 years ago?" and the question played with the landscape we were in so that time seemed to twist and turn and to lose track would have been easy.

What would it have been like 10,000 years ago? We were in and around Sandwood Bay, a gorgeous landscape with beach, bog, and rocks (jings, the rocks were great!). What would it have been like 10,000 years ago?

It's difficult to envision, as coasts were changed, and 10,000 years ago Sandwood Bay was no bay, but inland and something else entirely. Maybe we're looking too far back: it's difficult to imagine, with the tumultuous sea and the fresh wind just how this could once have been inland. Under glacier, yes sure - the rocks showed the signs well enough, colder, wetter, drier - yup, but inland? What would Sandwood Bay be without the sea? Without that glorious beach?
I imagined so much. I built a cairn around a struggling wee rowan on the top of Cnoc a' Gheodha Ruaidh. And I hope that the trees will return. The birds bring the rowan, the birch, the Scots pine: the wind brings them. What of the other trees? Hazel can swim and germinate when left on land after the floods (high tide, spring tides, heavy rains). Holly, the birds bring (and thank goodness, for they need that fortress to nest in); ash the wind - but the size of the keys, I doubt they fly far. Oak? Animal.
What a place though. Whether we're there as the past or the present Sandwood Bay is one for the senses. Oystercatchers calling all through the night. The smell of the sea pervading everything. The feel of the sun (I admit, my skin did burn). The taste of truly fresh, perfect air (and the slightly stale air in the bothy, the whisky warming my belly at night, food cooked outdoors, the fire..). And of course something to look at every which way I turned. Golden plover for the first time, flowering plants, the sea (I think my heart loves the sea), the lochs, the hills.

The taste of freedom
The feel of life
The sound of joy
The smell of relaxation
The sight of hope


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Changing Seasons

It's been silence from me for a while. There has been a death, an extremely sad death of an incredibly lovely person, and work has not been flowing well for me either.

Changing my world sometimes feels like a losing battle. I have been faced with fois gras and refused it, but that's a small drop in a big ocean. April was meant to be a month of looking at cleaning, but I never changed a thing- though to be honest I already use eco products in the home, and love them. The change didn't feel big enough, perhaps.

This month is the month that I look at travel. Ideal as I spent the first day travelling  back from Barcelona, my first trip abroad this year. Where else would I like to go? So many places, but first let me tell you where I'm travelling in my mind...



A couple of weeks ago I needed something to help me relax. There had been a lot of heavy stuff which had left my shoulders bowed and my spirit weighed down. I needed something to lift myself up again, and when it turned out that I wouldn't be able to attend my yoga class for the next five weeks I decided to take yoga home and do a daily yoga practice.

It hasn't worked out every day: some days there is just no time for even the simplest downward dog, but very quickly I really noticed the negative effects of not doing yoga on any single day, both on my body and my mood. Today I haven't done any form of stretching yet and I feel a slight stress forming behind my eyes. I want that yoga. For it isn't just the stretch that's incredible, it's the breathing and the fact that it shuts out everything else except the particular pose you're in right then.



Yoga helps me feel lighter, I feel happier and more comfortable in my body. More aware of my capabilities and ability. It lifts my mood and makes me more comfortable, able to deal with the different role I have to play each day.

One practice was particularly memorable: It was the first time I was fully alone since I had received the news about my friend's death. It was a day of weather, with warm sunshine and hail and snow showers too and the landscape was awe-inspiring. The birches were just turning green (you know the look when they're just surrounded by a haze of the most glorious, juicy green you can imagine - life feels lush at this time of year) and the eagles were soaring. I was mostly through my survey, and just needed to cross a wee ravine to continue on the other side. Well, inside the ravine it was like another world. Nothing short of perfect. - Tumbling rocks, delicate colours, still air, rushing water. Hints of green, native trees, lichens, mosses, lifelifelife.

So I had a break. Sat for five minutes and watched the water flow. Ate some nuts. Relaxed.

About to get back to work, I thought I would try to stretch out the pain I had developed in my back from my heavy rucksack, the spade I was carrying, and the peat probing I was doing. I found a flattish spot, and started to breathe. It turned into the most successful, immersive, intense yoga practice I've known to date. It probably only lasted fifteen minutes, but afterwards I felt like I could fly.


What is it that makes being in nature so good for me? I'm not the only one that finds this, but maybe some of us have forgotten. There's something very rich about being alone, no one else knowing where you are, and just being you. Maybe it's Shinrin-yoku, maybe it's love, but nature restores me like nothing else. The yoga was intense, it made my muscles and my soul sing, but it was the location that did that. I could do the same routine right now and not feel that same effect, but add in rushing water, put some shingle below my hands (who needs a mat?) and breath in the clean, pure air and that makes it worthy of memories.

That day helped. It came like a bright light when I needed it most. A day of feeling. I'll always carry my friend with me for though he couldn't live, I can and I will, and his memory will come along with me for the ride.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

March: Externalising

This is the month where I consider what I put on me. What products do I use to preen, polish, clean etc.



Items (left to right): Sanex dermo-sensitive deodorant, Boots Botanics hydrating day cream, Weleda sea buckthorn hand cream, Alberto Balsalm hydrating repair hair conditioner, Faith in Nature jojoba shampoo, Weleda birch body scrub, solid soap (make and name unknown/forgotten), Colgate total advanced whitening toothpaste and The Body Company rose body oil.

These are all the things I use on a regular basis on my body and to keep me healthy. It's a mix that is part consideration, and part ease. The conditioner, for example was the cheapest in the shop, and the soap varies from month to month. This particular soap was purchased in TKMaxx because I had forgotten to replace my almost finished soap and it was an emergency. I normally try to buy soap with the fewest ingredients possible, but that day there were few shops open, and I didn't have much time. This soap, I remember, was tied in with projects in Africa. And for lack of options it was that that made me purchase this particular soap.

Most other things, however are a result of trial and error over the years, and a conscious decision to try and cut out some chemicals where possible. There are a couple of things in this group that I would like to discuss further, and others that I would actually like to research more this month, and change for a more ecologically friendly option.



First of all let me discuss the body oil. This was also a TKMaxx impulse purchase, bought because I couldn't resist. I used to always use baby oil on my skin - the gentlest kindest way of getting some moisture onto my pasty Scottish skin, but then I found out more about the ingredients of baby oil (distilled petroleum jelly, anyone?) and immediately removed that from my beauty products. I was tempted therefore, by the Body Companies body oil whose ingredients are listed as the following: Safflower oil, cotton seed oil, almond oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, essential oil and parfum. That's it. Of course, it's not organic, and there's no information about the production of these oils, but I was impressed that the ingredients solely consisted of oils. Unfortunately, the parfum aspect of the ingredients is overwhelming (the name should have been a hint of this!) and the smell of rose makes me slightly headachy. I really don't like bottled scents (Weleda are actually the exception to this as they create wonderful smells, without fail, in their products) and especially not scents of rose and lavender.... I really didn't think this purchase through! But... it does make my skin super soft so I guess, winner?!

The things I want to reconsider:



Face cream, deodorant and toothpaste. They will be considered in a separate post, but I have samples from a wonderful looking organic skincare company coming any day, and will feedback on that product when it comes!

At the moment I am pretty sure the deodorant will be too harsh and chemically, and the moisturiser is too heavy for my sensitive skin. It's 81% organic, but the formula is thick, dense and heavily perfumed. If I use it for too many days in a row, my face goes very red in protest!

So that's the next stage, a bit of research, a bit of experimentation until I find products that work wholly for me, and are not altering my chemistry, the water that I wash with, or having big impacts in how they're made and what they're made from.

Do you have any products that you particularly like or work very well for you?

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Life

I feel like I'm hovering on the brink of a melancholia. There are so many words that I want to come out, so much sadness that I feel in my heart. There's so much bad that I'm witnessing right now, and try as I can to fight against it there's just not quite so many lighthearted moments in my day.

When driving I laugh like a maniac. I laugh my head off, to try and lighten my spirit, and my spirit is light, but then I get out of my car and the badness starts. I want to work with my hands. I want to create something, make something. Get mud under my fingernails.

See the full moon (see the moon, full stop)
Hug someone that I love, someone that loves me back. And keep on hugging. One of those real long hugs that go beyond the feeling of uncomfortableness and take you to a whole new level. 
I want to see some hope
To feel the wind on my face
the water on my skin
and my muscles tiring because of real, honest, proper work

Have you ever heard the quote: 
"It's better to look back and say "I can't believe I did that" rather than to look back and say "I wish I'd done that"?" Well, I feel like it's a while since I have had that experience of can't-believe-I-did-that. A long while since I've had that proper experience. But there's no one holding me back but myself and to say otherwise, to pretend otherwise is to give myself excuses that I do not deserve. I'm not being hard on myself, just honest, for I am far past the stage when I might have had that as a genuine reason to hold me back. In reality: I am free.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Birches Reaching for the Sky

It's the colour that astounds. The true silver of Betula pendula, and the bright, almost heavy blue of the winter sky. It's the two together, that make each something more than either alone.
The birch, stand underneath and you can see the branches aching for the sky, always seeking and reaching up. When clothed in spring, in summer and in autumn the tree seems more grounded, part of the living earth and more comfortable in itself. Come winter, and the stark reality of the landscape and suddenly these strongposts seem to be losing their grip on the world and become looser and it seems, all of a sudden, as though the aching, longing of their limbs to be part of the sky might come true and we might become anchorless without these trees, these diamonds of our landscape.
It's all dreams. The trees are as fixed to this landscape as you and me or maybe more so, for I have legs and can walk and metal wings and can fly, but definitely less so for I don't have pollen that sails on the lightest of winds, or seeds that dance through the sky. I'm an earth-creature for all that I can fly, but the tree is part earth, part sky and all the more wondrous for it. These sometimes hollowed, sometimes cracked, fire-burnt, sun-scorched, wind-beaten, rain-lashed trees are here to stay, until it is us, in our arrogant human form that decides they must go. For they stand in the way of progress, and progress we must, it's never enough to stand still to be in the moment, and so the trees (those that stand still and stay in the moment longest) must go. Those that are most how we want to be are those that must fall.
Imagine them as old souls, shaking their heads at the foolishness of the young. Our future generations will shake their heads also: how could we have let the world get to this way? When we have so much power and so much say and yet still the old ones fall.
Again though, it's the colour. It's winter now and when I look at these wonderful birch trees I see the silver against the blue. Riches against honour, and I appreciate, but think forward to the spring, to the green bursting from the buds and from the earth around. Will the trees still stand? Will the leaves still spring? Will I miss them, these glorious celebrations of all that's good and right in this world? Will you?


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Food and the Future

Well, this post has been a little delayed. Too much work and not enough play makes Heather a pretty dull girl! It's been pretty full on recently, and food has come pretty far down my list of things to-do. In fact, I haven't bought any food for a really long time, and apart from receiving a couple of deliveries which were not what I was expecting I have been getting very, very low on food stock, but unfortunately in this instance creativity does not appear to come with lack of ingredients. This is no masterpiece in three colours.

My two disappointing deliveries? Well, one I was particularly excited about was a veg delivery from a local organic farm shop. I was very excited about this, as when I used to work at Whitmuir I would put a lot of effort and energy into making sure that the veg boxes had variety and interest. Well, this box didn't quite live up to my hopes, dreams and expectations. In fact, quite the opposite. Now, I know that Scotland is quite a hard country to have a variety of vegetables in during the winter months, however there are ways and there are means, and there are certainly more things on offer than just root vegetables, and definitely more than just potatoes! What about kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, or even garlic, spring onions, spinach, pak choi, winter salad....there are so many options that to provide us just with tatties, carrots, parsnip (never a favourite of mine) and not even an onion! No, not impressed!

Well, this post wasn't meant to be a moan. But what do we do if our local organic store isn't up to much? I could go to the actual shop, that might be better, but then it's taking time out of my weekend as I wouldn't get there during the week. Supermarkets have minimal organic fresh fruit and veg, and packaging is a real issue as everything is wrapped up in plastic, which goes where? Exactly...into our lovely soil as waste. It's a really difficult thing to work out, and it's definitely worth a wee bit more consideration.

Overall I've not cracked this one on the head, I'll keep trying, keep exploring, and I'll update once I find something that works. I don't want my food to travel halfway around the world before I get to eat it, but I do want to have variety and excitement in my diet. The modern catch-22.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Becoming Stardust

Camping is a wonderful activity at the best of times, but add the thrill of being alone, being in an incredibly beautiful place where the skin tingles with the feeling of being in the wilds, and add snow, stars and freezing temperatures and the trip becomes something to remember forever. Glen Affric. Even the name causes the hair on my arms to rise up, Glen Affric. It was in December, my trip. A good friend of mine was meant to be coming up to Inverness to stay, but she couldn’t make it at the last minute so I decided that I needed to do something else instead and that something was camping. I love my tent (I’ve said this before), I love the cold, I love the outdoors and I was in a state of needing all these things. It’s a no-brainer really! I needed to feel alive again. To feel the star shine on my skin, to see real darkness, to breathe truly fresh air.


I found the perfect place to camp. Above Coire Loch, hidden from the path, but accessible too as I was late. I arrived at my spot at about 3pm, and sunset was at about 4pm. I had an hour of true light, but after that the gloaming would creep in and make doing anything much harder. It was perfect, the time I had, though the cold came down as a creeping blanket that I was surprised at how effectively chilling it was. Back into my tent to pile on more layers, and I loved the darkness coming on. Weird clouds (they may have been the Aurora borealis) made my skin creep, and the true silence made me pretty unsettled. To hear a bird would have been a treat, but the whole world was absolutely silent and nothing stirred, apart from me. 

There was a hunger with the cold. A desire not to change things. To stay silent, to blend in, to not disturb. But there was also something irrevocably human too, a need to make my presence known. We (just I?) don't like to be invisible in a space, it makes me uncomfortable, certainly, or maybe it's just that I wish I could go the whole way. In a place that's not my own, I really want to properly be invisible. I want to blend in, become the tree, the landscape, become truly part of what I'm seeing. To meet this desire I refused light. I cooked, and I ate, but I refused to put my light on, watching the light go, disappear and knowing that it would all be ruined if I turned on my torch. Then I would be a beacon. I would definitely be alien and the magic would be lost. 

The stars were incredible. Every second another star appeared, twinkling and shining and the whole star was a chaos of glory. Are we really alone? Are we really the only planet with life like this? Or like anything? Is there really no one else? To be under a sky so huge, and to see so many stars. It's moments like that that our bodies cease to exist. We stop being human, and instead become matter, dark, light, magic. Staring out beyond comprehension, there is little to compare it to, nothing to bring us back, dare I say it?, down to earth. Sometimes the sky can become too huge, and it can bewilder with it's scale. 

Feeling like I couldn't reach higher glories, I dreaded putting my torch on. I didn't want to lose the peace that had settled into my bones. Like the cold but comforting, soothing, warming. Like the peace after a successful sit spot, maybe this was a kind of meditation too. Eventually, however, I needed to put my torch on. I had the feeling like my soul was rising to the sky and I might not be able to bring it back if I didn't put the torch on soon. I put it on and the world changed again. My axis shifted to behold the latest wonder. The entire land was a mass of stars also. Every facet of snow glittered with the torchlight. It shone and my breath was taken away again. 

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That night I slept as well as I always do when I sleep outdoors. I woke in the morning with cold feet, but feeling exhilarated too. The sunrise was spectacular and the walk the next day was perfect. I felt like I was walking on memories of weightlessness, a memory of experiencing something for the first time. In this life so often we believe that the best times are the times we spend with other people. Or we need other people to witness these times to bring meaning to them. Spend the night under the stars alone, and I wonder what will find you.