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. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

#changingmyworld

Apologies for the silence! A lot of January has been taken up with feeling tired, busy (with friends and work) and maybe a little overwhelmed with it all. I have also been trying to cut meat out of my diet but haven't been replacing it with any proper alternative so yeah, that went well!

This is a mammoth task. Changing my world. It's much easier just to continue along life as always, and just breeze through while thinking 'I'm already pretty eco-conscious, I'm fine...' Yes, maybe I am, but that doesn't mean I'm at the end of the road for me. I can strive for better and I will strive for better.

To make it slightly more do-able/ accessible/ possible/ easy to track etc., I have decided to break the year into months, and this is what it looks like:

February - what makes me: the foods I eat and the way I eat it
March - Externalising; what I put on me and why
April - How to clean....the home
May - Travel and all that jazz. Seeing the world eco-ways
June - Dressing one's self
July - My home; energy
August - Working and changing bad practice
September - Charitability
October - After life and the legacy we leave
November - Reduce, reuse, recycle
December - Celebrating with a conscience (and what happens next)

Each month has a new focus which I will research and implement. I will consider my food this month, for example, but I will carry on my new way of life for the rest of the year. The changes won't just last a month (unless they're unfeasible) and will feed into my entire year (or the rest of my life......). This is good as it makes it simpler for me, and allows me to juggle the trials and tribulations of actually living without plunging head first into everything, and it also gives me time to research and really consider how I want to proceed.

There is a downside, of course. I really want to get to certain topics that come later on in the year, but hey ho, this is the way I'm gonna play it!

If anyone wants to participate, join or cheer me on, you can sign up to receive updates from the blog by subscribing, follow me on Twitter or join the #changingmyworld movement (that's only happening in my world so far, but you know....maybe one day it'll get bigger!). I aim to update this three times a month, and there are also bonus posts from my regular writing that will pop up now and again.

Any ideas about food, what you'd like to see on here or what you find works for eco-concious eating, let me know below!