Tag Archives: nature


My Christmas cactus, which flowered with admirable accuracy in December, is now about to break out into wonderful magenta blossoms again. So is it really an Easter cactus? Or is it a Christian cactus which flowers for major church festivals? (In which case, will it come into bloom again for Greenbelt?). Along with the little pink flowers on my other indoor succulent I don’t know the name of, and the early fog clearing to yet another gorgeous sunny day, it really does feel that spring is at least partly sprung (though the weather forecast on my desktop predicts 10º today and 2º tomorrow, then 9º the next day. Confused? I will be).

A day in the country

Today was our church awayday, which we have in alternate years when we are not having a whole weekend away. It was good. We did some fun stuff looking at each other’s photos (we’d each been asked to choose four to share and talk about) and some serious thinking about simple lifestyle, and went for a rather fast and sweaty walk around the lakes and through the woods. Then it ended with communion and we all went home. And we all get to see each other again tomorrow! 🙂


..what a day of quiet, with opportunity to pray, think, write, draw and sit in a ten-acre garden, can do for one’s general state of mind and spirit. I went to my Quiet Day yesterday and had loads of space to just be, to sit on a bench under a yew tree watching the gentle rain, hear Mrs Blackbird shirring her wings, watch a robin bouncing round on his invisible space hopper, and the squirrels scalloping the lawn.. I think I must be a nature mystic.

The raft of problems from filing piles to son’s homework, still remain, but I feel refreshed, restored and ready to start tackling life again. One of the tasks on the list is to apologize to therapist for failing to turn up on Friday (and failing to ring to tell her why). I have a feeling I will be saving the apology till next week’s appointment so I can use it as an intro to a declaration that I want to stop therapy. The relationship with this particular therapist just hasn’t worked, and it doesn’t seem to be doing me much good, even after nearly three years. That’s a lot of time and money!

An avian visitor and a lament for a tree

Driving up my road this morning after my usual Friday outing (therapist, coffee and crossword, charity shop browsing, swim) I braked as a jay, splendid in brown, blue, black and white, flew low across the road straight in front of my car. I pulled in quietly so I could watch him bob about in a neighbour’s front garden, then when I lost sight of him I drove the last few yards and parked.

As I sat listening to the last strains of Bryan Ferry’s idiosyncratic take on Positively 4th Street (currently playing in my car: ‘Dylanesque’, Ferry’s album of Dylan covers), I saw in the rear mirror my husband’s unmistakable orange van drawing up behind me. As I got out and waved at him, he pointed over to the front of our house, where the jay was now rooting around in the ivy. He clearly got something, as he then flew off and settled on our wall to devour it.

Before our ornamental cherry tree died, killed off in a dry summer by the huge viburnum planted (not by us), too close to it the jay – I like to think it was the same one – was an annual visitor to it when it was in its flame-red autumn glory (the tree that is, not the jay, who is glorious all year). His visit now reminds me of the sadness of black, lifeless branches in spring when there should have been a positively Liberacean display of huge pink blossoms. However, The Grouch kept the wood after chopping down the dead tree, and has promised to make a fire surround from it when we redecorate our lounge and put a new fire in. That will be classy: a fireplace of cherry wood from our own garden!

‘There is in me a feeling…

… of God’s absence, and atheistic thoughts are in my mind.’. Gerald Hughes, in ‘God in All Things’, recommends this sentence as one to say to oneself when feeling what Ignatius called ‘desolation’: a lack of any sense of God’s presence. And it well describes my ‘default state’ lately: a sense of hope disappearing, a sense that I am alone on a grey sea, miles from land, adrift.

And yet… the leaves of the cherry trees are ablaze with autumn fire, and the copper beech has put its bronze lamé evening dress on, and the leaves of the tree in my neighbours’ garden (some sort of fruit tree?) are just turning, a pink blush suffusing the edges of the green; and the hills in the distance as I drive back from taking a friend to a cancer therapy session, are touched with the slightest of mists, that turns them from suburbia to a hint of rurality – and somehow a tinge of hope, a tiny bell-like sound, reaches through the cotton wool of my brain and stops me from giving up.

And in the last few days I have reduced the two-foot high pile of magazines on my coffee table to a six-inch high pile, and done lots of washing, and tidied clothes in my bedroom, and perhaps life is livable after all. In spite of the fact that I just had a call from son’s school asking if I’d remembered that today was a half day and that he was coming home right now. D’oh!

The parable of..

…the squirrel. Behold the squirrel, how he darts about the lawn. In the time of bounty, he finds acorns, hazelnuts, cob nuts, and all the gifts God gives at harvest. Lo, how he collects them, he buries them here and there. So, when the days of hardship come, he will have stores for his nourishment, to plump him up against the cold. But what if he should forget where he has buried them?

And so, perhaps, it is with the Christian. When the blessings are pouring like rays of late summer sun, then she can gather insights, good memories, encouraging words, to store against adversity. But what if, when the dark days come, she forgets where she has buried them? O then she must search, and dig, and rake every inch of the garden, searching for that which can feed her and keep her alive through the callous winter. Pray, then, that you will recall where your treasure is, for the hard times are coming, they are always coming.

In defence of Brer Fox

A friend rang with computer troubles, but incidentally told us that the family rabbits had been killed by a fox. He then called the fox something I can’t repeat on a family website.

But this friend eats meat, so in what sense is the fox any more a – well, what he called it – than he is? It just gets its food in a more direct fashion. How could the fox know that the rabbits were much loved family pets?

And yet…

..on the way home from lunching with a friend, I pick a piece of bark off a plane tree round the corner from my home; examine and feel its different textures front and back, its little dimples and flaws, its mottled colour like a trout skin, its toasty autumny smell. ‘There lives the dearest freshness deep down things’ – even when I’m depressed, even when all my senses seem to have shut down. I just have to keep looking, touching, smelling..

Looking up

As I left the house early today (before 9.00 is early for me!), unbreakfasted, to get a cholesterol blood test, I saw a huge flock of starlings rise all at once from a TV aerial, fanning out in all directions. It was a great sight for a grey day, and as I walked down to the doctor’s I kept my eyes upwards, and so spotted things I never usually notice, such as fancy brickwork on the gable ends of the local shops, vintage probably 1930s. I also noticed that the local library has finally been demolished, evidently early this morning, as dust was still rising. A sad sight which made me remember times taking son there when he was not much more than a toddler – he read a dozen words at 3 and fluently at 4. I used to buy unwanted library books there, and there were talks for local people, which were a great way of feeling younger, as I was the only non-pensioner who went!

The developers got the site on the basis that they build a new library into the block of flats, so I hope our nasty Tory council doesn’t renege on that. In spite of the net, email, Blackberries etc, libraries are still a vital source of information, and a social centre, for those on the wrong side of the digital divide.

After the blood test, which had to be taken fasting, I treated myself to a (vegetarian) fried breakfast at a local caff. It’s not fattening if you eat it after a fast, is it? Which reminds me of two Jewish ladies I once saw in a café at Brent Cross shopping centre, just ater Yom Kippur, discussing who they had been to dinner with after the fast. I noticed one was eating a ham sandwich and one a prawn sandwich! (both forbidden foods at any time). Ain’t religion wonderful?

And now – hallelujah! The latest Bible notes are written and sent (to be published in a year), which means I have now met all my four September deadlines ahead of time. So – what to do with the extra day I’ve gained tomorrow? Brent Cross beckons – I have some new M & S vouchers…

A death avoided

Driving to the therapist today, I saw a skinny red-grey squirrel hesitantly cross the road in front of me. I slammed the brakes on (helped by the fact that I was just mounting a speed bump) and the squirrel lived. Later in the park I watched a squirrel climb a tree; the same one I saved? I like to think so. Also two magpies, though seen separately, so maybe they were the same magpie – does that mean two doses of sorrow or one of joy?

Still listening to Good Morning Vietnam – Tired & Emotional, I think you’re right, this is not the film soundtrack but a general 60s compilation. However it’s the best 60s compilation I’ve ever found, including such amazing songs as Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick singing White Rabbit – a track which benefits from being played at 11 if ever a track did. Hardly a naff track on the whole album, with the possible exception of the Turtles’ Eleanor, but I can skip that.

This album has confirmed my memory that in the old days, just about every pop and rock song used to fade out rather than having a proper ending. When did they stop doing that and why? I don’t know a single contemporary song that does it.