It’s this time of year when Aristotle’s wise words ring truer than ever.
As the blue tits in the garden become more interested in the string tying the food to the clothes line than the food itself; as the striking red and yellow of the gold finch are brighter than ever before and the fox returns to sleeping on soil warmed by the first proper sunshine of the year, there is truly something marvellous about Spring !
The fleeting warmth of the sun followed by snow and ice, the first green shoots in the garden of much-loved plants that I was certain were lost to winter and the plucky little snowdrop bravely facing up to all that this turbulent season offers –
I love that first sniff of spring in the air that heralds the promise of sunnier, warmer days outdoors which is then followed up by a heavy dousing of snow just to remind us who is boss!
Find the extraordinary in the ordinary
I’ve never really bought in to the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. Setting challenges during the darkest, shortest days of the year, especially those that involve giving up simple pleasures like a good glass of red wine just when it’s the most perfect time to drink it, seems destined to failure for me.
But one lifetime resolution that I plan to keep again through 2017, and for me one of the simplest routes to happiness, is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s there every single day if you look for it.
Living in London, for me it means things like watching the sparrows lining up for a bath in the morning or catching a glimpse of a tiny tube mouse scurrying along in the darkness and miraculously avoiding being electrocuted and already the first signs of delphiniums and alliums poking their heads through- I will never tire of the miraculous new life that appears just as you convince yourself that the garden will never be the same!
Extraordinary in the ordinary- the simple route to happiness- Happy New Year !
“Our responsibility is to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on earth”
The stunning Planet Earth 2 series this autumn has given us all pause for thought, especially David Attenborough poignantly sharing these emotive words in the final frame.
The wonders of our planet have probably never been more stunningly displayed but sadly, in parallel, so has the impact that human beings are having our planet. There is truly an urgent need to do something about the way we live and how we treat our environment.
As David Attenborough says “cherish the natural world, because you are part of it and you depend upon it”.
“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”
Kenneth Grahame offers these wise words in “The Wind in the Willows”
Even before the first heavy frost, you somehow just know that autumn has gently edged in to winter - paler daytime light, a nip in the air, dark afternoons, runny red nose and a desire for butter soaked crumpets and bowls of warm soup by a toasty log fire, followed by a long snooze.
Badger by the fire was taken at Chatsworth in December 2015
I was recently reminded of these words as I walked by the late flowering poppies at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. I found the thousands of memorials; the abundant beauty of the fruit and berry filled trees; and the calmness of quiet places by the river both profoundly affecting and yet surprisingly spiritually uplifting.
Although I felt a deep sadness for the many lives that have been lost to conflict, I also felt profoundly grateful for the sacrifice that others have made that enables me to live the life that I so treasure.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them
“ I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out,
I found, was really going in” John Muir
John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist who through the spiritual quality and enthusiasm for nature he expressed in his work, inspired even Presidents to take action to preserve large areas of nature. He is quoted at the beginning of Robert Macfarlane’s iconic work “ The Wild Places”; a book which has been described as “the most luminous evocation of the importance of the wilderness”. This resonated strongly with me as I fell asleep in a deckchair under the Autumn trees in Osterley Park.
The State of Nature Report 2016 revealed that over the last 50 years 56% of our UK species have declined and 15% are at risk of disappearing altogether. This means for example that since I was a child watching water voles with my dad, their population has declined by a shocking 90%.
A fine set of whiskers’ mission is to help people to improve their well-being through connection with nature. But the very act of truly connecting with nature means that we care about it too.
There are two main reasons for the decline; agriculture, 75% of UK land is managed for farm production; and climate change. We could be the first generation since the Industrial Revolution to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. Through the food that we eat, the energy that we use and how we travel, let’s make good choices for the future of our environment
As I've grown older, I've become more thoughtful about making new memories with my family. With my parents in Derbyshire and my sister and her family in Newcastle it's very easy to just become visitors in each other's homes.
In June I spent a superb week in Northumberland - in spite of the weather- with my mum and dad.
We stayed at the gorgeous Pear Tree Cottage, with hares in the garden and beautiful scenery. We covered a lot of ground in very few days and one of the special places we visited was Wallington, owned by the National Trust. We didn't see the hoped for red squirrels but we all loved this sign which resonated very strongly - I'm sure we're not the only ones!