#26 City living for our leafy friends

Trees. I think they’re wonderful! Trees in the city, still wonderful but they do seem to have a rougher deal.

Leaves on a concrete pavement

Leaves in the city

No rich soil around them, no pure darkness, no real clusters like in woodlands and forests. And yet many do adapt and thrive, at least from what we see in our lifetimes.

There is no doubt that trees add to our environment, and our health, but just how reciprocal is our relationship?

We put them where we want them in the city, where they ‘look right’. Studies have shown that trees do actually work as a team to help the same species grow. Very often, trees in the city are planted in neat rows, spaced apart from one another, so there’s no real room for comradery.

Like humans if we were left alone, we would want to expand our roots and find friends, so do trees. In the process, they inadvertently damage pavements, water pipes or any other constricting structure in their way.

Yet we seem to take this as a personal vendetta and trap the roots further in cages or other such restrictive things. 

I’d say the relationship isn’t very reciprocal at all. Trees aren’t here to look pretty, they create powerful ecosystems, cleanse our air and add to the food chain. And what do we do? Chop them, shape them and restrict them.

Not just in cities but across the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had woodlands in our towns and cities, spaces where trees, and wildlife, could truly thrive. Cultivated areas of soil, left to its own devices, could generate the sort of green space, and I mean truly green not just grass and plant pots, that we all benefit from. 

Trees in a woodland

Happy trees

Trees have been around for millions of years without our infrastructure and will be here for millions more years I am sure. They are magnificent in both scale and complexity but let’s not forget that, just as humans weren’t designed to fly, trees weren’t destined for city living. 

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#25 Honouring the quiet of the coming Winter

November has arrived in a flash. I barely had time to part with October and we are now on a rollercoaster ride towards Christmas.

What a strange disconnect then between our cycles and nature’s cycles. Whilst we do mad dashes to shops for seasonal gifts, pelt to and from work in the growing darkness and try to keep up with our 24/7 schedules, nature is beginning to slow down and rest.

The trees are allowing their leaves to fall, focussing their energies inward to be strong for the spring, grasses are slowing their growth and settling in for the Winter and animals are getting their homes ready for hibernation.

Autumn sunrise

This is a time of year to be still and quiet, to reflect inwards and practice restorative hobbies – long walks, yoga and curling up indoors with a good book. It is a time to ready ourselves for the coming seasons, to work out where to focus our energies in order to bring things to fruition in the Spring.

Our culture doesn’t really allow for cyclical adjustments. We do 9 to 5 all year round, we are expected to keep up our ridiculous schedules throughout the year. What we really need in Winter is more time outside during daylight, so shorter working days, and more time to be peaceful, so less demands on our time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just hibernate away from all of it for a few months?

So how do we make the best of our situation whilst also honouring the requests from Autumn to get ready for what’s ahead? We have to adjust. Change our schedules, take more time to just be. Not everything has to stop of course, we still need social interaction, but learning to take 10, 20, 30 minutes here and there to be still and reflect is beneficial to us at this time of year.

Follow the examples of nature, get rid of things that no longer serve you, strip back your schedule to the bare minimum and prepare yourself, and your home, for a peaceful season ahead.

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#24 Being stuck between your head and heart

Some days, I want to get out of bed in the morning, drive to work and work hard all day. Other days, I resent the morning, I turn the music up loud in my car to drown out the world and I don’t feel like doing any work. I call those my rebel days.

Rebel days, to me, are a wrestle between my heart and head. My head says you need to go to work to earn money to pay the rent. My heart says the sun is shining, I want to be outside, walking in the trees, writing all day and being free from deadlines and demands.

It is days like these that make me feel angry, trapped and frustrated. These are the days where I want change, where I make change happen. I rebel a bit. I take an extra 5 minutes for my lunch break, I don’t check my emails all morning and instead I research travel destinations, new jobs or classes. I come away from the day feeling in control, on track, further ahead with my plans.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, these days are often followed by standard 9 to 5 days, I go in, I do work and I go home. But the cycle repeats, often. And I feel as though it’s a sign from the Universe to challenge myself more and push boundaries.

I’m learning from these days every time. Sometimes they help me make progress, other times they make me upset because I don’t feel I am getting anywhere. But I know, deep down, there is a fire burning within me that is sustaining me and that I am on the right path to whatever I need.

People tell me everyone has days like these and I agree, they probably do. But not everyone sees them as an opportunity to grow or learn. I am a deep thinker, I enjoy talking about what’s going on inside, about the soul and the Universe, and I feel these are all signs for me to connect deeper within, find out what my purpose is, where I am going.

The surface value of work, bills, routine is only a part of what we do. I believe we all have more to give in this world. I want to plant more trees, to help small businesses and to spread more positivity but it all happens gradually, until you get to a moment where your head and heart both sing Yes! at the same time.

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#23 Let Nature Nurture You

As I’ve explored in a previous post, changing seasons can bring about changing emotions and having to deal with the sorrow of losing things but also the challenge of moving forward. It can feel like a bit of a whirlwind.

Twisted treetop view

What about if it was time to take a lesson from nature and just be cool with change. Relax into the changing seasons and the varying emotions.

Sit with your anger and frustration and recognise it as a call to something new and exciting, a time for change. Be gentle with your sadness an recognise it as a sign to take care of yourself and nurture your own self in the transition towards Winter. And lastly, rejoice in your happiness, let it guide you to make the best decisions for you. Let it lead you to create good memories to look back on in the Spring time.

One of the best places to be when dealing with your emotions is in nature. Whether that’s near a lake, in a field, walking through woodland or even just in your garden, breathe in the smells and sounds and sights of nature.

These are the times when you can be mindful of what is going on. It is easier to tune in with yourself. And yes it can be hard to get these moments as a busy working person but it is so important for nurturing your wellbeing and for connecting to Mother Earth again.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if all workplaces had a ‘Nurture Garden’, a place full of flowers, plants and trees where you could go and just be at any point during the day. Some offices are lucky enough to be near to these things but it’s not the same for everyone.

In my opinion, the greatest connection we have is with nature and yet we dull it with our phones and office jobs and commutes. I put my hands up, I am one of those people too, perhaps why I feel so passionate about getting out in nature whenever I possibly can.

My dream is to cut the commute, work for myself and be outdoors everyday, and I’m working on making that my reality. But for now, for me and for everyone else in my shoes, make nature your priority, let it nurture you and provide you with a place of calm and safety.

In a world when we are always so switched on, go out to nature and switch off.

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#22 Welcoming in Autumn

I love this time of year. The beauty and colour indicate hope and change all at once.

Autumn colours

At a recent yoga circle practice, we talked about how the seeds we plant now will grow in the Spring and thought about what we wanted to nurture now which will come to fruition next year.

It is also a time to reflect on what has already grown in your life, what worked and what didn’t. A time to see change as positive and move forward, whilst also looking over your shoulder to recognise how far you have come.

This season can also represent a certain sadness in us. Just as the trees lose their leaves, Autumn is a time of year to let go of things or people and it can cause a grief in us that sits with us for a while, even if letting go will make us free.

Autumn nourishes us and challenges us. It teaches us to let go and to do so elegantly. It teaches us to look around us and see change and recognise where that has come from, and where it might lead to. It is a time to take time for yourself, to look inwards.

Which seeds do you want to plant now for 2018? An ambition, a goal, a friendship or relationship investment perhaps.

Look around you and draw inspiration from the magic of nature, the way the leaves float to the ground or how conkers lay strewn on the grass and the rich variation in colours. A multitude of options, of seeds to plant, dreams to dream and change to make.

Let Autumn be your inspiration and don’t let it pass you by. This is the time to nourish yourself and renew before Winter.

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#21 Less is More

Recently, I’ve been having a bit of a clear out. A change in seasons often does that to me. Drawers are opened, wardrobes emptied then filled with only half of what was in them, inventories written, trips to the charity shop and then I am often left with a pile of items which I don’t sell or give to charity but I set aside for friends.

Last time, I was clearing through a bookcase and discovered a book I had been talking to my friend about. I set it aside and gave it to her – it put a massive smile on her face and it made me feel good about doing it too.

Sometimes, we get so concerned with what we do have that we forget that belongings we no longer use can make others happy. My motto for clearing out is if it hasn’t been used in the last 6 months, and it doesn’t have sentimental value, it goes out. My mum uses the question, “Is it useful or beautiful?” and if it is neither, it goes in the bin bag. I like that, a simple way of clearing out things.

It feels good to have less, to have one drawer left empty or one shelf free of clutter. And what’s more, you don’t miss it. It was just filling space most of the time. With less you can do more – reorganise, change things around or simply enjoy more space.

I know in the UK we’re not the greatest at giving to charities, often shying away from people shaking buckets in the streets, but I think one way we can give is by donating our pre-loved goods to charity shops.

Imagine the smile on someone’s face when they come across your beautiful vase which will go perfectly in their kitchen, and has just been gathering dust in your utility room cupboard for years.

That’s when less is more. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, things that you don’t use on a daily basis but have sentimental value to you, maybe a love letter or a photo with your grandma. I keep these sorts of things in an old shoebox and, again, I clear this out regularly because sometimes your sentiments change.

Over time, you detach from certain things, old thank you cards don’t seem as significant, or concert tickets start to feel like just an extra thing to keep. You get emotionally tired from having too much stuff, tucked away as memories in a box. These things need attention too – be real with yourself and work out which memories you want to keep in your box and which ones you can be at peace with keeping in your head.

There’s no harm in hanging onto something for another 6 months to see if your feelings change. Often I come across a top I’m not sure about – I like it but it has a slight hole in the hem. I keep it for another 6 months and, more often than not, decide it’s time for it to go.

Most of the time it is our fear that stops us letting go. Open yourself to love and remember the happiness that thing has brought us and how much we hope it brings happiness to others. That thought makes it easier to let go.

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#20 Surprises out at Sea

Last weekend, I took a trip to Edinburgh, a place which always feels like my second home.

I escaped the city on the Saturday and took a trip by train to the neighbouring town of North Berwick. There, I caught a Seabird cruise to the islands of Craigleith and Bass Rock. I admired the thousands of gannets which have colonised on Bass Rock, ever increasing in numbers now that humans have left the island.

Gannets at Bass Rock

Gannets at Bass Rock

Craigleith is home to puffins during the summer months but this time of year we didn’t see any of those. Instead I was amused by the Cormorants who stick their wings out to dry whilst perched on the rocks, almost as if they are about to give you a hug!

Heading back towards the mainland, the boat got radioed to say there had been a sighting of dolphins! Not part of the original itinerary but a welcome surprise. We then caught sight of a pod of around 8 dolphins, some of them playfully following our boat. What a delight! They are such beautiful and graceful creatures and it was such a pleasure to see them leaping and diving at sea, in their natural environment. They are also sociable beings and were very accommodating to the couple of boats who were packed full of tourists all dying to get a glimpse of them.

Dolphins in North Berwick

Dolphins in North Berwick

As we made our way back to North Berwick harbour, I was thinking how resilient nature can be. They get on with their days, their routines whilst we often poke and prod in their environments. They keep going, keep adapting and going forward and often, as humans, we aren’t so good at adapting in the right way.

We can learn a great deal from the creatures around us and I hope in time that we can all build a mutual respect for the world around us.

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