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Archive for the ‘Positivity’ Category

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Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) in a container in our back garden. Canary Island Ivy (Hedera Canariensis) leaf peeking through the fern fronds.

I’m more relaxed about gardening than I used to be, and am enjoying letting Mother Nature have her way. She creates beauty at every turn, with little interference from me! Green is her colour of preference, which is obvious to anyone who walks through a forest.

These days, green is my favourite colour in the garden, and elsewhere. Being a cool colour, it provides a sense of calm and peacefulness, similar to the effect of blue. Because green plants appear to be in the background, they add a feeling of spaciousness to garden beds. For me, green represents Nature at its best, and is the colour of life and hopefulness. The following photographs were taken while we were on a walk in Pacific Spirit Park, in July, 2019, on one of the many beautiful trails there. Each photograph shows only native plants, which have grown here on the southwest coast of Canada for many centuries.

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Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

***Green is the prime colour of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.

                                                               —Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium)

No white nor red was ever seen

So amorous as this lovely green.

—Andrew Marvell

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Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) trees among the Douglas Firs ((Pseudotsuga menziesii)

This is second-growth forest, re-planted in the early 1900’s, following intensive logging. The original evergreen trees were massive giants, and a few of their trunks are still visible throughout the park. They were mainly Western Red Cedars and Douglas Firs.

It was with awe

That I beheld

Fresh leaves, green leaves

Bright in the sun.

—Basho

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Moss on Douglas Fir bark

***If there is a future, it will be Green.

—Petra Kelly

By “Green”, I think that Petra Kelly means that humanity will be using renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and other clean methods which do not emit carbon, and will thus help to slow down the rate of global warming and climate change.

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Vine Maples and Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) tree.

***A forest is green for a reason.

—Anthony T. Hincks

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Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) and Salal

***Green is a soothing colour, isn’t it?

—Jack Thorne

Here’s a little song some of you may remember, from Sesame Street:

It’s Not Easy Being Green (Kermit’s Song). Kermit is a frog, of course! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Now that people world-wide are finally waking up to the reality of the planet’s climate crisis, isn’t it time for all of us to start talking together about what is happening, how we feel about it, and what we can do to help Mother Earth? Our planet and the life upon it have many other names, including “the Biosphere”, “the Earth”, “Nature”, “Mother Nature”, “the Web of Life”, “Gaia”, and “the Living Planet”. Does it really matter what we call this incredibly beautiful, fragile, little fragment of the Universe?

THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS is saving and enhancing what remains of life on Earth. For far too long, humans (not all, but many) have used and abused the planet we live on, forgetting that everything is inter-connected, and that every living thing deserves respect. Gratitude, gentleness and awe seem to have disappeared from the manner in which most people live on this Earth which sustains us all. We humans are an integral part of the web of life, and everything we do to other species will in turn affect us.

Greta Thunberg’s talk, in the above video, gets right down to the most important aspects of this overwhelming challenge, this never-before-experienced crisis facing humankind. And not only humankind, but all of life is being swept up in a huge transition, a massive, unstoppable storm of change. It is no longer a question…the climate crisis is human-caused. We may have time to at least help the Earth to recover in some ways.

When you think about this situation, about the now undeniable fact that humans world-wide must change the ways they live on the planet, a sense of despair may set in. The dilemma seems almost insurmountable, too daunting to even begin to deal with. How will we ever recover from our addiction to the use of fossil fuels, which is one of the main causes of climate change? How will we keep fossil fuels in the ground, rather than continuing to recklessly extract and burn them, creating massive carbon emissions, thus rapidly warming the climate?

Well, we won’t solve anything by mindlessly sailing along, blinkers on, business as usual!

We all have to work together: citizens of ALL ages, students, politicians, law-makers, environmentalists, scientists, people in the “corporate world”, activists, educators, volunteers, health-care providers, workers in every area, farmers, etc.! It seems to me that this time of great transition on Earth is happening at an ever-increasing speed, out of necessity, and we have no way of knowing where the changes are taking us. This is where ACCEPTANCE of what we cannot control becomes necessary. But we can all do something, however small, and be involved in creating positive changes.

This is just a little blog, one among millions of others, and I cannot pretend to know the answers to enormous questions. However, getting back to my original goals for the blog, which are to express and share ideas about Beauty, Positivity, and Simplicity, I can at least focus on what I think might help some of us to face the huge challenges, using those three guidelines.

***BEAUTY: look around you, out in the world, and really notice the beauty of nature. Even in the depths of the city, one can look at a leaf, a bird, an insect, a cloud, a tree, a flower, an animal, a human being (!), the life-giving soil, a plant, water, the ocean, a stream or river, and see how beautiful they are. Put away that smart phone, and re-acquaint yourself with the real world!

***POSITIVITY: please don’t despair! We can begin to face our reality by talking with each other, communicating, sharing our ideas and feelings in a truthful way. Let’s be honest about this: we have a problem, we humans and our wonderful planet! And it’s time to talk about it, about “the elephant in the room”! Expressing our concerns can lead to the beginnings of positive changes. Acceptance of reality is a key step in keeping positive. Grieving the losses which we will inevitably face is better than repressing our grief about (for example) the loss of so many species, losses which are currently happening at an alarming rate. (See links below.)

***SIMPLICITY: keep it simple, and take it easy! One step at a time. We can work together. People of all beliefs, all backgrounds, all political stripes, must learn to listen to and respect each other. This does not have to be complicated, even though the problems which we face are complex. People have gone through crises over and over again through the ages, and have learned how to change and adapt. The time has come, in my opinion, to get active, as Greta Thunberg suggests! Individual actions may not solve the problems, but the process of trying to solve them, and of working with each other and WITH “Mother Earth”, is all important. Perhaps we need to SIMPLIFY some of our SYSTEMS, such as how and where we grow our food, for example. And we can SIMPLIFY our lives by cutting back on consumerism. Use less, re-use as much as we can, travel by air less (much less!), drive less (much less!), eat less meat, (the production of “meat” causes carbon emissions, pollutes land and water, and abuses animals), use fewer animal products, use less precious water, do not use toxic products (read the labels), never use pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, protect the bees and other pollinators, avoid the use of plastics wherever possible, GROW SOME OF YOUR OWN FOOD (even in pots on a balcony), tear up the lawn and plant vegetables, and on it goes!

Here are the titles of three books which are helping me to “TAKE HEART”:

***Intrinsic Hope–Living Courageously in Troubled Times

by Kate Davies, M.A., D.Phil.

***The World-Ending Fire–The Essential Wendell Berry

essays by Wendell Berry

***The Great Work–Our Way Into the Future

by Thomas Berry

During my neighbourhood walk today, as I basked in the leaf-dappled sunshine, watched a foraging crow, admired the gardens, and breathed the fresh air, I realized that it is next to impossible for some people to believe that the climate crisis is actually happening. For various reasons, they are not yet ready to see the writing on the wall. I’ve talked to people who think that some of us are imagining a disaster where there is none, and that Earth has gone through extinctions and huge climatic changes before. This may be true, but never have the changes happened so quickly, and never before have they been totally human-caused, and so devastating to a high percentage of the planet’s other plant, animal and insect species. I have noticed massive changes in my own lifetime, here in the south-western corner of British Columbia. For decades now, it has been obvious to me that many species have already disappeared, that the climate and weather patterns are changing radically, and that the Earth is in trouble. Now, she is finally reacting. Many people are becoming aware that things are out of balance, and that our “systems” must change if life on the planet is to continue to flourish, or even to survive.

Here is a  link to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report to the United Nations, from October, 2018:

Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments

And a link to the recent United Nations report on species extinctions:

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

Here are two quotations which I find helpful:

***As long as we are here, we have a responsibility to work for the Earth….I don’t think we have the option for despair.

—Vandana Shiva… is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and author. (Wikipedia)

***Do the best you can, in the place that you are, and be kind.

—Scott Nearing…was an American radical economist, educator, writer, political activist, pacifist, and advocate of simple living. (Wikipedia)

Another reason to feel at least somewhat hopeful for the future of life on the planet:

https://globalclimatestrike.net/?cmp=newsletter-What+on+Earth%3F+May+30

Adults have been invited to join the youth in the September 20th to 27th Climate Strike, world-wide. I plan to join our city’s Climate Strike, and I hope that thousands, even millions of others will join their demonstrations as well!

****If you would like to Follow my blog, just click on the “FOLLOW” button in the right hand side-bar, or click on the “FOLLOW” button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Include your email address, and WordPress will send you a short email telling you each time I publish a blog post. This is usually once a month, or less.**** Thank You! from Val, at JoieduSoleil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Locarno Beach, a good place to slow down and enjoy gazing at the clouds…

It’s OK to “go slow”.

When I was a “youngster”, back in the 1950’s, I spent some time each summer with a friend’s family on the Sunshine Coast here in B.C. It was such a delightful place to visit, where everything seemed magical. Driving along the dusty dirt road to my friend’s grandpa’s place, we would pass a sign on the roadside which always made us laugh. The sign said:

CAMP

GO SLOW

Of course, we called the place “Camp Go Slow”.

Remembering that sign has made me think about the speed at which most of us seem to live today. Not only traffic has speeded up, but the very way in which our minds work is in overdrive. It appears that  moving slowly is not acceptable in 2018, nor is thinking slowly.

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Stopping to notice the sweet scent of a rose, or to look up at the soft white clouds in a pale blue sky would appear to be eccentric behaviour nowadays. What a shame! Our access to myriads of online information at the touch of a finger is filling our brains at breakneck speed. It’s no wonder we can’t remember all of what we’re stuffing into our heads! It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are suffering from anxiety and depression.

We’re even encouraged to walk quickly, cycle, jog, swim, lift weights, anything to get our heart rates up. This is all well and good, but to my mind, not at the expense of our emotional well-being. Finding a balance is key.

Pausing to just breathe, slowing down to notice the beauty that remains in this world can be very healing. Even if I can’t get to the beach, or into the woods, I sometimes just stop and really look at a flower, or a leaf, or a bird or an insect. Nature is amazing!

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White-crowned Sparrow

Getting away from our “screens”, whether it be smart phone, computer or tablet, is such a healthy way to get back into more natural rhythms of living. My own overuse of the computer has led to a gradual decline of noticing what is going on in the real world. By “real world”, I mean whatever bits of “Mother Earth” are left for us to experience in a slow, noticing manner.

Mindfulness meditation is one simple way to slow down and become aware of what’s going on around us. It doesn’t have to be complicated, this type of meditation, nor does it have to be practiced in a rigid way. Simply sitting still, being aware of each out-breath for a short period of time helps to settle our minds. Any activity which absorbs our attention positively can help to centre us, to relieve the need to rush and be “busy”. Raking leaves, painting a picture, knitting something simple, are all examples of ways we can practice “mindfulness”, and achieve a more steady pace of living.

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Crocheting can be a type of meditation:)

Practicing tai chi or yoga can help us to focus, to slow down and just breathe! I’m talking about traditional yoga practice, not one of the speeded up varieties, of course. Although tai chi is a martial art form, the way I practice it is in a slow and mindful manner. This is very calming.

On the cooking front, I may be considered old-fashioned, but rather than using a microwave or any other gadget which speeds up food preparation, I prefer the slow cooking method! Food just tastes better when it’s prepared mindfully, and is probably healthier for us as well.

With climate change forcing us to re-think the way we live on this beautiful earth, I believe it’s time to slow down and actually consider how to do that. How can we learn to (as Graham Saul asks):

“Restore the life support systems of the planet.”

—Graham Saul, environmentalist & Executive Director of Nature Canada

Well, I don’t think that we can help the earth to heal by racing around, “business as usual”, frantically and unthinkingly. It will take time and a great effort from everyone, but I believe positive changes can be made.

Slowing down will help us to once again realize that we humans are a part of the biosphere, part of the web of life!

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Columbine, a self-seeded beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After fifty years of crocheting, I’m still enjoying it, and recently completed yet another afghan. This “Square Medallion” pattern is started from the centre and worked in rounds, rather than in rows. Each square is edged in half double, then single crochet stitches, and finally all the squares are stitched together to create the finished blanket. My favourite pattern will always be the good old “Granny Square”, but Square Medallions come a close second!

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Perseverance seems to be the key attitude when working on any big project, and I’ve found a few helpful quotations which remind me to never give up:

It always seems impossible until it gets done.

—Nelson Mandela

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

—Confucius

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.

—Ella Fitzgerald

Keep up the old fight!

—Uncle Doug Barton (my godfather:) (thanks, Marilyn, for sending me this quote!)

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Apparently, the much-loved little dog whose family received this afghan is very happy to share it with them! Good! Afghans are made to be used, and to provide comfort as well as warmth.

Now, what shall I crochet next?

I keep on keeping on…

—Frances Crowe (fl. 1800’s)

 

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Boat#3

“Fishing Boats at Sea”, by Claude Monet, 1868

As elders, sailing on this uncharted sea, we need all the help we can get! Here are some of my favourite quotations to help us navigate the waters.

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.

Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher, 4 BCE-65 CE

Don’t die before you’re dead.

Rachel Wolchin, American writer

It ain’t over till it’s over.

—Yogi Berra, American baseball player, 1925-2015

I’ve had a ball. And as I get older, I just become an older kid.

Jonathan Winters, American actor/comedian, 1925-2013

For those of us who have endured (and survived!) long enough to be called “elders”, sometimes there is a need for encouragement. Fortitude is a word which comes to mind, and strength. These are two attributes that help us to keep on, one step at a time.

Here’s a video of a beautiful, inspiring, and graceful elder, Maia Helles, a retired ballet dancer. Filmed at her cottage on Fire Island in the U.S. when Maia was ninety-five years of age, it shows some of the exercises she practiced regularly.

Maia passed away in 2016 at the age of ninety-nine, leaving a wonderful legacy of hope and encouragement.

It may seem cloyingly upbeat, but this blog’s stated purpose is to “focus on the good”, and on the positive. Years ago, when some health challenges came into my life, I decided to do whatever I could to be my own best coach, my own best advocate. I do experience setbacks on my “positivity” journey at times, and have to get back on track with gentle but firm reminders to myself (and with much patience from my husband!).

A dear friend once said to me, while we were on a brisk exercise walk in the neighbourhood, “Just keep walking, Val!” She meant that I should keep walking rather than stopping to look at gardens every few feet! We were supposed to be exercising, after all. As it turns out, I frequently say those words to myself, especially when experiencing the occasional bout of loss of balance. Boarding city buses can be challenging at times, so I use the mantra, “Just keep walking, Val!”, to gain momentum as I climb aboard.

“Counting” also helps, particularly when going up or down stairs. Just plain counting, 1-2-3 etc., provides a steady rhythm, a sense of security, especially to those of us who have challenges with our vision. Better to count silently to oneself than to take a tumble!

In the depths of winter, I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.

—Albert Camus, French philosopher, author, & journalist, 1913-1960

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Forget-me-not flowers in our back garden. I love their simplicity.

Take Heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This little Iris is an inspiration to me. Every spring, the flowers bravely re-appear, with absolutely no help or special care from anyone! For a small, unassuming plant, it has many names: Iris unguicularis, Iris stylosa, Algerian iris, Algerian winter iris, Winter iris.

Our Algerian iris grows from a gravel bed which is situated in a most challenging spot, nestled in amongst strong bamboo roots. It never fails to surprise me when, usually one day in March, I spot its beautiful flowers coming into bloom. This year, it first bloomed during a light snowfall back in late February, and is still blooming in early April. Never fazed, it is a little gem, and serves as a yearly reminder that spring will soon arrive!

For those of you who like plant details, here are the main points about Algerian iris:

Evergreen, rhizomatous, beardless iris.

H. to 8 in. (20cm)   S. indefinite   Almost stemless, flowers 2-3 in. (5-8cm) across

Flowers appear from late autumn to early spring. Prefers a sheltered site against a south or west-facing wall. (But ours is out in the open, except for those protective bamboo roots!)

 

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Boat #2

“The Sailing Boat, Evening Effect”, by Claude Monet, 1885

I’m learning that the process of growing older is an art form, and letting go of some things is part of the artistry. When we create a painting, or take a photograph, it’s the empty spaces that help to define the work, giving it balance and making it beautiful, or at least meaningful!

Life is all about dismantling what’s unimportant. Then you can see what’s really valuable.

–Lilo Raymond, photographer (1923-2009)

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“Still Life with Pitcher”, photograph by Lilo Raymond

It’s never easy to give up certain activities, people, books or objects that we’ve loved in the past. For example, I’ve had to let go of riding a bike, due to certain physical constraints. But I can still walk, thank goodness! I’m in the process of choosing which activities to hold on to, and which to say goodbye to.

Gardening is a blessing, and I’m hoping to follow in my Dad’s and sister’s footsteps, and putter in my garden for as long as I possibly can, as they did.

The luckiest among us drift into old age within the garden. Bones, muscles and sinews may begin to complain, but the passion’s still there: so much still to do, so many possibilities still to explore.

–Des Kennedy, from The Passionate Gardener–Adventures of an Ardent Green Thumb, (Introduction, page 6)

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Dad’s & Lois’ Geraniums (Pelargoniums) on the deck, summer 2017

Every year, in early autumn, I cut back all fifteen to twenty of my geranium plants (Pelargoniums) and re-pot them, then bring them into the house to overwinter until the spring. Even though some gardeners look disdainfully on these plants, I love them! For one thing, they brighten up the deck, and in my mind, add a little Mediterranean colour to the garden. I inherited some of my geraniums from my Dad, and sister Lois, after they passed away, making my connection to these much-loved plants quite sentimental.  Pelargoniums are among the easiest plants to grow. They just have such a strong will to survive! Cuttings will root easily in a jar of water, with no problem.

As I mentioned in the first post entitled “Beautiful Elders—Sailing on an Uncharted Sea”, acceptance of changes is so important as we age.

Here’s a link to the original post:

https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/?s=Beautiful+Elders

Some changes we go through are of our own choosing, and some are forced upon us. Accepting what we are not in control of, or cannot change, is not easy, but does aid us in moving on with our lives. This is a quotation from Albert Einstein which surprised me:

I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables,or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.

–Albert Einstein, from: The Wisehart Interview, 1930

And Albert was a respected scientist! What a relief to think that we do not have to try to control everything! And what a relief that we can let go of some of the things we used to do.

The above quotation can be seen as stemming from Einstein’s determinism: the philosophical proposition that every event, decision and action is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. See:

http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_determinism.html

Don’t look back, you’re not going that way. (as in the title of this post)

–Mary Engelbreit

Dont Look Back

Illustration by Mary Engelbreit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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