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Showing posts from June, 2012

Looking for patterns in life is only natural

My wife and I were lying on the grass the other day, gazing up at daubs of clouds drifting across a canvas sky – we were looking for shapes. “Look, look, over there,” she said, pointing an excited finger at a splash of cloud. “A bird.” Sure enough, there it was, soaring cotton-wool white in the shifting sky. “A phoenix!” I gasped. In the blink of an eye, the shape had altered. Then, almost as quickly, it dissolved again into the heavens so it could be reborn, arising later in another form. We saw a host of worldly and mythical faces, animals and abstract forms – sometimes spotting them together, at other times needing a guiding finger to point the way. I’m sure a psychiatrist could make something of the patterns we drew in the sky with our minds. I suppose the game was similar to the inkblot test devised by Hermann Rorschach to reveal patients’ unconscious thoughts.
What I like most about this game is that you play it best by not trying: it is essential to let your mind relax and become rec…

“Only that day dawns to which we are fully awake”

With these words of wisdom by poet, naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau echoing in my mind, I set off into the warm midsummer morning to watch the sun announce the dawn of the longest day.

Walking mindfully along the tree-lined path leading into the countryside, I stepped appreciatively into each precious moment. Each oak, ash, sycamore and horse chestnut bore witness to my gentle pilgrimage to take part in a cosmic drama that has inspired people for millennia: the summer solstice sunrise, when the earth, because of the tilt of her axis, seems to bow to the heart of our solar system.
Clouds sailed effortlessly towards the horizon, briefly unveiling a waning moon still gracing the dawn sky with her reflection of the sunlight to come. Early birds blessed the breeze with song. On reaching the brow of the hill, I gazed in awe upon the earth undulating towards lands where morning had already yawned, stretched and sat down for breakfast. Meanwhile, here, the only evidence of the su…

Celebrating life in the Goldilocks zone

As the wheel of the year turns, we turn towards its longest day, its midday, midsummer, when our nearest star, our life-giving sun, holds us in his longest embrace.

In an age of central heating, ready meals, all-night electric light, fire at the flick of a switch, it may be hard to appreciate how important the sun was to our ancestors – and easy to forget how vital his warmth and light still are to us today. We are children of the sun and earth and, like babies, still rely on our cosmic parents for our survival. Despite all our modern conveniences, if the sun’s light were to go out tomorrow, we would die. Having said that, however, astronomers calculate the sun will still be able to support life here for another billion or so years. 
So no need to panic just yet.
In fact, there is only life (as science currently defines it) on earth because our planet’s orbit is in what is known as the Goldilocks zone – neither too cold, nor too hot. The sun accounts for 99.9pc of the mass of the sola…

Let’s celebrate all the fathers in our lives

“Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.”
Now, I’m not trying to drop a subtle hint – it’s not subtle at all – but it will soon be Father’s Day here in Britain (Sunday, June 17 this year).
Becoming a dad has helped me to understand and appreciate my own father more deeply. The sacrifices he made for me throughout my life never went unnoticed. But it took becoming a stepfather and father myself for the extent of his generosity to sink in. His quiet selflessness and devotion to the people around him (and his voluntary work) has been an inspiration, as has his super-human patience in helping me, as a child, to understand my maths homework.
I think fathers do a lot for their families that goes unnoticed, probably out of sight and out of mind, behind the scenes, not seeking reward or recognition. And that’s even more reason why it’s worth making an effort on Father’s Day.

Fathers – good, bad, indifferent, absent, or surrogate – play a …

A fairy good way to learn about nature

We basked in rainshine dripping through leaves, then bathed in streams of sunlight - from the delicious squelch of mud to the dazzle of dawn dew, Britain’s ever-changing weather wove its glorious magic around the Fairy Fair this year.

Walking among the enchanting woodlands at Holt Hall in Norfolk and blessed by raindrops slipping through the canopy of greens, I found my soul-feet again on the sacred path of feeling alive... step by awakening step.

Nature loves to be touched, body and soul, and it is by caressing her with each footstep, each breath, each fingertip on bark, that we find ourselves back in intimate touch with the inmost part of ourselves - the space where possibilities dwell, the well of inspiration and deep connection.

Many years ago, I would camp in a field with about 100 fellow rat race escapees for a few days free from TV, radio and other electronic interference. We would dig our own toilet, gather and chop wood to cook over a campfire, collect water, explore the woods, …