The Spring Equinox - 2017

Equinox
meaning "equal night".
It happens when the sun shines directly on the Earth's equator,
providing equal amounts of day and night time 
to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

From March onward, the days will get longer until the summer soltice in June.

At this time of the year, there are many beautiful flowers which could represent
the first day of spring.
Down by the lake recently, I saw the first Magnolia tree starting to bloom.

These particular flowers are particularly vibrant in colour
they quite take my breath away!

As the petals open to reveal the stamens, the petals become paler
and have this wonderful transparency about them.

These opening buds were on the lakeside and got more sun.
On the other side, the buds were still quite closed.

I hope you are enjoying spring wherever you are.

Happy first day of spring to everyone who comes my way!


I just learned, from a fellow photographer, that the lovely yellow blossom above
is called Spiked Winterhazel or Corylopsis spicata!

Awakening

With these warmer and longer days, Nature awakens from her winter's sleep.
That's what I love about the seasons, there is always something new to enjoy.

Snowdrops are one of the first flowers to appear,
real harbingers of spring getting ready underneath the nurturing soil.

Wild anemone emerging from the depths of last year's fallen leaves.

Primroses are also early spring flowers. I found these growing out of a very tiny crack in a wall.
I love it when plants find a place to grow when there is seemingly no visible earth.

Sweet violets that I remember picking as a child and putting them into the smallest
thimble-sized vases!


Last year's fern has developed new green leaves, perfect for yet another crack in a wall.

Crocus are just everywhere. I saw these in the park.

Many little pale purple heads hiding an astonishing orange centre.

The buds are positively swelling and some young leaves are bursting forth

It's a little early for blossom still, but these were growing in a sunny spot.

At last!
The golden daffodil
just starting to open down in the park.

Crossing the foot bridge near me at the start of one of my outings, 
this beautiful Siamese cat. He was sitting on a pile of branches looking up at the people
passing on the bridge.

Among all these colourful and cheerful spring blooms,
 I noticed these dried hydrangea flowers and thought how beautiful they looked
against the pale blue sky.

***

A few words on awakening:
"Since ancient times, the term awakening has been used as a kind of metaphor
that points to the transformation of human consciousness,
The word Buddha comes from the Sanskrit word Budh,
meaning 'to be awake'.
So Buddha is not a name and ultimately not a person,
but a state of consciousness"


words by Eckhart Tolle


The Old Door: Scene and Story - February 2017

The old door sighed,
not a sigh of lassitude, but rather one of serene contentment.
It had lived its life from a young sapling which had grown into a fine oak tree in the forest.
One day, it was decided that the tree was big enough to cut down.
It was then transported to the lumber mill, cut into planks
which passed into the hands of capable and talented carpenters.
A fine door was made.

It could be seen from the patina on the surface of the wood,
that many years had passed, one hundred and fifty to be exact.

The door's constant companion, the rather elegantly shaped door-knocker,
had been there right from the start.
There was quiet, understated beauty in the harmonious lines and design.
despite the now tarnished appearance.

The old door and the knocker had retained the wondrous charm of days long gone by.
They both remembered ladies in crinoline dresses
holding up lacy edged parasols against the sun,
for it wasn't fashionable in those days to have a suntan.
They had witnessed suitors coming to visit the young ladies
living in the house, quickly adjusting their appearance before knocking on the door.
There had been many a shy kiss exchanged on the now worn door-step.

Horses and carriages had passed by in those early days.
Neither the door nor the knocker had become accustomed to the noise
and smell of cars and how they polluted the air.
"What is the world coming to?" they said to each other.

Yet here they are, holding strong, still together after all these years
facing the changes over time philosophically,
conscious of the joys and suffering of humanity 
and hoping their steady presence had been of some comfort and reassurance in times of need.

Neither of them knew what the future reserved,
but this did not worry them.
Through their intuitive inner wisdom, they knew that the only reality
was that of each new day
and that was the secret of their constant contentment.


***
On the first Sunday of each month, I join Sarah at Paisley Rainboots and Lee at Sea Blue Lens
for Scene and Story with a favourite photograph from the past month 
and the story it inspires.
Read other stories too on this monthly link-up.

It's story time again!


Mind Full or Mindful?

The rhythmic patterns of undulating water are calming.

"It has been shown that being near, in on or under water 
can make you happier, healthier, more connected and better at what you do."
Taken from the book "Blue Mind", by Wallace J. Nichols

Watching soft waves lapping over sand in shallow waters
with the gentle ripples just catching the sun and drawing my attention 
to a beautiful white pebble beneath the surface.

Being mindful seems to be talked about a lot, but do we really know what it is?
Our busy lives are very full, so are our minds as we rush from one occupation
to another, sometimes doing several things at once.
Even our leisure time can become stressful when we try and cram in
too many things.

"It is only through the senses that we experience what it means to be fully human"
extract from "Sight and Sensibility" by Laura Sewall.

The ocean brings in a new energy.
When we are near the sea, all our senses are awakened;
sight, sound, smell touch and hearing.
The ocean awakens us so that we may understand life and live it more deeply.

Tender embrace

Noticing things as if for the very first time in a contemplative manner,
without labelling or judging.
This little catkin full of yellow pollen entwined in last year's leaf.
I loved how the soft natural background brought my attention to this lovely scene.

A play of shadows on a white wall and door 
brings me into a whole different dimension that feels surreal.
Shadows can transport us into a whole new world.

I recently came across these sweet snowdrops nodding their little heads
in the breeze.
They brought me totally into the moment, despite the town environment.
As I contemplated their welcome presence
all other sounds and distractions disappeared.
My breathing slowed and I felt my body relax.

I brought some pussy-willow into my home and notice how the little fluffy balls
change a little each day.
Nature is a perfect way to absorb life mindfully.

Walking along the lake, besides the lovely view on the water and mountains,
I am taken by the shadows of the decorative iron railing.
Walking mindfully, conscious of each steps I take, and how that feels,
is another way of calming the mind and letting go of any overflowing thoughts.

Have you noticed that when in shock, saddened or grieving, our breathing
becomes more rapid and shallow?
This immediately increases our feelings of anxiety.

The best way for me to calm down is to slow my pace, 
become aware of my breathing and consciously slowing its rhythm.

Here is a link to slow, calm breathing:
The cardiac coherence is a rhythmic or a coherent heart rate variability (HRV)
that balances the nervous system associated with stress and emotional state.
This can be attained through this 5-minute breathing technique.

Perhaps you use your own methods of practicing mindfulness,
it is possible that you're even doing it without even giving it a name!
It is useful to know that bringing ourselves into this state can
lower our blood pressure, reduce our stress levels, enhances sleep and improve our concentration.

Being aware of the beauty before us, and immersing ourselves
quite totally, allows us to take a step back from our over-active lives
and minds and bring us into a field of inner peace and contentment.

Breathe in the sky!

Many people manage to make space in each day to do mindful meditation,
but even without this, sitting quietly and breathing calmly for five minutes
will certainly be very beneficial.
I'd love to hear if you give that a try and how you feel about your experience.
Walking meditation is something which anyone can do.
Try it!

Slow breathing is something that can be practiced anywhere.
I sometimes do it when waiting in a queue. 
It calms any feeling of impatience I might have.
It can even be done when stuck in traffic jams or when travelling on public transport.

As a last thought,
Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book "Wherever You Go, There You Are"
says:
"Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck,
back in touch with our own wisdom and vitality.
It is a way to take charge of the direction and quality of our own lives,
including our relationships with the family, our relationship to work
and to the larger world and planet, and most fundamentally, our relationship
with ourself as a person."

I have enclosed a photo of some of the books that I have found useful. 


The Little Things Around Us

Beauty is all around us to awaken all our senses
but how often do we think about the beauty of all the little everyday things?
We sometimes just take them for granted, or don't even notice them.

A simple needle and thread which is taken out and used
Do we really see it?
We may appreciate how useful it is and even look at it
differently one day and see how aesthetically lovely it can be in its simple way.

Matches are in most households
I keep this little decorative box in my living-room,
always on hand to light a candle.

There are so many useful little tools in my kitchen area.
One of my favourites is this small ginger-root grater.
I use ginger a lot, both in my cooking and in warming winter drinks.

Another little item in constant daily use is my individual herb tea filter.
It's great for making just one big mug of delicious peppermint or lemon verbena.

The humble pencil sharpener
I just love using pencils, especially freshly sharpened ones.
How pretty the little curls of pencil shavings appear.
I can hardly bear to throw them away and have been known to keep some
in a small glass bowl on my desk just to look at their shapes and texture
and see how they catch the light!

"Great oaks from little acorns grow"
I love to collect these in the autumn
and keep them in a small pottery bowl to enjoy them each time I pass by.

There are other little things which are so important, like exchanging a smile with someone
sitting next to us on the bus, maybe even saying a few words.
A small gesture of help, like holding a shop door for a mother 
with a pushchair
or being thankful when a younger person stands up to let me sit down
in the metro lurching dangerously forward as it sets off!

It's the little things in life which have enormous importance
They influence the way we feel.
By noticing all these things as we go about our daily life,
it adds new meaning into all we do.