Category Archives: Healing – the power of Nature (article archive)

Children at Play – or Bulldozers. What’s your preference?

Following a lively and constructive meeting last night, the next phase of our Maryhill, Glasgow, UK’s community battle to save a precious piece of wild land in our area from both developers and our own city council has begun!

Save our wild land!

Save our wild land on North Kelvin Meadow/The Children’s Wood!

In this phase, we need urgently to put pressure on the Scottish Government over the next 25 days. See http://thechildrenswood.com/ for details. We need your help, Friends: where you are in the world does not matter!

If you feel that wild land worldwide should if possible be preserved to nurture and safeguard children’s relationship with Nature – and all the health benefits which go with that – do take the time to write a slogan of your choice which includes “Save The Children’s Wood, Glasgow, Scotland” and post the photo on Twitter, Facebook etc.This supporter, Claire, lives in Yonkers, New York (hint, hint, you guys in the Big Apple!) She wrote: ” I love the children’s wood and it is my niece and nephew’s favourite place to play.”

Claire, Yonkers, NY

Claire, Yonkers, NY

 Or  – go through to http://thechildrenswood.com/ and sign our latest petition. And – Share this post on Facebook. We need all the help we can get. Thanks!!

*********

200 words Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ An upbeat ‘take’ on Descent into the dark…

Having just returned from our annual visit to the misty, melancholy beauty of the Scottish Borders in late autumn, I am in reflective mood today. Despite the pattern of intermittent mildness and cold which has heralded the descent into winter over the last few years here, so that one never knows what to wear from one day to another, the autumn is losing its hold now. Light is fading, leaf fall nearing completion. In the vivid words of the poet Shelley ‘…the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing…’

Late leaf fall, by the River Tweed

Late leaf fall, by the River Tweed

photo: Anne Whitaker

The first of the early winter storms will soon be limbering up. How clearly I still recall childhood nights in Scotland’s Outer Isles, tucked up cosy in late November, whilst the wind did its best to tear the world apart outside my bedroom window. I loved that wildness – used to wonder what Power  lay behind it…

We need winter. We may not like it much, especially in the frequently wet, grey dreariness of the West of Scotland at this time of year! But we need it, and the darkness that goes with it. A long rest refreshes the earth, revitalises it; new life quietly germinates in the dark, bursting forth in the miraculous renewal of Spring.

We need the dark. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature.

So, this winter, let’s all try and be mindful of the deep wisdom of Nature which brings us this season of  Descent into the dark – the earth needs it, and so do we. I promise to try and remember my own advice, as I trudge miserably through frequent rain, wind, cold, and dark in the weeks and months ahead.

As that great poet Shelley optimistically observed in his Ode to the West WindIf Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’

Melrose Abbey: eerie autumn twilight

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders: eerie autumn twilight

photo: Anne Whitaker

400 words, and images, copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

“I have known autumn too long”: e e cummings captures Autumn’s fleeting melancholy

Today, feeling drifty and pleasantly melancholic as befits the season, I went looking for an apt quote to accompany my two autumn pictures, taken earlier this week on a glorious, cooling, sunlit autumnal walk toward my office at the far edge of lovely Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, UK .Here is the quote, from one of my favourite poets, e.e.cummings, born, appropriately, on 14th October. For me, it strikes the right notes of simplicity, power and bleakness.

“A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.”

e. e. cummings

Enjoy the photos! Feel free, also, to add a favourite autumnal quote of your own in the comments box, should the spirit of autumn move you to do so…

Sunlit Path

Sunlit Path

Leaf Fall

Leaf Fall

photos: Anne Whitaker

******

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

******

 

 

To change the world – start in your own back yard!

We don’t need astrologers to tell us we are living in a period of remarkable turbulence and change. The evidence is all around us: from our teetering and corrupt banking systems, to the declining health of Planet Earth whose dominant species, humans, at current rates of consumption require the resources of three and a half planet earths to sustain us. Amongst many problems greatly on the increase against this backdrop are obesity, social inequality, the social and economic burdens of an ageing population – and fast rising anxiety and depression rates.

Our Beautiful Planet:Facebook

Our Beautiful Planet/Facebook

Apparently the overall index of increased happiness as material prosperity grew, peaked in the mid-seventies, then declined. The rot, it seems, set in in 1976….

However, humans have always been incredibly adaptable creatures and there is plenty of room for optimism in the midst of the current gloom. We are poised collectively on an interesting cusp, which many people see as the pivotal point of recognition that the materialist project which has so dominated all life since the rise of Age of Reason in the 18th Century is crumbling, and a new world order or paradigm is emerging.

Materialism has brought us incredible advances, but is bringing our planet and the systems governing our collective lives, to a dangerous edge.

The new paradigm emerging, in essence, invites us to respect and work with the ecological balance of our home planet. It also invites us to recognise that there are many levels to “Reality” – the material level is just one of these. It is not suggesting that we should attempt to put the genie of progress back in the bottle and recreate a “Golden Age” which never existed.

It invites us to go forward into the future bearing the best that scientific and material progress has to offer, but also the best of what human civilisation has distilled over its six thousand years of social evolution which offers proven nourishment of both a physical and spiritual nature to all life on Planet Earth.

We can see evidence of this new paradigm’s emergence all over the planet in large and small ways. To give just one example, the principles of the “Slow Food” movement which began in Italy over two decades ago have taken root and flourished all over the world.

All of us, at a collective, local, and personal level have a part we can play in this paradigm shift. I have been posting now for several years, reporting the remarkable developments taking place in our local area of the city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, via The Children’s Wood campaign which promotes outdoor education and community activity  via a precious patch of wild land  – which we are fighting to save from the clutches of developers.

Children's Wood Protest

Children’s Wood Protest

What’s happening where you are?

Drop by. Comment. Do let me know!

******

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015/ ‘Not for Sale!’ Photo copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

For love of wild landscapes – returning to the North…

Rolling stones do eventually run out of restlessness, if they are lucky. I came to rest in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, by an accident of fate – by putting a wrong number on a university application form. ( long story – some other time…) it was a fortuitous twist of fate, since I have been happy here, and have no desire to move again, ever.

Standing Stones in Winter

Standing Stones in Winter

But every so often, I need a ‘fix’ of the land where I was born and raised. The land, sea and skyscapes of the North-West of Scotland inspired me from my earliest days. I can still recall lying tucked up in bed listening to wild January gales tearing the world apart outside, wondering what Power drove all that mighty energy. The Northern Lights transfixed me with their beauty. The unpolluted  night skies revealed magical star patterns to my youthful imagination, inspiring my writing from a very young age. I still need scenic wildness, scenic beauty regardless of weather or season.

So – here we are, for a few days’ vacation. I thought I’d share a few of my photos. The bottom one is me, spaced out on horizons and fresh air…What is the landscape which calls you Readers to return? I’d love to hear!

IMG_2007IMG_2048IMG_2061 IMG_2073

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Preserving wild land and Nature: community versus politicians – Glasgow, UK

Our local community in North Kelvin, Glasgow,UK,  has been campaigning for years to preserve a precious piece of wild land in the middle of  the area. The most recent initiative, The Children’s Wood, has won numerous awards in its three years of activism. It operates on the cutting edge of world-wide research which shows that children – and their families – enjoying the Great Outdoors together is wonderfully effective in promoting physical, mental, and community wellbeing. Our local wild space is regularly used all year round by numerous community groups, eg  a number of local schools are now on side with an impressive range of educational programmes centred on outdoor learning. 

This year, the Charity Commission recognised The Children’s Wood by awarding it charitable status, to the delight of all local residents.

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest

photo: Anne Whitaker

You would think, wouldn’t you, that our local City Council – which likes to promote Glasgow’s “Dear Green Place” image – would be proud of having such an impressive community initiative right here. You might even think, mightn’t you, if they were savvy politicians, that they could be claiming some of the credit  for this world-class initiative, using its success to attract positive interest – maybe even money – in promoting their Glasgow’s Green Year 2015 campaign?

Not a bit of it!!!

No interest whatsoever has been shown. The council persist in describing our vibrant piece of community land as  “disused football pitches”. Here, in the words ofThe Children’s Wood website, is a summary of the current  state of play regarding the sale of the land – the City Council’s preferred option, opposed by 90% of local residents:

“Glasgow City Council is run by a Labour administration. It is the decision of the Labour party to sell the land. They could at any point throw out the application on various grounds, including the length of time it is taking New City Vision to move forward. It has now been 7 years since New City Vision became the preferred developers, and 3 years since the initial planning application was submitted. In the mean time the community of Maryhill and North Kelvin have been kept hanging around while NCV stop and start.

We are not supported by the Glasgow Labour party and believe that they have not engaged with us on this issue. It is vitally important that you get in touch with your local councillor and other politicians on this issue and ask for their support on this important matter and to put pressure on the council to throw out this application and support our plans to keep it wild. 3,000 local people were surveyed by Glasgow University over a year ago and the results revealed that over 90% do not want building on the land.”  

The Children's Wood

The Children’s Wood

The Children’s Wood have just made a short film which weaves research, activism, and images of children and adults using the land, into a vivid and clear statement of commitment to an ongoing project which can be used as a template ANYWHERE in the world where there are wild spaces within cities.

Do watch it!

Such spaces are in danger of being swallowed up by the power of commercial interests, who cannot see benefit except in terms of money. We are challenging this attitude in our community. We need help and support in fighting against our own City Council, sad though it is to have to see this statement in cold print.

If you would like to help us by sending in, from anywhere in the world, letters of objection to selling the land – find out how to do that HERE

If you would like to give us a donation to help fund our campaign, as well as our ongoing community projects, click HERE.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest

650 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Spring!!…and divine discontent…

It’s NEARLY spring where we are!

I stepped out of our front door this Thursday morning to a brilliantly clear, slightly frosty day, and had a vivid image of Mole from the children’s classic by Kenneth Grahame, doing his spring cleaning…”Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing…”

I am expecting divine discontent and longing to set in any minute now. In the meantime, here are some cityscapes captured whilst walking home via Kelvingrove Park around 5 pm last evening. It was still light!!

Evening - Kelvin Hall Glasgow

Evening – Kelvin Hall Glasgow

A view from the bridge

A view from the bridge

150 words (and Glasgow images) copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Holy Dharma with Heron…

I love herons. Their elegance: long, lean, streamlined curves over water, poised, waiting. Their focus: totally in the moment, poised, waiting….to strike sharp and swift. I love their languid flight: long wings lazily beating, slow concentrated strength and grace.

We live in Glasgow, Scotland – UK city with the most green space. Our flat overlooks the river Kelvin which flows through the West End’s Botanic Gardens. On the riverbank, throughout the Gardens, all kinds of wildlife abound: amongst the over-fed pigeons and importunate grey squirrels the occasional kingfisher, an otter once seen on Boxing Day, sometimes a cormorant or two – and several herons taking up favourite positions along the river bank. The fish ladder by the weir is a choice spot of theirs. Another pitch is partly concealed by vegetation, right below the Humpbacked Bridge leading to steep steps rising to the upper, more cultivated part of the Botanic Gardens.

Most days, I take a well-travelled route down from our house – crossing the Humpbacked Bridge, up the steps, through the Botanics past the Kibble Palace. This splendid circular, domed Victorian glass house hosts fine sculptures, elegant glass panels, a well-stocked pond – with some very old fishy friends adept at dodging the coins and wishes raining down on them on a regular basis – and a wonderfully displayed selection of plants and flowers from many parts of the world. It is a local jewel.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Strolling around those familiar, well-loved landmarks, I always enjoy occasional sightings of the heron. We can never decide how many herons there are of the same age and appearance. Maybe we are seeing the same one, over and over? Conversations like this weave together a very disparate, loose group of park regulars of all ages with a variety of views and opinions about the Botanic Gardens’ wild creatures. But the heron is a favourite; we always report sightings to one another.

We are inured to plentiful rain and bad weather as the default position for our local climate; stepping out into a pleasant, crisp, sunny morning  is therefore an immediate delight, especially with the Botanics in full autumn colours, carpets of leaves everywhere – if you get out early enough, before the park attendants with their noisy leaf-blowing machines get going!

Whilst appreciating this beautiful autumnal morning, my head was also full of the usual thought traffic as I contemplated the day ahead. The Buddhists speak the truth: we are only ever partly here. In each waking moment of our short, precious lives, we are usually distracted by something or other from being fully present. Thus we rarely savour fully the Holy Dharma of this very moment which will never come again.

Suddenly, my attention was totally focused on a sight I had never seen before. The heron was perched in full view, half way along the left-hand side of the Humpbacked Bridge!

I  stopped dead. Most unusually at half past nine on a weekday morning, there was no-one in sight.  “Should I stay watching right here, or try to creep closer?” I wondered, full of excitement and apprehension. Deciding on the latter option, I tiptoed very very slowly onto the eight-foot wide bridge, veering to the right in order to edge along the opposite side of the bridge to the heron.

The wild creature seemed absorbed in his own surveillance operation, long elegant neck moving slowly from side to side, eyes glinting in the morning light reflected off the quietly flowing river. Whether he had spotted me or not, he was paying me no attention. Barely able to believe my luck, I inched along  extremely quietly until – to my great amazement – I was level. We were only a bridge width apart. Never in my life before had I been so close to such a large wild bird.

The morning was still. The heron, briefly, was still. I was still. The Holy Dharma moved with the air currents across the bridge, the heron and me. All was One.

Japanese Heron Painting

Japanese Heron Painting

Hours might have passed. It was probably less than a minute. I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my left eye. A slender young man dressed all in black, carrying a rucksack, i-pods in his ears, was rapidly approaching the bridge. Stealthily, I crept forward a couple of feet, heading off the bridge toward the steps, still hugging the side opposite the heron. He still didn’t budge. For a fleeting moment I thought “Anne, that wild creature is tuned to you. He can feel your goodwill….” Then the rationalist dismissed such a thought. Still….

The young man was about to step through the gate onto the bridge. I held my finger to my lips, indicating silence; with my other hand palm up,  I signalled to stop, waving him over to my side of the bridge – hoping this unknown young man might share a rare experience. But he ignored me. As he marched past us the heron took off, winging his lazy languid way downriver. Waving goodbye, I stood for a moment – partly watching the heron, partly watching the young man’s back as he tramped up the stairs.

In that moment I truly felt the force of life’s duality: on the one hand, such gratitude and joy that the heron and I had shared a pure, holy moment of Oneness. On the other, deep sadness that the young man, shut in with his technology, had missed it. Carl Jung’s comment, which comes to me often, came to me then: “Our task in this life is to reconcile the opposites”…..

….and a ps to this story….a couple of weeks later, I was strolling home through the Botanics by the river Kelvin on my way home, having spent the afternoon at my office writing the first draft of this article which was in my bag.There on the riverbank, in  places where I had never seen them before, were – to my amazement and delight – two herons….

1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

New Moon on the Winter Solstice

 “The rising of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.”

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice 2014 carries a layer of enigma: it occurs at 23.04 on 21st December 2014, just before the New Moon at 0 degrees 06 minutes of Capricorn on 22nd December at 01.37. (UK time)

This year’s Solstice thus takes place at the very end of  Moondark, the hidden 2-3 day period each month when the fragile, waning crescent Moon dies into the darkness from which the next New Moon is born.

Moondark in ancient times was a time of retreat, of reflection. People avoided travel at those times since there was no light to guide their footsteps, making the nighttime world even more dangerous than usual.

This seems to be appropriate to the atmosphere world-wide as a particularly grim year comes to an end amid a welter of extremist violence, with especial reference to the ‘massacre of the innocents’ which took place in Peshawar, Pakistan only this week.

Perhaps this Moondark New Moon in the solemn sign of Capricorn symbolises a world-wide invitation to contemplation and retreat as the year turns: to reflect on where we are as a human community, and how we can find ways, somehow, to live more peacefully with one another regardless of race, culture or creed…

In the meantime, we humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, need light and celebration to lift our spirits, no matter how much bleak world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down. At last year’s Winter Solstice, I published a wonderful poem by Susan Cooper which depicts the history and expression of this need with vivid beauty. Many of my readers have requested me to publish it again this year.

Enjoy the Solstice!

THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

******

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Chilling out with Moondark ( ‘what’s that?!’)

Chill out time....

Chill out time….

As I sit writing this, tucked away quietly in our Quiet Room with some soothing Japanese incense burning, it is approaching the end of Moondark. ‘What on earth is that?’ I hear you say.

Moondark is the last three days of the 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle. At Moondark, the  Moon disappears. Full Moon is the high energy point of the cycle, fourteen days after the New Moon. A few month’s notetaking is sufficient to realise that life is more pressured and charged up at that time. Moondark is the low energy point. It is a time for rest and retreat, not a time to initiate new projects or demand great feats of one’s vitality.

“When I retire, I’m going to burn forty years of work diaries and run my life by the phases of the Moon!”

Yes, I said that, in a period of extreme work stress about twenty years ago. Friends laughed; but now in the post-career phase of my life, I’m working at just that. I find it comforting, helpful and useful to tune into the Moon’s cycle as far as possible in plotting the ebb and flow of my energies these days.

My long 2001-8 retreat  taught me that regular and adequate periods of rest are essential. The bill for rest deprivation cannot be evaded by anyone.We cannot abandon technology which has brought our world community so many advantages, but can – if we choose – begin slowly to step aside from the destructive 24/7 ism which it fosters. People need to stop going to the supermarket at midnight and sending emails at 3 am if they want to have a proper life!

I find now that up to an hour’s retreat time daily, and careful planning to avoid taking on anything very demanding at Moondark, (not always possible!) has provided a rhythm of alternating activity and rest which is stabilising and supportive of well-being. But it is important to be patient, realistic and gradual in any attempts to introduce lifestyle changes. It would be silly to suggest otherwise.

I hardly think the bosses of the land would take kindly to staff’s announcing that all work from now on was going to be run by the phases of the Moon!

You don’t need special tables to work out when Moondark is. Most diaries indicate by a small black circle next to the day and date, when the New Moon falls.

For example, you will find this year (2014)  that  Monday 25 August indicates the day of the New Moon. I am writing this in the last couple of hours of Moondark. Wednesday 24 September is the next New Moon, and so on … Thus Moondark this month is 23,24 and part of 25 August. Next month, it is 21, 22 & 23 September.

It is easy, as I do at the start of a new year and a new diary, to go through the year putting a red line through the days when Moondark falls.

A pattern of  daily rest and retreat time, and observing Moondark as much as I can each month, has given me a sound support structure from which I have now returned to a reconnected life. Observing Moondark is a regular reminder, also, that we belong to Mother Nature.

New Moon

The New Moon in Virgo – in the UK time zone – begins at 15.14 today.Virgo is an earth sign, its energies strongly service oriented, practical, and good at managing detail. It is also extremely hard working, and analytical.So – the Virgo new moon would be an ideal time to start that blitz on your admin system which you’ve been putting off all year, or for putting special effort into re-organising and cleaning up the garden.

I’ve noticed that people with a strong emphasis on Virgo in their horoscopes or birth charts seem to be very fond of stationery shops, and of acquiring stationery. So, why not use this new moon to acquire next year’s diary, go through it and mark off Moondark each month? Or set your smartphone to send you a reminder of when Moondark begins?

Why don’t you try working with this lunar rhythm for a while, trying to chill out and wind down a little at  Moondark ? Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page