Weekend Read, Listen and Dance – The Wonders of The Sea and Land

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Compton Beach Isle of Wight

 

This wonderfully stylish online magazine suggests that Thalassotherapy – the ancient art of bathing in  seaweed, is a remedy for all kinds of ills, aches and pains, sports injuries and softens the skin in the process. Toast Travels: Bathing in Seaweed has inspired me to harvest some of our local bounty, dry it and give it a try – before and after pictures to follow……

My daily work involves contact with many ground level food producers, farmers who farm well, produce a quality product in an ecologically sustainable and welfare friendly system. I’m constantly appalled by how little we English value our food and how negative our food culture. It’s a huge up hill battle to change these kinds of ingrained attitudes but it was heartening to discover the excellent Campaign For Real Farming website.

“We need a true food culture – people who truly appreciate what good food is, and are prepared to seek it out.”

Absolutely….

Finally something to dance to….. Johnny Flynn is one of my favourite artists. His folk inspired very English music echoes country life in times gone by and with this mix it catapults it very much into the present day. Country Mile is the song of the moment in my house.

Luna Reflection

 

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Moon over Tennyson Down

 

At certain times during the luna cycle the Brahmins and in later days the Buddhists, observed “Uposatha”. The word means “entering to stay” and it was the custom of the Brahmins to go to the sacred place away from their homes and families and purify themselves by leading a secluded life for a day and night, returning after the rites were finished. The times when they kept this seclusion were determined by the phases of the moon, the most important being the Full Moon and the New Moon days. It was an encouragement to take stock of the preceding weeks, to pause and recognise areas of difficulty and to commit to starting anew – a kind of rolling confession which helped to prevent the buildup of guilt and regret and encouraged the kind of letting go and living in the moment that Buddhists believe will lead to a happy and fulfilling life.

Sometimes it seems as though we have forgotten how to look up. How to rest and reevaluate, to confess and let go.

Not so long ago, when the stars told us where we were in space and time they were, as fixed points in a confusing and shifting world; our orientation, our grounding, a powerful source of wonder and a way of guiding us home. Nowadays the heavens are, in many parts of the world illuminated and indistinct  and most people have forgotten the patterns of the constellations that breathed mythical significance into the universe. Advances in astronomy have made it safe to ignore the skys in a way that would have left our ancestors incredulous.

I love the skys – the shifting landscape of layers, the predictor of weather to come and at night as a small child growing up on a farm, I wandered the place with my sister, two intrepid explorers of far pastures and deep woods. I wanted to know every tree, to look beneath the hedges and find the steaming newly born lamb, knowing that every single moment of time was charged with a magic that is now largely gone from my experience of the world. A sense of connection and being at ease with nature and the elements. In particular a visceral experience of the essential living rhythms of season, tides, moon, weather, birth and death.

Although we live in a world where the phases of the moon no longer mean much, maybe it would be helpful for many of us to be reminded of the ancient ways to pause, to take stock and to rest even if just for a moment, to slow the cogs of hectic lives, to set and reset our courses. I hope that by choosing to share my personal reflections here in a cycle to coincide with the new moon and the full moon, you will be encouraged to engage in your own contemplation,and maybe take just a moment to glance up at the night sky.

 

 

 

Who I am and why I’m here

Who I am is, strangely, a difficult question. I am Hannah and dependent upon what moment you glimpse me, I may be vet, mother, sculptor, distance runner, swimmer, singer, somewhat buddhist and invariably insatiably curious.

I began writing for myself, in order to think more clearly about my own pattern of living, a balance of life, work and relationship that I assumed was peculiar to me. As I’ve continued to write – and to talk I’ve realised that this is more than my individual story, that many other people, even those whose lives on the surface appear porcelain perfect, are grappling with the same questions as I and are trying to evolve another rhythm, one that allows for creative pauses, individualism and some solitude and respite from a world in which it can be very difficult to be at peace with oneself.

Life has a habit of imprinting form upon a person – and I’m sure that the writing here encompasses many echoes from my past. I have been incredibly blessed in having an upbringing that encouraged creativity and curiosity, that questioned the divisions between art, science, spirituality. philosophy and environment.

Sharing in this way if a real pleasure and is also a great discipline for one who tends to be scattered in many directions. My remit for the next few months is to try to experiment with style and in particular to write with more sparsity. I’m humbled at how many people have stopped to share the journey so far and I hope that if you choose to stop by here, as someone who’s also alive, you’ll find something here for you too.

 

Popular posts from the early days:

Riding The Waves  – on finding peace in turbulent times

Parenting Paddington  – on acceptance

Letting Children Be – on the wisdom of letting go

The light of the dying day – anatomy of a winter run

For the past many months, each week at the same time and on the same day I’ve run the same route upwards from the far Western bay of the Isle of Wight to within a stones throw of The Needles Lighthouse. It’s argueably about as wild as the Isle of Wight gets. I’ve run it in searing heat on burnt yellowing grass with the sea below limpid blue, clear enough to see the lunar outlines of barrel jellyfish hanging in the shallows; in gale force winds strong enough to make the steepish incline feel like summiting Everest with the cliffs echoing from the heavy brunt of Atlantic storms and perhaps most often recently in disorientating dense billowing mist which threatens to lure the unwary dangerously close to the crumbling edges.

As so often in late December, this was a day where  the night never quite left, windless and eerily calm. The bay itself was grey, the sea throwing up a  large swell, given the absence of wind. A couple of brave surfers paddled out between the rocky outcrops at the Western tip, and the mist hung over stag rock on the Eastern edge – named in remembrance of a stag which supposedly leapt from the adjacent cliffs to escape from a hunt in Victorian times. These rocks on either side of the bay entrance were once the haunt of smugglers and were blasted away with explosives in 1916 to allow the ship “Carl” which was washed onto the beach in heavy storms, to be sailed free, leaving shallow ledges which provide fertile ground for snorkelling expeditions on a calm summer day.

freshwater bay ship

 

On the cliffs from which the stag must have leapt a red council sign warns “Danger Cliff Edges Can Be Dangerous”

 

Unknown

As the memorial to a 15 year old boy who feel to his death further along the path suggests, this may be something of an understatement.

E.L.M.
AGED 15
HE COMETH FORTH
LIKE A FLOWER
AND IS CUT DOWN.
HE FLEETH ALSO AS
A SHADOW AND
CONTINUETH NOT.

JESUS SAID
I AM THE
RESURRECTION
AND THE LIFE

ERECTED
IN REMEMBRANCE OF
A MOST DEAR
AND ONLY CHILD
WHO WAS SUDDENLY
REMOVED INTO ETERNITY
BY A FALL FROM
THE ADJACENT CLIFF
TO THE ROCKS BENEATH
28TH AUGUST 1846
—-
READER PREPARE TO
MEET THY GOD, FOR THOU
KNOWEST NOT WHAT A DAY
MAY BRING FORTH

IN THE
MIDST OF LIFE
WE ARE IN DEATH

As with writing, quite often with running, the first few minutes are the most painful, there’s often a kind of hesitancy which allows for all kinds of distraction – on this occasion a few minutes spent watching the surfers toiling out against a turbulent ocean, before turning upwards through the well worn path into the mist towards the monument to Alfred Lord Tennyson.

My running companion always greets the site of this apparently never ending incline with considerable more enthusiasm than I do, skittering this way and that after imaginary rabbits, body taught and quivering with intensity as he prepares to launch himself.

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As we climb, the mist thickens and a steady rhythm takes hold and with foot planting firmly on soft springy turf, the run takes on its own momentum. The monument at the crest of the hill appears suddenly out of the whiteness – bringing with it a feeling of relief that the effort is over and a reminder that here, the sheer drop of the cliff is nearly 150 metres high and only metres away.

As we gently meander downwards,cattle appear out of the gloam. A white heifer heavily in calf  and ponderous shows only a passing interest in our presence.

white cow in mist

Below us the land opens up like a runway. Suddenly with the memory of the uphill trudge forgotten, I want to run – really run and dog and I take off between the strange patchwork of gorse and heather that mark the Western tip of the Island, chasing the haze of the setting sun.