Thursday, 31 May 2012

Just a quickie... say that if you've tried to comment in the past and couldn't, you should be able to now. So go ahead and comment, let's have a conversation!

What's the significance of the above photo? Nothing at all; I just loved the colours...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Canal side

Early summer is upon us and I do believe we live in one of the very best spots to enjoy its loveliness. Although these pennine hills and valleys are often cloaked in cloud, when the sun shines it feels like heaven. From densely wooded hills and wild open moor to babbling brooks and raging rivers - we've got it all. And running along the valley floor...a canal. Just perfect for a spot of weekend biking.

With all the gorgeous sun we've been having I'm sure it's not the last of these 'out and about' posts you'll have been warned...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

At play

Before I had my own, I assumed that children instinctively knew how to play. I had a vague idea that they would potter for hours blissfully consumed by their games. This has not always been the case for our family, which has caused me some concern and a lot of learning to let go of pre-concieved ideas. Children do not always do what we think they 'should' be doing.

Many thoughts have been spent on what to do about such an unexpected thing as a play-challenged child. I have considered whether our selection of toys is too limited or whether we need more exciting playthings - would greater choice or more novelty be enough to 'fix' my percieved problem?

Now for the soap-box: I am troubled by plastic. I am troubled by how it is produced, how it is disposed of and how unquestioningly it is embraced as an essential part of our lives. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the mass consumption of plastic toys. In every home, baskets and boxes overflowing with garish coloured plastic toys, many that will be tossed away into the bin not long after they arrive as they inevitably break under the strain of play. Having the latest must-have toy means that what our children 'must have' is always changing, meaning more spending from us parents and an early instilling of our culture's throw-away mind-set in our children.

To turn our back on the vast array of toys that are available to our children is not an easy job. I know I can sometimes worry that I am denying my children 'stuff' that others have, feeling that they may be missing out somehow. I am increasingly confident however that these concerns are largely unfounded - didn't our own parents tell us that they could play for hours with nothing but a stick and a smelly rag? I believe creativity can be nurtured by a limited number of playthings, and if those things are simple and can be used in a variety of ways then all the better.

Simple wooden toys may seem unexciting at first glance but they often invite creativity. Blocks and construction sets that feel satisfyingly weighty in the hand can become robots, castles, vehicles, animals and on and on if you're five years old. We have wooden animals that are made by hand which links the child directly with the maker. Wooden toys are often beautiful and durable, two qualities that many of us would look for in products that we might purchase for ourselves.

We still have many days when the boys find it difficult to play independently - they're social animals and understandably prefer the kind of play that involves others. But, I think I'm starting to see that we could be on the right track. As they get older, the pressure will really be on to buy into more complex toys or even enter the world of the video game. When I see them hammering rods into blocks and manipulating little wooden pliers, I sigh with relief - not yet, not yet...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Whilst we've been going about our lives these last few weeks, big things have been going on for the boys and I. It may not be obvious to the casual observer; but quietly, inwardly, we are shifting and growing.

Eli and I are making our aquaintance with Fear. Eli has met it head-on whereas I am feeling around the edges; trying to discover its shape, resisting the urge to run away.

I'm not sure that I've been fully aware, in the moment, of my eldest boy's achievements. Growing up alongside a grab-life-by-the-throat brother and some wonderfully fearless friends means that sometimes his own little triumphs perhaps go unheralded.

Whilst we were at a climbing centre, trying some bigger climbs with ropes; Eli's very good friend scrambled with exquisite agility to the top of the wall, twice. I suspected that my boy would find the challenge more daunting. And he did. But despite momentary reluctance, he gave it a go. His whole body was tense and I guessed that he was getting very wobbly legs and very sweaty palms. He stayed up on those ropes though, tried a couple of climbs and swung about a bit - trying very hard to learn to trust that the harness was keeping him safe. I'm hoping that next time, he'll climb a little higher and feel a little braver, but if he doesn't that's fine too.

Only a few days later and we were swimming. Monty independently and joyfully doggy-paddling about. Eli blue, shivering, stiff with anxiety and swallowing many mouthfuls of pool water. Again though, he kept pushing his comfort; breathing deeply in an effort to relax, trying to trust this time that his arm-bands were keeping him safe. He kept lifting his feet up and willing himself forward despite his worry.

Our children teach us so much don't they? We're not always aware of the lessons we're being taught, but the learning is happening all the time.

My own fears are about making big decisions for our future, facing difficulties and doubts - can I do this? Do I have the strength? As Eli is showing me; sometimes we need to just take the plunge, step out of our comfort zone and find out what we're really capable of.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

It is lovely indeed

It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed.

I, I am the spirit within the earth.
The feet of the earth are my feet;
The legs of the earth are my legs.
The strength of the earth is y strength;
The thoughts of the earth are my thoughts;
The voice of the earth is my voice.
The feather of the earth is my feather;
All that belongs to the earth belongs to me;
All that surrounds the earth surrounds me.
I, I am the sacred works of the earth.
It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed.

Song of the Earth Spirit,
Navajo Origin Legend

From Earth Prayers From around the world - 365 Prayers and Invocations For Honouring The Earth

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ducks in May

 In our valley, around this time, the colours shift from browns to vibrant, shining green. It's most obvious on the hillside our window looks out to - a few trees will bud and leaf a little earlier and there's a tinge of fresh growth...then, just about now, the majority hit their stride. It is nothing short of miraculous as layer upon layer of lush green growth bursts forth. Apparently, there is a saying around these parts that if you stand still long enough, you'll sprout a tree. It is a particularly verdant valley, and this is its moment of glory. I tried to capture some of this yesterday but my camera and I were not getting on so well. So I gave up, and focussed instead on the community get-together that is the Cragg Vale duck race.

I understand that duck races are not everyone's cup of tea. They're generally soggy affairs, the bigger ones are ridiculously busy, meaning there's a fairly slim chance of seeing your duck let alone winning. The Cragg Vale duck race though is genuinely fun (or at least I think so). You can usually clearly see the little duckies so you sometimes are able to spot your own and cheer it to the finish line. Running alongside the river, chasing and shouting them along their route is a feast of jolly-ness. The children swarm the bank running in and out of the trees or wade until the water slooshes over tops of wellies. It is good wholesome fun. And it brings our little commmunity together. Those cheery little plastic ducks always put smiles on faces. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

After illness...

A little cricket is just what's needed...



Note Eli's hood up - we are a little despairing at his teenage posturing at the tender age of five. Where does it come from this desire to be 'cool'? We'd hoped to keep the consciousness of image at bay for a few years yet, but it seems our little ones pick it up despite our best efforts. I can cope, I think, as long as he doesn't start asking for a tattoo any time soon...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Bud and blossom

There has been little weather but the wet kind here for what feels like a very long time. Beltane is here, bringing in the season of outside, active energy with buds bursting, trees greening; love-making; seed sowing; barefoot dancing; hair loosing... But I'm ill and have the heating on full and a blanket across my knee. I'm finding it hard to connect with this soggy earth just now.

Yesterday however, the sun did shine. Lighting up bud and branch and sparkling along the river. It helped me see that the land is indeed blooming; blossom everywhere and ducklings scooting over water. The cycle goes on with or without the sun. That's reassuring for a woman not able to make it out tonight to celebrate this joyous fire festival. I'll be there in spirit - joining hands with sisters and jumping the Beltane fire.