Nature’s Way

Many trees of the forests are now ablaze with fires,

But the flames will never burn their leaves,
One by one Mother Nature painted with her brushes,
In every shade of red, yellow and orange.
Most get caught in a melancholy duel with the wind,
Sounding like a plucked harp’s many strings.
All leaves hope not hear the fatal G’s trap door open,
As automatically drops them to the ground.

Some leaves stand by on guard always in army green,
But never in wanton jealousy, hate or envy.
For these are the chosen ones to protect from Mr Frost,
With his chilling laughter turning all white.
For when he laughs the whole world shakes in terror,
Even human teeth chatter in fear of his name.
Others go to sleep to hide from his malevolent shrills,
Only to wake when the other leaves return.

The guardian trees are not alone in protecting the Earth,
Hidden are a secret air force ready to strike.
Sat high among the branches are birds in a chorus line,
Keeping their ears open for his opening aria.
So they can swoop down onto his long wrinkled fingers,
Pecking to make little holes through the skin.
And drown out his laughter with their harmonious song,
Filling his whitewashed landscapes with light.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Breaking the invisible wall

As someone with a visual mind I often found when studying for scientific subjects it was easier if I had a visual reference or way of seeing them. It is perhaps for that reason I was drawn to the environmental sciences, not just for my love of the environment and nature but the anthropogenic (human) impacts upon them could be seen, whether that be at the present time with my own eyes or elucidated using proxies for the past such as pollen, seeds, charcoal, diatoms etc under a microscope. When it comes to mental health for many it is the invisible nature of the illnesses I feel that contribute to the continued stigma associated with them. For unless we ourselves or have a close friend/family member it can be very hard to understand let alone empathise with. We see someone with a broke leg or having treatment for cancer we wish them a speedy recovery ot luck with their treatment, with diabetes or asthma although unseen too and for life we accept that they are common human illnesses; yet one in a four adults and one in five children in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, with 1 in 100 being diagnosed with bipolar or schizophrenia at some point in their life. What can be done? How can we break down these invisible walls that we have built to create a them and us scenario?

A bit of background to my own story. I was diagnosed in January 2007 aged 28 with depression and anxiety, however, you can look back to almost 25 years before and there were signs of both due to my acute sensitivity and bullying I experienced from when I first started school in 1983. I had counselling from 2006 to 2007 and psychotherapy from 2007 until 2009, which I have mentioned in previous entries on this blog. In the last few years as I have learnt to respect, appreciate, forgive and I guess love myself for who I am and who she’s not, I have also developed deep friendships that give back what I give them in love, respect and appreciation, which help me daily. The name of this blog is a tribute to one of them who encourages me and my creativity, so my little thank you back to him. For me, one reason I write, photograph, play or make music, and model with clay, is to let the feelings I have their own voice or become beyond what is inside me as would keep them bottled and been told in therapy how much they suffocated me for doing so, thus needed an outlet. I found creativity a great outlet, not just for my aforementioned visual mind but it allowed what I was feeling a way to be seen, they could no longer strangle/suffocate or even hurt me as they were now real and had their voice, but I retained the power that they were trying to take away from me. I also realised by sharing some of my creativity with others it meant it was no longer invisible to them, with some inspiring others to realise their battles were not alone or show how far I had come to become the person I am today.

I am currently job hunting, my past feels like a giant noose around my neck as found many do not understand that we do not fit simply into boxes and some of us do fit two at the same time. I am fed up feeling like the outsider watching in. Equally, having achieved academic qualifications while battling physical and mental illnesses is something I am proud to have achieve, but feedback I have I received is my past is intimidating but impressive…so what can I do? It is not helped by people thinking they can decide what is best for you, when you have tried and tried but just want to give up and only your closest friends saving you from going under completely. However, one thing I know is that I am determined to help inspire and help others, so they do no give up and break this stigma or invisible wall around mental health. As another way to break the wall is for us to work together, showcasing what we can and not what we cannot. In the past to try break the stigma we have created a glut of diagnoses that are really just descriptions of certain patterns of human behaviour, and have not helped. My dream? I am not sure, maybe one day I will be a creative and/or eco therapist of some kind using my passions to help others. Until then here is my hammer breaking down the invisible wall for today, will you join me?

© Fi S. J. Brown

My writing and me

Every time I see a leaf blowing in the wind, I imagine the sound it is making and the surrounding environment making its own accompaniment. Every time I hear music it paints vivid images in my mind, with the different instruments and texture providing the brush strokes. I am inspired by the natural and the anthropocentric worlds that ignite the fire within me to tell tales of these parallel worlds. Mindfulness enables me to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. All this is reflected in how and what I write.

Fi S. J. Brown

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Natural therapy

If you have ever fallen, failed, felt helpless, been lost, dazed or confused, had your heart broken, faced tough decisions, met with uncertainties or caught in difficult circumstances, yet still got up and taken that next step…never forget to do so was not only amazing, it was also highly inspirational and worth reminding yourself that you did, and can do so again.

So whistle your tune once in a while (in the good and bad times) as the flowers on your path will be dance with you from the touch of your breath, the birds will sing it along with you as love to sing a happy song, the hills will lie down flat as know they are no obstacle for you, while the rivers will whisper your name far and wide in respect for what you achieved.
© Fi S. J. Brown

Be the change

Be the change you want to see in the world” is perhaps one of the greatest faux quotes of them all, yes you heard me faux, there is no reliable documentary evidence for Gandhi ever saying it at all. The closest verifiable remark we have from him is this:
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

So what does it actually mean? To me it means that if we do not agree with the way something is, and feel the need to do something about it, do not sit back and wait for another to do so…if we’re that passionate about it, that should be our driver for change. Despite the celebrity culture now enriched in our world, it is doing it because it is what we want to change it. The money that may come with fame can act as an incentive for many to act on making a change rather for the change.

Not everyone will gain fame and/or see change in their lifetime, Ghandi, Henry Salt, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall or Emmeline Pankhurst did/have and why we thank them now. Think of the actions of others such as Thich Quang Duc who set himself on fire in protest in Vietnam or “Tank Man” (Wang Weilin?) at the protest at Tiananmen Square. Even now I know people from Kenya, Cameroon, DR Congo, India and Pakistan working for change as it’s what they believe in.

I am passionate about humanity’s connection with the environment, to think individually not as a herd of sheep, and losing the stigma on mental health. Using my actions, words and art to speak for me and inspire others that is what I love. To that end, I now use my writing and photography as my way to be the change in the world I want to see. Do I want to be the next JK Rowling? No I do not, I only want to be remembered by friends as someone who tried and gave their all.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dare to imagine

Walking past Summerhall (formerly home to the vet school of the University of Edinburgh) I saw an art installation outside by Mexican installation artist Antonio O’Connell called “Virus”. I took photographs and examined it from different angles before reading his note on it. O’Conell states that that we live in a “contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”.

I immediately thought of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his brilliant book “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince), which has a theme of while children have imagination that is capable of understanding the essence of things, grown-ups have had their imaginations encumbered by attachment to the quantifiable. They have lost the curiosity of childhood, and their lives are bound by the here and now. What we see with our eyes is merely a shell; the essential reality of things is detected only by the heart.

I first read the book in French around twenty years ago and is still one of my all time favourites. As a deep thinker with a vivid and visual mind I can see this still true of now. I have a curtains that are a mix of blue flowers, which I swear the leaves spell life or love at one point! Equally, I agree with O’Connell that it has become a luxury as we too often do not take the time to look or read with the creatives or artisans that try to look beyond the boundaries and make us do the same.

If we do not know the answer to what a child has asked us we probably look the answers up on the internet so can explain it in a way they understand. My favourite time of year is autumn, I remember asking my great uncle and later my biology teacher what was happening, despite understanding the science I see it as part of nature’s art. I love the idea that the deciduous trees are the girls of the forests where as the boys are the evergreens; the girls are in all their different coloured dresses ready for the autumn ball, but like Cinderella must disappear at midnight, hence they fall off the trees.

I think using our imaginations as to understand and appreciate what is happening in what we see, read, hear, feel, smell and taste is important as lets us experience more from this world than we can from a book or the internet alone.This in part is why do I not work in a laboratory now; I would be imagining the environment changing as I worked, the seeds or pollen from a particular tree telling me it was growing around 2000 years ago to the present day. The world is an infinite art gallery, with innumerable works of art.

Let your imagination lose, don’t be afraid of being “silly” or “childish”, it’s what matters to and part of you. For example, water from a tap, does it not tickle the fingers or is sand on a beach the stars of the ground? Meanwhile, I’m off to find beech (Fagus sylvatica) seeds that have parachuted from the trees by my house and think of what the escape from each year, perhaps taking some photographs of them too.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Raise your voice, not the sea level

Today is World Environment Day, with the theme ‘Raise your voice, not the sea level’ for the small islands of the world and climate change.

Our world I believe has changed in my lifetime as it has yours. Maybe it was being aware by my teens of environmental issues, from CFCs, Rainforest destruction and extinction of animals, all of which I felt were important to be addressed but all too often lost in the bigger story of humanity over Earth’s, one. We have replaced her with our own agendas, dictatorial speeches and songs.

Climate change has been perhaps the biggest story in our collective lifetimes. During my PhD I discovered changes both natural and human driven 2000 years ago, so the current changes to the environment and climate interest me on many levels. I care passionately about this world of ours and share with so many others beautiful species from cyanobacteria to plants and animals.

I am not going to say if I’m a sceptic or accepter of climate change, but we must remember that every action we do has a ripple or domino effect. In considering the impact of change we need to consider all life that live on that island and respect it, if that means listening for example to the native women, that’s what we do, and not put our size 9s and master hat thinking we know the solution.

With all the talk of Fracking close to home, many in my own country forget we too live on an island and are we prepared for changes in sea level – no! It takes a special kind of person to listen, so perhaps we should be listen and watch the small islands so they can teach us how and what not to do, respecting their traditions.

© Fi S. J. Brown