The Tree

Amongst a mighty forest of hunter green
A middle aged oak tree grows tall
Dreaming of the days she’ll be understood
Surrounded by the judging older trees
And think they know it all youngsters
She is cheerful, sad but happy too
Yet not knowing fully why

The ragged saplings of youth
Are almost trapped in their plastic guards
Dressed in all the colours of the rainbow
Where as the elders look down
Knowing things were different in their day
Simpler with less meddling by humans
Why can nature not be left to be itself

Alone with the youthful optimism
Alone among the judging elders
Her mind meanders and twists her branches
Pondering silently in the shadows of time
As the wind tickles all leaves to dance
She stretches out as listens to the birds
Wishing she could be as free as they are

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Have you…?

Have you ever lingered in a garden instead of passing by? Heard the songs of the flowers as they gently sing in the warm wind. Or watched the pollen on a dandelion turn a bee’s feet to yellow dust as it dances?

Have you ever looked at our world reflected back in puddles? Or seen birds silently feed their young in rhododendron bushes, where a cat below purrs in hope to spot one to bring home as their own reward?

Have you waited for a red poppy to open, only for it to burst open like a Jack in the box springing a surprise. Or opened the petals in advanced as grew tired of waiting? If only we could learn to be so patient.

Have you walked a path hundreds of times, but failed to noticed all that has changed since the first time you walked down it? Looked for shade in the evening light, as honeysuckle tickles your nose.

Have you ever watched the sun setting behind hills, as its dancing rays play with golden and red hues at the closing of a day.  Being grateful another day is over, but not the good things to lessons it taught you.

There are miracles everywhere you go, be they made by nature or from human hands. It is a beautiful world that you are gifted to live in, but will you ever learn to be just part of it and not try run it yourself?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mindful Walking

Modern life is so incredibly hectic. Squeezing in time for ourselves between work, family, and social commitments has become an increasing narrow to invisible line. We are led to believe that being busy is good, where as idleness is bad. We must always be somewhere, doing something, and yet some still complain of being bored!

Last summer, my dad and a good friend passed away, and my mum had a hip replacement. I became overwhelmed with life to the extent that I couldn’t begin to process my losses, I knew I was not coping with life, and realised I had to go back to enjoying simple pleasures, which would allow me space to grieve alone, and help me to de-stress, such as a peaceful walk through the countryside.

I recently read that on average, we spend only three minutes out of every hour fully focused on the present moment. Who wants to go through life feeling trapped in a busy mind 95% of the time? Whilst it’s impossible to flick the brain’s off switch, perhaps we can at least press pause now and again.

You have probably heard and seen the word ‘Mindfulness’, as seems to be the latest buzz and trend, but is similar to many existing and older practises, including that of stoicism. Stoicism is at its root, a philosophy for minimising the negative emotions in our lives and maximising our gratitude and joy.

Marcus Aurelius was a stoic philosopher and Roman emperor said: “Every hour focus your mind attentively…on the performance of the task in hand, with dignity, human sympathy, benevolence and freedom, and leave aside all other thoughts. You will achieve this, if you perform each action as if it were your last…”

Within stoicism, the most important feature to maintain was noted by Epictetus is prosoche, which can be translated as ‘attention’ [Discourses 4.12]: ‘Do you not realize that when once you have let your mind go wandering, it is no longer in your power to recall it, to bring it back to what is right, to self-respect, to moderation?’ 

So what is Mindfulness? Essentially, mindfulness is about using some straightforward techniques to help let go of stress and live in the present moment, free of judgement, and ultimately find more peace and fulfilment. I try find myself enjoying the moment by taking in a scene with every sense such as paying closer attention to the texture, appearance and taste of the food that I eat, to simply closing my eyes and tuning into the sounds around me when around water, just to find a moment of calm. Then bringing my attention back to the deep inhale and slow exhale of my breath when my mind inevitably starts to wander.

Life is not an ‘one size fits all, so what works for me may not work for you. It’s about working out what feels right for you. For me I find it best when I am out walking, whether in a forest or walking down the street to work, concentrating on the world around me and try to let it hold my attention, while I gently push away any unwelcome thoughts. I equally listen to birds singing to sheep bleating, and imagining it was a conversation I was eavesdropping in on. What are they gossiping about? Has the baby lamb lost his mummy…AGAIN!?

Equally, we can write, draw, paint, and/or dance what it is we’re experiencing. I love sitting with a pot of tea writing that moment, looking up images on the internet or out my window and letting my senses paint the scene, to photographing a scene to remember the experiences I felt in that moment later, and even gardening imagining the lives the ladybirds live that I see as I weed around them.

So why not try it for yourself? Put on your shoes or boots and go exploring, there is no right or wrong way to experience the world around us, but by putting away our mobile phones or switching off our televisions to see what lies beyond the black mirror and box can be life changing. Making time for ourselves and wanting to take time out should not be seen as bad things, but good things to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Return to Spring

The evergreen soldiers remain on guard
As Jack Frost always wants one final dance
Even though spring time has stirred anew
And footprints in the snow belong in the past

The snowbells have rung their tiny icy bells
As crocuses spread like a vibrant floral virus
Daffodils loudly blow their golden trumpets
And blossoms dance in white and pink dresses

Rebellious winds take flight as days lengthen
Roaring up and down valleys, hills, and trees
Awakening all with their high pitched shrills
Only calming when the first lambs are born

The tulips are waiting patiently in the wings
And the bumble bees ready to pounce for pollen
To peels of bluebells ringing throughout forests
Springtime is here with adventures to be written

© Fi S. J. Brown

Springtime

Listening to the sound of snowdrops ringing brightly,
Waking all across the land from their winter’s sleep.
With the croci’s stamen vibrating like a bass’ strings,
Vibrating throughout Britain’s gardens and fields.
A melody sung in harmony by newborn baby lambs,
Backed by the reliable evergreen ash, pine and holly.

This sets off daffodils dancing in the springtime breeze,
Blowing their trumpets as only ones so narcissistic can.
Trying to drown out the sounds of their rival bluebells,
Who have long dominated the woodlands and forests.
The tulips try to act as independent and impartial judges,
And let their red be a reminder of love not hate to all.

Then there are cherry blossoms dressed in pink and white,
Singing a duet that begins the next act to the spring opera.
Each white petal glides like a majestic swan as it falls,
And the pink as though thrown as confetti at a wedding.
A bittersweet relationship that is doomed to always fail,
As into the gutters they land to be swept away forever.

Let us not forget the biggest diva on Planet Earth is left,
For humanity is the fat lady that must sing the final aria.
Thinking their modern songs with autotune are far greater,
And their cover versions far better than all nature can do.
Finally before the curtain finally falls the days get lighter,
As colour fills Earth as a symphony of sound and visual.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Nature is everywhere, Nature is us

As you read this right now, we humans use half of the world to live. This includes growing crops, using trees as timber, and pasture for the animals we have tamed as pets or as livestock to eat. If you added us all up we would weigh 10 times as much as all the wild animals put together. We make our roads through forests and hills to gain access to concrete jungles we have built our dwellings. Not to be content with the take over, we have added little plastic particles to the sand on ocean beaches through our ever increasing thirst for pre-packaged items and gadgets that we change nearly as often as our clothes. Changing the chemistry of the soil with our artificial fertilisers, and even engineer the plants so that in some way they become better than the originals. The air we all breath has also changed, as we breathe in the fumes from the metallic beasts we created, which roam from street to street, and through villages to cities.

We have gone from the actor at the side to the director of corporate Planet Earth, autotuning the voice as the dictator of the planet. So what then is nature in a world that is influenced and run by humans? As we share this planet with other animals, and all the other plants, and all the other microbes, yet we act as superior beings to them. Like lord and ladies of the manor we expect them to be our servants and slaves. However, only this week there was public outcry when it was believed that the British parliament was trying to show animals are not sentient beings. If it had been true it would have led to a backdoor being open allowing further hurt through unnecessary testing in laboratories to destroying habitats through fracking, and a return of fox hunting that is more a game of pleasure by a selective elite than a necessity to keep their numbers low. Nature is everywhere, all our senses recognise it, but we are still are blind and deaf to the need to protect it from further damage.

I remember my high school biology teacher telling us about the many boxes Charles Darwin brought back from his travels, but over a third were still not looked in by the 1990s. This left me stunned, in the time since their collection over a 150 years previously, and further twenty-twenty five since then to the present. The world has changed dramatically with all we have done to the world through the Industrial Revolution, World Wars and the present with our digital world. To think that we may have wiped out a rare plant species that could cure cancer or AIDS and other diseases that lies in one of those boxes. My heart sank then at the realisation of how much damage we have done to the world in my lifetime alone, and over twenty years later there are tears as see how much worse it not only has become but continues to be so. I cannot have children, but seeing the world through my nieces and how attached they are to electronic gadgets. When I took them to them outdoors to a botanical garden for a treasure hunt they did not stop once to wonder at the world around them as I did as a child and would make such a hunt take last twice as long as asked a hundred and one questions. Sadly instead they were glad to reach the end, hoping to be given money as a well done, and only slightly satisfied by a free cookie instead.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May of the band Queen wrote a song over thirty years ago called ‘Is this the world we created’, the lyrics still prick as poignantly as it did then and is as relevant and fresh as if it was written today. Thirty years from now will the images of some plants, animals, and people be contained only on websites and cloud servers as seized to exist in the real world. Children at present are discouraged from climbing trees or playing in mud for dangers we have created that were there before but now we feel the need to protect them from. There are bigger dangers out there from our fellow humans than than those from nature, which we turn a blinder eye to those. Sadly many children now will never understand the magic of sitting on the branch of a tree and watching the clouds above float on by as daydream of dragons taking them travelling on its back. In many ways we are stealing from the next generations and robbing them of what we had. Yes, life has changed in many ways we could never of imagined when I was born nearly four decades ago but we need a balance. This electronic brave new world is no replacement for the real thing, nature is part of us and that is an artificial extension to it not a full replacement. So lets make 2018 the re-connection year and not a further step towards a final divorce from our friends of fur, feather, and wood.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Summer Storms

The thunder with its rumbling tummy has finally been fed,
It is tired after playing catch with lightning across the sky.
Clattering over rooftops of houses and up lanes of towns,
Like a herd of invisible horses hooves trampling the clouds.
Bursting them open with a blinding light of purple haze,
That caused the rain to fall in muted teardrops like a clown.
Touching the hearts of windowpanes and soaking humans,
As curse the games up in the sky for leaving them so wet.
But a sick man from his hospital bed joins in the silent tears,
As his fevered brain calms again and counts his blessings.
In the woodlands trees stretch out their branches so wide,
Hoping to score points by catching the drops to its leaves.
Where as the deserts beg and plead for just one drop to fall,
Like a miracle prayer to someone who lives beyond the sky.
Cows out in fields turn their noses upward silently inhaling,
A perfume that comes after a storm that reassures all is well.
The farmer’s daughter shuts her curtains for the final call,
As the thunder goes to sleep and will play again another day.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Do we live in harmony with our environment?

Maybe as our environment is dominate by shades of grey and red that are rarely seen in the natural world we have learnt to adapt to this new environment. Unlike those in parts of Brazil to Borneo, which live untouched by outsiders and live in tune with an environment have no need for human manufactured medicines, supermarkets that sell everything and anything, and a welfare state that is meant to support those in a vulnerable position in life. It is impossible for their numbers to grow beyond the level which their environment is capable of supporting. They are interested in preserving as much of their environment as they can because otherwise their ability to support themselves would be lessened and their numbers would decline, with a special bond with their environment that is very different to our own.

However, many of us see them as ‘backwards’ and how we live as civilised. Let us pause for a minute to consider how crazy that really sounds. We no longer see food coming out of the ground, being caught out at sea, or living in a field eating grass. Ask a child today and they will tell you our food comes from Lidl to Walmart. Our attitude is to shrug our shoulders and say ‘what does it matter’, it all goes the same way in the end. The sea is massive, so a little bit of toxic waste won’t matter. The sky is even bigger – who cares if we pump a little methane into it? Plenty more sky where that came from. Doesn’t matter if the harvest is failing in Africa, we still get our bananas or pineapples from Latin America and the Caribbean. Cannot be bothered to cook tonight, we’ll just get something to cook in the microwave. Now perhaps we should reconsider who are the crazy and backwards ones!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Earth: The Movie

Lilly of the valley ring out all along the river bank as the daffodils nod their heads like jaded heavy metal fans to a new beat but young tree branches sway back and forth like teenagers at their first gig. The sun shines and paints the sky in a blue of 50 shades and clouds gather like sheep in the fields. River waters run past hearing stories and songs from the birds to bees as it goes by but never stop long enough for the endings. Generation after generation this is the way the movie went, well until now that is.

Ragged men and plastic women walk on by oblivious to the songs and stories around them. For theirs are not those of their ancestors but ones repeated from words and pictures seen and heard on black boxes; as false as a rabbit laying chocolate eggs and lies spinning in quicksand. As young cyborgs cling to handheld blocks with screens to create their own tales and music that are just as false and fake as those from the black boxes. Creating new worlds but do not know the script of fate is already written.

How long until the songs of nature are replaced forever with auto tuned cover versions by the cyborgs and will anyone notice in a decade or more? Pictures of their ancestors are mere images stored in clouds in cyberspace but nobody dares look at the sky’s clouds as chemicals fell poisoned many. Stories that nobody alive now remembers how as it was before, rewritten and spun so many times now so are accepted as truths and history of this planet but not the one many fought and died to try to preserve for them.

The world is always changing as the Earth spins on its axis with few prepared to pole dance at the north or south. Human song is a symphony by a group of composers but not the only one on the planet. cats and dogs, flowers and forests, sing too, just listen. There are stories written down by the birds and bees to the trees and mountains engraved in an ink that is not invisible. Humans stop trying to direct and act this movie, it’s not the role for us, grab the popcorn and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

© Fi S. J. Brown