Thoughts from the Kiltwalk

On Sunday I took part in Edinburgh’s annual Kiltwalk, 24 miles walking for a small charity I work for. It gave me plenty of time for thinking. Seeing people of all ages joining together to walk to support all sorts of charities and non-profit organisations, country wide to small local ones, put a smile on my face. It was such a wonderful friendly and supportive atmosphere, which was great, but made me wonder why we cannot have that more often these days. People smiling and laughing not stuck on their phones, chatting with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Equally, why online there is more hate and judgement, with trolls determined to bring people down for perhaps looking and/or being different to what they know.

Also, we as people have also physically changed, many of us torturing ourselves over how fat or thin we look, distorting our faces and bodies into the weirdest shapes, and some living their whole lives online. Trying to fit into a world that would rather we all be the same, while we struggle to be individuals as want to fit in. Whilst in other parts of the world they struggle to feed their families, try to stay alive in conflict zones, and coping with non existent medical treatment when things go wrong. What a flawed beings we are, all living at the same time but experience the world in such different ways it can be hard to understand.

I then thought of what a strange world we have created to fit in with our environment, not the one of nature but humans. The homes we choose, the traditional brick houses to the ultra modern with views out to sea. Gardens full of flowers to one with the scariest looking scarecrow I had ever seen. A few kids en route waved good luck, one even shouted ‘good luck’ (I replied ‘thank you’ and the eight year old shouted back ‘you’re welcome’), and the odd car honked its horn to acknowledge our feats. My favourite bits were walking along the coast from Musselburgh to Leith, and in the parks of Edinburgh with the green of trees rather than grey concrete that was more fifty shades of sighs.

Overall, I was glad I did the walk, a huge personal challenge but reminded me how much we can do when we put our minds to it. Equally, even though life can be physically and mentally difficult for me and others by doing this I can look back when things are bad to say you did that Fi. What will I do next…I am not sure but like everything I put my all into it as want to make a difference to the world, not so I can show off but lead others to see they can do it too. I believe in you, and maybe now myself too! I remembered the line from Mary Schmich’s speech – ‘do something every day that scares you’ – as I walked, and thought maybe I should do this sort of thing more often. Here’s to next year’s walk!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Happiness

I used to think I wasn’t allowed to be happy, then I slowly realised I did not know what happiness actually is.

From the small child that had tears in her tummy like a Care Bear through bullying and isolation from her peers to abuse from family, which at times was disguised as fun and games, to the adult that felt like the alien watching a world go by that she was never meant to be part of. I also blamed my black dog, i.e. depression, as it painted the world in monotone and every day felt like one step away from falling down a cliff whilst sat on a rocking chair. How could I find this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, when I could not even see the rainbow? And if I found the pot, what would I do with it, for I knew I would not want to keep it to myself.

I decided to go back to basics and see what others had deemed happiness to be. For many happiness was linked to being successful, which in the most simplistic terms was money, power, fame, looking hot, owning stuff. None of which had I ever wanted and/or craved, but did not seem to me the path that would yield happiness. They seemed more a fool’s gold type of happiness, superficial and fake, as well as following the Pied Piper who was never seen, but everyone followed his tune. It all reminded me of my late father saying to me in my teens ‘all this world, apart from you, wants is money‘, after a conversation discussing this golden carrot we seem to be programmed to chase, and some how when I was reincarnated into this life I missed the injection for it!

I realised the above was superficial, and I had always been one to go through many layers to strip away the falseness and lies so would never be able to accept the ‘normal’ way of defining happiness. I also knew the one person I needed to know and love above all else was myself, which I was not doing and felt I almost needed to reboot myself after a breakdown. In the end I decided that a restart from a safe place was the best option, as I knew as a child what made me happy – deep discussions with my great uncle to music and nature that were my comfort blankets. Rediscovering my passion for music through good friends and their friendship showed me a world I had not understood before – friendship. People that cared, not on a superficial level, but gave a damn back and saw the world through eyes I had tried hard to make sense of alone, now knowing it needed more than one pair to truly see through the forests of mists and lies. Finally, awaken what and who I truly was, that was hiding amongst the test tubes, chemicals and microscopes, instead with my piano, pen, paper and tea mug.

It is said happiness can never be bought, I would completely agree. Equally, that pot of gold is everywhere and nowhere as there are little things each day that bring us happiness, which we should remember and not take for granted, but also it is highly individual and inside of us. There is no right or wrong path to happiness, no street map or guide, it is far deeper than the superficial things we have attached to it. Furthermore, there is no normal, we need to stop inferring an one size fits all approach when no two humans are alike from their outer shell to how they experience it. Perhaps once we have relearned these, alongside empathy and understanding, then we may find the happiness meant for us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Then and Now

Were the every day thoughts, hopes, and daydreams of our ancestors really that different to our own now in 2018?

Painted caves, sharing myths to jokes imprinted in clay, hieroglyphs with 2-3 meanings, and illuminated scrolls,
Philosophers pondering the meaning of the world around us with none finding a true meaning to life itself.
But now words are written not in verse or prose but with hashtags and abbreviated words accompanied by emojis.
Taking pictures that hang not in galleries or shelves in the home but in virtual clouds that in a tap are deleted.

Great discoveries from the wheel to medicines and the internet itself are achievements that make humanity proud,
Knowledge is finding the right app to do it for us or knowing a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is not putting it in a salad.
All the knowledge and information we have from the past to the present of life is available at the tap of a button,
But we use it to share videos of cats, get into arguments with people we don’t know, or legally stalk a celebrity or two.

The food we no long hunt on horses with bows and arrows but drive metallic beasts that lead us to it already prepared
Seldom considering the journey it has made to the plate other than the instructions half glance at the cooking instructions.
Beauty is created with chemicals that mask our real faces and surgeon’s knives to create the perfect body craved,
But is also manufactured in heavily edited images to sell a fake life that makes the normal become the abnormal.

No worshipping of gods and/or goddesses with gifts left in blessing and hopeful acceptance to a heavenly afterlife,
Replaced with puppets saying or singing the words of their masters to be taken as their own thoughts and views on life.
As we crave the simpler life without the hard work our ancestors did in one day to than we ever could in our lifetime,
And have not mastered not judging another or thinking war is the answer without understanding the question.

With the keys to a time machine would we travel back in time or be content to live in the present day in modern life,
Or would we take a peak to a future that for now lies as an unwritten whisper but not a guaranteed promise to us all.
Changes occur great and small throughout our lifetimes just as they have since those now long forgotten in time’s dust,
The only way to survive it is focusing on the present without letting negative thoughts take root and live the daydreams.

© 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

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

What’s age got to do with it?

Last night I watched the movie “Logan’s Run“, which left me questioning many ethics and morals of the society Logan lives in. Within this there were two things that made me think overnight; the age that people were euthanised was thirty and the “old man” played by Peter Ustinov.

More and more we are fixated with looking younger, trying pills, potions and injections to have the face of youth, which also makes me think of those getting new faces in “Logan’s Run“. How long will it be till seeing a face like that of “the old man” is something many no longer see?

There is already a growing gap between young and old, as one does not respect the other. Equally, part of older people’s beauty is in their wrinkles, each one tells their own story, removing them is like trying to erase their past, which we cannot do. Being old isn’t promised to us all.

In many ways the strive to be immortal has been replaced by looking young; but does looking younger than our physical age really matter after all it is a number and our outer shell not what truly makes us human, it is the inside that gives colour to our thoughts, actions and beliefs.

The media and entertainment business is always telling us of the latest young talent, the new x or y, it is almost like Logan 6 or Jessica 5, as saying those ones have gone now. What happened to originality and creativity, we’re all individuals not replacements, a name is but a label.

So perhaps in the future we will live in a society that is just filled with youth, but to me that sounds horrific as we learn so much through life. It seems like wanting to be like emotionless, identikit clones and drones, rather than embracing what colours we shine and sharing that light.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Negatives

Some days all we seem to see is negatives, from rejection letters for job applications to bad news about our own or someone we care about’s health. However for every negative we encounter, we should try think of a positive to cancel out each one. Even we cannot make the negatives into a positive, make them neutral so then they no longer have power over or hurt us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I wanna hold your hand

There is something uniquely special, intimate and comforting about holding someone’s hand. Perhaps as it something that reminds us of earliest childhood, that comforting feeling when a large hand enclosed our little one, creating bonds and memories throughout our lifetimes. Then as we become teenagers we no longer want to feel the hand in ours as want to feel the freedom of not being tied to our parents or anyone else.

We touch or hold hands with the person we love as bonds us together, symbolising that two souls are touching and uniting. It may not be a kiss but a clear signal to ourselves and others of our love for another. A Pagan wedding tradition is for handfasting, which entails gentle wrapping cords around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.

As adults ourselves, we are the ones with the big hands, which comfort and bond with our little ones. We connect with friends and strangers alike in stress and crisis. We also want to hold our parents hands as now look wrinkled and older now, they seem more fragile as the child’s and want to relive our own happy and carefree memories from childhood without the responsibilities that being a grown up has brought to us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Autumnal dreams

Colour bursts have exploded all over the city, the trees are ablaze with autumnal fire. Soon one by one they will fall to the ground, like a thousand memories of this year now almost over. But they leave behind a green of guard to protect us from the bitter finger of Jack Frost. As once he starts to laugh and point, no creature on Earth is immune from his white brush and song.

© Fi S. J. Brown

autumnal dreams

Life is a ladder

One of my favourite pieces of art at Danubiana by Jozef Jankovič reminded me of life being like a ladder: It is best taken one step at a time, with the freedom to move up and down at our own pace; sometimes we fall off and need to start again but that is only natural; and it is not how far we climb up the ladder but go as far is comfortable for us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

ladder1