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Tag: yellow

All at sea…

This morning I went for a walk with our beagle Cosmo. My husband does most of the morning walks during the week, but on Sunday’s he gets a lie-in and I get up early instead to walk with the dog.

We’re in that hazy time of year in the UK when summer has started to fade and autumn is getting into her stride – a wonderful mixture of warm sunny days, alongside the hint of crisp leaves and glowing colours, as the trees begin their slow hibernation process. (We also get days of deep, grey skies and sudden torrential downpours – usually just in time for the school run at about 3:15pm, but today was a good day!)

As it was nearly high tide, I decided to walk down by Whale Island, also known as HMS Excellent. The island is man-made resulting from historic dredging in the Solent, to make room for ever-larger Naval vessels. In-between Whale Island and Portsea Island is a narrow tidal inlet,  which I tend to think of as the remains of Stamshaw Bay. This small strip of water eventually links round to the Solent, further up the coast. There are a small cluster of fishing boats which appear and disappear depending on the tide and the type of fishing they do.

As my dog and I ambled along the path, I noticed a small, yellow fishing boat right up close to the shore line. I remembered that my husband had commented that he’d seen a fishing boat which had drifted up to the beach, so I went to have a look.

The little boat looked to be in good shape; the usual collection of barnacles and seaweed along its hull, but the bow was clean and clear and the mast and sails tidy and straight. Through the water I could clearly see the keel resting on the pebbles underneath and then I realised…

The boat wasn’t drifting. It was grounded.

The little boat was in good condition. It was perfectly able to sail. But for some reason, it had ended up on the beach, and now the water wasn’t deep enough to float it. Everything about it spoke about its purpose – it ought to have been sailing, gliding effortlessly on that smooth expanse of water. But instead it was motionless, grounded on a shallow bank of pebbles and rocks, which although small, had somehow trapped this vessel and made escape seem impossible. And that got me thinking:

How many of us are living seaworthy lives? 

How many of us are like that boat: fully equipped and able to sail, yet somehow grounded in our situations and circumstances, not because we can’t set sail but because we don’t believe we can.

In this photo, the tide hadn’t yet risen to its highest point. Another half a metre might be all it would need to get this little boat off the beach and back out to sea. How many of us are stuck in a place where we think we need an entire ocean to change things, when in reality it’s just half a metres worth?

Our perceptions affect our reality.

What we believe can have such a powerful effect on the choices we make. Those beliefs can stop us from applying for that job we really want, or standing up to that demanding boss. They can make us feel trapped and frustrated, when actually all we really need to change our circumstances, is a bit of a push to get us off the beach. Not an entire ocean. Just a bit of hard work.

The things is, for the sailor on the boat, it’s hard to see what the obstruction is, because it’s underneath the hull. That’s why we need friends and family to come alongside us.

Friends and family might have a different perspective. They can see through the water surrounding us and help identify what the problem is.

So what is it that keeps you beached at the moment? Are you so convinced that your situation can’t change that you can’t hear the voices of your friends and family? You’re a seaworthy vessel – what’s really stopping you from exploring your potential and heading out to sea?

 

The face of Janus: thoughts from the other side of 2016

illustration by Sharon Court

Towards the end of December I noticed a common theme to the tone and content of my friends Facebook comments. They read basically: “Good Riddance 2016 – you were all kinds of awful and I’m glad to see the back of you!”

To be fair, I can kind of understand their point of view: we saw the deaths of a number of well-known and well-liked celebrities (perhaps no more than previous years but the loss of these individuals seemed to resonate with a lot of people my age). And let’s not forget the shambles of the EU Referendum or the US election… But in addition to that, I know of personal tragedies that people faced: the onset of cancer, the sudden death of a close family member, heartbreak, loss and disappointment. Perhaps 2016 does have a lot to answer for?

I was taking my dog for a walk one day, amongst the mulch of dead leaves and the shadowy silent figures of sleeping trees, and I thought about how much people wanted to reject the year – to push it away and maybe even pretend it had never happened, and I wondered whether we could actually do that? Turn our backs on it completely and simply refuse to accept the pain, disappointment and grief.

I looked at the landscape around me and it occurred to me that nature doesn’t do that. It doesn’t turn its back on the year just gone, but in fact it draws from it intentionally.

During the autumn we see the spectacular effects of nature preparing itself for winter: deciduous trees draw back into themselves any unused chlorophyll and any remaining sugars show in the amount of red in the leaves – the more red there is, the more sugar is present. Yellow or golden leaves have much less sugar.

That chlorophyll becomes the storehouse for the following year, allowing new buds and leaves to be grown, drawn from the growth of the previous season. Nature doesn’t turn its back on the old year when the new one comes; it doesn’t disdain or despair. Rather it keeps the good and uses it for renewal.

Now this is where my analogy starts to get a bit wobbly, because of course if the soil quality is poor, or the local water supply is tainted, the trees might also draw in bad things as well as good. Trees, you see, can’t make choices about their water supply or soil quality.

But we can.

We can choose to keep what is good, wholesome, healthy and encouraging and we can choose to let go of the pain, loss and disappointment. Certainly we will be impacted and changed by it – the rings inside a tree bear testament to the rainfall of previous years – but even loss and bereavement can bring strength and hope after a time.

2016 may have had its challenges, but there were good things too: the long-awaited pregnancy, the chance to go to university, the security of a permanent job, the reassurance brought by making new friends at a new school. These are the chlorophyll moments of 2016: the life-affirming experiences which bring joy, hope and peace.

So will we take our lessons from social media, or from nature, whose quiet presence offers a consistent reminder of the opportunties and choices before us?

The choice is up to us.

 

 

 

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