September is one of my favourite months now I no longer have to return to the classroom. This September in the UK has been a mix of sun and some showers but has given us an ‘Indian Summer’. At Navasola it is always pleasant as the August heat begins to drop and there are more opportunities for long walks and on September 8th the local villages all have processions for the Romeria to the Pena where La Reina De Los Angeles has a small chapel and the famous Spanish renaissance man, Arias Montano had his hermitage.
So why coddiwomple? Well, I have just been to Dorset where some years ago, thanks to DVERSE poets there was a prompt to use unusual words and I was on my way to Dorset and wrote a poem with this word! If you coddiwomple you travel in a purposeful manner but in a vague direction. I think that year my friend who lives in Dorset and I just drove around the country lanes with no care as to where. Everywhere has some interest, some history, the rolling hills of Thomas Hardy or odd place names like Piddle or Tolpuddle where there the beginnings of the labour Unions took seed because of the tragedy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. We coddiwompled around this historic house and gardens below and I wwill have to add the name later.
But Coddiwompling is hard to do when walking about the countryside. Is there not a fear of getting lost in the woods. I actually did once, in the woods with my trusty golden retriever not far from Thomas Hardy’s cottage. It was a bit scary.
However, a favourite place for us to coddiwomple is the beautiful city of Lisbon. We love to wander there and discover old streets, new squares, and some of the wanderings of Fernando Pessoa, the very famous Portuguese writer and poet. And once we flew from Lisbon to the Azores and coddiwompled by car around the island. It was really small enough not to miss anything except the tops of volcanic mountains because of the clouds.
So this is a coddiwomple blog. There is a purpose but there’s a lot of wandering and an odd collection of photos from the past. One of my favourite coddiwompling places is Kew Gardens in London as my membership card helps and you feel free to just wander whatever the season unlike the tourists. And the purpose? Joy but also supporting the work of Kew with botanic gardens all around the world.
Let us know where you like to coddiwomple. Perhaps it is a place you can wander and wonder with a purpose but without any care. I love hearing from you all so it would be good to know your favourite coddiwompling place.
My art classes with Ruth have been a wonderful opportunity to work under the guidance of a friend who is an artist I admire and such a good teacher. We are a small group and although I missed 8 months by being in the UK I was welcomed back in. The previous post shows two of my attempts at reflections. I find myself so absorbed and mindful while trying to draw or paint. And so much is about light and shade with different tones. I find it useful for my writing too as contrasts and perspective are needed. We went to Alajar in the photos below to attempt some perspective with great views.
So where have I got to with the novel I keep hinting about and have shown some of Ruth’s illustrations in poems from last years blog. Well, the problem has been perspective. I wrote an animal story with a journey narrative which imagined some animals common in this area, the Sierra Aracena having to go on an extraordinary quest to find new ways to adapt and survive. I wanted this to be very true to the nature of wild animals and reflect on the amazing biodiversity around us. But I did not want talking animals and this story was not for younger children. I thought 9 to 99 would be the readership. Well, that was a big mistake with publishers these days. It’s now focused on being Young Adult/Crossover.
My next big mistake was perspective. I went for 3rd person Omniscient as I suppose I am a reader of novels from long ago. With some editorial input I began to change the perspective to be from the point of view of each of the animals on the journey. Not easy as there are four; a rather timid weasel and a determined black kite journey together. They must find the strikingly handsome bee-eater who has no mate so decides to fly north with the rather regal buff tailed bumble bee who is struggling with the rising temperatures in the wild valley of a southern European Sierra.
The novel follows their experiences, the variety of animals they meet and the dangers they face. But there was a suggestion I also bring in a human story and so there is another perspective now. A young woman in her late teens who also has many challenges to face. However she regains her strength from the knowledge of nature she learnt from her grandmother.
The next hurdle I hit as a writer was this emphasis on SHOW do not TELL. The idea is to be filmic and show like a camera each scene and the emotions. I was able to do this more in the animal narrative as I tended to be descriptive but I found it harder with the human character. However, the point is this technique is supposed to be better at involving the reader and creating empathy with the characters. My main aim is to create feelings of empathy for wild nature.
I am encouraged by some experts in the publishing arena; one who said she would follow Comadrito, the tiny weasel. So here is a short excerpt from the opening…….
A shadow crossed over the rock. Comadrito’s tail twitched and he was alerted to being fully in the present. The warmth of the rock soothed his paws. This was where he was supposed to wait. Ears heard birds but then all went quiet. He should move, but he felt safe with his paws stuck to the old rock.
Comadrito’s whiskers sensed dangerous movements in the air. His instincts told him to withdraw into the abandoned rabbit burrow. Another shadow passed over the old hollow tree. His camouflage on the rock was of deep brown on green and grey. Within a whisker tingling it was too late. Great claws gripped around his slender body. The firmness of the boulder under his paws became the emptiness of air.
Comadrito’s eyes could not take in his sudden change of view. He was being lifted high into the spaces of the sky where the birds flew. His point of view was changing and his eyes struggled to focus—the world below him grew smaller until the great trees looked like small bushes. He was used to close contact with the undergrowth. He was used to the glossy, smooth leaves of low-growing trees and bushes that would brush against his coat, and the madroño tree with its strawberry red berries and white flowers on overhanging branches, glinting and dazzling his eyes against the brightness of a deep blue sky.
A BIG thank you for reading and any thoughts on this and the process of writing a novel are welcome. This has been taking up so much of my writing time but there is now the possibility of an Independent publishing house so I am hoping my nature saga or odyssey might finally take flight!
Opher’s World and in particular his book Ebola in the Garden of Eden
Annika Perry and all her writing advice and her wonderful short stories
Smorgasbord for all the work they do supporting writers
Dverse Poets for helping my poetic instincts
And all you other bloggers who keep following me closely. It inspires me to write and share so much and I love to read all your different journeys.
Our splendid isolation has included not having any internet connections for long sessions throughout April. It now seems a bit better so am hoping this is an opportunity to post and also catch up with you all across the world in these strange and difficult times. I hope and pray all is well and will be well but know that we all may be affected in some way at some point by knowing someone whose life is deeply affected and changed by this pandemic. Much support and care is going to be needed for each other and the natural world we do depend on.
The rain here is blessing us with water if not wifi. The mobile phone company call the problems ‘atmospheric’ meaning I guess, it is again those powers beyond human control.
Here are some photos of our walks around Navasola.
We have taken this time as an opportunity to rediscover some of the wilder parts of the finca. It has often seemed like an adventure and I have been to areas I have never seen before. We tried to follow some of the boundary stone walls too and found ourself clambering over some of the stones the wild boar have knocked down. Boars know no borders too. Last week we saw a small group, yearlings probably, going about like a teenage gang, from my sanctuary window. At first it was interesting to watch them, scratching backs against the rocks, snouting around by the path. Then one crossed the patch by some of my roses and some wild gum cistus and lupins I have been nurturing. I opened the window and hollered before even thinking of picking up the camera! They shot off so I hope they know to steer clear of ‘my’ rock garden. To be fair till now this area has always been left unploughed by the boar. Too much human smell.
Walking anywhere at the moment there are some lovely wild peonies. These are not bothered by boar activitity and as we do not plough or clean the fields intensively there are more and more peonies each year. They are known as the queen of herbs and do make a fantastic and natural display. The insects also love them. Another of my favourites is the yellow palmate Anenome and again there are often pollinators within and other insects that seem to half eat the petals into ragged shapes. I have never seen one completely destroyed and they are very delicate looking flowers. It is hard to get a good photo of all the flowers in a patch. The yellows are winning out at the moment with the yellow rock rose or cistus,halimium trifolium, the Spanish broom, gorse and another yellow plant that likes the drier ground by the studio hill.
The studio is an old container that the previous owner installed for her sculpture work. It is on the south west side of the valley and is a warm and light place to work in in the winter. The old house used to be very dark and gloomy. However, the studio, as it is metal, is a hot box for when the temperatures rise. This area has lots of different wild flowers, some tiny white ones, tall asphodels and there is always a lot of bramble, sarsaparilla and some stunted fig trees. Last year we discovered the orebanche and a very tall but pale type of orchid.
Along this stretch of the valley side are lots of rocks and tall pines. It is not an easy to cultivate area and is now how we like it. Quite wild. There is a badgers den within the rocks and a dangerous drop and caves here where possibly other creatures live too. Above this rocky recess are the pines that have grown very tall but there is also a lot of madroño, viburnum and the tough wiry and thorny sarsaparilla. Some of it is like a jungle with hanging vines of vicious thorny strands. There are also some stands of oak. At Navasola there are several types of oak; mirbeck, faginea, and pyreneus. There are also cork oak and holm oak. This stand is the quercus faginea or lusitania, Portuguese oak.
I have also been clearing some paths on the other side of the valley, Navasola East. Here I can now walk above the old era, the place for threshing grain, and through a very rocky olive grove. Here the olives have been planted many years ago but are very majestic and mossy, with amazing trunks. And hiding holes. We have just discovered a wild bee hive at the base of one. It is all very green and mossy on the rocks and the stone walls have lots of different ferns.
Further down towards a Navasola East there is the pond we worked hard on restoring last year. The wild boar had managed to wallow too hard in it and put their tusks into the lining. Now they aren’t allowed in! There are plenty of other places for them to find water and wallow. Our prize animals at the moment are the two Iberian water frogs we have spotted. More on these in a later post as I will devote a poem to them. It’s there in the picture, camouflaged with its thin green,reed like stripe down its back.
I am going to try and complete a challenge for one of the wildlife charities. In the U.K. This is called the 2.6 challenge instead of the London Marathon which usually raises a lot of money for many different charities.It was supposed to take place on April 26th and of course couldn’t. Charities are suffering from lack of funding now and not able to undertake some of the work needed. 26 or 2.6 is the magic number. So instead of running round our finca, which is difficult anyway I am going to try and write 26 poems on the different species that live around Navasola. There will be a Just Giving link to sponsor me if anyone wishes for the RSPB and Birdlife International. So hopefully my internet will work well as I will post 26 lines or words for each poem!
Just setting myself up so I have to get this done!
I cannot believe we have spent nearly 5 weeks in the UK and with no rain falling. I realise now why the blossom was so beautiful and for so long; no wind and storms to blow the blossom away. We certainly had our fill of spring flowers in our new home in Greater Manchester and I got to spend plenty of time with my 18th month old grandaughter. She is now a chatterbox and knows the names of so many different animals now; ra ra for the pet rabbits and others, bear, maow for cats, ba and sheep too. Some confusion with the variety of dogs with a long eared one being called a ra ra. She is also learning some sign language in a fun signing class for under twos. Lets hope we can all support action to improve the future prospects for the planet and all the young ones.
I enjoyed being in Marple and we met up with friends and new neighbours.We went for a walk by the River Goyt and saw goosanders, very elegant and love clean, fast flowing water. We even went to a RSPB ( Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) talk with photos about the Donana wetlands that is close to us at Navasola in Spain! The speaker had visited many times and built up a very good range of photographs. He also looked at the concerns there are about protecting these precious wetlands. ( if interested look at my post in March on Donana) Another talk at the Marple History Society was about the Vale of Avalon by Glastonbury and the wetlands now have visiting birds like spoonbills, ibis and egrets that can be found at Donana. As the crow or ibis flies just over 2000 kilometre more to fly from Southern Spain to Middle England. The RSPB also have a bird song cd out which they want to top the charts this spring and create awareness for the songbirds and others that migrate such long journeys and their numbers are in decline.
Meanwhile in London over Easter the protest group Extinction Rebellion was building up massive support for understanding and acting on the consequences of climate change. Greta Thunberg visited parliament and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party spearheaded meetings. The BBC presented a documentary with David Attenborough talking about the facts of climate change and the changes he has seen for the natural world.
Finally, as the Brexit farce cooled down over the Easter holiday the real issues that we face were raised to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness in a variety of ways. I feel proud to be in my country and experience such support for issues I have long been concerned about. But action is needed and this is if anything far more complex than Brexit
Declaring a climate emergency is only the start but the ideas for a citizens assembly are well founded. All of us will have to make decisions and change our habits to minimise carbon emissions and restore nature. This may be better received if not just from politicians and their supporters and ideologies. A mix of people with access to well resourced information could help with moving forward ways to support people and change our habits.
On our trip back to Sevilla via Brussels there was a young persons climate protest. As I have followed these issues for a long time now and am an ecologist at heart it is heartening to see the young becoming engaged with this and gaining knowledge about many facts.
As we are now of limited means on our pensions and live a rural life the cost of new hybrid or electric cars is phenomenal. Also on looking into the cost of taking the train rather than plane between the UK and Southern Spain it is exorbitant. Why? Alternatives to flying must br found across land masses like Europe. We used to travel on long train journeys in India and these were often great experiences. Ways forward are not impossible but need to be planned to avoid our present ways ‘costing the earth’ and creating more inequalities. For me some travel between our home in our woodland and back to UK is crucial. Travel for many is one way of opening up our awareness to other cultures and to differences.
It was interesting to visit Brussels and see a very multicultural and multilingual city at work and play. The Atomium seems very symbolic of the advances in Science of the 20th Century. Some of these with devastating consequences. It is true that we haven’t quite managed to ban the bomb and there are too many wars and conflicts and displaced people. But the EU was a very European way forward to bring different nations together after WW1 and WW2.
I was very moved by meeting a man of Palestinian heritage. We ate at the restaurant where he worked or managed and ate some delicious middle eastern mezze food. On talking we discover that he was born in the Lebanon in the year and month that I visited in 1975. He went to Beirut University and learnt some English there but 20 years ago left for Brussels. His parents had come from Jaffa a place he has never seen. So many changes and conflicts for a family. He was very welcoming, friendly and so similar to the many people I had met those many years ago in my travels through Syria and Lebanon. His past, almost 45 years,has been very different from mine. I feel I should look at this more and create a short story about this meeting which affected me deeply.
One of my reasons for being in Brussels was to take some photographs to turn into drawings for my novel. My artist friend and I are now trying to create some illustrations as the fantastical journey of my animals takes them to many key areas of Western Europe. In mini Europe where there are small scale reproductions of famous places throughout Europe the weasel manages to ‘pop’ over many of these and then find the old toad. These areas were the old wetlands for many toads and now there is so little left for them.
If my grandaughter lives to be 100 in 2117 she may have to witness the loss of so many of the animals, birds and trees that she takes such a delight in now and a world changed beyond what we would hope for future generations. We are already seeing drastic changes now but are to some extent sheltered from the reality of loss of nature and caught up in the short term issues of business as usual.
My Three Pivotal Points for Planetary Progress
Cut carbon emissions drastically from now. Work together and recognise the urgency of this.
Restore nature for nature not just for us. Natural ecosystems when working well will support life for all on this planet. Rainforests, all native forests, the ocean, coral reefs, wetlands. Peat bogs capture carbon naturally.More wild places are needed. There are many NGO groups that have been working for decades and with some success in holding back the tide of human destruction and conserving many important places. More must be done and especially for the oceans.
Circular and sustainable economies as the foundation for all human activities. Food, agriculture and waste are key areas. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has been working on ideas from sailing of the circular economy and many other groups too have very positive ideas.
These are issues for all of us and we will need to reach out towards these three pivotal points for planetary progress. For politicians these are cross party issues and lets give those politicians their due who recognise this. And decry those who still dare to deny. I have still to find out how the Donana wetland issue has panned out but the Spanish elections are now over and hopefully all will focus on what must be important to us all. A long term and healthy future for the living planet and all species. This will not be easy in the current economic climate but many businesses, local councils, the British parliament ( recently agreed on a climate emergency but needs the government to also accept this) and many others also recognise that action needs to happen now.
I will look into my travel options and cutting more dairy from my mainly vegetarian diet of the last 45 years and look at more ways I can be involved to improve conservation of the natural world.
Time to officially say goodbye to summer. All the migratory birds are getting ready for their long journeys. Although this year there were many swifts around the village of Castaño de Robledo we had not seen any bee eaters perched high on branches around the valley of Navasola. Occasionally we would hear some high pitched calls high in the sky but there were no bee eaters ready to pose as in previous summers. Finally, we saw a great host of golden wings, at least 30 or more, above the track by the campsite. I am not sure what a large gathering of
bee-eaters might be called but we had witnessed this before in Portugal. We think it happens as lots of birds gather together, travel together, finding good food sources before their journey back to Africa for the winter. I think an angelic host could be fitting as their wings whirr and flash golden light in the Andalucian blue skies. We wish them safe journeys and look forward to their returns.
What happens to all the grasshopper, crickets, cicadas at the end of summer? We can still hear them in the trees in the evenings but the noise of their whirring legs against their wing cases seems less intense. Perhaps the summer work is almost over. More young will be ready to develop and hatch out at the end of this winter.
Does one red rump swallow a summer make? We saw quite a few swallows in early spring in the Algarve but haven’t seen that many in the villages of the Sierra Aracena this year.
Here are some House Martin young from a previous year. They seem to be imprinting their surroundings and gathering for their long journey back. This year they arrived late in the Algarve and usually we see them here in late September and October. We are by the sea at the moment waiting for my grand daughter to arrive for her first and possibly last trip as a European citizen. Brexit looms and glooms. Perhaps it is the conjunction of Mars and Saturn so clearly seen last night in the summer sky over the Atlantic that makes me edgy about the future. How much time is being wasted on the politics of arrogance, exclusion and supposed greatness? Meanwhile the planet warns us with temperature rises we can do something about and constant degradation of the natural world and its wild places and inhabitants which we can prevent, now. Those in power who cannot focus on this agenda fail the younger generation.
We have had a wonderful summer of beautiful nights out with stars and full blood moons. I wrote a piece based on my first night sleeping at the finca. It was often so dark and remote but we build up fears about the dark rather than celebrate its beauty and in Mediterranean culture its coolness. So much happens here late at night and early morning in the summer. We have had plenty of good music from the early music festival in my previous post to rock, jazz and flamenco. Also in the Sierra there’s has been a feast of art exhibitions, theatre, acrobatic drama and a book festival too. Unfortunately we missed our friends Ruth Koenigsberger and Sol Fernandez Coll. But we managed to hear our local writer Margaret Van Epp speak about her book about the historical stories local people have told her. I have also enjoyed some summer reading and love the short stories of Annika Perry, a fellow writer and blogger. I am building up the rejections on my novel but I will press on as I think it is an entertaining and imaginative approach to understanding the value of biodiversity in the 21 st Century.
In the U.K. we enjoyed the annual Fairport Festival at Cropredy and even danced to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and their band reliving Pet Sounds and the Beach Boys under a more stormy British sky. The rains decided to come as we camped in middle England. We slept in the van we would use to move house! Here is Olivia helping drive our hired VW transporter full of books and stuff for our new base in the U.K. She seems happy we will be nearby.
For now I have a terrible desire for a camping van( hybrid, electric, solar powered?) and will also head to the beach with the crowds for this last day of summer. I haven’t been swimming in the sea yet! I keep thinking life will slow down so I can write and blog more but this Grandma business seems to take over!
What do women need in order to write, be creative, fulfil their potential? The writer Virginia Woolf claimed it was ‘ A room of one’s own’ and wrote about this in the book with that title. I am back now in my sanctuary room at Navasola and adding a few more finishing touches to my novel. I am struggling a bit with the time needed to fully prepare for self publishing and still trying to be noticed by agents I send the work to. 12 weeks wait now!
Looking at what I have needed in the past I am grateful to those who fought for our right to vote in the UK. I am also grateful to all those who pressed for better working conditions and maternity rights. Without these steps life would be quite different today.
In Manchester we were fortunate to go to some art exhibitions linked to those in the suffragette movement. It is one hundred years since women were given the vote. One very creative artist who painted and drew working women in the North of England gave up her art work to devote all her time to the suffragette cause. A loss for Art ? A gain for all women. Some of her work is below and can be seen in the Manchester Art Gallery.
Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emily Pankhurst, was a trained artist and went on a journey to various places to record the lives of working women in 1907. The Pankhurst family are famous for their leading role in the Votes for women/ suffragette movement. This collection belongs to her granddaughter.
After seeing this collection we thought this would have made a wonderful book and record of the lives of women like our grandmothers. One friend’s mother worked in the potteries. Here the use of lead had terrible effects on health. My granddaughter, Olivia’s great, great Aunt started work at age 14 in the Bolton spinning mills. However, Sylvia Pankhurst was compelled to spend all her time on the Votes for Women campaign and all those women worked tirelessly to create the change needed for our generation.
During my time in the U.K. I have been attending to all the wonderful stuff that we women often have to attend to. Family and friends and looking to the future.
I have enjoyed watching my baby granddaughter go through some amazing changes in the past two months. From beginning to grasp with one hand to coordinating both hands to bring things to her mouth. Getting ready to feed herself? Rolling one way and getting stuck to rolling both ways and onto stomach and back. Getting ready to move herself along! And lots of sounds as she experiments with her voice. But the most amazing smiles as she has fun and recognises us.
It seems important to really stand up for the right to a clean and safe environment and to protect our planet and the natural world from further destruction. The young people of this century deserve this and our generation must listen and respond with actions.
Spain and Navasola have been busy too, responding to events. Thankfully a lot of rain in the Sierra has created much green and new running streams at the finca. In Spain, there have been some amazing marches all over the country for women on International women’s day.
I can also only salute and give support to the young people of America suffering from the effects of gun crime and their determination to overcome personal tragedy and create a safer society.
Change has happened. Change will happen.
Sometimes as with Sylvia Pankhurst we have to sacrifice our own individual creativity in order to give time to create the changes that are needed. Sometimes we have to harness that creativity to be part of the changes needed.
In love and hope to all who follow my blog or just pass by.
I am back at Navasola and involved in the chestnut harvest and looking for any olives I can find that have not fallen. So I will post about the wonders of the Mediterranean olive tree and my first granddaughter Olivia. Thank you for all the kind comments on my previous post as we awaited the birth and particularly Eliza Waters for the interesting expression about birth ‘ may it unfold with ease! Well, as with most births there is some drama but it was with ‘relative ease’ that Olivia Jane arrived into this world. The name Olivia was chosen by her father and the name Jane is a family name. Unknown to this little Olivia the name seems to derive from Italian and Oliva after the significance of olive trees in Mediterranean and biblical culture. However, it seems to be William Shakespeare who made a slight addition of the ‘i’ to create the character Olivia in 12 th Night.
So here at Navasola I have plenty of olive trees for Olivia to one day get to know. I’ve included a photo from Wikipedia to show the development of the flowers. These can be so small and easily missed. On my botanical illustration course I drew some olives from a photo but could not remember ever seeing the flowers. As that was when I was working I thought I just missed the season they bloomed. I am also aware that I am missing some of the small changes as Olivia grows but thanks to video and Skype I can follow the progress of a small human too!
The beauty of the olive tree may be in its evergreen silvery grey dancing leaves, its light bark and of course its fruit, the bitter olive that the birds still peck at in Autumn. Olive cultivation is very old but seems to have originated from the region around Italy. We are not sure how this bitter fruit was first discovered to be so useful as there are certain processes needed to remove the bitter phenols in it. However, with crushing the bitter phenols break down. Therichness of the oil became sacred and well known for its healthiness and healing properties. The Olive branch has become a symbol of peace, purity and wisdom in ancient times used in wreaths to recognise achievements.
I decided to plant an olive seed or two for Olivia but on looking this up encountered a few surprising facts about cultivated Olive trees. It seems to be that by just planting a seed it will only produce a wild olive. This will produce smaller fruit. Cultivated Olives are engendered mainly through grafting. This might explain why I do not find many new olive trees growing on the finca unlike the productivity of the chestnut seeds. These and plums seem to grow up anywhere possible!
However, the Olive is a long lived tree and it’s roots can withstand fires and will send out sucklings. Here at Navasola the trees have become too tall to harvest commercially but I will set out today to see what olives I can find for our own use. It has been such a dry, long hot summer and this has affected the size of the chestnuts and seems to have dried out a lot of olives. Many have fallen to the ground early and in a wizened state. But there are some and I will finally do a count of the olive trees, mostly situated on rocky slopes, where they can survive with much less water than the chestnuts. How much less is not yet known. I hope we can help all learn to be more resilient to climate changes and its effect on our own landscape, flora and flora here and globally help prevent more rises in temperature. This has been our hottest and driest year yet.
With thanks to all my readers and followers and I hope to have more of a routine set up to write to and follow all your posts in the coming year.
Below, the growth of Olivia Jane, week by week. From newborn to 4 weeks and many subtle changes. And the growth of flowers on an Olive tree!
It’s the 8th of September and the day of my favourite festival in the Sierra. Its full of horses, mules, donkeys and a wonderful mix of devotion and conviviality. Today is the day where each of the surrounding villages pay homage to the Patron Saint of the Sierra Aracena, La Reina de los Angeles whose hermitage is at the Pena de Arias Montano. This is a beauty spot on a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Alajar. It is also full of history and the extraordinary story of Arias Montano, a highly learned man of the Renaissance times.
Looking out from the Pena
Let the bullocks have a rest now
Time foe breakfast en route to the Pena.
Although in 1970 this Romeria was given a very public and national status it is truly a very local event. At least nine of the surrounding villages go on a pilgrimage to the hermitage and this includes Seville. All travel on foot, horseback or the lucky ones in a carriage. The Virgin Mary of each local village church is taken by bullocks in beautifully adorned carts. These are paraded in front of the Queen of the Angels at the hermitage. She too is then taken out of her seclusion and shown the beauty of the views.
The hermitage and presentation
Bullock cart with the Virgin Mary
Donkey all dressed up
En route to the Pena from Fuenteheridos.
If you live in or close to one of the villages such as Fuenteheridos and Castano de Robledo this is also the time to meet up with neighbours and share good food and drink. After the religious devotions there is time for picnic and chats. It is a balancing act of cultural traditions, religious devotion and neighbourliness which also seems to honour the natural beauty of the area and rural lives, past and present.
For many it is time to get out the wonderful flamenco dresses, ride your horse, sing songs and enjoy a day out. For me I relish being here as it was the one festival I always had to miss as the school term had begun. I was always given a running commentary about the horses. Perhaps one day I’ll finally get back on a horse and ride up over those hills to the Pena. I might need a little assistance too!
April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!→
Compassion for self, others, nation, world, planet.
I have spent the past 2 weeks travelling around the UK, visiting friends and family. It has not been easy. I have shared in personal tragedy and loss of a loved one, struggles to survive health and economic difficulties. I have also listened to comments and thoughts on the state of our nation after the referendum result to leave the EU. The last weekend I went on a Quaker conference about compassion. The outcome of that has made me think about the nature of compassion, in my own life and in our society and how to harness compassion and kindness for all life on this planet.
At Woodbrooke Quaker Centre we were privileged to stay in a room where Gandhi once stayed. Non- violent actions against injustice are part of his legacy. One of our speakers was Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, abbot of the Scottish Tibetan monastery. http://www.samyeling.org/ As a Tibetan he spoke of how he left Tibet and became a refugee. He spoke with an understanding of the joy that can be present in our lives and how his first experiences of the Western world surprised him. We seemed to have forgotten how to experience a deep but essential part of our nature. At the monastery there are opportunities for people to recover from addictions and depression. Lama Yeshe did not intellectualise about compassion. He spoke from a deep place within him where there is compassion for all living things.
Qamar Bhatti Khan gave a lively talk about his own experiences in the Handsworth riots, the aftermath and his role in community cohesion. Michael Barnes gave a lecture on work and studies he has been involved in with Inter Faith dialogues. He compared writings from ancient Buddhist scripture and Augustin. He also touched on work by Joanna Macy. This interested me because it was at a Joanna Macy workshop organised by Transition Ealing that inspired me to start this blog!
Hannah Gilbert gave an illustrated talk where aspects of compassion in new approaches to therapy and mindfulness techniques were explored. Her father Paul Gilbert has researched and written about how our brain works and how developing compassion can support well being, recovery from trauma, depression. http://compassionatemind.co.uk/about-us
There was also time to talk with a range of people and concerns were often raised about the referendum, challenges of Brexit and the political fall out. My previous post shows my concern about environmental issues. However, I also feel the need to understand the depth of feeling and reaction that led to the vote to Leave the EU. It has seemed like a dividing line has been drawn and many are taking up entrenched positions. Much seems to have been based on fear and mistrust on both sides.
I have begun to feel my anger and frustration over the referendum diminish and by being here I find I can try to understand why people voted to Leave. Am I able to be more compassionate and less argumentative about this?
Since then we have also had The Chilcott report. From this and I read an article about how the human mind does entrench itself in a certain position and even evidence based thinking does not help resolve this but rather the person begins to reframe the evidence. The article showed how Tony Blair has kept doing this. The danger is that the more powerful we are the more likely we are to do this. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36744911 A bbc magazine article titled ‘\how we cover our ears to the facts’
I am also aware of all the recent gun tragedies in the USA and the potential to cause division between people. Obama returned early from his State visit to Spain.He seemed to wish to invoke calm and compassion for all who have lost lives. He also seems to understand evidence, facts and take action based on that. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela have both inspired succesfull movements to counter great inequality through non violence, reconciliation and compassionate thinking.
I want to end on a sad but hopeful point. A young girl disappeared and her body eventually found along a canal area that I know well in West London. In fact I had been walking with my friend along that route and down to the Thames. The friend had been on the Joanna Macy workshop with me and had encouraged me to blog about nature. It is a lovely and natural place and as we walked on a Sunday busy with cyclists and other walkers. But it can be lonely. Alice Gross lived near here and her body was finally found along the canal.
Her story had been ‘used’ or reframed by the Leave campaign. Her parents felt the need to show her attitudes and ideas through a very thoughtful essay she had had to write in school about the pros and cons of being EU. There is a tragic irony on her comments about criminals crossing borders but she has a very non racist stance. She saw criminals as criminals from whatever country they came from and as human beings .
The black box thinking that has helped to improve aviation safety needs to be a part of all tragic incidences. It helps all learn and improve so that mistakes are not repeated. I am reminded of the Soham murders too. The murderer there was not of another country but another county and the police had failed to link up information across. The parents of Alice in their loss have shown courage and concern . The court inquiry stated that there needs to be an improvement in background checks across countries. It is this procedure that might have saved her life from a man from Latvia who had murdered before.
If I was teaching I am sure I would have asked students to write an essay on the advantages and disadvantages of being in the EU, using reliable sources. I was very moved to read part of the essay of Alice Gross that her parents felt the need to share with the Guardian.
I hope showing some of the extract does not infringe any copyright but shows the careful reflection of a young person. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/11/revealed-alice-gross-argued-against-banning-foreign-criminals-before-her
“It reflects on the good of our country, not only showing the strength and stability of our nation but the trust and cooperation we have to make our world successful, which in turn earns the respect of others,” she says. “Although there are some disadvantages that result in our country having slightly less power over its citizens, but what is power over loyalty and alliance amongst a civilised and peaceful union?
Over 70% of young people voted remain. Perhaps the thoughts expressed by Alice Gross show the concerns of a younger generation with a desire for cooperation, interdependence and non racist approaches to other human beings. A desire to connect, reconnect and be compassionate to all life. Many young people demonstrated their expression of frustration with the vote and their support for their fellow Europeans in a peaceful and non violent way.
We now look forward to some leadership from the conservative party. I hope there will be more compassionate conservatism as Theresa May pledges to address the inequalities that have clearly been shown to exist in our very divided United Kingdom. Maybe the Labour party will have compassion for each other and take a strong role in the new or old road that the country is taking.
Compassion needs courage, a different way of thinking and feeling.It is possibly more than kindness and caring but begins there.
Here are some compassion focus groups that I have encountered at different stages of my life.
The Samaritans. ( And the bible story of the Good Samaritan)
Compassion in World Farming ( A charity started in the 1970s to campaign to end the suffering of farm animals)
Listening with Compassion ( Listening without judgement, from Lew Epstein and Trusting You are Loved)
Compassionate mindfulness ( Paul Gilbert and compassionatemind.org)
Buddhism has no absolutes but if there is to be one it would have to be compassion ( The Dalai Lama)
Joanna Macy workshops on creating compassion for ourselves, others, and the planet.
The hallmarks of a bodhisattva: compassion and insight into the interconnectedness of all beings http://www.joannamacy.net/
My thoughts are with the people of Nice and perhaps the outpourings help and remind us of how interconnected we are.
Black Box. Thinking. The Surprising Truth About Success. (and why some people never learn from their mistakes). MATTHEW SYED. JOHN MURRAY.