Back before long.
Have a lovely week.
..or more likely a satellite view, of Dubai (it's from Google Earth). I was struck by the graphic quality of it - it looks like a fantastical creation by Paul Klee, or Joan Miro. And then I remembered that it would have begun as an idea in someone's imagination then as a drawing on paper or computer screen - I wonder how the artist/architect feels when he sees it on Google Earth!
Thanks to Julia for the link of 40 aerial views from around the world.
I've enjoyed some marvellous winter reading, supplemented with forays into the magic that is Google Earth to see the landscapes where the writers and characters walked. All snowy you may notice (what is this obsession with snow?!)
The Snow Child (fiction) set in Alaska in the 1920's is a reread from last winter - just as enjoyable second time around.
I loved Peter Matthiessen's 1979 account of his travels to the Crystal Mountain in Tibet, but don't read Richard Mabey's introduction first - it is a spoiler!
Rory Stewart is a fascinating character (currently a member of parliament here in UK) This account of his quite astonishing walk in 2002 across Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban is an excellent read.
In Consolation of the Forest widely travelled Sylvain Tesson decides to stay put. He spends from February to July of 2010 alone in an isolated cabin on Lake Baikal and this is his daily journal of that stay. I wondered if he could keep my interest for long but I am at 27 May and am still both entertained and amused...
Have you travelled far in your reading lately?
It seems many of us are spending January organising stuff! (There are some good tips in yesterday's comments - thank you all.)
Between boring tasks like my tax return, I am travelling the Himalayas, walking across Afghanistan, spending time alone in a remote cabin on Lake Baikal, and living a hard yet fantastical life in Alaska - my Christmas books seem to have one thing in common - Snow!
I switch from the sublime to the mundane. back and forth. More about the sublime anon, but here are a few gems from Fly Lady which get me through the mundane but necessary household jobs.... :-)
You can do anything for fifteen minutes
Anything is better than nothing
This is not a chore, it is blessing your home
Later is now
Remove anything from your bedroom that would look out of place in a nice hotel bedroom
Housework done incorrectly will still bless your family
'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more
painful than the risk it took to blossom.'
I've always loved this quote from Anais Nin.
To paraphrase Anais Nin (who certainly wasn't referring to her messy paperwork!) I decided it was more painful to look at this every day than to sort it out.
So adopting one of Fly Lady's best tips - baby steps - I put a log in the fire, poured a nice drink (hot lingonberry and amaretto) and set to. The idea was to simply throw out what I could and sort the rest into piles - bank, insurance, electricity etc. The trick was to concentrate on only that and not a) engage with every bit of paper and try to make decisions about it, and b) not beat myself up about letting it get into such a mess.
25 minutes later -
Next 25 minute session I will take out one group eg bank to deal with and file away, but at least I can bear to look at it now and won't feel so embarassed when Julia suggests that I inspired her to organise her desk!
Thank you Julia - you inspired me.
I bought this on a whim some time ago. I don't know that it makes me any more efficient, but it does make me smile, if somewhat ruefully..
Are you good at managing your paperwork?
I'm remembering that winter is an excuse to listen to music more, and to read and browse on the internet - why ever not?
The story of how Philip Glass (see yesterday's post) came to write the Songs and Poems for Solo Cello for cellist Wendy Sutter is a romantic one. She calls them 'love letters' and said that when they first met to talk about the music she did not realise that he had any romantic feeling for her. They became a couple for five years. Read more about this brilliant duo here. I had always viewed the work of Glass as an adjunct or background to something, and would not have called myself a fan but these works stand alone and have such authority and beauty that I could (and will - have just sent for the CD) listen to them for hours.
UCTV University of California Television have an amazing series of lectures, documentaries, interviews (one with Wendy Sutter), symposia and performances, all available online. Fantastic.
And to really make my day - this article, Demolishing Three Myths About World Poverty, by Bill and Melinda Gates from the Wall Street Journal - is the most hopeful and positive thing I have read in any newspaper for a long time. Don't miss it if you are in need of some good news!
If you like the cello that is....
It is my favourite instrument and I've had a lovely few days listening to Philip Glass' Songs and Poems for Solo Cello - new to me - and wonderful! I heard and watched charismatic cellist Paul Tortelier on i player (BBC 4), and read an enigmatic short story called Cellists in Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Happiness is when three things you love all come together out of the blue.
I spent £3 on these candles and kitchen cloths - last of the big spenders, I am! For me the therapy is in the looking at the brightly lit vibrant displays - I soak up the colour and it lasts me for days.
The three year old in the banner photograph thinks all weather is wonderful and every day is an adventure. I need to try to adopt his attitude really....and the weather forecast does say we'll have sunshine (on the 25th of January!). Honestly. Fortunately they are often wrong - we had a glimmer or two today.
There are two systems I've adopted totally which have really simplified my life.
One deals with housework. I've been using it for about two years now and running the house has never been easier.
I found Fly Lady through the unlikely route of Leo Babauta's blog Zen Habits. (Babauta took the principles of Fly Lady and made them cool, sophisticated and appealing to men as well as women....)
The Fly Lady site is complex, a bit fussy and old fashioned, and brilliant -
all you really need to do each day is go to 'Launch Pad' then 'Flight Plan' and do what she says.
in another post, my other favourite system....
Here are some simple things I like to do to simply live!
Have flowers and/or candles in a room- they bring life to a space
Be prepared/prepare in advance - so much less stressful
Enjoy simple, fresh and natural food
Choose natural over synthetic when possible
Save and create energy
Look around me, take an interest, see what's lovely
Single task when I can - mindfulness can make a real pleasure of the most mundane things
Don't obsess on any of the above....
Do any of these resonate with you? What would you add to the list?
So, have I simplified my life?
I am trying to summarise my progress here - and I have made progress. By thinking through some issues one at a time through blogging about them over nearly four years, I have come to my own solutions to some ethical and practical dilemmas which nagged me and made me anxious and stressed.
I have realised that I don't need to save the world, but I do need to make a difference. (By being informed enough to make ethical choices where I can.)
I have accepted that it's hard to be simple in a complex world, but decided that doesn't mean I shouldn't try. (By asking for example 'Is there a simpler way to do this?' and doing it.)
I have decided that it's worth taking the time to get things simple and right, then sticking to it (clothes, home, routines).
I have made a conscious decision to focus on the good news, while of course being aware of the bad - how could you not in today's world - but not to dwell on things I cannot change and to change the things I can.
I have tried to be content with what I've got (shopping at home, living well with less).
If you are also trying to live simply what would you add?
WALK is my word for 2014, and I have walked, rain or shine (but mostly rain) every day so far.
Or not so far. It all counts I tell myself as I scurry back in after twenty minutes.
Wimp says my husband, and he's right.
Yesterday at a party I was talking to a lovely girl who smiled, nodded and said yes a lot, and I found myself smiling, nodding and saying yes to a 10k walk/run in the city in May. Such fun she said and I agreed. A fantastic atmosphere. I nodded. I even asked some others at the party Will you do it? It's such great fun!
So about eight of us are doing it so far, and I'm meeting friends tomorrow and might just see if any of them want to do it too....
Such fun! I will say.
As you know I think about colour a lot! Yesterday's sweetie pastel shades are adorable aren't they?
Winter 'blues' however, can be something else, and I've recently come across this very honest post from Teresa Maria in 2012 about winter blues in Finland. I love reading about Scandinavia, but life in the far north can have it's down side for some. Beautiful photographs of deep thick snow.
Neverending Blues is the title of this work by photographer Lynne Douglas who lives in the next village to me along the shore of Loch Long.
Lynne delights in blues and they feature strongly in her work. She writes an interesting blog about women photographers and professional photography from a female perspective. The photographers among you will love it! See here
I hope that if you suffer, even a little as I sometimes do, from winter 'blues' it won't be neverending, and that you enjoy a browse through these stunning blue images.
..and less is more here too.
Clarity after the Christmas clutter.
I was inspired by the sugar almond colours of the little notebooks Lynne gave me for Christmas
..to choose tulips of the same colours, then I noticed how they picked up the colours in the 'Snowy Hill' painting.
I was only in the greenhouse for 10 minutes, but got rid of a surprising amount of rubbish. Plastic bags with unidentifiable things in - yeuch.
No more skiddling about, I said, so a lot of miserable little plants went too. I think I may treat myself to a fresh start this year. We have a lot of itty bitty pots with struggling plants in (my husband has a soft spot for 'runt of the litter plants'). But really, what is the point? Does it give us joy to look at it? will be my criteria for deciding does it stay or does it go.
For inspiration I took a look at Elizabeth MacGregors online catalogue. I have bought plants from here before. They are hardy (grown in Scotland), all half or full litre pots, and very reasonably priced, and there is a huge range of carefully selected varieties. In bold and brave mood I am going for lots of this anemone White Swan...no more ones or twos of anything. (Oops, I haven't looked at the price yet!)
No special deals, two for one, discount if you spend £x, exaggerated claims, emails and repeat catalogues, this week only, no hype of any kind - they do business in a direct, efficient and friendly way. Simple. And very good.
Big steps afoot to simplify the garden this year....
I have made a resolution to stop skiddling about!
Skiddling (one of those expressive Scottish words with no exact equivalent in English) really means messing about in water in a time wasting, pointless kind of way, but in our family it meant doing something in an indecisive way - footering, faffing, getting nowhere, cluttered, scattered, fussy, messy - not knowing quite what you are aiming for but carrying on anyway....am I making myself clear here? Perhaps this example will help.
We're having to think about getting the garden looking great for the charity opening in June. I browsed through my posts about the garden (under Simply Grow) and was struck by this one. No skiddling about here, but the clarity, boldness and simplicity I like. Just the motivation I needed.
Tomorrow, the greenhouse.
So says one of the shareholders of Handelsbanken the Swedish bank who have never been fined for malpractice, don't pay their bosses bonuses, don't advertise ( 'it doesn't make our customers happy to see our name on a football shirt or the side of a bus' ), are rated highest in Europe for customer satisfaction, don't borrow to expand, don't outsource customer services - the list goes on.
Read the interview with the UK boss of Handelsbanken here and be thrilled or bored.
Worth watching (though 90 minutes long and heavy on the chemistry) is Dr Robert Lustig's video Sugar: The Bitter Truth.
A more accessible programme on the same subject of just how harmful sugar can be, is probably Dr Mark Porter on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday at 9pm.
If you looked at yesterday's video of Photoshopping you may see some resemblance between the model in the video (the 'after' shot) and Boticelli's Venus, above, painted around 1485. The enlarged eyes, the straightened nose, the full lips, the small chin, the unrealistic hair and that elongated neck.....?
Just saying. There's nothing new under the sun.
I rather snootishly decided not to honour the Photshop technician (who altered the photgraph of the model) with the title of artist yesterday, but I do have to concede that some people who use Photshop, like Eric Johansson who made this image, are worthy of the name! Clever, isn't it?
Well the awful weather is my excuse! (I did go for a walk in the lashing rain today.) Here are some things I have found....
1 A bargain. Here in UK at www.eastcoast.co.uk you can pick up bargain rail fares. I've just booked Edinburgh to London for an amazing £30 return.
2 I don't expect you come to this blog for shock/horror, but watch carefully here how quickly a (male?) air brush technician can change a normal woman into a Barbie doll. Why do we put up with this?
3 January and bad weather might provide an opportunity to organise all those photographs. For a few tips from a remarkable photographer go to the comments on this post from a couple of days ago. Thank you Lucent. You can link to Lucent's beautiful blog here.
4 More words for 2014! Sarah has chosen doing, and I like Swiss Rose's make-it-happen, and Kristie has chosen the Danish word hygge - see here for an explanation.
Tomorrow Sugar: The Bitter Truth . Be prepared for more shock and horror! What is this blog coming to?
What does the word simply or the phrase live simply mean to you?
I am going to refer you back to a post from April 2010 for my definitions....
Do tell me more of your chosen words for 2014. It's quite a popular thing isn't it? So far we've had enjoy, balance, vim and walk, and less-is-more (Lynne always uses hyphens) and, late addition from Chris, live.
I've decided that the rather mundane word WALK will be my word for 2014.
It doesn't get me excited or inspired, or in any way enthused - it just feels like the right thing to do.
Sometimes you just know.
I have become very sedentary. So whether it is a stroll or a weary plod, a brisk stepping out or a challenging hillwalk, I plan to put one foot in front of the other every day of 2104.
I suspect I will get to like it. I've just got out of the habit!
Do you have a word for this new year?
Storms and flooded roads meant there were no buses or ferries today so postponing my planned trip to the city, I walked down to Coronation Wood and saw this -
The shore path vanished altogether at high tide and sea water has flooded the area. As far as I know no houses have been flooded here, but one wonders about all the little creatures that live in the wood....
and how the bluebells and delicate wildflowers will survive the salt water.
(To find out more about this little woodland project click on Coronation Wood under the banner photograph.)
A month of storms and gales! scream the headlines here in UK. Misery for all! Or as Jeremy Clarkson might say 'January'.
Having battened down the hatches and helped friends and neighbours do the same, I then thought 'OK, what can I do in a month of horrible weather?'
Here's what I've decided -
My natural instinct is to hibernate but I know that's not good for me (I might get a bit depressed, and fat!) so I'm going to upgrade my foul weather clothing in the sales. This is so that I have no excuse not to go out every single day. I have a very old jacket which isn't really waterproof any more, and the new modern ones seem fabulous - lightweight, warm and waterproof.
Take simple living to the next stage!
This is quite exciting for me. I can feel overwhelmed at times - by stuff, by too many decisions to make, by all the terrible things happening in the world, but since I started this blog in March 2010 I've been simplifying my life and home - slowly, slowly - often by asking myself Is there a simpler way to do this? and just doing it.
All sorts of anxieties have arisen and been dealt with, along with a lot of STUFF. So in January I will re-read my blog for each category and see what I can comfortably simplify further. It is about headspace as much (or perhaps more than) physical space. I've read some helpful books, talked with some helpful friends, and found wonderful support and friendship from comments on the blog. It's been a great journey and I would say I'm a happier and more adventurous traveller for it.
See the beauty in the wild weather! I shall do some storm paintings and try to get some good January photographs.
We are opening the garden under Scotland's Garden Scheme in June, so to have household matters well organised and running smoothly by the end of January would free up time to get the garden looking great later. Running a home and family well is like running a small business and as time consuming - no-one tells you that when you dream of a family and a home of your own, do they!
Well that's enough to keep me busy for a bit....
What will you do in January, in foul weather (or fair if you are reading this in the southern hemisphere)?
PS Just looking at yesterday's photograph makes me believe I can do anything!