Archive for February, 2023

When I noticed these little funghi growing amongst the gravel I had an old thought jump back into my mind.

For a long time I’ve thought one of the most fundamental paradoxes of human personality is the need to belong and the need to be separate, or to put it another way, the need to be the same, or similar, and the need to be different.

We need both. And, like all human paradoxes, we need both at the same time. I don’t want to feel excluded, to be an outcast or stranger who doesn’t fit in. But I wouldn’t want to fit in so well that I disappeared. I want to belong, but I also want to know and fully express my uniqueness.

How do we do that? How do we hold onto our uniqueness AND the uniqueness of every other person we ever meet, yet find sufficient connections, similarities, commonalities that we know, equally well, that we share so much of our selves, our existence, with everyone else on this little planet?

How do we manage to take care of ourselves and the lives of others at the same time?

By seeing ourselves in context?

I’m sure that’s at least part of the answer. It’s knowing my essence AND knowing my embedded web of connections and relationships, that leads me to fully appreciate my uniqueness. A uniqueness that could only exist in the world/environment/cosmos where we all exist together.

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Have a look at this spider’s web.

The first thing I thought when I noticed this was how beautiful it is. Then I was astonished that a tiny creature could create a complex structure like this all by itself. I can’t begin to imagine how on Earth it does this.

As I looked more closely I was amazed to see how apparently complex, even chaotic, it is. This isn’t one of those webs with regular, concentric circles suspended by radial strands which look like the spokes of a wheel. In fact it’s so complex and random I can’t see any kind of pattern.

It’s maximalist rather than minimalist. You could argue it uses way more thread than is “necessary”, but Nature is like this. It weaves together randomness with redundancy – natural complex systems are as adaptable and resilient as they are exactly because of these characteristics.

So why do we pursue so called “efficiency” driving down costs to maximise profits? Because our system promotes money making over adaptability, resilience and health.

We’re paying a price for that kind of control freakery. Maybe we need to return to our natural teacher?

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4 elements

As I stood looking out over the Mediterranean I saw this.

Water. Stretching in every direction. From this distance it looks calm, almost smooth. But from where I stood I could hear the waves breaking on the rocks, the water spraying into the air then slipping back down from the land into the sea again. Without water, no Life.

Fire. That silver shining strip of light caused by the Sun’s rays sparkling the sea. But it’s a false horizon. Beyond that apparent edge, if you look carefully, you can see more water. The fire of the Sun warms the water and warms the Earth. It’s the source of all our energy. Without the fire of the Sun, no Life.

Earth. Look more closely now, beyond the water on the other side of the sunlight. Can you see shadows? Hazy impressions of something more solid?  The Earth. Islands, other lands, rocks and stones and sand. Earth, the element which changes so slowly. Without earth, no Life.

Air. No, you can’t see the air. But as I stood there I filled my lungs with it. The clear, fresh, sea-scented air. The most invisible of all the elements, constantly changing, as I breathe in and breathe out again. As you breathe in and breathe out again. As all living creatures breathe in and breathe out again. Without air, no Life.

Then look again. Look down at the bottom right hand corner of this photograph. See the tree? Doesn’t she look like she has a fancy hat on? Doesn’t it seem as if she is looking out over the water, the fire, the earth and the air?  It seems to me that she is stretching both her arms up towards the sky and celebrating. A joyful tree.

We share all of this, you, me, everyone we know, everyone we don’t know, and every other living organism on this one, small, finite planet.

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What do you think about this path?


Not very impressive is it? Not sure it would catch your attention at all if you stumbled across it.

But then what about this sign on the wall telling you a little bit about this path, the “Via Aurelia” (nice name, huh?)


Now, I’m sure that’s not a complete listing of all the famous people who have walked along this very path, but even knowing that Napoleon, Emperor Charles V, Macchiavelli and Catherine of Siena, (not to mention the various Popes!), all walked along here completely changes it doesn’t it?

I’m sure that if you were to read some of the stories about where these people were coming from and where they were going to, then this little, apparently unimpressive little path, would take on another quality altogether. Try it for yourself, look some of these people up on the net and imagine the part of their story which describes them walking along this very path.

There’s no doubt in my mind that stories make all the difference. They transform our world.


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How do you deal with obstacles?

When something gets in the way of your project, or if someone blocks you, what do you do?

Confusingly, there are two opposing pieces of advice. Either you interpret it as the universe telling you that you’re going the wrong way, so you change course, or you should think it’s the universe asking you to prove how hard you want whatever it is you’re working towards.

I’ve tried both interpretations, but I must say I don’t find either to be particularly convincing!

What do you do when you come up against the immovable? Push harder? Jump up and down? Scream and shout? Cry “unfair”? Nope, none of those strategies are very satisfying either.

What does a river do?

It flows around it. I like that. I’ve come to think that obstacles, difficulties, opposition and delays are all a part of the rich tapestry of life. I guess what I mean is that I don’t ascribe a greater meaning to them. I don’t think “the universe” is actually trying to tell me anything.

Rather, I’m learning that there will always be bumps in the road, problems to solve, things that break or stop working. My choice is to adapt. That’s what we humans do so well….accept and adapt. We can’t use brute force to make reality conform to our fantasies, but we can always learn more about the nature of reality……or as some say, “every day is a school day”.

But more than that, look, the river does more than flow……it creates beauty as it does it!

This photo is of the River Charente flowing through Jarnac. There’s a road bridge over the river and I was struck by the beauty of the patterns as the water flowed around one of the concrete pillars. Mesmerising.

I thought….there’s a lesson here…..

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moon sky

The Guardian has published 15 quotes from Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, of those books which has so many quotable sentences in it. I’ve read The Little Prince many times, and I’m sure I’ll read it many times more.

One of my own personal favourites is this –

It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

We can all quite easily take a moment to reflect on something – anything – it can be a choice which has presented itself to us, a decision to be made, a person, a relationship or an event.

The way I like to do this is to sit somewhere quietly, take three slow, deep and even breaths, call whatever it is I want to reflect on to my mind, place my hand over the area of my heart, and ask myself the question “What does my heart say about this?”

Give it a few moments and see what, if anything, emerges. It won’t always, but sometimes, suddenly, something seems crystal clear.

I like the second sentence in that quote too – “what is essential is invisible to the eye”. I’m a big fan of that one.

As I looked down through the list of quotes I was remembered this one –

Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? “ Instead they demand ‘How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’ Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

….which is some ways is a continuation of the “what is essential is invisible to the eye”.

Why do we put such emphasis on numbers, when what is most important to each of us is the personal, the subjective, the invisible?

This little scene from “Gregory’s Girl” (from a LONG time ago!) popped into my head –

In particular the line which Claire Grogan says about a minute into the scene.


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This image is one of the ones which makes me very aware of the quality of light. It’s a simple shot of a street in Cognac around mid-day, but I find the light quite magical.

Isn’t it interesting how different the light appears depending on the time and place? Here are some very different examples, all taken in early afternoon light, but all on different days and in different places.

First up, here’s the Saint-Eutrope crypt in the town of Saintes.

The crypt


Then, the Charente river as it flows through Saintes.


Then, the bridge to Île-de-Ré, with the oyster beds in the foreground………

From the Ile-de-Re

In each of these images, the light looks different, partly because the weather conditions are different, but also because where the light hits the land, it reflects back in altered states…..the light illuminating the land, and the land altering the light, so what we see is the result of this intimate, constantly changing relationship.

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Iain McGilchrist, in The Master and His Emissary, says we use our two cerebral hemispheres differently. The hemispheres, remember, control the opposite sides of the body, so the right control the left hand, and the left hemisphere control the right. It’s the same with vision where the right field of vision is the responsibility of the left hemisphere and the left field of the right hemisphere. I’m simplifying here, but you get the idea. In birds which have their eyes on the sides of their heads instead of in the front of their faces, each hemisphere controls the opposite eye but the idea is the same.

The right hemisphere supports a broad, vigilant attention. In a bird the left eye, therefore, is taking everything in to be aware of predators.

left eye

See how this duck is looking at me?

They use the left hemisphere to focus the right eye on details….for example, when picking out food.

right eye

There’s something else interesting about the field of view of interest to each hemisphere.

In we humans, the right hemisphere is more interested in what is far from us….


while the left is more interested in what is close up….



We need to use both hemispheres – a whole brain is better than half a brain! But Iain McGilchrist shows that we’ve all developed a rather bad habit – using the left hemisphere to focus on parts and utility to the extent that we ignore or disregard the right – which seeks out the personal, the particular, the connections and the whole.

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