I never cease to be amazed by the sunlight. In this photo it’s like there is more sun than the sky can handle! It’s bursting out and radiating everywhere.

Generally it’s not a good idea to take a photo directly towards the Sun but in this case I didn’t want to capture just the colours in the clouds. I wanted to include the source, the Sun itself, to show these radiant, red beams as a part of an overwhelmingly abundant diffusion of energy and power.

The Sun provides ALL the energy needed for Life on Earth. In fact we living creatures only capture and use a tiny fraction of the energy made available to us.

I think this is something we often forget. We live in an abundant universe. We live in an abundant planet. But we don’t live that way. Instead we live with scarcity. The dominant economic and political system is based on consumption. It rewards those who grab the most for themselves and ignores waste and pollution. It’s literally killing the planet.

But wait, if we live in abundant universe what’s wrong with consuming more and more? Well there’s a difference between abundance and infinity. We live on a finite planet.

Nature doesn’t destroy and doesn’t produce waste. It transforms. Ecosystems achieve dynamic balance amongst a diverse host of living creatures, each one thriving and benefiting from the health of the whole.

There is enough energy flooding the Earth to allow Life to flourish. We could shelter, feed and sustain everyone on the planet. We could learn to live according to the principles of Nature and develop the tools and technologies which allow us to thrive without waste and without destroying the very planet we depend on.

There is an abundance of love if we want to manifest it. There is an abundance of intelligence and creativity if we want to nurture it. There is an abundance of passion and will if we choose to release it.

Think what life could be like if we drew on those sources, those powers. Think how we might all thrive if we channeled that into caring for the Earth and Life.

I came across a piece by the author Ben Okri the other day. It was in Resurgence magazine. He wrote

In the past we have used fear. We have thrown at people the distressing facts, the numbers, the temperatures, the loss of species.
Fear doesn’t work. Guilt doesn’t work.
So I thought that maybe love might work. With fear we act hastily, unsteadily. With love we act wisely, comprehensively.

I think love is the highest economy of life. It is the most efficient force for civilisation.

Nothing else can save our world but love. For love is the last power that stands between us and extinction. When we act with love, we act with all the powers in the human spirit. No other quality comes close to bringing out the genius of the human. Toughness will fail, and will exhaust itself in the end. Only love is cosmic. Only love is endless.

Always wonderful

At this time of year, at this time of day, I’ll step outside to close the pale blue wooden shutters on the windows of my south facing Charentaise house and I’ll look up at the sky.

Just after the sun has sunk below the horizon the darkening sky glows pale pinks, oranges and tobacco at the edges, and just above the old wall, to the side of the spreading mulberry tree, I see a crescent moon and Venus shining brightly.

I pause. I gaze. I breathe. I delight. I wonder.

Thank you.

Thank you for this universe, for this Earth, for this Life. All always filled with wonder.

As tall as the house

We planted some sunflower seeds earlier this year. Most of them have grown taller than me but one in particular has grown as tall as the house….up to the eaves of the roof. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so tall. Look at its seed head. It’s huge. I don’t really capture just how immense it is in this photo. I’ve honestly never seen such a big sunflower.

Why did this one grow so much taller than the others?

I don’t know but there are a small group of the tallest ones growing where I used to have a compost bin so I’m guessing that the rich soil has a lot to do with it.

That reminds me of something we often forget and it’s something every gardener knows. If you want health, you need to attend to the soil….or the environment.

The circumstances of our lives are crucial in affecting our lives, our wellbeing and our health. If we want healthy populations we need to supply the right environments…..in terms of housing, food, water, care and respect. Without that humans don’t grow so well.

But there’s more because only one of the sunflowers in this part of the garden has grown this tall. Is that down to genes? To inheritance? Or to micro differences in that patch of the garden? Or to how the plants experienced the weather this year?

I don’t know but it reminds we that we are all different, we are all unique, and that diversity is the natural condition of the world.

Still, we don’t achieve our full capabilities, don’t express our full uniqueness and potential without good “soil”, without nurture and care.

A crossing

Back home to France.

Last night I crossed over from England to France. I left Stirling early in the morning and had a long drive down through England to Portsmouth.

That’s Portsmouth harbour at night as the ferry left port.

The next photo is what I saw when I woke at six am. A smooth, deep blue water stretching as far as I could see, meeting a sky, not quite lit up by the dawn sun yet. Then the flash of a lighthouse caught my eye and looking more closely I could see the outline of the French coast.

The third photo, the long one, is taken as the ferry enters Saint Malo harbour, another lighthouse, echoing the first one, the sky lightening up and the land ahead becoming clearer.

Then another few hours driving down to the Charente.

It feels good to have travelled, lucky to have found an opening in the Covid regulations to let us see family again for the first time in a year. Blessed to have shared time and place back in my Scottish roots, and fortunate to be able to travel back to France, residency card in hand.

It was an ambition of mine to live in a different culture and language at some point in my life so when I turned 60, seven years ago, we sold up and moved, lock, stock and barrel, to France.

The Channel, or La Manche, might not be the biggest stretch of water separating two countries but each time I’ve made the crossing I’m acutely and instantly aware of the fact I’m moving from one culture to another.

We humans have always had a tendency to move around this Earth, and the artificial barriers we erect to separate our communities from each other have been redrawn repeatedly throughout history.

We tend to regard the States we live in as permanent but you don’t have to look back over many years to see quite clearly that’s just not true.

So as I make this crossing again I wonder about how the world might change, not just because of climate change and pandemics, but because of political movements, changing cultural values, and the fact that we are more obviously interconnected and interdependent now than ever.

There’s our challenge – to savour and champion our uniqueness and diversity while bringing our connections, deepening our relationships and enlarging the horizons of our compassion.

A journey

I’m crossing the English Channel, or La Manche, tonight. Not on a sailing boat like one of these beauties but in a car ferry.

However, one of the things which strikes me about these boats and the car ferry is how many people are working together to set sail.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a roll on, roll off ferry, but boarding, sailing and disembarking are highly co-ordinated team events. The staff direct you to particular lanes marked out on the dockside then load up the boat so that the “garages” are both full and balanced, from side to side and front to back.

What this makes me think about is a teaching I once heard from Thich Naht Hanh where he took a piece of paper and told the stories of its origin, highlighting the importance of everything from the Sun and clouds to farmers, loggers and paper makers. It’s a beautiful teaching which demonstrates clearly just how interconnected we are.

In fact this kind of insight is taken to an even deeper level when we consider the interdependencies of species and environments. The complex ecosystems and food chains on which our very existence depends.

It shows us how limited it is to think in terms of separateness and individualism. None of us could live the lives we live without a myriad of others.

That stirs my feelings of gratitude and humility. It’s awe inspiring.

The ocean

I have a lot of photos like this – well, when I say “like this” I mean a photo of water and sky. Of course, this particular photo is different from all the other ones. No other photo of mine shows a mostly green stretch of water with a completely different blue band beyond it, and such a pale blue sky above.

Something else catches my attention here. The green water seems a whole degree calmer than the blue. Look carefully and you’ll see all the breaking waves sparkling white on the surface of that further away stretch. More than that, the change isn’t gradual, it’s sudden. It’s as if there is a boundary running through the ocean itself.

But what draws me again and again to these images, and even more, to the experiences of actually standing on the coast somewhere gazing out over the seemingly endless ocean.

There is something transcendental about the sight, the sound and the smell of the ocean. It dissolves the close boundaries of the self. It makes me feel very alive.

It heightens all the senses, evokes wonderful memories and stirs the imagination.

A splash in the ocean

You could say that every one of us is so small in this vast universe that our lives are just drops in the ocean. I’ve felt that from time to time. Tiny, insignificant and powerless. In fact in the face of climate change, pandemics, political actions by those in power, it’s hard to feel otherwise.

But then I look at an image like this again and I feel different. I see beauty, uniqueness and the undeniable reality that vast landscapes, shorelines and mountain ranges are shaped by just this – one event at a time, one interaction at a time, one unique moment at a time.

Sometimes our actions bring about obvious and large changes, but mostly they are more subtle, stretching out their fingers of significance over vast timescales, cascading and rippling through the infinite web of connections we call this universe.

Every one of us is as unique as that sunlit glowing radiant splash of water jumping high into the sky, soaking and shaping the rocks and the shorelines where we meet the Other.

Every one of us speaks, acts, and creates; our every breath, every choice, every lived moment contributing to the changes which create this amazing world we live in.

We are beautiful, you and I. We are powerful. We are unique.

We are all a wonderful splash in the ocean. Here and now. In this instant, in this place, in this one precious life we are living.

As above, so below

The photo on the left here is a full moon seen through a tree in winter. The one on the right is the reflection of the sky on water twenty metres down an old well in my garden.

I came across these photos side by side today and I think they work really well together. Both of these images are about reflected white light….the light of the Moon which is, of course, the light of the Sun reflected, and the light of day glistening on the surface of the water deep down in the well.

Both meld distances together, foreground, middle ground and background with both the near and the far. In so doing, along with the spherical shapes in each photo, it makes each photo very pleasingly holistic.

Maybe that’s why every time I look at these images I hear the words “as above, so below”.

Perhaps you’re familiar with that saying from old esoteric or alchemical writings, but it’s a phrase which speaks to me of the echoes, resonances and symmetries we find in the world, and which points to the essential truth of the inseparability of the invisible and the visible, of the mind and the body, of the subject and the object, of the immaterial and the material.

I think it’s time to start shifting our focus from parts to wholes, time to engage with people more than diseases, time to become aware of our interconnectedness and our interdependence.

Little delights

I was wandering around the streets of Edinburgh the other day and came across this.

I often talk to you about l’émerveillement du quotidien or the wonder of the everyday and of course this little pink bicycle parked in the cycle rack does make me wonder about who is the child who owns this, what this says about their character and, of course about the incredible capacity of human beings to learn through copying what others do.

But on top of that I reckon this is just delightful. It made me smile when I came across it and it makes me smile again now.

Even if this didn’t set me off wondering (slim chance of that!) it reminds me of the importance and power of everyday delights.

I hope this makes you smile too, and that you, too, encounter some little delights today.

We all love a beautiful sunset don’t we? When the sky turns pink or golden I go to the window, or out into the garden for a better look. Tourists flock to the places where you get the best view of the setting sun.

Yet doesn’t the sunset mark the end of a day? I suppose it does, but it doesn’t feel like loss to me. It feels satisfying, uplifting and delightful.

So perhaps it’s understandable that my mind connected the experience of a sunset to the thoughts I’ve been having recently about the world entering the end of an era.

Is it? Are we really transitioning now from one world to another? From one way of living to another?

You could argue that evolution and development show us that change is a permanent feature but it feels that in this time of pandemic and climate change we are really seeing the sun setting on one era and the Earth rising into a new one.

So here’s my hope. A sea change. Or, more precisely, a “C” change.

I hope we are seeing a major shift from Control to Curiosity and from Consumption to Care.

I could go on – there are several other values and principles beginning with “C” which I hope will emerge but that’s for a larger piece of writing.

Let me just say today that I hope we are indeed entering a new era and that we will start to emphasise curiosity over control. This pandemic and the recent extreme weather events have shown us we can’t control the environment we live in. We need to promote curiosity so we can better understand how to live in a rapidly changing world, how to adapt, and how to thrive in the natural world. I hope we will start to emphasise care over consumption. Getting people to buy more stuff, consume ever more, ever more quickly, seems a rubbish idea to me. But there are millions of people who need more and better care.

I’ll leave you with that thought. Take it, play with it, consider it, debate it. I’d be interested to know what you think.