Reflections and observations on life in general.

Sunday evening..

Inside, soft aroma of fresh paint on canvas….

Outside, clouds bang together and spill their drinks..

The plants are sighing..

Riding the squalls.

All I could do was laugh out loud as the rain ran down my back and onwards via shorts into my shoes, while a sustained blast of wind at my back pushed me homeward faster than I could pedal.

Apart from keeping my mind on staying upright and avoiding potholes, the squalls I had hoped to evade were helping me towards the weekend after a tiring, mentally cluttered week, my mind battered by waves of fatigue, frustration, anger, inspiration, enthusiasm and, occasionally, moments of clarity; metaphorical blue sky between storm clouds.

Video clip here:

A colleague had offered me a lift home, though my bike would have messed up her immaculate car, even if it would have fitted inside, and I preferred to ride through the weather in any case, welcoming the exercise and engagement of my senses and body with the conditions; to avoid this would have kept my mind weary, dull, jaded, despite many positive aspects of the week.

This is one of very many things I find so important and valuable about choosing an active mode of travel, by which I mean walking, cycling, paddling or other mostly human-powered ways of getting about. People have asked me: “don’t you feel exhausted when you get here?” But I feel mostly the opposite, relaxed and “worked” in a healthy, well-being way, more calm and with a greater capacity for equanimity and patience. If I could cycle in every day, my contentment and productivity would be enhanced.

There are studies (sorry, no links just now) that have shown observable improvements in young people’s school performance, behaviour and general sense of well-being if they travel actively to and from school. Likewise in the wider population with respect to both mental and physical health. There is a project starting here to try to support that and early signs are modestly encouraging, given we are starting from a very low base, here in the British Isles.

By the time I arrived home, I was completely soaked through, my shoes emitting little fountains as I walked. A shower after stowing my dripping bike almost felt redundant. I was tired but in what felt a healthy way, satisfied with this conclusion to my working week, any residual negativity washed away.

I wish you a good weekend and clearing mental skies.

New growth… and a new lodger.

As Spring moves towards Summer, I’ve expanded my growing areas for a variety of vegetables. At work, I have taken an opportunity that arose to bring a new but neglected polytunnel from luxurious jungle of “weeds” to more organised and productive space; from a human point of view of course. Several different teachers and a couple of classes of reluctant or downright unwilling pupils have come and gone from the project, so I am the continuity person. I could just leave it until asked to help out but I do actually enjoy spending time there, outside the school buildings where I am mostly occupied. I am also seizing the opportunity to grow things that I can’t find space nor the warmth for at home: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, possibly more if I can find more containers. I’m very open about this, putting the case that having the place in use and demonstrating what you can grow in it are in themselves beneficial to the educational purpose of the structure.

The few students who did come in and transplant peas and broad beans to the raised beds will not now enter for fear of the hordes of small, black, spiders who scuttle everywhere in the warm, humid tunnel and whose tiny offspring leave their invisible abseil ropes dangling from the supports, to make me jump as I feel their light caress on my face when I attend to the plants. The pea plants are beginning to produce sweet, delicious peas already and the broad beans are not far behind. I am accepting my in-kind payment for maintenance and improvements with gratitude, though I’m sharing pods with anybody who does turn up to help; for some, this is their first ever taste of peas direct from the plant, outside of a can or plastic packet.

Fruits of (mostly) my labours…

At home, the spinach is lovely and baby leeks are in their holes, with new beans and beetroot as neighbours. While I was busy filling a bottle with water to pour into the leeks’ holes – gently, so as not to drown or compress the young plants – a small black spider ran past me and in the open door to the cottage, her bag of eggs firmly attached to her bottom, and disappeared into the dark spaces behind the shoes and boots in the hallway before I could put a jar over her (I never intentionally kill a spider). She has clearly and decisively moved in. “Put the kettle on, once you’ve found your room, please”, I said to her, as I returned to my tasks outside.

Swifts are sweeping the air above the rooftops, held aloft by rising notes of evening blackbird song. The wind is dropping and it promises to be a fine evening. The kettle is silent, I guess I’ll just have to make the tea myself but no doubt my new house-mate will make herself useful in other ways and if she keeps to the dark, secret spaces then we can happily share this pleasant little house.

A happy and peaceful weekend to you.

Such things as dreams…

It’s been a busy time, since the New Year, lots of busyness and doing, lots of thinking and imagining…. positive but exhausting. At last a few days free.

Fresh bread,
out of the oven. 
At last to sleep,
perchance to dream...
of loaves...
and fishes?

Leaving wishes.

A short walk in the last sunlight,
stepping over solid and liquid water
to visit a special place
and leave wishes.

An island of rainbows

Last weekend, despite an unpromising weather forecast for medium to strong winds and likely rough seas, from a kayaker’s point of view, I joined others on the Isle of Arran for a couple of days of sea kayaking on the coast of this lovely island.

I must sleep now, to edit this later in the week. For the meantime, here are some photos of my own highlights of the two trips we made…

Words will follow…

I watched friends..

Burning Art – C.Terrell 2019

A long time ago, I watched friends destroy a thing I’d just created.

I was not angry, not sad, not aware of any feeling of hurt or even betrayal. The work was done, an ephemeral assemblage of rocks and driftwood in an unlikely balance on the shore. The purpose for me was in the making, not the duration of its existence. I was content to walk away after a few minutes of contemplation of the result and let whatever would happen proceed: wind, tide, the slow action of gravity over friction, a stranger’s deliberate action or even just the passing of the conditions that allowed such unlikely balance to persist.

“as if seeing another person create and express something represents a …. threat”

I made no intervention, watching from a low clifftop on that bright, sunny evening, nor did I comment on it later. I saw an opportunity to practice letting go of my involvement in the work, to watch events and to observe and notice the questions and sensations that arose in my mind and body; questions of friendship and the nature of these relationships, feelings of disturbance arising and settling within my body, questions about my relationship to my own creative products and of others’ reactions and responses to these things.

On several occasions, I have noticed that there are people who seem deeply unsettled by other people’s creativity, to the point of saying or doing something that will contain, devalue or even damage it, as if seeing another person create and express something represents a fundamental, if sub-conscious, threat. I’m curious about this, is it motivated by fear, anger, jealousy, feeling slighted or somehow displaced, briefly, from being a centre of attention? Is it something else entirely?

In those moments, as I sat apart and watched, a seagull gliding by on warm evening air, I felt I’d got to know another side of these friends, a better measure of the nature of these relationships.

Ephemeral or enduring? Which of these words will describe a particular relationship? Back then, I began to realise that how much its existence depends on conditions is what determines the durability of any relationship. Experiences since then have given me a clearer understanding of this. Friendship, like stacked rocks, can depend on an unlikely conjunction of conditions, sometimes as unlikely and ephemeral as those small boulders on that distant beach; wind blows, tides advance, somebody throws a stone or tries to add another…

C.Terrell 2016

Secret Places.

walking through woods,

finding secret places,

imagining tree-houses

in which to sit and breathe the

rich green-brown-scented air,

and watch as

clouds reveal the sun,

leaves reveal the fall.

Evening views and wine

It’s Friday and it’s been a productive day, preparing for the increasing return of students to school, putting things in place, and in motion. Much has been happening in the wider world, this week, but my energy is focused on my day job and then on building what I hope will be the foundations of something new, interspersed with the mundane tasks of maintaining my body and mind, a car, my dwelling, even putting out some food for the birds in this cold and hungry time. I am of necessity concentrating on what I can best influence and change, just now. This leaves me with a small nagging sense that I should be in some way “doing my bit” in the bigger issues and, to some extent I am, within the limits of the time and energy I have.

And so, after work, a sunset walk to the estuary:

The tide is changing,
Quietly, unseen,
But a new land is emerging,
While stars rise
And fall and 
Restless birds call and fly and settle
For a short, nervous, while
On mud and marsh, 
A pause in a lifetime of alertness 
And change.
Time to open wine from 
Nearby neighbours and
Speak the tongue of another;
Keeping bridges open,
We will need them again.

Have a good weekend.

evening view across the Forth to the Ochil Hills

The Rumour of Distant Birds… and Guns.

Yesterday dawned crystalline clear and cold, ice crystals sparkling in the sunlight on nearly every surface outside. I had seen the weather forecast and planned to walk down the estuary to a spot at the southern end of the old Kincardine swing bridge to make some video clips for an online course I’m putting together. I wanted to walk there, welcoming the exercise and opportunity to spend time in the outdoors.

The brilliant white of snow-topped mountains against clear bright blue skies tugged at my heart and for a while I felt a surge of yearning each time I gazed towards them, imagining the feel of my boots on hard-frozen snow and the sharp cutting sensation of breathing sub-zero mountain air, the sense of a vast blue-white spaciousness all around me.

Three things helped me allow that yearning to pass through: recognising the need for supporting the present self-restraint on non-essential movements, wanting to get the video footage and make real progress with a project that’s taking more time than I had hoped. Also an awareness that this feeling is part of something deeper, an attachment to or desire for something hard to articulate but that I need to find inside myself, whatever the situation around me; to examine this blue-white spaciousness experience… where is it really happening?

As I walked through crisp and crunchy grasses on the estuarine meadows, wary, alert flocks of waders and water-birds whistled, curlewed and took flight, too far away for my phone camera to capture in more than pixellated impressionistic quality. Far off, in woodlands on the north side of the estuary, guns boomed sporadically, like blots of ink flicked at a brilliantly coloured painting. Birds transformed to dishevelled bundles of feathers for the pastime of the well-fed. I kept on walking, sending a wish for the shooters to experience my quality of eyesight when they looked up, to see no more than a pixellated impressionistic quality of flight too fleeting to aim at. The ink faded in the brightness of the light, thoughts and impressions flashing like the scintillating light on needles of ice.

Standing beside the water, later, by the squat legs of the old bridge, whose swinging days are, sadly, over, a spacious peace settled, regardless of the rumble of motor traffic over the bridge. Wisps of water vapour rose from the sunlit walls of the drainage canyons cutting through the meadow towards the mud flats. Flocks of birds gathered a few hundred metres away, looking relaxed and at ease on the mirror-smooth water. Far off clouds of steam and vapour rose from the Grangemouth refineries, looking today like cloud-factories in a pristine sky. The mud underfoot was hard-frozen, crunching like mountain snow, while around me I felt a blue-white-green expanse; estuary or mountain top? No real difference, now, land-water-sky blending.

On the walk back, following the dyke that keeps new fields from becoming lagoons at high tide, I saw four Egrets rising from a drainage ditch below me, the first time I’ve ever seen them myself here in the British Isles. My video camera has no zoom and my phone has no image stabilisation, so a few seconds of captured flight are too vague to share here. One of the birds flew by when my phone was deep in a warm pocket, a perfect photo that will never be, except in my mind and memory, repeating the bright white of the Ochil hills against the sky, a graceful movement on blue.


Today, on the way back from work in Stirling at sunset, thick mist and fog was rising from the River Forth. I drove down to the riverbank at South Alloa, sensing misty mysterious photo opportunities; I was rewarded.

Across the water, in Alloa, the industial sites sent muffled continuity of machinery sounds across the smooth grey-reflecting water. The first day back in the school, almost empty of staff and students, has been productive and positive, I felt a relaxed calm despite the intense and increasing cold creeping all around with the damp mist.

It would have been fine to float and slowly paddle, as silently as possible, along the invisible interface of water and misty air in my kayak… another day, when the tide is higher. I could glide over to Alloa Inch and into hidden channels among the settling birds there, what was farmland now a reserve. Their evening calls were drifting over through thickening grey mist. Occasionally, I saw a shadowy form flying through the mist, fading just enough into view to be perceived before fading away again and leaving just a harsh call behind.

I stood for a few minutes, warming my hands in my pockets, looking out beyond the edge of the muddy bank and into the grey space of water and air, a small flock of indistinct water birds moving slowly against the current and away towards the invisible island. I felt a deep winter evening stillness, a pause before going home to the fragile privilege of warmth and light and food. I thought of how it would be to sleep here tonight, in a thin shelter, wrapped in as much clothing as possible, with only cold food to eat, which is all the birds have, after all. I recalled winter mountain camping, sitting inside the entrance to my tent, eating, washing up and then sleeping as soon as possible, conserving warmth but comfortable too, breathing the warm air inside the sleeping bag; my human equivalent of putting my beak beneath my wing to sleep.

The car was still slightly warm inside, I had digital tasks to do this evening, it was time to return, to make soup, to type and download and make sandwiches. And as I turned on the radio, the rumour of distant guns, from across the bigger water, where the fragile birds of democracy, constitution and law are looking for an opportunity to rest and roost and rearrange their feathers.

I send you all hopeful good wishes.