Like most people, I save photographs. And like most people my age, a lot of those photographs pre-date the digital era. But of course paper deteriorates over time. Some folk who, like me, have collections of old photos in a box in the attic, are tackling the task of scanning them in order to preserve them for future generations. Whether or not future generations will have the slightest interest in my collection I have no idea. And I certainly have neither the time nor energy to scan the hundreds of photos in that big old box. But I decided to nominate a few categories and pick out just a few pictures in each category to be scanned for posterity. Here, then, is the first category. Me.
It feels strange to think that the further back I go, the fewer people there are who remember those earlier versions of me. But looking back at them has been fun.
we visit Italy - which we have been doing every year for the past six or seven
years - it is usually to the Mediterranean coast because I am such a lover of
the sea. But Sky also has a great love of mountains. So this year, as a special
treat for him, I organized a trip to the far north of Italy, to the Dolomites.
usual, we came overland - train from London to Paris, Paris to Zurich and then
down into Italy, watching with fascination as Alpine Switzerland gradually
morphed into Alpine Italy. I had often wondered what it would be like to live
in that border country. So we rented an apartment for a week in the beautiful
little town of Ortisei, nestled in a valley between majestic mountains, where
everybody lives in gorgeous, Tyrolean-style gingerbread houses bedecked with
flowers and you would swear you are on a set for The Sound of Music and yet
people are speaking Italian. However many also speak German and a lot of the
signage is in both German and Italian. This area once was a part of Austria
called South Tyrol but at some point in history it changed hands and became
part of Italy called Trentino-Alto Adige. It is fascinating to see this blend
It would be hard to find
a more picturesque little town than Ortisei, nestling in a little green valley
called the Val Gardena. Here's a view down the main street with Sky in the
And here is a view up
the street in the other direction:
Wood carving is the local cottage industry and there are interesting, innovative examples everywhere you look. (These carved figures have bee colonies living in their tummies!)
For the first couple of days we concentrated
on exploring the town and taking some walks in the valley. Then we bought
ourselves a three-day pass for all the lifts and cable cars, of which there is
quite a variety. We started off by taking a cable car up to Seceda, at seven
...and hiking across the Alpine meadows...
...to an interesting rock formation called Pieralonga.
There, we had a picnic lunch beside a
mountain hut. What a glorious feeling, being on the roof of the world!
The following day, we rode the funicular to Resciesa, high up on the western side
of the Val Gardena.
There, we enjoyed a cup of coffee on the terrace as we gazed out at the
beautiful mountain scenery.
In the afternoon, we took a bus down to Selva at to the other
end of the valley and rode a cable car up on the eastern side to a spot called
Ciampinoi. The views from here were amazing.
On the third day, yet another cable car ride on the eastern side,
this time from Ortisei, took us up to six thousand feet and to the edge
of a glorious, undulating plateau called the Alpe de Suisi, dotted with trees
and criss-crossed by trails, some of which wound their way up into the far
mountains. There, we took two short hikes, one part way down into a shallow valley...
... and the other along the
edge, with magnificent views of the mountains.
After a wonderful week of 'ups and downs' in this delightful
little corner of the Alps, we spent a few days in Verona. The weather was hot and Verona was extremely crowded with tourists...
...especially around the area of 'Juliet's balcony' (so called).
However we enjoyed walking around the city and our little B&B on the bank of the River Adige was a delightful and very atmospheric place to stay.
After Verona, we headed south and east towards the Abruzzo, a rugged mountain region of Italy that we had never visited before. Here, we enjoyed a peaceful week in an apartment in the historic centre of Sulmona. This time there were no crowds, and almost no tourists at all and everything felt very laid back. Sulmona, with its narrow streets and ancient alleyways...
...and its beautifully preserved medieval aqueduct...
...is a most pleasant place to visit...
...and a great base for anyone planning to explore the Abruzzo's several national parks.
One of Sulmona's claims to fame (as well as being the birthplace of Ovid) is its'confetti' stores, of which there are at least a dozen along the main street. Whoever knew that so much could be done with one simple confection, i.e.sugared almonds?!
Yes, all the bright and flowery things you see in this picture are sugared almonds.
It was a great trip to the mountains, to Verona and to Sulmona. And now it's over.
After a four-day train journey via Milan, Geneva, Paris and London, we are home again. (And already planning our next adventure.)
And when I get to the top of this lane, there is another beautiful sight to behold.
The wild orchids have popped up again...
...like they do every year around this time,
despite the rough treatment this ground has seen during the winter, with those big, clumsy agricultural machines that gouge out deep, muddy ruts and hack the hedges around. Nature is so forgiving, so resilient. Will it always be able to bounce back, just as these orchids do? As climate change bites ever more deeply and the sixth great mass extinction picks up speed, what will survive? Who will survive? In a hundred years, a thousand years, will the orchids still pop up each year? Will the campions still reign supreme in the month of May? How many more years will the hawthorn tree outside the bathroom window of our cottage blossom in glory, like it is doing right now and probably has done every year since the cottage was built in 1733?
Who knows? But right now, in this moment, in the midst of all this beauty, and despite the dark despair that so often tries to overwhelm me, I feel blessed. Living in these times can feel schizoid. But as Charles Eisenstein said in a recent essay, "I am fond of saying that no optimism can be authentic that has not visited the depths of despair. But today I have realized a corollary: no despair is authentic that has not fully let in the joy." I think he is right. So much so that when I look at these orchids and I start to cry, I realize that it is neither joy nor grief that makes the tears flow. It is both.
Once again, I have had the pleasure and privilege of editing a book in the GreenSpirit series of ebooks. This latest one has the title Deep Green Living, and it deals with themes that are very dear to my heart. It has a lot of very beautiful writing in it, too. Like several of the other ebooks in the series, it is an anthology. Some of the pieces have been published previously in our GreenSpirit Magazine and some appear in print here for the first time.
The ebook is available through both Smashwords (in all the popular ebook formats) and Amazon, and it costs less than a cup of coffee.
The reason that we at GreenSpirit sell our ebooks for next to nothing is that we are not the least bit interested in making money from them. The only reason we produce them is that we want to introduce our message (about loving the Earth and caring for it) to as many people as we possibly can.
(In fact, we would be perfectly happy to give them away for free. The only reason we don't is that many people like to use the Kindle to read their ebooks and to publish a book on Kindle means you are obliged to set a price.)
I am hoping that some of our readers will take the time to post a review on Amazon or elsewhere. Even just a few sentences and a good rating will make me a very happy bunny indeed. And I know the contributors will be delighted that their work is being read and reviewed.
Click here to read a list of contents, find out more about the book and its contributors and click through to it on Smashwords and Amazon.
Most of us who have been parents will probably recall that our children's behaviour seemed to cycle between periods when everything seemed calm, pleasant and easy and periods when chaos reigned and we started to wonder what we were doing wrong. I remember very well the day, nearly half a century ago, when I discovered a book in our local library that explained how and why this process occurs.
"Research by the Gesell Institute of Human
Development has shown that this pattern of behavior is very common and that
children’s growth is not always steady and progressing from less to more
maturity. Instead, their development follows a course in which smooth, calm
behavior often precedes unsettled, uneven behavior. It is almost as if children
need to take two steps backwards developmentally before taking a huge leap
In fact, all children grow through predictable stages of
development beginning at birth and extending far into their teen years. Some
experts in the field refer to this occurrence as going through periods of equilibrium
versus disequilibrium. Children cycle in and out of times when they are more a
joy to be with, It cycles up and down and in and out of times when their
behavior can be more or less challenging – (disequilibrium). Hence, the “roller
coaster” of child development.
The equilibrium periods can be looked at as a time when your
child is consolidating learned skills; practicing what he has struggled to
master; they are plateaus in development. The disequilibrium periods often
occur as the child is entering a new, quick time of growth and development,
when he is mastering new tasks and working on new abilities."
It was a huge relief
to me to discover that this roller-coaster of psychosocial development
throughout childhood is perfectly normal and not some sign that I was somehow
being a bad parent.
I hadn't thought
about that in years. Until yesterday, when I suddenly found myself wondering
whether the increasing disequilibrium we see and sense all around us as our
materialist, consumerist Western culture starts to come apart at the seams is
in fact part of a similar pattern.
Do humans, collectively, go through a similar set of stages to those we see in individuals? I suspect that maybe we do. There are certainly many 'experts' around today who say that we are now in a new phase of evolution. But we know from history and biology and paleontology that new evolutionary projects don't always proceed smoothly or easily—or even successfully.
If we are indeed "entering
a new, quick time of growth and development, when we are mastering new tasks
and working on new abilities" it will be because we have no other choice.
Overpopulation, the ruthless exploitation of Nature and a
doomed-to-be-short-lived reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels has brought us
to the point where we MUST learn new skills and learn them very quickly if our
species is going to survive at all.
Shall we succeed?
Nobody knows. I feel sad, sometimes, that I shall almost certainly not live
long enough to greet—and enjoy—the next stage of equilibrium. For that will
surely be a time of peace and sustainability, when humans have at last learned
how to live in an ecocentric way, like true Earthlings, knowing themselves to
be a part of Nature and interdependent with all other life forms. If indeed
such a stage is ever reached.
If it is not, well
perhaps it is as well for me that I shall die unknowing and still hoping. That way, on my deathbed, if
I hear the robin singing in the tree outside my window I can die still believing
that there is a chance. I can die thinking that maybe—at least for the next few
billion years till our sun becomes a supernova—there will be robins, and trees for them to sit in, and a song for them