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Microadventures: Where the Sea Resides….

As I’m on a quest to Walk 1000 miles this year, I seem to be manifesting some fantastic microadventures to make my quest even more interesting.  I found myself recently heading to the North Wales coastline (one of my favourite coastlines),  to glamp by the sea. Did you know there’s around 250 miles of North Wales coastline?

A trip to the coast is a delight for all of your senses. Take a deep breath in and then release slowly.  Taste the salty air, and let your taste buds imagine what treats are to come.  Stand near to crashing waves and let your skin feel the refreshing spray. Curl bare toes in the sound, letting the grains of rocks and minerals which make up the sand, caress and exfoliate.  Block out any negative thoughts with the sound of the sea lapping lazily on the seashore or the swirl of the waves as they build up, find momentum and then violently spill out all over the rocks and cliffs. Cast your gaze to the gulls drifting idly out to sea or to the boats bobbing to the motion of the ocean.

When I was young, the seaside played a big part in my life. Since my Nan’s ultimate dream was to move to North Wales by the sea, our holidays were always heavily beach related in North Wales.  Buckets and spades, frilly hats, jelly shoes and sun block were on the ‘to pack’ list whilst burying cousins in the sand, over eating ice cream, shell collecting and my Nans’s favourite ‘paddling’ was on the ‘to-do’ list.  As I reached the age of 10 or 11, school friends would holiday in the south of France,  Spain and even more exotic places. They’d ask me why I never went on holiday?  I can remember my favourite teacher stepping in and explaining to them that you didn’t need to go on a plane to go on holiday.

Going to the seaside is a typically British thing to do isn’t it?  The seaside holiday was at its peak in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Families flocked to the coastline to stay in guest houses, B&Bs and campsites,  a stone’s throw from the promise of a splashing good time and a distraction of the previous decade.  I think seaside holidays are coming back in fashion - I don’t think they ever really went out….

The health benefits of spending more time around water and in particular by the sea are of increasing interest to science.   There are many reports of people ‘feeling calmer’ by the sea, perhaps some clue in that is our body is made up of mostly water.  Still, I’m not one for needing hard facts and evidence to convince me that exposure to the sea is good for my wellbeing. I’ve seen it first hand time after time!

Now an adult, I’m extremely fortunate to live so near to the North Wales coastline. These days, beach time is a little different compared to the microadventures I shared with my Nan, but I love her for sharing and passing on her adoration for the seaside.  I lust beaches which offer coastal walks (Aberystwy to Clarach Bay is a lovely coastal walk) so I’ve to trade the jelly sandals in for more sturdy hiking boots.  I prefer to stay in quaint, quirky and more natural accommodation like the Wig-Wam I recently stayed at, which was adorable, rather than jam-packed caravan sites (sorry Nan).   I love to visit beaches out of season when they’re less crowded and dog friendly (Porthor - Whistling Sands being one of my favourites). Although, some things don’t change….  Bel seems to insist on digging herself or me in the sand, and I still over-eat on ice cream!

The UK is made up of such small islands that you’re never that far away from the coast or a beach.  It’s a perfect place for a microadventure combined with a spot of camping or glamping. I’ve not yet satisfied my salty appetite (I never will) so next month, I’m travelling to South West Wales to enjoy the Pembrokeshire award winning coast whilst at The Big Retreat Wales.

You, me and the sea - won’t you microadventure with me?

Embracing the Elements

We’re currently at the time of year when the weather throws almost everything it has at us, often in the space of a single day. It’s not unknown in these parts to have sudden snows followed by fast thaws in April (last year’s alarmingly submerged garden being a case in point). Days can start off bright and sunny, if stingingly cold, only to turn dark and stormy a few hours later. Suddenly, as the rain hammers against the windows, that planned afternoon walk doesn’t seem like such a good idea after all.

And yet… There are times and places when the bluster is to be embraced. I looked up the meaning of ‘Elements’online and the definition(s) were very interesting. These, in particular:

‘…strong winds, heavy rain, or other kinds of bad weather’

and

‘…a person's or animal's natural or preferred environment’.

The two can go together.

There’s something incredibly life-affirming about walking up on the moors on a dark, gusty day. Perhaps it’s those Bronte novel evocations: hurrying across the spongy moss and springy heather whilst rooks circle above and gnarled, stooped old hawthorns are bent further sideways by the wind. Or simply the wild, rugged landscape providing the perfect foil for leaden skies and howling gales.

An empty beach on a stormy afternoon can be a wonderful place. The waves crashing and the smell of ozone, the blackness of wet rock and the sheer desertedness can, in an odd way, be balm for the soul. Just as with homeopathy and its basic philosophy of curing like with like, time spent outdoors embracing the elements can actually help still a turbulent mind. You become aware of your place in the universe; you gain perspective and step out of any troubling thoughts. As the wind stings your face and your eyes water, as the whistling and crashing replaces any internal chatter, you become more aware of what’s surrounding you rather than what’s going on within.

Yes, a beach is beautiful on a still summer’s day. So is a meadow, or a clearing under the trees. If I get time alone during the temperate months I sometimes escape to a little secret spot of mine, high on some banking above the woods and river. I lie back in the long grass and listen to the hum of the insects. I feel the warmth from the sun and the ground beneath me, and watch the white clouds above.

But if we only went outdoor adventuring in ‘good’ weather – well, we’d spend an awful lot of our time indoors. Particularly in Britain.

So, what to do during those long weeks where all it seems to do is rain? Some of us may subscribe to the Scandinavian notion that ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’. We might pull on the waterproofs and wellies and get out there anyway. Others may just decide that we’d rather stay home and dry. What then?

Rather a long time ago, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Proximity’. It was all about my dreams of a veranda where I could sit on rainy or snowy days and observe the weather and the garden, perhaps from under a blanket. I’d still be dry and warm but I’d be able to breathe in the damp earth smell, listen to the birds, hear the rain falling on the roof above me. We can still protect ourselves from the elements without being sealed behind double glazing, cocooned by central heating, separated from the outdoors. Veranda or not – taking shelter in a greenhouse or a garden shed brings us that bit closer to nature.

When we first moved to this house (around 18 months ago) I hated our bedroom. The ceiling is vaulted to show off the heavy oak beams. The sound of passing tractors and quarry trucks seemed super-amplified without any attic space above us and I tried to convince my other half to put in a false ceiling, insulated to muffle any unwelcome sounds. I didn’t get my way and, admittedly, I’m glad. There’s nothing more comforting on a night when the rain’s coming down in stair rods than lying in bed with a book and listening to it hitting the slates.

As a child, I’d stand with my brother, the front door wide open, watching thunderstorms. The thrill of seeing the road transform into a river, the lightening crackling across the sky whilst we were safe, even if just inches away from it, was something not to be missed. It was on just the right side of daring. Not for me, hiding under the bed! It was doing something a little bit dangerous but without any real danger there, the meteorological equivalent of putting just the one toe onto the ice before jumping back again.

Have you experienced the outdoor places you love, the special ones, where you’re in your ‘element’, in all weathers? (Perhaps not the woods on a windy day, from a purely common sense point of view). I don’t know why, but some of mine always draw me there on wilder days. Just like some of them are, to me, very autumnal or wintry places, these spots call out to me when the weather turns.

Of course, as well as blowing away the cobwebs, there’s something rewarding about coming home again with red cheeks and smarting ears and tangled hair. You appreciate those home comforts all the more. Perhaps it’s all about contrasts, extremes even. You have to experience one in order to fully appreciate the other.

The Intentional Home

A broom left out of the cupboard, a door half-opened, a book with the page folded over (surely signifying something of importance to the reader), a linen curtain, pulled aside. This house is lived in. Yet, something is different. Careful consideration has been taken in choosing the linen drapes: raw edges but of a thick, quality material; the dishes on the kitchen shelves are imperfectly shaped: handmade; the home is decorated with natural elements, in a way that seems neither to disturb the elements nor the domestic quality of the house: simply, nature brought indoors.

Glimpse into the intentional home and you will find life; a bit of mess, some laundry and a dish or two in the sink. However, you are also likely to come across well-made items of a sturdy material, handmade ceramics, a couple of rustic storage bins and a soft, dreamy bed. The considered home is one of purposefully chosen items, meaningful exchanges, and comfort away from the hurried world. It is aesthetically pleasing without taking away from the functionality and comfort that it offers. The intentional home is a refuge from worries and gives meaning to those that dwell within the shelter it provides.

I began learning about creating an intentional household years ago when the slow living movement was still being brought to life. However, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I actively strived for it. I was coming out of a very busy year and wanted the new one to be less hurried, more meaningful. I work from home and as a mother, spend a lot of time in the house with my young baby, so I knew if I wanted to create more meaning in my life, it had to begin with my home.

Through my experience of creating a more intentional household, I have learned a lot about “home” and how deep a meaning it holds for us... Our home is our shelter, our nest. It keeps us safe from the elements, and provides a soft place to land. It is a nesting ground, if you will. Yet, it serves as more than just a functional necessity. “Home” is the center of our world, the hinge on which our lives revolve.

So, what is ‘the intentional household’ made of?

  1. Items that matter: the intentional household is one that has been cleared of clutter... the things left are the things that matter: the things we use daily, the things we know we will need, the things that bring us joy each day just by being there. Photos and keepsakes are important parts of our homes, too, and as long as each has been considered and deemed meaningful, should not be considered clutter.
  2. Handmade items: whether it be a collage your child made or a homemade loaf of bread, handmade items are an important part of homemaking. Making things in our homes helps us to feel more a part of our homes, and thus more content with them. One can also buy handmade items from others. Buying handmade can bring so much joy to our homes; it celebrates artists and makers and their small businesses, and allows us to hold something unique and made with dedication.
  3. Quiet moments: we cannot create intentional homes if we cannot find moments to be still and intentional ourselves. Quiet moments are vital to awareness and reflection. We can make our homes more fitting for these moments by adopting a concept from the Danish, called “hygge.” In English, it means ‘coziness’ and is often associated with welcoming spaces, warm blankets and candles. These things can help us create a sense of calm and relaxation in our homes.
  4. Simple food: the intentional household is intentional through and through. The kitchen too, will have been considered: what ingredients you keep stocked up will depend on your family’s needs, but having a well-stocked kitchen keeps us prepared for making things from scratch, and thus being able to make things ourselves.
  5. Good company: put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Be aware of the people who are there with you. Yes, you may see them every day, but don’t become blind to what is right in front of you. Talk face to face, without distractions. Sit down for dinner together. Make something together. Even if you live alone, make an effort to invite others over. Our homes should be a place where we spend quality, meaningful time with the ones we care about.

The intentional home is a place of comfort, of consideration, of thoughtfulness. It is a soft place to land, a nesting ground. It is lived in: a tea towel, tossed on the table after a hurried breakfast, a book, left open, a blanket, unfolded... yet everything: considered. The intentional home captures our lives in a tangible way. It envelopes the things that give our lives meaning, and it is these things...like a book whose spine creaks from too much handling...that bring the intentional home to life.