Posts tagged Reconnect
The Value of Creative Connection
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Living slowly can be difficult when you’re also running a business, making time for family and trying to remember you do actually have friends and they’d like to see your face occasionally. I try to achieve this lifestyle, nonetheless, by seeking connections to what surrounds me in day-to-day life. To what I eat, what I wear, who I speak to. It is these connections that help us feel life isn’t just passing us by in a blur of rushed meals and soon-forgotten meetings.

I’ll admit it is easy to lose sight of these things when I’m lost under a sea a fabric with just over five minutes to turn it into something resembling the garment in my head. This is why I find connecting with others on this journey so grounding. Being part of a community with similar aspirations for a slow and seasonal life is a constant and beautiful reminder of what is real and important.

The world of online interaction can have plenty of downsides but the one resounding benefit it brings is the ease with which we can make these connections. Shared thoughts and ideas are just a click away and introductions can be forged with ease. Relationships begin with those you would never be so lucky to meet in other circumstances. If and when the opportunity arises to meet in person, foundations for a meaningful and valuable connection have already been set.

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I’ve been so fortunate to attend all the Creative Countryside gatherings and community meet-ups, and each time I leave with fresh inspiration and vitality. This is a community excited by slow and seasonal living, passionate about creativity and eager to share ideas and unearth fresh, unique points of view in return.

I’ve discovered the sense of peace to be found in a mindfulness walk, created delicious herb butter from foraged ingredients, felt myself disappear completely into some other realm in a guided meditation, received some empowering business advice, and even enjoyed a little tree-hugging to boot. Each experience is unique, beautiful and infinitely more so thanks to the kind-hearted folk whom I’ve been so blessed to share them with.

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This community is ever growing, not necessarily in size but in value. Every shared thought or moment contributes, and I’m all the more tranquil, creative and contented as a result. Thank you to those who made this happen – thank you to our community.


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.


The Creative Countryside Community is open for new members until November 15th. More information here.

The Slow Everyday

“Slow living is conscious, intentional, mindful, and living deeply.”

(source)

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The slow living philosophy is growing. We are (slowly) coming to the realisation that a fast-paced consumerist society is not the key to happiness or fulfilment. Instead, we crave a less-is-more approach with a focus on quality of life, in whatever form that takes for each individual.

For some, that might mean a huge lifestyle change - opting for a tiny home; changing jobs; keeping chickens - but for others it might just be that extra twenty minutes in the morning, sat in candlelight with a simple breakfast and mug of tea. The varied individual approaches matter very little; of more importance is the idea we should savour every minute instead of count them.

Last month, a break away from the norm forced me to explore my own vision of slow living, and question whether or not I’d been embracing it fully; perhaps unsurprisingly, I returned home with a head full of changes I wanted - needed - to make.

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Family-owned Warborne Farm sits in the south of the New Forest, not too far from the coast. Run on organic principles for the past three decades, it is very much still a working farm, and tractors chug in and out of the yard daily, much to my son’s delight! Dan and I visited with Monty (18 months at the time) and stayed in the Grain Loft, a rustic barn conversion on the first floor. Monty’s favourite part was - by far - the walk on window, through which he could see chickens pecking all day long. Each morning of our visit began with a request to go see the chickens, but 6am was a little early for the birds, and all was still dark below until around 7.

With no real agenda, the days began slowly, wrapped up reading books in bed and padding through to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and begin making breakfast. Candles were lit at every meal, and instead of rushing to finish and move on to the next activity, we lingered at the table, happy to chat and read a few pages more.

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Staying in the New Forest meant a daily walk was of course on the cards. We ventured into the woods searching for ponies and falling autumn leaves, and stretched our legs on the heath to find cows, cobwebs and drizzling rain.

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Back at the farm, we picked tomatoes, herbs and garlic for dinner that evening. Eggs from the chickens were a staple during our stay, too. We’re no strangers to growing our own - our veg patch feeds our extended family throughout the year, and we’re self-sufficient in many things over the summer months - but in a different location I was reminded how enjoyable these tasks can be. Every action can bring pleasure, if approached with the right mindset.

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Almost a month has passed since we returned from our trip to Warborne, and slowly, I’m making some changes. A single beeswax candle burns in the centre of the table for each meal; a celebration of the meal ahead. We’ve slowed our morning routine to incorporate reading in bed as a family, not rushing to move downstairs too soon. I’ve also stopped pressurising myself to do activities and trips with Monty, choosing instead to embrace the slow everyday; collecting windfall apples, meandering around the top field, pausing to look at berries and leaves, tractor-watching around the village. Sometimes a look at someone else’s everyday is enough to make you re-prioritise your own. Thank you Warborne Farm for being that reminder.

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Collaboration Note:  Thank you to Fanny and George at Warborne Farm for inviting us to stay.  All words, thoughts and images are my own. 

Back to Basics

Growing up in a rural setting by the coast, I was dubious about moving to the city. Although I adored the pastoral landscape, I was curious about the change and knew I had a chance of finding work there. Admittedly Bath isn’t London, but sooner or later it became easy to adapt to the urbanised habits of a city-dweller, though I have never lost my desire for the outdoors. Any chance I get to ramble in the country, or drive towards the coast, I grasp firmly with both hands. But am I happy in the city? The truthful answer is both yes and no.

Having found myself working tirelessly between two jobs and juggling a master's degree, I relish the idea of going back to basics living more than ever before. Despite my childhood desires I had never been camping before, so my partner and I packed his tent into the car and set off for Pembrokeshire.

Over a long weekend, we went without electronics, our camera proving the exception. Dinner consisted of a boil-in-a-bag meal, cooked over our camp stove and we ate outside under the stars. I couldn’t help but smile as we boiled water by the road-side, boots muddied by the mountain bog. Driving to get lost, scaling hillsides in the mist, the back-to-basics lifestyle had caught me by the hips and dragged me into my own reckless means of survival. I found a warm sense of comfort in hauling back to the simple things.

A key activity on our trip was to uncover the fabled resting place of King Arthur in the heart of the Preseli Mountains. Bedd Arthur is said to be found towards the end of The Golden Road, a historic tradepath across the backbone of the hills. Like all good road-trips it didn’t quite go according to plan, but then that was part and parcel of the beauty of the thing. We were quick to learn there were no signposts for the route and were hindered by a wide-spread mist. After several false starts, we managed to pick up the trail and clambered to top of Foel Eyer. From here we should have been treated to views across the Irish Sea and up the coast to Cardigan Bay, but instead we were rewarded only by undulating hills of verdant green, pinned down by threatening clouds. Whilst it was a little disappointing it was also rather magical, providing a mystical backdrop to my own Arthurian quest.

I’d hoped the trek would give guidance as to the direction we needed to take, which it did, but we were still far from Arthur’s burial site, and the weather was worsening. We were forced to put the journey on hold and head for the coast instead. We did, however, pick up the path from the end of the route the next morning, when the skies were clearing and I was adamant that I would find the long-awaited spot I was after. We launched into formidable bogland, seeing no other way to approach the summit. For many this would be a nightmare, but while it wasn’t ideal, wandering across the marshes, clambering over jagged rocks, I worried very little about anything other than potential tick bites. I was happy existing amongst the grassland scrub, tested by the elements.

Throughout my weekend escape, I embraced both the difficulties and achievements gained from overcoming them. Daring to grace the cliff-edge in St. David’s, provoking fear and excitement in equal measure. Meanwhile, the loss of a morning in bad weather meant reaching Bedd Arthur the following day felt all the more rewarding. Existing without modern distraction was liberating and bestowed a sense of calm. In honesty there was almost a void of feeling when I decided to live by the moment; it was as if all routine and expectation had been stripped away and left a sense of stillness in its wake.

Simply existing in nature, not watching the clock, was the most humbling feeling. I felt free to roam the grassland plains, graze my hands on the bluestone. My brain drew inspiration at passing ships around tiny islands as I scurried along in trepidation. Veins pumping, my heart beating fast, only the cry of a seagull could pierce the once silent void. The ground released aromas, dried grass and fragrant coastal flower. It is hard to put into words the way nature made me feel outrageously alive.

Despite my recharging weekend in nature, I can’t say wholeheartedly that I am a full-blown country girl. There is a sense of vitality in the cosmopolitan city, but it can be a feeling that dries after time and I think I will always require the boost that rural living offers. In the same manner, I don’t believe I will live in the city forever either. I often dream of a coastal cottage hideaway, but while I’m young and willing to chase my ideal career, I may reside elsewhere. Mother Nature is remarkable and as long as I’m in love with her. It doesn’t matter where I live, so long as I hark back to her when and where I can.

Changing Perceptions

On the surface, it would appear we are a changed society. Supposedly more aware than ever of our impact on the environment, our media habits also suggest that we’re interested enough to spend our spare time immersing ourselves in the natural world. Planet Earth II amassed 12.26 million views (or 40.9% of the television viewing public) for its first episode in 2016, a vast increase from the previous record of 9.72 million views of Frozen Planet in 2011. Sir David Attenborough urged: “It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.” He’s right, of course, but although the message was heartfelt, it does not, as Rebecca Broad points out in issue 2 of New Nature Magazine,do everything within its power to encourage a home for all life on our planet.”

It’s not the first time this style of programme has been criticised: in his controversial article for The Guardian, Martin Hughes-Games suggests “these programmes are still made as if this worldwide mass extinction is simply not happening”. Nature’s appearance and ability to survive is, according to Hughes-Games, portrayed with rose-tinted glasses. And since we are able to see nature on our screens – often zooming microscopically, slowing down time to observe the intricacies we would never normally see – we no longer find the need to explore it ourselves, and realise that it's still in danger of collapse. Nature becomes an alien concept, something we remain distinct from, as we voyeuristically consume it in any form other than reality.

In its manifesto, The Dark Mountain Project (a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have "stopped believing the stories civilisation tells itself") notes that “the very fact that we have a word for ‘nature’ is evidence that we do not regard ourselves as part of it,” and this seems to be the crux of the problem. Our tendency – and I am by no means immune to this – is to see nature as something to inhabit, to conquer, to observe, to comment on. It’s rare that we see it as a part of our very being, as something that is embedded in our daily actions and thoughts without question, and with the media disassociation that takes place so frequently, it's not altogether surprising.

If, as the founders of Dark Mountain suggest, we are undergoing an ecocide (and for my part I’m convinced we are), then in destroying life on earth, in destroying nature, we are destroying ourselves. In our attempts to prevent this destruction, to replace fossil fuels with wind-power and solar panels for example, we are aiming to save industrial civilisation, rather than the environment. Though I don’t believe switching to these eco-alternatives is a negative thing – they enable health, education, sanitation; concepts that undoubtedly are achievements of the modern world - it’s both interesting and essential to consider how we’ve managed to develop a civilisation so inherently disconnected from the world around us.

Avoiding a descent into hopelessness, Satish Kumar suggests a solution: “We are members of one Earth community and need a new trinity that is holistic and inclusive, that embraces the entire planet and all species upon it. So I propose a new trinity of soil, soul, society.” In order to reconnect with nature in a way that allows us to be a part of it, we must first respect it and what it offers, taking time and care to be in nature, noting its changes and its powers, as well as its ability to join our society together.

He ends: “If we can have a holistic view of soil, soul and society, if we can understand the interdependence of all living beings, and understand that all living creatures – from trees to worms to humans – depend on each other, then we can live in harmony with ourselves, with other people and with nature.”

To reconnect nature and civilisation is to change our perception of the ‘outside’ world. Let’s remove this concept of the unknown, the alien, the ‘other’, and truly become one with the earth.

Slow Food: The Importance of Celebration

It can be so easy to hurtle through and consume at speed in order to make time for doing other stuff, but what if in doing so you're missing out on one of life's great but simple pleasures that costs little and can be enjoyed every day? 

In this post I'll take you through 5 simple steps that you can introduce to your mealtimes today.

Often it's the most basic of activities - like an evening meal - that can be overlooked.  It's time to start prioritising the everyday as a celebration too. Here’s how to get started – before eating your evening meal tonight, just take a moment to look at what’s on your plate. It’s not about making yourself feel guilty for all the advantages that most of us experience, but rather it’s a reminder that no matter what has gone wrong that day, no matter what stresses may lie in store for tomorrow, right now you are privileged enough to have a plate of food in front of you. 

We don’t say grace in our house, but this is our own personal way of counting our blessings. Perhaps you’d like to say something? Giving thanks is a good place to start; leave it there if you like, or add a more personal touch if you’d prefer. It’s fantastic to try if you have children as it instills gratitude at an early age, forming it into a habit rather than a chore.

Now you’ve altered your initial approach to a plate full of food, it’s time to turn that everyday meal into a celebration. Here are 5 ways you can achieve this:

  1. Turn off all electronic devices (mobiles, laptops, TV etc.) and really focus on the moment. If you don’t like silence then a little music will add to the atmosphere, but nothing more.

  2. Light some candles. It takes only the striking of a match, but immediately lends a romantic, peaceful feel to the dinner table.

  3. Set the table (with whatever you like). Use a tablecloth, get out the place mats or fold napkins into pretty designs – all of these are such simple acts, but can really make a meal feel like something special.

  4. Gather the troops. Of course if you live alone this isn’t always an option, but if you live with your family, partner or friends, then eating together is a sure-fire way to really connect after a long day. Many choose to eat separately for ease, but in order to appreciate slow food you won’t want anyone thundering up the stairs or watching TV in the other room.

  5. Sit and enjoy a drink for a minute or two first. Again you’re only elongating the whole process by a short stretch of time, but it will give you chance to pause and take stock of any chaos left behind from your day before continuing with your meal.

Tonight aim to do just one of these things, and over the next week try them all out before selecting one night when you’ll try out all 5. I certainly noticed a difference when first following these steps, and it turned our mealtimes into something to treasure rather than rush through at speed.

Making Time for Simple Pleasures

Taking photographs and documenting the changes in my garden as the seasons ebb and flow is one of my favourite simple pleasures. It's so easy to get caught up in domestic duties and home life that we can neglect what's on our doorsteps, but it doesn't have to be that way.  If you reset your priorities on a regular basis and remind yourself that it's really ok to spend an hour or so doing what you love, then quite suddenly these simple pleasures become much easier to notice and make time for. 

For me it's all about being at one with nature. I love to breathe in the scent of a balmy summer's eve as a light breeze caresses my shoulders. I love to scrunch my feet and feel the springy spikes of grass between my toes. I love simply sitting and watching as swallows swoop through the treetops and the dark shapes of bats appear as dusk falls. Writing is one way I like to document these simple pleasures, but photography comes a close second.

Often in the depths of winter I like to leaf through my albums and recall the heat of summer or the freshness of the first peepings of seedlings as they appear. You’ll often find me telling a nostalgic story about autumn days past, even when it’s only just spring, but the beauty of finding these simple pleasures is that they can be relived and enjoyed for longer than just that one fleeting moment. They also provide a reminder that whatever chaos and stress we are currently experiencing in our lives, the one thing we can rely on is the constancy of the changes in nature.

Time, inevitably, is always in short supply. So how can notice simple pleasures like these when life is rushing past so fast?

1.
Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual, grab your camera or notebook and get outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in your pyjamas, bleary eyed and a little off balance – the whole point is to rebalance your awareness as the day begins. At certain times of the year you’ll be privy to the sunrise if you’re up early enough, and observing this primitive ritual is a stark reminder of a greater existence.

2.
Actually take a lunch break. It’s so easy to just work through your lunch, not really taking in what you’re consuming. But an appreciation of food and the sustenance it provides goes further than just taking the time once a day, once a week, once a month even: all meals should be held sacred, and even if you just switch off for 15 minutes you’ll find you eat more slowly and mindfully and will really enjoy the food in front of you. 

3.
A trick I was taught to reduce my technology-related headaches when I was younger was to stick to a 20 minute rule: every 20 minutes make sure you look away from the computer or phone and focus your eyes on something far away – the further the better. Try the same trick and focus on something outside, or if you’re away from a window go and take a look out for a minute or two. Take pleasure in what you see, knowing that life continues outside of whatever you’re busy doing.

4.
Set aside one evening a week (or just a few hours if you can’t manage a whole evening) to switch off those distractions and devices. Get rid of technology, turn off the TV and schedule in time to do the things you love. I find that sometimes the only way we allow ourselves this pleasure is if we actually add it to our calendars and decide in advance that this is the time we can do as we please. Go for a walk, read an inspiring book or get creative: just make sure you add it to your diary beforehand.

5.
Document your simple pleasures. If you’ve already got a daily writing habit, start slowly and write just once sentence a day to capture something simple yet fulfilling that you read, watched, spoke about or took part in. Build up to a few sentences or whole diary entries if you like. You’ll find that once you start writing these memories down, you’ll start to look out for them a lot more in your everyday life, therefore having more to write about, and so the pattern continues…


What does your garden look like this month? What simple pleasures have you noticed today?