Posts Tagged ‘nature’

My partner got this picture when we were on retreat; the bird here had to take a back seat to a very cheeky, sneaky squirrel who kept climbing the tree and filling his tummy with bird food.

Bird on a missionI cropped in when I uploaded it as I think it’s more dramatic than the original – and I am a self-confessed lover of drama 🙂

There were some sheep behind this tree, and they seemed to eat all the time.  Lying down, standing up, going to the toilet – sheep eat.  How I missed that for the past x number of years I’ve seen sheep about, I do not know!

In fact, it doesn’t matter how often you’ve seen something, when you look with your writing eyes – when you look with the intention of noticing every detail you can – you see things you’ve missed.

In writing group I’ve encouraged everyone to try some sensory perception exercises, because they force you to look about, listen, and think about everything in your environment.  I really found these useful when I was studying – the exercises were based on some I did in my second writing course – and it was a timely reminder to use my environment to my advantage.

I looked at this picture above once more, before signing off for the day and I noticed something I hadn’t seen the last few times – what looks like a wire, strung parallel to the branch.  I wondered what it was for: outside lighting, or was there another feeder out of sight, or a speaker to spread the sound of birdsong in midwinter – or a microphone to listen to conversations.  Were our hosts recording conversations?  Why?…

Well, me being me, this thought process ended up a little bit sci-fi and I won’t bore you with it – but I was pleased that such a convoluted story came from a little detail.  Try it out and the same could easily happen with your own observations!

Keep your writer’s eyes open, and keep looking – there are little stories everywhere.

Happy writing











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Here I am, back in glorious Wales – and the writing has gone pretty well, with a first plan written, and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis to start tonight.  I’ve used some of the scenery here to spur my descriptive imagination too.

It’s not quite as sunny as last time but we’ve mostly avoided rain and if you look closely you can see lambs, which are a lovely sight when you get up in the morning.  I took this picture just before a hail shower, hence the clouds, but it only lasted a little while and now everything is fresh again.

Repeating my retreating


We actually left the farm today and went out for a drive around the mountains; the scenery is stunning and every turn in the road gives you a new viewpoint.  You can see why Wales is filled with myths and magical tales; the mountains look as though they were clawed into shape by giants, and the forests covering so much of the landscape are perfect hiding places for dragons.

I even got to see a dragon today, briefly – I’m going to visit it tomorrow for a cup of coffee…!

I really think it’s worth taking these few days to escape normality and focus on writing, sketching and reading.  I know writing should be the focus of my day but sometimes I get involved in too many things so it goes down the list of priorities: retreats are all about giving myself time to get on with work.

Besides, my partner gets to do some sketching which he never has time to do at home, so he gets to focus on his inner artist too.

I feel so relaxed, and so happy here, I could do it for months!

Have a good few days and I’ll be back home on Sunday with an update on how far I get.

Happy writing,








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I have a tiny obsession with macro photos of flowers.

I think part of the allure is that they are so impermanent: if you don’t take the picture when you have a chance that moment is gone.  The same could be said for so many things that I would love to take photos of everything, but that’s not really practical so I specialise 🙂

I’m not very good at these pictures but here’s one I took on retreat in Wales last summer.

Little Wonder

The feeling of having to record things immediately is one I’ve been developing for the last few years in writing – I’m sure we all have the tale of ‘the one that got away’; the great story opening or line of poetry that we didn’t write down and it disappeared like a whiff of smoke.  Even with notebooks everywhere, you can’t capture everything!

Sometimes I use photos instead of books.  I use them like a painter would, as a reference point to draw my image.  This works well for me for things like sunsets, the colour of the soil, the shapes carved into a wall; things that require some better description than the off-the-cuff notes I scribble as I wander around.  That’s another benefit of the macro photo too – you see a level of detail you might not have seen in person.

If you want to see what I mean, have a look at some amazing, properly macro, photos here!

Happy writing



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The Road Less Travelled

I was all set to talk about the road less travelled and so on this week, but it was a bit unclear exactly where I was going with it and it was all a bit philosophical!  So instead I thought I’d talk about walkways…

I love it when the trees get their green on and winter’s bleak grey sticks become the scaffolding for emerald-tinted tunnels. There is something romantic about them, to me; walking through them you are in another world.

This sense of walking into another world is something we discussed in my second writing course: tunnels, gates, passages, doorways and so on are a common literary tool to get the reader from one mindset, one world, to another.

Some examples literally take you into a different reality, such as the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe opening a portal into Narnia, or the brick wall that opens into Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  It is a device used in more realist books too – the mountain pass into Kukuanaland in King Solomon’s Mines for example.

The idea that there’s something ‘Out There’, something hazily shimmering just beyond the horizon, is engaging for me as a reader, and is enjoyable to explore as a writer.  The idea of otherness is enticing and having a physical change between here and there summarises every difference through a simple technique.

But even before I thought of the world as a palette with which to paint another reality, I loved these tunnels of trees.  The possibilities they seemed to offer me, the chance to see the vibrancy of nature, feel the muted sunlight through the leaves, and wonder what I would find at the end all fed into my sense of wonder.

Looking at the world as a writer and trying to find the literary possibilities in things is all very well, but sometimes we all just need to admire and enjoy the beauty around us for what it is, not what we could write about it.

Even writers deserve a break now and then!

Have a great few days, I’ll be back on Sunday,






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Look away now if you have entomophobia or apiphobia…

Last year when my partner and I were on retreat, we heard the most unnerving noise: it sounded a bit like all the bees in the world were gathering outside.

It wasn’t all the bees, of course; just one swarm who had decided to leave their hive, so a new one had to be constructed for them at a rapid rate!  My partner managed to get a picture before we threw ourselves inside and shut all the windows…



You know, Doctor Who was wrong – they aren’t really from Melissa Majoria.  This lot didn’t even try leaving Wales 🙂

I think of bees as a sign of the coming of spring; in the last few weeks I’ve seen many bumble bees and even had a solitary bee fly under my sunglasses and rest on the lens, right by my eye.  I wasn’t too keen on that and rehomed him on a daffodil but I’m sure there’s some meaning to it!

In fact, bees are a great dream portent for writers, and there’s all sorts of folklore about them.  Nothing about my experience though; maybe I should use my writing instincts to make my own lore.

Hmmm – ‘if a bee flies under your sunglasses, it is a sign that the day will be bright and the wind temperate.’

That would work – it was a lovely sunny day and only really windy on a hilltop.  I’m not sure I could test it though!

Bees numbers have declined in recent years, so it’s great to see them starting to reappear and to watch them go about their pollen-collecting business. And as the economic cost of that decline has been put at up to $5.7bn per year, it’s also a timely reminder of how much our existence is tied in with other life forms on the planet.

I’m happy to see the bees bumbling around making fruit and seeds in my garden – and I’m looking forward to returning to our retreat in a few weeks, and seeing if this lot are all settled into their new home!

Happy writing,





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I was looking through some old pictures this week and I came across a few evening shots.

This picture was taken when we were in Cornwall a couple of years ago, and it instantly puts me in a holiday mood.  I love the way the clouds seems to mirror the shape of the bay, it looks positively purposeful.

At the end of the day

It also reminds me of a phrase I hate to hear and yet (over)use myself – ‘at the end of the day’ – but that’s another blog post 🙂

There’s a science to the colour of the sky, which I find fascinating.  Colours have meaning across life-forms, from a dangerous red to a toxic green, and we humans surround ourselves in them – we might buy a sky-blue paint, or a storm-coloured car, or a sea-green top for example – so to know they are in some ways a product of our biology is mind-boggling.

I can’t imagine the midday sky being purple, and if it was the whole world would look different because every colour would change to our eyes.  There are wonderful possibilities in that for painters, but I’m not sure we’d attach the same emotions to shades and tones as we do now.

That’s important to me – I prefer to look, and feel however the sky makes me feel.  In this case, the soft changes to the light over the water was restful, which I like at the end of  holiday-day 🙂

I especially love the light at the coast: growing up with easy access to beaches and coves but living away from them, the air and the open horizons still make me feel like I’m on holiday, or having a treat!

So the science of the sky doesn’t really matter on a day-to-day basis, I’ll just enjoy scenes like these, whatever colours they bring.

Happy writing



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Following on from my previous post which was about why we need peace, this is all about what makes me feel peaceful.

There are hundreds of songs I can listen to for a peaceful moment – from laid back R&B to Gregorian chanting to folk songs.

My first choice for this post was ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong – the sentiments of love, understanding and beauty are the perfect alternative to my last post. But I really wanted an instrumental piece, because it is only instrumental music that allows me to sit and listen and imagine my own peaceful scene.

I went through some natural sounds – birdsong, whale song, waves crashing on a beach – but although they are a type of music, it’s not quite what I wanted.

I listened to some glorious meditation music but the pieces lasted for up to two hours of continuous music – great, but impractical for this!

And finally I decided on a piece that has stood the test of time:

Grieg – Peer Gynt

This is the ‘morning’ section of the music and it really does feel like waking up to a new day.  It’s not tranquil, but it’s like watching the flowers open, the sun rise, and the birds start to sing.  It’s nature, put to music – and as I’ve said many times before, nature and peace are related for me.

I only started listening to classical music a few years ago when I was changing channels on the radio near Christmas and the classics channel was playing a beautiful piece of seasonal music – I don’t know what it was, but it got me listening to things I’d never heard before.  Since then, I’ve begun listening to classical music to remove myself from my surroundings – to relax, to write, to sketch.  Generally I can’t tell you the name of a piece, or of its composer, but to be honest, I’m like that about nearly all music!

In the future I might post some more tranquil songs but for now I just hope you enjoy this.  It is music to lift your spirits, music for writing about nature and seasons, music to take a step back from the world and just let yourself be.

Happy listening



B4Peace Central

Please check back to my previous post for links to some other great music choices from peace bloggers!

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