THE BLOG

Existential Nettles, Astrology and Other Props, Learn to be Still and How to Make a Bird Bath

17/10/2013 14:52 | Updated 23 January 2014

Existential nettles
Ahhhh....the stinging nettle. That piercing, painful sensation like a large needle entering the flesh is not easily forgotten; long after we have run from the nettle the sensation remains for hours, sometimes days. We should thank the Romans for bringing nettles to the UK (like walnuts, bay leaves and thyme, to name a few others). The Romans favoured being thrashed with nettles to increase their circulation in our dour climate. The issue of the pain we feel when touching nettles is quite profound: as the French philosopher Malebranche pondered: if we were not aware of our hand in the flame, would we still feel pain? I can only answer this one way: my friend, Sabine and I once went foraging for nettles to make soup. We began picking the nettles and felt a lot of pain the first few times. After that we just got on with it and ignored the pain. Does that answer the question? The soup by the way, was delicious.

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Photo copyright S. van Dalen

Astrology, divination and other props
I often refer to my salad days- a term which means 'youth' and which I learned when I was doing the I Ching quite a lot and when I was reliant on these props to get through life. I don't have anything against astrology or the I Ching or any form of divination. I just see the world differently now. Life is an enigma wrapped in a riddle and we all struggle to make sense of it. I do not profess to know anything or very much. I just am.

This photo in the woods today reminds us that we all have to start somewhere. And the mighty oak once looked like this. The seedling is surrounded by rocks- perhaps millions of years old. We just go on until the end of time.

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Photo copyright S. van Dalen

Learn to be still
As I walked home with the hound today, I was deep in contemplation, marvelling at how silent the woods were, how peaceful and perfect everything was.

We take silence for granted and yet it is deafening. Silence forces us deep within ourselves, where in our inner being we hear the roar of past misdemeanors, the howl of regret and the whimper of sorrow. My walks are my meditation, a necessary part of my day and without them, I would be less centered and calm.

What more do we wish for in life besides a tranquil and still willing heart? To be able to see the good in others and ourselves?

To be still is in fact to be whole.

samantha van dalen

Photo copyright S. van Dalen

How to make a bird bath
The birds have been very active this year and thankfully, although the official line is that wild birds are in decline, the numbers appear to be prolific where I live. Birds are like people - easy to please once their requirements are uncomplicated. This bird bath that you see in the photo below is in fact an old hanging basket and an old plant saucer. Total cost: £0. Blue tits, sparrows, blackbirds, pigeons, all drop by for a wash. I change the water every day. Birds wash to remove parasites and grime from their feathers but also for the fun of it. First the birds sit on the edge of the saucer, then they sip a bit of water (to make sure it is indeed H2O), then they gingerly step in. Once inside the saucer there is much flapping about, and one gets the impression that it is sheer Heaven for our feathered friends. Birds are very sociable with their own kind or those of similar size. Sparrows and blue tits play happily together in the water and do not object to sharing their bath with as many as will fit in it!

All animals have a sense of fun and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that vivisection must be an excruciating and terrifying ordeal for animals. For those of us connected to the natural world, it is heartbreaking to think of animals suffering for us. I watched my father die a long and painful death from Parkinsons Disease and although drugs mask the symptoms of the illness, nothing can prevent the inevitable. My father died anyway despite the hundreds of drugs he took and for which thousands of animals must have been dealt an awful end to their own short lives.

It takes little to make the birds happy- a drink of water, a bath, some food. Perhaps we humans can learn to reduce our expectations and the demands we make on others, including the animals we expect to die in order that we may 'benefit'.

samantha van dalen

Photo copyright S. van Dalen