Down by the bayou

This great blue heron was hanging around Buffalo Bayou in Houston as we walked along the path used by walkers and cyclists. First seen on a treetop heronry, where there were a few nests, then a little later in the water under a flyover, foot  poised.

The shots are not perfect, with background distraction in the one with water, and taken against a grey sky background with the treetop one, but I liked the visible tongue in the tree, and the foot raised from the rock in the water.

Jay

Jays are colourful crows, often shy and only glimpsed in our garden very briefly. They either briefly sit on the fence then fly away, or hop into the old apple tree and hang around in the branches for a while before heading back to the deeper cover of nearby woodland trees.

It was quite a suprise to look up from my desk and see one hopping about and searching for food at the front of the house, which faces the usually quiet cul-de-sac we live in. Taking its time, it scavenged along the dried and wintry vegetation, hopped into the branches of a very bare tree and was joined by a blue tit.

With my camera handy, and taking shots through the window, it was a welcome distraction as well as a welcome visitor.

Lost in Cumbria

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It was summer and we’d gone away to Cumbria for a weekend break in our campervan, We were staying on a  site new to us, having read about it and heard good reports. In a park-like setting, with views of the sea, nearby access to the beach and village, and plenty of walks to be had, it sounded ideal.

The weather was good – quite hot as I recall – and we decided to explore the nature reserve area, adjacent to and part of the campsite. Following rocky paths, we climbed through a wooded wilderness, clambered over mossy rocks and stones and took care to avoid the cowpats and the insects which went with them. We couldn’t see any cows, but there was a faint whiff in the air so we guessed they were around. The cowpats were enough evidence.

Enjoying the walk, we explored the area for about an hour but realised quite soon that we weren’t getting anywhere and were going round and round in circles. We were following the same paths over and over again and we started to recognise the same cowpat, which we passed several times.

No matter, it was warm and sunny, we were glad of some shade and we spotted a shy roe deer and several butterflies – painted ladies, wood whites, even a dark green fritillary and a cinnabar moth. We began to wonder if we were a bit lost, passing that cowpat once again, but at that stage we weren’t really worried, knowing it wouldn’t be dark for a long time.

Repeating the same circuit yet again by following the now all-too-familar paths as we tried to find our way out, we both started to get a bit edgy. The dog gamely kept up but did give us a few looks which said “Why are we going down this path again?” It was getting cooler by this time and we were getting tetchy with each other too. Were we really lost? Nobody knew where we were, there was no phone signal and the Google map of the area included the nature reserve, but not the paths. It just showed up as a green space on the map.

Going round the circuit once again, we climbed up one of the rocky paths and found our way blocked by a large bovine. We reined the dog in on his lead, but he’d seen the cow and made an executive decision. He diverted from the blocked path and took off in a downward direction along another path we’d clearly missed, but had been searching for.

With some relief – it was cooling rapidly, and we praised the dog – we reached the gate at the entrance to the reserve. It was the same gate we’d entered through, with a “Please close the gate” sign, but there was no info board with a map of the place.

How good it was, though, to see civilisation again, in the form of the children’s play area in the campsite, and some mown lawns, people, and best of all, to get back to our van and put our feet up!

Another Place

P1080293We took off in our campervan at the weekend, encouraged by the forecast of sunny crisp weather, and headed for the Merseyside and Sefton coast. We’ve been to Crosby beach, near Liverpool, countless times before to walk and enjoy sculptor Antony Gormley’s “Another Place” – his 100 statues of his naked body which stand on the beach, and stretch out into the sea.

They’ve been there for some time now and many are rusting as most are covered at high tide. Those standing higher up the beach are often clad in various garments which people have put on them – Liverpudlians have a great sense of humour so one or two Antony’s could be dressed in anything ranging from hippie gear to part of an NHS worker’s uniform. Some might have a traffic cone as a hat.

We parked by the prom, with clear views of the sea and passing ships en route to the port of Liverpool, ate lunch in the ‘van warming up the home made soup we’d brought with us, then walked along the coastal footpath towards Formby. The frost had gone, but there was a chill, brisk wind. Invigorating, enjoyable stuff, with sea views all the way. When we started to return, the sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon. By the time we were back at the ‘van the tide was in and most of Antony’s statues were either covered, or just head and shoulders above the waves.

One nearby was strikingly silhouetted against the rolling, bronzed waves illuminated by the low sun. Something about that image reminded me of what my dad used to say: “Always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”.

Then we continued our journey to Southport, where we stayed overnight, cosy and warm in our ‘van in spite of the sub-zero temperature outside.

The Four-Fold Way

Some tim4foldwaye back in the 1990s I came across the Four-Fold Way, which was referred to at a personal growth workshop I attended. The Four-Fold Way was attributed to anthropologist Angeles Arrien, and I was impressed by it’s four simple points of wisdom:

· Show up and choose to be present

· Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

· Tell the truth without blame of judgement

· Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

This led me to read her book, entitled The Four-Fold Way – Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The book, its content and ethos have come back to mind right now. The times we are currently living in are blighted with fake news, lies, trolling, disrespect of people who are different in some way, divisions within society and climate breakdown. It’s time for us all to start taking responsibility and stop moaning.

Angeles Arrien suggests four paths we might take, and her opening sentence, way back in 1992 when the book was published, is pressingly relevant today. She says,

“Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unliveable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialised society. It is clear we need to take action before it is too late.”

She goes on to say that the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house, in other words, our planet.

The four ways she describes can be shown diagrammatically using the medicine wheel layout and includes the four points of the compass, and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. Each Way has a single line description which more or less lays out what it’s about.

The Way of the Warrior – Show up and choose to be present– the message here is to stip dillydallying about and do something, take action. The associated human resource is power, the way of living is right action.

The Way of the Healer – Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – this suggests don’t allow yourself to get distracted (by smart phones, social media etc?) but remain in touch with what is really important and connected to your heart. The associated human resource is, unsurprisingly, love; the way of living is right speech.

The Way of the Visionary – Tell the truth without blame or judgement – here we have to remember to speak our own truth, be true to ourselves, and not take on board what others have tried to foist upon us. This can be a tough one as it’s much easier to go along with things we don’t really agree with in order to fit in, or keep the peace. And we have to remember not to blame or judge ourselves and others. The associated human resource here is vision, and the way of living, right placement.

The Way of the Teacher – Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – the message is to stay open to the new and not have an end goal in mind. A good teacher will always be open to new ideas and viewpoints because so much fruitful material can come from staying open and learning more. Good teachers are always learning! The associated human resource is wisdom and the way of living is right timing.

Angeles Arrien’s work as an anthropologist, educator and facilitator of workshops aims to build a bridge between cultural anthropology, psychology and comparative religions, revealing how indigenous wisdoms are relevant to our families, professional lives and our relationship with the Earth itself. There is something in The Four-Fold Way for all who wish to develop themselves, their potential and their ability to live life creatively, and we need this approach more than ever in our current times.

“Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can” – Angeles Arrien.