Summer in the lane…

And so, finally the sun decided to amble over in our direction and grant us a few weeks of what we could probably agree to call proper summer – by which I mean being able to wear sandals and occasionally bring out the embarrassing sun hat.

Things are a bit different here for us this year. Unlike recent summers when we’ve disappeared up to the Highlands with a couple of tents and an optimistic attitude to rainfall, this year we’re staying put – or more accurately – not straying very far.

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Not getting to walk along the beach at Balnakeil near Durness, is something I’ll miss, but instead I’ll have the opportunity to watch as the summer progresses in the lane. Already I can sense a change in the pace of growth. The pumping energy of spring has given way now to a mild sense of exhaustion, the fresh bright greens of May are now darker, dustier. The delicate cow parsley has turned brown and shrunk back, replaced by the stronger stalks of hogweed and banks of purple thistles. The nettles standing sentry are gradually being pulled down by the wreaths of wilting cleavers.

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In the field, the grasses which in June swayed like waves have been cut and bailed, and already a new growth of nettles, thistles and grass is greening the pale stubble. We haven’t yet reached the point when the countryside turns golden, although I don’t think it’s far away – soon the colours will change and the tired greens will be replaced by the rich reds and ambers of late summer.

High summer has never really brought out the best in me, which is perhaps why I normally prefer to travel north for a cooler sort of summer, but I admit there’s something that feels right about observing at close hand the slow changes as the seasons roll round. I’m enjoying it in a strange sort of way, but at some stage I’m going to have to head for the coast and dip my toes in the sea…

I do hope you’re having a good summer – it’s great fun watching Instagram friends post pictures from their travels around the world – vicarious holiday pleasures!

 

 

 

 

Morning routine…

or ‘the unanticipated benefits of a photography habit’.

Hands up if you’ve never deliberately attempted to start a habit of some kind…

Me? I’ve tried loads, and I mean loads! But the fact is, I’m rubbish at it. I’m really good at reading the books that tell you why you should regularly do something, I understand the benefits they tell me I’ll see as a result of establishing these habits, I want to experience those benefits, I really do, but in the end, I just don’t seem to have what it takes to tick the habit box. A few days into trying anything habit-like and chances are I’ve already lost the plot.

But there is one thing I do which I think does qualify for habit status – not a habit I ever deliberately intended to make a habit, but which has happened anyway, and that is the habit of taking a photo (or several) of the countryside every day when I walk the dog.

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Long-service readers will know this began with photographing a particular oak tree in the lane. But although I decided to record the oak, I didn’t set off with any intention to make it a permanent thing, I didn’t anticipate any particular benefits of doing it, I simply wanted to see how that tree changed over the period of a year.

But you know, it’s now well over 3 years since I started taking those photos and I still do it every day – I think we can agree that counts as a habit.

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Now let’s be honest, this habit hasn’t done a thing for my ability to keep the house clean or tidy, it hasn’t turned me into a highly successful business person, or (sadly) prevented me from eating my own weight in cake at the slightest provocation.

But you know, there are a few benefits I think do stem from this habit.

These days I am much more in tune with the changing seasons. The whole cycle of life, the ever-changing weather moods and the ebb and flow of energy is something I feel better connected to, even anchored in, and much happier as a result.

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And this once fairly ignorant wildlife watcher has now become fascinated by the flora and fauna in one mundane English country lane. I now own and frequently consult books on wildflowers, trees, insects, mushrooms and birds – and now, just occasionally, I can actually call something by its proper name.

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Having never really been able to commit to a daily drawing practice, I do find that looking carefully at the natural world around me has improved my eye for texture, pattern and subtlety in colour, with the added benefit of having a record to go back to if I want to research something for an artwork. It may not be the creative habit of Twyla Tharp, but honestly, I think it works for me.

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But the best thing of all, is that when you’re having a dull miserable winter and your friends comment on how it seems to have been grey for so long, you can immediately jump in and bore them rigid with precise details of exactly how many days it’s been since we had any sunshine and then show them all the photos to prove it… I know, because I am that woman!

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So there you have it, an accidental habit worth having…

I post a picture from my walk most days over on my Instagram account, do come over and say hello if you’re on IG.

I don’t own a camera – all the pictures are taken with my smart phone, which is tucked -dawn to dusk – into the pocket of my jeans. I was thinking just the other day how lucky I am to live in the digital age, and giving thanks to the inventor of the camera app.

Do you have any accidental habits that make your life better? Do tell…