Thursday Thirteen – My Passions

I have a very strong belief that a life lived well, is a life lived passionately. We need passion in order to chase our dreams, invigorate our relationships, inspire us towards improvement. Passion is what makes us human. Sometimes passion can become an uncontrollable force in our lives resulting in rash, impulsive and sometimes destructive actions. However, by channeling our passion towards that which enhances our experience of life, rather than lead to its dissolution or demise, we can all live our life less ordinary. So, here are 13 of my own passions in life. These are what make me happy, what give my life value, what make me want to get out of bed in the morning.

  1. Family – Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a fairly large extended family, as I have written of them before for Thursday Thirteen. I’m pretty convinced that they are a really special bunch of people, and I feel so privileged to be a part of this family. My daily interactions with those within that circle make my world one of connection and engagement. They give me support, love, perspective and inspiration. How could I not be passionate about my family?
  2. Literature – I love to read. I can still remember the first novel I ever read in one sitting: it was Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, and I can vividly recall the way that the story swept me away from the armchair I was sitting in and into the world of Dahl’s creation. That experience, in many ways, sparked off a long love affair with books. So much so, in fact, that I have spent the last 11 years studying literature. If I’m very lucky it is what I’ll spend the rest of my life doing!
  3. Art – I suppose art is one of those terribly subjective things; what I consider art, another may consider trash. In many ways, that’s irrelevant, as long as you find something that gives you that spark, that tremor; as long as you discover that which has the capability to speed your pulse and steal your breath. I have spent days in art galleries gazing at the paintings, the sculptures, the installations, allowing myself to completely open up to the experience of viewing these creations. Truly liberating.
  4. Cinema – I can’t remember my first trip to the cinema, but apparently it was to see Disney’s The Fox and the Hound and I cried very noisily at the end. I’m pleased to say I haven’t cried that loudly in a cinema recently, but the cinema still holds that magic for me, that capacity to involve my emotions and wrench my heart. When I saw Pan’s Labyrinth, I had to sit in the cinema until the lights came up so I could try and collect myself a little before entering the foyer. A trip to the cinema is really such a special experience.
  5. Music – In one of my recent TTs, I made wishes for myself and my readers, one of which concerned the listening to a piece of music which brings you to the brink of tears. I frequently cry over a piece of music. It doesn’t need to be a sad piece, and it doesn’t need to be from a particular genre. I am equally engaged emotionally when I listen to opera as when I listen to pop, rock and roll or classical. I find it very difficult to put into words my response to music, but I always feel moved by the experience.
  6. Internet – The World Wide Web is filled with endless possibilities. There is such potential to be had through this wonderful facility, and I am so excited about what the future holds, and how the internet will evolve. The internet is such a big part of my life, that I really would feel quite bereft without it!
  7. Nature – I’m continually amazed by the natural world and the treasure that it reveals to us when we take the time to stop and pay attention. The geese flying in formation. The turning of the leaves. The blooming of the flowers. My relationship to the natural world means that I am continually aware of the changing of the seasons and the shifting of the weather, which in turn makes me appreciate the time that I have to live as full a life as I am capable of.
  8. Photography – Once again, regular readers will probably be familiar with this one, as I share my love for taking photographs here on an almost daily basis. I don’t mind saying that this is a relatively new passion, but it is one I am absolutely reveling in! Recording my own unique perspective seems to be intensely important to me right now, and it also seems important to share it through this blog.
  9. People – People just fascinate me. I want to hear their stories. I want to connect with them. I want to share experience with them. In many ways, it is perhaps this passion in particular that unites all of these relatively disparate passions: the need to share my perspective, to connect via the internet, to interact with my family, to feel moved by the achievements of others.
  10. Cooking – I really enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes, although once again this relates back to sharing and connecting with others.  What I like best about cooking is the cooking for others.  I have only very very rarely only cooked for myself, and am in my element when I have others to feed besides myself.  Does anything really compare to watching someone swoon over a dessert that you prepared for them?
  11. Scotland – I know many people will probably feel the same about their own home country, as I do about Scotland.  Scotland gives me a sense of belonging that I just don’t get in any other country.  I travel quite a lot for conferences etc. and as much as I enjoy the experience of other countries, other cultures, there is really no comparison to the feeling I get when I see the rolling green hills, the glimmering lochs, and the clutches of Scot’s pines as the plane approaches the airport.
  12. Education – Having been a student for just about as long as I can remember, this one is perhaps no surprise, but it’s not just my own education that I am passionate about.  I am also extremely passionate about the education of others, whether that is of my own children, or of the students that I teach at the university. I get so much out of communicating new ideas to my students, and getting the feedback that they now view the world in a different way.  What a buzz!
  13. Blogging – Well, I couldn’t include a list of my passions without this one now, could I?  Blogging makes me happy; it has taken my interactions with others to a whole new level.  But, of course, I not only love writing my own blog and sharing my news, my experience, and my perspective, I also love reading other people’s blogs and finding out more about them through their writing, their photos and the things they choose to share.

What are your passions?  What gets you up in the morning and looking forward to the new day ahead?  What makes you live a life less ordinary?

My other TT posts: Dream Chasing and Origami Wishes, Birthday Nostalgia, Blogging Lessons, What I Found in Madrid, Rules To Live By, My Life in Scent, My Family, New Habits and Memorable Moments

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November 29, 2007. Inspiration, meme. 16 comments.

Only The Good – Cats

Cats

OK, so I know that some of you will find this an easy one. For me, however, it is a slightly different story. I am mildly phobic of cats. I don’t particularly like them and currently I am very cross at the cat across the road, as it has ripped up some of my lovely bean plants and pooed in my veggie patch. To be fair to these two in the photo, they had nothing to do with this vegicide. They are the new kittens which now live next door to my grandparents. When I took this photo, I had gone out into my Grandad’s garden and crouched down to take a photo of a flower. As I was intent on focusing on a newly bloomed primula, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. When I looked round I had these two pairs of green eyes staring back at me. I just about jumped a foot off the ground! So, I snapped the photo, and I must say that I think it worked out rather well. Anyway, after my upset at yesterday’s ‘incident’ with the bean plants, I wanted to set you the task of helping me find the good in this photo and in cats in general. Go on, convert me!

The Only The Good project is to get people to look at the world in a different way, to acknowledge–if only for the brief time they do this exercise–that there is good in everything and everyone…to briefly change shadow to light.”

If you would like to take part, you can either leave a comment on this post which focuses on ‘only the good’ that you can see in the photo. If you have a blog and would like to participate you can

“Post an original photograph that may at first seem rather ordinary–a photo in which the good isn’t immediately obvious–and invite people to comment. A brief explanation of the photo’s subject, where it was taken, etc. may be provided. I urge you to use only original photographs so that copyright infringement is not an issue.”

Please visit the other participants! Tumbled Words, Soliloquy, Inside Mo’s Mind, This Eclectic Life, Life in Westcliffe, Miscellaneous Matters.

November 28, 2007. Environment. Leave a comment.

The Rainbow Won’t Wait

Fading Rainbow

“The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.”
Patricia Clafford

The other day, as I was pottering about in the kitchen, I spotted the most beautiful rainbow. I shouted to my little boy, and we both ran upstairs to look out his bedroom window. It was the most perfect rainbow! A full arch stretching high above the Ochil hills. As the rain began to move off, the sky cleared, the sun shone and the rainbow began to fade. It was all over in a matter of minutes, but I know that the experience of sharing the rainbow with my son will last a lot longer. Perhaps, even a lifetime…

November 27, 2007. Environment. 5 comments.

Acquainted With The Night

The nights are drawing in here in Scotland. It gets dark around 4ish and the sun doesn’t rise till 8.30 the next morning; the moon rises at 3pm and doesn’t set for another 17 and a half hours. We’re coming up to the shortest day now… or is it the longest night? Either way, it means that we get to see a lot more of the moon, and isn’t it beautiful!

Daylight Moon

Moon With Clouds 2

Moon With Clouds 1

Bright Moon

Acquainted With The Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

November 24, 2007. Inspiration, Photography. 7 comments.

Sunshine After The Rain

Rain on Loch

Yesterday I had to go into university, and it was one of those days when it’s raining when you wake up in the morning, and still raining when you go to bed. It just never stopped! As the kids and I walked to the bus stop past the loch we got soaked. As we walked across the campus to the library passed another loch we got soaked. By this point my socks were wet, and our brollies saturated, but we were all in surprisingly good humour. You see we all knew that if we didn’t have all this rain, Scotland wouldn’t be the beautiful green lush land with lochs, rivers, waterfalls and burns, that it is. And we also knew that it wouldn’t last. Today has been exceptionally windy (I’ve had to chase my bin a couple of times!), but it has been beautiful. Look at this picture I took of the sunset reflected in the window of our new outdoor office.

Reflected Sunset

Oh, and if you want to see a truly wonderful post about water, rain, and rivers with some stunning photos and great songs, check this out!

November 22, 2007. Environment. 4 comments.

Thursday Thirteen – Dream-Chasing

My Thursday Thirteen is a little late going up today, as I spent yesterday evening writing another conference paper.  This is going to be the third paper that I have given this semester, which is a lot by anyone’s standards!   However, I know that all of this hard work is going to pay off eventually when I reach my goal of being employed as a lecturer in a university.  That’s my dream, and I have been steadily working towards it for a number of years now.  I am due to submit my thesis next year, so all things being well, I should be Dr. Amy before I turn 30.  I’ve achieved a lot in my first 30 years on this earth, and I’m often asked how I manage it all.  To be completely honest, I do a lot of it without a great deal of conscious thought, but there are a few things (13 to be exact!) that I can recommend to others who are dream chasing too.

  1. Figure Out What You Want – First things first!   After all, how can you follow your dream if you don’t know what your dream is?  Well, to begin with, you need to sit down with your notebook and pen and just brainstorm.  Make lists of all the things you enjoy doing in life, all the things you used to do but don’t have time for any more, all the things that fill you with equal doses of fear and excitement.  Free yourself from the constraints of reality!  Let your mind go wherever it wishes, and note everything down.  Two other exercises that I’ve tried and come up with really interesting results, is to note down a list of childhood ambitions, and the other is to ask a loved one to list what they perceive as your skills, and what they could see you being good at.  This one was particularly insightful for me (Thanks, Mum!).
  2. Goal Setting – Now that you have all your lists, go down them highlighting the ones that fill you with excitement and possibility.  Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by things like cost, as money should not be an inhibitor to your dreams.  When I started out on my postgraduate degrees, I had no idea how I was going to pay for them.  I filled out the form regardless and got hold of the books for the course, and ultimately the money arrived in time for me to go ahead.  I am in no way suggesting that this will always be the case.  What I am suggesting though, is that if you are determined to achieve something, don’t let money be your inhibitor.  The other thing that I’d like to say about goal setting is keep your eye on the big picture.  I watched The Secret recently, and I was disappointed in it as it was so consumer-focussed.  The dreams people had were for cars and houses with tennis courts.  When I set goals it is not for material possessions, it’s for big picture stuff, it’s about how I want to live my life.  If I end up with a nice home then that’s just a bonus!
  3. Support – Don’t go it alone!  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the support of others.  It is entirely possible to pursue your path ‘lonely as a cloud’, but I can’t recommend it.  When I was studying for my undergraduate degree and I had my two babies aged 4months and 18months, there were many times that I wanted to give it all up.  It was the people around me who had faith in my capabilities, who helped me out with the practicalities of studying with such a young family, and who continually reminded me of my goal, of the bigger picture, that helped me stay the course.  Find yourself a cheering squad, and go for it!
  4. Accountability – Every week I meet up with my mum and we both set goals for the week.  We check up on each other’s progress on goals set the week before, and we discuss what goals need to be set that week to move us closer to our ultimate bigger picture goal (see 5. Mini Goals).  Since beginning these meetings, both my mum and I have achieved so much in such a short period of time.  When I scan down my list of things to do that week, I make sure that I have them done by our next meeting.  It’s not that we berate each other if we failed to do what we set out to do.  After all, life often doesn’t work out the way we expect and things crop up which prevent us from doing all we said we would.  When this happens the goal gets added on to the next week’s list, and, more often than not, it is done by the following week.
  5. Mini Goals – I mentioned in the previous point that you need to set weekly mini goals.  These mini goals are like the stepping stones that will get you to the other side; they take you to your bigger picture goal.  They need to be small and achievable.  If you have a busy week, then don’t set yourself several time-consuming tasks.  Instead choose small things such as an email to someone you think may be able to help you (see 10. Mentors), or fill in a form, make enquiries etc.  After a while, all these mini goals stack up and you will finally achieve that bigger picture goal.
  6. Forgiveness – As I said in 4. Accountability, sometimes things crop up, and you are unable to achieve the goal that you set out to achieve.  The trick is to forgive yourself, and not to get hung up on your perceived failure.  Continue to keep your big goal in mind, and try again.  You need to move forward in a positive frame of mind, and if you start to feel negative about yourself, cut yourself some slack.  Forgive yourself, and move on.
  7. Setbacks – Now these are not necessarily a bad thing.  They can appear pretty catastrophic at the time, but in actual fact they often allow us to learn something new, either about ourselves or about our dream.  There have been so many times that I thought that I was on the right track and everything was moving seamlessly forward, when something has come along and derailed my progress.  Use this time to reassess (see 11. Reassessment) and remember that when you reach your goal and you look back at this moment, you’ll see it as the event which contributed towards your success, rather than the point at which it all went wrong.
  8. Treats – Ah, there’s nothing like an incentive, is there!  I don’t know about you, but I work better when I know that there are going to be treats along the way.  These don’t have to be big treats, and, in fact, I would argue that the smaller treats are often more effective.  Sometimes it can be watching a favourite TV show, or buying a glossy mag.  Sometimes it can be a weekend of leisure time or maybe just a 20 minute walk around your neighbourhood.  Don’t underestimate the motivational power of the treat!
  9. Role Models – By role models I don’t mean Madonna or Stephen Spielberg, although if you wanted to choose them I certainly wouldn’t stop you!  In fact, if you discovered your dream was to become the uber-queen of pop or a successful Hollywood director, then I don’t think you could do better.  I would like to suggest, though, that sometimes a role model that is a little closer to home can be more effective.  Look to those who you perceive as having already achieved that bigger picture goal.  They are the proof that what you are striving for is indeed possible.
  10. Mentors – This is one step on from role models.  Role Models, after all, may not, and indeed, need not, know what they represent to you.  They may not even know you at all!  Mentors, on the other hand, should occupy a space between cheering squad and role model.  The idea behind mentors, is that they are maybe a few or more steps ahead of you and are approachable.  Contacting possible mentors can be a scary business, but in my experience, people like being contacted by those that hold a high opinion of them!  I’ve found that most people want to help others move closer to reaching their goal, and all it took to find this out was for me to make first contact.
  11. Reassessment – Sometimes, particularly after a setback, we find that we need to reassess where we are going and how we are getting there.  Sometimes the setback will be a major one and will require that you take stock of the bigger picture.  Our values change, our lifestyles alter, and our vision of our future does not resemble the one we used to dream of.  Be aware of this possibility, and take the time to figure out if the big picture goal still means as much to you as it previously did.  If it does, then find a way through the current setback using the mini goals.  If it doesn’t, be flexible and work to discover your new dream, before putting in place the steps that will move you forward.
  12. Indefatigability – The OED defines the state of indefatigability as ‘unremitting diligence or perseverance’.  Let me be completely clear: if you want to achieve something then you will have to be completely determined that you will ultimately succeed.  By following the exercise in 1. Figure Out What You Want, you should have discovered a dream that fills you with passion and enthusiasm, as it will be this passion and enthusiasm that takes you through to completion.
  13. Don’t Stop Dreaming! – There is always more to be achieved.  Once you have succeeded in attaining the dream, take care not to stagnate.  Set yourself another goal, and keep moving forward.  For me, I feel our time on earth is so short, that I want to make the most of it by living as fully as I’m capable of.  Just remember that the attainment of the dream is only a part of the fun; the journey is often more important than the destination.

I would love to hear what goals you are all working towards, or, indeed, your success stories.  What worked for you?  Are there any other pieces of advice that you think should be included?

My other TT posts: Origami Wishes and Birthday Nostalgia, Blogging Lessons, What I Found in Madrid, Rules To Live By, My Life in Scent, My Family, New Habits and Memorable Moments

November 22, 2007. Inspiration, meme. 22 comments.

Only The Good – Gulls

Gulls

Gulls in Flight

As we walked to the bus stop yesterday, we saw a man feeding the birds at the lochan.  The gulls were going absolutely crazy, so I stopped to take a few photos.  My challenge to you is to tell me what good you can find in this frenzied flurry.

The Only The Good project is to get people to look at the world in a different way, to acknowledge–if only for the brief time they do this exercise–that there is good in everything and everyone…to briefly change shadow to light.”

If you would like to take part, you can either leave a comment on this post which focuses on ‘only the good’ that you can see in the photo. If you have a blog and would like to participate you can

“Post an original photograph that may at first seem rather ordinary–a photo in which the good isn’t immediately obvious–and invite people to comment. A brief explanation of the photo’s subject, where it was taken, etc. may be provided. I urge you to use only original photographs so that copyright infringement is not an issue.”

Please visit the other participants! Tumbled Words, Soliloquy, Inside Mo’s Mind, This Eclectic Life, Life in Westcliffe, Miscellaneous Matters.

November 21, 2007. Environment. 2 comments.

From A Seed

Seedling

This year we’re experimenting with growing broad beans over winter. I don’t know if it’s going to be a success or an out and out failure, but the seedlings seem to be holding their own at the moment. I can’t tell you what pleasure I get from seeing their progress. At a time when everything else seems to be dying back, these small plants are just beginning their growth; their bright green leaves vibrant against the cold dark soil. There is such joy to be had in the seemingly smallest of things…

“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”
John Keats

“To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.”
Charles Dudley Warner, author, editor, publisher (1829 – 1900)

“Once we become interested in the progress of the plants in our care, their development becomes a part of the rhythm of our own lives and we are refreshed by it.”
Thalassa Cruso

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
Henry David Thoreau

What are the small things in your life that are making you smile today?

(All quotes from Emily Compost)

November 20, 2007. Inspiration. 3 comments.

Rain

Rain on Window Pane

Just to show you that Scotland’s reputation for rain isn’t completely unwarranted, I took this photo today of the window looking out to the hills beyond. What, you can’t see the hills? No, neither can I.

8 years ago, we were living on the north coast of Scotland in a house which was around 4 miles from the nearest village. Our son had just been born, and we had just moved to an isolated, windswept place, which had no tv and no central heating. It was not the easiest period of my life to date, but in many ways, I think it made our little family unit stronger. I began listening to the radio a lot to replace the tv, and one of the songs that was frequently played on Radio 1 was the Scottish band Travis’ Why Does It Always Rain On Me. It seemed incredibly apt at the time, and for me, it has become indelibly connected to that time and place. Anyway, as we were coming home from the shops this weekend, that song came on the radio, and my husband and I just looked at each other, and in that look was communicated such a wealth of shared experience, that I wouldn’t swap all those difficult times for the world.

Here’s the clip for the song, which is funny, as it looks as though it was shot near where I used to live. Note the lack of trees!

November 19, 2007. Environment. 4 comments.

A Walk To The Shops And Back

Today was a beautiful day. Scotland has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to weather, and to be fair, we do have some fairly heavy rain, gusty winds, horizontal hale and dense fog to contend with, in fact, often on the same day! However, today was not one of those days. Today the sun was unobscured by mist or cloud, and the sky was a clear cerulean. Our breath became visible as it left our bodies, and the tips of our noses turned red with the cold, but it was a wonderful day to be alive. As you might have guessed, I took some photos, as I just had to share this day with as many as I could.

Dumyat in Early Winter

Bare Branches

Bath Time

Wires Crossed

Winter Berries

Oak Leaves

Winter Sun

Ferns

Sunlit Oak

Sky Helix

Does the airplane stream in this last picture look like a single helix to you, or is it just me?

November 15, 2007. Environment, Photography. 7 comments.

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