Hidden Treasure in the Garden

Lost Gold

My Grandad’s garden is deeply familiar to me. It’s a place where there always seems to be abundant growth going on. A whole range of colours sparkling beneath dew, petals upon petals of radiant pinks and reds and oranges and yellows, and the first spring blooms can be found there along with ruby red and bright yellow tomatoes, pink forced rhubarb, the sweetest summer peas, an abundance of victoria plums, golden papered onions and the tastiest potatoes. And yet, despite my familiarity with this garden and the plants my Grandad grows there, I still find surprises from time to time. I found one such surprise yesterday when I looked beneath one glorious helleborus to find these small golden sunshine yellow treasures nestling close to the dark earth. Isn’t it a wonderfully exciting thought that even in the most familiar environments, such treats are still waiting to be discovered?

Treasure Trove

What treasure have you uncovered recently?


April 30, 2008. Environment. 9 comments.

The New Notebook

There are few things in life that get the creative juices flowing more than a new notebook full of fresh blank pages, as clean and as pure as a bank of freshly fallen snow.

The Blank Page

So Many Pages, So Many Possibilities

As you sit there with pen in hand looking down at the first page, it almost seems sacrilegious to make a mark. And what to write? What to write?

A toododlist perhaps?

A mindmap of a new idea?

A blog post?

Or maybe a little creative writing…

The wet black boughs, their bark slick with rainwater, shimmer in the errant shaft of light which slices through the pregnant clouds. Scattered haphazardly, randomly, the magnolia flowers, thick creamy petals unfurling, gleam illuminated against the gloom. Lush and exuberant, they perch, unfettered by foliage, upon the tree like a flock of small exotic white birds that were merely passing through on their way to warmer climes. A place more verdant where the droplets of moisture hang in the air and form a fine film over flushed begrimed skin. A place where the body moves slowly, stiffly: the limbs, heavy and insect-bitten. Hair clings to the scalp while small rivulets of sweat make their way down the nape, between shoulder blades, tracing the spine, only finding obstacle when they approach the ancient grey elastic of a bra strap which has pressed so tight against the skin that, beneath the threadbare fabric, angry red cries out in a cacophony of itches. A place where the mind can masticate the regurgitated morsels of regret.

What would you write on the first page of your new notebook?

April 28, 2008. Creativity, Inspiration. 24 comments.

Links Less Ordinary

Floating Feather 4

I’ve decided to start a new regular weekend feature, in which I’ll share some of my favourite posts from the past week by bloggers who are consciously embracing less ordinary living. I hope you enjoy what you find!

I will stay on this path I have chosen, wandering the trails and hidden lanes, the open paddocks and the mossy streams. And I reserve the right at all times to change my path – to decide a detour has become the route. To change direction and to move with the seasons and the ebb and flow of life.

  • Diane Cordell who blogs at Journeys wrote a post entitled Both Sides Now, which is just beautiful in its brevity. She takes a look at her Tweetcloud, an application I’ve never really understood, but which generates a ‘cloud’ of the words you use most often on Twitter, and she provides such a poetic perspective on it. She also references one of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs!

When we speak, I use words like “new,” “time,” “school,” “know,” “love.”

Powerful writing is what makes ME want to write! rich, multilayered, evocative, beautifully arranged words make me want to do the same Captainstardust

Powerful writing is the kind of prose which come from inspired intent. tldtim

The world needs your song, your determination, and your laughter. The world needs you to “Build and Become.” No one else brings your version of clever.

We change the world just by being. Imagine what happens when we do what we’re meant to do.

  • Karen Swim has had a great week over at Words For Hire where she’s written a series of blog posts comparing the setting and achieving of goals to marathon running. Here’s a link and a snippet from the first one, The Long Hot Race, posted on Monday, but I urge you to check out the rest too!

You can run a few marathons of your own (and if you’re up for it, I totally recommend it!) or stay with me this week as I share from my own successes and failures. You may not run the same way, distance or speed but I hope that I can spare you a few blisters on your own run.

  • Robert Hruzek from Middle Zone Musings had a great two-part post up on Getting A Handle On Big, Honkin’, Life Changing Decisions (Part 1 and Part 2). Here’s a taster from Part 1:

Go ahead; ask anybody! Making big, life-changing decisions (flash of lightning; crash of thunder; sound of terrified scream) ain’t easy. We’ve all had to make our share of ‘em. What’s even more irritating is, they keep on comin’, getting bigger and more dramatic as time goes by. In fact, you may be facing, or be in the middle of one, right this minute. Hey, it’s all part of the adventure we call life.

I’d like to know how you define “balance.” Do you believe there is there such a thing, and how do you achieve it? Have you joined the “Gentle Rebellion” of which Beck speaks? Do you cling to the expectations that our society has upon you, or do you make up your own rules?

Well those are some of my favourite posts from this week. Care to share your own favourite online read from the week?

April 26, 2008. Links Less Ordinary. 16 comments.

Meme: Passion Quilt – Kaleidoscopic

Holding the Kaleidoscope

I was tagged recently by one of my Twitter friends, Drew Buddie, to share with you what I’m passionate about teaching my students. I haven’t responded to the tag right away, as I’ve been mulling it over, trying to decide the best way to articulate what exactly my passion in my teaching is. I think I’ve finally managed it:

I’m passionate about illuminating new perspectives.

I think the best way to explain is to show you some photos:

Through the Kaleidoscope 1Through the Kaleidoscope 2Through the Kaleidoscope 3

The images above are all taken through the viewfinder of my children’s kaleidoscope. Every time I slightly adjust the kaleidoscope, the patterns change. The components remain the same, but the view alters radically.

When I teach my students at university, or my children at home, I want to show them how the kaleidoscope works. I want to show them that by altering their perspective, by looking deeper, longer, or from a different angle entirely, a whole other world can be observed. Now, I don’t want to continue holding and adjusting the viewfinder for them. The whole point is to show them how it works, and then what they choose to do with it is up to them. I’m just happy if they share with me and the rest of the class what they see. My ‘formal’ teaching at university attempts to convey this understanding as it pertains to the reading of texts. I know I’ve done my job well, when I have students say to me at the end of a semester that they’ll never read books the same way again. My more ‘informal’ teaching of my own children has always been about empowering them to grasp hold of the kaleidoscope, and to embrace and explore the many different perspectives they find contained within.

And I suppose, to a certain extent, it’s also what I teach here at Lives Less Ordinary. I am still in a state of becoming. I am still learning from the kaleidoscope, and what I share here are my findings. I’m providing a peek through the viewfinder, and sharing the way I view the patterns, the colours, the way the light falls. I ask all my questions at the end of each post, because I want to hear what you see when you look through the viewfinder.

Thank you so much for sharing with me what you see.

Here are the rules for the meme:

The Rules

  1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
  2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce etc

However, I won’t tag anyone. Why don’t you share your answer here, or, if you do decide to have a go at it on your own blog, drop me a line and I’ll link to you in an update.

April 24, 2008. Inspiration, meme. 11 comments.

Mystery Photographs

When my Grandma was sorting through my Great-Grandad’s effects following his death, she found an envelope with old photographs in it. It’s thought that they belonged to my Great-Grandma, but we are at a complete loss as to the identity of the people in the photos. Have a peek through this small opening in time:

Family Portrait

All Dressed Up

A Day Out

Lean On Me

Precious Flower

As much as I would love to know who these people are and what happened to them, I’m almost as enamoured with the intrigue as I am by their curiously rigid poses, their strangely styled apparel and their gravely silent gaze.  Did they lead happy lives?  What was their first childhood memory?  Was it standing on a chair, dressed in their Sunday best while a man stood shrouded behind some weird piece of technology?  What was their greatest achievement?  What moment would they relive if they could?  Who or what was the love of their life?  If they could tell me just one thing, what would it be?

So many questions, and all without answers…

What question would you like to ask these mystery people?  Or, indeed, what question would you ask of your own far distant ancestors?

April 23, 2008. Inspiration, Photography. 12 comments.

The Setting of the Sun

I was taking in the washing from the line last night after dinner, when I noticed that the light had taken on a really beautiful colour. I looked beyond our neighbour’s house and saw the Ochil Hills bathed in a burnished glow, and I suddenly got an urge to be up there among the grassy hummocks, the woody heather, the dilapidated drystane dykes and the skittish sheep. I wanted to be bathed in that light too, and I wanted it so badly I could hardly think straight. I ran back in the house and quickly got the kids into their boots, grabbed our scarves, gloves and jackets, jumped in the car and began the 15 min journey which would take us up into the heart of the hills.

We drove along the twisty, single-track road until we came to a layby, where we parked the car, before we all tumbled out and started running up the grassy hillside. The wind was biting, and soon my ears were burning with the cold, and the tips of my fingers poking through my fingerless gloves began to turn red and numb. Wrapping my scarf about my head and shoving my hands deep in my pockets, we continued to set a brisk pace up the hillside to the summit, our bodies warming from the effort.

And then we arrived.

The light was that of liquid amber.

The air was so fresh and pure.

There was an enormity of sky.

And the whole experience was utterly breathtaking

Tree Silhouetted

Blue Sky After Sunset

Beyond the Grass

Enormity of Sky

Between the Clouds

What sight last took your breath away?

April 21, 2008. Environment, Photography. 17 comments.

Dandelion Wishes

Now, maybe it’s because of Daz Cox‘s comment on this post about celebrating dandelion season, but I have been seeing dandelions everywhere recently. I took these 4 photos as a series on the stages of the dandelion, ending with the wish-making stage.



Dandelion Clock

Make A Wish

Even though I am technically a grown-up, I still find it almost impossible to walk by a dandelion clock without plucking it from the plant, holding it to my mouth and scattering the seeds with my breath, whilst half-whispering some whimsical wish. Sometimes I wish for a rainbow; other times I wish for a flower to bloom on one of my cherished plants, or the serendipitous find of a white feather. I used to have a friend at school who always wished for an orange… The wishes should always be for those things which now seem simplistic to our adult sensibilities. A feather or an orange may seem trivial, but these kind of wishes are about enjoying life’s small pleasures, don’t you think?

What do you wish for as the fluffy dandelion seeds float away on your exhaled breath? Or do you prefer to wish on an eyelash, a lorry-load of hay, or perhaps the first star of the evening, twinkling in the twilight hues of pink, turquoise, lilac, blue?

April 20, 2008. Inspiration, Photography. 12 comments.

Spring On Campus

This afternoon I took the kids out for a walk around the loch at my university. It’s a lovely walk and it had been a while since we had taken the time to wander round the path taking in the seasonal flora and fauna. If you’ve been reading Lives Less Ordinary for a while now, you may remember I posted photos from a walk we took back in December last year. That day was beautiful, clear and frosty – the grass crunched beneath our feet and our breath could be seen clearly as it left our bodies. Today, however, the sun was out, the earth was soft and a bit soggy from all the rain we’ve had recently, the flowers were abundant and there were a few wonderful surprises of the duckling kind waiting for us. Take a look:

Springtime Campus

A Springtime Scene

Underneath the Magnolia Tree

Magnolia in Bloom

Backlit Blossom


This Way!

Gone Swimming

If you want to see the whole set, you can find it here.

So, how is Spring progressing in your part of the world? What are you doing to make this Spring memorable?

April 17, 2008. Environment, Photography. 16 comments.

A Shakespearean Sonnet

I’m teaching my class all about the sonnet tomorrow, and so I’ve been pouring over my poetry anthologies, reveling in the imaginative renderings of this much loved form. Of course, one of the main poets that we associate with the sonnet is Shakespeare, and we now use the term Shakespearean Sonnet to describe the type of sonnet he wrote. However, I think one of my favourite Shakespearean sonnets was not actually written by Shakespeare himself. It is, in fact, written by Carol Ann Duffy, and it’s named after William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.

Bed in Sunset

Anne Hathaway
“Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed…”
(from Shakespeare’s will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love –
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

By Carol Ann Duffy

This poem is from a fantastic collection of poems by Carol Ann Duffy called The World and His Wife in which each poem is written from the perspective of the wife of a famous, often historical figure. I highly recommend it as each poem is such a gem. In this poem, in particular, I love that she chose to write Shakespeare’s wife’s narrative in the form of the sonnet: the verse form which was clearly so close to his heart.

What’s your favourite sonnet? What do you love about this very special verse form?

UPDATE: I’ve had a request to share all the favourite sonnets I gathered through Twitter and this post, so, ever obliging, here they are:

Also if you head over to Autumn Song’s blog, you can read her post on sonnets and read a few by Edna St Vincent Millay.

Thanks go to @lindiop, @dmcordell, @captainstardust and @pfanderson from Twitter, as well as to the following commenters who contributed to this list: Mrs ChilliJoanna Young, DaleAutumn Song and Ellen Wilson.

April 14, 2008. Creativity, Inspiration. 9 comments.

What I Learned From Being A Pregnant Usherette


Around 10 years ago I was pregnant with my first child, and my husband and I were extremely skint.  We had no money whatsoever.  I knew that I needed to find a job, so when I saw the local cinema advertising for an usherette, I fired in my application and after a brief perfunctory interview, I got the job.  I thought it would be the perfect solution: it would bring in some more money, it was relatively low-level physical activity and I just love movies.  However, the reality didn’t quite live up to the fantasy. What follows is a list of what I learned from my brief employment at the cinema whilst pregnant:

  • Even if you love movies, after watching The Spice Girls Movie for the 14th time, you will quite happily swear off movies for life.
  • The smell of popcorn and morning sickness do not mix.
  • A pregnant woman standing collecting tickets for more than 10 mins will not stay standing for much longer.
  • Stiff polyester uniforms do not make the most comfortable maternity clothes.
  • The majority of people who went to see LA Confidential didn’t ‘get’ it, as evidenced by the confused expressions on the faces of the departing audience.
  • A little popcorn goes a long way, particularly when the bag is kicked across the aisle.
  • Large groups of mouthy teenagers are really annoying.

What is the oddest job you’ve ever had?  What lessons did you learn from it?

April 13, 2008. meme. 16 comments.

Next Page »