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Cake, canal and cotton: A walk near Cromford

Just before Easter, Graham and the boys received an invitation to join some friends on a canal boat for a couple of days. That gave me the chance to have a rare day out walking - and fortunately the weather cooperated with some beautiful warm sunshine. This excursion fitted all my criteria for a good walk: well-marked paths, beautiful views, interesting things to see, very few people, and even a decent cup of coffee along the way! I parked at the High Peak Junction car park near Cromford, and started by climbing up through spring-flowered woods, with views across the Derwent valley. When I came out onto a lane, I discovered a farm with a blue plaque saying that Alison Uttley was born there. On my bookshelf there is a very battered yellow paperback called Magic in my Pocket , a collection of some of Alison Uttley's short stories. They contain some beautifully evocative descriptions of sledging down snowy slopes and walking across moonlit meadows, but I had never connected her with
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When guinea pigs change your life

 In our back garden is an empty hutch. We got it a few years ago when we intended to get rabbits. That didn't work out, sadly. Then we spent a long time talking about getting pets - but not quite yet, maybe after the next holiday, or when the weather warms up. Finally we introduced two fluffballs to our family by the names of Lily and Violet. They're guinea pigs. But of course they are far too cute to live outdoors, and have to have a cage in the dining room where they can squeak at us during dinner. So the outdoor hutch is still empty, for now. Lily left, Violet right   A lot of other things change when you get guinea pigs, though. Here are a few I wasn't expecting. You cut grass in your pajamas  Somehow we've got into this routine where Graham, who is up first, gives the guinea pigs their vegetables. Then by the time I get up they are ready for a big bunch of grass. So there I am, wading through the dew in my flipflops and dressing gown, cutting grass with scissors. T

The God Who Sees: Spiritual Formation Book 3

"Hagar in the desert reminds all of us that the Spirit can be found in the places we least expect: with the poor, the outcast, the enslaved people, the domestic help, and the foreigners. God is present with anyone who is treated as a human resource instead of a human being."   The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong by Karen Gonz├ílez is the third of my spiritual formation books this year. (It was meant to be fourth, but after battling through The Imitation of Christ I decided I needed something easier to read.) Gonz├ílez moved from Guatemala to the USA with her family when she was a child, escaping the civil war in her home country. She currently works for an organisation which supports immigrants and refugees. Her book intersperses her own story of relocation with reflections on the Bible and the experiences of people she has worked with. What are the main themes of this book? The chapters of The God Who Sees alternate between Bible stories and

Being different (a queer Bible story)

Here is a man. He's always known he's different. It's the kind of difference that, when people find out about it, they ask questions like, "What went wrong? Was it his upbringing? Or something faulty in his brain?" He often asks himself the same questions. In the endless hours of the night, he wonders what could have been changed, or what could still be changed, to alter who he is. One day this man meets someone who says a startling thing: that this difference is not  something wrong inside of him. He doesn't need to alter who he is in order for God to work in his life. They say this in such a way that the man actually starts to believe it. They enact a simple ceremony - a little mud to dirty him, a gentle touch, a wash in a pond to make him clean - which fixes this belief in his soul. His difference is no longer a sign that he is broken. It is a sign that he is whole. His community quickly notice the change in him. For the first time, he starts to feel like h

My life in... flowers

Our time in Texas didn't get mentioned in my previous post .  North Texas does have trees, of course, but it's not big tree country.  It used to be prairie.  There is grass, and cacti, and flowers.  Even the cacti have flowers. Transplanting myself from cool damp British woodlands to hot dry Texas prairies meant learning a whole new wildflower vocabulary.  Instead of Cowslips and Ragged Robin, there was Turk's Cap and Indian Blanket.  In the spring, you didn't go to take photos in the bluebell woods, but among fields of bluebonnets. English bluebell woods Texas bluebonnets So much of the original prairie has gone now, that there is a strong movement towards preserving what is left, and planting native species.  We visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre in Austin, which is stunning - lovely buildings merging beautifully with the surrounding scenery.  And I had a go at cultivating my own patch of native flowers in the backyard. Even when you don't think you

My life in... trees

Starting Get Outside in Lent made me think about how the natural world has intertwined with my life.  Considering the different categories - trees, water, flowers, birds - immediately brought up memories of particular plants, animals and rivers. Writing about this feels a little like escapism - conjuring up birds in clear skies and summer afternoons in a canoe, instead of dealing with destruction and desolation.  But being connected to nature is what makes us human too.  We cannot reduce the rest of the world to an exploited resource, or a mere backdrop to our fights and squabbles.  We are part of the earth, and the earth is part of us. So, trees. Image © Yeldall Manor. Used with permission. Like many children, my early encounters with trees involved climbing them.  I remember a particular cherry tree on a piece of rough ground next to our house.  An old lawn chair provided the boost up to its lowest branch, which was worn smooth and shiny from all the fingers which had swung from it.

Tree hugging and queer reflecting (Lent 2022)

The 40 days of Lent can be awfully long if you're trying to do something (or not do something) every day.  Here are a couple of things I found this year which I thought I might actually be able to keep up with.  One has a very small action each day, and the other is something to read and think about - but only on Sundays, until you get to Holy Week. Get Outside in Lent Christian environmental charity A Rocha has provided six weeks of ideas to get you and your family outside in Lent.  The PDF is here:  https://bit.ly/ECGetOutsideforLent .  There are six activities each week (and yes, the first one really is "Hug a tree") and a suggestion for a celebration and prayer on Sundays.   The logical way to do six weeks seems to be to start next Monday, but then the final Sunday is Easter Sunday.  So I guess you could also start today (or tomorrow) and finish on the Thursday before Easter.  There are no dates, making it pretty flexible. Ashes to Rainbows: A Queer Lenten Devotional