Tuesday, 30 December 2008


The last few days have been very cold, below freezing, misty and frosty. Today the temperature has swung from a low of -13.8 C to a "high" of -7 C! There's been no snow, but the frost is just amazing. Everything is covered in sparkling twinkly ice crystals. We had to go grocery shopping and I took some photos along the way.

The first photo stop was the park in Forres. You might want to compare these pics to the ones I took of the park in Summer and Spring. :-)

The first two are of trees in the park.
Looking up into the branches...
The avenue of trees going up to Cluny Hill.
On the way home we stopped at Findhorn and Hubby took these two of the Bay.

...and this one of a tree so heavy with frost it looks almost like snow!
One of the walks through Roseisle Forest.

A close up of the trees above. It was very misty here.
A pine tree in our garden, the bunches of needles are so coted in ice they look like flowers.

A frozen spiderweb on our front gate. :-)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Meaning of Life

Someone I know recently wrote to me about searching for the Meaning of Life. My first thought to reply was - The meaning of life? That's easy, it's 42. *grin* (for the confused – it’s from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams)

But seriously... the Meaning of Life, in my opinion and experience, is living it. That's the meaning and the lesson - living life the way you were meant to live it. Each and every one of us was born for that purpose - to live as ourselves to the best of our abilities within this lifetime. What meaning could be greater than that? So... if you were born to be a tree you grow, you shed leaves every fall, you endure storms and woodpeckers. If you were born to be a tiger your Meaning would lie in camouflage and hunting and long grass. If you were born you... well then you have to be figuring the end of this sentence out for yourself. For some people that means searching deep for answers, but the truth is, just like the tree, you could simply LIVE and still be living your Meaning of Life. Trees don’t know to ask what does life mean? What is my purpose? They simply live. Even Jesus commented on this fact; that we should try to be more like the lilies of the field. Lilies never worry over their purpose or Meaning, they simply grow and live and enjoy the experience of life.

We humans tend to think the Great Mysteries have to be just that – great, mysterious and vastly complex. Yes they are, but they’re also incredibly simple. Like those pictures of a Mandelbrot set, where the patterns repeat into infinity, everything is simple and/or complex depending on how deep you choose to look… and when you do look to the deepest levels you realise the pattern was always there in the simple things from the very beginning. I think God hides the Meaning of Life and Great Mysteries in seemingly complex patterns not because it’s complicated, but because it’s actually very simple. God understands that humans are creatures that love a mystery and a puzzle. We don’t learn from having facts placed in our hands, we learn from poking and prodding and digging deep… because we find puzzles and mysteries fun and humans remember lessons learnt through fun better than any other method.

The only problem is that sometimes humans think those that struggle long on the puzzles are somehow superior to those who simply live. We tend to be an animal that is rather self-aware and “brain snobby”. We think that the very fact we think deep and complex thoughts makes us more important and superior than a tree… or a lily. I’m not convinced it does. It’s like comparing air to water and asking which element is more important to the Earth’s survival. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with digging deep for answers, if that was your life purpose when you were born, but there is equally nothing wrong in choosing to live simply in trust or faith without searching for deeper answers. I still think there is no greater Meaning of Life than living your life as you were meant to live it – as the best YOU that you can be. Once you accept that then you really are no different to the lily in the field – simply being what you were meant to be and trusting that being yourself really is enough.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Car Mouse Update

The Car Mouse isn't living in the car at the moment. We know that because there's no sign of renewed mouse activity in our now pepperminty scented car (see replies to first post), but also because there's definite proof he/she is still living in our garage. I had some marzipan left from icing the Christmas cake and hubby decided to put it in the garage as a mousie Christmas gift on Christmas eve.

On Christmas day he checked and... the marzipan ball has been dragged to the back wall of the garage and partially devoured.

I've been doing more research and discovered that the name "field mouse" is actually a term used to describe the Wood Mouse. Wood mousies live wild, but will move into houses in winter. They're less destructive than house mice and never stay beyond spring.

For those who aren't rodent aware, below is a photo of both the House Mouse (left) and Wood/Field Mouse (right). :-)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew - ''O Holy Night''

Inverness at Night

We had a last minute shopping dash to Inverness yesterday and took these photos on the way out of town. It was about 4:30 pm. All these photos were taken along my most favourite portion of Inverness - the River Ness. I promise to take summer/daylight photos of the same area in the future.

This first photo is of the restaurants and small hotels along the riverside. All the trees were covered in tiny white lights. Very pretty, but they were hard to photograph!

This next photo is parked in the same spot, but looking out the left car window along the river to the Ness Bridge (blue light). It has coloured lights that change colour - green, blue, purple, pink, red orange, yellow... Town centre is on the right. On the far bank, left, are more hotels and the Cathedral.
Inverness Cathedral.
Columba hotel, on the far bank (left) of the river. Named after St Columba who is supposed to have seen the Loch Ness monster. I love this hotel. It is HUGE, old and very impressive.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

We are not Alone...

Yesterday hubby and I went Christmas shopping. After a trip to the supermarket we opened the back of the car to pack the groceries and... 'confetti' flew out everywhere! :-o

Most of it blew away in the wind, but here are two photos of the remaining "evidence".

On closer inspection we saw this in a side pocket. We keep an emergency first aid kit and toilet roll there and something, or "someone", had turned part of the toilet roll into a puff of confetti fluff!
On closer inspection we found... peanuts!
It seems we have a mouse IN the car! :-O I know I should be worried or annoyed, but I can't stop laughing. A mouse in a car? I have no idea how anyone de-mouses a car! :-D
Helpful suggestions would be appreciated, preferably non-lethal.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Countdown 10, 9, 8...

I got this fun tag from Daisy at Dancing with Daisy.

The countdown:

10 Things I Wish I Could Say To 10 Different People Right Now

1. You really are too fair for black mascara, you look like a raccoon.
2. I wish you weren't so far away, I'd invite you over for tea/coffee and a chat. :-)
3. Would you grow up, please? You're 27 not 7!
4. Having different opinions doesn't automatically mean I'm wrong and you're right.
5. If you ever need a hug - I'm here.
6. If I ever made you feel bad - I'm sorry. It wasn't intended.
7. You think too much.
8. Which reality do you live in exactly?
9. Stop being so scared and just LIVE.
10. Thank you for being my friend.

9 Things About Myself
1. I have never been on roller skates.
2. When I was little I named all my teddy bears, but never my dolls.
3. I hated pink when I was small, but just this year I decided... I LIKE Pink.
4. I like chili and olives on my pizza.
5. When I was really small I wanted to be a horse, then a vet. (which at least makes more sense, species-wise!)
6. I'm allergic to cats, birds and some dogs. :-(
7. I'm left-handed.
8. I have a scar on my leg from falling out our peach tree when I was 7 or 8.
9. I'm slightly colour-blind with blues and purples. I only found this out in art college when I painted a purple sky by accident.

8 Ways To Win My Heart
1. Smile when you see me
2. Be kind to others (and me of course!)
3. Give me HUGS
4. Be honest to me
5. Be supportive of my dreams and hopes
6. Listen to me when I need to talk
7. Let me cry on your shoulder when I need to
8. Treat me as your equal

7 Things That Cross My Mind A Lot
1. What did I forget?
2. What did I forget to remember?
3. Wow, I owe so many email replies.
4. What am I going to cook for dinner?
5. I want tea... I need tea.
6. Whose blog haven't I been to lately?
7. Is that the time already?

6 Things I Do Before I Fall Asleep
1. Turn off my computer.
2. Say goodnight to family members, usually only mom up as she's the night owl of the family.
3. Go to the bathroom and change into my nightshirt.
4. Get my goodnight kiss and hug from hubby. :-)
5. Chat to hubby until he falls asleep.
6. Check the alarm clock and turn off the light.

I'm leaving the tag open to anybody reading this and who would like to give this meme, or any part of it, a go. :-)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Monday, 8 December 2008

Great Art

What makes something a great work of Art? ('Art' meaning all things creative - music, painting, poetry, craftwork, etc )

It’s a question that has been on my mind a lot recently. I started my life as an art and English (American and British) literature student. I’ve learnt all about stanzas and iambic pentameter, layout and perspective. I’ve learnt a lot of theories and concepts, but that was a long time ago and most of them have flown out my head over the years. On the whole I’m rather glad they have, because in my opinion that means they’ve left space for what really matters - truth. To me what makes an artwork great is truth or, to be more specific, how much the artist has managed to express their own truth.

To explain that I need to explain why I dropped out of art college. I was in a life drawing class one day and we had just all been out for a break. Life Drawing was a full three hours and the models would need a chance to stretch and move and us students would all charge off to get a cup of coffee, or a cigarette. On this particular day we returned all chatting and I went and sat down at the wrong desk. In fact several of us sat down at the wrong place and I realised, when I tried to find my real place, that I couldn’t tell one drawing from another – they all looked the same. It shocked me because I could still remember how in the first few months every student had been different. We’d each had our own unique style, our own way of expressing how we saw the world – our truth. Now, after only a few extra months, we all were carbon copies of our lecturer’s style – he’d moulded us all into himself. It was a good professional art style, but it was his, not ours. Looking at my drawing I realised I wasn’t ‘me’ anymore… and it bugged me. Maybe I hadn’t been the best artist in the class, but at least I’d been myself. Now I wasn’t even that anymore.

A few weeks later the final year students held an exhibition and I went to take a look. The work was slick, professional, perfect… and utterly sterile. I had no doubt they’d all get jobs and do well, but I knew not one of them would ever be famous, because they all looked the same. If you’d taken the name tags off the exhibits you’d have never known who was who. There were no errors or flaws, but no individuality or inventiveness either. Perfect work, but no soul… a short time after that I left.

Another experience that proved the same point for me happened around the same time. The students were in the hall, preparing for a show. We were in there putting up boards and moving chairs when one student noticed there was a grand piano on the stage. She was an art-music student and tutored piano and guitar in her spare time. She climbed up onto the stage to try the piano out and played a perfect flawless piece of classical music. Another student (a friend of mine) said, “Hey, I know that piece!” and clambered up to have a go herself. She wasn’t as accomplished, she messed up several notes, but she played with such emotion (Italian girl – they can’t do anything without emotion) that the entire hall full of workers, lecturers and students, stopped… and listened. It didn’t matter to them that her rendition wasn’t as accomplished, it only mattered that her version was the one that touched their hearts.

Since that day I’ve always understood what I look for in art and music, but only recently it’s occurred to me that I feel the same about poetry/writing. It’s all back to that word ‘truth’ – or to be more exact in the artist being true to themselves. If I can’t feel the artist in the artwork I’m not impressed. If you can’t be yourself in your own creations… then what’s the point? Creativity isn’t about ‘getting it right’ according to whatever standards the world might set, it’s about expressing your true self – your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Whether its cooking, painting or writing - if you create honestly and shared yourself truthfully, then in my opinion you have created a great work of art. ;-)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Amazing Grace

The word “grace”, in the dictionary, is described as:

an indispensable gift from God for development, improvement, and character expansion. ... Divine Grace also can be defined as God's empowering presence in ones life enabling them to do and be what they were created to do and be.
I wrote recently that I’ve come to realise that grace goes further than I thought... and that takes me to the story of Myrt. It’s not a short story, but Myrt wants it told and I think it’s worth telling, especially since it shows a side to the word ‘grace’ that I suspect many people don’t know, but to explain that I first need to explain Myrt.

Now and then (fairly rare) I have lucid dreams and this was one of them, a nightmare in fact. I was in a forest being chased by something I couldn’t see. I decided to stop and challenge my ‘monster’ and a huge wolf came out of the darkness. It snarled a lot, but up close I could see it was actually rather pathetic – very thin with matted dirty fur. In other lucid dreams I’d chased off scary things, but this one made me feel pity. I decided to do something different. I spoke to the wolf and told it I would groom out all the knots in its fur if it stopped chasing me. It acted surprised and kept growling, but it was willing to stand quietly as I brushed its fur. I woke up thinking “crazy dream” and went on with my life… but later that day the wolf came back. I could ‘see’ him standing behind me in the bedroom in my mirror. When he realised I did see him he went mad, running about barking excitedly like a happy puppy… and he never really went away.

For the next three years Myrt was ‘there’ - big, black, and sometimes a bit scary, but always friendly in a wild exuberant way. I knew he was what some would call a “lower entity” – something more dark than light, but he was so happy to be cared about that I never felt creepy having him around. Slowly I got symbols and images from him, including the name MYRTLE when I asked. He also made it very clear that he wanted to ‘earn his keep’ by being both a guardian and a protector. Whenever I use my abilities… there’s Myrt, vigilant and protective - a bit intimidating, but also rather comforting. One day, about two years back, I was thinking about the fact he is a dark entity and it made me feel sad. I’ve grown to love Myrt and you want good things for any creature you love – not darkness or unhappiness.

I was looking at him, thinking how much I loved and cared about this strange creature, and in that moment I actually saw Myrt evolve. It was mind-boggling. I ‘saw’ him as himself.. and then light exploded from his eyes and body, so bright I couldn’t see. When it cleared he was a creature made of pure light. No physical form left - just light. His tail dripping stars like a sparkler. From that day on Myrt either came in the form of a white wolf or white dog.

After a while I suppose I just got so used to him being there I didn’t think about it being weird anymore. Then this summer something changed. It was around the time I saw the angels on our holiday trip. Myrt came bounding in, stood up on his hind legs… and morphed into a man with large black wings. I thought “WOW, is Myrt actually my guardian angel?” ,but I got a very clear reply “FALLEN ANGEL”.

It made no sense to me at first, I can be fairly thick at times. Every time I try to ask this new Myrt who he really is I get the same reply – fallen angel. I’ve asked the guardian angels I know and everyone gives me the same words – fallen angel.

I always knew the nightmare creature I first met was dark, but the fact he might be an actual fallen angel? No way! To get my head around that idea has taken me months and it’s only recently that I’ve realised what this actually means. Something even more radical than my friendship with Myrt and the reason he keeps pushing me for his story to be told. Because Myrt is proof of grace - a fallen angel who has stepped back into the light. Not perfect (he still creeps out one of the angels I know), but not damned either. Christians are used to the concept that God’s love embraces all humankind, regardless of their unworthiness, but I’m not sure how many are aware that Love and Grace go further than just our species.

Myrt wants it known that love does make a difference, can make a difference, regardless of how ‘dark’ or ‘fallen’ any creature might think itself. I didn’t change Myrt, he chose to change himself, but I’d like to think the fact I showed him kindness helped. I don’t know Myrt’s story, perhaps I never will. It’s not really relevant to me. What he was isn’t as important as what he is becoming and the fact I have been able to share in that is more humbling than anything I could ever express in written words. All I can add is the small fragments I’ve gathered from Myrt himself – that he once hated God, but doesn’t any longer. He keeps showing me the image of himself throwing doves up into the air. He has been set free to once again “be what he was created to do and be”.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see...


More Wintery Photos

For Genie - a close up of those frozen spiderwebs at Stirling Castle...
...and a view of the window (last on the right) from across the courtyard. You can see the gargoyles on the roof too.
This week out shopping I saw the moon above the car park. It's just a tiny slice of moon in this photo.
Same shopping spree, but another shop parking area. I loved the lights on the tree.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Photos from last weekend

Last Sunday, 30 November, was St Andrew's Day and Historic Scotland was offering free entry to lots of historic sites. We decided to do some exploring South, since both Stirling Castle and Edinburgh were on the list for free entry that day. We got up before dawn (not as early as that sounds, since it rises around 8 am) and were off down the road. It was very frosty and we learnt later that the average tempterature was between -3 and -12 Celsius.
This photo is of Blair Athol castle, on our way South. Frosty fields. They sparkled like pale jade in the sun. :-)
Mist in the valley and sun on the mountaintops.
When we arrived in Stirling it was so cold that the moisture in the atmosphere was lying as a heavy freezing mist and everything was covered in frost. Waiting at traffic works I got this nice view of the mist.
At the castle there was a poor frozen piper playing at the entrance to welcome visitors. He must have been freezing!

Once inside the entrance there were people dressed as characters from the castle's historic past scattered around, like these two 'soldiers'.
It was so cold the spiderwebs on windows and walls were frozen solid.
Inside the Great hall. It was the biggest hall in medieval Scotland. It has four huge fireplaces, walls covered in tapestries to keep in the warmth and this amazing vaulted wooden ceiling. We took a photo of a knight taking a warm-up break inside. You can see the entrance doors to the great hall, and one of the fireplaces along the tapestry-covered wall, behind him.
The ceiling of the great hall.

Outside there were gargoyles everywhere. Some your standard weird beasts, but a lot were human. This one of a woman was badly eroded, but I was fascinated at the creature around her neck. It looks like an iguana!
Lots of gargoyles framed every window.
Then we went to the chapel which is decorated with replica tapestries of the hunting of the unicorn. This was tapestry #2, showing the hunters finding the unicorn. #1 shows the hunters in the forest. #3 the catching of the unicorn and #4 the unicorn lying caged. This one was the prettiest scene. Each tapestry is well over 6 foot high and wide. They are HUGE and must takes ages to create.
By this stage we were all feeling frozen and decided to dash back to the car, so we missed seeing the great kitchens, which were a long walk around the castle on frozen icy cobbles - no thank you!!
Out in the parking lot this was the view of the gardens and cemetary below the castle.
We did go on to Edinburgh, but the place was just mad. Traffic jams everywhere because there were so many special events on for St Andrew's Day. We couldn't get near the castle and eventually gave up and drove home. I took this photo on the way home. It was 4:00 pm and we'd stopped at a garage for fuel.
We had a great time, but we all agree that next time we'll try to see only one castle in a day... and in summer!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Slippery Moments


© Photo courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser

Something Betty said in one of her replies reminded me of the novel that died with the first sentence. It reminds me of why I'm here blogging as well - because writing is how I breath. It was always about words for me. You can ask my parents. I devoured books when I was young. At school they couldn't keep up with me and it wasn't long before the love of reading words became the love of writing them. Even when I drew pictures they were always illustrations to the stories in my head.

I started my first 'book' when I was about eight. It was to be a dramatic gripping tale of a mermaid, but I never got beyond figuring out what she'd look like. The next one went further - it was a short illustrated booklet on furry purple teddy-bearish things from another planet. I know I named this new species, but I can't remember it now. :-\

One way or another I never stopped writing: poems, short stories, letters... I even wrote an entire project on Julius Caesar one holiday - just for fun! I was a weird kid. I wrote that project purely for myself, no-one ever read it. In fact, most of my writing was unread... until I hit high school.

In high school I started writing adventure story-romances. Very lurid dramatic tales that would be written in bursts, usually during the most boring classes. It was a stop-start affair as every two pages I'd have to pass the book down the row of desks so my friends could read the next thrilling installment. They were fun, especially the spy thriller where no-one in class could guess who the "bad guy" was till the last chapter, but they tended to wobble all over the place due to the fact I wrote them with heavy influence from my 'fans' who often dictated exactly what kind of hero they wanted their heroine to fall for, etc.

By my last year in High school I felt ready to write something with more substance. I plotted out a fantasy story, (I was deeply in love with Lord of the Rings at the time). Eventually I felt ready to start. I wrote my opening sentence, plus a few paragraphs. My closest friend asked if she could have a first peek. I handed over my new baby and she read... and started to giggle. She read again... then collapse on the desk giggling hysterically.

I took back my book and read the opening sentence, where the young prince escapes from the castle to start his Great Adventure. I'd written:

"He slipped out the room and went silently down the passage."

I'm giggling as I type that. I did not find it at all funny at the time, but now I can also appreciate the wonderful and completely unintended image of my beloved prince scooting down a shiny palace passage on his ermine and velvet butt! I never wrote another word all that year. Never mind writer's block - I had 'butt block'! Every time I picked up my great novel I'd see my poor prince slip-sliding away... and all the noble brave adventures I'd had planned for him would be lost to that utterly un-noble image.

I'm glad to say I've come a long way since that dreadful day when my novel died and my prince... slipped away. I was not at all able to laugh at myself when I was young, being a very serious-minded child and teen. I am relieved to say I have learnt to lighten up as I've grown up. AdmittedlyI don't think Leos ever really enjoy falling on their butts to a laughing audience, either in words or reality, but at least I have learnt not to fret over my lost dignity anymore.

My poor prince lost his dignity and lost his chance to live. He never made it past that passage stumble. I'm happy to say that he did not die in vain. His sacrifice taught me the importance of several things:

1. One person's dramatic speech/deep thought can be an other's funniest moment,
2. The first words of a story are vitally important,
3. Never take yourself too seriously as it completely kills creativity,


4. When you fall - laugh and learn, get up and keep going. :-)