Saturday, 13 September 2014

Once around the sun

September is back. And stuff always seems to happen for us in the Holly Cottage in September. Maybe it's the palpable return of winter that makes us want to squeez one last drop of happiness out of the summer, or maybe it's just the way it is. But, as a rule of thumb, when I see blackberries I think of 'stuff happening'. Like far flung trips to Nawlins and Memphis, Barbados and Cuba; a whirlwind wedding (thankfully minus hurricane) under a Caribbean sky; a little one lost; and a not-so-little one gained. And then Holly and the man's birthday celebrations sitting on top of all that. Yep, stuff sure seems to happen in September.

...there's now.
Budding geologist.
And so it's once around the sun for our little star Alannah. She tumbled out a year ago, wide eyed and full of warmth and full of wonder. And we're still here, thankfully. If only I knew then what I know now, but where would the fun have been in that? I still can't believe that they let us out of the hospital that calm September afternoon. We couldn't even get the car seat working so I sat in the back seat with her held close to me all the way home - praying not to meet a garda - and the man driving at a snail's pace for fear of doing some harm to her. It took me at least three weeks before I would take her out on my own in the car - that damn car seat would challenge Houdini. 

Anyway, we made it. We spent most of the first six months walking back and forth between the Holly Cottage and the Charleville woods - Holly minding us as I took care not to slip in my specially purchased Hunter wellies (every city slicker wears them in Stockholm). I didn't know it then, but the baby phase is probably the easiest in so many ways, and for sure the hardest in others. The easiest in that she really just lay there, or sat there in her chair, or fed, or slept, or tried to sleep. Now that she's on the move....well, it's a different story. I have considered getting eyes in the back of my head but decided it might cause problems in our relationship in the future ;) She's into everything, and especially anything that may have dirt written all over it. Sigh. I have surrendered to her fascinations - within reason of course. And she has finally accepted that stones are not for eating. Holly is still going through that phase mind you. Oh well.  

'What you mean you don't
speak russian?'

Once we had hit the six months and emerged from the cloak of winter it was time for Mammy to step out of the slippers and wellies and well - um - back into the wellies full time. Thankfully the work of an ecologist is never done and instead of twiddling my thumbs and having time to miss her, I was back in the chase of building dams and making wetlands and making trouble before the man even had her pushed down the road to the childminders that first day. Amazing how we adapt. As the great bard wrote so eloquently 'the readiness is all' or perhaps the wild abandonment of worry is more appropriate. She is as happy as a pig in muck with her childminder and she is well on the way to becoming number one tomboy on the road. After her mother of course. 

Easter came and went and then it was time for hollydays and she ran into the waves on the shores of Donegal, she swallowed the sand on the beaches of Clare, caused a riot in Limerick before charming all the shopkeepers in Killarney and rolling off the bed in Kenmare. All with Holly in tow. Holly didn't make it to Latvia though, and we were sad about that at times. But we tested and tasted Rigan delights and lounged about in coffee shops and city centre parks, and Alannah loved every minute of it. I'm sure she knew everyone in Riga by the end of it, she certainly waved at most of them and even had a television encounter - part of the Latvian 25 years of freedom from Soviet tyranny celebrations. It was a good time to be there, and we were treated to some of the best open air classical and operatic music I have ever heard. Thank you Latvia. 

But now summer has come to an end and we are officially once around the sun, mother and daughter, father and loyal madra. I'd like to say I still had no gray hairs but from time to time I see the odd one poking out from a post pregnancy re-growth fringe (they don't tell you about that shit by the way). But hey, all those sleepless nights had to find their expression somewhere. To be honest, it feels like a lot more than one year but I guess that's because we packed so much in. I'd love to have captured every moment to play them back in the decades to come as we all grow together, but we have plenty of postcards and scars to remember. And sure we need to keep plenty of space for all our solar revolutions that have yet to come. 

Happy Birthday Alannah and here's to many more (eventful) trips around the sun.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Summer delights in the Holly Cottage garden

It's August. And despite the slight chill in the air since the start of the month beckoning the dawn of autumn, here in the Holly Cottage we are still hanging on to the notion of summer. And I have to look back over the last couple of months since I wrote here and wonder where did the time go? And what of the delights of summer that are now packed away in a 'full to the brim' freezer and memories of brightly lit evenings locked in digital memories in the shape of pictures on a smart phone?

You could swear
you were in...
Well. Most of June was spent keeping up with the bounty of strawberries. Every year - for the last four - I have to stand back in awe of how six strawberry plants came to be over a hundred, and are still multiplying. And every year there are more and more soft, sweet, perfectly shaped strawberries presenting themselves for nourishment duty. The fruits are put away in various forms - in the belly of course (straight up strawberry, strawberry cake, strawberry sauce, strawberry yogurt, strawberry ice cream.....), in the freezer and a in few pots of jam mixed up with raspberries and blackberries. The tops of the plants have been cut back for new leaves to form for next year. Not too late to do that still if you're wondering. 

Thankfully the raspberries present less work and we always leave the lion's share to the blackbirds and the sparrows. They have been cut back also - and careful they don't take over your garden! There's a few autumnal raspberries out there yet, waiting to surprise us in colder days. This year we managed to lock away some of the raspberries saved from our feathered friends in a few precious jars of jam (and cake - recipe available on demand, and yogurt and....), along with a few jars of the blackcurrant neighbours which are just way too delicious to be real. Again, they have been cut back too - I only wish we had space for more. One tip - the bountiful blackcurrant bushes that we have all came from cuttings from the Cappaduff homestead - no need to be buying plants if you know someone with a good stock nearby. 

Peas are packed away also and a delicious pea soup recipe developed by head chef in the Holly Cottage kitchen (I've been demoted to sous chef since Alannah came), and despite a bounty we are down to the last few. We were surprised at how excited Alannah was about them - she would stand in her play station watching us harvesting - One for Alannah, one for Holly. Poor Holly only got the ones that escaped her though. And she was so careful not to drop one in her pincer like grasp that has all the intensity that only a 10 month old person can invest. Again, I wish we had space for more (peas that is ;)), but we have new plants coming on and we might be rewarded with a few more autumn peas if the weather delivers. 

And what else? A bounty of rhubarb packed away - some in promising jars of rhubarb chutney (recipe still being developed, and an easy rhubarb cake recipe also developed), but most in the freezer for working on in darker days. Broad beans are also packed away - one hint - this year we just froze peas and beans direct, with no blanching. Much tastier when they are defrosted ;) 

As all fruit cakes should be...
Spuds are still in the ground, most of the Orla earlies are devoured and we are breaking into the Colleen and Sarpo Mira now. Disappointingly, despite the promise of 'blight free', all were touched a bit and we shall await and see if and how they have been affected, but not so bad yet. Beetroot and carrots are still sweet and full of earthy flavour. Sweetcorn, turnips, cabbages, kale and brussels sprouts are left for the cooler days while tomatoes and peppers are still 'coming on' in the greenhouse. I have to say that I think the tomatoes outdoors are always a lot healthier, but maybe that's down to our inexperienced and still, pale green fingers. Courgettes on the other hand, well - do they need any looking after at all I wonder? They just bolted from early summer - small baby courgettes were savoured first followed by later brothers and sisters of gigantic proportions. Still tasty despite the size and I recommend growing these to everyone - especially those who have little time to be worrying about more delicate species!

And so, just this week I spread some of our green manure seed onto the ground left bare by peas and those spuds devoured. We'll invest more time this year - I think, I hope - in getting more winter crops going. But in the meantime, we shall await the coming of the two tiny pears and the dozen or so apples that are slowly ripening down fruit alley. 

Summer delights
It's funny, but this summer seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Not to worry, still plenty of nasturtium colour and lavender scented pathways to keep us happy. And shur, autumn is always a crowd pleaser despite its more fickle summer predecessor. Enjoy the last days and be sure to pack in plenty of sunshine to savour in the darker days. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Growing Time

And so the year has become June - growing time - and May has disappeared in a flurry of the residents of the Holly Cottage keeping pace with the demands of life as we know it. Phew. We made it through. And somehow we managed to maintain a productive kitchen garden, grappling for bubbles of gardening air in the precious time wedged between criss-crossing the country sticking band-aids on bogs and wetlands and woodlands and things in between. And lest I forget, we managed to build a patio and obliterate all traces of lawn from the garden. Or should that be 'he' managed to - as Alannah, Holly and I expertly supervised and micro-managed. And brought the tea ;)  

Of course, it's not just the garden that has been growing. There's herself. Instead of the soft benignly cute bundle of Alannah gurgling and cooing on a mat, maintaining a comforting and safe location on the cushioning-colouredy squares (with obliging alphabet embedded to reassure us not a moment is wasting on her learning - no we're not that intense;)); instead of being sure where she may reside at any given moment, instead of that now passed peace of mind and security of knowing where she is enthroned at any time - instead of all of that we have an extremely mobile though very cute nine month old bundle that is slowly, but surely becoming covered in the blue black bruises that tell stories of head first falls and backward rolls. Yes, she is attempting the solo stand. And the solo walk. Not quiet yet the solo run but she sure likes to move those feet in something not too far from what might be called a solo reel. Or even a jig? All that spells trouble. And in between trial stands, runs and walks, she crawls. Time to lock the doors and presses and cover the floors in cotton wool ;) 

Time to let go. 

But then there's the teeth. The two up from the bottom are calling to the two on the top and they are meeting teasingly as sore gums give way - painfully slowly for Alannah - to the excruciating buck teeth. She lets us know what's going on, in her own sweet way. My own memories of wisdom teeth erupting - now there's the right term for it, a painful eruption - are less than happy, so I have great sympathy for our soft, golden, curly haired, baby bundle of wobbling wonder. The trials of life eh? And if we only knew all that was to come before we ever started. Would we believe that we could do it? I promise myself that by the time she walks I will be able to do full scorpion pose in my own yoga practice...and oh yeah, achieve world peace ;)

Holly bouquet
Meantime...Outside has taken on the mantle of green and the mantle of summer, albeit a cold and gray one, more than that of high powered sun-kissed one. We shall wait and see. The signs of growth are still there - strawberries are rising to the occasion, flowers are on the Orla spud plants, and baby carrot-turnip-beet seedlings are pleading with the sun to come out and give them some warm and encouraging loving. 

We did have some nice days though - the tulips of May were striking, the apple and cherry blossoms simply delightful, and the magnolia flowers of re-assuringly ancient and mesmerising beauty. And the bluebells..well, if a picture paints a thousand words...luckily, May comes every year ;) 

The blues,
one sweet May morning. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

An ecologist returns to work

Spot the first Bluebell..
it's there under holly's nose..
Saturday. How sweet the word. No rushing around to pack the bag for the baby for her day with her new mammy. No frantic trundling of an over excited Holly into the car to go to the bog. No fumbling with a collection of keys to make sure I have the one for the door of the office. No updates to the man on what's in the bag and why, and the key messages for the day's agenda. None of that order. Let mayhem reign today and let time flow without punctuation points. 

By this time already, after a few hours already of Baa Baa Black Sheep and much gurgling and wriggling, all are back sleeping again (one never actually woke up, yet ;)) and I am blissfully reunited with a sweet silence that hangs over a far too neglected writing platform. Oh dear laptop, oh what a week!

Working as an ecologist in this world is challenging. For reasons known and unknown, the ecologist always seems to be on the back foot - always struggling to find a voice within a world that is pressurised on all sides by social and economic needs. For sure, there is a welcome heightened and heightening awareness of the benefits of the natural world - our natural capital - about us, and certainly it's not all about drain, develop and harvest. But you - the ecologist, or the one who cares - really has to keep the foot to the floor and keep pushing those values, reminding all of the responsibility we bear to preserve and maintain that value, and keeping that message to the fore of all thinking. For what value a sterile and empty space devoid of life to anyone? 

This week I was back out, walking over an Irish bog, meandering through edges of tranquil birch and then to be surrounded by sky larks in full song. It was great to be back - back in the wild - whatever patches of wilderness that remain. But there, combined with the elation of re-uniting with all that orchestra of wild song, there was the sadness that comes with the sharp and painful reminders that sometimes despite best intentions, the human need to develop, drain and harvest, still wins over the astounding value of nature. 

The future
Time to get back to work indeed. We get to explore some of these ideas next Tuesday in the Mansion House in Dublin - Paddy Woodworth will be talking us through the ideas behind his book Our Once and Future Planet, and some of us will be commenting and debating the ideas contained within. The discussion is for everyone - not just misty eyed and well-intentioned ecologists and nature lovers - because the issues of restoration, conservation, nature management will affect us all. Not least the small ones that come after all of us. Sadly, no skylarks in Dublin's fair city but there'll certainly be a few seagulls ;)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bye Bye Baby-moon

September's baby
Today marks a new beginning for all of us here in the Holly Cottage. And no, it's not just that the spuds have gone in. It's not just that the pea and bean seeds for 2014 are cosied up in their seed trays. It's not that the first daffodil has unfurled its golden locks for us in the front garden. No, none of that - though in any other year these events would be (and still are to a certain degree) the most telling and most significant way marks in the years as they unravel before us here in the Holly Cottage. No. It's the silence in the house that gives the game away. No hushed tones as the smallest of us sleeps. No banging out of baa baa black sheep on the 'play-station'. No audible, infant testing of sounds or screams from the play mat. No Alannah. The little boss has left the building. 

Six months have disappeared in the blink of bleary eyes. Somehow last September we managed to steer our way through the 'baby arrivals area' - bedazzled as we were by that new world of nappies, sleepless nights and squirrel-sized sleep suits. I fumbled through the bewilderment and completely unfathomable nature of the breastfeeding non-schedule. We marvelled at the changes and growth from week to week. We were spellbound by smiles and the new sounds that still come daily. And that first time that she pushed herself up on her  own two tiny arms on the changing table - well, it was just another one of those things that you never thought could be so important as you watched friends and families reacting to their own children's milestones. 

It's a fantastic and wonderfully fulfilling journey experiencing everything for the first time through her eyes, through her senses, through her infant perspective. And it's exhausting too. And challenging, and intense, and isolating, and frightening and the whole array of other emotions that you could easily go through in the space of an hour in the shoes a freshly born mother's/parent's life. it certainly ranks up there with the experiences that you thought you'd never be able for. But before you knew it you were immersed in it and somehow from that bottomless pit of primeval humanness, you were doing it. 

And when it comes to babies, you can certainly forget about self. Being the primary caregiver is a great leveller in that sense as you must (there is no choice) forego all those essential habits and routines that you thought were instrumental to your day. Like getting a full night's sleep. Like having more that two hours unbroken sleep. Like relaxing through your cup of favoured beverage undisturbed - it might happen but it's certainly not guaranteed ;) Like going for a run at the drop of a hat. Like wearing a clean top for more that five minutes.  Like your time being your own to do with as you so please. Like getting your pelvic floor muscles back in shape in an instant - the ladies will understand this one ;)

This morning I dropped Alannah Marie to her childminder. Just for a play date mind. Better to call it that instead of the dreaded first day at the childminder's. Not for her benefit of course, more for the benefit of the distraught mother that left her behind and that never really thought that this day would come. And the silence is deafening. And sure, I got to get those things done that had been screaming at me for an age but I physically couldn't get to because she was wanting or needing me. But it's not the same. Her chair is empty and there isn't even the need to tiptoe for fear of her waking. She'll be back in an hour so there's no need to panic or stress. But the question keeps popping into my head as I prepare to return to the old world that came before - what did we do before her

March's infant.. "lemme at 'em.."
Anyway. We'll be okay. We'll all adjust. Mammy must go back to being an ecologist and championing the plight of habitats that need to be restored and plants and animals that need to be given the freedom to live in sustainable populations. And that's important enough for me to want to go back to work, to make it feel necessary for me to hand over our tiny little baby bear to someone else to care for. And the 'childminder' is a not just a thing - she is a mother and has been there before herself with twins so she is doubly experienced ;) It doesn't make it easy though. And as I look out into a world and a business community that is largely the construct of men, for men and dominated by men, I don't have to wonder why the men wonder why so few women can join them. Not as I have to acknowledge the wrench that is of leaving your beloved offspring behind you. That unnatural feeling of leaving the ones that rely on you, the small people that trust you completely, with another - and usually another woman. It's a tough one. And one that feels more than slightly off balance. One that needs to evolve, along with all the other imbalances in our social and natural world. 

In the's bye bye baby-moon here. Onward and upward, no looking back. Except of course to linger on the precious memories of my six months spent solely caring for the needs of our beautiful Alannah Marie. She will remain central of course, but now comes the task of piling back on the layers and layers of responsibilities that were put on hold as I focused on her for the last six months. I wonder how will all those layers sit on top of this new building frame? Interesting times ahead. 

One thing's for sure - there will be plenty of change and plenty of growth and  plenty of new experiences and ample amounts of heartache and exhaustion mixed with immeasurable quantities of joy. Sounds like just another day at the office ;) 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Spring beckons change

Ageless beauties
The warmth of the sun is comforting on this late February afternoon. It's been a relentless battle on the island of Ireland the last two months - human versus Atlantic storms. We try to keep our heads down as the winds roar - as they shake the utmost out of the delicate structures we build (the greenhouse survived but the neighbour's fence didn't). As water pours from the sky and the waves lift up onto seaside towns and villages, we run/swim/paddle as fast as we can but there are inevitable casualties. 

Of course for us flatlander midlanders there is no fear of waves but we contend with rivers bursting banks and the mighty Shannon lifting the land and all around it. Now, after decades of soothsaying scientists, people are finally taking heed that the global climate is deflecting from the accustomed pattern - the pattern that we have built our livelihoods and settlements and sowing and harvesting regimes about. Whether you choose to believe or not to believe that the current global climatic anomalies are a consequence of human activities, one thing is for sure is that just a rising tide lifts all boats and floods shacks and mansions indiscriminately, so too must we all adapt and strategise for a future that my not be so dependable and predictable. Instead of wondering will change come we will have to get off the fence and start working to adapt to changes that are likely to prove challenging to those of us who were hoping to perpetuate our current ambient living condition. 

spring patch
Here in the Holly Cottage we were spared the worst - no loss of electricity (and the precious bounty of tomatoes and strawberries in the freezer were hence saved), no loss of greenhouse, no flooding of the local rivers but plenty of beech and oak giants toppled in the Charleville woods and as already hinted at, the neighbour's fence collapsed. This means loss of privacy to us humans but Holly has gained a massive extension to her garden patrol area and she now must defend her previously isolated empire from all the bigger dogs from up the road. Poor Holly. 

Within our own little patch we have been gifted with a bounty of crocuses that somehow have emerged from the clearances of the 'old' front garden and leads me to wonder if those bulbs - that have been planted by previous owners since the house was built in the late 1930s - could be as old as the house themselves? Or near enough anyway? What is the lifespan of a crocus bulb? A lifetime or many lifetimes? And then of course what constitutes a normal lifetime (who or what is normal)? And then there are the snowdrops - swathes of pure white that defy February grey. One thing I've learned about snowdrops - when planting choose to split established clumps of bulbs as opposed to planting singular new bulbs. The new bulbs we planted to the front of the house are sadly less spectacular than those I saved when we cleared the front and subsequently moved to fruit alley down the back. I'm sure the 'new' bulbs will catch up but that might take a lifetime in itself...which bring us back to what constitutes a lifetime!

No rain, no rainbow ;)
On a practical front there has been (finally) some activity back in the vegetable patch. The areas sown with green manure (rye and vetch) last August have been dug over to give the plants time to break down and clear the way for the new bounty. Next job is to spread some manure and compost over to replenish the nutrients devoured by the last years' hungry crops. We are currently hot on the heels of the seed potatoes and the onion setts, but that's about it. This year Orla and Sarpo mira are the main focus - forget Setanta if you have any sort of slug issues - they will devour and destroy the soft flesh. There has been 'some talk' of extending the herb and rhubarb patch - given the voracity of the rhubarb growth last year - and maybe even a new patio to be installed for some late summer lounging-about. That is if the sun manages to break through the clouds again this year for more than a sunny afternoon. Who can say anymore? 

All we can do is take it as it comes and adapt. There is stability in chaos as science tells us - the degree of stability for each depending on our own ability to maintain balance in a changing world in a changing universe...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Get a yoga mat

Sometimes living can have a way of bringing you down. It happens. Shit happens. And even - yes, even the lions and the mountains and the duracell bunnies - even the strongest of us can feel the weight. For example ;) Take one woman with sleep deprivation, add a demanding adorable infant, a super-hyper charismatic energetic dog and the responsibilities that you accumulate just by being part of this great cosmos, and what do you get? Weariness. Lowered resilience. Fatigue. A permanently aching right shoulder. 

Connecting the dots Snoopy style ;) 

If you haven't even the energy to nod your head in recognition of this common human condition that I've just pictured for you by tweaking the electrical impulses of your brain, don't sweat ;) Here's a couple of things to draw on when you're in just such a state...

Get a yoga mat. 
I love my yoga mat, it's beautiful. It's a dark red colour that just screams of earthiness and groundedness (a new word - I know!). It has been with me since 2008 when I completed my yoga teacher training in the beautiful Sivananda ashram in Tyrol. Every time I see it my brain automatically shifts to calming mode. There was a time - pre motherhood - when I used to carefully and lovingly roll it up after every use and put it back neatly in the corner - back in its  own special corner. Nowadays that just takes way too much time and it is permanently unfurled in the chill-out room of the house. This means that at any opportune moment - a five minute nap by Baby Alannah or a 15 minute take-over of all responsibilities by my beloved - I can enter the chill-out room, lie on the mat in savasana (relaxation or corpse pose) or sit in lotus pose (or whatever sitting pose is easy at that particular time) with eyes closed and transform my mind and body to a stress free state. Sweet. And oh so fundamental for a balanced mind. 

Lotus peace

Make a chill-out corner.
See above. This has to be a place where there is no domestic intrusion - no clutter, no mess, no hint of the un-necessary. If you don't have a room, then make a corner do the job. This is the space where there is little or no conversation, no nonsense talk and no stress. Only peace. This is the place where you can lie down on your yoga mat or sit in your favourite chair. This shall be known as the 'just be me' zone. If you have a place like this outdoors, even sweeter.

Lie on your mat, in your chill-out room, or sit in the space that is the best energy space for you - outside can be amazing (see above). Think sun kissing your face or starry night above, or if you;re lucky enough think boat on the water. Close your eyes first. Become aware of your breathe. Focus on this alone. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Say the words out loud if you need to, or just mentally repeat in your head if you're back on the commuter train. Inhale deeply. Make the exhalation longer. Deeper. Longer. See? Do this anywhere and everywhere. If you have a chill-out place and a yoga mat, great. If not, I've found this to be a really effective breathing relaxation technique for anywhere - from standing washing the dishes to feeding the dog. Or cleaning up after the dog. And sometimes there can be a lot of cleaning up after the dog. See previous blogposts about the family dog - Holly.

Look up at the night-time sky.
Okay, so this can be difficult in Ireland at times. But when the stars do appear through the  heavy cloud mat, they shine brightest in our Atlantic corner. See those stars? You are made of the dust of stars, all of which were once connected together in some form at the beginning of this time and space as we know it.  All born together in some spectacular awakening explosion. How lovely that I get to sing a nursery rhyme about stars every time I am singing Baby Alannah to sleep....twinkle twinkle little star... While you're watching the stars, breathe. See above. 

Give thanks for being a player in this vast universe.
Even if you don't feel it, say it. Say it while you're watching the glorious night-time sky, say it as a shooting star plays tricks with your eyes and your mind; say it as you follow your breath; say it as you stand at the sink; say it as you sing twinkle twinkle little star for the thousandth time; say it on your mat in your quiet chill-out space. Say it and you feel it. And then every cell within you feels it. It's a warm feeling that is probably the human equivalent of plugging ourselves back into the mother network to recharge. 

Give yourself a big, fat, unconditional and generous hug.
Do this as you stare up into the night-time sky and watch the stars that are millions of light years away. Stand straight and tall and strong - think mountain, graceful, strong, defiant - and raise your arms up wide to the side and then bring 'em in slow and give yourself one hell of a hug. Don't feel weird about it. Not only are you gifting your shoulders the stretch that they need after the daily toil; not only are you releasing stress that has accumulated in your neck; not only are you making use of your own amazingly constructed and useful arms - not only all this...but, as well as all this you are hugging a great work of art, the product of millions of years of star crashing and galactic explosions, and an expression of the vast and great and awesome universe itself. Now don't you think you deserve to be hugged? If you have someone beside you give them a hug too. It's just as nice for them too as it is for you ;) 

Take the time to watch it all.
Now that you've hugged yourself and maybe someone/something else (Holly the dog loves hugs too), take a few minutes to sit back and wonder at it all. Close your eyes if you have to. Picture you sitting/standing/lying where you are and just see yourself as part of it all. Part of all this wonder and awesomeness. Part of it all, connected.  And all the time your breath is the thing that keeps you connected. And I bet with all that thinking about all that awesomeness you'd completely forgotten all about the breath...on your yoga mat, in your chill-out place, outside, watching the stars, connecting...

And see? You didn't have to spend one penny to do it...except of course if you had to buy the yoga mat...

Be kind to yourself, see the amazing, be the amazing, breathe it all in, stay connected. And once that's all done you can get back to being the awesome person that you need to be, that you want to be and that you always dreamed of being.