Thinking about it…..

I Sit And Think.

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
and people who will see a world that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet and voices at the door

by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

I was recently asked a question that has made me sit up and do a lot of deep thinking.

I was asked ….Who or what inspires me the most?

The poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘I Sit And Think’ really sums it up well.

Originally I answered the question instinctively. My answer was very simple, I’m inspired by people who like myself have been able to ‘overcome’ severe health issues, whether on a physical or mental level, and escape near death experiences. For me it summed it what incredible abilities we all have, to fight our battles, no matter how hard they are, or what odds are stacked up against us. Then there is the question why have I been able to overcome these obstacles and fight back at my depression?

Then I got to thinking more deeply, as why I gave that answer,  or even why we have been able to overcome these massive obstacles, and I had to try to narrow down my answers and analyze constructively.

To begin with what initially became a ‘recovery tool’ about seven years ago, has gradually built up to become a passion for me, because from it, it has helped me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

My passion for photography has inspired me enormously over the past few years. It has greatly contributed in many ways to my well-being, both mentally and physically.

There is without a doubt a form of art in photography, but for me it’s a lot more than that. Photography has taught to me to evolve, for want of a better word. It has made me understand more, become more knowledgeable and it has taught me self-discipline and in addition to this, it has encouraged me to go to places I probably thought I would never go to. It has opened up my mind and opened up my life. It’s given me a new direction and a new purpose. One of the things it has allowed me to do over the last few years is to move out of ‘my own personal comfort zone’, get back into socializing and mixing with people including family and friends. I still don’t like huge crowds especially noisy ones, it makes me nervous and anxious, but I think in all honesty it is more to do with the fact that I just enjoy peace and tranquility…..which is probably why it explains my love of nature.

On and off over the past 17 years whilst I was going through some of my worst bouts of depression and anxiety, I lost interest in a great deal many things.  With depression it affects each and every one of us in different ways, myself personally, I felt that I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone I stuck to the minimal basic routine of working sometime eating and sometimes sleeping, other than that I sat on my own and cried until I had no tears left to cry, and had no emotions left in me to express. Just always negative thoughts, no ambitions or interest, and no matter how hard people wanted to try to understand how I was feeling, they just couldn’t understand. The only thing I can remember ever wishing for in those dark periods of my life was an off switch so that I could completely switch myself off from my life and the world in general.

Depression is one of those illnesses you have to experience to truly understand what it does to you, how it makes you feel, including the overall effect on your ability to just function normally in life or to just live.

Once I had started in my recovery process, I got to getting back to a little bit more normality, and bit by bit edging out of my depression zone into a new comfort zone. Now I can honestly say, I have moved out of my comfort zone and have become a little more adventurous, enlightened and a little bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. Although, I have to say there are still times I have self doubts, and lack confidence in myself.

My photography has enabled me to go out exploring, it has given me the chance to prove to myself I can do something and do it well and learn something new in the process. It has increased my interest and therefore my knowledge in nature and wildlife as well as history. they all go hand in hand, and that is what inspires me.

How many times does one go for walk or run just for the purpose of needing to exercise to stay fit and healthy?

For instance, I see a great many people in parks taking their dogs for a walk, or people going for a quick jog with their earphones in listening to music and concentrating on running to the beat of the music, some go to local parks with bags of bread to throw down and leave for the wildfowl to help themselves to. Others use park as a short cut to get somewhere else. I see a lot of ‘basic stuff’ going on, but rarely see people with real interest in their surrounding area of beauty.

Whenever I visit a park, any park, I like to take in the surroundings, listen to the birds, sit down near the lake, get close to the flower beds and have a look at the bees on the flowers, watching butterflies fluttering by and trying to identify the species. In the summer especially I enjoy taking a little picnic lunch and I like to explore the area I am visiting. All of this in itself drives my passion to take photos and capture those once in a life time moments for ever. In the past I would just simply hear a bird sound and think about what species of bird it was. Now, however, I love the opportunity to actually try to see that bird, find out where it is, and just watch it for a while, see its beauty and study its character. It encourages me to learn about its surroundings or its behavioural patterns. Just over a year ago, I persevered and made friends with a little Robin who after several weeks of patience, fed out of my hand, and did so every day for several months until it was time for him to fly off with his new little family to pastures new, however I was able to get up close to him and he allowed me to take some photos of him. A permanent reminder of just how close you can get to nature and how fortunate I was to be able to do this.

My interest in birds, wildlife and nature has meant I have been able to explore other places. I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon, and see herds wild Fallow Deer roaming freely over the acres of beautiful parkland next to the River Avon. On the same estate they also have a flock of rare breed Jacob Sheep. This year I was able to sit and watch a pair swans and their little family of  cygnets on the river looking for food by diving down into the weed, and trying not to get tangled in it.

Part of the wild herd of Fallow Deer at Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon. They roam freely on the estate, but are cared for by the estate staff.

Beautiful wild Poppies, and varieties of other wild flowers growing all around the estate.

A beautiful Peacock Butterfly, spotted resting in the long grass.

A couple of the rare Jacob Sheep, part of a large and thriving herd at Charlecote Hall estate.

Walking up to Charlecote Hall and its beautiful estate. Sometimes the Fallow Deer graze on the grass at the sides of the path. It’s lovely to sit on the benches at watch them.

A Mute Swan tending her young on the stretch of the River Avon that runs through the Charlecote Estate.

My photography has also encouraged me to go to different places as well as return to old familiar ones. When I was very young, my brother and I would go on a coach trips in the school summer holidays with mom and dad. A couple of the places we used to go to often was in Wales, normally Rhyl or Aberystwyth, or to Blackpool to see the lights. My memories of Wales in those days were of a little seaside town, shops that sold ice cream and rock.  Beaches that were pebbles and stones and unwelcoming, as well as the unfortunate experience of it raining almost every time we went there. In my mind for many years I told myself Wales held no interest for me to go back there, neither did Blackpool.

When I was in the Special Constabulary back in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, myself and several other friends from the Specials did a sponsored charity jump and rescue in to the sea at Tenby, also in Wales, with the RNLI. I can still remember how nervous and anxious we all were, there were about 10 of us, the sea was extremely rough and choppy that particular day of the jump and we were in old police uniforms over the top of wet suits. On the morning of the jump we had thought about cancelling it, but then realising this is exactly what the RNLI do on a daily basis, it made sense to go ahead and do the jump, thus enabling us all in raising quite a bit of sponsor money for the RNLI and our maternity hospital special baby unit back home in Solihull. I do clearly remember we all joined in with a couple of hymns, Eternal Father Strong to Save…… which included the line ‘For those in peril on the sea’. And a couple of verses of Abide With Me, a last-ditch attempt to stay strong and focused. Fortunately for us, we all did the jump and were all rescued from the sea and arrived back on shore safe and sound. We went back to Tenby a few months later for a plaque dedication and cheque presentation service at the RNLI. That was the last time I went to Wales. At least until May of this year.

An opportunity came about because of my interest in birds and wildlife, it meant I had the chance to go back to Wales to an RSPB  reserve on a coach trip in May. At first I was put off  by the idea of it being Wales, the memories of those old stony, wet seaside towns came back to me. However, I decided I was going to go outside my comfort zone again, and so booked up the day trip to Lake Wyrnvy RSPB.

To my amazement I had the most incredible day, the scenery en route, as well as the scenery around the lake was absolutely magnificent. I saw several species of birds just a few feet away from me through the hide window. The lake itself and the area immediately surrounding it was stunningly beautiful. No more was the Wales as I remembered it so long ago as a little girl.

Looking down and across the incredible and beautiful view of Lake Vyrnwy in Wales from the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.

Looking across and up at the hotel from the other side of the lake.

A chance to see a Greater Spotted Woodpecker up close from the RSPB bird hide window.

Another close up at the bird hide of a male Chaffinch. He was going back and forth collecting food from the feeders to feed his youngsters in a nearby nest.

The highlight of my day….we heard him several times, and then suddenly there he was, a beautiful Cuckoo. My first ever sighting of one, whilst we were walking up a lower section of the mountains to a waterfall.

It was just a few weeks later I went on another trip to Powis to the Royal Welsh Show, it was very crowded and in all honesty very commercialized, but enjoyable all the same. Normally, I would see the outline of sheep in a field from a distance. At the Royal Show you could walk up and down long pathways seeing close up all the different breeds of sheep, and could also see how their character, facial expressions differed.

In July, not long after I started my new job, I went on a long weekend coach trip ‘down south’. This had already been booked up a while beforehand. One of the places I had been hoping to visit the past couple of years was the New Forest, and I had heard of the wild ponies roaming freely in the area. In addition to this the location we were staying was a Warners Holiday Village in Hayling Island, and a couple of day trips included the New Forest on the Saturday morning, Bournemouth in the afternoon and on the Sunday a day in Portsmouth visiting the historical naval dockyard, and the highlight of the weekend was a tour of H.M.S. Victory, the flag ship of Lord Nelson. The combination of all these sights meant I took several hundred photos and as a result have some wonderful memories captured forever on camera.

 

Wild Ponies walking in the road of one of the villages in the New Forest. Of course the coach stopped and gave way to these local inhabitants.

A packed Bournemouth beach on one of the hottest days of  summer.

On board the H.M.S Victory, the chance of a life time be one of the most historical ships in British history.

At the ships wheel on H.M.S. Victory.

A piece of history, the exact spot marked by a plaque, where Lord Horatio Nelson fell and died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Throughout this past 12 months I have been fortunate to have visited many places, odd day trips here and there including Alpaca walking, visiting Monkey Forest, Iron Bridge in Telford, Twycross Zoo, several  parks and nature centre and much more, I have  been able see so much and capture it on camera. I like the idea of challenging myself to do better in my photography by encouraging myself to go the places again and do better next time. I can now set myself goals, and make the effort to achieve them. I have learned to appreciate wildlife, nature and even history more than I could ever have imagined. there is so much more out there that inspires me and its down to my passion for photography but it is also my passion for photography that inspires my love for nature and wildlife.  Capturing the moment and being able to look back and understand something about what is in each photo. All of this inspires me….

As the poem says

and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been:

Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.

Thank you for stopping by

 

 

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