Tag Archives: nature

July 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

Admittedly summer always throws me off schedule. I forgot that last year in the midst of the “summer that wasn’t” due to the restrictions of Covid-19, our planned trip to Germany had to be cancelled and there was little to do until we discovered the beach in August, where we went once a week, which at least provided a mini respite from the sameness of it all.

The upside of that summer was that I was much more productive, or at least that’s how I remember it. This summer though, I seem to have fallen into the natural summer rhythm of spontaneity verging on chaos. 

We managed to have a one week socially distanced family cabin vacation up in the Muskokas. Bliss: swimming, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, even one session of archery. Not only that, but I was able to read like I haven’t read in a long time on rainy days. Alas, I lost that momentum when I returned home, due to a series of unexpected visits. Not that I am complaining, but the dizzying speed of reentry change sometimes has my head spinning.

Now on to how I did with my revamped resolutions. 

Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. See the next category for a description.

Read 12 nature related books this year to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

“The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

I don’t think that the title is accurate—more like “40 Ways Trees Play a Part in Our Lives” or something similar—but certainly the book is bursting with fascinating tree facts and stories. I read the book in short bursts, two chapters a day, following the pattern I used in the 100 day challenge. It works!

Quote:

“…most trees are not naturally solitary. They are community dwellers. The community for the tree is the forest. Inside the forest all mother trees get the greatest protection possible.”

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

I read this as part of a book study with one of my critique partners. Well researched and well written, the book is a delight to read. So many benefits of gardening and nature including even the use of them in trenches during WWI. Who knew? 

Quote:

“It is one thing for gardens to provide respite from war but quite another to create them in the very midst of it. Yet this is what happened during the long, drawn-out fighting on the Western Front. Pretty flowers may seem trivial when shells are dropping all around, but in that landscape of utmost devastation, the beauty of nature especially of flowers, provided a psychological lifeline in a way that nothing else could.”

I see parallels to this in these Covid-19 times, with there being an uptick in interest in gardening.

Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald

I tried to read this before, but I never did finish it despite its luscious language. This time I took it slowly, reading about 5 chapters per week and then discussing them with my book club partner, and I am really glad that I did it that way. I think the book is meant to be savoured, lingering over the descriptions.

After her father passes away, Macdonald trains a goshawk. She intersperses her experiences with that of T.H. White, who also wrote a book about training a goshawk.

So much to love in this book, but I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my months with Mabel this is the greatest of all: that there is a world of things out there—rocks and trees and stones and grass and all the things that crawl and run and fly. They are all things in themselves, but we make them sensible to us by giving them meanings that shore up our own views of the world. In my time with Mabel I’ve learned how you feel more human once you have known, even in your own imagination, what it is like to be not.”

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

I didn’t do it every day, but I did work on my writing here and there. I did a lot of planning for my novel I am working on too.

Read related literature to my writing. (I need to figure out an actual number.)

No, I didn’t do this.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“The fashion industry’s ‘plus size’ label shames women to fit an unhealthy standard” by Laura Sang

What I liked:

-a doctor who treats eating disorders uses her own experience in having to wear plus sized clothes due to Covid weight gain to talk about the damage the fashion industry is doing

-a call to action, eye opening

“How does a book addict part with his collection?” by Arthur Chapman

-totally relatable

-intersperses personal experience with general experience

Overall, I enjoyed both, but nothing stood out for me.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom” by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Susan Batori

-I love the structure of this very humorous picture book; it makes it memorable. (Wanted for; criminal activity; rap sheet; FYI)

-Good beginning: “Creatures all over the world are turning to a life of crime, chaos and corruption.” 

-Everybody gets a cool, catchy name: Ms. Jagged Jaws, Copy Cat, Big Bad Mama

“Ocean Speaks” by Jess Keating; illustrated by Katie Hickey

What I like about it:

-First page grabs you right away: “The beach was a blanket of squishy, soft sand, and Marie wanted to feel it under her feet.” 

-Length of sentences: 

“Shoes off.

Socks off.”

-Great comparisons:

“The ocean stretched out before her, like a big blue mystery.”

“The waves were talking to her, whooshing up to her toes and sighing away again.”

-The power of threes: “forests and farmhouses, boulders and bird calls, wheat fields and waterfalls” 

-Plenty of alliteration: “plotting every point on paper”

Submit one story to a contest per season.

I have already done this.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

Not done

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

As a challenge from the library, I signed up for a course at LinkedIn Learning. It turned out to be facilitated by the writer of one of my favourite craft books, which is “Wired for Story”. Sweet!

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I met most weeks, but not every week.

Blog at least twice a month.

Not done.

Weekly treasure:

Doesn’t our campfire look like a starry sky?

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two.

100 day challenge:

Read two chapters of a book a day.

Done

How’s your summer been going? Do you feel like it’s been more like a “normal” summer? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From Phosphorescence to The Nature Fix

It’s time once again for one of my favourite challenges! You can read the rules here for the Six Degrees Challenge as hosted by Kate from Books are my favourite and best.

This month we start with a book that I have not yet read, but I’ve had my eye on for a while: “Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark” by Julia Baird. Alas, it won’t be released until July, but it’s another thing to look forward to this summer.

From Goodreads:

“…when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?”

It seems a particularly appropriate book to read during these pandemic times.

“Book of Delights” by Ross Gay

From awe and wonder to delight.

I love this book! And even though not everything Gay writes about is delightful, it is still a delight to read the entries. Gay set out to write about a delight every day for a year, and although he didn’t manage to do it every day, he discovered a lot, including that the practice of doing so gave him “a kind of delight radar”. So the more he studied delight, the more delight there was to study. He also discovered that his delight grew the more he shared it.

“Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process” edited by Joe Fassler

From delight to life changing.

Do you remember a passage of literature that changed your life? The book is based on Fassler’s series “By Heart”, in which he asked artists to choose a favourite passage from literature and explain its personal impact and why it matters. As Fassler writes in the preface, “…each contributor tells some version of the same story: I read something, and I wasn’t the same afterward.”

“Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald

From life changing to wonder of nature.

Macdonald hopes that this book of essays will work “a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder.” She already had me in the first essay when she writes about her experience of clucking to a falcon chick still in its egg and the chick calling back.

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

From the wonder of nature to a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan.

Having lived in China for a few years, I know a little bit about Taiwanese history as it relates to China, but this book introduced me to so much more. Written by an environmental historian, the memoir shows how “geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.” Winner of the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and a current contender in Canada Reads.

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

From a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan to a journey to gardening and its benefits.

I’ve not read this one, but I am hoping that my book club picks it to read one month, as it would be fascinating to discuss this with like minded people. 

From Goodreads:

“A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.”

“The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams

From gardening and its benefits to connection to nature and its benefits.

I’ve started reading this, but again I am really hoping that the book will be one of my book club’s picks. The introduction already presents many startling facts. For example, “Mappiness” in a study discovered that it isn’t who you are with or what you are doing that is one of the biggest variables that makes you happy, but instead where you are. Being outdoors in all green or natural environments made study participants happier than being in urban environments.

So what’s the connection between the first and last books? Both deal with ways to weather the storms of life. In fact most of these books deal with that same subject.

I hope that you have enjoyed my journey this month. Next month we will start with 2020 Booker Prize Winner “Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart.

I wish you many happy reading days.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

January 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

It’s been a great start to my year.

 -Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

This month I read “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau and “The Kindness Diaries” by Leon Logothetis. Click here to read my summaries of the books.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I only read 1/3 of my book club selection for my CHTA book club meeting, so I’ll have to do some catching up. I did, however, read one other related book this month.

“Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community” by Richard Louv

-A huge selection of nature based activities for kids and/or adults and individuals and /or organizations to engage in

Favourite quote:

“The point isn’t that technology is bad for kids or the rest of us, but that daily, monthly, yearlong electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, can drain our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.”

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read one memoir.

“Field Notes From An Unintentional Birder” by Julia Zarankin

From the jacket cover: The book “…tells the story of finding meaning in mid-life through birds. The book follows the peregrinations of a narrator who learns more from birds than she ever anticipated, as she begins to realize that she herself is a migratory species…”

Favourite quote:

“What I love about birding isn’t so much the birds I see but the circumstances within which I see them. That seeing the birds allows me to reflect on my own life, to forgive myself for things I’ve done, or to understand how they might not have happened otherwise.”

I particularly liked the chapter called “Going Solo”, in which she observes “Birding was helping me develop affection for Toronto, the place I’d always wanted to flee, and that might have been the biggest surprise of all…The most unexpected fringe benefit of birding has been falling in love with my own city.” I can relate. Since I’ve started to learn horticultural therapy and really pay attention to my surroundings during my walks, the urge to flee has been lessened.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Completed!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“The Serviceberry: an Economy of Abundance” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

One of my favourite authors writes about different types of economies. It’s a longer read, but it’s worth it.

Favourite quote:

“I want to be part of a system in which wealth means having enough to share, and where the gratification of meeting your family needs is not poisoned by destroying that possibility for someone else. I want to live in a society where the currency of exchange is gratitude and the infinitely renewable resource of kindness, which multiplies every time it is shared rather than depreciating with use.”

“After my miscarriage, ‘hope’ isn’t what I needed to move forward” by Sarah Faye Bauer

The author writes about a different way of viewing hope, and it really made me think. 

Favourite quote:

“Chodron describes hope as the opposite of mindfulness. Hope “robs us of the present moment,” whereas mindfulness means, “being one with our experience, not dissociating, being right there when our hand touches the doorknob or the telephone rings or feelings of all kinds arise.”

Hope assumes a future time and place of stability. Chodron believes nothing is stable, ever. We are groundless. All we have is right now, just this very moment. This golden, terrible, elevating, horrifying, gigantic moment. And then, if we’re very lucky, another moment more.”

-Read 5 picture books a month.

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao” by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Liz Wong

Did you know that the most powerful pirate of all was actually a Chinese woman in the 18th century? Read about her in this book.

“Harlem Grown” by Tony Hillery; illustrated by Jessie Hartland

Written by the founder, this picture book is the story of how an urban farm transformed the neighbourhood kids and their families.

“The Great Realization” by Tomas Roberts; illustrated by Nomoco

The poem about 2020 that went viral is recreated in picture book form. Click here to view a reading.

Bonus book:

“Music for Tigers” by Michelle Kadarusman

Set in Tasmania, this chapter book explores the rumours that the Tasmanian Tiger—the last known captive one died in 1936—still exists. The main characters are neurodiverse.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

This was a biggie for me. I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. I had 8 days to complete a maximum 2500 word story.

Luckily I came up with an idea right away with the genre of historical fiction, subject of a long journey, and character of surveyor.

This is the most challenging contest I have ever entered, but I am glad that I completed it.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I signed up for Jael Richardson’s launch of “Gutter Child”, but unfortunately missed it, so I will watch the recording when I can. That means watching two writing webinars in February.

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did several lessons of “Write, Heal, Transform: a Magical Memoir Writing Course” from DailyOm. I have now completed the course. Yay me!

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I have done two a week.

-Blog at least twice a month.

This is my third blog post this month.

-Weekly treasure:

Looking up, up, up while laying down on our blanket during our winter picnic in Guelph.

Other Challenges:

Storystorm

Completed with 50 ideas!

New:

100 days

100 days to work on a project of your choosing starting today.

I chose to read 2 pages every day of the German novel I started 2 years ago, because, hey, it’ll motivate me to finish the novel ,and also I’ll spend some time on improving my German every day.

HaikuForTwo

I love this idea of taking two words from the current book that you are reading and creating a haiku poem from it. You can read more about it in this Storystorm post.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

5 Picture Books on Spending Time in Nature

I recently attended the virtual CHTA conference and was delighted that one of the webinars was a reading from the book “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative”. The structure of the book, according to author Florence Williams, is “quick doses of nearby nature to longer spells of wild places”.

Click here for more information and a video on the book and on some benefits of being nature.

Growing up I spent a vast amount of time outside, but for many children that is no longer an option. The result is “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

A good place to start to introduce the concept of spending more time outside is books. Here are some quick doses of nature through picture books for both children and adults:

“On a Magical Do-Nothing Day” by Beatrice Alemagna

These are the types of days I grew up experiencing. 

“My Forest is Green” by Darren Lebeuf; illustrated by Ashley Barron

All kinds of colours and textures a forest can be.

“Finding Wild” by Megan Wagner Lloyd; illustrated by Abigail Halpin

What is wild and where can you find it? I especially like the exploration of the not so good along with the good.

“tiny, perfect things” by M.H. Clark; illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

Go ahead, take a look at the tiny miracles outside.

”Outside In” by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Cindy Derby

Even if you’re inside, the outside will find a way in.

Why not take a dose of nature therapy today?

Do you have any books you’d like to add?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Spending Time in Nature Enhances my Writing

I recently listened to a webinar (available until the end of November) in which Julia Zarankin, who wrote the book “Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder”, talked about how one of the benefits of her hobby of birdwatching was that she paid more attention to detail, which then enhanced her writing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in nature lately as I am learning how to be a horticultural therapist. One thing I’ve been doing—through the encouragement of Shelagh at “Thrive with Nature”—is paying more attention to nature through different senses. We often rely on our visual sense, so we’ve been focussing on other senses, such as hearing, a week at a time.

This week has been the sense of touch. It’s interesting that a lot of people don’t touch the nature around them—including me—and I wonder why. I’ve been having fun with it this week.

Mushrooms—soft and spongy with a bit of the “ew” factor
Some sticky gum on some craggy bark
Bark beetle tracks—Tracing them is similar to doing a finger labyrinth

In paying attention to these other senses in nature, I have realized that I would like to pay more attention to these other senses in my writing.

These days with the decline of hugging people, maybe we should be hugging trees instead. I’ve always found it to be beneficial. The term “tree hugger” can be viewed as a negative label, but perhaps we should be revisiting that notion.

What do you think?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Noticing Nature

These past couple of weeks I have been involved in an experiment. One of my teachers, Shelagh Smith, a horticultural therapist, had us take pictures of nature scenes that evoked strong emotions in us. Why? Based on this study, she told us that “what we pay attention to in our environment impacts how we feel”. What made a significant difference to feelings of well being? Paying attention to nature.

Here are some of the pictures I have taken recently that have brought me joy:

Falling or landed? I laughed out loud at this leaf on my windshield, which looks like it is suspended in mid air.
I’ve been doing two things lately: looking up and also visiting old trees in my neighbourhood. How old this tree must be!
This spider is sheltering in one of my morning glories. Yay!
Shadows have been on my mind lately. These are some of my indoor plants.
Surprised and delighted to see my age 55+ cactus bloom after I brought it inside.

Why not give the experiment a try and see how you feel.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Fall Favourites

Today I’m going to celebrate one of my favourite seasons, fall!

Here are my five favourite things about fall.

Leaves

Whether you love them coloured or crunchy, leaves are fall’s version of flowers. I love walking and admiring the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds at this time of year. 

Squashes and Pumpkins

This a great time of year whether you are eating them or carving them. My favourite squash is sweet potato squash, also called delicata, and I cannot get enough of them.

My Thanksgiving minis

Mushrooms

Fall always reminds me of the one wild mushroom my parents picked called “shaggy mane”. Alas, we have lost our source, but now I am learning about other mushrooms in an effort to expand my culinary horizons.

Most bark mushrooms are not edible

Corn Mazes

I have loved corn mazes ever since the craze first started, and I enjoy puzzling through one at least once a year.

Strom’s

Sunflowers

’Tis the season for sunshiny sunflowers. Another thing I cannot get enough of, I visit as many fields as I can. I wish I could grow them, but alas the squirrels love them as much as I do.

Lochland Botanicals

What’s your favourite thing about fall? 

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Nature Trekking: Lochland Botanicals

Last week I wrote about some of the (socially distanced) day trips I had been taking this summer. This week I am going to focus on the trip I took to Lochland Botanicals in Milton.

I am a firm believer in the healing power of nature and of gardening. Lochland Botanicals combines both for a unique experience.

The flower farm boasts a wide variety of flowers including calendula, bachelor’s buttons, asters, love lies bleeding, and baby’s breath. There are an impressive amount of herbs—including winter savoury, cilantro, stevia, thyme, and a whole whack of mint varieties—that you can actually sample while you are browsing the offerings. There is also a distillery, where hydrosols instead of essential oils were being distilled. Much as I love essential oils, I am concerned about the viability of our essential oil habit in North America, and so I am intrigued about the use of hydrosols instead. This is a subject I am going to delve into more deeply.

Cardinal flowers

There is an option to “build a bouquet” and take home some of the flowers and/or herbs you admire while you are there. Right now the sunflowers are one of the stars, and I spent a long time in the field. 

What trekking have you been up to? I’d love to hear about it.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

On Writer and Botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Have you ever seen the movie “Call of the Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees”? I saw it several weeks ago, and this film was my introduction to Irish botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who now lives in Canada.

According to the movie’s website, “The film follows Diana as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests. Her global journey explores the science, folklore, and restoration challenges of this essential eco-system.” I was surprised to learn about the link between deforestation and the decline of fish. 

I particularly like Beresford-Kroeger’s bio-plan. She believes that we can turn around climate change by replanting our forests. According to her, if everyone planted one native tree each year for the next six years, we can save our planet. If you are interested, you can spend some time exploring the website connected to the movie, which is full of advice related to tree planting and introduces a related app.

After watching the movie, I wanted to read some of Beresford-Kroeger’s books. I had wanted to start with “To Speak for the Trees”, which is an account of her life and how it led her to her ideas, but, unfortunately, it is not yet available in my local library. Instead I decided to read “The Sweetness of a Simple Life”, a book with “Tips for healthier, happier and kinder living, gleaned from the wisdom and science of nature”.

The book is a collection of essays. In the introduction, Beresford-Kroeger writes about how the biggest gift we can give ourselves and others is the gift of time. In order to do this, we need to learn to live more simply. So Beresford-Kroeger has written the book in order to help us to “reset the clock”.

The book is divided into three sections: “health and food”, “home and garden”, and “the larger world”. Each essay is full of practical and doable advice, such as how walking 20 minutes per day is beneficial for the pancreas and what plants can benefit you for certain ailments. One essay called “Bee’s Knees” discusses the benefits of bone broth. In the essay the author writes about how a lot of generational wisdom—wisdom handed down—has been lost, because of delayed births. This means that the wisdom of the elders is not being passed along, because often they are not there or too elderly to do so. This is followed by the essay called “Marriage Menopause”, which sheds some insight on “the long game of marriage”. Indeed, when I was reading the book I often felt like my grandmother was passing on things I would have loved to have known.

You also can read more about Beresford-Kroeger’s bioplan in the last chapter of the book.

I am looking forward to reading another of her books called “The Global Forest” (40 ways trees can save us).

What about you? Have you ever read any of Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s books or seen the film? What wisdom did you glean?