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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Pace and Wonder

The swallows are back!

I saw my first two preening themselves on the wire, high above where I was kneeling to sand down some wood panels. The swallows were chattering away in the late morning sunshine. It brought me so much joy to see and hear those lovely creatures, having arrived after their long journey from South Africa. Soon they will be building their amazing nests. Somehow seeing these birds reflects a new chapter and the anticipation of what is to come. I’m grateful to be feeling much better than I was, though still recovering and taking things slowly. More recently I came across a concussion doctor who runs a programme online, so I signed up for that. It is already helping me immensely, with better knowledge, suggested mindset, diet, stretching exercises, and a community of others who have suffered concussion. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced this malaise.

Today is Earth Day. In a way, it is ironic that I learned this when I opened up Google’s search engine page this morning. I say ironic because last night after walking in the beauty of stillness, mist and late pink light on the horizon, I ended up watching some talks about AI and its rapid progression. It made me realise that we are moving away from ourselves, and our earth faster and faster in the whirlwind of technology. We are facing a new dilemma, as humans on this precious earth we call home.

As a child I used to run and play outside for hours with my friends in the back garden and build forts, ride bikes down the street, skin my knees, get dirty….Now children get together and look at their phones, endlessly scrolling to see what other friends are doing, simply to feel connected. But we can’t catch up. AI is moving faster than our bodies and minds can cope. How can we thrive in a world moving at such a pace? How can we step back from this one dimensional aspect of our lives which draws us in?

I was struck by the way the birds were chattering and building their nests yesterday. Many different ones flying overhead with grass in their beaks. When I feel stressed, I’m often reminded of the biblical passage: 'See the lilies of the fields, they do not labour or spin but even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'

We need to go out into nature at whatever opportunity we’re given — to learn the names of flowers, and birds and creatures, and feel the grass under our feet, the sand between our toes, the rain on our faces; Marvel at the moon, and the mist (as I did last night). We must take every opportunity we can to run outside and look in wonder at a bright star in a darkening sky.

We are celebrating a 70th birthday at Freswick Castle this week. There will be a lovely dinner tonight, and stories will be shared.

It is a bittersweet time, as a dear friend known to all - who should have been at the banquet and giving a speech - just passed away very suddenly. It has driven many of us to step out into nature and take time to grieve, to reflect on this great man and his impact on our lives.

Both the celebration and the loss have made me stop and think about friendship and true connection. One friend wrote me: ‘The power and uniqueness of friendship is a precious force in the world. It has been on my heart a lot lately.’

Yes. That lands deeply for me at this time and in the wake of some isolation I have felt in these last weeks. We need to consider what it means to be human, in relation to each other, and the earth.

In one video I was watching, Tristan Harris, Co-Founder & President of the Center for Humane Technology, was speaking to US Congress about the impact AI could have on the world and society as we know it. The key word he brought to everyone there was ‘responsibility’.

From the beginning of time, responsibility was given to us to take care of the earth. Now we are being called to further responsibility in the dawn of a new era of technology. The only way I feel we can do this effectively is to continue to build strong relationship with nature around us, to get to know and experience it, and feel it for real.

The same goes with our friendships and relationships. Let’s not stop meeting with one another. Let’s take risks in the opposite direction and step beyond the screen, or dare to call someone. Let’s really explore with another person what it means to be human and truly connected, and the messiness and joy that comes along with such a journey.

On this Earth Day, I hope for a greater care and responsibility to be embraced and manifested so that we and all the creatures can flourish in the deepest possible ways, in the ways we were built for, with souls, minds, emotions, bodies, and hearts; To embrace the created world in all its fullness.

🌱 "What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?" E.M. Forster


"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my propositions. And some see no nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself." William Blake

🌱 "Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat." Laura Ingalls Wilder 🌱

"My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature." Claude Monet 🌱

"For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." Wendell Berry 🌱

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson 🌱

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder" E.B.White 🌱

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." Margaret Atwood


"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things." Mary Oliver

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