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The penultimate time I will come here

When you buy a house you imagine filling the roll top bath with sumptuous, scented bubbles, and conjure up images of blades of grass bending under your bare feet in the garden as you hang out the washing.  You imagine wine glasses clinking and smiling eyes around the dinner table; the fire crackling away and having logs tenderly placed upon it in the winter.  Everything has a warm hue of golden light and hopefulness, and placing the key in the front door for the first time you really feel you might burst with joy.  It is the joy of a new chapter, a new beginning.  Something that can be built and created and captured and lived in.  You do not realise, at the time, that chapters can be short and joy is fleeting.

You do not imagine your father placing his hand on your shoulder as you cry in the hallway and gaze around at the scattered boxes that contain your belongings.  You do not imagine separating seven years' worth of belongings, or forcing your brain to thumb through old memories to remember who bought that vaguely ugly green glass owl (me, of course).  I take the 'Captain' mug and leave him the 'First Mate' mug because I'm trying to retain a sense of humour through it all, but then I tear up again seeing his birthday cards and thinking how many birthdays we celebrated, how many anniversaries, Christmases, dog's birthdays (though we often forgot - sorry Bodhi).

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Everyone says, "but this was your decision, but you have created all of this" and I know they mean this kindly, to ease the pain and drag me from this sense of 'victim-ness', this wounded animal.  It is my actions that mean that I am packing books into boxes, that mean that I stood in the pouring rain in January pushing blue Ikea bags into my boot and waving goodbye to everything I thought I wanted. The animal wounded itself and now wishes to mourn the sight of the arrow.  And I wish that it were true, that having pushed the ball that started things rolling somehow numbs the pain, but it doesn't. It still hurts to grieve for all of the things that were planned that didn't arrive, for all of that hope that didn't metamorphosise into forever.

So what is the good in this, what can this hope be melded into that feels warm and gives off light? It is that hope can live on and that the light can hang in the distance and give you something to walk towards.  It is knowing of a love that transcends a need to be together and accepts that kindness can sometimes look like letting go.  It is visualising those books on another bookshelf in another house and having faith that this is not the end and there are so many chapters to come.  And of course, it is knowing that rolled up in newspaper in the loft of my parents' house, I have the ugly glass owl.

Malin + Goetz - amazing natural skincare

One of the things I'm hugely interested in at the moment is essential oils and botanicals, and how they can be used for healing, skincare and self-care.  I've been gradually weeding out any of my skincare and beauty products that aren't made from predominantly natural ingredients and have harsh chemicals or a list of things inside the jar that I don't recognise or can't pronounce.

I first became aware of Malin + Goetz as a brand when I spotted their simple and stylish packaging in Space NK.  When I found out that they are inspired by traditional apothecaries and use mainly natural ingredients I was really eager to try some of their amazing sounding products, and so I felt extremely lucky when some arrived on my doorstep around a month ago.  I decided to give them a thorough try before I blogged about them, but they've quickly become one of my new favourite brands.

malin and goetz jojoba face scrub, £29* | recovery treatment oil £62* | repleneshing face serum £56*
The Recovery Treatment Oil is the product of theirs that I've had my eye on for some time.  It has nine natural oils like evening primrose oil, jojoba and argan oils which are incredibly moisturising and soothing.  As soon as you start smoothing it on to your face it smells and feels absolutely beautiful and instantly makes your skin feel softer.  The other ingredients like rosehip oil and grapeseed oil help restore your complexion and protect against free radical damage.  I use this morning and night before my moisturiser and I've definitely noticed a huge difference in my skin.  It feels more supple and moisturised and I really notice the effects if I use it before bedtime.

I recently bought the Hangsun Sonic Cleaning Facial Brush which I use every day to cleanse my face and remove my make up (probably the best £29.99 I've ever spent).  For this reason I've been desperate to find the perfect facial scrub to use a few times a week with my brush to exfoliate my face.  Their Jojoba Facial Scrub is a great combination of the beads to help remove dead skin and then the jojoba meal which is again, really soothing.  (It also smells lovely which is a winner in my book).

The final product and one I absolutely adore (I'm never buying another serum again) is their Replenishing Face Serum.  I took this away on holiday knowing that my skin would be subject to hot sun and swimming pools and I wanted to make sure my skin stayed in good condition.  It contains Sodium Hyaluronate which is intensely hydrating and moisturising (perfect for sun-burned holiday skin!) and chamomile, lavender and geranium which are really soothing.  It's amazingly moisturising on its own, but followed by a moisturiser gives a double-hit of hydration.

I'm definitely going to pick up a few more of their products online as I really like them as a brand and - of course - it helps that their products are incredible.  Have you tried any of their products?

Mindful walking + Mother Earth

Okay so, this is your five second warning that things are about to get a little bit woo-woo.  Or hippy dippy.  Or 'out there'.  Or whatever you call things that sound a little bit spiritual (no skincare reviews or photos of burgers today, soz).

I want to talk today about mindful walking, and connecting with nature (you all have your boundaries for what counts as woo-woo, for some that's already a little odd-sounding and for some you'll need to journey to Peru and drink hallucinogenic tea whilst dancing around naked and connecting with your past lives to even summon a slight feeling of 'wow, weird'.  PS - if this is you, holla at me, let's go together pls).

A couple of months ago, I went on a 'well-rested woman retreat' led by Karen Stanberry which focussed on relaxation, calm, self-care and slowing down.  One of the things we did was to go on a 'mindful walk', sometimes known as a walking meditation.  A small group of us on the retreat slowly ambled through a beautiful wooded glade on a footpath up to the cliffs overlooking Studland Bay.  The idea of the mindful walk is that you are conscious, present and mindful of everything around you - noticing your breath as it flows in and out, the way your steps feel on the ground, the sights, smells and sounds that occur around you.  No headphones, no walking and texting, no chatting to a friend, just complete immersion in all that is.

As I walked in silence, I noticed so much that normally would have totally escaped me.  We took the time to watch the way the trees moved in the breeze, the smell of the wild garlic as it wafted along the path.  We all stopped for a few seconds to observe a meadow full of wildflowers - the way they danced and moved, drifting in time with the wind.  A glade full of bluebells that extended as far as the eye could see (and probably beyond).  The crunch of branches and softness of the earth underfoot.  The sound of the sea in the distance.  The creak of the gate as we moved out of the woods and up to the clifftop.  Opening our senses and clearing our minds made it almost overwhelming; the way your eyes adjust and see more details when it's slightly darker, the way you can intently listen to a piece of music and notice all of the individual sounds when listening through headphones.

Before Karen introduced me to mindful walking, my morning dog walks would be set to the sound of the music in my headphones, idly strolling around the same route, one eye on my watch as my mind raced, worrying and planning the day ahead.  The saddest thing, for me, is that I would walk along the shoreline and have music, or a podcast playing in my ears.  Considering the sound of waves rolling onto the shore is one of the most beautiful sounds to me, I feel sad that I've spent so many years blocking it out.  I don't deny that there is definitely a place for listening to audiobooks, or podcasts, or music whilst walking, but I've also made a mental note to spend as much time as I can with my headphones around my neck - listening to birdsong, the sound of dogs barking in the distance, the crunch of stones and sand underfoot, the wind whistling through the halyards in the sailing club.

Yesterday morning I took Bodhi for a walk in an area of woodland we hadn't really explored before.
As we wandered into the woods I felt this wave of complete calm flow over me. For a long time I didn’t see another person, and it felt as if the whole word was just Bodhi and I, wandering along the path. For some of the route, the plants and trees grew close to the trail and I had to move them aside, gently brushing branches and leaves and wending through the undergrowth. Just down the path I could see a robin bobbing along, picking at sticks and other things that had fallen from the huge trees towering overhead.  I wandered away from the path and into a clearing where there were tree stumps and ferns growing and just sat for a while, with Bodhi at my feet.  I closed my eyes and took some time to just breathe and soak up the sense of being immersed in nature.  And then I thought - 'I am nature'.  As the breeze moved around me I felt as much a part of the woodland as the trees and plants.  It reminded me of a quote I heard recently - "You think of yourselves as humans searching for a spiritual awakening, when in fact you are spiritual beings attempting to cope with a human awakening.  Seeing yourselves from the perspective of the spirit within will help you to remember why you came here and what you came here to do".  We think of ourselves as humans needing to be in nature, but in that moment it occurred to me we are nature - and if we are quiet and humble and connect ourselves to the earth we are the same as all of the other things we consider a natural part of the woodland.  (Is this too much? I'm going to keep going).

One of the concepts or beliefs I really love is that of 'Mother Earth' - the idea of the earth as a living entity (or Gaia).  The belief is that Mother Earth is a personification of the entire ecosystem of the planet, and that she is always working to maintain and achieve harmony and balance.  Mother Earth is to be greatly honoured and respected.  Rebecca Campbell - who wrote Rise Sister Rise, which I totally adore - says, "Mother Earth is talking to us. If you listen closely you can hear her whispers. She doesn't need us. But we certainly need her. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the whole save the planet stuff because it is so mind glowingly huge and we are one of you know, billions. But the consciousness of everyone on this page helps the planet. Choosing to mediate every day, helps raise the consciousness of you and thus the world. What is mother earth calling you to do? It doesn't need to be huge."

As days go by I feel more and more connected to Mother Earth, and the more time I take to invest in being present and immersed in nature, the more I feel it changing me in a transcendental and deeply affecting way.  These walks in the woods or along the beach are intensely important to me now - and I love this quote from Thich Nhac Hanh -

"We do not have to wait for others to help Mother Earth - we can already do it at every step. When we walk, we can pay attention to each step that we make, aware that we are walking, aware that we are alive. We can demonstrate to ourselves that we can be peace right here and now. This can be liberating. We can generate peace at every step. This is our most precious gift to the Earth and to one another."

What do you think? Stoked on nature or feeling like I've lost my marbles? :)