The week that started 4th May 2020

tl;dr: Savouring for happiness, poetry (especially Mary Oliver’s), black speculative fiction and sci-fi, flowers upon flowers, drawing & learning the names of trees in German, being inspired and encouraged to draw by my workmates, tree geekery, short stories (esp. Tove Jansson’s), psychology of happiness (specifically The Science of Wellbeing, it’s amazing, do the free course)

Learning how to savour, for more happiness

I love the tone of Mary Oliver’s work. Take Roses, Late Summer, for example. (You can listen to someone read it here.) Such reverent playfulness.

I realised whilst I was reading it that I would write about it in my weeknotes, and then I thought, ah, my weeknotes are a vehicle for savouring. Which is pretty cool. I’d never thought about it like that before.

And my mum’s nature photography is savouring. Taking the photos, looking at the photos, sharing the photos, looking at them again, talking about them… All of that. Using the lens to get different perspectives on the world. Really looking. And seeing. Experiencing.

The Science of Wellbeing

I love trees

I’ve been wanting to draw and draw more for ages. And this week, I did. I’ve been doing botanical drawings. I feel really grateful for the bikablo course I did at the end of last year, which did a lot to dispel the false belief I had that ‘I can’t draw’.

der Löwenzahn, die Pusteblume
dandelion sketches

And I’m grateful that one of my workmates is keen on drawing more too, we’ve been encouraging each other. And if it weren’t for another of my workmates, and seeing the awesome illustrations he’d done for his training materials, I wouldn’t have thought to do the bikablo course in the first place. So many things to be thankful for.

ivy & three-cornered leek sketches

One of my friends asked me what’s the best way to learn about trees in Germany. Which was great, because I got to blather on about trees for ages. I had been thinking about learning the names of trees in German, just because, and their question prompted me to get on with that. And I’d been making index cards to help me learn modern art things. So, natural progression to pair botanical drawings with German tree names.

index cards: die Stieleiche, der Kirschbaum, die Buche, die Birke
learning tree names in German

I was able to use my powers of pedantry and tree knowledge to identify errors & omissions in Wikipedia’s Forest in Germany article, and fix them, which felt really good. One of the references is The Forests in Germany: Selected Results of the Third National Forest Inventory, which I would love to make time to read. Wondering what there is like that for UK forests & woodland…

Which reminds me, catching up with the first broadcast from The Tree Conference is making my nerd heart sing. This was originally going to be a one-day conference in Cambridge, the fourth of its kind, which I planned to attend. It’s now a monthly series of live broadcasts, which is pretty cool.

And I want to visit all of these trees: England’s tree of the year 2019 – the Woodland Trust shortlist

die Eichen
oak seedlings sketch

I enjoyed watching this video on the BBC’s site: The oak tree in Kew Gardens that taught the world a lesson.

Also, Riesige Eichen — Baumpersönlichkeiten und ihre Geschichten (translation: Giant Oaks — Tree Personalities and Their Stories) is a pretty good incentive to learn German… Here’s a review of the book in English.

The inconstant moon*

My mum showed me a picture of the huge and pale moon and a line from La belle dame sans merci came to my head:

Alone and palely loitering

La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad by John Keats

Recently my dad was quoting me some poetry he learned in school:

St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats

Huh, that’s funny, I hadn’t realised those 2 poems are by the same author until I went to find it online to quote it here. Synchronicity.

Here’s another recent quotation from my dad:

Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home:
Is this a holiday?

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

I’m challenging the unhelpful capitalist voices that value only endless productivity. Lifelong struggle.

O, swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circle orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

* Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Reading short stories, poetry and other books

I’m excited because I’ve been reading Art in Nature, a collection of short stories by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal. And I love them. They’re super short, which I’m especially appreciating right now. And they’re so random and interesting and unexpected. Like, they end in ways I’m totally unused to. Sometimes very abruptly, but perfectly.

So far my favourite Jansson stories are these:

  • The Doll’s House
  • A Sense of Time

I love them so much. Really interesting reflections on retirement and flow in the first, and on differing perspectives & unreliable narrators in the second. I think I’ll check out the Moomins now. (Jansson created them.)

Okay, watched Episode 1 and this line made me laugh:

Hmph, why do I always have to do something exciting?


Moomin papa: (panicked) Have you seen what the children are doing?!

Moomin mama: (calmly) Yes.

MP: They’re flying about on cloudsl it can’t be safe!

MM: Don’t worry, papa, I told them to be careful.

Moomins, episode 1

Okay, Moomin Mama is officially my fave.

Also, if you have something dangerous, don’t throw it in a river… 🙄

They love the laughter and they love the living… believing and sharing and caring and giving.

Moomins theme tune. Sounds about right – very William Morris, no? I’m getting shades of ‘good animals‘ energy.
Speaking of sleeping and Morris, these sleeping beauty tiles are beautiful.

Anyway, I mentioned that I’m enjoying the Art in Nature book to a friend who’s much more familiar with Nordic literature, and he gave me recommendations.

  • The Dog by Kerstin Ekman
  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman
  • The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness

Enjoying The Dog so far.

New words!

So, speaking of reading, apparently I’m encountering words new to me on the regular (yay, reading!).

This week:

  • ineluctable adjective unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable; from The Doll’s House, in Art of Nature by Tove Jansson, translated from Swedish by Thomas Teal
  • miasmic adjective producing an unpleasant smell; noxious; characterized by a mysterious and unpleasant atmosphere; oppressive
  • polemic noun a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something
  • palimpsest noun a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing; something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form

Experiences > stuff

So, The Science of Wellbeing continues to remind me that experiences lead to more happiness than stuff, and that stuff is inherently disappointing, despite what our biased intuitions tell us.

Watched animation Quarantine for free courtesy of the BFI. I thought it was good, really thought it would end differently tho. This was surreal. I thought it was a comedy, but it was a training video.

Read An Account of the Sky Whales by A Que, which was really interesting. Love that this whole world of sci fi stories on podcast is now open to me with Clarkesworld. Especially as I’ve read most of Tales from a Black Universe, one of my favourite podcasts.

This story reminded me of:

Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —

Summer Day by Mary Oliver

And of a documentary I watched about seeing wildlife as individuals.

Specifically this part:

“Hey, Big Grey, I can’t tell.” I tapped on my whale’s head, and fancied I saw a smile in its eyes. “Were you once as spirited as these little ones?”

After that came out of my mouth I sat there, stupefied. Had I just given this creature a name?

An Account of the Sky Whales by A Que

leaves and flowers
A spell for spring, for new life and hard work, for diligence, patience and perseverance.
Left to right: Top: Cherry, clover. Bottom: Wild chervil, holly, hawthorn, oak

Some nature images to delight in