Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares some local ways to enjoy the outdoors this coming festive season and encourages you to find beauty in the cold and sometimes grey winter
You may have seen Erika’s inspirational blog encouraging us to experience and appreciate the darkness of the long winter nights. By cherishing not just the dark but winter itself, the cold, the beauty of early morning frosts, long shadows, later sunrises and earlier sunsets, naked trees against crisp blue skies we can wrap up and allow ourselves to be drawn outside. And there is nothing like returning home to be embraced by the warmth, feeling refreshed and enlivened.
Christmas this year will be like no other. I imagine many people will be staying local and postponing gatherings. Not easy decisions and I know that even within families there are conflicting ideas and hard choices to be made between our dearest wishes and the risks. For me the getting together will be all the sweeter when we are through the worst of this pandemic and we have something to celebrate with gusto. Simply being together will be a joy and my focus is on a simple Christmas and a summer gathering to make up for all we have missed.
So, for those of you that will be spending a quieter than usual Christmas at home, maybe with children climbing the walls, I encourage you to wrap up warm, embrace the cold and get outside. Like many I have had more walks in Brockwell park this year than ever before and still it holds delight, with longer walks taking in Dulwich Park and Sydenham Woods. There is something new to discover each time, a different route brings a different view, the seasons create a changing landscape and our senses are drawn to the subtle transformations. So, even the familiar can hold surprise and nourish our souls and senses with new sights and smells. It’s good to get out and move, not least of all with all the feasting and indulgence that goes with Christmas.
So, for a change of scene here are a few outdoor events and activities, festive and otherwise, that may add some sparkle and fresh air. You never know what you’ll stumble upon along the way.
Embrace the winter, much as you may want to wish this one away, and maybe by spring or summer we can gather more safely in larger numbers, maybe even hug one another again. Virtual hugs for now. Wrap up warm, get outside and have a good time!
WNT founder Jennie Duck shares some thoughts in time for Small Business Saturday about shopping local this festive season, how much we have to celebrate on our doorsteps and how important it is to support our communities.
We are all relieved to be back to work again now that the mini-lockdown has ended – hurrah! We find it hard knowing we can help and not be allowed to do so.
As the owner of WNT and the person with whom the buck stops it is a relief too to be able to feel confident our business can continue to trade. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday which celebrates and champions small businesses and it feels particularly important this year to recognise the value and the merit in small businesses.
Recently I heard a snippet on the radio* about how well Amazon have done out of lockdown, their (already huge) profits are soaring. They had feedback from a couple of workers who’s hours had become ridiculous – overnight shifts from 6pm-8am – that’s 14hours – where they are in a little cubicle packing up orders that little robots bring to them. I forget the number of packages they did in an hour but it was phenomenal and I do remember that they average 1minute labour per item end to end. 1 minute! What can you do in 1 minute?! The suspicion is that this is building toward doing away with the human input altogether, making these processes so un-personal that a machine can easily take the persons place.
I’ve seen memes that say “every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little dance”. At WNT we might not dance every time you book, but we certainly smile and I’ve been known to jump up and shake some booty when I see a full diary. This isn’t just because we are getting income, it is because we are fulfilling our purpose – this is what we want to do, this is what we care about, this is how we know we can add value. We are lucky enough to work in a vocation where we get an income for doing what we care about and believe in.
A couple of weeks back I was involved in a brilliant Instagram live session organised by Poppy from Pop, the hairdresser across the road from WNT. She had invited a few local businesses to come and chat about how we were affected by lockdown and share a bit about our business and anything we have on the horizon for Christmas. It was so lovely to see the faces of West Norwood high street and be reminded the richness of what we have outside on our doorstep. There is so much run by lovely people – you can see it here.
In all of these businesses we are real people who are invested deeply in what we do, the services we offer and things we sell. At WNT each of us is a person who has relationships with their clients and who is part of a team, we all know the names of each other’s children, we know when someone is having a challenging time, we know we can call each other when we need some support ourselves. We spend time talking about the experience of working where we do and how to make our environment better for you as clients. We care about all aspects of what we do.
Our society has been damaged by lockdown, this pandemic has sent fear through our communities and made us wary of interaction and physical contact. We need to remember how important society is, how it matters what we do with our lives and how we treat people and are treated ourselves. If we keep investing in companies that treat people like faceless commodities then those companies will gain more and more power. If we can look around us, recognise that the real people working to make us things and offer us services are our neighbours, our friends, the communities for our children and we need to invest in them if we want to hold onto that and continue to have this richness on our doorsteps.
For some great local shopping showing some of this richness, West Norwood Feast is on this Sunday 6th December https://westnorwoodfeast.com/sunday-6-december/
I wish you a happy festive season full of thoughtful shopping and under-overindulging ;-)
* unfortunately no idea what it was other than something on radio 4 so cannot give more context or reference
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares why she is celebrating Thanksgiving this year and the benefits she's found in regularly practicing gratitude, even when - and perhaps especially when - things are hard.
Thanksgiving is a tradition celebrated by the United States and Canada. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. I have never personally given much thought to Thanksgiving but as I now live with an American who hasn’t seen his family in over a year, I’m giving it some thought this year!
This year has been a crazy one for all of us, at least in the sense that we were not expecting a full blown pandemic. Some days it might be hard to think about what we’re thankful for. So with this blog I want to remind myself and hopefully some readers to think of the small things that we have in our lives to be thankful for everyday.
Some time half way through this year I started a morning ‘ritual’ where I would write down my ‘24 hour win’, three things I am grateful for, and an intention for the day. It really grounds me right at the beginning of my day before I read any ‘doom and gloom’ news or expose myself to anxiety-inducing stimuli. Often, my three things I am grateful for are the same or similar to the day before or things I wrote last week. That’s OK. I am grateful everyday that I am healthy, everyday that my body is strong and carries me, everyday that I get to speak with a friend or family member, everyday that I take a walk outside in nature, everyday that I make myself some good food, everyday that I enjoy a cup of tea. The list goes on. I can be thankful for these things every single day. Being grateful and giving thanks for these everyday things reminds me of just how abundant my life is.
I, as well as many others, have lost work because of the lockdown. This is really hard, and in modern society we attach a lot of self worth and purpose to our work. So when we lose this work, we can lose our sense of purpose along with it. By being thankful for things in our lives every morning, we see that there is so much more to our purpose and self worth.
This Thanksgiving I encourage you to give thought to what you can be thankful for. If it is a certain friend or someone that has shown you kindness, show them that you are thankful with a little message or card (you will also feel happy from saying thanks!). As for me, I am celebrating my own Thanksgiving with my little family this Sunday, cooking and eating great food as a little gift to ourselves at the end of a hard year. Thankful that we have each other and the means to create and enjoy a good meal.
Happy Thanksgiving from ours to yours!
Massage therapist Erika Zettervall thoughtfully considers the importance of engaging with the physical darkness that surrounds us at this time of year as the days get shorter and encourages us to balance how we value light with dark.
Darkness. It’s that time of the year again. The daylight hours are reduced day by day until we reach the winter solstice at that point the day hardly begins before it starts to get dark again.
Seasonal darkness during our winter is inevitable. Our planet will travel continuously, journeying through the universe orbiting the sun with its axis tilting the way it does, whether we like it or not. In a world of uncertainty that is pretty certain.
These short winter days can of course be avoided by relocating to the other side of the planet for the winter or permanently move closer to the equator where there the daylight hours do not alter in the same way over the year. The longing for winter sun and light is a strong incentive for travel this time of the year seeking out longer, brighter days. I have been able to do so past but not for while, and this year that option is more unattainable than usual. But I often work in the evenings and have the benefit of time to be outdoors during the day.
With the wisdom of seasonal light/darkness being something that cannot be altered and, in accepting that, perhaps it’s possible to explore a different relationship to darkness.
I recently heard somebody on the radio being interviewed talking about the scarcity of darkness. The increased popularity of illumination of not only buildings but also trees and gardens, the dark night sky is being endangered. He related to darkness as visual silence and something to treasure.
True, we do relax better in darkness - putting an eye bag over your eyes in savasana deepens the relaxation. Our eyes are our most dominant sense and there is strong focus on visual stimuli in our society. But in the dark we need to slow down and rely on other senses. Feeling, listening to find the way, elevating our presence of mind. Slowing down and easing into the darkness, eyes adjust and sight is expanded so shades appear.
One of my favourite things this time of the year pre covid was walking through St. James’ Park early evening in the dark. Stepping into the peace, silence and darkness of the park contrasting with the busy West End streets sparkling with Christmas lights and bustling with shoppers. Letting the eyes adjust to the dark, enjoying the quiet calm and heading for Victoria station with my small dog in tow. Happy to see fellow commuters and a few tourists braving the dark.
We need the darkness as a contrast to the lights. Like stars in the sky only visible in the dark and that is the most beautiful sight to have. Milky Way or, as we call it in my language, Vintergatan Winter Street like the way you travel this time of year since in the summer the sky’s lightness obscures the stars.
In accepting the scarcity of light and immersing in the darkness, there is room to discover its own particular beauty. Begin by exploring the edges getting up before sunrise (not too early in November), light a candle and let the light come slowly. Go out before sunrise or at sunset experience the shifts. Let the eyes adjust.
There is also the other darkness. The internal darkness. That also needs befriending and that will be topic for another blog.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.