A Week in Books: A Tibetan journey, old favourites, vegetable gardening and a fairytale

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  A Week in Books.

The Way of the Clouds

Newly added to my shelf this week is “The Way of the White Clouds” by Lama Anagarika Govinda. The book follows his travels across Tibet – a journey that was never his intention, until the call to follow his spiritual teacher proved suddenly hard to resist:

“Sometimes a glance, a few casual words, fragments of a melody floating through the quiet air of a summer evening, a book that accidentally comes into our hands, a poem or a memory-laden fragrance, may bring about the impulse which changes and determines our whole life.”

No prior knowledge of Buddhism is presumed, and the terms are carefully explained. As I write this, I have just started the third chapter, as the writer sees the Tibetan plateau for the very first time:

…into a world of uncannily changing, fantastic forms, which appeared and dissolved with such suddenness “that one began to doubt their reality as well as one’s own.”

It reminds me of my first impressions of the wild north-west coast of Scotland, where the mountains seemed to appear and disappear as the rain and fog drifted by. I am looking very much forward to reading more.

Little Women

This month I re-read Little Women for the first time since I was ten years old. This time around, I fell in love with the beautiful descriptions of the seasons passing, the way that flowers seem to burst out of nearly every page. I found myself inspired to start upon a new writing, art and photography project, which I hope to share more news of very soon.


Dracula was another enjoyable re-read for me this month. My little vegetable garden is a lovely sun trap in the early mornings where I like to sit and read, perched on the raised beds with a cup of tea. It made me smile when I realised I was sitting next to the garlic bed. No vampire was likely to venture near. I was a young teen when I first read this book and remember being so pleased to find in Mina Harker a brave, intelligent heroine.

Veg in One Bed

Every few weeks I like to check the “at a glance” section in this book for the month ahead. Veg in One Bed is aimed at maximising a small space, and since I only have three raised beds it is really helpful with the timings – which have to be spot on when you have limited room available. March through to October is a sort of plant-based game of musical chairs. The french beans that it advised me to plant last month, are now ready to go up on the canes that were placed over onions the month before.

Fairytale Play

When I bought this for my daughter’s Christmas Eve Book Giving gift, I knew it was a pop up design, but did not realise it would come with countless beautiful hand-drawn figures. They are reversible too, so a hungry wolf on one side, might be a cunning fox on the other. Mixed in with the classic fairytale staples are readers, dancers, scenery decorations and tiny creatures. Below is the cityscape…

… with alleyways to get lost in, a fairground to visit and castles to climb up to. Other pages include a treasure cave, a forest and an underwater scene. I could include this on any “Week in Books” because my daughter plays with it almost every day.

Are you enjoying a book at the moment? I’d love to read your comment below.

I wish you all a peaceful start to the week ahead.

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Potager Garden: Simple water meditations in the garden

I miss spending time in the forest during this coronavirus lockdown. Finding ways of replicating the sense of peace and wellbeing that the woodlands give me, really helps ease the longing to be back there.

Just after a light April shower is the perfect time for mindfulness in the garden. There is such calmness in water. I wait for the rain to stop falling and for that moment when the clouds part and the droplets amongst the leaves and branches suddenly illuminate with sunshine.

I watch through my camera lens as a miniature globe slowly edges to the very end of a petal. It takes every ounce of concentration. I feel my breathing slow – I am so close that a brisk exhale would cause all of these droplets to cascade.

The slightest breeze, now rustling through the garden, makes the raindrops precarious, reminding me that all things are precious and transient.

Inside each bubble of water are refracted images of the surrounding stems. Another gentle breeze and they all run down to the soil to nourish the plant.

When the unfurling leaves of the rhubarb are filled with rainfall, I am reminded of our hikes in wild Scotland, and the river valleys that flow through the purple, heather-topped mountains.

I encourage my children to find their own stillness in the garden.

For my toddler, this might be a flower on a stem, where I know she will be fascinated by the petals. For my young autistic sons, I might give them a ribbon to run with. Meditation does not always need to be motionless.

I ask my eldest sons to find a spot next to the stream and sit comfortably, and then we chime a brass singing bowl. I ask them to pinpoint the moment when the echoing ring of the bowl fades into the sound of the running water. It takes all of their concentration.

I tell them that if a thought pops into their head, then this is okay. Acknowledge it, and then imagine that it drifts away along the stream like fallen leaves.

I notice a profound difference in their self-belief, confidence and concentration, when we turn back to our schoolbooks, if they start the day with calmed minds.

I hope that wherever you are, you are able to find a little window of peace in your day.

Keep safe and well everyone. With heartfelt thanks to all those who are working to keep us safe, especially those on the frontline in the NHS and hospitals around the world.

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