You might think someone who easily imagines the realities of dreams and fairy worlds would be as fluttery and swirly as fairy dusty.  Christy, my free-spirit-capturer-of-the-world-in-her-art- daughter, however is actually quite stubborn. Maybe that’s unfair.  Maybe a better word would be tenacious.  She will get a project in her mind and then nothing – not food, sleep, even unfolding her long legs perched under her desk or releasing her eyes from the focus of her work – will break her from what she wants, and I’d argue needs, to get down on paper.  Art for her is breathing; way beyond just expressing her thoughts and ideas.  

Her talents run the gamut depending on which medium she decides will work best for representing her work.  Gouache for the blue howlite she painted last week.  

“It’s so opaque, Mom, I couldn’t use watercolour”, she tells me.

Fine, black ink pen for drawing the details of a colouring page she created for kids (and adults) stuck at home during lock down.  “A quarantine craft” her newly developed website, Gyllyflower, calls it.  She wanted to load her drawings on to the page for others to download directly from the website, but when she realised the “whites didn’t match” she taught herself new editing techniques on Photoshop to fix it. As though with one of her magic wands, she painstakingly used a tool to delete the white of her drawing paper around her image so each drawing itself would “sit” properly on the pdf image and allow anyone download a fairy embedded into the paper ready to be filled with colour.  It was an intricate process and I kept telling Christy it didn’t matter but, to her eye for detail and perfectionist streak, it did so she persevered until she was satisfied.  I have to admit the end product is a delight to behold and fun for a little COVID mindfulness activity.  

At any rate, I mention this as I am now being swept into Christy’s latest fascination – gemstones and rocks.  She does go to university in a very New Age-y part of the world with her college town, Falmouth, hosting two shops which sell crystals, gemstones and such.  On a student budget, Christy can’t always buy the wares of the shop so more often than not she spends free window-shopping time gazing at the amethysts, quartz and angel aura crystal.  She’s been researching about all of their healing qualities and even found some studies showing “aura” photos of the stones depicting the electromagnetic field surrounding them.  For Christy, gemstones are not just something soothing to hold in the palm of your hand, the stones are actually pushing good ‘ju-ju” out into the world.  Christy has always believed this and is teaching herself about chakras and how the different stones and positioning of them can impact all those around them.  “Burying quartz to help gardens grow” is one such task she noted to me.  I am definitely no authority but as she seems enthralled I am content to learn through her about the gems and look forward to the beautiful art work which will no doubt be produced by her hand as a result of her investigations.

It got really interesting for me yesterday although when she told me how she loves to discover the science of her passions, yet she actually prefers not to have all the science to de-mystify her experience of them.  She doesn’t want to lose the magic of nature.  She told me, for instance, she likes hearing the details about bird migration which I’d shared with her via my listening of the In Our Time podcast however she didn’t need the scientific explanation as to the exact guesses of how and why birds fly away and return seasonally.  She just liked watching them do it.  We agreed it was interesting to hear the process by which scientists conduct studies and hypotheses to educate themselves and their understanding of the world as long as it doesn’t steal the joy of watching a flock form a “V” and lead the way to and from their breeding grounds.  The air and car traffic noise is returning to our soundscape filling rather than muffling where the seasonal birdsong had been enchanting our mornings until recently.  I hope this means the birds have found their matches and are laying, hatching and raising young ones.  

Christy’s heart for and tight grasp on appreciating the value of awe is one I respect and agree with. While at the same time, I am fascinated with facts like birds weighing less than a bag of crisps (chips) annually circumventing the globe from Alaska to migrate to and from Africa.  They go over oceans with no place to refuel or rest.  The stamina for that journey is a wonder as is the determination to fight against all odds for what? An instinct? A habit? A future?

I would contend, with all due respect to Christy, that for me, science and mystery, indeed, science and faith can sit side by side. Like Megan (my philosopher/theologist daughter) taught me some of the most pre-eminent thinkers in the world allow that science and faith can co-exist.  In their book, ‘The Anthropic Cosmological Principle’ two physicists Barrowand and Tipler, “list ten steps in the course of human evolution each of which is so improbable that before it would occur, the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and incinerated the earth.  And they calculate the probability of evolution of the human genome to be somewhere between 4-180 to 110,000 and 4-360 to 110,000 so if evolution did occur, on this planet it was literally a miracle and more evidence of the existence of God.” If you don’t want to start pulling up Darwinism the astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson modelled the creation of the universe (as you do) and he worked out that Earth “may be a 1 in a 700 quintillion kind of place”. That’s the number 7 followed by 20 zeros and he worked out that of the 700 quintillion planets in our universe within the “Goldilocks” region where temperature and is just right and there’s liquid water there’s only one like Earth.  Earth’s like a statistical anomaly.” Pretty cool, huh?  (And you thought I only liked words – now you know what ‘quintillion’ is!) So maybe you can agree with the idea if the chances are so(times twenty ‘o’s) slim at the Earth coming into existence, maybe, just maybe some creator struck the match for the Big Bang…just saying, but I digress…

I don’t need you to cast your brain back to the beginning to find examples of an appreciation for Nature as a biologist or spiritualist.  Either would find it hard to deny the beauty of Nature and whichever way you wanna play its impact on us to soothe us as a balm.  On our walk yesterday discussing the crystals and bird migration, Christy and I stopped in our tracks to literally hold our breath in the sight of a peacock butterfly calmly sunning itself on a piece of wood nestled in the blackberry brambles and ferns. As we approached, sure it would take flight, Christy, ever the expert observer, noted the butterfly was making its full wingspan spread across the width of not just any piece of wood but a knocked over signpost which had rotted at the base. It was now the raft of smoothness in the harsh undergrowth of the woods perfect for the butterfly to recharge and regain energy for its next journey.  Christy smiled slowly clicking the camera app of my phone on to try and capture a photo of this beauty.  

“Look, Mom, it’s the delicate balance of Humans and Nature”, she said as she passed me the phone to show me the shot of the butterfly and the post. 

“Isn’t beautiful?” she asked.

Now I am hoping this butterfly and post will be an echo into the world.  I am hoping with all that we are contending with the echo will reverberate its message to use the good minds of our scientists and imaginers to find a cure from today’s woes like COVID and all that befall us.  I am keeping the faith we have the awesome power to do so.  To get the balance of us and this Earth back as beautifully, as exquisitely, as the design of a butterfly.  Be well.  Keep the faith. Look or pray for the magic; it’s there.

Saved from Christy’s school bag back in 2006
All photos captured by Christy Aged 20 😉



I fell asleep last night after doing, or rather working, but definitely not finishing a New Yorker crossword.  I love doing them.  And this is not a new COVID passion.  My dad worked for newspapers all his life so we were lucky, in the olden days, to get a paper delivered daily.  I was always quick to flip to the puzzle page to see what I could fill in over a bowl of cereal before heading off to school.  When I moved to DC and my ex-husband had a job at USA Today – The Television Show, we both used to pick up our own copy of USA Today and call each other over the course of the day to give updates on whether and when we completed the puzzle racing to see who would the first to finish.  If you are not into crosswords you might not have picked it up, but Mondays are always the easiest and they get progressively harder by the weekend.  Sometimes a New York Times Sunday magazine crossword would sit on the coffee table of Neal’s parents house for a week.  They were keen puzzlers too and would leave the puzzle as much filled out as possible on the table and then when you were hanging out in their living room you could pick up the puzzle and see if there were any clues you could add answers to.  It was a great way to get everyone to contribute over the course of a week.  Kinda like leaving a jigsaw (which I also love) out and letting people have the satisfaction when they had a sec to click a piece in to place.  I liked the community effort.  It was good to feel part of the puzzle team.

I find American crosswords deeply satisfying. I clarify their origin because for love or money I have never in thirty years been able to hack the ones published in England.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m blind to the cultural references you need to have at your finger tips to crack the clues, but American ones still make more sense to me especially with the wordplays.  It is so much fun when you are doing a puzzle and you are stuggling to get into the mindset of the puzzle maker to work out what they are driving at with their trick questions often punctuated with a question mark. The mark lets you know what they are asking isn’t what they are really asking.  It can mean a play on the words or phrase.  Once you figure out the theme hidden in the title (the NYT‘s ones in my opinion are the best where you find the puzzles names are clues as well) it means you gain a hint on how to complete some of the longer responses.  Anyway, I like how once you tap into what the theme is you feel like you are in on an inside joke. I am probably more keen about this than I should be, but I have been know to laugh out loud in delight when I work out what the play on words is and gleefully ink in my final answer. 

I find not just with crosswords but in general, I am forever drawn to words.  I love the sound of them and the feel of them working their way around my mouth, past my tongue, my lips, and across my breath.  I also like the way they look on the pages as they get drawn out from the bottom of my pen’s nub.  It is nothing short of magic.  I love how words allow us to share our thoughts, ideas, discoveries, and news across the distances between us.  And I really love how different languages find similar ways for expressing the same thing.  Adore, amor, l’amour, amore…leading us back to our common roots and reminding us we are not so much different as similar. I’d love to know how the Japanese and Chinese alphabets work and the Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, too. When I see the words in these languages even if I can’t read them per se, I find to me they are almost like miniature works of art.  Because I am unable to garner their exact meaning, I am left instead to simply gaze at their swirls, zigzags and flourishes while I appreciate the true magnificence of their power.  Words – human ingenuity at its best. From a scratch in the dirt to paper written, in print, in an email or text, words let us share the world with each other now and into the future. 

With words or rather their precursors, we can even look to the past. Check out hieroglyphics, time travel, and find the ancient stories and histories of the Egyptians.  I mean how cool is that?

I often wonder when they were translating the Rosetta Stone, which they used to learn hieroglyphs, if there was any humour therein.  It transpires the stone is a decree hailing Egyptian priests loyalty to Ptolemy which I’m guessing is not ripe for humour.  I’m sure a lot of effort went into chiselling out the characters into stone in three languages (thus the stone being the key to translating hieroglyphics) and those “writers” were probably saving their efforts for more weighty subjects like laws and decrees but still, wouldn’t it be fun if their innate sense of humour had them chip out a little inside joke or two somewhere on the stone?  Just to mark it with their humanity? 

Speaking of leaving a lasting mark, I heard schools these days, as they fizzle out the academic year that was 2020, are encouraging kids to put together time capsules to mark this year so we can remember what it was like in the future (like we are ever going to forget it).  The time capsules  will provide a snapshot of the 2020 experience – a thumbnail sketch if you will.  I can’t help but wonder what they are throwing in there?  Masks? Unused GCSE exam papers (in England they must’ve printed them before they were cancelled, right?). Of course, hand sanitizer, rainbow drawings, and pictures of the hirsute masses missing their haircuts as well as recordings of over-computer conversations like “Can you hear me now?”  “You need to turn off your mute”. How about unused diaries/calendars with pages left empty or scratched out cancellations?  Please, please let them include a dejected Trump meme post his Tulsa rally when he was easily outwitted by America’s teenagers fooling him he’d have a full turnout of followers only to be met with a near empty stadium!  Oh, oh and there’s gotta be a copy of the US Comedian Sara Cooper’s lip-synching of Trump’s words routine.

Finally, can I request with tomorrow night’s worldwide Hamiliton premier on Disney+, they don’t forget to include the Holderness Family singing their revised lyrics to the Hamilton tunes…”I am not throwing away my mask”!

Yup.  There’s some good stuff out there at the moment to put in the time capsule.

I particularly enjoyed Julie Nolke, a Canadian comedian’s Back To the Future style interview pretending to have a conversation with her past January 2020 self at the height of lockdown.  She has fun only loosely sharing information “because of the butterfly effect” and keeps her viewers laughing with her bemused insight into our predicament.

Just like the words, humour might be a bit cultural or generational dependent, yet, the desire to communicate with some humour is universal.  I’d argue some of this newer stuff might have been inspired by some of the old classics – one of my particular favourites which can’t help but come to mind with his passing is Carl Reiner’s Dick Van Dyke Show.  He died this week at the age of 98 I hope feeling fulfilled with having left a mark, as indelible as the Rosetta Stone carvings, on the way we laugh.  If you are not familiar with the show suffice it to say most of it was just funny observations about stuff we do day-to-day for family and work.  There’s nothing cutting or mean in it just good old-fashioned silliness – more my taste than his work with Steve Martin in The Jerk closer in charm to the All of Me film he wrote.  Of course, there is also the inheritance of sharing that good humour with his son, Rob Reiner, who among other works directed one of my all time favourite films, When Harry Met Sally.  In all of the comedy, the whole family always seemed to be in on the joke not forgetting it was Carl Reiner’s wife/Rob Reiner’s mother who famously spoke the line, “I’ll have what she’s having”. 

That being said, I hope soon we will all be doing as  my own mom always encouraged us to: laugh with but not at each other.  However, as often happens in times of stress, some of the best laughs are to be had right now, hopefully helping to keep us sane as we hold on for better times.  So I will leave you with this because as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and this one is too good not to share:

Thank you, Tracey Somers for bringing this photo to my attention on Facebook!