The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” He was a very clever man who knew about so many different things that he is sometimes referred to as a “polymath“.

Why not see how much you can find out about Aristotle today? He was alive well over two thousand years ago, but so much of what he said and wrote is still very true for our lives today. He had a wonderful teacher called Plato who is also just as relevant today as he was way back before the Common Era began.

Many philosophers and writers and religious leaders around the world have written and spoken about the importance of focusing on light rather than darkness. It can be hard to do this, especially when you are anxious. Sometimes it feels as though the darkness is winning – your head can feel full of black storm clouds.

Things might seem worrying right now, but try to remember that the sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening, the planet keeps turning and the seasons roll on. Today is a great time to “focus to see the light” because it is the spring equinox. This means that there will be exactly the same hours of daylight as there will be of darkness. I find that a very soothing thought – the darkness is not winning! From now on the days will get longer as we look towards the summer with warmer weather and happier times ahead.

Whatever you do today, try to spend some time thinking about the light. Get outside if it is safe to do so, look around you at the new green shoots appearing. Stop and listen to the birdsong. And if you see a neighbour, give them a wave and a smile. Take care.

 

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

NB The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the content from links added to this page. Please supervise your child’s use of the internet.

You’re probably having to do some lessons at home now. Baking is a great way to learn about weights and measurements while also being a fun and tasty activity that you can share with all the family!

These Ostara buns (also known as hot-cross buns, eaten at Easter) are traditionally made to celebrate the pagan festival of spring. They are delicious and comforting when eaten warm and with a bit of butter or non-dairy spread. They also freeze really well, so you could make a big batch and stick some in the freezer to enjoy later if you can’t get out to buy bread.

Why not make a few extra and take them round to a neighbour who hasn’t been able to get to the shops? You’ll be sure to raise a smile.

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If you haven’t heard of Ostara before, here’s a little bit of information. See how many other springtime festivals you can find out about! The news might be grim, but spring promises new life and growth, more daylight and the hope of better days to come – so it’s worth celebrating!

 

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Whatever you do today, stay well and keep safe.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

I walked my dog alone this morning. I went out early and saw the beautiful daffodils growing on the cliffs near my house. They made me think of my mum who used to love daffodils. She would always say, “At last! Spring is on its way.”

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It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday so I will spend a special moment remembering my mum.

Some of you will be thinking about what you can do to say thank you to your mum and other carers this weekend. Maybe before we were all advised to stay at home, you and your family had planned to go and visit relatives this weekend to celebrate together.

Now you might not be able to visit the person you wanted to see, so why not spend today making a card or two, inspired by the gorgeous daffodils outside? Everyone likes to receive nice things in the post, especially if they are stuck at home and feeling lonely. And a daffodil card from you will be a like a ray of sunshine to the person who receives it.

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Whatever you do this Mother’s Day, I hope you will have a happy day. Stay safe and keep well.

Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

Now that so many of us are staying inside in order to stay safe and well, I thought I would offer up some ideas of activities from my almanac for children, Nature Month-by-Month, to help you pass the time indoors.

You can still enjoy what nature has to offer, even if you can’t get out to the park or go for long walks. If you have a bird table, make sure you put out lots of scraps such as seeds, nuts, stale bread crumbs, and then sit quietly and watch through the window for the birds to come. Birds are getting ready to build nests and breed right now, so they are filling up on food at the moment to give them extra energy. You’ll soon have lots of visitors!

If you don’t have a bird table yet, maybe now is the time to make one. That can be a fun activity in itself. Make sure you ask an adult to help you. There are lots of instructions online, such as this link here from the RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/feeding-birds/all-about-bird-tables/making-a-bird-table/

Or you could simply make a bird feeder like the fat cakes in the picture below and then find a branch near a window where you can hang the feeder so that you’ll be able to see the birds from inside.

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See how many different types you can spot. Maybe use some binoculars if you have them, so that you can get a closer look. Or take some photos. Just this morning I saw great tits, blue tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinches and even a lesser spotted woodpecker on my bird table – all from the comfort of my kitchen. Keep a nature diary of all the birds you see. Why not have a go at drawing them too? You could even start a bird-spotting blog to share your finds with other bird enthusiasts.

Whatever you do during this difficult time, stay safe and keep well.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

Screenshot 2020-03-05 at 16.38.18March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. It feels that way today! The wind and the rain seem never ending this year. So much so that I couldn’t bring myself to write much last month, which is why there is no post for February. I know I am not alone in finding this winter hard: a lot of people have found this winter tough with horrendous flooding making life awful for so many of us up and down the country. So, let’s hope that the old country saying is right and that by the end of this month we’ll be basking in “lamb-like”, sunny, spring weather!

At least signs of new life are all around. Even on the greyest days you can find daffodils and primroses in the parks and gardens, and maybe magnolia and camellias too.

My favourite tree in the woods near where I live has kept me going this winter. I have loved going to visit it to see what a wonderful array of life there is inside the old tree stump, using the rotting wood for food and shelter. At first glance, it might look like a sad old broken thing…

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But if you look more closely, you’ll find that woodlice have burrowed deep inside the soft, rotting wood to make their homes, and wasps have been chewing away at the papery wood to make their nests. And those fungi are incredible! (Just remember not to touch them.)

Once I get outside, I am reminded daily of the lessons that Nature has to teach me. It sometimes feels as though I am being gently told to stop looking down at my feet and inside at my miserable moods, and to look up and outside of myself instead at the wonderful signs of life all around me.

I think that must be why there are so many hopeful festivals being celebrated around this world at this time of year. Today in Cornwall we are celebrating St Piran’s Day. St Piran is the patron saint of Cornish tin miners who spent so much of their lives deep down in the dark mines. He is a saint who gives hope as he was thrown into the Irish Sea by the kings of Ireland but is believed to have floated to safety to Cornwall! Other festivals this month which celebrate new life and hope are the Hindu festival of Holi, the pagan celebration of Ostara and the Muslim celebration of Isra and Mi’raj.

Finally, on 29th March we get an extra hour of daylight when the clocks “spring” forward one hour! So lots to look forward to as March marches on. Enjoy the extra light each day brings by getting out and about – and looking up and out, not down and in.

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There is an old country saying: “The blackest month of the year, is the month of Janiveer”. It’s true that although the days are getting a little longer, the mornings seem darker than ever. And some days the weather is so damp and dark and foggy that you could be forgiven for thinking the sun had not bothered to get up at all. On days like that, it takes a lot of effort for us humans to get up and out of the house!

But if you can find a way to motivate yourself to get outside in January, you will always be rewarded. Even on the bleakest, darkest, wettest day, if you keep your eyes open you will see signs of life and the promise of spring. Hazel trees already have catkins hanging from their branches in January; birds are out and about, trying to eat as much as they can to survive the winter months; owls can be heard in the evenings and dark mornings and you might see a fox or a badger on your way to school if you keep your eyes peeled. In some parts of the country you might see snowdrops or even daffodils poking their green shoots up out of the earth.

Why not make a nature notebook, as shown here in my 2020 almanac, Nature Month-by-Month.

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You can make it from scraps of recycled paper and make your own cover out of an old cereal packet or part of a cardboard box. Make it small enough so that you can slip it into your pocket, then you can take it out and about with you. Your winter walks will be more interesting now, as you’ll have a reason to get out and about – you can now note down all the wildlife and plant life that you see and notice how the world around you changes as January creeps towards February. Happy walking!

We are nearly at the end of the year. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer as midwinter creeps closer. It is easy to feel gloomy, but the good news is that from 21st December the days start to get longer! It is because of this promise of longer, lighter days that the longest night has traditionally been a time for celebration. The nights might be long this month, but they can be very beautiful if there are no clouds in the sky, as the moon is at its highest and clearest and the stars are at their brightest.

The dark can be depressing or scary, but just think: if there was no darkness, there would be no light! This is what all the festivals this month are about: finding light in the darkness.

You might think that Christmas is the oldest winter festival, but pagans have celebrated at midwinter for hundreds of years. 21st December is also known as the Winter Solstice or “Yule” which comes from a Norse word “houl” meaning “wheel” because of its place in the cycle of the seasons – or the “Wheel of the Year”.

Many of the pagan traditions of Yule have found their way into the celebration of Christmas. Perhaps you know the carol, The Holly and the Ivy – this has its roots in pagan traditions. Pagans also light candles and fires, decorate their homes with evergreen plants, feast, dance, and give gifts. All these things are now traditional at Christmas too. Pagans believe that hanging a sprig of holly near the door brings good luck and keeps away evil spirits. Mistletoe is also hung as decoration and as a blessing and symbol of new life.

Where I live in Cornwall there are lots of midwinter celebrations. In Penzance there is the Montol Festival (“montol” is an old Cornish word which means “the turning point of the year”). There is lots of dressing up, processions through the town, lanterns, singing, dancing, eating and drinking. At the end the “Mock” or yule log is marked with chalk and then burned. This log is a symbol of the light that we all yearn for in the darkness – it prevents the dark and the cold taking over.

Another good way to beat the chill is to do some winter baking! There’s nothing better on a cold, dark winter’s evening than to put on some cheery Christmas music and set to work baking some yummy warming treats. Why not have a go at making your own mince pies this year? There’s a recipe in my 2019 almanac:

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Whichever winter festival you celebrate this December, be it Solstice, Christmas or Hanukkah, I wish you a happy time and all the best for a prosperous and healthy New Year.

And look out for more treats and activities in next year’s almanac, which is available now!

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