Category: Culture

Being alone!

A repeat of an essay from the 12th October, 2019.

We were truly alone when we went to Utah. (September, 2019.)

But then again, one of the privileges of being on 13 acres, 13 very rural acres, here in Southern Oregon is that being alone is not that far away!

I don’t want to underplay the importance of this posting, republished from The Conversation website (with permission), because we live in so busy times.

Written by three professors, it’s a very wise and profound article.

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Spending time alone in nature is good for your mental and emotional health

June 4th, 2018

By , Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College
, Associate Professor and Program Director of Parks and Recreation Management, Western Carolina University

, Associate Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College
Today Americans live in a world that thrives on being busy, productive and overscheduled. Further, they have developed the technological means to be constantly connected to others and to vast options for information and entertainment through social media. For many, smartphones demand their attention day and night with constant notifications.

As a result, naturally occurring periods of solitude and silence that were once commonplace have been squeezed out of their lives. Music, reality TV shows, YouTube, video games, tweeting and texting are displacing quiet and solitary spaces. Silence and solitude are increasingly viewed as “dead” or “unproductive” time, and being alone makes many Americans uncomfortable and anxious.

But while some equate solitude with loneliness, there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. The latter is essential for mental health and effective leadership.

We study and teach outdoor education and related fields at several colleges and organizations in North Carolina, through and with other scholars at 2nd Nature TREC, LLC, a training, research, education and consulting firm. We became interested in the broader implications of alone time after studying intentionally designed solitude experiences during wilderness programs, such as those run by Outward Bound. Our findings reveal that time alone in nature is beneficial for many participants in a variety of ways, and is something they wish they had more of in their daily life.

On an average day in 2015, individuals aged 15 and over spent more than half of their leisure time watching TV. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans Time Use Survey

Reflection and challenge

We have conducted research for almost two decades on Outward Bound and undergraduate wilderness programs at Montreat College in North Carolina and Wheaton College in Illinois. For each program, we studied participants’ experiences using multiple methods, including written surveys, focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews and field notes. In some cases, we asked subjects years later to look back and reflect on how the programs had affected them. Among other questions, our research looked at participant perceptions of the value of solo time outdoors.

Our studies showed that people who took part in these programs benefited both from the outdoor settings and from the experience of being alone. These findings build on previous research that has clearly demonstrated the value of spending time in nature.

Scholars in fields including wilderness therapy and environmental psychology have shown that time outdoors benefits our lives in many ways. It has a therapeutic effect, relieves stress and restores attention. Alone time in nature can have a calming effect on the mind because it occurs in beautiful, natural and inspirational settings.

Spending time in city parks like Audubon Park in New Orleans provides some of the same benefits as time in wilderness areas, including reduced stress levels and increased energy levels. InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA

Nature also provides challenges that spur individuals to creative problem-solving and increased self-confidence. For example, some find that being alone in the outdoors, particularly at night, is a challenging situation. Mental, physical and emotional challenges in moderation encourage personal growth that is manifested in an increased comfort with one’s self in the absence of others.

Being alone also can have great value. It can allow issues to surface that people spend energy holding at bay, and offer an opportunity to clarify thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires. It provides time and space for people to step back, evaluate their lives and learn from their experiences. Spending time this way prepares them to re-engage with their community relationships and full work schedules.

Putting it together: The outdoor solo

Participants in programmed wilderness expeditions often experience a component known as “Solo,” a time of intentional solitude lasting approximately 24-72 hours. Extensive research has been conducted on solitude in the outdoors because many wilderness education programs have embraced the educational value of solitude and silence.

Solo often emerges as one of the most significant parts of wilderness programs, for a variety of reasons. Alone time creates a contrasting experience to normal living that enriches people mentally, physically and emotionally. As they examine themselves in relation to nature, others, and in some cases, God, people become more attuned to the important matters in their lives and in the world of which they are part.

Solo, an integral part of Outward Bound wilderness trips, can last from a few hours to 72 hours. The experience is designed to give participants an opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and critically analyze their actions and decisions.

Solitary reflection enhances recognition and appreciation of key personal relationships, encourages reorganization of life priorities, and increases appreciation for alone time, silence, and reflection. People learn lessons they want to transfer to their daily living, because they have had the opportunity to clarify, evaluate and redirect themselves by setting goals for the future.

For some participants, time alone outdoors provides opportunity to consider the spiritual and/or religious dimension of life. Reflective time, especially in nature, often enhances spiritual awareness and makes people feel closer to God. Further, it encourages their increased faith and trust in God. This often occurs through providing ample opportunities for prayer, meditation, fasting, Scripture-reading, journaling and reflection time.

Retreating to lead

As Thomas Carlyle has written, “In (solitary) silence, great things fashion themselves together.” Whether these escapes are called alone time, solitude or Solo, it seems clear that humans experience many benefits when they retreat from the “rat race” to a place apart and gather their thoughts in quietness.

In order to live and lead effectively, it is important to be intentional about taking the time for solitary reflection. Otherwise, gaps in schedules will always fill up, and even people with the best intentions may never fully realize the life-giving value of being alone.

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I would modify that advice from Thomas Carlyle and that is to include a dog.

For in my experience when one is in the mood for a bit of solitary reflection your dog seems to sense it as well.

Day Twenty-Five of Tom and Chica’s walk

The third episode this week.

Tom’s walk continues!

He is in Granada and his stop was at Arenas del Rey. He now continues along GR7 to Jayena.

As always, taken from here with the permission of Tom and Gilliwolfe.

Read on!

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Day 25: Arenas del Rey (Rio Anales) to Jayena (El Bacal) 16k

By Tom and Chica, 2nd March, 2020.

Written by Tom’s wife.

As I woke in the morning, I was greeted by a couple of squirrels who ran by the tent, up a little tree and gawked at me. Clearly, not convinced about what they saw, they did another circuit and came back for second look. No doubt, this wouldn’t have happened if Chica had been with me.

I was surprised and pleased to find that this spot I had chosen in the dark was right by a ford over the river and actually on the GR7 route. Worked my way steadily uphill through scrub until I reached the pines. The conditions were ideal: cool, fresh and pine fragrant air. Great views down into the river valley below.

The rest of the day was similar – lots of ups and downs and more pines, though in one area there was evidence of these being cleared for cultivation, probably olives or almonds. I also found an old lime kiln and more information about resin extraction.

By now, the shop had opened and I bought tuna, chocolate and a strawberry milkshake. Not a particularly healthy or satisfying meal so I grumpily headed out of town and found a sign to the El Bacal camping area so made for that. Lit a fire, made a brew and settled down at around 9.30pm.

Beautiful morning – wonderful smell of pine.
Pines being felled and ground being prepared, probably for more olives
A few lonesome pines left.
More about resin extraction – a way of life.
An old lime kiln site.
The limewash was use on the houses – hence the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Andalucia
Jayena – today’s destination.

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Wall to wall interest.

Come back next week for another trio of daily walks by Tom, Chica and Merlin!

Day Twenty-Four of Tom and Chica’s walk.

The walk with Chica and Merlin continues.

I must say that this walk along GR7 takes in a great deal of fabulous countryside.

Just look at the opening photograph of the almond blossom and the snow caps in the distance. All credit to the team!

Taken from here with Tom and Gilliwolfe’s permission.

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Day 24: Camp site* to Arenas del Rey and beyond 17k

By Tom and Chica, 26th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Woke this morning to find hoar frost on inner and outer of the tent fly sheet. Porridge made for a warming breakfast along with strong coffee and parrots (sic. He means paracetamol. Ed).

As I was packing up, I was joined by marauding dogs, two of which decided to follow me all day to the next village whereupon they promptly disappeared. Bit of a relief as I was rather taken with the cute young Jack Russell bitch, a very endearing dog.

Arenas del Rey was apparently closed for the day so I spent a bit of quality time in the town square brewing coffee, drying my tent and washing my feet at the fuente directly beneath the holy shrine at the front of the church. Fortunately, there was no-one around to witness this disrespectful behaviour!

After foot repairs and a light lunch I set off on route to Jayena. Once it got dark, route finding became trying so at 8pm I pitched the tent by a river. I went to sleep to the ever-present chorus of distant barking dogs.

Ice on the tent.
Bee hives.
Beware! Bees at work.
Stone threshing circle.
Almond Blossom for the bees.
Snow caps getting closer.
Finally wearing that hat. Does the job!

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I have just about muttered all the ooh’s and aah’s I can about this walk and the stupendous photographs.

Just loving it as much as everyone else!

Day Twenty-Three of Tom and Chica’s Walk

Tom travels on his own.

As you will read below, Tom took the opportunity to travel without Chica and Merlin today.

It was going to be too hot for the dogs.

Taken from here and republished with Tom and Gilliwolfe’s permission.

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Day 23: Alhama de Granada to camp position* 10k

By Tom and Chica, 26th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Although Chica is much better and Merlin a very willing substitute, the forecast suggested quite high daytime temperatures so we decided it was best that I do a stretch on my own to try and make up lost time.

I caught the early train from Jimera to Granada where I got a tram to the bus station. The bus to the coast via Alhama de Granada didn’t leave until 3:30 so I had lunch at a pavement restaurant opposite. Later, I sat on a park bench in the sun to read but it wasn’t long before an ancient bucolic type decided to join me and make loud incomprehensible conversation. Eventually, I gave up and went for coffee. Returning to the bus station, I found him fast asleep presumably waiting for a bus. Not mine, fortunately, so a peaceful ride to Alhama but that was shattered as I found myself in the midst of a carnival with everyone in mad fancy dress!

After wandering around taking it all in, I headed to the top of town and filled my water bottles at a fuente then headed off at 6 pm. An hour later I was walking through poplar plantations on a pitch black lane trying to find a suitable camping spot. It was another hour before I picked up a GR7 sign in my torchlight which pointed uphill, too steep to try in the dark.

Luckily, I found a perfect spot above a stream which was only marred by the broken bottles left by previous visitors. By now, it was very chilly so I went straight to bed, glad to have put in at least a couple of hours walking.

Carnival fancy dress – strange!
The theme isn’t evident!
Leaving the party.

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Day Twenty-Four tomorrow!

I must say these are fabulous posts and I shall miss them when they eventually come to an end!

Day Twenty-Two of Tom and Chica’s walk

A hiccup to their progress!

At the time of republishing this, as in March 27th, I am well over a month behind the news that Chica suffered an infection. But it was still a shock to read of Chica’s illness and, thank goodness, it wasn’t anything more than an infection.

For I have got used to Chica and Merlin walking GR7 and hadn’t thought of anything interrupting their progress.

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Day 22: El Robedal to Alhama de Granada (including emergency car ride) 10k

By Tom and Chica, 20th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

I woke as the sun hit the tent and Chica sat outside soaking up the warmth while I had a leisurely breakfast and packed up. It was 11ish before we set off up the track. More evidence of sap bleeding before we came across some processionary caterpillars on the march.

We know about these nasty critters from earlier in the trip and I avoid camping anywhere where the nests are evident but these appeared on the track. I was pretty sure Chica hadn’t got anywhere near them but when she started to slow down and look decidedly off colour, I got very worried indeed. They can cause serious injury to dogs. I stopped to try and decide what to do – I was the middle of nowhere and it looked like we might need a vet.

As if sent from the gods, Heidi (who was actually a London cockney) rocked up to walk her dog and offered a lift into Alhama de Granada. She was the first person I’d seen all day! I accepted very gratefully.

I found a vets and they were opening soon so we sat on the steps outside and waited. The vet was lovely, examining Chica thoroughly and to my relief saying it wasn’t anything to do with the caterpillars. She had a high temperature, however, and so it was probably an infection. He gave her an antibiotic injection and vitamins and asked me to bring her back in the morning. I then carried her, as well as my pack, to the nearest place I could camp and put her to bed wrapped in my fleece. She was instantly asleep.

Chica warming up.
Pine forest and blue skies.
More sap bleeding.
Processionary caterpillars proceding across our path.
Clinique Veterinario Alhama

Author’s note: Although her temperature had lowered, Chica was still poorly the following morning, so we decided it was best for me to go out and fetch them. They are now back at base in Jimera and we will take a break until she recovers. Many thanks to Clinque Veterinario Alhama for their exceptional care.

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Day Twenty-One of Tom and Chica’s walk

Another day where the photographs reign supreme!

I love this slightly altered format of the posts from Gilliwolfe. Because the photographs are so, so beautiful.

Taken from here, as per usual, and republished for your delight with the approval of Tom and Gilliwolfe.

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Day 21: Ventas de Zaffaraya to El Robedal camping area 15k

By Tom and Chica, 20th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

After a relaxing day off in Zaffaraya, Day 21 dawned fair and after breakfast of tostada and jam, we headed out of town on the dismantled railway track. This nice, level start was welcome before the climb up into the hills in holm oaks, later descending into farmland, mostly vegetable cultivation – artichokes and courgettes among others. As it began to heat up to around 25 deg, I passed a honey locust tree with the longest spines I’ve seen. These are related to the false acacia which I’ve had to trim for clients in the UK – a job to be done with extreme care and robust gloves.

Lunch at around 2.30pm of scrambled eggs and asparagus, washed down with coffee and beer at Hotel Los Canos de la Alcaiceria. We then entered the National Park and enjoyed pleasant walking until 5pm when we reached the El Robedal recreative area. This is set in pine forest with views to the nearby snow-capped La Maroma mountain and offers free camping with a toilet block, running water and barbecue area. So after the tent was pitched, I lit a fire, ate a mediocre dehydrated meal and sat back to enjoy the fantastic night sky. Perfect!

Setting off …
Ironic!
Honey locust tree – a gentle name for a truly vicious tree!

No lack of information.
Sap ‘bleeding’. The sap is used in turpentine production
Heading towards camp.
El Robedal Area Recreative – free camping with toilets, running water and barbecue areas.

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I hope you good people are enjoying this walk as much as I am!

It is such a wonderful trip and they have been on their walk for very nearly three weeks!

Day twenty-two tomorrow.

Day Twenty of Tom and Chica’s walk

A cornucopia of photographs!

Just three paragraphs of writing are published in today’s GR7 post. But the photographs are precious!

Just see what I mean!

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Day 20: Alfarnatejo to Ventas de Zaffaraya 18k (inc deviation)

By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

We had a very long but really enjoyable day today. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn early on, which meant a lot more mileage and hill climbing to get back to where we should have been.

However, it was interesting and I got to meet lots of people including a chap from Derbyshire who gave me the right directions. Then a couple of old ladies at a fuente who confirmed that I was now going the right way. After that, a group of young Spanish women walking the other way who told me how far I had to go. Which was slightly deflating.

When I reached Ventas de Zaffaraya at 7pm, I decided the prudent thing to do was to go to the first bar I saw and rehydrate. This was Hotel/Bar Aqui te Queiro (I love you here??). I asked about places to stay as hostel next door appeared closed. The owner was located though, and she spoke English – always a relief at the end of the day when I can barely string a sentence together, even in my own language. Shower and comfy bed beckons. Joy!

Breaking camp
Leaving no trace
I’m ready!
Pomegranate.
What a strange house.
Early mists.
Keeping the ear in the sun from burning. Trend setter?
Tempting!
Definitely on the right track now!
These pilas (troughs) are so welcome.
Late afternoon.
Civilisation means a bar!
Pooped squeaks.

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Glorious! Just glorious!

Here’s a question?

The future President of the USA.

This article has quite a serious element to it. Namely, about not trusting a person who doesn’t like a dog.

But before I go to the article let me just say to my grandson:

Happy Birthday, Morten!

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Could a dog pick the next president?

By

Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University, March 3, 2020

I’m not sure who first said it, but it’s clear a lot of people agree with the sentiment: “Never trust a person who doesn’t like dogs.” Many pet lovers share the belief that a person’s attitude to dogs reveals something essential about their character.

During the political campaign season, Americans are deciding who has the characteristics, skills and temperament to be president. As a dog psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, I spend my time studying the relationship between dogs and their people. I’d certainly be happy if a candidate’s attitude toward dogs could offer a simple way to evaluate a leader’s personality, cutting to the essence of a person’s character and clinching my vote without needing a detailed assessment of their policy proposals.

Is it enough just to follow the leash to choose a leader? There must be good people with bad dogs, or no dog at all, and some notoriously bad people who were loved by their dogs, no? But I want to believe that canine companionship can still shed light on human character and help us pick a candidate.

Dogless in the White House

For the past three years, the pup-parazzi have been speculating on President Donald Trump’s dogless existence at the White House. It’s certainly most common for the president to have a dog – perhaps because, as someone reputedly said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

The Washington Post has claimed that every occupant of the White House since William McKinley has had a dog at some point. Just a couple of weeks ago, Trump declared at a rally that having a dog would be “phony.”

The only dog he has expressed any enthusiasm for while in office was the Belgian Malinois involved in the raid that resulted in the death of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. As for al-Baghdadi, Trump said he “died like a dog.”

Dog friends

Among the Democratic front-runners, Joe Biden shares his life with a German shepherd, Major. This may be a good move for the uniformed vote: German shepherds are a favored breed of military and police forces. Biden has always preferred German shepherds, but, for his latest – acquired in November 2018 – he softened the image by adopting a puppy that had been exposed to toxic chemicals and was being cared for by the Delaware Humane Society.

Biden might want to be careful of the historical baggage that comes with this popular large breed. The most famous German shepherd in politics must surely have been Blondi, the dog Adolf Hitler himself said was the only being that loved him.

Elizabeth Warren’s dog, Bailey, gets a belly rub from a supporter. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren has a dog with a gentler association. Warren’s stereotypically family-friendly golden retriever, Bailey, is named for George Bailey from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Warren said she named her dog for “a guy who was decent, determined and saw the best in people.” Warren’s Bailey is front and center in all her campaign activities.

Bailey features so prominently in his owner’s social media feeds that Warren might want to be careful not to be upstaged by her pooch. George H.W. Bush’s dog, Millie, published a memoir that outsold President Ronald Reagan’s contemporaneous “An American Life.”

Pete Buttigieg has suspended his campaign, effectively dropping out of the race. He and his husband Chasten already had a shelter mutt, Truman, when they added another – Buddy – to their household in December 2018. Marie Claire magazine considers Buddy and Trumanthe cutest fur babies in all of politics.” Buddy is the ultimate underdog: rescued from a shelter, of no particular heritage. With only one eye, he peeks out from Instagram voicing droll commentary on the goings-on.

Dog-detached?

Other candidates either have no dog or are happy to keep their canine enthusiasms to themselves.

The Facebook group “Pet Lovers for Bernie Sanders” had to photo-edit dogs into an image of Sanders and his wife, who have no dog.

These pets do not actually belong to Bernie Sanders. Pet Lovers for Bernie Sanders Facebook group

Michael Bloomberg was in the “apparently dogless” camp until just the other week when he got into a spot of dog difficulty by shaking a pooch by its snout rather than engaging in one of the more customary forms of interspecies greeting. The dog looked unperturbed, but pet lovers on social media roasted Bloomberg for his maladroitness.

The billionaire’s campaign quickly stitched together a 30-second ad spot of dogs voiced to endorse their candidate – ending with a cute white Lab who “says,” “I’m Mike Bloomberg’s dog, and I approve this message.”

Canine character references

Of course, dogless people get elected all the time – they can always pick up a pooch later. The Obama family did not acquire their dog, Bo, until three months after the inauguration. Having originally indicated an interest in rescuing a shelter mutt, they ended up with a pedigree Portuguese water dog because of their daughter Malia’s allergies. Though often known as the “Big Dog,” Bill Clinton did not acquire a dog of his own, a chocolate Labrador retriever, until his second term.

On Trump’s doglessness, the memoirs of his ex-wife, Ivana, are often quoted: “Donald was not a dog fan. When I told him I was bringing Chappy with me to New York, he said, ‘No.’ ‘It’s me and Chappy or no one!’ I insisted, and that was that.” But two sentences farther on – and far less frequently cited – Ivana adds, “Donald never objected to Chappy’s sleeping on my side of the bed.”

In fact, from 2010 to 2015, the Westminster Kennel Club had a tradition of sending the winner of its annual show to be photographed with Trump at his eponymous New York tower. Images from that time show Trump happily hugging the pooches.

Donald Trump poses with the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2010. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Witness accounts from these meetings, quoted by Snopes.com in an assessment of the claim that Trump hates dogs, recall Trump thoroughly enjoying himself cuddling the prize-winning canines. Snopes concluded that claims Trump considers dogs “disgusting” were just plain false.

Meanwhile, Harry Truman, to whom the claim about dog friendship in Washington is often mistakenly attributed, not only declined to bring a dog into the White House; he actually gave away a cocker spaniel puppy named Feller that was given to him.

Asked at a press conference in April 1947 what had become of the pup, Truman responded: “To what?” On receiving clarification, he lied, “Oh, he’s around.” In fact, Truman had already given Feller away to his physician, Brig. Gen. Wallace Graham.

Much as we might like dogs to tell us whom to vote for, the truth is, dogs are such forgiving assessors of human character that their appraisals need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. We may just have to do the hard yards and learn about the candidate’s policies. It isn’t easy. Maybe not having to participate in a democracy is what keeps our dogs so happy.

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This is both a lovely and intelligent article. Professor Clive Wynne raises some important points but concludes that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. I, for one, would not trust a person who doesn’t like dogs!

Day Nineteen of Tom and Chica’s walk.

These photographs are just amazing!

Gilliwolfe has changed very slightly the appearance of the post. But it’s just as good!

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Day 19: Riogrande to Alfarnatejo 16k

By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

This morning’s doze was interrupted at 6:30 by a digger starting up and then at 7:15 by lights of a 4 X 4 as fella turns up for work. Hey-ho! So up and into town for double rations of bacon bocadillos with coffee and on the road at 11am. Passing out of town,  two ground workers and the digger driver wanted to know if it was cold in the tent so I put them right; good sleeping bag and doggie hot water bottle. After a bit more building site banter (to make me feel at home, but without the rain) I stopped at the fuentes on the outskirts of the town, had a quick wash and filled the water bottles.

A hard uphill slog followed and this pack isn’t getting any lighter, I’m going to have to be more ruthless in selecting items next time! But it was a great day’s hiking and I was delighted to find Restaurante Gerado by the Rio Sabar where I scoffed an early supper of ham, egg and chips with two beers for €8. Bargain! Sated we trotted off into the hills for 45 mins and found a lovely camping place in the olive terraces  – pictures tomorrow.

Leaving Riogrande
Hmmm, nice pad!
Cooling off!
Essential water purifier.
Good walking surface!
Easy to miss but welcome confirmation that we’re on the right track!
Looking back the pointy peak in the distance marks where we started this stretch. Satisfying!
Restaurante Gerado – highly recommended!

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It’s an amazing walk and that doesn’t really give full justice to what Tom and his two dogs are doing.

It’s a very real pleasure to be given the permission to republish these episodes.

Another three next week!