Wonderful year

30 12 2013

It’s been a wonderful year. Looking back over images of the past twelve months I see how new themes have emerged in my work and become threaded into all that I do. Just before Easter, I moved my horses to a new field and I see just how inspirational the Devon landscape has been to me. Living closely with the rhythms of nature has helped me to appreciate simple unfolding beauty, such as the unfurling of new oak leaves, or the appearance of the first bluebells, the changing colours of the fields and the sky.

I’ve shared warm and thoughtful times with friends both in the landscape and in the classroom and learned from every encounter. In the summer, I made new friends with the launch of Thinking Through Philosophy in my home town of Teignmouth and was heartened and encouraged by the generous and open-minded response of all those who came to the seminars. It has helped me to see that philosophy is most relevant and life affirming when it is grounded in every-day living.

Being grounded in what is real has made my year wonderful. As with every year, there have been challenges and sorrows and disappointments; it hasn’t always been easy. Looking back, though, the disappointments have already faded and I see that there have been many more new opportunities and experiences than I anticipated at the start of the year when I was still limping and depressed from a severe knee injury.

Twelve months on and due to regular walks and rides I feel fitter than I have ever been.  I feel joy each time I connect with my horses. They have helped me to be patient and to focus on one step at a time by doing only what I felt physically capable of.  Halfway through the year, I still needed someone to come out with me as I felt too insecure to ride alone. Now when I look back I see how far I’ve come. I can remember the first time I lay on the ground and the feeling of being connected to the earth and knowing that my body was going to get stronger as long as I didn’t push it. Of all the lessons of 2013, the most significant for me is taking note of when I need to rest.

It’s been a year of recovery and recuperation and reflection. Nonetheless, it’s been an active and productive year.  Ideas that I have long wanted to put out into the world are now beginning to take shape. In the autumn I was privileged to help with the training of untouched ponies on Dartmoor through my association with the community interest company the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre. In handling these highly sensitive and reactive feral ponies, I learned to listen even more closely to the signals from my own body language and came away deeply moved by the experience. Those days of silent communication in a light-filled cold barn were thrilling and transcendent. 

In January I am launching Thinking Through Horsemanship, a long-nurtured project that brings together my twin passions for philosophy and for horses and develops ideas I have been thinking about for over a decade. The pilot will launch with a group of young people at Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship.

Choosing images from the year was difficult, but I was guided by the theme of wonder, one of the key preoccupations of philosophy. To do philosophy is to adopt an attitude of wonder. Here are some wonder moments from the past twelve months.

I wish all my readers a warm and wonderful start to 2014.


New oak leaves


Bluebells in the wood



Cattle though the hedge


Lisa with Dragonfly


Marian with Sheranni


Philosophy in action: Gordon with Naomi


Jet on Dartmoor



Pippa with Stanley on Dartmoor 



July sky




Walking into a New Year

2 01 2013

Walking into a New Year

After lunch yesterday my friends and I went for a walk. We needed somewhere flat so as not to aggravate my quietly mending knee, and so we choose our closest stretch of sandy beach. Driving along the sea front it was tempting to get annoyed. Everyone in East Devon, it seemed, had stolen our brilliant idea of marking the first day of the brand new year by taking their dogs out for a walk along Exmouth sands.

Everyone. All right, a few people might have gone to Sidmouth instead.

It is curious to see a mass of people out and about and looking relaxed. Often when we encounter people in swathes like this, we close down, hunch into ourselves and try to avoid any form of contact that might tax our reserves of tolerance for those who are not us. Rare are the times when we simply enjoy watching each other.

Shortly after we arrived, a group of young people stripped off their clothes and dived into the cold sea. They held up their arms and laughed as the cold tongue of foamy pink sea licked their white bodies. A few people commented that the swimmers were off their heads, but despite the scoffing there was grudging respect for these human seals. The swimmers and the dogs together did look as if they were having the best time.

There is not an adequate English equivalent for the French word élan. Impetuosity, dash or style doesn’t quite convey the feeling of lightness in spirit, of having fun in a playful way that lifts those who watch. Élan is very different to merely mucking about or showing off. It’s a generous impulse.

Watching others let down their guard is entertaining. I can’t have been the only person on the beach who was having her icy New Year’s Swim snug in the warm changing room of the imagination. Thanks to the swimmers, we didn’t have to strip off and get in. We shivered vicariously.

It strikes me now, though, that too much watching others from the shore could become a habit. Not dipping our toes in the water because others have already done it for the rest of us is the very opposite of living with élan.

In this coming year, I want to live with more impulsion, more – I love this word – ardour. A lot less holding back.

Happy New Year.

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