Allisdhair McNaull/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
Every moment Infinite
When I was recovering from burnout, I took my camera out with me on every walk, and developed an approach which involved looking closely at what was around me, appreciating the natural light, colour and shapes which were constantly changing. There is so much to see which we so often miss when we are wrapped up in our thoughts and I wanted to slow down and capture the spirit, the essence of where I was in a given moment in time.
Mindfulness has been invaluable in allowing me to discover what I need from life and to get more enjoyment from life. For me, mindfulness is not just something to be done, but rather it becomes a way of being. This way of being is reflected in my photography.
When taking each photograph, I become absorbed in the moment, each image is a meditative moment in time when I become one with what I am seeing and experience. It is this experience that is the essence of mindfulness, to be fully in the moment. For me getting outside, wither it be my garden, on a dog walk, on the coast, wherever I am, whatever the weather, the light, colour and beauty of nature is a constant source of relaxation and re-energising.
All this can be expressed in my poem;
EVERY MOMENT INFINITE
Bring us to
A timeless point Of infinite possibilities
All our past
All our potential
Yet so often ignored.
These photographs are examples of my work:
Sarah Keir/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
Plan Bee Project
It is too easy in the modern world to become detached from nature, to see it as an isolated concept rather than our environment and integral to us as human animals. It is too easy to go from long days in work, straight home, work some more and repeat the cycle daily without ever taking a step outside except to walk from car to building and visa versa. It was not until I burnout this year and had to take time out that I realised I needed to reconnect with nature, that this would be integral to my recovery.
At first my energy levels were so low that a short daily walk was all I could manage but as I started to get back into hobbies such as crafting, I realised that mindful crafting with re-establishing relationships with nature was what I wanted to concentrate my recovery on. Nature has always been my muse for all my crafting projects in the past but I wished to focus on one area in detail. This has led me to start a summer long project, my ‘Plan Bee Project’, a mixed media exploration of British bumblebees. I am studying bumblebees because my hive of honeybees didn’t make it through the winter and bumblebees are such an important part of the ecosystem as pollinators yet often this fact is overlooked for their more commercial cousins the honeybees. I am drawn to their furry, almost comical. bodies and one-minded flying that appears to defy the laws of gravity.
Focusing on watching and studying the minute aspects of these insects is naturally mindful, requiring one to come into and stay in the present moment. Concentrating on just one idea and area but exploring it through the multiple of crafts I am doing and learning new ones means I can really see the details and wonder in the insect that is the humble bumblebee. Through this project I can feel my mental rebalance returning and I am determined that exploring nature will continue to be a cornerstone of my continued mental health and general wellbeing.
‘Plan Bee Project’, a mixed media exploration of British bumblebees:
- An artist’s sketch book of sketches, facts about bees, photos of project work if too big to stick into the book.
- Sketching and painting
- Bee poem
- Identification drawings and in embroidery
- Hand embroidery bee turned into a brooch, plus on a T-shirt
- Printing on T-shirt
- Paper collage of a bumblebee
- Clay sculptured bees in 3D
- Silver bee from a mould made from a dead bee
- Machine embroidery bee
- Plant dyeing wool and yarn for projects – still working on getting the right shades of yellow!
- Silver bee with added gold highlights by process of keum boo
- Raised hand embroidery (Turkey stitch) with stump work wings
- Needle felted bee, with plant dyed wool
- Plant dyeing yarn, weaving it into a honeycomb pattern
- Block printing tea towels with hand carved lino stamps.
To find out more about Sarah’s work, check out her blog www.sarahthevet.com or Instagram account @sarah.thevet
Ben Pocock/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
Decompression in the Wild (south) West
In April 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, like most people, I struggled with what the world was throwing at me. Battling everyday alongside my team to provide the highest quality veterinary care was at first a challenge for which we had energy but soon that faded and each day became a monotonous groundhog day that took it’s toll on the mental health of all our team in it’s own unique and cruel way.
National restrictions meant that I was forced to explore my local area and that evening I decided to get my battered old bike out and go for a ride. Dusting it down and checking the brakes I wondered if staying in was a better option but I persevered. It was approaching sunset so I headed out on the quiet coast road, with no planned route and no time restrictions.
I was drawn by the warmth of the sun on my face, so I soon found my way winding down the National Trust road beside a nature reserve towards the Godrevy headland. I cycled off road to a cliff edge that I knew offered stunning aerial views of a sheltered seal colony rested up on the beach. They looked so beautiful and peaceful. I then decided to go down a novel route further around the headland where I found an isolated and protected bench overlooking the famous lighthouse and the setting sun. I stayed for about an hour lost in my thoughts, my heart rate slowly returning to normal from my inexperienced ride. I was entertained by the flights of the loveable fulmars and smiled when this one managed to photo bomb this shot.
The stressors from that day seemed to flow out with the ebbing tide and I felt rejuvenated and blissful simply by being lost in the sounds, smells and sights of what I could see. This ride and walk has become a firm favourite of mine allowing me to tune in nature and decompress proving that time spent immersed in nature is never time wasted. A regular dose of nature is now part of my daily regimen, and my mental health soars like a fulmar on the updraughts that life throws at me.
Ebony Escalona/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
I am the Mountain
I am the mountain.
I am the craigs and cliffs that I climb, not the career ladders up against unclean and uncared for windows that don’t always open to let you slide in and take a seat.
I’ve been climbing many ladders and helping others ascend their mountains but they weren’t for me. I knew this when my soles wore through and there were no replacements to be found.
My soul escaped in those moments through the holes that we had worn going too fast and not noticing the beauty that was all around us.
My mountain’s summit is far away and I may never reach it but that is not the point of this climb.
The view at every vantage point can be breathtaking. I mean utterly breath taking. I’ve only just realised when you stop there is wonderment everywhere.
The natural world is an ever-changing gallery of life’s work. The best attraction you will ever have the fortune of attending.
But tread lightly so not to spoil the view.
There are mighty obstacles on my ascent. Boulders to scale, snow to dig out, ice to pick and scrambles with so many hard to holds.
My fingers will blister.
But I no longer fear these microclimates as everything passes in the end.
And with each fearful traverse along a high raised rocky spine is a story to recount at a campfire and a skill to lean on again.
Another implement to add to my Swiss army knife that keeps my mind sharp and my heart open.
The adventure across our own mountain stops us getting stale.
I’d rather participate in life than own one.
You don’t need a compass on this journey
You can not rush to scale it.
You have to feel every painful stone in your shoe.
You won’t heal faster if you try to go faster.
I used to walk so quickly through life.
To. Get. Things. Done.
To move onto the next thing in case my worth ran out.
Like Cinderella as the clock struck 12.
What if people found out who I really am?
This mountain requires a slower pace.
To look up and out rather than assessing the time, speed and distance on some productivity app.
The real productivity comes from connection to the ground, feeling the changing terrain under my feet, smelling the scents of the season changes.
Knowing spring is here rather than being told it. The tingle of misty rain on my skin as it turns to hail that turns to sun that leaves you with a blotchy multi coloured view if you stare at it too long.
The pace is somewhere between a dance and scrambling hike. The music and paths never run out.
There is plenty of time to adjust your laces.
To sit on a rock for a while and watch whatever is in your line of sight, for there is always something to observe, notice and ponder upon.
Rest is as important as the climb.
The contagion of busy martyrdom won’t cut it on this ascent, it will just roll you down to base camp to start again.
I’ve been there in a discombobulated heap many times.
You can’t shortcut back to your place.
There is no chair lift.
And the added bonus is there will be spells of glorious walks with loved ones, somewhere in the mountain’s middle ground.
Neither craving a thing or averting from pain. Just two souls connected and congruent on their climbs. Sometimes in silence and sometimes in fits of giggles as they share a path or two.
I’ve found that overthinking gets in the way
So, walk with me
Feel the sun on your face with me
Find your path with me
Come and just be with me
I can be hard to hold too, like those rocks
But I soften with every listening ear, every need you share, every smile glanced and every handheld in mine.
Lisa Catherine Phipps/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
Nature is simultaneously simple and complex, calm yet teeming with life, a safe refuge and an unchartered wilderness, secretive yet fully exposed for us. There is nothing quite like it. For me, nature is my pause and reset button. You step outside and yours is the choice; you can leave behind your ‘baggage’ or chose a few items to bring with you as you step out and allow yourself the space to contemplate. The worries, tensions or decisions we carry are thrust against the backdrop of nature, casting a powerful lens of perspective across our lives. Aspects of life that feel inescapable and imposing are rationalised at the inhalation of fresh air and the feel of the wind caressing your cheek with its coolness. When we are fortunate to experience the wonder of nature alongside a friend there comes an additional sense of joy, the joy of sharing an experience and memories made.
So, this is why my picture sums up for me the terrific benefit nature offers. Exploring the Hills of Scotland sat astride a highland pony while being battered by the wind and warmed by the sun is such a grounding experience and a perfect escape from the chaos of the city and conflicts of life. We all need to get out more and reconnect with our wild roots, I think we will all be surprised at the impact of such a simple act.
Zoe Davidson/in Nature Competition 2021/by MMI Press Office
Finding the Courage to Flourish
The funny thing about flowers and me is that they have always been there when I needed them. Just blooming. Teaching me how to thrive in the frozen depths of an English winter or through the cracks in the sun scorched California earth. No struggle, no striving, no pushing, no controlling, no pressure to chase perfection. Each flower simply beautiful by just being themselves. Doing what they were meant to do. I am meant to be an equine vet. Yet, the path here has taken it’s toll. Both in body and mind. Some say pressure make diamonds. But I know the pressure of perfection is crippling us girls. Be a an equine vet, be an athlete, be beautiful, then you will have made it. Made it where?
Flowers remind me that all we can do is do our best and just be ourselves. Bloom as we were meant to bloom. Only this way we can bring healing, kindness, compassion and joy to everyone that has the courage to notice them. They are perfect by just having the strength to open their delicate buds and petals and expose their bare faces to the tough and chaotic world. With every reason in the world to wilt, they find the courage to flourish. The innate, raw, wild, untamed beauty of each bloom has the capacity to take my breath away.
Each flower’s brightly coloured face, dancing in the shining sun has the strength to distract me any time my brain threatens to run away with me; no matter what godforsaken, worried, anxious diatribe my mind re-iterates to me as I drive from case to case. Flowers, through the insessant natter of my brain, trained for 10 years to be smart, think of everything, critically evaluate every aspect of every case, of my every move, raised to a ridiculously high bar, can make me stop and be me for a while. One gorgeous colour in a barren hedgerow can calm my mind. Flowers hold the ability to release the ridiculous pressure valve in which we live under. One wrong move, one wrong decision, one wrong diagnosis and an animal could die. It could be all your fault, even though we have dedicated every element of our being to understanding the science to save them.
Do flowers worry about blooming? No, they just follow their journey through their life cycle. By trusting their instincts, guided by the sun, and the seasons they become as gorgeous as they were meant to be. Working in perfect tune with their environment. They are just themselves and they have show me how to just be myself too and find the courage to flourish.