Posts in the gifts category

Messing about in boats

"There was a new world. Everything was white, and somehow still. Everything was holding its breath. The field stretching down to the lake was like a brilliant white counterpane without a crinkle in it." - Swallows and Amazons I only discovered the joys of Swallows and Amazons when my own boys were small, and we read the series to them. The books magically capture that joy and mystery of what it is to sail on the water. There's something almost primeval about the gliding of a boat over the surface of the water, powered only by a breath of wind....

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Volcano fun at Advent

"Awesome." While that word had become cringe-worthily overused, we can still, nevertheless, fairly apply it to the power of volcanoes. Volcanoes hold a place of reverence in the human psyche. Most of us have grown up reading about Pompeii or Krakatoa, or remember Mt Pinatubo or that unpronounceable Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull, which threw European airways into chaos a few years ago. Our kids are soon aware of the awesome power of volcanoes.  In the Hawaiian tradition Pele is the Goddess of volcanoes, who could cause volcanic eruptions by digging with her Pa'oa, or magic stick. Many of the stories associated with...

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Journeying through Advent to Christmas

By Andrew McKenna Ring in the valiant man and free, The larger heart, the kindlier hand; Ring out the darkness of the land, Ring in the Christ that is to be. Alfred, Lord Tennyson Advent, where we now find ourselves in the Christian calendar, in part honours the hard journeys we experience in our lives. They may be a metaphysical journey to God, or a more physical journey we make on the surface of the earth. All journeys can be made easier by cultivating reverence, forgiveness, joy and gratitude - qualities we could no doubt work on year-round. I always...

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Weaving a magic tapestry

In a wonderful traditional Chinese folktale, an old woman weaves the most exquisite tapestry, encompassing streams, fish, animals and flowers. It is a gorgeous piece of work, which takes her three years to complete. One day, as her three sons are arguing about who should inherit it, a gust of wind carries it out the window and off into the eastern sky. Creating something beautiful from balls of coloured wool is an almost magical experience for kids. I remember the first time I tried weaving - many years ago - and the experience has stayed with me ever since. While...

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The forest of childhood

The forest - the grim, dark, rejuvenating, life-giving, mysterious forest. In folktales the world over, there's something special about going into the forest. The hero on his or the heroine on her quest inevitably treks deep into the forest. There are helpers and dangers along the way. In one lovely Danish tale, three brothers take it in turn to set out through the forest to bring a healing apple to an ailing princess. When they lose their way an old lady appears, asking what they have in their basket. The first two brothers don't spare her the time of day,...

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