Category Archives: animals

Unconditional Love – Remembering Roxy

A dog is the only thing on earth
that loves you more than she loves herself.
Josh Billings

Learning about Unconditional Love - Remembering Roxy 2008 - 2018 Our German Shepherd - The Last Krystallos

In 2008, on my birthday, we got Roxy. She was eight weeks old and not suitable for the home she’d first gone to, so we bundled her up in Dan’s arms and took her home with us. Vince had always wanted a dog, and it felt like I was giving him a lifelong gift. What I didn’t know was how quickly I would fall in love with her.

Roxy 8 weeks, 2 years, 9 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: eight weeks, two years, and nine years © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a dog person, let’s rephrase that, I wasn’t a dog person, but two weeks later and I was. My children were eight, twelve, and fifteen and a puppy was the perfect addition to our family.

How do you summarise ten years of loving a pup?

Roxy 2, Dec 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: two years old © Lisa Shambrook

We started her with a teeny football and it graduated to her favourite toy a full size Welsh rugby ball.

Her ears grew like satellites, like Yoda even, and she never really grew into them!

Roxy 2008 8 - 14 weeks - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 8 wks with Dan, 12 wks centre bottom, 14 wks with football © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods became a favourite walk, long and short walks amid the bluebells in spring, trickling streams in summer, autumn leaves, and mud in the winter.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 left 10 months and 2 years - right 5 and 6 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 10 months top left, 2 yrs bottom left, 5 and 6 right © Lisa Shambrook

We took walks on the beach, racing through the waves, and chasing seagulls. The Black Mountain made us cherish the space, and there were so many local walks to Cwm Oernant reservoirs up at Tanerdy, behind Glangwili hospital, down to the museum and back again, down to Gwili River where her favourite things were splashing in the river and collecting rocks.

Cait 10, and Roxy 2, bubbles Aug 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 2 years old © Lisa Shambrook

Cait, who’d begun scared of dogs turned into a pup aficionado, and Roxy loved catching bubbles.

Roxy 2010 - 2012 2-4 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy playing Scrabble, walks and hugs: ages 2 – 4 years © Lisa Shambrook

Games, she even played Scrabble – as you can see…

Belly Rubs, the most perfect thing for dogs…

Family photos were a must with our most favourite family member. She loved walking down on Gwili Railway before the trains came back. The river was her favourite place to splash and chase pebbles. And our post-apocalyptic photo wouldn’t have been complete without our warrior pup.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2016 Family top 1, 2 and bottom 7 years - thelastkrystallos

Family photoshoots 2009, 2010 and 2016 © Lisa Shambrook

She gave us more love than we’d ever imagined possible. Cait fell completely in love with dogs. A pup offers you the most pure unconditional love you could ever find – the purest thing in the world.

Roxy 2015 - 2017 6 - 8 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy and Cait and pure love: 6 – 8 years © Lisa Shambrook

As she got older her enthusiasm never waned. She loved her walks, playing, gathering rocks from the river, and having cuddles. She was unadulterated joy. The bottom right picture was only two months ago as autumn kicked in, this is her ‘happy out in nature’ expression.

Roxy 2017 - 2018 8 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy home in the frost, Green Castle Woods, and hugs: 8 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

She carried on her ‘guard dog’ duties every day come rain or shine. No one, especially the postman, was going to catch her unawares!

Roxy 2018 9 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Guard Dog duty: 9 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

It was the beginning of November that we noticed her slowing down. Walks became shorter and stretching to get off her sofa took longer. She had several fevers but a blood test was clear. Her walks got even shorter and the vet told us she had arthritis, expected in German Shepherds, but we had no idea what was lurking. Over one weekend she went off her food, looked exhausted, and felt miserable. After a ten minute Sunday walk she struggled and her breathing got progressively worse. It was off to the vet first thing Monday.

The results were completely unexpected. Aggressive metastatic cancer had begun in her belly, spread through her kidneys and had filled her lungs. We had twenty-four hours.

We weren’t even sure she’d make it through the night, but she held on with Vince (the person she loved the most in the world) sitting by her side.

Roxy Nov 2018 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Last few days: age 10 years and 4 months © Lisa Shambrook

Tuesday 27th November 2018 was the most heartbreaking day of our lives and we lost her.

Anyone who’s been owned by a beloved dog will agree that the grief is all consuming as you’re losing a member of your family. Someone who loved you like no one else ever will, someone who trusted you beyond anything, who would have fought for you, someone who gave you loyalty, friendship, and the most unconditional love you’ll ever find.

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader.
She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.
You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.
Agnes Repplier

Roxy, 9, March 2018 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: age 9 years © Lisa Shambrook

Roxy – Our German Shepherd – 10th August 2008 – 27th November 2018

In Need of a Hug…

Feel the presence of love, wrapped up within a hug – Robert M. Hensel

In Need of a Hug - How Hugging offers affection, love, protection, and compassion - the last krystallos

I read this week that the more you hug your children the faster their brains develop. New-born babies shown more affection had stronger brain responses. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Touch and hugs show affection, love, protection, and compassion, everything a child needs. It’s one of the reasons babies are born and placed on their mother’s chest or at their breast – skin-on-skin touch helps bonding and gives comfort.

I also watched a report of a man, Antar Davidson, working with children recently separated from their mother in a migrant detention home in Tucson, who was asked to intervene and explain to three siblings aged 16, 10, and 8 that it was against shelter policy to hug. He was told to tell them to stop hugging. Antar refused and quit his job. These children only had each other left in a terrifying and alien situation and they were asked to relinquish touch between each other. It seems an atrocious and altogether backward move to make.

Then I saw this video of ten abandoned baby ducklings released into a pond. The pond’s resident mother duck, having recently hatched her own family of nine, immediately rushed to their side and ushered the orphans into her own family.

 

These three reports had a lasting effect on me this week. I’ve been distressed at the news of families being ripped apart at US borders. No matter your thoughts on immigration, removing a child from its parent is categorically wrong and never, ever the answer. Compassion seems to have taken a holiday from the current administration’s hearts.

A hug is worth a thousand words – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Removing touch from a relationship can be dangerous. The ability to convey love and emotion within a relationship is paramount to keeping a bond and an emotional connection. One of our basic needs is to feel closeness, to touch each other, and to feel security within love. Animals know this. My dog welcomes us home with physical touch, and my cats rub against us and crave being stroked.

Most of us welcome each other with a hug, or a kiss, or a handshake, depending on your relationship. I’m not a tactile person, and if I don’t know you don’t try to hug me. I have personal space, control, and consent issues and to share a hug with me I have to be emotionally connected to you. My immediate family, and very close friends are the only ones who can break into my physical hug circle. But I crave touch as much as my cats do!

You can't give a hug without getting a hug – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love holding hands, hugging, and snuggling with my husband, and my children give me the most amazing hugs! The act of a hug offers me security and love. To be denied this would damage me as a human being.

The mother duck immediately knew what the little ducklings needed. Affection and security and she offered both within moments of meeting them. This world is so divisive, judgmental, and bigoted we need acceptance, compassion, and love.

Can we welcome all those in need the same way this duck embraced an expanding brood?

In Need of a Hug - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best place in the world is inside a hug – J Quest

There are myriad articles out there extolling the benefits of hugs
and physical touch – and as long as consent is given – always ask first –
you should get and give as much as you can!

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

Forest Fox – Christmas Cake 2017

Padding softly through the snowy woodland
the Forest Fox searches for somewhere safe and cosy to sleep…
and he becomes this year’s Christmas cake theme.

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook - title

I decorated my cake with some of my favourite things: woodland animals, acorns, snow, autumn/winter leaves, and trees.

Forest Fox Sleepy Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I relate to the aloneness of foxes (not loneliness), so right now it is the most appropriate creature to decorate my cake. I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.’ ― Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose.

 

Forest Fox Trio - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

I covered the cake with smooth fondant icing, concealing a mound that my fox can find shelter beneath. I made chocolate fondant logs (sadly, the chocolate fondant I found is not vegan, so is the only bit Bekah won’t be able to eat!) and a tree trunk, and filled it with fondant snowballs, sugar snowflakes, and silver and pearl sugar balls. He sleeps on a bed of winter fallen oak leaves. Acorns and holly leaves are strewn across the den and paw prints show you how he got there!

Forest Fox Acorns Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned in my last post that the cake is vegan. I used dairy-free margarine/butter (vegetable or sunflower oil based spread) and instead of eggs I used chickpea water. This worked really well. The chickpea water (aquafaba – bean water) has a strong smell of beans, so I added a few drops of vanilla essence as I whisked it. 3 tablespoons of chickpea water replaces one egg, and needs to be whisked for a few minutes until foamy then added as you would each egg. The resultant cake is lovely. The smell of beans fades with baking and the cake is firm and looks no different to an ordinary Christmas cake. Smells gorgeous while baking and tastes no different!

Next time I make a sponge cake for my vegan daughter, I will definitely be using chickpea water.

Forest Fox Woodland Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

CaptureSo, when it came to guessing how I’d decorate my cake many people looked back at my love of dragons and thought a variety of dragons could adorn my cake for a second year, but not so. Nobody except almost my husband guessed this one. If he’d switched his guess of squirrel with fox he’d have got it outright! My daughter, Cait, did guess woodland animals… But without a correct answer online I put all the names of those who’ve made a guess into a Random Name Selector and Julia came up as the winner! Julia, you’ll be getting a signed copy of A Symphony of Dragons!

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is only a few days away – and I wish you all the joy it can bring!

Enjoy your Christmas Cake!

The Beast Bits of Halloween

See what I did there? The Beast Bits…
Posting a day early to celebrate the Spookiest Time of Year – Halloween.
Trigger Warning – There is (not real) Blood in this Post…

The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

I love Magic and the Moon, and Pumpkins, and Blood and Gore (when it’s not real), and lacy Spider Webs, Bats and Potions, and Haunted Houses, and CatsI always love cats! And they all come together for October 31stHalloween.

So what is Halloween for you?

Bats flying free, Trick or Treat, or Hot Chocolate in a cosy coffee shop decorated with pumpkins. Do Dragons sparkle across your Autumn sky? Gargoyles and Demons slink about amid the curl of Death as flowers and leaves dry while the Fae hold court. Pumpkins, carved and soup, Potions and Poisons, beware and be careful!

Halloween - Trick-or-Treat, Demons, Pumpkins, Potions, Poisons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve never shied away from blood and gore… Bekah’s make-up artist years have served us well with Guts and Zombies, and Slit Throats, Bullet Holes, and Pencil Protrusions. As a family we embraced our Halloween Evil. Do you fear Clowns, Darth Maul, or Vampires, or does the Grim Reaper haunt your soul?

Halloween - Zombies, Evil Clown, Darth Maul, The Grim Reaper - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook © Cait Shambrook  © Dan Shambrook 

We’ve also embraced the softer side of Halloween, I mean, who doesn’t love a Black Cat? We’ve rescued Bats, listened to Owls and kissed Toads! We love the Magic of Harry Potter, and any chance to Cosplay.

Halloween - Black Cats, Owl, Toad, Bats, Demon, Harry Potter - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook

And then there’s the Creepy side of Blood, and Skeletons, and Black Magic. Can you deal with Creepy Crawlies, and their fragile Webs? Full Moon and Darkness fill the Autumn night and take us into chilly Winter. Toadstools, Candles, and Cauldrons, and have you ever stayed in a Spooky Haunted House?

Halloween - Blood, Skeletons, Magic, Moon, Trees, Haunted House, Cauldrons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What makes Halloween for you?

Be Part Of Autumn – Let Your Senses Sing

Do you feel part of nature? Does it resonate in your very soul?
If you know me, you’ll know it does.
Nature – ocean, animals, trees, mountains, lakes, forests, ice,
flowers, and Mother Earth are all an intrinsic part of my life –
ingrained in me, my writing, my pictures, and in my soul.

Be Part of Autumn - Let Your Senses Sing - The Last Krystallos

It’s October, my favourite month and season, and this month offers some of my favourite things. The turning leaves on oak trees, acorns and acorn cups scattered across the forest floor, horse chestnuts and conkers, and kicking through rustling autumn leaves. Squirrels scamper up the trees, and gaze down at me with beady black eyes as I collect rogue acorns.

Let’s appreciate the beauty of the season and the little gifts it gives.

Squirrels - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

“I held a blue flower in my hand, probably a wild aster,
wondering what its name was,
and then thought that human names for natural things are superfluous.
Nature herself does not name them.
The important thing is to know this flower, look at its color
until the blends becomes as real as a keynote of music.
Look at the exquisite yellow flowerettes at the center,
become very small with them.
Be the flower, be the trees, the blowing grasses.
Fly with the birds, jump with a squirrel!”
– Sally Carrighar

Acorns and Oak Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, be part of autumn. Scamper with squirrels, follow the fox, kick fallen leaves, stamp in seasonal puddles, wander through forests as leaves turn red, orange, brown, bronze, and gold, and don your gloves to climb mountains and inhale clean air. 

Look down to investigate toadstools, gaze at tiny autumn flowers, and look up to the sky above and watch buzzards soar. Feel the breeze caress your neck, shiver and wrap a warm scarf about your neck, and let the sun kiss your cheeks. Touch silky petals, crumble used up leaves between your fingers, and stroke rough bark and soft moss. Let the fragrance of autumn fill your senses, the musty earthy scent of forests, and the crisp freshness of ocean air. Listen to the crunch as you stomp through the woods, and hear the whispering wind, and listen for the scamper of tiny woodland feet.

Horse Chestnuts - Conkers - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Let autumn embrace you with all it has to offer.

“Nature is our friend – trees, squirrels, grass, fields, meadows, oceans – without people.
Hike. Walk. Stroll. Bike. Swim. Be in a still place and feel eternity.
Have a great time. Just feel it.”
– Frederick Lenz

Autumn Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do your senses love autumn?

More Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats

You can’t have too many posts about cats…no, really, you can’t!
So, here are some more things we can learn from cats.
Actually, I’d quite like to be a cat…

More Life Lessons we should Learn from Cats - The Last Krystallos

Some more life lessons we can learn from cuddly floofballs…

A cat purring on your lap is healing...as the vibrations pure love and contentment - Saint Francis of Assisi - The Last Krystallos

Fluffy © Lisa Shambrook

A cat purring on your lap is more healing than any drug in the world, as the vibrations you are receiving are of pure love and contentment – Saint Francis of Assisi
They say animals assist healing, both physically and emotionally, and they’re often used in hospitals to aid recovery, especially in children and the elderly. I know that a purring cat is one of the most beautiful things in my life. Stroking a cat and listening to their contented purr has the ability to calm me and make me happy.
We could try to be more understanding, calming, and let our words heal.

What greater gift than the love of a cat - Charles Dickens - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

What greater gift than the love of a cat – Charles Dickens
As above, a cat’s love is given when you’re worthy of it, and is infinitely rewarding.

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic - Susan Easterly - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic – Susan Easterly
If we could harness just an ounce of cat magic, we’d be rich in mystery, and able to weave spells of utter enchantment. However, we have buckets of magic to offer, if only we would recognise it in ourselves. Find your magic and weave your own spells

God made the cat - pleasure of caressing the tiger - Fernand Mery - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger – Fernand Mery
These miniature tigers and lions enhance our lives with their fun, love, and sense of adventure. We have the responsibility of caring for them and playing with them without the danger of huge claws and man-eating teeth…just small claws and small sharp teeth… Respect them!

Cats worshipped as Gods...Cats have never forgotten this - Anon - The Last Krystallos - Photo Caitlin Shambrook

© Caitlin Shambrook

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this – Anon
Love this! Actually it doesn’t matter if cats were ever Gods, or if you are better than anyone else, cats generally love those who love them, and that’s a great ideal to live by! Again, it doesn’t matter who you are. As C. S. Lewis once said in The Weight of Glory It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible Gods and Goddesses…

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat - Ellen Perry Berkeley - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat – Ellen Perry Berkeley
The cat is independent, and if you don’t treat them right they will walk.
I find several parallels with this quote. Every life on this planet is important, and we have been given the responsibility of caring for them and the planet that gives us life. This isn’t something we should or can walk away from. We don’t own this planet or any of the creatures on it, but our environment is something we should care deeply about. Unlike the cat, we can’t walk away if it’s not treated right.
And though cats wanderNot all those who wander are lostJ. R. R. Tolkien.

There are no ordinary cats - Colette - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

There are no ordinary cats – Colette
And there are no ordinary humans either… and to continue C. S. Lewis’ quote …There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Embrace your oddness, your quirks, and your funWe’re not meant to be ordinary!

Enjoy your relationship with cats…
Find your love and magic, and make sure you can roar and purr!

Also check out: Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats and Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs.

Butterfly Flutterby – A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings

Summer is the season when butterflies flutter by
with painted wings and a breeze of mystery…

Butterfly Flutterby - A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings - The Last Krystallos

I could spend hours sitting beneath butterfly bushes watching these creatures waft by on glorious wings, landing silently on buddleias’ tiny purple blossom and feeding, then flitting off again for an airborne dance before returning to savour the nectar.

Red-Admiral-Butterfly-Buddleia-The-Last-Krystallos-If nothing ever changed...there would be no butterflies

Red Admiral © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a fan of hot summers, but I have been butterfly watching and these little wonders have taught me about the beauty of change.

Mullein-Moth-Larvae-Caterpillar -The-Last-Krystallos - caterpillar end of the world a butterfly-Richard Bach

Mullein Moth Larvae © Lisa Shambrook

A couple of months ago I saw a cute caterpillar on the buddleia leaf and later identified it as a Mullein Moth larvae (moth caterpillars are known as larvae). Now, isn’t a caterpillar or larvae an amazing thing? Butterflies go through a magical lifecycle: from an egg a caterpillar is born, the caterpillar feeds voraciously, and then forms a cocoon or pupae, and finally after a long sleep a glorious butterfly emerges.

Gatekeeper-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Gatekeeper © Lisa Shambrook

I read a story a while ago, about a man who watched a cocoon and felt bad about the struggle the butterfly had trying to emerge, so he carefully helped break open the cocoon and release the creature. He then watched in devastation as the butterfly tried to open its wings but failed. The butterfly was doomed because the process of emergence was interrupted.

No matter how sincere the help butterflies need to go through the process alone. The struggle allows wings to form and for fluid to move from its body into its wings. Without this toil the butterfly is born with a swollen body and shrivelled wings and condemned to die.

Through the struggle of breaking out of its cocoon a butterfly gains strength, without that struggle its wings would never have the power to open and lift it to great heights.

Ringlet-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Ringlet © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes we go through struggles that no one can help us with, they can cheer from the sidelines and encourage and comfort, but often we go through huge battles that we have to surmount ourselves. Only then can we internalise the strength that we gained and rise and fly to heights we never knew we could.

Embrace your struggle.

Peacock-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos - The butterfly counts not months, but moments-Rabindranath Tagore

Peacock © Lisa Shambrook

Most butterflies live for about a month, the smallest butterflies maybe only a week, and for such gorgeous creatures their lives are short. Butterflies don’t waste a moment. They feed, they mate, and they bathe in the sun. They live for the moment because that’s all they have.

Cherish your moments.

High-Brown-Fritillary-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

High Brown Fritillary © Lisa Shambrook

Back to caterpillars and butterflies, it’s a bit like the story of the ugly duckling. Sometimes we see ourselves as boring, grey, shy, and don’t see our true beauty. We all have the ability to emerge from our troubles and grow into the beauties we’re supposed to be. Just like butterflies. Even the most basic butterfly is a wonder of nature. And, I adore moths too, dusty brown wings, silvered or matt, but beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Love who you have become.

Comma-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Comma © Lisa Shambrook (I wish this was a better photograph, taken on my first camera phone way back… but the Comma is too beautiful to leave out!)

And lastly, I have a fascination with the word butterfly. Rumour has it – I don’t think there’s a definitive answer as to why they are butterflies – that they fluttered about milk churns when butter was being made, or that they were so named because the first butterfly appearing in the year was the yellow-coloured male Brimstone, but the most likely reason is it was believed they ate butter and milk, words in Dutch and German translate as Butter-thief, so butterfly it became.

Large-White-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Large White © Lisa Shambrook

Myself, I like the spoonerism – flutterby, I mean that’s exactly what they are!

So, welcome the flutterbys, after all, they’re not here for very long, and nature has a habit of giving us beauty in small doses, we just have to notice it!

Small-Tortoiseshell-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Small Tortoiseshell © Lisa Shambrook

My pictured butterflies are my locals,
what butterflies are your favourite where you live?

Red-Admiral-High-Brown-Fritillary-Small-Tortoiseshell-Gatekeeper-Peacock-Butterflies-Lisa-Shambrook

Red Admiral, High Brown Fritillary, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Peacock Butterflies © Lisa Shambrook

Plastic – Polluting our Oceans

Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - The Last Krystallos

A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):

‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”

“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”

“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’

In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Plastic Bags - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Glass Jars - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.

We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.

Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.

We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that:  ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’

However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!

Seagull Dreams by Bekah Shambrook Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - the last krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.

There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.

And 4Ocean sells bracelets made from ocean plastic to fund the removal of trash from the sea Find them on Twitter.

My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Bottles - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.

There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…

I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.

reduce reuse recycleI’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.

Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.

We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.  

What are we doing to Mother Earth?

* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDaywhich makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…

Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats

I’ve always been a cat person,
with the belief that cats are magical, beautiful, and healing,
and that purring is one of the best sounds in the whole world!

Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats - The Last Krystallos

I didn’t grow up with cats – my parents rescued Shantih and Charity, when I was already an adult. But Vince and I, newly married, rescued Rusty, a five-month-old abandoned ginger kitten, with only half a tail and damaged paw pads, when he tried living beneath my in-laws shed. He was a sorry sight, scrawny and malnourished, and the vet believed he wouldn’t have lasted another two weeks. He lived a happy, ditzy life with us ‘til he was twelve-years-old.

We got Misty and Raven thirteen years ago: having gone to a farm to collect a grey kitten from the masses of black kittens, the canny farmer placed a black kitten in Bekah’s hands, and that was that, we came home with both of them and adore them, as we should!

So, here are some lessons we can learn from these most independent, yet needy, creatures…

The smallest feline is a masterpiece - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

The smallest feline is a masterpiece – Leonardo da Vinci
It’s particularly lovely that this quote comes from Leonardo da Vinci, someone who not only appreciated art, but also mechanics and science. The physical attributes of a cat are truly works of art, from its sheer beauty to its agility. It’s no wonder they say cats have nine lives because if we jumped from a wall several times our own height we’re not likely to land on our feet and nonchalantly continue our journey.
If only we could appreciate our own beauty, the magnificence of our bodies and see just how amazing we are too!

Studied philosophers and cats, wisdom of cats is infinitely more superior - Hippolyte Taine - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

I have studied many philosophers and many cats, the wisdom of cats is infinitely more superior – Hippolyte Taine
Slightly tongue-in-cheek, but don’t tell cats you disagree. Cat’s have an air of superiority, they take life as it comes, without having to philosophise, theorise, and speculate…but I do feel maybe they meditate, they must be thinking of something while they stare out of the window all day…
We can seek out wisdom and knowledge, and then be as lofty as any feline!

Anyone around a cat...patience with the limitations of the human - Cleveland Amory - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind – Cleveland Amory
This picture may or may not back up this quote – Misty is waiting for food, impatiently. However, if I don’t respond she will gracefully wait, until I do… As a people we could certainly do with cultivating patience. It’s not one of my virtues, but my cats have plenty of patience with me, and often humour me!

Cats have it all – admiration and endless sleep and company only when they want it - Rod McKuen - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Cats have it all – admiration and endless sleep and company only when they want it – Rod McKuen
Patience in a cat does run out…and when it does you’ll know. My cats, Misty and Raven, will pretty much allow you to cuddle, stroke, and pet them as much as you like, though Raven will begin to hiss if you push too far. However, Dad’s cat, Fluffy, is a nope cat, when she’s had enough she will sink her teeth and claws into you no matter who you are.
Many cats will only allow attention when they want it. Cats understand and employ consent. Wouldn’t it be great if people truly respected your time, privacy, and space, before you felt like releasing your claws!

Cats have the courage to live them - Jim Davis - The Last Krystallos

Rusty © Lisa Shambrook

Way down deep we’re all motivated by the same urges… Cats have the courage to live by them – Jim Davis
Why don’t we all try to live our dreams? Rusty lived a life of love and adventure. Raven explores and wanders all the time, and Misty sleeps and eats, yep, there are people who would be quite happy with that! I want the confidence of a cat to live my dreams…

Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you - Mary Bly - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

Dogs come when they’re called. Cats take a message and get back to you – Mary Bly
There is a definite difference between dogs and cats, and this may be it. You don’t ever control a cat. Cat’s live independently living their own lives, albeit tied in with yours for convenience!
Cat’s choose to give you their loyalty, and if you keep your end of the deal they might keep theirs. The love of a cat is a beautiful thing, because if they love you, it’s because they have chosen to love you. I can’t say it’s as unconditional as a dog’s love, but it’s right up there with reciprocal love. Stay worthy of it!

A house is not a home without books and cats - Anon - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

A house is not a home without books and cats Anon
This one is a favourite of mine. I was raised on books, but not cats, so since we got married we’ve had both, books and cats… Never a truer statement!

Let’s live like cats, with patience, adventure,
and the wisdom to know what we want and to go after it!

What do you love about cats?

Also check out: Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs…