Category Archives: Nature

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer

Roses are, perhaps, the most expressive of flowers.

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos.

They can be brash and bold, or full and heady, or delicate and sweet, or subtle and fragrant, and so much more…

Wedding-Jacaranda-Garden-Valentine-Funeral-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

When people are asked for their favourite flower, roses are one of the most popular responses, and they are definitely the jewel in the crown in both florists and gardens. Roses generally flower from Summer to Autumn, but these days I’ve had roses blooming as early as April and as late as December!

I carried Jacaranda, deep mauve, roses as a bride, Vince brought me handcut roses from the gardens he worked at (he was a gardener) on our first date, I’ve adored a variety of roses in my garden, I’ve had single red roses for Valentine’s, and we recently had red and white roses at my mother’s funeral.

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So what do roses say?

Red-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Red Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Burgundy Roses say a little more than red, promising undying love and cherishing unconscious beauty!

Red Roses are the traditional way to say “I Love You,” the colour of passion and the definition of love. They also represent courage and respect.

Orange-and-Yellow-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Orange, Peach, and Yellow Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Orange Roses; imagine the colour of fire and you have the flowers that embody passion to rival red roses representing desire, enthusiasm, and excitement.

Peach Roses are a delicate shade of gratitude and sincerity, a gentle rose to offer appreciation.

Yellow Roses show friendship, care, and platonic love, there are no romantic undertones with yellow roses, just sunshine and friendship. Yellow roses also convey memories, and are often given in long term relationships. They are also perfect for welcome home and new beginnings bouquets.

White-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

White Roses © Lisa Shambrook

White Roses represent purity and innocence, spirituality and reverence, often seen as bridal or sympathy blooms.

Pale-Pink-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Pale Pink Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Pale Pink Roses suggest friendship and elegance, and can signify a new budding romance. They also offer sympathy and innocence. The delicate charm that laces pale pink matches the sweetness that they convey.

Deep-Pink-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Deep Pink Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Deep Pink Roses express appreciation and gratitude, and a lovely way to show happiness and contentment.

Purple-Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Purple Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Purple and lavender Roses; purple has always been the colour of mystery and enchantment, and they express love-at-first-sight. Deeper purple roses signify majesty and splendour.

I adore roses of all colours, and every variety, from hybrid tea roses, to dog roses, climbing and rambling roses, old English, and modern hybrid, floribunda roses, and shrub roses – they all enchant me.

Roses-The-Last-Krystallos

Roses © Lisa Shambrook

I believe roses were given to us to celebrate colour, fragrance, and beauty, let’s not take them for granted.

What are your favourite roses?

When were you last given roses, or do you buy or cut your own?

What colour beguiles you most?

* All photos are roses from my garden or from the tables in Calon my local coffee shop (now called Pethau Da) and a couple of pics of bouquets from supermarkets!

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…

Cow Parsley and its Rogue Cousin Common Hogweed

I love the Welsh hedgerows of summer,
full of white Cow Parsley, Common Hogweed,
and dotted with Red Campion, and purple Foxgloves.

Cow Parsley and its cousin Common Hogweed - The Delicate Beauties of the Hedgerow - The Last Krystallos

Delicate white Cow Parsley and Hogweed flowers sway gently amid roadside flora, and along paths, and the edges of fields. Both Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) are common sights from spring into summer, and their dry stalks and skeletons decorate the verges when autumn and winter arrives.

Cow Parsley Hogweed Flowers - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley – Hogweed – Hemlock © Lisa Shambrook

Being an everyday sight in the UK countryside, Cow Parsley has become a favourite wild plant to include in my writing, its form and structure adds to descriptive scenes and offers history and familiarity to the reader.

It’s also familiar to readers who understand herbs and plants, as cow parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat ailments, stomach and kidney problems; breathing difficulties and colds. You must be able to positively recognise the plant before using it as medicinal, or even in cooking, as you can make Cow Parsley soup and a variety of other recipes. My sister advises me that her horses love Cow Parsley!

Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley © Lisa Shambrook

Cow Parsley is recognisable with its long, green, furry stems which are ribbed and have a V shaped groove, umbels of white flowers often tinted pink (left in picture below), and fern like leaves (top middle). Common Hogweed is a very close relation. Its leaves are edible when young, and it’s discernible from Cow Parsley by its daintier florets and broader leaves, but more rounded (bottom middle) than the jagged, spiky leaves of Giant Hogweed. Another cousin is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with narrow ferny leaves and heads of tiny white flowers, but you’ll recognise the difference as the Wild Carrot’s flower cluster usually has a single red/purple flower right in its centre.

Common Hogweed, Cow Parsley, Giant Hogweed and Hemlock Leaves Stems - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed (left/bottom middle), Cow Parsley (top middle), Giant Hogweed (top right) and Hemlock (bottom right) Leaves/Stems © Lisa Shambrook

It has to be said that you need to be incredibly careful not to confuse these with their dangerous and poisonous relations Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Hemlock (Conium maculatum).

The first way to tell Giant Hogweed apart from its Common counterpart and Cow Parsley is its size. Cow Parsley can grow to just over 1m (3-4 ft), Common Hogweed a bit taller, but Giant Hogweed grows up to 3m (almost 12 ft) and its umbels of flowers are pure white and can reach the size of 60cm (2 ft) across. Giant Hogweed will generally tower over you and its stems are far thicker. Its leaves are deeply lobed with jagged, serrated edges, and its stem is bristly and purple blotched, (which you can see in the top right picture). Giant Hogweed has violent sap which will react if it touches skin in bright sunlight inducing burns and painful blistering, needing quick medical attention. My mother discovered this when she tried to cut one down without realising what it was and ended up arms of red blisters and hospital treatment.

Common Hogweed Leaves Stem - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed © Lisa Shambrook

Hemlock is much smaller, and very similar in appearance to Cow Parsley with fern like leaves, but it also has stems blotched wine-red, though its stalks are smooth (bottom right in picture). All parts of Hemlock are poisonous though it was also used as medication by the Anglo-Saxons.

Giant Hogweed is well known for its dangerous phototoxic sap, but it’s wise to remember that all of these plants have sap that reacts to bright sunlight. In the same way a wild animal would attack if assaulted plants can do the same, and if these plants are cut down by mechanical means (strimmers etc) they utilise their defences and their sap will react and burn when it touches skin.

Wild Carrot - The Last Krystallos

Wild Carrot © Lisa Shambrook

Both Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot are also called Queen Anne’s Lace in the UK. Queen Anne took the British throne in 1702, and she was the second daughter of James II. A story goes that the queen asked her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as the cow parsley in the countryside, and only she could. Another story says that Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace, thus why the Wild Carrot has a purple flower at its centre.

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion - The Last Krystallos

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion © Lisa Shambrook

I love the wild flowers that embellish my landscape, and along with Bluebells, delicate, lacy Cow Parsley enchants me as it bends in the breeze like fairy blossom…

Sunset and Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

Sunset Umbels © Lisa Shambrook

What wild flowers charm you?

Blue John – Treak Cliff, Peak District

Blue John – the Indigo stone of Clarity…

Blue John - Treak Cliff, Castleton - The Last Krystallos

Crystals, gems, and stones enchant me from both a geological point of view and a healing, spiritual approach. So, when we were up in Nottingham this last weekend, Vince and I drove out to Castleton in the Peak District to visit the caverns.

Blue John - Treak Cliff - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

We took an underground barge down the flooded Speedwell Cavern and learned about the lead mines and visited Peak Cavern. Peak Cavern is known as the Devil’s Arse, and is also connected to Speedwell via tunnels only accessible to potholers. We didn’t get to Blue John Cavern this time, but did go to Treak Cliff Cavern and our tour guide Katie was brilliant.

We entered via Tardis doors, because as we all know once past the tunnel going in you’ll definitely find that the caves are bigger on the inside… Treak Cliff is different from many cave systems in that moss and algae grow on the roof and walls in some spots and are encouraged as the caves also contain spiders, centipedes, and bats among other tiny wildlife. You can also see fossils adorning the walls, showing that the caves were once deep under the ocean and carved out in the Ice Age.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Fluorite - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

300 years ago the original miners searched for lead, but found nothing in Treak Cliff, instead they found and disregarded a purple and yellow Calcium Fluoride (Fluorspar) running through the limestone. Its worth was later appreciated and Blue John was mined, both in Treak Cliffs and Blue John mines. This mountain is the only place in the world that Blue John is found. The caves are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and protected, and mining of Blue John is carefully monitored.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Vein - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Vein, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The miner who discovered the indigo-blue and yellow fluorite very imaginatively called it Blue and Yellow… In France they dropped the ‘and’ to make it Bleu Jaune, and back in Derbyshire without the romantic French accent it switched to Blue John and the name stuck!

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Pillar - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Pillar, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

I loved our tour through Treak Cliff Cavern, moving into caverns full of Blue John still running through its walls, and a pillar of the fluorite worth over 9million, but unable to be mined because the pillar holds up the cavern!

We moved into caves with flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Stalactites, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The crystalline gemstone is valuable and rare, as I said, only found in Hope Valley near Castleton, and the mined stone is sold in rough and polished specimens, and turned into exquisite jewellery, bowls, and fine ornaments. Treak Cliff has a wonderful gift shop, which includes a display of items not for sale, but gorgeous. A Blue John dragon sits inside this display…I wish I’d taken a picture of it! I also visited Silver and Stone gift shop on Goosehill Bridge to find my slice of Blue John.

I have a lovely collection of gemstones, having researched them for my current work in progress, The Seren Stone Chronicles, and purchasing a couple of pieces of Blue John was a true pleasure.

Blue John - rough - polished slice - tiny - Calcite -Treak Cliff - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, rough and polished slice, and Calcite © Lisa Shambrook

The fluorite comes in a banded stone, yellow or white, with bands of purple crystalline. The more yellow pieces are coloured with iron ore. Sliced pieces show the gorgeous bands of purple and white. I chose a small two inch piece with intricate purple markings, which look amazing when held up to the light.

Blue John - polished slice - Treak Cliff

Blue John, polished slice © Lisa Shambrook

Blue John’s healing properties include clarity of mind and peace. It boosts mental, spiritual, and emotional awareness. Fluorite has many physical healing energies and Blue John has been used as an elixir to promote health and beneficial mineral absorption.

I love discovering the beauty of gems and stones, and Hope Valley’s secrets are there for all of us to discover, in a rich and striking vein of Blue John.

 

Where does the Beach take you?

It’s turning into beach weather here in the UK…
though, in my opinion, all year is beach weather for me.
I love wandering a lonely, cold, winter beach as much as
paddling through the surf on a warm, summer evening.
But what entices you to the ocean, what floats your boat?

Where does the Beach take you... - The Last Krystallos

Is it the heat, the sun, and the chance to sunbathe, or family time and BBQs, building sandcastles, and jumping waves, or do you prefer to explore, climb rocks, and appreciate the beauty?

Do you enjoy the sounds of the ocean rolling across pebble beaches? I grew up in Brighton, and the sound of the sea turning pebbles brings back all kinds of memories.
I adore walking barefoot over sand, and letting the surf lap across my feet, so the gorgeous West Wales beaches, where I live now, fit me perfectly…

Pebbles-vs-Sand-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you like the flora that thrives in the salty air, and the seaweed decorating the beaches? I have a weird penchant for wearing seaweed hairpieces…

Flora-and-Seaweed-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you collect shells, do you search out conch, mussels, and pretty shells, and do you put them to your ear to hear the sea? Do you listen to the shrieking gulls with pleasure or irritation?

Wildlife-and-Shells-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And speaking of irritation, do you feel compelled to share your chips with the local birds? Fish n’ chips on the beach can’t be beaten! Do you sit on the beach with can of coke and newspaper wrapped chips and watch the sunset? Do you embrace your loved one as the sun disappears below the horizon in a fiery ball and the stars begin to sparkle?

Sunsets-and-Food-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love your feet in the ocean, do you paddle or dive right in? On the hottest days, dunking beneath the waves can be refreshing and invigorating.
Or do you prefer to sunbathe, lying on the beach worshipping the sun, or do you take a book and lose yourself in stories?

Feet-in-the-Sea-and-Relax-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are you one of the lucky ones who can surf the waves – either on a board, or in a boat? Can you relax on board and let the ocean rise and fall beneath you?

Boats-and-Ocean-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love to explore, to climb the rocks, dive from cliffs, build dens, and get creative? Do you take photoshoots of mermaids, dystopia, and conquer pirates?

Explore-and-Dystopia-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are sandcastles your thing? Are you an architect of the golden grains? Do you build turrets, and moats, and make lolly stick flag poles? Do you sculpt the sand to your every whim, designing and creating with imagination and the salty breeze? Can you build towers of pebbles, balancing in an ever more intricate game of Jenga?

Fun-and-Craft-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Palace Pier, now the Brighton Pier – though I can’t ever call it that – was a haunt for my childhood self, walking along the wooden timbers watching the green sea swell beneath me, feeling the ocean in my hair.
Do you search for lonely bays, lost coves, quiet havens, and romantic harbours? Do you walk from one end of the beach to the other, kicking through the rippling waves?

Bays-and-Piers-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Or are you like me, as long as my feet are in the water, I let the siren call of the ocean beguile me, and I lose myself in the beauty of the sea?

Beauty-and-Waves-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What is it for you? What draws you to the beach, to the salty sea?

What entices you to the ocean?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers

Spring flowers laced with crystal tears…
the warmth of Summer nurturing her flora…

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

A lovely friend posted a couple of photos on Facebook this week
of her garden flowers in the rain, and as we’ve had a fair bit of rain this May
it made me think of my own flowers decorated with diamonds…

aquilegia-rhapsody-in-blue-rose-geranium-the-last-krystallos

Aquilegia, Rose – Rhapsody in Blue, Geranium © Lisa Shambrook

It rains a lot in Wales, but that’s not a bad thing.
Taking photos of flowers in the rain offers a beautiful clarity and charm.

aquilegia-arum-lily-philadelphus-belle-etoile-aquliegia-the-last-krystallos

Aquilegia, Arum Lily, Belle Etoile – Philadelphus, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Water is the essence of life, watching thirsty plants flourish shows how vital it is to all of us.

paeony-geranium-poppy-tulip-the-last-krystallos

Paeony, Geranium, Oriental Poppy, Tulip © Lisa Shambrook

Dewdrops, crystal, diamond rain, reflection, life, clarity,
nature’s mantle to beautify our lives…

Ladies-mantle-rudbekia-daffodil-aquilegia-the-last-krystallos

Ladies Mantle, Rudbekia, Daffodil, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

 What flowers have you enjoyed seeing laced with nature’s tears?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Time – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Midweek Flash Challenge - TimeTime

Time was irrelevant.

We thought time would give us hope – but it didn’t.

We’d become godless, we thought we were gods, but time saw to that.

It became apparent that the scientists were right – when the ocean gave up its dead. No longer did the choked seas harbour a food source safe enough to eat. Presidents and Ministers and affluence, the gods of our world, had mocked the warnings. They’d ploughed through fields and homesteads and sacred ground to plunder from that which gave us life. They’d buried pipes and channels deep beneath the hallowed mantle before draining it dry. The skies showered invisible rain full of unseen toxins through manufactured billowing clouds. Forests and jungles lay slaughtered to make way for ever growing consumption and herds of fat, cash-driven bovines, without a thought for how we’d breathe.

So, when the cracks appeared, fracking across our lands, time was spent.

The gods of our world had drowned and poisoned and suffocated us, and we’d let them.

Time, when we were gone – eradicated from the surface of this glorious orb – was of no consequence to us.

But to Mother Earth, time is everything.

Time is relevant.

6c195d394e709b0cfd47dce8416778fd_christian-page-divider-clip-christmas-underline-clipart_560-420

Jumping in with another Flash Fiction Challenge from Miranda at Finding Clarity. This image of a clock tower in Finale Emilia, Italy, appeared uncredited in Newspapers after an earthquake which struck the area May 20, 2012.

Write up to 750 words, inspired by the image posted.

The Trouble with Lichen…

I‘ve blogged about moss before, that carpet of jewelled green that enthrals me,
and lichen does the same. Lichen has the same delicate natural beauty
clinging to crumbling walls, to trees, and swathing the local woodlands.

The-Trouble-with-and-the-Beauty-of-Lichen-The-Last-Krystallos

I don’t think there is any trouble with lichen, yep, I’m a John Wyndham fan, but we haven’t yet decided if lichen is the fountain of youth – it may be, but that’s another story!

The-Trouble-With-Lichen-The-Last-Krystallos-five-varieties-of-lichen

Five varieties of lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I love how lichen decorates trees and rocks, swathing walls, finding its way into nooks and crannies in an almost microscopic way. Moss and lichen create drapery and carpets for our woodlands and forests in the UK. You can also find them on rocks and cliffs at the beach, surviving in deserts and seemingly barren terrain, and in the Rainforests, and upon snowy mountain ridges. They can be found across the planet from Antarctica to the Equator and back to the Arctic.

Foliose-lichen-branch-rusty-wooden-seat-The-Last-Krystallos

Foliose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

It is thought lichens were probably the first flora ever to adorn the earth… We have used it for antibiotic compounds, scents in perfumes, and much in science. Beatrix Potter also studied lichens and drew them for scientific works before Peter Rabbit grew in fame! Before synthetic dyes were produced, soft greens, brown, yellows, and even orange, red, and blue dyes could be made from lichens. It’s also been used to date rocks and glaciers. There are Arctic lichens that have lived for more than 4,000 years…

Foliose-Crustose-lichen-tree-fallen-branch-The-Last-Krystallos

Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

The observance of lichen can show the health of an area. They left cities during the Industrial Revolution, due to sulphur dioxide in the air from burning coal, but as we move away from coal lichen are reappearing in many areas they were once lost to. Pollution obstructs them and lichen growth shows purity and clean air.

Crustose-lichen-on-crumbling-wall-The-Last-Krystallos

Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I find calm in the beauty of nature and examining the curls of leafy Foliose lichen, the spread of flat Crustose, the scales or squidgy pebbles of Squamulose, and the fascinating stalks of shrubby Fruticose lichen take me to a world of tranquillity.

Foliose-and-fruticose-lichen-Brechfa-Forest-The-Last-Krystallos

Foliose, Squamulose, and Fruticose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lichen is not a single organism – it is a symbiotic relationship between fungus, and algae and/or cyanobacteria. Moss and lichen don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

Foliose-lichen-heart-cherry-tree-The-Last-Krystallos

Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Ever wonder why slugs and snails don’t feed on them? They have a bitter taste, unpalatable to slugs and snails. They are basic necessity within nature, as food, as nesting and den material, soil preparation, and they benefit the whole ecosystem.

Foliose-lichen-on-tree-and-roof-The-Last-Krystallos

Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, some varieties have a high tolerance of radiation, and they are so hardy they have even been known to survive outer space – in 2005 an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment took them out of our atmosphere for two weeks, and upon re-entry they survived and thrived.

Foliose-and-Crustose-lichen-and-moss-hedgehogs-The-Last-Krystallos

Squamulose and Crustose Lichen and Moss Hedgehogs © Lisa Shambrook

Maybe we really will find life out there, maybe in the form of lichen…
or maybe, just maybe, they’ll be the toughest thing to survive this planet,
long after we have gone…

Fruticose-Foliose-Crustose-Lichen-on-Moss-tree-bark-rust-The-Last-Krystallos

Fruticose, Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

It’s the Little Things…

Have you ever thought how it really is the little things
that make the difference in life?

It's the Little Things in life - that make you truly happy - The Last Krystallos

Last Saturday I had a good day, a really good day! I had no commitments and it was a beautiful sunny morning. I popped into town nice and early, enjoyed the sunshine, and listened to the birds sing amid the hubbub of town life. It’s the little things.

star wars tattoos - the last krystallos

Great legs! © Lisa Shambrook

I wish I’d told the man in front of me on the escalator how much I loved his legs! I did call out how cool it was to hear two girls (mother and daughter) singing ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ at the top of their lungs as they paused at the traffic lights in a cabriolet. And I smiled at a six-year-old Ironman swaggering through the precinct, flexing his muscles and grinning at everyone. It was that kind of day!

The evening before, in the warmth that predicted a beautiful day to come, Vince and I walked Roxy and listened to the birds in the trees. Noting how different their calls and songs were, from the courting couple of cooing and crooning collared doves, to the blackbird’s familiar call, to a robin red-breast singing his little heart out on the top branches.

robin singing - the last krystallos

Sometimes the smallest things are the loudest © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes the smallest creatures sing the loudest and have the most beautiful voices.

Do we listen?

We even attempted to get a photo of the tiny robin atop the tree (our phone cameras were pitifully lacking for this!), and it was a giggle to watch passing motorists’ passengers straining their necks to see what we were looking at!

It made us realise how lucky we are, and how the littlest things can often be the best things.

It's the Little Things - The Last Krystallos

The little things are the best things © Lisa Shambrook

…Like the way your cat purrs when she snuggles into you – one of your favourite songs playing in your car – brushing your hand across velvet moss – a flower blossoming – new leaves appearing on trees – getting lost within a great book – your dog’s welcome home – your favourite hot chocolate – being silly with friends – the feel of your favourite jumper – a hug – snowflakes – your bed after a hard day – creating art – dancing in the rain – fresh baking – holding hands – watching a sunrise – something that makes you laugh and many more…

What are the little things that make you grateful and happy?

Signs that Spring is on its Way and a Cover Reveal

The first day of spring, 20th March, is the release date for my latest book
A Symphony of Dragons, a date to look forward to.
So, I’m giving you a peek at the signs that Spring is on its way…

Signs that Spring is on its Way and a Cover Reveal | The Last Krystallos

Snowdrops bring us beauty on the edge of winter, arriving on the cusp of spring…

Snowdrops-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Snowdrops © Lisa Shambrook

Followed by hellebores giving us late winter roses, the crocus pushing through the earth with hope, and dainty primroses, the epitome of spring…

Crocus-Hellebore-Primrose-Crocus-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Crocus, Hellebore and Primrose © Lisa Shambrook

Valentines offer love, passion and the first flush of pending spring romance…

Valentine-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Valentine © Lisa Shambrook

Light changes as days get longer and we are welcomed by dawn’s blush as we wake…

Red-Dawn-Blue-Sky-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Lighter Days © Lisa Shambrook

Daisies begin to brighten our lawns with friendly faces…

Daisies-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Daisies © Lisa Shambrook

Trumpets of gold herald spring with the most famous flower of the season…

Daffodils-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Daffodils © Lisa Shambrook

Ballerina blossom, so delicate and flouncy like soft, thin cotton or candyfloss…

Blossom-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Blossom © Lisa Shambrook

And new leaves sprout ready to dress the trees in finery and spring attire…

Leaf New Growth-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

New Growth © Lisa Shambrook

Magic arrives with fae and fantasy, sunshine and clarity, and I can introduce you to dragons…

Magic-Signs-of-spring-The-Last-krystallos

Magic © Lisa Shambrook

The first day of spring this year will bring a collection of tales interweaved with gossamer threads of dragon fire, and the first story will launch you into the seasons on the agile wings of dragons…

Lisa_Shambrook_Symphony_of_Dragons

Enjoy the flowers – lighter, longer days – romance – and the enchantment of spring.

And I’ll let you know as soon as A Symphony of Dragons is available…
You’re definitely going to want to discover the dragon that brings you spring…and those that compose summer, autumn and winter too!

Let the song of dragons lead you…