Exploring My Thoughts on What Should the New Year be About?

Tea cup on a table with a diary saying new year goals.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels.com

Since 2019, times have been very taxing for all of us. We were challenged beyond our limits on one hand and deprived of social contact on the other. When we felt burdened by deep thoughts and feelings, we hardly found anyone around to share them with.

Covid with its lockdowns though made us slow down amidst a life of rush and ponder over the meaning of life. When it comes to our life, what is it that matters in the end? Is every part of our life worth rushing back to? What is it that truly makes us happy, should we have good health on our priority list along with our material goals?

This January has been mostly a period of hibernation and retreat for me. I found time to blog again, it’s a joy in itself. I finally mustered up the courage to get my wisdom tooth extracted, it had been causing me discomfort for a very long time. I was also lucky to get some days off from work (winter vacations) and deemed it an opportunity to take care of the needful, including my dental surgery, my children’s upcoming assessments and some reorganizing. My family time includes watching a few movies with my kids and going out for nature walks.

2022 I feel is going to be better in many ways. It’s going to be about gaining courage, respect and recognition as most of us have been putting in a lot of effort in our work. A lot of us have come to realize our inner fortitude as a survival strategy and have learned to thrive on our own merits.

I think this year will be about dreams coming true. To cause this to happen, we must be as open to ourselves as we are to others, and be someone who no longer feels they need to camouflage themselves or disappear altogether in order to be accepted. This is a normal part of growing and maturing. I feel we are ready to set aside our velvet gloves and reveal the iron fist inside, we’ve grown stronger ferrying through the tumults of life.

2022 is about valuing and respecting ourselves, letting ourselves flourish in nourishing and healthy ways. We must rid ourselves of all old patterns that don’t serve us anymore. Keeping away from people and environments that don’t offer constructive support and silencing our inner critic, is what will lead us to success this year. Let’s embrace our authentic self, giving way to healthier ways of expression to who we are, as we grow strong and powerful every year.

There are many different ways to stand up for ourselves, including removing ourselves from harmful situations. This year is one of standing our ground and not apologizing for being ourselves. This should be our way forward.

Happy new year everyone, stay safe!

Lovely Golden Autumn

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Being an October born person, I’ve always been a fan of autumn. The sun in the summer is harsh, but there’s something very lovely, warm and soft about the autumn light. The blanching shades of fall foliage symbolise both the fading of a season and a renewal of sorts, the trees tell us how significant it is to let go of the old in order to embrace the new. Autumn is all about nature showing us how graceful it is to accept change and grow.

When I go out for my evening walk nowadays, I feel that there’s a touch of fall in the air and I see that the leaves are slowly turning yellow. The breeze outside is as lovely as the golden light in the evenings. It’s so beautiful to witness this season coming in, no wonder many poets chose to write about autumn, including William Shakespeare. Poets have often associated autumn with ripeness, maturity and adulthood. John Keats called autumn the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ Some autumnal poems will make you fall in love with this season, and surprisingly, also with the notion of getting old.

Though I haven’t tried to write a poem about this lovely season myself, I can share one that I really like. It’s written by Robert Louis Stevenson. I hope you’ll enjoy the poem and the lovely fall season. Happy reading!

Autumn Fires

Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
   And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
   See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over, 
   And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
   The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
   Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
   Fires in the fall! 

Nature and Well-being

A woman walking in forest
Photo by ib rama on Pexels.com

“The natural world and its processes has much to teach us about the flexibility, creativity, and resilience that’s already within us, just waiting to unfurl.”Kelly Barron

Have you ever looked closely at those dense dark forests? There’s a lot we can learn from observing nature, specially plants. Lodgepoles and ferns dot landscapes and forests despite facing adversity from nature in the form of wildfires and lack of sunlight. They grow both in cold, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The wildfires help lodgepoles with their propagation strategy, it helps unlock the seeds in their hard cones, which otherwise would stay trapped inside. Ferns, no matter how small, make their existence felt in dense forests by availing every little spot available to grow. This small insignificant ancient plant “fern” grows everywhere among the large tall trees, including the barks of dead trees, hence populating and flourishing in the forest like no other species.

These plant species due to their resilience, claim to be the “real” kings of the forests where other tall trees hamper growth being dominant. Lodgepoles and ferns don’t just survive catastrophes. They thrive in their aftermath, says Kelly.

Endlessly inventive, unrelenting, and forever evolving, nature’s hallmark is resilience.”

According to Kelly, “Nature is more connected, collaborative, and communal than we realize. Survival of the fittest refers not to the competitive strength of a species but to a species’ “fitness” to adjust to its changing environment. We too can apply nature’s wisdom to improve our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Learning to adapt, collaborate, and renew ourselves will not only help us live more sustainably on earth, but also—like a towering lodgepole pine—flourish in the face of adversity.”

Many species face conflict when it comes to preying for food and mating, but it takes more energy to fight than adapt. Hence, these conflicts are short-lived. Nature can thrive only through cooperative relationships. A single wolf faces difficulty in bringing its prey down, but a pack of wolves works together so that everyone can have food. Similarly, many flowering plants build a relationship with fungi that helps colonize their roots. Due to this wood-wide-web which is an example of “underground connectivity network”, every plant and tree in the forest receives its share of nutrients.

As humans our primal need is that of connection, we die when we are alone. Covid-19 has been an epidemic of loneliness for us. It has reinforced the idea that humans crave togetherness, they are interconnected. The social distancing has affected our mental health adversely, because we are by nature social beings, we thrive when we socialize.

On the other hand, Covid-19 has also taught us how we have an innate ability to collaborate for mutual survival. Wearing masks, keeping distance, using sanitizers and getting vaccinated are forms of social solidarity that we are going to fight this together for our safety and survival. The give and take in nature exemplifies that we need to deepen friendships and create supportive networks.

Nature also teaches us to rest, renew and regenerate in order to grow and survive. Life is hard, but it persists like nature. Nature faces disasters, it breaks down, lets go, and allows the next generation to continue growth. We as humans have a hard time accepting change and loss in life. We do not see life-shattering events as divorce, death of a loved one, job loss and sickness as an opportunity to grow strong and renew ourselves. We tend to dwell on our past mistakes and mishaps. Kelly says that “by observing nature’s cycles, we can learn to accept the disruption and renewal that occurs in our lives. We can acknowledge the messy middle of transitions and the inevitable growth they foster.”

Catastrophes propel us towards a new level of growth, we struggle through transitions but nature shows us that it allows time for restoration. Alex Soojung remarks that “Rest is not work’s adversary, it’s work’s partner. They complement and complete each other.” Just like some animals hibernate, shed skin, trees lose their leaves, the sun rises and sets, we must acknowledge the wisdom of following activity with rest. We too can withstand the tumult of life, endure with hopefulness and renew ourselves.

Take a nature walk whenever you feel down, and you’ll feel a renewed sense of faith and purpose in life.

Being Free, Being True, Being You

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I just felt like sharing some thoughts that came to my mind today when I was looking at birds flying in the sky. They’re so full of freedom and this freedom means a lot to them. Birds that are caged and imprisoned forget how to fly, it’s like you’ve taken away their wings from them, you’ve deprived them of their most precious gift. Birds are wary of humans that catch them and cage them, that’s why they fly away when we try to approach them. They feel so free with those wings spread wide, flying and gliding in the skies. It must give them such a heavenly feeling!

“Freedom” is such a rare blessing without question, nobody would ever wish to lose the freedom to be themselves.

I think it is not fair or just to not let others live their lives and be themselves. I have come across such people, and I’ve become wary of them. I don’t think that controlling, imprisoning and caging people is a likable quality. People who do this would never like to be treated the same way, if it came to them. So it’s better to treat people respectfully as equals, as humans with minds and thoughts of their own. This attitude can earn you respect, trust and credibility. It will also emanate compassion and justice, and win you more friends.

I’ve always been a student of human nature, I love analysing why people do what they do. In another way, you can say that I am quite interested in people in general. I want to find out what people think about different things and what goes on in their minds. I love people for who they are, I try to see the goodness in them. But I make sure to keep away from toxic people who drain my energy and positivity, because it takes me long to heal when I’m wounded. I don’t like being bullied around and caged, my well-being thrives on mutual respect. Life has taught me a lot of things about people, and I’m glad that I’ve set boundaries and have learnt my lessons well. I don’t give second chances to toxic people I’ve tried and tested over and over, and my research into their nature concludes they remain who they are inside.

On the contrary, people who are good innately remain so. You can sense them from the vibes they give out, they are beautiful on the inside. Beautiful hearts and good humans can be found everywhere, you may come across them very casually in unexpected situations, but they DO exist.

I personally like to be free and be myself, and this is what I choose for other people too. Everybody is born free and different, and it is likable and fair to let people be who they are as individuals. True beauty lies in being oneself without pretence, without fear and judgement.

Though I have always outwardly appeared as a shy person, I consider myself very observant of people and surroundings. I observe every little nuance of a person’s personality as if it’s a window into their being. I admire people with good hearts, kind demeanour and humble attitude, I value humanity over every material possession.

On a funnier note, I’m actually so much into studying and observing people that they usually find me quirky and different, but the things that make me different are the ones that make me ME!

Have a nice day everyone, don’t let anyone drain your life force!

Be free, be true, be YOU!

This Makes the Bohemian in Me Want to Wander

Khyber Hills on flicker.com

I had to disappear from the scene for a while owing to the nature of my job. Have been busy as it’s the start of a new semester here at the university. Lots of work to do, and hence no time for blogging as frequently. But I love my job nevertheless, and I enjoy teaching. Nothing like it.

So, I have been taking pictures of a lot of things lately, thanks to modern cellphones that come with an inbuilt camera. It’s spring here and there are flowers everywhere, our university’s campus is blooming with flora and fauna of sorts. I wanted to share with you a very beautiful view that I came across, and also felt like writing about it.

Peshawar city, where I’m living now, is one of the oldest living cities in South Asia, and many of its residents feel nostalgic when they look at the historic buildings of the city like the Kissa Khuwani Bazaar, Masjid Mahabat Khan and Bala Hisaar Fort that date from the Mughal Era. Hundreds of years ago, Peshawar was a very touristy place famous with merchants from Central Asia, who dealt in dried fruits, woolen products, rugs and carpets. The city was under British control from 1849-1947, and several residential areas, especially the Cantonment feature buildings dating from the British Era.

Peshawar is surrounded by hills and mountains from three sides that make it look like a valley. The hills are an amazing sight to see, and have history associated to them.

While commuting to and from work, I’ve always stared at the hills that are visible from the road and our campus. They look majestic both in the morning and in the evening, particularly because of how bright they appear in sunlight when it falls on them, or peeks from behind them during a sunset.

These hills aren’t the lush kind, they’re kind of rocky. Mostly covered with grass, and having limestone and gravel, these hills are still no less than a marvel. I call them a “marvel” because they have the historical “Khyber Pass” running through them. The most northerly and important of the passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pass connects Kābul, the capital of Afghanistan with Peshāwar. The pass has historically been the gateway for invasions of the Indian subcontinent from the northwest. Through it have passed Persians, Greeks, Mughals, Afghans, and the British, for whom it was the key point in control of the Afghan border.

I’ve always been a traveller at heart, and the view of lofty hills and mountains stirs a wanderlust in me. Whenever I find my routine tedious, I feel like leaving the conventional lifestyle of the city and go live in the mountains like a bohemian. I think taking a break away from this noisy world where we’re overly occupied with worldly affairs is what can truly clear and purify our mind, body, and soul.

Living in the mountains with no T.V, cellphone and modern facilities means you’ll have a minimalist lifestyle and hence will have more time to savour the natural beauty around you. How peaceful would it be, ah!

Have you ever felt that there’s a bohemian — a wanderer, a vagabond, and an adventurer in you? Do you crave going away somewhere far?

Sometimes not knowing where you’re going is the best way to get somewhere you’ve never been!

Khyber Hills at daytime

Image captured by Maria A.

Screens are Monsters: Kick Your Screen Habit in 6 Easy Ways

Screens are monsters that manipulate us into feeding them.

Everyone knows that screens are bad for health and well-being, but still, kids, teens, and adults have a hard time putting their digital devices down! Why is it so?

These monsters are actually manipulating us into feeding them! They cunningly beckon us to take a peek and seduce us with their pings and rings. Phones themselves aren’t inherently addictive, it’s the apps that do the trick. They offer rewards and gratification in form of likes and comments on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat etc.

Read here:


Here’s to the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Rebels…

Yes, I am mad and insane! (Sometimes there’s a method in madness)

Aristotle once said “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”

Photo by Sachith Ravishka Kodikara

Today a random thought just crossed my mind regarding “madness.” Sometimes it is very easy for us to label “different” people as crazy, mad and insane. Whoever seems to challenge the norms is called a troublemaker, we vilify him/her and in trying to do so we selfishly want ourselves to feel sane and more normal.

We often pronounce some forms of art as “madness” and we also call some very talented men and women as “mad.” It is so because the culture we grew up in defined the “normal” for us. Culture has been constantly manipulated to support certain things and repress others. Though some cultural practices must be respected, there are others which must become obsolete. I say so because every person has a different story based on their experience of life. By the way, culture is a human construct just like our language is.

If it is madness to live one’s life according to one’s own preferences, then let it be..

I think the person who tried to make the first airplane was mad too, and the women who went to war were mad as hell!

The bitter truth is that we basically envy free-spirited people! We don’t like people who dare to chase their dreams, because we never had the guts to materialize ours. We are so used to staying in our comfort zones, that people who’re free of the shackles we were brought up in, people who question rules, people who assert their independence, people who have no respect for the “status quo,” disturb us. Those who function with a desire to bring change, seem “mad” and out of their wits!

One of the famous science fiction writers named Philip K. Dick, who thought his wildest fantasies had a way of becoming scientific facts, said:

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”

Similarly, Rob Siltanen once remarked that “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

There’s always some reason in madness.. and I leave it to you find that reason. Let all mad people live their life to the full. Let us all have the courage to be MAD and insane! 🙂

Scrawls of an Archaeophile, a Lover of Old Things and Places

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Jonathan Safran once remarked “Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on…It is strange how we hold on to pieces of the past while we wait for our futures…”

The human mind has this wonderful ability to think about its own thinking. In Psychology, they call it “metacognition” — becoming “aware of one’s awareness” or higher-order thinking skills.

Nowadays, I often find myself looking in the mirror trying to see those fine lines around my eyes. Time flies for sure and at this stage of my life, I find myself thinking more about my own thoughts, my “old” thoughts.

I would say it is quite interesting to try to understand one’s own pattern of thoughts and musings.

Catching myself gravitated towards old things and places, I reminisce some fine lines from Charles Lamb’s essay on “Antiquity” :

“Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything? When thou wert, thou wert not antiquity – then thou wert nothing, but hadst a remoter antiquity, as thou calledst it, to look back to with blind veneration; thou thyself being to thyself flat, jejune, modern! What mystery lurks in this retroversion? or what half Januses are we, that cannot look forward with the same idolatry with which we for ever revert! The mighty future is as nothing, being everything! the past is everything, being nothing!”

Lamb knew what it felt like to be nostalgic! Nobody can put it more exquisitely in words than him.

You find a lot of people telling you not to live in the past, but Oh! the pleasure of taking that walk down the memory lane — nothing like it!

I would rather embrace my past, the old days, the old things and places that are now memories to be relished, I would never try to cut them out from my experience of this world. They made ME. They are pure gold!

I would rather be myself, my “evolved self” than pretend to be something I’m not. I won’t part with my old self, and still keep my new self. I think most of you would agree with me. You are what you are because of what you’ve seen and gone through.

Visiting museums, witnessing old architecture, and strolling through antique shops has somehow become an addiction to me. These places are the “nothing” and “everything” that my soul craves, I desire to take them in like a breath of old air, like a scent, that soothes me somewhere inside. Everything seems to be time-kissed after all these years!

A part of me surprisingly feels young again when I visit the school I once went to in my childhood, and the bazaars I used to shop in. A part of me also mourns, when I recall the people who are not there anymore.

As the winter nears its prime, I sit in my cozy lounge chair and read poetry .. I contemplate how life has been. As I sip warm tea from the mug, I peek from the window at the grey sky with a hazy sun, and once again get reminded how all things old and beautiful, are also shrouded by a mysterious haze which renders them a charm incomparable.

Time has callously ensnared a lot of beautiful things and places around me, or should I say, transformed them into something more lovely, more admirable by its sacred touch!

Maybe I should just greet the passing of time like an old friend…

Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything?

Summary of “The Graveyard Book” (Neil Gaiman)

Written by Maria Anwar

The Graveyard Book

Plot Summary

On a dark cold night, a mysterious man in black enters a house and kills the inhabitants including a man, a woman and a little girl with his sharp long knife. When he climbs up to the second floor to kill the eighteen months old baby boy belonging to the same family, he finds the crib empty. The baby being awake with the noise in the house had crawled out of the house to a neighbouring graveyard. The man Jack desperately goes out into the graveyard to look for the baby, he has to finish his job but the baby seems to be lost in the fog. In the graveyard, a ghost couple Mr. And Mrs. Owens find the baby and feel pity for it, they never had a child of their own in their life time. Meanwhile three ghosts of the dead family come to the graveyard, one of which being a woman tells Mrs. Owens to protect her son from the man who can harm him. The ghost inhabitants of the graveyard all gather up around the newly arrived living baby and indulge in an argument as to how dead people can raise a living child. Mrs. Owens remains adamant that she’ll mother the baby; it will be given the ‘Freedom of the Graveyard’, so that inside the graveyard it will be invisible to most of the living people of the world. Since the ghosts cannot leave the graveyard and run errands for the baby’s food and other requirements Silas being a vampire, neither dead nor alive, agrees to be its guardian. He tells Mrs. Owens that he can go at night in the outer world and return in the morning with baby food. Since the baby’s name is unknown to the ghosts they name him Nobody Owens, as it looks like nobody but himself.

Nobody is called ‘Bod’ by the denizens of the graveyard, when he turns four he’s talkative and inquisitive. He starts leaning to read and write from the letters and numbers on the gravestones, Silas gets him books and crayons and helps him trace it all on paper. One day a living girl named Scarlett Perkins comes to the graveyard to play, while her mother sits on a bench nearby and reads. Scarlett comes face to face with Bod and both become friends, Bod shows her around and tells her he lives in the graveyard. Scarlett and Bod visit the oldest grave through a chamber-like mausoleum inside the hill, where they see a monster-like Indigo Man who claims to be a ‘Sleer’ guarding a treasure for its master. Bod sees that the treasure is just an ancient brooch, a knife and a goblet. Few days after this incident, Scarlett comes to say good-bye to Bod, she tells him her family is moving to Scotland as her father switched job.

One day Silas brings a substitute guardian for Bod, a grey-haired serious looking woman called Miss Lupescu. Silas tells Bod that he’s going away for some time; meanwhile Miss Lupescu will teach Bod some new skills and lessons. Bod doesn’t like Miss Lupescu as she makes him eat bland home-cooked food and teaches him how to call for help in different languages. He thinks it’s useless to learn the lists she gives him. He feels unloved and ignored and goes away. There’s a ghoul-gate in every the graveyard, and that night Bod falls asleep near the ghoul-gate, through which ghouls go in and out of Hell. When Bod wakes up he sees three ghouls, but doesn’t recognize them as dangerous creatures. They tell him that inside the Hell he’ll have good company and great food, while actually they plan on killing him and eating him up. Once inside Hell, they take him prisoner and put him in a sack, that is when Bod senses danger and calls for help in the language of the night-gaunts. Night-gaunts were huge flying creatures; they let Miss Lupescu know that Bod is in danger. Miss Lupescu then comes to save Bod in the form of a werewolf and takes him back home to Mrs. Owens. Bod is grateful to Miss Lupescu and learns the value of home and family, whom he complained about lately.

It was common knowledge that a witch was buried at the margin of the graveyard, Mrs. Owens too had told Bod about it. He thinks of sneaking into that area but is suddenly joined by Silas, who then tells Bod that this particular corner is potter’s field, which is unconsecrated and is used to bury criminals, suicide attempters and those not of faith.  Bod then heads towards Mr. Pennyworths grave, who tries to teach him some ghostly skills like Fading, Sliding and Dreamwalking but Bod finds it hard to learn them being alive. Bod being hungry and curious finally steps into the corner of the graveyard where there’s an apple tree too. He climbs up the tree for an apple but falls down on the ground and hurts his leg. It is then that he hears the voice of a ghost girl, a bit older than him who soothes his leg with her hand. She tells Bod she’s Liza Hempstock, the witch who was drowned, burned and then buried without a headstone. Now she lays in the potter’s field with nothing to mark her grave, and it makes her sad not to be remembered. Bod feels sympathy for Liza and decides to make her happy by getting her a headstone, but for that he needs money. So he breaks the rules of the graveyard; he goes to the old mausoleum, finds the Sleer and snatches the ancient brooch from it. Bod goes to a pawnbroker’s shop to sell the brooch. The pawnbroker named ‘Bolger’ gets greedy and wants Bod to lead him and his partner Hustings to the grave where he got the brooch. He locks Bod up in a storeroom, and tells Hustings how Bod can get them rich by leading them to the grave full of such ancient brooches, after they get to the grave they will hand him over to Jack for more money. In the meantime, Bod tries to fade and slide like a ghost but to no avail, suddenly he hears Liza in the storeroom and she makes him disappear from the men’s eyes when they come looking for him. They head back to the graveyard, where Silas replaces the brooch in the Sleer’s grave. Bod learns how greedy and untrusting the outer world is, he had brought a paperweight from the pawnbroker’s shop on his way back which he puts on Elizabeth’s grave as a headstone. In the middle of the novel the narrative shifts to a meeting in a hotel lobby, where hundreds of men wearing black suits have gathered and are listening to a speaker making announcement. The man Jack is also there and is arguing with another man Mr. Dandy, who’s telling Jack that he has to get rid of the boy soon as he poses danger to their organization.

When Bod is eleven years old, Silas feels it’s time he should be told where he came from. So he tells Bod that a man killed his family when he was a baby and that man is still out there in the world looking for Bod, that’s why Silas doesn’t let Bod leave the graveyard. Bod thinks it’s okay if that man kills him, being dead means he can come back to the graveyard to his friends, but Silas explains that Bod must live his life, because life means infinite potential. The dead are done with the world; they cannot change anything while Bod being alive can change the world. Bod hears this and realizes that Silas is right. Bod decides that he wants to go to school if he has to survive in the outer world; he has learned all that the dead could teach him, now it’s time to learn from the living. Bod enjoys going to school and learning, he spends most of the time near book shelves and in the library. Then one day he comes across a pair of bullies in school and they hurt him, Bod in the process to fight them get’s prominent as a weird kid who has no friends. Silas gets extremely upset over this, and asks Bod to leave school to which Bod retaliates. Silas feels hurt and Bod goes stomping out of the graveyard. But when Bod is walking on the street lonely at night, Liza joins him and says he shouldn’t have left the graveyard. Bod realizes he has been rude and wrong. At once they hear a police car approaching, a policeman with the bully kid Mo comes down and arrests Bod for vandalism. Silas get’s Bod out of trouble by playing a trick with the policemen, and tells Bod it was Liza who called Silas to help Bod. Silas admits he was wrong to prevent Bod from experiencing the outer world. The only way to survive out there is by preparing Bod with knowledge and skills; and then leaving him to live with his own kind.

When Bod is fourteen, Silas starts disappearing for longer spans of time, as he and Miss Lupescu are both Honour Guards who fight a secret brotherhood named Jacks of All Trades. In the meantime, Scarlett Perkins moves to the town again with her mother, and one day when she misses her bus and is lost, she stumbles into the graveyard. Here her childhood memories of Bod reawaken and her friendship with Bod rekindles. In the graveyard she befriends a kindly man Mr. Frost, who tells her he’s a historian. After learning about the murder of Bod’s family, Scarlett goes to a library to see old newspapers and finds that this murder happened in the house in which Mr. Frost lives. She asks Mr. Frost to help her and Bod with the mystery solving. Mr. Frost takes Bod to the attic where he once slept as a baby, and reveals that he’s the man Jack Bod is looking for. The man Jack then tries to stab Bod, but he fades and takes Scarlett with him out of the house.

They both run into the graveyard, while the man Jack and his four friends follow them. Bod tricks one of the Jacks and he falls into a deep grave, he corners three of the Jacks near the ghoul-gate and threatens them to tell why they want to kill Bod. Here Jack Dandy reveals that they all belong to a secret fraternity ‘Jack of All Trades’, they know Old Knowledge or black magic. They have been there for thousands of years, and long ago someone from their brotherhood had prophesized that a boy who could walk between the living and the dead would end their existence. Bod is that boy, and it’s time to kill him so that the brotherhood can survive. Bod then pushes them into the ghoul-gate which leads them to Hell. Scarlett, whom Bod has hidden in the mausoleum of the Sleer is now caught by Jack Frost. Bod tells him to leave Scarlett and tells the Sleer that Jack is the Master he’s been looking for. Jack is lured by the word ‘master’ and thinks that the Sleer will bestow him with immense power, right then the Sleer entwines Jack in its tendrils and Jack cannot escape. Scarlett instead of being grateful shouts at Bod that he’s a monster because he got kindly Mr. Frost trapped into the old grave. Bod is astonished, he tells her that Jack had killed his family and he has done himself justice by getting rid of him but Scarlett leaves him.

Time passes and Bod turns fifteen years old, he continues living in the graveyard after he defeats the Jacks of All Trades, but he finds that he cannot see the ghosts anymore. He starts losing his supernatural skills like sliding, fading and dreamwalking. One day the denizens of the graveyard begin saying good-bye to him, and Silas explains that it is time for Bod to go out and experience life. At first, Bod is frightened to realize the graveyard can no longer be his home; he has to venture into the dangerous world. However, he soon gets excited when Silas hands him a passport and other things in a bag. He decides to travel everywhere, meet as many people as he can, and get into and out of trouble. His ghost parents say farewell to him and cuddle him, his mother sings to him how life has to be faced with its pains and pleasures and no path should be left untaken. He bids good-bye to his mother at the graveyard gate, and goes out to join the living world. He knows that life has to be lived to the full before he dies and eventually comes back to join the dead in the graveyard.

“The Graveyard Book” was read by Neil Gaiman for Harper Kids YouTube channel

How Cleanliness Relates to Mental Health

Photo by Skitterphoto

We are quite familiar with phrases like “home sweet home” and “no place like home,” but the homes these phrases refer to are clean and organised homes that give a sense of comfort and not stress.

 It is very important from a hygienical point of view to live in a clean house, that is free of pathogens and nasty rodents. It always feels very good and welcoming when you enter a clean and well-organized house. Your house is more like a heaven with everything neat, clean, and properly managed!

The biggest benefit of having a clean home is that you enjoy good health and feel happy. Scientifically, cleanliness has a very profound relation to mental health and researches have proved that it reduces levels of stress and fatigue. A house or room that is full of clutter is not a pleasant sight to see, plus it subconsciously reminds you that you have got work to do. People who are in a habit of cleaning their houses regularly, are physically active and are not that prone to mood swings compared to those who live in messy spaces. Psychiatrists say that the way a person lives in a house tells a lot about their personality and that there are psychological reasons behind it.

Let us look at the importance of regular house cleaning and its benefits:

A clean house improves mental health

Messy and disorganised spaces cause stress and fatigue. It takes you longer to find things in a place that is not tidy, and the mess hinders your physical activity. When you’re not mentally at ease in the space you call your home, you become a victim of mental health issues. The stress and fatigue from the clutter you’ve accumulated seriously affect your immune system and you become prone to illnesses. You must take out time to tidy up your cupboards, cabinets, and other storage areas to reduce the spread of pests, and treat problem areas immediately. Principally, a house must be restful and not teeming with clutter.

A study conducted in 2010, that involved “linguistic analysis” found that women who lived in cluttered environments complained of depression and fatigue, and had higher levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in their bodies.

Sweeping other outer parts of the house like the patio, yard, or garden also helps in keeping dangerous insects like mosquitoes and spiders away. Unclean and messy spaces give a sense of chaos and discomfort to our minds and impact our lives negatively. Hence, keeping a house clean and your rooms tidy has immense benefits regarding your psychological and physical well-being. A cleaner house makes you feel happier and lighter! Dr. Ralph Ryback in his blog “Truisms of Wellness” explains that there’s a powerful psychology behind cleanliness, and suggests methods that help reap the benefits of health by living in a clean house.

Cleanliness also keeps, germs, allergies, and asthma at bay

A clean environment is germ-free and therefore regularly cleaning your house can keep dust-mites and bed-bugs away. There are fewer chances of getting allergy from dust or other allergens when you frequently vacuum your floors, carpets, sofas and other upholstery. Doctors always advise patients of allergy to keep their living spaces clean, free of pet dander, and pollen. Deep cleaning a house every weekend is essential for a healthy and active life. We must hang our wet towels, bedspreads, and quilts outside in the sunlight.

Doctors say that it’s very important to keep bathrooms and kitchens clean as bacteria and viruses grow very fast in damp and unclean places. The kitchen counters and dishwashing areas should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach and disinfectants. Kitchen towels must be sanitized after every use and the use of cleaning sponges should be avoided. There must be a proper way of waste or trash disposal, and eatables in the kitchen must be kept covered in airtight containers.

You must ensure that your bathrooms should are kept dry, free of mold, and contaminants. It is advisable to use a disinfectant that kills 99% of germs to disinfect the faucets, flush, and sinks of a bathroom.

Tidying living spaces and cleaning the home thoroughly every week helps stop the growth of bugs, rodents, and other insects. It makes your environment ideal for your family members and loved ones, and it saves you from getting embarrassed when guests stop by your house unannounced.

Organized and clean spaces ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury

Safety should always be a priority with you, and keeping your family safe has a lot to do with the way you manage the cleanliness of your house. If your children’s toys are always all over the floor, and you have boxes tucked in under your sofa and couches then you are more prone to injury. Several people have reported tripping over wrongly placed furniture or getting injured by loose items falling on them from the top of disorganised shelves. A healthy lifestyle can only be adopted through clean living space. The benefits of a clean house include safety and reduced risk of injuries.

A clean place keeps you physically fit and increases your overall productivity

Everybody wants to stay physically fit by losing those extra pounds. People who are in a habit of cleaning up their houses daily get to exercise their body, and hence improve blood flow. Doing a physical activity like sweeping, brooming, or vacuuming makes the brain release hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the bloodstream, which results in stabilizing our mood and fighting depression. Whether you work from home or you go to an office, a clean organized environment improves your ability to accomplish your tasks timely and with greater productivity. People who work in cluttered spaces procrastinate more and often feel demotivated.

It is very important that we keep our desk and physical environment of workplace tidy and organized. Workers who frequently lose documents due to cluttered desks, gain a lousy reputation at work, and end up losing their jobs. An IDC survey conducted in 2012, found that many workers in the IT field waste a lot of time looking for misplaced documents and reports. This wasted time cost the organizations a loss of around 21.3% in their total productivity.

Another research article titled “Procrastinators and Clutter: An Ecological View of Living with Excessive Stuff” published in 2017 mentioned that there was a co-relation between chronic procrastinators and their environment. The researchers concluded that “clutter in one’s living space, negative emotions, and impaired social ability all predicted high procrastination scores.”

Our brain inherently likes order and a study conducted by Princeton University of Neuroscience shows that “constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.” It also proved that people who cleared the clutter from their environment were better able to focus on their work.

Hence, a healthy life goes hand in hand with clean environment and this fact cannot be denied on any premises. I would finally quote another study conducted by Dr. NiCole R. Keith which proved that people who live in clean houses were more healthy, than those who lived in messy houses.

So turn up some radio, and start cleaning your house for a healthier and safer life!