Friday, October 16, 2015


Leaf drifts...
The leaves have really started falling off the trees this week, and I've noticed them piling up on the ground.

Walking through the grounds of Birmingham cathedral one evening I took great delight in swooshing my way through ankle high leaves that had fallen on the grass from the avenue of magnificent plane trees, while the other commuters plodded along on the worn granite slabs, heads down.

It's also been much colder, almost glove weather in the mornings, but we've not yet been able to put the central heating on in our house while we're in the middle of building works - we have gaping holes in the side of the house and various radiators and plumbing are disconnected!

Instead to keep warm during the day and especially in the evenings we're having to wrap up in multiple layers, blankets and hot water bottles at night.
"We all face seasons where we feel like we need to withdraw"
I say all this because it's the time of year that animals begin to think about finding a safe refuge for the oncoming winter, closing their eyes and hibernating. In a story I read to my kids recently about hedgehogs, there was a detailed description about making a hedgehog house out of sticks and leaves. Sticks and leaves would probably feel warmer than our house does at the moment!

Ready to hibernate?
We all face seasons where we feel like we need to withdraw from a harsh environment, to recuperate or shelter until the season changes. I think it's natural to have rhythms in our life for activity, and rhythms for dormancy.

And it's not just seasonal. Working alongside ecologists, I've learnt about places of refuge for all kinds of animals. Often when new development occurs, it's important to provide compensatory habitat, but what this looks like depends on the animal.

We're probably all familiar with birdboxes, and the diameter or shape of the entry hole determines the species of bird it can hold. Piles of logs make great refugia for reptiles. You can get bat boxes too, and garden centres sell all kinds of insect houses and bug boxes. We've made an insect hotel on our allotment with a pile of old pallets.
"So how can we create refugia in the midst of our busy lives?"
The circumstances of our lives can be a difficult environment for our dreams, ambitions and hopes to survive at times. The need to put food on the table and shelter over our heads, to provide for our family maybe, can make it harder for fragile hopes and dreams to thrive.

Funnily enough, I'm writing this after a hectic week in my day job which has taken up much of my mental energy in different ways. I often find ideas for blog posts come to me during the week, but my brain has been so absorbed in various work projects that there's been less space for my usual subconscious creativity to surface! Instead of writing, I feel distinctly prickly and in need of curling up to sleep instead!

An insect hotel...
So how can we create refugia in the midst of our busy lives? Spaces for our dreams, talents and hopes to reside and thrive?

Perhaps one aspect is to allow ourselves to be dormant in season, not feeling obliged to be ceaselessly active but instead taking time to recuperate.

Or maybe it's about having a space to visit, a creative space to dwell - somewhere to take refuge and express a different side of ourselves. If not an actual space, what about a dedicated time?

Jeff Goins and others talk about getting up earlier every morning to write, but this could equally apply to other creative expression.
"So what does yours look like, and how can you carve out a creative space in your week?"
I have a combination of both. There's a place in our house where I tend to write, another space where I tend to record my podcast, and when our extension is finished I'll have a brand new creative workshop space to fill! Likewise it's usually Friday nights that I finish my blog posts, and Saturday and Sunday nights where I edit and release podcast episodes.

Whatever season you're in, however tough your environment is, it's possible to make a creative refugia to enable your dreams to survive, thrive and even grow. So what does yours look like, and how can you carve out a creative space in your week? I'd love to know, so please comment below with your favourite refuge!


Thanks for taking the time to read Refugia. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at 

If you want to stay up to date please sign up to my mailing list, and do check out my book Life Space on Amazon.


Linda said...

Lovely photos. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. I am enjoying the cooler temperatures and lovely colours that Autumn brings! I have never seen more dramatic colour changes than here in Quebec and in Vermont! :)

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Linda, I'd love to visit Montreal at some point, a part of Canada I've not been to before. Appreciate you dropping by!