Finding Focus in the Botanic Gardens

You know the feeling when you sit down to work  with task list in front of you and for some reason or other you just can’t find your groove? It happens to us all once in a while, doesn’t it?

I have to admit when it happens to me, there is little point in even trying. I firmly believe it’s our bodies craving fresh air, natural foliage (looking at green definitely works), basically anything other than looking at a computer screen. Luckily I am self employed and can take action when that stale feeling creeps in.

You only need to look at a pristine, vibrant green leaf to feel energised and engaged with the world. And for that reason, one of the first places I seek out whether at home or while travelling, is the local botanical garden.

We are exceptionally lucky here in Edinburgh as I’ve mentioned before in Strength and Form to have The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. But there are others for you to seek out and visit, hundreds of them in fact, sometimes in the most obscure places. But beware, many of our fabulous gardens are struggling for funding which is terrifying considering they offer so much to such a broad range of recreational and educational purposes.
I was in St.Andrews last week (an easy one hours drive or train journey from Edinburgh), and was fortunate to be taken to St.Andrews Botanic Gardens – an absolute haven of native and exotic plants. I wasn’t really looking at the plants from a botanical angle but simply looking at their colour and form. Endless fun and a focused mind. Result.
Do you have a local botanic garden that you can tell us about?

How do you find your focus on fuzzy days?


Finding your Zone

I think it’s safe to assume that we all have habits to help us find our focus and get into the “zone”. Not surprisingly, colour once again can play a significant role here.

Don’t you find the mere act of wearing a crisp white shirt can dramatically improve confidence and clarity? Perhaps it’s the lack of distraction, perhaps it’s the precious virginal nature of a clean white shirt, you know its “pristine time” is limited so your time feels almost sacred and special – not to be wasted.

However, I find what tops all these habits is sharpening some pencils. A sharp pencil looks ready for action, poised for whatever direction you may take it in. The pencil is sharpened and so is the mind.

It’s multi sensory. The evocative smell of fresh curls winding out from the sharpener can transport you to many places. The random pattern of fallen shavings are visually satisfying in their own right. And the quick touch of the new point, sharp and ready to go……only to be placed in a jar on my desk while I get on with my work at the keyboard. This doesn’t matter, they have done their job, I am now ready to work.

Actually, before I sign off I must tell you an interesting story about pencils I discovered in Victoria Finlay’s book, “A Natural History of the Palette”.

For a long time pencils made from the high quality graphite deposits in the British Lake district monopolised the European art market. But in 1794, a Frenchman, Nicolas Conte , was commissioned to find an alternative to the English graphite. He did this by mixing low grade graphite (France did not have high quality graphite deposits) with clay and his pencils were quickly favoured by many prominent French artists. Then in 1847, Jean-Pierre Alibert discovered high quality graphite in Botogal Peak, Siberia close to the Chinese border. The graphite was of such high quality that the world clamoured to use pencils with this graphite. Later when pencils were mass produced in America, the manufacturers painted them bright yellow to reflect the colour of the Manchu imperial robes linking the mass produced pencils to the high quality graphite from the Alibert  mine (whether they used the Alibert graphite or not).

Interestingly, yellow is so symbolic that most pencils made in America even today are still painted yellow! The power of colour in marketing is of course enormous and as Mark Woodman of Global Color Research said, “perusing the selection in a sale bin recently, I was reminded how imperative it is to get the right colour on the right product”. It is difficult to over exaggerate the importance of colour selection – get it right and a product can fly, get it wrong and that sale bin beckons.

Back to my original note. Do you have a habit which helps you find your focus? It would be great to hear some of your ideas.