What Katy Louise Did...

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Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Saturday 10 October 2015

One for all the rainbow and sunset lovers (don't miss the pics at the end!)

As I looked towards the patio doors this morning I could see dark rain clouds ahead but yet bright the shed, back wall and house beyond were glowing orange from the 7.30am sunshine. It meant there had to be a rainbow. And as I stepped out into the garden, I was greeted by the sight of a huge rainbow, missing only right in the middle, covering half of the horizon. It was beautiful.
And then I was reminded of today's date: the tenth of the then. Exactly five years ago to this day, on 10/10/10, I saw a truly amazing rainbow. I was living in a different part of the town and had gone on one of my regular walks up to the top of the hill in the country park just across the road. I often did this after work, always by myself, because I really enjoyed being in nature. Sitting at the top of the hill was like the dessert at the end of a meal – the most enjoyable part. The simple seat there faced west and had an uninterrupted view across the park towards the train station, meaning it was a fantastic vantage point to watch the sun set, especially when there were clouds so the sky would become streaked with orange and pink.
That particular day, the sunset was magnificent. The sky was still a vibrant blue in one direction, yet there were huge burnt orange and deep pink clouds towards the west, which felt as if they were coming towards me. I sat for what seems like ages, marveling at the beauty of the entire scene.

Inner guidance that led to awe
After about 20 minutes I got up to leave and began walking down the hill. I was half way down when for some unknown reason something made me stop. I felt compelled to turn around. Now, I had done that walk and sat in that spot possibly a hundred times, and yet I'd never wanted to turn around and look back up the hill. Perhaps it was my own inner voice prompting me to, or something larger.
Either way, I'll never forget it, as it caused me to gasp, and made my heart start pounding. Right above where I'd been sitting was an enormous rainbow, unlike any other I'd seen before or have seen since. It was incredible. The exact angle of the sun and gathering of the clouds emphasised the red and orange hues in and around it, and I remember thinking it looked slightly menacing. I know that sounds strange, but it wasn't the usual clear, bright, happy looking rainbow you usually see. It had a Turner-esque quality to it (and I wish I'd had a camera but I'd gone out with only my door key). I felt as if I was being shown a gift, something so uniquely beautiful, as if God, or whoever runs this universe, had tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Hey, you thought that was amazing, check THIS out!' Had I not turned around I never would have seen it, and for that I was and still am  grateful. Nature is the only thing that truly inspires me with its beauty and wonder. I've always had a thing for taking pictures of the sky, especially sunsets and rainbows, and could gaze at the moon for hours on end (in fact I have done before, lying on the living floor of my flat at the time, in the dark, watching the bright white moon pass from window pane to window pane).

Craving a connection with nature
I know I sound like a right hippy raving about rainbows, but they never fail to amaze and delight me and I confess that as I write this, I'm actually crying. I have no idea why other than to guess that perhaps my soul is longing for that re-connection to the beauty of nature. Very rarely do I go out for a walk like I used to. I don't think I realised how much I need it – how much it feeds me. I've always lived quite close to either woods or a park – somewhere I can quickly be surrounded by trees. Now, even though I do live on the outskirts of town, the only large wooded area closeby also happens to double up as an army shooting practice ground. When I first moved to my current abode, I went walking there not realising it was used by the army. Halfway through the walk, and well into a large field, I started to wonder what the signs were for around the edge, facing outwards towards the road. When I finally came up close with one and walked round to the other side to see what it said, I was confronted with a huge image of a bomb exploding, with a red line across. My mind knew it was just a sign, but my body starting freaking out, worrying I was going to step on some live ammunition, or that target practise might start up any second! So I freaked out. I suddenly felt really scared and began legging it back towards home. A few hours later I broke out in hives all over my arms and chest. That had never happened before, and I'm still convinced it was down to the shock of finding myself on a battleground and feeling afraid, rather than being stung by any of the nettles or insects in the woods there (I've had nettle rash before and this was different). And even though I now know the army always put up red flags around the site, and lock various gates when they are in there, I've never wanted to walk there again as it just doesn't feel right.

Rainbow clouds and magical moments
But luckily, where I work now has some beautiful paths that go through the woods. Even though I could quite easily work through every lunch break due to the amount of work there is, at least a couple of times a week I make myself go for a stroll, to breath in oxygen-enriched air thanks to the trees and river, and to just feel more grounded. And, the other day when I was out, I saw a small rainbow, or what I like to call a 'rainbow cloud' because they are like multi-coloured smudge in the sky, not a full-blown ark that reaches to the ground.
There was a time I used to think rainbows were signs. I often used to see them at pertinent moments, such as when feeling down and needing a boost. Logically, I know they are not produced purely for me or to provide any kind of meaning to a situation – they're only there due to certain whether conditions. But still, I felt like rainbows added an element of magic to my life - and who doesn't want that? So for all the sunset/sunrise and rainbow lovers out there, here are a few atmospheric pictures I thought you might like. I know it's not the same as actually seeing it with your own eyes, but I hope you enjoy them...

Sun rising out of the back bedroom window of my old house, winter 2012

Sun setting at We Are FSTVL 2013

Watching the sunrise from a plane to Nepal, 2013 (one of the best vantage points!)

Sunrise as seen from Poon Hill, Nepal, 2013 (during 10-day trek)

Sun rise a bit later from Poon Hill, 2013

Back in Colchester - Co-op car park!

Sun set, taking from patio of my current house

Dramatic sky over the back garden, current house

Amazing circular rainbow on holiday in Mauritius, 2013

Friday 2 October 2015

50 shades of grey - why I'm loving the new trend in hair colour

Grey hair is a huge trend right now. Everyone from catwalk models to style mavens in their 20s seems to be rocking every shade of grey. And it makes me happy. Why? Because although I currently I dye my greying roots, too afraid to let my hair become flecked with white just yet, when I get older I want to confidently claim my grey hair and not allow it to define me in terms of age.

The science part
We get grey hair when an enzyme called catalase stops taking oxygen out of the melanin pigment (which is, in fact, white to begin with). As we age, or become regularly stressed or suffer a sudden shock, our bodies produce less catalase, therefore our hair remains white. But that's the science part. Culturally, grey hair is associated with age and going 'down hill' but this is all changing as the population lives longer and stays healthier. Women want to and quite rightly can stay fashionable and beautiful indefinitely - grey or not. 

At the hair dressers the other day, having a few inches chopped off for Autumn, I read the Schwarzkopf Essential Looks magazine (above and below) and was encouraged to see almost all of it  devoted to their new Age of Beauty collection,  about maintaining style and sass well into your sixties and beyond. The grey haired models features were beautiful, one of them, Tanya Drouginska (below) still walking the catwalks and looking every inch the glamour puss – and with an air of Jerry Hall about her, I felt, with her high forehead and prominent features.

Model Tanya Drouginska in the Schwarzkopf Essential Looks magazine
Feeling more powerful and self-assured
According to stats in the magazine, more than half of the beauty spend in this country is by women over 40. What's more, most of the women surveyed said they felt more empowered and less stressed in their 50s than they did in their 20s. I can fully believe this, as I was often inordinately stressed in my early-to-mid 20s trying to forge ahead into a career (on a typically low wage), worrying about getting onto the property ladder, and wondering whether my love life would ever work out. Although I do still find things to worry about unnecessarily, over the past few years I have definitely begun to feel more confident, self-assured about my skills, and less worried about what other people think - well, most of the time!  

From celebs to beauty journos
Watching Oprah's Super Soul Sunday last weekend with Ali McGraw from Love Affair fame made me realise you can actually look better with grey hair than if you dye it. She's now 75 and looked far more relaxed and radiant with her grey up do, plain white shirt and statement jewellery than the pictures they showed of her at 65 with dyed dark hair. She certainly sounded happier, more grounded and more in touch with her inner self now, thanks to the passing of the years.

Ali McGraw with her dark hair
Ali on Super Soul Sunday this year, aged 75

Caucasian skin fades with age, and so keeping the same dark hair colour only ends up looking harsh and, well, more aging, which is the reverse of what we want it to do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a beauty journalist, who had decided at 50 to grow out her blond highlights and go fully grey. She said it was a big decision, especially as she'd spent most of her career working as a beauty director for the likes of Marie Claire and Easy Living magazines and had been surrounded by pictures of beautiful women and information about all manner of youth-boosting products. Going grey, she said, coincided with leaving her high-powered job and training to be a yoga instructor, part of which involved living in India for a while and connecting to her real self, not being associated with her surface looks.

A new paradigm shift? 
Perhaps embracing grey hair is a sign of defiance and self-control, no longer feeling we need to dye our hair to pretend to be younger, and be that girl we used to be. For decades the cultural message for women has been 'you are valued on your looks', and while that is still mostly the case, perhaps, slowly but surely, it is changing. Also, the definition of beauty is expanding, which is exciting to witness. So many more colours, ages, shapes and sizes are being embraced as beautiful. As the population naturally ages anyway, women need to learn to value themselves and embrace whatever stage they are at in life,  finding beauty at every age.
As for me, I hope I will embrace my grey hair one day. For now, I'm using the most natural dye I can, which doesn't sting my eyes, as some mass-market ones have done in the past, and contains as few harsh chemicals as possible (one by Tints of Nature, to be precise).
Grey hair might be having a fashion moment among teens and 20-somethings, who are doing it in a cool/ironic way, and it's bound to soon be replaced as soon as the next trend comes along. But, the positive thing to have come out of this has been to show women that grey hair can be bold, beautiful and striking.