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I learned some interesting facts about woodlice this week. Woodlice. You may know them as pill bugs. You may think of them as creepy-crawlies. Or maybe you have never thought about them very much at all! Gardeners World host Monty Don is often asked what to do with woodlice, and/or how to get rid of these “pests”. Not harmful to people, they can naughtily nibble at new seedlings, but much prefer dead or decaying wood and plant material. I learned that they are an important part of the ecosystem, aiding decomposition. Without them, much more harmful (to garden plants anyway) fungi may appear and spread. “Brush leaves and debris away from your pots, and tidy your greenhouse if you want them to move out.” Monty advises, reminding us they are much more of a gardener’s friend than enemy. Woodlice may seem a strange topic to start a blog entitled, “The Power to Change”. But small topics can lead to small insights, which in turn can help us make small changes. And small changes all add to the bigger picture. Sometimes this is subtle. But there is power in subtlety.

Sometimes, if I turn on the news, and hear about the great sufferings of peoples, or the massive problems facing the world. I forget about the small things and become overwhelmed. For a while anyway. But then I remember! Small things count too: THANK YOU! the Chief Executive of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) says on the first page this season’s addition. “Because of your support we have been able to increase habitats for rare and threatened birds, animals and insects, bringing some species back from the brink of extinction.” This year, RSPB membership income came in at a whopping 54 million pounds. I am tiny part of that hugely influential figure. That makes me feel so happy and grateful. It makes me think that my contribution counts.

In this month’s magazine wildlife writer and author Simon Barnes muses about a simple encounter with nature:

It was so lovely. I stopped paddling. As my kayak drifted, the purple loosestrife bloomed while the banded demoiselles danced to the music of the reed warbler…But maybe I’ve lost you already. All these names are just showing off, aren’t they? What does a name matter?

If you hear a wonderful piece of music, Simon says, you can leave it there. However, if you take the time to find out a bit more about the piece and its writer, it might inspire a life-long appreciation. And a pleasant conversation at the school gates or outside the office, may be enjoyed as a standalone. But if we take the time to learn that person’s name – who knows where that friendship may lead. “A name is not optional,” he says, but “a portal to intimacy”. This is true for “People, music and all the wonderful stuff found in nature”. Simon’s article shows us that a small act of mindfulness can influence our perceptions in powerful ways: In ways that could even be life changing. It is an act of self-love to get to know the things we love and appreciate better.

Getting to know something better also adds to our greater knowledge of the world around us. And this brings me back to the beginning of this blog. Chiselbobs! Yes, you did hear right. No, you are not going mad! This is the name that Monty Don gave to woodlice when he was a child. He said he never heard anyone else call them such until he discovered that others knew them as “Cheesy pigs,” “Chisel pigs” and “Cheese logs” (amongst many other names). The Latin name, he learned, translates as: “rough little pigs”. They looked a bit like lice found on pigs. The “bob” in chiselbob derives from the extraordinary practice of swallowing the lice like a round pill or “bob” to alleviate indigestion.”

Monty says as children him and his sister raced chiselbobs a lot! My grandson would definitely appreciate this hobby. He is always foraging under logs and stones in my garden looking for woodlice. He said to me the other day “Nan, do you know that woodlice are related to crabs!” Woodlice are the only crustations that have adapted to live entirely on land. They have been regarded as parasitic creepy-crawlies, nasty nuisances; a cure for indigestion, an important part of the ecosystem or a land-loving racing crab depending on your perspective! Chiselbobs, small creatures that I feel I know in a much bigger way now.

We do not always have the power to make the changes to the world we would love to see. But we do have the power to change our own personal world and how we regard what inhabits it. Small things done with great love can change not only our personal world for the better, but also influence the extraordinary and wonderful world around us. And so, with that in mind, I’m off to make a bug hotel with a special compartment for chiselbobs! Small things can make a big difference!

By Sanchia Munns, Partner & Life Coach


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