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Hopes for the year ahead...

Hopes for the year ahead…


The Babylonians are credited as the first civilisation to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the new year. Over 4,000 years ago these included making promises to honour their king, repay debts and please their Gods – slightly loftier aims than today’s most common resolutions to improve fitness, finances and diet.


The turn of the year is seen as an opportunity to break old habits and embrace positive change, and as 1921 dawned, Isobel recorded her goals in a diary entry now painted on the walls of Carlowrie Castle to inspire us all.  Six surprisingly simple, personal promises.  All of them self-reliant.  None of them easily executed or excused.  Isobel’s resolutions hold her accountable for creating her own happiness, (building friendships, not worrying, finding laughter) and making the world a better place, (giving away, helping others, being a peacemaker).  It’s a list of goals which are as relevant today as they were when she made them and they’re remarkably positive given her experiences to that point.


By 1921, 32 year old Isobel had lost her Father, two brothers and a close friend, her grief eventually leading to a nervous breakdown and a general withdrawal from everyday life.  Yet, there’s not a hint of self-pity or bitterness in the six challenges she sets.  They read like a mini manifesto - a way of restarting on her terms, not bound by material wants but rather reminding herself that every day is a fresh start to seek out new experiences, embrace curiosity and learn. 


The resilience that she had built during those early years, was undoubtedly an asset in her adventures to come.  Isobel ventured into some of the most remote terrains on earth, documenting plant life and indigenous cultures and despite the many setbacks and challenges she faced, she seemed to thrive, enabling her to fulfil her resolutions without compromising her ambitions. 


Isobel’s deep connection with the natural world made her numerous international friends, each touched by her generosity and kindness.  Her belief in provenance meant she didn’t worry, but instead adapted, learning eight languages fluently and always seeking to share to the benefit of others.  Her books, botanical specimens, sketches and films educated many – changing fear of the unknown to peace and respect. What started as a list of ‘hopes’ for 1921 became a recipe for life.  Driven by her faith and the solace she found in the wilderness, she travelled across the northern hemisphere for the next 18 years until the outbreak of the second world war.


Isobel’s life was a testament to the power of setting personal aims and keeping them, not for the world’s validation or self-esteem but instead for self-worth.  As we bid farewell to one year and welcome another, we can draw inspiration from the ancient roots of new year’s resolutions and the indomitable spirit of Isobel.  Our goals might not grace castle walls, but we should make them good ones, just in case.








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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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