Rewilding the Field

A personal essay

Image by Annie Spratt

It is a clear November morning. An early mist has settled over the field into a thick blanket of dew which coats each blade of grass with tiny droplets of water, gathering in orbs at the tips which light up like stars when they catch the rays of the sun.

Leaves of mottled ochre, rust and flame-red drift towards the ground. Birch trees sway like underwater kelp forests. The last, yellowing leaves of the ash trees wave and flutter like fairy flags in a cornflower blue sky and the oaks are clad in fine leafy crowns of burnished bronze, russet and gold: autumn’s elegiac song, soon to be blown away with the coming winter winds.

A bright green woodpecker flashes through the trees. Morning calls of blackbird, robin and wren infuse the air with song. Meandering trackways left by fox and badger snake through the long grass, betraying the secrets of the night before, and a soft, earthy smell of mulch coats my tongue with a cool, metallic tang.

When the field at the bottom of our garden came up for rent a couple of years ago, the rent was cheap, so we took it on. The previous tenant used to mow it every few weeks, keeping it flattened to a featureless stubble. Now, last year’s acorns have grown into a miniature forest of saplings. Drifts of golden ragwort, birds foot trefoil and rosebay willowherb bring colour and insects in the warmer months, and many varieties of delicate, mysterious fungi grow here in the autumn. We mow around the edges once a year to keep the brambles from taking over, but otherwise, we let the field be.

I’m getting to know the other residents. Hobbies and buzzards, field mice and glow worms. A feast of wild forage — nettles and cleavers in early spring, elderflowers and wild roses on the full moon closest to the summer solstice, berries and rosehips in the autumn. I gather the plants with my children to show them how they are connected to and supported by the medicine and nourishment of the earth. There are emperor dragonflies, barn owls and hummingbird hawk-moths. Sweet violet, mugwort and meadowsweet. Skeins of wild geese passing overhead on their migratory paths. Spirit made visible.

If I owned the field, I would rewild it and fall in love with it forever. Given time, I would have a young forest to wander through. The landlady will probably mow it all down as soon as we move from here — but seeing as the field doesn’t care who owns it, for as long as I am a guest of this place, I’ll let the trees and the wildflowers grow.

“To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” — Terry Tempest Williams

The field may not be mine, but it is part of me. When I walk barefoot in the grass, the soles of my feet absorb negative ions and trace minerals from the earth. When I breathe the air, the mushroom spores, tree pollen and sea air blown in from across the hills enter my lungs and subtly rearrange the molecular makeup of my blood. The liberty caps I find and nibble on damp autumn mornings activate seratonin receptors in my prefrontal cortex, healing and igniting my neural pathways in ways that even modern neuroscience doesn’t fully understand. My relationship with this plot of earth is rhyzomatic. The boundaries are not clearly defined.

But the exchange is more than physical. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes: “Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.” In a land where my ancestral wisdom has been burned, scorned and drowned out over centuries, paying attention and living in reciprocity allows me to reclaim some part of my indigenous relationship to this land. It’s an act of love and healing, a restoration of an ancient kinship, a way of relearning the language of this place, her stories and her songs. The land speaks to us in myriad ways. She guides our hearts to weave the broken threads back together.

As the field rewilds herself, she invites those parts of me which have been mown, flattened and poisoned, to come back to the fullness of life. When I offer the field my presence and attention, she gifts me with beauty, magic, wonder and poetry. I feel safe and held by this place. I feel loved. I am home.

This winter, in fields just like this one a short way along the river from here, while the hedgehogs and badgers are sleeping in their winter dens, men will arrive with diggers and lorries and unshakeable feelings of entitlement to scrape away the precious topsoil and destroy countless habitats to make space for more ugly, unsustainable houses. I fear for the creatures. A mother’s first wish is to keep her children safe, to give them a safe home. When I see the current climate trajectory charts and alarming statistics, I fear for my children too.

Perhaps, even if the field were mine, I would still feel this hiraeth, this homesickness for a home I can’t return to, a home which never was. What I feel is an echoic fraction of the rootlessness and lack of agency which the creatures and spirits of the earth feel when they are pushed further and further out from their ancestral homelands.

Lately I’ve been creating spontaneous rituals here and there, asking the trees for help, making offerings to the land and sky. Feeling the weight and precarious balance of hope and despair which defines this moment. The grief, the rage, the enormity of it all. The overwhelm, the sheer exhaustion. And the feeling that nothing else matters, nothing at all.

The ground beneath our feet moves differently now. In all this chaos and confusion, I find strength and comfort in nature’s truth that all things move in cycles. While I’m grappling as best I can with the horrifying truth of the facts, I am also a mother. My heart refuses to accept the grim and apocalyptic story that humankind is simply doomed. As Martin Shaw has said, “Facts don’t have the story.”

I think of the Incan concept of ayni, or the sacred art of reciprocity: a wise, beautiful concept which holds the warmth of the Andean sun. It comes from the idea that our world is one of living energy — the Incan name for our planet, Kausay Pacha, literally means “the world of living abundance” — and that we are part of a universe where everything is living and connected. Ayni is the thread that holds the fabric of existence together. It continues to be an important part of the Andean culture to this day.

Ayni is rooted in the ancient truth that we live in an abundant, miraculous world, governed by the natural laws of balance and flow, where spirit is alive and well. It sits in stark contrast to the modern Western idea of the world as a scarce, flawed, inadequate place. When we stay close to ayni, we understand that the plan here on earth, even in this age of death, is life.

When I feel overwhelmed, it is often a good idea to get my hands in the soil. To go to ground. These are dark, uncertain times — but the dark is home to wild, regenerative magic. And when darkness gathers, it’s time to plant bulbs.

Later that same November day, I take a sack of crocus bulbs and plant them beside the bridge which connects the garden to the field. Each bulb is an act of faith, an invitation to beauty, an embodiment of ayni, an offering to life and the future, an avowal of belief in magic, and a promise to the coming spring. A prayerful acknowledgement of the sacred in the everyday.

When the flowers appear in bright bursts of purple, white and gold in early spring, I will welcome the return of the light, and give thanks that we made it through.

Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning. We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.” — Joy Harjo

Autumn leaves dance around and above me and float joyfully towards the ground, each one dreaming of winter’s rest and the bright days of spring.

We will make it through.

Thank you for reading! 🧡

An earlier version of this article was published here in Scribe

Snails

A short essay

Photo by Lachlan Gowen on Unsplash


My daughter keeps two snails in a large tupperware box in the corner of the kitchen. She found them in the garden, and since we aren’t able to let her have a ‘real’ pet like a cat or a dog, I agreed that she could keep them.

I don’t like keeping the snails in a box. I try to make it as homely for them as possible, keeping it slightly damp, making holes in the roof to provide fresh air and creating miniature arrangements of leaves, areas of moss, soil, pebbles, deadwood, fresh flowers, vegetable peelings, small slices of cucumber and melon and garden pots turned on their side to make ‘bedrooms’.

Every few days while I clean out their box and give them fresh food, I set the snails free in the garden. I watch as they stretch their soft bodies over the mosses and grasses, always making their way towards the vast, dark forest of the flower border with its towering canopy of nasturtiums, geraniums and weeds. It’s a meditation, watching these snails. I slow down, shrink to their size and explore alongside them just like in Alice in Wonderland or Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

They meet each blade of grass with a kind of rapture, bending and contorting their soft forms to climb flower stalks, wrapping themselves ecstatically around tiny leaves and waggling their antennae as they writhe through the undergrowth in a state of sensual bliss. Raindrops splash on to their brown shells and on to the back of my neck. Do snails feel joy? It certainly looks like they do.

I would like to go further with them, to enter the depths of the lush green underworld. To journey alongside these gentle creatures and see the world for a time as they do; to lose myself in jungles of giant ferns and great hanging vines of ivy, to drink the dewdrops and nibble on petals and wild strawberries as big as beach balls, to arrive at the shores of puddle-lakes and climb trees the size of cities. I would like to find some mossy grove to settle into for the night, to gaze up through a roof of soft-swaying leaves and sparkling cobweb chandeliers and to wonder at the stars in the cool, sweet night.

I am crawling through the rain forest with my invertebrate friends when reality calls. My phone is ringing, the washing machine is spinning noisily and will soon be finished, and the ticking clock reminds me that it is almost time to collect the children from school. Wrenched from my reverie by this strange community of machines, it saddens me to take the snails away from their adventure, but I do.

The garden and fields beyond are wet and green and inviting. I have a strong urge to walk on my own for a long, long time. But I turn and go back inside, where the phone has stopped ringing and the washing machine has clicked to a halt. For a moment, it is eerily quiet. Gently I place the snails back in their box, close the lid, and then the door behind me.


This piece first appeared in Scribe magazine here

Thank you for reading! You can also connect with me on facebook or on my website

The Butterfly Bush

A poem

Image by Stephen-h-eh via Unsplash

I didn’t plant the butterfly bush. It grew there of its own accord,
in between the apple tree and the perennial sweet peas,
an uninvited party guest spiraling skywards like an exploded party popper.
It crowded out the garden path entirely, but I had not the heart
to cut it back – I enjoyed its honey fragrance too much,
the daily cohort of butterflies which arrived to sun themselves
on purple flowering cones; sometimes five, six, even a dozen
soft-winged creatures moving meticulously across the blooms,
nectar-drunk, dipping long tongues into each sweet-scented flower
in search of ambrosia. I could stand a palm’s width away
without startling them, noticing for the first time how exquisite
their wings are when seen from underneath, how they give way to hornets
but hold their own among the bees, the way they disperse
into a flurry of petals around my head if I walk past too fast.
Now the flowers are fading, but every time I pass underneath
the butterfly bush I am reminded to move slowly, to show hospitality.
Wild and beautiful things take root in unexpected places if you let them,
and if you walk by too fast, you might scare away the butterflies.

Thank you for reading! 💜 This poem was first published in Scribe magazine here

Moment In The Sun

A poem about here and now, inspired by the sun

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

Put down heavy things:
the laundry and the council tax bill,
the iphone and the newspaper.
Put down the black and white photographs
framed in silver on the dresser
and the forgotten ideas in yellowing notebooks
which are gathering dust in the garage.
Put down that vivid, just-remembered dream
of a night twenty years ago; the strange, unnamed sadness
of an almost-memory of what might have been;
put down your hunger for adventure
and the green perspex earrings from the 80s
which your mother gave you.
Put down all the stories, all the lists and grievances,
the spoonful of sugar you could probably do without,
the stack of unread books
and the finely crafted masks you collected on your travels.
Just for now, put down the hidden bag of stones
which weighs you down –
it will still be there when you come back.
Put down your closely guarded fears
and your dreams of a future which may or may not come,
just go outside a moment
and turn your face to the warmth
of that dazzling, golden sun.

This poem was originally published in Scribe magazine here

Thank you for reading! 💛

Spring Rain

Image by the author

It’s a bright, cold day in March. The garden is a poem writing itself.

The last time the blossoms were out on the plum tree, the pandemic was just beginning. I know it’s not over yet; I am not fool enough to make such bold declarations. But I will allow myself a moment of reflection.

What in holy hell just happened?

I am alone. After years of full-time motherhood and three lockdowns, my children are both at school and nursery today. I’m emerging into the fresh green of the garden and into the anomaly, for now at least, of regular time on my own.

What do I do now?

This strange mixture of grief and relief is not unfamiliar. I feel elated, exhausted and bereft all at once. I don’t know if I’m hungry or tired. I miss my kids; I need time without my kids. Should I go for a walk or lie down? Clean the house? Write, read, laugh or sob?

The garden presents more decisions. Should I dig over the vegetable plot? Weed the borders? Start preparing the ground for the wildflower patch I’ve been dreaming of through the winter? There’s plenty to do, but I can’t focus. I’m waiting to hear one of my children call out for me, but they’re not here. I’m not used to being alone.

Except, I’m not alone.

There are the flowers: clumps of snowdrops and crocuses giving over to bright yellow daffodils, grape hyacinths and bursts of narcissus bobbing and nodding in the breeze. The tree, too, are slowly rousing from their winter slumber and beginning to put out buds. The field is softening, awakening from deep dreams.

After the long, hard winter, the warmth of the morning sun on my skin feels like a song. The frost-bitten shade snaps at my bare hands and cheeks. The green beaks of the tulips, aliums and bluebells are already above the ground, preparing for warmer days ahead, and the birds are rapturous, flitting about in the rush of early spring.

My mind is still unsettled, but the garden is speaking, beseeching me.

How about you just, like, sit down?

I gather some young nettle tops and cleavers to make a tea and take it down to the fire pit overlooking the fields which lead to the river. The hedgerows are on the cusp of the greening-time and the air is fresh and sweet and full of promise. I take off my shoes and plant my feet on the damp earth, then I sit for a while, eyes closed, listening to the birds.

I’m aware of a slight change in the living earth, mirrored by the sky. And then something wonderful happens.

It starts to rain.

A fine spring drizzle, tickling my forehead and landing on the back of my neck in a spattering of tiny, cold pinpricks. The shower feels cleansing and magical, like a love letter from the sky to the earth, sent to bring the world back to life.

A tonic for my tired soul.

I’m captured by the grace of the moment. I feel as though the rain is washing the heavy energy out of my body and draining it away, down through the soles of my feet into the earth. It’s a gentle, beautiful healing. For a time I feel at peace, full of gratitude, and held in love.

Restored by the simple serenity of solitude, blessed and embraced by the beautiful dance of spring.

Thank you for reading!

Changing Sky: a poem about 2020

Changing Sky

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash


This year I saw thirteen moons wax and wane
in a changing sky. I saw the white wisp of a
comet disappear over the horizon, far out
beyond the setting sun; I saw the vapour trails
of aeroplanes vanish, replaced with the clear
blue day of a spring filled with birdsong;
I saw three hot air balloons suspended like planets
outside my bedroom window, a billionaire’s
space rocket launching into the cosmos and
a lonely shower of fireworks pop and fizzle
in the black November night. I stood gawping
as Jupiter and Saturn crossed paths to become
one bright celestial light, and when I woke
on the first day of the new year, I looked up
once more and saw that the moon was still there,
white and shining, but in a different sky.

Thank you for reading! 💙

Dawn

Image by Casey Horner via Unsplash


I’m posting this poem in honour of the New Moon on December 14th. A new dawn awaits 💗


And when you first stepped out
into the pink blush of dawn
did you feel the soft, dew-soaked earth
rise to kiss your feet?
Did you notice the trees
breathe blessings down upon you
in luminous bundles of green and gold,
how every breath of woodsmoke, mist and mulch
filled your lungs like a cool river?
Did you feel yourself attached somehow
to each fading star of night
like a puppet, held on threads of silver light?
And when the beautiful future
which you dreamed of so long
down that hard broken road
finally burst over the horizon
and began tumbling towards you like a wave –
were you ready to catch it?


This poem was originally featured in Scribe magazine: https://medium.com/scribe/dawn-68324890e815?source=friends_link&sk=cfb9c7961d623933917253fa2a0938ad

New Website! And a Message of Thanks

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Hi lovelies!

I’m delighted to announce that my new website is now live. You can visit it here:

https://www.carolinemellorwriter.com/

I enjoyed the challenge of getting to grips with the technical side of designing it myself. Even using a foolproof web design site like Wix took me some time to figure out!

I’ve been doing a lot of writing over on Medium.com and have found myself using WordPress less and less these days. I’ll be keeping Tales from the Seed live though, and will get back to it in time! I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone and anyone who has supported and connected with me here over the years; I truly have appreciated every single read, like and follow!

The website has links to a lot of new poetry and articles; I’d love to know what you think.

Wishing all a beautiful and peaceful midwinter season (in the Northern Hemisphere)! 💙

I’m a featured writer for Scribe!

Hi lovely people,

I’ve been publishing some writing over on Medium for the past couple of months. It’s my favourite social media platform by a long stretch, full of thoughtful content and some wonderful poetry.

So I am especially thrilled to be featured as a writer in Scribe this week, one of Medium’s top creative publications!

https://medium.com/scribe/caroline-mellor/home

Edited with great care by Thomas Gaudex, Scribe is a beautiful publication, well worth a few minutes of your precious time. I am honoured to be featured, and hope to see some of you there!

Also, I saw a wild owl this morning, which was completely awesome.

Wishing you all a joyful September x

Lammas Full Moon

sungold

 

An offering of gratitude this Lunar Lammas 💙

 

Bless the earth underfoot
the breeze on my neck
the still dawn
the open sky
the feather fall
the beetle climb
the crow call
the swift fly
the cloud drift
the rising sun
the golden field
the river run
the grass seed
the ripe plum

Bless this breath
this body
this good earth
this new day

 

Thank you for your precious time! Wishing you a blessed Lammas