June

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“Protect all the trembling bells of delight that you notice out of the corner of your eye when everyone else is oblivious.” – Martin Shaw

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”  – Jack Gilbert

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” – Margaret Attwood

 

June

 

The field has softened into the sweet song of summer.

Charms of goldfinches flit among the long grasses and

the hedgerow is dotted with bramble flowers and wild roses.

If I crouch down into the waist-high canopy, a whole world unfurls:

a metallic green flower beetle is climbing a sorrel stalk,

a huge turquoise dragonfly patrols the grasstops in zig-zag lines

and grasshoppers hop and sing in the jungle below.

High above, circling in a cosmos blue sky,

buzzards ride the warm currents.

In the haze of a hot June afternoon, the field hums.

What kind of world are we heading into?

Lying on my back in this gold patch of earth

my worries about the future, ideas of hope and despair,

success and failure, and other funny human concepts

dissolve into peace, and delight. In this place, this living poem,

held by the earth, wrapped in the huge dome of the sky,

for a moment I feel like the world just wants us to feel good,

bathed in beauty, bathed in light.

 

 

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Rewilding in Lockdown

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One of the best things about rewilding the garden is the way it keeps surprising me.

Clumps of lemonbalm and fennel have self-seeded among the ferns, possibly from a teabag in the compost. Last year’s wildflower patch didn’t work too well (too shady, planted too late) but is now full of ox-eye daisies, red campion, honesty, poppies and bright pops of orange calendula. The overgrown lawn is rich with dandelions and clovers, alive with bumblebees, birds, butterflies, hoverflies and dragonflies.

Seeds are silently growing everywhere, flowers, herbs and vegetables shooting upwards in that mad rush of May green, but it’s the wild, neglected parts of the garden I love the most: the left-alone corners bursting with nettles, cleavers, dandelion and dead nettle to nourish and cleanse, ground ivy and forget-me-nots to provide food and shelter for the tiny creatures, herb robert, vetch and sweet honeysuckle to lift our spirits. Wild medicine for the soul!

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During isolation the garden has become classroom, kitchen, church and living room. It is teacher, friend, and wise old woman. We’ve spent our days there, watching the spring unfold, finding bugs, having bonfires, learning about plants, digging, playing and generally letting them be crazy, grubby little kids while the world has turned upside down. We’ve put a rope swing up in the field. There are few sights better than watching the children trot off through the long grasses, buttercups up to their waists.

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Who knows where we’re heading; it’s not really for me to say. But in the uncertainty, there is space for hope. I can’t change the world, but I can raise my children, grow a garden, make it a place of peace, a love letter to the earth. I can keep writing in the interrupted snatches of time available, cultivate gratitude, go gently, fail utterly and start all over again the next day. For now, that’s enough.

In the sweet-smelling promise of a May morning, the field is soaked in golden sunshine, hawthorn blossom filtering down like snow. The garden is lush, green and alive, vibrating with wild magic.

Perhaps in all this chaos, a beautiful future is trying to grow.

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Sanctuary

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“What we need is a great, powerful, tremulous falling back in love with our old, ancient, primordial Beloved, which is the Earth herself.” – Martin Shaw

March of last year brought blossoms and snow flurries and news of change: we were to move, and soon. A brisk, fortunate April wind carried us east to Hellingly, where we landed in a little corner of heaven. We are beginning to take root here.

It’s been a while since my last post. I wrote this poem under the oak tree in our back garden around the recent summer solstice.

Midsummer blessings all x

 

Sanctuary

 

I sat down with Grandmother Oak

there on a blanket she had woven

of clovers and sweet violets

where the fat bees cobble about.

She wrapped me in her scented boughs

and gently held all parts of me –

the flesh, the brittle fragments,

the embers, the salt water and the bone –

with soft and steady breaths she blew

the shadows from my shoulders

and asked only in return of me

that I might be with her a while and,

in ancient, long-forgotten psalms,

that she might sing me home.

The Elder Tree: Recipes for Summertime Magic

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“He said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

There are two trees which hang over the back wall of my courtyard garden, giving shade and height, making it feel like a lush woodland. One is an ash (the ‘Goddess Tree’), currently covered in thick clumps of winged seeds, with a resident blackbird who serenades the rising and setting sun every day with its beautiful voice. The other tree is an elder, and at this time of year, between beltane and the summer solstice, it is just coming into flower.

All parts of this ‘Queen of Herbs’ can be used for medicinal, culinary or practical purposes. It’s a veritable herbal medicine chest, acting as an effective remedy for colds, flu, sore throats, fever, cystitis, infections, constipation, eczema and chickenpox, to name but a few. A tea made from the flowers brings down a fever, and elderflower ointment soothes and tonifies the skin. The purplish-black berries which appear on the tree at the other end of summer, around September, also have curative properties and make delicious jams, compotes, syrups and a rather pokey wine. So many gifts!

Magical lore states that any elderberries found during December are particularly magically endowed and that a tonic wine made from the berries can, when taken cautiously, enhance psychic powers. If you’ve ever consumed too much elderberry wine in one sitting, you may have found this out for yourself…

Elder is found in country lanes and cottage gardens, steeped in folklore and magic and believed by many to be imbued with witchy qualities. Ruled by Venus and presided over by The Elder Mother, named Hyldemoer or Hulda (mother of the elves in Scandinavian folklore), elder has strong associations with the regenerative Crone aspect of the Goddess – especially, I think, in the colder months when its tangle of untamed, arced branches grow wild and crooked against the winter sky.

Here at the gateway to summer, however, the tree brims with stories of fairy, dryad (female tree nymph) and nature spirit magic. It’s a tree of protection and connection to other realms. Legend has it that if you stand beneath an elder tree on the night of the summer solstice and inhale the sweet scent of the blossom, you will catch a glimpse of the fairies. I might give this a go with my two year old little girl (who naturally sees fairies everywhere) this year!

As well as obligatory fairy-spotting, I’ll be inviting the wonderful energies of this tree into my life this year by harvesting the flowers to make cordial and champagne. For me this is the quintessential taste of summer, made from the creamy, frothy, upside-down umbrella-shaped flowerheads or ‘umbels’ which comprise hundreds of individual, five-petalled blooms. I’ll also be coating the flowerheads in light batter and frying them to make yummy fritters.

A couple of simple elderflower recipes:

To make elderflower cordial at home, harvest 20 open flowerheads which are heavy with pollen (you may have to wait a week or two, as the flowers are only just out here), gently shaking them to remove any tiny creatures. Add 1.5 litres of water to 1 kg of sugar and heat until all the sugar dissolves. Add the zest and slices of 3 lemons, 50g of citric acid and finally the flowers, and stir. After 48 hours you can seive the liquid into sterilised bottles and mix it with still or sparkling water, delicious with ice and a slice of lemon.

For elderflower fritters, sift 50g of plain flour into a basin then add a tablespoon of oil and 80ml of sparkling mineral water. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar then beat an egg white and fold it into the batter. Rinse 6 or 7 elderflower heads, snipping them into individual florets, then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into a pan of hot oil. Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp and eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp, sprinkled with sugar or drizzled with honey or agave syrup.

Wishing you joy on this full moon x