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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Evening

eveningflowers
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I need these nightly rituals, now;

the damp smell of the earth

as I water the garden,

the happy presence

of seedlings sprouting,

a moment alone with the

new moon rising.

Noticing how, wherever there are spaces,

Life fills them up.

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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Beltaine, Lockdown

morninglight
“Beauty is the illumination of your soul.” – John O Donohue

 

Every morning I get up early, make tea and walk down the brick path to the end of the garden. Before my husband leaves for work, I steal a few moments of time alone.

Except I’m not alone here.

I check on the seeds and plants along the way. Green shoots of squash, climbing beans and sweetcorn – the three sisters – are sprouting in their pots, alongside peas, broad beans and sunflowers which the children planted at the start of the lockdown. Nasturtiums, wildflowers, poppies and marigolds are all emerging in the ground, alert and joyful, and there are bluebells under the cherry tree, enchanted and luminous blue. Big blobs of dew glisten on the leaves of the dicentra and the aliums are almost ready to burst from their cases. The lawn is lush and unmown and there are bumblebees at work on a patch of ground ivy, dead nettle and forget-me-not growing around the foot of the elder tree. Nettles, cleavers and dandelions are everywhere around the edges; I pick them to make teas. I feel called by the plants, as if they have things to tell me. The oak tree, golden-green goddess, presides over it all.

At the end of the garden is a firepit, beyond that a field. Further out across the river is a church built on a Saxon burial mound, ringed with yews and scotch pine trees. There’s a light mist rising. A fox moves gracefully through the long grasses: she catches my eye, fixing on me for a flash before trotting off into the trees. Lady’s smock and buttercups spot the field with pale pink and yellow, and there’s a robin singing in the ash tree.

Now is the magic time. Here, away from the news, the fear and the sorrow, there is truth and beauty. Things are growing. The trees, the birdsong, the land and sky gather me in; tendrils of steam from my tea spiral upwards into the air and just for now, I feel at the centre of some heavenly circle, and I am grateful.

To be in relationship with some small corner of the earth, to seek to know it, and to fall in love with its songs and its secrets – that’s something.

Back inside the kitchen, the tumble dryer thrums comfortingly. The kids are watching TV in the room next door. Morning sun pours in through the window, lighting up a vase of yellow tulips on the table, catching a drop of water as it drips from the tap, illuminating it with starlight.

 

 

(The above is my submission for Discover Prompts, Day 30: ‘Grateful’ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/53424024/posts/41682)

 

March: a poem

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“If there is light it will find you” – Charles Bukowski

 

March

 

Hope starts in small things

and becomes a river in spring –

the bright green pop

of a dandelion mandala

pushing up through the asphalt,

the cold March wind which says

hold on, brighter days are coming.

So maybe we live in dark times –

this morning the birds

and the crocus flowers

turned their faces to the sun

and sang, regardless.

Winter is tired.

She longs to lie down

in the arms of spring

among the sweet white blossoms

and the ripening buds of new beginnings.

There is sap rising up in the bones

of this body, this land:

this is where transformation comes,

where shoots grow from old roots.

So the wind blows,

maybe it brings change.

Hold on.

 

The idea for the opening lines of this poem came when I was standing on a bridge in the rain, looking at a river which had burst its banks after an early spring storm. I wondered at how the river, usually little more than a stream, had become an unstoppable force. It made me think about all the efforts people are making around the planet to create positive changes, to build “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” (Charles Eisenstein).

The poem is written in the spirit of honouring the land, the wheel of the year and the dynamic energies of the Spring Equinox, represented by the balance of light and dark, and the qualities of re-emergence, fertility and growth.

Alongside the despair and devastation, so much is changing and emerging in this moment. The poem is both offering and prayer for hope. It is intended as a dream for the world, for the wild places and for future generations. Whatever offerings you are making towards a bright future, may they become a river in spring. x

June: Hope in Small Spaces

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“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” – Mary Oliver

 

Postcard from the June Garden

 

Herringbone clouds drift in infinite seas

A perfect half-moon in a cosmos blue sky

Elderflowers float to the earth at my feet

Cat slumbers, sun-baked, white among sage and thyme

Green-glorious symphony of breeze, birds and bees…

 

Around me, the lush upward surge of the June garden is full of magic and vibrant green possibility.

The few things I got around to planting from seed with my daughter this year – wildflowers, nasturtiums, sunflowers, sweet peas and broad beans – are growing, their tiny green arms thrust open to the sun. In the unrest of current events (we have a general election here in the UK tomorrow on which it feels like so much is resting) I am reminded of this simple truth by the seedlings:

Turn your face stubbornly to the light and keep it there.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’m quickly running out of space for any more plants, but even our small, shady courtyard garden is enough to show my little girl that with the right conditions and a little care, seeds will grow; magic (or, science we can’t yet explain) exists; hope comes in odd places; and small things have great power.

A pair of great tits nested in the bird box for the first time this spring. I watched from my daughter’s window as they, beaks stuffed full of fat green caterpillars, flew tirelessly backwards and forwards to greet the raucous cheeping and chirping from inside the box.  I worried about their babies, what with our resident rat and cat – but they made it! Few things could have lifted my spirit more than the sight of the fledglings.

My small courtyard garden is sanctuary and medicine in a tumultuous world. There is so much in flux right now; so much swirling in the spaces between hope and despair. But when I go outside I can narrow my focus and find moments of peace, perspective and joy in the smallest of things: the tenacious little avocado tree which has sprouted unexpectedly from the compost heap; the jasmine flowers glowing like fairy lights in the moonlight; the soft scent of the herb garden in summer rain. The perfect, crystalline sphere of a raindrop glistening on a fern leaf. The yellow flash of a charm of goldfinches chattering in the elder tree. The joy of simple things and the promise of bright days ahead.

When you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.” – Rebecca Solnit

I sometimes feel as though the world is poised in a moment of hope and possibility. I’m not saying everything is going to be fine; I’m saying I still believe there’s a fine chance things can get better if we believe it and make it happen. And while there are green things, sunrises and people hell bent on making a better future – in ways both loud and quiet – hope is not ours to surrender.

There is still a window of time.
Nature can win if we give her a chance.
You have an indomitable spirit.
You can do something every day to make change
and make this a better world. ” – Jane Goodall

A green bottle fly, orange-eyed, metallic and resplendent on the budding marguerite daisies, glints emerald in the sun’s reflection and buzzes away, over the wall, across the allotments and up into the sky beyond.

Wishing you midsummer blessings, vibrance and serenity this full moon x

The Glastonbury Oak

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“My poetry was born between the hill and the river. It took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests…” – Pablo Neruda

During a particularly muddy and dank Glastonbury festival, I took refuge from the rain under a magnificent, 500-year-old oak tree. Taking shelter beside me was a lovely woman who runs Glastonbury Festival’s Oak Tree Project, an initiative which distributes acorns from the tree to be planted around the country. I was subsequently inspired to write this poem. I sent it to her, and she said she’s going to display it near the tree at next year’s festival. Which, I feel, is quite an honour!

 

I am a tree.

I am completely what I am, beyond thoughts or words.

But we are not so different, you and I.

Our bodies tell our stories. The storms we have weathered, the seasons we have lived.

The ways in which we have learned to love.

 

Five hundred winters I have stood upon this earth.

I do not have legs to carry me, but I have traveled far.

I have welcomed the dawn as it greets me like a song each day, and born witness to the mystery and promise of each night as it falls.

I have listened to the music of the moon as she swells and wanes in the sky, and watched the clouds come and go, as all things do.

I have journeyed round the sun, feeling the breath of the earth rise and fall in me as the great wheel of the stars spins above me night after night in the glittering vastness.

I have caught the gentle kiss of spring rain on my leaves, and danced in the light of the golden summer sun.

 

Like you, I have known joy.

The furred and feathered folk have tickled my wooden body with their footsteps:

The red squirrels, the songbirds, the owls who nest about my crown;

The tiny insects who forge whole worlds on a single branch;

The four-legged bears, the badgers and the wolves who prowled in my shadows and slumbered peacefully in their dens among my roots;

The worms – the sacred keepers of the soil;

The mosses and the lichens who cloak my trunk and limbs;

The bright flowers of the rising light and the mushroom people who visit as the nights draw in.

All are my kin.

I have given them shade and shelter, food and clean air to breathe. It gave me joy to feel their quiet presence, their different forms, soft and light upon my body.

They are fewer now.

Some have not visited me for a very long time.

 

Once, my people ruled these lands. The spirits and the songs of the forest were many, the rivers flowed clean and clear. The magic was good and strong. The two-legged people knew that the land was not so different to them: a living being, deserving of respect and love.

Then they came with their machines, their saws. A shadow fell over the land. Much was lost. They come still; I hear the cries of my cousins both near and far away across the ocean. Your soul hears them too, though your ears do not.

 

But shadows, like clouds, come and go. The magic remains.

It is the land, and the land is the magic.

The trees and the streams and the stones remember this; they whisper its stories, and they are always there for those who listen, who want to remember.

If the trees and the streams and the stones should ever forget, the stars are always there to remind them.

You, too, hold the wisdom and the medicine in your bones, sure as I stand upon this spot.

For you, too, are sacred. You, too, are of the earth.

She is waiting for you to come home.

 

I see the little people now, rushing about, always in such a hurry.

I do not wonder where they are running to, or what they may be running from.

I am just a tree.

But these are just words.

You look tired, little one.

Come, rest a while beneath my branches, where you need do ought but be.

There is time.

Let us simply be alive together, for a short while, in the peace of this magnificent dance.

 

Originally published on Rebelle Society (rebellesociety.com)