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)