June: Hope in Small Spaces

flowers
“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

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July

wildflowers.jpg
“Sometimes… here, in this world, in this life, there are fragments of paradise.” – Ben Okri

 

After a rainy May and June during which I was away a lot, the garden has grown verdant and jungle-like. Now that the sun is out at last, I’m content to sit among the overgrown disorder of it all, listening to the bees. I wrote this poem out there yesterday.

 

Green and lush, untended and anarchic,

Bindweed and dandelions push for space

Where jasmine, bergamot and chamomile’s

Intoxicating scents release on touch

 

Long fingertips of fern unfurl to languid summer sun

Beneath a canopy of ash and elder

 

Campanula cascading over faded walls

Thousands of five-pointed, purple stars

Alive with humming bees from dawn til dusk

 

Feathered, soft, all shades and shapes of green,

The smell of warm, damp earth as I, to blackbird’s song,

Water the tomatoes in the evening light

 

A bramble flower suspended on a single spider’s thread

A sliver of new moon in sunset sky

The cat asleep beside the lemon balm

 

This is where I go

To breathe

 

 

 

 

The Goddess Tree

ash

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Author of Silent Spring

The year we moved into our home, an ash seed pod or ‘key’ fluttered down from the tree over the wall and took root in a crack in the concrete floor of our yard.

A year later, I noticed the sapling struggling, so I propped it up against a milk pail. It almost reaches the second floor of our house now.

The young tree’s silvery bark and soot-black, pointed buds – each of them imprinted with an embryonic copy of the branch they one day dream of becoming – somehow remind me of the limbs and hooves of a fawn. I feel that this makes sense, somehow, since deer and ash grew up together, evolving from the same forests.

Known as the Goddess Tree, the cosmic Tree of Life in Norse mythology and the Druidic World Tree, spanning the universe with its roots deep in the earth, the ash tree stands for strength, connection and rootedness in wisdom. Indeed, the creation myths of many ancient world cultures display a belief that the essence of humankind itself originated from the ash tree.

Somewhere, long ago in the dreamtime, we grew up together.

And yet today, ash is threatened with extinction. Hundreds of lichen, fungi and insects depend on ash for survival; it is a vital part of our ecosystem. Without it, we also suffer an immense spiritual loss.

Jane Gifford writes in ‘The Wisdom of Trees‘:

The ash is a key to healing the loneliness of the human spirit out of touch with its origins. It can provide a sense of being grounded and of belonging… so that we can better appreciate the many ways in which positive thought and action today can create a brighter tomorrow.”

The ancient cultures believed that the wisdom of ash teaches us that unity and harmony with the natural world is our heritage and our birthright. The Goddess Tree speaks of connection and belonging – our kinship with the great family of all things – and stimulates our soul-psyches into a kind of remembrance which bears great relevance today.

When we heed the magic of ash, we sense that our innately human strengths of compassion, courage, innovation, creativity and cooperation empower us all to affect great change. Despite a narrative of fear which seeks to convince us that we are separate, lost, and helpless, we may remember who we really are, and recognise our own power.

The future may look uncertain – but there is hope. Respected ecologist George Peterken says: “There is genetic diversity in ash… I would expect them to evolve their way round the fungus.”  Perhaps we, too, will evolve our way round this intense and challenging time.

As for my baby ash tree, for now I shall love it, water it and grow flowers up around it in the hope of brighter days ahead. For as long as I can, I will let its buds live out their dream of someday becoming branches, leaves outstretched, dancing in the bright summer sun.