Beltaine, Lockdown

“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’


May: Taking Heart

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – W. B. Yeats

Along came May, the most heartening month, all greening boughs and burgeoning hedgerows dancing with new life under the Beltane milk moon. The alliums popped like fireworks in the garden and today, exactly today, my ‘moondance’ poppies shed their oval shells to reveal silken yellow petals to the sky.

The campanula is out: galaxies of five-pointed purple stars with little heart-shaped leaves pouring over the walls, growing quite implausibly out of cracks in the concrete and from the smidgens of earth which have found their way into the brickwork. I like how they represent resistance – a microcosmic reminder that life goes on surviving and thriving, even when the odds seem quite stacked against it.

My garden, like my daughter, reminds me to take heart. Usually I, ostrich-like, avoid the news, but lately I’ve been reading too much of it, mostly bad. I’ve been spending Myla’s nap times trying to write, and producing nothing, which leaves me frustrated and tired by the time she wakes up. The pots scattered around the yard are like my words: I go out and restlessly move them around a bit from time to time, but the effect is mostly the same, a scattered, hotch-potch mess, never finished, never good enough.

But nature does its work. Spring becomes summer. Seeds germinate and eventually, flowers burst into bloom. The mess turns into something beautiful beneath the blossoming umbrella of the elder tree and hopelessness is made to feel impossible, even ridiculous.

The wheel turns.

I’ve been heartened by having two more articles published recently on Elephant Journal:

At the same time, I’ve also had a couple of query emails met with silence by editors. But that’s going to happen. Even if I don’t know what it is I want to write about, it feels good to be writing something.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

RIP Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014) who died this week; Poet, Dancer, Producer, Playwright, Director, Author.

To share the words of another great, soulful writer, Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Mis estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now… Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement…”

Please read the whole piece at It’s just beautiful.


One of the things I like most about the allotments is how each has its own personality.

There is one plot neatly ordered into straight, masculine rows so the plants line up like little Roman soldiers. Not a single weed grows there. There is a whimsical, daisy-and-dandelion-strewn plot with a gate in the middle which leads neither in nor out. There are unkempt, ramshackle allotments where nettles burst out of rusty bathtubs and beanpoles left over from last year collapse against each other like dominoes.

There are traditional plots and ambitiously eccentric plots. There are wild plots, some untouched by human hand for long enough for nature’s green tendrils to creep in and begin to take over. One allotment has a collection of animal skulls nailed to the shed wall.

I like to ponder on what each says about its keeper, as though peering into another person’s inner world. Each has its own aura and adds to the beauty of the allotments as a whole: a living temple in all its tumbledown glory, an antidote to deadening monoculture, a sanctuary.

We finally spent some time on the allotment over Easter weekend – fittingly, the pagan festival of Ostara, goddess of the dawn and of of spring. We decided on a roughly circular design for our raised beds – a mandala of sorts.

From the Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’, the mandala represents wholeness and the universe, the never-ending cycle of life. It is a symbol of revolution in its broader sense – from the Latin revolvere, to revolve, meaning movement in or as if in a circle: the wheel of the year, the sun and the moon, the cosmos. In another sense, growing our own food is one of the most revolutionary things we can do.

Carl Jung called the mandala “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness… the psychological expression of the totality of the self.” A kind of conceptual garden, then, or perhaps the wholeness I seek through writing.

All this might sound rather grandiose for our humble allotment. But poets will tell you that gardens are really about everything:

The garden of the world has no limits
Except in your mind.
Its presence is more beautiful than the stars
With more clarity
Than the polished mirror of your heart. – Rumi

And besides. It will look nice.

Into the beds we planted out some of the seedlings which the snails didn’t eat in the greenhouse: broad beans, courgettes, beetroot, chard, runner beans and chitted potatoes from the garden centre. Emer created a beautiful strawberry patch while I dug flower borders around the edges and sprinkled them with calendula, love-in-a-mist, nasturtium and wildflower seeds.

And yet no matter how many seeds I plant, how many afternoon walks I take in the bluebell woods, how deeply I breathe the blossom-scented air and feel the warmth of sun on my skin – this inner feeling of ongoing winter persists. There’s a greyness, a lethargy, which I just can’t seem to shake.

Normally after the cold, dark days of the British winter, I feel a natural surge of energy inside me as the sap rises and the days lengthen.

Not so this year.

Some days, getting anything much done at all feels like wading through treacle. Part of me wants to stay indoors with my dressing gown on and the curtains closed.

Being a stay-at-home mum of one, staying in my dressing gown is admittedly more of an option for me than it is for most other people. But I’ve been wondering lately. After two years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, with my body finally starting to resemble something akin to ‘my own’, why am I not emerging butterfly-like into the sun, embracing my new freedoms, rekindling old friendships and pastimes?

Of course, I’ve changed. I’ve just been on the most physically demanding journey of my life and after long months of interrupted sleep I’m feeling a little tired. I don’t have a car when Mat’s at work, so being a stay-at-home mum means a lot of staying at home.

My priorities have undergone a revolution, too. I care full-time for an amazing one-year old, keep our house from deteriorating into a biohazard, and am slowly chipping away at being a writer. That’s enough to fill my days, even if I struggle with the nagging sensation that I should be doing more.

So instead of questioning and railing against this inner winter, I’ve decided to embrace it.

For all things move in cycles, and the passing of winter can mean only one thing.

Spring will come.