I could write about trees for a long time. This week I have been looking through the thousands of photos that I have. There are two boxes of printed photos taken before the days of the digital camera, then there are the thousands on my computer taken with a digital camera. Each year I ‘cull’ my photos and try to keep the ones that mean something to me, but the number of photos that I keep is around 1500 each year.
I love the way that paths wind through trees, leading us into magical spaces. Often in a large wood you come upon a clearing and when the sun shines this too is magical. I have walked in some woods where these spaces, or glades, are made deliberately to let in the light for the woodland flowers and butterflies. Woodland does have to be managed or it becomes a jungle where each tree jostles for space with another one and both trees end up being only a small part of what they should be.
During my training as a druid I was introduced to the Ogham tree alphabet. This fascinated me and as I did not like the Ogham cards that I had bought, I decided to make my own. After much contemplation I sat down one day and did just that. I used watercolour pencils for the design, finding that the interpretations that I wanted to hear, flowed through my mind as if channelled. I called them Tree Medicine. This was twenty years ago now and it was not easy to sell these to others as I did not have the means of good reproduction. However, together with my son we did a ‘computerised’ version drawing each card with great care. We then designed a small booklet to go with the cards and I made small cotton bags to keep them in. They were meant to go in your pocket so you could use them outside with the trees when you found them. I still use mine. I do have a few sets left but they are no longer on my web site.
Although I live in the UK there are many trees which have been imported from other countries. Rich land owners with a lot of parkland often imported trees from Europe and other countries so that there is a rich mix of different trees to be seen. At one time I used to ‘run’ workshops about working with trees as I lived near a large park with an arboretum. I enjoyed working with others learning to communicate with the trees around us, giving thank for their presence and how they keep us alive.I do love trees!
My photo does not appear to be straight but whatever, it shows a couple of my tree cards
I have always loved to be among the trees, but there have been some very special trees in my life too. I have always been an outdoors kind of person. I walked and cycled for many years among the lanes of my home and then further afield ending up climbing and scrambling in the mountains of Snowdonia. But trees have always been special.
There is something about woodland and the tracks through it that feel different to anything else I have experienced. It is magical. The sunshine filters through the leaves and moves the shadows around and changes the colours of the leaves as they move. Then there is the smell of the trees and in dense forest the smell of the moist earth.
One of my ‘special’ trees was an ancient beech tree in a small woodland around an old ironstone pit. It was originally part of a large forest but a road runs through it separating this small section from the main part of the wood. This ancient beech was quite near to the road and it was obviously loved by those who found it. The branches were strong and low enough to sit on and its roots were huge and spread over a large area. I have spent many happy hours there with others, meditating and giving Reiki attunements. It was a very special place for these kinds of things. Sadly, this tree has been cut down maybe because it was too near the road and had got dangerous.
Another tree I loved was again an ancient tree in the same forest but a few miles away. Its canopy was huge and made me feel tiny when standing under it. A photo of it was the heading photo for this blog a while back. Sadly it was also cut down, first in half and by now I suspect that it has completely gone.
But what of other trees? Some 20 years ago now, I gave money to the Woodland Trust to plant twenty small oak saplings. At that time you were given a map of the area where your trees were planted and a reference number so you could go and visit them. I did this several times and together with my friend Simon we produced a small booklet called a ‘Year in the Grove’, taking lots of photos through the seasons to see how the trees changed and adding poetry and text as well.
I have always loved the birch tree which to me always feels feminine and I call her my lady birch. The willow is another tree I love especially the weeping kind. Then there are the redwoods, the giants of trees. I am lucky to have them locally and find them wonderful to hug, their energy so replenishing. I could write more about the trees in my life but will stop here otherwise it will end up as a book. Now that’s an idea!
Last week I decided to take some time away from social media amd do things I really wanted to do and enjoy each day as it came. I did have a few appointments but decided to keep most of these. So what did I do? I spent time in the garden, sometimes just sitting and meditating on what I could see. I spent time with friends and did some creative sewing which I love.
I did have a quick read of my social media accounts but did not post or comment on anything preferring to let things go on as planned. I had a lovely afternoon out in some gardens belonging to a large house not too far away. It was wonderful to stroll through woodland and gardens I did not know. The views were tremendous.
So what did I gain from my time out, after all I was busy a lot of the time. I felt better and much closer to the natural world around me. I felt more attuned to the sounds of nature as well. I was less stressed as I had been busy over the last few months writing and talking to people about climate change. It is very easy to get involved in such things and let them take over your life so that you do or think about nothing else.
Climate change is of course very important and I hope that I have sown seeds of change with many people and via my book, sowed these seeds in others far away. But it is easy to overdo things and burn out which is when I decided to take a break. Taking a break also allows you to get things in perspective and see the overall picture not just the details. For me this time out has replenished my soul. So when things get hectic and seem out of control, stand back, take some time out and enjoy the natural world around you.
My blog is late as I have been staying with my son for a few days. The days were busy as we went to some nature reserves on the Saturday and worked in the garden on the Sunday.
The first nature reserve was Felmersham gravel pits where the old pits have been filled with water and the surrounding trees and meadow land provide homes for many insects. I have visited here before and that time saw many different butterflies. This time we were able to get down to the waterside and watch dragonflies and damselflies searching for food and for mates. I loved the way the sun shone on the water and also on the backs of the dragonflies as they flew around. Magical and awesome.
We then went to a country park which also has a nature reserve but we decided to walk by the river first. Here I was astounded by the huge number of mayflies going up and down in the air like bouncing balls. It was my first sighting of a mayfly and again it was magical and awesome. As we moved away from the river we found a large group of demoiselle dragonflies. I love these with their dark blue wings (the female is green) and I have never seen so many in one place. Another magical and awesome sight. We also saw a heron but he was disturbed before I could get a really good photo of him.
My son has made his garden a haven for wildlife and he is constantly working on this. He has a lovely large pond and it was amazing to spot one morning, a newly emerged dragonfly, drying out on a stalk before preparing to fly. We watched it over a period of time as it adjusted its body and wings before suddenly it was up and away. It flew onto the nearby hedge where it looked golden as the sun shone on its wings. My son has a photo of it on the hedge so I wait for it to arrive on my computer. But it was a really profound experience to see the dragonflies (there were three in total) as they emerged from their skin in which they had spent time in the water as larvae. There was also a red damselfly to watch and then later in the day while we were sitting indoors a jay appeared. He dived into the pond twice before settling on the fence to dry off. Beautiful!
Arriving back home with a large number of plants to put in the garden I had a nice surprise. Last year I had a bed of cosmos flowers and they grew strong and like a forest so I was unable to de-head them after the flowers died. I had noticed before I went to my sons that there were a lot of seedlings growing where the cosmos had been last year. When we got back I saw that the seedlings had grown and were definitely cosmos. I shall leave them to grow peacefully and look forward to their flowers in the summer. It was a wonderful time in nature, magical and awesome.
I have so many photos that it is difficult to decide on one to place here but I will show you the newly emerged dragonfly getting ready to fly away.
Yesterday was what I call a truly autumn morning, misty with a chilly feel and some dark clouds heading my way. I went out though to Trentham for a short walk along the lake side and through the trees. It was beautiful and peaceful as I was earl;y before many others had arrived. I found a new fairy sculpture too. There are around sixteen of these now and they are made of wire. This one was very beautiful and I took a photo of her silhouetted against the lake and sky. I felt so at peace with myself walking along the edge of the water, so much so that I found myself chanting to Mother Earth.
The trees are still mainly green but there are patches of brown and yellow leaves among the green. Two things fascinated me about the trees. One holly tree had a broken branch and the leaves on that branch had all turned to a rich brown colour. On another tree, there was a branch with leaves at different stages of their changing colour. So some were green and yellow, others going to red and brown and so on.
The cygnets on the lake had disappeared and in their place were beautiful white swans, a pair of which were doing some kind of mating ritual or that is how it seemed. Looking out over the lake I saw the rain clouds approaching and decided to head back via the cafe for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake. Then it was head for the bus stop in the rain. By the time I arrived home it was pouring down, real heavy rain which lasted until early evening when the sun came out. Strange weather but I felt the benefits of my short walk in nature. It makes such a difference to how I feel and move.
I hope you all take walks in nature, it is so refreshing and replenishing.
I read something this morning which really resonated with me. It was about how we treat our world. Each day we see more disasters occurring, not just in war zones but in our countryside where rivers are polluted, pipelines leak or explode, lakes are polluted and so on. Just this week in my area fish died because of river pollution. We see greedy companies wishing to destroy the landscape for new pipe lines, new railway lines which go through ancient forests and destroy natural habitats which have built up over the years for various species.
And do we just watch and think it won’t be long before the human race disappears or do we do something? If we do something then what do we do? Working together is important as can be seen when the Native American tribes came together to stop a pipeline being built across their sacred burial grounds. I am not going to write any more here because I would like you to read the words I read this morning so that you are aware, if not already aware, of just what is happening to our planet.
Since moving back home I have been revisiting some of my favourite places. Some are long gone of course as this is a large area of industry and housing. But some are still there and there are also many new places to go and explore when I have the time. Derelict wasteland from industry which is now gone has often been turned into parkland.
One of the places I used to visit with my children is still there and I go there often but I have found another place to go which has exceeded my expectations. The Trentham Estate is a large commercial operation designed to attract tourists and also has a shopping village. But it is a place that never ceases to make me happy as I explore it. There is a large lake around a mile in length, there are historic gardens, woodlands and meadows, and so many places to hide from the crowds. Many things have impressed me, the way the old trees that have fallen are used from sculpture, the newly planted meadow areas and the wild flower gardens. Even the children’s area blends in with the land itself.
I have found small areas right by the lake where I can sit and watch the birds on the lake and the dragonflies and butterflies flitting around. I can walk through the woodland and see the sculptures. Then there are the fairies, a series, now sixteen in all, who sit around the estate. They are wire sculptures and can be found in unusual places. I have not yet found them all. But the peace of the lake and the ever changing sky are something I love to see. Each visit is a joy and like many others I purchased an annual ticket as the only day the estate is closed is Christmas Day.
The river runs alongside the lake and there are otters here but I have not seen them yet. There is a hide where you can sit and wait for them to appear. There are many varieties of ducks as well as swans and herons. A small island is the home for the herons. For me this is a wonderful experience enabling me to be at one with the landscape around me and I treasure it. I hope it will be there for ever.
At last the Solstice is here and so is the sun this morning. There has not been much sighting of the sun recently in the area in which I live so to see it this morning is a lovely surprise. I was up early, not for the sunrise but early enough to catch the dew on the grass and plants.
So today is the longest day when the sun reaches its highest in the sky. For me it is a time for a deep connection with the land and all that lives on it, the plants, the insects, the birds and the small mammals.
I recently visited a small wood where I have always enjoyed the beauty in the wood. It was tiny and quite young but always had a real feeling of connection with spirit. Last week when I visited I was shocked to see brown earth and destruction between a huge part of this tiny wood. One side was still as it had been in the past with cow parsley and bluebells and birdsong. The rest was brown and silent. I retreated and went into the cafe on the site and asked for a pot of tea. I then made a comment about the state of the wood, asking if they had been cutting back the undergrowth. I was told it had been sprayed and that only the fact that there was a bird nesting in the other part had stopped the spraying of that part also. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was speechless and extremely sad that someone could do this, not understanding the deep connection between everything in the wood. (I have done something about this wood)
This deep connection with nature is so much a part of me and my druidry and I wish that every one had the same deep connection. If we all had this, then the world would be a different place. Nature is amazing and my photo this week is of a flower that I find very delicate but beautiful. Please think about your trees and garden and try to understand how it is all connected. Happy Solstice!
I am very thankful for my friends with whom I spent yesterday. We went first to a lovely place called Deene Park, beautiful house and grounds although we only strolled around the grounds. It was Snowdrop week and there were so many different kinds of snowdrops to see. The peace and tranquility of the landscape was wonderful for me too. Looking at the shrubs already in flower and seeing all the flowers made me feel more hopeful that our land is still fine despite our efforts to destroy it. We had tea and cake in the little tea room which had been the old kitchen. There was a wonderful log fire in the old kitchen range.
We then went to the Forestry Commission Fineshades Wood. I have been here before and wanted to see how my old ash tree was doing. The first time I went, it was the most amazing tree with an extremely large canopy. The last time I went it had been lopped and almost cut in half. Yesterday it was still there but bare and with even less branches. It was still quite awesome though. On our way back we passed the stump of an ancient beech. Another ancient tree cut down. I can only assume it had become dangerous as in general the Forestry Commission do not cut down ancient trees.
The whole day gave me so much pleasure. Being out in nature replenishes the soul, allows me space to breathe and makes me thankful for my life, my friends and for what is around me. My photo this week is not of the ancient ash but of the landscape in Deene Park which gave me time to pause for reflection
Samhain is almost over and winter approaches. It is still mild here but promises of colder weather next week have been made. Many of the trees are already bare and the ground is covered with golden, yellow and brown leaves. The sun is lower in the sky and for once in the year, it shines into my home. It makes such a difference to me and to my house.
There is something about the landscape at this time of the year which I find irresistible. Although the leaves are dying there is also the promise of new growth next year. When all the trees are bare and the sun shines through them, it is just as magical as in the spring time. How do you feel about this change in the landscape? I am looking forward to the frost too. It makes everything sparkle. I am making sure that I have food stored for those days when going out is not for me but I do love the magic of the winter time. Do you find it magical?