What next?

It has just passed mid-day and the frost that was clinging to the top of the hedge is only now loosening its grip.  I’ve not thought much about this before but I’m slowly realising that there is something comforting about this time of year.

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The photograph was taken before dawn when the fog had dispersed.

Not only was there frost but also fog, so that only a few of the trees in neighbouring gardens were visible from my house.  I live on the edge of town, not in a wood, and usually from my back door I can see oak, ash, copper beech, willow, bird cherry and a row of great leylandii.  However, this morning only the leylandii which come close to my house, and two oaks were visible.  The leylandii stand in a large brooding block, thankfully to one side of my house, otherwise, I might have no view at all.  The two oaks, now with most of their leaves removed by strong winds, looked like spectres appearing and disappearing from the drifting fog.

Wrapped up!  Enclosed!  Held!  Secured!  That’s what I was thinking about this morning; how the winter wraps its arms around me, comforting me like a big blanket, allowing me to dream and to make plans.

I awoke very early this morning, too early, and my dreams followed me into the study where I wrote these lines:

Somewhere on an ocean,

Floating on the sea,

Guided by Great currents,

A raft, a life and me.

Flying fish for breakfast,

Salted meats for tea.

Whale spouts, luminous nights,

Wind in the sail;

At home, on the restless sea.

Tiki

I know this dream.  I’ve dreamt it before, more than once!

Happy Mid Winter 2020

Here is a last photograph from the shore of Lough Neagh.

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Wishing all my readers and all who visit my site, a very happy mid-winter and here’s looking forward to a happy, healthy and peaceful 2021,

Ashley 🎋🎋🎋

Coping with November 2020

Finally! At long last! November is over! It has felt like a very long month with little to be joyful about. However, on one of the blogs that I have been following since the pandemic began,

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/36508991/posts/2998163804

I saw an escape and a way to return to drawing. Now, I have hardly drawn anything for many many years, in fact not since I left school in 1960 something! So, I’m quite surprised and happy that I actually completed the challenge that Sarah suggested. The following image, a daily diary of drawing is the result:

Now when I look back, I can see that I have been busier than I imagined. The beginning of the month saw me lighting candles to remember those who are no longer with us, not just family members, those who were closest to us, but in remembrance of those on the ‘front line’ during the pandemic who paid the greatest price, and not just here where I live but around the world.

Also in November it would have been my late Mother’s birthday and whilst she passed away a couple of years ago, I’m still grieving the loss of one of the most important women in my life.

Then there were all the other things: we had to have new taps put in the bathroom; there was the election in the USA; I had my flu jab and because I’m now 70 years of age I was also offered a jab for the prevention of shingles! There was shopping to be done and I have written a couple of hokku to send to the Hokku Garden (sorry Edo, I will have another one for you shortly, when I’ve finished this blog):

https://masashimono.wordpress.com/

I made some garlic and rosemary flavoured red wine vinegar, and also some flavoured oils to give as gifts at Christmas; I bought a new mobile phone (and sorting that out, transferring contacts and so on, was not simple); sold my ‘other’ guitar; had a haircut and on the last days of the month did some dreaming!

Dreaming! Of what? Well that might just feature in my next post. For now, on this first day of December, I’m looking forward to Monday 21st when it will be the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night, and at that time the turning of the Earth points towards returning light and potential renewal. For an explanation and a little bit of science, go to:

https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/when-winter-solstice

Since it is likely that we won’t see our families this year, except by video link over Christmas, the usual festivities will be very much changed.

The Winter Solstice then, will be something wonderful to celebrate!

Ashley

A walk on the Lough shore

The morning began with mist and fog but the forecast was for sunshine, so I headed off to Oxford Island on Lough Neagh where I was to meet up with some members of my local wildlife group.

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Underfoot the ground was very wet but being properly outdoors for the first time in weeks was a joy. In all there were seven of us and we easily maintained two metres distance between each other.

Some miles away we could hear the pop-pop of guns firing off; wildfowlers! As a result there weren’t too many bird species to be spotted. Even so, the fresh air and the sunshine obviously saw everyone in good spirits. With very little wind and the calm waters of the lough, the visual environment was one to capture and store in my mind.

A small group of Mute Swans were feeding just off shore and as I chatted to a colleague, what we believed to be an Egret flew passed us, unfortunately it disappeared behind some trees before either of us could get our binoculars or cameras out! Isn’t that always the way! Suffice to say that a Great White Egret was spotted later and identified by others not so far away.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-white-egret/

3 mute swans feeding N

1 mute swans and mallard feeding NW

Before we left this part of the shore I spotted some wild swimmers; they seemed very happy to be in the water as there was lots of bubbly chatter!

5 what's this N

6 wild swimmers N

Surely the water was bitterly cold! However, I did read recently that regular cold water swimming is a very healthy activity! Anyone for a cold shower? Brrr! 🙂

End of Autumn

breagh lane

On my walk this morning it was noticeable how many leaves and twigs were strewn along the lane. The last few days have turned distinctly chilly and whilst it has been dry, the wind has become stronger. In the sky the birds appear to be racing or maybe they are simply enjoying the change of tempo that comes at this time.

Late autumn --
The rooks flight
Driven by the wind.

When I return home I’d better move those tall pots to a more sheltered area of the garden.  I suppose in a way I will also appear to be racing to prepare for the change of season!  

October

oak tree

I sweep between the pots of geraniums, clearing leaves from the patio.  In next door’s garden, blocking the northern sky, an old oak tree raises and lowers its branches as a gust of wind passes through.

Oak tree leaves
Carried on October winds --
Letting go.

I gather up the leaves onto the shovel, just as a couple of Coal Tits skim over the hedge and land on the seed feeder.  Already they are preparing for the change of season, something that I am thinking about too.  The air is damp after days of rain.

A walk in a forest park

Throughout the last twelve months, some personal health issues and the pandemic have had an impact on my ability to write creatively.  However, when ever possible I have managed to make a few trips to places not visited in a long time.  One such outing recently was to Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down, not far from the coast at Newcastle.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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It was fresh and cool day and we were glad we had taken a flask of tea and some cake.  On leaving to return home we were presented with a beautiful view of the Mourne Mountains.  What a lovely way to finish the morning.

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A walk around the Estate

A few weeks ago we visited a private house and gardens that we had never been to before, the Montalto Estate near Ballynahinch. Although it was cold the day remained dry. Here are some of the photos that I took.

View from Edenavaddy Hill where the Battle of Ballynahinch took place in 1798

A Garden Full of Butterflies

We have a very small garden, more like a back yard, so earlier this year I did a short survey to discover how good our garden was at attracting pollinators. The results informed me that our garden was really only as good as a window-box! I couldn’t believe it and so made a great effort to add pollinator friendly plants into the two existing borders and many more into pots. Foxglove, Scabious, Hebe, Hardy Geranium and Verbena to name a few.

Now here we are in Autumn and lots of pollinators have been visiting.

(Autumn)

A windless day —

On top of every flower,

A butterfly.

Small Tortoiseshell on Verbena bonariensis

It worked! Also, because of the pandemic I thought it would be wise to plant some vegetables in pots and containers. Salad leaves and radish have been a success, they are so easy to grow, but I experimented with beans, turnips and carrots. Some successes, but the turnips have had all their leaves eaten by a huge army of caterpillars.

The butterflies we’ve seen are Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Small White and Speckled Wood. Seven different species is probably still a low number but it is an urban garden, but if I can find a few more spaces to plant some more pollinator friendly plants, then next year might be even better. More pots too! On one particular afternoon I counted at least 15 butterflies. It was such a joy to see them and a blessing to have them fluttering all around us whilst we sipped afternoon tea.

Of course, there are lots of other pollinators like bees and hoverflies visiting the garden but I don’t know many of their names.

Are you trying to encourage nature into your garden?

Ashley

Autumn’s Days!

a speckled wood on hebe

Along with the butterfly in this photograph, a Speckled Wood, there are lots of bumblebees on the Hebe.  They are all harvesting what they can for the winter season to come.

The days are shorter but still they are warm.  In the background, I can hear a Wood Pigeon calling, also Swallows and House Martins chittering above me as they search for food.  A solitary Buzzard whistles as it circles on the thermals high, high above and the bamboo wind chimes on the fence, rattle lazily.

 

Bee’s hums,

Wind’s chimes,

Autumn’s days.

 

I haven’t been able to write much, so far this month, as I have been busy in the garden.  So, as the sun is still shining, I’m able to sit between chores and absorb the sights and sounds of the afternoon.  In one of those moments this ‘sound-bite’ came to me.  The wording in my verse may be a little odd but it works for me, if it is said slowly.

Ashley