Here we are,On the hill of summer;
The longest day.
This is a verse I published last year and it so I happened that I was in the same place yesterday where my verse came to me! I hope you don’t mind me repeating it? When I first wrote it, I’d been browsing through one of my favourite books, The Hill of Summer by J.A. Baker. I just love the descriptive writing in that book. Baker is probably better known for his extraordinary book, The Peregrine.
(The title of J.A. Baker’s book, The Hill of Summer, comes from a line in A.E. Housman’s poem A Shropshire Lad.)
For several years my writing has been aligned to the four seasons, and in following the seasons more closely, I believe that I have changed too! Towards the end of December last year and through the Winter Solstice, I became aware of the need to return to a journey that began many years ago!
The Winter Solstice is a time when our inner wisdom moves out of the dark unconscious into the slowly increasing light. We can name our dreams and allow them to expand as the new year brings light and warmth.
Not so long ago I read a biography of Tenzin Palmo and some of her words resonate with me now as I write:
The purpose of life is to realise our spiritual nature, to go away and practice, to reap the fruits of the path, otherwise you have nothing to give anyone else.
You can find out about her here:
I have been writing for a very long time, since my teenage years, but I also have a passion for the visual arts especially illustration, and as we approach Imbolc at the end of January, I am reminded that intuition, inspiration, and the healing powers of this celebration of the life-force need to be addressed. Imbolc, Candlemas, Brigid’s Day, the earth awakening; these things are approaching.
I also think of Anthony Gormley’s words:
In creating art, participating in it, doing it, we become our true selves.
In one of the breathing exercises that I’ve been reading about recently, it was suggested that as I reached the fullness of my in-breath, I should pause, for just a moment, before exhalation. Noticing this pause would help to quieten the mind if practiced regularly.
Now, I’m only at the beginning of this journey but during my first attempts of this practice, my thoughts were taken right back to my childhood, to the swing tied to a big sycamore tree in the back garden. When alone, it was always exciting to see how high I could go; backwards and forwards, higher and higher!
Do you remember such moments, magical moments? For a second you floated, before gravity pulled you back towards the earth. This is what I recalled when I first started mindful breathing; a moment of wonder.
Today, I’m thinking of another magical moment, the winter solstice. I know the exact moment when the short dark days change to being longer and brighter, but being outside in the garden this morning, listening to the birds, I was aware of the underlying energy. A time of transition from cold and dark to growing warmth and light!
Why not celebrate this wonderful moment, this shift in the cycle of life and open yourself to being a part of Nature.
A woven garland,
Dressed with evergreens,
Hanging on an open door!
Even though I know it is dark outside, I open the curtains. I can’t see much except the rain which sparkles on the window, reflecting the street light; a nightscape of melting stars. Sunrise is still two hours away. I close the curtains and go back to bed!
This was a few mornings ago and now it seems like the shorter days and longer nights are gaining ground, quicker than I had expected.
After rainy days, mists!
Opening the curtainsNo trees can be seen;Morning mist!Morning mist,Hides the pond;Plop!
Original picture: Arina Krasnikova (Pexels)
In a couple of days time, it will be Samhain, the ending and beginning of the Celtic New Year. Some also see November as the start of winter and certainly here on these islands, British Summer Time will end when we turn our clocks back by one hour on the last day of October.
The change in the amount of light means we will adjust, perhaps unconsciously, to the earth’s dark and mysterious energies.
We have passed the height of summer and now we are rolling steadily downhill towards winter. Still, the sun is hot and the bees and butterflies continue to drink nectar from the remaining flowers. The wasps however are confused by the scent of merlot in my glass.
With fewer insects to eat,
They focus on the picnic.
White, cotton wool clouds move slowly across the sky as I watch the oak tree lift its branches for the breeze.
Clouds move by,
As a breeze stirs the trees;
With only a little wind, the atmosphere is peaceful. The current troubles of humanity and the world seem far away, diminished, allowing the sounds from around the garden to soothe me.
It’s early September, and it’s been dry for many days.
The sweet scent of newly cut grass,
As harvest begins.
In only a few weeks time it will be the autumn equinox (22nd September) here in the northern hemisphere, when day and night will be of equal length. A time to celebrate nature’s abundance and a time to plant seeds within ourselves so they may be incubated through the winter months to be re-born in the spring.
I’d just finished reading Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard when I saw this photograph on Flickr. The book is about the author growing up in the forests of British Colombia, Canada. Later, whilst working in the forest service in the 1980s she discovered that trees communicate below ground through networks of fungi, and she writes about the struggle she had to convince others of her findings. Nowadays, most people in conservation know about the enormous impact that mycorrhizas have on a plants ability to exist; Simard’s work was ground-breaking. It is an amazing and brilliant book, written by an amazing and brilliant woman.
The picture was taken by Carol aka 奇芍 on 23rd July 2021 and published on Flickr in her Sunday Art series of photographs and she has generously allowed me to reproduce it here. The following summary of Maya Lin’s work is also by Carol:
“Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, a towering stand of forty-nine haunting Atlantic white cedar trees, is a newly-commissioned public art work. Lin brings her vision as an artist and her agency as an environmental activist to this project, a memory of germination, vegetation, and abundance and a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change. The height of each tree, around forty feet, overwhelms human scale and stands as a metaphor of the outsized impact of a looming environmental calamity.
In nature, a ghost forest is the evidence of a dead woodland that was once vibrant. Atlantic white cedar populations on the East Coast are endangered by past logging practices and threats from climate change, including extreme weather events that yield salt water intrusion, wind events, and fire. The trees in Ghost Forest were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
The magnitude of planetary vulnerability is a significant subject in Lin’s practice through sculpture, installation, and her web-based resource, What Is Missing?. Now two generations removed from the Earthwork artists of the 1960s and 1970s, Lin is taking on rural and urban outdoor space with a focus on geology and the fragility of the earth’s ecosystem.”
In November this year the UK Government, along with Italy, is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. It would be a poignant reminder for all the world’s leaders if Maya Lin’s work was on show in Glasgow, at the entrance, so that everyone attending had to approach through the Ghost Forest! Perhaps then the world’s leaders might appreciate what is happening to the planet.