“It is so hard not to feel paralysed by despair at the world at the moment. I know it, I feel it. It is right to feel sad and angry, but, please, listen, you must let yourself feel joy too, alongside. Not instead of sadness, but with it. It’s how we survive.” – @porridgebrain on Twitter
Like naming the villain in the Harry Potter books, I do not even want to give words to the atrocities in the USA. I don’t want to mention his name.
Every country has its own important issues too, of course. Not all despair is global. Sadness, grief, worry, panic can overwhelm us all, for all reasons and none. There is no despair, no sadness lesser or greater. Just different.
Today could have been one of those despairing days. What is currently happening in the world exhausts me. I should have walked, but I didn’t have the energy.
I lay, instead, on my bed. I listened. I listened beyond the growl of the passenger jet overhead; the dull drone of the council lawnmowers; the idle gossip of overly loud neighbours on the street below.
I listened to the birds. Gulls wheeling overhead; blackbirds’ song. A song thrush high in the oak tree. The chatter of sparrows; a distant wren. The tinkling, waterfall call of a dunnock in our plum tree. I listened to the wind in the trees, the rhythmic swoosh of the leaves as they turned and twisted in the breeze, flashing pale undersides.
This evening was our last night of Forest School and our big prize-giving ceremony with badges and special awards. Three of our Beavers moved up to Cubs. We crossed them over a bridge near our camp-base to symbolise the crossing from Beavers to Cubs and all the adventures that lay ahead of them. I armed them with compasses as a leaving gift to aid them on their journeys. Their friends made a guard of honour for them to pass through before they were welcomed by the Cubs on the other side of the bridge.
It seemed far more special than an event like this in the hall, outside in the woods when generations of children before them have played and learned.
We also presented a special award to the Beaver Scout who, we felt, took the most from the Forest School experience. A copy of the beautiful ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris – a spellbook for a generation of children who are losing words for nature from their lexicon.
Through the mist of despair, there were so many smiles and so much laughter tonight in the woods. I hang on to these memories, I’ll never let them go.
Theme song for today’s post is this , maybe unsurprisingly.
My husband returned to work today after almost three months of unemployment; having been made redundant from his previous position. It has been lovely having company during the week; sharing small daily rituals – household jobs, trips to the shop; changing other rituals – making two coffees instead of one, sharing each other’s company on walks; but I realised that the longer he stayed home, the harder it would be for me to revert to doing my own thing peacefully and contentedly.
Today I was alone again. At first it felt strange, like when your parents first trust you to stay at home alone. There was a strange lightheadedness about me, a flutter of panic in my stomach – would I cope with spending the day without company again?
I decided that I would do something I haven’t done in years, and collect elderflowers to make a cordial. I’d been hoping to do it a few days ago, but it had been too wet; but today was bright and breezy so I thought it opportune to grab my wooden trug and head out before the large black cloud on the horizon caught up with me. I didn’t need to go far, we have a beautiful elder in our front garden, and this tree seems to have self-seeded throughout the estate, thanks to the local birds who love its berries so we have an excellent crop beneath pretty much every telegraph wire where the sparrows and starlings congregate.
Following advice, I cut the heads off as close to the flowers as I could; washed and drained them and have frozen them; and I will then add the frozen heads to the sugar syrup solution whilst it is hot, as this will prevent the petals turning brown as they defrost. Mary Berry swears by this technique, so I bow to her superior knowledge.
During the afternoon, I walked. I had been lazy yesterday following the midnight walk because my knee was sore so I’d used this as an excuse to loll about on the sofa and watch The Greatest Showman with a bag of ice on my knee. Today my hips ached, and as I hate any reminders of my increasing years, I thought a walk might help to loosen the area. As usual, I found myself in the woods; at the area we use for Forest School. I hadn’t been here since the storm and I was stunned to discover that I had difficulties keeping to the well-defined path from the gate; and then I missed where we usually branch off the path because there were so many blown leaves and broken branches down.
I sat, alone, next to the fire-pit area and looked at the signs of life all around me – the charred wood in the fire-pit; the neat piles of twigs, sticks and branches sorted by size for fires and dens. The dens themselves, built by the cubs the week before last, still standing proudly, valiant against Hector.
I sat and thought about how Wednesday will be our last night of Forest School for a year; and how the experience has made me so sure that concentrating on becoming a Woodland Leader is something I really want to do. I want to help to inspire children through nature; through having fun and adventures in the great outdoors. Reinvigorating their imaginations, making memories far beyond a trip to Nandos or reaching Level 654 of whatever game they are hooked on this week. Helping them to realise their potential – especially those skills and talents that simply cannot be learned in a classroom or be subject to examinations – and to learn that nature is something to love and embrace, not to fear or tame.
I thought I heard children’s laughter carry on the breeze.
Looking back on it now, the grief I felt for the after-effects of the storm melts away into pale insignificance in comparison to the power of one of nature’s most cruel twists of fate. Fire.
Nothing could be wilder than that which raged, uncontrollably, viciously, mercilessly through that beautiful building.
To me, the Mackintosh building was Glasgow. It was was the very image of everything I love about this city I call home. It was a quirky, unusual, with twists and edges you wouldn’t expect. On the outside it was a little strange looking to eyes unused to the Glasgow Style of Art Nouveau. A little misshapen, a little ugly, perhaps, to those more acquainted with William Morris and Mucha.
Yet it was filled with light, and hope, and dreams. It rose from the ashes, phoenix-like, in 2014, and we – its people – wrung out from the last fire – rejoiced in its rebirth, celebrated the way this dear, green place will bounce back from all that attempts to destroy it.
On Friday night we watched in horror, unbelieving horror, as this very epi-centre of our home was devoured.
On Saturday night, with those images from the news and social media feeds still fresh in our minds, our loss keenly felt; we met up at Ravenscraig to undertake a thirteen mile midnight walk to raise money for St Andrew’s Hospice. We would put aside our loss to think of other losses. Human losses, human lives.
I walked in memory of Ishbel. I hope she would be proud of me; and when the night – though never entirely dark at this time of the year – seemed blacker than ink (those wee small hours past midnight before the birds); when my steps got heavy and my breath became laboured; when I gritted my teeth and carried on plodding through the industrial and urban heartland of the central belt; I thought of her smile and her laughter and how much she is missed.
She loved nature as I do; and I could not wait for the dawn chorus after what seemed like hours of earth-silence; with just the low, tired chatter of fellow walkers and the passing of the marshalls’ cars and the occasional taxi down silent, lamp-lit streets. How eerie even the most populated area can be at this dark time. We had been spotting planets, we were blessed with cold, clear skies and saw Venus, Mars and Jupiter quite clearly throughout the night; but without the background noise of birds, I find such scenes – mixed with fatigue – make me feel even smaller and more insignificant than ever and, despite companionship of a lovely friend, there were times where I felt horribly alone.
Rounding the corner of the Liberty steelworks, we saw a fox trot off across the road, quite the dapper dandy rather than the skulking peaky blinder you’d expect on these old, tatty, work-booted streets far from the new-builds and the retail parks. A few moments later, a barn owl passed, languidly, silently overhead.
As the first light glimmered behind the forecourt of a car dealership; the first notes were that of a wren, closely followed by the blackbirds, and soon the air was full of morning, full of hope, full of the knowledge that we only had five or so miles left to put trainered foot after trainered foot. Chaffinch, song thrush, dunnocks in the hedges cheered us on and we felt the sun rise on our faces between the Shields Road tower blocks as the first curtains of the first risers opened to see us, resplendent in flourescent t-shirts and flashing deely-boppers, parading below them like an exhausted, lost hen party.
Crossing the finish line, receiving my medal and my cup of scalding coffee; my legs leaden but my body bathed, deliciously, in crisp dawn air, I pondered the loss of the Mackintosh Building.
That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Wild flowers bloom and spread throughout and despite the worst devastation and continue to inspire. A building may have died this weekend, but a movement, a people, a vision did not.
Inspiration and creativity lives on.
Storm Hector did more damage than we thought, and today was full of the monotonous drone of chainsaws removing dangerous, wind-damaged branches.
There are gaps now that trees used to fill. I see sky where before I heard the chatter of birds. The pavements are a graveyard of broken branches, of leaves broken in their prime, doomed to an early Autumn. I see nests smashed to the ground, and mourn.
I took no photos today. It didn’t seem appropriate. You don’t take photos at funerals.
Tomorrow evening I walk through the night and into the day. Thirteen miles, for charity. Since the storm I have been gripped with a cold, unsettling sense of dread. It creeps up the back of my neck and down my arms. I don’t know what has caused it, but it seems as though the storm has ruffled it, stirred it up. The storm has stirred up an animal deep inside, though I do not yet know whether this animal will stand up to whatever it faces, or turn tail and flee.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me.
Tonight was our Beaver Scout night, our last proper session of Forest School before we break for the summer.
Tonight was a Bonfire Log Chew to discuss what they had enjoyed the most of the last five weeks, and what they hoped to do more of, to help us plan future nights.
Tonight was hot-dogs and excited chatter; running through the trees; ad-hoc games and adventures and tales of ghosts lurking in the darker reaches of the woodland.
Tonight was dirty hands, muddy knees, heavy raindrops through a canopy of leaves.
Tonight was fire, and smoke, and caution and responsibility and common sense.
Tonight was s’mores and sticky faces, splinters, climbing trees, stick duels.
Tonight was laughter. Tonight was childhood in all its glory.
Tonight was precious.
This week has started turbulently; with panics and stresses eating away at my mind, and I am feeling decidedly off-kilter. I could easily have not written this today, and left it to combine with tomorrow’s post, but I know my personality well enough to know that it would have snowballed and ended up being one condensed post a week containing seven days worth of blogging or, knowing me, I would have given it up altogether and just continued with the #30DaysWild project using Instagram. Fact is, the process of settling myself down and writing every day is incredibly useful for me, because I am mostly lazy and undisciplined when it comes to writing and I hate myself for it.
The weather continues to be well above average for this time of year, though today we did have a sharp shower and some cloud for a time; though by mid afternoon you could feel the heat building again. It’s a breathless, gloopy, sticky heat; mop your brow weather that storms seem incapable of shifting.
Today has been a tense day politically as the Government seeks to overturn the Brexit amendments and lead this country down the creek without a paddle. It’s also the day that Child The First spends his first of two days induction at the secondary school he starts in August; and I am both fiercely proud of the kind, smart, confident and independent young man who is almost taller than me; and missing terribly the wee boy who would sit on my lap for cuddles, tell me enthusiastically about his day at nursery and make me read In The Night Garden to him over and over.
A happysad day, if you will.
When I feel like this, I go to the trees. There is plenty of evidence that being in green spaces, and particularly around trees can be beneficial to our mental, as well as our physical health. There is something calming, comforting, protective about trees. Shading us from harsh sun, protecting us from the worst of the rains, showing us the variety of living things that co-exist in a tree’s unique microcosm, reminding us of our place in the world, that we are no more important in the great scheme of things than the ants crawling along a bough, the tree-creepers deftly scrambling up and down the trunk, the mycelium deep underground performing symbiotic magic we cannot see.
Trees bring me back to the world, they are our oldest neighbours, our adventure playgrounds, our outdoor-study classrooms.
Trees inspire, trees protect.