Conker

The summer drifts away with every lengthening morning shadow; every peep of sun behind chimney pots, every dappling of wandered path. Mornings are finger tingling, dragon breathing, coats zipping, protestations against extra layers – not just yet do we wish to wave farewell to the warmth.

The woods are changing daily now. The stillness and the heady, heavy scent of Himalayan balsam are replaced by a breeze that carelessly brushes leaves to the ground as it rushes through the treetops, and pushes the Clyde against its current; fidgety ripples disturbing the reflection of the lowering sun on the water. A sun that fractures into a million tiny watery stars, then becomes two quicksilver flashing water dragons, racing each other to the sea, gamboling downstream.

I have a conker in my hand, though I don’t remember having picked it up. It is the smoothest thing I have ever touched, it is every rich brown I have ever seen. It is chocolate, and caramel, and the warmth of the red sandstone of this area of Scotland, my new home. It is home.

This conker is potential new life; a new world; an existence expectantly waiting in the wings.

And for a moment I am Mother Earth in wellies and wax jacket, holding this perfect potential in my hand. I could take it home for the mantelpiece, or I could be the giver of life, the giver of protection, of home, of warmth and sustenance within its growing form from a tiny sapling to a great horse chestnut , future mother-tree protecting all that shelter in, on and beneath her benevolent branches.

I push the conker into the ground, I become human again. Unimportant again. Nature will have its own stories to tell and existences to plot.

I walk on through the woods, pushed this way and that by the breeze.

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Join me on my other blog…

I am giving up social media (and alcohol!) for the whole of August. I’ll be concentrating on my other blog Potter And Pootle and blogging about how different life is without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Can that pre-social media world be rediscovered? Is it still there? Or are we too far gone along the path of checking for likes and getting involved in dramas now?

How will I – a self-confessed Twitter and Instagram junkie (FB I have a grudging relationship with) – cope without the pull of social media? What will it be like not knowing what my friends have had for lunch, how much they’ve spent on shoes, or how amazingly intelligent their children are? How will I manage without feeling the fury ignited by the rubbish spouted by thousands of Twitter trolls every hour of every day? How will I cope without filtered images of cakes, beautiful gardens and people looking ridiculously cool?

I’m walking down this path. You coming?

30 Days Wild – Day 30 – Moving On

And so we say goodbye to June. To flaming June, a June of far above average temperatures; of icy drinks; of heat bouncing from pavements and walls. Of walks to school without coats, of dinners in the garden and windows open all day long and song thrushes singing long into the night.

We celebrated with a cycle rather than our usual walk; and took the Cycle Route 75 through Newton down to the Clyde Walkway at Cambuslang.

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These are some of the areas of Glasgow that I love the most, the places that nature has reclaimed as her own; areas of peace and tranquility where once was industry. Yes, we can miss the industrial past, we can be angry for those who lost their livelihoods and neighbourhoods when pits and furnaces and steel-works and manufacturing plants silenced their monstrous, thundering machines and closed their doors forever. But we can also be glad that these areas are full of trees and birdsong; of hedgerows bursting with wildflowers and thronging with insects; where families can spend a Saturday together feeling miles from town although the motorway is merely yards away. It could so easily have been executive housing and yet more retail parks.

 

We cycled into Glasgow, we chatted and laughed. We cycled home again via the London Road and up through Uddingston. Twenty one miles round trip. Not a single grumble or moan from the children. They have asked if we can do it again tomorrow.

A precious day in a beautiful June.

 

 

 

30 Days Wild – Days 28 and 29 – Making plans

We are more than half way through the year already. It seems to have slipped by ridiculously quickly, a sign – I am sure – of my advancing years.

July is a strange month. The build-up to the Solstice is over. The nights are beginning to lengthen once more as we slide back towards Autumn. What was once vibrant, verdant and full of new life starts to look more tired. Dusty. Dull.

It has been hot here, remarkably so. Records have been broken. Even I – a lover of warmth and sunshine – have hidden indoors again the oppressive heat. Plants that normally battle through everything the weather can throw at it are struggling, wilting, fading.

I am feeling uneasy. School has finished for the summer holidays, we have no camping holiday to look forward to this year. I feel unsettled and rather out of sorts. I need to shake something up, make a change, do something just for me.

I have decided to walk 150 miles throughout July with Race At Your Pace. I undertook the 100 mile challenge in March and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite some dreadful weather. Walking helps my physical health, my mental health and my general outlook on life.

I need to lose weight; but most of all I want to become stronger, physically and mentally. I want to push myself. I need to challenge myself, but I am not a gym or a race-track type of person.

I am going to continue with #30DaysWild throughout July – shall we term it #61DaysWild? I may not blog as regularly as I have done; but during my daily walking I will look for beauty and wildness everywhere, wherever I walk. At the very least I will post it on my Instagram account; but the time to blog several times a week is, at least for now, over. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of writing every day (or every couple of days) but trying to sustain this pace would, essentially, kill my love of writing.

A new challenge awaits me on Sunday. A new chapter. I hope you will continue to wander, and wonder, with me.

I-go-to-nature-to-be-soothed-and-healed-and-to-have-my-senses-put-in-order-John-Burroughs

 

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 27 – Words, pictures and sounds for hot days

Words

“A tropic heat oozed up from the ground, rank with sharp odours of roots and nettles. Snow-clouds of elder-blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and flakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming, as though the sky were tearing apart.”  – Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie

Pictures

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Caterpillar of a Peacock butterfly, on nettle.

sunset

Summer dusk

 

Music

Vaughn Williams – The Lark Ascending

As the Nightingale Sang – Beatrice Harrison, the nightingale and Bomber Command

30 Days Wild – Day 26 – Unexpected Guests

We have swallows nesting in the potting shed, tucked up in the far corner. Rather than reading my book, I find myself mesmerised by their comings and goings; the speed with which they swoop and glide, deftly, in and out of the shed. Soaring, sweeping down, flashing blue in the dropping liquid orange sun, wings and streamers slicing up the warm air as they feast on insects.

Acrobats in a circus of summer. A limited run. Book now to avoid disappointment.

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Image by the staggeringly talented Kerry Buck

30 Days Wild – Days 22 to 25 – A blur of sound and movement

A day of post-solstice anxiety triggered in no small part by our elder son’s P7 Leavers’ Assembly. How quickly they grow, how little time they spend relying on you to guide their every move. How soon they become independent, following their own paths, their own dreams, their own visions.

I spent the afternoon with these thoughts whirring through my brain; I counteracted the anxiety with the sound of birdsong cascading down and through my open window as I lay on the bed pondering the fact that, in the natural world, all parents’ main objective is to bring up their offspring to become self-reliant and, in a short space of time, abandon the family group to forge their own. And thus the cycle continues.

Saturday dawned bright with a pleasant breeze, and brought with it the joys of our first Beaver Scout sleepover. It was exhausting, occasionally frustrating, but immense fun. Of all the events we laboriously planned, however, they were the happiest with an impromptu trip to the park. Play equipment was scrambled on, mole hills investigated, flowers and leaves identified, hills rolled down, and animal shapes spotted in clouds.

 

That night was hot. The children slept – after a fashion – in the main hall. I lay outside in my sleeping bag and watched the stars and listened to the night. The sound of the Clyde far below me; voices carrying far in the night air. Owls. I saw bats flicker deftly around the street-lamps. The neighbourhood fox padded across the compound, sniffed at the firepit no doubt hoping for a dropped sausage from our earlier supper. I, wrapped in my black three-season cocoon, remained unseen. Invisible, just another part of the nightscape.

I watched the stars twinkling, the moon get gradually more and more buttery as it slipped below the treeline. I watched the sky gradually cast off its night robes and bloom into indigo, I listened to the sky fill with the birds’ morning greetings.

Tonight we walked late, it had been too warm to go earlier. The boys cycled. I love the woods at dusk when the song thrushes are performing their showy solos and the crunch of the dry fallen leaves on the ground sound louder than bombs. The Clyde is the lowest I have ever seen it, an unseen landscape of river bottom stones and sandbanks making the view somewhat unsettling, that sensation of the overly-familiar suddenly showing a side you’d never expect. A sensation like you’re suddenly in the middle of a dream.

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 21 – Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
Robert Louis Stevenson
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30 Days Wild – Day 20 – When Despair Takes Over

“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.

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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.

 

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