A Walk Through The Woods Looking For The Roots Of Love

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Yesterday was a scorcher! The temperature steadily rose throughout the morning until it reached its peak of 28 degrees. I’m not complaining. And compared to most of southern Europe that’s nothing! I liberally applied the factor 50 to my burning-prone skin and positioned my reclining chair in a sun spot to soak up some rays.

By coincidence I had just started reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson. ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ is an old book, first published in 2003, but one I had never bothered reading before because it’s about science. Nevertheless, I’d decided that anything that Bryson had turned his hand to must be worth a look, so look I did. I quickly became sucked into (not literally, obviously) black holes, galaxies, mind-bending facts about the universe and that ‘singularity’ that is theorised to have been the first moment of life. I found myself wishing that my science teachers of yesteryear had been able to engage me in this way. It has been an easy and fascinating read so far. I squinted up in awe at that great ball of fire in the sky that sustains life on our planet and which, according to Bill Bryson (and I have no reason to doubt him) appears as a tiny dim dot to those planets which orbit at the outer reaches of our solar system. Then it disappeared behind a huge grey cloud.

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the death of a close friend; a vibrant, gregarious, compassionate and funny woman who cycled or walked the three miles to and from work each day, climbed mountains and swam most lunch times – and had decided she was going to live to be a hundred. A ferocious illness seemed to come from nowhere and took her within weeks.

My friend loved nature and had a favourite woodland walk which is where her ashes were scattered. I don’t know exactly where as, quite rightly, her family carried out that last rite. I’m glad I don’t know, as she would have hated the idea of her friends standing, all maudlin, as if by a grave. Instead, some other friends and I decided to walk in her footsteps and joyfully remember happy times we spent together.

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We approached the trees through dense long grasses and wild flowers which had been left to do their thing, mostly undisturbed. In one or two places the vegetation revealed snaking paths where regular walkers had left their marks. We followed those, confident of solid flat ground and not wanting to disturb the terrain elsewhere. Once into the thick of the trees, the intense sunlight filtered through revealing ancient roots and branches. I have a treasured photo of my friend sitting in the midst of those branches, laughing her head off because I’d suggested she looked like she was in a web and I wasn’t sure If she was predator or prey.

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In a clearing we came across some bees feasting. I got a close-up of one.

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Life burst forth all around.

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Suddenly, the sun once again disappeared behind the cloud as we approached a dense grove between the trees. It seemed to mirror life itself where joy and sadness, light and dark co-exist, in harmony and in balance, side by side.

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Life blossoms and decays, and out of the decay comes new life. The circle must complete itself for life to continue. Our friend celebrated this truth, and we celebrate her.

We laughed at anecdotes we had shared so many times already but which had not lost their humour. That’s how our loved ones live on. Our friend once said she wouldn’t mind coming back as a butterfly but we didn’t see any. We did, however, find the strangest thing on the ground amidst the sprawling roots and crushed twigs: this piece of bark with what looked remarkably like a heart at its centre.

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I don’t expect I’ll read about friendships in Bill Bryson’s science book, but we’ll see. There are many scientific explanations for the bonds that we form and hold on to and celebrate, even beyond their physical endings. It’s part of being human and will continue as long as we inhabit the earth and spin around the sun. 🙂

Buzzing After The Rain

Yesterday was the longest day of the year. Recently it has felt most unlike summer here in the UK where we’ve experienced one of the wettest Junes on record. In some parts of the country rivers have burst their banks, turning surrounding areas into flood plains. More water has fallen on some days than usually falls in the whole month. Where I live, thankfully we have not had to endure the worst of the weather, but it has still been cold and wet a lot of the time. Happily, temperatures are rising again now. Yesterday – appropriately on the summer solstice – the sun shone all day. Today looks promising too.

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After a warm dry May, the first rainfall was a blessing, at least for parched gardens. The rain soon outstayed its welcome, but at least the blooms, quenched and invigorated, seemed grateful.

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I cleaned up, resprayed repurposed this old fire pit which I’d hardly used and had become a rusty mess

My garden is tiny but it gives me a lot of pleasure throughout the year. Summer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is my favourite time. I love foliage and, if I could only have one or the other, would choose lush evergreens over brightly coloured flora any day. Happily there is room for both.

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Whilst some plants won’t flower until July there are still brilliant displays of blue and purple amongst the green. I decided this year to work with nature and keep things very simple. Apart from a few pots of gloriously bold geraniums which I love and will always find a spot for every year, any new additions to the garden would be first and foremost chosen as a food source for pollinators.

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In one corner I had previously had a lot of containers. I decided to move most of them as some had long since stopped thriving or even growing at all, and some of the pots looked ugly. I very reluctantly discarded the worst of them and have kept others for reusing. Unfortunately, a solution has not yet been found for industrial  recycling of black plastic plant pots – at least in my part of world – which is very frustrating.

Early in the year I had attempted to train some early-flowering clematis up the fence but sadly, as with all other clematis I’ve planted in the past, it failed. I dug them up and put them back into pots and they still seem to be OK , so with a bit of luck they may flower again next spring. I’ve moved some herbs from their pots into the ground and they seem to be happy enough there. Scabiosa and salvia are enjoying the sun spot along with a variety of cat mint, Walkers Low, which is a real pull for the bees. I’ve left the French lavender in pots as that’s how it seems to grow best in my garden. The bees can’t get enough!

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I plan to place some annuals in the gaps, also pollinator- friendly varieties. I’ll review these each year as the perennials spread and gain height and the gaps hopefully become fewer. Hopefully, in a couple of years’ time, the little stepping stones will lead through an abundance of green and shades of blue and purple.

One of my favourite shrubs is the Caryopteris Heavenly Blue which I planted about three years ago. It is another bee magnet and exudes a heady sweet aroma which I love. I would like to plant more of this but because it spreads up to 1.5 metres I don’t think I have room in a sunny enough spot.

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I’ve sewn a few wildflower seeds in small pots and they have come on well. I can’t wait for the Nigella to bloom in a few weeks’ time. Another favourite aromatic container is the rosemary and thyme against the back fence. The little purple flowers are beautiful and another food source for insects.

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My arthritis has really flared up this year, exacerbated by a knee injury a couple of months ago, and although I love  my little plot the more physically demanding aspects of maintaining it can be very challenging for me. Rethinking my garden, reviewing what grows well and what doesn’t, going with nature’s flow and including more of what thrives easily and with minimal effort on my part is my new philosophy. I’ll be keeping it very simple, providing a banquet for nature if I can, and a place for me and the cats to relax now the rain has stopped. 😁