31st May 2017 : Verona Bass
A Story by the Fireside at Trelay
It had to be the right story (click link to read Verona’s story) for the community’s 10th anniversary to celebrate Trelay Farm Eco-village near Crackington Haven in Cornwall. I saw the project take off before 2007 when a good friend had the idea, and encouraged her to do it. It’s taken a lot of ‘doing’ and is a thriving place. This late May evening had a Sixties theme for dressing up just to make everybody try and look colourful. I had no prior notice of this so I don’t look very Sixties but I reckoned I was a living relic so that was allright.
I was asked to offer a story at the fireside out of doors after we’d had the buffet, speeches and photos. There were several children there, and I knew it had to work for them too. I had ‘found’ my story on a walk through Rocky Valley and along a cliff edge past flowering gorse and thrift on the coast path. The fable of an eagle who thought like a chicken, who was liberated from being confined with chickens after being rescued after a storm by the chicken farmer, came to me. I researched online, and then I wrote it up in my own words, so that I could make it part of me…
The fire blazed high with old pallets, waste wood, dried gorse etc. When I had the go-ahead to start, I found my position at an angle to the fire, not so close as to get burned, and to avoid the sun’s direct glare onto my face. The sun was still high, behind people, and almost blinding. The audience were mostly sitting on rough benches and by wooden picnic tables, or on the ground, maybe thirty people including children. It was a sylvan scene, with some large trees nearby and a green backdrop. The children were clustered on a rug in the centre and I kept addressing them to try and keep them with me. A couple of adults encouraged the very youngest to join with the refrain. It was told in an adult manner without a patronising children’s type of voice, though.
My introduction was a short enigmatic piece by Christopher Logue, a Sixties literary character, which seemed appropriate to get them used to my voice first, and set the scene.
Come to the Edge.
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
And he pushed,
And they flew.
I then went straight to the fable’s theme by asking everybody to practice the refrain first:
‘Eagle, You are an Eagle. You belong, not to the earth, but to the sky; Stretch out your wings and fly.’ (Only I offered a simpler version which lacked the rhyming element, saying ‘You belong to the sky, not to the earth’, and I regretted that, as they would have got it, and enjoyed the rhythm more.)
I felt the ‘Awen’ as the story progressed, because I lost the sense of ‘me’, and became the vessel for the story, and whatever it gave to people. I pictured the scenes in my head, and raised my arms high as the eagle stretched out his pinions and took off from the mountain top, till he became a speck. I was thanked for the story, even the next day, and that is the reward.
23rd May 2017 :Sue Sims
An Australian autumn
In the middle of April, Chris and I flew to the other side of the world and found ourselves experiencing an Australian autumn. It was warm and sunny most days, very much like an English Summer at its best. This was our first visit to Australia and we spent our time in Western Australia; Perth, Kalgoorlie and Margaret River. For me it was particularly interesting to reflect on the fact that I could have been born in Perth. Back in the nineteen fifties my father had wanted to emigrate. In fact he went so far as to book ten pound passages for himself, my mum and my sister. But Mum did not want to go and put her foot down firmly. Apparently Dad did not forgive her easily. On a trip to Fremantle we saw the very spot that the ships from England docked and the tour guide mentioned the ten pound passage. I had a very strange feeling at that moment.
Australia felt very British and we felt comfortable there. It felt sad though that there is so little left of aboriginal culture. In Perth I don’t think we saw single person who looked like they were of aboriginal descent. We did see some in Kalgoorlie though and in Margaret River. In fact a highlight of our trip was spotting an Aboriginal cultural centre and stopping to visit. The woman in charge gave us an impromptu tour of the grounds and a tiny, yet enlightening glimpse into an almost lost culture. She described the slaughter of her people, the Wardandi people as genocide as indeed it was.We were struck by the folk remedies she described and how the people took just what they needed and no more from their environment. Below is a photograph of a smoke hut still used by the women in a ritual designed to relieve worries and stress.
16th May 2017 :John Richardson
the making of prayer
(In praise of the cherry blossom by John Richardson)
This tree has no need of words; there is music here.
Autumn had made for her a leisurely disrobe,
winter fashioned a shroud, bereft nights
left her silent, naked and drear
under white blankets she slept upright,
patient, having faith that greening again
would come, after the sun, after the rain,
budding tiny fists furled tight with promise,
each miniature star burst – a sky kiss,
make this, our longed for, welcome prayer.
Not needing words, she sings earth’s music;
dances on air.
14th May 2017 : Sue Boyle
Sad postscript to the spider study below. This afternoon’s hailstorm washed away the two colonies and their supporting webs. The few remaining spiders are attempting to regroup, but there seem to be too few of them to succeed. Like Mark’s ducklings, they too have probably fallen victim to the horrors of the spring.
13th May 2017 : Sue Boyle
Almost fluorescent yellow with a single round black blob on their backs, the spiders are the produce of the common Araneus diadematus – or cross orbweaver – species, which lays anywhere from 300 to 800 eggs each autumn. The mothering spider then cements her minuscule eggs together by covering them in a dense layer of coarse protective yellow silk and detritus – fragments of dead organisms and fecal matter – to protect them over the winter until they hatch in spring and early summer. These two adorable clusters hatched a day or two ago on the Southfield garden mint. It doesn’t quite feel like an invasion…..but do check out below….
7th May 2017 : Mark Haworth-Booth
Spring on the pond
Eighteen wild ducks spent the winter on our pond – most were born here last year – and recently a pair of them produced a clutch of 14 ducklings. The nest was in a well-chosen site, concealed by the quite thick curtain of ivy close to our back door. I fed the mother duck surreptitiously so that the others didn’t notice. One early morning, on my way to the summer house where I read and write, I came across the new family making their way across the lawn in the direction of the pond. My wife has fenced our garden against rabbits so I opened a gate and the ducks were able to continue towards the water and relative safety – I have seen foxes take ducklings in the blink of an eye. So far so good.
I went to check on the new arrivals a few hours later and they had disappeared. I was pretty sure that they had made for a nearby stream below us on our neighbours’ property – mother ducks sometimes do this because they fear that drakes will murder a rival’s offspring. Sure enough, my neighbour appeared later with a gorgeous duckling cupped in his hands – the only pure yellow one in the clutch. He had found it cheeping loudly in his vegetable garden by the stream. There was no sign of the rest of the family. I cupped my hands and received the lost infant, thanking our kind neighbour for Saving Private Duckling. I was very aware of the tiny heart beating and the only just formed wings ready to flap out of my grasp. I held the duckling while my wife found a box, wire netting to cover it, and some straw. Despite the ground-up chicken pellets and bowl of water provided, the duckling hurled itself again and again at the top of the box. It was intent only on escape and returning to its family. In fact, I soon found them, resting at the side of the pond among the reeds. When I placed the duckling close to the mother it turned back in my direction but the duck made some quiet quacks and the prodigal re-joined the brood.
I have placed a couple of rafts on the pond so that the ducks can roost in safety. However, the next morning there were only nine ducklings, the morning after only five, the next day two. Two remain, a week after that clutch of fourteen first made its appearance, one being the pure yellow one, aka Blondie. The mother seems uninterested in them but they doggedly traipse after her and the drake. Maybe now there are only two ducklings they can sleep safely at night under her wings. I walk down to the pond each morning fearing the worst. I shan’t forget cupping my hands around that small, urgent, bundle of life.
After writing that this morning, I went down to the pond to fill the birdfeeders and check on the ducks: now only Blondie survives from the clutch of 14 ducklings hatched only a week ago.
7th May 2017 :Janet McClean