Taking a leap of faith…

In indigenous cultures nature is full of meaning and symbolism. We can learn from this and follow our own intuition using nature as a guide. Using nature for reflection is a useful tool.

Recently on my allotment we found a very docile grasshopper. We were able to get close up and inspect him / her and the wonderful markings.

As is usual for me, I became intrigued with grasshoppers and crickets (and the differences between them) if you want to know more follow this link. It certainly gave me plenty of inspiration for my field notes.

Whilst researching I also came across a fun page on animal totems and spiritual connections. Apparently if you encounter a cricket you can expect good fortune and you should decide whether to take a leap of faith. It is also representative of finding your true voice.

Having spent some wonderful days delving into books, writing poetry and working on prose for my PhD recently, I will take this as a sign that I am on the right track!

Discovery of the week: Mysterious Toadstone Amulets

This week I was delighted when my daughter found a baby toad under a patch of grass on the allotment. A beautiful little creature, satisfyingly compact and full of character. (Don’t worry he was safely returned to his hiding place a few moments later).

I was doubly delighted to discover the poem Toad by Norman MacCaig via a Twitter feed. The last verse of the poem reads:

A jewel in your head? Toad,
you've put one in mine,
a tiny radiance in a dark place.

I love a poem that raises questions. ‘A jewel in the head?’ had me intrigued. A quick google later I discovered there is such a thing as a ‘toadstone’ a highly polished stone which was thought in medieval times to hold magical powers and act as an amulet. They are in fact fossilised fish teeth! There is a great article here if you want the technical fossil info.

A toad stone was thought to sweat if venom or poison was detected and protect the wearer from the effects. My favourite part of the information on the ‘Wartski’ web page is that in ‘1658 the English cleric Edward Topsell suggested a method of harvesting toadstones by placing a toad on a red cloth and waiting for it to cough up the stone.’

Fascinating!

I once read of a toad that lived in an enclosed courtyard in France for 50 years, quite happily, it sounds like an urban myth, if only I could find the article again! Ah well 🙂 I will satisfy myself with the thought of magical toadstone amulets instead.

Find of the week… Song Thrush / Mistle Thrush / Blackbird?

This week we found a nest in the lean to against our shed. On peeking in I thought at it was a Mistle Thrush, but on further investigation I think we may have a blackbirds nest (also a type of thrush).. This got me researching the difference between the – Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush and also discovering that they can cross breed.

Here is a poem I created from my findings!

Mistle Thrush

Mistle Splashed

Throstle

Sound Spilling

In undulating notes

And stops.

Storm Cock

Wing Tipped

Lightning bodied

Warbler.

Fiercly guarding

Jewelled Berries

Throaty Rattle

Hedgrow

Warning.

Wednesday’s Trend…

Today was the second to last creative writing course that I will be running for St Nicks in York.

A bitter sweet day this is where my writing journey began six years ago and where I have worked with such an inspiring and lovely group of people.

I’m leaving to give more time to my independent freelance writing and PhD, but I will certainly miss it. This morning our creative writing tasks reflected the experience of writing at St Nicks. One of my lovely participants wrote that coming every week is his ‘Wednesday Trend’ to be in nature. I love those words.

Going forward I am going to continue the Wednesday Trend of connection with nature – taking a break from studying and writing to connect with the natural world.

The class will continue to run and will be hosted by my amazing colleague / friend Griselda who is also an artist and writer, so York friends please do get in touch with St Nicks if you are interested in joining them.

Here are some beautiful pics from St Nicks this morning… take care! Em 🙂

Hermit Crabs – a new favourite!

A couple of weekends ago we travelled to Fife and spent some time along the rocky shores of the villages along the Fife Coastline.

My youngest child adores rock pooling and her absolute obsession was to find a hermit crab. Luckily, there were many! Imagine her surprise when this little fellow ( I have no idea the gender of this little crab) thought he was about to be eaten and shot out of his shell to make an escape back to the rock pool!

Don’t worry we placed him back where we found him and the crab slipped right back inside the shell. We were really surprised at the long soft tail of the crab – I’ve since discovered that hermit crabs are more closely related to lobsters than crabs. There is a great article here

A final gorgeous note. I once read somewhere that larger hermit crabs often have a sea anemone attached to their shell. The anemone feeds off the debris from the crab’s meals and in return protects the little crab from predators. When the hermit crab moves shell the anemone will move to the new shell too! Buddies for life ❤️ A quick google search brought another article up all about this – for anyone intrigued click here.

Finding some peace at the plot…

Last week I was late getting around to writing, mainly because I wasn’t feeling well. On Saturday morning I was in agony and struggling to stand up straight due to a bad back. I emailed the GP asking for an urgent review and then I went for a walk to loosen things up, when I came home I decided to lay down on the sofa to rest and something literally slid / clicked / slotted (I’m not sure which) back into place and I’ve been so much better since. Phew!

Feeling much better we spent most of the weekend at our allotment, taking a complete break from home and a change of scenery was so welcome. I even managed to finish a book and our faces, my heart, brief as photos by John Berger. This book was so evocative, thoughtful and dream like, it was exactly the inspiration I needed to get going again.

Yesterday evening I sat down with my research and began placing together fragments of a story that is emerging from lots of trial writing. I finally feel like it is starting to form a shape and coming together. I’m hoping to get my little shed back in order at the plot so that I can make myself a little writing space free from other distractions and somewhere that feels different to working from home where I am too tempted to answer emails and my phone.

Else where last week when I was able to get outdoors I loved seeing the new blossom, snails crowded into the split of a tree and fungus growing like flaking paper from a log.

Goals for this week:

Wednesday – Tutorial check in.

Four hours PhD research / reading time.

Writing, writing and more writing….

I hope that you had a good week too. Here’s to more writing…. and less lazing about like Stripes who is a total goof ball.

Creating Silence….

‘Silence is the new luxury. Silence is more exclusive and long lasting than other luxuries.’ Erling Kagge

It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this the day before the children go back to school. It seems that two parallel experiences have been going on during the pandemic, either intense isolation, or intense company. I have been experiencing the latter.

By silence Erling Kagge was not speaking of literal silence. He was speaking of silence in a busy world with so many distractions and so many things vying for our attention. To just be for a moment, with no demands, to lose ourself in a moment, to have time to think.

Lockdown has given us a strange silence. An unexpected pause from our busy lives, a chance to simplify. For some this has been too quiet, For myself it has created a different kind of busy – one where I get snatches of time to do things and one where I have had to really consider my priorities. It has given me time to realise how much I was trying to cram into the short hours of a school (when the schools were open) and how challenging it has been to try to continue to work and study and also ensure my family have what they need. I have realised that silence is a luxury in a busy life and it is also an essential, to create space for thought and creativity, to pause.

Thinking about my research I realise that I was so caught up in the many strands of what I could do, that I almost lost sight of what I actually wanted to do, because of all the possibilities that I had started to unravel. A bit like cooking a fancy meal, only to get it all dished up and realise that the table still needs setting while the food is going cold.

To continue my research I need to start again at the end. I need to set my table and my expectations and then I need to build my ingredients and get cooking. Up until this point I have been looking at all the possibilities and getting overwhelmed by the many opportunities. To keep writing weekly is to stay focused on the end goal.

Last Sunday I wrote that my goal was to finish a book that I had started and to write 500 words. I have completed the words and finished a book; Silence in the Age of Noise. It wasn’t the book I intended to read, never mind finish, but it turns out it was exactly the book that I needed.

Goals for this week:

  • Write another 500 words.
  • Finish another book.
  • Email 1000 words to my tutors.