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dogwood 2

February

There’s going to be a fair amount of catching up to do on the blog as I try and fill in the missing months! To start here are the remaining photos in the Nature photography challenge I took part in back in February, this was to post a photograph a day for seven days.

As I did nothing but travel to work and back I had to concentrate on the garden, so we had dogwood in the early morning sunshine. There’s something about the slanting light that brings out the vibrant colour.

This was followed by a tiny clump of moss, about 2cm across that was beginning it’s bid to envelope an old pallet at the end of the garden. I do love moss, I think it’s the idea of a miniature world. It reminds me of making tiny gardens in an old seed tray when I was a child. I adore mini flowers too like speedwell and violas, and alpines, oh and tiny succulents … well you get the idea!

Moss

The next day we had more really bad weather and I had to find a bit of nature indoors. This amaryllis bulb was a present from a friend, if you look after them amaryllis will flower every year, but there’s no denying that for 11 months out of twelve you will end up looking at two or three floppy leaves, which I always find rather sad. I must admit, that with the odd exception, I do prefer garden plants over houseplants!

Amaryllis

The last day I took a shot of the largest of the three oak trees at the bottom of our garden. It’s my guardian tree. I sit against it’s trunk to meditate. It stands over my stone circle, there is a Faery Altar at it’s foot and there are entrances to Other Worlds in it’s roots

I really enjoyed this challenge as it made me change the way I look at things. It’s too easy to get in a rut, and walk around with blinkers on, it was good to see things with fresh eyes.

An Away Day

crewe crem

Yesterday I was allowed out of the Office to attend a meeting, and had a day out at Crewe Cemetery. It’s only the fourth time I’ve been over and it was a chance to see the results of the new revamp. I think it’s an improvement on the original building but it’s pretty stark, it desperately needs some greenery to soften the edges.

The new stonework is a wonderful red sandstone which glitters in the sun. It has some black streaks through it, which provides a bit of interest, although it does remind me of tyre marks. The wall in the background left of centre has a Perspex roof along it’s length on the other side (you can just see the top of it) which is to provide shelter for the mourners. Unfortunately looks like a huge smoking area!

This is what it looked like before, courtesy of the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian:

We just had a few minutes to look around the interior between services and I couldn’t take a lot of pictures. Another reason I was a bit restrained was the fact that I was accompanying a photographer and had to keep getting out of his shots. Plus it was a bit embarrassing snapping away with my camera phone when he had the whole kit and caboodle!

My favourite part of the building were these stained glass windows which have benefited from the extra light now the old canopy has been removed.

stained glass 2

The sunlight was bouncing colour off the newly painted white walls – previously these had been an awful pale green.

stained glass 3

There were some religious windows closer to the nave of the chapel which were the same vibrant colours, but for me were spoiled by the subject matter. Crewe Crematorium still has it’s Christian altar under the window behind the catafalque which I find rather incongruous when most public places try hard to accommodate everyone by having no religious symbolism at all At our Crematorium we got rid of the rather dreary and depressing Christian oil paintings years ago, there’s no altar, and the rather small wooden cross can be shoved in a cupboard if necessary!

stained glass

These nature windows are just fantastic, wonderfully druidic!

 

image

Hello!

Just popping by to say that I saw my first swallows of the year today! Poor things must be wondering if they made a mistake, the weather is perishing.  Although we’ve had bright sun, blue skies and white fluffy clouds, these have alternated all day with heavy hail showers, snow and thunder.

This year I spotted the swallows two days before I did in 2015. There were three of them flying over a farm near Holmes Chapel and coming to rest on the telephone wires –where else! It seems summer has well and truly arrived.

This year’s swallow poem is by an American poet, Leonara Speyer 1872-1956:

 

Swallows

They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.

Valentine Day Frogs

pond

We’ve had a few days of beautiful dry and sunny weather. My mum said she heard the local weatherman report that the North West only had three days without rain between October and February so you can imagine how pleased we are to see blue skies!

To celebrate Mr Stoatie and I took the netting off the ponds before the frogs decided to get amorous and move around looking for fun – we have a constant worry that they might get trapped in the nets if we leave it too late. There was just one female frog in the large pond closest to the house, but the small top pond had seventeen snoozing in the mud and leaves, including a couple who were clinging together.  It is always difficult trying to hold frogs at the best of times, but mucous and mud coated ones add extra comedic effect. As did the layer of ice that came off with the net and which meant we also struggled with freezing cold hands.

It doesn’t seem to matter how we organise the poles and floats, or how tight we peg the netting, leaves still seem to gather and sink below the surface, and that’s where the frogs choose to dream out the winter. At least we can hoick the leaves out easily, oak takes so long to decompose that they’re still intact too.

The photo above is one I took for a facebook challenge – to post a nature picture every day for seven days. It’s the reflections in the top pond, taken before we removed the netting. The wind ruffling the net created some wonderful effects. I’m only half way through the challenge, it’s making me really have to look at the garden carefully (since I haven’t been out anywhere interesting), which can only be for the good. My other pictures so far are:

Collared Dove

A Collared Dove. When we first moved here, we used to have 10-15 of these Collared Doves in the garden at the same time. As the Wood Pigeons increased, the doves disappeared, and now we only have a single pair. The species are Southern European in origin, but have been slowly spreading northwards (an early climate change indicator maybe?) The first pair arrived in the UK in the mid 1950s and their descendants have been spreading round the country ever since. I wonder if they’re getting crowded out now the farmers don’t shoot pigeons anymore.

Crocus 1

Early Crocus. We have several clumps of these around the garden now, they seem to self seed easily which is great. The other blooms we have out at the moment are snowdrops, polyanthus, heather, and a completely out of sync liverwort!

Redwood

redwood

We were lucky enough to have blue skies and sunshine this morning after what seems like weeks of grey rain and I was seduced into having a walk during the lunch hour. It was absolutely perishing! One of the highlights was our single redwood glowing in the sun. When the Town Council announced the purchase of land to build a municipal cemetery in the early 1860s, one of the local gentry was so excited by the idea that he bought three specimen trees to plant in it. Unfortunately construction was quite a way off and the council decided that the trees would have to be planted in the Park (which is next door) instead, “at his own cost.”

This Wellingtonia is in the valley between the Cemetery and the Park and I think this may well have been one of these trees. In the same area there’s also a Cedar of Lebanon, and until recently a Chilean Pine. Coincidently three of the most threatened evergreens in the world in their natural habitats.

snowdrops 2

We’ve had a couple of days of ‘nice’ people visiting the Office which has made a change from the moaners and complainers we seem to have endured recently. There have been a few folk researching their family tree, one gentleman had been round several cemeteries and told me how pleased he was to locate a great grandparent at Stockport – buried between a Whalley and a Nutter!

 

Calanais 3 - 1

Back to the Western Isles! This is the first of three posts about our day in the sacred landscape around Calanais (otherwise known as Callanish)

We started off by pulling into a layby at the side of the main road and walking across a field to the small stone circle of Cnoc Fhillibhir Bheagknown (also known as Calanais 3). There had been cattle in the field – although none were around when we visited thank goodness! – and the peaty ground was very badly poached and covered in cow pats. This meant that it was really difficult to get close to the stones and there was nowhere to sit!

The setting is pretty spectacular, they’re on a ridge of land overlooking the surrounding landscape with views looking north west across Cnoc Ceann a’ Ghàrraidh (Calanais 2) to the great circle of Calanais itself.

Calanais from Calanais 3

Calanais 3 is actually an ellipse  of thirteen stones (eight standing) surrounding an inner ellipse of four stones. The tallest is about 6 foot high.

Calanais 3 -3

Below is the view looking back to Calanais 3 from the stones of Calanais 2. You can see that they’re sat in quite an elevated position. The walk across to the second circle was a pretty boggy one!

Calanais 3 from Calanais 2

Fortunately the ground was better at Cnoc Ceann a’ Ghàrraidh. The stones here are really beautiful and very striking in appearance, and much bigger than Calanais 3. The tallest is around ten foot high.

Calanais 2 - 1

There are five standing stones, and two fallen. These form an ellipse which surrounds the remains of a cairn. In 1858 a metre of peat was removed to expose the stones and four post holes were discovered, which is thought to be evidence that the circle here had a wooden predecessor.

Calanais 2 - 2Calanais 2 - 3

This circle had a lovely atmosphere.

Calanais 2 - 4Calanais 2 - 6Calanais 2 - 5Calanais 2 - 7Calanais 2 - 8

Set by the shore of Loch Roag,  Calanais 2 is much lower than both Calanais 3 and Calanais itself, which was visible on the ridge of land on the other side of the Loch. Here’s a view of Calanais taken with a zoom.

Calanais form Calanais 3 -2

Bride Imbolc

The Wildwood held it’s Imbolc Ceremony last weekend, at our Grove on the Edge – as it’s dedicated to Bride it seemed fitting! The Bride doll is still in situ and has survived a year remarkably intact, although the large quartz point she was holding has disappeared. I’m thinking it may have slipped down into the bole of the tree – there is a deep hollow filled with water under the ledge where she sits. It’s rather comforting to think of it safely resting deep in the black water.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any fine Spring weather, just more rain, which took the form of one of those really drenching drizzles. Despite this we had a wonderful turn out, including two new folk –  I just hope getting so cold and wet hasn’t put them off too much! A hot drink at the cafe afterwards seemed to restore everyone’s spirits.

Lindsey had baked fresh bread and to this we added goats milk as an offering. We had grand plans to make Bride’s crosses from drinking straws but in the end it was just to cold and wet to stand around. Plus a few of us were beginning to lose the feeling in our hands!

As Bride is the goddess of poetry, we shared a few poems during the ritual. I read out this poem which I found on The Melbourne Grove’s Website:

 

The Quickening

Although the chill of winter

Is still settled like a cloak

Resting its cold folds upon the earth

Beneath, her heart is beating

Just waiting for the sign

That signals it is time for life’s rebirth

 

For the seed of light is growing

It reminds us of its warmth

Whisp’ring to new shoots to show their face

And the seed of life now quickens

Responding to its call

Stirring from within earth’s safe embrace

 

The wattle it hangs golden

See it gracing every bough

A promise of the spring that’s yet to come

And the life still lying dormant

Starts to shift in winter’s sleep

Responding to the newly growing sun

 

Each seed has rich potential

Now, to grow into new life

So set your year’s intent without delay

A time so rich with promise

Feel it echoed in our lives

May Brigit bless our growth and light the way

          Jowen, Imbolc 2009

 

We all felt the urge to set an intent for the year and spent a few minutes in contemplation before The Closing.

Imbolc Altar The poem I found for our ritual booklet was this one:

 

Kindling the Fire

This morning,

As I kindle the flame upon my hearth,

I pray that the flame of Brighid may burn in my soul,

And the souls of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice,

No hatred or fear,

May smother the flame.

I pray that indifference and apathy,

Contempt and pride,

May not pour like cold water on the flame.

Instead may the spark of Brighid light the love in my soul,

That it might burn brightly through the day.

And may I warm those that are lonely,

And whose hearts are cold and lifeless,

So that all may know the comfort of Brighid’s love.

 

I thought I’d include a photo from our Alban Arthan ritual which was also held on the Edge and which I missed writing up. We’re planning to resume our nomadic ways for the next nine months, so it will be a while before we hold ritual on the Edge again (although many of us visit the Grove on and off during the year to meditate, perform workings or make offerings) We will be holding our Alban Eiler ceremony on a sandy bank, close to a grove of hornbeams, in a piece of ancient woodland.  Just by the junction of two rivers which meander through our part of East Cheshire, can’t wait!

Altar

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