Summer arrives with green forests, fragrant flowers,
and the soft breeze of growth and abundance…
Tell me what nature does for you?
It’s my lifeline…
What do you love about nature?
Summer arrives with green forests, fragrant flowers,
and the soft breeze of growth and abundance…
Tell me what nature does for you?
It’s my lifeline…
What do you love about nature?
Spring is the breath of new beginnings, of fresh green growth,
and the jewels of Mother Earth lifting their heads to nod in the breeze.
The first colours of spring appear to be green and white with splashes of blue, yellow, lilac, and pink.
Snowdrops are the first of Mother Nature’s little ones who peep through the frosty mornings to offer us the hope of spring. Hellebores, Christmas roses, throw out their very best with simple flowers and fancy doubles. They’re quickly followed by tiny crocuses and narcissus and then full blown, blousy daffodils.
Fresh growth on trees as they begin to dress with buds of lime-coloured leaves and blushes of blossom. Magnolia will be one of the first to robe its trees with a flush of ivory or pink, and cherry blossom won’t be long to follow. Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn is one of the first clusters of pink to flower on shrubby twigs with a scent to linger beside.
Primroses and cowslips adorn the meadows and gardens with tiny sunshine flowers, and white wild anemones unfurl their fairy wings in woodlands, right before bluebells carpet the forest floor. Vinca (periwinkle), and forget-me-nots begin the blue, with chinodoxa and primula.
Wild oxalis, garlic, violets, and campion spread through the countryside, and ragged robin nods its shaggy head in the warmth of spring. Valerian pushes through wherever it can, determined and strong, and mallow and aquilegia begin to clothe our gardens. Belle Etoile (philadelphus – mock orange) fragrances the air with beauty and heaven, and lastly, spring tulips will open as the sun dances – and heralds the hope of summer.
What is Spring to you?
Which flower do you look forward to most?
Sometimes a book resonates with an emotional response you didn’t expect,
but it draws you in and you fall in love – Carol Lovekin’s Ghostbird does just that.
I don’t often blog about books, the last times I did were The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt and I have to be enchanted or moved before it hits these pages. My reading genres are eclectic, I like a bit of everything, but I fall heavily for beautifully written fantasy, a little romance, and quirky magic.
I was browsing my books and read the caption on the reverse of Ghostbird from Rebecca Mascull who said ‘Carol Lovekin’s prose is full of beautifully strange poetry.’ and I began reading.
This is the tale of Cadi, who doesn’t know who she is. She’s never been told anything about her father, she can taste the cloying secrets, and she is determined to uncover and break the spells about her. Her mother, Violet, is distant and lost, and her aunt, Lili, is bound by a promise she desperately wants to break.
The Hopkins women are well known in their little Welsh village, and they are surrounded by a cloak of mystery, flowers, magic, and a little bit of local scandal.
Carol Lovekin’s writing enthralled me, from beginning to end, and I truly did fall in love. She writes with poetic leaning, creating beauty and an enticing story. This is my kind of writing, with description that made me feel like I inhabited Cadi and Lili’s lives. The story has an ethereal quality and this is even more prevalent with the inclusion of the ghostbird of the title. This book unravels the secrets regarding the Hopkins women with a little myth and magic along the way.
The story of Blodeuwedd, from the Mabinogion, is referenced throughout, something I loved having studied the Four Branches of the Mabinogion with my daughter last year. This meant I was already up to speed with Blodeuwedd’s tragic story.
I asked Ghostbird’s author, Carol, about including the story of Blodeuwedd and how it had inspired her:
‘The idea for Ghostbird was a slow burner. I read the myth of Blodeuwedd (from the Mabinogion) in the early 80s and was immediately struck by the notion that her fate: to be turned into a bird, was a curse. As an owl, Blodeuwedd could surely find her freedom by flying away? It was yet another woman’s story begging to be retold from her perspective. So many legends and myths are of their time (and written by men) and by definition, patriarchal.
The idea stayed with me until, years later it re-emerged as the backstory to Ghostbird. At first I planned for the ghost’s voice to be incidental, albeit relevant. It was my astute editor who insisted, the ghost had to play a more prominent role. It was a joy to take the bones of the myth and turn it into the soundtrack to my modern ghost story. And in the process, to discover, that’s what I write: ghost stories!’
When I first read Blodeuwedd’s story I’d come to a very similar conclusion – despite the fact that being turned into an owl was essentially a punishment, it seemed to me to be a poor punishment, as it meant she finally had freedom. She’d been created without thought to who she was, and made for someone else’s pleasure, and rebelling against that had caused retribution, but to me she was given freedom and final liberty.
The use of myth and legend within fiction is something that inspires me. My current work is based on a myth, but a legend of my own writing. I resonated with Carol’s words about most old fairytales and myths having been written by men with suffering women within the stories, so writing my own legend, which you can find in A Symphony of Dragons, meant creating a woman resilient enough to carry the myth on her own. The resulting legend, threads through The Seren Stone Chronicles which I am currently enjoying writing.
I loved Ghostbird, because Cadi’s story echoed similar themes I’d explored in my own books. Beneath the Rainbow and Beneath the Distant Star both dealt with grief and loss, and mother daughter relationships, and Beneath the Old Oak spoke of family secrets. Ghostbird moved in different circles, with beauty, grace, and fierce women determined to protect and discover who they are. This is a book that will stay with me, for its magic, emotion, and tender charm.
Carol Lovekin is published by Honno a Welsh Women’s Press committed to giving opportunities for talented women in Wales to see their work in print. Carol’s stories reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of Wales. She is a committed feminist and has always found fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. She began writing with a view to publication in her late fifties, having ‘suffered from arrested development for far too long.’ She now writes to keep up.
Ghostbird is her debut novel and Snow Sisters is her second book.
My parting words for Ghostbird are that so often I read sentences that just spoke to me, that described my own feelings, my own experiences, and it’s not often that an author can climb inside your head and touch you. This book touched my heart, the vulnerable bits and the happy bits.
Please visit her blog for further information and links.
The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…
It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.
Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!
I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!
Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.
The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.
The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!
Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…
Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…
Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.
Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.
These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.
Where did you find joy this winter?
Purple tinged the sky where the setting sun met twilight above a swathe of burnished gold. Sarah rubbed her thumb over her loose ring and smiled. The large amethyst set amid its gold band twinkled, as the last of the day’s rays glanced across its surface. Sarah sighed. The Milky Way already arced across the night, stars more infinite than the seconds in her life. It was perfect. It couldn’t be more perfect.
She gently slid down the tree’s rough trunk landing in soft hay, and drew a deep breath into her rattling lungs. Crisp oxygen, clean and cold, rushed up her nose and down her throat. The breeze gently wafted the nearby lavender crop. She closed her eyes and let the scent intoxicate her. She smiled again. She couldn’t have planned it better.
Sarah was tired; the walk had taken all day. She was alone, frail, and exhausted, but happy.
Her gnarled knuckles shook as she clasped the metal bottle in the rucksack that had dropped from her shoulders. She opened her eyes to do what she needed to do, and gently pulled the plastic tubes from her nose. The bottle and its tubes slipped away into the grass, and Sarah let them go. The bottle was almost empty anyway; it would never have seen her home.
The night air that now moved about her was softer, lighter, and dipped in lavender, and as it infused her body she let the fragrance calm her thumping heart. Sarah brought her hands together and gently rubbed the amethyst. The ring rotated easily, the band too large for her thin finger, but the soft touch of quartz comforted her and she relaxed.
The final glimmers of the sun faded beneath the horizon, and the full blanket of purple and indigo night slipped across the field. Only the stars still glittered as lavender wafted and Sarah allowed her curtain to fall.
She’d said her goodbyes, letters were signed and sealed on her mantelpiece, and she was ready to go.
The frozen, star-filled, lavender dusk claimed more than just the day that night, but Sarah would walk free from mortal constraints into a brand new dawn.
Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.
Summer is the season when butterflies flutter by
with painted wings and a breeze of mystery…
I could spend hours sitting beneath butterfly bushes watching these creatures waft by on glorious wings, landing silently on buddleias’ tiny purple blossom and feeding, then flitting off again for an airborne dance before returning to savour the nectar.
I’m not a fan of hot summers, but I have been butterfly watching and these little wonders have taught me about the beauty of change.
A couple of months ago I saw a cute caterpillar on the buddleia leaf and later identified it as a Mullein Moth larvae (moth caterpillars are known as larvae). Now, isn’t a caterpillar or larvae an amazing thing? Butterflies go through a magical lifecycle: from an egg a caterpillar is born, the caterpillar feeds voraciously, and then forms a cocoon or pupae, and finally after a long sleep a glorious butterfly emerges.
I read a story a while ago, about a man who watched a cocoon and felt bad about the struggle the butterfly had trying to emerge, so he carefully helped break open the cocoon and release the creature. He then watched in devastation as the butterfly tried to open its wings but failed. The butterfly was doomed because the process of emergence was interrupted.
No matter how sincere the help butterflies need to go through the process alone. The struggle allows wings to form and for fluid to move from its body into its wings. Without this toil the butterfly is born with a swollen body and shrivelled wings and condemned to die.
Through the struggle of breaking out of its cocoon a butterfly gains strength, without that struggle its wings would never have the power to open and lift it to great heights.
Sometimes we go through struggles that no one can help us with, they can cheer from the sidelines and encourage and comfort, but often we go through huge battles that we have to surmount ourselves. Only then can we internalise the strength that we gained and rise and fly to heights we never knew we could.
Embrace your struggle.
Most butterflies live for about a month, the smallest butterflies maybe only a week, and for such gorgeous creatures their lives are short. Butterflies don’t waste a moment. They feed, they mate, and they bathe in the sun. They live for the moment because that’s all they have.
Cherish your moments.
Back to caterpillars and butterflies, it’s a bit like the story of the ugly duckling. Sometimes we see ourselves as boring, grey, shy, and don’t see our true beauty. We all have the ability to emerge from our troubles and grow into the beauties we’re supposed to be. Just like butterflies. Even the most basic butterfly is a wonder of nature. And, I adore moths too, dusty brown wings, silvered or matt, but beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Love who you have become.
And lastly, I have a fascination with the word butterfly. Rumour has it – I don’t think there’s a definitive answer as to why they are butterflies – that they fluttered about milk churns when butter was being made, or that they were so named because the first butterfly appearing in the year was the yellow-coloured male Brimstone, but the most likely reason is it was believed they ate butter and milk, words in Dutch and German translate as Butter-thief, so butterfly it became.
Myself, I like the spoonerism – flutterby, I mean that’s exactly what they are!
So, welcome the flutterbys, after all, they’re not here for very long, and nature has a habit of giving us beauty in small doses, we just have to notice it!
My pictured butterflies are my locals,
what butterflies are your favourite where you live?
Roses are, perhaps, the most expressive of flowers.
They can be brash and bold, or full and heady, or delicate and sweet, or subtle and fragrant, and so much more…
When people are asked for their favourite flower, roses are one of the most popular responses, and they are definitely the jewel in the crown in both florists and gardens. Roses generally flower from Summer to Autumn, but these days I’ve had roses blooming as early as April and as late as December!
I carried Jacaranda, deep mauve, roses as a bride, Vince brought me handcut roses from the gardens he worked at (he was a gardener) on our first date, I’ve adored a variety of roses in my garden, I’ve had single red roses for Valentine’s, and we recently had red and white roses at my mother’s funeral.
So what do roses say?
Burgundy Roses say a little more than red, promising undying love and cherishing unconscious beauty!
Red Roses are the traditional way to say “I Love You,” the colour of passion and the definition of love. They also represent courage and respect.
Orange Roses; imagine the colour of fire and you have the flowers that embody passion to rival red roses representing desire, enthusiasm, and excitement.
Peach Roses are a delicate shade of gratitude and sincerity, a gentle rose to offer appreciation.
Yellow Roses show friendship, care, and platonic love, there are no romantic undertones with yellow roses, just sunshine and friendship. Yellow roses also convey memories, and are often given in long term relationships. They are also perfect for welcome home and new beginnings bouquets.
White Roses represent purity and innocence, spirituality and reverence, often seen as bridal or sympathy blooms.
Pale Pink Roses suggest friendship and elegance, and can signify a new budding romance. They also offer sympathy and innocence. The delicate charm that laces pale pink matches the sweetness that they convey.
Deep Pink Roses express appreciation and gratitude, and a lovely way to show happiness and contentment.
Purple and lavender Roses; purple has always been the colour of mystery and enchantment, and they express love-at-first-sight. Deeper purple roses signify majesty and splendour.
I adore roses of all colours, and every variety, from hybrid tea roses, to dog roses, climbing and rambling roses, old English, and modern hybrid, floribunda roses, and shrub roses – they all enchant me.
I believe roses were given to us to celebrate colour, fragrance, and beauty, let’s not take them for granted.
What are your favourite roses?
When were you last given roses, or do you buy or cut your own?
What colour beguiles you most?
* All photos are roses from my garden or from the tables in Calon my local coffee shop (now called Pethau Da) and a couple of pics of bouquets from supermarkets!
I love the Welsh hedgerows of summer,
full of white Cow Parsley, Common Hogweed,
and dotted with Red Campion, and purple Foxgloves.
Delicate white Cow Parsley and Hogweed flowers sway gently amid roadside flora, and along paths, and the edges of fields. Both Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) are common sights from spring into summer, and their dry stalks and skeletons decorate the verges when autumn and winter arrives.
Being an everyday sight in the UK countryside, Cow Parsley has become a favourite wild plant to include in my writing, its form and structure adds to descriptive scenes and offers history and familiarity to the reader.
It’s also familiar to readers who understand herbs and plants, as cow parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat ailments, stomach and kidney problems; breathing difficulties and colds. You must be able to positively recognise the plant before using it as medicinal, or even in cooking, as you can make Cow Parsley soup and a variety of other recipes. My sister advises me that her horses love Cow Parsley!
Cow Parsley is recognisable with its long, green, furry stems which are ribbed and have a V shaped groove, umbels of white flowers often tinted pink (left in picture below), and fern like leaves (top middle). Common Hogweed is a very close relation. Its leaves are edible when young, and it’s discernible from Cow Parsley by its daintier florets and broader leaves, but more rounded (bottom middle) than the jagged, spiky leaves of Giant Hogweed. Another cousin is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with narrow ferny leaves and heads of tiny white flowers, but you’ll recognise the difference as the Wild Carrot’s flower cluster usually has a single red/purple flower right in its centre.
The first way to tell Giant Hogweed apart from its Common counterpart and Cow Parsley is its size. Cow Parsley can grow to just over 1m (3-4 ft), Common Hogweed a bit taller, but Giant Hogweed grows up to 3m (almost 12 ft) and its umbels of flowers are pure white and can reach the size of 60cm (2 ft) across. Giant Hogweed will generally tower over you and its stems are far thicker. Its leaves are deeply lobed with jagged, serrated edges, and its stem is bristly and purple blotched, (which you can see in the top right picture). Giant Hogweed has violent sap which will react if it touches skin in bright sunlight inducing burns and painful blistering, needing quick medical attention. My mother discovered this when she tried to cut one down without realising what it was and ended up arms of red blisters and hospital treatment.
Hemlock is much smaller, and very similar in appearance to Cow Parsley with fern like leaves, but it also has stems blotched wine-red, though its stalks are smooth (bottom right in picture). All parts of Hemlock are poisonous though it was also used as medication by the Anglo-Saxons.
Giant Hogweed is well known for its dangerous phototoxic sap, but it’s wise to remember that all of these plants have sap that reacts to bright sunlight. In the same way a wild animal would attack if assaulted plants can do the same, and if these plants are cut down by mechanical means (strimmers etc) they utilise their defences and their sap will react and burn when it touches skin.
Both Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot are also called Queen Anne’s Lace in the UK. Queen Anne took the British throne in 1702, and she was the second daughter of James II. A story goes that the queen asked her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as the cow parsley in the countryside, and only she could. Another story says that Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace, thus why the Wild Carrot has a purple flower at its centre.
I love the wild flowers that embellish my landscape, and along with Bluebells, delicate, lacy Cow Parsley enchants me as it bends in the breeze like fairy blossom…
What wild flowers charm you?
Spring flowers laced with crystal tears…
the warmth of Summer nurturing her flora…
A lovely friend posted a couple of photos on Facebook this week
of her garden flowers in the rain, and as we’ve had a fair bit of rain this May
it made me think of my own flowers decorated with diamonds…
It rains a lot in Wales, but that’s not a bad thing.
Taking photos of flowers in the rain offers a beautiful clarity and charm.
Water is the essence of life, watching thirsty plants flourish shows how vital it is to all of us.
Dewdrops, crystal, diamond rain, reflection, life, clarity,
nature’s mantle to beautify our lives…
What flowers have you enjoyed seeing laced with nature’s tears?
Have you ever thought how it really is the little things
that make the difference in life?
Last Saturday I had a good day, a really good day! I had no commitments and it was a beautiful sunny morning. I popped into town nice and early, enjoyed the sunshine, and listened to the birds sing amid the hubbub of town life. It’s the little things.
I wish I’d told the man in front of me on the escalator how much I loved his legs! I did call out how cool it was to hear two girls (mother and daughter) singing ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ at the top of their lungs as they paused at the traffic lights in a cabriolet. And I smiled at a six-year-old Ironman swaggering through the precinct, flexing his muscles and grinning at everyone. It was that kind of day!
The evening before, in the warmth that predicted a beautiful day to come, Vince and I walked Roxy and listened to the birds in the trees. Noting how different their calls and songs were, from the courting couple of cooing and crooning collared doves, to the blackbird’s familiar call, to a robin red-breast singing his little heart out on the top branches.
Sometimes the smallest creatures sing the loudest and have the most beautiful voices.
Do we listen?
We even attempted to get a photo of the tiny robin atop the tree (our phone cameras were pitifully lacking for this!), and it was a giggle to watch passing motorists’ passengers straining their necks to see what we were looking at!
It made us realise how lucky we are, and how the littlest things can often be the best things.
…Like the way your cat purrs when she snuggles into you – one of your favourite songs playing in your car – brushing your hand across velvet moss – a flower blossoming – new leaves appearing on trees – getting lost within a great book – your dog’s welcome home – your favourite hot chocolate – being silly with friends – the feel of your favourite jumper – a hug – snowflakes – your bed after a hard day – creating art – dancing in the rain – fresh baking – holding hands – watching a sunrise – something that makes you laugh and many more…
What are the little things that make you grateful and happy?