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?
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?
See what I did there? The Beast Bits…
Posting a day early to celebrate the Spookiest Time of Year – Halloween.
Trigger Warning – There is (not real) Blood in this Post…
I love Magic and the Moon, and Pumpkins, and Blood and Gore (when it’s not real), and lacy Spider Webs, Bats and Potions, and Haunted Houses, and Cats…I always love cats! And they all come together for October 31st – Halloween.
So what is Halloween for you?
Bats flying free, Trick or Treat, or Hot Chocolate in a cosy coffee shop decorated with pumpkins. Do Dragons sparkle across your Autumn sky? Gargoyles and Demons slink about amid the curl of Death as flowers and leaves dry while the Fae hold court. Pumpkins, carved and soup, Potions and Poisons, beware and be careful!
We’ve never shied away from blood and gore… Bekah’s make-up artist years have served us well with Guts and Zombies, and Slit Throats, Bullet Holes, and Pencil Protrusions. As a family we embraced our Halloween Evil. Do you fear Clowns, Darth Maul, or Vampires, or does the Grim Reaper haunt your soul?
We’ve also embraced the softer side of Halloween, I mean, who doesn’t love a Black Cat? We’ve rescued Bats, listened to Owls and kissed Toads! We love the Magic of Harry Potter, and any chance to Cosplay.
And then there’s the Creepy side of Blood, and Skeletons, and Black Magic. Can you deal with Creepy Crawlies, and their fragile Webs? Full Moon and Darkness fill the Autumn night and take us into chilly Winter. Toadstools, Candles, and Cauldrons, and have you ever stayed in a Spooky Haunted House?
What makes Halloween for you?
Autumn is the season that inspires me – a season of falling autumn leaves, woollies, hats and gloves, boots, hot chocolate and autumn tone jewellery, cosy cats, apples, acorns, conkers, Halloween and pumpkins, candles, toadstools, and autumn colours of bronze, brown, red, amber, yellow, silver, and gold.
What do you love about Autumn?
The leaves fall patiently, Nothing remembers or grieves,
the river takes to the sea, the yellow drift of leaves.
– Sara Teasdale
Fallen leaves are autumn’s equivalent to snow – they bring out the child in you.
The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown;
the berry’s cheek is plumper, the rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned, I’ll put a trinket on.
– Emily Dickinson (Nature 27 – Autumn)
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
– George Eliot
A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.
– Eric Sloan
Colors burst in wild explosions, fiery, flaming shades of fall.
All in accord with my pounding heart, behold the autumn-weaver,
in bronze and yellow dying. Colors unfold into dreams,
in hordes of a thousand and one.
The bleeding, unwearing their masks to the last notes of summer.
Their flutes and horns in nightly swarming. Colors burst within.
Spare me those unending fires, bestowed upon the flaming shades of fall…
– Dark Tranquility (With the Flaming Shades of Fall)
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus
What are you loving this autumn?
If you could live anywhere in the world –
with money no object – where would you live?
Since I was young, my answer was always Canada, but that just changed! We spent a week in the Scottish Highlands, and for the first time on holiday we didn’t want to come home. I grew up in Sussex, with the rolling Downs behind us and the seaside in front, and it was beautiful. Then we moved to West Wales and I fell in love with the ocean, woodlands, and craggy hills and mountains, and it’s gorgeous. But Scotland with its lochs and mountains is just another world altogether.
It took less than a week to become irrevocably captivated and enchanted by this mysterious land. Scotland, and its Highlands, is a place where the world stops, where you can be enveloped in nature, swathed by mist and then glorious sunshine, where green is the most verdant you’ve ever seen, and mountains rise from purple heather laden fells. A place where the ocean dances in the jewel tones of amazonite, adventurine, turquoise, apatite, and then sodalite. A place where magic reigns.
If you could live anywhere at all – where would it be and why?
Next week, I’ll treat you to the sights we saw in the beautiful Scottish Highlands…
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!
Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…
A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):
‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”
“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”
“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’
In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?
I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.
How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.
We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.
We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.
Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.
We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that: ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’
However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!
We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.
There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.
My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.
But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.
There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…
I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.
I’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.
Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.
We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.
What are we doing to Mother Earth?
* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDay…which makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…
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?