Through a child’s eyes…

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I love Lady’s Mantle… Alchemilla mollis… the soft little alchemist. The shape and gentle shade of the downy leaves and the pale froth of yellow-green flowers. It is a lovely thing in my eyes. Yet it is not till the rain falls on the upturned leaves that you see its full beauty. Tiny creatures are caught in the water droplets, magnified into strange shapes. The water looks like ice, the surface tension palpable. I am reminded of the movement of mercury. Diamond-bright spheres nestle in the folds like so many crystal balls and the child who gazes into them can see worlds and dreams unfold there.

nicks 02622A cluster of tiny orb weaver spiderlings on the fence… hundreds of miniature jewels, alive and wriggling… the whole ball no more than an inch across. They had come together and woven a world. The finest of webs anchored them to the fence. Just watching them my imagination wove stories too… flashes of fairytale and science fiction, incomplete and exciting; ephemeral images that were gone as soon as they arose.

birds 2 0541A fly lands on a rose leaf, brilliant and iridescent. A creature usually an annoyance revealed in all its beauty, illuminated by the morning sun, casting rainbows from its back. Tiny, sensitive hairs protrude from the colour and multifaceted eyes looks back with an expression I cannot read. It is an alien creature. Another lands on the fence, metallic turquoise, the colour of ancient Egypt… I dream of a land unseen and a time long lost in the gilded mists of another clime.

birds 2 064A big bumble bee with its deceptively lazy flight lands on the pond brush, left to dry on a flower bed. What can it be looking for amongst the plastic bristles? What has it found to keep its interest? It ignores me completely as I watch, seeing the light reflect on the flat planes of its legs, wishing I could stroke the fat, furry body. Is it a bumble bee? I think it might be a tree bee… the fox red and the white rump… It doesn’t matter, it is beautiful anyway. I remember fairytales from my childhood about bees… they are magical creatures.

birds 2 062Another lands briefly on an orange rose; a last raindrop trembles on the tip of a leaf, mirroring an inversed world. The heart of the rose is a firework exploding into life… a rayed sun in a heart of flame. A universe being born. Close by the irises are opening in the pond and the stars are out as the seed pods of the marsh marigolds burst open revealing their hidden treasure of seeds. In each tiny seed new life awaits, and that is both magic and miracle.

birds 2 048“I have forgotten how to play.” I read this sad statement a few days ago. The ability to play as children is something we take for granted until, one day, we realise we are grown and the carefree games cease. If we are lucky, we may share play with children of our own, laughing with them and feeling once again the inner liberty that can express itself through the unselfconscious movement of body and the imagination. If we are luckier still, we do not forget but find other ways for that inner child to be held in wonder at the world as it unfolds before our eyes.

birds 2 091Yet the heart and eyes of a child live on in all of us; asleep, perhaps, ignored sometimes. Do you remember the child you were when the adults talked over your head? Or when you were told it was bedtime yet you could hear people still laughing downstairs? Remember how that felt?

nicks 1There is a child within who still wants to play, to gaze on the world with eyes full of wonder and a light heart. To feel the magic of fairytales alive in the buzzing of a bee, to weave delicious stories around faces in rock and tree.  Sometimes, all you have to do is open your eyes and heart, letting your imagination run wild with bare, grass-stained feet and the Otherworld will open its doors and let you in.

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Letting in the light

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi

Near the fence there are some huge chunks of wood… slices salvaged from the old horse chestnut tree that used to hold my home and garden within its embrace. I loved that tree and watched the seasons change in its leaves; watched the squirrels play and the birds nest there… even writing about it. I felt the life in it, felt its character and history and so I was heartbroken when it had to be taken down.

Leaf mining moths had infested the bole and the sick tree was inspected and found to be rotting away from the inside. It was dying and was no longer deemed safe to hang its limbs over my home. When the massacre by chainsaw was complete we brought three pieces of wood back into the garden to make a little seat.

The seat was dismantled by scaffolders a little while ago and I have yet to reassemble it, but the girth of the branches and the three foot long slice of trunk remain close to the door. I noticed the beauty of the frosted mosses and fungi growing on them when I took the camera out this morning. The frost was heavy and the world wrapped in fog; everything white and the sky invisible until the sun broke through. The camera was a vain attempt to capture the mood and the beauty of the ice crystals that dusted the tousled remains of autumn.

wood with fungus

There had been little sun in the garden, of course, when the tree was there. The ground had been hard and dry and it was difficult to get anything to grow beneath the spreading branches. Between the sticky sheaths of the new bud covering absolutely everything, to the petals that fell like snow… followed by the bombardment of spiny conkers and tons of leaves, the tree had definitely made its presence felt. Not always in a positive manner, looking back. In fact, when the roots began to disrupt the ground we were facing the possibility of major structural problems.

None of that mattered though, not to me. I simply loved the thing and wept when its demise left a great empty hole in my skyline…

fungus on tree

… through which I now watch the stars and the dawn, for of course, the light streamed in. Rain softened the earth and my garden blossomed, bursting with exuberant colour that drew butterflies, birds and bees and all manner of small creatures. From the salvaged wood, new life sprang and insects made their home in the bark. In the corner of the garden… and in several places in the wood down the lane where I transplanted them… new horse chestnuts are growing from the conkers that fell and buried their roots in the earth. The life of the tree continues.

The foundations of my home are now safe too.

wood and stone

I still miss those first signs of spring in its buds. As summer draws near I miss the masses of blossom that carried me back to the boulevards of Paris. I miss the shade of its canopy and the stark black and white of its winter nakedness. I have conveniently forgotten, it seems, all the negatives and can look back solely on the joys.

frosted leaves and moss

This tree was always a metaphor for life and today it continues to serve thus. We often cling to things that are familiar and which may indeed hold elements of beauty or affection for us, yet which we know, deep down, are potentially or actually harmful. We hold them dear in their familiarity, because they are known, because they form part of the very structure of the life within which we have defined ourselves. Their roots may go so deep that we fear their loss and the ensuing changes to our personal landscape. Even when we can clearly see the potential benefits of their removal from the garden of our lives.

Making that hole in the skyline can be a big step, yet it is only by clearing away the dead wood that we can let the light in, and with it the elements of new growth that may germinate and flower, even in the scraps that remain. What we choose to cut out of our lives in such a way may have held good as well as bad; the good is never lost, but is the seed that will bear fruit… and it is already part of us.