Category Archives: Wild places & nature

Learning to talk with small gods

Because although I still have a lot to learn, my valley is claiming me through small gods.

whispering voices of sheoak

the different rhythm of the feet of my chickens that tells me they are excited to follow me and makes me laugh out loud

the sound of a blue-banded bee long before it can be seen that tells me if it’s flying with or without pollen-covered legs

the bank of clouds hugging the hillside at dawn

the swing of wind to cool southerlies

the beckoning of the wild island in winter

the first time I notice that the sun signals autumn, something about the afternoon shadows is different

the keening cry of the black cockatoo heralding a rain storm

the burst of green through soil

the unfurling leaf

hearing the blue-tongue lizard trying to walk silently on dried up leaves which betray his presence

the resurrection of moss after the hot summer

the gaze of the magpie that makes me feel small

the longer afternoon light bent through the plum tree

the warm night-scent of native franjipani under a clear night sky

coming home to the valley I live in and seeing it tucked in against the hills, cuddled by trees and feeling its welcome

the trembling of wet leaves in the sun after a rain storm

 a flash of red in the fading strawberry leaves, the slow secret ripe strawberry

a face full of spider web and the apology to the spider

magpies in conference, they meet in a circle,  talk and hush as you draw near


I’d love for others to write about their small gods as a way to begin, but first, listen to Small Gods by Martin Shaw  or find out more at drmartinshaw.com  because writing these down may be a mistake of mine, but I’m still learning how.

 

 

Why failing to grow is a yield too

Back in Autumn 2015, I tried growing burgundy Okra from seed and a late winter planting. Fail. Not just me either, I shared some seedlings and no one had any luck. 

I tried again in Spring, again sharing the few that had germinated through the local community produce share. I’m hopeful of finding out whether others had luck, because… one of mine made it!!!

As long as I can keep the chickens out of this bed, I think this little okra will be ok.

  
Growing is about failing, and failing is learning, because failing puts the details in your face, and asks you scrutinise the situation right there in front of you.  ‘Why didn’t this work?’ 

Moving on from failure, also requires you to stand back and look at the bigger picture, looking for a pattern, a clue to the myriad of complex interactions that take place just to make one tiny thing happen. ‘What am I missing?’

You learn something about the universe in these observations, something a bit hard to explain, but this recent article about The physics of life in Nature magazine by Gabriel Popkin stirs up what I feel.

So get out there, get your hands dirty and fail, because when one seed grows you will treasure and value it more than anything you own. 

Just now

I love this -evenings that remind me of storms past, seen years before from the top of the hill.

Tonight reminds me. I’m in a different place watching, but it feels the same.

I’m standing in the dark garden, meeting the edge of the storm, after a scorching hot day.  Still slow and forming, gentle, I still hide under the porch, with a cup of tea in hand.

The warm night is scented with native frangipani flowers that reaches me on the breeze that bustles the dry leaves over stones and brick. They sometimes have a spooky rhythm sounding like legged creatures approaching. I don’t let my imagination quicken my heartbeat.

Thunder is only lazily grumbling as if the sky has just woken up. Half-hearted flickers of lightning like a wet match trying to catch. The first heavy slow drops of rain dolloping themselves on dry leaves like a half-asleep child fingerpainting. A spot over here…and a spot over there…

It’s like the whole storm just can’t really be bothered to pull itself together and crack on with it. But it will.

Magpie, raising sky

“According to the Mandalbingu people, a long time ago the sky was very close to the Earth and it was dark. Everyone had to crawl about the earth in darkness. The intelligent magpies decided that if they worked together they could raise the sky upwards to create more room for all. They did this by lifting the sky upwards by using long sticks. As they pushed the sky even higher it suddenly split open to usher in the first sunrise The blanket of darkness broke up into fragments and drifted away as clouds. The magpies burst into song and from that time onwards they have greeted the sunrise with their warbling song.”

(Ragbir Bhathal, Aboriginal Astronomy)

This story has not strayed far from my thoughts for days.

Since reading the Mandalbingu story,  I have been thinking back to farm life and the magpies I observed doing something that seemed pretty remarkable to me. For years up there on the hill, I observed a group of magpies regularly gathering on my lawn, arranged in a circle staring at each other for a long time, with the occasional warble.

It was a thrilling thing to watch because, in no other way can you describe it as some sort of intentional mapgie conference.

A collaboration?

A conversation amongst elders?

Swapping songs? Sharing?

Or, as I now understand it,  raising the sky:

Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons

Sometimes a piece of writing rustles and stirs the dry leaves that fall too quickly on the pathways of our bustling lives.  Like an inexplicable breath of floral-perfumed warm wind, in the harsh bite of a winters day. Rewilding you from inside.

This is how it felt reading Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons. You can read Tom’s poem here on his blog, but before you click…

…know that you will remember when and where you were when you first read this. You will learn that words conjured together even when read in the cold clinical light of a computer screen, can take you to a campfire in the wilderness where you huddle alone, reading words with only the flickering firelight and lamplight of the moon, with only the winking trail of the Milky Way as company.

Rewilding from the inside…. The blood red flower is the beautiful scarlet bloom of Australian native ‘Running Postman’ Kennedia prostrata.

Receiving the book was even more startling. It’s an odd thing to open a modern envelope, delivered by planes and wheels and inside find something that almost makes you think you can hear an ancient chant or drumbeat. A beautiful, tactile and totem-like book that feels like it was written and posted from deep in the wild forest.  Together on the page with the incredible art of Rima Staines which is itself another soul-trembling delight,  in this beautiful small book there is that alchemy of word and art in an ancient dance on paper.

The book is small and beautiful. I feels like something to be carried in a favourite coat pocket, a touchstone for breathing in the woods, feeling the old paths, when the yearning strikes. A thing to read to someone, or share because the length and format is perfect for doing just that.

I purchased a second copy, to be released into the wild. When the time and place is right to leave it there, a stranger will find it, just there on a bench or table or shelf. The note inside will ask for it not to be kept, and for it to be read, purchased if the reader has the means to, and most importantly, for the wild copy to be passed on to awaken someone else.