SPECTACULAR SKIES

“Our mind is a limitless sky, and we can only be an albatross flying in the vast expanse to occasionally discover the joys of sublimity!” – Avijeet Das

“Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron. It’s the time of day when the sky looks like it has been spray-painted by a graffiti artist.” – Mia Kirshner

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” – Anton Chekhov

THOUGHTS OF AUTUMN

Summer has been long, warm and dry, how lovely it has been this year and still it continues though it is almost the end of September. The beautiful warm sunshine illuminates the now autumn colours. Day by day the leaves are turning red, yellow and all shades of brown. Pungent scents fill our lungs, it is a delight to our minds and souls.

My sister and I were discussing food for the soul the other day and while giving it deep thought I know what it is that often feeds my soul; it is what I find and observe in nature, meditation on it and thankfulness for it.

Last weekend my daughter took me to Killarney in Co. Kerry and one of our plans was to walk in the national forest which is one of the remaining ancient forests in Ireland with many native trees. The two days we spent there were very restorative. The beauty of the trees laden with their seeds at this time was what inspired us, we talked about it, it made us cheerful and light-hearted. We rested for coffee and cake at a thatched roof cottage and sat out in the sunshine with leaves lightly twirling around us, our conversation deep and yet full of excitement at being in a place where we felt not a care in the world.

This delightful cottage where lovely coffee and cakes are served

Though this was the first time I had a break since before covid time, I have gathered quite a collection of photos over the summer that are now waiting to be used and written about in my blog. So watch this space! (I will as well 🙂 )

the summer of the grasses

Ireland has around 100 different types of grasses, including native and non-native grasses, a fact of which I was not aware, but recently I bought a guide on grasses from Ireland’s National Biodiversity Data Centre and now I am learning about them. I have always found that many grasses are beautiful and decorative and there are always plenty of them around. Especially this summer the back of our garden is full of them, full of different types and they are growing nice and tall with lots of seeds to show. I don’t know all the different names yet but am looking them up one by one.

Our garden has been left to grow all the wild plants that were willing to come up this year. There were plenty of foxgloves, thistles, sow thistles, dandelions, nettles, buttercups, borage, evening primrose, herb Robert, plantain, and many more wild plants, and of course grasses and I’ve let them all grow. This means that things were a bit overgrown the last few weeks and now I have a helper, Dave, who is moving some plants and shrubs around for me so that I can plant our winter vegetables soon.

So here follow some photos of our grasses, I find them all very beautiful and am eager to learn more about them.

And so the summer is moving along and plenty of plants are already in seed including the grasses. The wind is dispersing the seeds and it follows that next year we will probably have even more grasses, these grow at the very back of the garden on a piece of uncultivated land which I want to keep wild. Leaving the wild plants and flowers to grow has been successful and we are seeing butterflies and bees of all sorts. There is always lots to discover even in a smallish garden and that is great for the nature lover who is house bound for part of the time. It is also great for anyone.

Dear friends I hope that you are enjoying this lovely summer, or your winter and especially that you are enjoying whatever blessings that nature gives you in your own surroundings.

MORNING WALK AT LOCH INE

The light at the forested area around Loch Ine was subdued and the sun was missing from this lovely scene but that did not take away from the beauty of our walk. Across the lake we saw the early morning swimmers, a group of women who swim there right through the winter. I did not touch up my photos, the colour of the water here in this photo is really how we saw it, how it was. And it was beautiful and special, I think that it was a trick of the light.

My daughter Tjorven had invited me to go on one of her morning walks and I am so glad that I accepted, we had some great mother – daughter chats, lightly as we are both wanting to use time in nature cheerfully during this frustrating time of covid.

Bare gnarled branches, looking like some rheumatic old creatures, line the lovely country lane.

The lake, which by the way is a salt water lake, narrows into a creek just along here and the water was like a mirror just then.

We saw catkins growing on the hazel tree, some different species of ferns, many of them, fungi and one lone snowberry.

Ebony the collie came with us and was off the lead for a little while, a very obedient young dog she is.

Our surroundings are so beautiful, it is good to enjoy them as much as we can.

“Take a quiet walk with mother nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.” A.D.Williams

AS I LOOK OUT MY WINDOW

This morning over breakfast my attention was drawn towards the hills and I noticed a change in their colours. This lead to a pleasant conversation over our coffee, a positive change from our usual topic of… what’s going on in the world… so we were discussing what makes these hills change colour in the fall. It is a well known phenomena in these parts. I first remember seeing this in the landscape around the village of Glengarriff, a seaside village lying a bit more to the south of here on the Beara peninsula, it is almost surrounded by quite high hills, Sugar Loaf being the highest at 501 metres, and I remember, while I spend time there, that the hills took on a beautiful brown in the fall. Not only that but the lower lying parts would show a most beautiful beige, almost blond shade. And why that was is easy to explain as it is of course due to the foliage of plants growing on the slopes and higher up changing their colours.

The view through the window from our breakfast table
A closer look at the colours (as good as my camera could get it)

The colour palette of browns is very attractive, browns like sienna, russet, or burnt umber are surely seen in this autumn landscape, and during the winter the shades might be darker, like deep coffee brown which is a rich, dark shade. These ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) but called bracken around here, are a very wide spread fern in Ireland, they grow all over the hills and tree-lined roadsides, they even came growing in our garden. I think that it is the damp weather that makes them thrive so well. They are beautiful especially when their leaves unfurl, or like this in the autumn season.

Another close up towards the hill that separates the town of Skibbereen from the Atlantic ocean

In this photo the grasses, which have the lighter colour, can be seen higher up on the hill. These grasses of which I do not have a photo at present, are very beautiful and growing along the road at the slopes of Priest Leap mountain also in Glengarriff, they give the best show of all our surroundings when it comes to colour. I am trying to think what the best way is of describing their shade, it is between straw, cream and beige, you could almost call it blond! It is very bright and light and gives the landscape a wonderful glow.

Yes, that is how I remember seeing them, a wonderful glow that is very easy on the eye.

MEETING WITH A SPINDLE TREE

It was quite unexpected that I came upon a Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus), I first noticed the red berries now mostly decayed in the mud, and recognised them as being spindle berries. When fresh they are so very beautiful! So I looked out for the tree and found it growing beside a much thicker trunk of a tree unknown to me. Part of it had fallen down and is probably dead. The crown of the tree though was still full of the berries. Do some of the birds feed on them? I do not know. The first I ever heard of the Spindle tree was from a Dublin lady called Hilary. She used to read out her essays on nature on Sunday morning in a radio program called Sunday Miscellany. Although I was fascinated this was before the internet and Google search. So I never really bothered to look up something about what was said to be a very beautiful and also a native tree to Ireland.

Apparently it’s easy to grow from its seed and I might try it. I found quite a bit of information on how to go about it. Germinate Seeds from Spindle Trees – BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

And here is another website link, it is full of information about this interesting bush. Tree Lore: Spindle | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (druidry.org)

Finding this to me new and interesting tree was the highlight of my week, we might be in lockdown but there are still always new wonders to discover.

I just want to add a little note here. I am not being very active at the moment both in posting and in reading posts from others. I am very busy but also my inspiration seems to have taken a downturn. I know this won’t last so I am just going with it. It is good to have a period of reflection as well as a period of posting a lot. I’ll soon be reading all your blogs again dear friends and followers and I wish you all the very best. Thank you for reading my words.

ICE FLOWERS AND LEAVES

We woke this morning to an icy cold and beautiful sunny morning, yes it had frozen even here in usually mild West Cork. So I could not wait to get out and feast my eyes on all this frozen beauty, and I was not surprised to find that everything in the garden was gleaming in a sparkling white coat. Yes, old man winter had walked the land that was plain to see. The temperature was 4 degrees Celsius. But the sun had already come out and I could feel its warm rays on my skin, I had gone out without a coat or boots and soon my feet were freezing. The bright, beauty of the morning filled me with energy, it is such a change from all the rain.

This Rudbekia a plant which I sowed early last spring has finally flowered, and what a day to choose for it. Beautiful.
The leaves of the Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethopica) never fail to look good any day but especially this morning they looked wonderful!
I’ve been thinking what to do with all the many young Foxgloves plants coming up in the garden, now I am happy that I left them as the frost has decorated them so brilliantly.
This is the sort of photo that stops me starting to paint again, why would I paint if art is show me in nature just like that. How could I ever make it more beautiful.
And so another evening has arrived, and I made use of my extra energy to clean up the front garden as this was very overdue. The leaves of two smallish trees had nearly covered the cement tiles, and the Buddleia needed trimming. This was a rather slow job as the branches had overgrown and they all had to be cut and cut again in order to be brought through the house to the back garden for shredding. But recently I have found joy in doing jobs slowly, or rather in doing slow jobs, they are like a meditation and I know that I benefit from this. Also I have noticed this tendency in my reading habits, these days a really tick book does not put me off anymore, on the contrary I seek them out and relax into them for days, savouring the story. Same with cooking, I now very much prefer to cook totally from scratch, enjoying the extensive cutting up of vegetables, or shelling of peas.
I am grateful to have the time for all of this now that I am retired.

My dear readers and friends I hope that wherever you live, keep warm or cool as the case may be, and enjoy the moment.

READING THE LANDSCAPE

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The landscape that I am thinking about if not some wild stretch along the coast or hill side here in West Cork.  It is, rather, my immediate surroundings – our garden, where I have access any time of day or night and can make observations in any season of the year.  Let it be during my early morning stroll past the vegetable plots to the back where everything is disorderly and where wild things grow, or let it be during the height of day when the sun is streaming through the tree canopies, or at times when Irish mist engulfs us and brings the clouds real close to the earth.  Night time too is good to find and learn to understand the many creatures that are about.

Our garden is small, it slopes down slightly and it has four mature trees giving shade, a chestnut, silver birch, hawthorn, and a Mediterranean oak.  These all provide shelter for the many birds that frequent on a daily basis, from the little wren to the hooded crows – all are very welcome.

I find it a source of immense pleasure and joy to observe not only all the plants that grow, but to see and know all the wildlife – every little creature, to find out their species, their lifecycle, their name.  To take photos of them helps me sometimes to study one or other aspect of them in more detail.  There is always more to learn and discover, and I find a lot of information on Google as well as in books.

Why my garden, and not the larger landscape around me.  Well it is down to logistics really, my garden I can go into at any moment, it is a daily ritual, a meditation that I have got so used to that it would be hard to live without it.  The wider landscape does get observed too, but not that frequently.

In the garden next door the people keep a pony, this attracts a certain amount of flies to the neighbourhood and that is good.  The other neighbour keeps a small hive of bees, and it is nice to have those come into the garden at times.  Behind our dilapidated sheds at the very back, where some rotting wood also gives shelter to a variety of insects, the ground, covered in wild plants and grasses, slopes down towards the town, well below us.

And so this small bit of nature, filled with wild plants and herbs has an eco-system all of its own, rich in variety and brimming with creatures, a goldmine for anyone with an interest.  Great joy can be found in reading this landscape and finding new discoveries every day.  The changing seasons, even the high temperatures and drought recently brought about unique or forgotten surprises, like the very large wasps that we had not seen for many years.

I watch, and listen, and observe, and I find that the natural world is a great source of joy!

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Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta,

Aglais urticae - small tortoiseshell