On gardening, the nature of time, and celebrating Beltane
March and April are busy times in the garden. Nature is waking up from its winter slumber, and everything starts to grow at once.
Blossoms, tender leaves sprouting from bare branches, daffodils and tulips swaying in the wind, and masses of dandelions providing nectar for bees and butterflies.
It's a magical time of infinite beauty, and many, many jobs that absolutely need to be done...so the last four weeks have been all about gardening.
I've been pruning, weeding, fertilising, mulching, sowing seeds, repotting seedlings, planting, moving perennials around, and making plant supports with hazel twigs.
I also dealt with an unexpected job, courtesy of our small polytunnel and its cheap plastic cover, which started to disintegrate into tiny fragments after just a few months.
When I noticed the small plastic bits on the ground I was furious. We're growing everything with organic methods so we certainly didn't want to have micro-plastic in the soil.
After a healthy amount of swearing in multiple languages, I got down on my knees and started to scrape all the plastic bits off the soil - not my idea of fun.
I dream of a real green house made of wrought iron and glass panels, but that's not on the budget right now. We had to compromise, and bought a professional plastic cover instead.
I did manage to find an eco-friendly option to shade the polytunnel though, and used jute fabric instead of plastic green netting.
The jute looks nice, and when it's time to replace it we'll just compost it.
Spring is also a month of plant fairs in France. We went to a couple of nice ones close to where we live, and as a consequence my load of gardening jobs increased. I couldn't resist buying another rose, some shrubs, and a weaved willow tree that I'd like to plant in the middle of a labyrinth garden, if only I can figure out its minimum dimensions and how to build it...maths is not my forte.
Anyway, for the first two weeks of April my day pretty much went like this: in the morning I woke up thinking of the garden, during the day I worked in the garden and thought some more about it, then I went to sleep thinking of the garden, every muscle sore, exhausted but happy.
There was no time for writing or for my camera, just for a few quick snapshots taken with my phone to document growth and new blooms.
Each night I went to bed with a smile on my face, proud of all the progress made, but as the days went by I started to feel a bit guilty for not writing.
In my mind I had decided to post twice here, once mid-month, and once just before Beltane.
Around mid-April I was worried, because I hadn’t respected my self-imposed publishing schedule.
Every morning I said to myself that this was the day I would write, but first I'd do just a couple of hours of gardening. Once I put my boots and hat on, and stepped outside, I became engrossed in the task at hand, and lost track of time... and I didn't write.
I was getting really anxious about this, but then I read an article about the concept of time for the ancient Greeks, and something shifted.
The Greeks had two words for time: kronos and chiros.
In a few words, kronos is linear time, divided into minutes, hours, days, and so on. Kronos is the time of productivity, following schedules, meeting deadlines, and it relentlessly moves forward.
Chiros can be described as those moments of such beauty and wonder that become almost mystical, and seem to stop time.
Now I don't feel guilty any more for not posting mid-month.
When I'm gardening and spend time in nature my mind quietens, time seems to slow down, and I'm able to notice all the little miracles that are always there yet are so easy to overlook...
A blackbird flying overhead with a twig in its beak, busy gathering materials for its nest.
A bee resting inside a daffodil, drunk on nectar, covered in yellow pollen.
A white anemone opening up its petals to sunlight, and folding them back in the evening.
A carpet of pale pink blossoms at the feet of the cherry tree.
A double rainbow right over the place we buried two beloved furry companions.
A gentle breeze carrying the heady scent of lilac.
My cats rolling on the grass, belly up, basking in the sun.
Raindrops gently pattering on leaves.
Dewdrops sparkling on spiderwebs.
Infinite shades of green colouring up our view.
For me, these simple moments are examples of chiros, and they're all part of my idea of a slow, calm life.
Beauty, creativity, walking in nature, spending time with my loved ones of all species, are all chiros.
And I want more chiros in my life, more wonder and joy.
I want to tune in to each season, and let nature's rhythm guide me.
Spring and the garden demanded my attention, so I wrote less, but during the year there will be times when I'll mostly be indoors, with lots of time for writing and art-making.
It's a cycle, and when I manage to stay soft and go with the flow, my life becomes easier, fuller, calmer, slower, with more opportunities to experience chiros.
Celebrating the wheel of the year is another way of cultivating a sense of wonder.
This evening and tomorrow I'll celebrate Beltane, a festival of fertility and union that falls mid-way between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice, celebrated between the last day of April, and the first day of May, or May Day.
Beltane means “Bel’s fires”, and Bel was a Celtic god also called the Bright One, a god of light and fire.
In ancient times, Beltane's festivities celebrated the union of the divine masculine and feminine, the green god and goddess, and the return of of life and fertility in the world. Hawthorn was the plant of the goddess, while the oak was the tree of the god.
People gathered to feast, drink, and light bonfires. In some traditions, they danced or ran in a labyrinth, while in other traditions they danced around a May pole, weaving ribbons around it, in a spiral pattern.
This festival was a celebration of plant life, so they made spring wreaths to hang to tree trunks, to honour female and male gods.
They hanged coloured ribbons to trees, and to wells and springs, and in some areas they elected a Beltane queen and king, to symbolise the goddess of flowers, and the god of vegetation.
My celebrations will be much simpler. This evening I'm going to gather some hawthorn blossom and a few oak leaves for my altar, and for the seasonal wreath I keep on my front door.
I won't be lighting any fires, just a candle, to express my gratitude for nature's lush vegetation, and for the inner renewal of ideas, inspiration, creativity.
Tomorrow, if my husband helps me with the maths, I'll plant the weaved willow tree at the centre of my future labyrinth, and then I'll leave an offering of flowers and small crystals at the base of our hawthorn tree - in Celtic lore the hawthorn was the sacred plant of Beltane, and it was said that fairies lived in it...a perfect place to appreciate and celebrate the magic of nature.
Beltane blessings to you, and may your life be filled with chiros.
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