Happy Imbolc

Watching the tree behind my house for signs of Spring. There are a few new buds, still tightly closed.

The first herald of Spring that comes to my attention is a change in the scent of the air. This happens roughly around the time of Imbolc, 2nd February. This year I noticed it on 30th January. Modern humans like to set dates on the calendar, but pagan festivals such as Imbolc and Beltane happen when nature gives us her signs. For Imbolc, which celebrates the very earliest signs of the coming Spring, such signs include snowdrops, new lambs in the field, and buds beginning to form on the trees. There are more subtle signs that I notice: the previously mentioned change of scent in the air, and also a change in the quality of the light, as the sun’s arc starts to creep a little higher away from the horizon. Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I mention the scent in the air. I find it hard to describe, or explain. There aren’t many flowers around yet. Maybe there are just enough to create this scent, or perhaps it’s the scent of the sap rising—vegetation beginning to awaken, and preparing for a growth spurt. Warm air allows smells to spread more easily, but the air hasn’t warmed significantly yet, except perhaps briefly, in sheltered sunny spots. There is often still frost on the ground. Whatever it is, I can definitely smell Spring. Happy Imbolc!

©️ Janey Colbourne 2018

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How I Celebrate New Year (and not on December 31st)

For some reason New Year’s Eve always stresses me out. Not only is it the screaming parties that make me uncomfortable. Even the plethora of good wishes and resolutions on social media causes me anxiety. In part it’s because I don’t like a big fuss, external demands, and the pressure of expectations. I find it stressful that everyone has to count down and be present for this momentous moment, the ominous midnight. I’m pretty sensitive (you may have noticed) and I can feel the enormous energy of all those people celebrating at the same time. It’s a very strong energy. Of course, if this New Year is your cup of tea, then I’m sure that powerful energy is a positive force in your life. I respect that this time is meaningful for other people, as I do with Christmas.

My dislike of New Year is also because I don’t celebrate the ‘new year’ at this time. For me, it doesn’t feel significant or meaningful. What does it matter if it’s one minute to midnight or one minute past? Nature doesn’t live by the microsecond. Well, she does, but only at the microscopic level. Our bodies are finely tuned internally, moment by moment, but in our conscious experience, nature’s process is more gradual. The countdown to midnight on 31st December is entirely arbitrary to my mind, although it does fall within the midwinter celebrations of Yule. But the specific timing is only a calendar date—a created construct. Nothing significant happens in nature at midnight on 31st December, other than screaming humans setting off explosives—sorry, I mean fireworks. Leaves falling from the trees, the first frost or snow on the ground are far more meaningful to me. I’m happy to participate in good wishes for the solstice, but then, not everyone celebrates that, so it’s not obligatory within my social circle to make a big fuss, or to remember to say it to every single person.

My personal ‘new year’ actually occurs around three times a year, the main one being in September. This is probably a remnant from spending so many years in academia. The end of summer signifies the end of holidays and festivals and the beginning of new work. This is, as I say, tied to my life experience rather than the broader seasonal patterns. I realize that to many people this might seem as arbitrary as the traditional new year, but that’s fine with me because it’s my personal new year and time for a fresh start, and I don’t expect anything from anyone else in regards to it. My second ‘new year’ is around the beginning of November. This aligns with the pagan new year festival of Samhain, 31st October-2nd November, overlayed with the modern festivals of Halloween and bonfire night. This festival recognises the doorway of death that comes in winter. This ‘new year’ is something that has evolved organically for me, not something I have consciously chosen, despite the significant alignment. Surely this is how traditional festivals came about in the first place—through a recognition of natural cycles. I have published two books in November. It seems to be a time of completing projects or of formulating new ones. The beginning of the dark time of year, with the end of the long days and warmth, is a time for finishing off the year’s work, followed by winter days spent thinking and planning for the year ahead. I don’t hold myself rigidly to any timetable, it just evolves with a natural rhythm. I review my path and set intentions when it is the right time to do so, not according to someone else’s calendar. My third ‘new year’ aligns roughly with the Chinese New Year in February, also the pagan festival of Imbolc. This makes sense to me, as it is when we see the first signs of Spring to come—new buds on the trees, snowdrops emerging, and the first lambs born. This is a seasonal new year in terms of the earth’s cycle in the place where I live. It’s a time of hope and looking forward to warmer, brighter days.

However and whenever you celebrate your New Year, I wish you well and hope that your dreams and intentions may be fulfilled for the highest good of all. Happy New Year whenever that may be.

My New Album ‘Take Your Power Back’

At last I have finished my album ‘Take Your Power Back’, which I have been working on over the past year. It is an album of electronic music with spoken word and song, of various genres and tempos, from dance to ambient. My intention is to create music that’s enjoyable to listen and dance to, whilst also having something worthwhile, outspoken and inspiring to say. The lyrics are an important part of the music and have a pretty strong message, challenging the dominant neoliberal cultural narrative and creating a new narrative of hope, personal empowerment, freedom, community and re-connection with the earth.

It is available to buy as a digital download from my bandcamp site here, either as the full album for £5 or as individual tracks, priced at either 80p or 60p each. Prices are plus VAT. You can listen to all the tracks before purchasing, and if you purchase you can choose unlimited streaming or high quality download. Enjoy!

Listen to my album here

Wildlife Rescue a #poem

This poem reflects how I perceive my fellow living beings. As the poem starts it may read as if I am talking about an animal, but all of life strives with intent. We are all ultimately from the same ancestors. We are kin. When we see the world in this way it is profoundly transforming. It gives us a sense of belonging in the world, which naturally leads to a sense of responsibility. This change in perception is a way forward to living in harmony with nature, and a more hopeful future for all of us.

Wildlife Rescue

You called to me,
as I passed you by on the path.
I thought to take you home,
but I was mistaken.
You have no wish
to be a pet, possessed;
your home is here.

You plead with me
to save you from the risk
of trampling feet,
so I lay you by the side,
still clinging to your stick.
I wish you well,
dear lichen.

 

©️Janey Colbourne 2017

A Photographic Study of Stumps 2: In Death There Is Life   #365dayswild #naturenarratives

Recently I’ve been finding myself drawn to tree stumps. This was perhaps in part due to my observations of a local tree that had to be cut down after splitting during a storm, and which subsequently showed herself to be very much alive by sprouting abundant new growth, and whose story I documented in a previous post: A Photographic Study of Stumps: there’s life in the old tree yet  #365dayswild #naturenarratives. Another factor which sparked my interest was the film ‘Intelligent Trees’, featuring forester Peter Wohlleben and Dr Suzanne Simard, in which the dynamics of the mycorrhizal network were explained. Tree stumps in a forest may continue to live, even in the absence of any leaves of their own, as they may receive nourishment from other trees via the mycorrhizal network just under the soil that links all the trees. This led me to a closer observation of tree stumps to look for signs of life. It is rare for a tree stump to not maintain some form of life. Many tree stumps have a mossy hat on the cut surface, often also sprouting fungi of one sort or another, and some do actually have leafy regrowth. A fallen tree may continue to grow lying on its side, as some of the root system is still connected underground. Even dead wood is a supporter of life for insects and fungi, a visible manifestation of the cycle of life. So, in one way or other, trees that have fallen or been cut down are still very much a part of life. Their tenacity, longevity and force of life is truly incredible, something I find reassuring and comforting in this fast-paced modern world of disposability. In death there is life.

NB. If anyone wishes to comment on the species of fungi that would be most welcome, as that is not my area of expertise.

Tall tree stump
the mossy hat stands out on this tall tree stump
Tree stump
another mossy stump
Stump from the side
a heart shaped mossy hat
Heart shaped tree stump
moss and fungi looking content
Tree stump close up
close up
Fungi and moss
another angle close up-think I really like this stump!
Fungus on trunk
moss and bracket fungi
Tree stump study
stump is rotting but dependent species doing well
Tree stump flourishing
definitely alive here!
Tree stump regrowth
the stump is flourishing alongside the felled trunk
Fallen tree
fallen and felled
Tree stump fallen
supporting some moss

 

 

A Photographic Study of Stumps: there’s life in the old tree yet  #365dayswild #naturenarratives

I’m interested in tree stumps because firstly, they can continue to live on after falling down or being cut down, sometimes even in the absence of any leaves, if they are connected underground to other trees via the mycorrhizal network (known colloquially as the ‘wood wide web’). Irrespective of whether the stump itself lives on, it supports life in one form or another. I have started a photographic study of tree stumps, as a way to explore this. So far I’m noticing stumps either regrow foliage, or become a home for mosses and fungi.

I thought this tree was worthy of a post all to herself. On a night of very high winds in June her trunk split in half and most of the tree fell right across the road, damaging a car and roof of the house on the other side. Fortunately no one was injured, apart from the tree. Looking at the remaining trunk, there is a considerable length of it that is blackened, indicating that the tree had already been partially split for some time, perhaps from previous damage or disease. The next day we found the tree had been cut right down to a stump.

The tree is located in a small park area. There are a couple of trees close by that potentially could be linked to this tree through a mycorrhizal network, which exists only a few centimetres below the soil and so is easily disrupted by development or disturbance. In any case, seven weeks later we discovered the tree was sprouting shoots and some healthy leaves from the living layer of the tree just under the bark. This can be clearly seen in the photographs. As far as I can tell, these leaves are definitely the tree’s own growth and not some opportunist saplings. It was heartening to see this new healthy growth after the sadness and shock of seeing the apparent devastation of a fairly large tree. I am hopeful that her life is far from over and in fact, I sense she is more well since the loss of the damaged limbs. She may be diminished in size, but I think not in vitality. Close around her are many small saplings, presumably her children, and it seems likely that she will be connected to them at least, through a mycorrhizal network, and either she is nourishing them, or they are supporting her. Either way, they are all looking well, and now she has cleared a space, her children have room to flourish.

Today, sixteen weeks since she was cut down, I went to take another photograph before the leaves start to fall. I can see she and her sapling family have all had a fine growing spurt over the summer. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.

  

Tree after the storm 7 June
After being cut down 8 June
Signs of life emerging 31 July
Healthy new growth 31 July
New growth 31 July

Tree stump and her babies 26 September

 ©Janey Colbourne 2017