Seed moon and Easter Day.

‘Twas a beautiful full moon last night – the seed moon or paschal moon so called because, well, it’s sowing time and Easter. I always find full moons amplify my emotions and the urge at this time of year is to take courage, seize the day, clear the clutter and make a fresh start. So that’s what I’ll be doing.

This time of year is practically perfect for noticing what parts of your life have run their course, letting go of whatever weighs you down and keeps your life out of balance. Easier said than done, I know but also remarkably freeing. It’s in the quiet moments that enlightenment truly floods in – like at 6am this morning outside the church door with a dozen or so friends and neighbours. We lit our candles from the firebowl and proceeded into the dark church to welcome in Easter Day once more. The reflection of Lent is over; the pain and sacrifice of Holy Week is done and we are free to move forward, albeit with a little uncertainty at first. But confidence will grow. Work-life balance is something that definitely needs attention. I hope that by Easter next year I will have spent more time with my family and less time marking piles of exercise books late at night in the kitchen.

Happy Easter.

Festivals of Spring

When you’re too overloaded at work to properly celebrate the Spring Equinox then you’re honour bound to go large at Easter, right? I love the opportunity to mix celebrating the old ways and an important Christian festival. It’s what the early Christians did after all. There are rituals associated with every school holiday but the ones in Spring always seem so hopeful and expansive. The family is back together for a few weeks; walks and picnics to local beauty spots are once more; the garden has come through the winter and is full of potential and there is a sense of perfect balance on the journey through the wheel of the year. The days are getting longer and warmer, life moves outside and the energy is expansive and exhuberant. I need that sense of renewal right now. If you live in the countryside the symbolism of the Spring festivals is all around – hares, eggs, chicks and nest building.

We’ll be collecting twigs to make up our Easter tree, baking simnel cake and chocolate cake, walking at Stourhead, Lacock or Great Chalfield, attending a dawn service on Easter Day and celebrating a couple of family birthdays with a special Easter tea. There are seeds to sow in the garden, garden furniture to repaint, spring cleaning to do and plans to be mulled over. I’m spending an hour in the garden with a notebook and a hot cross bun – powerful Christian symbol of resurrection and Celtic Cross, two Equinoxes crossed by the two Solstices, the four seasons, the four Sacred Directions of North, East, South and West and the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water with Spirit at the Centre. The circumference represents the cycle of the year, the circle of life, with the still point of balance at its centre. And you thought it was just a tasty treat spread with butter?

Plant of the month: April forget-me-nots

The garden is just beginning to burgeon with a multitude of perennials and so I’m spoilt for choice when deciding on a plant for April. Wild garlic? Tulips? In the light of my belief – and experience – that gardening is not all about hard slog, that nature knows best, that no plant will thrive in the wrong place, and that everything in the garden must have a resonance or a use – preferably both- I have plumped for the humble forget-me-not.

They grow like weeds in our garden, popping up in the veg patch, in the borders at the base of rose bushes and in the gravel near the kitchen door. I have never planted them and remove plenty to avoid them taking over but who am I to turn down a free plant, particularly when they have such poignant folklore attached to them?

They are symbols of fidelity when separated from a partner – no chance of that any more with the husband working from home- Forget-me-nots also symbolize protection and luck. It’s believed that they have the power to protect humans against witches, which is always handy around these parts. King Henry IV used this flower symbol as his lucky charm during his exile in 1398, and ever afterward. As for their name, the narrative reads that a knight in armour died trying to pick the flowers from a riverbank for a lover, only to be swept away in front of her, his words ‘forget me not’ carried by the breeze. As any safety manager will tell you, doing anything in a full suit of armour requires a risk assessment in triplet. Clearly said knight was a bit too spontaneous. Another story suggests that the forget -me-not was the last to be picked at the games when the flowers were named, and its plaintive cry gave the flower its name. Bit needy if you ask me and somewhat reminiscent of Alistair Cooke when we were picking teams for rounders at school. (I heard he took to the gym at university and ended up rowing rather successfully).

More recently this simple flower has been the symbol of International Missing Children’s Day and of the Alzheimer’s Society. And as both my mother and my mother-in-law – neither with us in person – had Spring birthdays, it’s the perfect flower for our April garden. I like its association, the delicate colour of the flowers, just right for this time of year although I crave bolder jewel colours later in the season. I love the way it looks so natural next to the cowslips near the compost heap at the bottom of the garden and I love its short, pointed leaves reminiscent of mouse ears. (The genus name Myosotis comes from the Greek word mus and otos – mouse ear). These delicate blooms more than earn their place in any cottage garden but they are toxic to humans – so don’t be tempted to prettify a salad with them. Butterflies and bees in the eco-garden will love them however.

Looking backwards and forwards

We managed to book a trip to Stourhead on a glorious Easter Sunday. It has been a regular haunt of ours ever since the children were tiny. In latter years we’ve rocked up in an impromptu fashion, ambled around the lake, visited the thatched cottage and treated ourselves to coffee and cake in the cafe.

This year because of COVID restrictions and two of our three returning from Uni with testing and isolation involved we had to plan ahead, take our chances on the weather and pack a picnic. It felt like old times -and none the worse for that.

From time to time I reflect on how quickly my brood have grown and lament all the things I said we’d do and didn’t but on glorious days like these none of that matters. We have shared experiences and happy memories of times gone by and plenty of new and different ones to come.

Surely this mingling of old and new, of experience and potential, of what’s been and what’s to come is Easter in a nutshell?

Easter highlights

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No trip to Stourhead followed by a coffee and cake, no egg hunts, no sunrise walk around the village fields, no church service.

It’s been a different kind of Easter this year but there was some chocolate eating, home-baked cake, a family roast dinner and gardening.

It’s been great to catch up virtually with what friends have been doing. These beautiful photographs tell me what is important about this time of year – new life and renewal.

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