Focusing Intention and Attention

 

We are living in strange times at the moment and many people have found that with the  extra time on their hands they have been able to reflect on their lives.  Some have taken up yoga and meditation or are watching movies and soaps. Me?  I have never been busier! This lock-down has compelled me to spend more time outside in the garden.  I have built more vegetable beds; I have sown more seeds; I have planted more trees, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBIE86dVq5A)  and I have had my head down working.  I have been very busy doing things.  It has almost been as if, because the world is in lock-down, on a go-slow, I have had the opportunity to catch up.  But catch up with what?

When I was living in England, before I came home to Ireland, I lived in a house like this,

and I only had a tiny back-yard garden.

Here in the west of Ireland, the fields are small and are called gardens.  When a person here is talking about a garden they mean a field, not a lawn with some flower beds.  My garden here originally looked a bit like this, (though not as bad I am glad to say)

as this poor garden is just neglected.

For the past eleven years, give or take a year, I have been working with my garden, trying to co-create a place of peace and beauty. I have hungered so long for such a place, a place where I could grow my own food, connect with Nature and encourage bio-diversity.  As I work, I speak to the plant spirits asking them to grow well and to thrive.  I sense, out of the corner of my eye, that spirits of the land are looking on.   I focus my intention on what I am doing and on the plants.

Just before lock-down, we went to visit a very dear friend who has an outstandingly magical garden.  We always come away full of hope and inspiration and lots of great ideas and encouragement.  Her garden is a true labour of love and it shows.  You can see what I mean here –  bealtainecottage.com/about/.  Another friend of ours inherited a well established, mature garden with a beautiful ancient woodland at its edges, a  real olde worlde garden,  anglersreturn.com/home-amenities.php.  These gardens have inspired me so much, to the point where I work, work, work to “catch up” and I have only just realised that I am so busy doing the gardening that I am not just being with the garden.  I am focusing my intention on the garden,  on the outcome of my work; but I was not focusing  my attention which is quite different.

 

My intention is to create the beautiful garden of peace that I mentioned.  Focusing my intention seems to be working. I took a break the other day, a lovely warm day of sunshine and blue skies.  Sitting down and glancing around I really looked at my garden, really saw it..  I was quite surprised to see how lush and beautiful it is.

 

 

 

 

It dawned on me then, (and I feel so stupid about this), that intention is brilliant when it is focused and it achieves a lot.  My intention has created a lovely, wild garden with trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and fruit. However,  my garden needs my attention as well.  If I really want to co-create with the spirits of the garden and with Mother Nature, I must be attentive to them.  Just as a child needs attention to help it develop confidence and grow,  my garden needs my full attention to enable it to feel really loved and  really appreciated.

Professor Emoto showed in his experiments with water crystals that if something is ignored it pines away from neglect.  If something is shouted at and cursed it will just survive.  Best of all is that which receives loving attention.  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehlw-9PJkIE)   I believe that showing my garden loving attention will result in a much deeper, more sacred relationship with the land for me; and that will lead to us, my garden and I, enjoying a wonderful life of co-creativity together.

 

Medicine and Magic in the May Garden

 

I love the month of May – the whole country becomes lush and green and seems to me to be full of magical promise. Every time I turn around there is a new plant to discover, a new flower blossoming, a new leaf just opened on a young tree.

Some people might say that it is a terrible year for weeds as the heat and the soft rain have really encouraged vigorous growth but lets not forget that many of those weeds are medicinal and magical.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense is a wonderful urinary herb and is very beneficial to the body in other ways.  He also has many uses in the garden itself; in a compost tea, as a spray for blight and as a spray for rose fungus, so don’t get too het up about finding him in your garden.  Be grateful and put him to use – that is why he is there.  Horsetail can be used in fertility spells which is not surprising when you see how prolific Horsetail is!

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense – looks so sweet and pretty, actually she really does taste sweet.  Try the flowers in a salad.  You can also use this little herb for coughs and skin complaints as well as part of a detox formula.  As for the garden, she fixes nitrogen into the soil so all your other plants benefit from having her there.  Use Red Clover in a spell for Love, Success and Abundance.

Here is Cramp Bark – Viburnum opulus, also known as Guelder Rose, can be seen in many a hedge row and like other trees she is dressing up in her flowers.  Later in the year she will produce bright red berries.  Although she can be used for muscle tension and cramps anywhere in the body, she is in particular a herb for women.  Always take the bark from a branch or a twig and NEVER from the trunk.

Elder – Sambucus nigra – is a tree that just keeps giving!!!  She shares her bark, leaves, flowers and berries!  The flowers and berries are especially prized for relieving upper and lower respiratory problems.  Elder is said to be ” …a veritable medicine chest…” as she can help with almost every physical complaint in some way.  Not only that, she has the magic of being the Crone Tree, a wise tree with much to teach us.  She is the fierce Mother who will do away with harmful negativity and protect us from all harm.

All of the plants mentioned so far are magical,  of course, simply by being who they are and by the way they share their healing attributes with us.

Here is Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis  looking beautifully lush and green before flowering.  You can see just how soft and velvety the leaves are.  I collect the leaves once the flowers have appeared as they make a very soothing medicine for chest problems during winter.

 

This is a real magical plant. Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea – was grown from some wild seed and I have planted several plants around my garden.  I saved seed last year too and now I have about thirty or more little seedlings sitting in the green house.  I would not personally use this as a medicine although it has been used traditionally for heart complaints.  I use it to honour the faeries and the Spirits of Place, the spirits of this land that I am guardian of.  This is one of their plants and I want them to feel at home here.  I am so glad it is in flower this month as May is such a month of faery activity.  As for the magic of this plant, I use the fallen petals to make a magical summer incense with and include it in my Summer Solstice celebrations.

What list of May plants and May magic would be complete without Hawthorn?

 

Hawthorn – Cratagus oxyacantha – is so associated with the month of May that her blooms are often called May Flower and Hawthorn often represents the Maypole.  Hawthorn is a herb for the heart, helping with blood-pressure issues and reducing cholesterol as well as toning the heart muscle and the cardiovascular system.

Hawthorn is a Bealtaine plant, representing youth, fertility and conception; falling in love and starting a new generation.  I think that her association with the heart is very interesting because if there is one plant, one flower, that can help open your heart to the Beauty of Nature, then it has to be Hawthorn.

Last weekend I attended a herb conference and all of the international visitors and speakers commented on how stunning they thought the Hawthorn in the hedgerows looked.  One speaker, who had travelled all the way from the Amazon, was astounded by Hawthorn’s beauty and her message to us. They were all touched deeply by the beauty of this lovely hedgerow plant.  Don’t you think that is magic?  That one of our magical trees can affect people to such an extent?

Hawthorn is of course, a magical plant.  Here in Ireland she is a faery plant and even today people still believe that it would be unlucky to cut down or interfere with a lone Hawthorn tree.

Isn’t she graceful? Each lone Hawthorn is said to hold the spirit of a faery, one of the Sidh and they are often found at Holy Wells in Ireland.

The time is here now for us to acknowledge that plants are not only sentient beings and have a lot to teach us; they are also wiser than us.  It is easy to build relationships with plants and during this month of May, when our hearts are touched by the Beauty of Nature, go out into your garden, park, hedgerow, cemetery or any wild place and start building relationships.  Our planet, our amazing Mother needs us to do this, wants us to do this and the plants are waiting for us to do this.

Let me know how you communicate with plants and if you need a little help to get started, have a look at the Weed Handbook Volume 2.  Maybe consider the Wise Woman Training which will soon be available in digital format.

May Blessings of love and fruitfulness to everyone!

 

Springtime Simplicity

Today is La Feile Brigid – Brigid’s Day, a day that always feel special and exciting to me as it is also Imbolc, the first day of Spring.  There is a sense of anticipation in the air which is exciting because it feels like a renewal, a fresh start, a change.  I was at my horticulture class today and when I returned home the sun was out and I was inspired to walk around my garden and have a check on it.  I had left the garden alone since the end of autumn, apart from a little winter pruning here and there, because I had learned that it is better to leave old plants in place as insects and other creatures use them for shelter.  Consequently, my garden looks a bit neglected and a bit bedraggled.

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As you can see here, there is not a lot growing and the storms have knocked down the fence.

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All the trees and bushes are bare but there is some colour from the Dogwood

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It is difficult to see with all the bushes being bare, but this is a corner of my dedicated Brigid’s Garden.

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And here is one of the first Dandelions, not yet in flower.

Dandelion is a flower associated with Brigid so it was lovely to see it today on my little meander.  Thinking about Nature,  you come to the conclusion that it is something immense and complicated and really we, humanity,  have no idea how it all works.  Then, just by quietly observing, you realise that is all quite simple really.   Just allow Mother Nature to do her work and help out whenever you can.  Do simple things like leaving plant material for the hibernating insects, leaving dandelions alone so that the bees can feed when they awake after winter hibernation.  The goddess Brigid is renowned for bringing magical bees from her orchard in the Other Realm so that we would have sweetness in this realm.  Perhaps that is why she is so fond of the Dandelion.

Imbolc – the beginning of Spring, that sense of anticipation in the air, a sense of good things coming and Brigid is, in popular folklore, regarded as being the bringer of plenty, helping things to grow and overseeing new beginnings and fresh starts.  Every spring we make a fresh start in the garden, helping things to grow.  We “spring clean” our homes ready for all the good things that are coming; these are simple and age old activities that enable us to feel renewed.  Spring greens such as Cleavers are appearing and they can be cleansing and nutritional after the heavy winter fare.

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Cleavers can be included in a simple green juice or eaten fresh like spinach.  It spring cleans the system.

For me it is important to trust that All Is Well – I use the phrase as a mantra sometimes.  I hadn’t been in the poly tunnel for ages and when I went in today I got something of a surprise.. .

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Lots of lemons on the lemon tree!  Despite a miserable and grey winter!  I had been worried about the tree but it was fine. What a gift on such a day.  Just simplicity at work.

Life can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it.  Why not make it simple and avoid the stress?  Life is too short, as a friend of mine recently found out, so simplify things.  We can only find space in the house for so many things, so stop worrying about wanting to buy more.  We can only wear so many clothes at one time.  We can only be in one place at a time.  Our children are only here and then they’ve grown and gone.  As Springtime begins, we have a great opportunity to make a fresh, and hopefully, simple start to the rest of the year.  Be happy and enjoy all the blessings of Brigid on this special day.  Use the comments box below to let me know how you celebrate La Feile Brid.

Welcome to An Bhean Feasa – My Life in Connemara

Welcome to my blog!  I am very excited to be starting off on this adventure and I would like to explain what my objectives are and where I started from.

north-eastGrowing up in an industrial town in the north east of England made me yearn for Connemara.  Every time we visited my dad’s home place something deep inside of me was calmed and satisfied and at peace.  Looking out one way, there was a ruined castle, (which to my child’s imagination was just magic) and looking out the other way was the view of the majestic Twelve Bens. Playing out from dawn to dusk, running through green fields and along golden beaches was paradise for a child from a dirty old town.  As a young adult I became aware of environmental issues – to be concerned was the right thing to be but I was naive and didn’t really know what to do and of course, this was long before social media.  When I bought a little house, two up and two down with a back yard, I tried to created a beautiful garden in that cramped space.  I even planted a tree.  It seemed to be important and only natural to encourage plants to grow. Our visits to Connemara continued and moving back was always on my mind.  Finally, in 1994 I sold up and came to live here in Connemara.

My dad very generously gave me a site for a house and planning permission was applied for.  Our little cottage was built in 1998.  Once we settled in I wanted to start growing a garden, growing vegetables and being self sufficient as my ancestors had been.   I thought my two little girls would love to have their own garden patch to grow what they wanted.  One daughter was not interested in gardening then and the other one developed hay fever so found it difficult to be outside in the summer months.  It was just me, and only occasionally because real life kept getting in the way. The “garden” was pretty neglected.

Eventually after various jobs and a long spell at teaching and after meeting my new husband, I was inspired to open a health shop.  Something prompted me, whispered in my ear, pestered me until one day I jumped out of bed and said to my husband, “I’m going to open a health shop and call it An Bhean Feasa”.  That is Irish for the wise woman and  that was the start of a new chapter in my life. today-3-035