Island Blog – Wild Pesto

Today began a tad early. It was still dark, so I guessed about 3 am. I am good at guessing time. Himself taught me how to read the sun, his position in the sky and then to trust what came into my head. However, 3 am is sunless, but I seem to have learned the darkness too. I don’t have nightmares anymore so waking is just waking. I pad downstairs for a cup of herbal tea. I check to see that I did remember to bring the doglet in last night. I do that often, having once, only once, left a before dog out all night. It was summer, I remind myself soothingly. She was warm and curled up when I found her on one of the soft cushions of a sun chair, but still…….the memory has not left me unshattered, the image of her sweet face a morning welcome to one who deserved no such thing. Funny things, memories. Anyway, dog was in of course. I went back to bed with an audio book, most of which I didn’t hear as I did doze off, arising at five.

When I wake I am filled with beans. Always. No matter what my body feels, my Alice mind is like a drone already heading out into the wild, into the morning, the sunrise, the retreat of the darkness and I struggle to keep up but I know I want to follow. Each day is an adventure, even as I know that it will probably be just the same as its predecessor. However, this morning I have a mission in mind. I want to garner wild garlic to make wild pesto. It is my sister’s fault. She sent me a jar and I have never tasted anything so amazeballs. Well, maybe I have, but not in the world of pesto-ness. She is, after all, a professional chef.

I watch the goldfinches in my garden, six, 3 pairs, such beauty. Dave the dove and his mates, greenfinch, robins blackbirds #alwaysfighting, siskin feeding young, chaffinch, sparrows and they have to arrive in the plural, as this is how they live. The sparrow babble from the rhododendron bush nearby wonder me how it is able to remain rooted for all the household drama being played out within its depths. A starling. Well, that’s odd. There is never just the one. Maybe he/she fell out with the rest. I love the rainbow feather flash as he fidgets about on the bird table, his beak primed and ready to fell a small tree. I walk beneath a hovering honey buzzard, scanning, canting, holding the wind. It says nothing which tells me it is not this year’s young or it would be mewling like a lost kitten. Neighbour’s hens scritch and scratch the ground into early flatbeds and the rabbits dig burrows and the moles come in and spoil the whole plan with hummocks and interruptions.

The sky is wide and blue. Ice blue. I am on my way to gather wild garlic before it flowers. Into the fairy woods. On my way I cantilever towards my daughter-in-law’s house with a gathering in my arms for my grand-daughters. They love the fairy woods. Together we have discovered many fairy homes and left acorns and leaves and a flower head as a respectful gift. They are caught, as I was, in the wonder of fairies and elves and their parents encourage such adaptive thinking. But, they have a play date with friends, so not today. I head off alone, me and the doglet and my basket deep into the wild woods, sun dapples guiding us in. The garlic is young, holding back. We had frost, you may have noticed, they tell me, all straight-backed and not very tall. I wasn’t judging, I reply. I imagine frost is a big hazard. Ah, they tell me, their voices all coming at once, we can survive it but for the future of the species we need to be cautious. I get that, I say, and the leaves settle. The doglet cavorts through the woods without me, ahead of me but always, and I am sure of this, knowing exactly where I am. I can walk off anytime without her but within seconds she is beside me. I always see you, she says through those velvety brown eyes. Well, thank the holy crunch for that my girl as I am depending on you to be the eyes. We trot away from the wild, the garlic (I did ask if it is ok to pick) the old hazels, the witch trees, the honeysuckle, the primroses that flank like a battalion bank of golden strength, the violets and the celandine’s buttery faces that follow the sun. We emerge onto the grassland. A horse has been here. I see the hoof prints. A quad too, I think, or are these the tracks of Himself’s quad from last summer, when the bracken had dropped and he hated it enough to drive over it again and again? I have no answer. I have no answer for a zillion questions now.

But I do have wild pesto.

Island Blog – Garlic, Gratefulness and Fairies

In the afternoon sunshine of yesterday we set off to the Fairy Woods to gather wild garlic. I had a recipe for pesto and was keen to make it. Popz on his quad, me on my feet, Poppy trotting alongside, we wound our way through the violets, primroses, wood anemones and sorrel, between the mish-mash of ancient trees, all pushing out green. Turning down towards the shore we couldn’t avoid squashing a carpet of Celandine, faces pointed towards the sun, yellow as new butter, petal perfect. The ground was crunchy, old leaves drying, finally, and as far as we could see, a wide stretch of emerald green wild garlic leaves fluttered in the breeze. I knew I had to find 150 grams and made, as it turned out, a good guess. As we wandered back home, seeing absolutely nobody, we reflected on how this lockdown is a blessing for us. And how it must be a prison sentence for so many others. It’s good to be grateful, good for the health of the person with a thank you in her mouth.

In South Africa, nobody is allowed to go beyond the perimeter fence of their own garden, reserve, township or flat. Anybody found on the streets is at the mercy of the police. One person from each household is allowed to shop alone and once a week. All sales of alcohol and cigarettes are banned. I don’t think that sort of lockdown would make me all that grateful, although gratitude is not something we feel because we have everything. Sometimes our everything is someone else’s nothing much, but we can still find a thank you, if we trouble ourselves to think and reflect and, to a degree, compare our situation with another’s.

This slowdown lockdown time is giving us opportunities to check ourselves from the inside out; to question why we feel this flash of discontent or loneliness or self-criticism. What is it that brings these feelings? Have I felt this before, even when lockdown was not in place? Chances are, I have. So let me poke around through my memories, remembering how good they are at lying. Let me stop when the feeling comes and turn to say ‘hallo’. Let me look this feeling smack in the eyeballs and ask it what it wants from me now, now that I don’t need it at all. There is time for such work these days and, if we are canny, and if we have remembered our dreams and hopes for our own future, we have the chance to find an answer. Ah, so this thing that you do that annoys the bejabers out of me and always has……yes, that thing, the one you have no intention of stopping, even supposing you consciously know you do it in the first place, which you probably don’t.

So, instead of allowing that irritation to rise in me, I will consider a different way to live with this thing in you. How about I am so busy doing my own thing that yours is just a whisper in the winds of change? Or perhaps I will notice and reflect on my own habits that I know irritate you; if I have the humility to go there, of course. It takes courage to go there. Many of us don’t bother. We want everything, not just something and there’s not a lot of gratitude in that. In fact we prefer, if you don’t mind, to grumble about ‘your’ irritating thing, to growl at it, to let it control us, for that is exactly what we are doing.

Well, poo to that. I know that I do spend much time poking about inside myself, and that for some I am a bit of a laughing matter, but it is my thing. If I want to rise from this slowdown lockdown not only intact, but elevated and forever changed, which I do, then I must adopt an attitude of non-judgemental humility and that non-judgement must apply to me too. This way gratitude lies, even for those who cannot walk as we do every day into the Fairy Woods, even them. A time of reflection is laid out before us now, like the Celandine and, if we turn our perfect petals to the light of the sun, we can all come out on the other side of this as better humans.

We never did see a fairy.