Buddleia And Butterflies

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When I was a little girl, my grandparents had the most wonderful buddleia bush in their garden – a truly magical place for me to visit and explore , and populate with my imagination, aided of course by a feline friend.

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I can remember sitting beneath the buddleia’s silvery arching branches and looking up into the natural architecture of the tree, an intricate fretwork and interlacing of branches reaching upwards, an arboreal cathedral.

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The flowers! Sumptuous, heavy-headed spikes of tiny purple flowers, overflowing with intoxicating fragrance; the scent irresistibly drawing crowds of various butterflies and bees to feast like gluttonous courtiers at Henry VIII’s table.

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I remember my grandmother carefully deadheading and pruning this wonderful shrub, and my father – perhaps in a fit of envy, or perhaps to please me – visited every garden centre in the region to procure our very own buddleia.

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He even managed to get an orange buddleia (“Golden Knight”) which was quite rare in those days… even though the man down the road has one in his garden. Nowadays, everywhere you go you can see buddleia growing prolifically – apparently it’s quite invasive, it self-seeds on waste ground, hence its nickname of the “bombsite plant.”

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Not bad going really, for a bush whose origins lie in China. Of course, it’s a great source of nectar for all sorts of creatures – some have even evolved flowers designed specifically for a hummingbird.

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Buddleia is also known as the “butterfly bush” and it was originally named after an English botanist called the Reverend Adam Buddle.

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This year, I’ve tried my hand at a little gardening, and to be honest, I have both enjoyed it and found it therapeutic. I’ve even joined a Facebook group for gardeners… Throughout the post I have included some pictures of the visitors we’ve had – I hope I’ve managed to recreate a little of the magic in my own garden that I was lucky enough to experience at my grandparents.

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The Seagull

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Thank you Alex for the use of your beautiful photo x

I saw a dead seagull today and it upset me more than it should have done, or perhaps more than I thought it would.

A big herring gull, crisp white feathers and smooth grey wings. Strong, curved yellow beak, but greyish filmy lids closed over fierce proud eyes.

Still and silent in the middle of the road, carelessly crumpled and neck bent awkwardly back on itself and legs outstretched.

You should be flying free and wild, soaring over the sea, screeching your savage call to carry on the wind. Not here.

You should look down upon seas churned with foam, waves crashing towards the land. Not here.

Not dusty tarmac. You should blink fiercely out of existence into magnificent nothingness.

A dirty city street is no place to die.

Plan Bee…

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I have known Alex’s father, my partner, for twenty years now. In addition to the usual ups and downs you experience within most relationships, he’s also changed a lot of his thinking. Not just to please me, but the sort of thing he sees the sense in. For example, he found me crying after I had accidentally stepped on an earwig:

WHAT’S THE MATTER? IT WAS JUST A BUG!”

No! Earwigs are really good mothers and they will fight to the death to protect their babies!”

I get very worried about bees too. I treat them with a healthy dose of cautious respect since both my mother and my sister are allergic to bees and will have an anaphylactic reaction if stung. I’ve never been stung, so I have no idea if I’m allergic or not and I don’t intend to find out either…

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Generally, then, if a bee (or a spider) needs rescuing, it is down to my partner to get the job done. I was out the other day when we had a short burst of rain. I returned home to find my partner putting my hairdryer away and at the puzzled look on my face – he has very short hair – he explained.

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He had been out in the garden feeding the fish, and as he was going back indoors out of the rain, he found two bees who had been surprised by the sudden downpour. He picked them gently up and rushed back indoors with his soggy casualties.

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Their bee-fluff was soaked, so he tenderly laid them on a piece of kitchen towel, inside a plastic bag, and with my hairdryer on its lowest setting, proceeded to revive them within his makeshift apian oxygen tent.

He was very soon rewarded with signs of life as their legs and wings began to stir, and aas the rain had stopped, took them back outside. He sat them down on some flowers and watched in satisfaction as they flew away.

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” Did you see that Barry?” “Yes Paul – Bee-hold the Light!” (R.I.P. Barry Chuckle, your gentle comedy will be sadly missed)

 

Mother – Don’t Go!

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It was a beautiful night and I was restless. I couldn’t settle to sleep indoors so I went outside to the garden.

Dimly lit and full of perfume, bats fluttered overhead, moths whirred softly by and with every drifting breeze the petunias and stocks released their scent to float softly on the warm night air.

I fell asleep. And I dreamed:

I saw a young woman. She was beautiful. I looked at her face and in her eyes was all the kindness of the world. Love shone from her skin and water flowed in her hair, the eternal movements of the seas and the patterns of the rivers.

I saw lush forests and grassy plains, alive and full of burgeoning life, shimmering behind her skin. It changed.

The delicate bones of her face filled out, herds of buffalo roamed across the plains now; the rivers and seas teemed with movement, fish, seals, otters, whales and dolphins played and lived. The forests filled with birds and chattering monkeys and the love for all these creatures welled up in her eyes and made her bloom.

She smiled and in her motion humans were made and she loved them, nurtured them, cared for them. Her skin was rich and bloomy, her hair glowed with warmth and being. Then the picture changed again.

Her eyes were worried, unhappy, pained. The lushness of her hair faded to grey, drab and coarse. Across her face and behind her eyes wars and famines raged. Disease and death followed, carving misery in her countenance and sorrow, bleak. People died. And as they died her face grew thin and gaunt, cheekbones like dead branches, till finally, finally burning tiny embers appeared on the plains.

Black holes spread quickly, the ashy edges spreading and charring and killing her vitality. Seas dried up, rivers ran dry and forests decayed. And still they did not stop.

I tried to hold her hand and then I wept as she died.

Porcellanite And Prey

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This unassuming little green stone with delicate black etchings has a lovely tactile smoothness to it, so it is no surprise to learn that it is a wonderful cleanser and healer for connective tissues, ligaments, skin and intestines, mirroring everybody’s (well mine at least) wish for smooth and perfect skin, well-oiled tendons and a stomach that behaves itself.

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Perfectly smooth and soft Princess paws… 

Porcellanite feels smooth and serene to hold, the calm green colour giving strength and focus to your thoughts and feelings and how you wish to express them. The little black etchings within the stone act as markers and signposts of encouragement, inspiring and creative.

Speaking of creative… I know cats are inveterate hunters and killers of prey – it’s part of their genetic history and instinctual makeup, but Charlie, Ting and Tooty don’t hunt. Never have done, and I can’t see them starting anytime soon, although Charlie has, once or twice, presented me with a dead moth, and once a tiny live mouse, that I think she thought she could keep as a pet.

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Tooty’s more of a tree-hugger really… 

Like Ting and Tooty, who also lost their mother at an early age, perhaps they missed that essential part of their feline education, and their hunting instinct just wasn’t switched on. They are all keen birdwatchers, though, and Ting seems to have formed quite a close relationship with the fish.

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“Hi Bert, hi George, hi Alfie, hi Maureen, hi Hilda, hi Nemo… “

Not so Lily. Indeed, I’ve never known such a cat for hunting and bringing her prey home. She excelled herself the other morning… I am accustomed to the usual mice – two different species, sometimes live, sometimes dead, sometimes whole, sometimes… not – and the occasional bird… but the other morning…

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Butter wouldn’t… even dare go near her!

I heard her special “meow” and realising that she’d brought a gift in, leapt out of bed and rushed downstairs to take part in our shared hobby of early-morning mousehunt. (I’m actually quite good now.)

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Yep…o.k….I’ll leave you alone…

Lily had vanished. But on the doormat was a very large, very dead rat. You can colour me surprised, impressed, a little scared and rather sad… kind of brownish-purple, like an old bruise, I suppose…

I’ve had rats as pets, and know what gentle and loving creatures they can be, so I gathered up the body and disposed of it in the wild part of the garden, in a little hole. I say little…it was a very large rat, so when the Demon Huntress returned later that morning, I seized her and checked for injuries.

I did, out of courtesy, thank her for the rat, but mentioned I would prefer it not to happen again, only to receive the reply:

But why? You tell us it’s always better to buy in bulk when it comes to cat food!”

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Ruin

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And so I find myself walking an unknown yet strangely familiar path – all around me there is a rustling and a fluttering of little birds in the trees and bushes, almost as if they are signposting the way, guiding me.

Along the little lane, surrounded either side by old trees, old country trees, oak, beech, ash and the witch’s own rowan, leaning over me. Along the verges, cow parsley, delicate and as frothily white as vintage lace, ramsons, smelling sharply of garlic and long lush grass, encourages me onwards; my feet responding to some old memory that leads me to an old wooden stile, battered but still sturdy enough for me to cross out of the cool green darkness and into the field beyond.

And somehow what I half-expected wasn’t there. I pick my way across the rough tussocky grass. And as if in a dream, I see it; I am approaching the back of the house, rising in red brick splendour, through the gardens, (the rough remnants, the herbs, the rosemary, the lavender, crushing under my feet and releasing their evocative fragrance) immaculately kept within neat boundaries of shaped box.

I am come home!” and this thought gladdens my heart as I make my way down the old stone steps, old even then, feet wearing away grooves and leaving echoes of lives gone by, and into the kitchen.

Cook’s let the fire go out!”

And feeling the bustling dogs, crowding about my knees, my hounds and her little dogs, my father’s wolfhound – I put my hand out, down by my side and half -expect to feel the soft smooth domed head of my favourite Talbot beneath my touch – heart wrenchingly disappointed yet somehow not surprised when she’s no longer there.

More stairs and into the hallway – grass underfoot now, crunching and dry – and with every hesitant step taken the picture is clearer, dark oak floorboards, rich paintings on the walls, a highly polished side table loaded with fresh flowers – she insisted upon fresh flowers for the house always – and linen fold panelling, gleaming with beeswax hiding the oubliette from long ago – but not now.

The curlicue of banister and wide stairs and a memory of small white hands – how proud she was of their dainty appearance, lavishly beringed, small yet strong enough to wring a dove’s neck, poised prettily on the turn of the carved finial. And a memory came then, of the last day, my father’s voice raised in anger, her mocking laughter – the blood and the pain.

It’s gone.

I open my eyes to the present day and find I am sitting on a heap of old red bricks, worn and unnoticeable amongst the tough old grass. The sun beats down, burning bright from the cloudless blue sky. Somewhere above me I hear swifts screaming and the clear bubbling song of a lonely lark. I put my hands to my face to wipe away the tears that suddenly, inexplicably are flooding my eyes.

Maiden, Man, Death.

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She walked with grace in her step and the scent of summer in her hair. As she moved, the folds of her dress shimmered with the rainbows of rivers and moths and butterflies fluttered from it as she flowed along Mother Earth’s ways.

Trees leaned confidingly towards her and she touched them as she passed, with love and care so they blossomed. All the golds of this good earth glowed in her hair, buttercups and daffodils, ripe barley and goldfinches.

When she lay down to rest, the trees and grass enfolded her lovingly, protectively and wild deer showed their trust by lying down beside her. Every morning when she awoke she gave thanks to the Universe and Mother Earth for their gifts and generosity and as she sang her gratitude the little birds stopped to listen.

Her eyes were the clear blue of a summer sky, filled with gentle warmth for every living creature; no snake or spider or scorpion held fear for her as they were all Mother Earth’s children.

Indeed, scorpions curled their tails away to avoid stinging her delicate bare feet and snakes curled themselves in her hair and around her wrists, living coils of iridescent jewellery. The spiders spun silk to mend her dress and as she danced the soft breezes were her partner. Tiny white flowers grew in her wake as she walked.

He stunk. Chemically bad, industrially corrupted. He smiled and fawned, ingratiating, yet grubby in mind and spirit. He strode through life with every appearance of confidence and intelligence; yet inside, cancerous doubt and invasive fear lived.

He searched. He looked for something to fill the dark void inside him – he who had seen Hell sought to bring others to him and his understanding, baiting traps with soft words and gifts, anything to catch an offering for the gnawing hunger inside him.

Others slid uneasy from the clawing need, sensing with ancient animal instinct the corrosive burn of his interest. He dressed with care yet somehow always appeared slightly dirty round the edges, fingers stained and sulphurous, fingernails rimmed with grime that reflected his most secret desires.

Assuming familiarity with those around him gave him the courage. The darkness grew. And then he saw her and the fire burned higher and brighter till it threatened to consume him completely and he knew that only one thing could quench it.

She smelt him before she saw him. The dark smoke of his spirit invaded her senses, yet with her belief in the ultimate goodness of every living being, she turned to face him.

He smiled, invitingly, and on his breath she smelled her death. Fear rose in her throat and she turned to run, to fly, to seek refuge among kindness and understanding. He followed. He crept along behind her on slug-soft feet and she felt every step, his starving eyes on her back like poisoned knives, and the want, the terrible Want.

The darkness struck and took her down – gently, oh so gently, he reached out and clasped her throat, rejoicing as he felt the frantic pulse fluttering like a little bird.

And then he crushed it.

Ground out the beat in her throat like a miserly hand-rolled cigarette. She gasped and struggled as his stench overwhelmed her, but the Goddess was kind and she passed quickly, her life spark ascending as swiftly as a little bird, leaving behind only a faint sweet smell, like incense, and a tiny white flower..

Him? Mother Earth took him, for killing one of hers, drawing him painfully through a narrow chasm in the ground, cracking bones and squeezing flesh till all that was left was a yellow puddle, smelling faintly of urine and nicotine.

Father Sun came out and shone, burning, until even that was gone. And the Earth was cleansed.