Our acre and a quarter of West Cavan is sort of split-level. The house is higher up and there is a slope down into the acre that my husband is gradually gardening in sections. There is a polytunnel and raised beds for vegetables and beds for perennial flowers and shrubs.(We love heucheras!) Although we have always kept the garden wild-ish, we are fully on board with gardening the Mary Reynolds way. The Chelsea Show award winner had a metanoia about how traditional gardening is destroying the environment. We have never used pesticides or herbicides on our acre from the time we first settled here seventeen years ago. For that we are richly rewarded in the insect and wildlife that shares our acre and a quarter of West Cavan.
Yesterday we were sitting outside the house in the sunshine for ‘tea on the terrace’ (newly gravelled by Gardener Cuckson) with friends. My friend Jo who lives in Leitrim commented on how she always hears the hum of bees in our garden. And how silent of them many gardens are these days. Then an insect flew in to share our conversation. I ran to get my Collins Irish Wildlife. After much deliberation we reckon it was a rare Downy Emerald dragonfly. Although as we considered over skimmer or dragonfly, my friend said, “Fairy!”
My friend wants to re-wild her garden, but commented that the neighbours would not take kindly to her ditching her lawn. The seed bombs of meadow flowers would migrate over fences. “But it is good for the bees!” To which she said the neighbour would be worried about their children being stung.
Which says a lot about how we will shield children from a bee sting but not consider their long-term welfare. Even if wiping out the bees means that said child and grandchildren may face starvation because there are not enough bees to pollinate crops in future generations.
Which leads me to a quotation that I happened upon serendipidously this morning.
Rare Dragonflies and Bees
"Long live the weeds and wilderness yet!" We live to the tune and the humming of bees. Still do. Re-wild your lawn! Plant some trees! There is medecine and power to be had from weeds. Create an ark. Give sanctuary to dragonflies and bees.
I happened upon an episode on Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, a BBC Channel 5 broadcast. It happened that the episode in Ireland visits with an extraordinary woman, Judith Hoad, a woman who completely walks her talk – and does so directly. Check it out here https://www.my5.tv/ben-fogle-new-lives-in-the-wild/season-8/episode-7. Hoad lives completely off grid, up a hill not far from the Wild Atlantic Way, down a track in a remote part of County Donegal in the northwest corner of the Republic Ireland. She has lived there since 1981, and alone since 1999 when her husband died. She has supported herself teaching medical herbalism and traditional handcrafts.
I’ve met her through Leitrim’s Organic Centre and Wise Woman Weekend, which she co-founded with a number of women in Northwest Ireland back in 2004. I posted about the final Wise Woman Weekend back in 2017 https://sojourningsmith.blog/2017/05/09/its-a-wise-woman-that-knows-omens/. What you see in the documentary is completely unvarnished Judith. I once met her at a horticulture fair. Spotting that I was having a menopausal hot flush she very simply barked, “Cold sage tea!” And left me to fan myself slightly helplessly. Hoad is a force of nature.
Today’s Poetry Daily trigger comes from the documentary. Living alone at age 80, Judith practically leaves an envelope with instructions to whomever discovers her body after her death. It reminded me of my late sister-in-law, too, who was terminally ill, and left her instructions in a red box file boldly emblazoned with My Kick the Bucket Box.
Ordinary Extraordinary Life
Let's be matter of fact about it. One day I will be dead and why leave behind a mess for whomever should find me stiff in a chair, on the floor, in bed?
Rest what is left of my meat and bones buried in my own ground. Plant a tree. I fancy one. An oak. But, of course, I will not be around if you plant a hazel or rowan instead.
Let's be matter of fact about it. It's never easy not to have what is beloved around.
Less haste. Less waste. It's not magic. In mortality we are all bound. Let's be matter of fact about it.
Live lightly on the land because at the end, in earth we are all homebound. Dust back to dust someone else will sweep at the last.