Poppy is at the vets today having an operation and it has been preying on my mind for days. I feel the weight of responsibility, even though the decision to do this was taken in conjunction with and on the advice of our vets. I love that little dog. She has been with us nearly a year now and it is as if she has always been here. Last Autumn I knew she was coming, so I went out and found her and brought her home, and now I could not bear it if anything were to happen to her.
I'm not a great believer in worrying - it promotes the wrong kind of energy, the sort that drains and consumes without ever improving the situation. A wise woman I once knew taught me a poem that I remember at times like these: 'worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, only saps today of its strength.' So instead of fretting, I took my concerns to our Willow and talked to him about it, placing it in his hands and asking for his help.
Willow trees are ancient beings. They are one of only a handful of native species that have been on these Islands since The Ice Rivers withdrew, some ten thousand years ago. It is perhaps not suprising therefore that they feature in Ogham, the first written language of the British Isles. These letters, each symbolising a tree, can be found carved into ancient Stones in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As the fifth tree of the alphabet, Willows are connected to the fifth month, May, and to Spring, new growth, flourishing, creativity and magic. Folklore says, if you have a secret you can tell no one else, whisper it to the willow tree and she will keep it for you and your heart will be unburdened.
There are many willows around our house, but our own willow stands apart from these. At the bottom of the garden near the wooden gate that leads out on to the lane, I think of him as a sentry, guarding the house and all that lies within. He is a quiet, self-possessed tree; unassuming and still. So much so that he has passed pretty much unnoticed by me during the eight years that we have lived here. How is that possible? I have made connections with all the other trees on our land, but somehow I have overlooked him, and it is only this year that he has really come to my attention.
To stand beneath his branches is to be peaceful and to ponder quietly in your turn.
I am spending increasing amounts of time in his company as this summer progresses. I have been getting to know him through the lives of all the small creatures that his own life supports; through the plants that grow beneath and beside him, and through the pattern of his bark, leaves and branches. I have been surprised over and again at the number of small things that depend on him for their own existence, and each time I visit him and stand beneath his boughs I notice, or am shown, something new and different to what I have seen before.
Yesterday, he showed me a new caterpillar. It's the larva of the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia), sometimes called the Cleft-Headed Looper in deference to the shape of the head. It is a master of disguise, mimicking a twig by day when it is still and silent, and then waking at night when it moves fast and eats voraciously....
After the caterpillar he showed me a Tree Damsel Bug (Himacerus apterus), something else I have never seen before. This is the only tree-dwelling damsel bug in the whole of Great Britain and it feeds on mites and small insects. It has tiny wings and is out and about between July and October....
Then he showed me where a Ladybird larva had pupated and eclosed on one of his leaves....
And then he set me a test: did I now have my eyes fully open and was I really seeing properly? Or was I simply skirting over what was before me. It turns out that I wasn't seeing properly, even with the knowledge of all the magical things he had pointed out that would otherwise have remained hidden among his leaves and branches.
I picked this little thing up, thinking it was a bit of old willow fluff left over from the Spring, cluttering up his leaves and making them untidy. And in a sense it was old willow fluff. It is just that this old willow fluff was being used by someone. A fact it proved once it was on my finger, by moving.....
|A messy jumble of seeds and fluff and bits and bobs, which have nevertheless been purposefully collected.....|
I just love this, it is so unlikely, and that is why I find nature so humbling.
After that lesson in opening my eyes properly, and receiving the sense that there are far more things out there (even on my own doorstep) that I don't know about than those that I do, our Willow brought my attention to the plants that grow under his branches, and therefore his protection....
|Broad Leaved Dock|
|Common Fleabane and Friend|
|Seed head of Self Heal|
|Blackberries in the hedge|
|Weeping Widow Mushrooms|
|Another fungus- I don't know what it is so if anyone does I'd be grateful for an ID|
|Great Hairy Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)|
|Dicranopalpus ramosus, a type of Harvestman whom I have found in the Goat Willow before, but this one was in the back garden|
|Honeysuckle in the hedge|
|Michaelmas Daisies by the fence|
|Redshank, popping up everywhere in the girl's old patch|
|Yellow Bristle Grass (Sectaria pumila)|
|Bugloss, a single plant where last week there was nothing at all :-)|
|Many-Seeded Goosefoot (Chenopodium polyspermum)|
|Perforate St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum).|
This baby mouse was wandering about the patio the day before yesterday completely unconcerned about the potential risk from predators. He sat down and calmly proceeded to eat a seed while I fretted someone would come along and eat him. At approx half the size of my thumb it was hard to see him putting up much of a fight if that did happen. So when I found him on the lawn, again not moving and unconcerned, I picked him up and put him in the veg patch where there is lots of cover and more importantly a fence so the doggy people can't get in. I left a small pile of seeds beneath a leaf and went indoors smiling and feeling calm and restored.
Plenty of people don't like mice. I have a different attitude- our garden, broadly, is a place where every native wild thing is welcome. Sure, we lose the odd patch of kale to flutters and this summer my voles demolished the early kale as well, but we've still got plenty to eat and for me, a garden full of wildlife is a thing to be cherished and loved and glad of.
|Baby Wood Mouse|
And as for helping me with my worries about Pop, well, I've just had a call from the vets to say she's come through the operation fine and is ready and waiting to come home.
I wonder if the Willow has a way to prevent her from rushing about before she should, as she is bound to want to do? I can see I shall have to pay him another visit soon to find out.....
Wishing you all a peaceful evening,