Friday, 4 May 2007

Of oak trees, violets, dormice and children



It’s a whole different dynamic when Adrian’s away. Some people hate being alone but I love it (maybe because it doesn’t happen that often). I can do what I like when I like, without having to consider anyone’s feelings but my own. So today I had ‘lunch’ at 11.20am and then found myself at ‘lunchtime’ with no hunger yet a vague feeling I should mark the hour somehow. Now, I’m a great one for telling people to slow down, live in the moment, wake up and smell the roses and so on. But do I follow my own advice? Do I heck. I am horribly driven (presumably it’s the Capricorn in me) with an over-developed puritan work ethic – I feel guilty as sin if I sit down and do nothing for more than ten seconds.

But today I made myself sit outside and drink my tea. No good – I could see weeds – a whole chorus-line of them throwing up their skirts on the ‘raised patio’ (OK, the bit where the greenhouse used to be that was supposed to be an ‘outdoor eating area’ but never really happened). So I weeded until my tea got cold.

Then I thought, this is ridiculous. It’s a gorgeous day and I’ll go for a wander to say hello to the oak trees. The year after we moved here, when James was a small baby, we rescued three young oak saplings (from someone who was thinning out their woodland). It felt symbolic somehow – a tree each. Of course, as luck would have it, that year was supremely dry and we wore ourselves out carting up water from the river to keep them alive. But there they stand, getting on in size now, protecting our hill. For a fair few years I felt we had the placing of them all wrong. Although they are within sight of each other, two are definitely closer with one slightly on the outside. For a long time it bothered me and I would reason that the two close were James and I (mother and baby) with father standing watch (the other tree is slightly higher). But as I looked at them today I thought otherwise. James is the tree outside – for while Adrian and I are (presumably) stuck together for life, James will inevitably break free at some point and go his own sweet way. It is right and proper that it should be like that. We borrow children – they are not ours. Our job as parents is – I believe – to nurture them, support them, be totally there for them but (and such an important but) also to know when to let them go. There is nothing worse than a child who feels he or she cannot leave its parents.

It was warm, sunny yet with a brisk breeze and Jack and I followed an old sheep track. We have been leaving the upper part of the large field unmowed for the last few years to see what happened, and what has happened is a ton of wild flowers. I don’t know the names of half of them and must look them up. But today I kept noticing violets above all. Violets are fascinating in folklore terms. It is considered perfectly fine to pick bunches of violets and have a posy in your home, but you should never pick just one single one. It’s even worse luck to pick a violet with dew on its petals – it was said to augur the death of a loved one. Pick violets when the weather is fine and intense rain is supposed to follow (now there’s an idea). Yet on the plus side violets are supposed to be an antidote to evil and dark witchcraft – they were grown in medieval monastery gardens as a protection against Satan. All violets were supposedly white until Mary turned from watching Christ on the Cross at which point they became violet to echo her mourning (hence purple as an original colour of mourning). This however may hark back to earlier times still – in mythology, Cupid was said to love white violets and Venus/Aphrodite changed them to purple in what amounts to sheer spite basically – jealous old bint.
Of more interest to a lot of Exmoor folk is the old belief that wearing violets while hunting was supposed to ensure that you didn’t fall off your horse.
Talking of horses, I also noticed a tiny horse chestnut sapling – only about six inches tall. It’s a long way from our other horse chestnuts and I had to wonder if it had come from a conker dropped from one of James’s pockets. I’m not sure if it will survive as it’s in a slightly exposed spot and liable to be tramped on or nibbled – but it must take its chances. Though as I reached in my pocket I found an old conker and tossed it into a small hole on the bank – it’s probably too old and dried but you never know.

Jack and I sat down on the bank that marked the old hedge-line, by a tangled stand of beech and silver birch. Thoughts were still whirring round my head so I shut my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing. It’s amazing how something so simple slows you right down. Immediately I could notice the cool air on my nostrils, redolent with the faintest tang of gorse’s coconut and the pure distilled scent of ‘green’. The birdsong became a concerto of woodpigeon, woodpecker, rook, thrush, blackbird and pheasant. Inevitably of course the JTR from my nearest neighbours decided it deserved a solo – but a hand on Jack’s shoulder stopped him from making it a duet (he is still being remarkably nice after yesterday’s shocks).

A quick tour down by the river and I picked up a few hazel-nuts. I expect you know that you can always tell if you have dormice by the way nuts are eaten. Whereas a squirrel will splice the nut in half, a dormouse will delicately nibble a little round hole. We seem to still have a healthy population of these teeny tiny mice. Often they nest right by the backdoor and drive Jack potty by flitting across the patio while he is stuck inside watching.
The house martens don’t seem fazed by the unseasonably warm weather and lack of mud: their nests are looking very ship-shape.
I came back from my wander refreshed and recharged – and ready to tackle my dreary feature on allergies again (if anyone has been cured of an allergy do let me know and you can feature as a case study!).

By the way, thank-you so much to everyone who has read and commented on the prologue of my novel Walker between Worlds (see link on left hand side). I’ve posted Chapter One now and will put up the other chapters as and when I can (I’m trying to do some editing before putting them up). I’d really love you to continue reading and giving me your (honest) impressions and suggestions. And yes, would really welcome feedback from any of the target audience (12+). I’m relying on Frances to correct any howlers I make about US vocabulary and syntax!
Reading this back it's a bit 'worthy'. So the picture is of the infamous Woods - James insists that, regardless of Adrian not being here, we must fulfil our Friday early evening ritual of a ginger beer (or spritzer) and bags of Burts crips. So this is where we'll be come 6.30pm.... anyone fancy joining us?

19 comments:

lixtroll said...

Jane, it's not 'worthy' at all - a simply beautiful blog, full of lovely observations and full of detail, an absolute pleasure to read as always. Your site is looking amazing too! If I were Them on the Other Side I would be spitting mud to have lost you, actually.

Purple is an interesting colour, isn't it!

And I love the piccy of you and Asbo!

And I'm SOOOOO glad you are here - now that things are settling down a bit I hope to pop over and visit more regularly x

elizabethm said...

How do you know so much? fascinating stuff for a plantaddict like me about violets. I love being by myself too (for a bit) and blogged about it once. Enjoy your walks and only weed if you can treat it as therapy, a trick i can sometimes but not always pull off.

Suffolkmum said...

I had far too much time by myself, now R is home each night (new job) I don't quite know what to do with myself! I knew violets were always associated with monks, now I know why. Love your idea about the trees, I think you were probably right at first - mother and child so entwined - but they start to move away.....
Your local bar looks very nice, we're a bit more downmarket over here.

Suffolkmum said...

PS yes I bet the are spitting (re Lixtroll's comment).

JacquiMcR said...

Jane,as usual your blog is a font of wonderful information. I completely agree with lixtrolls comments re the other side and am thoroughly enjoying your book (even though as I mentioned before, I am quite a bit over 12). Enjoy your ginger beer !

Jacqui x

Eden said...

Oh hate that I missed the ginger beer and Burts. Now what's this nonsense about being 'worthy' -- reflective I'd call it, astutely observed and beautifully drawn. I completely agree about children being themselves and about the best parenting being the kind that both sends them off and makes them want to come back. I bet you are a great mom.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Violets, we are knee deep in them have never seen them so prolific before. Great swathes of them on the sides of the roads!

Pondside said...

Well I didn't think it was worthy at all, if worthy is a bad thing (yes, English is my first language, but sometimes our expressions are a little different). I really liked this blog and was interested right to the end.
It's nice to have your day to yourself - and your night once in a while too. Having your own way for a bit only makes your reunion nicer.

@themill said...

A wise friend once told me, We must hold onto our children with open arms. I've never forgotten it as I watch my little lot fly in and out of our lives.

Inthemud said...

I missed the drink at 6.30pm last night as only catchimng up with you today!

I too enjoy thoses times when I am alone, I've done very much what you did, had lunch early then wonder what to do at lunch time! I've busied myself this morning pulling up loads of nettles so some of the planyts can shine through! Long way to go yet, and grass needs cutting and Ican't do it myself!

sally's chateau said...

Exmoorjane, I do so hope that you will find time to come and grab your weekend at Le Chateau. Your walk sounds idyllic. Right I'm showing your story to my 'little darling' !

Blossomcottage said...

BEAUTIFUL I enjoyed the journey through your thoughts.
Blossom

bodran... said...

Hey jane,i've caught up,love your book even though i'm only 9yrs old!I hope that cnoker takes [i'm leaving that mistake]...we threw about 6oo into the gorse a few years ago hoping they'd take..fingers crossed some may..xxx i would have come for ginger beer and time alone when you have a busy life is a gift to be grabbed.. xx

Posie Rosie said...

Just catching up, have a little time at last to 'indulge' in reading blogs, the weather has been so good I haven't had chance recently. Alovely blog as always Jane, and brill idea to put your writings on line, going to read chapter one now.

Woozle1967 said...

Lovely blog, as ever, Jane. You are such a walking encyclopaedia woman!! Where do you get it all from? Love the symbolism of the trees.xxx

CAMILLA said...

Dearest Jane,
I so too can identify with what you say about being "driven". I am a Capricorn also,(do we share the same date). Whenever I make myself a cuppa I then go about doing something, rushing about, saying "I must do that", and the brew has gone completely cold.
Your diary is so wonderful to read Jane as ever,agree with Lixtroll the other side has lost a truly gifted writer, I am sure they will be spitting. Love your story about the tree's. Ginger Beer & Crisps, yes please. Do hope you find a publisher for the novel, your writing is amazing.
Camilla.xxx

CJ said...

I have tagged you along with four other ex - CL bloggers - as my five favourite blogs. These tag thingies are lots of fun and help new, would-be readers find you in blogland. You seem to be really tech-savvy but if you have any probs just follow the email link on my blog. Of course, you don't have to participate if you don't want to...Bests

Hopping Moon said...

Hi _ I tried tyo post a comment yesterday unsuccesfullly - so here I am again to say how lovely your blog is and how much felt as if I was there too looking at the trees.

we have violets in our garden and I am amazed at the strength of perfume from such a tiny flower - and by the way we had a white one this year ....is this unusual or impossible???

Zoë said...

nope, violets can come in all sorts of colours, mainly blues, white, mauves, pinks and some yellows. I have Parma Violets in my green house in blue mauve, purple white and pinks,and also wild ones grow in the verge by my house, mostly blue, a few pink , and a white one. British wild violas come from Viola Odorata types, there is a nursery in Dorset(I buy from them) that will supply them mail order,http://www.grovesnurseries.co.uk/ and also Chelsea Gold medal winner Rosie Hardy sells a few too at Hardy's Cottage Plants. http://www.hardys-plants.co.uk/ I can recommend both :)