Nature and Seasonal Connections

How are you feeling now that the days are getting longer, the sunshine is stronger, birds are singing more and the snowdrops, aconites, daffodils and catkins are appearing? Our ancestors in this land divided the solar year into 8 mark points, which included the solstices and equinoxes and the four fire festivals of Imbolc (around Feb 2), Beltain (May 1), Lammas (Aug 2) and Samhain (Oct 31). The solstices, marking the times of most and least sunlight, and the equinoxes when day and night are equal were dedicated to the masculine, and the four fire festivals to the feminine. Celebrating at these times helped keep people and the land in harmony and balance. It is amazing how these sacred times of the year are turning points for nature too, relating to when certain plants appear, when people sow, when the first fruits appear, times of the harvest and even times of mating for animals (and humans!). Despite the Gregorian calendar squeezing 12 months and 365 days in a year, it is amazing how many people still mark the ancient times in a meaningful way. In December I was with a thousand others for the sunrise of the winter solstice at Stonehenge and it was a very moving experience to see the sunrise over the ancient stones. Back in Suffolk I have been out and about a lot more now that the cold weather has gone (for now anyway!) and the sun is shining. A dear friend of mine Graham Game has taught me a lot about appreciating and connecting to the healing power of nature. Graham has had a distinguished career as an environmentalist and has spent a lot of time with Native American elders who have taught him from their long connection with Mother Earth. Graham now lives in Suffolk near the most easterly point of England and every morning walks his dogs along the beach at sunrise. ‘I am the first person in Britain to receive the rays of the sun’ he told me once with a twinkle in his eye. There really could be no better person to welcome the sun to our land than him. Graham teaches to keep your eyes open when out in nature, to take your time, breathe and connect to your environment. When you do this, miracles can happen. You can see colours more beautiful that you ever knew, hear bird song in a fresh way and feel you are part of nature, not separate from it. Using nature in this way can have numerous health benefits for body and mind. I encourage everyone to get outside when you can and keep your eyes open – you never know what you might find. Today when picking up my middle child up from school, we left a little early and walked through the Park. It was wonderful to see the snowdrops return to a very special spot I have visited many times around this time of year. I felt amazing. When we arrived at school I had an intuition to have a look at the raised veg beds my husband manages with the children in gardening club. As it is the dormant season for their activities, some of the beds had been left barren. Well, as we gardeners know, Mother Nature doesn’t like bare soil, and will soon provide a ‘blanket’ of ‘weeds’ to act like a plaster to protect the precious soil from sunlight and erosion. It is amazing ho many ‘weeds’ are actually really useful plants – and the one that had covered one of the beds is chickweed. I collected a big bunch and ate some of the leaves raw in the school queue. It wasn’t long before a number of children and parents appeared and some were brave enough to try a few leaves. It is delicious and very nutritious, especially high in vitamin A and other essential nutrients. I imagined how happy our ancestors would have been to collect these first edible fresh new greens around this time of   

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copyright Juliette Bryant