Yarrow or Milfoil. Known to all since ancient times. A plant of magic power but easy to overlook. As an oracle often used in Eastern climes. Confucius took, from your stalks, the laws in his book
Woundwort, a healing balm when fights with sword and shield Leave men bruised and battle-scarred from glory’s affray. Achilles did heal his host on Troy’s battlefield With your leaf and stalk kept crushing defeat at bay.
The summer brings the fullness to all of your ambition. Your seeds are ripe, a time for rest, your work complete. You strove with all at your command, you asked for no condition. Tomorrow’s seeds you leave behind for time’s defeat.
We mortals too, will give our all and ask but naught of Fate. But grow within our chosen earth which, with our deeds, We enrich the compost that our experience will create. So, when our time is done, we too will leave sewn seeds.
Fox Gloves, Folk’s Gloves, fairy fingers dress. Woodland Folk, they have their ways that we can only guess. Best not to talk too loud around their fairy rings. Look away, don’t mention them and speak of other things.
Ash tree, Oak tree, Rowan – Devil’s bane. Ash tree roots go down to hell. Oak tree, heal my pain. Branch of the Rowan, keep our threshold clear. Bad luck and grief and woe may not enter here.
My first is in stalk and also in stem. My second is me, not you, him or them. My third is in toil but never in work. My fourth is in thrive but never in shirk. My fifth is in eels but just not in fish. My sixth is in rhubarb, a succulent dish. My seventh’s in wanting but never in need. My eighth and my ninth are common in deed. My tenth is in dirt and also in dust. Follow this rhyme, then guess it you must. Just look at the picture, the leaves are the clue, I’ve made it as simple as I can for you.
I’ve been in bed with the doctor and the antibiotics. It’s been a tight squeeze. I’ve not slept, not eaten. Don’t want to. No interest. And the weird dreams! Lucky I can’t remember most of them. The one that scared me half to death, was the one where I was in a party of slavers, making our way down through Africa from the lakes to our dhow, waiting to ship the slaves to the markets in Stone Town on Zanzibar. The slaves had been told by their chief that they would be shipped off to the Sultan of Oman’s palace, and live out their lives in luxury – so they didn’t give any trouble. We’d also picked up a nice couple of tusks and some slabs of fresh elephant meat as part of the deal. That was the trouble. We were moving as quietly as we could through that pitch dark African night to avoid ambushes and attacks by other slavers. Human eyes are amazing – but they must have some light! Then it started. ‘Cough.’ ‘Cough.’ You don’t live in Africa long without learning the sound of a lion. This one sounded an old male hunting alone – probably a man-eater. Couldn’t light torches without giving our position away – and you don’t stop a charging lion in the dark with a musket ball! All those weary miles through that still deep rich darkness ‘Cough’ now to this side now to that! My nerves were shattered by the time we caught sight of the welcoming fire our mates had built on the beach.
For some the first flowers of the year promise that Spring will come.
But woodland wild folk watch the world dance to a different drum.
For them, Spring flowers do naught but tell of Autumn fare unknown,
They care not how their future bread by nature’s hand is sown.
The leaves of Spring soft fed by rain find wild folk’s larder bare.
Yet hedgerow folk know Spring’s prudence is tempered yet with care.
For ivy will her berries show with bright green leaves displayed,
To ripen as the Spring moves on upon her branch arrayed.
Today we have the Ringlet Butterfly. As you can see, there is nothing very remarkable about it. It’s just a butterfly.
It prefers the cool damp days to bright sunny ones and so is out and about when its other more gaudy associates are sheltering from the inclemency.
Many cartoon heroes and even the main dramatis personae in our espionage fiction are usually remarkable people. The truth of the matter is that these larger-than-life characters are truly fictional and in the real world spies are valued for their ordinariness, their ability to blend in and disappear into the wallpaper – to be invisible in plain sight. The Ringlet performs this sleight of hand with ease. They are one of our most common butterflies but barely get a mention. When the subject arises their more colourful cousins, the Red Admirals, the Painted Ladies, the Peacocks, the Fritillaries, claim the limelight.
Are our, so ordinary, Ringlet butterflies leading a secret life, we wonder? Are they taught Morse Code in their cradles? Do they emerge from the chrysalis as fully competent agents provocateur? Is their love of dull damp days a cover for their clandestine operations?
‘Oh Mimulus, you drive me mad,
You timid yellow bloom.
Your talk is always of the bad,
Your mind is full of doom.
Disaster fills each waking thought,
Your conversation palls.
This list of battles to be fought,
Just on my deaf ear falls.’
‘Impatiens, slow down and hear
The warnings that we bring.
Pink blossom, haste will cost you dear,
A doleful song you’ll sing.
Our future flies on fragile wings
This world’s a dangerous place.
These are not vague imaginings,
But real threats that we face.’
To bee or not to bee, a question I ask myself,
You might as well be asking, ‘When’s a fairy an elf?’
A witch is always a who, but a which is only a what,
Then again, here’s a thought, ‘Should I bee a wasp – or not?’
Do I look really fierce? I’m hoping you’d think I sting.
Would my yellow and black coat convince you – that’s the thing?
I’m trying not to get eaten by a bird looking for a quick bite.
Now my disguise is good – I just hope birds have good sight.
You’ll find me in the garden, I love to smell the flowers,
And buzz around among their dappled scented bowers.
I know that I look scary, but I don’t want to make you cry,
You see, I’m just a harmless, friendly, hoverfly.
Awake. Awake, good brown earth, your slumber now must cease.
Come, show us what you’re made of, for you shall have no peace.
No longer lie there, somnolent, in your verdant green pyjamas.
You lie in working farmland, not on a beach in the Bahamas.
You’ve crops to feed and germinate, give sustenance and cosset.
And grow them tall and rear them well on nature’s pluvial posset.
Up now, awake, though warmer days make slumber so seductive.
You’ve drowsed the year away ‘til now, it’s time you were productive.
‘Will you look at that?’
‘I can’t see any peanuts.’
‘Not peanuts, I mean look at that knot.’
‘Just look at it!’
‘I am looking at it. Now what. Where are the peanuts?’
‘Never mind the peanuts, just for one moment. Just look at that knot.’
‘It’s a knot, OK, I see it. Now, where are the peanuts?’
‘OK, OK. Let’s forget the peanuts, just for two seconds. We’ll do peanuts in a minute. OK?’
‘Now, look at the knot.’
‘I’ve looked at it already. It’s still the same. Was something supposed to happen while I was looking at it? Because if it was – it didn’t.’
‘Nothing is supposed to happen, that’s not the point. Just look at it closely.’
‘OK, I’m looking.’
‘Yes, I see.’
‘What do you see?’
‘Yes, a knot. But don’t you see?’
‘Of course I can see the knot. So what? Can we get back to the peanuts, now? The kids are waiting, you know.’
‘Peanuts! Is that all you can think about?’
‘The kids are hungry and I can’t see how this knot can help to feed them. But I can see how peanuts can.’
‘You mean you honestly don’t see anything wrong with that knot?’
‘No, just tell me – and let’s get to the peanuts.’
‘OK, I give in. You’re going to kick yourself when I tell you, though.’
‘I’ll risk it, just tell me.’
‘Oh for Pete’s sake, look at it. Did you ever see a worse example of a Granny Knot?’