Grounding exercises

When I was in secondary school we briefly had a religion teacher, a nun whose name I can’t quite remember, who used to enthuse about God’s beautiful birds singing beautiful songs in God’s beautiful sky. In my memory she is a round woman of pleasant but remote and scrupulous appearance, much given to theatrical sweeps of arms and thrilling out sentences like she could flip a bunch of surly teenagers into proper appreciation of the miracle of life by sheer dint of will. To teenage me there was a strained quality about her, a deep pain of other, she didn’t get us and we certainly didn’t get her. She seems, in memory, like a figure so idealistic Plato might have asked her to take message to the world of Forms. She left and joined an enclosed order a year or two later and that life choice intrigued me very much at the time and from time to time ever since. Part of me envied her conviction, I have been for most of my life plagued with second and third and fourth guessing. Part of me was glad not to have that sort of rigidity. All of me wondered how that total conviction in a “True Thing” would feel.

I have absolutely no idea what made her pop into my head yesterday when I started to walk to try to calm the storm of “too much”. I am not a religious person. As I walked down the very familiar gravel track between the stunningly yellow gorse blossom she appeared in my head, fully formed with her very particular, bouncing walk to the top of the class between the desks with a full voiced “Good morning! Isn’t it a beautiful day to celebrate God’s purpose for us all?” I think it was the perceived value of “Other” rather than anything she said or did that made me think of her.

Idealism is strange place to live. In personality tests all my life it has cropped up as an aspect in my personality and somehow the conveyed message with it is “watch that, it’s not a good thing”. I recognise it in me, and I do see an inherent beauty in it, but at once my optimistic, “think the best of everyone and aspire to a great future!” wars with my far more pragmatic sense that having expectations of how things should or will turn out is not good practical living strategy. Trusting in people to figure out how to fix the crap we’re all in right now is … perhaps misguided. For many and various reasons, far too tedious to get into, I became very nervous of nailing my colours to the mast and now that I’ve started to take an interest in the universe at large again questions about the rightness of actions tumble through me like a cartoon cat fight on a regular basis. I struggle to find the volume control on my thoughts and my perceptions, and the world occasionally piles in as well by being.. well.. stunning.

Yesterday the wind streamed in heavy shushes, low and heavy caped, dragging creaks and groans from trunks weaving and swaying under its influence. I have been observing more and more broken branches and fallen trees, and that was a wind of uncertain intent. Is it weird that I grinned at the idea of letting people know that while I don’t relish the idea of being crushed by a tree it does seem mildly appropriate, and not to regret it on my behalf should it come to pass? The brain is a weird thing – all it really is is the culmination of my irritation with the apparent increased amount of tree felling around the country, both illegal and sanctioned as councils and landowners and, of course, insurance companies get antsy about storms.

As it turns out I am unwell today, which may in part explain why yesterday was as it was. Yesterday though, to try to calm the deluge of too much, I set myself the task of concentrating on my new determination to record spring plants with the Biodiversity Ireland mobile app. I reckoned it was definitely still a bit early for anemones, bluebells and sorrel but I reckoned there was a decent chance of finding more violets and primroses. Looking for specific things changes the way you interact with a space, it concentrates and soothes the mind. I also try to paint medieval style illuminations from time to time and I find it does that same laser focusing, quieting thing. So I set out, with camera and oodles of time.


Even scanning carefully I was amazed what I found on retracing steps that I hadn’t seen the first time round. Case in point, I saw this ivy and thought the colours were beautiful. I didn’t notice the ladybird til I looked at the photograph later, and I was actively hoping to see ladybirds.

So here’s one we made earlier – ladybird (1 of 3) seen in Castletown Estate, with bonus small bracket fungi to boot

One of the terrifying things about starting with the Biodiveristy app is realising that as you start to try to choose things from the prepopulated lists there are more kinds of things than you imagined. There is an entire section for ladybirds, about 21 entries. I clearly need to read up on ladybirds. There are many more types of bumblebee than the two or three I believed there to be and the inconsiderate sods tend to move around before I get really confident I know what I’m doing. But practice moves us in a better if not perfect direction and it is a useful pursuit.

Violets were doing their usual hide and seek tumble through the undergrowth, nodding amicably at the passers by, but so far no primroses on that particular walk, though I got a photo of some a couple of evenings ago in the fading light. I’ve always loved primroses, they’re a sort of relaxed cheerful and quite tough for all they look delicate.

On the day I found what I *think* is Coltsfoot blazing happily in the Spring sun and a single wild strawberry flower that unfortunately trembled so much in the wind of the day it was impossible to get a properly clear shot.

Also celebrating in the sun were catkins, flaring like mini fireworks.


On the way back I spotted the Scarlet elfcups I missed on the way down and these curious spikes that I believe are Toothwort.

After that was the promise of acres of wild garlic spikes and bluebells

And I particularly enjoyed meeting a very old oak that has gotten very attached to some holly, sandwiching itself between and absorbing some within itself

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