Truth is Beauty.

A few weeks ago, my attention was drawn (thanks, Sam) to this post on the really lovely Countryside Tales blog. It’s a very practical post, with reams of useful information for those who would like to share their garden with bees and butterflies.

However, it was these lines that lodged in my head:

‘A lot of attention has rightly been given in recent years to encouraging people to provide nectar sources in their gardens but we also need to provide food plants and to be prepared for these food plants to be eaten and to look nibbled. This may go against the grain for many gardeners, but if we want to support the continued survival of our wildlife (and through them our own), we need to look after them properly and shift our aesthetics a little bit as a result.’ (CT from Countryside Tales)

My mother and grandmother, both wonderful gardeners, set great store by traditional and natural methods BUT they also resorted to the failsafe of chemical pesticides and herbicides when necessary because their ultimate goal was a good display of perfect flowers. That’s the mindset I began with but recently it has shifted.

My Anenome coronaria had massive chunks taken from the petals this year. It was as if someone had taken a scissors and trimmed the petals right off. Touring the garden with me, my Mum (box, closed) suggested a garlic spray. That seemed like a good plan but then, I had to wonder why. Hardly anyone sees the garden but me and I get as much pleasure from the bugs as I do from the flowers so, even from a purely selfish standpoint, it wasn’t worth the effort of mashing garlic (the bugs in my garden benefit greatly from my sheer laziness).

Strangely, that was something of a turning point. CT’s post came soon after and somehow validated my new viewpoint. This might not sound like a big thing and I’m not managing to express it very well. Wiser women than me have written about why gardening is good for body and soul but one reason is surely that it brings us in touch with nature and another is that it envelopes us in beauty.

The thing is, what exactly does beautiful mean? In lots of ways, it means something different to me now than when I was younger. All sorts of imperfections, freckles, laughter lines, scars, scuffed floors and ear-marked pages, move me to that indrawn breath that spells beauty.

My constant is this; let it be real. That line from Keats was one of the few lines of school poetry I took to heart:

 ‘”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

 

Are the perfectly circular holes in my rose petals beautiful?IMG_6617

I think they are. Letting go of perfection, or taking a different view of perfection, has come as a huge relief.

Whatever bug felt the desire to dine on roses, or maybe line their bed with fragrant pink petals (lucky bug), they have moved on. This week’s challenge is simply rain.

I’ve whined long and hard about rain in these pages but, not today. I’ve found breathtaking beauty in raindrops.

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You will still, however, find me guilty of killing slugs. Anyone yet discover the beauty in slugs?

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To the lighthouse, maybe the moon…

Now, Listen, I’m no poet, but today is National Poetry Day in Ireland and I’ve decided to make a bibliophilic stab at it. I was much impressed by some book spine poetry which passed under my instagram-glancing finger recently. I piled up a stack of lines and words into this:

If on a winter’s night a traveller,
Let the great world spin,
All quiet on the western front,
Long day’s journey into night.

To the lighthouse,
Maybe the moon,
A noble radiance,
Burning bright,
As if by magic.

Echoes
Jump,
Extremely loud and incredibly close.

A time for voices,
Persuasion,
Talking it over.

First time,
Love,
She’s come undone.

The last time they met,
The marble kiss.

Two lives,
Enduring love,
Unbroken.
Holding,
Night without end.

I know this much is true:
I’d die for you.

Thank you for having me.

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That was fun.

In other poetic goings-on, I have discovered a simply beautiful book which combines poetry and recipes. It would be the ideal gift for any poetic foodies or foodie poets. Read about Eat This Poem here.

Please, do go and find a real poem today and take two minutes to drink it in. This one falls into the category of poems we learned at school. It came to mind the other day as I watched hailstones knock the petals from my roses. I still like it:

SNOW BY LOUIS MACNEICE

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

*************************************************************************************

Not one, but two of beautiful daughters celebrate their birthdays today so I must go and make chocolate cake and trifle, as per requests.

(credit: Italo Calvino, Colum McCann, Erich Maria Remarque, Eugene O’Neill, Virginia Woolf, Donna Leon, Tracy Chevalier, Angus Wilson, Maeve Binchy, Jilly Cooper, Jonathan Safran Foer, Brendan Kennelly, Jane Austen, Julian Barnes, Lara Harte, Pablo Neruda, Wally Lamb, Anita Shreve, Jay Rayner, William Trevor, Ian McEwan, Laura Hillenbrand, Graham Norton, Alistair MacLean, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Maureen Lipman.)

Hame by Annalena McAfee.

Tir na nOg, South harbour, Cape Clear, Cork, Ireland.

I believe I have mentioned before the Irish tradition of dispatching young teenagers to remote Ghaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas for the summer holidays. I spent four Julys on the island of Chléire (Cape Clear) and three of those Julys I lived in this house:

Tir na nOg, South harbour, Cape Clear, Cork, Ireland.

It’s not too difficult to see why I left a piece of my heart behind. On Sundays, when we didn’t have Irish classes and had hours to fill between dinner and the nightly céilí, my best friend and I would pack up our books and a packet of biscuits and clamber over the rocks to sit on the very corner of that headland. From there, the view stretches to the big lighthouse at Fastnet Rock and beyond that, America. That’s where I lay on a bed of sea thrift and read A Handful of Dust, The Pearl, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies and, perhaps most appropriately, Wuthering Heights.

When a man stands on the shore looking out to sea, he stands at the littoral of his unconscious. Grigor McWatt.

In her new book, Hame, Annalena McAfee imagined into being a Scottish island called Fascaray. By coincidence, I suppose, it’s near enough the same size and shape as Chléire and similar in almost every description except perhaps the prevailing winds. My island is just like hers but warmed by the glow of happy memories and a gentle southwesterly breeze.

I loved her book. I like big books. I like stories that suck you in and swallow you whole. Annalena McAfee made me laugh out loud in the coffee-spluttering, nearly-choked-myself kind of way (as opposed to the throwaway LOL kind of way) and she gave me an excuse to drink whiskey at lunchtime ( had to take the photos in daylight!). Best of all, she gave me a week of feeling almost as though I was back on that green rock. If I met her, I would give her a hug and say, Thank You.

Read my full review, including photos of whiskey, here.

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Sweet is the sound…

Spring. Shoots. seedlings. garden. gardening.

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Oh, the relief. We have made it through. It is, without even a shadow of a doubt, Spring.

We even ate our lunch outside, al fresco. It is still a wee bit fresco but still glorious. We sat, wearing fleeces and mucky wellies, with the sun on our faces, munching fatyer cheese bread from Lynn’s fantastic recipe. Life gets no better.

Look at this little over-enthusiastic sweet pea! He bolted off the blocks and left his buddies for dust but then got top-heavy and keeled over. I’ve nipped him off and I am rooting for him to make a comeback.

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Strawflowers, turnips, fennel, giant poppies, sweetpeas, peas, broad beans, fairies…

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Yes, I did say fairies. (away with the fairies have a website here)

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Can anyone tell me about this magnificent creature? He’s about as big as Bernard the giant, woolly bee, here. He paused just long enough to pose for a picture before rising elegantly skyward. Edit: Thanks, Sam at A Coastal Plot, for letting me know that this is a red-tailed bumble bee.

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There is a marked Aer Lingus hue to this post. Anyone else hearing strains of Gabriel’s Oboe? (that ad, here)

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‘Son’, I said to the teenage boy on Sunday afternoon,’would you cut the grass, please’

‘Mum’, said he in reply, ‘there is no grass in the grass’.

He has a point.

I have heard neighbours tut-tutting at the state of our, ahem, lawn.  Look, I’m certain it’s more environmentally friendly this way.

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Pulmonaria, lungwort,  or ‘soldiers and sailors’…the camouflage leaves and blue flowers; is there a more imaginatively named flower?

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Pent-up, latent energy exploding.

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My Spring project using the yarn so fine it could have been spun by real fairies. (Irish Fairytale Yarns, here.) The plan is that this will become a lacy shrug which I will wear casually over floaty summer dresses. A girl can dream.

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An tEarrach Thiar.

Fear ag glanadh cré
De ghimseán spáide
Sa gciúnas shéimh
I mbrothall lae:
Binn an fhuaim
San Earrach thiar.

A man cleaning clay
From the back of a spade
In the gentle quiet
Of a sultry day:
Sweet is the sound
In the Western spring.                          Máirtín Ó’Direáin.

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