Category Archives: Nature

Spring, Weddings, Blessings and Blossom

Cherry Tree in Brentford and isleworth's Quaker Meeting House Garden.
Cherry Tree in Brentford and Isleworth’s Quaker Meeting House Garden.

Have been away from blogging and spending time getting married! Quite time consuming too! I would  like to share some of my experiences, not least the cherry blossom tree being in full bloom on our wedding day. Very apt for us and for this blog. A week later and there was no more blossom. I can only take from this that marriage has to be like a tree, with many phases and blossom like a honeymoon, short lived!

I also  heard the Apache Indian Marriage Blessing for the first time at our own marriage where  we both felt very blessed and supported by friends when back in the UK for our wedding at Brentford and Isleworth Friends Meeting House. There was some deep silence before our declarations and some spoken words later on. I am putting more about this on a page on my blog about light and love . I also  hope to make  some reflections on how we often seem spiritually and emotionally challenged by relationships and support from others can be so helpful.

The blessing read out by Madeleine seems very appropriate to the nature focus of my blog and the inclusive nature of Quaker values. Although the blessing may not originate with American Indian  culture it may be popular in the States because it resonates with our need to reconnect with nature and acknowledge many  indigenous people who did live closely with nature and with a deep connection and respect for how to live sustainably in the natural world and with each other.

The joy of having a Quaker wedding was to be able to embrace diversity within a Christian tradition, to be silent and reflective and to make declarations not vows.  All present at our declarations were all also able and invited to sign the Quaker marriage certificate.

Apache Indian  Marriage Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.  Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives- remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

On  researching some of the background to this blessing which apparently is popular in the USA I also found one that is attributed to the Cherokee. Again the forces of the natural world are linked into a respect for all that is sacred. Am also hoping we may grow forever young.

Cherokee Blessing.

“God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship — that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.”

Bird Biodiversity Poem 0n the Sea Shore

Today we are going to do identification of birds,
Birds on the seashore, birds out at sea,
Birds whose names meant nothing to me.
I must now make a spell and chant out the words.

Ringed plover
Ringed plover

Kentish plover, Ringed plover,
Little ringed plover too,
Golden plover, Grey plover,
Dotterel make a few,
and let’s not confuse
Dunlin, Sanderling, with Knot,
Green Shank with Red Shank
Or take a Stint or two.

Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.
Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.

That’s just the start
of the spell we need to weave,
If we go to the seashore,
Where there’s a chance to breathe.

Breathe deep and wonder
The vast variety of birds.
Stand in awe and thunder
Storms brewing words

Words we never knew
Words which are a sign
Words in different languages
For birds at the end of a line.

Will we never know
How many we have lost
Far out at sea
Can we count the cost?

Cabanas Sunday 032curlew back

The curlew is out there
With its haunting cry.
The whimbrel is whimpering
The waters have run dry.

Kentish plover, Ringed plover,
Little ringed plover too,
Golden plover, Grey plover,
Dotterel make a few,
and let’s not confuse Dunlin,
Sanderling, with Knot
Or lose a Stint or two.

Cabanas Sunday 013

Misstery Bird, Missing binoculars, Missing Birds. How many birds will we miss?

My first ventures at bird photography with the LUMIX was more successful than the dear old iPhone. It was also quite good to zoom in on birds to identify them as our binoculars have gone walkabout. In this photo I was trying to identify a large looking  egret but missed seeing the other two. It was only later, on the computer, I spotted the two other birds.

Photo of egret but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling. Perhaps the zoom on the camera is better than the binoculars we have left in London!
Photo of Little Egret  but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling!
Ringed plover
Ringed plover little, Charadrius dubius

I never thought how important binoculars would be some years ago when I tried using them and couldn’t focus at first. But the distinct colours and antics of birds became so vivid that now I feel lost without them. I remember the little brown bird in my garden, a dunnock,with its tawny golden streaked feathers.

Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.
Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.arden.
Another curlew on a sand bank
Another curlew on a sand bank, numenius arquata

In 2010 we walked along this stretch of the Ria Formosa by Cabanas Fort. This is a sandy dune habitat and a protected place for conservation of a range of habitats and seabirds. My eyes were opened to the variety of birds and trying to look for the leg or beak colours. This was another eye opener to the amazing range of birds I had never really thought about before.

But the curlew had always been a part of my imagination. A book read long ago in childhood described the haunting cry of the curlew. Now we need to listen to their plaintive cries and protect their habitats. Maybe the mystery bird is a curlew?  But could it be a whimbrel, a godwit or one of those green or red shanks… .? It was far too far  away to see and when I saw the photo it was also well camouflaged on the shoreline.  A bird to haunt me!

Now for the missing binoculars, not just one but two pairs. Is this what happens travelling between UK, Spain and Portugal? Unfortunately am still looking and having to use the camera to zoom in and capture a little bird.

More of a concern than the binoculars are the decline in bird numbers. How many different birds will we miss if we have never known the amazing variety that there are?    Just for starters…. Kentish plover, Ringed plover, Little ringed plover, Golden plover, Grey plover, Dotterel and let’s not confuse Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot or take a Stint or two.

Maybe they all deserve a poem or a shipping forecast with their amazing names.

Wings of a butterfly to wildness of wild boar: Close encounters of the natural kind.

 

image

What is it that makes an encounter with a wild animal so fascinating and wonderful. It seems to me like a privilege that you are able to see one and at a safe distance in the case of the more threatening ones! We know there are boar on the Finca. We see evidence of their digging, in particular around the path up to the studio.It is a rocky and grassy path and full of wild flowers such as candytuft in the summer. I also had to go to some expense to have a boar proof fence around my new Huerta or allotment patch for vegetables. Fidel who helps us with the chestnut harvest once asked if he could hunt them. Mr T rang me up and got my most adamant reply NO! So they are quite happy here being destructive with the rocky walls, digging up the earth and making it rough to walk over, clearing pathways through the undergrowth and finding enough to eat. In Spain there is a boar hunting season and we had a man chase a boar though the Finca with his dogs once. I only saw the undergrowth move fast but later a dog with a collar and bell appeared and for a while we were wondering what to do with the dog. There are No hunting signs around the campsite and these are areas where people live and walk so again the most dangerous animal is a man with a gun.

Yesterday as I got out of the car to unlock the gate, about 2 on. Rainy afternoon. I pushed the gate open on one side and looked down towards the crest of a hill dipping down the path. For me it seemed like a great big dog appeared, blackish, about the size of a German shepherd dog. I thought at first it was maybe our friend Rainers’s dog but it looked rather grey around the muzzle .
It turned up onto the path and looked to cross. I realised then it must be a boar. It stopped on the path and turned its head round. For a few moments I was staring at the boar and the boar was staring at me. I must have been very still and the boar was motionless until it turned its head agin and wandered off across the path. Mr T was quite indignant that I hadn’t told him and he got out of the car and went down the path to see if the boar was still nearby. He had never seen one on the Finca but had several years ago taken some pictures of some young ones with one of those night automatic infra red cameras. I think it must have been a male and I have twice in the past almost run over one crossing a main road. This is a reminder to me that they are big but not usually about during the daytime. I might now have to take my walks around the Finca with my Spanish boar stick and thudding the ground with it but of course that might ensure I have no more close wild encounters. Usually these wild ones keep well clear of us if we are not to be prey!

The other close encounter was with a butterfly. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just about to disappear behind the hill to the west of our small boat shaped valley. The shadows of the chestnuts in the Navasola west fields were getting longer but I saw a lump of old broken off chestnut with the sun shining fully on it. It looked like a warm place to sit and soak up the last rays of the sun. Then something fluttered by, surely not, a butterfly in January? As I tried to follow it and perhaps identify it it landed on that piece of old wood. A good spot in the sun for a butterfly to warm its wings before a cold night. I couldn’t move but just stared down at it. It’s wings were large with bright red. It stayed there quite a while. I even thought I might have been able to go back for my camera! The butterfly and I just warming ourselves in the sun. When it finally flew off I went and sat on the wood where the butterfly had warmed its wings. I stayed there until the sun dipped down enjoying a time of quiet reflection on small things and inner delight. Ahh… A red admiral, that had been hibernating over winter and had woken with the warmth of a January sunny day here in Andalucia. My photo is of one taken at the Martin Mere Wetlands centre in Lancashire in the UK. Need to go back to my iPhone in my pocket for those sudden photo opportunities when least expecting a close encounter!

January 2015:Signs of Spring and Autumn in Winter Back at Finca Navasola

From the frosty hollow up through my magical path to the front entrance. Cold today!
From the frosty hollow up through my magical path to the front entrance. Cold today!

i arrived back a week later than planned and to the same kind of cold and rainy weather but

Half a daisy Jan 2015
Half a daisy Jan 2015

when the sun shone everything brightened up with a luminosity only to be found in Andalucia, land of light. I didn’t expect to see flowers and the landscape indeed looked wintry. But this is contrasted by the dancing brilliance of the leaves in the olive groves as you look up the rocky hillside. On my first walk around I did find quite a lot of Viburnum Tinus in part bloom. This wild shrub is abundant here and part of the natural flora along with the Madrono ( Arbutus Unedo) and Lentiscus. The viburnum was the first photo on my blog last January with its dark metallic berries in the rain! That was thanks to the iPhone and this year I am trying a lumix bridge camera but it requires more effort in uploading and I do not always walk around with a slightly heavier item!  With not being on constant wifi it is also difficult to get the right connections but I will keep trying.

 

Viburnum Tinus January 2015
Viburnum Tinus January 2015

 

 

Yellow marguerites in rock garden, January 2015.
Yellow marguerites in rock garden, January 2015.

I also didn’t expect to see many flowers in the garden but there was a solitary anemone and some of the winter flowering marguerites in bloom. These are a welcome yellow in the winter and found planted in the nearby town of Aracena, along with all the oranges on the trees. Although we are only a few miles away we have more ground frost so it is not really possible for oranges and my hibiscus did look the worst for wear so I dug it up and brought it inside. However, there were a few wild flowers in bloom besides the viburnum. Up by the water deposit, a wild daisy with half the petals missing! On the sunny studio side some of the yellow rock rose was attempting to flower( Halimium atriplifolium) and also some celandine and some small vetch in my self seeding plot in the rock garden.

Just before my magical path goes up the hill from the frosty hollow in the photo you can walk down to the old huerta ( a Spanish name for vegetable plot, market garden area) This is where we have dug our new wildlife pond and there are some Mirbeck Oaks. There are at least 5 different kinds of oaks on the Finca but these are particularly striking in the sun in the winter as they don’t seem to lose their leaves but the colours change into those autumn brown and reds. This part of the Finca; Navasola East,North is where I used to see rabbits but haven’t for a long time. The beech marten also turned up here but sadly for his demise as he was drowned in a water butt which some passing person had stolen the lid off in our absence.

Mirbeck oaks
Mirbeck oaks

Good news for Vaquitas in Mexico

Am really pleased to get this email from Greenpeace after a petition.Probably via facebook which I am sometimes criticised for using! Most of the time there is such ignorance about the damage being done to wild creatures and their habitats. If social media can raise awareness and help conservation and go straight to the corridors of power to create change, then lets keep doing it. Hope these little creatures now have a fighting chance to recover their numbers.

Vaquita: only 97 left, a type pf porpoise  endangered in the bay of Mexico
Vaquita: only 97 left, a type pf porpoise endangered in the bay of Mexico

Hi Georgina

Success! You’re making a difference for vaquitas. I’m delighted to share some great news about these Mexican porpoises with you:

The Mexican government has just published a proposal to protect the entire vaquita habitat. It covers 5,000 square kilometers, and includes a 2 year ban on fishing with gillnets. These nets are single-handedly responsible for entangling and drowning so many vaquitas, there are now just 97 of these incredible creatures left. The proposal also sets out compensation for affected fishers.

You helped build an international outcry that reached the highest levels of government. An incredible 320,000 of us sent messages to Mexican president Peña Nieto – and it’s clear there’s huge pressure to protect these little porpoises.

However, there are some missing measures that must be included for this proposal to be fully effective. The most important is to strengthen surveillance and enforcement. Illegal gillnetting in the vaquita habitat is common and must be eliminated. We’re also urging the Mexican government to make this a permanent ban on gillnet fishing.

By the end of this month the proposal will have passed through consultation and be ready for a final draft. This doesn’t mean the campaign is over, as there may be more campaigning needed – and you and I both know there’s a big difference between what’s written on paper and what happens on the water. If we need more action soon, I would love to have you on board to make sure we secure a bright future for the vaquita.

Thanks again for everything you do!

Victoria