Changing seasons:Changing times. At the Crossroads! 

A summer of sunflowers. Stopping at a crossroads with sunflowers stretching out in all directions. I pause on our long journey back home south to finca Navasola to get a good shot. Last year I missed the opportunity to take photos of sunflower fields and by September all the bright faces had gone. Carpe Diem or Sieze the Day, especially for photos! Here we were in the middle of rural France after a short break to see Monet’s Garden and my cousin. It seems like the only holiday we’ve had this year but let’s not be ungracious as living at Navasola is a joy, if at times hard work.

I will try and post on Monet’s garden and other gardens soon but the busy schedule of 2017 is coming to fruition with an Autumn birth. We hope soon to meet my first grandchild  and I have been back and forth, north and south, throughout the past few months helping with all the changing of houses and stuff that seems to arise around pregnancy and birth. Changing times for us all as the seasons change and we wait for the birth.

Colour schemes in one part of Monet’s Garden.
I have also been busy with my novel with lots of careful revisions and editing. I’ve finally taken courage, thanks to a blogging friend, Sarah at Wildfomelody,  who has read some of the novel and told me to have the courage of my characters and so I have sent off the first few chapters to one literary agent. This felt like a big step alongside the fear of rejection. I have several more agents I have researched and will now need to be persistent in following this through. It’s 4 weeks and I have had no response but this is supposed to be the norm. It would be good to have even an automated acknowledgement though. I feel inclined to now try the next agent that I think might be interested in my writing.

One blogger has a good description of writing a novel as giving birth. Unfortunately,  it reminded me too of the incredible work of the strongest muscle, the uterus as it builds up to that final push. Thankfully that’s not my role as an expectant grandmother and I’m not sure I wish to relate to the pain involved in childbirth to the process of writing. Does much good writing have to emerge from painful experiences or be painful?

I replied to James Clark http://jamesclarkthenextiteration.wordpress.com/ that I thought my creative writing has been more like my attempts to dig away at a vegetable garden than childbirth. It’s also taken me longer than 9 months, two years in fact, but I suppose like the gardening I haven’t been able mentally to work away at it full time. It has had growth spurts and then some resting periods but hopefully I have strengthened the roots and pruned away at some rather straggly bits. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with the garden or the writing but I love doing both even when the heat and flies drive me crazy.

As so far there has been no response from the first agent  I need to keep up the water pressure or try a different fertiliser so I can reach out further and hope the novel will take root in some literary agent’s rather full garden and be able to bloom into a publication. This seems to be the way in the UK now as most credible publishers only accept submissions through agents.

I wonder as with the sunflowers that the land of publishing tends to be one of monoculture for mass audiences. Monoculture in farming tends to restrict biodiversity. Does this approach with publishing stifle our creativity and diversity of ideas? Should we carry on regardless of the ‘market’ ? Or how do we get our product to the market?

Blogging seems to create a supportive network but my understanding from other bloggers is that this will not fully get your vegetable or flowers onto many tables! As with my garden I will try different places, different seeds, and keep on with the joy of growing! I have more writing ideas that I wish to develop now and want to move on to the next project. I enjoyed the research and the seeds of ideas and  design of the whole garden of the novel coming together. Some areas were bright and full of breezes others more shady but the novel flowed and I have the momentum for more journeys for my characters.

Certainly,  the wild flowers of Navasola have great resilience to the changing seasons. So I too will need that resilience so that my novel can meet the outside world. Maybe the creative process is not just about birth but about the nurturing needed for a human child to pass through many stages of growth before blossoming into maturity.


Thanks to all who read and follow. I appreciate all the likes and comments. I am now off Northward, like my characters, and hoping for a not too difficult birth for my daughter and partner and a happy healthy baby for them to grow with!

 

Festivals in the Sierra Aracena: The Romeria of La Reina de Los Angeles

It’s the 8th of September and the day of my favourite festival in the Sierra. Its full of horses, mules, donkeys and a wonderful mix of devotion and conviviality. Today is the day where each of the surrounding villages pay homage to the Patron Saint of the Sierra Aracena, La Reina de los Angeles whose hermitage is at the Pena de Arias Montano. This is a beauty spot on a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Alajar. It is also full of history and the extraordinary story of Arias Montano, a highly learned man of the Renaissance times.

Although in 1970 this Romeria was given a very public and national status it is truly a very local event. At least nine of the surrounding villages go on a pilgrimage to the hermitage and this includes Seville. All travel on foot, horseback or the lucky ones in a carriage. The Virgin Mary of each local village church is taken by bullocks in beautifully adorned carts. These are paraded in front of the Queen of the Angels at the hermitage. She too is then taken out of her seclusion and shown the beauty of the views.

If you live in or close to one of the villages such as Fuenteheridos and Castano de Robledo this is also the time to meet up with neighbours and share good food and drink. After the religious devotions there is time for picnic and chats. It is a balancing act of cultural traditions, religious devotion and neighbourliness which also seems to honour the natural beauty of the area and rural lives, past and present.

For many it is time to get out the wonderful flamenco dresses, ride your horse, sing songs and enjoy a day out. For me I relish being here as it was the one festival I always had to miss as the school term had begun. I was always given a running commentary about the horses. Perhaps one day I’ll finally get back on a horse and ride up over those hills to the Pena. I might need a little assistance too!

 

Gardens and Butterflies 

David Attenborough is asking folk in the U.K. to help with a butterfly survey. The numbers of British butterflies seem to be going into a decline. There has been a lot of interest in gardening for wildlife and it was hoped that bees and butterflies could be recovering but there have been a range of factors affecting numbers and particular species.
Here are some of the butterflies I was fortunate enough to photograph at Navasola in May and June. I love the wild plants and flowers here and these seem to support a variety of wildlife but I have been delighted that my efforts in creating some small patches of garden have not only paid off with a range of flowers but also brought these beautiful butterflies close by.
Last year I was given some Sweet Williams by a friend nearby. These were planted last year and survived August heat and bloomed beautifully from the end of April to June. I hope these will self seed but I have collected seeds too. I may also be lucky and get a second show of flowers from the same plants next year. Seeing how these flowers have attracted a range of butterflies and bees means they are a must for any wildlife garden and nature lover.

Please let me know any hardy flowers that have attracted butterflies in your gardens and parks. Of course the eggs and larva also need very specific plants too and these are often wild ones that are seen as weeds. Enjoy!

Who is looking at who? A Cardinal in the Sierra Aracena.
A newly hatched Cardinal spreading its wings out to dry.
A fritillary we struggled to fully identify. Visited at same time as the Cardinal.
Swallowtail heaven!

A Meadow Brown keeping an eye on me!

All taken by me but with a LUMIX camera borrowed from my naturalist friend and artist.

Our Wild and Wonderful World

The human world seems to be distracting me from blogging. But I have been out and about at Navasola and also able to try photographs with a friend’s lumix camera. It was quite disturbing at first as all I wanted was an ordinary still photo and it was set on 4K! It’s been quite a learning curve and I have also been busy in my veg plot trying to create some beds which will retain moisture. I am trying out Hugel Kultur as I have lots of wood and have laid down branches at the base. More on that another time.

April and May have seen Navasola full of wild flowers so here is a glimpse of that glory as the heat from Saharan Africa has already reached us and the Spring flowers have given way to the more drought and heat resistant scabious and mulleins.

First the peonies. There were the most I’ve seen on the Finca this year. It was hard to photograph the overall effect  so there are some close ups with the new lumix camera.

Some of my favourites here in Spring are the tassel hyacinths, palmate anemone, celandine and the knapweed.

But there’s always the Spanish broom and Spanish lavender or French unless you are in Spain! Photo angle courtesy of Steve Schwartzman’s very informative blog for photography tips and botany.

I also had difficulty cultivating one of the vegetable beds. It was full of poppies and a first for me. I couldn’t then remove these beauties! Dig up the ground and they will come!

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We have had had plenty of birds around too but it is our water bath that is the draw not any food we put out! One day red rumped swallows checked out our new porch but didn’t return. Another day the sky was full of vultures. There must have been over 30 gathering and some flew so low over us you could hear the wing beats.

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Greetings to all those bloggers out there who follow me. I have been keeping an eye on your posts but needed to get back in gear. A new blogger and follower from a place I lived in 30 odd years ago sparked me to return to share. Landscaping Nature from Hyderabad in South India. I have got further with my novel about the wild world  and hope the blog can also help inspire us with nature and it’s diverse wonders.

Photos taken with Panasonic LUMIX FZ300

100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

A Butterfly and a Flower for a Birthday. And final celebrations on the birth of Jesus. Los Reyes Magos: The Night of the Visit of the Three Kings. 

Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta
Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta

This post is for my daughter Theodora. I cannot be with her on her birthday but can send this beautiful flower and a butterfly photo  from Southern Spain. So far the sun has shone and the red admiral came out of its hideaway and posed for us. I also bought this gazania to brighten up the rock garden and on looking up its name found it was named after Theodorus Gaza, in the 15 th Century.( On Wikipedia, and he translated Theophrastus on plants)

A popular garden flower; a gazania
A popular garden flower; a gazania

On one of those pregnant impulses I had decided to name my baby after the Saints day she or he would be born on. Luckily she decided against Jan 6 th and Epiphany and came on the day of St Theodosius. And are those days so long ago that we didn’t know or need to know the gender. So Theo sounded like a great idea at the time! But I was pushed to make it more feminine.

For the past two years I have missed her birthday as I had never been able to see the celebrations in Spain for the feast of the Kings. ( Joy of being a teacher and the Return to School) It all happens on the eve of Jan 6 th. Last year a friend came to stay and we visited the ‘big’ one in Higuera de la Sierra.  More in last year’s post. Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

Mary's mother waiting.
Mary’s mother waiting.

This year we went to Linares on the south side of the Sierra Aracena. Here they create scenes from the nativity story in their houses and gardens. Linares is a special village with cobblestone art work on the ground in front of many of the houses. This event is also very special and different from the processions.

I loved seeing inside some of the houses and also small stores, naves where animals would and still might be kept. It was very reminiscent of the closeness of village life over the centuries and miles to Bethlehem. Most of all I loved being able to see into the gardens and orchards. I am a little jealous because they can grow oranges on that side of the Sierra and we have to cope with chestnuts!

After this it was back to see our village procession. Although there may be many tourists here for the Los Reyes processions it is truly a local event. All the children of a village receive presents from the Three Wise Kings. First there is the procession led by the star. She must be the one who gets cold! She is followed by a variety of floats with different scenes, some biblical, some original. These may vary each year. The richness of the scenes shown really tell so many aspects of the Nativity.  The final three floats are for the three wise kings who bring gifts. Balls and sweets were thrown to the crowds watching and following.The irony of the sweets were ‘love bites’ made in Hyderabad, India, where we lived some years ago. Just for trade wars, there were also some made in Córdoba, Spain.

Here in our village it was charming and very much all the local people involved with small tractors pulling brightly decorated carts.

One thing that stood out were the smiles on everyone’s faces: children and adults.
Wishing Theo and everyone who reads my blog a very happy and peaceful 2017. And in 2018 and future years Theo, Josie, family and friends can visit the Sierra to see the wise men, women and children who create this event.

Nature needs Nurture

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