The last few days I have been taking a moment to pause and take photos of the nature I see around me; the birds visiting our garden, the everyday wonders we can take for granted, and signs of spring.
14th February is now International Book Giving Day as well as Valentine’s Day. Unsurprisingly, I love this idea and celebrated by making a donation to Give a Book, a charity which gives books to schools with high levels of deprivation, prisons and community organisations. I was also the grateful recipient of Red Sixty Seven – a book about the 67 red-listed birds published by the British Trust for Ornithology and I bought Mr P The Planets by Brian Cox.
Since seeing Venus and Saturn shining brightly in the sky on holiday in Suffolk, there has been a growing interest in astronomy in our house. Mr P and I went to a Valentine’s Day star-gazing evening run by the National Trust at Dunstable Downs but sadly due to Storm Dennis we couldn’t go outside! Instead we lay, listening to the wind and the rain, in a mobile inflatable planetarium and enjoyed learning about some of the stars and planets. I was surprised at how much I had picked up from reading children’s books about the solar system!
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.” Amos 5:8
Last year, we saw our first butterfly on 23 February. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see our first of 2020. In the meantime, I am re-reading The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham. Winter is almost over. There are splashes of colour in our garden and it won’t be long before we start planting in the allotment.
I’m pleased I tried the FairPhone (I had the FairPhone 2) but the microphone kept breaking and I was unable to make or receive calls except via WhatsApp. Maybe the FairPhone 3 is better but right now I need a phone I can rely on.
Lent begins on 26 February and I will be reading the archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2020: Saying Yes to Life by Ruth Valerio. Will you be doing anything?
Once again, I find myself reading half a dozen books at the same time:
The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson
I love Dave Goulson’s writing, having read A Sting in the Tale earlier this year. We made the hard choice not to go and hear him speak at a Wildlife Trust event last week; we are trying to keep September as free as possible to help with the back-to-school adjustment.
The Garden Jungle is full of ideas (some simple, some needing space) for gardening for wildlife. I have a dream of completely changing our front garden so that we have grass, plants and a pond.
The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
Reading children’s books set in the 1930s is very relaxing! I enjoyed reading Coot Club on our holiday in East Anglia (Mr Pilgrim is now half-way through it!) and I’m now reading The Big Six which is also set on the Norfolk Broads. There’s a simplicity and a joy in reading about children sailing, fishing and bird-watching.
We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsay
Ben Lindsay is a church leader in London and writes about the black religious experience in the UK. As a white woman, it has opened my eyes and I hope that I am changed because of reading this book. Each chapter ends with questions to consider and I know I need to keep going back to this book. If you are part of a church, I would recommend reading this.
The Gardens of the British Working Class by Margaret Willes
I spotted this at a friend’s house. She had borrowed it from our local library so I didn’t want to request it from there! I haven’t reached the sections on allotments yet but I’m enjoying looking at history through the eyes of gardeners.
Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers by Peter Marron
This beautiful book about the names of butterflies and moths was a birthday present from my gorgeous daughter. (I think she had some help from Mr Pilgrim.) I love words and names and history and butterflies and this is a book to treasure.
This morning, Small Boy, Little Miss and I were litter-picking as part of a church ‘Helping Hands’ event. I found myself getting annoyed as, once again, I was picking up other people’s rubbish: drink cans, cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and bits of plastic.
And then I thought about my rubbish: my short-tempered-ness, my judgementalism, my selfishness, my envy…….
Who takes my rubbish away?
Our church is now part of an ecclesiastical mash-up – a joining together of a Pentecostal congregation and an Anglican congregation. Even though Sunday mornings haven’t changed much, I have found myself feeling increasingly at home within Anglicanism: the importance of words, the heritage, the architectural and material symbolism, and the theological space for uncertainty and mystery.
Who takes my rubbish away again and again and again?
Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Today we (mostly I!) tried Wild Lent’s ‘Searching for spring’ activity in the garden. Yellow, pink, indigo, violet and green – the garden is waking up.
Small Boy found a ladybird and took a photo.
I’ve enjoyed taking photos this month as winter ends and spring begins.
Inspired by another family’s bird feeders, Mr Pilgrim ordered a ‘gift box’ from the RSPB and fixed our bird table. We have already had visits from a blue tit as well as a pigeon and a magpie (but I discount those!)
We are slowly making progress on the allotment.
Our carrot box from Grand-père is in place, we have chitted potatoes, bought seeds, and purchased a second-hand climbing frame from e-Bay!
We plan to turn the section of our garden where we grew courgettes last year into a wildflower area for bees and butterflies.
I’ve been eating oven-baked chilli and lime cashews with peanuts and roasted corn as as I write this! To celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, I ordered some products from Liberation Nuts, a fair trade company I read about in the magazine from Shared Interest. They are very tasty!
I’m writing this in the afternoon as I’m turning the computer off in the evening as a way of fasting from electricity throughout Lent. But as I do this (and attempt some of the activities from Wild Lent), I will remember these words from a contributor to the Plastic Less Lent group on Facebook:
“The falling short is part of it!! It wouldn’t be a Lenten activity, if, at the end of it ( and during) we weren’t made aware of how much we fall short. Easter brings a message of grace and forgiveness – whew! So, do what you can – it won’t ever be enough, but that’s ok.”
Spring is in the air! The Pilgrim Family have enjoyed a beautiful day at the allotment and in the garden, underneath the warm sun and the blue skies.
Digging, weeding, chopping, cutting, scooting, cycling, bouncing, throwing, chasing, laughing.
Made all the better with the company of friends from faraway.
Travelling home from the allotment in the car, I spotted a brimstone flying up ahead of us. We found a place to park and I span around trying to catch site of it again – and I did! Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim saw it too. He (it’s likely to have been male) flew off over a hedge into a garden and we got back in the car and drove the rest of the way home.
And then we saw it again! (I expect it was the same one.) He flew into our front garden and then up the road.
Winter is over. The world is coming to life again once more.
This reflection should be titled ‘What’s on our shelves?’. Small Boy is now bringing home reading books and this weekend we’re enjoying reading about Tim and his dad catching cod with a rod. It’s wonderful seeing the world of words open up to Small Boy.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Trips to the library are important; Little Miss chose Don’t Wake Up Tiger – a beautifully-illustrated book where the readers get involved by stroking Tiger’s nose and blowing balloons. Family Pilgrim are also big fans of Richard Byrne’s This Book is out of Control – another book where the reader needs to help out!
My local community association has just this week started a book swap which is a great idea.
And what’s on my shelf?
I’ve just finished reading Birdwatching with your eyes closed by Simon Barnes but listening to the accompanying podcast has been tricky as it upsets the cat! I’ve realised there is a greater biodiversity where I live than I thought but it’s frustrating how hard it is to distinguish which species is singing (I know that listening to the podcast will help!). Previously I didn’t know how much I didn’t know (and to be truthful, I probably didn’t care too much) but now I feel frustrated at my ignorance and the pace of my learning.
Walking places is taking longer as I keep looking up and trying to spot the singer!
At The Justice Conference, I was intrigued by a book called Blue Planet, Blue God and it’s not like any book I’ve ever read before. It’s a mixture of biblical studies, English literature, oceanography and ethical living. It’s intellectual but contains practical steps on how we can – and should – care for the sea and the creatures that dwell there. It’s a quirky and compelling read.
Next on the list is The Seabird’s Cry, recommended by my friend over at Hearten soul. We loved seeing gannets on holiday at Bempton Cliffs (and returned with the cuddly Flappy!) and I’m looking forward to learning more about them.
The year is almost over and so I’ve been taking stock of my two lists of challenges: the Better World Books Challenge and Going wilder in 2018: 18 countryside activities. I’m also beginning to think about what to do for 2019! Any ideas?!
At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.
It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)
It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.
I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.
David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.
This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:
- A common frog in the pond
- A red admiral
- Many speckled woods
- Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
- A robin
[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]
[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]
I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.
The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’
Family Pilgrim has made Hedgerow Jam – and what a great team effort! Last week, Small Boy, Little Miss and I went blackberry picking; our local park has blackberry bushes so while the children slid, swung, and see-sawed, I foraged. Small Boy helped from time to time but Little Miss was more interested in eating the juicy berries – her little chin was stained pink by the end of the afternoon!
After walking in the heat and humidity to another nearby play area while collecting (and eating!) more blackberries, we managed to gather just over 400g.
Using some unwanted jars from a friend and a recipe I’d found in Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage – a book I’d borrowed from the children’s section of the library – we were all set! Waiting until the children were asleep, Mr Pilgrim and I heated the blackberries and an equal amount of sugar (with some water and pectin-providing lemon juice) and made jam! It didn’t take long and was surprisingly easy – even sterilising the jars was straightforward, we simply put them in the oven at gas mark 1.
Just need some homemade bread to spread it on now!
The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.
A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.
So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.
A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.
Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.
And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community. I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.
As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.