Magic in the Handmade

The warm sultry days of August see wheat fields in harvest, apples ripe for picking and the youthfulness of summer begin to mature as the days feel ever so noticeably shorter. While sycamore seeds prepare to spiral softly through the wind and tiny acorns are growing steadily, we notice the subtle signs of Autumn gradually appearing. This gentle shift in the seasons can be a particularly inspirational one and the perfect time to rekindle a craft or explore a new skill.

It can be easy to forget the magic in the handmade, in a world where we are surrounded by the mass produced. Joy can be found in all things made by hand, whether it’s the pleasure that comes with successfully knitting your own scarf, or the delight in thrifting the perfect character filled and lovingly handcrafted chair, with a life that began much before your own.

Each crafted piece is about a person; the maker pouring their artistry into creating it, the individual it was attentively made for, and the people it goes on to create stories with throughout its life. The beauty of these items comes from the imagination and skill each craftsman brings to them through a great attention to the smallest of details.

Celebrating all things handcrafted is a rebellion against today’s throwaway society. Collecting beautifully made items that go on to enrich our lives can not only bring us so much happiness, but by doing so can create a world where traditional craft skills will flourish rather than being lost, helping keep us in touch with what is unique about our heritage.

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Handmade pieces are forever cherished for being just as individual as each of us. What is more magical than imagining the stories they will go on to gather with generations to come?


Alice designs and makes consciously crafted jewellery inspired by the beauty of nature at Alice Stewart Jewellery she can also be found over on Facebook and Instagram.


CreativeContributor
Offer Yourself Up To Nature
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A bead of sweat runs down my face. I wipe it away with thick gardening gloves, leaving a smear of soil across my cheek. As the morning rolls on, I am slowly morphing into a chimney sweep.

It’s warm and sunny here, in a green corner of Yorkshire. Happily, it’s also the weekend. In my head somewhere, the heavy manual of work has been clamped shut and set aside in favour of a colourful storybook.

So here I am, carefree and cut-off from the outside world. With my hands, I violently remove Himalayan Balsam from a riverbank. Balsam is a tall and sturdy, yet shallow-rooted plant. It takes little effort to yoink the unwelcome stalks out of the ground with a swift, rewarding motion.

There’s a method behind my destructive behaviour; Balsam is a very successful plant. Too successful in fact. It grows so rapidly in our climate that it crowds out other native species. With its pathetic roots, it leaves riverbanks bare and unsupported when it dies back in the winter months. If this battle isn’t fought, erosion will make light work of the soil.

From beyond the wall of foliage around me, muted sounds of ripping and thrashing remind me that I’m not alone in my quest. One morning each month, friends gather in this place. Specifically, a community group called the ‘Friends of Rothwell Country Park’. The group members place themselves at the disposal of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust rangers.

The idea is simple and effective. Community groups like the Rothwell Friends invest some of their time and extend the reach and ability of an individual park ranger. In this case, Emma. Emma is tasked with managing three sizeable parks on her own. Even a single set of enthusiastic (if unskilled) hands would halve her workload today.

If you reflect upon the hundreds of hours that can be soaked up by a single suburban garden, you will appreciate the magnitude of the burden carried by Emma and other local rangers as they work to maintain and improve the land placed in their charge. As government finances tighten, and money becomes harder to come by, the voluntary sector is a useful resource that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust gladly taps into.

A small group of volunteers can never fully satisfy the wishlist of an ambitious ranger, but with more hands brought to bear, the closer we can get. Every man-hour translates to better protection of local species and cleaner places for our children to play. Every park provides a haven where the local inhabitants can unwind. They also support a kaleidoscopic range of butterflies, birds and small mammals in an increasingly urbanised country. This is clearly worthwhile work.

Back with the Balsam, my skin is stoically weathering stinging grazes from the nettles I am trying to protect. ‘Am I killing the right plant?’, I ponder as the limp Balsam stalks rest benignly in my arms.

 The better question I could be asking is – where are the rest of us? Much to the disappointment of our ranger, my girlfriend and I had been the only people to turn up and help today. A few years ago, as many as ten people would come on the first Saturday of each month.

A volunteer workforce might be free, but it can also evaporate. It pulls at my heartstrings to imagine a future Saturday morning where Emma concludes that not a single soul has chosen to come and help.

I never expected community volunteer work to feel lonely – but as we slowly uprooted the shallow hillside, I couldn’t help but wish that more ‘friends’ were here.

I would encourage each of you to seek out your own local park groups and offer yourself up to nature. I believe that you’ll find it rewarding to protect a wilderness near you.

About the Author:

When not getting his hands dirty, Simon Oates is the editor at Financial Expert, a free educational resource dedicating to sharing basic investing principles such as how to buy shares and how to invest in property.

The Foraged Home
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The notion of recycling and repurposing has had in upsurge of late, not only among the thrifty and eco-conscious, but also for those searching out something unique for themselves or their home. The Foraged Home appeals on this level as well as the sustainable notion of living off grid with its “celebration of self-sufficiency” set among such beautiful imagery to inspire some foraging of ones own.

Written and photographed by Oliver Maclennon and Joanna Maclennon (respectively), we are taken on not one journey in this book, but several, as we follow them into the homes and lives of those finding beauty and purpose in what surrounds them.

The Locksmiths House -  The Foraged Home

The Locksmiths House - The Foraged Home

The interiors featured within these pages have drawn on natural sources around the world to be furnished with salvaged objects: pieces that have been recycled or repurposed. From the dump, to the beach, via a flea market or two, the items found are as varied as their locations. However, what they have in common is a previous life, a story, whether known or forever lost.

Stories are also wound within the book itself, as we are drawn into each environment, each home, and begin to explore vicariously. We learn about what has motivated this surge in foraging, and how connecting to both nature and more urban landscapes can bring joy in other areas of our lives.

The Locksmiths House -  The Foraged Home

The Locksmiths House - The Foraged Home

As we discover each home, we are welcomed within as Joanna and Oliver were as they sought to bring this project to life. It is not just a home that we get to know either, but those who live there, sharing their passion and joy.

From an upturned boat in France, to an Australian beach house, each location is unique, but shares a carefully curated feel, this is not an amalgamation of disconnected items, but a myriad of collections that inspire us to consider more carefully what we put into our own homes, and yes, our lives too.


Published by Thames and Hudson, follow photographer Joanna on Instagram here. The Foraged Home - £24.95

Contributor
A Micro-Adventure

You wake early for another day in the office. Every intention to go for a walk before 6am (when you have to leave) vanishes when the cold, hard truth of the alarm yanks you from a dreamless sleep all too soon. So too, the time for a quick coffee before you jump in the car never quite becomes reality, and before long the train is pulling you out of the station, out of your reverie and heading full speed towards another day of stress. Another day of problems. Another day where the sun on your skin is just a distant memory.

The morning follows this pattern to a T. Email; phone call; tense meeting; email again. A screen is never far from your sight, and you distractedly pull your hair in agitation at the never-ending list of tasks that lies before you.

Until sweet release: lunch break.

Food barely enters your mind before you decide to leave the office and head to the lakes instead.

The sun warms your skin as you walk a fast pace towards your longed-for destination. The summer breeze caresses your skin and the tension begins to disappear from your body as you leave the city and civilisation behind. Deep breaths reveal the sweetness in the air and you notice it is emanating from the flowers that are taking over then path, spilling their sweet scent among the surrounding wilderness. They rustle among the long grasses and overcome all your senses until a new sound reaches your ears. The water is gently lapping at smooth stones on the shore as it has for many years.

A white butterfly flutters closely by and leads you up a winding path, through the shade of tall trees, until the sky opens up once more to reveal a sparkling lake. Shoes and socks are lost immediately and without thought. Unnecessary clothes are discarded with equal urgency, though slightly more attention, knowing you will have to replace them sharpish if somebody should appear.

The first touch of water is warm to your skin, becoming deliciously cold as you continue further into its depths, colder still as you immerse yourself and begin to swim. The cool touch is refreshing after a week among people and technology and the fusty heat that comes with them.

Despite your appreciation the water warms around you as you move, and you fall into a relaxed rhythm as you swim, your mind clearing fast, and a sense of freedom and joy taking over instead.

How long have you been swimming? The pleasing ache within your limbs would suggest your time has long been up, and you must return to the festering heat of your office soon. But in this fleeting moment, this micro-adventure, you hardly care. The day has turned around and no matter what the afternoon will bring, this is a happy day. This is a good day.


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

LifestyleContributor
Learning to Let Go

Summer is typically the season of joy and jubilation, as colours burst forth and sunshine warms the soul. It is a time for enjoying the environment and each other, and many pin their hopes on a two-week hiatus from work during the warmer months.

For me, recently, summer has brought me my most challenging seasons. I was diagnosed with postnatal and post adoption depression during July, first in 2013 and then again in 2017, and it is with a heavy heart that I glance over posts from that season on TimeHop. As I gaze at my image in the photographs, I see a hurting, confused woman, head torn, heart broken, soul wretched, trying to create memories but merely clutching at straws. She smiles, but the smile is hollow, much like the tree she is drawn to over and over again in a local park. As her fingers lightly brush over the dead bark, loosening small pieces, she wishes her own inner turmoil would break off just as easily.

Nature was a huge help to me when I was recovering from my mental health. Being outdoors felt like an escape from my empty, uncertain reality. I could surround myself with beauty, inhale the heady fragrance of tree blossom and allow my mind to wander as I walked through the long grass.

As the pressures of a perfect summer slipped away, I then fell in love with Fall. The colours of the falling leaves, the crunch beneath my feet, the cosiness of scarves to protect me from the elements.

I walked and ran a great deal while I was navigating my mental health, and as the seasons changed so too did I. Nature seemed to echo my experiences as the colours changed and the leaves descended. Mostly, I resonated with the loss. The trees were losing something so very beautiful, yet they let it go so freely. I sympathised with them. I too felt like I was losing something; the hopes and dreams of the early months with my new babies. Like the leaves beneath my feet, the moments I had curated in my mind now lay crumpled and crushed as the reality of maternal mental health took hold. But in the acknowledgement of loss, I felt peace and acceptance. Not only was I letting go of my romantic ideals, I was also letting go of the pressure to be, to act and to feel a certain way.

Winter is typically a time for rest, and after wrestling into Autumn, this season felt so welcome. As the branches became bare, my soul was laid bare, seemingly empty of everything. At times I felt like I was just going through the motions of life and wondering what was next. But I now see that the rest was necessary, because you cannot build a strong canopy on broken branches. As nature rested, so did my soul, and when the warm spring sun peeked through the clouds and the first crocuses peeped from the soil, I was ready. My fallow season enabled me to spring forward, to see buds begin to bloom, to enjoy my babies and find myself all over again.


Rachel Edwards runs The Little Oil Life - check out her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

LifestyleContributor
Creative in the Countryside: Julie Herbert Adams

Julie Herbert Adams is a Fine Art Portrait and Floral Photographer, creative Brand Director and trainee florist. Today, she tells us a little about her work and how she finds her inspiration.

Jessica: I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your story, who you are and what it is you do?

Julie: I was born in London and was always known as ‘Dolly Daydream’ mainly because my head was always so full of fantasy, creative ideas for makeup and fashion as well as music!  I remember when Bohemian Rhapsody came out in the 1970’s when we lived in a high-rise flat overlooking a park, and I used to listen to it looking at the park pretending that my eyes were cameras and I was the one making the video for the song! However, living in my dream-world suited my calm and very laid-back nature and I wrote lots of fantasy stories often involving magic, fairies and haunted woods.  I really didn’t feel connected or aligned to the bright neon lights, the buzz and the brashness of living in London and remember taking my little brothers on a bus to the nearest woods and fields in Farnborough, Kent where I felt at home and believed that magic was everywhere.  I escaped to the countryside as soon as I could and saw the world at once through open eyes, ears and heart.

My creativity has always been such an integral part of who I am and I have always found writing to be incredibly therapeutic in good and bad times.  My life has been quite colourful in the opportunities that I have received and the decisions that I have made so after working in the healing and care-sector, I moved to the Middle East in 2008 with my husband and children.  Here, I worked as a brand and marketing director creating a variety of brands for the healthcare sector along with founding organisations such as Nourish and the Pink Brigade who help women and families affected by breast cancer through education about early detection and healthy lifestyle choices.  I returned to the UK in 2017 burnt out, exhausted and in need of healing myself.

After a year of reflection, I decided to stop working like a demon for other people and with the never-ending support of my husband, chose to focus entirely on the things that I truly loved to do.  My art, my photography, my writing, my music and my garden were almost lost to me and these were the things that I instinctively knew would help to bring me back to life again.  Life went from constant frantic, high level stress to peace and tranquillity almost overnight and it took me a while to adjust, learning how to breathe and how to embrace change without feelings of fear or guilt or failure.

As a natural storyteller, being close to nature once again and able to follow the seasonal rhythms or wheel of the year I re-discovered the magic again and began to fall in love with capturing these special moments of tranquillity and beauty with my camera.

My fine art portraiture mainly of children focuses on the essence of the child and I endeavour to capture a timeless image that not only tells a story, but that could be set in any period of time. 

 

Jessica: Can you tell me about where you find your inspiration? 

Julie: I am incredibly fortunate to live in a very old secluded house built in 1543 that is full of history and situated next to a river overlooking a wood.  It really is like Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood and I’m forever telling my daughter that the Magic Faraway Tree is in there somewhere! 

Inspiration is all around me.  I watch the sun rise over the wood and see it setting over the sheep field.  I hear the birdsong and the river, the heron, eagle and fox.  With the night, comes the owl song and other strange sounds I don’t recognise but that ignite my imagination.  And then there is the Moon.  Possibly the most constant celestial being of wonder and inspiration throughout my whole life and the thing that I love the most.

I read somewhere long, long ago that there was a thin veil between the world of men and the ‘other’ world of fairies, where animals and trees talk and enchantment is everywhere so I’ve always told my children that this is true and that all they need to do is look and listen very carefully.  The recent wonderful book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wholleben is testament to my theory and now I tell the kids I was right all along…

Music of course, is a total inspirational and I draw energy from my musical heroine, Kate Bush as well as giants from the world of classical music such as Rachmaninov, Chopin and Elgar.  Then again, ancient choral music, Celtic and folk, The Doors, soul, jazz, Bowie and Fleetwood Mac… the list goes on and on.

 

Jessica: I am also interested in knowing more about how you view creativity; is it something you can rely on every day?

Julie: For me, creativity is everywhere.  It is an energy with its own allure and is always present. One just has to look and listen hard enough.  Some of my best creative work has come to me in dreams.

Mindfulness is a great way to tap into internal creative reserves and artistic expression can be accessed in so many ways such as digital art, sound, singing, writing or storytelling.   It’s also worth noting that creativity can also spring from tragedy and disaster.  The horrifying destruction of our natural environment can inspire great creativity in thinking how to find solutions for preservation and restoration.  I am ever hopeful.

 

Jessica: How do you balance your interests?

Julie: I am usually up in the morning between 5am – 6am so that I can get a couple of hours quiet time in and plan the day ahead plus catch up on any admin that I’m behind with.  During the day and between the school run and dog walks, I’ll be busy shooting and then in the evenings, when the kids have gone to bed, I will focus on editing, more planning and research usually going to bed to read at around 9.30 – 10pm.

I am in the final stages of my OCN floristry course which I did at college to give me the practical knowledge and techniques needed to create amazing floral masterpieces to compliment my photography.  I also grow my own flowers at home to photograph and to style photoshoots.  Balancing my love of flowers and photography is a little tricky but I do believe that there is a marriage to be had between them. 

 

Jessica: Where do you work? What’s important about this environment?

Julie: I work from home mainly as I have my garden, photography and flower studio here plus it’s such a gorgeous spot I really couldn’t think of being anywhere else.  I have an elderly one-eyed pug, a rather eccentric sausage dog and the most handsome year-old black Labrador to care for too so it’s easy to walk over the river to the woods for some exercise.  It’s just amazing to see the wood and the garden evolve through the seasons as well as how the light changes them visually throughout the day.  The sounds and the smells fascinate me.

 

Jessica: What impact would you like to create with your work?

Julie: I would be privileged if my work inspired others to see the beauty and magic that I see in the simple things in life that are all around us but that sometimes, we are just too busy to notice.  The little intricate details that in themselves are so wonderful once you actually slow down and look, are inspiring in themselves.  I would hope it would inspire people to take more care with themselves and the natural world around us and to savour every day with gratitude.

 

 Jessica: And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them? 

Julie: It’s often the fear of change that prevents people from following their own heart and living an authentic, creative life.  We are all burdened with financial worries and are constantly bombarded with advertisements that encourage more and more consumerism with sinister algorithms tracking our every move on the internet and social media putting unbelievable pressure on the young to be perfect and live perfect lives.  However, changes can be made without destabilising and turning your world upside down! 

Instead of guillotining situations as I have done in the past to make instant changes, my advice would be to set aside some time in the day or night that you can claim as yours alone without distraction to think about the life you would choose to live and how you would choose to express your creative dream.  Then set a clear intention to make the change that you are seeking and truly believe that it will happen. See it crystal clear in your mind’s eye.  Map your intention out to a timeline and set realistic goals starting with simple, small changes first. Soon, you will find that when you stop to take stock periodically, you will notice the shift beginning to take place.  The smaller changes will empower and encourage you to move forwards with more confidence and a stronger belief that you really are the master of your own destiny.


Find Julie’s website here, or check out her work on Facebook, Instagram or with Herbert Flowers.

CreativeContributor
Midsummer Magic
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Standing on the edge of the darkness, we ran away last night.

As the sun slowly set the fields began their call to us, murmuring on the wind and hurling a heady scent of honeysuckle our way as we fled headfirst into a dream of life.

As we walked along the field’s edge it wasn’t long before we realised that the trees had rapidly shrouded our path; so fast it must surely have been them that moved and not us. The air within this newfound woodland was thick with eerie mist that seemed almost too heavy to walk through ourselves, and yet the visions of the distant world that occasionally caught my eye appeared to move fast around us.

Thinking of the anxieties we were leaving behind almost brought on a sense of loss, for how could we function without these sorrows and fears that had been our constant companions? The uncertainty of our plans loomed large, and as these thoughts tried to claw their way into our heads we took care to hurry beyond their reach.

You stayed quiet and did not quite meet my eye. Did they find you again?

We moved deeper into the woods and colours appeared as if from nowhere to join the honeysuckle laden branches. Everywhere boasted voluminous flowers, cascading ribbons and twinkling lights. Moths fluttered by in their hundreds, drawn as we were to the riot of life hidden within this shortest night.

We let ourselves fall within, half drunk on this midsummer night’s dream.

Branches skirted with rustling leaves danced as faeries above our heads, and Titania called from somewhere close by, I’m almost sure.

Music pierced our very souls, but the tunes they played have become lost in my mind, no matter how hard I try to recall their poignant melodies.

Had we left behind our old life, our own fears? Or were they waiting for us slightly out of reach, kept at bay for this one night, this one moment of ours to be together, and free of it all.

All too soon the sun rose on a new day, and on the next half of the year, where darkness once more would triumph over light.

But not in our minds. There we will always hold this magic, this music, this midsummer night, as we look towards the turning of the year once more, when this time will come again.


Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

SummerContributor
Off Grid

“We work with people who aren’t scared to look at things differently, that want to make a difference and who are willing to go (a little) off grid.”

Find out more about Kim and Sally’s nomadic approach to design within their digital agency by watching the beautifully made video below…


Check out the website here or find Off Grid on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Rewind/Rewild Exhibition
All images by Thomas Broadhead

All images by Thomas Broadhead

Last month Anna Souter wrote a piece for the blog about the act of rewilding in anticipation of an exhibition she co-curated this month. Happily, she has decided to share some images from this exhibition with us so that although the exhibition only lasted a week, we can still enjoy exploring it here.


Anna Souter is a writer and a curator. Together with artist Beatrice Searle, she co-curated the Rewind/Rewild exhibition and Rewilding Forum at OmVed Gardens, Highgate, North London.

Earth-Based Living
Image:  Annie Spratt

Sometimes it’s hard to define what you feel most passionate about, especially when it goes against the grain, and there’s no specific word or phrase to describe it. I’ve titled this piece ‘Earth-Based Living’, because that’s about as close as I can get to describing the lifestyle I have come to adopt over the past five or so years, but it still doesn’t quite encapsulate everything it entails.

I’ve never been a devout follower of… well, anything really. When the ‘religion’ box appeared on forms and questionnaires, sometimes I’d tick ‘Christian’, other times ‘Agnostic’, but neither sat well. Around 2014-2015 I started to read more non-fiction, in particular the new wave of nature writing that was emerging at the time (John Lewis-Stempel and Rob Cowen were favourites), and as my reading list expanded, so did my perception of faith, belief and what I valued in life.

I started to ground myself in the seasons, to really try and notice the small changes in nature as the year progressed. I bought The Seasons: A Celebration of the English Year by Nick Groom, and fell down a rabbit hole: this book contained everything that I wanted to include in my life - nature, the seasons, tradition, literature, celebration, folklore, adventure - but I didn’t know where to start. So I spent the following few months devouring everything I could that sparked my curiosity. Poetry from John Clare, the concept of microadventures, the emerging idea of slow living (which at the time was virtually unheard of on the internet, and especially on Instagram).

One day my dad recommended I read Glennie Kindred’s The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration, and handed me his copy. The introduction alone was enlightening: ‘We can empower ourselves in new and exciting ways, break free of old outworn attitudes, damaging dogma and concepts. We can transform and change in our own unique and individual way. Best of all we are free to embrace a holistic understanding of all things being interconnecting vital parts of a whole.’ It goes on to explore the Wheel of the Year, its festivals and celebrations, and how it can bring focus and structure to our lives (if you’re not sure what the Wheel of the Year is, click here). She writes: ‘The Wheel of the Year is not just a matter of changing from one season to the next. Beneath the manifestation of seasonal change, there is also change in the energy of the Earth. These energy patterns affect us all whether we are conscious of them or not. By understanding the flow and direction of that energy, we can move with it, in harmony with it, as true inhabitants of our planet earth: belonging, part of, changing on all levels of our being.’

I realised that subconsciously I had already started to sculpt a life defined by the ebb and flow of nature. I was already feeling the impact of the Earth’s energy at different times of year, changing up my routine, what I was eating, the activities I enjoyed doing. What I hadn’t realised was that this wasn’t a new concept: people have always been guided by the seasons, and the transformative power of nature; it is only in the more recent past that our connection has diminished.

I spent more time reading, researching, and thinking about how everything linked together, and to begin with, my thoughts and ideas were incredibly scattered, which I suppose is natural when you’re forming a belief system. I felt very much like the odd one out, and didn’t fit neatly into any one category: I wasn’t a Pagan (though I resonated with the Wheel of the Year and the importance of ritual), and I wasn’t a Buddhist (though I agreed with the importance of meditation and lasting values in an impermanent world). I wasn’t (nor did I aspire to be) a monk, but again, many of the beliefs rang true (a rejection of mainstream society and the importance of simplicity, for instance).

My beliefs, values, and approach to life and work evolved over the next few years, and though I’m still learning today, I feel better equipped to talk about the lifestyle I aspire to lead.


 

EARTH-BASED LIVING

MOVING THROUGH LIFE GUIDED BY THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE SEASONS, AND THE ENERGY OF THE EARTH.

 

My earth-based approach looks like this:

  • I believe that we are all members of one Earth community.

  • I believe in the power and wisdom of the Earth, and practice gratitude for all that it provides.

  • I adopt a ‘slow’ approach, managing and balancing the different priorities in my life in order to focus on what really matters to me.

  • I use the Wheel of the Year as a framework for planning, celebration and intention.

  • I look to the Wheel of the Year, and the lunar cycle, to utilise the best conditions for my actions, and to help to explain what I feel in my mind and body. I do not use these cycles to try to predict the future.

  • I look to the Earth for wisdom, whether that be through ritual, meditation, forest bathing, grounding or creative acts.

  • I try to eat seasonal food and practice seasonal yoga flows, inspired by Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine.

  • I use seasonal rituals to help align my everyday with nature (e.g. lighting a candle at breakfast in the winter).

  • Most of all, I try to get outside whenever I can, and feel the grounding power of the Earth.

I don’t get it right all of the time (who does?!), and I certainly find things more difficult when I’m going through a really busy period in my life or work, but it really helps to have a set of principles to turn back to every so often, to remind myself of what’s important to me. As Satish Kumar remarks: “We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.”

Let’s make time to reconnect, with the Earth, with soil, and with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world.


If you’re interested in finding out more about Earth-based living, my new course - Reconnect to the Earth - might be for you. Find out more here.


May Flowers
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Returning down the footpath, we follow the hawthorn and its all-consuming blossom – customarily the symbol that Beltane, or May Day, has begun. It reminds me that we have reached another spoke on the Wheel of the Year, another moment to mark.

‘The fair maid who, the first of May

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree

Will ever after handsome be.’

Symbolic of life and fertility, Beltane is a celebration of spring at its peak, and though hawthorn is traditionally considered unlucky throughout the year, it is brought into the home at Beltane in the form of flower crowns and May baskets. One of the four fire festivals, it is also a time of year to purify, cleanse and bring fertility through the power of the sun. Jumping over the fire – particularly as a couple – was seen as a way to pledge yourselves to each other, and even animals were included: to encourage fertility and protect from disease, cattle were often driven through the smoke from the fire.

This year we’re forgoing the fire and focusing instead of life and fertility in the form of flowers. Later in the day, I head out with a pair of secateurs to borrow a few branches of hawthorn. Though there is life in the veg patch, the garden is lacking in floral displays, but I still manage to pick a few stems: blowsy cream tulips; grape hyacinths; and fat handfuls of cow parsley. 

By four o’clock there’s a line of posies, each with a sprig of hawthorn, tied with garden string on the kitchen table. By six they’ve all been delivered, hanging on door knockers, propped up in plant pots and placed on wiry welcome mats all through the village. We might not have a Maypole or May Queen, but celebrating these ancient festivals isn’t about replication. It’s the drawing together, or even the creation of, a community, helping others pause to notice what’s on their doorstep and in their garden too. Remnants of posy-making remain on the kitchen table when I return, and I take the last few branches of hawthorn up into the orchard, scattering them freely, wishing the chickens a fruitful Beltane.

Extract from Reconnection, the forthcoming book from Eleanor Cheetham.

An Introduction to the Wheel of the Year
Image:  Olena Ivanova

My approach to living slowly and seasonally is to be guided by the Celtic Wheel of the Year, an ancient calendar guided by the transition of the sun throughout the seasons. Many religions celebrate the festivals within the Wheel of the Year (paganism, for example), but my approach is not inspired by any one religion, rather it is rooted in a love and reverence for the natural world.

Each twelve month period is split into eight segments.

The beginning of each season is marked by a Cross-Quarter (or fire) Festival: Imbolc (February 1st) for spring; Beltane (May 1st) for summer; Lammas (August 1st) for autumn; and Samhain (October 31st) for winter. Though these dates may seem early, they are suggestions that a different energy is emerging; the smallest of signs that change is on the horizon.

The height of each season is marked by a Quarter Point (or solar festival): the Spring Equinox (20th - 23rd March); the Summer Solstice (20th - 23rd June); the Autumn Equinox (20th - 23rd September); and the Winter Solstice (20th - 23rd December). These are thought to be non-Celtic in origin, but are celebrated as part of the cycle nevertheless. From each Quarter Point, the season begins to wane, until we reach the next Cross-Quarter Festival that signifies one season has ended, and another has begun.

Using these eight markers provides natural pauses in the year, a chance to consider our lives and choices in a way that makes sense in relation to the Earth. For instance, at Beltane (May 1st) nature is full of life: the dawn chorus is building, flowers are blooming, and everywhere is beginning to look very green. In alignment with the Earth’s increased energy, it is a time to move forward with plans and intentions, for turning the potential of winter and early spring into reality.

In addition to working alongside (rather than against) the energy of the Earth, we can also use these markers to create ceremony, whether alone, with friends and family, or with community. We can use the markers as a reminder to look to the seasons and what’s going on in nature, and perhaps to adjust our own rhythm and rituals accordingly. So for Beltane, that might include waking a little earlier one day to watch the sunrise, eating more meals outdoors, keeping a posy of wildflowers by your bedside; small reminders of the season, but powerful when included in your everyday (or every week).

You can read more about Beltane, the next festival on the Wheel of the Year - in this post from Sarah, in which she explores Cornish traditions.

If you’d like to find out more and discover ways to celebrate the seasons guided by the Wheel of the Year, membership might be for you. In your monthly printed mini book, you’ll find a whole section on celebration, and you’ll also receive additional resources like guided meditations and journal prompts to help you mark the festivals in other ways too.