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The Beltane Belter

May Day, the time of maximum fertility in Nature, was marked by our ancestors with the ritual lighting of Beltane Fires to burn away the stagnant energy of winter and to welcome in the fecund energy of Spring, coupled with plenty of frolicking in the woods and the releasing of cows from their winter quarters into their summer pastures. Yet, here we are, still in that intractable pool of Arctic air that has been enveloping us for over six weeks, pegging temperatures much lower than they should be at this time of year and making the prospect of a frolic in the woods rather unappealing to say the least!

Then yesterday we had an Atlantic ‘hooley’, with 65mph winds which did a lot of damage to the new leaves and blossoms just as they are beginning to emerge, many of which have now been stripped from their branches and are lying withering on the lawns and roads. I rage at the wind like King Lear when this happens, except I’m demanding that it abates and leaves us alone. These unseasonal gales make me feel anxious – I worry for all the chicks being tossed about in their nests and for the delicate apple blossom that has been scorched to tinder, or the tulips which, having just opened have now snapped off at the bulb and lay prone in the garden, like injured soldiers.

This morning, I took my usual walk in the woods with Jack, and I realised that actually, the damage is not so bad. Yes, the paths and verges are strewn with sycamore florets and fully-leaved twigs, but sycamores are one of the most robust trees in the woods; perhaps if they have a poor year and don’t set seed, that will give an opportunity for the hawthorn or beech to do so, both of which not being quite so forward in their lifecycle are less damaged. And all of that plant material ripped from the trees and strewn across the earth will rot down and create fertility for other beings. I also know that any chicks that have been cast to the floor by cuckoo or wind, will be swiftly eaten by a passing fox or badger. Is there not a certain alchemy in a blue tit transforming into a fox cub? And those tulips? They’re in a vase, adorning my dining table and I can see them up close in all their glory.

I realise now that my anxiety represents a lack of trust in Nature and the processes that are necessary to retain her exquisite balance. I know that as the wind prunes, so it leaves space for a diversity of other beings to fill the gaps. The old theosophical adage, ‘Only through destruction do we get creation,’ comes to mind. I understand intellectually that this is the case, but emotionally, I can’t bear the destruction. Why is this? Perhaps it is the loss of the familiar – that which we hold dear – without knowledge of what will come to pass? Or for me, it is the destruction of beauty, right at that moment when it reaches exquisite perfection, as an unfurling leaf or flower bud always is.

I feel more relaxed this morning as the sun shines and the garden begins to recover from the ravages of the storm, but I see another one is forecast for a few days time. Will I be able to summon more equanimity as I watch this one bring forth the winds of change?

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