On day 27, I had a busy day of work. I wanted to get outside but by the time I’d cleared everything I needed to, the ache had set in. Combined with the rain – which always makes my body sulk – I faced another evening in.
I’ve been missing going outside and seriously considered going for a walk in the rain – particularly when I heard the cry of ‘ducklings’ from my partner. I didn’t get to the window fast enough to see them, but I did get to enjoy the sight of three ducks grooming themselves (in annoyingly brilliant light, given that I wasn’t out there with my camera – and didn’t have my phone with me. I knew I wouldn’t get a good enough shot out the window so just enjoyed watching the ducks – and ‘outside’.)
I love the changing light as spring turns into summer. I feel that the light has a huge effect on the way we feel: almost everyone smiles more on a sunny day.
By connecting with nature over the last year, I’ve noticed the changing mood with the changing light.
The brightness of summer and vibrant colours bring festivals and play to the fore.
As autumn draws in, the purples and oranges of the hedgerows give a rich, comforting edge to the increasing darkness. A bowl of blackberry crumble, or bright yellow corn-on-the-cob eaten in the glow of a bonfire night fire, bring a wonderful warmth to the season.
Though there’s a chill in the air, it’s worth wrapping up to witness the glorious sunsets that accompany the darker days.
With winter comes a harsh white light, that can feel overwhelming. Everything is thrown into black and white, but for the occasional splash of red from berries (and the occasional valiant dandelion, shining on regardless).
However, when the world turns totally white with snow, and the sky is clear winter-blue, the joyfulness of a summer day can return as people join each other with toboggans – and maybe share a glass of mulled wine (or mulled elderberry port, for a near-free and decadent alternative. It’s also a great way to use overly sour but still sound port, as you can mask the flavour with honey or black treacle, citrus and mulling spices.)
If my health limits my ability to get outside, I always find myself drawn to cooking, nature crafting and tending my plants. Until I was unable to get outdoors on occasion, I took it for granted and would grumble about grey weather as much as anyone. Now, if my body is able to get outside, I’m out there.
It’s very easy to see the healing powers of nature when you’re denied it, and it’s amazing how beneficial a nature boost can be – even something as simple as having a cup of tea outdoors, or watching a bee on a flower for five minutes.
It’s a form of mindfulness that works for me, and my enthusiasm for nature is in part down to experiencing so many benefits from revelling in it that I want everyone else to feel the joy of it too.
When I first realised that I was going to have to get used to occasional bouts of being housebound, I started stocking up my craft basket.
I have a fairly large crafting collection for someone without children, as a result of putting together events and installations for Brighton Science Festival and Latitude Festival (among other organisations) for a fair few years.
In addition to GrowEatGift, I also created the Forest of Thoughts, an evolving STEAM collective (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) of people who love play and education in equal measure, and want to make the world a better place by sharing their insight into the magic of science and nature, along with a sprinkling of fairy dust.
I’ve been considering evolving it into a STAMEN Collective, by adding nature to the mix. The science and art experimentation we do seems to be drifting ever more towards nature, as the perfect tool to help people learn about both (along with building resilience, self sufficiency and general health).
As anyone who’s worked a festival will know, you often end up with a fairly random assortment of items after running an event – and if take-down is affected by bad weather, it’s entirely possible to end up with a mixed carrier bag containing everything from solar powered fairy lights to a glittery unicorn.
There are usually a few local leaves thrown in, as most of the events we do have at least an element of outdoors, and we’ve been incorporating more nature crafting with every passing year.
The more events we do, the less we take with us as there’s always so much to work with on site, from the leaves on the ground to ‘found’ items galore. We spent hours turning spaces into indoor gardens of delight when we first started putting on Forest of Thoughts events but using the ready-made wonders of the world around us saves hours in set up because nature is such a skilled artist. With a little fairyland sparkle (of the biodegradable kind), nature is all you need for festival fun. However, I still have several trunks worth of nature crafting materials, so I decided to sort them out while I was stuck indoors.
It wasn’t just the weather that made me want to sort my nature crafting finds, I had also had exciting news: the listings for Latitude Festival had been updated, and I can finally officially announce that I’m going to be helping the faerie folk of the Faraway Forest grow a love revolution, sharing tips on making the most of nature’s bounty to fill your store cupboards, your weekends and your life with fun.
I’m going to be joined by Clover the Rainbow Fairy, along with Prickles Nettlethorn and Hops Burdock the elves, who will be sharing their nature magic secrets to help you grow the love (and save money with nature’s help). Find out more here.*
Sorting my crafting supplies is always a calming thing to do on a grey, achy day. I find it soothing putting everything into neat piles, matched by colour, material or whatever other parameter makes the most sense for whatever I’m doing.
I sorted a pile for costume making. While the faeries of the Faraway Forest are obviously very well dressed, and have been making their own preparations, I need to make sure that I dress up for them too.**
I sorted another pile of natural goodies for decorating my desk (which is growing wilder every day) and a further one for fairy wing decoration (I wear wings at Latitude to show solidarity with the fairies. They have assured me it isn’t appropriation.)
After sorting my crafting supplies, I then checked on the kitchen. The drinks are still bubbling away. My rainbow cocktail cabinet of foraged drinks is coming together. Among other things, I have:
- Redcurrant champagne and cordial.
- Peach and apricot vodka.
- Elderflower and rose petal champagne and gin.
- Lemon balm champagne (which is a murky green but in a darker green bottle – always a good way to hide drinks that taste great but look ‘interesting’. You can also add blackcurrant or redcurrant cordial to mask the colour – or serve in silver goblets. You could add natural food colouring too – and on Instagram, there’s even a company selling glittering spirits!)
- Borage gin with blueberries (the borage went a disappointing brown after initially filling the bottle with blue joy. It tastes great, but I’m going to add more blueberries over time, to make it less murky, and bluer).
- Blackberry gin.
- Elderberry port.
- Blackberry and apple vodka
I want to gather some mallow petals to see if they will create the violet that is currently missing from my rainbow. If not, I’ll experiment with blackberry cordial and one of the paler bottles of fizz.
Half the fun of making your own fairyland champagnes is that you get to play. The other half comes in the glee of making something luxurious for free: the fairies of the Faraway Forest should be happy with their rider…
After checking on my drinks and shaking or de-fizzing them as appropriate, I checked on the seeds that were left over after making them. I’ve been leaving them to soak so that I can remove the pulp from them, in the hope that some of the seeds may be viable and I can sow some blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes for people to enjoy. It’s a long shot, but if it doesn’t work, the local birds will be happy.
Random Acts of Wildness So Far…
* Latitude still had a final few volunteer slots available last time I checked, a few days ago, so if you’re skint, you could still come to join the fairies in the forest if you don’t mind working for your play. Alternatively, you can buy tickets here. There are hundreds of wonderful performers, across the full spectrum of arts (including arts you may never have heard of before…)
** Fairies can be a little standoffish if they don’t think you’ve made the effort, if you catch them on a bad day. On a good day, they’ll enthuse about everything you do – but whatever you do, don’t accept any celebratory food and drink they offer you, as it may spirit you away into another world – according to a helpful person on #FolkloreThursday (if it was you who warned me, thank you and please mention it was you in the comments so I can add a link to you.)