The Wedding Favours

Back in 2015 we were invited to a wedding. It was in late March, and in spite of inclement weather, it was a happy, friendly occasion, with dancing which went on on until well into the night.

The tables for the main meal after the marriage ceremony had been beautifully designed by the bride, and the usual wedding favours – a small gift for each guest as part of the table settings – were the most unusual we’d come across.

A box of gladioli bulbs was there for each guest, along with an indivual “thank you” message. We took our bulbs home, planted them and forgot about them until the summer, when tall green stalks with elongated buds started to appear. Our gladioli were coming up and started to open out.

They’ve appeared each year so far – now in their 5th season – and we’re always pleased to see them as we forget what delicate colours these particular bulbs have. Every year I photograph them and gently tease the groom’s mum with the pics as hers come up, but don’t flower. And I gather that the bride’s don’t flower either…..all I can say is that the secret of our success with these is total neglect!

 

Mermaid’s Purse

I’d never seen one before but I knew what it was. I spotted this Mermaid’s Purse on the beach at Hoylake on the Wirral, that funny chunk of land between Liverpool and North Wales. It’s flanked on one side by the River Dee, and on the other by the River Mersey. At the far end, it faces the open sea, which had washed up this marine treasure.

Known as a Mermaid’s Purses, these are the egg cases of rays and sharks.They contain the embryonic raylet or sharklet (my name for them) and they can vary in size, shape and colour, and some contain more than one embryo.

This one is 10 centimetres long, and it’s the egg case of a Blonde Ray.

The first photo shows the case as I found it, crusty with dried sand. The second shows it after I’d hydrated it by soaking it in water for a couple of hours, which restored it’s sheen and plumped it up a bit. Of course, it was empty, the young ray having hatched out long ago, and there’s an opening along the top which was the escape hatch.

I don’t know if there’s any deep significance in finding a treasure like this, but it feels like a gift, finding this fascinating object on the beach, especially as I wasn’t beachcombing or looking for anything in particular at the time. And especially as I was able to ID it right away, probably plugging directly into some long-buried memory of having heard about these in my childhood.

Living with the new normal

TX long roadListening to a recent radio interview with Dr. David Nabbaro of the WHO, I was impressed and reassured by his honesty and no-nonsense plain speaking when questioned about Covid-19 and where we are right now with this pandemic. I quote some of his words as they convey the reality of what we, collectively, have to do to help bring the spread of this virus under control and eliminate it:

“This virus is not going away and is really dangerous. This virus doesn’t get bored. This virus only has one purpose and that is to multiply. We have absolutely no choice but to take it seriously. We’ve got to have everybody working together, and we need a comprehensive approach, we’ve got to do everything….”

here he mentioned wearing masks, keeping socially distant, using  testing/tracing, and remaining vigilant at all times

“….over time, this will become the norm. We don’t have an alternative. This virus isn’t going away for the foreseeable future – we’ve all got to learn to live with it.”

His clarity, laying on the line what we collectively have to do, no matter which country we live in, had my thoughts turning to the astrological psychology I’m trained in and have used to counsel numerous clients over the years. Please come with me as I leap from our global pandemic to the qualities, energies and expressions of the planet Saturn, and what it means in terms of observable human behaviour and where we are right now.

I’m sharing an edited extract from a talk I gave at a UK national astrological conference some years ago. It offers a practical exploration of the meaning and manifestations of the planet Saturn in everyday life. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of astrology, or of what the planet Saturn represents; I hope I can enlighten you a little on this and give you some food for thought which might help a little as we steer our way through this virus-laden mess.

Millstone or Mentor? (that was the title of my talk)

Do you check the weather forecast before you leave home to see if you’ll need an umbrella, check the train timetable on your phone when going to the station, and maybe make sure you have a map in the car when setting off on a journey to a new destination, even though you’ve programmed the satnav? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you were probably drawing on your own resources of Saturnian energy.

Structure and organisation

In astrology, the drive associated with Saturn is for Security. Saturn is concerned with structure and form, always seeking to organise, preserve and maintain things within manageable limits. In our solar system, Saturn is the furthest planet that can be seen by the naked eye.  Before the outer planets were discovered, following the invention of the telescope, Saturn’s position marked the outermost limit of our knowledge of the solar system, so it is not altogether surprising that astrologically it symbolises limitation, boundaries and our own security drives. It is the planet that swings into action when we need to know just exactly where we stand, so having social structures, guidelines and rules to abide by are all part of Saturn’s realm. Saturn gives the physical sense of self which we gain through the body. The structure, organisation and limitation associated with Saturn are present in the various systems in the body – the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system, to mention just a few. The skeletal system provides a firm, solid physical structure around which the other systems are organised. As all these systems are interdependent, their clear-cut organisation is vital. The skin – our own boundary which marks our physical outermost limits – contains them all.

Saturn helps us to become responsible and reliable as individuals; if we live within the rules and guidelines of society then we reap the benefits of feeling safe and secure. Saturn is the perfect foil to  unfettered over-expansiveness and behaviour which can get out of hand. If not contained, our excesses can take us beyond the limits of acceptability. Saturn helps in curbing what might become outrageous and antisocial behaviour by giving us a sense of caution and responsibility. Taken to extremes, this sense of caution can become fear,  holding us back and restricting us in everyday life, so it’s important with Saturn that we get the balance right, and that we don’t allow our fears to hold us back from doing what is important for us. Because it symbolises such qualities as  responsibility and caution Saturn may not sound like much fun, so it’s important that we understand its positive attributes. It’s value should not be underestimated as it plays an essential role in our psychological make up. Like all the planetary qualities and energies, it can operate at different levels of consciousness, sometimes dormant and inert and responding in a habitual manner, but at its highest level Saturn will endow us with the ability to act with dignity and maturity. Then we can live with a clear conscience, accessing the deep learning of life we have developed, and become a mentor and benefactor  to those who seek our help, support or advice.

 What we know about Saturn astronomically – that it has rings which form a boundary around it – reflects the astrological meaning of the planet. Its protective rings are akin to the qualities of limitation and boundaries which are astrologically associated  with Saturn. Psychologically, Saturn can be like a millstone. It can represent those things in life which are really heavy & which drag us down, so has the effect of being the “killjoy of the cosmos”,  but it can also be like a wise mentor, guiding, teaching and advising with our best interests and safety at heart.

At the moment there are a lot of people getting fed up with the restraints we’re living under to help curb the growth and spread of Covid-19, so it’s easy to understand how these limits might feel like a heavy millstone, a drag on what we’re used to being free to do. This might make us rebel against the Saturnian harshness of where we are now, yet our lives would almost certainly be a chaotic mess without Saturnian qualities around to provide the structure and practical grounding of living in the material world, especially now our current world and lifestyles and jobs  are under threat.

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Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel

A short 2 night break in our campervan saw us in Chirk, just over the border of Wales and not far from Wrexham. The campsite is surrounded by trees, is adjacent to the grounds of the National Trust Chirk Castle estate, and a short and pleasant woodland walk from the Chirk Aqueduct.

The aqueduct spans the valley between Wales and England, with green fields, grazing sheep and the RivP1080886er Ceiriog way below. It carries the Llangollen canal with the railway line, supported on arches, beside it. A stroll across the towpath, taking in the scenery and any passing canal boats along the way,  takes you into England.

Keep walking and you’ll reach a canalside pub; turn back and you’ll re-enter Wales, and on the other side of the aqueduct there is the Chirk Tunnel, it’s dark mouth waiting to swallow the narrowboats into its murky depths.

The tow path continues into the tunnel. It’s possible to walk its 420 metres/460 yards length, but a torch is required along with a fair bit of care as the path is narrow. There is a rail but in these days of social distancing it would be a bit daft to try it. And there is supposed to be a ghost somewhere in there too…..

No, we didn’t do it but we have done walked it with children, and most recently with granddaughter who surprised herself with her bravery. It’s not actually that scary as the tunnel is straight so the end is always in view. Boats have to pace themselves and have a light on while they’re chugging through, so there is sometimes a queue waiting to go enter.

And then, when they emerge from the tunnel on the Welsh side, passengers might catch the enticing aroma of chocolate, drifting from the chocolate factory, hidden behind the trees and on the edge of the town.

The Dee Estuary

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On  recent visit to the Wirral, staying there for a couple of nights in our campervan, we enjoyed walking on the Dee Estuary beaches. Tide out, plenty of space for our dog to run, sniff and explore, and a few birds about too, it was all very pleasant. Across the water from the Wirral side are lower Welsh hills and small towns, such a Flint.

The estuary leaves the boats moored there high and dry, then buoyed up again as the tide comes in. Low tide reveals rocks, mud, pools and the remains of maybe piers? Maybe breakwaters? Maybe the back bone of a buried dinosaur?

The sound of oystercatchers peep-peeping is unmistakable, but I need binoculars to find them as they potter about feeding on the beach. The warbling cry of a nearby curlew draws my attention as it obligingly stands still for a photo.

 

RSPB Deeside is located further up along the coast on the English side, and it’s a good place for birds, as is Parkgate, with its grassy, silted up seashore, promenade and ice cream parlours. Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Short-eared owls, Merlins and Kestrels can be seen here, but patience is required, especially in winter months when it can get very cold taking part in one of the regular Raptor Watch events.

P1080832At the mouth of the estuary is Hilbre Island, which you can get to across the sands at low tide. A tide table is essential for this activity!  Further round the coast on the English side, is Liverpool, and nearby is Crosby Beach with the cast iron bodies of artist Antony Gormley forever looking out to sea, continually being covered then revealed by the rising and ebbing tides.