Foxgloves and Mary Webb

Hi folks! I hope this finds you well and not melting in the heat like me — (hence my sporadic posts during these sizzling days of summer…)

I just wanted to share my lovely photo of this beautiful foxglove…

The scientific name for this flower is the Latin digitalis, meaning ‘finger’. The old German vernacular name that harks back to the 16th century is Fingerhut, translating literally as ‘finger hat’, though actually meaning ‘thimble’. The Olde English name, foxes glofa/e echoes the folk myth that foxes actually wore gloves on their paws so they could move silently when hunting their prey! Another more intimidating name for this deadly flower was ‘witch’s glove’.

Later names that emerged in the 19th century name were ‘folks’ glove’, where ‘folk’ means fairy and ‘foxes-glew’, meaning ‘fairy music’.

Foxgloves were also grown in medieval gardens and the flowers were dedicated to the Virgin Mary — here they were called ‘Our Lady’s Gloves’.

Apart from being very pretty, the flowers are also used for drug preparations that contain cardiac glycosides. The plant is very toxic to humans and other animals, and consumption can even lead to death. (I think this was one of the favourite toxins that wives would use in the olden days, before the advent of forensic science, to gradually poison problematic husbands!)

As to the symbolism of the foxgloves, they represent a whole host of themes ranging from pride, energy, magic, ambition, insincerity, intuition and creativity, to productivity, communication, cooperation, and confidence too (so that’s quite a load, isn’t it?!)

And last but not least, here’s a poem written by Mary Webb about the Foxglove:-

Foxgloves

The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue,
Will not reveal what peals were rung
In Faery, in Faery,
A thousand ages gone.
All the golden clappers hang
As if but now the changes rang;
Only from the mottled throat
Never any echoes float.
Quite forgotten, in the wood,
Pale, crowded steeples rise;
All the time that they have stood
None has heard their melodies.
Deep, deep in wizardry
All the foxglove belfries stand.
Should they startle over the land,
None would know what bells they be.
Never any wind can ring them,
Nor the great black bees that swing them–
Every crimson bell, down-slanted,
Is so utterly enchanted

Mary Webb
(25 March 1881, Shropshire – 8 October 1927)

Mary Gladys Webb  was an English romantic novelist and poet of the early 20th century, whose work is set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside and among Shropshire characters and people whom she knew. Many of her books were dramatised, including Precious Bane (one of my favourite books!). For a fuller biography, see this Mary Webb Society link

And to finish with, here’s another photo of my cat chilling out in the 43° C temperatures amidst the aloe vera plant.

Well, that’s all for now — thanks for visiting, take care! xxx

The curry plant in Posadas and the theoretical physicist Einstein (?!)

Good morning all!

I left early for my morning walk the other day because the sun’s already quite piquant and temperatures were forecasted to rise to 35° C = 95° F — yippee and yikes!

I came across lots of curry plant that’s in full flower, and yes, it certainly does smell of curry, and no, I don’t use it in my cooking, although I should really, and below you’ll see why.

The proper name for this plant is Helichrysum italicum (which I had to copy and paste because I didn’t trust myself with correctly reproducing these words if physically written out).

Well, after I did some research into this plant I realised just how rich it is in beneficial properties and below are just some of them:

According to the UIC Heritage Garden ‘The curry plant is well-known for the oil extracted from its flowers. The oil has medicinal properties that can heal burned skin or chapped lips. It serves as an anti-inflammatory and fungicidal astringent for skin’.

Additionally, it is used as an anticoagulant, can reduce the risk of heart attacks, dissolve blood clots and can be used to treat coughing and fever. The oil also reduces anxiety and stress; it helps fade scars, heal cuts or wounds and can be used as a moisturizer.

As far as food is concerned, the plant’s young shoots and leaves are used in Mediterranean dishes for salads and to give meat, fish, or vegetable flavour, the flowers for herbal tea and the oil used as flavouring in ice creams, sweets, drinks, baked food, chewing gum etc.

So the conclusion is… I guess I’ll be using this plant after all!

I’d just like to end with this quote from the theoretical physicist Einstein (taken from a long list of his many very interesting quotes). Though, ‘What has Einstein got to do with the curry plant?’ I hear you ask. Well, as far as I know — nothing! It’s just that I was doing Einstein in my English conversation class the other day, and we were reading some of his quotes. So here it is:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Albert Einstein (Born: 14 March 1879 Wurttemberg, German Empire — died: 18 April 1955, aged 76, New Jersey U.S.)

Einstein in 1921 (Wiki)

Bye for now — take care! xxx

Yet another gorgeous sunset in the skies above Posadas (Cordova) and Jelaluddin Rumi

Hello all!

Yes, I know I should be busy translating and not get distracted by my blog, but I just couldn’t resist putting in this quick one of yesterday’s gorgeous sunset. (Thanks to my daughter’s phone the photos have come out quite well this time — haha!)

The photos remind me of one of the esoteric quotes of Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī, the greatest Sufi mystic and poet in the Persian language:

«Only from the heart you can touch the sky.»

Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī, born c. September 30, 1207 Balkh (now in Afghanistan) — died December 17, 1273, Konya (now in Turkey)

Thanks for visiting!

Take care — bye for now xxx

The Lonely Lupin (in my country abode of Posadas, Cordova)

Hello folks — hope this finds you well…

Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).

So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.

So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:

A lone, blue lupin growing wild amongst the tall grasses and in front of an unruly olive tree
But further along there was a row of them growing behind the neighbour’s wire fence — they return every year (the lupins, not the neighbours who come regularly to tend their olive trees)
And here was a white lupin plant (I had to walk 50 minutes to find one!). The leaves look acacia-like and quite typical of the leguminosae and you can see the bean pods of the lupin
And here’s a close-up of the flowers which are already beginning to shrivel and fade (I know the feeling…)

Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:

The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.  

Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed.  The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins

NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside  the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.

Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.

The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)

Lupin beans, soaked (Wiki)

On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)

So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.

But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins by Seamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background. 

Seamus Heaney (Wiki)

Lupins

Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there
For sure. Sure and unbending.
Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:
Lupin spires, erotics of the future,
Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending
And even when they blanched would never balk.
And none of this surpassed our understanding.

——————————————————————————————————

Thank you for reading, bye for now — take care x

Caterpillars, Cordovan roof tiles and Wordsworth’s daffodils

Hello again! I hope this finds you all well.

As usual, I’ve been busy these days both flicking off caterpillars from my plants and painting (not at the same time though), as you can see in the following photos:

And here they are! Steadily munching their way through my broad bean plantlets!!!
Ouch! My poor iris, suffering a beheading from the merciless jaws of the caterpillar. (What wonderful in-focus photography, ha ha!)
But I did manage to rush to the iris’s rescue before it was all devoured, taking it inside with me to safety! (These are the tall irises, not the dwarf ones irises that I talked about in my previous blog.)
And being inspired by all the springy buds that are opening around me, I couldn’t resist trying to immortalise these by painting them on an old clay roof tile

And while recalling this ‘host of golden daffodils‘, how could I not end with the daffodil poem written by the English Romantic poet, Wordsworth.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud  by William Wordsworth  (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850, Cumberland, England) 

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

————————————–

Thank you for visiting — take care! xxx

Whoopee it’s the hoopoe… et al!

Hello again!

As I mentioned in my last post — Bunnies and springtime flowers galore! — we have been suddenly inundated (here in the Cordovan hills) by seasonal birds that have made a comeback, as well as destructive caterpillars, lambkins and bunnies.

Two of the birds are regular visitors as you will see in the photos: there is the friendly Great Tit (Parus major) that alights on my window grilles, and though I like to flatter myself by presuming it has especially come to see me, I do know that the real excuse for it hovering by my window is to peck off any insects that have stuck on the glass. It calls out with its strident ‘chee-chee-chee-chee-chee!’

Then there is the hoopoe, that strikingly-coloured Old World bird with its zebra-coloured wings and crest. It is also called Upopa epops, and I used to mistake it for a woodpecker because of its long, curving beak.

This largish fella loves to perch itself on the neighbouring olive tree that grows just outside my bedroom window and carve its beak into the trunk in pursuit of bugs. It doesn’t build a nest, but simply adopts any hollows for its abode. It has a funny, distinctive call which sounds something like ‘Ku ku ku ku’… (pause) ‘ku ku ku’ (pause and repetitio unitatum…).

Interestingly enough, the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament banned this bird as a food source because it belongs to the same group as the vulture, eagle and pelican and therefore considered unclean and forbidden to Jews who deemed itabhorrent and not to be eaten’. However, in 2008 it was declared the national bird of Israel (though the national animal of Israel is the gazelle).

In this lovely link you can see and hear the hoopoe:

And here you can watch and listen to the boisterous Great Tit

The birdsong is very relaxing — I hope you can enjoy it!

Thank you for reading (and listening) — bye for now, take care! xxx

Bunnies and springtime flowers galore!

Hi folks — I hope that you’re all well.

Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.

I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.

There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).

The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.

(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…

Acrylic paint on linen… I WILL be buying a fabric medium to use with acrylic paint for other future fabric work…
Painted with acrylic paints and acrylic pens

And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)

Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.

Wikipedia’s first two paras also give a succinct, interesting summary on Blake.

SPRING

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
Nightingale,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,–
Merrily,
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Thank you for visting — take care! xxx

After the rains have passed…

A photo of the cloud as it gradually encroaches upon the neighbouring cottage here in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova)

The Cloud Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ‘tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

Thank you for visiting — take care xxx

The mimosa’s in flower (here in Posadas, Cordova)!

The mimosa tree’s already in flower. Well, it’s not actually in FULL flower, but I thought I’d better take a photo of it today as rain is forecast and so the flowers won’t look fluffy and chick-like anymore, but will become rather shrunken and consolidated! The scent from the tree is delicately perfumed…

Here are the opening verses of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about the mimosa:

The Sensitive Plant — Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,

And the young winds fed it with silver dew,

And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light.

And closed them beneath the kisses of Night.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,

Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;

And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast

Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

—————————————————————–

(For the full four-stanza-long poem see https://kalliope.org/da/text/shelley2003060601)

This poem was written during the early 1820’s when Shelley was living with his wife in Pisa and was experiencing difficulties in his marriage after the death of his child, Will. The poem describes a garden full of flowers which is attended by a lady, and the flower that stands out from all the others is the mimosa, or ‘sensitive plant’. The three sections of the poem reflect the seasons and there is a contrast between night and day and between the flowers and stars. This reflects the feeling of man’s temporalness compared to the eternity of the universe…

In the secret language of flowers, mimosa represents secret love, safety and increased sensitivity. Belonging to the acacia family it is also the symbol of gold, sun and a triumphant life — something I think we all would like!

Thank you for reading — take care xxx