We all celebrate Earth Day in our own way, appropriate to our convictions and personalities. My upcoming trip to the land of my birth has set me on a train of thought about the deep influence of nature on my spirituality, intuition and creativity. I lived on the edge of a wetland and within twenty minutes of open countryside. The wetland was continually drained in the interests of “progress” and began to shrink drastically over the years. Concerned that this precious place was rapidly disappearing, a group of locals bought the remaining land and created a beautiful nature reserve. I intend to visit this beautiful place when I return to Belfast. So to give my readers a sense of the gift of having been brought up beside this marshland, I’ll take you on a trip into my childhood past.
So take my hand and come back with me to the place I loved. Walk down the little path from the house to the grassy patch behind my Dad’s shed. Look to right and left and when you are sure you are alone, remove your adult spectacles and look with the eyes of imagination and wonder. What do you see…?
The morning sun slants across the fields, casting a deep shadow over the line of terraced houses bordering the perimeter of the marsh. Two worlds collide here. The world of poverty and struggle and the world of magic, adventure and golden sunshine. I can step from one to the other by going down behind the shed and squeezing through the spindly hedge into the magic world of the Bog Meadows. The fields and meadows stretch as far as the eye can see, sweeping away from the city into the countryside.
Spring has recently come skipping through the marshland. Grasses spring up, long and lush, translucent green in the sunshine. Gold and purple irises splash colour suddenly as the grasses bend and lean into the wind.Yellow primroses and sky blue harebells cluster and spill over hidden banks. Brown velvet bulrushes stand ramrod stiff among the reeds. They are my sentinels, guarding my place of magic. I sit for a while and lose myself in the perfume of meadow sweet and the concert of birdsong. There are sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, even a couple of black cranes standing erect on one leg in alert stillness. Suddenly there is a flurry and whirring of wings . Four swans glide into the air, v-shaped arrow heading into the blue. If you listening carefully you can hear the illusive corncrake call, her voice like an old creaking gate swinging in the wind. No-one has ever been able to spot the corncrake so her infrequent call is an invitation to go deeper into the magic.
I laugh as a sudden unexpected shower of rain sends me scurrying back to my own garden. If I wait patiently, the warm spring rain will bring hordes of little frogs, leaping from the marsh water and spilling into the garden and the adjoining street. Frogs are as much part of my childhood as the chattering sparrows. Nature sits upon my doorstep and continually calls me to her world away from the shadows of an adult world I do not understand.
The light begins to fade and the lonely cry of the curlew breaks across the marsh. It seems he wants so much to be heard that he waits until a deep quiet settles over the land and the light is low. Why does he cry so plaintively? Some say it is a lost spirit calling from Milltown cemetery which borders the far reaches of the marsh fields. No-one ventures into the marshland when the light is gone and only the burp-burp of the frogs breaks the silence.
The door of my home is fastened against the night and it is time for supper and bed.The distant whistle of the Belfast – Dublin train heard on the edge of sleep passes into my dreams as an invitation to journey to places afar , a dream that would come to fruition at last in my adult years.
But though I have traveled far and wide, my Celtic heart finds no peace if not within sight or sound of nature in its various forms. I am so privileged to have made my permanent home in British Columbia and Earth Day is a good day to allow my gratitude to overflow.