Just Magic

The other day I visited the Magic Faraway Tree. It was deserted, which seemed strange for a portal to another world. But then perhaps that’s because it’s only a portal for my daughter and I.

She decided the tree was magic several years ago, when she was still young enough to need walking to school, to hold my hand on the way and count cats and pretend to be dragons, puffing out smoke in the frosty air.

The tree stands at the top of a hill, looking out across the valley and beyond, across rooftops that wouldn’t have been there when it was a sapling. Now it’s tall and stately, branches spreading to shade us during summer and create sky patterns during winter. It’s one of several trees we used to pass on our morning walk, yet the only one that became a Faraway Tree, home to fairies and dryads and dancing sprites, my daughter so enchanted by Enid Blyton’s stories that to this day she hasn’t finished the final book in the series.

We would often bring things to leave for the fairies, tucking them into the bark or among the roots. A patterned leaf or delicate flower, an interesting stone or shiny coin picked up on our journey. Once, an elderly gentleman offered us a piece of sea glass from his pocket, green and rubbed smooth by the waves. He’d carried it for a long time, he said with a smile, but thought that the fairies might like it. My daughter, thrilled and grateful, agreed, placing it in a special spot at the base of the trunk, cushioned by moss.

The moss is still there, velvet soft and deep green, but our gifts are gone. I hope the fairies liked them. There is magic still there, too. The magic of memory. The magic of joy.

Just magic.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Funny Little Bird Stone

img_2260I live in a landscape made of flint and chalk, tumbled like the bones of the earth within dark soil. Huge knobbly flints show up in walls from the smallest cottage to the largest cathedral, builders making use of what they had to hand. They lie in garden beds too, clogged with soil, strange shapes looking as though they were formed by hand, though no hand but that of nature has touched them.

img_4026Inside, they hold treasure, their pale coating cracking into sharks teeth and soup spoon bowls, all shining curves and sharp edges. Colours range from palest cream through burnt gold to bright orange, silvery grey to midnight blue, chocolate and dark coffee brown – there is beauty hidden within.

img_4353Once I found a flint that looked as though a star had been caught inside, a little piece of sky fallen to earth. And, when working in our garden over the summer, we found this. A strange bird-like creature, dark eye staring, stone cradling the slender neck. Frozen in time, funny little bird stone. He sits on my desk now, keeping me company as I write, so I thought I’d share him with you too.

Happy weekend, everybody! x

Found Objects – Horseshoe

A few months ago, I mentioned in a post that we were digging out an old raised vegetable bed at the end of our garden, in preparation for a new garden room/shed and decked area. In the course of the excavation our daughter was pottering around, poking through the piles of earth and rubble for items of interest – coloured stones, bits of old pottery, a small plastic teacup all taking her interest. Then, more recently, she found this:

IMG_2311 It’s a horseshoe, obviously. At least, I think it is. Rusty, with most of the nails still in place, and surprisingly light. But it seems a bit smaller than the average horseshoe:

IMG_2315 As you can see, it would easily sit on the palm of my hand, and I’m not a woman with freakishly large hands or anything. So now it’s got me thinking. Our house was built in the 1930s, but before that this area was all forest, running along the valley to what was then a small village about two miles away.

I wonder whether it came from a small pony, perhaps belonging to a child. Or a dainty palfrey, mount of a lady. Or something else altogether. Potential stories abound. Whoever the mysterious rider was, it must have been annoying to have their horse lose a shoe in the middle of the woods.

And now, however many years later, it’s turned up again. So, horse-y bloggers out there, what do you think? Is this a rather small horseshoe? Or is it normal size? While I love horses, I’ve never spent any great amount of time with them, so would love to know more.

 

Beach Treasure

IMG_0902

I found this on the beach last year. To me it looks like a porcelain dog’s head, weathered by its time in the sea but still holding a vestige of what it once was. And it is porcelain, not just some strangely weathered stone – traces of shining crackled glaze run under its ‘chin’ and the shape seems too regular to have been made by anything other than human hands.

IMG_0914

The beach where I found it is in South Wales at the mouth of a river. Tidal surges combined with a point make it perfect for surfing waves, one of the reasons we were there. A small town sits on the hillside above looking out across the silver sea, but there’s nothing at the river mouth now except green flatlands intersected with twining ribbons of water, then pebbly shingle as you get closer to where it meets the sea. But there was something once. Red bricks, weathered by the waves into undulating shapes, still overlaid in places by concrete aggregate, shattered and cracked by the power of the water, hint at a large structure here once, many years ago. And that’s where the story comes in.

This little piece of porcelain speaks to me of long distance voyages, creaking timber ships laden with treasure from lands steamy with tropical heat. Crowded ports ringing with voices, languages and customs in layers too heavy and convoluted to tell apart, a glorious mix of cultures and ideas. I imagine a journey south, stopping at spice-scented ports along the way, trading until the great horn of Africa is rounded and the long haul north begins. The ship with its cargo fetching up here only for a dish or vase to drop as it’s carried to shore, shattered porcelain pieces sinking below the waves, a journey ended just moments too soon. Or perhaps someone came home from the East (for this is Chinese porcelain, I can just feel it – a little snarling dog with cloud-like curling painted ears), leaving silks and gentle customs behind to return to the green mountains and cold waters of the north, bringing treasured possessions all this way only to drop something, a crate breaking or trunk popping open at the last moment.

So even though it’s just a little piece of broken china I found on a shore, it tells me stories that take me far out into the world. I love stuff like this, the energy they contain. There is a psychic talent, if you believe in such things, called psychometry, whereby someone can tell the history of an item simply by holding it, drawing impressions from the energy it holds. Perhaps story telling is another facet of this, drawing on experiences out in the world and tying them into a narrative. I don’t know where this came from, but I can dream and think and weave what I know with what I don’t, and there lies the story. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – stories are everywhere, if you care to look for them.

PS And for those of you who think this is a bit of old meerschaum pipe, or a funny looking stone, or something completely different, let me know! This is the story it told me – perhaps it will tell you something else xx

A Piece of Sky

IMG_1393

I found this flint some time ago. Split open, it lay upon the path where I walked.

It looks as though a star is inside it, as though long ago one fell to earth and became caught in the stone.

In Ambeth, the Elders of the Light watch the stars and see what they portend. They call it the skylore, the movement and patterns made in the sky letting them know what has been and what will be. It’s how they knew that Alma would be coming to them, that she would be the one to help them.

I live in an ancient landscape but then, I suppose anywhere in the UK could be defined as such. There are old traditions of watching the stars, ancient monuments aligned with the sun as it moves through the seasons. And this is not confined to the UK alone. Several years ago, an amazing star disk dating back to around 1600BC was found in Germany. Called the Nebra Sky Disc, it is made of bronze and gold and depicts the sun, moon and stars (including a cluster identified as the Pleiades), as well as two golden arcs for the solstices. It’s an extraordinary thing, the metals of its construction coming from as far away as Cornwall, hinting that the world, over three millennia ago, was a much more complex place than perhaps we imagine.

Nebra Sky Disk

Nebra Sky Disc – Photo attribution Wikimedia Commons – DBachmann

So I like to think of my little flint as a piece of a star. And I can hold it and link myself back to those ancients who watched the skies.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Treasure Hunting

Last summer my husband, daughter and I went metal detecting in our local woods. Of course we had dreams of uncovering some sort of golden hoard, left in days past by desperate refugees fleeing advancing armies, but we figured the reality was more likely to be an array of soft drink cans and old screws and nails, left by not-so desperate people who just couldn’t be arsed to find a bin (but that’s a whole other rant).

However.

It seemed like a fun thing to do, the weather was nice, the woods green and glowing, and an afternoon in the fresh air searching for treasure was an afternoon well spent, as far as we were concerned.

So, what did we find?

Well, it was a surprisingly fruitful mission. The woods in question were once part of the grounds of a Jacobean manor, sadly demolished in the 1950’s when death duties and a collective sort of madness seemed to grip those in charge of our heritage homes. So the house was gone but the woods remained, and into the green we went, venturing off the beaten path in hopes of finding something special. We found loads of coins, actually. Coppers and a few no-longer shiny twenty pence pieces, enough to keep the gorgeous girl very excited. Sure, there were a few bits of tinfoil, some old rusty nails and, on one lengthy dig, the sad realisation that the large response we were getting was from a nearby drain cover, but for the most part we found stuff that was worth digging for. We even found an old penny, George V by the very faint silhouette barely visible on its worn surface, the edges nibbled away by its time in the ground. And then we found this:

IMG_1387

What is it? It was fairly deep down, six or seven inches below the surface. It’s obviously man made, but for what purpose? For me, and this is entirely a gut instinct kind of thing, it feels as though it had something to do with the war. Like it was a gun sight or something. The piece is surprisingly heavy and very solid under all the rust, measuring about 15cm long. We were all fascinated by it, our first piece of ‘treasure.’

As we walked and listened for beeps and talked and enjoyed the day, a small boy and his mother came along the path. We were digging at that moment, and the little boy was fascinated, asking us what we were doing. I replied ‘we’re looking for treasure,’ and his face lit up.

‘Can I help?’ he asked, but his mother, smiling, told him they needed to keep going, and perhaps they could look for treasure themselves another day. So he watched for a few moments more and then they went on their way. And, as we went home under the fading sun, dirty and tired and clutching our little bag of booty, we all appreciated what a good day it had been and that maybe, the treasure we found was not something that could be measured or weighed, but something infinitely more valuable.

A Mystery From The Sea

IMG_2023

The view from our guesthouse front door.

Last year, at the end of summer we went to Sligo, up in the northwest of Ireland. It was wonderful. We visited a fairy mountain and made a wish, walked through a landscape of stone monuments older than Stonehenge and stayed on the beach at a little hotel behind an ancient pub that served the most fantastic meals.

IMG_2007

Ancient cairns.

One day we decided, perhaps in a moment of madness, to walk around the rocks that edged the coastline, leading away from the pebbly beach. It wasn’t too bad, to be honest – even the small girl could manage it, and we were amazed by the fossils visible in the ancient rock layers, as well as the deep clear ocean pools below our feet.

IMG_2015

Around the ragged rocks…

We made it, eventually, around to what had once been a harbour and on the rocks of the small ‘beach’ we found this:

IMG_2019

It was about 40cm wide…

Isn’t it amazing? If I could, I would have brought it home with me. But it was incredibly heavy, despite the rust. So I took a photo instead. I’ve been meaning to have it made into a canvas – I just love the colours and the way whatever-it-is sits on the stones.

The stones were in it just as you see them – whether deposited by some other hand or the ocean waves I wasn’t sure. The beach was littered with other bits of rusting iron, remnants of a mysterious past. A curving concrete quay jutted out along one side of the little cove but it was tiny – only small boats would have come in here. Perhaps one night there was a wild storm and one of them washed up to break against the rocks, only the heaviest metal bits and pieces remaining to tell the tale.

IMG_2025

Ireland – where even the rocks have personality 🙂

So an object found, but left where it lay. Sometimes it’s better that way.