New painting by my friend Jo Dunn, which has inspired this post

Have had a rather broken night’s sleep, following the news of some of what we hold dear breaking. This will be a wander around my battered thoughts. Reminded of Ray Davies lovely theme song for the wonderful drama series ‘Broken’, which asserts that “we are bruised but we’re not broken”.

I’m sitting with my fourth cup of tea listening to Jenny Sturgeon’s album ‘The Living Mountain’, inspired by Nan Shepherd’s book of the same name, looking at a frosty scene: my pretty back yard and the tops of the trees that line the back road and the long allotment spaces that attach to the houses on my street.

So, why did Joey’s beautiful painting of witch hazel stir me to write? I’ve got a long list of subjects that I want to write about but I am finding it hard to focus and it takes me much longer to write than it used to Before. Well, it’s because, in general, nature and its glories move me, and, in particular, this lovely shrub is woven into my memory and life-stories.

The pale yellow, feathery, fragrant flowers arrive on bare stems in January- such a welcome reminder that spring will come. The first witch hazel I planted was bought on a trip to a plant centre with my dear friend Charo. It’s a ‘thing’ for me and my friends to take ourselves off in the spring full of hope and ideas, all the better if there’s a good cafe for tea and cake and conversation. That visit was precious because Charo was ill and would be dead in a few years, nineteen years ago now. I didn’t know then but my little witch hazel would be in bloom on the anniversary of her death and I would visit her family with a few stems to place in a vase on the kitchen windowsill at that time each year. We didn’t have to talk about how much we loved and missed her, because the flowers spoke more eloquently, and words are sometimes a bit blunt for the complexities of loss. But we did talk about her and visited the Spanish Chestnut which her family planted in the nearby park (she was Puerto Rican, a Spanish speaker), to be with her there also.

Soon after I moved to my new home I planted another witch hazel- this is its second winter so it’s still quite small. I just went out to take a look and it is covered with tight little flowerbuds, ready to burst open. Feel thankful on this extraordinary morning for their simplicity and certainty.

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