May 2024 Journal and Sketchbook

a naturally celebratory month

This summer will mark 6 years since we moved here to Drygrange.  With the house came a decent sized garden.  Ross & I were totally clueless about gardening.  We also had a baby in the first year we lived here, so we’ve basically just been trying to maintain some control in the tiny pockets of spare time we find.  This year, though, there’s been a wee bit of space for putting a bit of creative thought into garden management (only a little bit of space – the weeds are still wild and getting wilder).  I thought to myself the other day that perhaps gardening has become a hobby.  And then I realised that remains far from the case – what actually seems to have become a hobby is staring, daydreaming, getting lost in thought while looking.  I stare at my seedlings, I stare at plants I have planted, and (this is the biggest time-stealer) I stare into the pond.  I crouch down beside it and away I go, staring staring staring, until something rouses me and I go back to whatever task I was intending to do.  I’ve always been naturally day-dreamy.  I remember looking out of classroom windows endlessly.  Looking for tree-creepers on the trees, or watching the clouds drift by.  I’ve got a remarkable ability to fill quite a stretch of time just looking at a thing that pleases me, or just sitting thinking.  I imagine that makes me a little frustrating to live with, especially when trying to leave the house on time.  I feel like in recent years things have been so busy – small children, running a business – that daydreaming has felt far too self-indulgent.  But this year, in the garden with the pond and my seedlings, it has been creeping back in and I like it.

I’m interested in whether gardening ever stops feeling like a battle against rampant weeds.  I’m all for weeds, really. I embrace them as wildflowers whenever I can when I garden.  But some of the big guys have to be stopped in their tracks, especially the brambles and wild roses and enormous thistles.  And I remove the majority of the nettles, too.  Anything that makes the garden too hostile for the kids.  It does feel a little depressing, though, that caring for a garden can feel like a war with nature.  Any tips?  

May is the tipping month, late spring early summer.  The cold gave way to the heat in a sudden rush this year. My laundry told the story best: winter jumpers and thermals (worn just days earlier) on the washing line while the kids ran around in their pants in the sunshine. I prefer gentler seasonal shifts, but the warmth was welcome. It coincided with Piglet & Ross’s joint birthday.  We had a marvellous day out eating huge ice creams and splashing in a waterfall and going to a fun fair.  Swifts were screeching high in sky in Melrose above the fun fair, the sky was that delicious evening-blue, the blossom was pink. Then, that night, while the babes slept soundly in the house, we sat out in the courtyard with our cuppas and watched the Northern Lights dance above our heads.  Birthday borealis! Cosmic joy.  May is such a naturally celebratory month.  It feels right to have birthdays to celebrate in it.  

Just as we got used to the sunshine, down came the rain.  Rain rain rain.  It seems to have stopped, for now, and I have tentative hopes for a dry start to June.  We’re heading full-steam toward the longest day.  Trix seems to be very in tune with the seasons – she now refuses sleep until after 10pm most nights.  Sleep finally comes when the dark finally comes.  Any dry evening, we potter in the garden or walk along to the allotments in the evenings.  Shadows long.  I’ve formed a bond with a blackbird who sings with all his heart from the cherry tree at the back of the garden.  I hear him sing good-night, I hear him sing good-morning.  He was singing one night, and I pointed him out to Piglet, and Piglet said to dad “come and listen to mum’s friend” and we all stood on the back step and listened to my blackbird.  8pm in the gaden is May is as close to paradise as you are likely to get.

I’ve been struggling to get over a viral thing that I’ve had since April, so that has slowed me down this May, but I’ve been making good progress on various projects, and Piglet is very seriously doling out my vitamins every morning to get me back up to full strength.  One thing I’m happy to have completed is a large drawing entitled ‘Ancient Bubbles’ that I’ve been working on over the past few months.  It is a big, gentle drawing of a magical woodland.  Two children chase bubbles in a clearing in a forest.  An ancient oak spreads her branches above them.  The sunlight slices through the canopy.  I wanted to create a drawing that felt like a sanctuary.  I think I was reacting to the toughness in the world and the horrors on the news at the moment.  I didn’t make the drawing with any cause or purpose in mind, but since it has been finished I’ve been thinking about what it represents to me.  I decided to create a limited edition print of the drawing and to give £15 from each sale to Medical Aid for Palestinians.  My heart aches for the parents in Rafah.  You can see the drawing and purchase a print here.  

Sketchbook pages:

Above – sketches of my blackbird friend singing his heart out; a snail and two beetles for Piglet’s 5th birthday card (see the finished design here).

Below – a sketch of Piglet jumping on a bouncy castle in his shark onesie; dandelions; buttercups; oil seed rape

birthday borealis, house sparrow, horse chestnut blossom, allium, cow parsley

a common garden snail

May sketchbook page by Hannah Longmuir
May sketchbook page by Hannah Longmuir
common garden snail sketch by Hannah Longmuir

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