Everyday Words April Newsletter
places to go, things to read, recipes to cook, beauty to watch...
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Good morning, and here we are now firmly rooted in April,
I really hope you are doing OK. There’s so much uncertainty and heaviness out there, that - for me at least - there’s a question hanging over everything: what’s the point in whatever I write?
But then I read this quote by Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the First World War:
In those dark days I found some support in the steady progress unchanged of the beauty of the seasons. Every year, as spring came back unfailing and unfaltering, the leaves came out with the same tender green, the birds sang, the flowers came up and opened, and I felt that a great power of Nature for beauty was not affected by the war. It was like a great sanctuary into which we could go and find refuge.
from Recreation, speech to Harvard University, 1919.
So this newsletter comes to you in that spirit! I’ve collated some nature based offerings for you today, this newsletter written as spring comes back in the UK, admittedly with a sprinkling of snow, but still ‘unfailing and unfaltering, the leaves [coming] out with the same tender green…’
Here are my April and onwards suggestions… I’d love to know what you’re reading, doing, watching and eating! This is a free newsletter so do feel free to share with a friend if anything here appeals to you.
Somewhere to go:
This looks like a summer ahead of nature and gardening talks at festivals for me. Here are a few plans if you want to come and join me.. I’d love that.
On Monday May 2nd, I’ll be chairing a panel with the wonderful Lulah Ellender and Marian Boswall at Chiddingstone Literary Festival, talking to them about their new books.
Saturday 11th June, I’ll be reading at Words and Music at the Skep, this will be fun!
Wednesday 15th June, I’ll be hosting a fundraising Garden Poetry Picnic at the Blackthorn Trust Garden. Bring your own poems, and enjoy some delicious Blackthorn cake!
Sunday 26th June, I’ll be talking with the amazing Jay Griffiths about her new book at the Wealden Literary Festival.
Sunday 17th July, I’ll be at one of my favourite places, the Poetry Pharmacy in Bishops Castle for a workshop on dealing with Imposter Syndrome and writing blocks.
Sunday 24th July, Lucy, founder of Flow Yoga and I are holding a mini-garden festival of pose and prose in the beautiful Flow garden in central Tunbridge Wells. We can’t wait to share our new discoveries in the world of healing, nourishing and energy. I think it’s fair to say we’ve got some treats in store.
So there’s a lot on, but it feels like a summer of much-needed gentle nourishment ahead. I hope so anyway.
Something (s) to read:
It’s been a mixture of non-fiction and fiction for me recently. Here are four nature-based highlights, together with two wonderfully energetic and imaginative novels which I absolutely loved:
1. Losing Eden by Lucy Jones, ‘Why our minds need the wild’. This book should come with a warning, you’ll be rushing to get outside at any spare moment so you can sniff every tree you walk pass.
2. Sustainable Garden by Marian Boswall – Marian is a wonder on Instagram – I always rush to read her posts - - and this book is like having her whisper wisdom in your ear at every page. I’ve learnt so much.
3. Grounding by Lulah Ellender – this is a memoir about a time Lulah felt in a place of great uncertainty – her mother had just died and she and her family were faced with having to move from their rented house. It’s a love letter to the garden that kept her going.
4. The Cure for Sleep by Tanya Shadrick – another memoir about being given another chance of life, and learning to inhabit your true voice.
And then on to something completely different:
5. The Mad Woman’s Ball by Victoria Mas, based round The Salpetriere asylum in Paris in 1885
6. Outlawed by Anna North, Admittedly all you have to do is just mention the two words, feminist western, and I am there. I loved this book!
Something to watch:
Wild\Life: the Quiet Island of Alexandra de Steiguer | full documentary
This is 30 minutes of pure beauty and inspiration:
Something to eat:
Another reminder about the wonderful group of international cooks who’ve come together to form #cookforukraine which has raised over £700,000 so far for humanitarian causes in Ukraine. Started by Olia Hercules and Alissa Timoshkina as a way of doing something through their love of food, it’s now become a global movement. More and more good recipes keep getting added here - #CookForUkraine which, as it says, ‘also provides a platform for Ukrainian families and their supporters to share recipes with each other, along with the stories behind those dishes.’ It’s another reminder that behind every news story, there are real people trying to lead good and ordinary lives.
Something to do:
Finally, I shared one of my favourite writing for wellbeing exercise with my subscribers last week, so I’d like to open it out to you too. It can be found in the book, Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams, and the idea behind it is that you write down a particular memory that you would like to keep, capturing it through the senses. This video contains a short meditation as well as five minutes of writing time. As one subscriber commented after: It is now in ink so I can go back into that moment.
Yes, I agree. There really is something special about catching things in ink.
Something to look at:
Google Arts and Culture is always a really great resource, and I loved this ‘gallery’ of Nature in Art.
I also heartily recommend to you the twitter account #WOMENSART I always find something that makes me gasp here, and amazingly you don’t have to be a woman to enjoy it. Just look at this tulip, painted in 1657. 1657!!! And the grasshopper too. I can’t remember the last time I saw a grasshopper but I want to now. I want to spend days lying on my tummy in the grass staring at insects.
And finally, some wise words…
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient." ―Hilary Mantel
That’s a quote I think for life, as well as writing! What do you think? Or do you have any other favourite quotes…
Although actually not finally, let me share a cartoon that just keeps making me laugh. It’s from the New Yorker and a writing friend put it up on Facebook… Come on, let’s admit it. We’ve all felt like this at times…
Thank you so much for sticking to the end here, and thank you too for all of you who are part of my 30 DAYS IN APRIL project, which I’m delighted to say has raised more than £1,000 for UNICEF in Ukraine. Plus we’ve all - I hope - read some good things already.
I look forward to seeing you in May,