Month: March 2023

Simple Coltsfoot touching the soul

(Photo. Coltsfoot at Newhall. Mr G)

Reminder of Coltsfoot

The other day walking around the pond in woodland near my home, I was attracted by a clump of yellow, hugging the ground.Early flowering spring, the Coltsfoot.
Immediately I was taken back to the time of boyhood.

Life in the austere aftermath of World War II was far from easy.
In the Industrial North of England, children had few toys of their own though they shared what they had with others. We also had places for play including a side street containing 3 terraced houses where the occupants acted as street wardens. Cars rarely ever came along this street. It was the play street for children. Here we held our running  and skipping and jumping games. Footballs vied with tennis balls. We made makeshift go-carts out of old pram axels and rope, using wooden fruit boxes for the cart body. We staged plays and shows and entertained the adults who kept watch of us. It was often a joyful and very noisy place!

Nearby, the old Ruby Mill provided the best Adventure Playground you could ever find. This old cotton mill alongside its neighbour the Longfield,(always shortened to ‘Longy’) had served giant King Cotton until the decline of its production.
The mill, opened in 1889, was demolished in 1946, though had closed in 1930. All that survived where 4 concrete mounds of varying heights, which were the ‘engine beds’ from where was generated all the energy to power the mill.
By the time we children took them over they were renamed ‘Indian beds’, the perfect place to either catch Indians or lure cowboys into danger!
The way Mother Nature had taken over the ground of the former mill, we were gifted with a great area to enjoy the open air. From Spring to Autumn we hid in dens in the earth, ran hospitals to cater for budding doctors and nurses, ran buses along imaginary routes, waged war on cowboys, made camps as RedIndians, built dams so that spring water could flood the area. Occasionally we fought mock battles between the ‘Ruby gang and the ‘Longy gang’. We always made sure that our troops were far enough away to prevent real harm happening.
In a time of austerity we found amazing things with which to feed our imaginations and develop a sense of fun and working together,. We developed our social skills in a natural way. Sometimes we moved into commercial ventures!
My friend Michael and I would gather bunches of Coltsfoot and Dandelions. We would then arranged them into ‘bouquets’ wrapped in copies of the Daily Despatch newspaper and tried to sell them on the streets of our area. If it wasn’t a fruitful day we always had the fall back position of granny and various local ‘aunties and uncles’. They could be relied on to put a halfpenny or penny into our pockets.

In our adventure playground we saw so much nature taking over everything and we were introduced to wild flowers, grasses, insects and all that nature had to offer and which educated us in permanent and exciting ways.
Amongst the flowers which came to our attention were Coltsfoot.
There were lots of dandelions, buttercups, daisy and two colours of clover.
However, the little Coltsfoot was my favourite. The poem I have written below tries to say why.

When I saw that little drift of Coltsfoot, this memory came flooding back and with it, the remembrance of how, as children with little material resource, we found a wealth of gift to us on our own Ruby ground and a way of sharing it together which taught us friendship, kindness, care of others and occasionally how to have a very good ‘row’ which dealt with some of the tensions of childhood.
I was also taught that nature has so much to reveal about what I came later to know as creation and Creator God.

Finally, in the beautiful little, gloriously yellow/gold coltsfoot, I learned that in little, sometimes overlooked things, there is a joy and beauty which enriches life. The end of my poem is my comment on that.


Did you notice me
as you walked by,
a splash of yellow,
a jewel hugging the soil
I have gnarled fingers
but not yet.
My flower needs no leafy announcement.
Yet I am not showy
like others who herald springtime.
I am not like cousin Dandelion
and share nothing with blousy,
trumpeting daffodil!
Tiny, I am easily overlooked.
But often it is simple things
which touch the soul
with colour and warmth.

[Mr G 27th March 2023]

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox. creation in glass by my artist friend, Kay Gibbons. 2023

My friend Julia has sent me the following article reflecting on yesterday’s Spring Equinox. It was written by her friend Jane Upchurch, one of a monthly series she sends out on the eve of every new moon. I am pleased to pass it on, with Jane’s permission.  For more information and further writings by her, Google her on

Dear friends,

Tuesday March 21st was the new moon, the time we particularly remember our beautiful planet in prayer, meditation, awareness or involvement, with love, hope and gratitude. 

This is the time of the Spring equinox.  We are moving from winter to spring, from dark to light, from cold to warmth, from bareness to the vibrant flush of spring flowers and new-born leaves.  Let us also move from anxiety and dismay at world events and the state of our planet to love and hope.  Let us sow these seeds into the thirsty soil.


This is it, the official beginning of spring.  Oh, the long awaited date and season and sun.  The sun is white, sitting over the tops of the houses to the East, diffused through the thin cloud that heralds the start of a glorious day.   It is still cold from early evening to early morning marking the hours of the sun’s absence, but it builds to a warmth you can live in during the day.

I love this day, the changeover from winter to the early train of summer.  I love that everywhere today is the same, we all have twelve hours of day and night, equal night, equinox.  And as we sail smoothly into our opening light and new season of warmth, so the south tilts into its fall, into darkness and the call of winter.  Today is a magic day, yet most people won’t notice it save perhaps a smile at the new-found warmth of the sun.  We live on our planet like strangers, not recognising its journeys or its moods, sheltered from the weather and with a ready light to hide the dark. 

Celebrating an equinox or solstice acknowledges the birthdays of our home, enjoying the relationship we have with the earth on which we live all our days.  It is also enjoying our relationship with  the Divine, whatever that means for us, seeing God in all things – the new sun rising, the hazy air sharpening, the primroses covering the lawn in gentle yellow welcome, the quickening of spring awakening the buds, calling the call to life that echoes in our blood.

I desire to be out here today but I cannot, so can I take these elements of earth, air, fire and water and hold them in a burning cauldron safe in my heart?  Can I trust as trees do, or will I always bother and fuss before I find the path?  Is it part of the human condition, part of my makeup, a jigsaw dance between the bother and the bliss, learning to carry all the bits equally well, living in memory and faith at the same time, trusting as trees dig roots into deep soil, trying to enjoy all parts of the journey and not just the destination.  Today I have things to do that will call me away.  Today I hang my needs on the wheel of the sun and let it turn me. 

Jane Upchurch

Daffodils of Spring. Photo: Gill Henwood


we thank you for this earth, our home;
for the wide sky and the blessed sun,
for the ocean and streams,
for the towering hills and the whispering wind,
for the trees and green grass.

We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds,
and see the splendour of fields of golden wheat,
and taste autumn’s fruit,
and rejoice in the feel of snow,
and smell the breath of spring flowers.

GRANT US a heart opened wide to all this beauty;
and save us from being so blind that we pass unseeing
when even the common thorn bush is aflame with your glory.


And all is one Love.

Madonna Pazzi by Donatello. Photographed by Gill Henwood **.

My friend, Gill Henwood visited the major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum recently, featuring the work by sculptor, Donatello. It is entitled, Donatello, Sculpting the Renaissance. It’s the first major UK Exhibition to explore the exceptional talents of this great artist, his vision and his influence.

The Exhibition in at the V & A until Sunday June 11th. (Entry £20)

Gill has sent me some of her photographs including the one above, of Mother & Child, (Madonna Pazzi). Fitting illustration I thought, for Mothering Sunday. There is a beauty and a bond which translates into the closest intimacy.

Motherhood was not easy for Mary. She was young and inexperienced. Her pregnancy was viewed with suspicion. Her baby was born far from home in difficult and dangerous surroundings. When she took her son to the temple, only days old, Simeon’s prophecy for his future was ominous. Jesus’ childhood gave her cause for concern and in adulthood, it was clear that his life would  become increasingly dangerous and he would be marginalised. Mary had to learn to put her own feelings to one side to support him in his mission. Finally, she suffered the worst thing that can happen to a mother. She had to watch her Son die a tortured death.

God the Father’s  part in that suffering was to suffer too. Like Mary he beheld Jesus as a mother her child and to understand that a bit better, we might find help in the writings of the mystic, Julian of Norwich.

In the fourteenth century Julian of Norwich experienced and understood the motherhood of God in her visions. Mothering Sunday is a good day to share this vision and recognise that although we are distinguished by our gender, God is not. Instead God is both mother and father to us . ‘As truly as God is Father, so just as truly is he our mother.’ Said  Julian of Norwich. In both his motherhood and fatherhood, God faces up to his pain

The Theologian, Matthew Fox, muses on what Julian is saying. He says, “God is the true Father and Mother of Nature, and all natures that are made to flow out of God to work the divine will shall be restored and brought again into God.

Julian assures us that “The motherhood of God is a welcome thing on God’s part. Divinity does not consider motherhood a burden to bear for “God feels great delight to be our Mother.”

To recover the motherhood of God is to recover compassion:
Compassion is a kind and gentle property that belongs to a Motherhood in tender love. Compassion protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life, and heals.
Thus we see that the recovery of the theme of the motherhood of God flows naturally from other themes of cosmos, earthiness, blessing or goodness…A motherhood-of-God theology confronts the basic issue of letting go of the one-sided God of patriarchy and learning more about the God whose image we are.
Therefore it is also about learning more about ourselves and about our power for birthing
and creativity. Today it is especially urgent that men learn deeply how all persons, men included, are motherly as well as fatherly.” (Matthew Fox)

In the Donatello sculpture is, as I mentioned, an intimacy which is held by the bond of love, the love which creates a sense of mother and child relating as one. Increasingly, today, that same bond is being celebrated between fathers and their children, and hopefully this is leading to a broadening of the love which is reflective of God’s Trinitarian Love.

In her Revelations, Julian of Norwich said a most powerful thing:

I understood three manners of beholding of Motherhood in God: the first is grounded in our Nature’s making; the second is taking of our nature,—and there beginneth the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,—and therein is a forthspreading by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end. And all is one Love.

(Julian of Norwich)

Donatello’s statue opens the door to much thought. Julian of Norwich gently takes our hand and invites us to step through it.

[Mr G and others]

**The Madonna Pazzi, housed today in Berlin’s Staatliche Museen, is rectangular marble relief that dates from c. 1425. It was carved for private devotion during the beginning of the productive collaboration that Donatello formed with Michelozzo (1396-1472), an Italian architect and sculptor.

God paints a picture with snow

Dark trees magical with snow. Beeches, and old hawthorns by the gate. High Cross, above Coniston, photographed by Gill Henwood

It’s sometimes said to children that when there is thunder in the sky, God is applauding us for something good we’ve done. The alternative, too often said, is that God is angry with us and is stamping his feet.
It all depends if you want God to control or free us. No contest in my opinion. I always respond best to applause!.

I find that linking God and the weather is a kind of reminder that we have little control over how the weather behaves on our planet, except in an all too negative way. I say this as one who, for a brief time, was the Clerk of the Weather, in a highly acclaimed thespian production when I was a junior school. For an all too brief time I had total control over the weather and wore a Top Hat to prove it! So thereI was, throwing around thunderbolts, lightning flashes, howling winds, raindrops and sunshine, as all obeyed my orders. (To be honest, Tom Culshaw was fairly negative in his response so there wasn’t much hail around that day!)
Of course, all too quickly, I had to hand the authority  back to God but I like to think that for a short while after he treated me kindly for doing my best, even though this coincided with a lot of weather!

We’ve been having quite a bit of it lately too, and it came as a shock recently when Spring’s steady progress was rudely interrupted by a sudden return to ice and snow, cold and frost.
Even so, though it could be both inconvenient and treacherous, the dusting of ice and the covering of nature with snow, has a very special effect on our landscape.

I was reminded of this when my friend Gill sent me photos of the Lake District just after God had painted a picture with the snow. God has such a delicate touch and an eye for detail.  Just for a short while we were taken into a glimpse of beauty which if transient is nonetheless breathtaking. Soon we shall move on to look at Nature’s Gallery, where God will hang the Springscapes
For now, we can pause and take in God’s picture painted in snow.

We can say, again, with St. John of the Cross that
God passes through the thicket of this world, and wherever His glance falls, he turns all things to beauty.
I like that truth!

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of that in the photos Gill has taken.

Meadowsweet. .As never seen before! Seed heads left for the winter on a verge. Photo: Gill Henwood
On the edge of the white wood. Photo by Gill