Wednesday, 29 April 2015

On Joy

A small world of loveliness

I suffer from depression and have for many years. The worst thing for me is that it is joyless and sucks the life and colour out of every experience. I feel that I am underwater or looking out at everything through the refraction of bottled glass; that I cannot see or be seen, or at least not as I truly am. Just a hair's breadth away from the ordinary and the everyday, I exist in netherworld devoid of almost any sensation, other than the haunting feeling that it shouldn't really be like this, that this isn't real. And then there is joy. It may seem strange to suggest that there are moments of bliss amongst the pain and yet that is just how it is. I remember life and I remember joy. I remember and I keep remembering.

And so here are some of the things that bring me joy, even through 'bottled glass';

Everything that is green and growing, the phrase 'weed wife', which I aspire to be, anything that grows in the cracks between the pavement or under fences, and definitely anything that is described as a 'weed', the concept of foraging and wild food and the fact that I have so, so much to learn about both.

Lying in bed listening to the rain fall outside, getting caught in the rain and coming home for a hot bath, sunshine after rain, the smell of rain, and the pulsating energy of all that is green after rain has fallen. Today, I saw blue sky reflected in a rainy pavement and felt a little heart-skip of joyousness.

Everything about bees, especially the emergence of the first bees of the year; this year it was a tawny mining bee, then a hairy flower-footed bee, and that I have only learned of the existence of both in the last year. Once, when I had stopped to open a lock gate, an ashy mining bee landed on my hand and stayed for a bee-while; that memory brings me joy. Honeybees, bumblebees, bees' bottoms, the busyness of bees, bees covered in pollen and with full pollen baskets, bumblebees wearing white deadnettle flowers as bonnets.

The shimmer of blue on a crow's wing and the intelligence of its eye, the beauty of magpies, the thrill of a woodpecker on the bird feeder; the other day a mating pair came to visit ~ my first ever sight of two woodpeckers at the same time, chiffchaffs, sparrows, wrens, the bouncing-bullet flight of blue tits, the feistiness of robins, the beauty and power of swans, the thought of long migration, starlings; feathers, murmuration, attitude.

Dandelion clocks.

That there are owls bring me joy, as does the word 'crepuscular'. So many words; anarchy, grace, rebellion, wild, weave, lunacy (lunarsea), flibbertigibbet, sloven, whore, hag, and hedge. It gives me joy to know words, to taste them on my tongue, to play with meanings and sounds and syllables. Books that teach me words, and daisy chains of words, that I had never dreamed of are a joy, daisy chains.

Children bring me joy; their honesty, their innocence, their tears, and their anger, their love of glitter and mud.

Mosses and lichens, and fungi, Paul Stamets, my favourite mycologist, and the thought that I might one day realise my dream to become a librarian mycologist lock keeper. The wonder of tardigrades! Geology is one of my joys; beloved chalk landscapes and clear chalk streams, granite, the soft~as~butter kindness of sandstone, the ancient strangeness of gneiss, the stones of Callanish, fens and moors and marshes, estuaries.

A glimpse of a heron, the flash of a kingfisher, floating the day away, woodburners, cups of tea, autumn leaves, winter days of sun and frost, watching a tree, or a wood, or a landscape, move through the cycle of its seasons.

Being brave brings me joy; braveness in the small things that feel big to me. Being loved and loving, the touch of Simon's hand in mine, his hugs, his dancing, his drumming, his smile, his silly songs, his absolute bravery in the face of himself, Stefi Queen of Cats, feeling looked after, waking in a sun-filled room with buttermilk curtains.

Nettles, cowslips, comfrey, lesser celandines, snowdrops, stitchwort, and poetry, the wild tangle of hedgerows, and words, and folktales. Orchards and wildings, crab apples and fallen fruit, the hunter spirit of dragonflies, the wildfire of foxes, the generosity of badgers.

Sunlight through the huge umbrella leaves of butterbur on a hot and hazy summer day. 

Good company; of friends, sisters, of root and fur and wing. Music; folk, classical, heavy metal. How The Levellers have somehow accompanied me through more than half my life. Tea shops, community, chai latte, glass jelly moulds, old-fashioned enamel mugs, a whistling kettle, the lovely things that people send me, my vast and ill-considered jug collection. Goddess.

Where I live brings me joy; South London; green and earthy, pie and mash, Greenwich Park, greater celandines appearing from under a fence, spring flowers in a riot on the Green, two ancient pear trees; one in a secret woodland, Mycenae House, Cross Bones Graveyard, The Borough, The Liberty, Southwark Cathedral, beautiful wasteground covered in dog daisies.

Baths, knitted patchwork blankets, dark chocolate with ginger, honey and ginger ice cream, green ginger wine, walking barefoot, birdsong, the sea.

Communication brings me joy; Twitter and Facebook and writing, weaving my own bright web, feeling heard. Wales and the Welsh language, finding feathers, communing with crows, bus drivers who are kind, people who care, the wild tapestry of London and how it gives those of us who live here the opportunity to do just that.

Bugwoman's Wednesday Weed, my tiny front garden filled with bluebells, deadnettle, lavender, green alkanet, and bees, that I know where harebells grow only a few minutes from my front door, that I have found Fly Agaric in the woods, that there is a community orchard nearby where I sometimes lie under a hawthorn tree and let the blossom tickle my bare toes. That sometimes these things have saved my life when nothing else could.

There are many things that bring me joy and they do save my life, sometimes literally in moments of the most numbing tiredness or fierce despair; I might just catch a reflection of blue in a rainsoaked pavement and take another step. It has recently been proven that microbes found in dirt are natural anti-depressants, and that definitely brings me joy, but nature gives us even more than that. Two years ago I went through a period when I could barely get out of bed until, one day, an ordinary little urban tree near my home called me out, just asking me to walk far enough to touch its bark. It was a gentle and polite request. I decided to do as I was asked. The little tree is only five minutes from my front door, the bark was smooth and silver-grey, an ant was exploring its small landscape, it saved me. There is nothing that the earth cannot heal.

Life is full of joy. I remember.


Many have written about the healing power of nature. Here are just two...

Ecologist, Ryan Clark, has written recently about depression and how nature helps him in his blog;

and Richard Mabey has written movingly of his own journey with depression in his book, 'Nature Cure'


  1. Thank you so much for participating in the A to Z Challenge! You rock! Congrats on getting to the letter J! Reminder: there will be an A to Z Reflections round on May 4th. There will be a Linky for it on the main blog, so please look for it there! Please post your reflections on the challenge, finish any letters, visit others, and catch up on the blogs you didn't have time to read!

    Team Macha, Helping Co-Host Czenge
    Maui Jungalow

    1. Thank you so much, Courtney! I am amazed that I have managed to get to J and am determined to carry on. It has been a great experience so far. I will definitely check out the reflections in May x

  2. Thank you for this! Much needed today when I'm so fatigued all I can manage is stand on my porch and listen to whispering of the breeze through the leaves and happy birdsong, wishing I was up for more.

    1. Thanks so much, Jenny! I know the feeling but how lovely that you have somewhere so close where you can be touched by nature in that way. Birdsong is such a joy. It often lists me when nothing else can get through. I hope that you have the energy to venture further soon. Sending love to you and your trees x

  3. Thank you for sharing Ms. Jacqueline..."Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." --Buddha

    Items I find joy in...a camp fire, giggling at silliness, awarding our cat "Best Animal Award" even though she has no competition, clouds and their shapes, the antics of squirrels, people who are willing to speak to others they don't necessarily know, others who inspire wonder when I realize they are passionate about an aspect of life/living I admire but don't really know much about...

    1. Ah, what a beautiful and perfect quote, Mr Russ.

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your joys. I love that! Clouds are just wonderful and I love the sound of your cat. I am sure that she more than deserves her award and thank you too for the compliment :)

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience so beautifully. Your story about the tree calling you outside really touched my heart! I'm sure you've touched many others too with your courage to talk about this, and brought a lot of joy through your writing and actions. Love and light,x

  5. Thank you so much, Mo. What lovely comments. Much appreciated. Love to you x

  6. Hello there.
    Hope you enjoyed taking part in the A-Z Challenge! I didn't get to visit your blog during the crazy month of April so I'm popping over today from the Road Trip. My goal is to visit all the blogs that linked up, before next year's challenge starts up again.

    Entrepreneurial Goddess


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I genuinely do appreciate and value what you have to say. For some reason I am currently struggling to reply but I am reading everything you say and I am grateful. I will work on the replying!