Well the Herbal storywalk, through Glasgow’s Botanic gardens, and its little used arboretum was a joy, the day before I went for a really green and inspiring walk down to the old North Woodside colour mill (or flint mill, where in days gone by they ground imported minerals for colour and later flint for glaze for the potteries near Glasgow) on the Kelvin, then I sat under the pre blooming blossoms of the Elder tree and twisted a tale to my own devices, a Hans Christian Anderson variation of a Northern European fairy tale about the elusive woman of wisdom and wiles, at once vengeful and protective: the Elder mother. You can read the Hans Christian Anderson version here:
It contains so many elements, it branches and grows like a plant then reveals more as it blossoms, it tells of transition and cold cures, subtle lines of elders anti inflammatory ways, its sedative dreamlike states, the spirit inside benevolent or wayward that protects and bewitches, it tells of acceptance and understanding of life, mortality ageing and death, I love that it offers a reason for Elder woods reputation as a grave protector, a soul empowerer, yet it’s a fairy tale, a story for children, light and amusing, and like elderflower a bringer of sleep and acceptance…I like it, but you’re not having my version yet, it might be a biggy a reworking for a new time, we’ll see, meanwhile I like the original and so did the fantastic, knowledgeable and supportive group who came on the storywalk…..Oh and they liked the cakes I made to accompany it!
I’ve been asked for the recipe for these, we had them on the Herbal Storywalk, to go with my first telling of ‘The Eldermother’. Now a lot of my close friends are already horribly aware I’m the worst person to ask for a recipe, because I don’t use recipes, just work by instinct and dont weigh or measure things, so adapt as you see fit….my rule for cakes is stick to approx victoria sponge concept = quantities fat/sugar or honey/eggs or pureed fruit/veg and baking powder as vegan option/flour….
1floz of each well mixed: sunflower oil and rice milk, but 2oz of good quality vegan marg (like ‘pure’ in sunflower) or butter work just as well.
2oz of icing sugar for vegan version or 2oz honey otherwise
Beat together really well
3 tbsps organic elderflower cordial….yes i could make my own….no, of course i didnt Im a single mum, am self employed work freelance, moving house and was writing stories and planning walks…..give me strength I did not knit my own cordial….waitrose and sainsburys sell ‘Belvoir’
2 tsps baking powder
Beat in really really well
2oz doves farm gluten free plain flour…..fold in thoroughly baked in silicon mini muffin tins for about ten mins ’til they bounce back in an oven about 180/200 degrees, they were topped with icing made of icing sugar and elderflower cordial, and some dried elderflower…Yes those I did dry myself last Summer, fresh would have been nicer.
The sun nearly shone on the day, and the blossoms are late, so it felt more like early May, certainly you might of had to wait for June to gather knots of May this year, the talented photographer Grace Shamy came along for a story, I’m lucky to have been allowed to use some of her stunning photos, and with movement of me and mine in the offing photos of knots in May will be the only ones i gather this year, but they are beautiful and as calming to the heart as a tisane of the material blooms. Hawthorn, Hagthorn, Hedgeridden, Crategus: trimethylamine scented, of death of passion lust and prophecy, a sister of Elder inhabited by her kind: woman living halfway betwixt plant and people, between field and furrow, the hedgerow sounds like a sociable place to be.
I watched Nuthatch scamper like birds of the Mouseman up a lolling Willow, with the child, in preparation, and saw squirrel hurl unformed hazel nut buds into the river Kelvin; and when the day finally came I found myself telling Finn MacCool once more, accompanied by chocolate, sweet potato and hazelnut brownies….brain food indeed.
If you need another story, if you want Finn Mac Cool once more you can watch my fantastic mum telling it here:
The river Kelvin flowing and tidal outside my back door is one of the things I’ll miss when I move, the story walk felt like a nice farewell, as a final memory saver. I’m also onto another story box….I’ve written my own full story of the mermaid of the Clyde, after telling it this weekend, and have sent it off to be part of a small book next year, but she needs her own box, a herbal story in tactile work, so I came home from the walk exhausted but inspired and over the days since I’ve collected nettle and mugwort from the last reach of the kelvin just by my flat, where the river first becomes tidal after its only waterfall, and where I’m sure the Merrow once sat for a break from the clamour of the shipyards before the pollution of the mills became intense. I’ve collected more from the beach along the coast where we’ve sat in the sun and watched as the Clyde and its sea lochs finally give up and become saline waters of the world and collected the iodine rich seaweed she left for, and found tiny pearly pockets of shells to garnish and delight……
If I’m quiet for a week or so you’ll know, I’m working on a new storybox, listening to my blood and my May calmed heart and have gone on the move, like the mermaid….needs eventually must.