As promised on my Instagram page a few posts back, here is a full tour in words and pictures of The Elixir Healing Lodge I made during the UK’s lockdown, to keep as a family heirloom and a visual essay and diary of my days and weeks with our daughter Fleur. I added to this Lodge week after week, so it truly was an evolving story and I hope Fleur will find something different to surprise her each time she looks in years to come. So here goes – come journey with us around a very special Lodge…
Nature’s healing properties: there are nods throughout the healing lodge to the role of natural remedies. I had two friends suffering badly from Covid early on when the medical world was pretty much as dumbfounded as us. I was obviously worried for them, but also fascinated to find that both friend’s breathing difficulties and restricted chests responded well to chopped onion poultices placed on their chest and on their feet. Smelly, but effective! Onion poultices were used to treat inflammation in pneumonia before antibiotics existed and since the fae folk base much of their magic on the hedgerows, woodland, flora and fauna it was only apt that this fairy house should be a healing lodge.
Finding comfort in nature: for those of us that weren’t key workers, most will have found that life slowed down massively during lockdown. Whilst I found the sudden changes to my life and routine tough to stomach and adapt to, I also found it a real privilege to spend proper time with my daughter. Time which, in truth, would otherwise have been spent shipping her to and from playgroup, play-dates with friends, distracting with outings, latching onto adult social gatherings and generally overlooking the pure one-on-one time I could now have with her. (That’s not to say it was a bed or roses. I am – fairly?! – normal after all and could be found disappearing to count to ten (well, 50…) and slapping the utility room wall in frustration some days, or pouring a glass of something strong before bedtime and way before it was socially acceptable). But it made my heart sing to see that our little girl loves nature and the outdoor world as much as I do and to watch her embrace it was magic. It was definitely her happy place and cathartic for both of us. She would look really closely at the tiniest of things, and present me with something exclaiming “Here you go mummy, you can have this for your fairy house”. So the Healing Lodge is adorned with endless things Fleur chose herself – pink snail shells, alder cones, dried flowers, pods and interesting pieces of bark, pheasant feathers, twisted willow, broken china and old brooches and trinkets her magpie eye was drawn to. You’ll also spy a few copper feathers from our favourite chicken, the ingeniously named Mrs Chicken, who sadly flew over the Rainbow Bridge during lock-down, which upset a sometimes fragile little girl quite a bit.
And one of the little glass apothecary jars hanging from the ceiling contains a few pepper-pot strands of hair from our lovely old goat, Blot, who also moved on to pastures new during those weeks. We didn’t have a good run of it! But Fleur was fickle in his case – she was more alarmed that Blot’s climbing frame (which she so often commandeered herself) was removed when he was. As my sister and I grappled to lift a stiff carcass from the RTV into the boot of my car so I could dispose of him, we said our macabre – but somehow amusing – memory of lock-down would be that very moment: knees buckling under his weight, one of us at either end determined we didn’t require male help (there was no male help available so that was beside the point!) with the sudden shout of “Grab the horns, QUICK – GRAB THE FRICKIN’ HORNS!” as he begun to slip from our clutches. Poor old boy – it wasn’t the most dignified move, but it momentarily lightened the moment as we felt like a pair of proper country bumpkins grappling with the body of a dead goat!
My other half moved out when lock-down was announced as he felt he was high risk for bringing the virus home to Fleur and I, and also felt that no elderly person should be on their own for twelve weeks. So out he gallantly moved and in moved my family (along with a cat, large – smelly – dog and 6 guinea-pigs!). We’re a pretty self-sufficient couple, so there were highs and lows for not having him with us… The highs included a good night’s sleep splayed across our bed like a starfish, the recycling bin actually experiencing what it’s like to feel full and the laundry being thrown in the correct ‘Light’ or ‘Dark’ compartments. The lows were watching my sister have her whole family unit around her and when we had good times in the harder early days and weeks I felt guilty and wretched that Nige wasn’t enjoying it with us. So the Healing Lodge features a little copper bucket adorned with the Tree of Life, to represent our time apart and how actually, despite being apart, we were all growing a little stronger for it. But we all needed a bit of magic and the power to keep going, so in the bucket are three wands (one for each of us), topped with blue titanium quartz aura points which is a healing stone, great for energising – which seemed apt given the circumstances.
On the refectory table shown in the first image, many of the Lodge’s themes come into play in one space. Under the glass dome sits a Tiger’s Eye crystal – a protective crystal that promotes bravery, energy and healing properties. This was our family safeguard. I did give one to Nige to keep where he was staying, but it probably got tossed in the bin along with some stale crackers and moulding cheese… The Sigil Wheel is actually a spoof version as a politicised symbol when we were all wondering what to do… The country was urging the government to lock us down sooner having witnessed the bedlam that was unfolding in Northern Italy before us… Once lock-down was eased slightly we all wondered what the ambiguous messages from the government meant (although the British sense of humour prevailed – we may be winning with the highest number of deaths in Europe, but we definitely won out and out for the sheer genius of the scathing but hilarious memes circulating at that time…). So the Sigil Wheel is actually more ‘spin the wheel’, who knows, take a chance, let the wheel decide, leave it to fate – as no one in authority seems to have the foggiest idea what to do. There are little pictures dotted around the Lodge too, featuring Reiki symbols and natural healing flora illustrations.
Time. That was a topic top of mind – and will continue for some time (gettit?), I fear. To start with, overnight, time stood still. As I suddenly wasn’t working or socialising, what would ordinarily have taken me an hour to complete, could be easily stretched out all day… Sometimes I loved that simplicity, sometimes I loathed and resented it. I’m a busy bee, as is Nige, so I used to remind myself of what he told me early on as a way of breaking this period into manageable chunks: “You’re just killing time at the moment… keep safe and it’s another week done”. That sounds like an ungrateful way to view life, but it made the tough days easier. And of course, because it’s a healing lodge, the table is fronted by lots of hung, dried ingredients for potions (mostly flowers and grasses that Fleur picked on dog walks to the river which she found interesting). You can just see in this picture that I used the outline of ammonite fossils on the clay floor. As extinct sea creatures, this was a nod to our missed days on our boat which has formed the backbone of many joyful weekends through all the seasons, but which was then sitting idly bobbing around alone for months. We did some crazy things to pass the time. You’ll notice a little cobbled path leading up to the front of the Lodge. Those little black stones were gathered from a huge pile sitting on our driveway and we must have spent nearly an hour sliding down the hill on our bottoms (helpfully dispersing the neat pile into more of a gravel pancake), using it as an obstacle course and then searching on hands and knees for the rare-find black stones. Some days I really did think we had lost the plot!
On the top floor is a dresser, stocked full of crystals and fossils. In the drawer below, adorned with pressed flowers sits a little diary for Fleur to look at in years to come. I made a scroll and wrote a little missive of our time together and to explain how, whilst we humans struggled to adapt to the changes and felt alarmed by this invisible threat, perversely the world set to healing itself – enjoying the rest from all sorts of pollution and pollutants that go hand in hand with human life and free movement that we all take for granted ordinarily. I also printed out stacks of little photos of that time and annotated the back of each. And for the most part, those photos depict what I made my job and focus – a time when I tried to ensure that little girl remembered those weeks as a period which was fun, when she was cocooned and loved by many – even if some of the people in her little circle were talking to her through a screen.
But they’re perceptive creatures, these little kids… Ever since she was tiny, I have been spoiled with a child who slept like a dream and I quietly held onto that one parenting success with acute smugness. So when I heard ‘Mummy, I’m scaaaaaared’ one night during lock-down, I thought the early morning whine coming through the monitor must be a dream. Nope. Farewell solitary smugness! Can you spot the dream-catcher on the Lodge? It’s made from a piece of lace, hung with tiny feathers and abalone shell beads. Nights became disturbed and were a combination of her testing me to see if I would cave to her snuggling next to me (before kneeing me in the back, or me waking up with her bum on top of my head – you know the drill…) and generally being out of sorts with all her little life’s disruption. So one day, Makeshift Forest School here set to and made her a dream-catcher from twisted willow, raffia and adorned with feathers, dried flowers and empty snail shells. I explained how the bad dreams wouldn’t be able to disturb her sleep because the dream-catcher would suck them up before they could get near her pillow. One of my most treasured gifts years ago was a Canadian dream-catcher made by the First Nations community and the sound of hollow bamboo gently knocking together is still up there as a favourite sound (that and the sound of men’s leather soled shoes tapping in old movies… no one can accuse me of not being specific!).
Also on that top floor is a glass dome jar with a mini set of copper lights in it to denote fire flies. Whilst we don’t have fire flies in the UK, we had so many balmy days to see us through lock-down and Fleur pointed to tiny flies darting in the sunbeams one evening and thought they were fairies. The jar is filled with dried Tulip leaves too. We had too many hen’s eggs to get through amongst ourselves, so we would take a few trays up for the village every few days. A beautiful row of tulips grew along the stone wall where we’d drop them off which Fleur took a shine to, always running over to stroke their soft petals. When they inevitably went over, Miss Sensitive was gutted. The tulip ended up being symbolic of all these important people in her life who had practically disappeared overnight. I tried and failed in my attempt to explain the nature of a perennial to her!
On the wall of the top floor are two wood framed pictures with healing hands. I thought these were particularly fitting given contact was one key human need stripped from us – withholding hugs and contact with our loved ones suddenly and ironically a sign of love and caring. I also made a gazing ball, sitting on top of an ornate glass, Egyptian perfume bottle and decorated with grapevine tendrils, as another nod to the general pontification of what on earth was going on!
There ends our lock-down story. A story of uncertainty and upset, but also a magical and enchanting time full of nature, sunshine, cuddles and crafting which I would not have taken away and will be forever grateful for. And on boring, rainy, tearful and uncertain days we counted our lucky stars that we were well, incredibly privileged and not one of the thousands out there putting themselves at risk to help others.
This piece is not for sale and will remain with our family as a keepsake. But if you’re interested in a similar, two-tiered fairy house adorned with details that are meaningful to you or someone in your life, as ever, drop me a message and let’s make a plan!