The Celebration Key

In my latest book, Wild Signs and Star Paths (out 17th May in UK, August in US), I use a series of ‘Keys’ to change the way we experience the outdoors. These keys are families of signs that we can look for outdoors that with practice allow us to start sensing things instantly.

A pair of these keys are called the ‘Celebration and Shadow’. It is the way a sudden profusion of wildflowers allows us to appreciate that light levels must have changed dramatically and this is nearly always also a clue to direction. More wildflowers usually means more light and is a clue to south – this is the Celebration. But very occasionally the opposite is true – the Shadow.

If you look at these primroses (Primula vulgaris), you’ll notice that they are thriving in one area but not nearby. Primroses don’t like lots of direct sunlight, especially near the middle of the day – they prefer semi-shade and moist ground.

In this instance, the spruce tree is part of the key. In the middle of sunny days the tree throws shade towards us and it is this that allows these primroses to thrive in this otherwise sunny and exposed patch of grass.

Look at the second image and you’ll see how the primroses are again thriving along the southern edge, where they are shaded by the bracken and brambles, but struggling further out. With practice, this pairing of wildflower eruptions with light and therefore direction allows us to start sensing direction instantly.

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