The Honey in the Bones
Poems to Rewild the Soul
by Caroline Mellor
The book is a spell. A rewilding of the soul. A realignment with the sacred cycles of nature and our bodies, and an invocation to restore kinship, reciprocity and harmony in barbarous, disconnected times.
From one winter solstice to the next, we dance from darkness to light and back again, encompassing sweetness and bitterness, times of rest and celebration, grief and healing, and cohering in the beauty, magic and wisdom of embracing the whole. "The Honey in the Bones" reminds us that the sweetness and nourishment we seek in life are always available within.
This is poetry as witchcraft, activism, healing, prayer and play. It is gentle, potent medicine for anyone who holds a vision for a kinder world. Above all, it is a love letter to an Earth on the cusp, and a mother's dream of hope for the future.
“If you need a transfusion of love, light, and all things supplemented from Nature, then hold tight to Caroline Mellor’s book of poetry, The Honey in the Bones. You will be transported to the crux of holy. Each word will grace your soul and send shivers to your heart. You will breathe deeper and feel the stillness you need. Like an exhale from the weight of this world, you will be touched by her transparency of being real.”
—CAROLYN RIKER, Author of My Dear, Love Hasn’t Forgotten You and This is Love
“These poems are so beautiful—in direct, deceptively simple language, Caroline Mellor spins word spells that enchant, move and bind us back into the wild world that is our true home. There is both solace and challenge in these words, and a deep-rooted hope for change. A wonderful, heartfelt collection.”
—ANNA HOPE, prizewinning and internationally bestselling author of Wake, The Ballroom,
Expectations and The White Rock
“Caroline’s words colour the page with exquisite imagery feathered with such emotion it makes my eyes weep with liquid sapphires. That sounds a bit odd I know, but true, as she writes with a deep connection to nature, a heart honouring Mother Earth and all of her precious children. Read her words. Feel her love and utter respect for life. This magically talented human.”
—SALLY MORTEMORE, Award winning actress (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Game of Thrones,
Elizabeth I) and author of online poetry collection Tulipa Moon
“Caroline Mellor is a remarkable poet, and her poems are deep and thought-provoking. She touches the chords of your heart with her authentic writing style. Her poems talk about a whirlwind of romance, darkness, light, love, and despair, and most importantly, her words are like a magic wand which pulls you out of your setbacks. Many times we try to read someone whose words stay with us even after we are done reading, that’s how Caroline’s work is for me. Her never-dying spirit always raises me back to my feet. This book is a product of her strength along with her powerful voice.”
—GURPREET DHARIWAL, Author of My Soul Rants: Poems of a Born Spectator and Kaurageously Yours
“The Honey in the Bones is a collection of evocative poems that remind people to slow down, look up and connect with their senses and surroundings. Caroline Mellor’s prose is honest and thought provoking with themes of nature and nurture written from the heart.”
—ROXY FREEMAN, author of Times bestseller memoir, Little Gypsy
“Caroline’s writing reveals a writer of great sensitivity and wisdom, with a gift for putting into words what she sees with her eyes and her heart. In reading her poems and stories, we discover a woman connected to nature, a loving mother who marvels at everything around her. Her texts, always poetic and hopeful, are like paintings that move us and stay with us forever. They are mirrors that reflect the beauty of the world back to you and leave you with a strong desire to embrace life and cherish the earth. Caroline’s pen is a remedy for melancholy and a sweetness for the soul.”
—THOMAS GAUDEX, Editor of Scribe and Curator of the poetry collection The Embrace of Dawn
READ AN EXCERPT
Sunrise Over the Field
Morning, and the mist sits low over the field. The land is still stirring from dreams of being a forest. A thick blanket of dew has settled on the ground, illuminating a grass top city of cobwebs, and in between the blue-grey clouds, a pale, waxing moon is setting in a violet sky.
Leaves of ochre, rust and flame red drift towards the ground. Birch trees sway like underwater kelp forests. The last, yellowing leaves of the ash trees wave and flutter like fairy flags in the breeze and the oaks are clad in fine leafy crowns of burnished bronze, russet and gold: autumn’s elegiac song, soon to be blown away with the coming winter winds.
When the field at the bottom of our garden came up for rent a couple of years ago, the rent was cheap, so we took it on. The previous tenant used to mow it every few weeks, keeping it flattened to a featureless stubble. Now, last year’s acorns have grown into a miniature forest of saplings. Drifts of golden ragwort, birds foot trefoil and rosebay willowherb bring colour and insects in the warmer months, and many varieties of delicate, mysterious fungi grow here in the autumn. We’ve mown once or twice around the edges to keep the brambles from taking over, but otherwise, we let the field be.
I’m getting to know the other residents. Hobbies and buzzards, field mice and glow worms. Nettles and cleavers in the spring, elderflowers and wild roses around the summer solstice, berries and rosehips in the autumn. I gather wild foods with my children to show them how they are connected to and supported by the medicine and nourishment of the earth, and we turn our harvest into teas, soups, jams and magic potions. This is important work. We offer songs or words of thanks to the trees and plants as we forage, and have encountered emperor dragonflies, barn owls and hummingbird hawk-moths. There are sweet violets, mugwort and meadowsweet. Skeins of wild geese passing overhead on their migratory paths. Spirit made visible. A feast for the soul.
If I owned the field, I would rewild it and fall in love with it forever. Given time, I would have a young woodland to wander through. The landlady will probably mow it all down as soon as we move from here— but seeing as the field doesn’t care who owns it, for as long as I am a guest of this place, I’ll let the trees and wildflowers grow.
The field may not be mine, but it is part of me. When I walk barefoot in the grass, the soles of my feet absorb negative ions and trace minerals from the earth. When I breathe the air, the mushroom spores, tree pollen and sea air blown in from across the hills enter my lungs and subtly rearrange the molecular makeup of my blood. The liberty caps I find on damp autumn mornings will activate serotonin receptors in my prefrontal cortex, regenerating and igniting my neural pathways in ways that even modern neuroscience doesn’t fully understand. My relationship with this plot of earth is rhizomatic. The boundaries are not clearly defined.
The exchange is more than physical. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes: “Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.” In a part of the world where my ancestral wisdom has been burned, scorned and drowned out over centuries, paying close and quiet attention allows me to reclaim some part of my indigenous relationship to this place. It’s an act of love and healing, a restoration of an ancient kinship, a way of relearning the language of the land, her stories and songs. For the land speaks to us in myriad ways. She guides our hearts to weave the broken threads back together.
As the field rewilds herself, she invites those parts of me which have been mown, flattened and poisoned, to come back to the fullness of life. When I offer her my presence and attention, she gifts me beauty, magic, wonder and poetry. A small red damselfly once landed on my thumb here while I was lying in the grass, daydreaming about dragonflies, as though a question was being answered. I feel safe and held by this place. I feel loved. I am home.
This winter, in fields just like this one a short way along the river from here, while the hedgehogs and badgers are sleeping in their winter dens, men will arrive with diggers and lorries and unshakeable feelings of entitlement to scrape away the precious topsoil and destroy countless habitats to make space for more ugly, unsustainable development. When I drive or walk past these sites, I am reminded of the poet and farmer Wendell Berry’s words: “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places, and desecrated places.” The land here feels what is being done to her. I share her anguish, and I fear for the creatures. A mother’s first wish is to keep her children safe, to give them a safe home. When I see the current climate trajectory charts and statistics, the rate and scale of the destruction, I fear for my children too.
Lately I’ve been crying often, dreaming wildly, creating spontaneous rituals here and there. It’s a precarious balance of hope and despair which defines this moment. The grief, the rage and the enormity of it all; the hope and vision of the young, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the prevalence of real solutions. The importance of cultivating defiant delight and human decency in the face of immense injustice. The imperative to act now. The cherishing of what beauty remains. And the feeling that nothing else matters, nothing at all.
In all this chaos and confusion, I seek strength in the ancient truth that all things move in cycles, and all things change in time. While I’m grappling as best as I can with the facts, I am also a mother. Mine is a desperate hope. My heart refuses to accept the grim and apocalyptic story that humankind is simply doomed – and as dire as the outlook may seem, the agency of the times in which we live has perhaps never been greater.
The field is a portal to that which mythologist and storyteller, Dr. Martin Shaw, calls “our old, ancient, primordial Beloved, which is the Earth herself.” It is a microcosm of a planet where everything is living and connected, where spirit speaks in the language of beauty. A reminder that the plan here on earth, even in this age of death, is life, and that life, against inconceivably improbable odds, tends to be quite good at finding a way.
When I feel overwhelmed, it is often a good idea to get my hands in the soil, to go to ground. These are dark, uncertain times—but the dark is home to fertile, regenerative magic, which Rebecca Solnit refers to in her seminal book, Hope in the Dark, as a “darkness as much of the womb as the grave.” And when darkness gathers, it’s time to plant bulbs.
Later that same November day, I will take a sack of crocus bulbs and plant them beside the bridge which connects the garden to the field. Each bulb is an act of faith, an offering to life and the future, an embodiment of reciprocity, and a promise to the coming spring. When the flowers appear in early spring in bright bursts of purple, white and gold, I will welcome the return of the light, and give thanks that we made it through.
Autumn leaves dance around me and float down towards the ground, into the waiting arms of winter’s rest. I finish my tea; the kids will soon be up. A bright green woodpecker flashes through the trees. Calls of blackbird, robin and wren infuse the air with song, and meandering trackways left by fox and badger snake through the long grass, betraying the secrets of the night before.
I don’t have any answers. As we stand at the crossroads of the “no longer and the not yet,” perhaps the true magic of this liminal moment lies in our ability to navigate uncertainty with the courage to hope, and to act, and to dare to believe that our story can still be a beautiful one. To plant the bulbs, dream fresh dreams, and trust that spring will come.
I breathe deep. A soft, earthy taste of mulch coats my tongue with a cool, metallic tang. A sparrowhawk swoops low over the field and then disappears over the hedgerows, away into the light of the rising sun.