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i went to see a friend this weekend.

three and a half hours on the baltic, spent writing and whimbroidering and watching colonies of small ice floes play rough-and-tumble in the waves, then finally there was the island, welcoming me back.

and on the docks, i was met by the queen of bee keepers. warm and sweet like honeyed tea, strong and willful like a pine on a rocky beach.

i’d come for conversation, and for long walks over frozen sand and cracking ice and treacherous piles of sea wrack giving way beneath our boots, releasing puffs of sulphur smell. for being woken by light, then lazily waiting for the cockerels to catch up and crow before getting out of bed. for following whims, for creating and reinventing. for making grand plans and taking the first tiny steps to set them in motion.

the jars in the picture are our latest experiment – essences to flavour aquavit. one is a proper devil’s brew; chili and ginger and lemongrass – will likely not be for the faint of heart. one is rowanberries, with honey to counter the sour-sharp. one is rosehip – it’s turned a lovely dark red now that the alcohol has had some time to pull the flavours out. alchemy. or maybe more like potioneering?

(there is a proper alchemist on the island. the kind looking for the philosopher’s stone. there was an article about him in the local paper. i was slightly disappointed that he didn’t have a long white beard, but i suppose being clean-shaven is more utilitarian. i would imagine getting mercury in your beard is a bother.)

as always, i had to go back much too soon. but she sent me home bearing jars filled with summer: rich honey, and tart elderflower lemon marmalade, and elderflower curd to go with it, and a tingly bottle of honey-apple mead.

it’ll tide me over until spring.