Into the Woods- a night solo

 

A fox came to me with a piece of blank paper yesterday. I could see that some words were written on it but I couldn’t see what they were. Then today I realise that they say

 

You have forgotten to kiss the wounded Earth.

 

He gave me a metal bracket, cream coloured with a screw in the middle of it.  Triangular arms radiating out. It was an object that was familiar, from somewhere half buried in a cluttered outbuilding. In my childhood I think I must have stood at the doorway, looking in at all the treasures left to slowly entropy. It must have been sticking out, once useful, now detached from its original purpose and left, forgotten in the pile.

 

Five baby wrens flew around me as I entered into the woods, darting in and out of the tangle of wire fencing where their nest must have been. Low to the ground, wings beating like bedsheets in a hurricane.

 

Wounds all around and within.

 

A tyre lies right by where I decide to put up my hammock. How did it get here? How come it was left? Was it abandoned by someone who still intends to pop back and get it or has it, like me, slipped out of human consciousness for a while?

 

I shall bring it back.

 

It becomes the skull of a bird in flight, with its wings outstretched, flying towards the East. I spend some time collecting the right sticks. This is one big bird, I realise. Its skull alone could weigh as much as an elephant’s so it needs a big, glorious body, vibrant and powerful. His beak could swallow the fox in one gulp. Yet this is a bird of peace. Benevolent. And I am glad of its company.

 

As the long afternoon draws downwards and north-westward, I stand in the glorious sunlight at the edge of the meadow and enjoy its warmth. Suddenly, a sheep and her lambs come trundling towards my spot, utterly unaware of my existence. I catch my breath in wonder. They are not scared, they are not even aware of me. I have become completely invisible. I watch her as she snickers and grazes, flicking flies as she goes with ears and tail. Her being brings tears to my eyes and I fall in love.

 

For who did ever ask her ancestor for permission for this relationship? Did human and sheep ever make a pact that she has to live her life by now? I know the answer to this. I am on this side of the fence, she on that one and she is as doomed as I.

 

As dusk falls the badger comes out of his den. He lollops like a bulldozer in exactly the direction he wants to go. I am nothing to him. Idoes not even exist in Badger-time.

 

I sleep and sleep. I awake from a deep pool of dreams and lessons and guides and fantasies. Caroline calls me back in a dream: there are four places left she says. Four places for what? I wonder that still. I lie in my gently swinging hammock, slowly pulling the threads of an awake state together and watch the russet-grey squirrels as they run up and down headfirst every single tree. They explore woodpiles and undergrowth. They stop and take note of invisible messages, paws frozen in mid-air, bodies pure muscle and tails twitching. Birds squabble and I feel the beginnings of hunger.

 

Being makes the squirrels come out

Doing sends them away

 

I move to reach my bag of nuts and wham! the wood is empty except for the scolding birds and the sound of plastic rustling loudly and unnaturally as I feed myself. I long for this to be over so that they can come back.

 

When it is, and they do, so does the rain. I sit, deep in the green womb of the wet forest, meditating, chanting with eyes open and I take it all in. I bathe in the green and the chant and the bowl and the drip of the water and the drinking of the trees. I lose myself through a square window of sticks, gazing at the far distance and the green enters into me. I breathe in something rich, perfect, wounded and real. The boundary of my skin dissolves and the wood becomes me, I become the wood. I become the rain and the rain becomes me. I breathe their oxygen and they breathe in my carbon dioxide and I don’t even notice as I am lost in the sea of green.

 

——

 

The Bird I made lies, enormous, in the wet ground elder. Its wings outstretched and I feel the expectancy of first, fledgling flight, like those tiny wrens.

 

I turn to my little Pocket Rumi book and open it to see what there is to see:

 

Wings of Desire

 

People are distracted by objects of desire,

And afterwards repent of the lust they have indulged,

Because they have indulged with a phantom

And are left even farther from Reality than before.

 

Your desire for the illusory is a wing,

By means of which a seeker might ascend to Reality.

When you have indulged a lust, your wings drop off;

You become lame and that fantasy flees.

 

Preserve the wing and do not indulge in such lust,

So that the wing of desire might bear you to Paradise.

 

People fancy that they are enjoying themselves,

But they are really tearing out their wings,

For the sake of an illusion.

 

-Rumi. From Mathnawi III, 2133-38

 

I sit back, overwhelmed that such a soul could reach across the aeons and touch my soul like this. Guides and wisdom-keepers have told us over and over in sacred texts of these truths. I am humbled that they have loved so deeply all unknown and unborn people, far, far into the distant future. Tears well up; the rain finds its way to the ground through my tear ducts and down, tumbling freely to nourish the Earth. My lusts are, and have been, illusions and I know what it means to tear out my own wings. I have torn them out, again and again. It has taken me many years and many mistakes in the quest to find where they lay, discarded, and to find a way to reattach them. I made yarn from different things. Many times I thought I had sewn them back on, only to realise that the yarn had broken and the ragged remnants were flapping, useless, in the wind.

 

Tentatively I am trying a new yarn, one that has taken more than a decade to make and I feel the expectancy of the fledgling as it stands, poised on the brink of the nest. To fly towards a Paradise that was always there, and to discern illusion from Reality.

 

Humbled, I turn to pack up my shelter and return to the fire.

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A walk through ragged beauty….

I am delighted to say that the blog “Anima Monday” has published my story: A walk through ragged beauty. If you would like to read it please follow this link: https://animamonday.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/a-walk-through-ragged-beauty/

“Slowly, the drum began to loosen. The voice of the drum deepened until I knew I had only a couple of more beats before it would become too slack to play. So I finished the drumming and allowed the silence to return. Curlews called as they wheeled about. The oystercatchers twittered, a couple of geese honked as they winged overhead. Dog and I sat and watched sheets of rain pass us by. Perhaps we had found a little foothold of the valley gods, for in here we felt detached, voyeuristic, apart from the elemental dance wheeling about the land.”

A story

Dawn had broken somewhere but not here, under the unbroken blanket of cloud. The wind wheeled the crows high and scattered in the sky and the overgrown wisteria knocked against the window of their bedroom. The letterbox downstairs whistled occasionally. They lay in bed, cosy under the thick duvet.

“The dog needs a walk before you go to work.”

“Hmmm.”

A warm hand reached out and touched the soft skin on her belly. It gently moved over and around it, drawing her close. They lay, touching, breathing into each other, sleepy and peaceful, curled into the warmth of their bodies.

“I’ll go then.” She kissed his closed eyelids and turned to get out of the bed.

In the darkness she put on her socks, tucking in her pyjama bottoms, pulled on her warmest navy blue fisherman’s jumper bought at the coast and went downstairs. Sleepily she pulled on her wellies and after looking out of the window, decided to put on her raincoat.

“You coming?” she asked Dog. “Silly question,” she added, as he started knocking wellies over with his bounds and knocking into her legs with glee.

Buttoned up, she paused before opening the door; the doorway from hearth to elements was clear today. Some days there was barely a transition. But today, as she opened the door, a shower of trapped gutter water dropped onto her head and the door instantly began to pull away from her grasp in the howling wind.

“Some edges are pretty sharp, aren’t they?” she grinned at Dog. He bounded off in hot pursuit of a phantom cat. Shutting the door, she turned and gave herself to the day. The wind was blustery and noisy, the rain had already told her that it was in charge, horizontal and bitter against her skin. “Ouch,” she muttered as it stung.

Most days she liked to be out before the dawn. Liminal times, spaces, and portals had held a special fascination for her recently. Times like dawn and dusk held such clear messages for her. She did her best thinking and intuitive work at these times. These were the times in her life when she felt most in touch, her cup was filled by the Sacred most easily at these times and in those places in the landscape. To feel the slowly brightening day wake up around her was one of her most precious pleasures. She had missed that time today, so the messages were much more earth-bound, such as take your waterproof and be careful in the woods in case you get hit by a falling branch. 

“I must fix that gutter,” she muttered to herself.

The chickens, awake and out of their house were wet, bedraggled and fussy. She threw some crusts over the high fence to them and said good morning. Why do they insist on staying outdoors on days like this, she wondered? Chickens are such calming creatures. They’ve been a domesticated species for thousands of years. They are distant relatives of the European pheasant that had been brought over the Britain by the Romans, but had existed for a very long time before that, dutifully producing eggs for humans. When she was pregnant she had loved to spend her days around the chickens, cleaning out their house, pottering, giving them scraps, or during the long, heavy summer months just sitting in a sunny spot in their enclosure, her and Dog, watching them. Sometimes one would come and peck her bare toes and she would giggle. Even with thick wellies on they still come and peck at them.

“I really love you girls” she said. She meant it. The family had long taken in chickens that had been farmed in battery barns, living in cages the size of a sheet of printer paper in artificial light. When they came to her they were bald, emaciated and terrified. Some chickens died within days of being exposed to pathogens in the soil. Some took weeks, if not all of their lives, to return from the place of terror they had been trapped in, pecking each other, fearful of humans and very scared. Yet all of them were beautiful souls who needed a chance in life to reveal their magic. Industrial food production assumes, erroneously, that a chicken’s only magic is to lay eggs and to do so regularly. Yet what these chickens had taught was that their true magic was in their souls.

This particular group of chickens were just over a year old and had been with the family since the summer. The week before they had experienced snow for the first time, which caused great hilarity amongst the girls.

“This one is saying ‘no way! I’m not going out there, I’ll get super cold feet!’ ” giggled the seven year old, fluent in Chicken.

One ran out into it, making a beeline for a tasty morsel, only to find it was a twig, kicked up by the dog. She stopped, made a reprimanding ‘brrrrrk’ and turned to peck at the frozen water canister. Peck, peck. Mum got a shovel and smashed the ice, as the chicken looked on like a nosy, bossy manager. She smiled as the chicken filled her beak and lifted her head to gurgle the water down her throat. Whatever a chicken does, it does it with completely focussed attention, she noticed. It may seem to us a trivial thing to be so focussed on, but to a chicken every single action grips them completely in its magic until it is done. Like looking at a twig, or drinking water. Even pecking toes, or running after the dog.

One chicken still hadn’t completely grown all her feathers back, after arriving seven months previously; she had been named Afagddu, pronounced Avagthee who was the welsh goddess Ceridwen’s very ugly child, in honour of her utter ugliness. Afagddu still exhibited the deepest wounds from her time imprisoned in the cage; she was still very wary of the other chickens, who would peck her remorselessly. She did not like to be picked up and always waited in the background when scraps were dropped, waiting until her more boisterous coop-mates had barged their way in and grabbed their morsel.

“Here’s a crust for you” she said, throwing it into a corner where Afagddu could run and eat it without being mobbed. Another lesson from the chickens is that they are not kind; they are still wild at heart, living in their own dispassionate world in their own dispassionate way.

She moved on, past the chickens, out of the garden gate and onto the moor. Up the low hill they climbed, battered and stung by the oncoming north wind and rain as they combined to give her a dose of their raw elemental power. Hunched against the dripping rain, she failed completely to stop it going up her sleeves and down into the face opening. Her coat flapped so loudly and the rain clattered on the fabric of the hood that her hearing was nearly entirely impaired, yet something made her stop and turn around. Half way up the hill the view was already opening up beyond the house; she could see the rooftops and the trees, the glint of the swollen river and far beyond that the rise of the southern moors. Now the north wind was at her back, trying to push her bodily back down the hill. Yet she stood, braced, poised and alert. Something had caught her attention.

Looking out, nothing seemed out of place. The world she knew, her house, the village below where her friends lived, the shop, the little school where her children went were all there, lying peacefully in front of her.

She turned back around and kept walking. Dog tore around her in wide circles.

The top of the low hill is marked with a single standing stone. For many years she had been coming up here, to wonder at it. Some say it is a glacial erratic, some that it once belonged to an entire stone circle, or that it was a way marker for an ancient route across the moors. The wind up here was uninterrupted and fierce. She had to force her way through the invisible air to get to the stone. As she always did, she paused, hand outstretched, hovering an inch or so above it. In her mind she doubted she would feel anything in this howling gale, but it was a ritual she never failed to undertake. When greeting a stone, a tree, an animal and most certainly a human, it was important to connect to its energy first. Some beings were like open books; she felt their energy waxing and waning as clearly as reading the moon phases. Some took far more time to connect with and some took forever, much, much longer than the span of her lifetime.

This particular stone had taken its time to introduce itself to her, but one sunny day, in fact when she had been pregnant with her third child and had been visiting for some time, the stone had responded to her hand hovering there. A warm fuzz emanated from the top of the stone that day, a sensation that wasn’t uniform over the entire surface. She had gasped aloud in happiness. Stone magic is slow, it takes eons to understand. Many of the stone circles had been erected long before the particular stone energy had been truly connected to, she was sure of it. She had wondered at this before; what did the builders of the great circles that dot our landscape learn from those stones in that first generation? Is what they learned the same as what we learn today?

Today, nothing at all happened as she put out her hand. No sensation met her palm. But again, suddenly she was gripped with a desire to turn around. A voice, it seemed, shouted a clear instruction to her: look.

She turned and saw.

To her left, in the east, the sun had suddenly broken through the ragged clouds and made a slanting ray of light that illuminated her. Sheets of rain in front of her face sparkled and danced as each drop caught the light as it bounced and refracted all around her. Drips forming on her hood shook like crystal balls, iridescent and brilliant. Her wet eyelashes caught the light and she was suddenly blinded, cocooned inside the water as it split and made rainbows, over and over again around her. The wind and the rain rewrote patterns of light before her, swirling and falling, bouncing on blades of grass, on her coat, on the dog’s fur as he stood, quiet now and lolling his tongue. Nothing stayed still and yet for a long, long moment this broken, glorious light-show played all around her as she smiled and sobbed and sang with joy, not sure if it was of the rain or her tears that she was a part.

Then it was over. The sun hid behind a bank of cloud and the brilliance diminished. She caught her breath, deeply alive to the moment that had just been, trying desperately to not let it go. But it passed, as all beautiful moments must.

Sighing, she looked at Dog, who looked back at her, now just a wet and fed up animal, ready to go home for his breakfast.

“Me too,” she said.

In companionable silence, they allowed the wind to push them back down the wet moor, through the gate, past the chickens and through the door. A little shower of gutter water fell on her as she opened it.

“I’ll sort that today”, she thought.

Her gaze fell upon a small feather that her daughter had picked up in the autumn on one of their walks. It was a pheasant feather, a short and inconspicuous one. One of the little hidden ones that keeps the bird warm and flying. The wind had picked it up off the window and dropped it on the floor. She picked it up, putting it back on the windowsill. Smiling at small magics, she went to get the children ready for school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About

Harriet was a child of ten when she first became interested in archaeology. In 1988 a bunch of students from some far off, exotic university knocked on the door of her family home in east Cumbria on the banks of the river Lyvennet, asking who owned the opposite field because it had a suspected Iron Age well in it. Fascinated, Harriet would go up and watch them dig into this enigmatic structure. This was the beginning of what was to become a deep connection to the ancestors of the North.

When she was a teenager, Harriet spent a time at the spiritual community of the Findhorn Foundation in north east Scotland. The summer she spent there was transformative, awakening her awareness to a deep spirituality. It began Harriet on a path of self-realisation where she delved deeply into ancient wisdoms from around the world, coming home to the indigenous yet mostly lost wisdom of her own native land.

Harriet then went on to study European Civilisation at Glasgow University, graduating in 2000. This romanic-sounding degree merged archaeology, Italian, social and economic history, philosophy and Classics, giving Harriet the foundations of what was to become a lifelong love of a deepening of polymath knowledge.

Harriet went on to become a field archaeologist in the Republic of Ireland for three years, working in the Boyne valley around Drogheda. This river is the Goddess river of Ireland, housing the neolithic treasures of the Newgrange complex. Harriet excavated neolithic settlements, ring ditches, kilns and picked up worked flint whenever she happened to walk across a ploughed field. This rich introduction into prehistoric archaeology, now looking back, was the deepening of those first teachings about our ancestors.

When in her twenties, Harriet began to be swayed by the ideas of another and of western society, she thought it best to get a job that was city based, would pay well and would offer something like a corporate life. However, she refused to work for a corporation, so was drawn into the world of social and correctional services, spending five years working for the Probation services of West Yorkshire and then New Zealand.

Harriet realised that her heart was still in archaeology and the North, so decided to leave New Zealand and return to Cumbria in the UK to joyously dig a Roman ditch out again, in the freezing February of 2008.

The thread that emitted from her solar plexus had led her in clear ways for all of her life, yet she didn’t know it, until Harriet severed that chord and things went slightly awry. Yet nothing is a wasted lesson; working with people in difficult circumstances was deeply valuable and educational. Harriet feels much gratitude for those lessons.

After less than a year back in Archaeology, Harriet was made redundant, right about the same time as having her first child. Harriet then went on to develop her teaching skills in  adult education evening classes, teaching part time in Italian and then the Prehistoric Archaeology of Cumbria. She went on to have another child. During this time, Harriet began to listen deeply to the call of her intuition and began finally to see with her own eyes the thread which had been guiding her all of her life.

It was around 2010 that Harriet began her work in ecotherapy, environmental activism, Animism, Ecological writing and ancestral wisdom-keeping. In the following years she studied the spiritual practice of Druidry, as an ally discipline to the more cerebral path of archaeology. She enrolled with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, began to attend her local Quaker meeting, became a Buddhist and delved into ‘celtic’ shamanism. These years were the “quest” years for Harriet; motherhood had fundamentally challenged her ideas of ancestry, wisdom and passing on deepest knowledge that was to be nurturing for her daughters. Harriet knew that there was much work to do on herself before she was ready to be a real wisdom-keeper for her children.

In 2012 she became a single mum, finally meeting and then marrying her now husband in 2015 and have a son in 2016. Harriet went on to complete a Masters of Science degree in Green Economy from Bournemouth University in 2014. This knowledge rocked her foundations, making sharp and wounded her awareness of the critical and imminent threats to life on this planet.

After a year of hiding from the realities of the situation by cooking at the local primary school, Harriet re-engaged with the world, as a writer and tutor, Ritualist, Healer, Celebrant and latterly a trained yoga teacher. Harriet is an Earth Ambassador for the US charity Radical Joy for Hard Times. She knew that she was required to meet the challenges of these hard times. Collectively we would have to open our eyes to what is going on and to hold together in true community. Because this is happening to us all and our relative wealth is no guarantee of our security in what is to come.

Harriet has reconnected with the thread from her solar plexus, and has learned to listen to her intuition. Often family needs require her to step aside from a life that would perhaps be radically different, were she to be alone. But she is not. Having children means compromises are necessary, yet paradoxically it is the constant company of children that has spurred Harriet on, into direct action, reaching as many people as she can. For it is for their sakes, as embodiments of the human journey through time that she acts.

You can read more of Harriet’s writing here in Nwyfre as you explore. Also, to keep up to date with yoga classes, please visit http://www.wildusyoga.com

 

 

On Death, gifts and Guides

They died last year and

Some just now, in the

cold and the snow of darkness

or the ending of the year when the leaves fell golden and discarded

 

My dreams are now of dead people

When once they were of shining living cells,

now all is Medicine

and Spirit and messages of

hope, magic, poetry,

A life cut short, or a life wrapped up in fear

 

They are the worst because

being tightly swaddled by a smothering blanket

impotent

They could never get free and

They lived as if they were already dead

Although you wouldn’t know that from the

prattling priest’s irrelevance

 

Then, time passes and

A task is ahead, undertaken and loved,

share our gifts, gifts bestowed to all

Build a longer table! Share, the message.

 

The car wouldn’t start.

Going nowhere and the cold frost is serious now

She rescues me,

all warm and alive and smiling

part of me knows I should have walked home

felt the night and the frost seep into my living bones

heard Owl, maybe startled a hungry fox.

Maybe.

 

Death clings

Grief needs moonlight and frost

to freeze the tears onto my cheeks

And I should have walked home

 

 

 

Now is the time for us to be our true selves

Now is the time for us to be our true selves.

This phrase might come as a bit of a shock to some; those of us who have no idea that we’re not being our true selves in the first place, as well as those who are coming to realise that all they thought was them has been handed to them from outside. The notion that we have our opinions given to us by outside forces, our tastes, fashion sense, morals, all of it, is a disturbing one.

The moment of seeing through that what we once thought was me, you, us is a deeply significant moment, one which can literally pull a person and communities apart. For what are we really, when we realise we’re not what we once were convinced we were, as we realise that our job is making us sick, our faith is based on fear and manipulation, or the relationship we thought we should have is in fact toxic and damaged. What about our shame? And our sense of right and wrong? Our self-awareness, even our very sense of self is untrue. What if even the truths we thought were true turn out not to be? What if we are not the ‘victim’, or the ‘boss’, nor are we the ‘party animal’ or ‘cynic’, perhaps we’re not even the ‘hard bastard’, ‘earth mother’, ‘teacher’….. Whatever category we put ourselves in can apply here. When our assumptions that once kept us safe and so secure disintegrate, then where do we turn for solid ground?

And all the friends that you once knew are left behind

They kept you safe and so secure

Amongst the books and all the records of your lifetime Ÿ

For this shedding of the self with a small ‘s’ is the beginning of the Quest. People who have begun the questing have my deep respect and compassion, for I went through it myself. Old friends will tell me how opinionated I was, how sure I was of so much. I was well content in the walls, hangings, and furniture in the home I had made that I called Me.

 

Yet one day, long ago, when I had begun to sober up from the years-long party of my youth, a voice within began to clear its throat, ready to speak. When it did begin to speak it was so low and quiet I mistook it for a dull pulse of sound in my gut, like a hum of a large, distant bell. It said know thyself.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I left my lower-case self behind and began searching for the Self; that eternal part of the being that was me, which would be manifested in the outer world by actions that were authentic to this Me, the inner Self. I went, or rather, I was sent unceremoniously on, a Quest. The quest took me on a long journey. Through motherhood and a mismatched relationship I went, through the heffalump traps that Education lay down for my ego to fall headlong into. I fell in and crawled back out, wounded and humbled. Through deep grief at the shattering understanding of environmental crises; I am better at managing the grief I feel for Mother as she cries in her own grief at our species’ stupidity. I bow my head and I shoulder my share of the work in the Great Undoing. Of the loss of friends, the great visitation of Death of friends and companions. Of learning how to write, words that come out of me from somewhere deep in my gut. The same distant low bell that was struck, that called me from the lost world that I was in, now chimes its sound. I have learned to listen to its message, not with my ears, but with the sense of intuition that I have honed over these long, growing years and put it on the page in words.

Now I am over 40. I have become a writer, mother, lover, communicator and healer. I have learned how to teach yoga and heal; people know they can come to me for those things in their lives that are unfathomable, unseen, mysterious and deeply, deeply significant. My Self calls out to the world and those who have ears to listen know that I have done the work and this Self is a safe haven. I cast Runes and Oracle cards. Even my cynical husband has been quietly impressed by the simple messages that ring like their own bells, which only his Intuition can hear. And my stone circle is always there for your sanctuary in turbulent times.

(The next time you see me, talk to my Self, bypass all the nonsense of both of our undoing and let’s have soul-to-soul connection.)

More recently I have become a Board member for the charity Radical Joy for Hard Times. It means that I am able to dedicate more time to creating workshops and facilitating real support for those who are experiencing their own loss of self and an awakening to the deep crises of our times, both within themselves and in the world. Through RadJoy we can look straight and true at this new world, and at our new selves as they have been birthed in their new realities. To hold the grief and to still love this world, this is what I can help us see.

I am becoming my true self, small ‘s’. Through learning to shed all that which I thought I was, in order to connect to the Self, my self is much more authentic and I’m happier with inhabiting this being. Not that the work ever ends, of course it doesn’t. I have recently got a new paid job, so this is throwing up all kinds of new tasks on the Quest. I still get giddy, I swear way too much, I feel my ego bubbling over like an unwatched pot on a stove, and I don’t listen nearly enough. I am still highly opinionated and I occasionally sway like an aspen in a hurricane as my cycle dictates.

We’re in this together and I don’t suppose many people think they’re the finished article. And by the way, if they do, then tell them to go on a Quest. Politely, of course.

Ÿ Words of the quote from Nick Drake Hazy Jane II https://youtu.be/512dfE03-DI

For more information about Radical Joy for Hard Times visit http://www.radicaljoyforhardtimes.org

On portals and radical reawakening

I’ve always had a thing for gateways. There aren’t any stone circles very close to where I live, without needing to drive a little way. I’m never more than about ten miles from one, I have to say, they litter this northern land. But I digress. Instead of stone circles, I have taken to finding the old stone uprights that demarcate an old footpath, too narrow for corralled sheep to squeeze through but perfect for a foot-traveller. They are a sure sign that travelling on foot was not only normal, but so ordinary as to be an integrated part of fencing when land became enclosed.

What came first, the tracks or the fields? It’s a combination of both; footpaths are ancient ways, yet many were officially rerouted, or turned into larger carriageways, big enough to carry carts and carriages or became drovers’ lanes. The Enclosures Acts were a series of Acts passed between 1604 and 1914, which slowly or drastically, in their turn, made it legal for landowners to put up hedges, walls and fences, although the act of enclosing land really began with the Bronze Age stone clearing. In order to make fields more workable and productive, they moved the rocks lying scattered in the land and built stone walls with them. In fact, some of the still used dry stone walls are over 4,000 years old. In the Middle Ages it became a norm to have open fields, stripped into tilled areas, communally worked by labourers and local families. These open fields were subsequently removed by the Enclosures Acts and many of the field systems we see today are the outcome of this aggressive succession of Acts, and many of the land workers and their families left to find work in the larger towns and cities. 

Yet the tradition of keeping trackways open, like a thread puncturing the walls with a string that traverses this land, endures to this day. I walk these ghostlike trails, sometimes nothing more than a half-pipe of flattened grass, that join the punctures in the hedges. Some of the uprights are held on either side by robust walls, some stand utterly alone, where once a wall must have stood. Some are ancient posts in modern wire fences. Yet many are guarded by Hawthorn, Nettles and Brambles, which tells the traveller of very ancient roots

It was the Hawthorn that grabbed me today, as I stepped a foot onto the makeshift stile. Caught in the act of passing over, Hawthorn punctured my skin on the wrist and held me to a charge. Eat one of my berries, it said. Take my flesh beyond this portal, and only then will I let you pass. 

I took my foot off the stile and turned my attention fully to the bush. Its bright red berries are turning now to a glorious Burgundy colour, and taking one in my fingers I could feel how soft it was. Telling the Hawthorn that this is the berry I had chosen, I gently tugged and it came away into my hand. I nibbled it, around the stone in its centre. A wave of delicious, fleshy autumn filled my mouth. Hawberries taste a little like avocado, yet a wild, potent sort that is so good for the heart that I have made a remedy with it before. It is a beautiful kind of hedge medicine; hawthorns can be used in many of their forms; eaten as blossom (the delicate petals are rich with natural sugars and are really tasty), or their berries and leaves can be collected for lowering blood pressure and assisting with opening the arteries. It is potent, though so if you already take medicines do research if taking hawthorn is a good idea on top of what you already take.

I then passed through the portal. I repeated this ritual at every stile, noting how these uprights form the skeleton of human movements over the long centuries. OS maps show just how criss-crossed our land is with these footpaths and I feel that we have a duty to tread them. Not all paths lead to significant, historical places, yet all can lead us back in time, or to the now. Even if we don’t travel more than a mile radius from our home, but follow these ancient ways as they turn and cross, then we will be opening up a box of delights. What a gift our ancestors have given us!

Perhaps I am drawn to write this at this time of year, of the end of things and the beginning of things. Winter is the time of deep sleep and we can see it, feel it, in the world all around us. How vitally important it is to sleep. Yet there is another portal that I have been through. The portal of reawakening to the dread of climate chaos this is coming ever nearer. How can I sleep when I have been reawakened? I am being pulled both ways and I need to come to find the balance in this. I have a feeling that I am not alone. More than ever, we cannot go back to sleep, because very soon, if we do not pull back from the precipice, we will enter into full ecological collapse. And trust me, that won’t be pretty. Climate migration, agricultural collapse, famine, job losses and riots, economic collapse, the living world will collapse which means no fish, no crops, no fuel…. Just very desperate people in a dying world. 

That’s what is over the precipice. And, no, sorry guys, I’m not going to pull any more punches. This is how it feels to be awakened. 

Yet, we can and MUST draw back from that precipice; buy local, till your own land, work in communities to produce food and fuel, no more flights, no more fossil fuels. Keep the bloody stuff in the ground. Did you know that when fossil fuels were laid down, there were no mammals because the atmosphere wasn’t breathable and the mean temperature was simply too high? Those trees, which we are so blithely burning, made our atmosphere perfect for mammals by absorbing carbon dioxide and turning it into their own bodies, and still are doing so. The act of burning that carbon simply puts it back into the atmosphere, thus raising the temperature and eventually making our own world uninhabitable in the process. So KEEP IT IN THE GROUD! Change your energy supplier, walk, cycle, have webinars and don’t travel, buy local, organic food. Change the way we farm and divest from entirely fossil fuel-dependent agriculture. (How much farming does your local farmer do without his tractor, quad, bought in feeds, industrial fertilisers etc? Not much.)

This is a portal that I have been very unceremoniously shoved through. Yes, the turning of the year suggests that it is time to rest, but our human-made crisis is shouting the opposite. It’s time to listen, to walk our land and fall back in desperate love with it and our own survival, then to act

http://www.risingup.org.uk

http://www.activehope.info

Get involved or get educated and I’m here to support you, make small but significant changes but firstly, it’s time to acknowledge that things are moving fast.

 

 

 

 

 

When the wind rages outside

It’s early morning on a Tuesday in the middle of half term holidays. The children have already bickered about a cardboard box and decaf tea. The baby has turned off the TV that they are watching, scribbled allover my to-do list and wants more of what everyone but he is eating for breakfast. It’s chaotic in here. Even the dog is agitated. Tempers are high, we’re all being too loud. It’s barely 8am and I’ve already had enough.

Outside the sun hasn’t even risen yet. Its light has been growing for the last hour but still there is no point of light in the clear, scattered and shredded sky. The wind is high, it has been all night. Beautiful Cherry, who has been growing quietly all these years in my garden while I’ve learned to love her, clings desperately to her last reddened leaves, refusing to let the wind snatch them from her. She is a tough thing, that Cherry tree. She is one of the first to come into leaf in the Spring and one of the last to lose them in the late autumn. Her delicate little fruits are so bright red. When they turn into that deep maroon colour, if the blackbirds leave me any, I like to take a couple. They’re sharp and sour, with a hard juiciness that wilder varieties still retain. Not like the shop-bought ones, but the ancient, British ones, almost unpalatable to our modern senses. We don’t like our food to be uncomfortable. Sweet and juicy is pretty much what we demand from our fruits now. But my garden reminds me of how sour our food once was, before our tastebuds modernised.

Blackbird is watching me through the window.

When the wind is high the whole world is in movement. Our little bodies are buffeted, even from within four sturdy walls. For my part, it doesn’t take much external, wild, planetary force to dislodge me. My being becomes unravelled and rudderless at the slightest thing. Over the years I have developed practices which keep me connected to myself, this life, so that my being doesn’t get lost amongst the ragged clouds. When the wind blows my mind flies into the four directions. When the sun shines or hides my heart bursts into tiny pieces. When the new fruits burgeon in Spring time my knotted intestines release with a song of creative joy. When the bitterest snow falls I can barely breathe. For I am a child of the Earth, just as you are. My water is this Earth’s, my cells the soil. What happens to Her, happens to me, to all of us.

The practices I mentioned, these are things that have been freely given to me. Kind souls’ wisdom, that need to be shared, for us to return to ourselves. I meditate, bang a deerskin drum, sing wordless syllables, walk the Earth, move my body through Yoga, play music, listen to others who can bend sound to connect us to that which is greater and more eternal than we. And I find a community and gather those dear souls around me. For if I am a child of the Earth, then we all are and when we come together we can hold each other in a safe container, where we can open to our connectedness.

We are not here for all that long. Probably less than a century, possibly our time on the apparent plain is nearly at an end and we don’t even know it. Perhaps we do. What matters is what we are. Not what we’ve done, as achievements are half chance. But what we are. The verb ‘to be’, the latin root is ‘essence’, ‘essential’. What is my essence? It is to live humbly, simply. To love.

I love this world so much that I have faced my untold grief and I have somehow managed to retain shreds of sanity. Not all of it was blown into the scattered clouds, when the ferocity of the wind of knowledge blew through my mind. I still have that little red thread, as the late George Michael described it. What is that? He said it was like a line that he had to follow that came out from his body and led on. If he followed it then he would become successful, become the man and artist we knew him to be. My own little red thread was there all along, when I wanted to be a nun when I was a very small girl, it  was there when I lived in a spiritual community in Scotland, it pulled me through my chaotic twenties and into my thirties. It pulled me unconsciously through until I began to investigate my own subconscious through meditation and ritual. Then I came to see it for what it was. It wasn’t a thread that was leading me to a career, or lots of money, like George. No, it was a thread that connected me all my life to Truth. Not everyone else’s I’d surmise. This isn’t a sermon. Yet mine. Though one that I have a suspicion that I share with a great many of you.

This Truth is so obvious that I have to keep excavating my own bullshit to remind myself of it: the pulse of life that is within me is within every single thing. You too, dear Reader. It’s in you too, and you looking out, it’s in me too. And so the ripples of realisation keep expanding.

I’ll just allow that to sink in a moment.

When I remember the simplicity of this, that my beautiful Cherry tree lives because it should and does, just as much as me or you, or my chaotic kids, then everything falls away. The world, the Universe, becomes a network of complex living pulses of essence. This is the truth that keeps me utterly in love with being alive. What a gift we have been given. To have these senses, this body, this world in which to live and learn. Do we even see what a great, unbound gift we’ve been given? In all honesty, no, I doubt it. I doubt that we give thanks. To what? To what should I give thanks? To Life itself? A God? To my Ancestors for going through joy, fear, utter horror and many, many moments of sheer boredom just so there may be the possibility that I could live and that my children would be born? We live for the descendants we will never know. For we are the living Ancestors.

To give thanks is in itself to tread every footfall with reverence. Every breath is filled with Divine purpose of life itself. I for one will give thanks to the Earth. I come from a line of consciousness that has never been broken, from the very first minerals turned carbon into living, organic matter, billions of years ago. So in very real terms I AM the Earth. As are you. Our Deep Time Mother IS Earth, and that is another simple Truth.

Our actions speak volumes about these Truths. Should I pollute the air, that is my Mother? Should I cut down that tree that is as alive as I? Am I treading lightly? Is my footfall reverent? Can I leave here one day, having left only love, when I die?


The wind is still raging. I must walk the dog, he’s as agitated as I am. I think everyone needs a bit of buffeting, now that the sun has risen. Slowly Cherry tree is losing her leaves to that tenacious wind and I should go out and greet the morning.

A new path is opening up……

  • This is a heartfelt blog post. Thank you in anticipation for reading it.

I have completed my Hatha Yoga teacher training! How fantastic this feels, not just because it means I can ‘teach’ classes in a more traditional, formal way, but it also means that I can use the Eight Limbs of Yoga to influence my work from this point onwards. There will be seven of these limbs that many of you perhaps are not aware of; the part called ‘asana’ is what many of us know to be the moving part of yoga, that of the lovely movement, meditation and relaxation of a class. These ‘limbs’ influence all other elements of our lives and Yoga as a way of life is truly complete.

Where does it fit for me? I am a practicing Druid, as many of you now know. I haven’t ‘come out’ with this news in any special way, it has seeped more and more into my way of being as the years have gone by. I have spent many years of journeying through a variety of approaches to Spirit; many of them deeply influence me still, such as Quakerism and Tibetan Buddhism. Through Druidry I have come to be a Celebrant, a Healer, a meditation facilitator, Earth Ambassador, and ecotherapist. Now I am qualified to teach you yoga! Of course I am following a Way which continues to develop; I still have sound therapy skills to grow and I have my first wedding booked to perform next year! Yoga is part of a complete picture: that which opens us up to the Earth, to each other, to OURSELVES once again.

You are all welcome to come along with me. Together, we can get out of our own way, to let go of our backstory and our futurecasting, let ourselves find that sweet kernel of wonder for the world once again.

It is at this juncture that I must declare that I know with all of my heart and mind that we are walking into a crisis on a global scale and we can only really address this by looking deeply into ourselves and finding the heart within us and to fall once again in love and wonder with our world. Only by truly rejecting this madness can we begin to collectively say enough is enough. Time for a new way to bring all our humanness to each other; of compassion, tenderness, deep, deep love, and JOY back to those who have the capacity to protect those who desperately need our love, and back to ourselves. But we can’t love the world, each other and the great Mother if we don’t love ourselves first. Yes, even the bit of you that’s grumpy before you’ve had a coffee, that’s had one too many tragedies in your life, those parts of you that yearn for self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love. It really is quite simple: when we love ourselves, we no longer look outside for acceptance, because we’ve given it back to ourselves. And then we’re unstoppable.

Ecotherapy, Celebrancy, Radical Joy for Hard Times rituals, Yoga and celebrating through heritage workshops our connection to the land all ask for a significant change in the way we interact with our world. Being honoured to help be part of the narrative of wisdom, self-compassion and collective love for ourselves and this incredible, UNIQUE planet gives me goosebumps!

With outdoor yoga, wilderness walks and meditation, sound therapy, one-to-one energy healing and group meditation I can offer something for you in a more official capacity. Many of you have known that I have dabbled a little here and there as friend and confidante, but I have always shied away from the BIG label, of Priestess, or Therapist, Ritualist, Minister, Witch or even Druid. I still don’t have a label, by the way, what would fit?! Harriet will do.

Other workshops which will be facilitated by myself and others who have important knowledge and want to share significant teachings about how we can return to ourselves, our community and to the world of Nature. This is therefore a call-out to anyone who wishes to offer related teachings and workshops! Get in touch and we can work together to make this happen! teesdalehealing@gmail.com 

I have a new name for all this too: Wild Us. Because we are wild, bold, free, gentle, compassionate, loving and amazing creatures of this blessed Earth! Wild kids, who talk about the earth with reverence, who show us their favourite tree, who have school meditation classes, yoga workshop and Earth spirituality as part of their normal lives. Adults who return to the Earth, guided to reconnect with love and wonder. This is the way I envisage to serve you. I will offer weddings, handfastings, baby namings, funeral celebrancy, rituals of transition, be that the end or start of a job, the beginning of a relationship, becoming a Crone, or a Teen, the motherhood transition. Transitions of initiation and of release. I offer also yoga classes on a regular basis, sound therapy, meditation, heritage workshops and ancestral walks through the land. I am currently in Teesdale, county Durham, and I will work in the near vicinity for now…..

Watch this space guys!!! And THANK YOU for giving me confidence in myself over these years. You’re beautiful souls, every one of you.