Thursday, 30 January 2014

Time to open the gate

New moon started watery. An unnoticed leak in a pipe beneath our kitchen sink had caused wet havoc and when I opened the cupboard door this morning...collapsed shelves, everything soaked, whole unit ruined. By coincidence the plumber was already up here on the estate fixing something posh at the manor, so our landlord brought him around. All fixed in 15 minutes. Now begins the struggle to get the sink unit replaced. On past form this should take us about two years.

It's dark today, predictably, and there's a deeper cold in the air. Magic has happened once already today - another post - and I'm looking forward to (daughter permitting) taking part in Sas's ceremony tonight. I'm ready. Light a fire and let it go.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Let it go

Like a great and beautiful bird returned to the wild with a lift into the wind, I am letting go of January.

This month of ebb and flow; of space and time; of a return to my self.

I think I will do Winter this way again. I'm staying quiet during February having promised myself I could play, rest and listen until Spring brings different gifts. I cannot say that I have been hibernating - life goes on and I have my family and my work, my blog and my Pinterest boards, my home and the Daily Stuff to attend to - but I have been calmer, less reactive. I cleared a space and just waited. I am still waiting. Watching to see who and what wanders into the empty clearing. I have had some wonderful encounters this far. I think this new kind of Winter will mean a new kind of Spring. I look forward to it.

And here we are, with the new moon just a day away. The darkness that I have learnt to love and respect this month will be there for us to feel and treasure. A return to the beginning. The empty sky before the return of the light. Speak your dreams now and watch as the waxing moon draws them into visibility. I am lifting my experience of this month into the air and, with huge love and gratitude, setting it free.

According to the Druid Animal Oracle, Hawk is who you need if you're letting things go. Seabhac (She-vug) will give you fresh perspective, free you of 'baggage' and help connect you to your ancestral roots. Hawk - as the European Buzzard - is very dear to me and a special companion when I journey as part of my shamanic practise. As we celebrate new moon, lunar new year, Imbolc and Brigid's Day over the end of this week, I am asking her to help with my letting go.

This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on the 30th of January. All the details for this free event are here. And you can take part! Be inspired by other posts in this project, and share what you are ready to let of of on the Let it Go Project Community Page!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Holding ground


Between brief but powerful storms we walked in Ladies Coppice. I love this little patch, just a few acres that is a dormitory for the rooks, jackdaws, wood pigeons and tawny owls. Deer search for food here too, roe and muntjac. Of course there are the squirrels, and foxes and badgers who travel though it leaving deep paths through the undergrowth.

After the last couple of months the ground is sodden. Some of the trees, more than I'd expected, have been unable to hold their ground in the face of strong winds. There is clearing work being done and piles of wood lain to encourage wildlife.

I am always struck by the beauty of the ivy that climbs the tall ash trees. In it you can see the inspiration for virtually all Celtic art. I think the older, thicker plants help support the trees while they face this season's weather. I hope so anyway.

On cold but dry days, the jackdaws leave the trees and come to huddle up against our chimney pots where, in a couple of months, they'll start to build their nests. It's good to hear their voices again, echoing down the chimney and into the room. I'd take a picture, but the days haven't been cold and dry for a while. Cold yes, dry not so much.


Saturday, 25 January 2014

What matters

When one gives oneself space to feel, in the middle of winter, I think one should be prepared for at least one existential crisis or really...what's the point? I say this with a smile on my face, honestly. Because I have felt, crawled and listened my way out of it. Or at least, to the edge.

One of my favourite qualities in humans is our ability to be empathic, sympathetic, aware of the suffering of others. Doesn't mean we always are those things but hey, the potential is there. Personally I'm not sure if I was born without much ability in that area and had to learn it, or perhaps I was born with too much and had to spend years in armour. Either way, I spent a goodly amount of my life at a distance from most things. Doesn't matter. I live here and now and here and now I feel it. I feel it, breathe it, carry it.

I work in an organisation whose reason for being is to bring safety and freedom to cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises). We work with the knowledge - proven - that cetaceans are people too and as unpopular and inflammatory as it may be to say so we exploit them in ways that amount to slavery - for the entertainment (ha) industry - and inflict unimaginable suffering on them with hunting, killing and capture. We all know better these days and we should do better.

Every day I see reports and evidence of this suffering, fully aware that it's not limited to cetaceans but also inflicted on humans and all other beings, from the smallest insect to the whole 'planet entity'. Most days I maintain a healthy barrier that enables me to cope because you can't unknow these things. You have to be able to carry them inside you and deal. Or you can't help.

Then this happened. And everything fell apart.

My initial despair and horror were joined by a loss of faith in the organisation I've worked for for nearly 12 years. It felt as if nothing has changed. We, and other like-minded NGOs, have raised millions of pounds and many thousands of signatures to petitions in (and before) those years and yet nothing has changed. So I ran the whole length of the 'what is the point of us?' marathon.

That widened out into 'what is the point of us? - the human race edition'. And then focused in sharply onto 'what is the point of me?'.

I'm not going to drag you through the details of how I managed to move forward from that low point but I have. And I am left with this: the white dolphin calf who was kidnapped for money is not going to live for very long in a concrete tank. Imagine tearing a human child from his mother and locking him in a small, empty, brightly lit cupboard. She, as an albino, is likely to be visually and hearing impaired. Her isolation will be so utterly absolute that she will give up. Babies do. My knowledge of Chinese orphanages showed me that.

Nothing that you or I can think or rationalise or believe or tolerate will ever, ever make that right. And it's happening to some being, somewhere, many times a day. Even the deep sand we bury our heads in is blood-tainted and you may not like reading that but's true.

But that is not all. It is nowhere near all. Because this dark shadow side of life is what fuels the good. The ferocity with which we reject it can propel us as individuals and as a race and as spiritual beings, to better things. To compassion and love.

This little calf changed me, almost at a DNA level. She did it. And I'm certain she has done the same for many others all over the world thanks to the magic of technology. Her life mattered. I will never forget her.

There is no tidy 'and the moral of this tale is' ending to this blog post any more than there is to anything. This is the human experience and we are not in possession of total understanding because if we were happy and content all the time we would simply dissolve into nothingness. That is not what this life is for. I believe this life, these lives, are for powering up the dynamo that is LIFE. We all spend time, maybe many times, here at the coal face. It's hard work, even - to continue the metaphor - for those of us fortunate enough to have desk jobs, but the rewards are apparent when you're open to love and beauty and truth.

We have two ways to get our work done here. One is to work against the darkness and the horror, charging that dynamo. The other is to fill the universal vessel of love with any love we can generate. Like little worker bees, we put love into the world and make it available to Source. I choose to do both.

We must do work that matters. We can't, as Mother Theresa said, all do 'great things' but we can do 'small things with great love'. That is work that matters.

Please consider reading and signing this if you haven't already. And find something to fight. Thank you.


Monday, 20 January 2014

When having the black dog at your feet is a supremely good thing

At the weekend my new phone arrived. It's not The Latest Model but it's a good upgrade (and free) and most importantly for me the camera is a vast improvement in this one. So I'm missing Instagram something awful. Ha. But a promise is a promise. It's interesting to me that the thing I miss most is sharing photographs of my dogs. Evie doesn't like to have her photo taken anymore so I can't bore followers with endless pictures of how cute she is, you just have to take my word for it, but the dogs...the dogs are almost always obliging.

Last Thursday, the 16th, my fingers were itching to post some pictures of Dooley. January 16th was the date he was due to be 'put to sleep' at the pound he was in at the beginning of 2012. An unclaimed/unwanted stray, he'd done his time there and they needed the space. Thankfully, the awesome people at Swindon's Needy Dogs could see what a great boy he is and got him out. From there, the wonderful Fionna at Lizzie's Barn in South Wales (where I also found Zoey) took him in. The following 15 months were a mixed bag for my boy but I don't care how strange it may sound - this dog was meant to be with me.

More than two years ago, while both Jackson and Nellie Bean were still with me and I had no reason to think they were about to go anywhere, I was driving to work when suddenly I found myself thinking of a black dog. I couldn't see his face but he was a medium-sized, short-coated, Lab-ish black dog. I heard,"I'm on my way. I'm on the path."

I wasn't even thinking about another dog at the time and thought perhaps it meant that I'd find a stray and help him get home. That I'd somehow be involved with a black dog that wasn't mine. Wrong. When Jackson passed away I was initially determined to find another Jack Russell - I do love them. But eventually, with no online doggie faces telling me they were mine I found myself scrolling back through Fionna's Facebook albums and there he was. I knew it was him. I'd almost forgotten about the black dog I'd 'heard' until I saw him. And when, on the day we went down to meet him, I saw his face on the other side of metal fencing and looked into his eyes all I could say was,"There he is. There he is...".

Here he is. Here he will always be.

Dooley Dog, Dooby Doo, Doo Dog.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014


These images came out of my iPhone 3, no filter, no changes. They were taken at the edge of the Withy Bed, here on the estate. The Withy Bed is so named because it was planted for withies - usually willow or hazel, naturally straight shoots that are cut back each year to harvest again the following. They're traditionally used for everything from fences to baskets. The Withy Bed is mostly that willow and hazel but also a good number of beautiful ash trees. I feel a strong connection to ash. As you can see there are silver birch and some pine too. The Withy Bed is the current home of The Sheep in the Woods. I will tell you about her one day. It's not used for anything much anymore by humans. It has birds and deer and foxes and badgers using it for all sorts of good magic.

I loved this light, this winter day that looked like a painting both in and out of the camera. This winter is being so kind to me, so loving. I am feeling strong and rooted. Standing here I was deeply in touch with my NW European self. We are strange people - even the ones who haven't lived here for generations and don't try arguing with me on that. Of course we all, wherever our roots, have our flavours and (non-verbal) accents and 'things'. I think the NW European flavour is dark and not always yummy. It's just an accent in the recipe and it's a strong, bitter espresso....plain, 85% chocolate...icky old-fashioned cough medicine. We carry a streak of that through us in our bone marrow. It's what makes us stand up straight.

I have no values attached to that. It's just an observation. Inspired by a day like today.



Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A morning person

I'll admit that I do miss my morning sunrises, but every now and then comes a dark start that more than makes up for it. When the moon is full and it's cold enough for a frost, the dogs and I find ourselves dancing with moon shadows. The rooks start to stir and chatter while the tawny owls do a last check in with each other before coming into the woods to take their place on The Good Branches in Ladies Wood.

The light is so magical. There is almost no colour in anything, just a million shades of silver.

I have no photographs. I lack the skills to capture magic and besides, all three of us are too busy staring at the moon. I'm still, always, amazed by how very far away it is and how very small we are (if you measure things in a timey-wimey, spacey-wacey way).

Perspective refreshed, we head home for dog breakfasts and human tea. While the others sleep on I sit at the table in our little semi-subterranean kitchen, light a candle and write in my journals. Zoey curls up in a chair and snores, even though she's still awake. Dooley, despite having a choice of comfy beds to snooze on, curls up next to my chair, occasionally sitting up and pushing his big square head into my lap.

All of this is done in the space of about 45 minutes; there's packed lunches, breakfasts, school uniform and clothes-that-aren't-too-muddy to find, faces to be washed and teeth to be cleaned and reading books to be unearthed and three people to get out of the door before 8.30.

I am a morning person.


Monday, 13 January 2014

When the sun visited

We had a day that pretended to be spring. It fooled me and a very grumpy bumblebee who emerged way too early and wasn't very happy about it. I didn't further ruin her day by taking her picture.

The flood has subsided for a while.

This sweet feather was floating on the surface of a puddle.

Could I BE wearing any more clothes?

A deer bolted from a hedge and left us some of her hair.

In the Withy Bed, the ash trees tower above the willow and hazel.
Beneath these trees lies Foxopolis.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Ebb and flow

At the start of the year I heard someone talking about creating a body of work. 'A body of work'. That phrase stuck with me. I discovered that I wanted a body of work. For the first time ever I'm feeling the desire to have something whole. Something I started, made, developed and - here's the thing - completed. And also for the first time, I believe I can do it.

To begin this and to dream up what I want to create I need time and space to listen to myself and so to that end, I've taken Twitter and Instagram and Facebook off all my devices for a month. The lack of distraction is wonderful, even though I miss Instagram very, very much.

I chose my words for 2014 to be: Play, Build and Enchantment. I have an over-arching allegiance to 'Creatures', and this strange new fascination with A Body of Work. I am taking (at least) these winter months to Play and see what I want to Build through the rest of the year.

The main thing I'm hearing from my heart and my spirit is 'slow down....feel your natural rhythm...ebb and flow...don't push too hard and force things to happen, that won't work' and so that's what I'm doing. I have a moment of inspiration in the flow and then ebb - take it inwards and just sit with it for a while. Let it be still and try to take root so that it can reach for the sky in the spring. I've found that this ebb and flow rhythm works with all aspects of my life. I need the back and forth, the light and dark, the yin and yang, over hours, days, months and probably years. Time will tell. I think 2013 was an ebb year for me. This year will be mostly about forward flow I hope.

The waters here have reflected these rhythms, probably been at least in part the inspiration. Every few days we have been flooded in and then the streams will drop and the fields will manage to absorb just a little more rain and even though this is a very wet environment right now, we can move forward. Then it rains and there's the ebb...back to the home to be quiet and wait.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Follow that dog.

2014. I repeated it to myself this morning as I journalled, and found a strange feeling somewhere in my bones. As if I'd just woken from a long coma. As if I thought it was still 1956. As if I was in completely the wrong time. Out of place. All a bit Quantum Jump really.

Perhaps it was because for the past few weeks/months I've been busy avoiding and then dealing with my past and the shadows therein. I am, by nature, a Bolter. On a good day I'll remember to close the door behind me but mostly if it was in the past and I didn't like it (quite a large amount of things fall into this category) then I'm going to skillfully dig a trench between it and me, fill that trench with brushwood and set fire to it. Striding away like an action movie hero with the flames lighting the sky behind me. Done. Dusted. And to be fair, there are times when this is the best thing to do, no doubt. Some things call for a clean cut, a bolt of destruction and a fast exit. Others not so much.

My dislike of dissecting the past and examining every teeny bit of it is strong. Those who like to work that way often fall victim to a hard stare, a sneer and some very mean words. It's not them, it's me. Obviously. But you know what they say, you can't run forever although actually yes, you can but ultimately you'll end up where you started, over and over, only knackered. So I complained a lot and then got down to some work sorting it all out. A lot of that 'stuff' I'd abandoned behind the fire ditch was still there and it turns out, the best thing I can do is welcome it in, plump up a cushion and settle it in a corner. Makes sure it's comfy, put its favourite show on the telly and then carry on. It's old, it doesn't really want to be running around with me but it would quite like someone to talk to occasionally and maybe a nice cup of tea now and then. And we're family after all.

So, after I'd hoiked my consciousness back from the last century and adjusted my eyesight to the new year I felt unusually 'present'. There is nothing back there (or at least nothing very big right now, no doubt I'll need to revisit) pulling me out of today. It's a nice feeling. Light, airy. It has potential.

I am remembering who I am. Who I am NOW. It's been a while since I thought about it and that lack of attention was part of a necessary process. Yesterday I found a one line bio I'd put on a social media site ages ago; a site I never use because I prefer the desktop app version. I read it out loud and felt the words drop back into place in my body, making me stand up straight. Oh...yes...that's who I am. Nice.

I hope 2014 brings clarity, recognition and wholeness to us all. So far, so good.