Sunday, September 21, 2014

Green heart beats on the beach

 Wear green, they said, and I did.
 Head out to the west coast, they said, and I did.
Don't mind the weather, they said, and I brought my umbrella, which luckily turned out to be green.
 I didn't need a speech on climate change, and nor did anyone else. We were there because we already cared. (UN chief Ban Ki Moon has called an urgent summit on climate change for 23 September in New York, and all over the world people are marching and creating events.) But it filled in time while we waited for the rain to stop,
  which it did. Then, up on the dunes we began to form a green heart.
 Even the dogs wore green.
Hold your green towel, or cloth, above your head, and to the sound of the drum, lift it up and down, they said. Which we did. It took a few practices, and there we were, one hundred and sixty five of us, one pulsating heart, beating in unison at last. It took two to hold some pieces of cloth.
I lifted my green umbrella up and down to the beat of the drum. The green heart began to beat. I could feel the earth beating through us. Overhead a plane circled with a camera-person inside. On a high point of the dunes, local film-maker Briar stood, her camera whirring.
What did it look like? When the film clip is posted on Facebook, I'll find out. And I'll put the link right here.
* No film yet, but here's a link to some still photos

Monday, September 15, 2014

When spring hides her face

 When spring hides her face, disappearing behind veils of rain, I create altars.
 Not altars in the religious sense, but rather altars in homage to nature, and the seasons.
 This is the definition I give in my book, 'A Cup of Sunlight':
'An altar is a collection of objects that serve as a focus for spiritual awareness.'
This one helps me to gaze into the eye of spring,
 to lose myself in its greening energy. I remember the force that drives through all living things in this season, and the impulse to growth, change and transformation that is so strong now.
 A green candle, the water of life, and the sweet scents of freesias and hyacinths make another altar on yet another day when the rain and wind fly through the air.
Spring is the season of surprise. 
I have no memory of ever having planted the blue hyacinth above, which popped up in triplicate out of an apparently inert pot. Maybe it was the one I bought last year, that promised to flower but then disappointed and faded away. Last year's disappointment is this year's delight.
My altars make me smile, and help me to hold faith with the knowledge that spring really is here, even when the cold blasts outside would have me fooled.

'The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.'—Gertrude A. Wister

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flowering friendships

 I'm so lucky to have a birthday that falls on the threshold of spring,
 when all of nature is bursting into a song of welcome. This year, I was so busy with the birthing of the littlest one, nearly four weeks early, that at first I thought I had no time to celebrate.
 But I'm glad I did, with a simple dinner for some old friends, most of whom live in my neighbourhood.
 They brought food, flowers and the gift of their good company. As we ate, someone suggested that they all share in turns the story of how they first met me.
 Much hilarity broke forth, because I have lived an adventurous life and so have my friends. They all had colourful tales to tell, as bright as the flowers they brought.
 Some of them have known me for thirty years or more. Our friendships have flowered and have kept on flowering with every spring.
After they left, and the house was silent once more, I was left with my reflections. For nearly two weeks spring perfume has filled my living room, and the sound of my friends' laughter has reverberated from every corner.

'We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
'Even longer,' Pooh answered.
—A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weeding and wandering

 When deadlines are pushing and pressuring and I'm getting behind with everything,
and spring is knocking on the door of the earth, wanting to push through, and I'm in a time of creativity and growth, which is exciting, but threatens to overwhelm,
 then even though there's been no time for weeks, and certainly no time now, I need to just break away and make for the bach.

And take time to wander—
 along the soothing banks of the stream. What perfect timing. This is the first fine weekend for weeks and weeks.
It's time to observe what is happening in nature. While in the bach garden, weeds are pushing up their heads everywhere, along the stream the dry vestiges of winter rattle in the wind.
 Pulling weeds is satisfying when the mind is cluttered. Wandering is even better, following the curve of the stream without any sense of a goal,
 letting the wind blow away anxiety and refresh my spirit,
opening up space inside - and then the talk falls into place, and the writing project begins to breathe. The deadlines become lifelines, dancing in the breeze. Everything seems possible once more. 
Sometimes the best thing to do when there's no time to be in nature, is simply to be in nature.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Eager and early

 Spring has come early this year, despite snowy setbacks and chilly chivying.
 The magnolias are not worried. They are spreading their fragrance across the skies
 and their beauty through the air,
The little one is with me for the weekend, because the magnolias are not the only thing that is eager and early this spring.
 Last night the littlest one was born, unexpectedly, nearly four weeks before the due date. This morning I took the little one into the hospital, where we saw her baby sister for the first time.
 New life is so tender. This one is full of sleep. Tomorrow we might catch her awake and see her eyes. Every day will be more awake than the one before.
We come home and sort embroidery threads, into subtle colours, and bright ones, and colours that match the baby quilt I'm stitching. The little one has gathered this collection together because, she says, they are the colours of joy.
Did I know this tenderness was about to flood our lives? On my Facebook Books page, only a day or two before, I posted these words from my book 'A Cup of Sunlight':

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all
living beings; 
Radiating kindness over the entire world.
—The Buddha

I wish you all loving kindness that fills your hearts and spreads across the skies with the fragrance of magnolias.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brigid, Brigid, won't you come in?

 Today is the festival of Brigid, the maiden aspect of the ancient triple goddess. She returns at 'First Light', the half-way point between winter solstice and spring equinox.
Brigid is associated with fire, creativity, poetry and healing. In Ireland people still visit Brigid's wells and springs at First Light, in search of healing.
'Brigid, Brigid, won't you come in?' cried the women of ancient Britain, as they flung open the doors of their cottages and welcomed in the light. Today, a circle of candles around Brigid's 'well' reminds us of the candlelit processions of ancient times.
Even when the Church converted the festival of Brigid into Candlemas, the lighting of candles continued, for who doesn't love to kindle brightness?
 In Britain, the women would skilfully weave crosses, dolls and spiralling shapes from straw or corn. My old aunt Trudy from Yorkshire sent me this one, which is like a little straw bell.
 We remember to give thanks for the return of the flow, just as our Celtic ancestors did, by pouring a libation of ewe's milk on to the earth,
 blessing the new growth that is stirring in the dark soil. The old Celtic word for ewe's milk is Oi-melg, which gave rise to the name Imbolc (Imbolg) for this festival.
 It's a fragrant and delicate season, this early spring awakening. Despite the nip in the air, we can feel the blessing of the returning light, bringing fresh hope and playful energy.Time to prepare to open to new life — but gently.

Come Bride! Come Bride!
Enter in!
We're ready for thy blessing now
Ready for thy blessing now.

[Old invocation. Bride was another word for Brigid]

Friday, August 1, 2014

The best of winter treats

 Once again this year, I've given myself a winter retreat,
 in the wild open spaces of the west coast, where clouds roll in from the sea, and the rocky lion roars through the night.
 It's warm and cosy in here, as we dine on delicious food in front of the fire,
 and sometimes catch a fine spell in which to walk the black sand along the edge of the surf,
 knowing I don't have to shop, or cook or attend to anything. Delicious food will appear at the right time,
 plucked from the garden and full of brightness.
 The days roll by and the surf rolls out, and on the last morning as I stride along the beach
 I am given a gift.
 The inner spiral of myself is unfurling. I have returned to simplicity.
Retreat. It's a re-treating of myself, and at the end of winter when it's easy to feel jaded, is the best of gifts. [Here's the link for this beautiful place]
When did you last treat yourself? What gifts has nature given you lately?