Tag Archives: nature

Nature’s salvation

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How do you ask your friends and families for help when for most of your life you have been the strong one? The one who has always sorted out everyone else’s problems.

How do you cope when your body betrays you?

How do you keep your body, soul and heart intact when loneliness attacks after seventeen years of living alone?

That is my life in a nutshell. I ask myself these questions every day. No-one answers. Not with real solutions anyway.

It was my choice to live alone, but it wasn’t part of the plan to still be alone nearly two decades later.

I have always kept my body well-nourished and reasonably fit despite a variety of health issues over the years, all dealt with, yet in the end pure happenstance had me falling down a flight of concrete steps and damaging my spine and hip. Perhaps it would have been a lot worse if not for my interest in alternative therapies, good nutrition and yoga. But still – when all is said and done, I am severely limited now in my mobility – no more cycling, no more long distance walks, and worst of all – no more dancing.

And now, in my need and awaiting an operation that might just give me full mobility and might just as easily not, I find it hard to ask for help when, maybe, my family do not understand just how damaged I am.

So, I have to authenticate my life in other ways. I write and paint, meditate and read. My novel is almost finished; I’ve sold a few paintings … but I’m still alone, and fighting just like I have done all my life because I will not give in … to age, to my injuries, to my loneliness. It just doesn’t quite make up for being alone no matter how many afternoon teas and cake I partake of, how many poems or stories I write, how many pictures I paint, or how much meditating I do. And yet, on most days, I am content

Like today, I am sitting at my laptop, writing this to the songs of birds hopping about in my heavenly, flower and herb filled wildlife garden. On sunny evenings it is also full of delicious scents. I meditate there whenever the weather allows and get all the authentication I need through nature. The birds, bats, frogs and toads that inhabit my garden, the fox that flits through it, have become my companions; the bees and other insects my helpmates; even the snails have something to teach me. Nature infiltrates my writing, my painting and my dreams – my tiny urban garden, and the artistry it inspires – has become my salvation. Within this context, the words of the campaigners of the sixties, my era,  are relevant … I will overcome! 

vintage rose

 

 

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A Manifesto for a New Global Consciousness

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I was revisiting Gill Edwards book – Pure Bliss today and discovered her list of aspirations that she hoped (sadly she has moved on from our dimension now) will help make the world a better place. I personally have signed up to it, indeed I have been living it, or aspiring to anyway – I make no claim to perfection –  for many years now. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone followed these simple but beautiful guidelines for living holistically upon the earth and with everyone and everything upon it?

J 16 Sea Song

  1. Healing the split between matter and spirit; bringing the sacred into everyday life; reclaiming the mystical side of religion.
  2. Reclaiming our ‘feminine’ energy as individuals: eg helping people develop their intuition and psychic skills, or to move beyond co-dependency, martyr-hood, fear and struggle, or to see the ‘bigger picture’.
  3. Breaking down the walls of separation and judgement eg tackling racism, ageism, homophobia, nationalism, religious fundamentalism.
  4. Working on women’s issues eg women’s rights, redefining femininity.
  5. Working on behalf of children eg preventing child abuse and exploitation, supporting children’s self-esteem and inner wisdom, campaigning for children’s rights.
  6. Honouring emotions and the ‘inner child’ eg as a therapist or teacher
  7. Honouring the physical body eg health reform, re-spiritualising sexuality.
  8. Bringing Spirit back into business, town planning, architecture, law, education and other social systems
  9. Reclaiming the holistic world view – seeing wholes/systems rather than parts eg as an economist, ecologist, holistic health practitioner, therapist
  10. Working with imagination and creativity – including it within all activities and learning
  11. Supporting cooperation rather than competition, eg divorce mediation, international diplomacy, working cooperatively with angel’s and guides
  12. Honouring the Earth and the natural world, eg ecological activism, shamanic wisdom, working with nature spirits, working with animals, plants, minerals and crystals in respectful ways, organising pilgrimages to sacred places
  13. I AM WILLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Thank you Gill Edwards, for your inspiring words X

Nature’s Affirmations

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Nature’s Affirmations

a bramble patch 20002

(incorporating ideas, and some words of wisdom, from Scottish Island Mum. See her Mindful Meditation by visiting her website; thank you S.I.M). Also visit Heather Gordon Young’s site and read more about nature’s affirmations: dolphins and woodlands etc

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what defines us, what affirms our place on this lovely, lonely planet spinning endlessly in space. We are so far from any potential neighbours that we might as well be alone in the universe. That sometimes makes me feel very small, very alone, very unconnected, as I’m sure it does many people.

Feeling connected … to people; to happenings; to communities; to nature; to the universe at large … is important, and something, I feel, many people in the 21st century are feeling a lack thereof. My view is, that  is why so many people are searching for something that they cannot seem to identify – cut adrift from Mother Earth, the great Goddess Gaia.

Do we take our life affirmations from places outside of us, defining ourselves by other people’s expectations and labels eg our family, our work, our education, our religion,  and our background?  That’s fine if these things are/were positive experiences. What if they aren’t or weren’t? Traditionally, western therapy – whether formally or through the multitude of self-help books available on bookshop shelves, of which I’ve bought a shed full over the years – recommends the use of artificially designed affirmations to re-programme our feelings, our perceptions, our perspectives on life, to make us feel good about ourselves, as if we were machines just needing a reboot.

Wouldn’t it be better to affirm our existence from within by discovering those things that make us feel good about ourselves; taking up the responsibility for understanding and rebirthing ourselves.  I’m not talking about materialistic things like chocolate, money, clothes, make-up, but those core things that link us to creation. Rather than ordering an external reboot – being our own modem, our own personal wi-fi, if you like.

My friend and fellow philosopher, healer, writer and artist – Scottish Island Mum – suggests that life is a deeply personal experience that we enter and leave by ourselves; and that we owe it to ourselves to discover what makes us happy.

(I so agree – which is why I set up the Happiness Group)

Sounds like a good plan, but where to begin to identify our own life enhancers, our own personal affirmations that we are alive and well and thriving?

The other evening I sat in my springtime emerging garden and wrote down a list of images that made me feel good at that time: the smell of lavender; the velvet touch of rose petals; the singing of birds, to name a few. I started to rearrange these into a poem. In doing so I realised I had a chronological story – the story of my emotions; the story of what makes me ‘feel alive’. The images I had identified really did seem to define the overall balance of my daily life.  The words, and the images they evoke and were evoked by, raise my feelings of well-being every time I read the poem. It’s not a good poem by any literary standard, not even by any of my own poetry writing standards, but as a template for understanding my life, it’s not bad.

 lavender

Scottish Island Mum suggests that such images can be used as affirmations to guide the way we live our lives. I have to admit that I have had very little success with typical therapeutic affirmations. The craft cupboard that stands by the table in my study/studio/conservatory is covered with commercially produced cards invoking such wisdom as:

There is plenty for everyone including me

My income is constantly increasing

… so why am I still struggling to live on a pension

 

I open new doors to life

I claim my own power, and I lovingly create my own reality

… so why am I constantly restless, why do doors remain shut, why do my dreams not awaken?

 

Despite repeating such affirmations, and they being visible at all times when I’m sitting here in my conservatory/study/studio – writing or painting or just day-dreaming – I remain slightly discontented with life, searching for … what exactly?

The view outside my window at this moment, as I sit typing: the play of light on leaves, the changing shapes and shadows, the glorious colours; the aromas and sounds that drift through my open doors, are far more effective in lifting my spirits. And when it’s grey and damp, or I’m just lonely, reading my simple poem reminds me of that sweeping sense of serenity and contentment that is quite mystical, and that I only get when I immerse myself in nature – even if this is only in my humble back garden in the middle of large northern city. Here is where I get my sense of self-worth from … from being connected to Nature, to Creation, to the Creator of All. The universe remains vast and aloof, but nature reminds me that I’m part of it; I’m real and loved.

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(Also see my ramblings on Happiness).

So this poem then – these natural affirmations; here is Me, my life affirmed:

Nature’s affirmations

The scent of lavender and jasmine in the evening air

Entices the hypnotic drone of insects on the breeze

Tranquillity

 

The furtive rustle of vary-green leaves in the trees

Reveals the nervous bustle of multitudinous birds in branches

Comfort

 

The radiant flame of velvet rose petals aglow

From the reflections of lacy waving fern fronds underneath

Wonder

 

The engine-throb of frog throats from the pond

Bass-backs the bobbing, shell-tapping beats of the thrush

Amusement

 

The stealthy glance of a fluid feline on the hunt

Disturbs the homecoming haste of a spider on the path

Rapport

 

The warbling love duet of a blackbird pair

Counters the lonesome flight and call of a single gull

Longing

 

The searching sonar flutter of bats upon the wing

Tracks the monochrome grace of a moth unaware

Acceptance

 

An artist’s brush of golden blush as the sun sets

Streaks the indigo-deep fall of night’s rich drapes

Contentment

 

Drifting clouds fleeing across the deepening sky

Echoes a surfeit of creeping shadows all around

Peace

 

The cheery twinkle of heavenly lights turning on

Greet the shimmering silver sickle of a rising new moon

Rapture

 

The warming smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen

Reflects the friendly glow of a home well loved, and welcoming

Happiness

 coffee

Was I surprised to find that nature has such an affirming effect on me? Well yes … and no! Yes because it’s only a few weeks ago that I thought I wasn’t connected to this Earth of ours, at all. But I’ve done a lot of thinking since then, made insights and connections, forgiven myself and others. I’ve discovered how much I love this Earth and how deeply I am connected though at different and varying levels from what I’d first imagined. It’s not happenstance that one of my first books (by Enid Blyton) described nature walks in the countryside, promoted getting down and dirty with leaves and soil and moss, encouraging its readers to participate in nature-inspired activities. Neither is it an accident that one of my most loved memories, is walking down a country lane with my father, long ago, collecting signs of Autumn for my school nature table (see post …). And it’s not a coincidence, either, that for fifteen years I ran a children’s WATCH group, encouraging an holistic approach to nature study involving poetry, song, art and ritual.

apple tree

My writing – stories and poems – and my artwork is full of images of nature and the elements, the mythology and archetypal energy that diffuses from within them, and the feelings they evoke. I fully support the Ecobardic movement (that seeks to reconnect people to the Earth through story, poetry, song and art), and my spirituality celebrates the turn of seasons and lunar cycles, rather than follows traditional religious teachings.

So, why would I be surprised to find that it is Nature that affirms my very being? Yet I am! I am surprised at the very simplicity of the idea, and surprised that it has taken me so long to understand myself even though the clues were there all along.

 

 

 

Hawthorn – my birth tree

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Crataegus Oxyacantha and Me (written in stages over past couple of years)

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It is a beautiful day, the Spring Equinox, pagan Ostara, in fact; that welcome balancing of day and night. The sun is shining with real warmth after a long winter of ice and snow that has leeched energy from my very bones. Now, uplifted by the gentle sunlight I’m planting a young hawthorn tree in my back garden. As I dig its hole, adding homemade compost to help it establish, I realise that hawthorn, my birth tree in the Celtic calendar, seems to play a recurring role in my life, albeit often without my understanding why at the time. I wonder at its significance as I touch the tiny, brilliant green young leaves just sprouting from the two foot high tree-ling.

Hawthorn is the tree corresponding to the sign of Gemini, those born of the twins. How appropriate to have this tree overseeing we mercurial people with our split personalities. In bloom and leaf it’s a tree of exquisite pastoral beauty exuding a sense of tranquillity, though structurally it’s often rugged and twisted, with its dark side of sharp vicious thorns. It’s a tree full of important Pagan symbolism and Christian mythology; truly a tree of paradox, said to mend and strengthen broken hearts.

My connection to this enigmatic tree began in my childhood, that mystical time when we are still open to the universal wonders that cynical adulthood, and the drive to conform, later undermines. I lived with my family on a new-build, slum clearance, council house estate, the daughter of a manual dock labourer. But my dad, for all his mundane working-class traits, made sure that his eldest daughter was introduced to the mysteries of nature as well as prepared for urban, post-war, survival. He knew little more about nature than my nine year old self did, having grown up in those now demolished slums. It was, perhaps, because of his origins that he wanted to encourage me with a nature-study project that involved finding ‘signs of Autumn’ for the classroom nature table.

Close by our estate wove the remnants of an ancient country lane, a relic of the rural past surrounding our city, even then being swallowed up by the need for baby-boom housing. It was the nearest thing we had to real countryside with wonderful old trees and hedgerows lining its meandering process. A few fields remained, nestled precariously between encroaching building sites where, in Spring, you could watch frisky lambs and rabbits play. It’s all gone now in the twenty-first century, eaten up by progress, and ever-hungry property developers.

This is where Dad took me that autumnal Sunday morning to address my homework challenge. We collected shiny auburn conkers, teasing them out of their prickly velvet-lined overcoats. We played with sycamore seed propellers revelling in their crazy spirals, me twirling around in imitation; we collected tall thistles and thorny branches full of bright red berries – haws. Straightaway I loved their cheerful carnival colouring and fun-filled name, like Santa laughing:

“Listen,” Dad would say, “can you hear them going haw-haw-haw,” (he was just making up stories of course; the haws were conspicuously indifferent in their silence, despite their jovial name). We, on the other hand, laughed till our bellies ached.

Once home, our finds were carefully mounted and labelled, on card cut from cornflake packets. Dad and I sat around our formica-topped kitchen table whilst mum baked. I remember her, cotton-pinnied, peering over our shoulders.

“I don’t know which one of you is having more fun?” she declared, kissing the top of my dad’s head fondly as she ruffled my plaited hair. The finds were carefully taken to school the following day, and produced triumphantly like the treasures they surely were.

Subsequent walks throughout my childhood years would reveal our special trees bowing beneath frothy cream-coloured blossom dotted with feathery reddish-green buds that slowly unfolded into lush toothed leaves to welcome the awakening Spring sunshine. Later we’d watch blackbirds flying in and out of secret hiding places, fulfilling the constant and thankless task of feeding their families, the babies protected by those long thorns. Then, all too soon, amidst yellowing leaves, we would spy tiny swelling orbs of green forming, gradually blushing to crimson before ripening to those deep purplish-red festive berries by bonfire night; the circle turned.

I loved those old trees, so gnarled they had to be at least a century or more old, but still to be relied upon, for a few more years yet, to mark the turning seasons in my little corner of paradise on earth. Grandma, who was a fount of half-forgotten folk-lore, declared:

“Never cast a clout till May is out” which most people assumed meant not to change into lighter clothes until after the fifth month. City dwellers had forgotten their ancestral rural wisdom. The saying had nothing to do with calendar months, of course, and everything to do with weather though the two factors sometimes converged. Gran and I always understood that we could shed our winter clothes once the hawthorn blossomed. It is the undeniable indication that winter frosts have retreated, and the sun returned: Hawthorn – the May tree.

Those childhood nature rambles set the scene for my lifetime’s love of nature, especially trees, despite being eternally a townie. They also awoke within me sensitivity to the pattern of seasonal cycles. I could never have avoided my shamanic leanings with such a spiritual tree guarding my soul, imbuing me with the wisdom to understand the mysteries of birth, life and death, how nothing ever completely dies.

Consistently, hawthorns have made uncanny appearances at crucial times, usually times of change. Without any conscious deliberation I planted a hedge of hawthorn during a period when my sense of self was threatened by my deteriorating marriage, and my children growing up, no longer needing me. It was as if I was building a hedge of protection, like those hiding long gone blackbird’s nests, or the hedge around Sleeping Beauty with whom I sympathised – I felt like I was sleeping my life away. By planting my hawthorn hedge I was protecting my soul perhaps, tapping into that genetic natural wisdom awakened in my blood during my childhood, and stirring up suppressed desires.

Later, when I was preparing to leave my marriage, I visited the island of Jersey and the L’Etacq tree nursery and museum, dedicated to teaching people about ‘the spirit of trees’. Here I first learnt of the spiritual and homeopathic significance of hawthorn, and it was here that I was given a piece of hawthorn to keep with me as a touchwood. I have kept this small gift, meant to strengthen me, in my purse ever since, using it to meditate when I need to make important decisions.

“Hawthorn,” the guide told me seriously, “prevents negative energy from attacking the spirit, it also contains enormous fiery energy (indeed it burns very hotly) and opens doors. It encourages innovation and new ideas, and was used to enhance ancient druidic arts.” This enlightening philosophy suggests to me that hawthorn might have given me the strength and passion to leave a disempowering relationship to follow my dreams.

Coming to terms with being alone for the first time in my life, I was drawn ever more strongly to Glastonbury, synchronously home of the Holy Thorn planted, legend asserts, by Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ uncle. I had briefly visited the town when returning from Jersey. Were connections already being made then between my hawthorn touchwood and its ancient ancestor the Holy Thorn in order to draw me back later for more doses of healing magic? Glastonbury, with its dual mythical connections to Christianity and Paganism tightly entwined like the fighting dragons that purportedly live under the Tor, red and white, like the two healing springs flowing from it (one iron, one calcium rich); its powerful ley lines; and, of course, its hawthorns. One evening, at the bar of a Glastonbury public house where I was having dinner, I met an elderly man, gnarled like those old thorn trees but with twinkling blue eyes peeping out of deeply etched skin. He must have sensed the uncertainty draped about me like a wraith, or perhaps he’d just had bad news and was passing on his own epiphany, because, unsolicited, he warned me ominously:

“Live life to the full gal, ‘cause no matter how long you live, its allus too short”; good advice that I needed to hear and have heeded ever since.

There is another strange piece of Hawthorn magic to consider. For many years I disliked my birth family name (Mayhew) because it was complicated and hard to say. I hated saying it out loud, the M clashing with the Ns in Lynne, then the awkward vowelly combination of ay-hew. One day it occurred to me that May, being the common name for hawthorn, might imply that my surname had an occupational connection – the Hewer of May – maybe an ancestor was a hawthorn hedger perhaps? As I researched this aspect of Hawthorn symbolism, more shocks were to come. The ancient Celtic name for Hawthorn is Huathe – pronounced ‘hew’ – May-hew – the may-time tree! Either of these explanations may or may not be the truth but they do add another quirky dimension to my synchronicitous relationship with the hawthorn tree, a very personal and romantic dimension that changed my opinion of my family name.

Since my divorce I’ve planted hawthorn in each garden I’ve owned. In my first house (where there was only a yard) in a pot; the sapling a gift from good friends, for my fiftieth birthday. Now I’m planting another one, keeping the connection and protection going, honouring the gifts that Hawthorn has given me over my lifetime. The hawthorn’s ability to open doors has benefited me so many times and here I am, at a crossroads yet again, semi-retired and attempting to harness my creativity in new ways through writing. There is that previously planted tub of hawthorn under the bay window, near my front door, and now a younger one ready to guard my back, how can I fail? What more perfect tree could there be, guiding me down new pathways whilst offering me protection; instilling my writing, as it did the ancient druids, with passion, magic and a sense of celebration.

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Placing my tree in the hole I’ve dug, I stamp the earth firmly around its roots. Then, as I offer its first libation of fresh water, thinking of dad and those long past nature walks, I recite my version of an ancient Celtic prayer:

“Bright blessings young tree, grow strong at the breast of Mother Earth, let your roots drink deeply from Sister Rain, enjoy the light of Father Sun on your leaves, and the freshness of Brother Wind in your branches. Welcome”.

The circle of life turns and the years fly away like Autumn leaves scattered to the four winds. Hawthorn still guards and guides my life. Sadly my potted hawthorn, the one that guarded my previous house and still sits in front of the bay window of my present one, has never flowered in the ten years of our horticultural partnership. I wonder, sometimes, is that a reflection of the emptiness that sometimes floods through me at dark moon times, though I have no regrets at following the paths I chose.

The other evening I was telling my friends Ann and John (who gave me my fiftieth birthday hawthorn when it was just a young sapling) this story of how Hawthorn has been present at a variety of important crossroads in my life. I concluded the story by admitting my disappointment that their present has never produced flowers. I’d let these long term friends drift out of my life but had recently reconnected with them on my sixtieth birthday and, avid wildlife gardeners, they were going to help me redesign my garden to be more useful to me and easier to manage in my retirement and decreasing mobility, as well as more attractive for wildlife.

As they were leaving we gathered around the potted hawthorn, it still on sentry duty, when Ann suddenly exclaimed and drew my attention to a branch tip she was gently holding. There amongst the new spring-green leaves was a cluster of tiny flower buds. Delighted, I searched the rest of the small tree and found dozens of these delicate little floral constellations getting ready to burst forth like miniature horticultural galaxies.

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It seems that Hawthorn is marking yet another one of my life’s transitions, giving me its approval – whether for my reconnecting with old friends, the new garden plans, my retirement or all three, I don’t know. Hawthorn remains a loyal friend and continues to be an important part of my life signposting important milestones, and giving me its protection and its blessings. Now I’m looking forward to seeing the creamy white-pink blossoms opening in May; and hopefully there will be red haws adding a cheery splash of colour to my winter window view, and complementing the rosehips in my vases, during those flower scarce months between Samhein and Imbolc.

Bright Blessings, dear tree.