Samhain medicine

Today is Samhain, beginning and end of the Celtic New Year.  A time where the veil between the “seen world of matter and the unseen world of spirit” (Glennie Kindred) is at its thinnest.   It is a time for our Ancestors to step forward from the land of shadows and sit with us once again in the circle of light; a time to honour all those who have gone before us – those that once were here in body and now are gone beyond our Earthly reach.  We name them and we remember them, for it is in this naming and remembering that they remain alive to us always.

As has been tradition in our home for a few years now, it is also the time where we all choose new Medicine Cards.  Medicine for us to muse on for the coming year.  Medicine that may help to shine a light on those places that may be hiding from us in our own shadows.

For me, this year is for the Black Panther, whose medicine is Embracing The Unknown.

If the Black Panther has appeared today, it may be telling you not to worry about the future.  Trust that you are not supposed to mentally “figure it out” at this time.  You may need to confront fears of the unknown, of being less than you truly are, or an inability to simply BE.  Let go of fears that appear as obstacles or barriers.  Embrace the unknown and flow with the mystery that is unfolding in your life.  The next step may be leaping empty-handed into the void with implicit trust.

Medicine Cards, The Discovery of Power Through The Ways of Animals Jamie Sams & David Carson

In many ways, Black Panther tells me nothing I do not already know.  And… the words I read today allow me to peel back yet another layer of the mystery that continues to unfold before me.  Indeed, Black Panther’s medicine speaks to me LOUD and CLEAR.  This Entering the Stillness and Embracing the Unknown are journeys I am very familiar with.  Words such as ‘trust’, ‘acceptance’, ‘void’, ‘stillness’ are ones that echo around and around me with faithful repetition on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

And so… on I go…

Knowing that the Black Panther is just there behind me, though, waiting patiently in the shadows, gives me comfort beyond words and a new found confidence in my ongoing journey…


On the edge…


I have been thinking a lot about edges over the past few months.

From a permaculture perspective, special things happen at edges.  Permaculture Principle number 11 states: ‘Use edges and value the marginal’:

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place.  These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
David Holmgren

Edges can often seem blurred, unclear, impenetrable.  They can be places of mystery, places where we put things and forget about them.  And so, they can also become places that we fear.


What I’ve realised is that I put myself on the edges of things a lot.  A LOT.   Whether it’s finding a task to take me away from the intensity of a group gathering, seeking ‘my place’ on the mountain at the furthest extreme, always choosing to lay my mat at the side and back of a yoga class, or heading for the public toilet cubicle at the end of the row, I recognise I often feel more comfortable when I’m on the edge, or outer side, of things.

So why do I do this?  I could say it’s because I like space around me, to move, stretch, lean into.  I could say it’s because I like to watch over things – like an eagle sitting still in a tree, I can take the wider view, take it all in, oversee everything (not public toilets, honestly).  I could say it’s because, unlike conventional readings of my zodiac sign, Leo, profess, I like to stand back and let others take centre stage.  I could even say that it’s because I know that the most interesting things happen at the edges.  All of these things are even true.

And, I could say it’s because of fear.  Fear of taking up ‘too much space’.  Fear of being seen.  Fear of being heard.  Fear of ‘showing up’.   Fear of being ‘found out’ for who I really am.  Fear of not knowing what to say.  Fear of not ‘fitting in’.  Fear of not being ‘enough’.

And all of these things, too, are true.


Edges are always there.  They are easy to see, and they are easy to ignore, because often we are standing over here and looking to over there, and we forget to notice all the change that has to happen in order for here and this to actually become there and that. We are often so intent on looking at the horizon, at the next thing, that we can miss all the wild and wonderful things between now and then.


Each and every one of us has edges too.  Places we can either take ourselves to, or places where other people or events can nudge us into.  They are the places we deny in ourselves, the places we fear, the places we don’t want to talk about, places that, at times, feel so difficult to move past.  They are the places that ask too much of us, places that make us want to shrink back into our older, more comfortable, more familiar, safer selves.

And, this safety net can serve as a natural protection at times too.  Sometimes we are not quite ready to go to the next place.  Sometimes we need to sit awhile, absorbing all that is here, all that is familiar, all that is us, just as we know it, before we move through the edge and into the other.  We need to honour those edges – they are not to be taken lightly!  Yes, there are deep pots of gold there, buried in all the undergrowth, but sometimes we must dig gently, respectfully, cautious of what else resides there, seen and unseen.

In The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron writes that “Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again” and I know that she is right.  Where I’ve come to myself, with all this musing, is that I need to really recognise and respect edges, both in the natural world, and within myself, for what they are.  The whens, wheres, whys, and hows of them all.   I need to make sure I’m using these edges wisely, that I am neither overlooking them nor spending too much time in them.  What I realise is that they can be tempting places, these dark and mysterious edges, when I start to investigate them in detail, and I can easily lose myself in them.


Wild inspiration

I was meant to be doing something else this weekend.  I was supposed to be on a Way of Council course in Bristol.  I booked on to this weekend a long time ago and had been really looking forward to it.  A time to learn more about Council; a space to connect in to my own way of being in the world; an opportunity to hear what others have to say about all of this.  All held in a most sacred way.

And I didn’t go.  Because this week I have been feeling overwhelmed (again).

Overwhelmed with all the options that feel open to us at the moment with regards moving to Wales.  Overwhelmed because the girls are at home ALL THE TIME and I can’t often finish a thought process, let alone have a whole conversation about that thought process.  Overwhelmed because there’s so much I want to DO in life and how do I choose/prioritise, because obviously I can’t do it all?!  And overwhelmed because I feel that with all the different balls I’m juggling – mental/emotional/real/not real – I feel like I’m failing badly at all of them.  By Wednesday I’d convinced myself not only that I’d ruined my children’s lives by being such a bad mother, but also that I was never going to be anything of worth in the world because, well, just because I’m basically crap at everything.  And besides, the world is f****d anyway so really what’s the point?

Yes… those old chestnuts.  (Sigh…)

So, by Thursday I knew that what I really needed was time and space to get all of this CRAP out of my head, and for me, that means removing myself from pretty much everything and everyone.  I needed physical space, openness, air, hills, trees, vistas.  I needed to walk somewhere wilder than here, because when I do I always feel better – I can just give all of my overwhelmedness to the land and she will always take it.  This, I know.

The Malvern Hills are not what I would exactly call ‘wild’, but they are not too far away, and when I got there at dawn yesterday morning and the mist was down, well I could have been anywhere.  It was beautiful.  The mist gave me an atmospheric feeling of deep, ancient mystery and, other than the paths that criss-cross over the hills, I felt at times I could have been walking not just anywhere but anytime.

I kept smiling to myself as I walked – I had headed to the hills to get height, expansive views, distance, clarity and vision.  And it was so misty I could see only 30ft in front of me most of the time!  And so the message I received was loud and clear – you need to stop looking to the horizon, to what might be out there, to what you may or may not actually be able to see.  You need to look at your feet, at the ground right there in front of you, where you are walking right now.  And yes, you need to take small steps – you need to remain mindful of where you’re going, and what you’re doing!  

When, at times, the mist did clear, and I was given glimpses of the view, I was immediately distracted by other thoughts.  Thoughts that, quite frankly, are really not important in the grand scheme of things.  And so I found myself actually inviting the mist back in.  To bring myself back to the here and now.  To embrace the unknown and to not see it, as I find myself doing at times, as something to fear or worry about, but to see it actually as a gift in reminding me to come back to the present.  To myself.

After all, as Eckhart Tolle would quite rightfully remind me:  

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.  

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Eckhart Tolle is probably the only person in the world I would actually allow to come along with me on one of these walks.  Ah yes, I’d happily allow Eckhart to walk alongside me awhile, speaking words of wisdom in that soft, meditative, inner peace-inducing, German-accented voice of his as we ambled up, down, around, within.

Him and the best dog in the world of course.  Now there’s a being who could give a good lesson in enjoying the present moment…


(no that wasn’t taken in the Malverns…  I’m way too in the moment to be taking a camera with me on these solo walks in the wild, don’t you know)

A familiar friend

Ah yes, there you are… I’ve been waiting for you.  You’re so familiar in the way you slowly make your way back into my life, creeping in at the edges, just dark enough to let me know you’re there, just camouflage enough to allow me to carry on regardless… for now.  I feel you in the slow unravelling of everything around me, the gradual tightening of my chest, the thoughts that happen at the periphery of my mind becoming vaguer and more distant, like I can see them but I can’t quite grasp hold of what they are.  I recognise you in the way I am distracted and unfocussed, I can’t sit still and yet I feel lethargic and unmotivated to do anything actually useful.  And I see you in the way my relationships start to feel as if they’re fraying a little, because I can’t express what’s really going on inside me, because, actually, there IS no way to explain it.  And because I am not fully here.

For a few days I’ve been sitting with a picture in my head of me, sitting on a beach looking out to sea.  I can see the swell coming, yet I am rooted to my spot, waiting, waiting, waiting for a tidal wave of grief and fear to hit and sweep me away.  This time, at least, it all feels a little clearer.  Grief at what I am walking away from, fear at the lack of clarity of what I am walking towards.

This was inevitable.  I knew that.  The excitement of all the possibilities of ‘what could be’ had to dissipate eventually, so that the reality of how/when/where/what could take centre stage.  And this is where I’m at right now, floundering slightly in the shallows of all the unknown answers, not feeling quite brave enough to take a deep breath and dive back into the depths of allowing what to be to…well… just be.

So, here I am, sitting with your shadowy self slowly getting larger, looming ever greater over my edges and creeping in gently to my core.  I’m starting to feel my heart close up a little, questioning all that it’s seen, felt, envisioned over the last few months to get to where we are now.  I’m beginning to doubt the clarity I felt until so recently, the assuredness of what I am choosing to do, the strength of my soul’s calling.

A wise woman tells me that the stillness and the beauty in the mountains is always within me, wherever I am, and of course she is right.  If I just make time for myself to be in nature, to sit in silence, to close my eyes and take myself back there, all that beauty and calm is instilled in me once again.  And I can remember how to trust… to let go… and know that all will be well.

If only I would make that time for myself more…

staring out to sea