Stags bellow…

Fallow_buck

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about stags.  At the beginning of the year I even started making a scrapbook about them.  Bits of writing, pictures cut out of here and there, thoughts and emotions that come to me when I muse on the beauty and sacred majesty of these amazing animals.   And I’ve had a picture in my mind for quite some time of a piece of artwork I want to create using some of this imagery…

A part of me knows that the stag has come to me at a time when I’m wanting to understand more the balance of yin and yang forces within me, and especially to embrace more of my masculine spirit .  And then there is the sovereign energy that, for me, stags embody so completely.  You only have to see one of those archetypal pictures of a red deer stag standing proud on the side of a Scottish mountain to know what I mean.

Grace.  Strength.  Pride.  Presence.  Majesty.  Poise.  Dignity.  Balance.  These are all words that come to me when I think of stags, words that I have been reflecting on in terms of my own way of being in the world.  (Sometimes the comparisons are laughable… sometimes inspiring… sometimes they might even ring a little true – ahh those days are when life feels really, really good)

Now, at least, I have one component (well, two really) to keep my artistic vision alive.  Antlers.  I have wanted some for years, and never really known how to (ethically) go about getting my hands on some.  In Arctic and temperate regions, stags (and, notoriously, female reindeer, the only does to also always grow antlers) obviously grow and lose a set of antlers each year, so it’s not like antlers have to be removed from the animal in order to get hold of them.  And still I always knew some would come to me by another route.  And so they did, by way of a wonderful friend as a 36th birthday present this year.  They now sit on my desk, waiting for me to get myself together to use them in the way I’ve been imagining for a few years now.  The time will come… soon…

The process of antler growth and loss each year completely amazes me.  And I understand HOW it happens, but WHY?  It’s not enough for me to hear “It’s just what they do.”  Surely nature has more of a reason than simply “Well, why not?”  Is it, as I’ve read, more an evolutionary survival technique, to allow deer in colder climates freer movement in winter and spring conditions?  In many ways, it doesn’t really matter – it’s the process of death, loss, shedding, re-growth, renewal and regeneration that resonates so deeply with me.  The eternal spiral on which everything within nature and, of course, ourselves, rotates.

Autumn is the rutting season for deer in the UK and yesterday, the same wonderful, antler-giving friend and I went on a Dawn Deer Walk at one of our local National Trust properties, where they have one of the finest fallow deer herds in the country.  It was an early, EARLY start, but as light began to creep into the sky, we knew we were being blessed with a perfect Autumn morning, and all our tiredness fell away.

dawn

Have you ever heard a stag (or buck as fallow deer males are called) bellow?  The noise is unbelievable.  And when the sound comes to you in the dark, or through the mist, it is even more incredible.   Not only were we treated to many moments of these amazing sounds, we also saw numerous ruts in action, bucks’ antlers locked in battle over who would assert themselves as ‘champion’ in that particular stand.  It felt like a very great honour to be able to witness such moments at such close proximity, the bucks seemingly oblivious to our awed presence, the does a little more nervous.

buck_dawn

Our guide for the walk kept describing mornings and moments like these as “magical”, and indeed, we could think of no better word to describe the experience of witnessing it all.  And it made me feel truly grateful, once again, for this land of ours, where, amongst all the busyness and urban sprawl and noise and confusion, we can still find moments of pure wildness.  Moments that stop us in our tracks, make us catch our breath, and gently remind us that long after humans are gone from this land, these moments will go on.

And then the sun came up and it was time for us to leave all that magic behind… keeping just a little bit of it in our hearts forever.  And of course, I still have my antlers, which, most magically of all, came from this very same herd.  But more on those and the creative masterpiece I am still yet to start another time…

sunrise_Charlecote

(And here’s a link to the official video for Martha Tilston’s beautiful song, Stags Bellow, one of my most favourite songs by one of my most favourite artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2BVN91wW28 – a soundtrack to my ramblings perhaps…)

 

 

 

“Love liberates…”

A few months ago, an inspiring woman I know sent me a link to this deeply beautiful video, about another inspiring woman.  (Yes, there are many of us inspiring women out there…)  It had me smiling, laughing, crying, and making several promises to myself to do more, to be more, to open my eyes just a little further beyond my own small world, to breathe it in and pay more attention.

This inspiring woman is Maya Angelou, and many of you will know her well already.  But in case you don’t, may she rock your world too…

Red hearted wholeness

redheart

“How might you life have been different if there had been a place for you?  A place for you to go… a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself.  A place of women to help you find the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released…

How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you… a place of women, where you were received and affirmed?  A place where other women, perhaps somewhat older, had been affirmed before you, each in her time, affirmed, as she struggled to become more truly herself.

A place where, after the fires were lighted, and the drumming, and the silence, there would be a hush of expectancy filling the entire chamber… a knowing that each woman there was leaving old conformity to find her self… a sense that all of womanhood stood on a threshold.

And if, during the hush, the other women, slightly older, had helped you to trust your own becoming… to trust it and quietly and prayerfully to nurture it…

How might your life have been different, if, through the years there had been a place where you could go? …a place of women, away from the ordinary busy-ness of life… a place of women who knew the cycles of life, the ebb and flow of nature, who knew times of work and times of quiet… who understood your tiredness and need of rest.

A place of women who could help you to accept your fatigue and trust your limitations, and to know, in the dark of winter, that your energy would return, as surely as the Spring.

Women who could help you learn to light and candle and wait…

How might your life be different?…”

Judith Duerk, A Circle of Stones

Luckily for us women, these places do still exist.  I know of them in the form of Red Tents and I am blessed to be a part of one in my very home town.  For me, the Red Tent encompasses all of the above and more… a place where I can go to be nurtured, to be nourished, to be accepted, inspired, held, and loved.  A place where I can connect in with other women, yes, but also, more crucially, a place where I can connect in with myself.

Redtentcircle

I do this for me.  I do this to continue the thread that was begun a long, long time ago.  And I do this for my daughters.  I want them to grow up knowing, not only that these places exist, that they are real, but that there is a place for them in this circle too.  That there will always be a place for them in this circle.

Maidenmothercrone

And who knows… maybe, hopefully, they won’t need to be asking themselves one day how their own lives might have been different…

http://redtenttemplemovement.com/

http://redtentdirectory.com/)

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

Welsh wanderings…

Tom and I spent last week travelling around Wales, starting in the Brecon Beacons and making our way slowly northwards.  After our recent decision to move to Wales, we knew we needed to start THE SEARCH to find our new home.  And so it begins…  These are just a few of the places we stopped at, places that make my heart sing, places that make me slightly giddy with happiness and remind me of the power of nature in bringing everything back to the simple.

Llangrannog

Llangrannog cliffs… third time I’ve visited here, third time it’s taken my breath away

breakfast

Breakfast on Llangrannog beach.  Waking up doesn’t get much better than this…

Sandcircle

Incredible beach art to marvel at on our way back after a cliff top walk.  Check out more of Marc Treanor’s work at http://www.sandcircles.co.uk – nothing less than awesome

llynview

Looking East over Llynnau Cregennen on our way to Cadair Idris and…

otherway

…looking West from the very same spot.

Cadr

The beautiful and magnetic Cadair Idris itself, from the bottom…

Cadr2

…from the middle…

Cadrtop

…and yep, from the top.

topoftheworld

A view from the very VERY top, looking North and, as far as I’m concerned, over the whole wide world.

CaeDu

And lastly, one of my most favourite campsites in the whole world – Cae Du.  Here’s a wildling selkie Tom, emerging from the water after a sunset swim amongst dolphins and seals (not that he noticed, mind you – everyone back at the campsite did though thank you very much)

So if you’ve ever wondered what the small but incredibly beautiful land of Wales has to offer, here are just a few tiny things to tickle your taste buds.  And if you’ve never even visited, well shame on you quite frankly.

The mountains of Snowdonia are truly alive, no not with the sound of music, but with a power, majesty, and deep, earth-resounding wildness I have not experienced elsewhere.  I lost a big part of my heart to these mountains this year.  AND I know it is waiting for me there still, because whenever I return, I feel whole again, alive, inspired to create and surrender to what I know now in the depths of my soul, that this is a place where I can truly, madly, deeply BE.

As for THE SEARCH, well we saw plenty to inspire us, and at least one place that we both fell in love with, but… and… well… for now THE SEARCH goes on…

Fire, fire, burning bright

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be 2cm tall?  Small enough that you could climb into and explore the deepest, hottest, brightest, reddest, most amazing parts of these fiery caverns?  Ok, so you’d obviously also need to be 100% heat resistant, but in this imaginary world, anything is possible.  This is something I think about every time I am around fire.

fire_dragonI LOVE fire.

It feeds my soul on a primal level, takes me to a place that is timeless, and allows me to connect in with all that has gone before like no other thing in life.  I don’t even have to close my eyes to feel the never-ending rows of ancestors circling round, bending low to absorb some of the life-giving heat that emanates out, warming their hands and nodding to each other in ageless recognition that all is still well with the world.  As long as we can sit and be around fire.

fire2

I am often at my most peaceful, most contented, and most present when I am sitting round a fire with friends.  Maybe we are celebrating the turning of the seasons once again, giving thanks for all that has been and welcoming in all that is to come.  Maybe we are putting the world to rights whilst simultaneously feeling the insignificance of ourselves under the endless array of stars and planets and satellites that continue to go round and round and round over our heads…  Or maybe we are toasting marshmallows, revelling with music, wine, whiskey and telling silly stories.  So many very fine reasons to gather together around a flaming heart.

And yet I do not do this enough in my life.  Why?  Why are there always more ‘important’ things to do?  Why, often, does it feel like such a huge effort to step outside, gather wood together, and simply light a fire?  Why, when I know that it nourishes my soul so much, do I not give myself this simple gift more often?

fire1

And so this is my journey…  To make more time for things that are so simple, yet so rich in gifts.  To nurture and nourish my soul, to feed and lift my spirit, to warm my feet, my hands, and my heart.  And to be with fire a whole lot more.

Inspiration for a new beginning

Well hello there… This is me and here I am and gosh isn’t this strange..?!  I’m really not sure how to start this all off, so I thought I’d just share my most favourite poem.  It’s so very much a part of who I am and where I’ve got to – when I first came across it, it was like someone had stepped into my own being and drawn the very words that reside there right out of me:

The Rising – by Ian McCallum

One day /  your soul will call to you / with a holy rage. / “Rise up!” it will say…  / “Stand up inside your own skin.”  / Unmask your unlived life… / feast on your animal heart. / Unfasten your fist… / let loose the medicine in your own hand. / Show me the lines… / I will show you the spoor / of the ancestors. / Show me the creases… / I will show you / the way to water. / Show me the folds… / I will show you the furrows / for your healing. / “Look!” it will say… / the line of life has four paths – / one with a mirror / one with a mask, / one with a fist, / one with a heart. / One day, / your soul will call to you / with a holy rage.

My own soul shrieked and shouted at me for years until one day, whilst sitting in this very beautiful spot, I finally began to listen.

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