When you step off the road, Surrender to the possibility Of getting lost, Let your heart decide the way. Fifteen journeys they say Is all it takes, To join one thing With another. Faint at first, Then insistent, A subtle track, A kind of declaration, A semaphore of feet Or fingers, Exploring a new way Into a hedgerow, A boundary, A heart.
I wander across the sky Like a lonely moon, Casting its crescents to the dark. Soon I will disappear altogether.
The night creatures will be safe from the owl And need no longer their tunnels of grass Where I now creep Like a field mouse, Wide-eyed and trembling. Everybody has a place in the world, But I am an echo of some forgotten love song.
You, Adam, lifted from the deep, Breathed into being at God’s mouth And born into longing love, You, in the garden, With power to name the world, Howl up fish from the sky, Split the atom.
But Adam, unobserved, was Inconsolably undisturbed, And nowhere at all. He didn’t materialise until witnessed, Unreal, except in the meeting Of the Other.
God was always so busy Blowing gas dust into Orion, Suckling fledgling stars, Designing the coast of Norway.
But he already knew about Probability, when he thought her up. There was no definite position Until the collision with Eve In a field, Gravitationally irresistible, And everything, everywhere, Spinning and rolling, Their own senses coiling, A spiralling caduceus Waking the dead in two realms of reciprocity.
Oh yes, Newton’s apple would fall Along with his mechanics. Oh yes, the world really is this strange.
The stars scorch and scintillate In an ecstasy of love. And if they stopped believing, Even for a second, They would all go out.
Out on the top of the moor there are two strange looking buildings. There are no paths to take you there, so after a long spell of lying in the heather and watching the clouds, I went out to get a closer look. I think one of them is a shepherd’s shelter but the other one is a grim, castellated affair, like something from the Lord of the Rings. Inside there is a huge well-like opening and from deep in the underworld, the sound of some great engine drifts up through the shaft. Occasionally smoke rises, I kid you not! It is so remote from anywhere that is is a disturbing sight and I wondered if I threw a stone down, would I be overrun with orcs and goblins? It made think about how little wildness is left in the world and in ourselves. We have become obedient, mute, tame and subdued. The smallest disturbances can cause outrage in the media, and we all join in like startled blackbirds.
Our current fear is the virus, and society is organising itself around that, and rightly so. But what is the meaning of the virus? And if we weren’t thinking about the virus, what would we be thinking about, and what were we thinking about before? What thoughts are we avoiding? The problem is not that we have fear of a pandemic. The problem is that we have fear of the wrong things.
Current civilisation would have us believe that we are the creators of our own individual lives but most of us are folded, rigid and dreamless. We are out of touch with Great Life, or God, Expansion or whatever you call it, and we have been running our lives like a one wo-man show. Nature has been burning us, drowning us and hurling the odd hurricane, but we just pick ourselves up and continue as we were, poisoning, warring and polluting. Now we are having an experience of descent, a time of darkness and loss where we are powerless against an invisible agent of death. We are confined, restricted and in a place of poverty of soul which could be summed us as the denuding experience we have as we approach death.
If you have ever had a brush with death, you will know that it can be very clarifying as you become aware of what you really love, and what is of value. You may be assaulted with regret, but you will also realise how beautiful the world is and how a patch of small weeds growing at the bottom of a fence can be transfigured with beauty.
In mythic terms we are all in that deep well, isolated on the moor and down in the underworld. We are experiencing a global rite of passage as we are forced to take actions not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all. Our spirits and souls are naturally wild and free and for generations they have been clamouring to grow and transform. Yes it is a frightening time, but when our thoughts overwhelm us, and when we feel abandoned and alone, know also that this dark path is transforming us and nothing will ever be the same again. You are not being called to sing a whole symphony, only to find your own note, and out of the darkness, sing it with all your heart.
You know I told you on Wednesday that I was rescued by a shepherd? Well in a strange and lovely coincidence, I met his wife today. He had told me that he had a three legged deer, and today I saw one in a paddock and thought, ‘Now how many three legged deer can there be in the Derbyshire Peaks?’ His wife was cleaning a gypsy caravan that they use for airbnb, and bade me a cheery hello. I said, “I met your husband on Wednesday!” And we passed some time together while I stroked ‘Lucky’ the deer. Fay and Kevin are country people with generous, uncomplicated hearts. It was such a delight to meet them both in this coincidental way, and I wonder what the universe is telling me. (Live a simpler life perhaps?) I can imagine the laughter they will have this evening about some posh but dozy tourist with no common sense, ‘wandering abaat on t’ moor in t’ dahk, wi’out any idea where she were!’
Last night I painted a stone to put in the river Dove, because I wanted to thank my other Mother for hosting my soul on this earth, and I began thinking about how watery this planet is. About 70% of the surface of the earth is water, most of it is in the oceans but it is also in rivers, lakes, glaciers, aquifers and the soil. Our bodies are about 50% water, but what really excites me is the thought that the water present on the earth today, is the same water that flowed through the dinosaurs and through our ancestors. There is no new water. Maybe it doesn’t catch your imagination but it fascinates me, and when I got back to the cottage I fell asleep and dreamed that I was being gently borne down a river. Following the dream, my friend Cyndie Portlock who is in Borneo, posted a video on Extinction Rewilding inviting us to release our troubles and she would take them to the water, flowing in a waterfall behind her.
Everyone loves water, its abundant, life giving, immersive peace and its ability to soothe a manic mind. Of course we begin our lives in water, in our mother’s womb and the story goes, that I didn’t want to come out, so in an attempt to summon me into the world, my Mum went swimming every day in the sea in Naples. Presumably, once I realised there was water on the outside as well as the inside I decided to make an appearance.
It is a tragedy that our insatiable apetite for oil and gas has produced the fracking industry, a process that fractures rock by pressurised liquid, mostly water. Billions of tons of water are then lost to us forever and we are using up one of our most precious non-renewable resources. I applaud all the brave and dear people who have campaigned and protested against this destructive industry, and have given a voice to the water that cannot speak for itself. Thank you. Thanks also to our Mothers and our Grandmothers, and all our ancestors. We are the strong children of survivors who overcame ice ages, long migrations, battles with beasts and famines, and they endured. We will do the same.
An excerpt from “All the true vows” by David Whyte
“By the lake, in the wood, in the shadows, you can whisper that truth to the quiet reflectionyou see in the water.
Whatever you hear from the water, remember, it wants you to carry the sound of its truth on you lips.
Remember, in this place no-one can hear you, and out of the silence you can make a promise it will kill you to break.”
The Pathless Path Today I set out walking without a map because it can be very distracting, so I kept to a well trodden path, meaning I was unlikely to get lost but also meaning there were other people around. Having a wee in these circumstances can be fraught with embarassment and so it was today. I could see no walkers anywhere on the path so I nipped round a dry stone wall and bared my white, winter bottom to the world. Almost immediately I heard voices but by then I was in full flow. A group of bikers were rattling along the rutted path, and it was only because they were concentrating on avoiding the rocks that they didn’t see me crouching with my trousers round my ankles and the wind blowing round my dazzling cheeks.The wind is brutal here and I heard, that because of climate change, there is more wind in the world. “The answer, my dear, is blowin in the wind”.
After an hour I left the path to climb to the top of a hill, and phrases I had heard recently kept drifting into my mind: “we are in uncharted waters”, “unprecedented times”, and “tipping points”, all indicators that we have reached some kind of crisis. The root of the word comes from the Greek, “krisis” meaning ‘decision’ It also denotes the turning point of a disease and I thought about how our Mother Earth is heating up and at the same time, we too are fevered with virus. This is only a coincidence if you live in a one dimensional world, but to my mind, I saw maps of the world where the corona virus is extending its domain, and this thought reminded me of the maps of Australia on fire. Fever and burning everywhere. What decision needs to be made?
I got up the hill, panting and sweating and, as all walkers know, there was as yet another summit beyond, but I’d had enough for the time being and nestled into a rocky crevice to be out of the brunt wind and eat an orange. The analogy of a further summit was not lost on me. Just when we thought that climate change was enough, we are hit with a pandemic. Will we ever reach the summit?
In all the great wisdom traditions, if you are following them fully, you will reach a place where there are no more footprints to follow. The map that your church or group navigate by, can no longer lead you any further and you have to set out into uncharted waters alone. It is an experience of the disintegration of your small ego self, and here you learn that if you want a greater experience of Life, God, The Divine, call it what you will, you will first have an experience of breaking apart. I am seeing this happening among so many of my friends. It may be that as we approach a time of endings, we are wondering if this small life we have made for ourselves is sufficient. Mary Oliver asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
So we can brace ourselves to endure or we can open all the doors and windows of our souls and let life fly in and out of every dusty corner. This breaking, changing and coming to terms with the meagreness of our lives is happening both personally and globally.
From my friend Tony Galendes: WORLD: There is no way we can shut everything down, lower carbon emissions, and protect the environment. MOTHER NATURE: Here’s a virus. Practice.
Change is coming whether we like it or not, and how we experience it will be up to us, but don’t you feel, deep in your bones that your calling and destiny is so much greater than the way we have been living? Don’t you feel an exultant wildness bursting out around the edges of your being? I would rather die a premature death living in these mythic and wild times, than continue to old age, living like a zombie consumer in the corporate industrial shadow.
The Horizon You do not choose to be broken. You do not choose to lose what you wanted to love. When the road you have travelled is wholly lost, stand still, the horizon will beckon you.
You may remain safe, you may stay in the place you have never left, because you wouldn’t risk yourself. You can endlessy start over, take the same path over and over. But taking the journey and losing the path means you’re going a new way. When you’re lost, stand still, the horizon will beckon you.
Then one day you will realise that the way you came is your path, and you will stand in the splendour of not knowing but the horizon will always beckon you.
It is day 4 of my self imposed solitary time in the Derbyshire Peaks and today I saw a very strange sight. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing until I got very close. A sheep was lying on her back, waving her legs about in the air. I wondered if she was close to lambing and having given birth 3 times myself, knew her chosen position wasn’t going to ease her delivery, so I climbed the dry stone wall, vaulted the barbed wire and started singing. It may seem like an odd thing to do but I didn’t want to scare her. As I approached she panicked and began kicking furiously and no amount of writhing would make her upright. I grabbed her fleece, hauled her over, she staggered to her feet and ran away as fast as her wobbly legs would carry her.
It feels strange to be away from the world, and I do feel as if I am on another planet, watching the unfolding of a pandemic from a distance. I know I have to come back and part of me wants to return immediately but distance gives a different perspective. On Tuesday I was lost on the moor in the fading light and I was rescued by a shepherd and taken back to my car in his van. In biblical times, if there was a sheep who kept wandering away, the shepherd would damage one of its legs to keep it close and save it from being eaten by a predator. Suffering for the sake of saving. Isn’t is strange that now we have stopped so much human activity, the pollution levels have dropped, people are reaching out to support each other and families are coming together. The Earth is healing. Suddenly we are looking in directions that do not satisfy the cruel task master of consumption and capital growth. All movement is ceasing and life has changed in the blink of an eye. I am not rejoicing in a pandemic and I don’t want anyone to die, but I thought nothing would ever bring to an end the destruction that humans were inflicting on the planet. Here is an invisible life form, stalking us without discriminating between rich and poor, black or white, straight or gay. Like my upside down sheep we are all feeling completely disorientated. My antidote is singing, dancing, drumming and dreaming. If we can’t first imagine a new world, it will never happen. I wish you great peace in the midst of the maelstrom. xxx
Today was not what I had in mind. I had to forgo the walking because the electricity here is not the right kind of electricity apparently, to charge my car, so I had to drive to Barnsley. There were cars waiting to charge, which is very unusual but it gave me an insight into the “real” world. I think the real world is walking in the hills, among the trees, beneath the buzzards, arching in the wind and walking on the stones that have a deep consciousness unlike our own. All these things that are oblivious to us humans, who are weighed down with forethought of suffering. People had collected their young ones from univeristy or were going to collect them, and I suddenly thought, I too have a person at university. Why have I not troubled myself about him? What kind of a mother am I? And then I remembered what kind of sons I have. Strong independent and well able to contact me if and when they want me. But I did phone my eldest son when I got back and he does want to come home. It was a joy to talk to him. Sainsbury’s has been cleared out he told me, of wine. And I had a moment of shopping panic. No wine?
We talked about what we will do with weeks together in isolation, two sons, their girlfriends and my partner, Andy. And soon we felt very excited about digging over the vegetable patch, cutting hedges and grass and making things with bones and leather. It is high time we made some drums and there is a deer skin in the freezer from a road kill deer we picked up at christmas. Suddenly isolation seemed less pandemic and more pandemonium. In a good way. But how will I feed six people I wonder. Perhaps we will drive around at night and pick up the road kill, or go skip diving behind waitrose.
So my silence has been broken today and I will return to the dry stone walls tomorrow, and press my ear to the earth and see what it has to tell me. I have come away without shampoo and was looking rather feral, so I braved a Spa shop and bought a crusty roll while I was there.
It is very interesting that everyone, including myself, thinks that we are somehow above the masses who are panic shopping and over-reacting to the CV crisis. I’m not like them, we think. We are so individualistic, in our knee jerk reactions and our superiority.
It would be true to say we are living in mythic times, times that will be analysed and recorded in history (if we survive). The balance of the domination of the masculine principle is turning, and we are moving back into an era where the feminine, earthy more sensate world is flourishing. Back to the earth, back to the waters, birds and trees. Back to sweat and labour, real sex, real food, and getting out of our heads and into our bodies. Whew! At last. And if you are not already there it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I hope you enjoy it.
Meanwhile, if you can’t get out, I am available to shop for you. If you want a chat, please call or a walk, as long as we stay 2 meters apart. Lots of love to you dear friends. Stay out of your head. It can be a troublesome place. xxx
Digging with my soul I fell into caves
where we laid down furs on the flickering dirt.
We kept watch as the spirits of the wild gods
beat their timeless greeting to our hearth souls.
Drumming and chanting,
we painted stories of awe and wonder
on the walls in ochre, oxide and spit,
pressing hands of connection deep inside the earth body.
Alive in the pulse of story and teeming life, Waters seethed and big trees with sleepy roots held hands in the fertile ground. Praise unfathomable.
A thousand years passed, ten thousand,
then blinded by the enlightenment
and falling into darkness,
The world staggered and reeled.
No voices spoke through us,
Book blind and restless we teeter and panic.
Then something sounds through the alarm
calling us onwards.
Distant drums, drums in the deep.
We are waking in a new light
the ancient wisdom surging upwards,
transfiguring our senses,
and resurrecting our splendour.
Like trench poppies,
beauty is unravelling amid the plunder,
mystery gleaming in the darkness,
and on a field of despair
where our elders lie dying,
we are lifted by hands of kindness
and emblazoned with love.
At the concourse of calamities
where all the paths collide
and culture crumbles,
the end reveals our destiny,
And this is why we are here.
The wind hunts a crow across the sky, and sheep, un- moving are like white dots on a landscape painting. I have to eat but I am not hungry for food. I hunger for prayer, the call and answer of unnameable love. The longing I have slices my heart into pieces and I don’t even know what prayer is. Ah, the ambivalence of nature, I walk about like a solitary gong, waiting to be lifted and struck. My religion has become a cemetery where I bury all my certainties.
I woke in the night to rain, but not the gentle patter that I get on the flat roof at home. This was an uneven splattering as if a hundred mice were having a wild ceilidh up there. I realised that the trees over head were interrupting the downpour.
The sheep skull rested beside me on the bed and I woke early in the morning to find her watching me. Immediately I thought, “death”. I saw the dead sheep and only a little distance away, there was the skull. This is not the message I wanted at all, not the prophesy I would bring home to people already staggering under a weight of worry too great to bear.
Today I walked on the highest peak and at Wolf’s Crag, a high and remote rocky outcrop, I howled into the wind, full voiced and uninhibited. I was answered three times by a cockerel, possibly very alarmed. Then, about halfway through the walk I got lost for several hours. It was getting dark when I eventually staggered into a lambing shed to ask for directions. A man and his son were moving hay and they invited me to see the lambs that had been born during the previous night. The lambs were leaping about their tired mother and they were so independent and sweet.
The man was a builder called Paul and he offered me a lift back to my car. He was renovating a house in the village where I had begun my walk and curiously I had parked right outside the house. I was so grateful because quite apart from being tired, it was unlikely that I would have got back before dark.
Death and new born life, wandering lost and being helped by a stranger who was also a shepherd, feeling very lonely and at the same time knowing I am exactly where I should be, where is this all leading? We live our lives forwards but only understand them backwards. And in between we can get very lost.