Madly singing in the Peaks

Saturday 21st March 2020

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.

Grass Roots and Red Shoes

I was amazed at how many people have shared and commented on my facebook post about XR’s action on Trinity College’s lawn, so I thought I would get another word or two in, just in case I’m on a roll. 
I was sorry to see how angry it had made some XR members and sympathisers, many of whom have supported much more spicy actions in the past. Then I realised that the upset wasn’t about the grass at all but what the grass represents. I’m thinking of words like culture, heritage, birthright, tradition and inheritance. I saw how long we have been in capture and famine within a deteriorating culture that is destroying both us and the natural world. I say “capture” because my first reaction to the digging up of the lawn was dismay. I was captured in the belief that revered establishments like Cambridge University would be holding themselves to the high standards they teach, and “famine” because whilst we may have a high degree of quantity available to us, our lives are starving for quality: consider the high rates of suicide among young men, the self harm, the loneliness, homelessness, violence and drug abuse that pervade our affluent society.
Bertrand Russell, alumni of Trinity College asks, “Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it stirs up friendly feeling?” A long time member of Green Peace recently told me that XR have done more to catapult the Climate Crisis into our consciousness in one year than in her 20 years of campaigning. The media are not interested in reporting the beautiful and poetic actions that XR take. The media want to stir a frenzy and we allow them to do it.
You may know the old fairy tale about the Red Shoes where a little girl, makes herself a pair of red shoes out of some rags. She is delighted by her resourcefulness and handiwork until an old lady in a gold carriage offers her a rich life of plenty. The girl steps into the golden carriage and gets a new pair of beautiful, red leather shoes. However, they dance her day and night until, exhausted and tortured, she begs the axe man to cut off her feet, which he does. Listen to this ancient message because we are the little girl, abandoning our instincts and natural resourcefulness and stepping into the golden cage, being complicit with the establishment, becoming wage slaves and never ceasing in our busy-ness. The old lady represents the repetition of a single value, that of continual increase and wealth. The axe man is at the foot of the tree but we still have time to recover our strength and resourcefulness, to recognise the traps and cages we are caught in, and to become aware of the things we value most before the earth and our one chance at life is felled and turned into ashes. Hold your nerve. The repairable damage to a bit of grass is a small sacrifice to pay in the struggle to make people aware that we are heading towards an earth that is too hot for habitation.

Elders or Oldies

A culture disintegrates when old people don’t become Elders but are shuffled off into homes and forgotten, and the youth are rejected as a waste of space. Both feel isolated, suicidal and often live without purpose or meaning. Many young people say, “There’s nothing we can do, it’s gone too far and we are heading towards a hothouse earth. Everything is going to hell.” They perceive that previous generations who are supposed to care for their children, have instead committed ‘nepocide’, the crime of killing your grandchildren. The action at the Guildhall in Cambridge on Saturday saw Grandparents pour fake blood over the heads of the Grandchildren in a visceral and quite shocking demonstration of what this crime looks like in a mythically imagined way. The youth of today are staring into a future unlike anything we have ever conceived of before, but some of them are resisting despair. Some of them, without even knowing, are manifesting that old song, “we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” They are digging deep into the roots of the earth and also finding that spark of creation that bursts into their imaginative inner life. They are connecting with each other, supported by the Elders and engaging in actions that create meaningful change to help heal the world. Our challenge is, how do we continue to awaken the Elders so that they can support and confirm the youth who are carrying within them the dream of the future? As well as tragedy, the environmental crisis carries opportunity to re-imagine a world where community welcomes both old and young, black and white, straight and gay, and all the other divisions that have alienated and separated us as one human species among many other species on our planet.


On Thursay 17th October 2019, I was a Red Rebel, supporting the XR action at BAE systems, arms dealers in London. This is what they say about themselves: “At BAE Systems, we help our customers to stay a step ahead when protecting people and national security…” In other words, “We make sure, if you pay us a lot of money, you can kill other people before they kill you.” So the strange turned into the absurd when we Red Rebels needed a bit of protection from a downpour and found ourselves, completely by accident, sheltering in a glass roofed area, the threshold at the back of the same BAE building. There were a dozen or so people inside, all looking worried and outraged that fifteen red, soggily costumed people were huddled on their threshold. They locked their (probably bullet proof) glass doors and pulled across a heavy metal, indoor gate from where they viewed us with outrage and disgust. They even refused to open the door to their own staff. We sheltered for about 15 deeply uncomfortable moments, then I noticed a well groomed man in his 60’s stride into the defended reception. He got out his phone and began berating somebody at the other end. A minute or two later, the rained eased off and we began to move on. As we reassembled in the street, we were almost run over by a battalion of police offices who were clearly responding to an order to remove us from BAE’s back door. The message couldn’t be plainer. The (possible) Chairman of BAE had called his mate in the Met Police (?) and told him/her to get officers to the back door and remove us. (The most dangerous thing we could have done was drip on them.)

This story beautifully illustrates the threshold that we are on as a human species. The mythologist, Micheal Meade, talks about thresholds as the space between one place and another, between on state and another, or one consciousness and another. In order to go from one place to another we have to cross a threshold of change. Heraclitus says it is while we are trying to change that we find purpose. Instead of heavily defending ourselves against inevitable change, if we can allow ourselves to participate in the change then we will find meaningful purpose. This doesn’t mean finding an activity to do in the world, but it is something that awakens in the heart. When we act from this place of authenticity, we move into the realm of what St Teresa of Avila meant when she said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Meade goes on to talk about how institutions and cultures are collapsing. At the same time, our political climate and the natural climate are in a state of upheaval and this is what we are experiencing every moment. The threshold we are on is a new understanding, where we are coming to realise that we are connected and dependent on all other beings of the world. Most of us are on that threshold between letting go of the old world view and entering into the new world view. A new creation is waiting to emerge from the deep disorder and chaos we find ourselves in, and it is waiting to be found by us, because we are the souls who are alive at this time. The time to reconnect human nature to great nature is upon us, but here we are on this threshold, a place of anxiety, suffering and sometimes despair. But we are not alone. The oceans and seas need us, the forests need us, indeed all of creation is waiting in joyful hope to be reborn. We also have each other, and all across the world people and nature are joining hands as we humans finally, painfully wake up.

At the depths of the disorder is a new The myth of chaos and creation in the beginning.. then there was light… Once creation begins, a shadow also forms. We are falling out of the creation and into the shadow. We are seeing the shadow acted out at the centres of power, the breaking of biodiversity and loss of species. Myth says the re-emergence of life at a greater meaning is found in the depths of chaos and disorder. When we find ourselves facing this huge uncertainty we often fall into fear or despair, but by entering the chaos and descending into the disorder, we find a new creation waiting to awaken, and on this occasion it is waiting to be found by us because we are the souls who are alive at this time. The re-emergence of life and a deeper meaning is found at the depths of the disorder. All the creation stories start with chaos. 

Madly Singing in the Mountains

Orgiva 29th January 2018

Danger and revelation
The custom of hitch hiking is common in Orgiva, so I tried my luck at cadging a lift high up to the mountain village of Capiliera, the furthest of three “Poqueira” villages. I didn’t have to wait long but the lift only went to the first of the three villages, Pampaniera.  This meant that I had to walk up through all the villages before I even started the walk I wanted to do which was out beyond Capiliera to an abandoned village. When I finally go there I saw a very strange thing. I had no idea crouching on the ground with my camera just centimetres from this astonishing sight, that I was in real danger. 
These are Processional Caterpillars and when I showed someone a photograph of them days later, he was horrified that I had got so near to them. If this caterpillar is threatened it ejects harpoon like hairs that penetrate the skin and inject a powerful irritant. They are particularly dangerous to dogs who lick the hairs and transfer the irritant to their tongues which then swell and choke the animal. These caterpillars are real killers.
Setting off into the mountains or into the woods alone is often something done as an initiation event where you have to face your deepest fears and where dreams are realised and actualised. These experiences are told again and again in stories, myths, legends and fairy tales and they follow a three fold pattern;
– An acknowledgement that you need to nourish yourself. This is why we retreat from the world.
– A need to trust and follow the urging of your heart, no matter what the danger, or no matter how many people want to stop you.
– A revelation of who you truly are, a need to know yourself.
In the stories, the hero or heroine sets out on a quest, often stealing away in the night or running from a wicked step mother. They see that something has to change, a wrong must be put right or something has to be freed. They make their epic journey and return as the revealed true Prince or Queen. In all these legends, one’s true nature is revealed: the frog or the beast are revealed to be a true heirs, the scullery maid or the sleeping girl return to take up their places as rulers of kingdoms. We tell these stories to our small children, little knowing we are planting a seed in them that could take root and flourish at times in their lives when they need to know a way forward in a difficult situation. Even if we don’t fully acknowledge the steps we are taking, we often follow this self determining, mythic pattern of releasing ourselves from difficult situations in relationships, jobs and events in our lives.
As I write this, the Christian season of Lent has begun. We hear how Jesus went to the desert on a kind of vision quest, a time of finding his path, knowing himself through testing, and coming back into the world with a purpose. Lent is often kept by a rather shallow decision to stop eating chocolate or something like that, but at heart, if we take the Lent call seriously, whether we are religious or not, setting that time apart to examine our lives and learn more about ourselves could be a deeply enriching experience, not just for ourselves but for our families and communities. It is, of course a perfect opportunity to begin meditating. (You can join me any time!)
I have been experiencing times of transition and change, times of great peace and prayer, times of sadness and turbulence. We all have these times in our lives and they are opportunities to shine a light into who we are becoming. They are times of challenge to stop trying to be someone else, to look for answers outside of ourselves, or idols to emulate.  We must evolve into the unique people we were created to be. We must find our own purpose, the thing we are uniquely called to do whether that is being kind to small furry things or steering nations. Whatever our purpose is, we need to do it with all our heart, dream it into existence and contribute to bringing life back into this dark, troubled world. The more single minded we are in our purpose, the better we fit into this world. 
Visiting my Spiritual Guide she said, when I die and go to heaven (or whatever your idea of that is), God won’t say to me, “Why weren’t you more like the Virgin Mary? The question will be, why weren’t you more like Linda Richardson?”