The end of the harvest

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Autumn is in full, deep-hued glory and Samhain is very close: the end of nature’s year. As a winter soul, a wool obsessive, introvert, candle-appreciator, hearth-craver and hot chocolate enthusiast who likes wearing slippers and hats, this time of year gives me a tingle through my veins that brings my heart out in smiles. An end means that a beginning will follow – this will be nature’s New Year when life and the green of the land is renewed. But first there is the in-between time of winter, where the earth slows down and rests – and calls us to do the same.

To rest from the hard work of the harvest. We harvest so many things in our lives: projects that we work on, courses of study that we undertake, books that we read, goals that we strive towards, transitions in our lives like a moving home or a new pregnancy. And of course many of us do harvest from the land and from our gardens. I think that people often do not realise how many gardens they tend and nurture.

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I have harvested a lot of learning this year, a lot of it related to a medical journey that we have been one with one of my children. I am yet to harvest the conclusion to some big decisions I have been having to weigh up. But it feels like my harvest basket is one filled with useful and nourishing skills, support and knowledge to take forwards. I hold these to my heart in deep gratitude and feel a sense of a cycle completing, ready to cast the seeds from its harvest into the myriad fields ahead.

Nature’s year is closing now, the harvest – of this phase at least – nearly in. I feel excited about where those seeds might land, and about just how they might grow. ♡

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It’s not all about the snow (but I’d like some)

Spring is whispering its song from underneath the bare earth.The stage is very much still Winter’s: many days of glistening frost, nippy air that bites your bones, fragile sunshine and naked trees. But Spring is twisting and stretching gently like a napping cat about to wake. This unborn season dances invisible in Mother Winter’s belly.

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Image pinned on my Imbolc Pinterest board from nordicwiccan.blogspot.co.uk

Almost invisible. For green fingers push up through and into the air – in spite of the hard ground. In a few weeks they will be boldly nodding daffodils. This weekend, many will be celebrating lunar Imbolc,*  with more celebrating the festival in the middle of this coming week. King Sun is ever so slightly stronger, I tell my son. We are seeing him go to bed a little later and rise a little earlier. I’ve still not seen any snowdrops! They seemed scarce last year, even around Bristol’s wilder edges and crannies.

I’ve enjoyed this winter – am enjoying. (I want to hear the rest of her song before turning my attention to Spring!) It feels like a “real” winter: proper frosts on several hand-rubbingly crisp days. Only one tiniest smattering of snow – enough to delight my son, although how he wishes to wake to see the land tucked up in a proper blanket of soft white like in our winter books full of snowball fights and deep footprints. Such things are quite rare in our part of Britain but I itch to share such magic with him and his little brother. Just thinking (and wishing!) about it, I smile at how their rosy faces will grin and giggle in a state of simple bliss if our wish comes true.

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Mind you, sometimes I think that we perhaps over-depict snow as a symbol of winter, Granted, many of the Waldorf-y books in our home are weavings of writers from more northern parts of the world than mine. Yet at times I feel that Winter’s other players – Jack Frost, the Queen of the NIght / Dark Goddess, the bare trees and earth – that they might deserve a little more attention in the art we make about this season. For me, it’s these symbols of  the outer world’s emptiness and cold that invites us to focus on our inner beauty and riches through learning, soul-work, self-development and stoking our inner fire. When we go outside in winter, maybe we enjoy a view of beautiful buildings (or  have our children enjoy seeing a train going along the tracks!) that is hidden from view by summertime’s clutter of leaves; I feel winter likewise invites us to find that clarity when we look inside ourselves.

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All that barrenness around holds the hope and potential of what can sprout and grow. ♥

 

*the dark/new moon of late January – or early February,

First photo: Ice pictures – on a night when frost is forecast, lay out leaves and others interesting things in a bucket of water outside. Position a string so that the ends will also be frozed into the water to hang your “picture” up in the morning! You can also do this all year round in a plastic tub in your freezer.

Second photo: “Snow garden” that we made a couple of years ago to slightly compensate for our disappointment at a snow-less winter! Use soap powder on a cardboard base, add crystals, mirrors (for frozen ponds), twigs etc. From Earthwise, by Carol Petrash.

Third photo: Our Solstice branches – winter 2016.

Fourth photo: Forest of Dean, January 2015

 

Sacred space

It’s been a while since I have been in this space. More than half a year. Late spring, plus summer and autumn have all passed on a spinning plate that wobbles somewhat precariously on some of my fingers whilst my other fingers attempt to weave the myriad threads of Day-To-Day Life, and my mind is scattered in a hundred places. And my ears try to attend to quite a few voices.

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Now we are sliding into winter where I live. Samhain-tide, I call this: the time from October’s Vanishing Moon (the waning crescent – the last quarter) to that of November. This winter seems to have come early with that chilly, biting kind of wind that makes you squint and chaps your hands as it dances around you like a playful toddler who wants to have fun but hasn’t quite learnt that teeth and nails hurt people! Samhain-tide is a sacred, liminal time where I say goodbye to the year – and with it the dreams I didn’t fulfil, the mistakes I made and hard memories that I’d like to bury. I picture them mushing into a sludge along with all the fallen leaves then sinking down into the earth, their secrets becoming the lessons that will nourish the seeds that grow next year. I look forward to that renewal.

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It’s a sacred time, these death-throes, and I find it’s easy to be tempted to skip over it and start focusing on the festive season, to start all the planning and making and buying and counting down. The shops lure us to do this from so early on. I find it sad not to give this time it’s own space, that we turn away from whatever song it has to sing – even if it’s not the prettiest song, and is often whispered.

I wonder if a parallel could be drawn between our society’s skipping-over of the year’s dying, and how we don’t talk about – or we make taboo – old-age and death of us as people.

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So I’ve tried to resist the festive magazines and refuse to eat a mince pie yet, until I’ve finished my Samhain-ing. I’ve been connecting with the slowness of this time, enjoying the invitation of the dark afternoons to cosy up and light candles, savouring the remains of Autumn’s beauty. (Like the revelation I had this week of how I prefer the deep red of the hawthorn and rowan berries now to their more scarlet hue earlier on). Protecting space as sacred can be hard though – whether that space is

  • a period of time in the calendar,
  • the “space” amidst all life’s to-do lists for self-care and spiritual practice,
  • personal space when your loved ones need endless hugs,
  • emotional space from those who are wearing you down a little,
  • physical space (say, protecting the nature table from being dismantled by the now-mobile baby!),
  • geographical space such as the land and water that those at Standing Rock are trying so very hard to protect,
  • mental space,
  • creative space.
  • And online space to come here and tell you all about it.

But I guess doing so is part of what makes it sacred.

Welcome back. Happy winter  ♥ ♥

Babymoon

Six precious weeks of dreamy days and drift-y nights, of pleasant surreality and an enchantment I don’t want to wear off. Six exhausting weeks where, in this eclipse of “normal life”, hours often float in tender slow motion between the mugs of hot chocolate.

Six chaotic weeks of adjusting to a new pace of life – or rather, a pace I danced before (but rather differently – I didn’t also have another child’s needs to meet then). A pace where Leaving The House is an epic (and sometimes abandoned!) mission. Where, once out, the usual timescales of How Long Our Errands Will Take are totally unpredictable. It’s an enriching challenge to my routine-loving personality that most of my days (and nights) are currently quite unpredictable.

Six precious weeks of being in the constant company of my baby. There’s something magical about a newborn: some kind of holiness surrounding them, a spell they spin over the room they’re in. I think that’s why people so want to visit, to touch them, to hold them. I feel it a sacred honour to be in physical contact with this boy most of the time, under his innocent spell. Even if I do whinge about my back ache, and worry about being enough for him and his brother.

I’ve been held, in these blink-and-you-miss-’em weeks, by the beautiful love I’m surrounded by. Mama friends have gifted cake, soup and help with my eldest son. My own mother amazingly gifted us two weeks where she stayed with us, helping out. Other friends have gifted reassurance on the harder days. All these things have enabled me to focus on my family; on our transition and on the welcoming of our newest member.

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There seem to be various practices centering around the six weeks postpartum period. From Ecuadorian closing the bones ceremonies to  traditional “confinements”. From Ayurvedic massage and dietary practices to contemporary six-week check-ups with the doctor. Of course, nothing suddenly changed on the day that my son completed six weeks in the world. He didn’t suddenly snap into a routine. I didn’t suddenly “get” the new dance required of me.

I certainly didn’t start drinking less hot chocolate.

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Emerging

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Over winter, I kind of retreated.

Darkness, stillness, inwardness, rest, quiet and alone-ness: I welcomed and sought out these wintry things, mentally creating a sort of birthing cave that I could nest down in. As January trod its way into February I craved those things more, my husband supporting me – with a generous heart – to make time for them.  I rarely looked at the ‘net or the news. I did a fair bit of sewing and knitting.

As Imbolc reminded me of the season subtly starting its shift from winter into spring, I focussed a lot on that imminent shift from being pregnant to having another child, our family life shifting from being three to being four. I feel that taking the time out – at that very unique time – to connect with my body and my baby, was an important part of the journey towards birth, and helped protect my strength and focus for that rite.

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Around Imbolc, we had some wild storms here in Bristol, UK. Below, you can see that my son put on our nature table one of his Paddington Bear’s welly boots to remind us of all the rain and how we were often wearing our wellies!

 

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I felt a little stormy as well sometimes; a bit swept and batted between trusting and doubting my ability to birth my child safely and naturally this time. I tried to connect with the beautiful energies of new life emerging – the crocuses and daffodils opening, the leaves unfolding, the light returning. I witnessed this annual miracle in the woods that we frequently visit, and in the gardens and parks my day-to-day life takes me past. I reminded myself that, as part of nature, my body likewise had the power to open and unfold to bring forth the gorgeous new life waiting in there.

But I also know that nature isn’t always perfect. I had quite a traumatic birth with my first child and part of my healing from that came in that realisation. I can sow a dozen pumpkin seeds from the same packet or plant, grow them and plant them out under the same conditions, and a few of them may not germinate – or the young plants may die or the pumpkins not thrive. Things are sometimes beyond our control (which I sometimes find very difficult). But I offered up my sense of unity and my trust… even if some days it was a little hard to feel it.

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A gift from my metaphorical birthing cave was the discovery that chanting and singing often quiets my mental chatter and worrying. I wonder if my family got a little bored of hearing some of those chants A LOT! If they did, they’ve been too sweet to say. This one was my favourite, introduced to me by my lovely yoga teacher. We sung it as a class and that joining of hearts and voices was incredibly special.

More gifts were in store: a long but rewarding labour with gentle, respectful midwives; a safe and natural birth not very far off our plan…

…and the beautiful, magical, awesome prize of our second little boy, Ethan. Here he is! I’m over the moon! And feeling so very, very blessed.

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I’ve not actually got round to planting any seeds in our garden yet, having been a little busy with the precious tasks of feeds, nappies, cuddles and doing much gazing in awe. But there are many “seeds” that I’ve brought from my “cave” in the form of discoveries, lessons, memories and things that have been healed and renewed. I hope to carefully nurture these “seeds” with what they need as they grow, to enjoy and benefit from what they become and to always hold gratitude in my heart for them.

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The beautiful book is Luna Moon Hare by Wendy Andrew: paintingdreams.co.uk

 

As, of course, I look forward to doing with my sons. ♥ ♥ ♥

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Vanishing

I was blessed with a beautiful glimpse of the vanishing moon – the waning crescent – this morning. The last, or maybe penultimate, sliver before she enters her dark phase. Sadly I have no photo due to our brilliant little camera being away at the camera hospital, having accidentally met with my arm and then the kitchen floor. Can I blame pregnancy for such clumsiness? Let’s go with yes.

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A Great-Grandmother Moon from a less clumsy time in my life. This morning’s moon was leaning back a little more, and the sky a little darker with Venus shining brightly quite nearby.

I correlate the dark phase of the lunar cycle with the Winter Solstice in the solar cycle, so today we’re around similar times in both. I hold the word vanishing in my mind and think about its correlation to my own life right now: the vanishing days before the Solstice and Christmas is upon us (why am I not more organised for these events by this point in December?! And why do I leave it so late every year?!), the vanishing weeks before my baby is due to be born, my seemingly vanishing energy in the evenings. The vanishing sense of anxiety about it all as I realise that, really, almost everything that’s truly important has been done; by the time baby comes, we’ll be ready to welcome them.

Back outside, the colour is fast vanishing from our garden as the last of the nasturtiums have died and the green leaves are pretty few. The piles of crisp, vibrant leaves on the ground are vanishing into brown soggy mud and mush. The light starts vanishing not long after 3pm. “Come inside,” it all whispers sleepily, “find a blanket. Rest and dream”.

December

 

December, to me, is twinkling. The day’s light is pale, fragile and translucent – and there is always twinkling. Twinkling of the indoor lights that peep from windows, determinately warm against the outdoor winter light, twinkling of streetlights that come on in the afternoon and of Christmas lights. I find some of them pretty and some of them tacky and garish.

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Last year’s Solstice Branches

The pretty ones give me an inner twinkle. It’s the twinkle of anticipation as the festive season – and deeper winter – draws near. I love winter: the beauty of bare trees and of frost, the cosying up, the feeling of mystery in the darkness and in the . The anticipation that I feel is similar to that of my son as he opens his advent calendar each day. It’s in our excitement in this month of preparation for the solstice and for Christmas. It’s a child-like feeling and that’s probably what’s so special about it; this time of year awakens the part of me that will always be a wonder-filled, magic-believing, enthusiastic child. The busy awake feeling of my inner world is in contrast to the outer world, which speaks of sleep and inactivity.

But glitter and sparkle is where they both meet.

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A beautiful, glittery heavy frost in 2012

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Magical, Avalonia-like misty frost near the Forest of Dean last winter

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“Snow Garden” – snow is made from soap powder and crystals, twigs, fir cones, conkers etc are added. Taken from Earthwise by Carol Petrash.

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