The first week of September

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I bid farewell to August on its last day with a change of the nature table to a more autumnal theme, including a few little bowls and baskets for holding all the treasures of nuts, cones, conkers, acorns. leaves, seedpods and more that will be “harvested” on our walks. The next appropriate activity seemed to be baking a cake: I can usually rely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to provide recipes rooted in the seasons so the result was based on an apple cake recipe of his that I added some blackberries to in order to autumn it up a bit more.

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Despite odd teasing days of bright, warm sunshine, Autumn is definitely palpable here. It rules the later mornings with their chilly fragility. It tugs to us the also-cooler evenings at an earlier hour. It’s in the slightly weaker daylight, the gusty breeze, the swelling apples and the occasional mist. It’s in the sweet, purple blackberry juice dribbling down my son’s delighted face. It’s starting to touch the leaves – not many yet in the places I walk, but some: curling them, painting them, drying them, plucking them from their trees. Some resist longer than others. I feel a little sadness at the idea of them dying, despite my love of this season and knowledge that death facilitates the joy of rebirth and renewal.

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I find September itself brings a kind of rebirth. Perhaps my years of schooling, despite having ended almost half my lifetime ago, have drummed into my subconscious the feeling of a “new start” at this time. Perhaps it’s the sense that the land is birthing its fruits and crops. Perhaps being pregnant just leaves me a little fixated on birth right now! (Especially as my first-born was due in September).

Nevertheless, we are settling into a new groove after a few weeks of being away from home a lot and out of our normal rhythm. This week will be the first full week back dancing our usual dance – although it never is exactly the same because we add to that dance the new steps we’ve learned as the seasons and our lives turn and turn; our harvests.

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The week has also seen a bit of tree pruning to optimise light in our garden as the sun gets weaker, some slipper-making, and a bit of house cleaning and space-cleansing. This week calls for me to finish making our draught excluder and to top up the cedarwood on our anti-moth blocks. To dig out the inner-child self-healing work I began last winter (and then neglected as the garden called my attention). To dig out gloves and warm hats. Time for preparation. Turning in, cosying up and winding down. And for looking forward to the pumpkins still ripening in our garden – to not forget that the year still promises harvests to come.

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Planting

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We have new life in our garden! Two dwarf pear trees. Receiving and potting them felt a fine way to welcome the first weekend of real spring weather, and a lovely activity for experiencing all the elements. There’s such hope present in the act of planting something. Hope for our plants as they grow, blossom, fruit, birth and rest as the year turns. Hope in my heart for that cycle mirrored in other projects and plans of mine; my inner seedlings.

Yesterday I fed our blueberries a dressing of ericaceous compost, and we’ve put manure down elsewhere. Now feels like a receiving time for my awakening garden. The earth receives these nutrients – as well as the seeds that we are starting to plant. Unfolding leaf-buds and flowers seem to reach to the sky to gulp in sun and rain; I guess this part of the year is like breakfast-time for nature. Mind you, it’s more around lunchtime that we have the birds swoop down to peck at the ground and our bird table. For a garden that never got any avian visitors when we moved in just under two years ago, it’s a treat to now have almost half a dozen species drop by most days. ♥

Altar space / sacred shelf

IMG_1538Our sacred shelf has moved!

Ever since i became aware of the deep connection that I feel to nature, I felt the desire to have a space inside my home that reflects and honours this. A space to create a seasonal display that reminds me of what’s happening outside in nature, that inspires me, that gives me peace and healing through being that little portal to a forest, beach, hill or other beautiful place. A place where I could meditate, work spells and celebrate solar and lunar festivals. For more than a ten years I’ve created such a display, a kind of school-nature-table-with-candles (and usually a picture or three, for there are just so many beautiful cards in the world! ).

My first altars were in my student accommodation rooms; on a cardboard box disguised under a sheet . Then came the sacred shelf format – on top a chest of drawers, mantlepiece or – after our move to our current home – bookcase. Our stone Buddha head and shoulders joined it at this point to represent the East-meets-West union in my spirituality of ideas from Buddhism, Ayurveda and European pagan beliefs.

The bookcase sits in an alcove in a corner that generally has at the least a chair in front of it – usually accompanied by Dylan’s trike and toys and the contents of the root veg drawer too. I’d change the shelf’s decor with (most) moon phases and festivals but it wasn’t really being used to prompt reflection or discussion, wasn’t really the focal point I wanted it to be and wasn’t really…living.

Rob and I agreed that our sacred display should be in our kitchen as this is the room that we really live in. It’s a big room and is also Dylan’s playroom, it’s where we socialise together or with guests, it’s where most of our daily indoor activities are based (and leads to the garden, which we are in and out of all day). We want Dylan to be able to see the altar space and how it changes, and to use it like a nature table, but he’s not quite old enough for him (and the display!) to be safe if easily within his reach.

IMG_1534The kitchen table seems the natural place. It has meant a little pruning and downsizing of the display but this perhaps represents our recent efforts to simplify  our life and reduce our material possessions. However, Buddha and our singing bowl are still close by! They remain up on the shelf, with more space around them.

Our pinboard with seasonal images and our biodynamic gardening calendar and planting wheel hangs above this space. We already had a candle on the table that we normally light at mealtimes and this candleholder – beautifully made by Rob – is now incorporated into our sacred display to represent fire.  A small bowl of water (usually from either the sea or a natural spring) represents (can you guess?!), a pottery hand and disk represent earth and hold an offering, and a vase that we received as a wedding present holds flowers or incense for air.

These are arranged around a small tree stump we found in the woods where we married, and upon which sits our goddess statue from Starchild in Glastonbury, a spoon made by Rob (to represent the God aspect – it’s slightly phallic!), and seasonal decorations. These are often little bits and pieces found on our walks that are eventually given back to the earth. In the basket are things that represent particular events, themes, gratitudes or memories of the past month. At the dark moon, we look over them as a recap. For example, this month there is a piece of wool, a piece of wax and a wood shaving to represent how much crafting we have been doing with these materials lately. A button brought at a wood fair reminds us of our lovely, if logistically challenging. family day out there.

I’ll usually have a cloth placed under or wrapped around the display in a colour that represents the lunar phase or the festival. These cheery red hearts represent gratitude – something very much with us during this season of harvest and as the vanishing moon draws us into our inner world. – physical or spiritual. ♥

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New home blessing

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On the day that we moved, my husband performed a little space clearing and energy cleansing on our new home, moving anti-clockwise around each room with a sage smudge stick and string of bells. As he did so he sprinkled water collected from a spring near Glastonbury Tor and set intention for any negativity held in the house to be left in the past so that it would be a wonderful home where we would be happy.

I wanted the blessing to take place after the new moon and after enough of the many boxes were unpacked that the house felt at least slightly like home. As with most things in my life, I got around to doing my little ceremony a bit later than planned. However, this meant that I sat down in a totally unpacked living room, able to feel calm, centred and not distracted by “oh this could go here” or ” once this box is unpacked I could do such-and-such”. (I’m quite easily distracted!)

I lit our oil burner with 3 oils; one that represented each of us and qualities that I hope each of us will bring to our home. With the oil burner, for me the oils represent Eartth and the scents air, the candle of course represents fire and the water is even more self-explanatory!

I sat contentedly in front of the burner, moon out the window behind me, and took some deep breaths. I eased into my feelings enjoyment already at living in this house, into my gratitude for the lovely house, into my hopes for our lives whilst we are here.I visualised the life we’ve talked about living whilst living here. I pictured each room of the house (including the garden) and brought to mind an image of us using that room happily. I felt the warm, smiley feeling through my body and sent that out through my fingertips and through the house. I opened my eyes and looked over at our shelf of books that we hope will inform our dreams of living more sustainably, creatively and spiritually. I visualised all the beautiful ideas and wise words in them flying off their pages and through the house. (Is that crazy?! Well nevermind!)  I remembered a motto that is written on a little china heart that my mum gave us and found myself repeating it and sending the energy created in that repetition through my body and through our new home:

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Home-leaving ceremony that wasn’t

Ten busy days ago, we moved house. I planned a little house-leaving ceremony and to take some photos of the Box Chaos that the place had become. Despite many house/flat moves during my ten years in Bristol,  I think this was the first time that I’ve had to move out of a home, clean it and move into another home all in the same day. This was certainly the first time moving with a child (albeit with my mother staying to help out in marvelous ways).

I had so many mixed up feelings about leaving our home of three and a half years. The home we returned to after our wedding, after our travelling adventure and after our son’s birth. The home who’s walls saw intense, beautiful magic as well as an awful lot of tears. The home where we grew as people so, so much (and realised just how much growing we still have and want to do). The home where we never really felt at home.

I wanted to present to our buyers a home cleansed of all this uneasy energy. I wanted to chase all the horrible feelings I’d felt within those walls out and away with my sage smudge stick and Glastonbury water and jangly bells, the waning moon’s cleansing pull complimenting this. Of course, I wouldn’t tell the new owners about the ceremony in case they thought I was a little weird. I just wanted to wipe everything clean, physically and energetically, for them and for me. For a couple of weeks I’d gone through the house, washing every throw or cushion cover or rug before I packed it, vacuuming the curtains and wallhangings that too delicate to wash. As they were cleaned of dust or marks I imagined whatever else they had caught being washed away too. I didn’t want it brought to our new house.

On Move Day, once the removal men had put all but a few personal items (and cleaning stuff!) of ours into their van, I started vacuuming and wiping in the house. But, over 3 years, dust finds its crafty way in all these places you can never imagine, so I was still cleaning when our buyers arrived. They were far less fussed than  I was about the cleanliness and urged me not to worry. So I had to just let the sage-waving (and photo-taking) go.

What I reasoned was that the negativity I wanted to cleanse was negative stuff that we knew about. The new owners know nothing of these events. From the things they had said to me, to them the house holds positive meanings; their new home, the first house that they have bought. I guess their coming into the house with positive thoughts, hope and excitement is a kind of healing in itself. If they were into “energy stuff” and concerned about what history may be held there, they would perform their own cleansing.

Whilst there was no smudging ritual, there was a hug between my husband and I as we looked back at the house and thanked it for all the good times we shared there and all the opportunities it provided us with. I believe that with any ceremony or magic, the real power comes from your true intent, thoughts and feelings. I see the sage, the Glastonbury water, the jangly bells or whatever as being tools to physically represent and perhaps to enhance this inner force. And as I learnt ten years ago, in  leaving a geographical location you don’t automatically leave all your troubles there.  The real work, like the real magic, must come from within. ♥

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Last half moon I shared how, as the moon balances on the knife-edge of equal light and dark, it’s sometimes the shadow side of balance – stagnation – that seems to rule my day.

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As someone who has always tended to shy away from conflict, it comes quite naturally to me to try to work with what I’m faced with rather than against it. Last half-moon I talked about how I apply this to myself, for example: trying to schedule an easier, slower-paced day than usual; taking some moments to pause and reflect. I also try to connect to this energy through how I manage my home. I use this roughly-fortnightly point as a prompt to do tasks I like to do every couple of weeks, such as washing the kitchen floor or vacuuming upstairs – this frequency would probably have my houseproud neighbour’s jaw drop (sshhh…sometimes these tasks get delayed a little beyond that!)

I also use it as a prompt to take a look around the house and reflect on our daily life here: does the layout of the furniture still work for how we use the rooms? Are there adjustments I need to make based on my toddler’s growth and development (eg.now he can reach this table, and is very curious about about that glass-framed picture!). Can I simplify day-to-day tasks, perhaps by how/where we store the things needed to do them? Am I not doing the things I’d like to do more of because the things needed to do them are not easily accessible?

For more inspiration about organising and simplifying you home and your life – and prioritising what you and your family really love and value – I’d highly recommend a book I was bought for my birthday; “Organised Simplicity” by Tsh Oxenreider. She also has a lovely blog that you can check out here. Other similar sources of inspiration for me are MamaUK’s blog, and Amanda Blake Soule’s books and Soule Mama blog.

Happy half-moon   ♥

photo courtesy of domaz dk, sxc