Rethinking midsummer associations – fire and water.

Our garden is all planted, and too full for anything more. It just begs for water, water, water. And it’s water that I’ve been thinking more about this midsummer than other years. I’ve always associated summer, and Litha (the summer solstice) with fire; the time where the weather is hot and we celebrate the sun being at its strongest. It seems obvious. However, it was whilst learning about Ayurveda that I first considered the water aspect to summertime. Pitta, the dominant dosha right now, is comprised of fire and water. Water is liquid and Ayurveda connects this to the melting power of heat. Water is heavy and I guess Ayurveda would attribute the heaviness we tend to feel now to the presence of water in this season’s Pitta energy.

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Of course water has a balancing effect to heat too and I think that this is where the association of water with midsummer from a pagan perspective rings true for me; we associate summer with the seaside and with boats and shells and pebbles and fish, we think paddling pools and water-play for our children, we know we need to drink plenty of the stuff. The association is also relevant to the story of the year as told in the analogy of the goddess reproductive cycle; she is heavily pregnant and waiting for labour to start – the first sign of which is often the waters breaking. Fluids – and fluidity – are then quite symbolic of the birth process, including the fluidity of time and perhaps reality that many women report experiencing when they are in labour. Indeed, such fluidity seems quite pertinent to summertime itself, for our usual routines, activities and times that we do things warp a little with the long hazy, dreamy days (or if we are on holiday). Midsummer has long been associated with the fairy world and their magic and mischief: further blurring and dissolving of reality, time, space, form, and boundaries of possibility.

This theme of fluidity – ie: motion – is kind of incongruent with the call for stillness and slowing down that I also feel at this time of year. That the word solstice comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) impresses this for me. I guess this contrast gives me more food for thought and discoveries to make as my journey with my own spirituality continues – or is maybe a call to not get too hung up on associations at all, but to take each year for what it is and where I’m at, listening to the unique messages that year brings.

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Into the light

The Spring Equinox has passed; light is stronger than dark. It seems quite fitting that, a week before the equinox, our neighbour and his parents gave the trees on his side of our shared wall a serious prune. A week after the equinox. my husband has done similar on our side, removing a rotten fence at the same time. Consequently the garden is much lighter, which will benefit plant growth. The trees also look more attractive with all their straggly and/or dead bits removed. The side of the garden where the fence was honestly looks wider with it gone. Its a little weird being able to see into  – and through- our neighbours’ houses (and knowing that they can see into ours). It’s made me jump a few times to see the headlights of a car on the road the other side of them.

I believe that it’s similar in our dance through life; in our own seasons where we grow, prune, get a little cluttered and straggly. When we make drastic changes. Light may be flooding in, improvement may be obvious, but we can initially feel exposed – sometimes scrutinised – and get a little fright at unfamiliar things.

Blown eggs above our sacred nature table - the decorated one was from a seasonal activity at my son's kindergarten. I meant us to decorate the one we blew at home, but as with many of my creative intentions, I didn't get around to it. However, I feel that the dark and light contrast of the two is very apt for the equinox!

Blown eggs above our sacred nature table – the decorated one was from a seasonal activity at my son’s kindergarten. I meant us to decorate the one we blew at home, but as with many of my creative intentions, I didn’t get around to it. However, I feel that the dark and light contrast of the two is very apt for the equinox!

A wise acquaintance once told me “you have to cut out the deadheads to allow the flowers to bloom”. She was referring to the destructive relationship that I’d just ended – a difficult step, at the time, despite the necessity of taking it being obvious to all. I think her words can refer to projects, habits, jobs, possessions, garden fences and so many things that might be keeping us from enjoying – immediately or gradually – a lighter, brighter place. ♥

Playlist

Yay! I had a piece of writing published in The Guardian!  🙂
Ok, so it’s a reader contribution called “Playlist” they have each week in the family section, not like some professional feature article, but still yay! For the Playlist feature, readers are asked to send in a short piece about a song that reminds them of a particular event or time in their lives.

You can see it here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/17/family-photography   (scroll down the page a little; it’s below the video) 

Frost!


On Tuesday this week we were kissed by our first hard frost. Oh it was worth the numb fingers to go outside and admire leaves, grass, flowers and trees in their crystal finery! Childishly watching my breath and grinning like it was Father Christmas rather than Jack Frost who had called, I teetered on the pain-pleasure border as I took these shots. This is a thin, brittle line nature plots; beautiful in its sparkle but dangerous in its slipperyness. Slightly sadistically, I welcomed what this sharp glitter would do to the garden pests whilst nervously pondering what it will do to the polytunnel’s inhabitants. This year has seen me become less benevolent towards slugs and snails, and a little obsessively overprotective towards the veg patch (which is currently looking its most productive all year).


I recently worked my first massage session following maternity leave. I encouraged each client to be aware of their shoulders in the cold weather; there’s a natural tendency to hunch them up and curl them forward. It’s like we’re hugging that warmth in, that last scrap of warmth. Pulling ourselves in to keep us all together; nurturing, protecting our heart space whilst spreading our back as a shield. It’s understandable. 
But to tense shoulders this hunching will probably lead! We need to circle, shake out, squeeze up and stretch; creating space between our bones and feeling it. We also need to wear long, chunky scarves, In this season, where we see our landscape harshly stripped back to its bare bones, we have the chance to feel space. Space that follows the busyness of springtime sowing, then the headyness of summer and then after the exhaustion of the rains, winds and/or work of autumn. November can seem such a miserable month; cold,wet,dark and – in the UK – with no festival yet to brighten and warm our hearts and homes. 

An alternative celebration can be to find and welcome that space; what has been lost or sacrificed to make way for the new? What can be created in these long evenings? What can be dreamt of for the coming year – and beyond? What can be nurtured, maintained or repaired so that it is ready to be reborn all freshened up and shiny? How exciting!

Stay cosy   

Samhain-tide

 
 
For me, each cross-quarter festival gets celebrated as a lunar month starting from the time when signs of that season are appearing in nature, and the sabbat’s corresponding moon phase comes around. So I’m right now in the middle of Samhain-tide. On Sunday 14th October I awoke to our first frost; nature’s clue to the start of winter. The moon was in the dark part of its cycle: the time the crone, the empty time, the “space in between”. With the next new moon, I’ll move on from this festival.

 

I marked the start of Samhain-tide by decking our alter in appropriate decorations and making a pie of seasonal veg which we ate drinking a purple fruit juice whilst I wore black clothes and smoky eyeshadow. During a chilly walk in the fields near our home, my husband and I admired the majestic autumn colours and shiny berries as we reflected on the year’s harvests, the transformations in our lives, our dreams and our insights. We honoured the Samhain colour of black by gathering many, many blackberries – undoubtedly our son’s favourite part of the celebrations!
Samhain is also a time to gratefully remember our ancestors and those who have passed on. Whilst in our garden this year’s harvest has been very poor, in other areas of our lives it has been so very rich. We have learnt much about the things that we hope will shape our life in the future; sustainable living, living more simply and permaculture among them. We have also learnt much about ourselves and our true values just from becoming a family. The reading we’ve done, support we’ve received and people we’ve talked to or met brand new have only enhanced that, as well as introducing us to new ideas that we now couldn’t imagine living without. This year has truly been one of transformation! I guess I’m honouring ancestors here as not just those who have passed on but those still alive who have more experience and wisdom who we “inherit from”. We will need some small tweaks as well as some major transformations on our path to treading more lightly upon the earth and we will use these dark months to reflect on what changes are right to “birth” in the spring.

 

This week has gone colder here in the south-west UK. Outside, I see everyone wrapping up in their scarves and thick coats. In our home, our winter-cold potions are made, we’ve got our heating on a little in the evenings and we’re attending to improving insulation and heat retention. I love this season of nurture and taking care of ourselves, each other and our homes. Perhaps we need the extra hour that the clocks going back gives us to rest – or to catch up from the busy harvest season. This time I the perfect opportunity to build that sense of camaraderie that comes with snow and approaching Christmas, and to extend it further than this season and further into our communities. As Satish Kumar said in the talk of his that was one of my highlights of this year, when we improve how we connect and take care of ourselves, we will improve how we take care of our planet.
Happy Samhainide; welcome winter!


 

Beltaine

Beltaine-tide….. some will have celebrated yesterday whilst others will do so/will have done so when they see certain signs in nature. I’ll be doing my celebrating at the weekend, to coincide with the full moon and the anniversary of when I met my husband. In May is also the anniversary of when we married.
For me, it’s a celebration of passion, nurturing, the faery world, fantasy, sexuality, partnership, beauty, and gestation (so an apt time to have met my soulmate!) The reported tradition of driving cattle between 2 fires at this time gives it a theme of protection too. It’s a time to reflect on those goals conceived at Yule and assess if/how they are blooming, and how to nurture them further if they are to survive. The colours I associate with Beltaine are pink and green, the foods asparagus and garlic and the scents vanilla, geranium and cinnamon. The symbols and themes for me are the maypole and crown of flowers, the yoni and the lingam, hawthorn, faeries, blossoms,the pregnant belly …and hearts!!

Imbolc

Last Wednesday, when I first saw the new moon, I started to tune to and celebrate the Imbolc energy. A couple days earlier, I had seen our garden’s first snowdrops burst out their pretty white flowers from their spindly stems. I always think they look like little fairy skirts! Other shoots had been poking their heads up for a while, confused at the indecisiveness of this winter. Indeed, as I write this, it is below -5c (unusual in the South West) and frosty. I just stepped outside our back door to take a few deep breaths of the icy air, to let it bite my lungs. I breathed it back, warmed from where I’d brought it down into my belly, and stretched my hands up to the sky, enjoying the tingle of the subzero haze. Beautiful.
I love the clean purity of this energy, For me, it’s the magic of the morning, of the new moon, of this time of year, I see the young goddess bringing excitement and hope for the projects planned and seeds – literal and metaphorical – being planted. I’m t the same time conscious of the shadow side of this: naivety and fear. “What if these plans don’t work out?” “Perhaps I don;t have what I need to do these things”. These are the ways I’ve welcomed where this energy lies in the outside world and in myself:
♥ Through several walks, both urban and rural, mindfully enjoying the signs of spring and pondering what is emerging in my own life right now.
♥ By planting the first seeds of the year; this week I’ve sown coriander, basil and tomatoes 🙂
♥ By covering our alter with a cream cloth which has a pale floral pattern and strands of silver, and decorating it with white and green candles, some glass icicle-like decorations, a silk worm cacoon, a small snowman jigsaw, early daffodils from my native Cornwall and some offerings of seeds, lemon cake and water from the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. Burning ylang ylang, lavender and melissa oils in my burner,
♥ By eating foods that represent to me the new moon and of the first stirrings of life- for example, by their shape (bananas, cashews), seasonality (root veg, leeks) flavour (lemon, vanilla and maybe a bit of cinnamon/ginger to represent the strengthening sun) or nature (seeds, beansprouts). Wearing the colours I associate with this season and this aspect of the goddess (silver, white, pale green/yellow/pink).
♥ By looking back at the goals we made at Yule. How are they emerging? What are doing to nourish them? What challenges are there and what do we need to do to keep them growing? By giving thanks for how they are taking shape.
♥ By reflecting on the maiden goddess aspect of myself, where Brigid and Artemis are found in me.
As I think about the stirrings of life in my outer and inner worlds, I remember with a grateful, happy smile how it was on this date last year that a little stick from Boots told my husband and I that there was a little life stirring inside my womb… ♥
….Happy Imbolc   🙂