Friday, 27 January 2012


Last Saturday, I took a day out from my life, a whole day, from ten until five in a cosy studio with seven other adults and two enormous dogs. There were no children, and no packing and cleaning, there was no insulating or painting or dashing around holding ten things in my head, while I just quickly text someone and stir the onions and pull Leo out of the fridge. For six hours (one hour was devoted to a sumptuous bring and share lunch) we wrote and shared and reflected, and felt our way into this still new year of 2012. I feel this day may become an annual occurence, compassionately and creatively held by the wonderful Roselle Angwin of Fire in the Head.

I rarely have the time and space to step back and reflect on my life from the outside. Especially at the moment, with our build nearing completion and our next house move looming, it has become very important to remember just exactly why we are doing this. And to remember that we have chosen this path, and we will continue to influence the direction it takes through life by our decisions and motivations. How I needed to know this.
Prompted by Roselle's exercises and questions we worked in pairs, alone and as a group to dredge the gold and the slime from our lives.. ...with a grand finale of verbally releasing (and writing and burning in the fire) the things which had not served us in 2011, and welcoming those we wished to embrace for the new year.

As always I found the power of free writing  without pausing or censorship to be revealing, insightful and surprising. A trust in the process of following where the pen leads, without pausing to edit, uncovers the treasures which are always there when we stop thinking! I was surprised for example when in answer to the question, 'what would you do if you had only a year to live?', I wrote, 'stop cooking'.

'Well that's ridiculous,' my censoring mind immediately thought, 'wouldn't you get rid of all your things and travel the world or some other traditional only-one-year-to-live activity?' So I dutifully and limply wrote, 'travel the world and give away my belongings', but fortunately came back to the cooking.
Yes, I realised I had let cooking dominate my life. Feelings of guilt at not being a wage earner gnaw at my fragile sense of self worth, so I cook copious amounts of nutritious, delicious, fresh, home baked goodness each and every day. From slow cooked millet or oatmeal in the morning to raw energy balls or sugar free muffins for mid morning snacks to carefully planned vegetable grain dishes at dinner time I pride myself on being the paragon of wholesome food. Which is great, apart from the fact its got a bit obsessive. Of course, I really do believe freshly prepared organic food is important for my family, but do I have to take it to extremes which prevent me from doing something more meditative, creative, social or physically active?

It's a useful avoidance tactic, being feverishly busy with a seemingly necessary task. Finish editing the children's book I am writing.?...No can't possibly I'm up to my ears in making sauerkraut and being good and looking after my family. So I sidestep my fear of failure in writing, but at least I've got a few jars of preserves on my shelves.
And I can justify my existence by being visibly useful instead of doing something self indulgent like writing or meditating or dancing. Grrr...I've got to stop being so good all the time.

We can and do create our own reality, and I left the Thresholds workshop with several poignant and compelling affirmations which I will copy out and pin liberally around our new home.


  • I breathe love and acceptance into every moment,  and I remember that the pain I feel is caused by my own aversion to misfortune.
  • I release my attachment to the outcome
  • I am living in this moment. (that's a big one)
  • I am connected to everything.
And others still brewing....

Thanks so much to Roselle for facilitating the process of  reflection and intention setting, I'll be back next year!

Watch the quiet opalescence of dawn,
Listen to their sleeping breath,
  and the cat's stealthy paw.
Smell the smoke of early morning
Feel the night drifting from my limbs.
I am here.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Where is home? Where your parents live? Where you live? Where you are right now? Where your loved ones are?

 Home...the word has such a lovely hum to it, home is always where I feel most comfortable;  making homes, and being at home, and I will happily turn a tent on a one night camping trip into a cosy home with the help of some blankets and a few flowers. When I arrive home, wherever that is, I invariably feel my shoulders melt into the ground and my breath lengthen as I exhale into familiarity and comfort. Maybe it's because I feel able to drop all my barriers at home, stop trying so hard, to be liked? to fit in? to do the right thing....? So my home becomes an oasis, where I don't have to pretend..yeah I know I shouldn't pretend anywhere, but that's a work in progress.

In my defence, Cancer features very heavily in my astrological chart and the lovely woman who drew my chart, mentioned the word 'cosy' several times during the course of my consultation with her. I like things to be cosy, and curling up next to a warm winter fire, by candlelight, with some snuggly children nestled in for a story is a blissful feeling.

I think that's why I have struggled with feelings of restless and insecurity during the last year when I just didn't know where my home was going to be, and then when I did know, facing a double house move in two months.

So, as we begin the countdown to our final move to our land, I will be readjusting to another home. I know I will feel impatient to get curtains and rugs scattered around very quickly (I should be making them now....) and the children's rooms comfortable and welcoming. (Hugh and I will be sleeping in the sitting room for a while, but we've done that's very cosy!) I know that the strange, slightly exhilarating, yet uneasy feeling of novelty will soon wear off and we will sink into our new ryhthms and ways on the land.

blanket walls

Back to an outside composting toilet, still awaiting completion...

Almost no electricity, save what we can glean from a leisure battery....plans for stream generated power are afoot... (shhhh!  we will have a gas cooker, at least to begin with.)

I've abandoned ideas of a whiskey barrel bath tub (they leak if they dry out) and am resigned to a tin bath in the corner of the kitchen for now with heavy curtain drapes for modesty. Later we have plans for a rocket stove, wood fired shower, in a separate room, luxury of luxuries, but we must wait for time and money..Actually I really love tin baths, and harbour romantic memories of sitting in front of the wood stove in our yurt, soaking and watching the dancing flames, as the candles threw their shadows on the canvas walls.

My laundry will now be completed with the help of this lovely item, for my birthday present from my mother in law , a Victorian washboard, and a mangle yet to be purchased.

Lots of candles, and I will have an entire blog post devoted to candles very soon.

And lots more mud, and outside, and cosy firelit evenings.

I long to be settled. I have moved far too many times since children, and although I do have a restless changeable nature, I yearn for stability, security and a longterm home where I can root myself in the land and gather my scattered plans, thoughts and dreamings into one place, where they can flourish and grow. To sink down quietly into the earth and gather my family around to retreat and reflect for a while before this winter is over. Before the headlong full blossomed rush of Spring.

I'm looking forward to going home.

Where is your home?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Running away from grief

I suppose it's a bit of a tendency of mine to run away from difficult situations; walking out when an argument gets too heated; leaving a gathering when the atmosphere becomes uncomfortable for me, stopping my train of thought when things go a bit too far. Walls of protection, quickly put up, by me,.. saving me from what the hurt could bring. Or barring me from the healing that suffering can bestow...

Two nights ago I ran away. From a beautiful group of people who meet together to share and move their grief together. We met last year at a grief tending ritual on Dartmoor, a ritual practiced by the Dagara people of West Africa. The ritual has been adapted for western practice by Wisdom Bridge and was held for us by Maeve Gavin at  Way of the Village . For the Dagara people, the ritual is a weekly event, for everyone has grief to move and to speak. Grief is not a wrapped up solitary affair confined to laced edged handkerchiefs and funerals and the confines of our bedrooms. It is a flowing universal force which howls and beckons and surges in the beauty of its power. It needs to move and be shared and witnessed and this is what the ritual taught me.
The ritual was a turning point for me. For two years I had been 'the grieving mother' supported and loved, yes, but feeling as if I was on an island of grief that only I could experience. But we don't have to lose a child to grieve. We can mourn a damaged childhood, we can mourn the loss of a way of life that our ancestors expected as their birthright, close to nature and each other, we can mourn the devastation of our planet, the suffering of so many children, animals, plants.....grief is something that every single one of us will experience and how we deal with it will have a huge impact on our lives. We can stuff it inside with numbing techniques such as drugs, overeating, drink or retail therapy, or we can let it out... and that's scarey..
During the ritual I was able to be witnessed and supported in my grieving, my tears emerged from my bedroom where they had been welling for so long, and it was terrifying for me. I almost ran away, but something, some tiny kernel of courage and wisdom deep inside, wouldn't let me. I'm so glad I stayed. I felt the love and support of a group of people who I had only met two days before, and, crucially for me, felt strong and able to support them too.... through their grief.  I felt openess and love filling us all and above all, connection myself, to the people around me, to life itself. The tears were cleansing and releasing, a universal experience. It was a beautiful and life changing weekend.

So why did I run away two nights ago?
Well, life's been pretty disconnected recently. I have forgotten to spend time connecting with what's going on inside. It's tricky when you've got to finish building your home very quickly and still keep a cohesive family and get through a busy Christmas. I jumped into our grief meeting from a very busy day, in a very busy week with my mind and body reeling from the onslaught of a thousand tiny needs and demands...
And as everyone at the meeting shifted down into writing or drawing as a means of expressing  the grief present for them, I froze. Images of Lily alone in her shining land seared into my mind...I could draw that...images of me alone and unable to reach her...I could draw that..but you know, I couldn't. I knew that the meeting ended in the not too distant future, and I just couldn't dive into that huge well of pain and emotion and then drag myself out again and drive home. Maybe I should've, but I didn't . I ran out in a rather sudden and dramatic way.
But I'll go back again. We'll all meet again, and next time I'll stay. And in the meantime I'll make time in my day to connect and be quiet, to be with myself, to be with Lily, and maybe to cry..and not always by myself......

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Last week I felt odd, hence last weeks odd post. Jumbled up and sleep deprived and rushed and hemmed in.
A little space this week thanks to two days of granny care for the children. I have been next door to our wonderful neighbour's house for a yoga class. My family and I ate a delicious New Years day lunch at the house of some lovely friends who wanted to give us a break from building our house.

These may seem like little things, but in the whirlwind of these final house building days they are precious moments of rest, positivity and rejuvenation. It has been to easy to be dragged down by the mud, the relentlessness of the tasks still to complete, the demands and needs of the children, but these interludes have given me the space to remember that life is good and reaching out to others and receiving the gifts they have to offer is a blessed thing. It often feels more comfortable for me to be the giver, makes me feel better, like I have earned my right to be here. And so for me to receive the gifts of others is hard, but completes the circle of friendship. There are times when I can be supportive and help others and there are times like now, when to receive with grace and no apologies is the most loving thing I can do.

And in these moments of gratitude and receiving I find I can also appreciate those things that I have found hard to accept, like building a home in a place where Lily has not lived.

As our little home in the woods nears completion, (Hugh and Freddie nailed down the last floorboard yesterday) I can honestly say that I am now quite excited that we'll be moving in next week. As I have spent more time on the land, stapling recycled blankets on ceilings, hammering on wall slates, being in the woods, I have begun, slowly to accept that this will soon be our home. For a long time, despite the excitement that everyone expresses when I talk about our little cabin on the land, I found it hard to share the enthusiasm, Partly, because as we are right in the middle of the build, in winter, racing against a deadline, and it's hard to see the bigger picture. Partly because I found it hard to imagine living away from the place where Lily spent her last months. Now, thanks to the generosity of friends we are having a two month 'holiday' in a house, and I am finding it possible to live here, despite the fact that Lily has not. It is ok to move on.

 And it will be ok to move again, to our new home. The clear spaces and little interludes this week have enabled me to feel wisps of excitement, feathery between the tiredness.  How the land will develop and flourish....herbs, goats, vegetables....secret plans....And I've even started making curtains, and researching old whiskey barrels as bath tubs!

I'm so very grateful to the many people who have helped us along our path. We have asked for , and been offered so much practical and loving help and support, we don't feel alone. It's hard to ask and hard to accept help but the bonds of community and connection and love are far more beautiful than  the stranglehold of independance and isolation.  And I also love being here, writing, and reading your comments, the stolen moments where  I can sneak in a new post, the lovely words of sharing, encouragement and support.