Thursday 5 September 2013

Herbal inspiration

 After my last post I was asked what herbal books I'd recommend, and as there are quite a few I thought I'd feature them in their own post. If you are just beginning to learn about herbs, its also really worth learning the plants if you can, although obviously the herb shop is useful too!! Getting to know your herbal allies so you can greet them as you pass them, on the street, in the overgrown garden border, in the hedgerows and woods. Get a good wild flower guide, and make sure you can identify them well....there are a few plants which people commonly confuse which could be dangerous.
Also, if you are starting to treat yourself at home with herbs, I find it good to cross reference at least two or three sources. Its amazing what differences there can be and especially if you are ill, or pregnant or treating a child, its good to be sure and safe!
So these are just a few of my best loved books, but there are many many more excellent resources out there. Happy hunting!

  • 'Herbal for women', and 'Herbal for Mother and Child' by Anne Mcintyre, are two that I referred to constantly during pregnancy and  for  childhood illnesses. Really useful advice about specific ailments and life stages and some nice herb profiles too. Anne has written more books since these I know, but I haven't yet had a chance to check them out, I'm sure they'd be worth a look, she has become more influenced by Ayuerdevic principles now so

  • Herbal Healing for Women  by  Rosemary Gladstar This was one of the first herb books I bought when I lived in Canada nearly twenty years ago so I have a special fondness for it. Lovely anecdotes, advice and formula for all life stages and ailments.

  • The Childbearing Year  and  Healing Wise by Susun Weed  These books.are lovely.Susun Weed is great, and the first of these books has been my bible through all my pregnancies. The second is a really unique quirky focus on 6 weeds which takes the reader on a walk to gather the herb and then back to the kitchen for recipes, and pharmacy for tinctures, teas and tonics...a lovely book which honours the humble nettle and dandelion.

  • Self Heal by Jill Davies I did some seminars with Jill when Lily was tiny, and her long experience, understanding and love of herbs and healing shone through. Chapters on detoxing, diet, and a section of very detailed herbal and naturopathic advice on specific ailments make this one of my most highly thumbed herb books.

  • Encyclopedia of medicinal plants  by  Andrew Chevalier This is really good if you are new to the world of herbs, and also useful for the more experienced person, as a comprehensive overview of many many herbs. All with excellent photos of the plant and parts used. Very useful reference to quickly check out a herb.
  •  A Modern Herbal Maude Grieve Not really modern, as it was written nearly a hundred years ago, but densely packed wih medicinal and anecdotal information. Did you know for example that bluebell bulbs were not only used as bookbinders gum but also to starch collars? Fascinating book.
  • Herbs of Grace by Farida Sharan A book to read for a transformative journey to heal yourself with details of detoxification, herbal formula, naturopathy treatments such as enemas, castor oil packs etc. And the story of the authors own journey to healing.
As always these days my time is very limited and precious, between family demands.... so this post could and would like to be much longer!
Other herbalists whose books are definitely worth checking out are John Christopher, Jeannine Parvati Baker, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Micheal Tierra and David Hoffman. Its also worth looking in charity and thrift shops as lovely old tomes often turn up..such as the Maude Grieve one above...and recently I found Maurice Messegue's 'Way to Natural Health and Beauty' which was a treat.

I would always recommend books written by real herbalists, I know it sounds obvious but it really makes a difference!

I would love to show you pictures of all my books, to give you a better impression of each one, but alas all my faves are now ash, and I haven't been able to bring myself to go and buy them all over again.
But so much of them is in my head and heart.....and of course all the knowledge is in us anyway and in the plants.....we just need to relearn how to ask.
Herbal Blessings!!

Sunday 25 August 2013

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme.....

.......Or Borage, Meadowsweet, Calendula and Yarrow, Or Dandelion, Chickweed, Nettle and Plantain,...or?

The gardens and lanes are singing with flowers and my collecting basket is busy. When the morning dew has gone, I gather baby and children and set off to pick my winter medicine cabinet. Some ancient voice calls me from the hedgerows, from the herb beds in these beautiful gardens around us. I feel an irrepressible urge to gather armfuls of fragrant herbs and weeds to blend and infuse and extract their distilled energy from the sun; bottle the summer to sustain us through the coldness ahead.

We discover purple loosetrife growing in purple drifts by the river weir, and pink Yarrow and blue butterflies in a sun drenched meadow, dancing quietly. It seems as though we are very close to how we were meant to be, at moments like this. The bone dry, warmed grass, alive with insects, the flickering blue wings on the pink flowers. Aah, time to sigh down into the earth and melt into it. No separation.
Picking herbs feels sacred....

Sometimes it is more everyday..spotting the St John's wort on the way to collect eggs or pick some salad,

plucking a few sprigs of lavender as I go out to call the children in for lunch. More absentminded.

Making medicine seems to run deep in my bones. Even as a small child I found an old book of country folk remedies in my parents bookshelves, and spent many hours mixing herbal pastes and potions in the back garden.

In between Finch, the other children, writing, and all the other voices calling me each day, I dry teas, laying the herbs out on cloths in my warm airy bedroom; I make tinctures with brandy and vodka, infusing the petals and leaves to extract the medicines for fevers, earaches, coughs, colds, insomnia. It's fun, its compulsive, it feels like magic.

 The kids have been busy too, sometimes Tansy quietly goes off to the gardens to pick potions, and later, I see neat little rows of drying herbs in my bedroom and newly washed jam jars waiting ready to receive them.

We  made a delicious fermented flower elixir, infusing Meadowsweet, Yarrow, Roses, Lavender and Mugwort in honey water for four days. Slightly alcoholic, the resulting brew was earthily sweet and delicious with a myriad of mystical floral undertones. I have no bottle to show you, as it was all drunk at our last community pizza evening!

When it rains I can't harvest, as the damp leaves do not store well, especially in infused oils which go mouldy so quickly.

But I can sit and nurse, and drink the herbs I've collected, and feel glad to know my weeds....

Tuesday 13 August 2013

It's complicated

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings - their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

.How many siblings have my kids got? Let's start with my eldest.  He has four from me and four from his dad's subsequent relationship.. If you count Lily. And why wouldn't you count her? Well if you're fourteen and someone asks how many brothers and sisters you have, you might not want to bring up your dead sister right away, or maybe not even the ones that you don't live with....I don't know. But I can guess he doesn't say eight very often. Eight. Hmm. Split families, bereaved families, families with multiple children, how did it all happen?

I'm one of one so this is all new territory to me, brothers and sisters; like an exotic fruit; tantalising, juicy and apparently delicious but just out of reach.Unskilled in fighting, sharing and manilpulating parental favour;

I was dropped into the tumult of sibling jealousy and love that are so exquisitely intermingled they hardly seemed to know which they were or when. 
'I won't throw Lily into the nettles down by the river, she's too beautiful, ' for example. From a  three year old contemplating his newborn sister....

The ferocity of feelings between the kids can unsettle me and send me hurtling to the apex of the whirlwind, shouting, 'No! no!' like a banshee,  or, 'Its fine, it's fine, let's go do some baking', in high pitched, strung out, 
Lets- Placate-Everyone-Right-Now tones.
My partner meanwhile, eldest of five, hasn't even looked up. 'Just leave them, they'll sort it out', he might murmur.
'But they're killing each other!'
'It'll pass!'

When I was a child, everything was sedate, ordered, quiet...ok pretty dull if the truth be known!!! Predictable and unchanging; and I read alot of books.  Mainly about big, noisy rambunctious families charging around doing exotic, alien things like stealing each others toys and fighting over the last slice of cake. It sounded so exciting, so unreachable, so desirable.

So I decided to have my own big noisy rambunctious family. Four, always four. But complicated things like relationship break-ups happen, and before I knew it I had my four kids but by two dads, although the spacing between broods was close enough to make a cohesive family. 

Each permutation of child pairings had a different dynamics. And these dynamics flowed and changed with time. And just as I find the fighting almost unbearable to watch, so I find the moments of tenderness and true affection almost unbelievable too. 'But they really love each other!!'

And then Lily died and everyone has an angel for a sister. No one quite knows how to do without her but they have no choice.
But it doesn't mean their relationship with her has died. All her siblings still love her, even the ones who have never met her on earth. Since little Finch was born three weeks ago, we often say that Lily probably played a part in him deciding to join our family. And although it breaks my heart that  I will never see Finch and Lily together on earth, I know they had a great time together before he was born.....

A white feather always connects the kids to their big sister, floating to the ground in front of them, 'Lily is preening her wings,' they say. 
We talk about her, remember things she said, notice traits in the younger ones which remind us of Lily. And all the children have times when they just sigh and wish she was here again.

Truthfully, Tansy and Leo probably have no real memory of her, they were so young, but the presence of their lost sibling is so powerful and graceful that they can never forget her.
A sister is always a sister, wherever they are.
And five kids are five kids, wherever they are, I didn't plan to have part of my family in heaven, but the relationship between them all will flow and change and grow as they change and grow.
This is their life, and death is part of it, as it is for everyone.
Freddie, Lily, Tansy, Leo and Finch.
Who love each other.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister's new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it's definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It's Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life's twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband's have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that's maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins' sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children's relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen's children didn't start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don't Seek What Isn't There - On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?

Saturday 10 August 2013


Today, Finch is 4 weeks old.
Day by day uncurling, stretching, opening just a tiny bit more; emerging from his dreamy otherwordly newborn realm into our world. Each day his eyes open a little bit more, dark, wide and bottomless as they gaze up at me when he nurses...and nurses...and nurses! And then they shift, imperceptibly to a point just beside my head....what are they seeing? What does he know?
Newborns are so fascinating; fresh and pure, like tiny nuzzling animals, uttering little sighs and moans, like ancient laments from a time before time. His soft silken head nestles so beauifully on all our chests, dreaming, drooling, sucking, shuddering. Doing newborn things. He's arriving.

 Despite the fact that we decided, perhaps foolishly, perhaps wisely, to take Finch (and everyone else) to the wonderful Buddhafield Festival when he was a week old.....neither me or my new born baby had really emerged. Emerged from the quiet dreamy world of home and bed and milk. We winced in the bright sun; loud music made our ears curl, and somehow walking to the toilets seemed like quite a bit of exercise. We did manage two gentle workshops  on womb wisdom and conscious communication but the best places semed to be cushioned shady locations with plenty of chai on offer. No shamanic trance dance this year!

I need time to arrive back in the world. And  living in a community makes it very easy to not go out. There are people, there's space, gardens, children; folks have made me a few meals and even done my washing up a few times!! Why would I want to go out?

But of course I have to....sit in a major shoe chain nursing while Freddie buys trainers, dash into convenient cafes to quickly feed on a grocery shopping trip,when there are other children to care for, life has to expand beyond the babymoon quite quickly!

And yet, and yet, there was something missing, something narrowed, constrained, that I hardly realised until I took the kids to a firelit storyelling evening with Tom Hirons and Rima Staines. Before the spellbinding rendition of 'The Sun Princess and the 40th door', a Lithuanian folk tale; we wandered down a little green lane on the edge of Darmoor, full of piskies and fairies, and tripped across stepping stones to gather honey scented lime blossom.

As we trod the little winding track among moss covered boulders, and trees that whispered old forgotten stories and half finished tales for our times; I suddenly felt something expand inside me, soar to the tree tops, sink down among the soil and twisting roots, fly away on the wings of the mewing buzzard beyond the green. I felt fully emerged from the confines of domesticity and nappy buckets, inspired excited and nourished all at the same time.
I hadn't been on a  walk for weeks.

Somehow I felt more able to sink into the present moment and be fully aware with all my senses, away from home distractions. even away from the very beautiful and productive gardens which always seem to want me to harvest or weed them!

There is something about being out in the wild world that makes me feel free and it the same for you?
I guess with practice I can bring the mindfulness and freedom into daily life too.
Has anyone managed to mindfully and joyfully tidy clutter or empty the washing machine?

It's so effortless in a sun dappled Dartmmor lane.....

Ps I haven't yet managed to pack both camera and nappies for outings....that will its a dearth of pics for now! Nappies take priority......

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Working things out

Yes I keep fiddling around, trying to get things right on this blog, I'm not quite there yet, so be prepared for more changes! It's not my strong point, the techie side, but I'm trying!
When I started this blog I had a very clear vision of what this space was about.  There were three elements which were held here;

The Woodland folk...
For four years I lived with my family in the middle of a wood in Devon. The first three in a mobile home, the last in our self build cabin. This blog was about living in small spaces with minimal possessions and no electricity, it was about hand washing by candlelight and writing in notebooks by the fire, and stepping out into beautiful woodland by night to the ghostly owl shadows gliding down the valley.

Wild medicine
I also wrote about the oils, tinctures and balms I made for my family from wild harvested herbs, and the hedgerow food and medicine around our land. Connection and healing through plants and trees.

Finally, this blog has been space for my daughter Lily, who died four years ago; time and space for me to think about her, share how life is, and was, and could be without my daughter, and what she means for our family.

Some things have changed. And so the blog will change .
We now live in the wing of a mansion, as part of a community of people who sing, and garden together; share space, food and land.

We have an indoor bathroom, access to a washing machine and mains electricity, which to begin with felt odd and wrong after our deep connection with a simpler life on the land. When our cabin burnt down, we had to live somewhere, and after much searching and deliberation, this felt right. And it is. Somehow it is.
We are no longer the family in the woods, we no longer straddle two centuries, bathing in a tin bath, then dashing off to school in a car, but for me in particular, the departure from this way of life has been hard. Not just the loss of the beautiful cabin that we, (well Hugh) worked so hard to build, but it felt like a failure that we were creeping back to mainstream society with our tail between our legs. I missed the closeness to nature and cooking dinner on the campfire, stepping out of the door into wildness.....
'When's the rebuild?' so many people asked in the early days after the fire, and truely neither Hugh or I really ever wanted to.

To return to the blackened scene of such devastation, to a piece of land which, if the truth be known, we had never chosen because it was the most beautiful woodland.

And then I was pregnant. We were exhausted, and our kids needed stability and safety, normality. We have lost so much, our home, our possessions, the chicks, the cat, the rats (Holly and Sophie since you ask) the goats (Goats?.Why yes...Lauren, Lauretta, Abby and Dolly.....they're's a whole blog post just waiting to happen, can't believe they've escaped being featured!)

 but we have also gained so much. Wisdom for a start, to have learnt from big mistakes and misguided ways of approaching projects. We have received so much love and unfailing support from friends an strangers, and  a realisation that community is more important than independance. I have learnt that  receiving is as beautiful (and a lot harder) than giving, and the web of connecion and interdependance between us is the magic and the fabric of our  lives and makes us human. (Yes its basic stuff, but I'm a slow learner, these big jolts in my life accelerate my schooling in the bits I'm falling behind in) We've also gained a new baby, little Finch.

And so things are different. We've been forced to reevaluate our lives, one day I was drawing up business plans for our smallholding, herb products; projecting milk yields and planning my first batch of goats milk soap (with investment of specialised oils, and equipment all at the ready), costing out yurts for our planned retreat centre for bereaved families and disadvantaged kids......the next....its all gone.

And so we move on, and change, and there are other things in our lives, and other paths which, who knows may wind in the same direction one day.

I still gather herbs and bottle nature's medicines for the winter chills, Lily is still my daughter and a luminous presence in our family, I'm still homeschooling Tansy and Leo and writing and creating, but now things are moving.

Life is bigger than I have let myself believe. I'm exploring what this means. Bringing together the things that make me sing and smile and weaving them together to make a blanket of healing. Healing for me, healing for many. The colour and weave is yet unknown although patterns and hues swirl around me, notebooks are filling with lists, threads of projects, ideas....consolidating, envisioning.

I'm just working my way through Leonie Dawson's  Incredible yearbook and planner 2013 , yes in July, should have done it in January, and it's just what I need. Check it out....well at least in readiness for 2014, but July is better than not at all eh? Newborn baby and all!

Little Finch is already a healer in our lives in so many ways, he's brought so much love with him..........and that newborn ageless wisdom, and a soft, silky head to nuzzle.

So this blog will change. Reflecting life's twists and unexpected turns. I hope you'll come too, it's amazing to have you along.
I remember hitting 'publish' the very first time I wrote on here and it felt so strange....who on earth would want to read it anyway? But you have, and people have, and sharing is uplifting and healing and really joyful and fun.....Thankyou.....

Saturday 13 July 2013

Just before Dawn

I was in the middle of writing a post about my Blessingway ceremony, but he beat me to it, coming a week early...dear little boy, born to a family who love him so much.......

Born just before dawn on Wednesday morning.......

and a surprise for every child who came into he bedroom the next morning....

from eldest to youngest.......

Well I guess the Blessingway ceremony will keep for next time, for now we all feel very, very blessed.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Lily and the mobile phone guy

What do you do on the anniversary of your daughter's death? It's not the sort of question I imagined I'd have to deal with when I held my 4 newborns in my arms. But it is something I have to think about every year now.

June approaches with stealthy feet, all blossomy with foaming elder trees and blowsy roses, tangled hedgerows of campion and stitchwort and budding honeysuckle, and I get the same feeling of strange dread and an opening heart.

The weeks before have been tumultuous emotionally, flare ups and misunderstandings, journalling and outpourings, private tears and heart connections, jagged, raw poems that can never be seen...realisations and illuminations.

But today, the anniversary of the day 4 years ago that they did the brain stem test in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, to see if they should turn the life support machine off, well it seemed strangely normal and so so hard to feel any connection with deeper emotions.

Its hard to feel and connect when I'm busy. Doing not being.

We were up early to rush back from a mini break in time for Hugh to go to work, so sweeping caravans and packing at seven instead of a quiet reflective time.
Shopping with the kids for groceries....trying to have a moment of thought over pancakes in a cafe .....jarring with children who were slightly hysterical and tired....
And then for God's sake, meeting the mobile phone repair guy in the supermarket carpark at 4.30. My date with normality. Drawing me into its web with its dulled ravening claws....rushing away from a painting hour where we created angels and doves for Lily's meet the mobile phone guy, and buy loo roll.

But maybe that's ok. Maybe I don't have to create a perfect hallowed day on June 11th and feel like I've let Lily down if I don't. I did need my phone, we did need loo roll. We did connect over the painting and we did visit Lily's grave.....and we do have spontaneous moments where we feel.

Curled up in a little grassy place we go to sometimes where the younger kids feel safe and relaxed, and say how they miss her.
A moment alone to pick flowers for her table where each blossom seem to glow with the essence of her love for it. Where the world swelled and condensed to a tiny distilled fragment holding Lily and me in its tender embrace.

A chance conversation sitting in the car in the rain with all of my children, remembering, crying, little forgotten details recalled, healing tears.....soothing our struggles alone.
Messages from friends, a kind word which helps grief to flow.

And that is the challenge. To create the space to let the grief move how it will, without dams or blockages or  avoidance tactics, or just the practical demands of daily life. To let Lily into everything. To allow the joy and grief to weave and flow around our lives, the tears sparkling among the breakfast dishes as the laughter ripples into a walk to the garden. No separation. No compartmentalisation.

It is a challenge.

When I meditate, or spend a moment seeking a connection with nature or myself, the tears and emotions are very close to the surface, waiting for a chance to escape the rigid confines of my busy hours where I rush without feeling. I know that the more I do this, the more emotion can flow naturally in my life and become more balanced and help me and my family to heal. I've made a commitment to do this more.

Spending time in nature, in this beauiful place that is our home now,  sitting with a flower, a tree, being quiet and receptive to the spirit that is in everything and in us, makes my heart much bigger and makes me feel that anything is possible. Spending time connecting with friends old and new, in deeper ways, more nurturing ways, makes me not feel alone. Makes me feel the beauty of life, the endless possibilities that are always there.

I guess Lily would just laugh about meeting the mobile phone guy, she just needs us to love her, remember her, connect wih her, just like always. It's another day, like yesterday, like tomorrow.

A day for us all to connect with something more than our mind driven rushing, to open our hearts to a deeper level. Its a huge tapestry of glowing, luminous threads we're part of, all interwoven with the practical homespun browns and greys, the vibrant reds and pinks of daily activity, the soft iridescent violets of our connection to the spirit which is in everything, the subtle greens of nature unfolding....we never stop weaving...

Do you manage to hold all the threads of the loom it easy for you?

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Growing bigger

I've always been tall, often the tallest woman in a gathering, the tallest kid in class, not really, really tall but above weight has slightly fluctuated over the years but I've never been fat or super super thin, just kind of ok.
But you know I've always been small. Kept myself small, squashed myself into small insignificance, self sabotaged, assumed I can't do it, shouldn't do it, would be better if someone else did it. Write the book, illustrate it, raise the child, bake the cake, run the stall, make the speech. Hazy memories of shrinking down behind my desk at school cowering from praise from my English teacher, wishing my navy knee highs were long enough to cover my blushes.  Starting amazing projects, business ideas, courses, books......and abandoning them for fear of what? Fear of failure? Or fear of something else?

 I recently went to see a kinesiologist and what came out of it.....I have.a misguided, inherited pattern to see other people's jewels as more important than my own.
And it wasn't so much of a shock to hear it.
Resentfully bottom of the pile..oh its only me I'll just sit on the floor over there..yes I know I'm 7 months pregnant but its ok really. 

The other day I read a post from Lucy over at Dreaming Aloud What stands between us and thegreatness of our potential
Read it.
 To summarise in a phrase;
 What we are afraid of is not how inadequate we are but how powerful we are.
I read it and reread it and began to watch myself....

Recently I've been writing short stories, quite a few, to enter competitions. (note to self..I really wanted to add "not that I've any chance of winning"....grrr) . I notice that just when I get into the flow, just when I reach that luminous moment when the story seems to twist itself out of my grasp and capture the essence of what I knew was there, without any particular effort from me, just at that moment when my pen is jumping around in my hand from excitement and I'm smiling from that Yes Yes Yes feeling. Guess what? I head off to do the washing up, or sort the laundry, or make sure Freddie is doing his homework, or do a bit of general tidying in the lobby.

Strange isn't it. But familiar?

Its ridiculous that's what.

Ok I don't wear navy knee highs any more...(only in certain situations...just kidding) and I don't blush when someone appreciates something I've done, but I do have to fight hard not to disagree with them. Or I might do one of those little self deprecating put downs...oh yes but you should have seen me when I was .....insert some mildly humourous incident where I seem ridiculous or wrong.

This is where it gets serious.
I am 40, no kidding, my birthday was in December. I say no kidding because it's still a little surprising to me.
I'm pregnant with my fifth child, and pregnant for the eighth time.
I am an adult
I have lost my eldest daughter in a traumatic accident.
My house has burnt down.
I'm really an adult.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.
I'm not saying that traumatic events happen just to send me some sort of cosmic message. But they have happened and although I am changed, I'm also still the same,  the same little me.
And I'm not ok with that.

Doing great things sure, daily hum drum things, little special things, hugging my kids, making up stories planting out squash and beans, smelling the apple blossom, coming up with another sugar free recipe, navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence, pregnancy, children.........but still feeling as though my life is only part lived. As though I'm a water nymph, swimming in circles at the bottom of the pond, catching a glimpse of the sparkling sun above the surface of the water, the azure summer sky, the rustle and dip of the soaring birds and dragonflies, just out of reach. Feeling ok, but knowing that something luminous and magical is there, just waiting for the gauzy translucent wings to sprout from my back to launch me into a vast shining universe that I hardly dare admit I can inhabit.

Because I can inhabit can you, so can everyone. We were all born to live in the true joy of  a full existence and potential, and we're not supposed to live small mean cramped lives. You don't see an apple tree apologising in the corner of the orchard, limiting its blossom output and thinking well maybe I shouldn't this year. Or a robin at dawn thinking it ought to just tone it down a bit today, and sit quietly behind a leaf instead.

The more I think about this, the more I am aware of and drawn to the many shining souls there are, glowing with the energy and beauty of their creativity, enthusiasm, passion.


I have to fight the thought that they are different somehow from me, more able, more passionate, more creative......more more more than little me. Its hard to think this. Especially as its just my head that does this. My heart knows the truth, and when I have a moment's stillness; a moment of connection; a moment where my busy busy censoring judgemental pattern ridden brain stops its goddam thinking.....then I know. Then I catch a brief golden glimpse of the simplicity of how things could be, how they are, how I could be.

And I owe it to my daughter Lily to become this person, yes I owe it to myself, and my family, and the little tumbling babe still dark and warm inside me, but especially to Lily. I can't waste my life, I know I have bigger things to do, I can feel Lily, in those quiet golden moments of connection. She knows with the whole of her; unencumbered by a mind and a thinking brain, she is free to really see, and she helps me.

So I've decided to make some changes..ways to grow bigger. (And not just my tummy which is by the day!)I might share them here, I might not, but sharing helps, connecting with others helps, knowing that we all, to a lesser or greater degree go through similar doubts, restrictions realisations, moments of illumination.

I'd love to hear yours..please?!                                                                     

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Still Here!

This feels like forgotten space, strange unfamiliar fruit tasted long ago, yet recognised, missed......Lack of habit, distraction, busy days, inertia, who knows..I haven't written here in a regular way for such a long time I almost don't know how to. It feels awkward, like that first uncertain hug after an argument.

Meanwhile my belly grows rounder, and Spring grows greener and warmer and more abundant with just a whisper of north wind to remind us of the weeks of chill which kept us shivering by the fire knitting reluctantly while the sap rose in our veins just the same.

Now, the windflowers dance like stars in the woods, the lawns are embroidered with Primroses, Lady's smock, Speedwell, Daisies; the promise of Bluebells, the memory of Snowdrops. In the walled garden herbs are hurrying to break from their long enforced slumber, Mints and Balms, Angelica, Tansy,  Rue in a frenzy of life and hope. The polytunnels are bursting with verdant abundance. There is so much bursting energy, buds swelling, coy pigeons flirting, (downright violent duck mating!) my baby swirling and swimming in its own warm, secret haven. It's hard not to get exhausted by it all! Its suddenly become almost impossible to go to bed early, and the sun peeps around the shutters so early now...

We have so much to be thankful for. Sometimes Hugh and I look at each other, and marvel, 'how did we get this lucky?' Our house burnt down but somehow, in an easy flowing synchronisity of events, we have ended up in a beautiful vibrant place full of love life and community. We garden together and share Thursday soup and bread, we sing together, meet together, borrow, lend and share; the children spend hours and hours playing in the trees and gardens, learning, accomodating..being children.

Now that the Spring warmth is here and I no longer dread undressing to go to bed in the glacial heights of our enormous bedroom, I am relaxing into the final couple of  months of the pregnancy...the final months! July seems close. Friends are starting to talk about nappies they have put by for me, I am thinking about a king sized mattress, I am still not really believing I'm pretty close to having another baby. It's exciting!

Friday 1 March 2013

New beginnings and gratitude

First, cascades of love and gratitude to the lovely Lucinda at Whispering Earth who, on reading of the fire, emailed me to offer support and herbs to replace some of the ones I lost. A couple of weeks ago, a special parcel arrived, containing soothing herb teas, a delicious rose scented moisturizing cream, some tinctures and a mysterious oil whose true purpose will become clear as this post progresses. It was such a generous and lovely gift. I am still overwhelmed by the love and kindness of friends, those nearby, and those I have never met! Thankyou so much.

The snow drops are blooming bravely in swathes around the grounds of our new home, promising so tantilisingly the coming of softer Spring weather. In the talons of the east wind, its hard to forget this, and in the chilly outreaches of our new home we shiver with blankets and hot water bottles. It's not a cosy cabin, its the wing of a mansion, but we have one warm room which we cook in, knit in, play in, paint in, hang out in, and we are very happy to be here, despite the bone numbing chill.

Around us are acres of beautiful grounds, walled veg gardens, polytunnels, children (and other adults) to play with, community meals and choirs to attend, ...even our chickens have settled, integrating with the existing flock and laying boxes and boxes of eggs.
We've joined a community, a few miles from our land, and, after our three months in town, are feeling the healing balm of being again surrounded by trees, green plants, growing space, room to run without fear of cars and streets, the balm of being with others.

 More later about our new home  because there is more excitement....

More beginnings.
New tender shoots sprouting
A phoenix rising from the ashes.
Springtime promises of a growing,  swelling, surging Mother Earth.......
and well, me.

I'm half way to growing a new baby. 20 weeks in and getting quite a belly, soft little kicks, and jeans that don't fit, and morning sickness nearly passing......number 5...phew!
How did I ever think 2013 was going to be a quiet, calm year?

And the oil from Lucinda?

Friday 18 January 2013

Phoenix rising

Days keep tumbling by, days with things to do, days with space to be filled, days of jumble and overflowing
thoughts, days to remind myself where we're living: where we were living two months ago, three months ago, where we'll be in two weeks. 
Friend's caravans, friend's cabins, a friend's house, our cabin.....and our new home waiting around the corner at the end of the month, new beginnings....

People mention Phoenixes quite alot at the moment, which is encouraging, as the other option is to sink into the ashes of our home and grovel among the broken plates and charred books and let our eyes and ears slowly fill with toxic choking grey dust...wallow in the sorrow and loss of our vanished home...

We must rise.

There have been days when rising is the last thing I want to do, when the weight of loss, not just for the fabric of our cabin but for the whole way of life it too crushing to bear, and wallowing seems like the only possible way, but there are little shards of light piercing the dark.

We have lost our home but not our friends and family.
Friends and family who have given us food, money and bedding, toys, books, art materials.
Who have rung up at just the right moment to invite me to coffee, when loneliness and sadness were just about to consume me.
Who have cooked meals and given us their son's old bed...and said any time you need......
Who have sent messages and words of support, love and hope.
Who have spent hours sorting second hand laptops out for us and hauling galvanised metal and bits of burnt house around.
Who have never even met me but still offer help...

We have lost our belongings but not each other.
We are changed, buffeted again by the tornado our life has become, but still here, still eating, drinking, singing even, laughing.....still living..

This is what I'm learning:

Loss strengthens us.
Loss plunges us into an abyss so deep and terrible that the only way out is to a better shining place. Our delicate tender selves, wounded and scarred, are irreversibly toughened; imbued with hard won wisdom and  a depth which opens doorways to our hearts.
Our hearts and everyone elses .
Loss strips away material concerns (ironically) and pares away the petty trappings of our fluttering lives, the aneasthesia of media, shopping, worries about what other people think, strips it all away and allows us glimpses of the shining core at the centre of everything, at the centre of us.

We sigh into this, and are touched by the sight of a delicate new moon or an apricot infused sunset, we can see it reflected in the harassed woman waiting for the bus, or the man who just pushed past us to get across the road.
We are all wounded. We all carry pain.We have all suffered, or will all suffer loss of something or someone we love.
But we do have a choice.
We can carry that pain bitterly and closely, twisted beneath our burning skin and become sick and miserable,  or we can allow the searing heat of our loss to cleanse and clear what is not needed in our lives; the armour we paste around ourselves, the shields, the judgements, the  comparisons, the guilt....and find our way back to ourselves. Our way back to others....especially to others...we are not alone.
 We need each other.
 We're not supposed to do it alone.
This is one of my biggest lessons
This is one I'm learning faster than I thought I would.

There are more changes and huge life events ahead of us in the coming months and I know I'll be repeating these words to myself many times, just to remind myself.

We're not supposed to do it alone.
And thankyou to you, dear readers for reminding me too!!!