What I did on my holidays

What I did on my holidays

It’s that time of year. If you have kids, they may well be scrambling to write up a report of the same name as this article, or complete whatever project they were asked to do. You may be getting ready for the new school year yourself, as parent, teacher, teaching assistant or other related jobs.

I decided to take August off, stepping back from blogging weekly, because I felt it was time to cut myself some slack. I’ve been fighting off some very dark moods and the effort of writing a blog post every week was becoming a big deal.

So what have I been doing this summer?

Reading, for a start. I’ve worked my way through several books by Jungian writer Robert A Johnson. They’re excellent books, deceptively short but packed with condensed, intense but eminently readable information. I’ve also read through several books by Dennis Wheatley and enjoyed them; I was warned by an uncle never to read them but having read them, I can’t see why they were seen as so disturbing. I’ve read a good number of books by Dion Fortune; some I am still working my way through. I’m a person who can have twenty books on the go, and pick up and put down as they take my fancy. Of mainstream authors, I read the most recent by Joanne Harris, Peaches for M. le Curé (good but a tad predictable and somehow lacking in verve), the first of the Cormoran Strike books by J.K. Rowling (enjoyable but oddly dated; I admire her but I really think the success of this book is entirely due to her name and not the actual story). I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the end of the Lane with huge enjoyment, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye with puzzlement and some sadness. I read two books by Graham Masterton, set among the garda of Ireland, and while they were compelling, they were also absurd, ridiculous and gratuitously horrible. Poetry, I read Yeats’s The Wind that Shakes the Reeds and reminded myself why I always loved his work.

Among the independent authors I’ve read this summer, I read Mary Grand’s Free to be Tegan ( gentle, intuitive and a very interesting exploration of leaving a cult), Mari Howard’s Baby, Baby, an intelligent, well written and intriguing novel, exploring the ethics of fertility and the effects on ordinary people. I’ve also read a work in progress by Karl Mercer, an absurdist pastiche of Sherlock Holmes that made me laugh out loud a few times.

As well as reading, I’ve done a certain amount of painting, and active imagination work. In terms of writing, I’ve done dribs and drabs, as well as some poetry. I’ve got three works in progress than trickle along, as well as one that basically got shelved a couple of years ago. I have gone back to doing long-hand first drafts, because I’ve found it impossible to allow myself just to write and let the story reveal itself if I use a computer. There is so much internal pressure to produce perfection on the first draft that I don’t find I can write at all. Long-hand means I can let it come out, and edit later when it gets put onto a document. It’s hard for me to remember that when I had my spell of intense productivity about ten years ago, each story had already been through a process of creation many times over in my head and in my unconscious before it ever made it onto a page. They were never true first drafts.

We were meant to be going away a few times in August but the friends we were going to visit came down with a nasty virus, and then, our beloved guinea pig Tiko became ill, and after a week of hoping and nursing, he died in my arms last Monday. We were devastated. He was such a character, and is hugely missed. We’re on the look-out now for a local rescue centre or individual, needing to rehome guinea pigs.

Other thing I’ve been doing is the final frustrating and maddening edits and tweaks to the collection of essays from this blog, entitled Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking. The paperback is out now and the kindle version will follow shortly. I have a launch party on Facebook on the 4th of September so come along and join the fun here: https://www.facebook.com/events/354508034737778/ I’ve chosen not to do a lot of the running around authors seem to do for new books, like a blog tour or similar. I’ve grown aware that with the ocean of books and the phalanxes of authors out there, there’s just so much noise and shouting louder and longer is just a waste of energy, not to mention that it becomes obnoxious when authors are constantly in your face. I’ll be posting here about the new book and perhaps in a few places as well, but if you read it and find it worthwhile, I’d hope that it might be that you would review it and talk about it to your circle of friends and family. I’ve put a lot of myself into it and I believe that it’s a book that is needed. It’s not a self-help book and it doesn’t offer easy solutions, but I think it asks questions that need asking.

Other things I have done this summer have been sitting out in the garden and just taking the time to watch the flowers grow and the insects do their work. That’s been a great joy, just to BE, and be in a place I feel at home and safe. I’ve read, painted, written and done my colouring seated at the patio table on the area that might loosely be termed crazy paving (not so much crazy as downright psychotic) and it’s been a blessing to have that space. While I was teaching, summer school meant that I never got to enjoy the lazy days and sunny afternoons as I was always on the go and rushing. When we moved here, the first two summers I was still too unwell physically to enjoy it. This third summer has been a time of reflection and contemplation.

Anyway, September tip-toes in and I wish you all the very best for the mellow days of autumn that are on their way.

Equinox at the Cave

Equinox at the Cave

There are cobwebs everywhere when I move through from the long dark tunnel and into the subdued light of the cave.

At first I think this is simply because it’s been so long since I’ve been here but as I look around, I realise that the place is different from when I was last here. The light streaming into the cave has a mellow, golden tone to it, and the air smells not of sap and spring flowers but of wood-smoke and that spicy, musky odour of fallen leaves. When I get to the entrance, I see there are things waiting for me; this is always the way: I arrive and I find that something has been prepared for me.

In the brisk wind, I see Reindeer waiting at the fire-pit, the breeze ruffling dense fur. I bow my greeting before burying my face in that soft warm fur. It has been too long and I am ashamed of my absence. I had felt unworthy to come here, laden and burdened with anger and a desire to hurt those who had hurt me, so my visits stopped. I did not wish to pollute this sacred space with my pain, though surely I should have known it would heal me to be here. I am a fool.

I feel a touch and I look up; the great soft muzzle has nudged me to alertness and with one unmistakable gesture I am directed to investigate the things left at the entrance. I get to my feet but as I move, I sense Reindeer getting up and moving away. The pile of objects left for me are puzzling and delightful. The first is a heap of pebbles, white quartzite polished to a sheen, each so large I cannot close my fingers around it. They are heaped upon a folded blanket of crimson and other colours. There is a design woven into it but I cannot interpret the figure in the middle. The wool is dense and soft and will be very warm. The final item is a long plush feather, barred in beige and white; by the feel I think it may be from an owl.

I am alone. My guardian spirit is close by and I know I am safe as the sun dips below the horizon, far off beyond the endless forest that stretches out below my ledge. I set to and light the fire, feeding it with the pine cones that litter the pure white sand around me. One by one, as the sky turns darker, the stars emerge, pinpoints of brilliant white light in a velvet canopy. The night is cool, and is becoming colder, so I fetch the blanket and wrap myself in it and I sit close to the fire.

My head nods and I have to stop myself falling into a dream state. Perhaps I have for as I gaze into the fire, I see eyes gazing back at me from the other side of the fire-pit. At first I think my guardian has returned but then I see that there are not two eyes but eight that watch me, without blinking. In the dancing shadows I see that my new companion is a being that baffles all comprehension.

As the light flickers, she too flickers, changing from one form to another. At one moment she is a an elderly woman, her face stern and wise and webbed by lines of experience that make her visage more beautiful than a smooth young face could be. At another moment I see a vast Spider, lovely but alien and strange. Perhaps I should be afraid but I am not; instead I am simply overwhelmed with the honour of this visitor.

Greetings, Grandmother,” I say, bowing, even though I sit cross-legged and swathed in my blanket.

She bows back and we sit, facing each other through the fire, companionable but silent. I do not know what to say and I wait for her to speak. As my Elder, she must have come with a message, but for a long while she sits, her hands moving but her voice stilled. Gradually I see that she is weaving, or perhaps knitting, and her clever fingers are creating something out of yarn.

The night draws on and I am glad of the fire. My legs grow stiff, and reluctantly I get to my feet to stretch them.

Bring the stones.”

Her voice is melodic and sweet, but it makes me jump because I had begun to think she would not speak at all.

Bringing a few at a time, I carry all the pebbles to the fire side and when I offer to bring them to her, she shakes her head. She had settled on form and much of me is relieved that she has chosen to remain as Grandmother, leaving her Spider form. I settle down again and look at her, quizzically.

Build me a tower with the stones,” she asks.

The stones are too rounded, surely, but I obey and time and time again, I manage to balance one pebble on another, and sometimes even a third, yet always, the fourth one’s placing causes the tower to tumble. She laughs, as a mother might at a child’s folly.

I drop the stones and lower my head, feeling my cheeks redden and I struggle to force the anger down again.

I can’t,” I say. “I can’t.”

I can,” she says, and when I glare at her, my eyes filled with skepticism and anger, she laughs again.

Show me,” I ask, ruder than I ought to be to this Being.

She comes to my side of the fire and I see that she has been weaving a long, thin net. She picks each stone very carefully slides it into the net until it is full and all the stones are contained within it. She holds the end of the net, and the stones jostle for a moment before settling.

But that’s cheating,” I say, outraged. “It’s not standing by itself, even.”

She laughs and very slowly removes her grip on the net. To my astonishment, the structure remains upright and intact. For about ten seconds, it stands before toppling to one side. Some of the stones spill out.

I am chastened. I do not ask her why she asked me to build an impossible tower, but instead I gather the stones and the net back together and I hold two of the pebbles, one in each hand. They are of the same weight and size and the cool surface of each is a pleasure to touch.

Not everything must last forever,” she says. “I bound those stones together for a short time. Now those stones are free to be something else.”

I do not understand but I do not really need to; this is something to ponder in the long nights to come. The stars have shifted since I first began my vigil and I sense that we have come to that still point, where for a short time, day and night are of equal length before inexorably, night becomes longer and the days brief and cold. I take the two stones, and I manage to balance one upon the other, and I leave them by the side of the fire-pit. The Being on the other side stands up, her body filled with grace and strength that bely her ancient nature.

You may bind things together and they may stay bound for a time,” she says. “But having once been bound, they will always remember the binding. It is the remembering that is important. That is my gift.”

She raises a hand and in my mind, I also see her raise palps and she slips away down the trail that begins at the edge of the sand. I sit back down and wait for the dawn. I slip into sleep, and I wake to find Reindeer next to me, my head resting on warm flanks. All around the cave, all over the bushes at the edge of the ledge, are a million webs shining with jewels of dew. The blanket slides off my shoulders as I rise to my feet to stretch, and as I pick it up off the sand to fold it, I see clearly for the first time the design woven into the wool.

A stylised spider sits at the centre of a web whose threads make the words: Grandmother Spider Wove The World.

As I walk back into the cave, I find the feather. I had forgotten this gift and as I lift it to the morning light, I see that the end of the feather is shaped; the hard keratin end has been fashioned into a nib.

I have no ink,” I say aloud, but Reindeer is asleep and there is no one to answer me.

http://mxtodis123-maidenmotherandcrone.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/grandmother-spider.html

https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/sunrise-on-the-solstice-the-view-from-the-cave/

Autumn leaf

Autumn leaf
 
I am the first leaf
That Autumn sends
Tumbling into the water
To twist and turn
As the current catches
And bears me downstream.
I am curled in on myself,
Dried by the long summer’s sun
To golden brown fragility,
A coracle to hold my soul
As I am swept away unheeded.
How long I may travel
I shall not know
Until I begin to sink:
The Source and the Sea,
They are still certain,
But the journey,
As you know, is not.

Lammas Dream

I woke  this morning after a night of odd dreams, one of which moved me to tears. Last night I had to fetch back my hive of bees after we’d been informed that it was being raided by wasps so we were late back last night and had to get the girls settled in a discreet part of the garden, working by torchlight. I’m mulling over a lot of things right now and am intending to start weaving them into a set of stories when I get a bit of time and energy, but this dream seems to be a part of the inner journey I am taking right now. I’m not going into any more than that as it’d take too long so I’ll give the gist of the central part of the dream.

I am not sure where I was, but it was a bit like one of the great summer fetes we have here in England and I’d wandered off a bit before finding a sort of gazebo or tent with it’s sides up, much like the ones you find at summer fairs and village fetes all over the country. But when I stepped inside it, everything changed. If I said it was decorated with autumn leaves and berries and ripe apples, I’d be damning it with faint praise. It was as though those things had magically just grown there. No flower arranger had had a hand in this; it was beyond beautiful. Branches of all sorts of trees seemed to have woven themselves together, some laden with nuts and berries like hazel and rowan, and others had apples and pears and plums and all sorts of other fruit as well as leaves that were changing colour to their autumn hues. But it was the atmosphere that made me cry with a strange atavistic joy. I’d stepped into the very presence of God, or that’s what it felt like. A deeper peace I can seldom remember experiencing. The scent of fruit flowers, leaves and barks filled the air and there was a profound expectant quiet like the feeling in a church when the last notes of the organ die away leaving a resonance like silver hanging in the air. Apart from me, no one was there. I simply didn’t want to leave. The dream moved on then and other things happened that I must ponder later.

When I finally woke this morning and drank tea, I remembered today is Lammas, the feast of the ripening corn and the harvest. I’d woken with tears of joy and sorrow at leaving that tent of God and now I feel I must seek it again or even create my own corner of it.

Lammas blessings to everyone who reads this.

Autumn Leaf

 

 

vivs-drawings-and-paintings-016

Autumn leaf
 
I am the first leaf
That Autumn sends
Tumbling into the water
To twist and turn
As the current catches
And bears me downstream.
I am curled in on myself,
Dried by the long summer’s sun
To golden brown fragility,
A coracle to hold my soul
As I am swept away unheeded.
How long I may travel
I shall not know
Until I begin to sink:
The Source and the Sea,
They are still certain,
But the journey,
As you know, is not.

 

I know it isn’t autumn; it’s barely spring in the UK, but I thought this poem illustrates a bit what I have been saying in earlier posts.