Monday, 19 December 2011

Painting the Landscape

The landscape before me is like a thin covering of paint covering the surface of the earth. It is thin, fragile, possibly applied with care and thought and frequently admired by observers. Given the right tools, as with most paint coverings, it can easily be removed. Technology has enabled us to emulate nature's form and texture within 3D animation software and here a pixelated landscape can be manufactured to mimic and exaggerate natural processes and structures. Yet the one thing it does not able to have is an actual organic life to enable it to live and exist independently. The real landscape is set before me - the painted surface of nature and life that has been applied to an inorganic substrate. All this is life. The trees, the grasses, the soil - it all exists as a living ecological system. And we can sit and admire the painting and wonder at the mysteries of the painter.

As I sit against a tree sheltered from the cold wind, I am aware of the contact that I have with the ground, and this ground extends way from me connecting all places on the planet. I feel connectedness and grounded - part of the trees and all that surrounds me - and then when I am back on my bike and moving off into the winter sunshine I am free to go wherever I am able.

On a day like today, when the sunlight and clouds dance above the transparentness of the winter's day, the light create new visual textures and forms that are transient and beautiful. The painting is alive with imbued creativity.

How do we look beyond the painting? Is it just a thing of temporal beauty or is there more to it than that? How do we look to honouring, resoecting and working with this created form and not just use it in an act of consumerism?

Where are the true wisdom seekers and visionaries who can develop a sound framework of leadership, economic stability and spiritual depth that can be accepted by people in this post-modernist world. Is the fragmentation of culture, religion and society sustainable? How can we be brought together to form new ways of living that can become more honouring to the planet upon which we live. How can we protect ourselves from ourselves and the future? You can't just sit back, look at the painting and say "God will save me - I can't deal with all this big picture, long term or vaguely spiritual stuff". That is just ignoring the ability we have as humans to find within us the spiritual strength to take control of our personal development and any responsibility for our actions that may be affecting this earth. Denial of the intrinsic value of our fragile earth is self-indulgent escapism, sinful and ignores the possibility that Jesus could have a salvific effect on nature. His blood, after all, may have touched the wooden cross - a symbol of the natural world perhaps.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

What does Christmas mean?

When you sit alone - amongst a landscape of trees that twist, cream and sway in the strong wind that is powering over the hillside - what does Christmas mean? It isn't quite a gale, but the warm buffeting wind has brought greyness and occasional spots of rain to an otherwise bright and sun-filled week. Here I am, sheltered from the turbulence that breathes restlessly around me, feeling the landscape beneath my feet stretch away down the hillside and out towards places where Christmas dwells in homes and towns. The landscape doesn't know Christmas. It gives us the essentials for our life and yet Christmas seems a self-centered indwelling of the human spirit that has no connection with what I am experiencing here. Yet the birth of Jesus, from a cosmological perspective, began the salvation of the earth from the sinfullness of consumerism that may ultimately destroy it. For us humans this highlight of the year is meaningless to the trees around me - they are oblivious to the Christcentric revolution that occured on earth in human culture two thousand years ago. Christmas fails to acknowledge the ecology of our fragile biosphere unlike the more pagan and celtic festivals that honour the rhythm of the seasons and the interdependence of man and nature.

I have, for a few hours, escaped the need to be part of Christmas. I am surrounded by it at work and at home but up here it has changed its meaning. Yet if the message of Christmas is the birth of love, then that is what it does mean to me - love for all those around me and the giving that I partake in signifies that. On days like this I can give myself to the landscape in an offering of presence and awareness that I would like to believe it appreciates. Its gift to me is one of beauty, peace, life, salvation and light. Light. For now, at this one moment in the whole day, the sun has just appeared through the greyness to touch the fields and trees around me with a faint wash of brightness and colour. But as soon as I see blueness between the clouds above it, it begins to fade and the heavy greyness recovers its ground.

* * *

I see two ladybirds on the ground beside me. There have been many this autumn. They look cold and tired.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Warm Autumn

It is only in the last few days that there has been a more significant chill in the air and a touch of frost on the ground in the mornings. November has been relatively mild, especially when compared to the freezing conditions we had around this time last year. We've hardly needed to put the heating on at home yet.

The photo was taken a couple of days ago one lunchtime on a walk over fields near to where I work. It was a bright sunny day and it was a mistake to have taken a coat with me as it was milder than I was expecting. Exposed soil on the fields was totally dry in places though very moist in shaded parts by woodland. Last weekend I moved around some plants in the garden because the soil was so easily workable. We haven't had any significant rain here in the South East for many months and there are news reports of the drought continuing well into next year. We have had rain this year, but nothing like the quantity required to replenish ground water supplies.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reflections on a Druid Path

I've just skimmed through the New Order of Druids Bardic Course. I have picked out some odd bits that caught my eye, paraphrased parts of it and given a few direct quotes. The course looks very interesting and detailed for those who wish to do a more thorough look into the beliefs and practices of the Druid path, but it isn't something I would wish to do mainly because it delves into areas which I'm not really sure about (as to whether I agree with them or that I would want to explore - but I could perhaps say the same about some of the things here!).


Learning from The Land
It could be said that ancient Druidism is part of history and therefore irrelevant to today's modern lifestyle. It is a term that belonged to a group of people who lived in a culture that was very different to ours. By using it today are we not just trying to relive a romantic and idealistic spirituality that is tinged with nostalgia and a sense of wanting to be different to other people the world around us? If this isn't relevant to today then in a spiritual context this denies the fact that it could perhaps be transcendent, transpersonal and archetypal. In today's world where our consumerist lifestyle is fed at the expense of the natural world, is this a valid a spiritual framework upon which to build a respect for the environment around us and a source of values upon which to decide personal ethics? What it is then is a response, like all other spiritualities are to the world around them - "a response to the divine beauty of the world and our desire to participate with it". If you have a keen attachment and sense of belonging to the natural world then I suggest that the framework upon which modern day druidry hangs its philosophy is valid and can sit comfortably within a more eco-centric Christian faith.

"Over time, the spirit of the people in relation to the spirit of the land shaped this response. It took on the colors and textures that were birthed through this dynamic interaction; and so tradition was born. To be a druid meant to be part of the learned class of society, it meant playing a role – whether a central role such as a judge, historian, storyteller, or even sometimes a king; or the more socially marginalized shamanic roles of magician or healer. In either case, the druid was centrally concerned with the workings of society and the community’s relationship with the land.

Behind the 'roles' of druids lay the spirit or archetype of druidism. It is this archetypal pattern that druidism, in all its forms, has grown out of. In asking what 'authentic' druidism is, we must ask what this archetype is, and whether modern druidism is in alignment with it. In this respect our answer is deeply personal. Because archetypes, which are primal patterns of consciousness, transcend human nature, and remain a numinous mystery, there can be no fixed objective scale for determining the authenticity of the response."

The Ecological Unconscious
Theodore Roszak has formulated the concept of the "ecological unconscious" (The Voice of the Earth, 2001). The human collective unconscious is a place in which resides cultural, social and religious patterns, symbols and archetypes. The ecological unconscious is place of all the ecological, wild and environmental patterns, symbols and archetypes. It is this that connects us with a deep bond to the cosmos from which we have emerged, and the earth which is our home.

Animism
Druidry is deeply rooted in a relationship with the earth and acknowledges the interdependance between all aspects of the natural world: soil, plants, mountains, rivers and animals. Thus it does have a deeply animistic flavour - it is a mutual conversation between humans and nature. This relationship is as valid now as it was in the Celtic times. The cultures may have been lost and changed, but authentic natural relationships are as important today as they were to the Celts. I am unsure about working with non-ordinary states of consciousness, but as a framework for fostering growth and wholeness I think  it has much to offer.

"In essence Druidism is more than a spirituality or religion, but is a way, and unlike organized religions it does not interpret reality for us, but rather asks us to question everything and interpret the universe on our own. So it can, at times, be difficult to know what ground we are standing on, or whether we even have solidity beneath our feet. In Druidism, it is really that ground which defines what the path is; that foundation. Everything above the foundation hinges on our own subjective experiences, but the foundation itself, the roots and structure, are what gives us our cultural and spiritual identity."

Nine Strands:
Tribal dimension: our cultural identity
Art: creative expression and inspiration
Healing: Balance between humans and 'more-than-human communities'
Metaphysical: understanding the universe, the cosmos
Seership: divination, but not just that; wisdom, Otherworld connections
Ritual: Joining the flow of the rhythm of the universe
Natural Philosophy: direct physical experience of the natural world
Teaching: writing, teaching others, simple conversations. Cultivate new knowledge and wisdom within ourselves
Service: we grow in order to be of service to the world as well as our own

"[This path is...] simply a perspective, a way of defining what is often so hard to define. It’s left to personal experience then, what the Druid Way is, and how it informs our actions. Like all ideas that may not necessarily hold true for all, but can neither be labeled right or wrong, this one might just bring some light to the darkened forest of the soul."

Interweaving
We need to look afresh at the world and see the sacred pulsing through everything and recognising the divine presence of the sacred. From an animistic perspective soul is all around us (John O'donohue ' The body is in the soul') - this is a way of seeing the numinous imbued in everything - everything is filled with divine beauty. This is why the Celtic view of divinity is different from later anthropomorphic/human images. Celtic art reflects this idea of the interconnectedness of things and the idea of Divine creative energy or Shaping where lines, knots and spirals turn from one shape or form to another, to a human, to an animal etc. It is a world of dynamic fluidity, nothing is static. This is one way of looking at it because a more basic view is that Celtic art was developed purely as a design element that filled empty space! Much of it was developed in the Christian Celtic era onwards.

"Our current industrial worldview is one that promotes the destruction of self and nature, and through them, soul and spirit. This dissociation however is simply psychological. In reality there is no separation between nature and soul, or self and Other. The illusion of this separation is a result of our perceptions about ourselves and the world around us. To heal this dissociative gap we must have a shift in worldview, from anthropocentric (human centered) to ecocentric (earth centered), and re-imbue the phenomenal world with an acknowledgement of the sacred."

A more cosmological view of the world would see all things as being animated by spirit and what is sacred or not depends on our perception and an opening up of all of our senses. The Celtic mind would see the world more in terms of things as cyclical, spiraling, ebbing and flowing between dark and light, winter and summer. Duality gives way to places between these things - where they meet - a thin place. The Otherworld is like the soul of nature - we move through this nature-soul with a dynamic openness of spirit. It could be within our psyche or it could be a real place - a spirit world perhaps.

Is there an Underworld/Sea (the unconscious), Middleworld/Land (normal waking consciousness) and Upperworld/Sky (Spirit)?

Spirit of Place
How do we interact with the landscape around us? What is the "spirit of place" and how does this connect with our memories, history and myth?

"Each specific place in nature has its indwelling spirit in the Celtic traditions. This animistic world-view, held by many native traditions, is the product of a belief in the sacredness of all things. Unlike many world religions which hold that divinity is entirely transcendent, animistic traditions believe that this divinity is both imminent and transcendent. God does not only dwell in heaven, but within the Earth as well. This view was held by both the ancient Celts as well as the modern ones. While Celtic Christians speak of this as the imminence of God, Celtic pagans speak of this as the spirit of place. If human beings can be conceived of having their own spirit, individualized as well as connected to the larger whole, then it would not be too far of a stretch to conceive all of the physical world as being possessed of the same spirit."

Myth, landscape and the Otherworld interact with one another. This means that the landscape in interacted with, more than just a human playground and a backdrop to our lives. It holds its own personality, grows as we grow and we are both shaped by each other.

The Language of Nature
What do we mean by communicating with the other-than-human world? Does nature have a language? The natural world communicates and expresses its own subjectivity by "presence". It isn't necessarily an enlivening mystical energy but something far more mundane. When we experience presence we feel and experience something in our body. It is about the physical nature of a thing, the authentic embodying of its own inherent nature - it is the sound of a stream tumbling over rocks; it is way a tree grows, the shape of its branches and the texture of its trunk - this is how it expresses itself through its own presence. Things then become subjects, not inert objects. Everything becomes a  dance and a dialogue. We have to be careful though because as self-reflective beings with egos we have the capacity to create messages and make things up.

The Sacred Dreamtime


"All of the history and legends surrounding the island merged with the sound of the lapping waters on the shore, the mountains in the distance, the breeze coming off of the lake. In that second my awareness and consciousness were completely in the Sacred Dreamtime. ... All aspects of it, history, myth, and place all merged into one. ... The Sacred Dreamtime does not move in a linear progression. It is not a progression at all. It is only now. Within this moment are all things that are. Within this second resides everything that is, everything that will be and everything that was. There is nothing that has been or will be. They are. Now. Within this moment, are all universals, all archetypes. To be in the now is to enter the otherworld, to touch the sacred; to wakefully experience the Sacred Dreamtime."

"The universe is a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects"
, Thomas Berry.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mindful Walking

Wapley Hill, Herefordshire

Slowly, each step is placed with conciousness and awareness of its place upon the earth. I'm in a place where time has no immediate pull on the mind and it doesn't matter if the journey takes five minutes or half an hour. The trees barely move so why should I move with determination and eagerness? The earth makes no noise beneath me so why should I tread heavily? I am a visitor in the woods so why not become like the wood? Shape and form, texture and colour, smell and touch become my companions as I notice my form and presence amongst the dampness, the soft silent mist and the other beings who inhabit this landscape of conifers and ancient man-made earthworks. With an attentive mind to the presence of everything around me I notice the drops of water hanging on the ends of conifer leaves, the damp cobwebs on old tree roots, the fungi on delicate branches and on the decaying  branches and waste wood than scatter the newly cleared hillside. I am aware of the depth of the space around me and how the trees and undergrowth fill that space. I marvel at the brightness of the autumnal colours that brighten the misty darkness. Like Qigong, this is a way of walking that asks the body to be slow, to be present, to be aware of every movement and and to take notice of the way it is made. I don't expect to see or sense anything amazing, but I take pleasure in just observing the small, the detail, the present.

I leave with a sense of depth and fullness.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Man-made Landscapes

Wapley Hill, Herefordshire

It was just before daybreak that I parked the car at the base of Wapley Hill. It was surprisingly warm and after I had set off on my walk I soon had to return my coat to the car as I was overheating. Yesterday had been a beautiful warm sunny afternoon with the bright yellow mahonia fowers in my mother's garden covered in bees and even a comma and red admiral butterflies. Today was shrouded in mist and although it brightened up later in the day, I didn't get any views during my limited time on the hill. An area of conifers has been cleared on the northern side of the hill and when I was up here a few weeks ago I saw views I had never seen before. Today I sat for quite a while at the edge of a new clearing and watched what I could see of the landscape around me. Some blue tits, a wren and a goldcrest kept me company at one stage.


To facilitate timber extraction on this very steep side of the hill a new track had been bulldozed along the side of the hill for a good half mile or so. The ground must drop away at least at a 45 degree angle or more in places so a reasonable amount of the limestone/shaley soil had to be moved to create a level track. I noted how the track ran along side the lowest ancient ramparts of the Iron Age Hillfort thus creating a new 'rampart' lower down the hill. I wondered at the manpower time and energy expenditure in creating both of these earthworks. The bulldozer would have created in minutes what would have probably taken months or years to construct by hand.

What I also pondered was this. The Forestry Commission are probably within their rights to construct such a track without any need to get planning approval or to consult local residents etc. The track will substantially change forever the ecology and microclimate of this part of the hill. Possibly for the better as it will create more edge habitats and and introduce light onto the ground layer, thus encouraging a greater diversity of plants along its length. Whether the track will increase public use and access to this part of the hill I'm not sure. But if I walked along it, then others are bound to also. So this is a highly significant change to the landscape that is irrepairable and permanent (like the hillfort too). Will anyone be complaining about it? I doubt it. Even though possibly thousands on tons of soil and rock have been moved in its construction.

Now, consider a proposal to build a large wind turbine on the same hill. A structure with a minute ground footprint in comparison, only a few tons of soil displacement and with probably hardly any measurable ecological impact. I wonder what the public reaction to that would be...?



Friday, 4 November 2011

New Gallery

I am starting to rejig this blog a little by condensing an overly long list of labels and to add tabs that show my artwork and perhaps broaden its outlook. It is far easier to manage this site than keep my main website running which I never get round to updating (can't bothered with Dreamweaver!).

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Listen

Sitting, waiting and listening. In a place of belonging. He looks out over the patterned parallel lines of emerging wheat to the distant flame coloured autumnal trees. Shadowless they stand in the almost pleasantly warm early morning breeze. The fields seem lifeless under the greyness of the heavy clouds. Searching for meaning; searching for the unknowable, searching for the unexpected; searching for that something that will transform the ordinary into spirit - the real into the surreal.

Skylarks sing high and unseen. Above the gentle fields their song feels as though this should be springtime and not the end of October. A flock of fifty or so noisy seagulls rise from not far away and circle past him, silently - twisting and turning before vanishing against the horizon.

Once more in the stillness. Alone, it would seem at first glance, but yet not. A ladybird and a small dark brown snail move by his feet - this field edge being the beach to the sea of monoculture. The will of Gaia is always strong: to bring life and bio-creativity to any bare land.

From the far distance the repeated ring of a single church bell mingles with the song of the larks. Together they call to him, both have the same message. Listen to me, listen to song; listen to 'words', listen to an 'other', listen to spirit. Unlike in the film 'The Wicker Man' two worlds of otherness sit side by side. They become one.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Dreams in the Landscape

On autumnal earth, with leaves that have become a memory of summer, the trees reach for the cosmic light of creation, presently obscured by deep grey haze that softens the landscape around me. The shedding of leaves is like a bowing before the creative authority - a recognition that submission to the winter is a price to pay for the beauty and wonder of the life of the year past. A relaxation of energy, as if an exhalation of breath before the biting of the forthcoming winter.

Slowly, from the revealed branches, whispers of colour descend to the silent earth. The gentle chatter of leaves in the cool breeze is the only movement. Taller branches sway almost imperceptively.

Be still, like my companions.

A ladybird: the first of many that I'll see today enjoying the autumnal warmth and later sunshine. I hear a distant skylark, crows and nearby a wren, a flock of tits and pheasants.

Be still like my companions.

I sit and wait, how different to the intenseness of the digital world that shapes our lives. There, energy produces the light of display screens through which we interact. Here, light produces the embodied energy of the wood with whom I interact. In the ten or so minutes that I have sat here little has changed. A subtle change of light perhaps. A new fallen leaf on the ground before me perhaps. Yet the same time passing on a tv screen would have thrown a multitude of mesmerising images towards me. Here, the millions of leaves are my pixels.

Dreams in the landscapes - the words that came to me just as I approached this place to write - seem a little out of place. And yet here in this landscape I can have dreams. Dreams that are just as valid as those that technology presents to me. Perhaps it is to do with expectations - resolved and unresolved, surprises, discoveries - dreams can be formed in both worlds. You have to shift your perspectives and expectations. Dreams are about taking hold of the imagineable and creating reality. Perhaps the tress can do this as much as a computer screen can. I wonder if they know that?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Radnor Forest Willows

I have to stop. I am unable to go on. It seems as if this place has forced me to stand in its presence. I have cycled through a large area of conifer plantation in the Radnor Forest on the Welsh border and now I have emerged to a place where the trees uphill to the left of me have been felled and the hill drops steeply down though open fields to the right. Along this edge of the forest road is a row of windswept and almost leafless Goat Willows that stand in contrast to the monoculture around me. They seem an unusual find, and somehow out of place here. 

The cool wind is loud in their branches and I shelter in front of a pile of felled timber and sit and wait. Why was I called to stop here? Somehow my initial thoughts on arriving here were evocative of a cold and frosty winter's day. Is there something of a memory that is tied up here with childhood memories  and my father? Am I just recalling an unidentifiable moment from the long distant past?

I almost feel a heaviness - a pity for these these beautiful trees that have for so long been hidden from the true light of day by towering conifers and which now lie fully exposed to the elements on this east side of the hill. Perhaps it's the sound, the deep song of the branches that ebbs and flows so slowly - like the movements in my qigong. Nature may just be saying "stop, and just observe me". I'm on a long bike ride and haven't much time to stop and dwell in one place. Here I am given the opportunity to do so.

I do some meditation before I get too cold and just absorb into my senses this unexpected special place which others would just pass by. I give thanks to the place.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Awen, Chi and the Holy Spirit

As I begin a course in Qigong exercises, which I hope will be beneficial to me in several ways, it has set me pondering on a few wayward thoughts. Something seems to have made a few connections as I try and embrace meditation, exercise, sacred space, healing, nature awareness and work/life balance. I'll probably write more in the future but, as an initial exercise, I did a quick web search to find some definitions of the three main ideas about 'spirit' that I now seem to have an interest in. I withhold any form of comment or analysis for the time being.

AWEN
The word comes from a proto-Brittonic root for breath and breathing connecting well with the same sense in the English word inspiration. In the Middle Ages bardic scholars held that 'awen' came directly from God, from Ysbryd Glân, the Holy Spirit. (druidnetwork.org)

'Awen' derives from the Indo-European root "uel", which means 'to blow', which is the same root as the Welsh word 'Awel' which means 'breeze'. Awen is the breath of the divine which gives inspiration; the wind of the spirit. (celtic-tattoo.net)

Awen is a Welsh word for "(poetic) inspiration". It is historically used to describe the divine inspiration of bards in the Welsh poetic tradition. Someone who is inspired, as a poet or a soothsayer, is an awenydd.  ....   Awen derives from the Indo-European root *-uel, meaning 'to blow', and has the same root as the Welsh word awel meaning 'breeze'. There is a parallel word to 'awen' in Irish, ai, also meaning "poetic inspiration" which derives from the same ancient root.  .....   It is also said that the Awen stands for not simply inspiration, but for inspiration of truth; without Awen one cannot proclaim truth. The three foundations of Awen are the understanding of truth, the love of truth, and the maintaining of truth. (en.wikipedia.org)

QI (CHI)
The ancient Chinese described it as "life-force". They believed qi permeated everything and linked their surroundings together. They likened it to the flow of energy around and through the body, forming a cohesive and functioning unit. By understanding its rhythm and flow they believed they could guide exercises and treatments to provide stability and longevity. (en.wikipedia.org)

HOLY SPIRIT
The Greek word "Pneuma" generally refers to spirit and is found around 385 times in the New Testament, with some scholars differing by 3 to 9 occurrences.[12][13] These usages vary, e.g. in 133 cases it refers to spirit in the general sense, 153 cases to spiritual and possibly 93 times in reference to the Holy Spirit.[12] In a few cases it is also used to mean wind or life.[12] (en.wikipedia.org)

In the Tanakh, the word ruach generally means wind, breath, mind, spirit. In a living creature (nephesh chayah), the ruach is the breath, whether of animals (Gen 7:15; Psa 104:25, 29) or mankind (Isa 42:5; Ezek 37:5). God is the creator of ruach: "The ruach of God (from God) is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3). In God's hand is the ruach of all mankind (Job 12:10; Isa 42:5). In mankind, ruach further denotes the principle of life that possesses reason, will, and conscience. The ruach imparts the divine image to man, and constitutes the animating dynamic which results in man's nephesh as the subject of personal life. ... When applied to God, the word Ruach indicates creative activity (Gen 1:2) and active power (Isa 40:13). The Spirit of God also works in providence (Job 33:4; Psa 104:30), in redemption (Ezek 11:19; Ezek 36:26-27), in upholding and guiding his chosen ones (Neh 9:20; Psa 143:10; Hag 2:5), and in the empowering of the Messiah (Isa 11:2; Isa 42:1; Isa 61:1).  ... In short, as the ruach is to the created nephesh, so the Ruach Elohim is to God Himself, part of God and identified with God. Ruach may be understood as the Author of the animating dynamic of the created order, the underlying Principle of creation, and the One that imparts the nephesh to the entire universe. (www.hebrew4christians.com)

Understanding the OT terms “Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of God (or the LORD)” and the theology associated with them depends on grasping the significance of the fact that, in about 40% of its occurrences, the Hebrew word “spirit” (ruakh) basically means “wind or breath,” not “spirit.” The NT word (pneuma) is also used in this way on occasion. And when these Hebrew and Greek words mean “spirit,” the reference is often to the human “spirit.” Furthermore, certain passages draw out the correspondence between the Spirit of God and the human spirit, and the importance of God’s work through this correspondence (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:10-12). The Spirit of God is the person of God that vivifies the spirit of people to God (Ezek 37; Rom 8:16). The baptism of the Spirit shifts the metaphor from “wind” to “water,” the point being that physical purification by water has a corresponding reality in the purification of the human spirit through the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; John 1:32-34; Ezek 36). Similarly, like physical water, one can drink of the Spirit as water that gives life to the human spirit (e.g., John 7:37-39). The Holy Spirit did all of these things for both Old and New Testament believers, so in this sense the Holy Spirit not only indwells NT believers, but also did something similar in the lives of OT believers. (bible.org/seriespage/holy-spirit-hebrew-bible-and-its-connections-new-testament)

"Is the Holy Spirit our Divine Mother? - If the experiences of the Holy Spirit are grasped as being a ‘rebirth’ or a ‘being born anew’, this suggests an image for the Holy Spirit which was quite familiar in the early years of Christianity, especially in Syria, but got lost in the patriarchal empire of Rome: the image of the mother. If believers are ‘born’ of the Holy Spirit, then we have to think of the Spirit as the ‘mother’ of believers, and in this sense as a feminine Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, as the Gospel of John understands the Paraclete to be, then she comforts ‘as a mother comforts’ [cf.. John 14.26 with Isa 66.13). In this case the Spirit is the motherly comforter of her children. Linguistically this brings out the feminine form of Yahweh’s ruach in Hebrew. Spirit is feminine in Hebrew, neuter in Greek, and masculine in Latin and German.” (www.adishakti.org/_/term_spirit_translates_the_hebrew.htm)


Apples

The late summer sunshine gathered in the dappled colours of the orchard. Cool green shadows, dew-laden grass and scattered apples belonged patiently in an autumnal morning. She walked silently, thoughtfully and sensingly. This was a place in which to give thanks and this is what had brought her here. Here she could see the fruits of the Awen before her. She knelt to the ground and selected a fruit that seemed to catch her eye. It seemed to reflect the whole of the orchard in its presence. The mottled reds and greens of its skin danced in harmony with those of the fallen leaves that sprinkled the ground around her. With thanks, she held the apple up to the sky and here the whole earth become embodied in this single, beautiful fruit. Creation, energy, life, desire - intertwined with the Divine. The earth became the fruit and the fruit became the earth. Round and fragrant, full of promise and goodness. Yet, at the back of her mind, as she brought the apple to her soft lips she remembered the tale of her sister Eve and the temptation that could only have come as she sought the presence of God. To eat the apple was to taste the goodness of God. How could God forbid the taste of His original blessing? As her mouth drew upon the fruit of the Divine garden her senses cascaded with delight. The earth tasted so good.. Here was the ultimate creation, here was a Divine blessing.

The apple tree stood and watched, it was after all, part of the narrative. And yet it remained unchanged. The Creator; standing, laden with more tempting delights as if giving an offering to the earth, sacrificing itself for the wondrous delights of its fruit.

She stood and gazed at the tree and gave it a whispered thanks. She extended a hand to a laden bough and welcomed a delicate touch of the aged bark. Together, the two of them, brought together by a single apple, a union of understanding. How could this be wrong? Both had been given life, a cosmic life. There could be no separation for each belonged to each other.

But few understood.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011 Notes

I went to the Greenbelt Festival again this year and, as usual, it was overflowing with things to see and hear. I was only there for the Friday evening and all day Saturday and so had to make the most of limited time to find things that I was inspired by as well as try and entertain the family. I booked a chat with a spiritual director who gave me one or two things to ponder over and the main thing that I valued was being in an environment with so many ideas and varying perspectives on the Christian faith. Quite a few speakers where very inspiring but there wasn't really time to try and engage with them after their talks other than a quickly grasped 'thank you'. For once I didn't feel isolated, but felt at home with similar nature aware souls.


I made a few notes and I've just type them up here with no effort to sort them out or untangle any knots so they may not make sense but will aid memory and initiate thoughts at a later date. Accuracy is not guaranteed!

John Bell: Faultlines and Phantases

Suffering and environmental disasters - why does God let it happen? Jesus does not equate sin with the cause of personal suffering. Our world has fault lines - the world was not created as perfect but 'Good'. There is rock and there is sand. Structures can collapse, but not because of sin. Even Jesus ends up in a boat in a storm. The world is not inherently evil. Faith is not an insurance policy. Environmental disasters are a necessary discord in the earth. Discord is part of a symphony. Nature is not the enemy - we have to deal with a world that has dangers. We are quite comfortable here in this country and yet we complain about the weather as if it we were a major disaster. We are not always tuned in to the song of the earth. Nature and God co-exist in a covenantal relationship. God promises not to destroy the earth (rainbow)- the rainbow is a symbol of war - that God will not destroy the earth with his own weapon. Nature's disasters can be caused by humans not living in harmony with the natural world. Nature is not at fault so don't blame it. God says humanity is 'Good' but not ' perfect'.

We have to be connected with those who are outside of us: disconnected or in pain. Sometimes we can puzzle about things that have no answer but the mystery will loose its fear when are touched by those things. Jesus does not cure everyone. He does not avoid pain. Saying sin causes pain is abhorrent to Jesus. Jesus has no time for that. If we say God is unfair we are distracting ourselves from that pain.

But what about intentional harm: drunk drivers, paedophiles, rioters... A consequence of being human? Good people get hurt and killed - insolvable mystery. God does not bail people. God does not side with presumed victors. People who persue [Christian] victory at all costs, God will not bail them out if things go wrong... (?).

 Rioting: not condone it, but society is ruled by the £ and consumerism. Rioters will end up in gaol but the financial institutions won't. bankers walk away with millions - no wonder people want their share too of the goods. Financial obesity - no cure sought. We are bound to consumerism.

God enlarges the hearts of those who do not know the answers but ask questions. God might enable pain to heal others. Jesus came into the world to enable us to live with all people - the well, sick. persecuted etc. Jesus enters our dilemma to live with hope in an imperfect world.

Alan Mann: Allotment Atonement

Community/social inclusion/justice for the good. About atonement - people:earth:God. Relationships - bringing something of our connection with God. Atonement: something done by God for us, and done by us for others [healing of God's relationship with humans after the fall in Garden of Eden when man disobeyed God]. Allotment: gateway to a wider connection to the earth. We are human from the ground up - Hebrew for 'human' similar to the word 'ground'. We cannot be 'at one' [at -one-ment] if we are not grounded in the land  need to be reconciled with the earth and with God. Fear of failing - nature might beat me if things don't grow - it wins. If reconnect with earth then reconnect with people as well. Soil is not against us - need to work with its goodness. it is 'good'. Genesis - tend the garden. Spirit of God gives life to the earth. God reconciles us to the earth - at one with creation. Interrelatedness.

What is our connection with the earth?: sense of belonging [me], foraging, practical, peace, gardening, wholeness, special, magical, form of witness - restoration of humanity, connects people, patience (can't grow carrot in a day).

How can the soil be a gateway to a different kind of life?

Keith Skeine: Tribalism and Diversity

Plants are tribal - all connected by mycorrhizae of fungi under soil. Humans most tribal of animals. But it is tribalism that is important: it can exclude the exchange of information when it thinks it knows best. Dangerous as it then excludes diversity and brings loss of personal accountability. Multiculturalism - are the tribes tribal? If the tribes don't intermix then there is no diversity. How tribal are components in a multicultural society?...... Doze  sooo tired..........!

Bruce Stanley: Nature as Spiritual Director

How to read the second book of God - understanding God in Nature - God's revelation in the natural world. You can understand so much of God by reading nature:

AWE: Isn't it/God amazing. Just BE in the moment

STUDY: mindfulness, find your passion

MEDITATION: what does it mean?

Coaching or facilitation of communication with God and developing authenticity (?). Nature calls for us to give it attention when we are in it. Causes you to worship, pray and engage. Pilgrimage, ritual etc. Jesus' formation in the wilderness. In Nature - going in intentionally as part of a process - not just a visit. Best when we are alone. We are made to engage with it, to have a dialogue with it. Awakens senses, not just sight - find a deep authenticity of yourself. Patience, humility, health and well-being, less pain and stress; thinking, focus, improved concentration, calms mind. Jesus was experiential in what he did. What changes when we are in nature - time emotions etc. Go into nature and ask specific questions. Soul places, thin places.






Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Stonechat Land

Sketchy notes made whilst on the Gower in South Wales

Along the darkening cliffs towards the Worm's Head at Rohossili. Blue-grey sea to the left with clear, almost cloudless sky above; and to the right the windswept purple heather and gorse of the cliffs and cloud covered distant downs. The developing edge of grey clouds clouds above reflect edge of the cliffs below. And along this edge in front of me the bright orange sun reveals itself on the horizon. Its dazzling light a brilliant intrusion upon the grey landscape.

In the shelter of a rock high above the rocks and waves I watch the sun slowly slip behind a band of horizon cloud. The white quarter moon hangs out to sea: a celestial companion to the sun whose developing redness paints the cloud base. I am reminded of the ending to the original Wicker Man film. Now it has gone and I feel more alone now - just an occasional gull floats by and the grasses waving in the wind. Alone, to walk back through the bracken and restless stonechats.

I feel as if I have been here before. Possibly, many years ago and my memory can't recall details.

In an Edgeland

Sketchy notes made whilst on the Gower in South Wales

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
where the cliffs give way
and the purple heather and yellow gorse
reveal the black rock
and churning foam

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
where life meets death
where light meets dark
where the land reveals
its ancient rocks
and the restless sea
guided by the moon

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
where all behind me is left
and I can go no longer
and further forward.
This place tests my awareness
of life and possible death
and as the light fades
beneath the grey sky
the brighter horizon take with it
the memories of the day

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
where the cliffs are ragged
and the tumbling rocks
reveal unsteady ground.
I'm on my own
I must take care
before the night comes again

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
where I want my pain
to be like wave pounded rocks:
edges removed, roughness eroded
and soul massaged by the waves.
In isolation I sit
upon the close knit earth and herbs
I want to sing my song
to the music of the waves

I'm in an edgeland
I'm in my edgeland
sheltered by the cliffs
yet open to wildest elements
I'm open to their being.
The deep rocks reveal their history
the water of life is unwelcoming
and yet here I sit
listening to the landscape
and asking for its healing.
This place reveals creation
the edge is a place to be.
The edge is Divine Glory
The edge is the creation story.

Thank you






Edgeland

Sketchy notes made whilst on the Gower in South Wales

Waves, crashing against the time-worn rocks; rolling pebbles and an on-shore breeze. White spray over ice-green water beneath a solid grey sky. Here rocks form the grassy cliffs meet the infinite horizon of distant hope. Tumbling down; weather-worn over the years to meet the white foam. the sound is rhythmic and relentless. Beyond this point I cannot go, for here safety meets danger - a landscape that is foreign to me, and one that could easily bring death. I can go no further, these rocks are a symbol of my fate: erosion, pain brokenness, darkness; cold and wet. I am on the edge and a light drizzle now begins to fall - almost imperceptible. Colour grips to the eroded rocks in the form of many flowers: yellows, lilacs, purples, pinks and white.

The eroded cliff gullies reveal deep layers of conglomerate rock beneath the soil level, perhaps 20ft down. Embedded in the rounded stones are abundant white 'snail' shells. This place is a symbol of age, landscape changes and the passing of timescales beyond our comprehension.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

On Rainbow Painted Hill

A partial rainbow hangs over the distant hill. The morning has woken to a cool breeze and a light dampness in the air. Scatters of low grey cloud drift restlessly beneath higher white broken clouds which in places reveal the blue above. I shelter in the lee of elder, hawthorn and ripening wild plums by leaning against my bike and look outwards from my high vantage point over the fields of ripening corn and oilseed rape. The rainbow has now gone, but its memory has painted the landscape. Its strong bold colours that drifted in and out of visibleness in the open space above the land are reflected in the vibrant colours of the flora and crops that drift in and out of season: red poppy, blue borage, purple knapweed, yellow wheat, green pineappleweed, pink mallow, lilac scabious and white chamomile. Today they meet−colours dancing in the breeze.

The oilseed rape is ripening but some crops I've seen are showing significant pod shattering−the result of the long drought of the spring. Later in the day I will pass the first barley fields that have felt the presence of the combine harvester, probably just a few days ago.

I have passed many puddles that hold the result of yesterday's rain and the damp earth and chamomile carpets create a heavy perfume. The verges are full of knapweed, hogweed, clover and an abundance of other plants and flowering grasses. As the fields are preparing for harvest, so Nature is in full swing with flower and seed.

Apart from the occasional crow and skylark there is only the sound of the wind brushing though the hedge and the waving grasses. I feel a sense of waiting; will the gathering clouds bring rain or will they clear to bring sunshine? I think that rain looks likely. On the far eastern horizon I can still see sunlit clouds, but they are disappearing fast. I've left the house and the harshness of the town and become a visitor again amongst those who live out here in the open. I have come to share their day and experience the elements as they do and find freedom and healing for my soul.

I move on, cold from sitting still.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Weary Traveller

With the dream of bare feet upon cool grass and the fragrance of damp earth upon which to dwell and Be, the traveller came to the land. From the emptiness of beginnings and the darkness beyond remembrance she came. Through the dust that stirred in the breeze and the sunlight warming the expectant air she came with desire. A longing; a vision - an aura of excitement that breathed with soul. With a tentative toe she dipped into the new waters that glistened beneath an empty blue sky. The clouds would come soon. From her spirit she released her imagination to play games, birthing into existence colour, form, movement and the senses of life. She had waited for this, for a length of time that held no meaning or understanding.

She sat down upon a stone at the water's edge and called out to the shimmering landscape of life before her.

"I see myself in before me. I am with you all and you know me. Yet time will pass and I will be like a leaf disppearing into a whirl of leaves in an autumn of cold expectations. My journey will have faded from memory but its presence will always be with you. Those who look for it will find it, amongst the shadows and light."

Time passed and she faded into the sound of the waves lapping on the shingle shore. The stones would hold her body and remember seeing her, but her spirit ran wild through the whispering trees, the wild waters and the fruitful earth. Her spirit an free.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

June Evening

I'm sitting in the summerhouse in the garden and have had to put on one of my padded winter shirts. The evenings and nights are still chilly and my tomatoes and courgettes aren't growing as much as I would like them to. I've started to harvest the new potatoes and I seem to have a glut of lettuces. I bought a pack of mixed lettuces back in the spring and the dark red ones have been a runaway success. They have thrived in the drought in the both the garden and the allotment whereas normal green ones have struggled to get going. We had a good bit of rain last weekend which has been a thankful relief and the weather is now a bit unsettled but it was probably too late to make much of an impact on struggling arable crops which are well down on yields.

I am reading 'Wildwood - A journey through trees' by Roger Deakin and thoroughly enjoying it. Most of my reading has been a bit heavy over the years and this is a good easy read and very interesting. Some people have the very fortunate ability to relate to and write about nature in very deep ways. For me it is always a struggle. I think mainly because I am not in a rural environment and life and work just doesn't revolve around countryside ways in the way it does with others. My garden and allotment are an integral part of my life but often in a very functional way. I can take time out to go and enjoy the countryside - I don't have to attend to it or manage it, that is someone else's responsibility. Thus I can appreciate it from a different perspective.

This evening I have forced myself to sit outside as dusk approaches and do a bit of painting and writing. The air is cool and fresh. A blackbird sings atop a neighbours television arial and the honeysuckle is just beginning to flower. Its fragrance is superb.The longest day will be in only a couple of weeks and summer doesn't feel it has arrived yet. The long warm spell we have just had did have a bite to it. The nights were cold and it seemed a foreigner in a strange place at this time of year.

We had couple of days in Derbyshire last week and visited Ilam, Dovedale, Hardwick Hall and cycled along the Tissington Trail. Two beautiful days were given to us and it was a superb mini holiday.

It feels an odd year this year in some ways. I haven't drummed much. Life seems to be revolving around work, home, redoing the kitchen, the allotment and just keeping up with day to day things. A lack of inspiration and external input has put my philosophical and spiritual exploration on hold it seems. And the weeks whiz by....

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Mid May

Life is busy and the inspiration to blog is weak at the moment. This is a very brief catch-up.

The long dry warm weather continues. Oilseed rape and bluebells have finished flowering, cow parsley and wild roses are in all the hedgerows, and wheat is well in ear. I'm not spending much time out in the countryside at the moment as my energy is directed elsewhere.

The allotment hasn't seen any significant rain since I dug it over in March and the soil hasn't weathered much. Too many large rock hard clayey lumps remain. Potatoes are well up and those in the garden have flower buds on. I'm starting to harvest lettuces and herbs are doing well. Chives are covered in their beautiful lilac flowers and there is mint, thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary to add to salads and sandwiches. The onions and garlic are doing well and I've planted out red cabbages and broccoli. Seeds of carrot, leek, parsnip and beetroot have germinated but seem to be a bit slow to progress. Days have been warm and sunny but the evenings have been chilly at times. I'm watering where necessary. I've planted many things on the allotment and have almost run out of space there - likewise in the garden too. I've got tomatoes and more courgettes to plant out soon. One of the problems with the allotment is the poor quality of the soil. It needs stuff growing on it to break up the clay lumps and a decent amount of organic matter to improve soil structure. I water with care so as to try and avoid a hard surface crust but I'm going to break up the soil more shortly and try and introduce  selective deep watering.

I have been busy re-doing our kitchen. In true permaculture style I am repairing, cleaning, sanding and rebuilding the kitchen units where possible using contiboard. It isn't the neatest of materials to cut but for ease, cost and flexibility it is ideal. It has is hard work and quite exhausting but with the good weather at least I have been able to work outside on the patio. I have bought a new hand saw and electric sander which have made life so much easier. I will paint over all the units and get new doors when we see ones we like on offer at a local diy store. Then we will get new worktop, new sink and new tiling, all of which I hope I can install myself. I'm not aiming for perfection, but it will certainly end up much more pleasing than what we have had and for a fraction of the cost. The cost of everything seems so high nowadays and we are trying to cut down on expenses where possible.

Work is going incredibly well and I am enjoying the creativity of what I have to do. I have no vision for the future and I am not sure how to progress this.

My spiritual life seems to be a bit on the back burner for the moment mainly due to just having to get on with so many other things. I'm feeling so much healthier though - possibly because it is warmer and I am being so active in and around the house and the allotment.

Monday, 25 April 2011

From Creator to being in The Created

In mid-April I took a short break to my usual haunts in Herefordshire. I left work one Wednesday evening and travelled up to Hopton Titterhill where I camped out in the car for a night. I then went on a long bike ride before going to stay with my mother and doing some gardening work for her. It is now over a week a later and I am only now writing up my notes and reflecting on my travels.
The light is disappearing beneath the grey skies. I have had an easy journey here and at around 8.30pm there is still just enough light to enable me to absorb some of the landscape and cook a light meal. Then I go for a walk.

I saw a woodcock 'roding'. It made a very distinctive "craw, craw, squeek" sound as it flew with rapid wing beats between the trees. I hadn't seen one display like this before and I had to look it up when I got home to check what I had observed.

There were a couple of deer on the edge of a field and only a slight breeze in the trees.

Walked out onto a dry flat cultivated field that was showing initial signs of spring barley growth. It probably hadn't rained since the seed was sown. Darkness is all round me and the mooing of cows in a valley farmyard echo around the hillsides overlooking Hopton Castle. In the stillness the loudness of the cows seems rather eerie as they must be quite a distance away. I hear a few sheep also. There are few lights in the landscape and shape of the hills merge into the evening haze/mist.

The field gives a deep sense of space and openness after the enclosure of the office where I work; the drive here, and the conifers that surround the car park.

At work I am the creator - a place where I form ideas and colours into shapes, patterns and images. It has been a bust few days where demands are made, deadlines created and the need for me to be a creator are expected. The Mac is my tool - taking my thoughts and creating tangible structure. Now I am sitting in my car surrounded by the tall conifers, the gathering darkness and a gentle hush in the trees. Silence, stillness and timelessness are my companions. Now I am in The Created - the creative playful springtime energy of nature. I am now an observer, treading quietly and absorbing the sense of space and creation - within The Created.

I am looking for inspiration, for a language, for a sense of belonging. Thoughts of 'dark' and uncertainty gather but I chase them away. The night can seem scary but yet my mind is slowly adapting to this new place. Tomorrow I will walk out into creation and receive, explore and learn.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Spring 2011

11 April 2011:
  • Bees and Bumblebees
  • Ladybirds
  • Bluebells beginning to flower in woods
  • Tulips in the garden, daffodils just past their best
  • Parsnips, beetroot, carrots, leeks sown in allotment
  • Spring cabbage and lettuce plants bought and planted
  • Potatoes in ground a couple of weeks ago
  • Tomato, courgette, squash, red cabbage, purple sprouting, lettuce and herb seeds sown under cover
  • White blossom everywhere
  • Occasional butterflies
  • Sunburn and hot sunshine
  • No rain for many weeks
  • Watering wilting plants and germinating seeds
  • Meals in garden
  • Summerhouse too hot
  • Nettle and bean soup last weekend
  • Amelanchier in blossom
  • Need rain to break up soil on allotment


Rocket Stove Casserole

After a good month or more of dry weather, the past few days have been very warm and sunny. Just right for a bit of garden cooking. I have been wanting to make a Rocket Stove for ages and yesterday was an ideal day. My supplies of waste wood around the garden were dry and a good supply of old bricks was all I needed. The web is awash with images and principles of rocket stoves, so I won't expand here,  but basically it was a matter of building a brick 'chimney' with a opening at the base into which wood is fed. The fire draws air though this hole and supposedly burns very efficiently.

Using an old wok I cooked a pork in cider casserole and the stove worked surprisingly well, considering I had never made one or seen one in action before. Keeping it constantly fed meant I had to make quick dashes to the kitchen to prepare the food. Once the bricks had warmed up it seemed to generate quite a reasonable amount of heat and the casserole bubbled away nicely, though I did cover the wok with foil to ensure the meat did cook properly. The design could be made more efficient by sealing in the gaps between the bricks and creating more of a space for ash to accumulate.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Spring Equinox

Sage smoke, wafted from glowing embers invites and welcomes. Within the awaiting firelight, in silence we sit, the only voice comes from the pulse of a single drum beat. Beside me are vases of tulips. Although the flower heads have closed in the cold dark air, their presence is a symbol of the energy of spring that is now evident in nature outside. My attention is drawn to the altar beside me and the still sculptured forms of the wood branches with adorning objects that hold intentions and desires. Behind, a weaving of fine artificial blossoms reminds me of oriental art and carries my thoughts to the suffering in Japan.

We await, around fifteen of us, amongst the stones, cushions, flickering light of the burning logs and candles beneath a clear bright moonlit sky that opens out beyond the skylight.

We are a microcosm of hope, peace, community and belonging in a seemingly present troubled world. The energy of spring brings hope and release, but also despair at the news that bites into our lives with tragedy.

As we begin to drum the energy that is released is a sign of our frustration, a need for change and a desire to send intention and prayer.

***

Do I treasure the magic or do I let it go?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Power Nature

The two earthquakes that have struck recently, the first in New Zealand and the second, yesterday, in Japan, are a stark reminder of the energy of creation that exists on our planet. Our lives are too short to fully comprehend the great forces that are at work over the lifespan of the universe. We may ask "Why now?", but when we remember that records may only have been begun to be collected over the past 1-200 years, that timescale is so insignificant when we look at the greater picture. Also, natural disasters are brought more immediately and significantly to our attention these days through the availability of instant global news and personal communication networks.

The fact that the timescales that nature works to and the one we live by day to day are so widely different is probably the reason why so much devastation occurs. Humanity just can't fully realise the greater picture of the energy within the earth at work because it manifests itself outside time of our existence and modern lifestyle expectations. We can easily forget the fragility of life. We have dominance over buildings, technology, computers, energy creation, and food production etc, but yet often fail to see this bigger picture of nature at work

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

New Allotment Beginnings

I took over this half sized plot in December just before the snow and ice covered it. My previous plot was too far away from home, had very poor soil and was prone to flooding. As there is an allotment site just a couple of minutes walk from home I was fortunate enough to get a place there instead. It is run by a lively allotment association which makes it quite a sociable place.

The site hadn't really been dug for a year or so and after a few dry days in January I manged to get the circular path laid out and the ground dug for weathering. The soil seems quite good in one half but it is on a slight incline and further down (away from the camera) it does get very heavy, but that may just be due to a lack of cultivation. It is quite stony and flinty and it may well dry out quickly in the summer but I hope to establish a good ground cover as quickly as I can. The circular path is designed for two reasons. Firstly, so that I can reach most parts of the growing areas without treading on cultivated soil, Secondly, to add a sense of journey and discovery as you walk around the plot. I've built a compost heap at the bottom out of an old pallet and bits of wood I had lying around and I hope to put a seat here as well as this seems to be the place where I often sit and look back up over the plot. The camera was here facing North East.

A few days ago when I took the photo I had just dug over the ground for the second time to clear weeds and break up the heavy clods from the first digging. Ideally I want to keep digging to a minimum to preserve the soil structure and ecology, but it does give me much needed exercise. I've planted quite a lot of onions and also some garlic and some broad beans. The onions seems to be doing well. I got some in a garden centre that were old stock and being sold off cheaply and these seems to be growing well.

My aim this year is to grow sweetcorn, leeks, onions, garlic, broad beans,potatoes, carrots, parsnips and anything else that should be fairly hardy and low maintenance. The space will fill up quickly and I will infill gaps with anything I can find to just see what will grow there. More labour intensive salad crops I will grow at home in the garden so that I can manage them more closely.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Spring Healing

It seems a little hard to believe that it feels like Spring already and it is only the beginning of March. The intense cold spell that bit hard in December seems a long time ago. Much of February seemed dull and grey but now the sun has brought clear and warmer days with signs of new life emerging everywhere. I went out for a bike ride a few days ago and saw purple violets, dog's mercury, elder leaves, lots of buds, young nettles...etc. Skylarks were singing too. I even saw a bumble bee last week. The crocuses are well out in the garden and daffodils are out in warmer places.

I've felt a bit out of sorts the past few months but now that I have been out on my new allotment and in the garden and, what with the daylight now significantly longer, I feel much more energised and brighter. I know I suffer from anxiety and this tends to tie my stomach up in knots. It feels pathetic really as I am sure it is just a pshychological reaction to life around me. I'm determined to break though it with personal development skills. I'm sure that much of it is due to the fact that I sit in front of a computer all day and it induces a sort of build up of energy in me that has no-where to go. I was also listening to a podcast the other day all about how unresolved emotional problems can leads to physical symptoms of illness. This feels somehow right to me but I have seen my Doctor about as a precaution (but the pills won't really solve the root cause). I know the body has a huge capacity to heal and restore and I need to work out how to tap into and encourage that process.

Spring is about new birth, energy, creation, light, production, growth, preparation and Cosmic love. I could do with some of that please...!

Must do some more writing - that is all about new birth, energy, creation, light, production, growth, preparation and Cosmic love too.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Worship

A passage on worship taken from "The Coming of the Cosmic Christ" by Matthew Fox that I rather liked:

The Cosmic Christ calls us to renewed worship: "Come to me all you who are burdened by lack of praise, lack of beauty, lack of vision in your lives. Look about you at the starry heavens and the deep, deep sea; at the amazing history that has birthed a home for you on this planet; at the surprise and joy of your existence. Gather together-you and your communities-in the context of this great, cosmic community to rejoice and give thanks. To heal and let go. To enter the dark and deep mysteries, to share the news, to break the bread of the universe and drink blood of the cosmos itself in all its divinity. Be brave. Let your worship make you strong and strong again. Never be bored again. Create yourselves, recreate your worlds, by the news you share and the visions you celebrate. Bring your sense of being microcosm in a vast macrocosm; bring your bodies; bring your play; bring you darkness and your pain. Gather and do not scatter. Learn not to take for granted and learn this together. Become a people. Worship together".


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cathedral of Trees; Voices

On 5 February I drove up from Bedfordshire to Herefordshire and unexpectedly arrived at Croft Castle with about an hour of daylight left and so walked up onto Croft Ambrey. I wrote the following in my sketchpad and then didn't find the space to write it up until over a week later with a few embellishments:

The wind is warm, such a contrast to the bitterness of December's snow and ice, and strong too. Several trees had recently been uprooted in nearby Fishpool Valley. The path before me is sheltered from the roar of the windswept hillside and the waves within the tall conifers around me. This is a cathedral, a cathedral of trees. Tall, straight and skyward - towering above me like the pillars and walls of a large open place of worship. The path is the nave and beside me are the pews of rusting bracken and tangled dormant brambles. I come across a volume of space where the trees open outwards and paths cross. It holds my presence and awaits my prayers. Slowly I walk, mindful and aware of the imminent gathering darkness but also the loneliness of my presence. The path is worn by many, but only my pilgrimage is now present. I welcome my self to this place and ask to receive something. Ahead of me is the high altar of the hill top and here I lie in a sheltered place and look out over the valley below. The greyness of the clouds and the winter evening is punctuated buy the brightness of distant lights. I find peace in the wind here and return to the real me, with a voice and a song of worship - worship to the land and the spirit of the landscape that energises me.

I was drumming in a yurt with friends last night and thinking about voices: the voice of the wind in the trees above the yurt that I could watch swaying though the skylight; the voice of the logs burning in the fire; the voices of people sharing; the voices of our drums; the voice of the space itself; and the voice of silence.

Here on the hillside I realise that my pilgrimage is about finding a voice. Finding a voice with which I can communicate with spirit, a voice for me to stand up and be something or say something. I pray for a voice - a voice that can communicate and that can inspire. I think that a lot of my anxiety comes from a fear of what people will think of me and I feel that my spirituality must make me perfect -and it doesn't. Yet nature produces all - all is unique and has value. I feel I have no voice, no significant tale to tell, a voice that is becoming harder to find as I get older - and energy is drained away by work, and hours in front of a computer screen.

I pray for a voice. A voice that will reflect freedom. A voice that will call out into darkness like the owls I can hear in the trees. The landscape has a strong voice today. It has called me here today. The energy of the wind brings conversation, whispers, arguments and laughter. I pray I might be likewise inspired.

An Uphill Struggle

I am really struggling to find continued reality, realism and authenticity in the day to day outworking of my faith. Why should I bother I often ask myself? I find conflict stressful and yet all through my readings and exploration of my Christian journey I find inescapable conflict between ideas and expressions of belief and faith. My mind struggles to cope with it and I feel I am loosing touch with a sense of belonging. Amidst the life I now lead I feel more withdrawn into an isolated and dwindling sense of the spiritual. I miss church life hugely, but I don't know how to fit back in, I don't want to be in a strongly evangelical expression of the Christian faith. If I am to continue, I must find a way to break down this psychological wall that seems to be being built around me. Otherwise I just feel like giving up and letting life just happen around me. I don't want to do that and yet I can get overwhelmed by it all and the excitement I feel when I do think about things.

I am re-reading "The Cosmic Christ" by Matthew Fox. I love his writings and his viewpoint has helped me a great deal on my faith journey. I don't know if they are totally theologically sound, but they are a great source of inspiration.