Monday, 22 August 2016

Meeting the Wilding Tree



The writer, Terry Tempest Williams, in an interview with Jana Bouck Remy (Irreanteum, 2002), says on writing as a spiritual practice that, “I love language and landscape. For me writing is correspondence between these two passions.” adding that, “writing is about presence. I want to be fully present wherever I am, alive to the pulse just beneath the skin."

And so I have not been writing, because I have moved to a sandstone hill high above the sea and it has taken me a very long time to feel the 'pulse just beneath the skin'. I had very much underestimated the seizmic shift that this move would cause, both personally and in terms of my writing and other work. Although I have always known that it is my way to connect deeply, deeply to the ground beneath my feet, and although I felt in my bones the wrench of leaving London, my conscious mind had barely scratched the surface of the journey that was unfolding. And that journey has been, and continues to be, fiercely challenging and wildly beautiful but it has taken much time to settle enough to write. Just as I don't 'know' the crows here, having been so in love with the crows of Blackheath in London, my feet didn't know this land and it was unfamiliar to my blood. I lost the thread. I am only now beginning to get it back. And I am even more in love with the Land.

That this move was a struggle is perhaps best revealed by the fact that I had to hire vans on three separate occasions to get everything to my new home, even though I was moving out of only one small room. I have lived in small spaces for many years; a caravan, a boat, and several rooms, and have an uncanny ability to squash possessions into them in a way that, when they 'breathe out' has the tendency to fill a whole house. That partly explains it but, mostly, it was the effort of stirring up memory that had fought to remain dormant, uncovering layers of sadness, shame, and anger with seemingly every item that I picked up. I was grateful for the shift but it was hard. And then there has been the grieving for my 'lost London', which since I left has had a singular ability to offer me opportunities that constantly call me back like a bee to a flower. Yes, it has been hard to settle here, to get to know this land in my blood.

I have only been here for a few months, and these are early days, but I have begun to hear whispers here; of White Horse Hill Woman, Silver Spring Valley Woman, Red Berry Woman, Quern-Stone Woman, of wild open marshes and intimate woods, of St Eanswythe and blessing the sea, and I feel blessed to have an opportunity to fall in love with this new place. I am held here by nettle, by elder, and by common furrow-bee. And I have met the Wilding Tree.

Feeling unsettled I decided to walk a different way than I have walked before, to find out if I could walk as far as the sea. There is something about the act of walking. We have lost the rhythm of the loom, of women's work, and so I walk to waulk the beat back in. My footfall in time with the tapping of my beloved honeysuckle walking stick, so perfect for foraging in the hedgerows and verges, takes me to a different place, in myself and in the world. And I walk.

First, I met a gathering of honeybees, who so often offer me good company through my days...


sunshine hawkweed and a world of healing plantain...



And wild nests of Queen Anne's Lace...



And then I came upon the Wilding Tree; this old apple tree by the side of the road, unseen, unregarded, untamed, returning to the wild, as am I in this new and, as yet, unfamiliar place. And it was she who brought me home. I stood with her for a long time, admiring her beautiful apples of golden-green-turning-blush-red and her saffron and silver lichen. I listened to the movement of the breeze in her leaves, found hemp agrimony sheltering beneath her branches, was enchanted by wasps who came looking for sweet autumn fruit but found none, not yet; the Rot Mother has not yet come to bless us with her letting go. So often I find my way by the wisdom of the wild apple tree and here she was, so close to home.









Walking on, I found sloes...


the beginnings of ivy flowers...


I found a footpath through the cool of the woods...



The ripening berries of cuckoopint in their secret ivy bower...


and rosehips...


the promise of elderberries to make our winter medicine... 


 the blush of great and broadleaved willowherb flowers...



and the birthing of their seed children, the promise of abundance next year..



And then the sea!


On the way home I found a woodpecker feather...


and almost ripe haglets (hawthorn berries)...


And so I have begun to know this place in my blood and bone and the journey is glorious and frightening and unsure, yet I am sure that this is the place for me. Soon, I hope that I can weave London back in, create an even wilder and richer beauty web of being but, for now, I have the sandstone hill, the woods, and the sea. And love. 

And yes, I had underestimated the depth of this journey, which is as well or I might not have made it. I realised only today that it was when I was in London, so many years ago, that I 'remembered' She~Who~Is, found her in the dirty streets, in the weeds that grow in the pavement cracks, in the flight of City crows, and the love and community of Crossbones Graveyard. I had underestimated the strength of that, thought that I would find Her easily again in this new landscape. And I have but She is different, transformed, as am I. She has become Blodeuwedd, my hedgerow heretic, Mari Lwyd, the white mare running wild as a chalk figure on our nearby hills, She has become the sea. I have known her in these forms before, thought that I knew them intimately, and yet here they are new. Everything that mattered to me is still here, and deepened, but I have to relearn it all again. Already I have learned so much through my feet and the rhythmic tap of my honeysuckle staff. And, already, I have earned that, here, is an ancient trackway walked by the far-off ancestors as they followed herds of reindeer and wild horses before our little island in the sea separated from mainland Europe, now becoming the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury in the East and the Harrow Way to Avebury and Stonehenge in the West. Here, on the East Cliff, quern stones were made reaching back for maybe 3,000 years or more. Here, on the West Cliff, St Eanswyth founded the first Christian community for women in England. Here, is the place of the Hooden Horse and Blessing the Sea. Yes, I have begun to know this place, to weave myself in. It will take time. I trust. I walk. And, finally, the crows are beginning to visit.

5 comments:

  1. “We have lost the rhythm of the loom, of women's work, and so I walk to waulk the beat back in.”

    I love this, I love the sound of it, the feel of it, the deep meaning of it.

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  2. Thank you so much, Kate. It just came to me when I was walking, which is appropriate! I am going to see if a poem comes of it xx

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  3. So beautiful!☺ Walking the new-to-me landscape is my delight and prayer whenever I move to a new home. My hearth and home I have now is the first permanent resting place since I was a teenager so I understand the emotions around packing, letting go and how hard that can be. Thank you for weaving such beautiful heartfelt words. Bless you and your new hearth and the paths that lead from it xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Lucinda and yes, you are quite right that t is magical to have an opportunity to come to know a new landscape. And it is lovely to feel settled. I am so glad that you have that too. Much love and blessings to your hearth from mine xxx

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  4. I am really enjoying your bog having found the link to it in Earth Pathways Diary. I like the way you weave words as you walk and the depths you discover within this rhythm. Blessed Bee xxx

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I genuinely do appreciate and value what people have to say.