Today on the salon we are turning inwards again, to find space within which holds room for magic and mystery. And we are turning towards the writings of Rumi, Rilke and O’Donohue to help take us there.
As the winter solstice approaches, let’s give ourselves over to the magic and mystery of this time of year. I hope this salon is a comfort and a guide too.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere the days are short and the nights are long, but we are soon approaching the turning. Soon, the nights will shorten and the days will lengthen and the tide of the year will swing once again.
This cyclical turning of time was an integral part of the ancient celtic calendar. Marking the passage of time and the movement of the planets offered a clock based on the seasons. It gave markers for when it was time to rest, plant, tend, harvest and return to rest again. At eight points in the year, particular crossings or thresholds were celebrated, the Winter Solstice being an important one of them.
The was a celebration to both honour the dark and welcome the light. It was a time of pause, magic and mysticism- nowhere more evident in some of the architecture of the time, when the solstice winter light was magically tunnelled down passage tombs such as Newgrange, to illuminate an inner chamber within the tomb.
Christmas too has long been associated with magic. Santa, flying reindeer, presents left under trees are modern day embodiments of these ancient practices of honouring this time of year- a time of giving thanks, of joy, of hope and yes, magic. And yet, for many Christmas is a hard time, the financial pressures of an overly commercialised festival, the missing of loved ones and absent friends, or even the deeper struggles to find a home in the wider place in the world, can all be amplified at this time of year.
Switching on the global news headlines does not seem to help either- one would not be alone in giving oneself over to cynicism. Hope then, in these days of uncertainty and fear becomes even more powerful and more urgent.
But what does it mean to cultivate hope?
One of the origins of hope is pause. To sit still in the fullness of our lives and give ourselves back to the magic of joy, generosity and to the dream of better days to come- for to be hopeful is to have belief in the possibilities of the future, as individuals and as a collective.
The word solstice itself comes from the Latin, meaning, Sol (sun) + Sistere (to stand still). And so, this reflective planner and these simple rituals are designed to help us do just that- to take some pause, to stand still for a few hours, to re-claim our dreams and in doing so cultivate our hope. They will help us to tune into our inner voice, power and wisdom at a time when we need it the most. This is my gift to you, as a way of supporting you to tune into the possibilities of magic and in doing so welcome the light into the inner chambers of your precious heart.
Today I’m exploring poetry and the body, sharing poems from Kerrie Hardie, Sharon Olds, and once again Mary Oliver- poems which were like lifelines for me during times in my life when I, and my body, needed them the most.
Would love to hear what poems you have turned to? What poems have been your life-raft? What do these poems spark for you?
December can be such a whirl – the noise of busyness, the demands of the season.
So, how about treating yourself to 15 minutes of poetry and stories of poems.
Over the course of the month I will be sharing 10 poetry salons with the invitation to pull up a chair, listen in, and tune into the space and deep questions which the poems may open up inside of you. I really hope you enjoy – it has been such a pleasure to put these together of you. Please feel free to share with others who you think could dose with a dose of poetry at the moment too!
I want to write things that enter into people’s hearts and pump blood in the opposite direction.
I want to write pages that you’ll read backwards just to experience a new way of looking at things.
I want to write stories that take you to the inside of loss and out again, via waterfalls and sometimes rainbows.
I want to write in ways that make politicians get down off their high horses and take note of the sacred ground beneath them.
I want to write so that I can feel the rivers and the mountains inside me and the hollowed out spine of my love.
I want to write about the places I still long to go but may never reach.
I want to write rage into hope, and hope into action, and action into change, and change into the singular understanding that when I breathe out, you breathe in.
‘We make our lives bigger or smaller, more expansive or more limited, according to the interpretation of life that is our story. – Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher.
I have this strong feeling at the moment that tectonic plates are shifting. No, not those actual one, although we can all feel the earth shifting gear, but my own- the geography of identity and the geography of how I place myself in the world. What I thought were big solid chunks of me have been crumbling, like clay, and what remains feels raw and exposed.
I’m not complaining; it’s about time, and on a scale of one to good, I’m definitely at the good end of that right now.
Let me tell you a story.
For the past five months or so I’ve been facing the blank page on a near daily basis, first in my journal and then to the book. The book is still very much a work in progress. I’m 95,000 words in now though and I’m about at the stage where I’ll be doing my first big edit. That’s five months of unearthing the tectonic plates which have formed me, 5 months of having whopper conversations with the layers of my identity, and 5 months of diving into the dark to bring up the pearls. It’s some dive.
Already I can say this with 100% certainty that whatever happens next, if no one ever reads it, if I never write another word of it, the process of writing my story has fundamentally altered me- on a scale of one to good, I’d say remarkably so.
I’d always known this about words and writing and the power of story, but I had never really really fully fully allowed the writing process to change me; like at a DNA level, like at a cellular one.
This may all sound dramatic, for effect, but I kid you not, it’s not- I literally feel different in my bones.
So, the story: Well, it’s about my own journey into womanhood, a story which criss-crosses religions, continents, professions, loves and longings. It goes back in time to my great-grandmother and forward to the future generations which are to inherit our collective legacies. It’s a story about the silences we carry and sometimes the shame which gets held somewhere in the marrow of us. It’s also a love letter to the sea. Books can do that you see, have magic potential to travel in space and time and to make meaning. I am finding this all out as I go.
Telling my own story has been the biggest gift I have ever given to myself – by far. It’s to do with my mother.
The writing of the book has given me permission, in a way, to ask my mother questions I would not have asked otherwise. In doing so we are each getting to know each other better, and deeper, and so in a way the book has already given me the gift of my actual mother- not the mother of the stories I had made up in my head, but the mother who is filled with love and who has always been there. It’s beyond scale. And I will be forever grateful for the book for this.
But as tectonic plates shift, there is a natural churning and turning, and episodic outbreaks of turbulence. I’ve cried tears which I’ve held on to for years, I’ve released shame which was buried so deep I mistook it for my identity and I’ve shed layers and layers of stories which are no longer serving me. There is more to do, but by God, I knew writing was powerful but I did not realise just how powerful it can be, if we let it.
So, yes, the tectonic plates are shifting. I’m entering into a new decade of my life next year, which seems significant. I know that how I am going to be showing up in the world will be different, and what I put out into the world will be different but it is not yet formed, and I can tell you this friends, that scares the tiddlywinks out of me, so much so that some days I don’t want to get out from under the covers and definitely not come out to play.
For many of you who have been following my own journey for some time now, even as far back as the ‘One Wild Life’ book (*hello, and thank you), you’ll know that my path, particularly my career path, has shifted and changed route so many times it would make even a signpost dizzy, but I warn you, it is changing track again. I’ve a sense of it forming- likely to do with helping other people birth their books, and it is do with listening to the landscape (internal and external) for our own maps. I’m walking into that slowly… I have a big roll of white paper out tonight, scrawled with ideas, but the full story is just not their yet and (to drag the cliche out a bit longer), the next chapter is not quite ready to emerge. So yes, scary as scary, but trust is trust, and I am learning more and more to lean into that; so on a scale of scary to trust, I’m tipping the balance to trust right now, just.
So, I suppose I wanted to share these words with you tonight to say that things will be changing around here, but I am not exactly sure in what ways yet, or when, but yes, changing.
And I wanted to say, if you are thinking of writing your story- do it- because on a scale of one to certain I am beyond certain that it will change you.
So, until soon,
With love from the wild edge, on this Friday evening, beside a crackling fire, with Milly by my side as I am about to dive into a plate of roast vegetable and particularly the roast potatoes, so on a scale of one to bliss, it is definitely bliss.