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.
Feeling creatively stuck? Here’s 55 quick things you can do to unstick! All in less than 5 mins. GO.
Write a note to your inner artist.
Write a haiku.
Mimic a bird.
Draw a self portrait in 60 seconds.
Take a photo of an item that inspires you.
Find a new recipe and commit to making it this week.
Write a Limerick.
Tie your shoelaces with your non-dominant hand.
Make a paper airplane.
Dance on the spot to silence for 60 seconds.
Hand write a letter to someone who you admire. Post it.
Describe your favourite colour without using that colour’s name.
Write down a word that you really like the sound of. Sing it.
Rub your head and belly in opposite directions.
Draw the letter ‘A’ in 10 different ways.
If you could circumnavigate the globe, what route would you take?
Sit in silence for 2 minutes and listen to the music of your breath.
Close your eyes. Place your hand on your head and feel the texture of your scalp.
What colour would you be if you were a colour?
Draw your favourite childhood toy.
List 20 uses of a tea pot, other than for tea
Set a timer for 5 minute. Keep writing without stopping until the buzzer sounds.
Write your name with your non-dominant hand.
Take a picture of your feet- what surfaces do they touch?
Sing out loud for 3 minutes. Don’t stop.
Take a picture of the ‘essence’ of something in front of you. What is its real beauty?
Memorise a poem you love.
Draw a picture of snakes and ladders.
Look up: take a picture. What do you notice?
Shake your body for 2 mins. Yes, shake it.
Drink a glass of water from the opposite side.
List your top 5 of your favourite things. Now list them backwards. Now alphabetically. Now backwards alphabetically.
If you could be an animal, what would you be? Make that sound.
Pretend to be rain falling.
Think of the word ‘black’. Now dance the opposite.
Conduct an imaginary orchestra.
Bark like a cow. Moo like a dog.
Draw somebody standing on their head.
Set a timer for 5 min. Invent a board game. Go.
Spell your full name backwards.
Make up an alphabet.
Draw the best slide you could ever imagine sliding down.
Draw a pattern with circles and triangles.
Write down 10 things you used to love to do when you were 10. Do one of those.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Invent a robot. Go.
Mimic a dawn chorus.
List 5 textures you really like.
Think of the word ‘good’. Now sing the opposite.
Invent a new game using a piece of fruit.
Create on paper the best day of your life. Draw the details.
If snakes could draw, what would they draw. Draw that….
Walk backwards in a circle
Use your camera upside down.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Make up your own ‘Get unstuck list’. Go.
Need a bit of extra support?
I am currently taking creative coaching bookings. The Winter Sessions is open. 3 months to gain momentum and traction on your creative project. Time to get that book written? Time to finally launch your thing?
‘Those people’ were a different, alien, species. They were the ones with an extra gene to bolster against the Atlantic cold, and, at birth, were born with added doses of bravery and physical stamina. No, I have never been one of ‘those people’
There is a chill in the November air now- not biting cold, but nippier. The wind has a bit of a whip in it too. I look at the sea though and still I hear an invitation: dive in.
The thought of the cold plunge sends butterflies to my nether regions, followed by nervous energy which could be labelled as ‘fear’ under certain lights and ‘madness’ under others.
I’m not one of the turbo clad wet suit slick swimming elite. I like headstands and handstands and strange yoga twists, sure, but ask me to swim out to sea, in November? That’s for ‘those people’.
I have to make my decision to swim before I leave the house, otherwise the excuses start to accompany me to the shore and prevent my passage. I put on my togs underneath my clothes. On good days I even remember to pack my knickers in my swimming bag, and my courage too.
I check the tides. The tide clock is not even a clock I had really been aware of before, but here I find myself, checking for the swell. High tide in Schull is the best. The water seems richest then, enriched with seaweed minerals and curiously dark, definitely at its most inviting.
Yesterday was calmer, sunny even. I’d seen some of ‘those people’ dive in earlier in the day braving the depths as if their life depended on it. No excuses. The kickers got packed. The togs were already on. Walking to the shore the decision was made. No backing out. No backing out.
And then: the sea. There is something about the water; all glitter and roam, a touch of sparkle and a hint of mischief. The fronds of seaweed were waving, the light dancing as it if was at the best party in town. No excuses.
I strip down to my togs. I nearly slip on the wet stones. I remember the trick: no dawdling, just straight in. Before I have time to think about it, 1-2-3. In the space of a breath I am actually one of ‘those people’ now, swimming wild and into the Atlantic, in November.
The sea will do that to you: break you and remake you all in a breath.
The fear tends to leave as the the water welcomes. The cold embraces every pour but has a touch of unconditional love in it. I have a random thought: If I can do this, become one of ‘those’, well, what else can I do?
Swim by swim, I tell myself. The first step is to become a December swimmer, then a January one. It’s not brave after all, it’s just a becoming, entering into a reinvention of what I thought was possible.
I return home. I make a coffee. I open the blank pages of my journal. I pick up my pen. I dive.
Then I wonder: where will this tide take me? Break me and remake me all in the breath of a page? I have been learning: it’s time to take on these wild words too. Finally.
What is your equivalent of wild swimming? Is it time to take a plunge?
A little treat for you today, as we move into Samhain.
I had a sense to create a Samhain Ritual, one to help me tune in with this powerful time of year. And so, I stayed up late last night creating a planner and working my own way through the questions. It was a beautiful experience, helping me to appreciate old wise ways of this land of Ireland and the power of reclaiming rituals. Its part of my own quest to live more seasonally and in connection to the cycles which inform our lives.
As I mention in the introduction:
‘In ancient celtic times each year was marked with moments of pause, celebration and ritual. As the modern secular world gets noisier and we are more connected to our devises than each other, the reclamation of these rituals can help us tune into our inner voice, power and wisdom at a time when we need it the most.
So, whether you are craving space in your business life, creative projects or personal relationships these pages will offer questions to help you tap into your own insights and point you towards your deep inner world of intentions and dreams’
The planner is 11 pages, with space for journalling and reflection.
January seems like a long time ago. All that talk of new years resolutions and the push for ‘a new you’.
You know that feeling: January arrives, the planners come out, you look at the year ahead and think, this one will be better. So you set goals, and intentions. You do great for about 6 weeks and by mid- February you are back to your old tricks. We’ve all been there, done that, back to the drawing board.
The challenge with the year-long planning mindset is multiple.
Firstly, it’s a timing thing. What brain actually works in 12 months cycles? Plus, at the beginning of January – at least in the northern hemisphere- we are right in the thick of winter. June is but an aspiration, and as for October, well it’s moons away.
Secondly, it’s to do with goals. Well, not goals per se, but the factors we take into consideration when we set goals.
So often we set goals based on an external sense of what success ‘should look like (a certain weight, a certain salary, a certain number which think we should attain). We work to attain this external validation, but when we get there it is never enough and so we choose another number to reach for. The striving is endless, and exhausting…
So, what if there was another way? What if we could introduce points in the year for celebration and reflection, moments for recalibration and checking in with our goals incrementally. What if we took time to tune inwards, to listen deeply to what our inner selves are craving, sense into our dreams and visions, and plan from that inner place? And what if there were other rhythms and cycles which we could harness to help us to all through all of this.
Well, thankfully, there is another way, and it’s been under our noses for centuries helping the world spin from time immemorial. Simply put: the seasons.
For a long long time, before time was regulated with clocks and mechanical things*, our ancestors used the natural turning of the earth to set their patterns. They knew when it was time to harvest, and time to rest. They learned when it was time to sow, and time to wait. They knew that every season had a rhythm to it, and to live well was to honour that cycle. In between these seasons there were points of pause, celebration, and sacred moments give thanks for the world’s spin.
In the old celtic calendar, the four points of winter and summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox became markers in the year, plus each mid-point between the season, making 8 points on the yearly cycle.
For the last number of years I have been working much more with this celtic calendar- both on a personal and a professional level. By creating my own planning ritual on each of these 8 points of the year, and tuning in with the intention of each season, I have found an new/ (and old!) way to set learning objectives and check in with my business and project growth.
Now as I turn inwards to listen, I find that my planning cycles have shifted significantly. I use winter as as time of quiet and reflective creation, the spring as a time to nurture new projects, summer leaves room for play, and autumn has time for allowing what’s not working to fall away. I create project deadlines and targets within this structure too- so, for example, I have set the winter solstice as a writing deadline for myself, and Imbolc (early Feb) as another. In this sense the cycle of the year has become a way to understand and navigate the creative process too- particularly when it comes to allowing new projects and ideas time to percolate in the unknown (winter), and then, in their own time, to germinate (spring).
So by reclaiming these old cycles and honouring the points of ritual throughout the year, I have found a way to break the year into ‘chunks’, creating projects and rhythms which feel much more in sync with the wider systems in nature, and therefore in myself. Things tend to flow better this way, and I’ve more energy too because I have come to appreciate the value of rest and the value of the unknown. So, come January, there’s no need for new year’s resolutions- instead, I look forward to the points in the year when I mark each season with ritual and intention, and create goals and plans from there.
Interested in finding out more and taking part?
Living Seasonally is my online course where I share my process. Over 10 days we tune in to the wisdom each season has to offer, learn more about the celtic calendar and, using a seasonal planner and a series of creative and reflective practices, set our goals and intentions from an inwards place. Along the way there will be poetry, journalling, meditations and time to contemplate and recalibrate.
My intention for the course is to create an online sanctuary- a gathering place, a watering hole- where we can learn new skills and creative practices and where we can share our own insights and stories while soaking in some nourishment for the season ahead.
The Winter 2017 edition is now open for registration and starts on Nov 1st.