Remembering

cereals-100263_1920In the Kitchen Witch Coffee Club this month we’re working with rosemary.  This herb has well known links with remembrance…just recall poor, mad Ophelia in Hamlet, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.”

November in the U.K. is also the month in which we remember those who gave up their lives in armed conflicts (human and non-human).

I know an “old” soldier.  I asked if they had lost friends in some of the places they have been.  They told me the story of a man they knew, Chalky White, killed by a sniper in Northern Ireland.  They had driven from one camp to another and this man was the driver.  He’d driven into the camp and they’d closed the gates.  He had just got out of the cab of his truck.  The sniper was so accurate he killed him through the four inch gap between the gates.

This is a true story.  It’s not going to be  movie, or an award winning novel.  But it’s true.

This is what life is like is you take the Queen’s shilling.

People sign up for soldiering for all kinds of reasons, to escape an unhappy home, to get off the streets, to learn a trade, to serve their country.

I’m a dyed in the wool liberal, vegetarian, spiritual, post-modern hippie.  I believe in peace and love and honouring the planet.  But that anyone would be prepared to stand between me and someone who wants to harm me; that someone would learn how to defend others,  and stand up for values of fairness and honour.  That’s humbling.

I’ve asked for the names of the people my friend knew so that when they’re not here I can keep remembering.

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Eliot.

 

The Witch’s Way

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I don’t remember exactly when it began, but one day, standing in my kitchen, I realised I was a witch.  If you had looked around my house at that point you would probably have noticed.  Jars of seeds arranged on shelves with shells and stones, herbs brewing in bottles on the kitchen windowsill, a tiny fairy altar in the garden.

I have been a spiritual seeker for over thirty years and involved in creating and leading ritual and sacred space for the past twenty. Over the past decade my practice has deepened, grown, woven itself into the everyday.  It has given me hope, joy, connection to rhythms in my life and in nature and a sense of sacred play in daily life.

This journey is one of self understanding, and growing connectedness to the world around us.  It is a woodland walk down unknown paths, exploring old traditions and new expressions. have wanted to share it, but haven’t known how (evangelical witches are an uncommon sight in provincial England 😉 ).

Today I birthed a new project.  I imagine it taking place in a tiny, thatched cottage in the forest.  One by one solitary, cloaked figures approach and enter, greeted at the door by three black cats.  Inside they hange their robes on a twisted, wooden coat stand and take seats at old fashioned wooden desks. I welcome them and indicate the blackboard where the first module’s lessons are outlined.  Ladies, gentlemunchkins, welcome to witch school.

We will cover everything I know from my own witchy path; divination, personal practice, practical magic, supernatural support and connection, ritual, seasonal celebrations, magical tools and more.

“Students” (that’s all of us!) will have a monthly video or audio lesson on an element of witchy practice, a PDF to support this, a monthly one to one mentoring session and a group where you can meet with your fellow witchy apprentices.

If you have wanted to dive deeper into exploring the old ways and how to bring them into present times you can find out more on my Patreon.  You can also join me at Tea Break Tarot School for a free tarot class and on Facebook for regular witchy goodness.

Looking forward to travelling this path with you  🙂

 

 

Lines

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An epiphany.

I’ve been strugglings with certain boundaries.

Sitting at home scratching my head and bemoaning the way someone else behaves.

Why do they do that?  Telling stories of how they behave and how hurt I feel. This has been going on for the past six years.  All the while I have been giving and supporting and chasing and allowing.

Allowing.

I have been allowing this.  I have let them put on their sturdy boots and walk all over me, I have even invited it.  Ignoring or avoiding naming my hurt and anger because I am afraid to lose the relationship.

In the moment when I realise this there is sadness. And also determination.  Because I can do something.

I can change my response.

I can say; my time is valuable.  I am too.  I respect my friends and family, and in exchange I expect them to show me an equal respect.

Respect means kindness, consideration.

This is my line.

And they may choose to walk away.  Refuse to engage. They may feel that if this is the new game plan they no longer wish to take part…That will be painful.  Awkward.  I will feel guilt.

But carrying on without these lines, is disrespectful to myself.

And I deserve better.

 

Life porpoise

bora-bora-685303__340 It started when I got born again.

Up to that point I was happily bimbling through my life; I liked to daydream, colour, read books and play.

Aged twelve my nominal old-man-in-the-sky Christianity got charismatic.

From then on life became about “serving God”. I agonised about this. Plenty. Was what I was doing serving God? Was it serving God in the right way? How would I know?

Later I started exploring a vocation to ministry. More agony. Was this what God wanted? I wanted to serve. But would this be the best way? As is often the case God was mostly silent on the subject.

Move forward a decade or so and life experiences brought me out of church. I dabbled with new age spirituality. In this world there’s a lot of talk about life purpose. More agony. Why am I here? What am I bringing to the giant pot luck supper of the world? What if I bring the wrong thing?

I move towards a more earth-based spiritual practice.

This equinox I sit in an orchard with my witchy sister and meditate on balance.

Let yourself off the hook, I say to myself, heck, if it helps forget the whole thing. If I stop thinking I have a purpose, or ought to have one, I feel better.

And it seems to me I’d rather have a life porpoise. It would be more playful, more graceful, more connected. Fancy a swim? Dive in, immerse yourself, the water is lovely.

Inspired

morning-2264051_1280Today I am feeling inspired. This source of inspiration comes from my son. Tom is 22. He was identified with an Autistic Spectrum Condition when he was seven years old after two years of assessment and investigation. In the past fifteen years he has grown from someone who needed constant “interpretation” and guidance to an independent adult.

Tom is never defeated. Some days he is very anxious, some days he is frustrated because his Dyspraxia makes things difficult. But he unfailingly pulls himself up by his boot straps and finds a solution. He sets himself goals and he nails them. He has made it through school, through college, he has qualifications, he goes out to do voluntary work, he pursues his art and interests, he has a unique and sharp sense of humour, he is perceptive and empathetic.

Life is never not a challenge but he is continually hopeful. Today we were talking about his current temp job. I asked if they knew about his additional needs. Some do and some don’t. I jokingly suggested I buy him a T-shirt. Please don’t,  he said. I’m happy for people to make accommodations, he said, but I like to be discreet. Then we talked about the Autism Speaks organisation. They want a “cure” for Autism. They also believe the condition is caused by vaccination. In which case, Tom says, I must have levelled up as I’ve had vaccines at secondary school. I laughed.

His humility, humour and unfailing grace and kindness are a gift. When I am feeling like I can’t do this whole life thing his example gives me the determination to keep on. He is an inspiration and I am so thankful to know this man. If Autism speaks I think it says here I am, precious, alternative, challenging the “norms”, showing you how to live life your own way. Tom does this. In spades.

Remember who you are

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I am beginning to remember who I am.

I have skills, but they are not who I am.

I have circumstances, but they are not who I am.

I have possessions, a history, relationships, qualifications and work experience but they are not who I am.

I am the quiet moment before dawn, a wind-blown leaf dancing in the air.

I am the slow swirl of the river’s ripple, the slide of shingle shoved by the tide.

I am the glimpsed silver slip of the new moon winking and the bee-blessed hum of a sun soaked afternoon.

I am the flickering flame under a sky of stars.

The half-remembered dream of possibilities.

A Writer’s Life

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It’s 5.30 a.m. and I’m sitting in the cabin.  This is my study.  A sofa covered in an old blanket, a pre-loved writing desk and folding chair.  A shelf of books.  Assorted tarot decks.  Herbs drying from the ceiling.  I’m wearing a dressing gown and pink plastic garden shoes and sipping chamomile tea.

Morning pages.  My pen flies across the page, words uneven, jumping over each other in their desire to be free.  I fill three pages before I stop to fetch more tea and some toast.  Later I will sit down to work on a novel, I might make a blog post and I will do some research.

For such a long time I thought “being a writer” meant how you made your money.  Just like “being a teacher” meant getting a job in school and marking books with a red pen.  You weren’t a writer unless it paid you.

I wanted to “be a writer” from around sixteen y ears of age.  I imagined sitting in an attic room, pen scratching across the page, light seeping through a grimy skylight, like Jo March in Little Women. I have always loved books and as an English student my study of Virigina Woolf reminded me of my dream.  I would be the woman in the oversized cardigan hard at her writing, in a room of her own.

In 1992 I meet the author Catherine Aird.  I’m caring for an elderly lady in a nearby village as my summer job and she is a friend.  She comes for tea on a few occasions and one day tells me what she does.  I, as any aspiring writer might, express my desire to write.  “If you write two hundred and fifty words  a day for nine months,” she says, “you’ll have a full length novel.”  For the first time this seems like it might be somthing I could do, though it will take nearly thirty years before I begin.

Early marriage and motherhood made me feel my dream was “unrealisitc” at the same time a passion for religion pulled me into church ministry and for a long time the dream got lost, left on a shelf like an old photograph, gathering dust and cobwebs, fading as the year passed.  Occasionally I’d start something, a story perhaps, a poem.  But I allowed my inner critic too much voice and she usually told me it was no good and anyway it wouldn’t put food on the table and better to be sensible and find something that would pay.

I trained as a teacher.  The lessons I loved most were those where we made books.  Each child would contribute a picture and a scrap of writing (in generous five-year old script). We would glue them to sugar paper and sew them together with wool and add them to the book corner, in pride of place.  I have them still.

Time trickles onwards.  Mid life approaches.  Life shifts with some storms and everyday tragdies.  I begin to hear about the “creative life” to learn that it is possible to be creative for its own sake, to allow this part of the soul to sing freely, in our everyday lives.  I begin to discover that creation is its own magic, the spirit of the universe dancing through the flesh-wrapped frailty of humans.

I start a blog to write about the life I’m living, the path I’m exploring, the enchantment which is finding me and whirling me to unexpected places.

I read The Artist’s Way.  I read it and I get up everyday and do my morning pages and I keep my artists dates and something changes.

I listen to Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creating.  That done is better than good.  That you have to make sacrifices and choices to get to your dreams, to create, and that you only have one life.

I see all my lives laid out before me, wife and mother, teacher, minister, healer, counsellor, gardener.  I see all the paths I have tried and tested.  All the ways I have sought to find my home in this lifetime.

It is not what I thought.  A writer’s life, like an artist’s life, or an actor’s life, is made not given.  It is crafted, woven, chiselled, from the raw material of our lives. It takes conscious choice on a daily basis.

There are still bills to pay, food to fetch, weeds to pull.  This is the same for all of us.

It is 9.25 a.m. I am sitting in the attic, fingers flying across the keyboard, listening to the sound of traffic outside leaking through the open skylight.

This is a writer’s life.

 

Lot’s Wife

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But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26

“You can’t go back.” She says, with her usual certainty. I am irritated by her strident conviction.  I want it to be untrue.  Her confidence is abrasive and I feel smaller next to her.  Later I will debate this with my then partner.  Of course, we will say, you can.  You just go there, visit the place, rejoin the company.  You can go back if you want to.

Today I am struck, though, by the truth of this.

For the past two months I’ve been wrestling with challenging mental health, fighting to stay alive when all I want to do is escape my body, which tricks and troubles me at every turn. I have been running a litany of loss in my head, coupled with a generous dollop of self-criticism.  Pull yourself together.  Get your act sorted out.  What on earth have you got to worry about? Don’t you know how lucky your are?

I live with perpetual demons of anxiety and panic, beings determined to limit my life choices and opportunites, fixing to disable me and tie me down, imprison me and block off all escape routes.

Until today.  When they took off their masks and revealed themselves as friends.  Angels.

They counsel self-compassion.  They counsel self-care.  And more than anything they gently remind me that I cannot continue to do things the way I used to.

There is no going back.

I have been Lot’s Wife.  Looking backwards, regretting, revisioning, what-iffing the past.  And desperately trying to re-route life back to the place I knew.  Somewhere safe and familir.  Somewhere I knew my way around.

I wonder about the pillar of salt, a pure white column of unshed tears.

Cry me a river.

My anxiety angels show me that the path is before my feet, and it goes ahead of me, into the shadows.  They show me to walk it gently, feeling my way forward. They whisper that all the things I once believed essential may not be so. They ask me to rest a while under the trees, shelter in the shade of wild blackberries, allow the moon, sun, wind and rain to kiss my skin and ease me back to wholeness.

And not the same wholeness as before.  This is snake-sloughed new wholeness.  A fresh being here now, raw and screaming into life.

They tell me to ask for what I need, and that this is allowed.  They tell me to take my health seriously, and to be kind to myself, just as I would to another feeling as much as I do right now.  They tell me that my body is my home and holds its own wisdom.  They tell me to allow this rather than going on the offensive.  They promise that there is nothing wrong, this is exactly what is needed.

They ask me to trust in the next breath, to claim my place as a child of the universe.To walk bravely into the new world.

There’s no going back.

 

 

Wordcraft

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A kind of magic

Seeping into your brain as you

Twist the verbs around your index finger

And paint a storm;

Adjectives, lightning sharp, on the page,

Biro scratching out the echoes

Of thunder.

Whisper them,

spells, in different combinations,

Sentences, sibilant sorcery,

Conjuring your creation

Casting the charm which sparks

Another’s imagination.

Word witch,

wonder and enchantment,

the wicked torture of

weaving, bending, stretching language

Into new life, the monster waking, ghosts walking,

Life providing the meat which feed the

Dragon-fire at my finger tips.

Women’s Work

I wrote in my last post about leaving my day job. It wasn’t an easy decision.

What comes afterwards though is, always, more difficult.  After the initial shock passes I begin to second guess myself.  I “What If” for a while, trying to negotiate a solution.  Then I start to berate myself.  I tell myself that “other people” can do this so why can’t I?  I blame myself for not being more resilient or strident.  I begin to feel my self-worth slide.

This morning I decided to walk to get the shopping, rather than drive.  As I walked past the line of commuter cars and roadside mugwort plants taller than me the swirling waters in my mind cleared.

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I have been a mum now for over twenty-two years,  I have been living here as a carer for my mum for the past year or so.  These roles challenge me daily; how best to support, how to grow a child from infant to adult, what to say, how much to help and when,  how much to expect and when.  How to create a healthy and happy environment for someone who some days doesn’t know you as their daughter, to keep them physically safe while not making them feel a prisoner in their own home, to care for all of their needs while maintaining dignity and personhood.

These are roles with mental, emotional and physical demands.  They require long hours, wakeful nights, constant attention.  They require strategy, diary management, a good knowledge of Microsoft software packages, budget management, responsibility for purchasing, strong communication and inter-personal skills, an ability to be flexible and work on initiative.  They need you to get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis and there is no annual leave entitlement.

While this is all true, and I can see this more and more as I type, I have railed against the fact that in my “career” I have not achieved the level I would have expected by now.  I have bemoaned the fact that society does not value “women’s work” while at the same time, I realise, not valuing it myself.

Rather than seeing these vital roles as valuable and important, both emotionally and spiritually, and also in terms of social capital, I have mentally side-lined them in order to focus on the perceived “real” work of employement/business.  I have waited for external validation (that old chesnut) rather than claiming these as valid and worthwhile choices.

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In a culture of ever-expanding choices and options, where social media constantly presents a raft of exciting possibilities, doing something as “traditional” as being a homemaker can seem old-hat.  But I feel that I need to give myself permission to be just that.  This is not an easy choice.  It means letting go of ideas about what I thought I wanted, or “should” be doing.  It means getting comfortable with claiming this and saying “no thank you” to all the other shiny options.  I do not know how it will evolve.

I imagine myself digging up an old, overgrown shrub.  This is the collection of ideas and narratives I’ve been living with until now.  It is way past its sell by date, twiggy, dry and unproductive.  What might grow in the bare soil it leaves behind?

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