A Walk On Midsummer’s Day

This morning we set out, my faithful companion and I, to wander the woods on Midsummer Day. The paths were cool and shaded green, sun glimmering through the leaves to create patterns of light and dark. In short, it was a pretty magical way to start the day.

I have a long tradition of going to the woods on Midsummer. When I was small, my grandmother used to take me there to look for fairies – whether we found any or not I can’t say, but it always seemed a magical time to me. My grandmother knew the name of every flower and taught it to me, as well as phrases of her native Welsh. We would pick snowdrops in springtime, wandering through the village with our large basket overflowing with tiny white bells and green leaves, which we then parcelled into posies for gifts.

When I lived in Australia, the summer solstice occured just before Christmas, so it was a slightly different celebration. Still, I always tried to surround myself with green leaves, whether walking by the Yarra or driving through the Mornington Peninsula hinterland, where twisted pines reached for the sky and once, magically, kangaroos bounded across the road as dusk was falling, their fur grey as shadow.

Today, however, my canine companion and I took the winding streets and backways until we reached the Little Wood, as it’s called, a small patch of wilderness leading to a green and pleasant meadow, one of doggo’s favourite places to run and play.

The grass was tall, starred with dandelions and buttercups, deep blue speedwell and pink campion, butterflies fluttering here and there. The trees were bursting with green, as though decorated to celebrate the turning of nature’s wheel, the blue sky festooned with clouds.

I threw doggo’s ball for her and she chased it, disappearing into the long grass and emerging decorated with dandelion seeds, lying down to have a rest every once in a while. We saw one of her doggy friends from puppy training and they had a play, then we wandered back past the broken tree, while ravens danced in the high branches.

We left the meadow, taking the main road back home, entering the world of men once more. But I carried a little piece of forest magic with me…

Happy solstice, everyone – may your light shine bright 🙂


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Puppy Love

The past few months have been a busy time, working on my book and generally getting through life. However, we’ve also had a new addition to the household, a small ball of fluff and love and chaos – Cookie the cockapoo.

Cookie is now ten months old – we’ve had her since she was eight weeks and, it’s fair to say, there was a bit of an adjustment period at first. Someone once said, ‘It’s a good thing puppies are cute, or else you’d give them away,’ and, even though she is very cute, I won’t say I wasn’t tempted in the first few weeks of biting and pooping and piddles and mess – it was like having a new baby again and, as my gorgeous girl is almost a teenager, I’d thought those days were long behind me.

However, she has wiggled and waggled her way into all our hearts, despite chewing everything she can get her snout on, her propensity for stealing cloths and socks, and her desire to wipe her dirty face all over us. She is, as are most dogs, full of love, wanting nothing more than to curl up close to us whenever she can. She is small for a cockapoo, her fur still puppy soft, and sometimes her paws smell like popcorn. I am, in short, smitten.

She is taking puppy classes, sitting like a very good girl in a windy field as our ex-police dog trainer tells us what to do next. She’s not doing too badly either, despite her kangaroo jumps of excitement and need to play with every other dog in the class whenever possible. We take long walks along the canal and around our neighbourhood, exploring streets I’ve not walked down before, meeting squirrels and cats and birds and people, all of whom she greets with the same level of enthusiasm.

I realised I’d become quite insular once I’d gone back to writing full time, staying home most days to wander vampire halls and dream of darkness. Cookie has taken me out into the world again. Since having her, I’ve spoken to more new people than I have in years; a dog, it seems, is an instant ice-breaker. We even have our ‘regulars’, now – people who know her by name and look forward to seeing her come past, often giving her treats. She’s a jammy pup, that’s for sure!

While it may have been a slightly shaky start, Cookie has brought a great deal of love and joy into our family. Someone else once said, ‘You don’t get what you want, you get what you need.’ And I think we needed her as much as she needed us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Circles Beyond Time – Awakening

img_3649This is the continued account of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for parts one, two, three and four.

(Before I begin this part of the story, I realise I’ve not said much about the companions. I suppose that’s because these posts are about my own personal journey, but it would be remiss not to mention them. Sue and Stu were there of course, leading the weekend, but there were five others on the journey, all of whom could not have been nicer. They welcomed me, looked after me, and made sure I had transport to the various sites (as I was the only one who had not arrived by car). They were lovely people, all of them, and I look forward to seeing them again one day.)

After lunch in Baslow my spirits lifted, and I was ready to explore the Bronze Age burial ground at Barbrook, our next destination. I’d finished writing my poem the night before and the notebook was in my backpack. I wondered where I’d be asked to read it. After leaving the village we went back into the hills, ending up not far from where we had spent the morning. A gate led us into the moors, a riverbed to the left of us, the sloping hills beyond home to ancient hut circles and the settlement marks of those who had buried their dead here.

Barbrook was a calm and beautiful place, small stone cairns dotting the landscape. We entered anti-clockwise, stepping off the modern access track to follow a route Sue and Stu had discovered previously. We discussed the idea of anti-clockwise, or widdershins, and it did feel like the most natural way to enter the landscape. Some of the cairns had been disturbed, their inner cists now open to the air, while others were as they had been made, grasses and heather softening the stones. Eventually, we arrived at the first of two stone circles we were to explore. This one was unusual in that it was built up, a low stone wall encircling the stones, with an entrance at one side. We took a seat around the circle, and were invited to share readings and poems (though not mine, not yet).

img_3655Wasps were a particular nuisance all weekend. Tangling in my hair, interrupting lunch. Honestly, they are the only reason I would contemplate the existence of flying spiders. And, as I sat on the ancient stone wall, trying to listen to an emotional poem being recited by one of the group, I felt a tickle and looked down to see one on my hand. I shook my hand, trying to dislodge it without disturbing the beautiful words of the reader, and the bloody thing stung me, leaving a red mark on the back of my hand. No pain though, oddly – guess I got rid of it in time.

img_3657After the readings (and a move across the circle, away from the persistent wasps), we worked briefly with pendulums, all of us remarking how certain of the stones caused them to move while others did not. Then we resumed the path, continuing in a circular fashion to loop around and back on a lower route past a calm and lovely lake just perfect for women brandishing swords, fairy toadstools dotting the nearby slope. Then we arrived at the second circle. Once again we were invited to take a seat, though this time the stones stood alone, no encircling wall around them.

img_3659This circle felt different than the other one. Reeds choked the centre, almost overwhelming the low stones. It just felt like it was there, rather than anything more profound, like a group of garden ornaments. The circle was asleep, Sue explained, and we were going to try and awaken it. Now was the time for my poem. I was to read the first verse, then we would wait, then I would read the second verse when prompted. As I was about to begin, a man and his dog wandered into the circle. We paused, then paused again as he decided to join us, taking a seat upon the one remaining stone. That made us a company of nine.

…as the ritual words were spoken, and the group began to focus, the energy in the circle started to transform. Slowly at first, but gaining in speed and power, circling around the stones in an anti-clockwise direction. There was a buzz, and a warmth like sunshine. Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams…

After, as we waited at the base of the slope for our turn to greet the seer, our new companion stayed to talk, his beautiful white dog deigning to have her silky ears stroked as he told us he was local bred and born, and walked this ancient landscape every day. We nodded in agreement when he mentioned the burial cairns and the other stone circle. ‘But there’s another one,’ he added. ‘Up on the ridge somewhere. I’ve never been able to find it though…’

His lovely dog started growling, low in her throat. Further along the path we could see another dog, a golden retriever, white-blonde against the bracken. It seemed oddly disturbed, pacing back and forth but refusing to come any nearer. Its owner, laughing and shaking her head in frustration, waved her arms and called to it, but it just wouldn’t come. Then, as the last supplicant left the circle, the ritual complete, the dog changed, bounding along the path to rejoin its owner, who shrugged, laughing again as she headed further along the ridge.

After bidding farewell to our new friend, we walked the last stretch of the moors to where the cars waited. Dinner was beckoning, then an early night ready for an early start tomorrow. It had been an… interesting day. Three places of the dead. Three very different experiences. And tomorrow we were heading to Arbor Low. But first we would greet the dawn…

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Stones lie sleeping

Where once they stood in majesty

Stones lie sleeping

Knowledge lost beyond safekeeping

Yet power here still ranges free

It beats within the heart of me

Stones lie sleeping

Where land meets sky

And all is not quite as it seems

Where land meets sky

Stones tell a tale of years gone by

Secrets revealed by sunlit gleams

Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams

Where land meets sky