Last night was the long awaited Friday 13th full moon.
I’ve been so conscious lately of the sheer noise of life. By which, of course, I don’t mean only physical noise, although there’s plenty of that. There’s so much pressing in on us, so many day-to-day demands, terrible things happening in the world that simultaneously frighten us and in demanding our attention and action serve only to make us feel powerless.
I wonder if, as we grow older, we yearn more and more for longer spaces of “cool, quiet and time to think” (from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song Passionate Kisses).
Last night was a good time for cool and quiet. I celebrated it in a number of ways.
First, candlelight, incense and poetry:
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Bitten by the sun
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.
Storm Ending, by Jean Toomer
And then at 10 p.m. I went to sit outside in the garden, with my cat, in the near darkness (because of course as we in the North swing ever higher in the circle towards the longest day, the darkness isn’t quite total).
I took in great gusts of scent from the subtly different greens of the plants and of the air, charged and fresh after a brief shower of rain. I felt the nubbly wood of my chair beneath my fingers. I listened to the faint sounds of distant traffic, the shuffling of some small unknown animal in the undergrowth. I saw the faint fluttering of tiny moth bodies around the tops of my gloriously overgrown bramble bushes.
Then: black against the dark sky I saw a small, fast-wheeling shape. You know, I’m 60 years old and never before in my life had I seen a hunting bat. It was a glorious feeling. I watched it come and go for an hour, keenly aware that because of it, there were sounds in the air well beyond the range of my human hearing.
That awareness of things beyond my human senses stayed with me as I stood, stretched my arms to the sky and felt my bare feet rooted in the ground. I slept very soundly, comforted by the moon and the bat and the quiet.
How do you invite quiet into your life?
Full moon photo: Rachel Kramer]]>
And I think there’s something about our baby boomer generation that believes we can conquer it, even though many of us will have known the experience of caring for a loved one with dementia, watching helplessly and saying goodbye long before that final goodbye.
Last week I went to a meeting run by a group (in the UK) called Dementia Friends. I’m going to tell you about an exercise we did, which really surprised me.
Imagine, if you will, a group of about 20 people, lined up against a wall to the side of a large conference room, facing into the room with space in front of us.
Our leader asked each of us to take a folded slip of paper out of a container, read it privately and note the contents without letting anyone else know. Each of us had a scenario on our slips of paper. Mine was:
You are a 73-year old woman. You have had dementia for six years. You are living at home with your husband.
Then the fun began. Our leader told us she was going to read out a series of day-to-day activities. If we thought the person in our scenario would be capable of a particular activity, we should take a step forwards. If not, we should stay where we were. I can’t recall all the examples, but they were activities such as “You can walk to the local shop, buy objects from a shopping list, and return alone”, “You can make a cup of tea independently”, “You can follow the plot of a TV drama” and so on.
By the end of the session, after about 20 example activities, we were in various positions relative to the wall we’d started from. Some of us were only a couple of paces away from the wall, some had made it nearly all the way to the conference table, others at all points in between.
Then our leader asked someone (not me) to read out their scenario. It was:
You are a 73-year old woman. You have had dementia for six years. You are living at home with your husband.
And at that point we realised we all had the same scenario. What an interesting moment of revelation as we realised how very different our perceptions of dementia were.
Now a few facts (stats based on the UK):
There’s a great deal that can be done to help people living with dementia, so they can live as fully as possible for as long as possible. Some of it is simply around allowing more time to do things. There’s a lot around being respectful.
This disease is definitely not something that can be sugar-coated, and especially in its later stages it is intensely distressing. But what I learned last week was that even at the end of life, flashes of joy and what makes that person unique can still shine through.
Which is all by way of saying that if you’re in the UK, please become a Dementia Friend, and if you live elsewhere, please do what you can to educate yourself and to raise awareness of dementia. Thanks!
I wept today when I heard of Maya Angelou’s death. This surprised me: I’m not much given to mawkish sentimentality. I knew Dr Angelou only through her words (but oh, such words); there was no warmly remembered shaken hand at a poetry reading, no brief word of encouragement at a political meeting, no flourish of her pen at a book signing. And yet I felt NOT as if I knew her, but as if she knew me. I’ve revered her work my entire adult life. It feels almost like a personal loss.
In the UK (and across much of Europe) we’re experiencing a political shift to the right, a shift to the politics of fear, due at least in part to a monumental apathy combined with a distrust of the political system and its acolytes. As I looked again at the news site where I had just learned of Dr Angelou’s death, her picture and story were well below the endless discussions of the latest political goings-on. Almost ‘below the fold’. But in the news of her death, she had the presence of a giant, towering over the empty suits, showing them a real-ness that they cannot touch. She was a courageous leader where they are not.
And that’s what makes her such an important figure, that authenticity and that strength. She led an extraordinary life. She was a renaissance woman of prodigal giftedness. Her combination of sharp intellect and huge heart is something we see only rarely.
She was 86. Few of us who reach that age will reach it with such a body of work behind us, but as we grow older, perhaps we can all emulate at least something of her discipline, her activism, her creative expression, wisdom and joy.
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God
I am fine. I’m in the process of moving house and haven’t been able to focus on Pilgrim’s Moon recently. But I will be back very soon with news and views.
Warmest wishes to all.]]>
I used to love the TV show The Waltons. Do you remember it? The large family growing up in Depression-era America, struggling through financial troubles and a changing world seen through the eyes of the eldest son, John-Boy? If you do, you’ll remember the nightly routine of all the family settling down to sleeping calling out goodnight to each other from their separate rooms at the end of each episode.
My favourite character was the proud, irascible, big-hearted, stubborn and wise Grandfather, played by Will Geer.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I looked up Will Geer and found out what an amazing man he was: award-winning actor, botanist, activist, musician, some-time communist. He toured the Dust Bowl work camps with Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. At that time he was also the lover of Harry Hay, who credits Geer with his own political awakening. In the 1950s, Geer had the honour of being blacklisted by the House Committee for Un-American Activities, and founded the Theatricum Botanicum in California with his then wife, the actress Herta Ware. (The theatre company is still going strong today.) On the land there, he grew every plant ever mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. The patriarch Grandpa Zebulon Walton was his last and most famous role, from 1972 to his death in 1978.
He died with his family around him. They recited poetry and sang Guthrie’s anthem This Land is Your Land.
This is all by way of saying that I came across a quote by Geer that really hit me:
I’m a lifelong agitator, a radical. A rebel is just against things for rebellion’s sake. By radical, I mean someone who goes to the roots.
As we grow older, we can rebel against the process of aging, or we can go to the roots of our age and everything it means.
Whatever the activity or the attitude, if it’s rebellion, there’s probably a still small voice inside somewhere saying you’re just in it to rebel against. I know that’s been true of me.
But growing older in radical ways is being true to self.
What might it look like? Embracing age while mourning loss? Using humour not to deflect from uncomfortable truth but to put discomfort in its place? Acknowledging truth about ourselves and about others, good and bad? Speaking up when it’s most important? Wisdom to… well I find myself thinking of the Serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Going to the very roots of things. What would that be like for you?
And now… drumroll… the two readers whose names came out of the Earth Pathways diary draw are: Towanda and Joanna Paterson! I’ll email to get your snail mail addresses. I’m only sorry we couldn’t send a diary to every person who commented. The Earth Pathways team are delighted at the fantastic enthusiasm.
A little while ago, Annie at Earth Pathways contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in writing about them here, and of course I jumped at the chance. We decided to publish in the form of an interview.
And I have two copies of the 2014 diary to give away! For the chance to win one, just leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like a copy. I’ll put all the names in a hat and will draw out two winners next Monday, 11th November.
Here’s the Earth Pathways interview – such richness:
Our strapline is ‘Inspiring our connection to the land’ and the diary is very much about our deep love and passion for these isles and our collective vision for a future that is sustainable, fair and that benefits all. It was hugely important to us to celebrate the work of UK writers and artists who shared our vision and we’re still amazed by the most wonderful and inspirational contributions we receive every year.
We wanted the diary to be a networking resource that would inspire all those living with awareness and care for our beautiful Earth. And we also wanted to encourage people to get out there and connect with the land, to really tune in to these special times, create their own rituals and love song to the Earth.
Because connecting deeply to the land is at the heart of all we do, we decided that we would use the cycle of the seasons and the Celtic Wheel of the Year as the structure and context to place all of the diary’s artwork and writing. We also include Moon phases and signs, sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times and some astrological information for the UK.
As a co-operative, we see community and community-building as essential to making the changes so important to the future of our Earth, which is OUR future, the future of our children and of generations to come. So you will also find in the diary information and inspiration from community-led initiatives such as the Transition Town movement, Permaculture and other eco pioneers.
We use some of the profits from the diary to help projects that benefit the Earth through local community initiatives. Since 2011 we have given funding to educational courses focussing on Nature, biodiversity and wildlife, funded a bursary placement for a herbalism course and made grants to various community gardens and allotments. Most recently we have made awards to an animal rescue centre, a community garden’s bee project, Wool against Weapons, a forest garden and a Sacred Grove project.
For our first diary we tapped into our personal networks. Between us we knew lots of friends who were artists so we just put the word out and had a fantastic response. Each year since we have invited submissions of artwork and writing from anyone who shares our love of this land and our vision of positive change. You don’t have to be a professional artist or writer. All submissions need to be with us by October 31st each year and we look at each and every one of them! Details of how to submit work can be found on our website and in the diary itself. We offer all contributors to the diary a 40 word profile and a free diary for each contribution published, plus the opportunity to buy copies of the diary at a cheap rate for the year they are in the diary. We felt in this way we were fostering the spirit of co-operation and that it would be a way of us ‘giving something back’ to them.
We reckon paper diaries are much easier and quicker to use than an app, plus they’re hard to mislay, unlike a smartphone! And they never need charging up … More than that, our diary is quite simply a visual delight and offers something beautiful and inspiring to look at EVERY day and that’s even before you write in it. You can somehow immerse yourself in a paper diary like ours in a way that you can’t with a flat screen phone app.
Our diary users tell us that the diary speaks to them in more ways than just telling the date or sunrise times. Our diaries are hugely personal. Each edition is unique and makes a lovely reference point to what our users were moved by in previous editions. Unlike an online app, you can simply pick up a past year’s diary, look through and be inspired all over again. It’s a tactile thing too, there’s something about the touch of (recycled) paper that feels more personal than a plastic case, and something about using a pen and paper that stimulates creativity, be it capturing spontaneous thoughts or simply doodling.
The diary was the ‘vision’ of Glennie Kindred and Jaine Rose and it began about 6 years ago following a conversation they had at the Big Green Gathering. They’d both admired the American “We’Moon’ diary but felt that they wanted something that related more directly to these isles and that had UK contributors and artists. The idea grew very quickly. That first conversation in July led to a meeting at Glennie’s house in Derbyshire in September 2007 and the concept of Earth Pathways was born. They had no money to set the wheels in motion but then the idea to ask friends to lend them money “came in a big flash” and they created the idea of ‘buying’ a returnable Moonshare of £100 each. In this way they raised £2,500 in 3 months, which paid for the first print run of the diary. While running a workshop on the Isle of Wight, Glennie met artist Hannah Willow and told her about the diary idea. Hannah was very encouraging and put out the word to her large network of friends. Glennie’s reputation as a well-established writer and artist gave the diary project credibility. And it snowballed. Friends told friends, who told others and the money to fund the first Earth Pathways diary was raised. In the beginning there was a great deal of trepidation and some major setbacks but everything evolved from genuine heart-energy and trust. The diary has now become a firm favourite with many people and has sold out several times in the past few years. This is tremendously encouraging for us because it tells us we are on track and means we can continue to give away grants to help new UK Earth- benefiting initiatives.
Diary schedules mean that we are always working two years ahead. Once all the submissions of artwork and writing are received (deadline 31st October each year) all members of the team have a say on each and every piece submitted. We later hold our ‘Weaving Circle’ where those contributions that have made it through the first round of voting are viewed again and the final selections made. This is a painstaking process. Members of the team get very passionate about the contributions they vote on – which is exactly as it should be. Once the selections are agreed, there then follows the huge task of matching image to appropriate writing. The overall art direction, proofing and deadlines are skilfully managed by Glennie in conjunction with her daughter May Kindred-Boothby.
The Earth Pathways team grew out of the jobs that needed doing – people just seemed to come along at the right time and do the jobs that played to their strengths. In the beginning Glennie and Jaine did everything and Debs Milverton took charge of the database. All of the contributors to the first diary became the larger network that the Earth Pathways team tapped into for team resources. Several members of the current team were recommended by mutual friends.
About the time the team realised that they needed astrological data for the diary, Glennie had an email from Lucille Valentine asking her about one of her books. In the email Lucille mentioned that she was an astrologer. Glennie said “we’re looking for an astrologer!” She then discovered that Lucille had worked on a similar kind of diary in her native South Africa. Glennie had also met Tam (Peirson) at festivals and she became the “post persona” then head of sales and distribution. Suzi Goose was a friend of Hannah Willow and Mezzie Lucerne Lambourne had been recommended by Carolyn Hillier. The whole evolution of the team was very organic and people appeared in response to the next need …Everyone has day jobs too – Glennie and Jaine are both artists and writers, Debs teaches piano, Tam is an astrologer and NLP practitioner, Suzi an artist and sacred tattooist, Mezzie a textile artist, Lucille is an astrologer, Brian Boothby a masseur, Annie Keeling a celebrant and May Kindred-Boothby, a full-time art student.
Goodwill, endless patience and chocolate are a must! The obvious thing is that everyone has a voice and equal say in how we are run and the diary we produce. The structure itself enables us to hold firmly to our core values. We do argue, often fiercely, but ultimately when we reach an impasse we go right back to the principles we started off with because they are the yardstick by which we define ourselves and by which we are judged. Invariably our starting point is co-operation, sometimes we may have to compromise, but the original ‘vision’ of the diary still holds true and provides us with that important ‘line of sight’ so that we know where we are headed. It keeps us on course.
As a co-operative we share any profits from the diary sales and fundamental to our constitution is group agreement on how those profits are distributed. We use some of our profits to make annual funding awards to a variety of UK projects that support and benefit the Earth. (For info on the projects we are funding this year or details on how to apply for future funding, please visit our website).
Please visit our website: click here.
We value you buying directly from our website as a greater return of the profits becomes available for financing the next production of the diary and to fund small community projects that help the Earth.
You can also keep up to date with what we’re doing, involved with, championing etc via our Facebook page.
Thanks so much to Annie and all at Earth Pathways for such interesting insights and for the gift of two free copies of the 2014 Diary. Remember: leave a comment to this post saying why you’d like a copy for the chance to win. (If you’re reading this in email, click through to get to the site.)
All the sumptuous images courtesy of Earth Pathways: click to see full size.]]>
I was amused by a recent article in HuffPost titled 15 Things a Woman Over 50 Should Own. It inspired me to make a similar list, starting with two from HuffPost with which I thoroughly agree. But although there are some material things to “own” in my list, the emphasis is slightly different:
So those are my ideas? What about you, what would you add to the list?
Photo credit: The Arches]]>
In the extended time I’ve been away from writing here, I’ve been thinking and reflecting so much I thought my head would explode. I’ve dismantled some of the empty priorities I set up for my workaholic self, and am beginning to divest myself of other activities which actually mean something but simply won’t fit into a 24-hour day.
I’ve lain awake at night trying to suppress panic attacks at the level of debt my “normal” way of life has caused me to accrue, and wondered where my entirely reasonable salary goes. (YNAB turns out to be an excellent budgeting tool, by the way.)
I’ve sat in my home, in churches, in the countryside, with friends and family, and worked with my lovely colleagues pondering… what’s missing?
One clue: I don’t like the town I live in. I spent last weekend in the beautiful medieval English city of Lincoln, looking at houses to buy. I had been convinced this was the answer: affordable and I could do a weekly commute back to my job, maybe some flexible working. But…
It’s not enough. It’s just moving my way of living to a different place. I want something that goes deeper. And turning sixty really does put things in perspective: by definition there’s not as much time left.
I don’t have the answer yet (sorry!) and perhaps the journey is the answer. One thing I’ve realised is how important money has been in my life and how much the earning of it, the worrying about it and the fear of it have led me to paths which are simply meaningless. That’s another clue I’m exploring.
Perhaps living here where I am but in a radically different way is the life-giving option, perhaps it’s loading up the car with a tent and travelling around. Perhaps it’s being a hermit, perhaps it’s living on a hippie commune. I don’t know. This crone needs to find some way of “running away from home” that works for me.
More very soon. Meanwhile I’m glad to be back in this space, writing, and grateful to those of you who’ve voiced concern at my prolonged absence.
Photo credit: Bookchen]]>
I’d like my life to have the serenity and simplicity of this photograph, but at the moment it feels more like a super-sized Big Mac eaten at speed!
Over Easter I took a Peace Break. It was wonderful, and it brought home to me a hard truth: I am not superhuman.
Because, you see, I want to be. I want to be one of those women who go through life effortlessly juggling families, friends, careers, hobbies, housework, volunteer work at the soup kitchen and travel, and still find time to home-study for a doctorate while saving the world on the side and having an intense spiritual life. Yes I know those women don’t really exist, but they appear to, and that’s what bugs me. It makes me feel less.
I took a rough inventory of my current “stuff”. Here are the highlights:
I’m yelling at my poor cat, not seeing enough of my friends, frittering time on social media, wasting money because I need to sort out my finances, not exercising, drinking to relax and, going back to where we started, feeling sluggish and greasy because I’m eating too many take-aways. (I haven’t yet sunk to the depths of a Big Mac, but that’s mostly snobbery!)
So here’s the thing: I’m taking a blogging sabbatical.
I’m tired. Tired of waking up in the early hours panicking about everything I’m behind with. Tired of living an overstretched life. Tired of not doing things well. Just plain tired. And tired of pretending not to be!
I need to make some hard choices, and I don’t want to put out poor quality articles here with regurgitated ideas. So I’m not going to be writing at Pilgrim’s Moon until around the end of July. I hope you’ll stick around and join me again then, and that I’ll be able at that point to deliver some high-quality original writing and ideas. I’ll send out a newsletter when I’m back (so if you’re not on my mailing list, click here to join).
I’ll still be around on the Pilgrim’s Moon Facebook Page and reading other people’s blogs, and looking forward to catching up with you again soon.
Meanwhile, loving wishes to you all.
Photo credit: Agnes Leung]]>
A yellow flower
(Light and Spirit)
Sings by itself
I‘m taking a few decompression days, so no blog posts and no Sunday Collection this week.
No Facebook, no Pinterest, no email. I’m switching off my computer and mobile phone. I’m getting out my camera, my paints, my journals, my collage. Ahhh, bliss.
What gives you peace?
Photo credit: Andy Price]]>