Category Archives: Woodlands

Spirituality Without Fanfare

Once you have been on your spiritual path for a while you will start to realise that it is best to not take yourself too seriously.

There are two types of people who practise spirituality, in my experience. Those who tell others how powerful they are or how enlightened they are or how good their expensive courses are…and those who just get on with it, quietly and without fanfare. Do a course for fun if you think you will get something out of it but do realise that the only thing really worth spending is time itself. Time to learn, time to experiment, time to let things simmer.

Unfortunately being bombarded with all these enlightenment sellers can put some potential newcomers off discovering more about themselves and their possibilities and that’s a shame as there is nothing to be nervous about. Don’t be scared by the hype, don’t be put off by those who dress themselves up as mystical beings who need to be adored. They are selling a service which is the spiritual equivalent of getting your nails painted…it’s fun but it isn’t an essential life choice. You can do what you need to do with a little online research, free resources, reading books and, most importantly, living the life and gaining the experience.

Those who are quietly spiritual know that everyone is an individual who will be spending years on their unique path, no expensive course is going to get anyone there quicker. Sorry. Sometimes it can even slow progress down as you are following someone else’s path not your own. Their way of doing things might not be yours.

Your path is your own and you don’t have to be doing A, B or C to qualify for any award. There is no award. There’s a reward for taking a spiritual path though. Several of them.

If you can successfully meditate you can make your daily life calmer and happier. This can take the edge off the hardest situation. YouTube has some really good meditations. Try Michael Sealey or Jason Stephenson.

Practising mindfulness will give you a better outlook on life and will make those challenges easier to deal with because you stay in the moment, at least long enough to have a break from your mind chatter. Here is a 8 week free course, run by Dave Potter a fully certified MBSR instructor.

Being able to work with the energies to heal yourself and others for free is your way to give back and to do your bit to help change one small part of the world which is suffering…whether that be an individual or a situation.  Learn how to give reiki to yourself with this previous article of mine Reiki For Self Love.  Where you go with it afterwards when it comes to helping others is for you to decide.

Ritual is a way to bring order to chaos as well as engaging in aged practices – whether you just count your morning ritual of shower, tea and toast before work or rituals used with your deity of choice, such as prayers. A good morning ritual sets you up for the day and most of us have several rituals which we enjoy. Perhaps yours is a candlelit bath or a cup of chamomile tea last thing before bed. A ritual is simply something you do at a certain time and, sometimes, for a certain reason. Getting a few rituals of your own in place will bring structure and certainty to your day and you will find you look forward to doing them. They will bring a comfort and a smile, a sense of well-being.

Learning how to work with herbs is another way that you can help yourself. Again there are many online courses out there for the basics but a good book will do you just as well too if money is tight. The work of Susun Weed is a good start if you are in the USA or Herbcraft by Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender is an excellent choice for those in the UK and Europe. Herbcraft gives a broad use for plants including medicinal and magickal as well as a bit of history for interest.

Learning which plants are edible is very important so do take care as there are some deadly ones out there too. 

Knowledge is essential when using herbs in whatever form you choose them. Several good books for cross referencing are essential and you should never rely on just one photo in a book to decide which plant is in front of you in the wild. Several good, clear close up photos are needed. Of course, the company of someone who already knows is ideal but few of us have that and so we must take things gradually and be careful with our choices by being sensible.

Here is a fun video done by someone just starting out using herbs. We all have to start somewhere…

Many of us enjoy a cup of chamomile tea or peppermint tea so why not take it a step further and start learning how to work with the energies of the plants in your vicinity, growing your own or even just in their essential oil form. Pure oils can be used for cleaning and sanitising your home, refreshing the aroma, getting rid of garden pests, used to heal yourself and pets and in a multitude of ways.

I have had no training in essential oils but taught myself gradually over many years and now use them in every part of my life. They are surprisingly versatile, useful and helpful and, of course, chemical free if chosen wisely. There are many articles online which will help you choose a starter arsenal of essential oils. My first three choices would be roman chamomile, lavender and peppermint. I have linked to an article for each to get you started if you are new to essential oils.

If you are starting off on your path and follow the signposts above and in my previous nine articles then together they should give you your first few footsteps. You will be on your way to a spiritual life which allows you to grow, gain confidence, deal with challenges, heal your everyday niggles and give love and strength to those around you. There will be days when it all seems too much and you will want a break. Be kind to yourself on those days and do whatever you need to do. Everyone has a spiritual crisis at some point in their lives…sometimes more than one…but this is good because this is where the biggest shifts happen.

My final suggestions are to enjoy life, love who you are and do what you have to do to make your life your own. Never be dictated by those who surround you or even those in your area of choice spiritually. Always trust your instincts and if you aren’t sure what they are saying then meditate and wait. The answer is there.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Finding Your Safe Place

Lots of people have already found certain places in nature where they go to regroup or relax. This can be as simple as a tree in the local park where they can stop off whilst walking the dog to take in the view and taste the air.

My favourite place is by a particular tree which is generous enough to replenish me with its energy whenever I visit. I don’t visit quite often enough for my taste but it is a difficult tree for me to get to and so I savour it when I do get there. Not even my immediate family knows of my attachment to this particular tree. I keep that knowledge close to my heart because it is special to me and holds more power than if I verbally share it and its whereabouts indiscriminately. That’s what I choose to believe and that belief has served me well.

If you are lucky enough to have a public park near to where you work then do visit in your lunchtime. Take that half hour and your sandwiches and get outside. It will wake you up, increase your productivity and your mental agility too. Even if you haven’t got a whole park to yourself then a bench or somewhere peaceful outside is ideal to replenish a weary mind. It can also be the place you go to catch your breath when the human race has been particularly trying. It will become a place of regrouping, comfort and fresh starts.

If you don’t have a few trees handy then the next best thing is putting on a pair of noise cancelling headphones on and listening to sounds of nature or, taking it one step further, imagining a forest in your mind’s eye and creating your own place to escape to during meditation. You might want to start with a guided meditation first if this seems daunting. There are plenty of options on YouTube if you want to try this. How about this one from Linda Hall?

A place to feel joy, gratitude, love and happy memories and to make new ones.

A place to go to when times are testing.

A place where you can be yourself, without judgment.

However you find your sanctuary it will serve you well.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Staverton Thicks

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Even on an overcast day in February, Staverton Thicks near Woodbridge, Suffolk is still the ultimate fairy tale wood of childhood stories in its bare bones of winter.

This place is tucked in very near to the very popular Rendlesham Forest (yes, the place where the UFO is said to have popped by for a visit next to the former USAF base) but few people seem to know of its existence.

It is a place which sets pen to paper. Robert MacFarlane talks of it in his book The Wild Places where he recounts a tale told to him by the late Roger Deakin of naked dancing deep in its heart. Sara Maitland tells of her own visit in her book Gossip from The Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales where she had an encounter when she strayed off the path.

We didn’t see any cross landowners whilst we were there although I was prepared to sacrifice one of the teenagers to the cooking pot should the need arise. They are SO expensive to keep these days, aren’t they? Fortunately there was no need and we proceeded unmolested, enabling us to ask the spirits and elementals who dwell there for a few twigs and feathers to take home with us.

I took so many photos that I have decided a gallery is the only answer to fully share this wonderful and very magical place with you.

As my adult daughter with learning difficulties said of the trees “They look like paintings, Mummy.” and she was right, they do.

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Breathing Wilderness

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So this week I am writing just a little update. All is well, I just have a few minor health issues…full blown flu, women’s problems (yes, I thought I was done with that too since July last year! I can’t express how glacially thrilled I am) and a migraine to be exact. Tacking that lot on to the less than perfectly working body I have these days and I am, as one of the children put it, an ill bean. Probably of the broad bean variety if my ever increasing girth is to be taken into account…

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I have been napping since Saturday afternoon, tis true, but in between I have been defying the double vision and reading with an eye covered…awfully clever, I thought, you’re impressed too, I can tell… and sliding into the world of Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. What a joy this book is! Macfarlane shares my love of a vista, a hidden nook and a furious coastline. Whilst I have been languishing he has taken me on a journey across moors, up mountains and through holloways. We have collected pebbles together, drunk from crystal streams and moved bramble to get into sleepy hollows. We haven’t eaten bugs because this is the UK and here, in our wilderness, we rub two sticks together, get a pan out and heat up something delicious we brought with us. And we did. And it tasted even more wonderful for that. Although we didn’t use a picnic rug which I thought would have been only right and proper. I shall perhaps send an email and point this folly out.

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On a couple of his journeys he had Roger Deakin as a companion. The two men together wandered as schoolboys in The Wild Places, squeezing into gaps most would pass by and using ivy to get into holloways which probably haven’t seen a human for many years. Deakin has also written some truly wonderful books with Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees being a particular favourite of mine. Printed after his death, it is a collection of his travels through woodlands in many places across the world as well as the UK. Moreover it is a book which brings alive every step he took so vividly you can reach out and touch the bark with him.

Macfarlane slept in the open air on the edge of island cliffs with birds roosting beside him and the ocean crashing on the rocks below him, lulling him to sleep with nature’s melody. He sought the fury of a storm on a mountain and the loneliness of a shingle bank (spit) out in the North Sea with a distant seal colony his only companions.

These books are about having fun whatever your age and going where your soul is nourished. For those of us who are called by the wild they are also a welcome respite from the sounds of the town around us. They are books which tempt you off the beaten track, which get you pulling out dusty maps from the back of your shelves and pouring over them. They are also for those of us who yearn to run our fingertips down the face of a granite outcrop again and marvel at the time it has been there. I miss my mountains.

We are here for as long as it takes a mountain to take a breath in. Make it count.

The Wren – All The Best Things Come In Small Packages

 

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Last week Wren came to me as my messenger animal totem and I had fun drawing her and listening to what she has to teach me. I am not an artist really but I do enjoy pretending I am and playing with pencils and paper 😀

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I live as quite the hermit due to circumstances and responsibilities and Wren medicine is all about being part of what is going on. Amongst other things she tells us to get out there and be counted. Sing at the top of your voice and be heard above the crowd. She is nimble, agile and vibrant with energy. Wren talks of relationships with others and nurturing the here and now. She encourages adventure and living life to the full. Be bold.

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In the years before Christianity took over pagan festivals, the 26th December (or in some parts the winter solstice) was a day when the wren was hunted. Wrenboys would capture the King of Birds and would parade through the town with the bird asking for money. The money from patrons would then be used to put on a Wren Ball for the whole town or village. Songs were sung and you can view some here. Later the Wren was buried with full honours in celebration and pudding was served. This tradition is said to be the acting out of the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, a hero in Celtic myth, who gains his name by tricking his mother Arianrhod into lifting her curse and naming him in a tale involving a wren. As he strikes the wren “between the tendon and the bone of its leg” Arianrhod says “the fair haired one with the skillful hand is his name now” and her first curse was lifted. She was to do two more, such was her annoyance, but each time she was thwarted.

There is a lovely description of the tradition of Hunting the Wren which can be found over on Pie Religion which speaks of the humour involved (as is in all the best traditions of this sort still followed) and Steeleye Span have a little ditty to share, both of which I shall leave you to enjoy.

 

 

Perimenopause: The One Where I Had Drunk Too Much Tea

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As I find myself approaching month six without a visit from my monthly period I find myself almost holding my breath to see whether this is ‘it’, whether I have passed into the stage of being actually menopausal or whether this is Mother Nature’s idea of a little torment teasing and she will, in fact, be back at some point. Just to put it out there, if she decides to renew our acquaintance on Christmas Day when I have a lot of mouths to feed then I will not be impressed…

I would love to know how ‘the end’ happened for any of you ladies out there who have actually come out the other side and are now in full menopause so do please leave your stories in the comments below as it helps others to get an idea of what to expect too.

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This week I found myself looking up female urination devices. Yes, yes, I know, not exactly a topic for polite society but putting it in with the post on monthlies seemed like a two birds with one stone situation *smiles*. The thing is sometimes a girl has to go. In the UK, even when you hope there is not a soul around for miles, there will be. Usually within shouting distance. As a woman you are probably safer alone in the middle of a wood then you are alone in the middle of an urban area where screams are common place and usually mean nothing especially if you live on a main road as I do. Bizarre but true.

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So going back to the need for a device, let me tell you a story. Years ago I climbed mountains, literally, and when the call of nature meant too many brews had been consumed I found a lonely bush and just got on with it. You climbed a mountain, you paid the privacy price. These days I go geocaching and walking sometimes with the family when I am well enough and, thanks to the perimenopause, that cup of tea I had two hours before the walk is fighting its way out yet again despite going twice before we left home.

So there I was, behind said bush and minding my own business in an ancient wood in the middle of nowhere when some chap on a massive horse (quite possibly a Suffolk Punch only I was too embarrassed to raise my eyes for a good, close look at either of them) called a hello two feet away from me and proceeded to talk about how frosty the day was. I knew this quite well as my behind was exposed to the elements and a nasty looking nettle but I couldn’t rise or I would risk…exposure. I retorted that the day was most agreeable and bade him a pleasant morning and tried to look usefully employed down behind a bush. We waited whilst the horse relieved itself and he made off with a wave of his hand.

He knew what I was doing. Of course he knew. It was probably his wood.

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So I have decided it might be better for someone to come across a woman of a certain age peeing up against a tree…a sort of a modern Victorian curiosity if you like. Hopefully no pictures will appear on Facebook entitled “Now I Have Seen Everything!” but better that than a random photo of my ever expanding menopausal bottom with the same headline. A girl has to have some self pride. Peeing up a tree can at least be seen as an accomplishment..yes?

Therefore I have been trying to decide between a flashy longer pipe for superior aim or a short stubby one which won’t draw such admiring glances when I want to be alone. Is bigger best or is it really all about what you do with it? Will I regret keeping it simple if I come across another woman using the same tree whose girth is more substantial and whose aim is better? Having said that I won’t want to reuse it many times so should I go for quality or quantity? Do I collect and bank or pee and flee? You can see my dilemma.

Choosing the right device is a lot more difficult than I thought and I really don’t want to cock it up.

Autumn FungiFest 2

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These are a few photos taken from a visit to a second ancient wood today. I really wanted to show you this fabulous beauty around the bottom of this tree. I have left the photo on the rather large side so you can appreciate the size of this fungus. This particular one went around the tree about three quarters of the way around.

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There were other fungi present too. This tree seemed to be in symbiosis with several types.

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Then there were these fungi on the ground just on the border of the wood…groovy.

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A rosehip which ‘swayed still’ long enough for me to photograph it 🙂

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There were loads of these spider webs over holes in the field where the deer wander. I was half expecting Aragog to pop up…

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And finally, for your personal appreciation, one of the more exclusive properties available for the fae hearted in these parts 😉

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Autumn Fungifest

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We have had a wonderful week off! We managed to go back to the ancient wood just in time to see the fungi explode. Several old favourites were there including, of course, the infamous fly agaric 🙂

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There is something enchanting about fungi…strange but true, at least for me 🙂

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Beautiful colours and shapes of all sizes. Did you know that fungi are the biggest organisms in the world? Did I spell ‘organisms’ correctly? *checks* Phew!

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Do you recognise any of these? There are over 3000 species of fungi in the UK. Most guidebooks tell you about 100 or so of them…be careful which you chew on if you want to tell the tale of it later as many of them are poisonous and fungi are very difficult to correctly identify as they can look very similar to each other! Cross check them in several books yourself to be on the safe side and never rely on just one photograph on the internet for correct identification.

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Some fungi are so big they are practically a meal on their own…if you have the right stomach for it.

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Flowers and berries were still scattered about…rosehips and black bryony aplenty too.

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And THIS is where the fairies live… 😉

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Ancient Woodland Tour

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Last weekend was spent settling our garden in for the colder months again so we had time yesterday to go a little further afield and visit an ancient wood we had been meaning to see for ourselves.

This wood is particularly special to me as it was the wood my grandparents walked in as they courted each other many years ago. My grandmother’s family moved up here from London and she was born not long afterwards.

The wood is looked after very well and the ancient ash stools created by the coppicing make some of these trees the oldest living things in my part of the country.

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There are wonderful plants growing in the woods including Spindle with its popcorn shaped fruit.

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Crab Apples – my grandmother made crab apple jelly when I was a child, very sweet to counteract the bitterness of the fruit.

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Lots of lovely berries and fruits including rosehips.

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There was plenty to see here, untouched by pesticides and just how a wood should be with food and healing plants enough for all. At the end of October the fungi this wood is also famous for will start appearing in abundance.

If only all woods were kept like this we would be able to heal ourselves of so many ailments using what Mother Nature has so generously given us. As it is we salivate at conservation areas like this, look but don’t touch and wonder if lessons will ever be learnt.

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