Return of the Light

We have just past the time of Winter Solstice in the North, when the days are dark, the nights fall sooner, the air is icy , the mornings greet us with blankets of delicate frost and pale fragile sunlight .

At this time of year I can feel the land breathing out , settling down. I can feel gravity pulling me into the ground and a part of me would like to go deep underground, deep into the underworld, and nest and rest and sleep and dream . To escape the madness of this world for a while and steep myself in magic and the turning wheel of creation.

I don’t celebrate Christmas but I do enjoy honouring the land at this time of year .

I used to feel great Joy in bringing in a tree to decorate with hand made stars and shiny lights . The tree for me was what made this season special. I never much cared for the consumption at this time if year . I never understood it , even as a child . The consumerism was never what “Christmas ” was about .

Even in my young child bones it was something much older than the bullshit it is now . It was always a time of silence and retreat. Sitting still. Reading books . Dreaming . And the tree.

The most magical being in the world , invited into our house , decorated with lights and tinsel and wishes . I would sit with the tree for hours , sleep near it , play next to it and always felt like the missing member of the family had finally been allowed in .

I felt at home with the tree in my house . I felt like I wasn’t alone . Trees are good like that . They don’t let you feel lonely.

They will extend their energy out to you if they sense you need it . Because trees care deeply. They care about each other . They care about us . Trees will look after each other in a woodland. They will keep connection to their children , parent and grandparent trees . And if you ever feel lonely and you go walking in the woods a tree will always call you to sit beneath its branches and silently keep you company , share its energy with you and help you ground and reconnect again.

Over the last couple of years I’ve found it hard to justify bringing in a tree , even a potted one I can replant. I used to gather bits and pieces of Ivy and Holly and Pine to decorate the window sills and thread them with lights to bring the outside in. To create a feeling of kinship and magic .

But this year feels like I can’t. I feel the best place for all these beautiful things is exactly where they are . Outside . My inner sense is that we need to preserve as much as we can of what we have left of nature , and leave it alone .

Beyond that my feeling is not to bring anything in at all but to go outside to where nature is . And be with it there.

I don’t know why but it just feels wrong now . Usually the trees and plants have offered themselves gladly for decoration. I’ve been guided to where bits have been cut and pruned by others and been able to make use of whats been left . But not this year . The Ivy in my garden doesn’t want to be cut . The pine tree wants to be left alone . I was allowed a bit of holly but even that feels like I’ve stolen it .

And maybe what it brings up above all else is grief and sadness . All this beauty is being destroyed. The earth is in crisis . Taking whats left to fill the house feels too much like exploiting the land to make myself feel better.

I wanted to avoid buying anything this year for presents etc . I don’t know anyone that needs anything desperately. Its just more consumption thats ruining the world. And whilst for the first time in decades I’ve managed not to feel pressured and obliged to take part in this most destructive time of the year , I have still succumbed to buying a few bits for family.

Mainly because I feel like I can’t not. I don’t send cards , I won’t get a tree, I won’t be over consuming food and alcohol just for the hell of it . It leaves a rather hollow feeling in my soul. I’m struggling to go into shops to buy anything tbh unless its food and essentials.

I won’t be forcing myself to be cheerful. My days of pretending to love this holiday are long gone . I won’t be putting myself into debt so I can give my child the tatt he never needed. I won’t be putting myself under pressure to live a lie for a day.

Every year I get asked “what do you want for Christmas ” and every year for as long as I’ve lived the answer has been either nothing or I don’t know .

Its always bemused me the idea of “wanting things” . I have a roof over my head . I have warmth . I have food . I have family and friends. I have clothes. I’m not sure what much else there is to want.

A world that cares ?

I’ve spent enough years tearing myself apart and struggling under the obligations and social pressures this time of year brings to people. And I am getting to the point where I’d just like to walk away from it all.

I’d like to disappear into the woods for a week . I’ll go out and feed the birds . I’ll walk in the woods and talk to the trees and animals . I’ll sit by the river. I’ll walk the hills and admire the view.

I’ll try not to notice the deep sadness I feel as the earth slowly ebbs away. I’ll remember all the lovely people I know who make a difference. I’ll remember all those who work tirelessly everyday to make the world a better place for everyone.

I’ll feel into how I can better live my life as one of those people without losing myself . Or depleting my own resources. Even if its only in small ways.

Like feeding the birds and leaving the trees alone.

I usually do a little personal ritual to welcome back the light and the lengthening days . Sitting in the dark of the solstice eve , in silence, and just noticing what that brings up.

As the light begins to dawn I light a candle and sit with what this brings with it too. I have a sense that what we need collectively is strength and courage . Courage to face the darkness and the shadows . Strength to face whatever the future brings .

Taking time to slow down and drop into the dark at this time of year is exactly what we need to do. To rest. To renew. To discover what is needing our attention and focus . To come back to our centre , save our energy and make plans for how best to put it to use in the months to come .

In its own time

As the wheel of the year takes another turn through Lammas , the first of 3 harvest times , where the grass crops ripen and the hay is cut to store for winter feed , we are looking forward to the next cycle and the second harvest , that of the Autumn Equinox and the coming berries, fruit and nuts .

Its hard to believe its already been 8 months since I took on this beautiful land and began to slowly step into working on the creation of the space. Progress appears quite slow but that has been deliberate.

I always knew from the start I needed to take my time and allow the space to evolve organically, in its own time. A year or so of observation has proven extremely useful for a number of reasons, in spite of my occasional impatience and desire to rush ahead and “do something”.

Plantain and hogweed seed harvest

I have done somethings – I have created pathways , cleared a seating area , established a compost heap and noted what grows here , how much of it grows , where it grows and what’s needed to help maintain a balance between keeping the flowers food and nesting materials for the wildlife and keeping the site clear and safe for people to move around .

I’ve had the pleasure of inviting a few people down to the site to hear their feedback, listen as they excitedly reel off the list of plans they envisage for the site , how it could look, the activities they could do here. From artists waxing lyrical about nature art , green sculpture and music in the woods , to bushcrafters wanting to build log cabins and people in recovery enjoying the peace and greenery , imagining support sessions in a wild outdoor place , helping maintain the space , wildfower areas , bell tents and a safe and comfortable place just to hang out. The magic in this for me, is in saying nothing and simply bringing people into the space and hearing their ideas confirm my own.

Tiny wrens nest found on the floor

As I plan and plot the template with the place I often doubt what bits are my ego wanting things a certain way and which are meant to come into being. Letting go of control for someone who has always done everything herself has been a struggle. But I have taken the lands advice on how to do this .

Take your time. Don’t rush. If you aren’t sure don’t do anything and wait. Gather more information. Get advice. Let go and forget about it. Come back to it when you are clearer, more balanced, able to listen. Talk less , listen more. Don’t over think it. Observe. Ask.Ask again. Ask differently and see if you get the same answers.

Its not too dissimilar to shamanic journey work to be honest. And I suppose in a way it is. Communing between two worlds – that of the human nature and that of the wild earth nature and the beings of place.

I haven’t spent much time at the land over the last few weeks as I haven’t felt called too. I basically got told to let it be and come back in September. I went away on holiday. Enjoyed myself and switched off from work and planning and figuring things out. It gave me chance to drop back into sensing my way through a channel that isn’t the mind , the feeling body, the inner senses . Much as I was at the very beginning of knowing the place. It seems I panic a bit when things are growing and Im not sure what I need to do to help things along. Not very much is the answer. Just let things do what they do.

What letting things do what they do revealed was a lot of abundant growth and a space evolving in its own way. With certain places in need of a bit of help to clear the excess that was choking the growth of other useful plants and flowers. It involved waiting to notice bud, flower, seed and decay cycles, learning when to cut and prune , pick and leave alone.

I noticed the birds eat lots of the nettle seeds and berries so I know not to pick them until after they take what they need. They don’t touch the strawberries so I can have those. I saw the plants grow to such a height they fall over and they can be pruned earlier and kept to just a few feet high so people can wander about more easily whilst still giving the wildlife the flowers they need to live and produce young. The water I was so worried about not having enough of is plentiful- I just need to have a bit stored for the drier spells for the birds around May and June. Buckets and large pots to catch rain mean the birds have plenty to drink and bathe in.

Fruits and seeds gathered from the land

The space has taught me a lot.

Initially it seemed it would take a lot of work to keep on top of but it doesn’t. Theres plenty of everything for me to be able to cultivate new areas and cut back the present growth without upsetting the balance of the place. Something I was anxious about. I can see how my initial plans can work and will not impose anything drastic that the space doesn’t want. With a bit of tweeking I can meet safety requirements AND have the site left wild .

This will never be a place where too many people gather. It will always be and was always intended for , small groups to spend time together in community. For rest and reflection and healing and connection rather than the busyness of doing. A space to be .

As autumn saunters in and the leaves turn from the trees , the plants will die back and the grasses will decay and the next phase of creating the space will begin. Hopefully with a small group of people helping to plan and prepare for starting again , phase 2 of Space for nature. That of bringing the plans to fruition.

Flower power : Healing with the land

The beauty of nature for me comes in the medicine, food and materials it offers us , selflessly, so we can survive, thrive, grow and know our place as guardians and custodians of the earth.

Its in the healing trees, flowers and plants we term “weeds” that until fairly recently in our social history, were known for their medicinal and healing properties. Not in a far off exotic land , but here in these blessed isles of what we now call Britain.

In the not so distant past , as recently as the 1940’s and 50’s we still had local wise men and women who held the knowledge of herb craft and plant wisdom. They knew what preparations could support the communities health and well being long before we created the NHS .

Whilst there may have been con artists and quacks selling ineffective concoctions for profit ( there still is ) most communities had at least one person, often one with knowledge passed down generation to generation, whose purpose was to tend the wellbeing of the community. We might call that person the wise woman, the cunning man , a witch, a healer , a shaman , one who knows.

They were the midwives, GP’s, nurses , social workers , care workers , counsellors and advisors others turned to in times of need. They lived and worked with local plants and herbs to alleviate and stave off dis-ease and sickness amongst their local population.

As industrialisation increased, as more towns and cities developed as more and more people were sent to work endless shifts in dirty , dangerous conditions that were frequently deleterious to their health and increasingly removed them from their previously close contact with the natural world around them.

Resources that were once common- belonging to all – the commoners – became owned and only available if sold in exchange for money.

As everything increased in price and cost nature became devalued. It became not our abundant store of food and materials but a commodity and as this spread more and more our capacity to care for the land and support it to grow and thrive diminished.

We orphaned ourselves from that which nurtured and sustained us and we set off down the path of careless destruction and disconnection from our true place in the world.

I believe plants and flowers have never stopped trying to call us back home. To mend the severed ties, to ground us back in belonging to the earth. I have the pleasure of many wild weeds , flowers , medicine on the land I am now custodian and guardian.

As a flower essence and shamanic practitioner and wild therapist who has travelled the healing path all my life , been attuned to the nature kingdom since early childhood , who has never forgotten the presence of the other world or the ways in which it speaks to us I find the most profound healing has come through the use of flower essences.

Flowers are one of natures most gentle and potent , powerful healers .

Their capacity to energetically support our soul healing and bring our mental physical and emotional bodies back into balance should not be underestimated.

When people think of plant medicine they often think of Mother teacher plants like , Peyote , San Pedro , Psilocybin mushrooms and other psychotropic plants that often shift consciousness and awareness rapidly and often quite forcefully needing lots of time for us to integrate their medicine and healing.

People don’t often consider that every plant and flower possesses healing medicine , that is just as profound and brings just as much insight , awareness and healing. Albeit at a much gentler pace and speed . Enabling integration to take place more easily and with less of a shock to our system and psychic senses.

Having had the psychic shock and trauma of psychoactive substances taken too young – the very gentle flower essences have been the most effective remedy for re-balancing , repairing and mending the after effects of opening up too much , too soon , when unknowingly too traumatised to properly integrate the experience.

Flower essences have supported me to repair my energy field, clear ancestral and familial patterning , unblock stuck and repressed emotions, ground and centre my energy back into my physical body , clear my chakra system , stabilise the mental and emotional bodies and lots more besides.

If you find yourself drawn again and again to a particular plant or flower it’s probably trying to get your attention. It has medicine for you . It has energy it wishes to share with you . On some level your being needs it .

Sit with it a while . Notice its colour. Its scent . What comes to mind when you spend time with it. What feelings/ memories arise ? How does your body feel in its presence ?

What is it trying to tell you ?

(All words and photos copyright © Alexa Sargeant /Space for Nature 2021)