The returning of the Light

Early this morning from our living room window, over the rooftops, I spied mist covered fields beneath a clear blue sky.

I pulled boots and a warm gilet over my pj’s and went out for a walk beyond my village and out into the countryside.

The only people out and about were the posties, some shop keepers, a few dog walkers and their charges.   I said to the greengrocer ‘Isn’t it quiet  .  .  .  .   but busy day today?’  He shook his head and said ‘Calm before the storm.’

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Steve and I are all set for the holidays.  We have a pretty relaxed and mellow time over Christmas.  We exchange heartfelt gifts and enjoy cooking and eating even more fabulous food than usual.  We did some final food and gift shopping yesterday in Exeter.  It was somewhat manic and I was glad to return home after a couple of hours in town.
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While I was walking down the lane I thought about Christmas. The seasonal films we’ve been watching – A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life –  are about finding the ‘true meaning’ of the Yuletide, usually the importance of friends, family and love for our fellows.  I also observe how so many people are focused on the materialism of the Christmas holiday and stressed out about needing to create the ‘perfect’ day.
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I wondered about what it would be like to completely strip back the gifts, cards and feasting. What would remain? Would there even be a holiday?

My thoughts went back to the time long before the legend about Jesus being the son of God was peddled and before the Bible was written.  What there always has been is the return of the light, the days drawing out and the turning of the year to fruition. We have always and still do depend upon this for our survival. Not just humans, but all life.
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This holiday, this Holy Day, celebrates the life force which animates every living thing. We gather together with our loved ones to remember that we are not alone. We feast on rich foods to nourish and sustain us through the darkest and leanest time of the year. And we light a candle to mark the returning of the light.
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Holding the balance

An equinox is the day when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal.  There are only two per year.  The equinox in September is also known as the autumnal (fall) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and is considered the first day of autumn.

For the past couple of weeks, I have observed  nights beginning to draw in, mornings beginning shrouded in mist and the subtle turning of leaves to brown, amber and other warm colors of autumn.

I love this time of year and look forward to making our home cosy and warm, and turning inward to find the light within.  I bought a gorgeous bunch of end of summer flowers and we had a  supper to welcome autumn of sausages, mashed sweet potatoes, haricot verts and onion gravy.  The lingering evening light came in through our living room window. but in a few short weeks, all of our suppers will be candlelit.

On my walk home from the gym yesterday, I noticed dozens of jackdaws and crows riding the updrafts in a certain spot.  By the time I fetched my camera and returned, they had flown elsewhere.  It was a place where the wind took turns arriving from the south, west and north bringing different air currents, temperatures and cloud formations.  I felt as though I was right in the middle of where things are changing.

This tree who has shed most of its leaves seems to be holding the balance between the seasons, just for a moment.

Like the trees, like nature, I try to find the grace to be with each passing moment and season.  To find equanimity and hold the balance in the midst of change.

 

 

 

 

Shhhhhh!

I stopped at the library on my way to work last week and emerged with a yummy stack of new books.  I’ve been a weekly library patron for about 44 years.  I read in the bathtub, in bed before I go to sleep and often first thing in the morning, and on my 45 minute bus ride to and from work.

One of the books I got (and am more than halfway through) is one of those rare, self-affirming, possibly life-altering reads.  Quiet by Susan Cain.  The cover attracted me.  Less is more. With its title and minimalist cover,
I expected the book to be thoughtful, well-researched and enlightening.

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Shhhh.  Listen

That’s the sound of your thoughts.

If you are happy with what you hear,
you may be an introvert.

For too long, those who are naturally quiet,
serious or sensitive have been overlooked.

The loudest have taken over – even if they have nothing to say.

It’s time for everyone to listen.  It’s time to harness the power of introverts.

It’s time for Quiet.

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I’m not necessarily learning anything new from this book.  I’ve known that I’m an introvert for much of my life.  Although it’s been a painful journey at times, it has been an amazing voyage of self-discovery.  I’m familiar with Carl Jung and the Meyers-Briggs and have read Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person.  From my undergraduate coursework in Psychology and my graduate studies in Counseling Psychology, I am familiar with many of the research studies that Susan Cain cites.  I’ve done several workshops on the Enneagram (I’m a Type 4 – the Artist/Romantic/Individualist) and feel comfortable with my natural tendency towards introversion.

What I am really enjoying is how Cain ties all of these strands together and keeps stating the value and power of introverts.  It’s bringing all of my insights and positive feelings about being deep and quiet to the fore.  She also writes about blogging and online community/collaboration, how very much it suits us thoughtful, quiet types.  Somehow, reading this book at this time in my life is enabling me to  proudly carry the banner of ‘I’m an introvert and I’m OK!’

I went to the gym yesterday morning to work out. (I like my Sunday morning weight lifting sessions, as I am usually one of the few people there!).  I made sure to take my camera because I noticed on Friday some trees just outside covered with plump red berries being foraged by blackbirds.  After my session, I lingered outside and took some photographs.  There was a group of blokes shouting and playing some loud game with a ball, football or rugby, on the pitch outside the sports centre.  A couple of people came out of the gym and looked at me curiously.  I just waved and went back to observing the trees and birds.  Sometimes I feel a bit odd, stopping to stare and dream about things.  But yesterday I realised the ball players are a bunch of extroverts doing their thing and here I am, an introvert, doing my thing.

I thought about a design I love by William Morris called ‘The Strawberry Thief’

Strawberry Thief, textile, 1883

and how the three birds who were squabbling in one of the 5 trees were the brash extroverts of the tribe, whilst the lone bird quietly going back and forth between hedgerow and another tree may well be an introvert blackbird.  One of the things I learned in Quiet is that the introversion/extroversion spectrum spans animal groups too.

I was using my little Pentax Optio 40 which slips right into my pocket.  Maybe if I had a bigger camera with a zoom lens I’d get a better photo, but I really don’t want the hassle of carrying bulky camera equipment around and the fuss of changing lenses.

Hawthorn, Crateagus monogyna

What I thought are berries are actually ‘haws’, the  autumn fruit of the hawthorn tree.  In Irish folklore the Hawthorn is sometimes referred to as the fairy bush, due to the belief that fairy spirits inhabit the tree as guardians, and since early times it has always been considered bad luck to cut or damage the tree in fear of offending them.

The Hawthorn Fairy, Cicely Mary Barker, 1926

Some folks make jelly or wine from them.  This recipe for Chili Hawthorn Dipping Sauce looks great, but I’m not really a jelly maker.

I thought about the coming of winter and stocking up the larder.  One of my weekend plans is to make pomegranate liqueur which will be ready by the winter solstice.  I heard the steady clip-clop of hooves and waited for a horse and rider to pass by before I set off home to have a hot bath, read some more of my book and then turn my attention to pomegranates.

Enter the Forest of Dreams photo shoot

This is very exciting!  I met up with Bonnie McCaffery at the Festival of Quilts and she snapped a really nice photo of me and my bed.

Festival of Quilts, 2012

Bonnie is a great friend of mine, whom I meet up with for a few hours at a time when she’s here in the UK teaching or filming vidcasts.  Bonnie was filming video of quilts at the show for Luana Rubin of eQuilter.com and I was interviewed by Luana!

Bonnie McCaffery setting up the vidcast with Luana and I

After the Festival of Quilts, Steve and I broke down the bed, collected Bonnie and we all came down to Devon for a few days.

Some friends of ours let us use their property to photograph ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’ in the woods.  It was the perfect setting and a beautiful day with sunlight twinkling through the trees.

Forest of Dreams photo shoot

We got some fantastic photographs from the day.  Here are a couple.

In the forest of dreams

I commissioned Bonnie to make a short film of me telling the story of ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’, from the making of the bed frame when I was a student at the Chippendale International School of Furniture through to all of the symbolism in the headboard and bed quilts.  At the end, the secret of the hidden valance is revealed.  Even though Bonnie lives in America, through the magic of the internet, we’ll be able to keep in touch while she’s producing the video.  I’m really looking forward to seeing it sometime in 2013!

On day two, we turned my living room into a photography studio and Bonnie took some amazing portrait photographs of me.  I’m saving those for another post.

A Country Ramble

The work on my commission is going really well.  I’ve been working on it most days when I’m at home.  I went on a walk ‘around the block’ on Monday, to have another look at hedgerow leaves before I stitched many more of them down.  I especially wanted to find some hawthorn leaves and berries, just to be sure of them.

I live in a Dartmoor town which is surrounded by fields and moorland.  One of my favourite walks begins by heading west out of the town and after about 5 minutes, I reach a public footpath.  I always feel like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole!

There are some fantastic tree roots on either side.

The footpath opens up into a field which usually has livestock in it.  Right now it’s sheep.

A bit further on were some beautiful Devon Ruby cattle

The bull keeping his eye on me!

Further on, I paused for a view of Moretonhampstead, my hometown.

Some of the fields are scattered with late summer daisies and clover.

A Devon ‘green lane’

The latter half of my circuit is along a paved single track road, with a few passing places.  I usually meet at least one car, tractor or person on horseback.  I love the stretches where the trees meet overhead, especially on a hot, sunny day!

Guernsey cattle

Long before paved roads and signs, this granite cross has marked this intersection

Hospit Cross

One the last leg of my journey, the early evening sun lit the foliage from behind.

Contre jour ferns and birch

Hawthorn leaves

By the way, I’ve been looking into the Celtic meaning of the trees whose leaves I’ve used to frame my Green Woman — hawthorn is a symbol of union of opposites, and serves as a message for us to be more accepting of the unconventional.

Hawthorn leaves and berries

I usually run along this circuit and enjoy each beautiful view,

but it’s great to walk it with my camera and take the time to peer and notice all of the small, beautiful details.

Thistle & bee

Elegant decay

Convolvulus

Moretonhampstead all decked out with summer flowers and bunting for the annual Carnival.

Towards the High Moor

Looking east towards St. Andrew's Church

Finally . . .

Home again, home again, jiggetty jog