Spring creeps in

IMG_2840

When I think about the nearly-thirty-one years of seasons that I’ve experienced, Spring often seems to creep in slowest of the seasons; the others have a firmer arrival. This is what my memory tells me. (Yes, keeping a journal would have provided a more accurate record but it’s a little beyond me to apply such logic to my life!) Spring’s first steps onstage – the gradually longer days, the fragile snowdrops and crocuses – are so hushed and timid. These steps are slow and when the weather yo-yos between wintry and spring-like it’s as if those baby-steps retreat back to the wings before tiptoeing out again, maybe this time a shade further. It’s as if this season tries to be all inconspicuous as she comes out. Yet we the audience sit eagerly waiting, pointing these signs out to each other, shining the spotlight and cheering happily. Towards the end of Spring’s show – when colour smiles all around, the sun is strong, the air is warm and abundant blossoms everywhere froth with the confidence of a perfectly-made cappuccino – then fanfare and applause can almost be heard on the breeze.

As a parallel, my Imbolg celebrations tend to be more drawn out too. I’ve written before of how I tend to celebrate the cross-quarter festivals as a “tide” over a lunar month and I think that this particularly applies to my welcoming of Spring. We’ve enjoyed various little celebrations and activities over the past few weeks, such as….

  • spotting spring flowers, catkins and green buds on trees during our walks out and about. The almost-daily check of how much the green shoots in our garden have grown is such a magical spring ritual to share with my son.
  • Changing our nature table to reflect this festival.
    • IMG_2809

    IMG_2813

  • talking together about the change from winter, about the Earth waking up and about new life emerging – such as lambs being born! Dylan and I enjoyed a sheep-making activity from The Imagination Tree:

IMG_2820

IMG_2833

  • blessing the packets of seeds that we intend to plant in our garden this year – indeed, we have some exciting plans for revamping our garden, (if our landlord agrees). For the blessing, we placed the packets in the centre of a ring of beeswax candles that I’d made, with a small bowl of Glastonbury Chalice Well water at the centre. We each gently blew around the circle and visualised the sun, rain and our love and nurture helping our seeds to go into beautiful vegetables, salads and flowers. I then extinguished all candles except one, which I put in the garden in a jam jar to help the earth to wake up. I left it there until it was spent.

IMG_2823 IMG_2824

  • For more personal activities, focussing on my goals for this year – the seeds I’m planting in my life – as well as working a little with the goddess Bridget and thinking about my associations and identifications with her. I’ve also enjoyed using Miranda Grey’s womb renewal blessing from the last Worldwide Womb Blessing.

IMG_2818

IMG_2834

(Paintings above by Jaine Rose)

IMG_2835

  • Being aware of the stronger kapha energy of this time of year and to try to balance this through adjustments to my diet, yoga practice and activities.
  • Rejoicing at being able to put washing out on the line and it being a little less damp by the end of the day. (simple things!)
  • Replacing our winter books with our spring ones in our seasonal book basket – and delighting in Dylan delighting in them!

IMG_2838

  • Treating ourselves to some cheery daffodils.

IMG_2836

Although we’re loving Spring’s gradual entrance, we are still hoping for a little snow; Dylan and I have agreed that our nature table should reflect that we still might do! Who knows….

IMG_2815

IMG_2814

Happy Springtime (ish) ♥

Celebrating the return of my moontime

IMG_2571 Recently, my menstrual cycle finally returned following the birth of my son. I’m still breastfeeding, which delays a mama’s cycle coming back, but mine was kinda unusually delayed; Dylan was past his third birthday! When my first period in almost four years did arrive, it was something that I wanted to consciously welcome, honour and connect with.

I had at times worried about my lack of periods, although was reassured when my GP ran tests that all came back normal. On the advice of a couple of wise-woman friends, I started journalling as a way to deepen my relationship with my body, my moods and my intuition. I sought to deepen my connection with the moon’s cycle and the cyclic dance of my own hormones, trying to spend time outside on full and dark moon nights feeling the beautiful presence of those energies around me and deep within me. I also made myself a sacred space a little like my own Red Tent. IMG_2576 The Red Tent movement has developed over recent years, following a film of the same name, as global and local communities of women honouring their own and each others’ divine femininity and the powers that that brings. Red Tent temples are places for support, creativity and activism. (You can discover much, much more here). I desired a space in my home where I could sit and meditate, dream, journal, read a book or my Tarot cards… or simply drink hot chocolate mindfully and peacefully! In particular, I wanted a space designed for connecting with my sacred femininity and that of the Earth, my ancestry, the cosmos and women everywhere. IMG_2574 I gathered up mostly-red items that had special connotation, purpose and beauty to me. I created a little canopy from scarves. One of them I used to wear around my hips a lot – often going out to what were very much activities of the “maiden phase” of my life! I had a lot of fun then doing things that I admittedly wouldn’t do now. Things that were right for me at that time ; I find it important to acknowledge that “maiden” as part of who I am, part of my past, present and future self. IMG_2570 Other items represent the “Mother” phase of my life; my current phase. There’s a photo of me nursing Dylan when he was a few days old – as well as another of us – and there’s the badge above that a friend gave me. (Similar products with pro-breastfeeding slogans can be bought at Lactivist.co.uk). IMG_2577 My little red corner holds souvenirs from other important times in my life; from my wedding and from our travelling adventure. Flopsy the rabbit  was given to me the day after I was born!

IMG_2567 IMG_2564 I made the bunting (photo at top of post) and also this red drawstring bag that stores my moon cup and washable moon cloths. I like to use these re-usable menstrual products for environmental, financial and health reasons – most disposable pads and tampons are not biodegradable, are expensive over time and are full of chemicals that I just don’t want next to a delicate area of my body! My inspiring and wise friend Rachael makes these pads which she sells along with other lovely moontime products on her website. IMG_2804 Other things are from special women in my life. The cross above – although a symbol of a spirituality different to my own – belonged to my late paternal grandmother who I felt much closer to after I became a mother myself. The decoration it is attached to was made  for one of Miranda Gray’s incredible womb blessings with wool that I spun. There’s something from my mum, from her mother and from one of my great-grandmothers as well as from my lovely oldest friend. IMG_2583 IMG_2568 One scarf was a leaving gift from a team that I was privileged to work in; this small team was, by coincidence, all-female and each of these wise women taught me so very much. I often wear it during meditations or womb blessings. The drum (and large elephant wall-hanging) are my husband’s; although this space is primarily for my honouring and practising feminine aspects of my spirituality, the divine male energy of the cosmos has a place here too. My husband is very much my partner in day-to-day life and on a soul level – and had a somewhat significant part in my becoming a mother! The journal was a gift from his parents.

IMG_2807

The red sari (awesome charity shop find!) stretches across the bedroom and hangs over my desk: my physical space for sewing, writing and knitting creativity. I like that this area is feels connected to the “red tent” corner – during one moontime I actually didn’t feel like spending much time in that space I’d made but just wanted to do lots of sewing!

The benefits of creating and using this space are already tangible and precious to me. A space where my womb energy can stir and speak. Space for me to hear it. Space for me to, sometimes,  simply sit with myself. That’s particularly important as an at-home mama where so much of my focus is on my son and on the running of the home. Yet although this is a rich environment for this personal practice, it does lack the benefits of a physical community; benefits that community Red Tent gatherings or other womens’ circles can offer. Fortunately, many towns and cities do have these. Read here about how Rachael at Moontimes is creating a gorgeous community Red Tent in Pembrokeshire – and how you can support it . Read here about an upcoming ceremony in Bristol for women to reclaim their menarche through having a celebration of their entering womanhood that they may not have had. IMG_2803 In both joining a community Red Tent/womens’ circle, or creating a personal space like I have, I feel there’s real power in making womanhood and fertility special. (fertility in the baby-making sense and also fertility in terms of our broader creative energy). In our society these things often aren’t seen as special. We’re taught that menstruation is a nuisance and a curse. Our “sanitary products” give the impression that it’s unclean and medical. A lot of society’s approach to fertility, contraception, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding all carries an underlying message that womens’ bodies can’t possibly be trusted to do what they’ve been doing for centuries without pharmaceuticals and medical interventions. I appreciate that some women really do have horrific PMS and a painful bleeding time – I used to. Thankfully some dietary and lifestyle adjustments such as those that can be found on Marylin Glenville‘s website helped me a lot.

In making a special space – and special time – to listen to and honour my body, I feel the empowering “specialness” of my womanhood.  I’m getting to know this “specialness” through the mediations, reflection and self-care that I enjoy in my little red corner. I’m learning to trust it. I’m gradually learning it’s song and letting it sing to me of how my sacred femininity not only has its place inside me, but inside the universe. ♥

IMG_2569 Maiden, Mother and Crone painting by Wendy Andrew.

Special days and simple rites of passage: starting kindergarten

IMG_2784

Earlier this month, my son started at a Steiner kindergarten; three mornings each week. Dylan hadn’t experienced nursery or daycare before  – he and I have really spent very little time apart since he was conceived. So it was as much my First Day at Kindergarten and I wanted to make this a special day. A special day for him  and for us as a family to acknowledge the milestone it is in our family life. I also didn’t want to make it too huge a thing, or heap a load of pressure, expectation and too much spotlight onto Dylan.

A few weeks before he started, we began to talk often about what going to Kindergarten would be like. I introduced a new game to him: the Going To Kindergarten Game, where we essentially role-played a kindergarten morning. We’d visited Kindy by this point and knew the routine and typical activities of a usual morning there. I included in the game along with repeated reassurance on how I’d pick him up at lunchtime. Dylan was given a lunch bag over Yuletide and I’d made him a drawstring bag to carry his things in. (below).IMG_2787

I also asked members of our close family for a brief message wishing him well that I could put together into a little booklet for him (pictured top – the gorgeous painting of the little girl is by Marjan Van Zeyl). We read him the messages over breakfast on his first day, hoping to give him the feeling that the people closest to him were each “present” in this way, and thinking of him. Dylan’s uncle had supplied a TS Elliot quote, Rob and I a poem (below) and his grandparents had contributed well-wishing messages – Grandpa had drawn lovely pictures on his and Granny’s, which brought a smile to Dylan’s face immediately!

IMG_2781

Luckily my husband and I were both able to take and collect him together on his first day. The kindergarten is a little way from where we live so I stayed around the area “in case they needed to phone at all”.  In reality, from the moment that he ran off with barely a wave goodbye, we knew he’d be fine and that this move was for me more than him! I had a walk (and a bit of a weep. And a phonecall to my own mum; I’m always grateful to connect with my own mother in these mothering milestones of my own!) I spent the rest of the morning in a cafe with a huge hot drink and slice of cake to fuel writing a poem and some journalling. It felt so useful to have this time for self-reflection, nurture and creative expression.

When we collected Dylan, his face was covered in smiles and mud from outdoor play. He had lots that he was eager to tell us – and of course we were eager and excited to listen! I’d brought one of his favourite things for him to eat for lunch and had some cookies waiting at home for later. That makes me sound like a much, much more movie-perfect mum than I even come close to; I emphasise that this was just for his first day! And whilst every morning at kindergarten certainly isn’t followed by cookies, it is followed by some time together during the afternoon to reconnect over a story, or playdough, or paints, or in the garden. We’re still settling into our new rhythm, still getting used to all it asks from us, still finding creative ways to address the challenges it brings. It’s an adjustment. One season in my life changes to another and it feels good to honour it. ♥

IMG_2779

welcome winter

IMG_1028

The first frost has kissed Bristol this week – the “scrit-sshhhh, scrit-sshhhhh” of neighbours scraping ice off car windscreens called me to the window to see. I, in turn, called my little boy to witness this seasonal magic trick from nature.

The air certainly has a chilly bite. Most of the trees are bare and eerily skeletal. Their vulnerability, beauty, ugliness, wisdom, intricacy, strength and true form is all revealed and these themes remind me of some of the chambers of my soul that I seem to have visited lately. Leaves lie in the shadows of their trees on the ground beneath them like worshippers at an honoured teacher’s feet. My garden is a soggy, rotting tangle of the year’s debris some of it probably gangrenous by now. Even our hardy nasturtiums, who have clung on this long, now surrender to the chilly blanket that winter pulls over the earth to tuck her up to sleep.

Welcome winter. For me, like many, the year begins at Samhain. Although I celebrate this festival on October 31st for the sense of communal festivity with everyone else marking that date, I personally celebrate Samhain as a turning of Autumn to Winter when I feel that shift for myself. This day is kind of my New Year’s Day. However, In the practicalities of busy day-to-day life, it’s not quite possible to drop everything to party! On the day this week when I really felt that winter had come, I was able to go for a walk around my local park with my son noticing the signs of the season, the weather, the light etc. During this week we’ve exchanged the autumn books for the winter ones in his seasonal book basket, cleared, cleaned and started to re-decorate our nature table, changed a few things in the house to better suit our winter needs, and begun organising festive gifts.  Simple things that hopefully will become familiar seasonal rituals, grounding our family in natures rhythm.

This weekend I intend a little more celebration – a simple ritual and bit of special-ness to greet the New Year. On a weekend when many in the US may well be extending their Thanksgiving festivities, I like the thought of many of us engaged in celebrations of different kinds – it’s a good vibe to be going around the world. Welcome winter: may we be open to your insights, patient with your challenges and touched by your magic! ♥

Vata

IMG_2504

Cold and dry like the wind, Vata dosha is dominant during Autumn and early winter. In our bodies, the falling temperatures and blustery winds can aggravate Vata, particularly for those of us who are Vata types. The elements space and air comprise Vata and movement is a strong theme; falling leaves, the seasonal shift and other changes such as the academic year all add to this feeling and the potential for being out of balance.

Aggravated Vata may present in various ways – IBS, dry cracked skin or lips, restlessness, anxiety and insomnia among them. Suggestions for balancing Vata include use of warming spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin etc) to balance against the cold – as well as wrapping up warm of course! I find chai to be a delicious and beneficial drink at this time of the year (like I don’t drink it during the other seasons, haha!) You can buy a lovely ready-made mix (as well as other Vata-balancing products) from Ayurveda Pura or make your own (AyurvedicYogi has a recipe).

Warm, nourishing food and drink are recommended at this time of the year and raw foods advised against as they are can be harder to digest (particularly for us IBS-prone Vata tyoes!). Massage – ideally daily – with warm sesame oil (or, if unavailable, almond) and gentle yoga both relax and ground aggravated Vata, as well as having numerous physical benefits. A good night’s sleep each night will help with this too, as well as aid the immune system in staying strong enough to tackle any bugs that come your way! As a Vata-dominant type, I find that a good sense of rhythm throughout my day and in my life helps ground me too, as does going easy on stimulants like caffeine. Sweet tastes balance vata (although it’s best to try to avoid refined sugar for providing this: honey is a better substitute. Sweet tasting foods like carrot, potato,parsnip, cinnamon and sweet fruits are good options too). Dairy is also said to be vata-balancing but is something I personally try to minimise in my diet, mainly due to ethical and environmental reasons. it’s also worth noting that many people find dairy hard to digest and/or quite mucous-forming in the body – not ideal when colds are abundant!

Vata can be utilised positively: artistic and musical creativity, dance and the ability to dream up fresh ideas and start new projects are said to be Vata qualities and so this energy could be harnessed now. To me, this seems kind of fitting with November marking the start of the new year although, like a typical Vata-type, I can struggle to sustain projects. Luckily, kapha dosha becomes dominant in late winter and early spring, bringing with it more vibes of loyalty and stamina!

November blessings ♥Mo

November

November is a faded – and fading – image in my mind. Like one of your grandparents’ childhood photos. The light is fading, the calendar year is fading, the temperature is fading and most of the leaves are usually off the trees and starting to rot into the ground. People often describe November as grey, bleak, damp, miserable; rarely anything flattering. It always seems a short month to me and I wonder if really it’s just outshone by its neighbouring months of Orange October and festive December.

WInter starts for me in November, around the vanishing (last quarter) moon, or when nature gives me enough signs to welcome the season in. My favourite season. I learned yesterday that the Anglo-Saxons believed 7th November to be the official start of winter; although where I live hasn’t yet had a frost, this week has certainly felt winter’s kiss.

I’m sure some would argue a case for November glowing rather than fading. A-glow with the bonfire flames on Guy Fawkes Night, the lantern processions at Martinmas, the lights in the windows of homes in the long nights (and dreary days!), and the twinkling Christmas lights in shops windows. In my head, these glows and twinkles create a kind of blurriness around and behind them. Rather than the lights, it’s that fading, blurred image of the background that is what I remember in November. ♥IMG_2546

Samhain

IMG_2542

Harvest Home is what I’ve called this Autumn. Every day. for pretty much the whole season. I’ve just yearned to be at home. Sewing, tinkering about with the arrangement of the house, clearing out, cooking, playing with my son and sewing some more. I’ve just wanted to be at home. I certainly have been out plenty; beckoned by outings to parks and woods, shopping to do, friends to see and my son’s social diary of groups and playdates to facilitate. But my favourite thing has been being at home.

My heart, mind and soul have needed a little care and nurture these last few months. My physical semi-retreat inside these red bricks has probably been symbolic of a retreat inside myself to ask some questions, revisit some memories and say some goodbyes and some thank you’s – soul-to-soul. The rattle of my sewing machine has proved quite an effective tool for journeying to some deep places!

And now, at Samhain, the end of the harvest season, I feel like I really have harvested and brought it home for nourishment and sharing through the dark months ahead. I tend to celebrate the cross-quarter festivals as a tide (why should Yule should be the only festival extended to a tide?! Time to re-write the rules!) I start Samhain-tide today, when a majority of people celebrate Halloween or a similar festival. I mark it to around the time of the first frosts or of November’s last-quarter moon – whichever feels right. I intend for it to be a time of reflection on what I’ve learned, of spiritual work, of journeying and divination, of listening to trees and the whispers on the wind and of remembering with thanks and reverence those who have walked in this world before me.  I feel this as the time of the Hag Goddess. dressed in her dark cloak of mystery. Like most old women, she has much wisdom to share. I hope to have the grace to open myself to receiving it.

I wish you a blessed and insightful Samhain-tide too.  ♥Mo

IMG_2535 IMG_2537 IMG_2539 IMG_2540