Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art

Learning from Finch

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Having a baby is a gift. Of course it is. Especially when he is as plump and juicy as Finch is. Especially when he is so lusciously relaxed and happy as Finch is. Especially when he has a warm sweet little head which nuzzles just perfectly under my neck.  Even when he’s kept me up all night nuzzling and slurping All those things .

But also this.

He teaches me to get out of my head. I’m in my head alot. Fretting planning thinking. It doesn’t help much. Well, I guess it holds this huge groaning haphazard rocking ship called Our Family together and gets it from this day to the next, vaguely clean, fed and sometimes educated. So yes my thinking does have its uses, but its also a bit excessive, and usually doesn’t contribute greatly to my emotional well being.

I almost never get through a batch of thinking  and feel relaxed and connected.

My brain might ache, I might feel frazzled, although perhaps a little more organised. Kind of slightly anxious and uncomfortably full

Finch doesn’t think much.

That’s not to say that he has issues in his development, but he’s only a year old and he lives entirely in his sensory body. He knows stuff , like where the blender is kept so he can take it apart, how to escape through the cat flap, how to steal my porridge, but he doesn’t need to make lists about when he’s going to do it.

Every sensation is all consuming for him, the wisp of steam curling in the morning sun from the teapot, the sudden roar of the blender, the soft sweetness of a ripe blackberry in the garden and the dry scratch of earth on his tender bare skin. If he wants to nurse his little head butts against me and if he’s really desperate and in the sling waiting, sharp little teeth will nip my skin on my chest. He lives in the moment, connected to each second by a pearled thread, sinking his little body into it, every pore open and alive to its delights.

Its easy to laugh with him pretend to bite his ear..blow raspberries on his tummy and  play peekaboo behind a muslin. Sometimes I can be overly serious and stressed and forget to play. Forget to have fun. Forget to be silly and roll around on the floor doing nothing useful. Forget that racing through my to do list and feeling ‘good’ because I have achieved alot is less important than simple playful connection..whoever it is with. And whatever it is. The dishes I’m washing, the person I’m talking to, the meal I’m eating. That’s not to say I often have playful connection with the dishes, but hey, its better than rushing through them planning and fretting and breaking a mug in my distraction with the future.

Finch is really good at playing.

 

He’s also pretty good at nursing. And I’m not one of those funky mamas who feels comfortable feeding standing, doing the groceries, cooking etc. Nursing is my ticket to sitting….I’m not choosy where, but a cup of tea is good. He makes me sit…and lately he’s started kicking any reading material out of the way which is aggravating but also makes me stop filling my head with more stuff.

Less stuff in my head means more emotions

Busy days mean less emotions…well apart from anger and frustration

Nursing and playing mean more.

Emotions and feelings like joy grief and  peace.

That’s what Finch helps me with.

Those feelings are always there but sometimes its hard to access them.

 

Being still, in the moment, deeply and playfully, connected to the texture of now; the grainy, soft ,velvety, spiky, hard,

 

But in those quiet moments of being still and present,

Darling Finch…

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Life Loss and Gratitude

I don’t quite know why I’ve abandoned this space for so long. Its grey windswept corridors blown about with tumbleweed and debris . Life comes and life goes, blown by the wind, warmed by the sun watered by the (near continual )rain. People are born, people die, days are passed and tempers are lost. Love is found and divided out in slices, the Christmas tree is  down. Its the end its the beginning. I have no time.
I have little shards of time, tiny splinters which glitter like hard won jewels dug from a deep mine far away on a lost continent. I have to be as creative, flexible and bending with my time as a serpent. So flexible. So creative
.

A week ago an enormous church in our town was filled with people: remembering the life of a creative, generous, gentle man who spread singing across the world, a member of the community I live in. A ceremony of singing, sighing laughing, remembering. Sometimes, I barely managed to coordinate the keeping -everyone- occupied activities of finger knitting, French knitting and nursing nursing a teething, wildly possetting baby, child fights and demands, …all in a whisper; sometimes I was  engulfed in a wave of tears with the vast singing community of people who will miss him;

The songs we learned. Dance between the practicalities of caring for children in a reverent space, and moments of immersion when they disappeared to play upstairs.When someone dies it is as if everyone who has died is present too, a shimmering haze, amongst us and beyond us. Joyful and sorrowful, entwined, woven into the same cloth. There were certainly angels there.

And life on either side is full, a blurred juggle of endless food preparation..(We have gained another teenager for twelve weeks, taking the head count to seven, a German exchange student) converting our entrance hall into his bedroom; Christmas quilts hurriedly finished, New Year clear outs and purging. My bedroom especially, a growling lair of unsorted papers, half finished weaving, sewing and knitting projects, bags and bags of children’s clothes which need rationalizing reducing cleaning…throwing out.

Did I mention the rain?

You see I can be a moaner, a grumbling whinging oh its not fair kind of gal….ask my partner if you don’t believe me….he gets the worst of it….

So my intention is to be simply grateful.  Hmm its becoming a bit of a trend isn’t it? Gratitude Fridays, Thankful Thursdays…….. no blog complete without one.

Well maybe it works.

Finding just one teeny tiny thing each day to be grateful for, in between all the challenges, demands and whines of life can become a habit, and even grow. Stopping to notice the watery sun appearing outside as I complete the fifth round of washing up today, or the delicate tracery of Jack Frost’s fern magic on the windows as I shiver to the bathroom. Pausing to watch just how Finch can now pursue a favourite rattle with his eye, and make attempts to retrieve it, and how Tansy appeared unasked with a full basket of clean laundry hauled up from the cellar wash room ‘because I knew you needed it Mum, and were busy.’

Little things.
Important things.
Things that make me smile relax and BREATHE.
Slow down.
Feel a moment of love, a moment of Connection…With the sun. With Jack Frost. With Finch. With Tansy. It spreads…its contagious….before I know it I’ve noticed something else, someone else. A hug a look a smile, ahh it all seems better for a moment.

Gratitude. The only question remains…which day will I post? Today!!
So, every Wednesday, its gratitude day, and I will post my daily gratitudes from the week

What are you grateful for? Do feel  post a link to your blog if you feel moved to join in


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Emerging

Today, Finch is 4 weeks old.
Day by day uncurling, stretching, opening just a tiny bit more; emerging from his dreamy otherwordly newborn realm into our world. Each day his eyes open a little bit more, dark, wide and bottomless as they gaze up at me when he nurses…and nurses…and nurses! And then they shift, imperceptibly to a point just beside my head….what are they seeing? What does he know?
Newborns are so fascinating; fresh and pure, like tiny nuzzling animals, uttering little sighs and moans, like ancient laments from a time before time. His soft silken head nestles so beauifully on all our chests, dreaming, drooling, sucking, shuddering. Doing newborn things. He’s arriving.

Despite the fact that we decided, perhaps foolishly, perhaps wisely, to take Finch (and everyone else) to the wonderful Buddhafield Festival when he was a week old…..neither me or my new born baby had really emerged. Emerged from the quiet dreamy world of home and bed and milk. We winced in the bright sun; loud music made our ears curl, and somehow walking to the toilets seemed like quite a bit of exercise. We did manage two gentle workshops  on womb wisdom and conscious communication but the best places semed to be cushioned shady locations with plenty of chai on offer. No shamanic trance dance this year!

I need time to arrive back in the world. And  living in a community makes it very easy to not go out. There are people, there’s space, gardens, children; folks have made me a few meals and even done my washing up a few times!! Why would I want to go out?

But of course I have to….sit in a major shoe chain nursing while Freddie buys trainers, dash into convenient cafes to quickly feed on a grocery shopping trip,when there are other children to care for, life has to expand beyond the babymoon quite quickly!

And yet, and yet, there was something missing, something narrowed, constrained, that I hardly realised until I took the kids to a firelit storyelling evening with Tom Hirons and Rima Staines. Before the spellbinding rendition of ‘The Sun Princess and the 40th door’, a Lithuanian folk tale; we wandered down a little green lane on the edge of Darmoor, full of piskies and fairies, and tripped across stepping stones to gather honey scented lime blossom.

As we trod the little winding track among moss covered boulders, and trees that whispered old forgotten stories and half finished tales for our times; I suddenly felt something expand inside me, soar to the tree tops, sink down among the soil and twisting roots, fly away on the wings of the mewing buzzard beyond the green. I felt fully emerged from the confines of domesticity and nappy buckets, inspired excited and nourished all at the same time.
I hadn’t been on a  walk for weeks.

Somehow I felt more able to sink into the present moment and be fully aware with all my senses, away from home distractions. even away from the very beautiful and productive gardens which always seem to want me to harvest or weed them!

There is something about being out in the wild world that makes me feel free and happy…is it the same for you?
I guess with practice I can bring the mindfulness and freedom into daily life too.
Has anyone managed to mindfully and joyfully tidy clutter or empty the washing machine?

It’s so effortless in a sun dappled Dartmmor lane…..

Ps I haven’t yet managed to pack both camera and nappies for outings….that will come…so its a dearth of pics for now! Nappies take priority……


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Working things out

Yes I keep fiddling around, trying to get things right on this blog, I’m not quite there yet, so be prepared for more changes! It’s not my strong point, the techie side, but I’m trying!
When I started this blog I had a very clear vision of what this space was about.  There were three elements which were held here;

The Woodland folk…
For four years I lived with my family in the middle of a wood in Devon. The first three in a mobile home, the last in our self build cabin. This blog was about living in small spaces with minimal possessions and no electricity, it was about hand washing by candlelight and writing in notebooks by the fire, and stepping out into beautiful woodland by night to the ghostly owl shadows gliding down the valley.

Wild medicine
I also wrote about the oils, tinctures and balms I made for my family from wild harvested herbs, and the hedgerow food and medicine around our land. Connection and healing through plants and trees.

Lily
Finally, this blog has been space for my daughter Lily, who died four years ago; time and space for me to think about her, share how life is, and was, and could be without my daughter, and what she means for our family.

Some things have changed. And so the blog will change .
We now live in the wing of a mansion, as part of a community of people who sing, and garden together; share space, food and land.

We have an indoor bathroom, access to a washing machine and mains electricity, which to begin with felt odd and wrong after our deep connection with a simpler life on the land. When our cabin burnt down, we had to live somewhere, and after much searching and deliberation, this felt right. And it is. Somehow it is.
We are no longer the family in the woods, we no longer straddle two centuries, bathing in a tin bath, then dashing off to school in a car, but for me in particular, the departure from this way of life has been hard. Not just the loss of the beautiful cabin that we, (well Hugh) worked so hard to build, but it felt like a failure that we were creeping back to mainstream society with our tail between our legs. I missed the closeness to nature and cooking dinner on the campfire, stepping out of the door into wildness…..
‘When’s the rebuild?’ so many people asked in the early days after the fire, and truely neither Hugh or I really ever wanted to.

To return to the blackened scene of such devastation, to a piece of land which, if the truth be known, we had never chosen because it was the most beautiful woodland.

And then I was pregnant. We were exhausted, and our kids needed stability and safety, normality. We have lost so much, our home, our possessions, the chicks, the cat, the rats (Holly and Sophie since you ask) the goats (Goats?.Why yes…Lauren, Lauretta, Abby and Dolly…..they’re’s a whole blog post just waiting to happen, can’t believe they’ve escaped being featured!)

but we have also gained so much. Wisdom for a start, to have learnt from big mistakes and misguided ways of approaching projects. We have received so much love and unfailing support from friends an strangers, and  a realisation that community is more important than independance. I have learnt that  receiving is as beautiful (and a lot harder) than giving, and the web of connecion and interdependance between us is the magic and the fabric of our  lives and makes us human. (Yes its basic stuff, but I’m a slow learner, these big jolts in my life accelerate my schooling in the bits I’m falling behind in) We’ve also gained a new baby, little Finch.

And so things are different. We’ve been forced to reevaluate our lives, one day I was drawing up business plans for our smallholding, herb products; projecting milk yields and planning my first batch of goats milk soap (with investment of specialised oils, and equipment all at the ready), costing out yurts for our planned retreat centre for bereaved families and disadvantaged kids……the next….its all gone.

And so we move on, and change, and there are other things in our lives, and other paths which, who knows may wind in the same direction one day.

I still gather herbs and bottle nature’s medicines for the winter chills, Lily is still my daughter and a luminous presence in our family, I’m still homeschooling Tansy and Leo and writing and creating, but now things are moving.

Life is bigger than I have let myself believe. I’m exploring what this means. Bringing together the things that make me sing and smile and weaving them together to make a blanket of healing. Healing for me, healing for many. The colour and weave is yet unknown although patterns and hues swirl around me, notebooks are filling with lists, threads of projects, ideas….consolidating, envisioning.

I’m just working my way through Leonie Dawson’s  Incredible yearbook and planner 2013 , yes in July, should have done it in January, and it’s just what I need. Check it out….well at least in readiness for 2014, but July is better than not at all eh? Newborn baby and all!

Little Finch is already a healer in our lives in so many ways, he’s brought so much love with him……….and that newborn ageless wisdom, and a soft, silky head to nuzzle.

So this blog will change. Reflecting life’s twists and unexpected turns. I hope you’ll come too, it’s amazing to have you along.
I remember hitting ‘publish’ the very first time I wrote on here and it felt so strange….who on earth would want to read it anyway? But you have, and people have, and sharing is uplifting and healing and really joyful and fun…..Thankyou…..


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Just before Dawn

I was in the middle of writing a post about my Blessingway ceremony, but he beat me to it, coming a week early…dear little boy, born to a family who love him so much…….

Born just before dawn on Wednesday morning…….

and a surprise for every child who came into he bedroom the next morning….

from eldest to youngest…….

Well I guess the Blessingway ceremony will keep for next time, for now we all feel very, very blessed.


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The Birthday

Tomorrow it is my youngest son’s birthday, and his daddy’s too. Four years ago, at seven thirty in the morning, drowsily propped up in my bed, I nursed my new little son and ate the birthday brownies which arrived in the post for Hugh, thanks to lovely Aunty Alice. Two weeks early, Leo took us all by surprise, but I finally had four children! My older three, then aged two, six and eight munched and cooed and cuddled as we all wallowed in that delicious, sublime morning.

Later Hugh’s mum called to wish him Happy Birthday, blissfully unaware of her new grandson. Hugh asked her to guess what his favourite birthday present was.
‘Was it the screwdriver I sent you dear?’ she asked innocently.

How could anything compare to the mysterious wonder of the new little soul arrived in our midst? Hugh will love his favourite birthday present forever!

But will the gifts Leo and Hugh receive tomorrow still hold any interest or value in even four months time? Possibly, but possibly not..they are just things. Sometimes presents just seem like so much stuff to me. I cannot deny that there is a magic in witnessing a child’s excitement and joy on opening a special birthday gift and taking their time to explore and love it and make it their own. Where is the magic however, in watching a child rip through a mountain of presents, discarding them as soon as they are open?

The giving of gifts becomes a meaningless gesture. It provides a momentary rush of excitement for the child, only to be replaced by the odd uncomfortable feeling of being overwhelmed, overexcited and slightly ‘full.’ Unable to interpret the discomfort, the only remedy seems to be for the child to ask for more and feel anguish when there is not.

I love celebrating birthdays and I do always buy a present for my kids, but just one, a special one. Reducing presents coming in from outside is an ongoing process but increasingly being met with understanding.

What makes a birthday meaningful?
Ceremony and ritual sound a little formal, and we’re certainly not solemn around birthdays, but doing certain things together seems to nourish the birthday girl (or  boy) more than a heap of presents. At breakfast I make sure that the table is set with cloths, flowers and candles and make a throne for the  special person to sit on. A nice breakfast is important.. tomorrow it’s croissant..shh!

A tradition I’m planning to start is for everyone else to think of one thing they love or appreciate about the birthday celebrant.  Depending on the age this can cause a bit of squirming but a birthday is a chance to focus with love and gratitude on one person and make that person feel special. Cuddles and stories are good too! And then there’s the party!
I’m sure other people have beautiful rituals they follow for their kid’s birthdays.. have you? I’d love to hear ideas (sensitive and loving) on avoiding the swamp effect of gifts from lovely well meaning relatives too.