Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art

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The call of the wild

A healthy woman is much like a wolf, strong life force, life-giving, territorily aware, intuitive and loyal. Yet separation from her wildish nature causes a woman to become meager, anxious, and fearful. The wild nature carries the medicine for all things • Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women who run with wolves

Wolf Howl. Anime by lovetoberandom

We are all wild. Deep in our psyche, embedded in our genetic makeup, swirling with abandon in our souls, the wildness is there in all of us. We were born to be carefree, vigorous,  thriving and strong people, fertile with creativity, physicality, sexuality . Our natural urges and desires to rest, work, mate, play and eat and create, were born expect to be met, and  to find satisfaction. We were born to be in connection, to nature, to each other, to ourselves.

Wild: free, unfettered, feral, ‘uncivilised’ distracted, crazy, undomestictaed, ‘of unrestrained violence’ . Some of these are my definitions, some are from the dictionary, my favourite, ‘living in a state of nature’


See, these words have developed connotations. Depending on your social circle, describing someone as wild is not necessarily complimentary. Out of control, following her instincts, unrestrained by society’s conventions and boundaries, unsafe, fear inducing the wild eye in the night, the crazy women might come and eat you, the wild unknown figure ravening tooth and claw, insatiable appetite all consuming force of nature , a law unto himself…OUT OF CONTROL.

Hands up who likes to be in control? Hands up who likes to be controlled? Who feels out of that ‘good’ or ‘bad?

And out of whose control…ours or other people’s/society’s rules and expectations?

But I’m not  talking about charging through red traffic lights and causing accidents, or  throwing crockery around when we get mad at the kids …..or standing in the middle of the grocery shop and screaming…although I’ve often felt like it and really it would be good to express emotions where and whenever they come up. What would happen if I did..would I be led out by security and sedated, or would someone give me a hug and a cup of tea? Or would I be ignored? the silent English tacit understanding that we don’t do that and feel really quite uncomfortable if anyone else does.I wish I had the courage to try it.

What would it be like to scream when I need to, to hug cry laugh dance sing shout run and jump WHEN I FEEL LIKE IT? I’m probably a very repressed Anglo Saxon, but I know how hard I would find it to just follow any spontaneous inclination that came to me. But I do know how my body feels when I repress an emotion or desire, the strangled swelling of my throat when I swallow unbidden tears in ‘innappropriate’  places, the constriction in my gut when I don’t say  what I feel, the ache in my hips and lower back when I am uncomfortable in a situation and don’t let myself move my body and let the tension out.

If it feels bad, its not right. Its not natural to repress feelings, needs and desires.  I do feel under pressure to do so, and I guess its a journey to tread ever closer to an equilibrium which feels comfortable.

I started this post intending to talk about my longing to be close to the land, but I got side tracked! But actually its not a distraction at all. Getting close to nature, living in it, dropping to my knees in the damp undergrowth, inhaling the aliveness, mossy mystery and fragrant earthy fertility of the land, that’s wildness. Its a pathway to wildness. Its a way I can feel more alive, more in tune with myself, a calling back to my true deep wild self, hidden under all those layers of expectation, convention, compromises, all that domesticity. I’ve been thoroughly domesticated , removed from the forest floor and put in a house and told to flush the toilet and shave my armpits and don’t trust anyone else, and above all WORRY ABOUT WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK.

A fox doesn’t check its watch to see if its dinnertime when it catches the scent of a toothsome vole; a night jar doesn’t fret about disturbing the neighbours when it fills the dusk with its sweetness, a primrose doesn’t hold back for March the 12th when it’s ready to bloom, and a rabbit doesn’t wait until the kids are in bed and not watching. Well, it doesn’t.


“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

I can feel that door is ajar and a wild warm figure is beckoning me. Losing my daughter Lily prised through the rusted door, corroded and swelled shut, papered over with a confusion of ivy. But the wiry tendrils hang loosely now, over the door, a veil which admits the sparkling promise of a true deep life. The scar is deep and it is a door.

The longing to be free and unrestrained, with my feet in the silver waters of a great lake, my face turned to the flight of the eagle and my body cooled by the autumn winds of change. The longing for the darkness and solitude of the trees and the wild woods.  Let’s dive deep into the forest dear friend…..deeper into the wildness of ourselves. What will we find??





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A fresh start

Summer closing berries dripping in glistening bunches, brandy and honey and spices and  bottles of syrup and winter medicine. New routines, new rhythms…the late summer sun mellowing the land. Ripe tomatoes, fragrant basil scarlet rosehips.

New projects with children, plant dyes, boiling and fermenting wise woman brews steaming the windows and acrid tang of simmering roots.

Back home and into autumn. Back from a summer of retreat from the internet hot earth under bare feet wet canvas  singing campfires, damp  cabins in a green Welsh valley far from home. Evenings to sit and write and read, play card games and drink tea, sheepskins and hissing logs.

Away from screens that dull and hypnotise, the screens that also connect us all and sparkle with jewels of inspiration, information, ideas. The screens that lead me astray down meandering paths which infinitely divide and leave me with a vague sense of bloat and unease.

I haven’t missed it and I have. Through the internet I have connected with people from everywhere.  Weeping shown fragments of my soul to people I have not met naked words bare of polished gloss and finish.

I write here in this space and want to write more. I have painted, written and shared with women from New Mexico to Singapore , I have been invigorated and encouraged by so much.

But this summer I left for two weeks with the children  to voice camp, and later to the tiny Welsh cabin. Campfire songs and cold showers, harebells and buzzards, no phone, no texts, no internet. My voice joined others as I sang and my tears wet the ground and the shoulders of friends who comforted me. Skin touch, the whisper in my ear the smile and glance the connection, the sweetness of warm chai and fire grilled aubergine, earthy real sensuous. Its a different connection.

I do value them all.

Sometimes I  wish away the internet, and feel a deep yearning for a return to the simplicity and spaciousness of a time before my head was filled with so much, before my time was swallowed in such large cyber mouthfuls. But I would find it hard to exist without it. And I know its there. And I don’t want to miss out!!

Actually I didn’t want to talk about the internet but about autumn and new beginnings.

I wasn’t planning to home ed again. It was always supposed to be temporary. A baby, other ambitions, need for time to write, to be, to paint, it all seemed too much. But  circumstances have decided otherwise and I may start a home ed blog to discuss them all and the reasons we are now committing to keeping the three younger children at home, at least for the time being.

I am trying not to do everything. I have found childcare for at least one and a half days. Its important. I have such a strong fire to create, such a lust to express the words and images which flow through me, that it is essential for my family’s well being for me to have time to do this.

Its too easy to be bottom of the pile for me. Too easy to end up lying on the big bed upstairs with my body pinned to the mattress by feeding babies and affectionate children. Its lovely and soft and snuggly and adorable and nourishing…but only if I’ve had  an hour to paint, an hour to write, an hour to share with a friend, an hour to plant seeds and gather herbs, time to stretch and remind myself that indeed I do have a body and it is actually mine. (Hmm easy to forget that one)

If these things are in short supply, or if they are nonexistent, I feel starved and desperate crabby and cross and my warm mothering arms become sharp elbows and I am like a buzzing naked wire, charged and dangerous. (I don’t mean literally obviously, before someone calls Social Services!) I FEEL like that . I want to run away and feel the north wind in my hair and a wide open road ahead of me wild and exciting and Free. With some really nice cafes and notebooks along the way. And circles of friends to talk deep and challenging and share the howling grief and the star spinning laughter and the grainy beautiful truth.


I’m being firmer about childcare.

I’ve joined a beautiful circle of women, a deeply held ceremonial sharing space of wild hedgerow medicine and elemental prayers and love.

I’m painting for my first exhibition IN TEN DAYS (did I already mention that?)

I’m remembering I have a body and having occasional treatments and regular stretching and …well I haven’t managed the candle lit bath yet but its on my list.

I’m joining a writing group in the flesh…

Green smoothies…seriously they rock…breakfast, sets me up for the day.

Love remember love. It sorts most stuff out. Smooths resentment shoulds woulds crabbiness. Easier said than done. Trying to remember.

That’s it for now, except yesterday would have been Lily’s 13th birthday and I want to write something for her but don’t want to mix her up with the internet and autumn and all this so she’s next for sure . Always

Love Henrietta x

Ps. Any self care sharing? Any new autumnal routines and changes in your lives?

In ten days some of my paintings will be on show in a local cafe. My first tiny exhibition.


Two swans between the houses

Room to breathe and connect.

That’s what I need.

Each day seems a breathless scuttling of doing, rushing, half doing, kicking things under the sofa just so  I don’t have to deal with them in that moment, squeezing things in squeezing things out. I have developed a strange, scurrying scuffle, brought on in part by the slightly too big faded lilac slippers I wear around the house, partly by the gasping need to be beyond my next destination, five minutes ago. Too many gaping loads of laundry to process, too many loaves of bread to cook, vats of soup to produce, and tantalising sticks of charcoal waiting on the side, tubes of delicious paint luring my gaze from the latest batch of flapjack in progress.

This afternoon I drove home in the cold shivering rain from a particularly nurturing mother’s group I belong to. Our children are cared for in a creche for two hours, and  and  we sit in circle, in silence and in deep listening, and our tears and heartfelt connection and support are like a true balm, for us harried struggling 21st century mothers living in our isolation and overwhelm.

I felt particularly soothed and connected to the women in the group today, and usually as I drive home after my group I feel resourced to cope with another week.

But as I drove today  I realised I was progressing more and more slowly, I DIDN’T WANT TO GO HOME.

I was dreading walking into mess and disorder, jobs shouting at me from every corner…Me Me Me, and poor little Finch dragged around trying to half complete them all, never ending. Stuff, detritus, things to sort, things to clean, things to make. I wanted none of it. I wanted still, peace, calm, silence solitude.

And then I saw them. Maybe for ten seconds, on the river, a glimpse between to houses. In the rain against the unappealing mud brown of the river Dart in flood.

Two swans.

Nothing special, just two swans, stretching their necks and doing their thing in the rain, in the cold, in the mud. And I wanted to be there, with them, heck I even wanted to be them.

Simple calm beautiful wild and free.

I felt as if I was in chains.

But who has the key to the padlock?

I could have got out of the car and walked through the mud and rain and sat with them, the wind beating in my ears like a wild thing playing its mournful song.

But I had three children in the car and I didn’t. I came home and got a bit frustrated, tried to paint. Got cross with everyone. Tried to remember the swans. Forgot them.

But now, late at night I remember them.

Remember their grace and simplicity.
How they must feel, down there on the mud, not thinking, stressing and flustering around in baggy lilac slippers.

I want to be a swan.

I don’t really want to be  swan, but I want to learn from them.

Learn to use my thoughts less, my head less, listen from my heart, my belly, sniff the air, sharpen my ears, soften my gaze. Sit by the waters edge with nothing to do but BE.

Just Be.
Be like a swan.



Lily and the mobile phone guy

What do you do on the anniversary of your daughter’s death? It’s not the sort of question I imagined I’d have to deal with when I held my 4 newborns in my arms. But it is something I have to think about every year now.

June approaches with stealthy feet, all blossomy with foaming elder trees and blowsy roses, tangled hedgerows of campion and stitchwort and budding honeysuckle, and I get the same feeling of strange dread and an opening heart.

The weeks before have been tumultuous emotionally, flare ups and misunderstandings, journalling and outpourings, private tears and heart connections, jagged, raw poems that can never be seen…realisations and illuminations.

But today, the anniversary of the day 4 years ago that they did the brain stem test in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, to see if they should turn the life support machine off, well it seemed strangely normal and so so hard to feel any connection with deeper emotions.

Its hard to feel and connect when I’m busy. Doing not being.

We were up early to rush back from a mini break in time for Hugh to go to work, so sweeping caravans and packing at seven instead of a quiet reflective time.
Shopping with the kids for groceries….trying to have a moment of thought over pancakes in a cafe …..jarring with children who were slightly hysterical and tired….
And then for God’s sake, meeting the mobile phone repair guy in the supermarket carpark at 4.30. My date with normality. Drawing me into its web with its dulled ravening claws….rushing away from a painting hour where we created angels and doves for Lily’s grave…to meet the mobile phone guy, and buy loo roll.

But maybe that’s ok. Maybe I don’t have to create a perfect hallowed day on June 11th and feel like I’ve let Lily down if I don’t. I did need my phone, we did need loo roll. We did connect over the painting and we did visit Lily’s grave…..and we do have spontaneous moments where we feel.

Curled up in a little grassy place we go to sometimes where the younger kids feel safe and relaxed, and say how they miss her.
A moment alone to pick flowers for her table where each blossom seem to glow with the essence of her love for it. Where the world swelled and condensed to a tiny distilled fragment holding Lily and me in its tender embrace.

A chance conversation sitting in the car in the rain with all of my children, remembering, crying, little forgotten details recalled, healing tears…..soothing our struggles alone.
Messages from friends, a kind word which helps grief to flow.

And that is the challenge. To create the space to let the grief move how it will, without dams or blockages or  avoidance tactics, or just the practical demands of daily life. To let Lily into everything. To allow the joy and grief to weave and flow around our lives, the tears sparkling among the breakfast dishes as the laughter ripples into a walk to the garden. No separation. No compartmentalisation.

It is a challenge.

When I meditate, or spend a moment seeking a connection with nature or myself, the tears and emotions are very close to the surface, waiting for a chance to escape the rigid confines of my busy hours where I rush without feeling. I know that the more I do this, the more emotion can flow naturally in my life and become more balanced and help me and my family to heal. I’ve made a commitment to do this more.

Spending time in nature, in this beauiful place that is our home now,  sitting with a flower, a tree, being quiet and receptive to the spirit that is in everything and in us, makes my heart much bigger and makes me feel that anything is possible. Spending time connecting with friends old and new, in deeper ways, more nurturing ways, makes me not feel alone. Makes me feel the beauty of life, the endless possibilities that are always there.

I guess Lily would just laugh about meeting the mobile phone guy, she just needs us to love her, remember her, connect wih her, just like always. It’s another day, like yesterday, like tomorrow.

A day for us all to connect with something more than our mind driven rushing, to open our hearts to a deeper level. Its a huge tapestry of glowing, luminous threads we’re part of, all interwoven with the practical homespun browns and greys, the vibrant reds and pinks of daily activity, the soft iridescent violets of our connection to the spirit which is in everything, the subtle greens of nature unfolding….we never stop weaving…

Do you manage to hold all the threads of the loom together… it easy for you?


Outside again

Suddenly we’re spending time outside again. After our three months in a house, where I would sometimes find that days had passed almost entirely inside, now, our life is connected inextricably to the wood around us. Our time in the cabin is made complete by the time slithering down muddy paths to the compost toilet at night; by stepping outside in the morning to the frozen, rosy dawn beyond the trees and over the hills; by nipping to the woodstack for an armful of logs for the burner. Last night as I grabbed the nearest  blanket to wrap around me, shawl like, to accompany Tansy on a  night time loo trip, I felt as if I was stepping further into the past with each step along the path.

The memory and spirit of the women who came before me, my ancestors; stepping out on their night time winter paths, holding their lanterns before them, stumbling through their woollen petticoats and shawls, feeling the cold on their skin, the mist on their cheeks, the cry of the owl in their ear . I felt so close to them, and a tiny glimpse of what it was like to live away from the slick, quick, glossed over shininess of the 21st century. I have read and absorbed countless stories and histories of domestic realities in previous centuries but it is only in living it again that I feel it in my body, the reality of it. The relentless practical tasks and the raw chapped hands, the living close to the bone. Our neighbours who live in two beautiful yurts, expressed just what I felt. ‘Living like this you experience the real highs and the real lows, you don’t get the dull daily hum drum of mediocrity’ It’s either spellbindingly beautiful or really quite desperate!

When I was carrying all our water into the house in 19 litre containers, and scrimping every drop, it was a challenge, especially on my back, (lugging it down my friends stairs after filling up in her bathroom, thanks Darcy and Becky!) but it made every drop precious. I found myself gloating when discovered three full hot water bottles in our cupboard, what could I use the water for? This morning the tap produced water, as we have a milder day, and it felt quite decadant to just use what ever we needed!


Running away from grief

I suppose it’s a bit of a tendency of mine to run away from difficult situations; walking out when an argument gets too heated; leaving a gathering when the atmosphere becomes uncomfortable for me, stopping my train of thought when things go a bit too far. Walls of protection, quickly put up, by me,.. saving me from what the hurt could bring. Or barring me from the healing that suffering can bestow…

Two nights ago I ran away. From a beautiful group of people who meet together to share and move their grief together. We met last year at a grief tending ritual on Dartmoor, a ritual practiced by the Dagara people of West Africa. The ritual has been adapted for western practice by Wisdom Bridge and was held for us by Maeve Gavin at  Way of the Village . For the Dagara people, the ritual is a weekly event, for everyone has grief to move and to speak. Grief is not a wrapped up solitary affair confined to laced edged handkerchiefs and funerals and the confines of our bedrooms. It is a flowing universal force which howls and beckons and surges in the beauty of its power. It needs to move and be shared and witnessed and this is what the ritual taught me.
The ritual was a turning point for me. For two years I had been ‘the grieving mother’ supported and loved, yes, but feeling as if I was on an island of grief that only I could experience. But we don’t have to lose a child to grieve. We can mourn a damaged childhood, we can mourn the loss of a way of life that our ancestors expected as their birthright, close to nature and each other, we can mourn the devastation of our planet, the suffering of so many children, animals, plants…..grief is something that every single one of us will experience and how we deal with it will have a huge impact on our lives. We can stuff it inside with numbing techniques such as drugs, overeating, drink or retail therapy, or we can let it out… and that’s scarey..
During the ritual I was able to be witnessed and supported in my grieving, my tears emerged from my bedroom where they had been welling for so long, and it was terrifying for me. I almost ran away, but something, some tiny kernel of courage and wisdom deep inside, wouldn’t let me. I’m so glad I stayed. I felt the love and support of a group of people who I had only met two days before, and, crucially for me, felt strong and able to support them too…. through their grief.  I felt openess and love filling us all and above all, connection …to myself, to the people around me, to life itself. The tears were cleansing and releasing, a universal experience. It was a beautiful and life changing weekend.

So why did I run away two nights ago?
Well, life’s been pretty disconnected recently. I have forgotten to spend time connecting with what’s going on inside. It’s tricky when you’ve got to finish building your home very quickly and still keep a cohesive family and get through a busy Christmas. I jumped into our grief meeting from a very busy day, in a very busy week with my mind and body reeling from the onslaught of a thousand tiny needs and demands…
And as everyone at the meeting shifted down into writing or drawing as a means of expressing  the grief present for them, I froze. Images of Lily alone in her shining land seared into my mind…I could draw that…images of me alone and unable to reach her…I could draw that..but you know, I couldn’t. I knew that the meeting ended in the not too distant future, and I just couldn’t dive into that huge well of pain and emotion and then drag myself out again and drive home. Maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t . I ran out in a rather sudden and dramatic way.
But I’ll go back again. We’ll all meet again, and next time I’ll stay. And in the meantime I’ll make time in my day to connect and be quiet, to be with myself, to be with Lily, and maybe to cry..and not always by myself……