Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art


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seven swans a swimming

Images of milk white foals and enchanted swan maidens are with me on my walks these days .Mythic fables and legendary tales creep through the morning mists and tickle my toes, ruffling my hair when I step out to greet the day. Golden bears glow in the fire at night..and harpies, skinny skinny men and unicorns dance in the shadows behind the candle flame.

The land is full of such tales…any land, any place holds all the stories of its history and the jostle for space , mostly unheard as we scurry in our busy busy lives. I have been learning how to find the stories of our land, journeying in to find what lies under the turf and in the trees and rocks.

Since last Sunday I have been immersed in Stories… well truthfully, I have been immersed in many things but since a day at The west country story telling festival at Embercombe I am finding my voice as a storyteller. Tentatively, and so far just with the family, but joyfully and with such a feeling that somehow they are part of my way forward.
I have always made up stories. Stories to calm fractious children to sleep, stories to calm, stories to change direction,  stories to ease a difficult time. Stories to make the hours go by on long car journeys.
When my eldest chidren were small, I lived in a little town in North Devon with hills sloping down away from the town in all directions. So coming home was always up! I had an energetic terrier at the time and every day was walk day. I had a small but reliable repertoire of tales to get Freddie’s 3 year old legs back up that final hill….’The commons Elf’, ‘Alfie and the unicorn’, ‘Anver and the wolf’,’ Billy and the giant.  Little Lily slept in her sling and I puffed and panted and wove magical stories of elves and fat dwarfs and white hares as we struggled, they helped me too!

Listening to gifted storytellers and doing a shamanic story telling workshop at the festival was like entering a bright world of rich textures and images, tapestries of every colour and cloth. Inspired and energised, I memorised four of the stories I heard and have been retelling them each night, and on journeys across the severn bridge and into Wales!
Unlike reading a book aloud, which I do love, and obviously do a lot of; when I tell a story from my heart, I become part of it. I change little details each time, I add a troublesome pig, a pesky sprite, I involve the listeners, everything comes alive and somehow enters everyone more deeply.The children shake themselves and emerge smiling as if from another world when I stop.

We are in a world of the written word, we are in a culture of literacy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing but I celebrate the huge revival of oral story telling that is swirling around us now. An ancient healing art that has swept through the centuries in costumes of the brightest hue. I know kindles may be handy on a train, but nothing beats sitting round a fire and watching the flames conjure the images around your head as the story teller plies her ancient craft.

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Tender green shoots

Spending time with myself, sniffling and feverish despite RAW garlic and dropperfuls of echinacea, and super green drinks and abundant vegeatables and snatched times on the sofa with hot honey and lemon and miso broth. Cross none of this staved off the fluey state which has felled each of us in turn, fighting uneasy guilty feelings about loosing the homescholing reins on the kids. Running slightly feral around the grounds and tripping back breathless and hatless to lay their cool cheeks against mine. Chilled, pearly and smooth as a mushroom skin fresh and dewy in the field.

Grumpy, dumpy and suffering some strange unidentified pregnancy related discomfort which has slowed my walking to a shuffling waddle, from too much manure shifting at a school work day on Saturday I have no doubt.
Luckily I love my sofa, tucked next to the woodburner and being alone on it with a hot water bottle and a book.

The homeschooling  reins have already loosened, by necessity, for sure, by moving four times, by the fire, by me slowly realising that recreating a model Steiner kindergarten and class 1 (simultaneously) in my own home is not entirely necessary for my kids educational success and emotional well being, especially the latter. And which is more important?

Conditioning so hard to unravel, years in school, state and Steiner, national curriculum, literacy levels expected of six year olds, …Local Authority home school inspector…’hm hmm I can see they’re very active and busy but what about formal literacy and numeracy provision?’  Are they happy, do they want to learn, are they emotionally well balanced and nourished……no boxes to tick.

Oh! it’s such a journey for me to come face to face with all my feelings of guilt, inadequacy, is this enough, am I enough, should I be doing this shouldn’t I be doing that. Am I singing enough nature songs and is Tansy’s knitting coming on well enough? (Steiner) Are my home grown fairy tales good enough? Does it matter that Tansy can’t read yet? (Nat. curriculum)
Are they  happy?
Does she make beautiful little books about babies, does Leo hoe and dig his own garden and collect the eggs every morning?
Do they cook soup when I am ill and brush my hair?
Do they make candles and sew pincushions and dolls and bake bread?
Are they learning about living in a community considering others needs and differences, working and playing with other adults and children, sharing food and resources and opinions?
Do they know how to build and tend a fire, catch a fish, pluck a chicken? Well yes!!

You see I’m just trying to convince myself!
Last week I had been feeling particularly negligent as we had only squeezed in one writing session for Tansy (I  follow the Steiner class one pattern of telling an ongoing fairy tale, in our case ‘Molly and Sam and the magic Mountains’, and having Tansy write a sentence about the days story in her book accompanied by a picture) One session….ooh! Nursing first Fred, then Tansy and lastly Leo..now me through the fevers precluded  extensive writing work….

But on Saturday we felted.

It was the Steiner school work day, and among many jobs, including the manure spreading which reduced me to my shuffling waddle, was a giant community felting project in the hall. Partly to improve the acoustics and partly as a beautiful reminder of the seasons rhythms, we started the first of four felted wall hangings, depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter. Almost a flock of sheep fleeces were laid out, and we teased, carded chatted, splashed warm soapy water about , danced on it the huge felt picture, crawled on it, marched singing on it, and wrapped it in bubblewrap and rolled it up and down outside. Bit by bit the wool felted and soon it will be ready for the more delicate and intricate details to be needle felted on, and hung on the wall.
The children watched, teased, ran about, squirted water on the felt, rested, stamped and rubbed the felt about, sang laughed, got wet socks
So happy for Tansy and Leo to be part of a community afternoon and to witness adults working joyfully together, creating beauty. Not the all too common sight of a parent struggling alone resentfully trying to do too much without support.
That’s what I want them to be learning about!