Summer is a natural time for wandering and wondering and this summer I’ve been reconnecting with the ancient Celtic spiritual practice of peregrinatio, following inner prompting and journeying pro amore Christi, drawn by a deeper love into the mysterious pathways of inner and outer life.
This journeying has taken different forms. Sometimes it’s about simply walking out into my garden or out of my front door and letting the spirit lead me through the meadows, woods and waters of Dartington and beyond. Most often this is just about being and relating to who and what I meet along the way, including my selves and I don’t want to add thinking and writing to simply being deeply present in these unfolding relationships. It’s enough to gaze at the newly fledged moorhens by Morrisons, meet a tiger moth in the garden, join the blackbirds and squirrels in feasting on blackberries and raw hazelnuts on the path to Sharpham, or swim in the seaweed gardens with the seals by Start Point.
Recently though I’ve been taking my sketchbook and journal along for the ride sometimes and discovering through drawing another layer of looking and relating. This change has been partly motivated by my desire to support (rather than nag) my son Tam as he prepares to start his A level courses at Kennicott Sixth Form College in Totnes. He is unfolding as an artist and it’s a privilege to come alongside him on that journey and to recover my own half buried inner artist as we encourage each other in the challenges of observational drawing.
So my most recent peregrinatio drew me off the paths and into local meadows to discover the small wonders that are revealed when body, heart, mind and spirit are opened to receive. In the sheep trimmed grasses I was caught up in seeing a tiny feather and being transported Proust-like back into childhood and into an embodied memory of finding such a feather balanced on the tip of a blade of grass and being amazed… and so remembering in the depths of my being that capacity for wonder. Thus opened I soon discovered an active badger set and a beautiful old stone trough hidden in a stone walled alcove amongst the guardianship of ash, hawthorn, hazel and spindle trees and so settled to sketching.
Although I’ve done a lot of art and craft over the years, my drawing skills are rusty and waves of despair periodically wash over me as I draw. Years of meditation have taught me to witness despair and make it welcome at the feast, while also continuing to trust and carry on. So I keep looking and making marks… and looking closely at the play of light and shade on stone, at the mysteries of moss, at the way ivy grows across the patterned tree trunk becomes a kind of prayer, because to try and draw I have to really look. Looking reveals the uniqueness of life, the actual way in which that singular strand of ivy grows… it’s just like the kind of awareness that emerges in response to counselling clients or facilitating groups – a wonder at the particular beauty of people, of all creation.
Time passes and I am absorbed, drawn into a relationship with granite and bark, leaf and earth in a way that seems to almost flow directly through my body and onto the paper. I don’t worry so much about how the drawing looks but allow it to be a process of relating, of communion. This feels no different from the absorption states of deep meditation and there are similar qualities of clarity, of joy and love and I feel blessed as I wend my way home again.
Stepping back now into a wider wandering through my summer, I want to celebrate having made it back to this journal twice in one year! This seems a small marker of having now fully entered my new post divorce life. Another artistic new beginning has been unfolding through my second year of attending courses at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London. Last year I tried to develop my fledging skills in egg tempera painting, following on from the work I’d done with local iconographer, Antoinette Jackson. This year I spent a week with an inspiring Nepalese sacred artist, Renuka Gurung, who beautifully tutored our group of PSTA students in the painting of our first paubha. My nearly finished Green Tara is above and I’m praying for Her inspiration in writing my MA dissertation on the Buddhist Brahma Vihara (now due to be completed by next December – phew!). I was delighted to help organise a stall for the PSTA at the Tagore Festival at Dartington in June at which Renuka joined us and I’m hoping that PSTA Open Programme courses may be available at Dartington next year, in association with the new Arts programme being developed by the Dartington Trust. For myself, I hope to develop my practice of sacred art in creating some Goddess and Angelic Icons in relation to the courses I’m offering through Living Spirit this Autumn, including an exploration of an angelology with the Tree of Life School.
So coming back to my own professional life, there’s also much to celebrate this summer, with all the Living Spirit and Wood Sisters groups having come together for a wonderful weekend at Quest Festival. I’ve written about this in the Open Spirit journal and Sue has also included it in the Wood Sisters one. I’m also celebrating the resurrection of Open Spirit which, having started with input to the Winter Festival, the Holy Week celebration with Helen and a full day of ‘Welcoming the Sabbath Bride’ at Quest, now has new courses starting this Autumn.
I’m really very excited about this and looking forward to the coming together of this new holistic spiritual learning community. It also feels a little daunting to be drawing together and sharing many years of interspiritual work, my deep interest in the Divine Feminine and feminist thealogy and my experience of holding sacred space. But as ever, this is a relational journey and so I feel supported as well as challenged! Juliette Rich has generously offered to host us in her lovely thatched period home in the heart of Dartington and I am delighted to be assisted by Beth Thomas. Full details are now on the Open Spirit website.
Beth has been a very special presence in my life over the last few months as I’ve co-supervised her MSc dissertation at Schumacher College alongside Martha Blassnigg of Plymouth University. Being a supervisor has been an interesting exploration of academic insecurity as I’m really more of a mystic! Beth’s exploration of Holistic Science in relation to the symbol of the Cross has drawn deeply upon spirituality and so its been a pleasure to share this with her and Martha and to start to learn more about Holistic Science and Schumacher College. This has included a recent extraordinary experience of Descent into the Quantum Teapot with Beth’s fellow student Jamie… a man after my own heart in his love of tea and the Goddess!
Well, I shall end here for now, with deep gratitude for all the people and creatures and places that I have met in these recent months of summer wanderings…