Articles in this section:
Articles in this section:
To look back on our lives as if from a great height, can bring insights and clarity. We can see what has helped to shape us, where lies our joys and strengths, and what moves us to action. This is vital wisdom that can help us find our way in these uncertain times. Thirty years ago I began writing and illustrating my handwritten books because of a deep need to share with others what I was exploring and discovering. They were handwritten because at that time we didn’t have computers in our homes, so as a simple solution to my need to share, I drew up the margins and the lines onto an A5 page in my sketchbook and wrote the words out by hand… in pencil first and then inking in over the top. Writing and self publishing those little books, although I did not realise it at the time, was a life changer. It has led to many encounters with people and places, trees and plants that I could never have predicted.
The journey began by engaging with the eight seasonal festivals, handed down from our pre-christian past. Following them has become an anchor and framework for my life. For the last thirty years, every six weeks, throughout the year, I put aside a day for me to connect to the season and the seasonal shifts and to connect to myself within the Earth’s cycle. It helps me to re-set my awareness as to what really is important to me, and I write about this in my journal. This simple act has had a profound and beneficial effect on me. It has led me to be more engaged with the natural world and the land around me, and ultimately has led to a deeper sense of my being part of Nature. I have learnt that the deeper we are prepared to explore and experience the natural world, the more we are changed by our encounters and emersion. I find myself aware of a deeper, more subtle layer of energetic connections within the vast interconnectivity of Nature, that leads me into was once called the ‘Mysteries’. It’s good to know that the inexplicable and our sixth sense is still alive and well in our rational scientific world. I welcome this as part of my wild nature, a part of me that is ancient, instinctive, intuitive, and needs to be encouraged.
The more time I spend in wild Nature, the more I learn that very valuable permaculture principle of observing Nature. When sitting observing Nature, we find stillness, a haven within us, a balm to the frenetic world we find ourselves in. The more we observe, the more we become entranced and enthralled. Unexpected moments of sheer bliss can lift us beyond the everyday into a sense of something much bigger than we are. We need this! We need to balance the two worlds of doing and being. We need to learn to make time to stop and replenish… breathe… to find ourselves as part of Nature and to let Nature find us.
But this is not the whole story. We also need to systematically deconstruct the conditioning that we were born into: The premise that we humans are separate from the Earth and superior to all other living things. This is the cause of our fractured relationship with the planet and a far cry from our tribal roots of reciprocity, of giving back what we take, of stewardship and respect for all living things.
This shift in our ingrained conditioning has preoccupied me for the last three decades, since learning the maxim: ‘All Things are Connected’. Knowing with all of my being that this was at the heart of what it means to be engaged with life in a more aware and sensitive way, and to heal the separation consciousness of my conditioning. This is the great adaptation of our time, and along with many others, I feel myself mutating into a more aware human, one who knows that whatever we do, say and think, effects the whole, on many levels. This shift in awareness changes us at the core of our being. Once there we don’t go back to the old separation thinking, and this gives me hope for the future! Once there a new kind of human evolves - one who is willing to work with Nature, help Nature restore, and to do all we can to stop the tragic decimation of our natural world.
When we allow ourselves to let go and revel in the delight and wild abandon of the natural world, we step into a new relationship with Nature, learning to find our place within Nature’s vast interconnectivity, not needing to be masters of it. My small town garden, which, after all is an expression of myself, has becoming a total riot of native plants. I have no wish to tame or order it, and delight in the tangle and the chaos of plants interweaving together and of new plants arriving in unexpected places and changing the vague plan! The amount of bees, and a myriad of other insects that are here, takes people’s breath away when they come round. This is the smallest garden I have ever had, but it is probably the one that is bringing me the most joy. I have an intimate relationship with all of my plants and I find that the intimacy grows alongside of my engagement… I love and coo over them as I tend and nurture them, and in return they tend and nurture me with their beauty and their presence. I give them my thanks, make medicines from them and eat them. I grow more plants from their abundant seeds and give them away to anyone who will give them homes. We are working in partnership and I am immensely grateful to Nature and to my heart, for guiding me ever deeper in.
There are many hidden gifts received from Nature when we let go of control and stop imposing our will. When we find ourselves in relationship with Nature, our hearts are open and this creates a more receptive engagement and flow of interaction between us. When we allow wild Nature to thrive we welcome more than just the outer bounty of Nature into our hearts, we step into a different role and reach for the ancient bond, the sacred tryst of stewardship.
Rewilding has become my absolute over-riding passion. Watching the decimated native plants, mammal, birds, insects and bee populations’ restore, as lost habitats regenerate, is my deepest joy. The small town I live in has a strong rewilding community, and with help from the local councils we are working to restore the verges as havens for native plant and insects, and to encourage gardeners and owners of small fields to rewild. We are growing and sharing beautiful native plants to increase the biodiversity of our town gardens and lanes. An old industrial quarry town, we are giving plant, butterfly and insect walks in the now abandoned and fast-regenerating quarries, to increase wonder and awareness of the natural world. We are sharing what we know about medicinal and edible uses of the plants to increase resilience and connection. This ultimately brings us all closer together, community and Nature alike, healing the divides that have created separation for too long.
To increasingly feel our sense of belonging holds the key to healing our selves as well as the Earth. When we bring ourselves into a place of connectedness with the Earth and the natural world around us we are changed. We reset the initial conditions for ourselves, as well as the land. New choices emerge. New adventures beckon. We are on a new journey to heal our isolation and disconnection from the Earth and each other, to live in new healthier ways, and to follow what our hearts intelligence is telling us.
So here we are in the middle of a collective consciousness shift, within the bigger picture of a planet in crisis. We are moving from isolation and dominance, to being more connected, more aware of the natural world and the vast interconnected web of all life. We are developing into a more altruistic, caring kind of human, willing to use their considerable skills for the good of the Earth and the good of the whole. It may have come too late to save the natural world and climate as we have known it… but we are waking up from the isolation that our separation consciousness imposed, responding to a deep internal call to change our relationship with Nature; to give something back; to stop demanding of the Earth, and to say thank you. A heart that is filled with gratitude sends healing energy to giver and receiver alike. From there, made compassionate by humility, we can ask the Earth “What can I do for you?”
What draws you to trees?
I have always been drawn to trees, and I think this began with being taken to Sherwood Forest a lot when I was a child. We played amongst the many giant hollow Oaks as part of our games of Robin Hood. We even hid in the major Oak and climbed up into its branches…. It is all fenced off now and held up with chains but it wasn’t back then… These are very special feral childhood memories for me… I always felt safe and nurtured by the Oaks, and knew in my heart that I could depend on their stability and them always being there in the same place whenever I returned.
Later in my late twenties I learnt to draw by sitting with trees. This was pivotal to my journey with the trees as the act of drawing slowed me down enough for me to begin to sense their ‘presence’ and understand the many different energies of each tree species, on a more subtle, healing and subliminal level. This was the beginning of my moving into being in relationship with trees and all of wild nature, instead of standing separated on the outside looking in…
This ability to slow our selves right down is the key to deepening our relationship with trees and the natural world and helps us to let our hearts open to their deep and ancient wisdom. Trees have been here long before humans and they have a lot to teach us about the interconnectivity of eco-systems, creating sustainable self generating systems and working together with all life in complex and co-creative harmony.
Do you have a favourite species?
I will always be drawn to go and sit with a big old Oak tree. They have a deep anchoring presence that brings a tangible calmness and makes me instinctively take deeper breaths and slow down… and I forever thank them for this.
I think those first tree species that I met while learning how to draw still hold a very special place in my heart… beginning with the Oaks and then the twisted old Hawthorns out in the fields – the ancient remnants of old field boundaries. Although they are much smaller than the Oaks, Hawthorns are also long-lived trees and they were used in the past to mark a special place, spring or well, so can often be found in a place that has a slightly otherworldly atmosphere. They hold a special place in myth and legend as being under the protection of the faerie realms. Sitting under Hawthorns was said to result in enchantment or being fetched away by the faeries. Personally, it is one of my favourite pastimes! Energetically, the Hawthorn helps us to relax, and in doing so we let down the defences that keep us separated from the deeper layers of communication with the natural world. Relaxation is also reflected in their many herbal uses. The leaves, flowers and berries are a safe heart tonic and will effectively relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia, restore the heart to normal function and improve circulation.
Do you have a favourite tree?
I have several trees I like to visit locally, from ancient Hawthorns, to giant Oaks and Beeches and a very old Yew tree, who stands quietly in the corner of a field near my house. Yews are a very ancient species. Fossil remains show that Yews have survived as a species for two hundred and fifty million years, adapting many times to changes in the Earth’s climate! Humans have been evolving for only six million years and the present strain of human, Homo sapiens, for a mere two hundred thousand years. I find this a very humbling thought! Ancient Yew trees have a very powerful presence and this one is no exception. I have written about her and many of my local favourite trees in my new book ‘Walking with Trees’.
What inspired you to write Walking with Trees?
Walking With Trees initially grew out of my love of native trees – those species who have populated these islands and were here ten thousand years ago, after the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age. Walking With Trees looks at the signature and energetic pictures of 13 native trees… my personal favourites (as sadly there wasn’t enough room in one volume to cover all 23 of the native trees!). I also chose the trees that had a wealth of folklore, myths and legends, and herbal uses… the trees that had been strongly in the consciousness of humans since we first walked these lands and made our lives amongst them. The book also includes ways we can engage with the different trees at different times of the year, integrating them into our seasonal celebrations; how to grow them and where to plant them out; how to work with their wood when it is gifted to you, and how to learn from the intrinsic wisdom of each species.
Walking with Trees is about restoring of our natural intelligent and co-creative relationship with Nature. It is also about being part of the human-changes that the Earth so badly needs us to make at this time. It is time now to step out of the confines and isolation of our old conditioned constraints and move forward into re-connection and a more Earth-aware future. As we celebrate, grow, plant and interact with the trees, we re-find our sense of unity with all of life on Earth. The trees teach us. We learn from them; grow and expand, regenerate and deepen,
Why do you think we should all care about trees?
Trees are totally intrinsic to present life on Earth. They store and utilise vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere, and are the co-creators of our weather systems and climate. These great water-lovers draw up water from below the ground, and fill our air with the circulating waters of life, bringing many beneficial nutrients and minerals to the surface from deep within the Earth. They generate the oxygen-rich air that all of us air-breathing creatures need to breathe. We breathe with them and because of them. Their out-breath is our in-breath. Our lives depend on them. They literally give us life, and we need to care about them, and plant more of them to replace all the trees that are being cut down every day, Organisations such as Tree Sisters are replanting huge numbers of trees to help stabilise our climate. Powered by inspiring women, join them at www.treesisters.org
Trees also help us to recognise our interconnectivity with all life on Earth, and with this growing and deepening understanding, we are changing from the inside out. We are now coming to realise that the Earth’s wellbeing and our own is interconnected and we have to work in harmony with the Earth and with the trees. As each one of us recognises this, we naturally become Earth protectors and change our life-styles. We are now beginning to live our lives in ways that help the Earth to restore her equilibrium – and this in turn helps us to restore our own.
Is there a message you’d like to share to inspire those who do not yet feel the magic of trees?
I have discovered that most trees like human company, but you have to slow down and let their magic find you as you relax into their presence…. It’s a delight waiting to happen and is not hard to do... Visualise yourself nestled amongst their roots and feel the special gift they have of helping us to anchor ourselves to the Earth. Let the chatter of your mind fall to earth and let all cares and troubles drop away as you sink into a place of inner stillness. Once here you can find your loving heart and unlock your inner wisdom and learn from the trees. I would also say to return again and again to the same trees and let friendship unfold… as it will most surely will.
Glennie Kindred, July 2019
A friend recently asked me "Where is my Eldership?" It's an interesting question. 'Elder-ship' is suggestive of a ship, a journey, a choice to step on board and set sail. With this image in mind I choose to see this next phase of my life as a great adventure, making choices that consider the needs of my changing body, and which help me continue to be effective, healthy, vital and wise.
My friend asks "Where is it?" We have few mentors and guides to show us the way. Respect for our elders is something we threw out in our youth, and yet in the blink of a lifetime, here I am, part of the up and coming older generation… growing old and yet still feeling young. In our modern society, the elderly are rarely called Elders and the wisdom of their years is greatly undervalued. How often have I heard my elderly Mum bemoan the way people talk to her. (Her retort is usually "Excuse me there is no need to talk to me like that. I'm elderly, not stupid!" Feisty woman my mum!); or my contemporaries exclaim that as an older person they feel un-noticed and marginalised. So how do we become respected elders and not dismissed as 'elderly?' There seems a wealth of difference between those two words and those two worlds.
Winter Solstice 2014 - 'The Elementals' (the women's group I have been part of for the last 15 years), are up before dawn and on Stanton Moor to watch the Solstice Sun rise. My heart overflows with Love for these women, who, like me, love to experience the wonders of the land, honour the Earth and make sacred all the Elements of Life. We stand, breathing in the beauty of the unfolding new day and speak when the power moves us. No formality, just surges of profound insight and gratitude for all of life. We watch the sky redden, the clouds part and the sun break free of the horizon. It's always such a thrill to see it! We call out our most positive wishes for the greater good of all; for the Earth, for our communities, and new intentions for our own journey….
Nine Ladies Stone circle is a little bit further on. As we approach, filled with the power, love and vision of our Solstice moment, I get out my frame drum and start a steady joyful beat. The others get out their drums too, and we inadvertently make an entrance! There are about 20 people there, some have been there all night and as we reach the circle a young guy calls out "The Grandmothers have arrived!!" it was an acknowledgement of our age, but also an acknowledgement of our role. Spurred on by this we start a chant and lead everyone into a spiral to the centre of the stones, opening up the opportunity for people to share their wishes for the world, their communities and themselves. Without a thought or a word to each other, we had created a quick and impromptu ceremony. That is what we do, whether out on the land, at festivals, workshops and at demos…. We know the power that creating ceremony can do, the energetic shifts it creates.
'The Grandmothers have arrived' has become a bit of a rallying cry for us, as we begin to recognise that all our years of experience and knowledge has value and is needed. So we take up the mantle and begin to find our way in, drawing on our innate desire to serve the greater good. We recognise that it isn't about us at all. We are in service to the future, to the younger generations and to the Earth.
I get together with my Elemental sisters every 3 weeks. We all value this time spent together and commit to it, because we know the difference it makes to our lives. We are each on our own unique spiritual path; we are all political, in the broadest sense of the word; and all we see ourselves as eco-warriors and defenders of the Earth. We are each big in Spirit and Presence and we are all equal. We see ourselves as family and have pledged to be there for each other into our elder years and to be there at the end.
Every six weeks, we celebrate the up and coming Earth Festival. We spend a whole day in sacred space, meditate, chant, drum, feast, share our lives and spiritual paths, cackle, plot and plan. We make time for each other, spend time in communication with our inner knowing; consult card oracles; write in our journals; and share our understanding with each other. Some times we stay indoors and sometimes we go out on the land. We have a long history of getting up before dawn and going out to watch the Sun rise or dawn break.
In addition to celebrating the eight Earth festivals, we meet in between for an afternoon of shamanic journeying – to open to forces beyond ourselves and to connect to our inner guides. Mostly we stay in doors for this but we find great power in going out onto the land, especially to ancient sites and places of powerful Earth energy. We connect to the Spirits of the Land; call on the help of our spirit guides, the spirits of the Ancestors and the Descendants, to help us to help the Earth.
We are Wild Elders in the making! Now in our sixties, we can see that we are changing. Our strength is shifting further from the outer work to the inner work. We bring to our older years all that has driven and empowered us throughout our lives - our wild anarchy, independence, celebrating the power of women, the power of Love, challenging the status quo, defending the Earth and Nature, and magical activism. And we don't intend to stop now! We intend to have fun here, adapt, learn new things and grow in new ways.
Our physical bodies may be changing but our inner abilities are becoming more honed and more deeply rooted. Recently we all committed to a weekly 'Power Hour', to harness the forces of Intention, Love, Support and Strength; to send energy to wherever we feel it is needed. We are increasingly aware of the power of this kind of working. Our intention is joined with our heart energy and directed as an effective and effortless force that flows through the interconnected matrix of life. We are in service to the greater good, and speak in the present tense. At the same time we give thanks - for what we envision has already begun…. We are tapping in to an old magic, a deep inner knowing. It has power and it sets change in motion. Perhaps this is why the older wise-women were feared...
I am tomorrows ancestor
The future of yesterday
And what I am in the here and now
Goes rippling out all ways
Goes rippling out
(Chant by Brian Boothby and Glennie Kindred)
Glennie Kindred - September 2016
Published in the Winter edition of
She Who Knows Magazine
Dan: Much of your work celebrates the cycles of nature and the power of ceremony, promoting them to a wider audience. Why do you think it's important to do so?
Glennie: For me ceremony is a natural part of ourselves and helps us to step into the 'sacred' in whatever way feels right for us. I believe this is something we all benefit from doing, and my books offer many different ways to do this based on my creating heart-felt ceremonies for the last 25 years.... I am always learning, expanding and growing in my understanding.... and life is richer and more vital because of it! I particularly like the way it empowers me to be more of who I am, to explore what it is that I am feeling right now, and what is moving me in my heart. It helps me to grow in Love and grow a deeper more intuitive and inter-connected me!
Celebrating the cycle s of the year gives us a sense of ourselves in time, the cyclic flow of our lives as the years go by, and helps us to live in harmony with the flow of the natural world around us. Each of the eight Earth Festivals gives us an opportunity to connect with the Earth and also to check in to where we are at, where we are going, and what is no longer helping us to grow well and healthy. Ceremony gives us the opportunity to let go of the old unhelpful stuff and embrace the new! It is very empowering!
Dan: Aside from an obvious reverence for our connection to and place within nature, there also seems to run a rich vein of optimism throughout your work. Are you consciously trying to convey that in your writing?
Glennie: I am consciously creating optimism in my life! We always have choice as to what and how we think..... And we can consciously change the way we think. If we wish to manifest the most positive outcome we must choose the most Loving, the most heartwarming, heart opening, heart expanding thoughts and actions.... And then the natural fertility and flow of life does the rest! 'Give yourself the very best chance to grow in the way you would like life to be for you!' For me it is as simple as that... And ceremony helps those moments of positive affirmation and positive intentions to become embedded within you.
Dan: Despite - or perhaps because of - a probable convergence of many crises do you think that there is a general recognition that we're not where we need to be, and that people are starting to look around for alternatives to the current paradigm?
Glennie: Absolutely! It is time! And much needed! And it is happening! And it is a huge groundswell, a peoples movement of Love, optimism, care for the Earth, the land around us, care for each other and all the peoples and creatures of the Earth, a sense that we are not separate from Nature but we are a part of the whole thing.....and this understanding and new way of thinking and living our lives is growing all the time..... I always say 'Once your eyes have opened, you can't go back..... and why should you want to!!'
Everything we do and think influences everything else, our families, our friends, what we say, what we eat and what we support with our money.... We are hugely powerful when we make conscious choices.....
Dan: Do you think that our societies lack of connection to nature, its habits and systems, may be behind our seeming inability to pull back from our abuse of it? Do you see your work as an attempt to restore connection?
Glennie: Absolutely again! The whole point of my books is to share what has worked for me, and the solid grounded foundation of which will work for others. Reconnection to the natural world is a journey we are all on to some degree or another, and both personal, group and community ceremonies help us to connect in, if that is our intention. (Intention is everything!)
For me right now it is my ever deepening connection to our native plants and trees, which is propelling me forwards. I am a very practical person, not airy-fairy at all.... But increasingly, through some very real and astonishing experiences I am becoming more and more aware of how much the natural world is alive and communicating all the time..... on many different levels of interconnectivity. Back to choice.... I am choosing to prioritise my journey with the native plants and the trees right now.... So this is the wild edge I am living within.... Inevitably I want to share the excitement of this wonderful interconnected world and the wonders and power of our most humblest of native plants and trees! So this is what I am painting and writing about right now.....
Dan: Where do you think we'll be as a society in 20 years - what is your vision of the future.
Glennie: I have no idea..... I aim to live today the future I want to see happen! It is one and the same to me.... I am here now so I want to live it Now!
We can only each live our lives right now in the best, most loving, caring and positive way we can..... If lots and lots of people add to this flow of good energy, then there is a strong possibility that the future will be a good one.... So it is up to us..... Each and every one of us! We all influence each other and we all add to the positive or negative energy that shapes our lives, whether in the nitty gritty of our everyday lives, or our influence on the bigger picture...... we do both.... all the time...and the ripples spread outwards (and inwards) from us all! I have a notice on my kitchen notice board that says 'LOVE YOUR FUTURE'. It's a good reminder and makes me smile and warms my heart every time I read it!
Dan: Finally, what would you foresee as the single most potent power for transformation that anyone could achieve - with a little effort?
Glennie: That's easy... LOVE!!!! It changes everything for the better!!! It creates cycles of good energy that influence us and everyone and everything around us in ways we cannot predict.... but we can know for sure that it will create positive good, no matter what..... For me this is the single most potent power for transformation and change we can all achieve..... Choice and Intention are all!!
Glennie Kindred December 2015
Who are you?
Glennie Kindred. I write and illustrated books on Earth wisdom, Earth cycles, Celtic festivals, trees, herbs, hedgerow gathering and cookery, creating our own ceremonies and alchemy. I am interested in taking old knowledge and creatively applying it to our lives today. I believe that as we heal ourselves and our relationship to the Earth, we add to the healing of our world.
Where do you live?
I live in a small market town in Derbyshire with my partner Brian Boothby and our two teenagers, Jack and May Kindred Boothby. We moved here about 6 years ago, leaving the more isolated countryside living we have always loved, so that we are now on a bus and train route and part of a growing local alternative and artistic community. I can now walk to our local shops, many of which sell organic and fairly traded food and goods.
When and how did you discover Permaculture?
I think my first introduction to it was when Patrick Whitefield asked me to illustrate his first booklet on the subject called 'Permaculture in a Nutshell', in 1991.
Why was it of significance?
I have always grown vegetables, herbs, and fruit and have long had an interest in edible native plants, edible flowers, companion planting etc, and Permaculture embraces all this and takes it further. I love the way it encourages us to work in harmony with nature rather than try to control it. Permaculture looks at the whole picture, takes into consideration the interrelationships of the whole ecosystem. And Permaculture is so much more than growing food. It's about life style and being aware of energy in its many different forms.
What has been wonderful is to be part of a growing movement of people sharing ideas, embracing our love of the land and nature, and our inherent desire to nurture our selves and our families through our deep connection to the Earth. I love the way Permaculture has helped and encouraged us all to be more creative in our approach to gardening and to living. It's a celebration of a grassroots caring philosophy and creative solutions that are making our lives and our world a better place.
How has Permaculture changed your life?
I try to live my life simply and sustainably, in harmony with the Earth and her natural cycles. Brian and I run our home and businesses by these principles. For example all my books are printed on recycled paper. This helps to increases the availability of this resource. I believe that every little thing we do that helps us to live sustainably on the Earth gives energy to the positive changes we want to see happen.
As a family we mostly eat organically. We buy our organic food in bulk from Lembas, a local whole food wholesaler with a strong ethical policy. We buy from local organic farms and farmers markets and we have a weekly organic vegetable and fruit box. We shop locally and buy fair trade products whenever we can. We buy natural cleaning products and natural cosmetics. This minimises our trips to the supermarket and cuts down on all that packaging, especially plastic.
We recycle and compost everything that is possible to do so. We reuse and mend, pass on and share. Our house has been painted through out with Green paints. Our electricity is from a renewable source and we also have a wood burner and burn locally sourced wood. We try to minimise vehicle journeys and walk locally as much as possible. We grow our own fruit and vegetables and have a thriving wild life garden and ponds. As a family we are all passionately committed to being part of the solution!
Walking meditation has become my new pleasure in life. It has all the benefits of the more usual sitting meditation but also gives me a deeper communion with my environment. I make a conscious decision to keep my focus on my breathing in the usual way, gently acknowledging my thoughts but not encouraging them. Instead I encourage stillness within me, and kindle Love, compassion and delight for the world around me. I walk in meditation in many different places and situations, but my favourite is to walk in the woods.
I keep a journal to record my insights and understanding that comes from these meditation walks. This is one such entry.
I am in the silent winter woods again, drawn here by my need to be alone, to be close to the Earth and the trees. A sense of stillness touches me as I walk amongst the trees and I become conscious that I have slipped into their energy field. I respond to this by slowing down and a wonderful calmness comes over me. I breathe deeply, taking in the oxygen rich air, laden with life-giving molecules, the precious unseen gift from the trees. I am aware that as I breathe in these organic compounds, they are becoming part of me as they enter inside my lungs and then are absorbed into my blood stream. I am literally breathing in the essence of the trees.
I send my gratitude to the trees. The great gifts of healing that they give us are simply and freely given to all. We have only to sit with them and breathing with them to feel the benefits.
Today I am drawn to sit with an Oak tree that stands on a raised hillock surrounded by young Silver Birch, and as I sit with my back to its trunk, I look out over the valley below and sense the deep stability of being rooted to this one spot. I give myself time to sit and daydream and wait see what inspiration comes.
The secret of communicating with trees lies in our ability to slow down enough to register how the trees are communicating with us. This is their great gift to us for this requires a shift in our perception. Trees don't talk to us with words, trees communicate in energy-images, which trigger our emotional response. This is an older form of communication than language, and to experience it I must learn how to move into the stillness within me, to experience that elusive interface that lies at the edge of Time. In Celtic mythology it is called the 'Place Between the Worlds' or the 'Otherworld', the interface between our surface reality and Spirit, a place of magic and mystery.
The unity and completeness of this tree is reflected back to me and I experience a shift in understanding that triggers a new awareness of myself. It is this that I seek in the stillness of the winter woods, this experience of Oneness with all of life, knowing that I am so much more than my surface reality.
Here, in the dark of the year, when the days are short and the Earth is still, I rest and in the stillness become aware of new seeds that are forming within me, new parts of myself waiting to grow when the time is right.
I ask myself "What do I wish to bring into my life?" "What do I wish to grow within myself?" These are my seeds of transformation, my seeds of hope and seeds of the future. What I change in myself is reflected out into my life and adds to the change in the world. We are all responsible for the world we create. I vision a growing number of people who make the move from the old view of separation and domination to a new inclusive Unity and respect for the Earth, each other and the whole integrated web of all life.
There are moments in life when we realise just how blessed we are to be here. When the noise of everyday life quietens for a while, and our perception changes. We become aware of the 'something else' at work behind all our goings on; something magnificent that needs no invitation or introduction, just our willingness to notice it. To feel its presence in the moment. As I sit on my sofa, with the author Glennie Kindred sat opposite me, I feel myself enter one of these moments.
Glennie's influence on my life, although subtle, has been profound. I first came across her work when I bought myself a copy of 'Sacred Celebrations' (Gothic Image, 2000), Glennie's third of her now twelve books. My first ever Hallow's Eve ceremony was a home-grown affair as laid out so encouragingly in her book. It was Glennie who introduced me to the importance of darkness; something which up until then I'd actively avoided at all costs. (Quite a challenge when you consider half of our lives our is spent in it!) As the years passed I would turn to Glennie's wisdom on the celtic cross-quarters; the festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, Samhain. It was through her sharing of experience and skills that I developed a more attuned heart to nature's cycles - and I know many others who've benefited in similar ways.
And now, sitting in my lounge in Somerset, with the rain pouring down, I find her presence equally engaging. Not through any 'thing' that she's doing or saying, but in her simple presence of being. I was inspired to interview Glennie when I heard she was finishing her latest book, 'Elements of Change'. Having recently enjoyed 'The Alchemist's Journey' (Hay House, 2007), I was keen to hear about her next offering; a deeper look into the elements and how we can use them as vehicles for positive change.
But first I wanted to know more about her life; her inspirations, celebrations and artistic creations!
How has being a mother inspired your journey?
Well I've been parenting now for 42 years, so you could say it's been a constant source of inspiration - I've loved my parenting journey. Looking back I can see how important my first son's influence was; he made me slow down. I'd moved from the city to a commune, back in the sixties, and we'd often all go out for walks. But we never kept up with them. Jerry and I would always be looking at every little detail along the way - the plants, insects, hedges and herbs. His slowing down was a gift to me - and it was those walks that sparked my learning and love of herbs and plants.
So did your children grow up with a similar love? Or did they do the opposite to you and go from country to city?
I'm sure whatever you're excited about gets transferred to your children. They love plants as much as I do, and Brian (Glennie's partner) inspired their love of nature. It's been a constant part of our lives!
And in the midst of child-raising, you still managed to find the time for your art and creative expressions?
I was an embroiderer and painter before the babies came along, but when they did I couldn't keep it all up. I then had the idea of painting in black and white - so they could be photocopied! A great idea which served me really well - only now I'm delighting in the return to glorious colour! No more black and white!
What about your love of ceremony and nature's cycles - how did that express itself in family life?
It was just what we did. We got good at 'having a moment' - things like taking time to light a candle and give blessings on the meal. 'Let's have a moment' became our way of saying 'let's connect'. But I was also really keen to do stuff with others, especially around the celtic festivals, so I put an ad in the local bookshop to form a celebrations group. That was where the inspiration came from for 'Sacred Celebrations'. And I think out of all of it - out of all the things you can do together in a ceremony - the simple act of forming a circle, of holding hands and thanking the elements is the most precious. And it's so easy to get the kids involved in that. Oh, and doing some kind of craft activity. That always connects and grounds the group - and the kids love it!
How do you think your own kids benefited from having been raised with ceremony as a part of their everyday life?
It's been part of helping them connect to the earth - so they're very grounded people. It's helped slow them down - or maintain their natural sense of going slow that they had as children. For example we used to (and still do!) create a shrine in the middle of the circle and light candles. It was simple but so engaging for the children. Despite having written books on it, I'm not really one for planning a ceremony! Just to 'have a moment' with each other. Not filling all the moments in with chatting and doing.
So what's your advice for parents wanting to bring more of these 'moments' into their everyday lives?
I think it's just that - to make space for having a moment. Go outside and find the magical places. The hidden parts of the garden, the woods and the streams. Even if you're in the city you can always find the wild. Back-alleys can be great places for that! As for ceremonies, they can be as simple as lighting a candle and giving thanks for the elements. I like to start with earth, to bring us out of our heads and ground; to send our roots down. It doesn't have to be a big, grand thing. I'm not one for pomp and formality! It just is - we give thanks, our hearts open in gratitude, and we're in a different place. A more loving place!
It was a real privilege to be one of the first readers of your new book. And the first time I've spent a day in contemplation of the elements - amazing considering that they're everything I am! I loved the way it increased my awareness of each of the elements - as well as my appreciation for them!
Yes! It does doesn't it? And I really feel it's the most important part of any ceremony - giving thanks to the elements. Because without them, we don't exist! And as soon as we give thanks out hearts open - our generosity of spirit is such a great force. But the book isn't just about the elements, it's about us, in this period of change. I see the crucial part of this change is our basic perception of ourselves as inter-connected and united to the whole of life. We are the elements. No longer do I 'call in' the elements when I'm holding a ceremony - I recognise I am the elements! This body; this breath. We have to change our thinking from this separation to the consciousness of our unity. I've had to work to change my thinking. And still am! I have to notice when I'm separating myself.
How do you notice when you've disconnected from that awareness of yourself as part of the whole?
It's a heart thing! Our hearts are a great organ of perception. As soon as we slow down and drop out of the brain we can feel what's going on. We can feel our disconnection and we can feel the threads connecting us to the whole. We can look to our children to remind us how to do that; they still perceive the world through their feelings.
You talk about connecting in 'Elements of Change' - it's great to be reminded of how instrumental the elements are in this process!
I really felt it important to do this - to give ways of connecting with the elements within and without. In the book we look at things like the simple act of drinking a glass of water, to taking a shower, through to visiting springs and appreciating the rain! When we look at fire, as well as focusing on the fire we all know and recognise in a flame and the sun, we also take in the qualities of the fire in our projects, our direction and our choices.
What's your favourite tip for applying this wisdom to a stressful moment?
It has to be grounding. Put your roots into the earth. Connect. Take a moment. It needn't be more than a minute. But you need to make that conscious choice; it always comes down to making that choice.
I loved the suggestion in your book to make a set of element stones. It's quite unlike any other form of divination I've come across - in that it's very much down to the individual how one interprets them.
I got my inspiration from the old practice of 'throwing the bones' for the element stones. There were no rules with that other than how you interpret it. There was no-one telling you what things mean. The element stones are a follow-on from The Alchemist's Journey, I wanted to continue a connection to the elements and the alchemical symbolism - going deeper with how they relate to both the inner and outer worlds. There is a little page of messages though, more for inspiration than for fixed ideas! They're also great for busy parents. No need to do a full 'throw' of the whole set, you can just pick one when you need to!
I'm looking forward to making my own set! And of course to seeing your book in print. Are we to see the return of the beautiful 'Glennie-Style' hand-written book this time?
(Glennie giggles.) Yes. All written by hand, with a fountain pen this time. My calligraphy pens weren't playing ball this time so I decided to do it all with my favourite fountain pen. And it's all printed locally. Very much a home-grown publication. In fact that seems to be the theme for this time of my life. I'm doing things closer to home, only working within a 50 mile radius and getting involved in my local Transition Town group. And of course there's my other baby, the Earth Pathways Diary. I love it so much! It really is for us; for anyone who loves nature, spirit and creativity. I suppose it's just another way to inspire 'taking a moment' in daily life.
And inspire magical moments she does. I've not told Glennie this yet, but during our conversation I noticed a particularly magical moment unfolding. I don't remember at what point in our conversation this occurred, only that it was a moment I'll not forget. As I sat taking notes, nodding enthusiastically and trying to remember to ask 'good' questions, my perception shifted. For a moment. For a moment I saw something other than the everyday scene of two women sat chatting in the lounge over a cup of tea. Glennie seemed to transform into an embodiment of nature; her eyes were sparking like firecrackers, her hair took on a leafy, twiggy form. She was no longer Glennie, but a spirit of nature, expressing her love and wisdom through a divinely human body. I gently put my pen down, not wanting to stop Glennie's flow by interrupting her, nor did I feel the need to keep writing. Instead I did what Glennie had been talking about; I took a moment. I bowed my head, and gave thanks to this beautiful spirit.
© Natalie Fee 2010