Getting over the ultimate catastrophe

The book I am currently reading is far too astonishing for me to paraphrase; I would do far better to encourage you to read it. For my own part, I know why I “chanced” upon it as it was a perfect dove-tail intersection with several of my preoccupations of the moment. The book is called “Awakening the Planetary Mind: Beyond the Trauma of the Past to a New Era of Creativity” by Barbara Hand Clow and I am still relishing every page.

So excited am I about this book that I’ve wanted to write about its effect on me for weeks but hardly knew how to get started without just paraphrasing it (which I wanted to avoid at all costs) and yet I felt I had so much to say. Then, this morning (for reasons that become apparent) I found this post almost ready to write itself from the place where the book intersects with my personal experiences; especially those that have been unfolding of late.

In this remarkable, thoroughly researched and documented, work Clow proposes (as science is now catching up with) that a major cataclysm happened to this planet…not such a long time ago as to be something we can barely relate to, such as when dinosaurs were around…but as recently as 11,500 years ago. In her view, again backed by an every deepening pool of scientific corroboration, the planet consisted of a highly evolved, technologically advance maritime civilization that enjoyed a remarkably modern way of life not that dissimilar to ours when this thing happened and that this harmonious civilization lasted for as long as 40,000 years! Just sit with that for a moment and see how it slots into what you know; not just at the intellectual level but in the depths of deeper knowing that we all have based on memories we still have access to through our DNA.

Of course, what happened wiped almost all evidence of such a world from the face of the earth, especially as these people tended to live along the coastlines of seas that rose hundreds of metres afterwards or were crushed into other landmasses as tectonic shifts were mobilised by the onslaught, dissolving layers of the crust and reformatting them in entirely new ways. However, new-generation scientific methods are now overcoming such limitations and those few remnants of such a world that we have, which are so incongruously “advanced” as to have been all-but disregarded for not “conveniently” slotting into the “orthodox” timeline of history, are suddenly locking into a vastly different picture that looks very different to the ignorant cave dwellers we have been taught to imagine during those times.Whilst I confess to having intuited such a reality for the longest time (which is why, I now realise, I had such a visceral reaction of being “on the wrong course” when I started on my history and archaeology degree – later switched to another subject because I almost couldn’t bear to sit through the deadly-dark lectures about how early cultures supposedly lived), I realise it was largely at the unspoken levels of myself until I read Clow’s book. A massive sense of relief seemed to ripple through me from the very first pages, like I had found solid ground at last and something that resonated with my inner truth.

As I’ve already said, no point paraphrasing except as far as necessary to set the context for this post…its a remarkably compelling read and I recommend that you do so for yourself if the topic interests you. Rather, here’s my take on what feels like my truth; a truth that I had already laid out like a rather hesitantly placed jigsaw beforehand and, now, suddenly find I am ready to slot together with a little more confidence and see how that feels to me. Its a very different landscape to the one we have been taught.

Here’s how I think things played out, an over-view of all I “know” from intuition, memory, personal experiences and the insightful help of Clow’s book. A major cataclysm took place around 9,500BC and it not only altered the world “as we knew it” beyond all recognition but it tilted the axis of the earth, causing the variable seasons to occur that were not a feature of earth before that time. This – above all other nuggets of information that Clow handed me – settled into my deepest knowing with the most resonant “clunk” because seasons have been my “problem” for as long as I remember. As I’ve written about endlessly, the seasonal patterns have felt “off” and, at some level, unfamiliar to me…increasingly so the more I wake up to all the layers of who I am rather than being something I have ever managed to get used to. They trigger massive variables in my health and their effect seems to have very little to do with extremes of temperature, levels of daylight or even associated emotions around times of the year (although, like iron filings on a magnet, these associations have inevitably attached themselves to what I “feel” around the altering seasons, which runs at a much deeper level of my psyche). The deep dis-resonance around them has increasingly felt like something much more fundamental; so to learn that they were not an original feature of this planet tells me I have been turning into (and so comparing) my current experiences with another time; one I have been, at some level, harking back to and longing to “return” to like some sort of Garden of Eden archetype; and perhaps we all have, played out through a great variety of themes (not just reactions to seasonal variance).

2498191781_ed88965efd_zThe other detail that really caught my attention was Clow’s description of when the cataclysm took place (which I recommend reading; you may feel her words viscerally as I did, in which case they may act as a powerful tool to dislodge some of your most stuck memories…making for some extraordinary healing opportunities). She describes the skies turning increasingly electric and so-called “lurid monsters…that kept changing shape and colour” (a source-point for our legends of dragons, monsters and sea serpents) appearing to walk the earth and rising up out of the waters as the electrified atmosphere started to resemble what in my mind’s eye looked like one of those plasma balls. Had I just found a core reason for my super sensitivity (on the increase) to electricity; was this the fear-based core of physical symptoms that have been my newest and most alarming addition over the last year or so, making it a challenge for me to be around modern technology as, indeed, our own “skies” become more and more electrified?

Because what Clow is, in effect, talking about here is a mass case of post-traumatic stress disorder that we all share and which variable triggers in our environment (that is, anything that we have come to associate with “catastrophe” at the deepest levels) may well being “playing” inside of us like notes on a piano as these memories ask to be shown to the light of our consciousness so we can heal this planet as one. If we are alive, here and now, we are (at DNA level) survivors of this unthinkable cataclysm that took place in near-history (so, first off, congratulate yourself for that!) and yet it has remained completely suppressed by the orthodox version of history that we are taught  and also by our own bodies, which have in effect volunteered to bury the information because it was just too painful to be seen. Such locked away trauma has a tendency to play out through our unconscious behaviour patterns and so-called irrational fears and, sooner or later…in order to heal…must see the light of day by being made conscious. So, as Clow suggests, are we currently reaching the point where we are remembering this event en masse and, to some extent, re-living the original trauma that has been bolted away inside us for so long; playing out a healing crisis that we see reported across all the front pages of our news sources (if you even feel inclined to read those any more, so distorted are they in the name of keeping us paralysed in an original fear that serves the purpose of keeping us chopped off at the knees).

Once we start to entertain the idea of this cataclysm 11,500 years ago, we may think that cataclysm was the greatest disaster that ever happened to us and yet there were more “waves” of disaster that followed as the earth recalibrated to what had been a seismic shift; quite literally moving mountains and continents before our eyes. One follow-up disaster (at the time), the one that has impacted our world above all things that spiralled out of the orignal cataclysm, was the separation that took place between male and female, left and right, rational and spiritual. This, as you know from previous posts, is my “big area of interest” and here was a logical reason for it happening that slipped hand in glove into what I already knew.

Before the big “C” these things worked together in harmony…relatively…although, according to Clow, the idea of goddess had become something separate, sacred yet not maintain in practical terms in one of the maritime cultures that pre-existed the cataclysm, namely Atlantis which, in her view, was likely located close the Antarctic (which would have looked very different at the time). In domestic and political life, women seem to have been playing second fiddle in Atlantis by the time the cataclysm was upon us and the Atlantians, in response to changes in the weather systems as cosmic changes started to murmur about what was about to happen, felt the pressing need to expand into the northern hemisphere and so they took on their old friends the Greeks in an argument about territory, resulting in a war that had just got started when the cataclysm happened. Inevitably, some of the survivors probably thought the cataclysm happened expressly because the harmonious balance had been tipped…and so began the messy business of blaming one faction or another for something that was out of their hands.

That’s the end of my paraphrasing and this is now my take on things (though it slots seamlessly with all that I am still reading in Clow’s book). Afterwards, in the unbelievably long, hard slog to survive, some remnants of the previous culture remained and I feel that I know that the sacred feminine (and I don’t just mean as embodied by women) was included, at least more so than in our times, in very real terms within day-to-day life. The qualities I refer to are the gifts of intuition and psychic ability, direct connection with our divine aspect, equal use of inspiration and other forms of direct knowing alongside rational thought, a highly valued engagement in the arts and all things spiritual, the kind of  connection to the earth that understands Gaia to be a living entity not just a spinning rock that we exploit for our own ends, a fundamental belief in abundance as the natural state of things and, of course, love and compassion as the driving force of our behaviours.

In those early years, the “higher aspect”…god if you like… was still called upon for collaboration in earthly matters (not for forgiveness…) and we used what we knew at both the earthly and spiritual levels together to try and forge a new world out of very different circumstances. It was harder than we can possibly imagine in our minds, though our DNA knows all about it, we still play videos of it as our deepest darkest fears under the surface of life. But somehow we started to regroup and one of the areas that this happened in a very concerted way, I believe, was along the Atlantic seaboard of France(Brittany) and into the West country of England and Wales, all of which were still part of a connected landmass at the time.

Amongst those who settled there were individuals who had enough grasp of the pre-cataclysm technology for some of this to be used again to rebuild what was left of the world that now had seasons; a phenomenon with which we had as yet to familiarise ourselves. There was a culture kept alive, at first at least, of knowing that we needed to realign ourselves with the stars as we were accustomed to doing and so times of the year that we could relate to the most became the significant events of the our calendar; the equinoxes in particular, when stone markers (standing stones etc) were used to remind us of our own relationship with the star systems and to assist us to align with them appropriately at the most powerful times as we had been able to do more consistently in engagement with the “fixed” skies before the axis tilted. Using the celestial skies, we were desperately trying to find our way “back”.

This technology was at the forefront in certain key places across the planet and certainly in the place known to many as Albion, which is my core realm of interest, technology was used to work with these new seasons, as seen in the few remnants we have (these are just the tip of the iceberg) at Avebury and Stonehenge. Goddess culture still thrived and was considered inseparable from our concept of our marriage to the land, a grasp of the importance of the unstifled energetic flow of the rivers and of nurturing the kind of fecundity that led to the abundant crops that helped us over-ride the challenges of the seasons. Importantly in those first few years, it it was still understood that to separate from her would be to put all these things at risk.

In these ways, the female aspect, the intuitive “spiritual” aspect, was utilised and this continued for maybe three or four thousand years. But then, as things continued to get harder as a result of more natural disasters rolling in that kept wiping the slate clean of whatever rudiments of life had been restructured since the cataclysm (water levels rose massively during this period), a new vibe came in and took a deep foothold. Certain elements within this culture, particularly those that felt they carried the “know-how” of ancient technology within their genes without the need to draw on the intuitive aspect,  those who believed they knew best” how to manipulate circumstances to their will at the level of cause and effect, claimed superiority and leadership powers, declared that the only way forward to reliable crops and the territory on which to grow them was “their way” (often involving blood shed) and that they would keep everyone “safe” against all odds. They even started to blame the right-hemispheric skill set – the shaman and perhaps especially the priestesses, even the female deity – for the cataclysm and how hard things had become, like we had all been beguiled into played with fire (taking a bite of the apple) and then been banished from so-called Eden because we had messed with something that we weren’t equipped to know about. The ideas of “blame”, of “sin”, of taking by “force”, of “lack”, of needing to “protect”, to ask for “forgiveness”and to “sacrifice” in order to survive were introduced into our mindset.

The intuitive, right-brained, feminine aspect was, as near as dammit, outlawed overnight and the tables turned very quickly to the rational, left-brained, “scientific”, control mentality that assumes lack is our fundamental state and that to survive we have to protect what is ours or fight to obtain it. This viewpoint was most persuasive during such hard times and so whole swathes of people were convinced to follow these self-appointed leaders and to disown those now-blacklisted individuals who utilise “higher” wisdom in case they too were tarred with the same brush; and so began a deep cultural suspicion of anything unorthodox, inexplicable, artistic or born of intuition along with the idea of the “witch hunt”. Of course, religion stepped in to take advantage of this opportunity to control people by claiming that an intermediary was now required to commune with your god-self on your behalf and that to bypass the church was to commit heresy; and so the church became the most powerful political, earth-based monster it could be and had very little to do with the true spirituality that we all have direct access to and which had now retreated underground like a long-forgotten river.

Inside me, as a female, I find these bubbles of deepest knowing that want – more and more – to see light of day. I recognise how they have played out as a pattern of my life; how, when my beloved father first let me down (around the time I was coming up to puberty) it was like part of me thought “oh, there you are, I remember you, you’re the one who was easily swayed, who was a coward, who handed over the beautiful thing we had together for a song, who was persuaded to follow someone else’s leadership to hell and back rather than stay true to all we used to believe in together”. The tidal wave of anger that surged in me and the way I cut him off with my emotions from then until after he had died tells me this reaction hid a far deeper wound. It was like an expectation of disappointment, embodied by the male gender that I played out over and over through many of the the circumstances of my life for the next couple of decades. It determined the course of several of my relationships, lead directly to my most traumatic experience (there it was again; that grand betrayal delivered by a man I once loved) and resulted in my first marriage. Within that marriage, I find I am now able to explain the extraordinarily deep sense of betrayal (far deeper than the surface circumstances could account for – although they were bad enough) when that husband didn’t stand by me and my newborn daughter; when he sold out with excuses of his “important” career and having far bigger fish to fry than taking part in family life. Any time he failed to stand by me in a situation where another “threatened” me – and there were quite a few – the betrayal would seer through the heart of me like a red hot sword and would count as another reason that I was starting to despise him at the very core. Once betrayal became all I could see when I looked at him, his days were numbered and divorce was inevitable; I rose up like a tour de force and shape-shifted my world to make that unlikely thing happen and, looking back, this all took place, aptly enough, in the months following 9/11 when, I now believe, a ghost-memory of cataclysm served to awaken this immense strength in me to put self-survival and care of my child above any false ideas of “convenient”contract with another. Even since I found someone who is not like that at all with whom to partner my life, I see how this expectation of betrayal played out every month of the years when I menstruated, in the days before my bleed when I would irrationally (it seemed) feel so much annoyance and petty anger rise up in me around all the men-folk in my life, like everything they did was the disappointment I had been waiting for them to deliver…again and again and again.

Years later, as I started to wake up to the layers of who I am, I started to have flashbacks to a situation that felt just like me and my husband, although we were in the Amazonian jungle and I was a priestess. We shared an intense, quite beautifully intimate and balanced love; there were parts of this “dream” world that felt magical and reaffirming of all that I have now. But then something always happened in that “dream” that turned the tables over; I saw our community torn apart, massacred and he wasn’t there to prevent it, was dawdling his way on some errand amongst the trees and wasn’t by my side where I needed him when it happened. Or maybe he came back and saw something of what was taking place and was far too paralysed to take it on; felt afraid and ineffectual against whatever this horrific thing was that had come to destroy us. The more this “memory” came to me, the more it felt like a memory of a past life that echoed this one, a deep wound asking for the forgiveness to allow this version of that life to go further than that one did and for me to stop presupposing that such betrayal would ever happen again. I was being asked to allow that things have changed now and we get to go much further this time, as a human race, than we have ever gone before…together, side by side, yin and yang, intersecting in ways that are entirely complementary and make us “bigger” than the sum of our parts.

Last night I had a similar dream only it was set in the “now” and this was quite a new detail that made it even more visceral. It told me this remnant of an old-stuck expectation of being let down when it matters, of not being counter-balanced when it came to the crunch, is right at the surface of me now – not at the relationship level but at every imaginable level – and asking for me to take ownership of the feelings around it so I can let it go. I felt all the same anger around the paralysis of my husband next to me in this dream that took place in my house…and yet when I woke and took the reins of these thoughts, I realised what it was really inviting me to do was to own that I didn’t need anybody to save me, that I could do that myself, that it was time to rise up into my own power and own that…that seeking others to “save us” is what got us into this unholy mess in the first place. I felt the full lioness roar of me rally and build up heat in my solar plexus and I felt myself asserting my power, my big-ness, my divine force through all of the cells of my body, reclaiming it for myself as this flesh, in this reality and with no “ifs” and “buts” about so-called limiting circumstances. I am in charge of my own destiny, come what may, and only I can take control of me and what happens to me next; this is no one else’s domain and certainly not their fault…and I am big enough to forgive those who have felt their knees buckle with fear these last several thousand years because I have felt that too. It felt like a moment of growing up and of stepping into cosmically adult shoes; perhaps we are all doing that right now as the page of so-called “history” not only turns but, as we know it, crumples to dust. Perhaps we are all stepping into our big shoes and only then can we grasp one another’s hands and walk forward together.

Afterwards, I knew something huge had just happened because I felt almost too weak to do my yoga, it felt like a heavy flu, the first of very long time and yet I knew it was going to last just fleetingly as my cells let go of the emotional debris of an old wound I have carried so long (about 11,500 years, to be precise!) and which has now been incinerated to dust. The area around my solar plexus feels extremely bruised like I have been punched and I have extremely hot breath this morning; the aftermath of an internal fire and the trick is not to let it consume me to but to transmute me. Something has certainly woken up in me and, no, its not the desire to seek vengeance from those who sought to run the world (badly) for the last several thousand years without seeking the balancing aspect of the sacred feminine by its side. The pinnacle of my work is to understand – and to remind others –  that this was a failing on the part of so many of us that it is not worth the finger-pointing; and that it was born of a fear-culture that was drummed up by others who knew exactly what they were doing and how to manipulate the crowds into handing over whatever remnants of divine power they still had…but not forever and we are remembering now. In the years following the cataclysm, between the various religions that rose up conveniently enough to carve up the cake, the power-politics of self-appointed leaders, the rigid box of empirical science, the big corporate monster and the endless mind games that have made us feel small, we have been made the meat in the sausage factory for a very long time. There’s absolutely no need to replay the cataclysm we’ve been through already, we’ve done that and got the T-shirt; if only we could get it through our heads that what we have been most fearing, at the subconscious level, as though projecting it onto some future screen is actually a video recording of what happened already!

The most likely way we are going to see anything like that again is if we create it as a bi-product of our own panic as we kid ourselves into thinking, helped by all the bad news merchants, that we’re already done for or start blaming other people for what’s been and gone. This isn’t a time for blame, its a time to concentrate upon remembering what we can of the time before and how beautiful that was, how we worked together back then to create a balance that meant liberty for all and allowed harmony to manifest through all things…our relationships with each other, the planet, other creatures and (most importantly) ourselves. Along the way, we have learned something immeasurably powerful about ourselves; that our alignment with our highest aspect is not conditional upon anything…not the seasons or a particular tilt of the earth, not any of the ever-changing celestial alignments that occur in the starry skies, not anything other than our own inner-alignment with the fullest knowing of all that we are…both at the broadest level and as our human aspect, in perfect balance and most collaborative harmony. When we find that inner harmony, all else becomes possible though, sometimes, its necessary to push through a layer of cataclysm to get there…and that’s alright too, its the healing mechanism in action (and can often look like it gets worse before it gets better when, really, its the last bastion of fear). To return to that place is like returning to Eden only better for all the new perspective we gained since we “left”. You could say its like shining a new light on Eden, a “place” we get to appreciate and understand all the more for the intensity of the shadows we have encountered since we were last there.


new-light-on-eden-new-smallIn total “coincidence” with all of the above – though clearly not! – I finished a painting that I had been working on all summer during the first week of reading Clow’s book and already had the title formulating in my mind “New Light on Eden”. Its completion was delayed while I played long and hard with the rays of light and the necessity for “more shadow” to make the composition work. Of course, I see now – to a whole new level – what that painting was really depicting at its fullest potential and how working towards what you see here was one of the ways that I reached the place of my own “return” which, at multiple levels that are far more complex than I can possibly share, feels more complete than I have ever experienced before in this life or any other so far.

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A longing for waterfalls

Think of it as that feeling you get when you’re next to a waterfall…When negative ions are freely available, we think more clearly, feel most positive and uplifted, feel creative, inspi…

Source: The positive side of negative

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Realising pure potential

pure-potential-new-smallThe journey of my latest painting shared  this week in my art blog

Source: Painting light

Posted in Art, Art metaphor, Art purpose, Art transformation tool, Consciousness & evolution, Divine feminine, Floral art, Life journey, Menu, Personal Development, Pure potential, Symbolic journeys | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hats of to Roy again

Forty years! Exactly 40 since I first crossed paths with Roy Harper…and last night we were at his 75th anniversary gig so an anniversary for us both, you could say. He was far younger than I am now when we first “met” and now he looks like the wise old man and me…well. That’s forty years out of which I’ve seen him three times, almost four and, when I compare those occasions, last night was like a coming of age, not only to mark all the stages of his life but of mine too. Its one of those moments when a lifelong love of music is seen for what it really is; altogether much more than that, like a parallel road running along side the more obvious path of life, intersecting with it at many key moments.

The first time I (nearly) saw him – had the tickets in my hand – my friend’s dad heard some of his lyrics and live-performance preamble and banned her from going because of sexual references and swear words so I had to sell them and was gutted. I had no one else I could go with as he wasn’t exactly what my 14 year-old peers were listening to at the time. The second time he came past my way was at an intimate gig in the high-Victorian concert hall of Reading town hall across the corridor from the venue of my disastrous first marriage, in a Pre-Raphaelite room designed by my old friend Waterhouse, with an inordinately huge organ and gothic balconies as a backdrop…and there was little Roy on what you could barely call a “platform”, acoustically delivering music (beside his son Nick) with such softly spoken preamble that you felt like we were all cuddled around someone’s fireplace on a dark winter’s night. The third time was at the Colston Hall in Bristol on the night of the huge gales that flattened most of the the West Country half a decade ago (which still didn’t keep us away…) and could have been a bushy-beard and motorbike convention. The audience shouted out “rustic” comments, we got sloshed with beer from other people’s plastic cups and sat next to someone so huge and beer-breathed that we virtually had to share a single seat to cope; it was a memorable night and we were still very glad we went.

This fourth was very different; the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank (a venue I’d never been to before) with its panorama of London landmarks and nest of popular eateries  still spilling their summer-time seating onto the pavements below. We got there after having a “picnic” dinner outside the Tate Modern and going for a circular walk that turned out to be in meaningful juxtaposition with Roy (but that’s another story), also beneath the parade of beautiful plane trees on the South Bank that are under threat of being cut down to make room for a vanity project (the proposed “garden bridge”), the sort of right hand not caring what the left hand is doing scheme that is likely to have made Roy tut a few expletives as well. With the panorama of London all lit up in front of us, we noticed how this place made Roy seem all grown up; not least because of the string arrangements he’d come with. Those arrangements turned out to be sublime and made all the difference this time around; so closely nodding to every nuance of the original ones of David Bedford (no longer with us) that they endorphin-activated all the memory cells of many years spent listening to those original recordings. For more on those and the talented woman who put them together –  Fiona Brice – who was also on stage last night, I recommend her article “Twelve hours of soundcheck” as just hearing what she put together made me so glad we had made the effort to be there.

I need to put that comment into some context; almost six months after I bought the tickets, before we left home for this gig…even more so when we tried to coordinate all the necessary arrangements to make it possible and then catch a train…I had found myself wondering why I was doing this on a Monday night in London. Not my favourite night of the week for doing anything complicated, least of all in September; looking at the rest of the audience, I wondered if the assumption has been that most of his followers were retired and without school-age children. But as soon as I felt that electric frisson as Roy walked onto stage, heard what he had to say, recognised the first bars of one of my favourite songs (and the first in a set that could have been hand-picked just for me), I knew why I was there, why I couldn’t have not been.

When you really hook up with an artist, this is how it feels; and you know you are in for the long run with them because you set them up this way, as a living breathing reminder to yourself of “important things”. In getting to know Roy this well over almost a lifetime, I’ve got to better know myself and that’s a role I wasn’t going to hand out to just anyone…not to some fly-by-night pop icon of the 80s or somebody recording sloppy “cheese”. Many times, I’ve checked in with myself…does Roy still resonate with me? After all, not all the music of so long ago really does any more; my taste and preoccupations have changed hugely and never more so than lately when all I seem to long for is new and fresh, shaking off heavy old lyrics and thinking, for heavens sake, please stop singing about depressing old things. But then, like any great artist, yes he does still resonate; he keeps abreast with me at every growth spurt, his old lyrics revealing new layers and his new ones meeting me just where I am. When an artist is as meaningful to you as this you become, at some level, paired to their own life story like two horses trotting together so that, even through the tough bits (and Roy has been through some of those lately), their journey shines relevance upon your own in ways that feel startlingly meaningful; and then, when they come out the other side again (as he so obviously has), you feel this good news reverberate as “yours” at some level, so then you celebrate (and you grow a little wiser) together.

I once, tongue in cheek, described Roy Harper and Kate Bush as my musical father and mother; they both stepped into my consciousness at a very particular time in my life and at such a tender age (we’re talking the mid 1970s here, before I was even a decade old) and they have both run alongside me all the way. But Kate, like the epitome of the sacred feminine that she kind-of is (if in the way that we have come to equate with rather aloof statues in temples) has proved to be impossibly elusive to me in the physical world; the nearest I’ve got to her is knowing someone who used to be her neighbour, albeit meaning they lived next door to the high wall of her well-guarded estate. The one time she famously came out of self-chosen hiding to put on a concert, I tried and failed to buy tickets…had them in my “basket” and was about to tap in my card details when the booking-line crashed beneath the weight of phone lines gone crazy at the furor of her “coming out” for once and that was that; a heartbreak at the time but now I smile at what it had to tell me.

Roy has never been so elusive; he is earthily available, joining his audience in easy conversation and oh-so mortally flawed…he wears that like a badge and writes songs about it endlessly…yet, to me, he is still the very poster-boy of the sacred masculine in action, though he would probably spit the label out if he heard it. I bought a “green man” to hang on my tree a few weeks ago but couldn’t find the right name until – of course – he’s Roy, he even looks like him (but then he has an album by that very name – “The Green Man” 2000). To me, he epitomizes the heart-space of a man that simply wants to meet with a woman and, with her (never limiting her but watching her fly wildly whilst worshipping her) birth an eternity that feels something like a dappled glade by the water’s edge dotted with forget-me-knots, losing himself in the unfettered union until its time to reach for his guitar and turn it into lyrics again. The romance in his soul is the very essence of that “lost” masculine note in our modern world that longs to be heard once more but finds itself battle-weary and demoralised at the end of an era that has seen him dragged into other people’s messes for far too long. He’s the timeless essence of all the best bits of the masculine, embodied exactly as you’d expect him at age 75…white bearded and craggy-faced and with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. I realise now how I always pitched myself for such a man (one who would always let me fly and worship me just a little) and it altered the course of my life, getting me there in the end.

And love is no torment for we’ll give when we can
And we’ll live in the moment when you are my woman and I am your man.

(Roy Harper – “Commune” 1974)

Yes, there’s still a world-weary note to Roy these days; he said he hadn’t voted one way or the other over Brexit because “it’s a young person’s world now” (though you can tell he still worries about what his generation are leaving behind for those youth…) but there’s also a note of optimism in there…there always is; its what’s fuelled his entire career and he is an undeniable part of the fabric of that newly-birthing world, whether he admits it or not. He helped shake things up so they would have options and a staggering number of people have listened to him for all he’s not mainstream. Listening to him last night from the angle of what felt like a retrospective, such was the emphasis of the song line-up, I felt such gratitude for all the angst and anger his generation stirred to the surface ready to heal the cyst of what came before. What I feel coming “in the future” will be less to do with heated exchange than reconciliation and yet he got us to that very threshold; is part of it and…in his newly tangible mellowness (in his physical persona and his most recent lyrics) I find the promise of an entire world’s coming of age and moving on at last. In witnessing his – of all people’s – new “mellowness” take shape he makes mellowness feel like a possibility for all of us and its no bad thing after what we’ve been through. There’s an air of “we’re all human beings so lets move on now” about Roy and its something we all need to hear. The fierce anger of earlier lyrics has simmered down to the well-seasoned stew of the wise man who has seen it all and for whom optimism glistens on the very whiteness of his beard, even if it’s based on the belief that he won’t be around to tackle other people’s messes in another decade or two. Even “back in the day”, you could perceive all the great optimism that he has tended to equate with “the younger generation” and he still has that in spadefulls; he’s done his bit and knows they will carry it forwards.

Locked in mortal combat as the future shadows loom
The guardian of my spirit fights his way across the room
To where the sick majority infest the myths of doom
But the lanterns of children hold firm in full bloom

(Roy Harper – “Hallucinating Light”, 1975)

Since then, his voice has matured hugely…there is massive resonance in there now; its quite incredible and deeply stirring to hear in a venue like that where a final gutteral sound at the end of a song (I won’t necessarily say “word”; there’s something primal in there at times) had the entire audience holding their breath. Listening to a live recording from the mid 70s just now, the difference between his voice then and now is quite immense and he has only got better. To me, quality of voice (for a singer) tells all about where they’ve been and the layers of Roy can be heard in the richness of the sound he makes. Just as we all tweak and turn the dial of our own vibration across the course of a lifetime’s experience, calibrating what we give out to others to match what we consider to be our own truth, in Roy you can hear what he is about via the tones vibrating from his vocal chords…now rich, powerful, other-worldy at times and utterly arresting when you experience them live helped by those acoustics. His vibration bespeaks a lifetime spent growing a soul and he comes across as more “whole” somehow, less fragmented by pain, than he once did; and sounding far better for it. Its a sound that comes from a heart that appears to be bleeding somewhat less than before. He is so craggy, wizardly and white-haired now, so creased and worn in by his human experience; so unfailingly earnest too that you just have to love him. If I was visiting from another planet and listening to Roy tell one of his stories for the first time, I would want to be a human being like that next time around; he’s a great advert for being what we are, warts and all. He still goes off about some of the things that really piss him off about the state of the world but you mostly get the feeling that he’s had a blast along the way, in spite of all the tougher times, accepting the whole of the ride for the good bits. Yes, he seems to have become more whole against the odds of all kinds of fragmentation that has come his way and, in modelling that, he helps to get us all there; which is what earns him the label “folk singer” I suppose, though I never think of him that way.

This is an optimistic work as are the vast majority of my songs…(laughter)….its true, there isn’t a pessimistic one among them really”

(Roy Harper – live, many years ago)

Our relationships with certain artists become like shining threads of meaning woven through the course of a lifetime. When we hook onto them, its like clipping ourselves onto the kind of ropes that are slung between climbers; you only need to know you are attached at the moments when something happens and you feel that connection tug oh-so meaningfully, often reassuringly, between you. They can be a saving grace you put there without even knowing why at the time. They also act like a spider’s web of understanding outside of time and place; threads flung hither and thither across the linear confusion and seemingly running their own course, outside of the three-dimensional, until suddenly they help you make sense of all of it. In winding your thread around the hook of them, the reminiscence of a song or other artwork that marked a place where you felt “that” too, you create a portal between parts of your own life that can be travelled at will, skipping the linear timelines that can make grasping the broader panoramas of your life a piecemeal and painstaking thing at ground level where the pavement has many cracks. Suddenly, you are on the top floor and confronted with the much bigger picture of it all, a view across the very rooftops of your life…and ropes slung across the landscape by all the music you’ve pegged to certain key points for all these many years.

You come to love such music in an entirely unconditional way since it has nothing to do with fashion, fad or the emotions of immaturity. Through multiple repeat playings, these musical markers become power nodes where you wound your thread so meaningfully around a particular landmark on your life and said “remember to look back at this when the time is right and you’ll make all new sense of it when you do”. Being music that we deeply enjoy, we remember to keep that appointment with ourselves; which is so important and makes all the difference to what we take from it much further down the line. Of course, this happens wherever we plant reminders for ourselves but when the reminder comes via music or other art form, the three-dimensional criss-cross of coincidence opens out to become the temporary north star of our own navigation, pointing us off in a multitude of directions from the pivot point of experience that we are, taking us off along all the pathways of all our own associations built around that particular prompt as well as down the many paths of the song lyrics themselves and those of the artist that delivers them…all these crossing-points suddenly converged as one multi-pointed star. Looking down at the convergence of stage lights on the pinpoint of a fuzzily-outlined guy with white hair and an impressive collection of guitars (I really must remember to take my glasses to these things…), listening to songs that meaningfully skip me across all the decades of my life, I felt like I was looking down at some of the most powerful convergence points of everything that has ever happened to me…all embodied by one person dwarfed on a huge stage seen from up high in the front-row balcony seat of a venue that was his best fit yet. Pull the pin of him out of that life and my “story” would be very different indeed.

And full the single stillness of the mirror that is made
By each and every one of all the colours in a shade
Inside each eye is sitting like the sword inside the blade
And longs for once upon a chance to open love’s cascade

(Roy Harper – The Same old rock 1971)

Listening to Roy, I can fly between some of the most meaningful the portals of my life as he’s hooked-up to the best of them; a pattern I long-ago started to perceive through the mists of time following his thread. As a young woman I would vet budding relationships according to whether they had even heard or Roy or were amenable to listening. Later on his “guidance” came through subtler synchroncities, hinting I was still on my patch. When someone (still) crops up in your music urges as regularly as he has to me (even when you don’t play them all the time any more…not even nearly), you start to sit up and take notice, knowing it has something important to tell you. Why did I buy those Monday night tickets last April, I’d been asking myself; then, remembering where I was back then, which was one of the most powerful completion points of my life to date, putting to bed “old stuff” I felt finished with once and for all, I suddenly knew why I’d made this appointment with Roy, buying tickets on a whim. When you “get” the deeper patterns of your relationship with artists – all kinds of artists – you get the most out of all the times they crop up in your life-story. They forge pathways of “hallucinating light” (Roy Harper – 1975) across your world, making the multidimensional layers multi-meaningful by bringing them up to the surface where you can see them more clearly, reminding you of that thing that Roy now also knows: that “time is temporary”  (Roy Harper – 2013) and what really matters would still be left standing there without it. In getting to know Roy this well, I realise I got to know myself far better than I could have managed on my own.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukOne of the things that I came away with was a profound sense of the past being tied up in a bow with the present, made newly relevant in the here and now where what I thought I knew before was only a page marker. In the preamble to “Another Day” (Roy Harper – 1970), a long-time favourite song of mine that I felt I knew pretty well, he announced it was written many years ago about an unconsumated love (yes, I knew that)…but then he also mentioned it was written while living in an apartment in Copenhagen overlooking one of the long rectangle lakes that we walked home along – sunset after sunset – every night that we were staying there just a few weeks ago, gazing wishfully at apartment windows like I was looking for a clue of something familiar that once happened there. Suddenly this new layer of personal significance, lit up from within an “old friend” of a song, took the deeply familiar to a whole new dimension like a wash of colour to all those old-familiar words…and life is like that these days; just when you think you know something really well it gets even better, the colours turned up. Thinking back to all those tranquil pairs of swans gliding on pure molten gold in Copenhagen for what probably felt, after a few days, like “Twelve hours of sunset” (Roy Harper – 1974), I wanted to share with him my insight that perhaps the unconsummated relationship he had been singing about for nigh on fifty years had been fulfilled at a whole other level, the essence of something long caught-up between men and women in general “addressed” and thus transformed through the words of a song. Like all great poets, he takes universal themes of pain and loss then spins them into pure gold as art form against the very tide of a Rumpelstiltskin game that would have us all done-in and demoralised by our own trials and tribulations otherwise. Art forms such as his have kept us a afloat across the lashing seas of an era and – I think – delivered us safely to another shore. As the very boat builder with his words, I hope he knows that too.

Oh really my dear I can’t see what we fear
Sat here with ourselves in between us.

(Roy Harper – Another day, 1970)

In the end, you got me Roy…you made me choke up, we were both wiping tears in the end and  we weren’t the only ones as the standing ovations rolled. Of course, it was the encore of “When an old cricketer leaves the crease” (Roy Harper – 1975) that did me in but then it made me want to cry just a little when I was a girl. As this old cricketer made his way off the stage , I had a steady knowing that he would be back some time soon…either at the “Roy” Festival Hall for yet another birthday celebration or maybe to play out another role in his next lifetime (though I suspect he still doesn’t believe in all that); and hopefully one where he can afford to be just a little less pissed-off about the state of the world.


Title alludes to the song “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” – Led Zeppelin (1970)

Another great review in the Telegraph

Posted in Art purpose, Consciousness & evolution, Divine feminine, divine masculine, Music & theatre, Symbolic journeys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catching onto the coat-tails of the cosmos

Its been such an energetic week, we’ve been travelling through a high-speed solar wind with extraordinarily high levels of geomagnetic activity plotted like massive skyscrapers of bright oranges and reds on the spaceweather websites (just landing back into the greens now) and no let-up day or night over the weekend. When this happens, I feel it in my body…I mean REALLY feel it as both charging me up and exhausting me all at once; and I’m not the only one. Other family members joined me in noting the effects this time, from racing heartbeats to unexplained nausea, bolts of tooth pain and lying awake feeling “electric” in the middle of the night. My dog certainly feels it when it happens, registering it as upset tummies and spooked behaviour that has him jumping up at his own shadow or pacing the floor at night. Friends all over the place, even across the other side of the world, have mentioned the week’s high-intensity vibe to me this week, telling me they can’t seem to think or settle to anything, that they feel worn out without doing anything or like they are plugged into the electricity mains. I think, in general, more and more of us are picking up on the fairly obvious reality that we don’t live in a glass bubble separate to everything…we’re literally part of space!

WaveWhen we’re on a ride like this, one of the first things I have to do is significantly reduce my use of technology, acting (as it does) as the straw that breaks the camel’s back of my extreme electro-sensitivity. There have been days when I’ve kept the wi-fi router and even unnecessary household appliances switched off so that I can cope with the intense “buzz” in my cells this last week and I’ve made sure to kick off those shoes and ground myself outdoors. To read more about all that (the symptoms, ways of coping, even positives), hop over to my health blog where you can find this week’s post “Living with electro-sensitivity“.

However, what is so interesting is that, as the energies peak or…often…in what turns out to be the finale of a long and intense wave of solar energy, I almost can’t resist the OCD urge to get back on technology for a few hours…usually to research something, to get my teeth into the kind of multi-faceted, fast-thinking, incredibly detailed and therefore extremely juicy project that involves sorting-through, eliminating and honing piles of data towards a desired “conclusion”. In short, I geek out on something; usually a project I had no idea I was going to start until I did and then I make it my obsessive and single-focused life’s mission (for a day or so) to complete it!

Looking back, I know that there have been times (before I even recognised I had electro-sensitivity) that I would turn that obsessive urge inward by researching projects with a negative focus or over-thinking things that didn’t serve me. There’s something about the sheer intensity of a pulsing wave of energy direct from the sun that fires up the cells so much it must be run with and, if not consciously directed, will take the compulsively self-destructive route and agitate you in all the least helpful ways until you’re spent with emotional exhaustion or physical malaise. If I stayed on technology throughout the wave, I could find myself (in the “old days”) watching rubbish TV or geeking out on questions like “what’s wrong with me?”

What I notice, these days, is that – as long as I disconnect from technology for long enough to ground myself first – there’s a trend of researching holiday destinations and really left-field yet positive aspirations for the future during these high-energy times. In fact, looking back, I see clearly how some of the best trips of my life were planned on the tail-winds of such high-intensity cosmic energies that I started the “project” as a means of distracting myself from the pain I was in. Our most recent holiday to Scandinavia was researched, wrapped-up and booked during one of the most intense bursts of cosmic energy of last year; a day I was in so much fist-clenching pain and intense inward-focus that I couldn’t cope with anything outside of myself including interactions with other people  (it was on a Sunday and we had a house-full of chattering people) so I just sat there in my PJs and obsessed about this very sudden idea I had that we should first go to Denmark and then, from there, to Sweden, places I had never even considered before. By the end of that day I had nine-tenths of the holiday mapped out and reserved and it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life….as they always do!!

During this last week of high-intensity, I largely kept off the computer but, when I was on there, I wrote on subjects I’ve been wanting to talk about for some time (the post above being a point in case) or on topics that newly-occured to me out of the blue and with an intensity that matched the solar current. Since then, I worked on plans for a couple of trips this year and next, including one to the Pembrokeshire coast that I didn’t see coming and which is now all booked and so perfectly-formed that I feel like it was just handed to me tied with a bow. When I first considered the destination (which began as somewhere else entirely…but Pembrokeshire kept suggesting itself), I set out to find something super-modern and architectural inside yet in a tranquil and remote place near the sea with starry skies and, of-course, dog-friendly; which turned out to be a near-impossible brief to myself. In the same way as I seem to have cleared away so much nostalgia for “the past”, I seem to have had quite enough of low ceilings and quaint, old-fashioned, cobwebby interiors and chintz these days…but garish floral patterns and terribly dated interiors still rule supreme in the world of holiday rentals and there were such a lot of so-called options fitting those descriptions to be trawled though. What I found – and knew was “mine” instantly –  was more perfect than I could have hoped for; Griff Rhys Jones’ architect’s dream of a barn refurbishment (subject of a TV documentary…though I don’t watch TV so I wouldn’t know) in a stunningly remote spot under the stars by the sea. I’m so thrilled! I feel like I was led there by a thread of golden impulses that I got better and better at interpreting as I turned up my research dial to wharp speed.

What is so fascinating is watching how dynamically I whip through all the available information on whatever I happen to be researching during these kind of energies. When I’m in that kind of a current, I flip through mountains of data but seem to know instinctively where to pause and apply the weight of my attention. I might slow down to look at other worthy contenders but something in my gut tells me immediately that they are not quite right, even when all the information and countless glossy images or raving reviews suggest otherwise. I feel into what I’m seeing, following subtle clues and diving down rabbit holes that turn into shortcuts that appear to guide me back up to the surface at just the right place and time to find what I was really looking for, even if I didn’t know that I was. And I’m remarkably fast doing all of this – even though I’m sifting through a potential mindfield of mistakes (not knowing the area well enough from personal experience to take leaps in the dark, you might think…and yet, somehow, I know I’m safely on track). This speed makes it seem like I’m not looking at things very thoroughly at all…only I am, though not exclusively with my eyes.  When it comes to finding what is best for me and mine (which is what we are all world specialists in, after all) this method never lets me down and when we are in a slip-stream of cosmic energies, I only seem to get better at it; carried along on a wave of intuitive genius.

What these energies seem to particularly hook you up to…if you are open to being hooked…is the energy of pure “future potential”. You get “shown” little go-ahead lights that say, quite adamantly, “come this way” (or not) and…if you trust them…you get there all the sooner; in fact, time seems to morph into whole new shapes and rhythms using synchronicity and flow as its markers in lieu of clock-hands. Plans orchestrate together with remarkable ease, you sense you are working with the universe as your personal assistant by your side and the feeling of being on a golden trail lit up by a pathway of personal markers and clues is quite addictive, like a natural “high” that has you electrically fizzing but in such a good way. In fact, everything you do feels inspired and (in my case) is relatable to following the most creative surges of inspiration when I’m painting; those that take me somewhere new and exciting in my work. In moments of hesitation, you learn, the answer is probably “no” but perhaps you also need to step away and boil the kettle, walk the dog, take a moment in the garden. Once you feel clear again, you just know which way you are going, which “thing” is calling you to it. Its usually the one seems to asserts itself in a whole different way to all the other choices on the table (like it is literally “lit up” in your mental pictures of all the options) and even when logistical niggles and left-brained considerations try to make themselves heard (such as the thing you are most drawn to “costs more” than the one you feel you ought to choose) you sense strongly that this isn’t important and should be over-ridden; that it will all come right in unforeseen ways if you go with the “golden choice” and that this is is clearly the one with your name on it.

Looking back, this method of choosing has been with me forever and its never disappointed. It was a family joke years, many years ago, that this was always how I chose restaurants. On one trip to Rome when the kids were very young, I marched the hungry family past countless over-full restaurants, shaking my head “no” to them all, before taking a handful of sharp turnings down a maze of narrow back streets (though I’d never been here before; well, not in this lifetime anyway) and walked us all straight to a beautiful table just inside the doorway of a vine-clad restaurant in a tucked-away courtyard, one of the most unforgettable places we have ever eaten; and, oh, how we made memories that night. Using this resource is how I chose to take some of the biggest, scariest – and most fruitful – gambles of my life; the ones that see me happily married and circumstantially blessed in more ways than I can count whilst keenly aware of just how near I came to missing all those most-important junctions. I have used this skill set to wonderful advantage – but haven’t always used it with such conscious appreciation and TRUST – and I believe it is a skill that is fully available to all of us, in every moment (and sometimes just a little more super-powered than others). Its here right now; you can feel it when you fully open to its potential.

Planning holidays might seem a very trivial thing to apply this skill set to yet these trips invariably provide me with some of the most earth-shattering inspiration and moments of personal breakthrough of my year; the kind that break open old paradigms and feed my greatest leaps of evolution (not to mention my next wave of painting and creating). And, I only realise now, every holiday of the last half decade was inspired by the swirling, whirling tail winds of energies like these!

Whatever these bursts of comic energy bring to us (I tripped upon a wonderful reference to them it the book I’m currently reading*, which describes this energy as “galactic nectar”) and challenging though they can seem physically, they are not, in my opinion, this malevolent thing that people tend to assume they are, as though we are being bombarded with radiation and victimised by our galactic environment. Its, rather, a case that when we block the natural influx with our other, more limited, preoccupations and the constant buzz of man-made electrical equipment, we don’t “hear” what it has to tell us and so it has to keep knocking at our door….so why not open to it, welcome it in. By turning off all those other things for long enough to attune to the natural frequencies that desire to communicate with us, we get onto their  wavelength (or, you could say, we get back onto ours). Its then that we get to run with the universe, to ride with it and jump on board its unlimited impulses, like riding a surfboard on the crest of a wave….exhilerated beyond words and trusting it to take us where it will; which we may not be able to plan for but we can guarantee it will be somewhere perfectly wonderful.


* Quote referred to “the nectar from the Galactic Center incites us to remember our connections with ancient wisdom” –  from Barbara Hand Clow “Awakening the Planetary Mind: Beyond the Trauma of the Past to a New Era of Creativity”

 

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Breaking out of tradition

SlinkyWhen I was very young, my impulse was always to excitedly push forwards along some perceived highway of no visible end, whose route was bordered by surprises, to want to stride or possibly work out how to fly to get ever further across that borderless landscape and to see everything that came my way, guided by impulse. If I close my eyes now, I can experience once again just a hint of the excitement that used to flower in the pit of my stomach when I considered what lay up ahead which, I knew, needed no predictors…I loved that it was filled to the brim with the unknown. I assumed, this being just the beginning, that there must be so much in store for me up ahead; that repetition was unnecessary in such a world. I see now how the stronger impulse of life, once life got going, was to force me to live in circles; like I was a kid being called in from exploring outside…to sit down with my hands on my knees and told to do what I was expected to do, as we have apparently always done it, then to keep on marking the occasions that had gone before with an endless repeat of the same.

Seasons have long held me in…traditions…anniversaries… As a consummate synaesthete, I have always visualised my journey through time as travelling a “road” that resembles a coil, each time of the year arranged above the previous matching seasons so that I could almost jump between the layers of time just as easily as I could continue travelling forwards. “Doing the same things” year-on-year reinforced that, held my years in ever tighter, like a spring in a box…its full potential not full explored; a pile of circles held in place by these clips that held everything neatly in place. Is this how we all learn to live our lives…until we literally run out of spring? When I first started letting go of those things that pinned my experiences down in this way…started experimenting…time felt like one of those slinky toys let of it’s packaging, charging down the staircase of my childhood home, unleashed, audacious and exuberant again.

Impossible to list all the complex and subtle ways I have let go of tradition and habitual behaviours over the last half decade but a more obvious example is just how much I feel “in neutral” about Christmas approaching now. You know, that one-day event that, for more than half the population of the world, preoccupies their every-second thought in the third portion of the year, their whole world fitted around and culminating in that one date like their very lives depended on it. These days, I don’t drink, don’t eat meat let alone the big heavy roasts that I used to, don’t eat confectionary, cakes, don’t watch tv or listen to insipid music or radio stations, don’t shop in any conventional way, don’t throw open house for distant relatives or loose acquaintances, don’t buy “stuff” out of habit, for the fleeting high of shopping, to compete with others or, indeed, at all unless it’s a well-considered acquisition and either beautiful, useful or both. So what are we going to do this christmas? Yet there’s no sadness in the question, only curiosity. Its been a tenuous tradition in our family for almost half a decade and, I realise, is now hanging by hardly a thread but, in paring it down to what’s truly important to us, we’ve made room for something new to arise and I am curious to see what that is. By and large, I see now how Christmas entrained me to embrace repetition, honing in that childlike impulse to pursue excitement and turning it into the once-a-year promise of a thrill in return for trading in so many more of my excited impulses.Well, I for one would rather get excited all year around about a myriad of other things. I still expect to decorate a tree, go for winter walks, light fires, be grateful and spend even more focused, precious time in the company of loved ones; but I won’t be orchestrating any of that, or giving it a second thought until it pretty-much happens. The relief is massive. I no longer feel held down to an action-replay of all the previous Decembers of my life!

The thing is, I haven’t lost anything by taking these traditions out of the protective wrappers that had mummified the habits of a lifetime into the stuck-points of my experience; and I have gained far more than I imagined. When the coil expands, light slips in between the layers. You can still “see” what you did at this season before but those memories are less dictatorial. The curiosity around what is currently arising is much stronger, more vivid. You realise you are dealing with what is, not what you expected to be there.

I realise that the labyrinth I recently walked (my post Walking the Labyrinth) reenacted this phenomenon for me so that I could become even more powerfully aware of it. Through its many 180 degree turns, we found that – as we all spread out along its route, walking at different paces – we arrived at situations where we seemed to be very close to each other, shoulder to shoulder at times and yet, in terms of the path we were on, we were actually very far apart, standing in very different parts of the journey. Many footsteps lay in between one person and the other and yet the illusion of being “in the same place”was quite over-bearing at times so the eyes tried to insist what was not so. That’s just how life can feel in our relationship with previous versions of ourselves…we think we have traveled very far, achieved so much and “wallop” its New Year again or the same people are visiting, saying the same things and its as though we have landed right back where we started, as in a game of snakes and ladders. We peer over the walls and fences of time and the external similarities of the landscape try to tell us we are exactly who were were a year, a decade, a whole lifetime ago…even though we have traveled untold distances in between and we have a tendency to fall for that illusion the more it is sured up by repetitious behaviour.

We were right the first time: we have travelled very far indeed but life trips us up into thinking we are held back to things that stopped being part of what we choose for ourselves long long ago. Christmas…being with other family members…is particularly good at that. Music can do that in a nano-second; two bars and we’re right back there and I notice the new impulse in myself, these days, is to constantly seek out new music and to move on from it once it becomes too heavily associated with time or place. Seasons, anniversaries, traditions all prompt us to go back there, suggest we are closer than we are to the times when long-ago things happened – like a wormhole through time – and yet we are light years away measured in footsteps, breaths, moments of consciousness. We realise all at once, time is an illusion and yet, while in this body, the experience of “now” is all important, is where we most emphatically place attention to get the most out of it all…not peering down these wormholes of repetition, beguiling and insistent as they are. It can be as hard as giving up an addiction to shake off the constricts of habit and tradition yet so worth it to survey the fresh borderless landscape ahead.

“Be here, now” has become the very mantra of my recovery – in terms of health and of liberating myself from all the calcified thoughts and emotions of the amalgam of prior experiences that I know I had become before I came to understand this. The now is an interface that offers me everything I need to take my next best step forwards; when I trust it to do so, it will intuitively offer up anything that I need to recall from “the past” (will spontaneously play that song at me that bridges the experiences  I needed to help me perceive the connection between different parts of my lives, for instance) without me prompting it or forcing it along. This has become the dance of a new reality that is birthing a lightness of experience that, I suspect, is like nothing I have ever enjoyed before from within the human experience.

Tradition can feel like it grounds us, holds us safe on the familiar soil of our world; and there is such a lot of fear around disrespecting the past, its ways and inhabitants, those things they put themselves through to get us here. The seasons rhythmically comfort us like the rocking arms of a cradling mother, reassuring us that we are safe, held and nurtured in the embrace of something far bigger than we allow ourselves to accept that we are. Yet when we let go of all these as the determining factors of our experiences and allow the tightly coiled impulses of many lifetimes pull asunder, to limber up and snap out of their restraints and to leap where they will again, we put the spring back into life and we reach closer to our potential, like tiny steps suddenly made giant.

This can be exhilarating beyond words and, above all, sweeps us up in the knowing that whatever happens now is uniquely ours, not somebody else’s pattern. When we let go of old fixed patterns, it’s not that we are suddenly devoid of patterns in our lives…but, rather, that far more uniquely perfect, divinely inspired ones start to assert themselves through the rhythms of our lives. They sing their exquisite melodies through the so-called accidents of synchronicity and convergence, through intuition and quick-step impulses, delivering lyrics to a song we might have missed hearing altogether in the habitual hymnal of our old life. On hearing them, this becomes the point when life stops being conditional upon mundane circumstance and becomes something with its own set of wings.

 

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On the insistence upon proof

I happened to watch a film last night called “The man who knew infinity”, attracted by its title and the prospect of a deep dive into my polar opposite…the world of pure maths (or, I’m left wondering, is it really so very dissimilar to my way of experiencing things after all). I had a gut feeling this film was going to prove topical to me: the more I immerse myself in the higher dimensions, the more I appreciate how mathematics is simply another expression of the divine workings of the universe made manifest in patterns that we can see, those same patterns that form the main preoccupations of my writing in this space.

In summary, the film’s plot is based on the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) from India who, basically, channelled maths formulas that solved some of the great mysteries of where mathematics was at that time. Without significant schooling or a degree to explain his aptitude, he woke up with them fully formed on the tip of his tongue or when he prayed, meditated, walked in nature. Attempting to describe what the pages and pages of apparently meaningless squiggles in his notebook are to his wife in the film, he tells her that to him they are something like a painting, full of colour, beauty, patterns and meaning….and they all lead him to god. He looks at everything in his world through a mathematician’s eyes, seeing patterns in everything (not unlike me), in every grain of sand, in the leaves and the behaviour of birds; and to not see it thus would have made his world quite meaningless…but he finds an affirmative of the existence of god in every perfect equation and this is what drives him on.

His talent is wasted in India under the Raj and he feels he has something important to share so he manages to catch the attention of Professor G.H. Hardy at Cambridge University and travels there to seek publication of his notebooks. Of course, racial prejudice aside, most people there also receive him with utter suspicion and disdain, their noses put out of joint by this upstart who claims to have answers to problems they have been wrestling with for most of their careers. They demand proof and so, rather than getting straight to the business of publishing his earlier work and continuing onwards with it, he is set to the tedious business of attending lectures with the other students and “proving” his existing theories hold water. His mentor, a self-declared atheist, refuses to accept Ramanujan’s insistence that his method is entirely intuitive and that he is led forwards by god: “You wanted to know how I get my ideas. God speaks to me” he tells him but Hardy can only believe in Ramanujan and his maths, not in the underlying source of his inspiration, incredible though these are. This conundrum stays with Hardy until after Ramanujan has died at which point, you are left suspecting, he is at least starting to open to the possibility that his whole life work had only ever been leading him, ever more irrefutably, towards the existence of a divine truth at the centre of everything.

Of course, with poetic irony given how much time you feel has now been wasted in seeking these “proofs”, this extraordinary man’s life turns out to be extremely short. Forced into his shell at Cambridge by cultural differences that made it impossible for him to eat in the refectory with other students (he was a strict vegetarian), he became ill and died at the age of 32, shortly after his return to India. Ironically, almost everything he ever wrote down turned out to be “proovable”; a final notebook that materialised in the mid 1970s turning out to hold groundbreaking new formulas that are now being used to make sense of the behaviour of black holes, a discovery compared to finding Beethoven’s tenth symphony.

The question has to be, why was his direct journey to source…for source was what he was communicating with, is what intuition always puts us most directly in touch with…diverted into the tedious and unnecessary business of having to prove his work to those who were still having to use step-by-step processes to reach the same conclusions? Why slam on his brakes when he was already there and could have been delivering so much more information, in his short lifetime, than he was given free gallop to publish for others to make sense of at their leisure? Some collaboration with those who reach their conclusions by more methodical routes is, of course, desirable…and approximately speaking the same language is always a promising start to such teamwork…but subserving one method so completely to the other to the point of outlawing the intuitive, making it the silly cousin of the established scientific approach feels archaic and shortsighted. It feels like a breakdown in communication between two approaches to knowing what we do that  should actually be close working companions; like the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Who knows what extraordinary leaps they could take together…

What also struck me was just how similar his process was (in ways I had never admitted about maths before although the film “A beautiful mind” started me considering this) to when I grab pen or paintbrush in hand to channel “what I already know” but which I still cower in putting forwards in case it draws criticism from those who would say “prove it, prove this is real, that you have the credentials”. When I paint, I realise, I too am finding my way back to god or to source with every brushstroke…just as Ramanujan declared he was doing with his equations. And when I’ve sent those paintings out into the world, I have watched every bit as anxiously to see if others see god or source in there…and when they have failed to see what I see (or have fixated on where I learned to do what I do…”where did you train?” the question forever ringing in my ears), I have felt disregarded and sidelined just as Ramanujan did at Cambridge since I fit into nobody’s pre-existing niche. The truth that my energy-infused painting and my writing and theorising across several blogs about my own health recovery and the so-called pseudo-science of how state of consciousness relates to health, about energy and how we interact with our environment, the landscape and the universe at large, how multidimensional and quantum perspectives open up everything we experience right down to the cells of our body, how consciousness informs the material world and not the other way around…all of this just comes to me, is undeniable to me and wants to be shared though I offer no proof for any of it and seldom seek to backup my own instincts with existing data, quotes, research as those are not my domain yet still I feel what I share is worth sharing. Almost without knowing it, I realise I have sought approval and recognition from those who overlook what I put out because it is not delivered by conventional means and, in doing so, have slowed down and held back my own process by their terms, setting myself the same benchmark of “prove it” that I really want nothing to do with; I’m not here to be more of the same. I realise, suddenly, that time is too short for that and the only person slowing me down to other people’s “prove it” criteria is, well, me.

I am still unravelling the many threads that watching this film started unpicking for me but one thing I noticed is how I find I am able to call a truce with left-side pursuits such as maths and science just as soon as I notice that their innate process of using and following intuition and of following a path towards god or source is no different, really, than mine. Where the rift has occurred – for me, perhaps for the whole modern world – has been where left-brainedness has become synonymous with this absolute insistence upon demonstration of every step that took you to that brand new place using pre-existing yardsticks; that nothing is considered anything in this current world paradigm (which is, I believe, about to change) without irrefutable proof first which is, in most cases, putting the cart before the horse. One of my favourite quotes from Einstein is “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” and I believe this as a fundamental start-point to all problem solving , in light of which demanding “proof” is like a noose dragging you back inside that old paradigm and holding you prisoner there.

Intuition is like a spiral staircase with a pinprick of light at its top, leading you up inside the very core of a brick tower that represents the substance of everything you think you know already. Though you have only seen the higher levels of the tower from the distorted perspective of the ground outside and looking up, you think you have the advantage of daylight and prefer to keep your feet on the ground while studying every brick with binoculars; compared to which the staircase can seem unfathomably dark and leads who knows where – you can’t even predict what is at the next level as all you have is that dot of light leading you on into the unknown. Looking up from the ground seems safer, your footing less unsure and you can see where others have been before, measure yourself against that. Yet when you are prepared to take the staircase – the route of intuition, led by the miniscule-seeming light in the far distance – you can feel its power just as soon as you step into the new, broader space of one of an infinite number of rooms that form viewing platforms off that staircase and, from that perspective, things start to fall into place in an entirely new and miraculous way…plus you just know there are even more viewing platforms up above; ones which will make the old view of things seem very antiquated indeed, in fact everything will change beyond recognition as we prepare to let go of the sure footing that once represented proof of all we thought we knew. This is how we evolve and, when we allow the staircase to lead us into the heart of the tower instead of becoming so-called experts of what we can see all at once with our eyes on the outside in daylight, we find ourselves surveying a whole new reality that just keeps on expanding and expanding…we just need to trust what is leading us there and feel our way towards it without insisting on looking back. Sometimes, those steps cannot be minutely explained or recreated under laboratory conditions at the point when the initial intuition opens a new crack in the fabric of reality but the “proof” is in the outcome; the step closer to god or to source that you suddenly know…quite undeniably…that you just took.

 

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) – film starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons

The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Films, Life choices, Life journey, Meditation, Spirituality, Symbolic journeys, Universe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Leading me up the garden path

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukIf I knew something interesting had started with that greeting card (with my painting of Charleston on it) that I found in a shop the day before we travelled – see my last post Making Tracks – then I knew it more when the weather that delivered on the day of our visit to Charleston turned out to be nothing like what I had painted in my head. Heavy rain came rolling in during the morning (where we were at least able to duck and dive into St Michael & All Angels Church, Berwick and under trees in the churchyard) and held off while we were on the guided tour of the inside of Charleston Farmhouse…only to become a heavy deluge of water tipping by the bucket-full from the sky as we came back out to see the gardens. This was not what I had imagined at all; I had only ever seen Charleston in idyllic sunshine and had, of course, pictured the same again for our wedding anniversary re-visit. What had gone wrong with all my wishful thinking?

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukYet, prompted by the reality that there was absolutely nothing we could do about it – we were here now, on this day, and this was what it had delivered – we made the best of it…put on the embarrassing waterproofs and did what we could to create a dry hideaway for our cameras at the front of our coats before setting off into that dripping wet garden with its constant overhang and overgrowth of saturated leaves wanting to brush against everything you had. An obvious benefit was that (rare for August) we had the entire place to ourselves while the teashop filled-up to the brim with gently steaming visitors holding their prized table for the length of many dawdling sips of lukewarm liquid so as not to have to go outside again; we considered that but prefered to be out in the garden….even with jeans so wet they were quickly leaden with water. There was nothing left to do but keep laughing!

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukAnd then, of course, everything glistened; the fruit, especially, glistened as though freshly varnished and the petals hugged droplets of water like glass teardrops perfectly poised. We got to marvel at the way the bees knew how to line up with their backs to the wind and hang upside down beneath the flower heads – one on each bloom – until the rainshower was over. We got that kind of light that is clear and crisp, not washed-out and without subtlety as on a typical summer’s day. The velvet reds “zinged” and the greens looked like freshly squeezed life-zest personified; vibrant and rejuvenating to receive with all the senses. One of the gifts was the unexpected juxtaposition of a dripping-wet female form peeking out through vivid wet leaves and abundantly ripe fruit; her wet face had something to tell me and it was nothing at all about tears. I loved this reinvention of Charleston’s landscape and they have turned out to be the best photos I ever took of the gardens; all of which you can see here.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukOur onwards trip to Brighton saw, at last, the end of the rain but the follow-up of unseasonably high winds which, at least, helped to blow-dry us a little more than the fan in the car had so far managed to do. The golden light on the choppy sea delivered abundant gifts of silhouetted magic where the burnt-out pier might otherwise have been an old eyesore and I will never think again of that beach as a bland seaside destination of deckchairs and icecreams, having now experienced it with far more feist in its tail, whipping and whirling its force into hair-spiralling patterns while seagulls rooted themselves to the beach rather than risk the mayhem of attempting anything on the wing…this was a day for holding on to what kept you most grounded while enjoying the show. Again, our day was nothing but the unexpected, a theme which continued with our long-planned anniversary meal out (which is food for another story); not quite what we expected at all but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukBack to Berwick’s tiny painted church, which is where my day began…though the same church I visited five years ago, an openess to “what’s different, what do you want me to experience here” brought different themes to the fore to those that I most noticed the first time. What spoke to me most, this time, were the painted door panels to the altar, the yin and the yang of the full moon and the high sun reflected into the same gentle pool under a tree. (Having spent the previous evening under a full moon at St Leonard’s beach, where the moonlight led me to the waters edge and then “went out” succumbing me to almost pitch darkness as the seawater pulsed against my legs, the theme of moon and water and qualities of the light particularly spoke to me). I experienced the feminine aspect as being particularly close at hand in this space and the reminder that, where male and female meet, there may well be different qualities playing out but the underlying theme of tree, light and water remain constant was a timely one. I like also that this church interior was a literal collaboration of man and woman: Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, the gender-crossed lovers of a lifetime’s love who whose long-running heartache (was I imagining it…did I feel it this time, weeping out of the walls?) was described to us so amply by the excellent guide at Charleston later. Vanessa was deeply in love with Duncan Grant for the whole of her life https://flic.kr/s/aHskGTceC3from the moment she met him but, since Grant was gay (and though they had a brief affair, resulting in the birth of a daughter, Angelica…who then had her own cross to bear when she finally uncovered all the convoluted secrecy around her parentage), Bell was subjected to many years of watching from the sidelines as he pursued relationships with same-gender lovers who stayed in the house where they all lived together at Charleston. In the union of their art and their friendship, this place (St Michael & All Angels’s church) had drawn a gender criss-cross into its space – much like other churches I have been to where dragon lines cross – exploding vivid colour onto all of its walls through the genius of their paintbrushes. Yet, as a meeting place of yin and yang, I was detecting an imbalance and, perhaps, a feeling of unfinished business in the air; a sadness that left me feeling something was left unresolved by their tangled relationship antics; the church was as lovely as ever but I wanted to be outside where the yew trees stood near an ancient mound and those endless though rain-misted views. If I’m honest, this time around, I was a little put off from my art-appreciation by a bearded male God on his throne…I just kept coming back to that sun and moon, tree and water as own truth captured as their nearest earthly essence.

https://flic.kr/s/aHskGTceC3Perhaps the Bloomsbury set had got very close to realising something in the open-house approach to love and creation that they adopted and yet (was this why I now felt ready to graduate from this culture, to not hold them in high reverence so much as regarding them as a useful stepping stone to my own realisation of something closer to harmonious and without the perpetual sting in its tail) I felt almost like I was here to say goodbye to the place and what it represented this time. While I initially declared myself surprised at this impulse, I suddenly realised I had known this all along, from the very moment I arranged the trip. I couldn’t help wondering if too much immersion in the feminine had been the undoing of them; the place lacked balance in the real, collaborative, meet-in-the middle sense that I am constantly feeling for…the male aspect felt marginalised and, when it forced its way in (as Bell’s estranged husband did when he decided he wanted to live there, claiming all the best rooms in the house for his own use because he had the money to call all the shots) things got ugly. Bell lost her great love to all his other male lovers and, of course, that other great love of her life, her son Julian, to the Spanish Civil war even though he was meant to be safely driving ambulances rather than immersed in the fighting, which is what she persuaded him to do. It feels like she never really made her peace with the masculine aspects of her world; they just seem to come claiming whatever was most important to her and whisking it away and there was something in the very air of the place, this time, that felt left irrevocably saddened by the experience of their bohemian experiement, like an soufflé that had gone flat and had used up more than its quota of eggs in the making. I decided to put the Bloomsbury experience down as an interesting experiment to consider, something to chalk up on the wall…for them and (for the last 30 years) for me.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukBerwick was still the exquisitely lovely church  that I had remembered it as and, like the first time, I loved it a little better for having the blown-out windows (a so-called casualty – I think, improvement – of Word War II) that allowed Nature to come inside and meet with the brickwork and the unadulterated light of day to dance and collaborate with the colours. The tangible presence of the sacred feminine was so obviously there for me this time especially in the corner by the twin pair of clear-glass windows overlooking the rear churchyard view of trees adjacent to the ancient mound of far greater antiquity than the church that I was determined to step upon, even in the rain. I was mindful of the fact that, not far away from here…passed on the road we had taken, the Long Man of Wilmington is carved out of the chalky hillside; a far more meaningful landmark for me, this time, than before as I realised recently that it forms the eastern base corner of a pyramid of sacred landscapes that have been the power-node hotspots of my life, all pivoting on where I now live; a “map” I drew up one day for the fun of it and was astonished by the accuracy of its synchronicities. And those sticks he holds…people speculate what they are all but, to me now, they are so obviously the male and female telluric energy forces that I suspect cross over in that spot just two miles from St Michael’s church door. So, perhaps it is telling me, this church…the people associated with it…are getting very close but are still a little way off from an actual, equal, crossing point of the male and female aspects; a small distortion still evident in their particular skew on things and the distinct feeling I took away with me when we travelled on to Charleston Farmhouse. I was also left wondering whether what Bell and Grant represented in terms of a male and female collaboration “worked” in the sheltered circumstance of a church where pristine ideals are upheld by the very brickwork and tradition of the place but was far more challenging to realise “outside” in the real world where things can get messy; and the kind of balance that I seek for myself is something I expect to be able to take with me wherever I go and through all of life’s situations…but then, I don’t believe you need a church in order to communicate with the source of all you are. At Charleston, they had tried to instigate rules to protect themselves and, like the rules for spirituality that churches like to enforce, these had not proved sufficient to cushion or enlighten them in matters of the heart; and only love that meets equally in the middle can make such rules obsolete.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukThe house tour at Charleston was the best one so far out of three visits (my first taking place in 1989…not long after the house was rescued for posterity after the death of the last of its long-time artistic inhabitants; about whom there is a plethora of information to be found so I won’t bother to go there). Our guide, who was full of interesting anecdotes about the unusual relationships that took place under that roof (to paraphrase the oft-used quote, alluded to in an earlier post , the Bloomsbury group lived in squares [they met in Bloomsbury Square], painted in circles [Vanessa Bell’s trademark] and loved in triangles…) seemed to pick up where my parting feelings at Berwick’s church left off. There was a tangible air of unresolved grief in the walls of this place that I was far less aware of before and which, it occurred to me, I was no longer inclined to gloss over or pretend was a palatable part of this so-called halcyon way of living for art and for friendship just so long as they were all free to do as they pleased. The people who lived here were a fairly messed-up bunch and I was left feeling unamused by some of the anecdotes of how they walked over each other in the name of the friendships that were considered sacrosanct through thick and thin and all manner of shoddy behaviour. It seems to me, a lot of love went out the window in the www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukname of this pursuit of freedom and Angelica Garnett, the daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, alludes to this in the title of her autobiography “Deceived with kindness”. When she tried to live here after the death of Grant in 1978, she found she was able to stomach it for only a very brief period of time before the memories and unhappy feelings that came speaking out at her from the very walls became too much and I can well believe it. This time, I felt it too and I was quite ready to move on to the garden…even in the pouring rain. When those rains came down, it was like a relief actually…like all the emotional debris in those walls could just be washed away in a moment. The art and the history of the place is fascinating; the gardens (as they were to Vanessa Bell) were a healing balm and I lapped up every rainy inch of them for as long as it took to drench myself through to the skin.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukInterestingly, I found some sort of redress to this somewhat skewed energy at Charleston at a garden we visit on the Sunday, which we had intended to stop off at on the way to our accommodation on the Thursday afternoon…but our timings had other plans and we had had to postpone this outing until our return journey. Rather than feel annoyed at this rejig of our schedule, I had opened up to “well, maybe Sissinghurst has something else to show us…and particularly wants to show us this on the way home rather than the way there” and I was right. Even then, we almost didn’t go as our well-meaning host at the bed and breakfast tried to persuade us to stop at a different garden which he (a photographer) prefers…and I did heed his advice enough to at least consider his advice by looking at the other website; but Sissinghurst was calling me far louder than any other temptation could have matched and so that is where, on the now hot and sunny last day of our holiday, we went.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukThis garden had eluded me for decades; an “almost visited” venue of almost thirty years for a variety of reasons, mostly that we would always pass that part of the world with no time to spare or a dog in the boot of the car. When we got there just in time to enjoy a brief introduction from one of the guides, I immediately knew why I had been inadvertently saving this up for myself. It turns out that Vita Sackville West’s lavish garden design of many, contrasting and varied, garden “rooms” with interesting transitions designed by her husband Harold Nicholson, had been “lost’ for many years to the uninspiring and somewhat regimented planting of the National Trust. For just three years now, the Trust had been newly working to reinstate Vita’s original vision for the garden (which I took as one of my evolutionary clues…the feminine impulse reasserting herself) and, being now being well underway, it appeared I arrived in absolute perfect time with the garden at its high-summer best. I had to smile at the infallibility of the “rhyme and reason” to the apparent “accidents” of circumstance that had kept me away until now; as ever, everything was just perfect.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukI read Vita Sackville-West’s biography (part diary entries; the rest written by her son Nigel Nicholson) many years ago, probably the same summer I first visited Charleston in the late 1980s. In her way, I regarded her as being an honourary member of the Bloomsbury group through her connection with Virginia Woolf, with whom she had a love affair. For some reason, she had always stayed with me; the presence of her the very pointer towards Sissinghurst that a garden in deepest Kent might not otherwise have been. She…the very energy of her…was the reason I was here and, I realised, I had kept that train-track of intention running without interruption all the many years since I first read her story.

Both Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson had homosexual leanings plus a so-called open marriage and, while this produced its own set of complications and mixed-feelings not to mention the occasional upheaval (as with Vita’s love affair with Violet Trefusis), my sense of this – on finally getting to Sissinghurst, spoken to me through the very landscape of the place that they used as their canvas – was that they achieved together some sort of balance where neither party was the wounded dog to the other one’s greater www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukfulfilment. They were married for 48 years and genuinely loved each other; that is quite apparent. Because they came together under the umbrella of their mutual love, whilst allowing each other to have certain freedoms to pursue what came natural to them, it seems to have worked in a way that it didn’t (in my opinion) for Bell and Grant at Charleston.The working team that they were in visualising the garden that they created together at Sissinghurst, which became their mutual focal point – Vita the artistic touch, Harold the straight lines and numbers on the drawing board – speaks for itself when you walk into that space; you can feel it! I was quite delirious as I skipped around its spaces, especially the White Garden, which felt like my most hallowed space…although the flamboyant colour of its other “rooms” gave the purity of its whiteness its real power through the contrast and surprise to your eyes of something so devoid of broader palette that it could have been the recent scene of an August snow storm. I made a bee-line for that garden, loving the synchronicity with our name and spending the longest time in it but then, looking back, it seems only fitting – if tongue in cheek – that we started our journey through the multiple possibilities of Sissinghurst from the start-point of ourselves.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukLike the surprise of our rainy Friday in Charleston, Sissinghurst offered up a new experience around every corner and – not really a surprise – I had the landscape speaking to me through the accidental juxtapositions of “moments of light” and equally of shade around its endlessly labyrinthine corners which seemed to pick up from the material of my last two or three blog posts and develop them to new, deeper knowing in the most timely way; not least the way the three of us managed our own routes, split up, came back together and even (for a short while) lost each other completely. Like my recent visit to St Catherine’s labyrinth (see my post Walking the Labyrinth), this visit had such a lot to say to us on many levels and, whether or not they knew it at the conscious level, a labyrinth is what Harold and Vita created here and is how it serves to activate you through the maze of its pathways which, unfailingly, take you on a journey of many possible routes towards a centre piece (with a tower) that elevates you. This is in obvious contrast with Charleston where, lovely as it is, the garden is walled in and far more limited in that it only every keeps circling you up and down the same directions and, ultimately, back to that house; offering just one way in and out via that point. To receive the deeper levels of this and all its many other timely gifts felt like another full circle reached and then taken up a notch – to a whole new level – at the end of our visit as we headed for the tower that is the perpetual marker at Sissinghurst though never seen in quite the same way, dressed in the same colours or even appearing quite the same thickness from the ground through the many possible filters and perspectives of each vantage point. This, in itself, had something important to remind me about life seen at ground level.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukAs if to mimic the upward motion in my own metaphysical journey, having left the tower until last, we coiled up the spiral staircase to peer over its edges as a finale and gained a whole new experience of where we had “just been”. We also got to appreciate what Vita and Harold created together; the birdseye view of what they saw in its raw potential and what they went on to carve out of its natural attributes, as a collaboration. It was no small feat and the sense I was left with, without needing to pour over their personal letters or reread her biography (though I have since dipped into that dusty old book dragged down from my shelf) was of a marriage that worked, of a male and female crossing point that then transformed their shared landscape into an explosion of colour, texture and aroma, an outdoor season-directed landscape that speaks volumes about what they were all about…together…in some sort of harmonious union that, for them, was ideal. Not everyone’s version of harmony – I grant you that – but as a blueprint for a love based upon meeting each other in the middle and allowing each character to be and develop and explore and grow all that they are about in this physical form, what they created together is an encouraging sign of what it is possible to create when even people with vastly divergent interests come together and allow all this to take seed and lead where it will.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukIn age-worn letters on the wall of one of the rooms in the tower, the words of Vita’s poem “Sissinghurst” tickled some of my own preoccupations…the ever-present rose, the deep-deep waters discovered as a stagnant moat (as she first found Sissinghurst in its semi-derelict state) and yet something drawn upon, brought back to the surface and allowed to unfold…the relentless, healing power of nature…the spokes of a wheel…”beauty, and use and beauty once again” as the rhythms of a life outside of the dictates of politics, time and obligation; in these familiar themes I found myself as I stood high up on the brim of a tower once connected to a castle, now a viewing point across a garden so sublime I didn’t really want to leave. And those telling, final, words that linked me back to all that relentless rain that came down upon Charleston this visit, bringing glistening fruit to the bower of a goddess wrapped up in verdant green…”I dream; I do not weep”.

In providing the room for each other to do what they are here to do, each pursuing their own interests and passions and then meeting back at their shared point of creation, which became an outward symbol of a deep love and respect that – quite literally, in their case – continues to bloom and bear fruit; in this, I felt something akin to the way forward that I envision for a newly rebalanced humanity being modelled for me to take home as a feeling every time I pause to think, even briefly, about that wonderful garden. If the divine feminine and masculine in close collaboration can be found anywhere so tangible, I felt like I had encountered them here. This is why, I now knew, Sissingurst had rearranged itself to the end of our long-weekend; making me smile at how it had known best as we brought our wedding anniversary weekend to a close, carrying home the essence of our experiences to  our own sacred meeting place, the fruit of our best yet collaboration and the long-running project of our mutual lives together; that place we call home.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.uk

“Sissinghurst” poem on the tower wall, click to enlarge

 

Photography

See all of my Charleston, Berwick and Sissinghurst photos on Flickr via these links.

 


Final thought

The book that I read about Vita Sackville West, all those years ago, was “Portrait of a Marriage” by Nigel Nicholson which consists of a collection of her diary and memoire entries in 1920 (an eventful year, coinciding with her affair and near-elopement with Violet Trefusis) and a biography written by her son. I’d forgotten how wild and racy her life was…and seemed to me when I first read about it at the tender age of about 19 or 20. She would dress up as a man and pass herself off in society quite convincingly as “Julien” when she was with her lover Violet. I dipped into her diaries yesterday and was thoroughly caught up in them for a while.

As I revisit all this in a new light, I am struck by how the more we break down gender barriers and embrace the male and female aspects of ourselves, the more we have been forced to experiment with new ways of conducting our lives and that trial and error has sometimes proved messy (as the Bloomsbury set are clear evidence of)…and yet it is a necessary and inevitable part of evolution, just as we start to soften up the barriers between our different modes of sensory experience (synaesthesia) and the left and right hemispheres of our brain (the stand off between science and spirtuality that is now butting noses as quantum theory forces the consideration that consciousness gives rise to the material world and not the other way around). It was an interesting addendum of this weekend to have spent our Friday in evening in down-town Brighton where it is more than possible to walk the streets with your gay partner and dress or behave as flamboyantly as you like in a way that was quite impossible for people such as Duncan Grant or Vita Sackville West…and the very fact that we now do this (in some places…) is a clear sign of an evolution that is still underway and that these people helped to set in motion. You could say, the present and future generations are still harvesting fruit from the many seeds that they planted and my hope is that this pathway leads to a garden of rich and varied experiences (like Sissinghurst, a garden of many possible rooms…) where many more people get to feel they have the facility to travel wherever they are drawn to and to discover  and explore their true selves within their current lifetime without the fear of causing themselves or others pain along the way.

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Making tracks

Charleston cardIt was the bizarrest thing…to be in a well-known card and stationery shop on the high street seeking a couple of suitable birthday cards for two of my friends, to be scanning the rows and rows of cards then, finally, thinking “ah, this one…”; my arm reaching out to grab it, registering the wave of familiarity washing over me and then realising “oh, its mine”.

It used to be my little daydream, when I first started painting a decade ago, that one day I would walk into a shop and my own art would be staring back at me from beneath the glossy film wrapers of the card rack but I hadn’t given it much thought lately. When it finally happened, it made me chortle so much I felt I had to explain myself to the shop manager who was looking at me like I’d just dropped in from a spacecraft. “This painting is mine” I told her, prodding the image as I paid; “I had no idea it had been licensed for this”. I was a-fizz with girlish excitement about it, so much so that I came under the close scrutiny of a security guard in the next shop, where I reunited with my daughter, for my suspiciously exuberant behaviour as I flapped the small paper bag around in my hand. I just couldn’t get over the chance encounter, especially since I rarely buy cards these days (I’d been intending to make my own but ran out of time).

The painting on the card was quite an early one as far as my garden themes go; the first I ever painted of Charleston (one-time home to the Bloomsbury group; a special place to me) and – how doubly bizarre was this – we were driving down to that part of the world the very next day, specifically to visit Charleston Farmhouse again, for our wedding anniversary. The coincidental timing already had me goosebumping at the synchronicity.

What had happened in that five years? Such a lot, both personally and professionally…and then spiritually, you could most certainly say; a real journey between then and now. Bringing these two time points together felt like an arranged meeting point that finding that card had been the signal of, like a start-whistle going off to announce my eventful weekend had just begun. I was alert to its potential now; it had my full attention.

Suddenly, with both that Charleston card and tomorrow’s trip “in my hand”, I knew I held a full circle of experience in my possession (or, that phrase people use…”closure”) and was about to make a sudden upturn at the closure-point of the ring that it made, to turn the circle into a spriral…an evolution on all the themes I had been “working on” in the time in between the two markers. Our trip back to Charleston had already felt pre-destined, a meant-to-be which I had planted in our diary like a flagpole many months ago and then looked forward to with an unusual intensity (we were making a weekend of it, staying in a marvellous five-star B&B). It was much more than just the outward trimmings of a lovely weekend away; it felt like putting something in place, tying a knot, extracting the pearl…I didn’t really know what it was yet but it felt right on time and chancing upon that card that very afternoon felt like a clue pointing at something bigger than I yet knew anything about. The fact I brought two of these cards home with me (one for each friend) suddenly felt like something to do with our wedding anniversary – we don’t send cards to each other anymore (though there was a time when we would have both descended on that same shop to purchase, yes, a couple of cards…) but, inadvertently, it seemed like we were being taken  through the paces of doing that after all. If this weekend was going to be about relationships then I couldn’t have received more of a clue; as it turned out, our weekend unrolled itself along the thematic pathway of male and female relationships and garden paths from beginning to end and so this twin pair of identical gardens (depicting a pathway through the blooms) couldn’t have been more on target…

Charleston I by Helen White, www.helenwhite.org

It all felt like part of a journey I had been unwittingly travelling, one of my many metaphorical pathways and routes that I talk about endlessly in this space…and then I guffawed outloud as I clocked that, of course, the familiar card publishers name glinting out at me in silver letters on the wrapper of these cards was “Tracks”; I was literally holding two tracks in my grasp…one track (that image leading me back to Charleston) or two tracks (my last experience there since had been divided into many reproductions and I now held two of them in my hand); a meeting point of two strands of the initial current of potential that I sent out into the world when I last visited the garden and painted that view. Like a dragon line…two impulses that travel separately yet occasionally coincide in the same place; like the male and female impulses of this world…everything I have been preoccupied with lately in the most metaphysical layer of my existence…and now I was holding two identical cards (painted by me) of the garden where my husband and I were spending our wedding anniversary that week. How could this message to myself have been delivered to me in any more of an obvious “wrapper” than this? Again, I laughed at the blatantly obvious way that the most astonishing information is always made available to us in the most readily available and simplistic forms; through synchronicities and personal clues and symbols that light up our way with meaning and significance every step of the way, if we allow them to.

Had I written my own story (knowing, at some level, I did), this is exactly how it would have played out. The themes that were just opening around the time of that last visit to Charleston (and there were many extremely potent ones…) have recently been winding down to fresh new conclusions. My trip back there wasn’t about nostalgia – this would be my third visit across a time-span of many years – but a willingness to experience it all through completely new eyes, to be delivered a completely new ending; I was open to having whatever experience was waiting for me there, not demanding a faithful action-replay of all the times before…and the complete surrender to that was, itself, a newness I was eager to try out.

In finding that card, I was being given the thumbs up to all the pieces I had put in place to allow this unfolding to happen without me having to stage-manage every detail so closely that there was no room to maneuver or expand into previously unexplored territory. I was ready to graduate out of this level of the game and, without having any clue what lay before me on the other side, to be taken up to the next one through the metaphysical portal of my weekend. In every way, it all felt potent with promise – sheer potential was coming at me from all sides. I loved my life for delivering this latest piece of my jigsaw with such humour and a child-like fizz of excitement at seeing myself in print; the rather trivial thrill of seeing myself mirrored back from amongst all the anonymous rank and file of cardboard images on the display shelving of a shop. If this is how life delivers its “go-ahead” clues to me these days then I love it, am thrilled and endlessly excited to be part of it and am ready to admit that life never delivers a dull moment (not ever…at least, not when you are paying attention) and was looking forward to my weekend already!


Charleston I (2012) original oil on canvas by Helen White – http://www.helenwhite.org

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Walking the labyrinth

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukFor months it had been on my wish-list to travel the lower part of the Belinus line, another dragon line; perhaps the most significant of all given it forms the “Spine of Albion” (title of the book about it by Gary Bitcliffe & Caroline Hoare), a backbone of dancing yin and yang serpent energy up the central column of the British Isles. Like the Mary and Michael line that I’ve crossed paths with so extensively before, this one weaves and meanders its way through the landscape like a river’s flow, picking up ancient sacred sites, high points and stretches of water like twin strings of beads that occasionally pass through the same pearl only to branch out on their own again; these rhythms influencing the very themes of the landscape where they occur. Picking up this book was an extraordinary moment of revelation for me; my childlike urge to flick ahead through its chapters to trace that route flagging up a lifetime (mine!) spent interacting with some of its most powerful energy nodes at times that made my life what it is today, some of the most potent events of my life ‘story’ having taken place along its route. Seems I’ve been interacting with it for most of my life, along stretches that incorporate key sites from Winchester Catherdral to the Rollright stones and all the way up to the Lake District and Scotland, though never further south than Winchester. Today we planned to address that shortfall; I felt almost like I had been saving it up all these years!

So we headed for its southern-most point…or at least on mainland England given it starts on the Isle of Wight, the female aspect Elen (whose namesake Elen of the Ways I have talked about recently) breathing in through the Nostrils, a pair of caves on the south eastern shore there. That trip was for another day; this time we were heading for Titchfield as a starting point and then heading to Wickham for lunch. We had met the male aspect of the Belinus Line in Wickham on the Mayday weekend, on a trip-out to celebrate my birthday; choosing Wickham because I intuited that the dragon energy of Belinus would follow close to the River Meon there, with its Norman church atop an ancient mount nearby. Turns out I was right but there was something off putting about Wickham… a lovely meal (at the vegan cafe, Offbeet at the old watermill), a good energy in the churchyard (more so than inside the church) but the kind of energy in the town that made me want to hurry through. It left me intrigued enough to want to return; and it was only when the Spine of Albion book arrived afterwards that I discovered the female line also diverts away from Wickham to follow a different course between Titchfield and Twyford. This was why we were starting at Titchfield today.

So we headed straight to Titchfield, notable for having two energy nodes where the male and female lines cross, one at the church and one at the abbey, like twin gateposts as the energy arrives on the mainland. Our plan: to start our day at the abbey cum manor house (now an empty shell) where William Shakespear once practiced his plays in the barn…or at least we tried. Everything on that journey seemed determined to divert us off our most direct route; my GPS kept insisting we needed to travel by motorway, taking us away from the energy line’s route (even though warnings of serious traffic delay on the M3 kept flagging up…) and, in my determination to take the alternate route, we had one or two missed turns or bewildering moments. Direct was not so direct, or so it seemed; the route through villages seemed designed to fox and confuse us at times, with an absence of signage that was sometimes bizarre. Even signs for Titchfield Abbey eluded us as we drew close to the village; as though it was hiding…in fact, the very first one that we saw was as we left the village some time later, by which time we no longer had time to visit. I began to feel there was method in the unexpected way things were turning out today though, at ground level, things were feeling a tadge frustrating.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukBy the time we got to Titchfield itself, I was desperate for the toilet and we now had less time than was ideal before our lunch booking in Wickham. The marketplace of this typical Georgian market town seemed the most likely place to find one…a pub as the hub of all hospitality…but no, a big sign on the door announced “Toilets for guest use only!” J had seen a sign for a WC up by one of the carparks on the way in so we doubled back there…only there was no evidence of the promised loo for all we walked round and around the block twice, asking locals who shook their heads. By now it was urgent and, in desperation, I approached one more person, a silver-haired guy putting walking gear into the boot of his car. He had no more idea than anyone else as to where these elusive toilets were but then, just as we were about to leave, he came rushing up to suggest I follow him to the community centre where he was meeting fellow walkers; that certainly had a loo. In so much gratitude that he hadn’t been prepared to just abandon us to our predicament, as he could so easily have done, I followed him the short drive around the town only to find that the community centre was all locked-up for the weekend. The best this helpful guy could now do was tell us how to get to the abbey in the hope (though it sounded unlikely) that we might find something near there but his description sounded long-winded and I decided to head back into the town, to the very same pub as before. This time I was prepared to go in and insist that they let me use their toilet if necessary; I was on my desperate high-horse and would call on the humanity of anyone who denied me my basic need for access to an essential “facility” in this town that seemed not to have one.

As it happened, I needn’t have got myself so worked-up; a giant rough-diamond of a man, the landlord, came straight over as I stepped into the already crowded lunchtime pub and asked if he could help me. Yes, of course I could use the toilet (he even walked me most chivalrously to the threshold); that rather unwelcoming sign on the door was only there to put off kids who had been trashing the place, he said. In fact he couldn’t have been more welcoming and didn’t even insist I bought a drink in return, as so often happens in these places so I was relieved in more ways than one!

So, it turned out that none of the signs in Titchfield had been all they had seemed on the black-and-white surface of things; the one that announced “WC” in the car park referred to something that had long-ago been demolished as part of a new development whereas the one that said we weren’t welcome was more roar than intention. The gentlest, most helpful and hospitable of all people on this adventure had all shown up in the male form (yes indeed, the male aspect of the Belinus line follows straight down the market place of Titchfield where all of this had unfolded) and all the signs, signals and clues given off by this male aspect were blunt yet lacking in accuracy or diplomacy, though the feeling behind the place was far better intentioned if somewhat misunderstood – maleness to a tee. As my daughter pointed out, our day came back together in front of those oh-so-familiar “male” and “female” symbols outside the toilets in the pub; yin and yang side by side. With a laugh, we felt we were, finally, getting close to our spot!

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukAnd we were right; with our time until lunch now cut very short, we had to give up all thoughts of finding the abbey today (the landlord of the pub said he’s never heard of it!) so we headed directly to St Peter’s Church, that other crossing point of the Belinus and Elen energies. No surprise, this was just around the corner from the pub…in fact, just behind it (as the crow flies, remarkably close to those loos I’d just been to). As soon as I saw the church, I noticed I was almost running to it, my feet quickening as though pulled along by an invisible thread, leaving the others dawdling along behind me. I couldn’t wait to see the Green Man, promised to me by the book, at the threshold but the feeling of anticipation was much more than that; the sight of its short square tower, its mellow stones and something in its energy seemed to be calling me to it; it was even wearing its summer bunting and the light was cascading sparkles around the porch as we got to it. As I wrote about the exceptional church we visited in Stockholm last month, some churches seem heavy with an energy that turns me away at the door; others feel so light I can’t wait to enter them and, just like St Katerina’s, this was one of those.

Yet, as though saving the feeling to luxuriate in a little longer, I chose to walk around the churchyard first, enjoying the roses and the view over open fields, a feeling of absolute tranquility that urged me to slow my pace. There was an enormous yew around the corner that I found myself going straight up to and the feeling of it, the sheer energy I felt coursing through me after I had spent a few moments hugging one of its huge boughs, left me tingling and spinning with light-headedness as I circled the rest of the churchyard back to the front door.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukThat green man at the door was just something else; barefacedly spewing two flows of telluric energy from his mouth, to me his inclusion in the left pillar of the doorway speaks as a clear and deliberate reminder, to anyone open to seeing it, of what flows through this spot. When I entered the church, J was at the top of the aisle, excitedly beckoning me to come and see something and, as he turned and held out his hand, smilingly waiting for me to walk up the aisle to him, I also smiled at the unwitting wedding ceremony we had apparently set-up for ourselves in a place where Elen and Belinus meet. The thing he wanted to show me was the most astonishing marble tomb; very grandiose for a small parish church and there’s a story behind its, notably female, inhabitant. There was also a substantial memorial to a young woman, her father and brother, who had died within three years of each other – the carving of a woman asleep – and it struck me for being such a strong allusion to the sacred feminine (also asleep for the longest time) so my focus went to that more than the grand tomb in the centre. Then, above all of this, the very George and Dragon window I was looking for, from the book…although, while we were there, we www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukjust couldn’t seem to find this window at all, for all we were scrutinising ever pane. Now I have the photos in front of me, I have no idea why…it was patently obvious which window included a dragon, the male triumphantly standing with it coiled around his legs, his sword apparently keeping it in check, and yet it was as though our eyes couldn’t see for looking (how telling is that) while we were there in front of it. Perhaps what threw me so was that the armour-wearing male is partnered equally with a female counterpart, another very typical depiction of the sacred feminine…in this case, bearing a sprig of leaves instead of a sword and getting her way (no doubt) here through the employ of musical instruments, a soft smile, flowing fabrics. Was this a reminder that there are always two ways to tame a serpent; that, when the male and female aspects come together, a full-spectrum of options are available for achieving the energetic outcome we have in mind. Perhaps, this place is reminding us, we get to work with the serpent energies the most effectively of all whenever we bring so-called opposing sides or opposites together in collaboration – male and female, yin and yang, left and right…etc etc.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukSo we headed off  to Wickham, at last passing the sign for Titchfield Abbey on the way as we left for our next destination. Over a lovely vegan lunch at Offbeet, the most notable turn of events was that my dog refused to sit down in the shade by our table because – we eventually worked out – he could sense the fast moving waters of the Meon right beneath the tightly laid wooden slats of the decking we were on and so he stood spread-toed and shaking, a great lion-hunter of a dog (a ridgeback) reduced to a quivering mass by the energetically charged current that he couldn’t see, but could sense, beneath his feet. Yet we later walked down to the water’s natural edge beside the woods and he bathed happily enough in one of the emerald-hued shallows under the trees; it was just that feeling of being stood over the narrow, focused and highly-charged impulse of the millstream (water redirected from its natural course through a narrow space to create a powerful force for industrial purpose…male impulse to a tee) that he really didn’t like. In fact he was so unnerved by it that it made him jumpy as hell…paranoid, actually… which was quite fascinating to behold (if not conducive to a relaxing lunch). Perhaps this was something of what I felt last time I was here…

The next part of our plan was to rejoin the female aspect of the line and trace it back to our ultimate stop, St Catherine’s Hill just outside of Winchester, where the male and female energies cross again to form an incredibly powerful node, perhaps the most powerful in all England based on how significant Winchester is in the energetic power grid. On the way, I was hoping to find one or two other nodes on the Belinus Line, the first being the tiny “old” church (later replaced by a new one in a different location) at Botley, so ancient and presumably pagan in its origins that it is apparently aligned with the summer solstice sunrise. The book was clear that this was well tucked-away down a lane still called Church Lane and behind some farm buildings yet, as slow as we took it along the long single-track route past hoards of wedding guests, walkers and sunbathers, we didn’t manage to spot anything that looked like a sign of the old church and would have had to park up and delve further to find it. Given our timings, we decided to leave that one for another day and continued on to Twyford, where I clearly saw the Victorian splendour of St Mary’s on its high-up spot (this one rebuilt by my old www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukfriend Waterhouse – famous for London’s Natural History Museum – with whom I’ve crossed paths many times, not least by lived in one of his buildings as my university accommodation for two years and then getting married, the first time around, in one of the two local town halls that he designed). Though a Victorian re-build, St Mary’s still has Elen passing through and the wall incorporates an original stone carved with an early cross within a circle. However, St Mary’s (or perhaps Elen…) was teasingly elusive and her spire disappeared off the horizon until we had been swept past her on the main road so, again, given the time we decided to press on. Then the Hospital of St Cross looked spectacular as we drove past and even more so from the top of the hill; this is where Elen is said to meander through the water meadows…lured off her most direct path, the book speculates, by Henry de Bois who established it there; and he is one very intriguing character, someone who certainly had connections with Chartres with it famous labyrinth. However, this only makes St Cross so intriguing that I really want to do it justice so we decided to make it the focus of another trip. By now, I was very eager to get to St Catherine’s Hill, which felt like a late afternoon rendezvous not to be argued with.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukAt St Catherine’s Hill, we just missed the last car park spot as so many people were using it as a base for their walks along the river but this circumstance came bearing gifts a little later. We walked the short distance from where we left the car in the road and set about the steep climb up steps and slopes to the top; and I’m not sure who was struggling most, me or our dog who dislikes hill walking until he gets there and goes mad with the exuberance of reaching a summit. Half way up, a shriek came from my daughter, up ahead, as a sizeable slow worm (she thought, a snake) slithered beneath what would have been her natural footfall had she not swiftly turned her next step into a leap and I smiled at the serpent emissary who thought it necessary to come out in daylight to remind us whose hill this was and that we were here for more than just the splendid view. At the summit, my husband signalled to me to stop talking and tread softly…and there, in the most perfect woodland glade against a high earthwork bank that made the trees into a ‘v’-shaped valley with light pouring in from the far side, we were blessed by the presence of a red deer who stood and locked eyes with us for the longest time; such gentleness of spirit wrapped up in a form built for beauty, grace and agility. I felt so blessed by this encounter and bowed my thanks, knowing with everything in me that I had that just been welcomed in at the “doorway” of the hilltop by Elen.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukAs well as being a double meeting-point of the Elen and Belinus lines this hill, with its expansive views, is known for having a rare turf-cut labyrinth at its summit, its origins and antiquity lost in the mists of time but certainly dowsed by Gary Bitcliffe to indicate that it is a meeting place of the male and female energies at its very centre. It surprised me just how quickly we were upon the labyrinth once we were out of the trees but then, also, how indistinct it had become compared to images I had seen of it online and even on the information point at the base of the hill, being now covered in all its summer vegetation to the point of almost not being there at all. I laughed at the obvious parallel with our morning’s journey; the lack of clear signage that had, at once, put us off yet made the journey feel so much more meaningful when we got there.

I was forced to dredge my mind’s eye for the “map” of it that I had so recently scanned in my book back in the car and then took a punt at where the entry point was, veering to the left (as I seemed to think the layout had suggested…and also mindful that my impression of it was that it corresponds with the left and right hemispheres of the brain on an, I assumed, “opposites” basis…and I felt wanted to “do” the right hemisphere first). The grooves seemed to be the path rather than the raised turf and these were surprisingly hard to follow, taking great concentration not to wedge the foot in so hard that it stuck or twisting your ankle on uneven ground made lumpy by clumps of wild flowers. Its sharp 180 degree turns became mesmerizing as we got into the rhythm of them and yet there was none of the reverent silence that I expected to do this in; all three of us chatted as we followed our path, turning into one of the most powerful metaphorical conversations I can recall us having as a family as we each  noticed the life-parallels of what we were being taken through the experience of by these hypnotically turning and twisting paths.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukSome of the most obvious metaphors that surfaced related to how, though we started off separately and at different paces, we ended up converging as we got closer to source, finishing off as a sort of human train and those at the “back” not so much choosing where to go as following the back of the person in front…as humans are wont to do. Then there came the point where my daughter found me too slow and wanted to be ahead of me but felt, she admitted, really awkward asserting that desire…so I had to reassure her “that’s fine, overtaking me is what you are meant to do at some point…its just the way of things” (with a glance at each other, this was when we knew we had gone a level deeper, in our conversation, than we originally thought). “But what if I end up very far ahead, I’ll feel like I’m all alone; I might look around and you might not be there anymore”. “That’s also meant to happen…but its alright, I’m never very far away”. I also noticed how, at the times we were actually furthest away from each other as measured by the route of the path, we were often very close to each other, almost touching even, in terms of actual proximity…as though parallels, or portals, connecting different stages of the journey had grown stronger than the timeline itself…a truism I have come to know in this life and across the many lives that I experience as touching across these portals. Through it all there was this one constant, drawing you forwards, that you knew you were heading for the centre and that we would all meet up there in the end.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukWe were really touching upon some universal themes as we put one foot in front of another (this is a mere sample from the tip of the iceburg) and, while we were part-joking as we had this dialogue full of double entendres, we also knew we were discussing some of life’s fundamentals and it was an oddly affecting conversation to be having as we walked the mesmerizing route. There was a distinct sense of something altering, that things wouldn’t ever be quite be the same again; I almost felt a little panicked at what this would mean for me and our relationships with each other (the kind of panic-wave that so often proceeds an expansion beyond what we have become accustomed to, which represents safety). Certainly, there was a sense of performing a rite of passage and I feel strongly that this is what the labyrinth was intended for; that the turns and twists of it, as they so-rapidly alternate your direction, are intended to assist you in transcending the hemispherical barriers in the brain, softening the rift between left and right to where the divisiveness dissolves completely, taking you towards an experience – however temporary – beyond duality. I was reminded of a passage in Barbara Hand Clow’s “The Alchemy of Nine Dimensions”:

Often symbols precipitate in the mind’s eye that awaken cellular memory of the geometry that holds our bodies in form. These symbols vibtrate with very complex geometry, and as your body moves along the paths, the geometry also vibrates with sound waves. You can feel the land sing, which melts you into an ethereal knowing.

Certainly, as I approached the centre, my mind felt like it was exponentially expanding and its substance unpeeling like one of those apple spiralisers uncoils the substance of an apple and then, was I tricking myself, as I made the return trip it felt more like it was coming back together again, returning to its human version…if somewhat altered by the experience. We sat down in the centre and regrouped…with each other and ourselves…and there was certainly something about this spot, a sense of a meeting place, or was it now reflecting back something about me? Yet I was also surprised at how briefly I decided to hang around there; at how quickly I desired to be back on the pathway again and this told me something important about the active desire for all the twists and turns of life; to be in the current of it, having the variable experience of the journey.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukMy mind tried to tell me I was now favouring the left hemisphere as I made that return journey and I seemed to find the path more difficult to follow (or was I being more exactling…thinking about it too hard), like when I try to dance, draw or even cycle leading from the left; all clumsiness because I try to make the inherently instinctive into a cerebral thing . Again, circumstances played out as a metaphor of this very thing as a surprise jogger came right across the labyrinth as though it wasn’t there at all (for him, it wasn’t) and my dog started chasing and jumping up at him, all teeth but no bad intention; another male misunderstanding delivered with too much vigour. As I suddenly had to “wake up” out of my reverie to be the responsible dog-owner and call him off, half expecting the jogger to be angry (he wasn’t), I felt all rattled and shaken out of my zone, just as I do when something “happens” in real life to wake me up out of my meditative bliss-zone, to drag me from sleep or my painting or even the gentle way I prefer to live my life. I felt like I had to re-enter my body way too quickly and I didn’t like it at all; I never like it when that happens and always prefer to be more out of my body than in it, if I’m honest (which tells me a lot about my health challenges). When re-entry happens too abruptly, it always feels like I crash land straight into a defensive mode, expecting to have to protect myself, to take up arms (how many lifetimes have conditioned me to be this way?); as though I am Doctor Who landing in a hostile place and having to think on my feet. I knew this was a timely demonstration of something important for me to witness about myself; that I was being given an opportunity to soften my response to landing back into my human focus, to see it is just another version of the same labyrinthine route, only in reverse. I was treading the paths of both Elen and Belinus here  (they both enter and leave the labyrinth from different angles yet both lead to the same central spot) and that they cross over again and again on the Belinus line; I could emulate this in my own life-journey if I could only remember the feeling of it in my cells.

On the return journey, my daughter was no longer waiting for me but streaked ahead (she was getting nimble-footed at this) and, at times, was in a completely different place to me whereas, lightheaded from the first half and having stumbled once or twice, I slowed myself right down to what suited me better…yet this felt like a timely readjustment of our roles. The degree to which I was now having to think about where to place my footing was tell-tale about how I struggle with those aspects of life where I have to engage with a more rational world; its true, I don’t find myself so comfortable there…but by taking it at my own pace, enjoying the experience of it, I got there without any desire to take the shortcut and just walk away from the path. In fact, I found I really wanted the whole journey of it, every twist and twiddle of it to the end, breathing in the memorable experience of it for the ride; which was telling beyond words at this point in my own life-journey and how I feel about all the years up ahead. I had come to realise that this aspect of the journey (you could say, the journey of fully embodied humanness) was now just as important to me as the spiritual journey “back to source” that had so long been a priority to me.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukYes, life is a labyrinth…I know I mentioned that recently in another post. Just like the twists and turns, the unexpected corners of our walks around Copenhagen and Stockholm, I came to realise the true magic and the alchemy taking place in my world happened because of the blind and unexpected corners, the surrender to the unknown instead of demanding that life have a plan. In walking St Catherine’s labyrinth, I saw that, however overgrown and confusing that route had become at ground level, there was always a higher design to everything and, really, no room for accidents or mishaps when taken one step at a time following the clue right in front of you. As in my own life, the more bends and unexpected twists or turns I encountered, the more my overall perspective softened, returning me towards a wholeness that welcomed me in and delivered a reunion with all the fragmented parts of everything, including of myself. Around some of those sharpest of corners, we find all the multidimensional aspects of ourselves come together and stack up one above the other, like stepping on an axis point between our many layers that explodes us into a broader reality that holds the potential to blast us out of the most pervasive cul-de-sacs of our experience as seen at ground level. These heightened moments…the kinds you can never plan to have…shift us through walls that may once have seemed impenetrable and show us a completely new landscape on the other side. This was what St Catherine’s Hill walked us through.

When my daughter’s description of the route we had travelled turned out to be completely different to mine – we literally pointed to the same path and described the route it had taken us in a completely different way – that was fine too; that is just how life is, no two perspectives are meant to be identical. Surrendering the need for everyone to agree, to be on the same page or see things in identical ways is something I gave up long ago and this path seemed to restate it for me; I doubt anyone ever has quite the same experience there as someone else or even nearly!

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukMy labyrinth experience felt complete and we headed for the inner sanctum within trees in the centre of the complex where the male and female lines cross again to form a vesica pisces with the centre of the labyrinth; the classic vulval shape that seems to suggest the rebirth held in potential that is ours for the taking wherever polarities come close enough to reflect each other back and forth, cancelling out as they merge (I suspect the one-time temple on this site might have been somewhere in that vicinity). At least, I found my special spot and held it long enough to enjoy the magical light beneath the trees. The later Norman chapel on this hill was dedicated to St Catherine; was this because this site was once considered to be the centre of a spider’s web or a wheel of energy, sending its energetic spokes out across the land? Seen far down below from the place I next walked to beyond the trees, I could see Winchester where the Belinus route travels through Winchester Castle, with its King Arthur Round Table (another spoked wheel) hung on the wall; a place I recently visited when I met with a treasured old friend that I hadn’t seen for many years and also a place I first went to on the same summer trip that I made the momentous decision to go to a university in the south of England (to a building designed by Waterhouse) all those many years ago. Then, Winchester Cathedral where Elen and Belinus meet once again; a place that has played a key part in some of the most significant and long-reaching (if not always great feeling…at the time) twists of my life. I felt some of my own “spokes” meeting here as all the synchroncities came together across the meaningful landscape of my life and nodded my acknowledgement over the edge of the hill in Elen’s wake before taking one last circumnavigation of the hilltop and sitting down to enjoy the summer view.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukWay way down below, on the opposite side to the labyrinth but where Belinus first joins the hilltop, a thickly coiling snake cutting through chalk hillsides was made up of near-stationary traffic still stuck on the M3 motorway; the multi-coloured cobra that I had refused to allow squeeze the joy out of my journey here that morning. Ninety degrees or so around, from St Cross Hospital below, Elen arrives up here on the western side from the glistening river that resembles a long silver ribbon woven between trees and green pasture; a vision of summer time’s best landscape. From up high, both motorway and river have their serpent-like qualities and, equally, their part to play in our modern world as versions of “pathway” and “life source”; and my vision is for a world where we make ample space for both and neither at the expense of the other.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukThe walk back through the wooded glade on the hill-edge was no less magical than before, although “Elen” didn’t appear this time; she didn’t have to, we wore her inside of us. When we reached the foot of the hill, that river was like the good friend that greeted us with much back-patting and twinkling eyes from all our thirsty exertions; it was looking wonderful and was a replenishing sight. In the golden mellowness tinged with silver lights as the sun started to descend over the watermeadows, we watched a family with giggling children climb into a silver boat and start their wending journey between summertime’s lush banks, so low and slow they could drag their hands in the water and clutch at the reeds. We took a small diversion into that meadow to enjoy the play of sunlight through thick summer foliage and then walked the route along the road to where we had left the car. As we almost reached it, a pair of butterflies came right to us and wouldn’t leave us alone; seemed quite determined to dive bomb our faces and hair, to brush past our cheeks and then circle and www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukcome down to us over and over again. They were clearly playing with us and, I suspect, very newly out of the chrysalis with all that reborn zest for life that comes with discovering you now have wings. We felt a little like that too; felt just so blessed by the whole experience, even by the motorway that, now miraculously clear of its heavy buildup of Sunday traffic, allowed us to take ourselves so swiftly home again.


Recommended reading

  • Spine of Albion – Gary Bitcliffe & Caroline Hoare

This is the book (refered to frequently as “the book” in my post and from which I have taken all information as to where the Elen and Belinus routes are located) that I have used as my guide to this walk and intend to use for many others. It has, more fully, explained some of the reactions I have had to many other points upon the Belinus Line which, it turns out, I had been travelling along and experiencing some of the more bizarre yet often game-changing dramas of my journey, quite unconsciously, for the larger portion of my life. Highly recommended for its detailed maps and descriptions of the entire extent of the line including the six cities that it crosses. Gary Bitcliffe is a researcher and investigator of ancient sites, earth mysteries and lost knowledge who has lectured widely in the UK and led International groups around Britain’s sacred sites as well as writing articles for journals and magazines.

  • The Alchemy of Nine Dimensions – Barbara Hand Clow

This book, which I’m currently reading for the second time, has been a game-changer for me, enabling me to “know” at the intellectual level what I realise I was already experiencing at the super-conscious level yet struggling to make coherent sense of until this fell into my hands. In relation to this post, the chapters that deal with the fifth and sixth dimensions touch upon labyrinths a great deal and help us to understand how these dimensions are bridged into our third dimensional experience in ways that can be acted upon, for instance using a labyrinth to access the higher dimensions, which (as she mentions) has been typically attempted at places where telluric energies are strong. She defines  labyrinths as “advanced topographical knots that we can enter, walk to the centre of, then walk back out, and emerge”; that is, emerge expanded or, perhaps, better connected to our multi-dimensional selves. They are an “ideal pathway through life’s maze” and so, perhaps, they help us to feel our way through our actual day-today maze once we have got the feel of them having “discovered our inner self while rebirthing consciousness”.

  • The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth – Patrick Conty

I confess I haven’t read this one (yet) but this is from the back cover on Amazon: “A groundbreaking look at the phenomenon of the labyrinth, connecting this ancient symbol to modern scientific principles – Illustrated with a multitude of labyrinths throughout human history – Demonstrates why the labyrinth goes beyond the maze and how it is a tool for interpreting ancient myths and religious beliefs – Draws parallels between the labyrinth and quantum physics, showing that through the secrets of the labyrinth we can unlock the mystery of life itself “Patrick Conty’s fascinating study brings us face to face with the enigma of unity and reminds us that its most archaic expression-the labyrinth-begins and ends in ourselves.” The powerful symbol of the labyrinth exists in countless cultures spanning the globe from Africa and ancient Greece to pre-Columbian North and South America. For centuries they have been used for religious meditation and spiritual and physical healing. In the labyrinth humanity finds a model of the quintessential sacred space that depicts the most profound levels of consciousness. For many cultures the center of the labyrinth exists simultaneously in this world and the invisible worlds, providing us with a doorway into other dimensions of reality. Conty explores not only physical labyrinths but also reveals how the same transcendent principles are at work in Celtic knot work, the designs of Pueblo pottery, geometric patterns in Islamic art, and contemporary painting. The author shows how the geometry of the ancient labyrinth corresponds exactly with known geometric principles, illustrating that today’s most recent developments in math and physics parallel the discoveries of ancient civilizations. By looking at how these ancient and modern world views compliment each other, The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth provides an axis for exploring the multidimensional truths of the labyrinth and shows us how the labyrinth is the ultimate map to guide us through the mystical nature of the universe. Patrick Conty is a painter who has been researching labyrinths for more than thirty years. He lives in France”.

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