The Art of
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And look, the spring is flowing fast again and singing by the back door and it’s time to listen, if not to the Voices of the Wells, then to the Voices of the Springs for a little while. It’s time to be quiet, now. It’s time to stop saying, and start listening again. It’s time to put some more fuel in the old boiler stove and by mid-afternoon perhaps the water will be hot enough for a bath. It’s time to fall, slowly but irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with the simplicity of an old stone house in the mountains.
So many of us are looking for answers to the ever-more urgent question of how we should live now. And we’re finding those answers in the wisdom which all the old stories tell us can be found on the fringes, in the forest, in the wild thickets of the ancient hedge. In our own native wisdom traditions – that rich and deep ancestral lineage which so few are aware that we possess. It’s time to reclaim those traditions, and weave them into an authentic, grounded practice for very different times.
Let’s not panic, or despair, or run away. Let’s remember that sometimes, there really is no place like home. And entertain the possibility that, although we might think we don’t need it, home might actually need us.
I’ve had a dream for a long time. About working with a community of fellow myth-makers, all of us together, weaving ourselves and the world back into a shining web of relationship. About building a tribe of those I call the ‘mythical misfits’ – those of you who’ve fallen out of the prevailing, destructive cultural myth, who are in that place in between stories, and who are looking to uncover new (or maybe, sometimes, old) myths to live by.
Essentially, your personal myth is the story you are living, the story you are inside of. That story affects your sense of identity, your relationships, your sense of purpose, your sense of your own place in the world.
If I’ve learned anything from my deep, deep relationships with place, I’ve learned this: sometimes you have to stay, and sometimes you have to go. If you have to go, if there’s a new lesson to learn, a new phase of life to enter into, there’s no virtue in insisting on staying. Those of us who are apprenticed to place know this to be true.
Samhain, for me, is many things – but it is above all a Trickster Time. A time when, if there’s a need for it, or even the slightest glimmer of an openness to it, I tend to be shaken out of my complacency and challenged in new directions. And I like that. Stasis has never had much resonance for me. I like the surprising things in life. I need to shift, to flow, to transform, and grow.
It’s deep, this apprenticeship – it’s deep. You walk out into the wild each day, and you start talking. Or singing, or dancing. Waltz with the wild western wind, and what a partner you’ll find. Screech your heart out to a scald crow, and she’ll out-Trickster you anyway. So laugh – above all, always laugh, and wherever possible, at yourself – and sit, then, and just listen. Never mind your stories: listen to the land’s.
Sometimes, I think I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet. As well as living in a place I love, with a family I love (husband, dogs, cat and all), I also deeply love my work. After a few early decades of twists and turns and too much time off the path, now my...
I am thinking about all that. About the skins we still have to shed, the journeys we still have to undertake, the transformations we still have to undergo, in the last third of our lives. Our culture tells us that we’re all washed up, washed out after menopause. Excuse me if I don’t think so. Excuse me if I actually think that we’re potentially at our very best, our ripest, our feistiest, our wisest and our most wonderful.
We think we make them up, the myths, stories and dreams which so richly define the human imagination. But what if they have an existence that’s independent of us? What if they come to us as psychopomps – a beautiful old word of Greek origins which means ‘soul guide’?
‘Rememory’ differs from ‘memory’, which is always presumed (incorrectly) to be in some fundamental sense independent of the rememberer. Rememory is a response to the continued ghostly presence of something which has disappeared or been forgotten, and in this sense is an act of re-membering – of adding flesh and bones to a shadow. It is also an act of restoration – and so of re-storying. Re-storying, in the same way, is revisiting a story, reconstructing it, remembering something we have forgotten we knew. It is not only about keeping the old stories alive, but about letting the old stories grow by transforming them for our times.
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