Author Archives: Nimue Brown

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Winter poetry

Pagan thinking around winter tends to focus on sleeping so as to rebirth in the the spring. However, not all seeds that lie in the earth will live to germinate. For many people, seasonal affective disorder makes the winter a hard time. The rising cost of living will make this winter cold and brutal for many. I think it’s helpful to acknowledge and honour the darker side of the year with all that it can bring.

Winter


Frost fingers needle skin

Ice forming in weary bones

Let me lie down now.

Bury me under snow and let us

See if truly I am a seed

To wake in the spring

With the promise of new life.

March, perhaps, or April.


A bulb, fat with potential,

Resilient against the cold,

Firm holding, thaw me

And I will blossom.

Perhaps.


If only I could slumber

As bears do, waiting out

The dark days.

Enclose me snug

In some snow cave

Forgetful months.


Perhaps it is only winter

And not an Ice Age

The chill in my heart

Temporary, soon eased

Not the slow cracking advance

Of another glacier reaching

To engulf me, not the silence

Not the life that is death.

Only winter in these bones

Surely, only winter coming.


Numbing at the edges.

Fingers and feet

Cold beyond reckoning.

Waiting for the chill

To extend along limbs

Stealing breath

Tiny snowflakes

In my eyelashes

Layering up softly

Inside my lungs.


Winter always kills

Lie me down gently

On the iron hard ground

Let the ice take me

I am too tired to fight.


Perhaps in spring

With tears or meltwater

It will matter

Whether I was a seed

To grow fresh shoots

Germinating in the cold

Or whether I could not

Find the means to thrive.


It is only winter.

Surly not an ice age

Surely not forever.

Let the freeze take me

And try to believe

Spring will offer

A beginning.

Healing and breaking

Healing is seldom a linear process. This is as true for bodies as it is for minds, especially when healing requires rebuilding. When we build muscle, part of the process involves our bodies ripping apart the structures we already have in order to respond to the demands we’ve made on ourselves. This tends to hurt. Push too hard and you can end up – in the short term at least – able to do far less than you could. Push far too hard and you can damage yourself. Mind and body alike have limits, and while you can push to try and recover from pretty much anything, sometimes what’s needed most is rest, and time.

When you’re in the middle of it, telling the difference between breakdown and breakthrough is difficult. I’ve been around this one a few times. Dismantling a limiting belief, or an out of date coping mechanism can be messy. Dismantling the consequences of gaslighting is frankly a brutal process. I’ve gone a lot of rounds with that one over the years. It isn’t the sort of thing you can unpick quickly.

There’s been a lot of gaslighting at a national level here in the UK. A lot of saying that things we all saw happen did not happen. A lot of telling us that we are all to blame for the state of the economy, that it’s all down to poor people not trying hard enough. Instead, this is a consequence of deliberate policy. Not internalising the blame is challenging, and I have no doubt that many people will end up feeling that the cold and hunger they experience this winter is their fault. 

At some point there will have to be a collective squaring up to the impact of that gaslighting. There’s going to be a lot of breaking down in order to be able to heal and rebuild. Not just on the individual level, either. If we’re going to make it as a species we’re going to need to break down some aspects of our civilization in order to heal and go forward. We may have to break down all kinds of assumptions, structures and systems because so much of what we have right now just doesn’t work and is making life on this planet ever less viable. Inevitably this is going to be messy, but it is possible.


Expressing difficult emotions

Recently on the blog comments I was treated to a little lecture about how harmful it is to wallow in misery. It struck me that this would be a good topic to explore. It’s not an unusual thing to hear if you’re a depressed person dealing with people who apparently have decent mental health. Of course the primary function of this is often to make the depressed person shut up so that they do not make the comfortable person uncomfortable. Or perhaps it’s about not requiring the person who is in denial to think too much.

It is essential to be able to talk about how you are feeling in whatever ways makes sense to you. Anyone who denies you that space is someone to avoid – they may have their own issues, and sometimes stepping away from each other is the best choice. Working through your feelings is essential for getting on top of them, locking it away will only make it worse.

There are a lot of productive ways of expressing emotions. Pouring it into music, art or poetry can be a really good ideas, as can venting it through physical expression. I’ve found dance exceedingly helpful for processing things I couldn’t think my way out of. Difficult emotions can take time and effort to process – significant injuries, traumas, profound losses – we don’t automatically integrate these things or know what to do with them. Coming to terms with anything of this ilk takes time and most of us do better when we can engage consciously with those feelings.

Accusations of wallowing, or loving your own misery or simply making a fuss for attention is one that most depressed people are familiar with. It adds to the burden of distress. Having it thrust at you as an attempt at help, or for your own good just adds to the unpleasantness. So let me be clear that this is never about the good of a person who is suffering. Needing to spend time with difficult things you are feeling is not a moral failing or some kind of character flaw. It’s doing the necessary work that moves you, inch by inch, towards healing.

When we are accepting of each other’s emotions, we lend support to that healing process. When we listen, show care, and make space for whatever anyone else is struggling with, we help each other. I’m constantly grateful to the people in my life who share their own experiences –  l learn from all of that, and I know that in turn what I share of my own journey is at least occasionally useful to others.

I’m not sure what to do with people who respond to distress with unpleasantness. While I’m deeply invested in the idea of community resilience and mutual support, I think we’re all entitled to have and hold boundaries. There’s a very strong likelihood that the people who want to shut down others for expressing distress are speaking from places of having their own hurt, and unmet need. Perhaps they find some comfort or sense of self worth in hurting people who dare to express hurt. I don’t know and thinking about it taxes the limits of my empathy, I’m finding. 

The question of how best, as communities, to take care of the people who have little or no ability to participate well in community is something that impacts on all of us. How do we respond to people who come intent on causing hurt? Even if we’re confident they do so from a place of distress? I don’t have any decent answers to this right now, and I think I’ll need to be better resourced in myself before I can explore this in any significant way.


Mayhem and Misrule!

At the weekend, I was involved with some alternative festive revels as part of Gloucester Steampunks event at The Folk of Gloucester. It was brilliant, we had mummers and morris, The Whitby Krampus team came down, there were carols, and assorted Father Christmas figures, a Lord of Misrule and a parade. Alongside this, more regular steampunk shenanigans included tea duelling and teapot racing and of course music in the evening which I also contributed to.

The parade was a remarkable thing. There’s a lot of drama when you have a few people in krampus outfits. There’s a lot of noise when you have several morris sides. We had a glorious array of festive figures, and more regular steampunks. As we progressed through the streets, people fell back to watch, photograph and film our progress.

It was good, bringing colour and mayhem to the streets of Gloucester. It felt like re-enchantment. A lot of things do at the moment, for me. It was good to be out there bringing surprise, mayhem and mischief into the streets. It’s also a powerful way of reminding people that change is possible, and when a bunch of people get together with intent, amazing things can and do happen.

(Photo thanks to Susie Roberts, shows James and I at the tail end of the parade.)


The Circle of Life is Broken – a review

My only complaint about this book is that the title suggests a far more depressing read than is actually the case. I should have known better – Brendan Myers isn’t the kind of philosopher to succumb to despair. It is of course a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable book, but there is also lyrical writing driven by a passion for life and existence, a book written to try and express possible ways forward.

For anyone looking for ways to think about the climate crisis, and to think about what they personally might be able to do, this is a good book to read. There are no glib answers here, there’s no sure fire quick fix and there is a lot of analysis of things that have already been tried and that failed. There’s also an enlightening history of ecological science which will help anyone not experienced in that field to better understand the ways in which we talk about the world and how that impacts on our responses to the crisis. Brendan also explores the kinds of psychological factors and human-created pressures acting on us to keep us where we are, with all the disastrous implications.

I particularly appreciated the way Brendan has tackled both the history and current manifestations of eco-fascism. Hate, as he points out, is not going to save anything or anyone. However, there is a lot of eco-fascism out there and like most kinds of fascism, it often seems persuasive to people at a surface level. The classist, racist, eugenics-oriented aspects don’t reveal themselves at first glance. Any argument that involves blaming poor people for existing will lead us into this territory and it is so important to be alert to where that thinking goes and how harmful it is.

For anyone into philosophy, and anyone who wants material to reflect on, this book has a great deal to offer. It is an invitation to engage, to contemplate, and ultimately, to act. Heartily recommended.

More on the publisher’s website https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/earth-spirit-circle-life-broken


Scenes from a Druid Life

What does it mean to live your day to day life as a Druid? Obviously there should be as many answers to that as there are Druids. How we draw on what we learn, and how we bring our beliefs into the every day is the key difference between studying Druidry as an idea, and actually undertaking to be a Druid.

For some people, the path to living the Druidry involves having a daily practice. I’m a bit haphazard in that regard, but I try to bring consciously Druidic things into my daily life, and to develop my thinking so that the things I default to carelessly still align with my intentions.

A recent morning brought some winter sun, so I took my review book outside. I’m reading The Circle of Life is Broken, by Brendan Myers; a potent mix of philosophy and squaring up to the climate crisis. As I sat, the wind picked up and played with the autumn leaves, and there were a number of small whirlwinds that passed through. I let what was happening around me interrupt my concentration, wanting to be present to the world and not just focused on my head. I heard a buzzard call and felt the sun on my skin.

Afterwards, I reflected on some of my experiences. I wrote something for a friend. I carried the quiet stillness of sitting out with me into the day. I wrote this blog post. 

I try to bring a balance of things to my days. Practical things must be done. I make time for creativity, for music practice, physical activity, study, service and rest. Those balances vary from day to day. I get outside as much as I can. I dream and daydream, reflect and contemplate. I am an intense person, but I like to do things quietly and thoughtfully. I manifest my intensity in involved thinking. I can be wholehearted while being calm and I can be passionate without courting drama. I seek that balance of emotional engagement and peacefulness, and it is there in a great deal of what I do.

There is no one right way of being a Druid. There’s no singular model for living a Druid life. If there was going to be a rule, I’m inclined to suggest it is simply that you should be conscious, deliberate, intentional about how you use your time, or at least some of your time. Unless you’ve got a better idea that you prefer, in which case, definitely do that instead.


Repairing and re-enchanting

Some years ago, I made a cloak out of tiny wool scraps. I dug it out because I wanted it for an event, and found it had suffered significant moth damage. I wasn’t sure it could be saved, but decided to get in and try, taking one damaged section at a time. It worked. While I was repairing and stabilising the cloak, some words came to me, and then a tune. Of course it’s not just about fabric, it’s about a way of being in the world, which is where the re-enchantment comes in.

Threadbare

When everything’s worn out

And falling apart

I’ll be there with my scissors

My will and my art

And I’ll salvage the pieces

And patch up the rest

Remaking, restoring

Is what I do best.

I won’t throw anything away

If I can help it

I don’t give up in any way

If I can help it

I won’t stop trying if I can,

I’ll repair and rebuild 

This is who I am.

I’ll bring my needle

And I’ll bring my thread

I have glue I have patience

To raise up the dead

I’ll take the discarded

The lost and forlorn

Make something new

Where the fabric is worn.

I’ll bring my patience

And I’ll bring my heart

I have time and ideas

When things fall apart,

I can see futures

When threads come undone

Pick up the stitches

Where the knitting has run.

All I do is keep trying

Nothing too wrecked to be darned

All it takes for the mending

Is to undo the harm

Life wears the edges

I put them back in place

No one too worn to be rescued

Repair and rebuild, don’t replace.


Processing Emotions

We handle things better when we can process them around the time when they happen. Some emotions lend themselves to that, because they invite expression – a surfeit of joy is seldom a problem. It also helps when we’re in situations where other people can easily see what’s going on for us and support us in what we need to do.

Processing emotions for things other people can’t see can be especially hard. Anything that involves the death of dreams can be difficult to explain to anyone watching. It’s harder to process your feelings when what you’re expressing doesn’t make sense to the people encountering you.

It is of course also impossible to process things when you have to focus all your energy on dealing with problems. People who appear to be coping in the short term can end up falling apart when things are ok again, simply because they have the space to do it. This is more likely for people who step up in a crisis and who shoulder responsibility and take care of others. It can be deeply disconcerting for the person experiencing it, and for anyone watching.

If you are the sort of person who spends all their time putting out fires – literal and metaphorical – then you might think of yourself as unbreakable. You might experience yourself as being incredibly tough and resilient. However, it’s when the quiet finally settles that all the unprocessed feelings come home to roost. 

One of the takeaways from this is to offer support to people regardless of whether they seem to be in trouble. The person leading and fixing things might well need some back-up. Knowing that it’s a possibility makes it easier to navigate – being ambushed by emotions only adds to the confusion. Delayed emotions don’t always show up in a way that makes any kind of sense. There’s quite a lot of information out there about delayed grief, but not so much about other unprocessed emotions surfacing. Although my guess is that anything unprocessed is probably going to come back with a significant side-order of grief anyway.

If you find yourself with a whole array of emotions that make no sense, it can feel like you’re going mad. You aren’t, these will just be things you didn’t get to deal with at the time, and the odds are they are surfacing because you do have time to deal with them. Make space for them, and see if you can channel them into something – move with them, let them emerge as sounds, or songs, or other actions. Write them as journals or as poetry – whatever works to help get them out of your body and make some kind of sense of them.

Be kind to yourself if this sort of thing happens to you. Be patient. Give yourself room to feel, and breathe and it will all eventually resolve into some kind of coherence.


Saint Werburgh and the Goose

Giles Watson is a Facebook friend, and I first encountered this poem of his when he shared it on that site recently.

It’s a remarkable piece of work and deserves your attention.

The words are on YouTube if you want to read it.


Doing nothing

I write this on a grey November day, emotionally exhausted and bodily out of sorts. That’s not an especially unusual state to be in. The urge is always to try and push through, be productive. In part this is because doing things that feel useful often helps me ward off the dread and anxiety that always follow hot on the heels of exhaustion.

What do I have to give, right now? Not a lot. My body needs me to show up for gentle, physical stuff, I can feel that. My brain craves things that will soothe it, rather than the relentless drive to do more. I’m at the tail end of a project, and I’ve been dealing with hypervigilance, the brain that ran in overdrive for days has to slow down, or stop.

Outside, the rain is falling softly. The yellow leaves show brightly against the grey sky. There is still greenery, and it is late in the year for so many leaves to still be green. It’s one of the kinder faces the climate crisis wears. My cat is watching the rain, watching the world go by, and I think he has the right of it. I’m typing slowly, turning my attention to the window over and over. It is a day for needing soft things and peacefulness.

Sometimes you have to decide that you have done enough, and give yourself the space to do nothing.