Tag Archives: summer

At the end of summer

It has been an odd summer to say the least. Climate change is very much with us and climate chaos is clearly our new, abnormal norm. There have been days of intense, unbearable heat. There have been many days of torrential rain. High winds have brought down trees. Some days have been so cold and grey that it’s felt like late autumn.

For anyone whose spiritual life is connected to the wheel of the year, this is challenging stuff. Our stories about what the seasons mean aren’t going to hold up in face of climate chaos. The things we look for in the wild world won’t happen when we expect them to. It’s disorientating. To be a nature-worshipper with the natural world in a state of wounded disorder, is to also feel that woundedness.

The sun cycles are dependable – the nights are drawing in, and the dawns are a little later. The quality of light when I first wake has changed, feeling less like summer and more like autumn. But, what does autumn mean this year? We could have a late burst of summer weather – it’s happened before. We could be plunged further into cold, damp darkness under heavy cloud and relentless rain. Harvests are already suffering. It will not be a season of bounty.

I’ve taken a decision in recent weeks that is going to influence how I do my Druidry. I am alarmed and distressed by what’s happening, and the reasons for it, and the lack of political will to deal with the harm we do. But I also know I can’t live like that. Climate chaos is probably here to stay. I have to be able to make sense of my days, and I do not want to feel radically out of kilter with the wild world around me. So I have taken the decision to love the excess. I’m going to love the wild, lashing rain, the flash floods and the challenges they bring me. I’m going to love the high winds, no matter what damage they do. I am going to love the extremes of temperature even when I have to also hide from it. I am going to open my heart to all these things and make room for them and live with them.

Wounded beings lash out, even when you try to help them. This is no different. A being I love – this living planet – is wounded, and lashing out. I will undertake to love her anyway.

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Flowers, margins and trees

Where I live, we’re now at the point in the year when the summer flowering has begun in earnest. Many of the spring flowers appear in the woodlands – getting in before the canopies closer over. The summer flowers can generally be found at the margins – woodland edges, alongside hedges and on road verges. My locality is blessed with some large open commons where orchids and cowslips bloom in profusion at this time of year. We also have a lot of fields that are rich in wildflowers.

There’s been a great deal of intense growth in recent weeks. The cowparsley now comes up to my waist. The cleavers are, where they can lean on anything, about the same height. Ragged Robins, campions, great hairy willowherb, tall grasses and all manner of other wild flowers abound. Beautiful to look at, sometimes challenging for the nose and eyes!

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Margins tend to be the places with most biodiversity. The edges of woodlands are especially lively places. What ideally we need are large woodlands with plenty of room for open glades, thus maximising the scope for life. Butterflies especially like this kind of habitat. One of the reasons cutting small areas of woodland in cycles is good, is that you open up more margins.

Of course to many people this seems unnatural – humans manipulating nature. However, you have to consider what is no longer in most of our woods. We don’t have wild cows, let alone giant aurochs. We don’t have wild boar in most woods, or wild horses or ponies or anything else that might clear out areas of low growth. We used to have these larger mammals. We also used to have beavers.  It is their activity, in the past, that would have created clearings, and in the case of beavers, would have created pools as well.

The other major mechanism for naturally creating clearings is the death of old, massive trees. For this, you have to have a steady supply of massive ancient trees. We don’t have those. There are no giants whose falling will open up a large area – certainly not in most smaller woodlands. We’ve got hundreds of years of work to do if we want to restore them.

Our woodland ecosystems are damaged. If we want the best woodland we can have – and by best I mean most diverse and able to support the most life – we have to help. At least for now. Perhaps one day we’ll have enough woodland to have room to support the boar again. Perhaps the European program to recreate aurochs from what’s left in the DNA of domestic herds will work out… perhaps we’ll have our beavers back to manage water systems and thin out trees. If we get there, we won’t need people to do the work, but in the meantime, people are needed to make up for what’s missing. We have to compensate for the mistakes our ancestors made.

The image in this blog came from The Woodland Trust (with permission) and you can find out more about how The Woodland Trust takes care of woods here – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/about-us/ancient-woodland-restoration/ancient-woodland/why-is-ancient-woodland-special/ 


Summer trees and Druid wanderings

Sometimes the great British summer produces hot days. I’m one of the many people whose body is invariably startled by this. I find in hot weather that being under trees is really the only way of being comfortably outside in the daytime.

Walk through woodland on a scorching hot day, and you’ll be in balmy conditions with a little dampness in the atmosphere and pretty much no risk of sunburn. The bright light that can leave you squinting, and for the long term, more at risk of cataracts doesn’t reach through. Intense sunlight filtered through leaves becomes something gentle, joyful and habitable.

I can’t walk in direct sunlight for any significant time without a hat, and even with a hat, the risk of headaches and queasiness remains high. In woods, I can be out all day in high summer and this just isn’t a problem. I don’t dehydrate as quickly, I don’t feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

In the absence of trees to wander beneath, the shade of a tree in park or garden is always a blessed relief in the height of summer.

There are plenty of reasons to connect the idea of ancient Druidry with the idea of tree lore and tree wisdom. From the Roman reports of Druids meeting in sacred groves to possible etymologies relating the word Druid to names for oak, I am inclined to think of Druids as tree people. The simplest and most powerful tree lore for high summer is that to experience the sun filtered through leaves is kinder and safer than to be under its direct glare.

Many spiritual paths are keen to use light as a metaphor for goodness – ‘enlightenment’ when you think about it, is a word with light in it. At the same time we tend to associate darkness with evil, and these habits of thought are deeply ingrained in our culture. Trees do not offer us light, but gentle and friendly shade, with patterns of shifting light and darkness. Too much light will hurt you, blind you and burn you. Our bodies do not thrive when overexposed to sunlight. We benefit from places of ambiguous light, softer light, and cool shadow.

 


Druid Camp from the depths of winter

As I write this, I feel a long way away from the summer fields of the Forest of Dean, and Mark Graham’s Druid camp. It’s an August event, and here we are, shivering in January. No going barefoot in this weather, no exposing skin to sun, no grain ripening in the fields. It’s less than a week – under 2% of a year, but it’s become over the last three years something of a key part of my summer.

Druid Camp is a community space, which means I get to spend time with a bunch of people I really like, and seldom see. Being a community space, there are inevitably other people I don’t get on with as well, and about whom I feel anxious. I’m not the most socially confident life form, and generally avoid people who rub me up the wrong way. The field is big enough, and there’s always enough going on that there’s no obligation to be in close proximity to anyone else. Which is as well. It takes a lot to make me fall out with a person butI’m not all peace and love and light, by any stretch of the imagination.

In more involved, more intense spaces, relationships can be forged that endure. There’s room at camp, and time, and situations that encourage openness, emotional intimacy, even physical closeness. As a person who really struggles around all things physical, that’s always a big challenge for me. Over the last three years, there have been people who knew what was going on with me and have done all manner of things to help me move forward, to be more confident. So now I feel secure enough to use the showers, I can get in the sauna, and I’m much better at hugging people. And at not hugging people and feeling able to say when I’m too sore or otherwise out of sorts.

In workshops, in ritual, in dance spaces… people find opportunities to test themselves, to take risks, and to encounter other people doing the same. It can be really exposing. Encountering another person in this way, you rapidly learn things about whether you want to move closer, or step back. As someone who tends to feel obliged to appease, it’s been an important experience for me, to realise that I don’t have to suit everyone. I don’t have to be totally acceptable to all comers in all ways. I can be an awkward misfit in some contexts, and still have a place.

January, for me, is a most obvious time to be thinking about Druid Camp. I’m waiting for Mark to announce the speakers and music list so that I can run around and tell people. I know some of what’s in the offing, and am already excited. Tickets are already on sale, because I’m not the only person who gets to January and wants to make plans for the coming year. With the way events work, it’s important to be doing that. I will be at the South West Pagan Federation conference in April, I’ll be at Festival at the Edge in July, and at Conscious Connection Camp, I’ll be at Asylum – the huge Steampunk event in Lincoln on the August Bank Holiday weekend. And of course I’ll be at Druid Camp, and nearer the time I’ll figure out what I’ll be contributing. I’m not a main speaker, so there’s more time to pin that down.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to get things moving, tickets, as previously mentioned, are already on sale… http://www.druidcamp.org.uk/