Tag Archives: tides of life

Not always with the flow

Sometimes everything is easy and falls neatly into place. When that happens, it can be tempting to see it as proof that we are blessed, and moving in the direction some higher, hopefully benevolent force approves of. Perhaps we feel in tune with the universe, or that reality is bending over backwards to accommodate us. Either way, it can be intoxicating.

Nature is populated by things that create tides, and things that go along with them. The moon makes the sea tides, opening up coastal feeding opportunities, and then the predators come to feed on that which feeds and they are all part of the same tide. It makes good sense to use something heading your way, to go with a flow that suits your purpose.

Swans migrating thousands of miles ride the winds to ease and speed the journey. They could ride any wind, letting the air currents take them anywhere. To do so, would be to get lost, and probably to starve and die. Instead, they wait for the right winds, for the easterlies that will take them to winter feeding sites and safe havens. They are selective about the tide that will bear them.

The very ease of going with the flow can distract us from asking where the flow is going. We can be swept along, noting how easy it is to go this way, how comfortable and how much it is reinforced by all that is around us. We do not ask whose flow it is, whose intention pulls the tide and where it will eventually come to. It is by persuading people to take the easy way and go with the flow that mad tyrants build their tsunamis of war and cruelty. Everyone becomes so caught up in the tide that all else is swamped.

We need to be like swans, choosing the winds that will best carry us to the places we want to go. There are always many tides and currents, many opportunities to soar on thermals or glide downstream, but we have to pick the ones going the way we intended to go, or we are simply lost in the flow of some other intention, and this is not always the best idea. Not all roads lead downhill. Not all seas are smooth, and the small wave that seemed to be moving you on nicely can, on reaching land, become a vast and destructive wall. It helps to think about where our wave is going, and whether we will still be proud to ride it when it manifests its latent potential.

There is no go with the flow option that leads to the top of the mountain. There are some necessary and powerful choices that can never lead to an easy paddle in a friendly stream. It depends on where you want to go, because streams are only ever heading towards large bodies of water, and mountains are only ever up (unless you want underwater mountains, but that’s another landscape of fish). If you want to conquer mountains, there’s little point looking for streams of water to ride in.

Voices of spring

The change of seasons is a subtle thing, one day to the next, Buds fatten until the first hints of green peek out. Shoots emerge one by one, and the grass begins to grow, turning the faded tones of winter into fresh and vibrant shades. Birds pair off, their nest building apparent, and the days lengthen, getting warmer.

I don’t know why I wake before the dawn, but I do, lying in the darkness I hear when the dawn chorus begins. They are singing for longer now than they did in winter – the warmth and growing days giving them more energy to spare. Somehow they know the dawn is coming, and sing to greet it. Although my body seems to know too, based on when I wake, I don’t feel the coming of the light, but the song of birds is a comfort, and helps me wait out the darkness. It’s the loneliest time of the day for me, not wanting to disturb others who are sleeping, seldom feeling energetic enough to move. The darkness lies heavy and it’s a time when I’m most exposed to my own fear. But the bird song always eases that, and the return of light means a return of hope.

Where I’ve studied Druidry over the years, I’ve heard plenty of advice about how we should attune our own life cycles and moods to the seasons. Spring is the time for waking up, for new projects, fresh energy. As I spend significant time outside every day and don’t have much insulation from nature, I feel the cycle of the seasons keenly – the shifts in day length and temperature impact on me. I’m alert to the changes in plants and birds, and this year bats as well. But I’m not bounding with spring energy. I’m not feeling the thrill of a new season or the energy of new creativity. Emotionally, I’m still in the cold, hard depths of winter and there is a lot of ice on the inside.

This is not a new problem. I don’t lull into the gentle sleep of winter like a good little Druid – I can’t – winters for me are hard work, because I have little insulation from the harsh realities of them. Often the long days around midsummer give me a strange rush and a kind of hyper-energised insanity, but that’s the only time I ‘feel the season’ at all. Early on as a student I was actually told off for this and encouraged to perceive it as ‘Druid fail’. Which it isn’t.

The tides and seasons of our lives are unique to each of us. Trying to reduce them down and make them fit a perceived narrative of the year is unhelpful. I am not a flower to experience the year as plants do, entirely solar led. Nor am I a hibernating mammal or a migrating bird. Listening to the voices of nature and learning from them should not be a process of trying to entirely become what we are not. However we attune to sun and season, we are still human, and it is important to recognise and honour our own tides, which will not necessarily connect with any other natural cycle out there.

For creative folk, the seasons of our working and being fallow are not about crops or harvest. It takes precisely as long to incubate and birth a project as it takes. That can be minutes, months or anywhere in between. We might be caught in industrious energy through the autumn and winter only to find ourselves dying back in the spring and needing to retreat and rest a while. I lived for a while with a predictable six to eight week pattern of work and burn out, which didn’t relate to anything but me.

The tides of life do not respect our inner seasons. We might want to be resting in darkness, but other calls may be made on our energy. Reality won’t wait until a springtime of the soul to make demands on our selves and invention. We could be trying to die back quietly, only to find some other current has grabbed us and requires us to evolve into swimmers.

Celebrating what we have and honouring the sacred time that is now, is not just about recognising where the solar seasons are and trying to attune to them. It is good to be aware of what’s going on out there, but it’s also important to recognise that what goes on within us might not neatly correspond. It’s even possible to find that your thoughts pull one way and your emotions another, that there is no coherent narrative about where you are in your life and what any of it means. And that’s ok too. Sometimes it’s enough to draw breath, write ‘I am here’ as spirit graffiti in the air, and let it go.