I type this as the sun sets on one of the last days of the year. The mist is rolling in, the sky changing from blue to yellow to pink. The pine trees stand tall, silhouetted against the fading light. A flock of pigeons fly across the thin crescent of the new moon. A hush is descending on the little village, and the candles are lit in my home.
Looking out the window at the hazy purple trees in the distance, their bare branches still in the evening light, I reflect upon the year that has just gone. My dreams have been strange of late, perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to the mental ruminations that winter and the closing of the year bring. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m just getting over a nasty cold, and my husband is currently fighting it. The cats are doing well. The family back in Canada are doing well, apart from one tiding of bad news and ill health. But we are strong, we will meet all challenges head-on, staying positive whilst being realistic. I thank my family heartily for teaching me these lessons. I am too easily blown by the wind, feeling it all. Their Dutch practicality is my steady anchor when the storms of emotion hit hard.
So too is this beautiful land where I live, and I give thanks to the trees and the sky, the sea and the heath, the deer and the owls that keep me company day and night. Even as I long for my familial home on a daily basis, this beauty right here, before my eyes in this very moment is what is real. This is what I must engage with, this is what I must feel; otherwise, I am simply a ghost in this landscape.
I am making friends with the muntjac deer who visit me every evening, expecting their peanuts. There are two males, Douglas and the smaller one, Jeffrey. Sometimes Doug’s partner comes with her two children, one a year old faun and one born late this summer. I do not yet know their names. Occasionally, Freya the fallow deer visits, her long legs moving her gracefully across the lawn, her carriage always like a queen. The wren sometimes sits on the picnic table when I am washing the dishes, giving me a wonderful look at his tiny body, so round and soft.
So what has this year brought? It’s been quite a calm and steady year. The first half was filled with the final work and then anticipation over the release of my new book, The Book of Hedge Druidry. Summer and early autumn was filled with promotional work, and hearing the reviews that were coming in. The Book of Hedge Druidry went to No. 1 in its category on Amazon many times over the last six months, for which I was overjoyed. I give my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write to me personally, or leave a review. So many lovely, wonderful people from across the world have reached out, and it’s so nice to know that there is resonance with the words after you release them out into the world.
A crow flies across the deepening sky, followed by two airplanes high above, their contrails glowing pink before quickly disappearing in the high pressure. So many planes tonight, flying across the southern sky. More and more carbon, going into the air, with cheaper and cheaper flights. I worry for the future, I really do. Taking a deep breath, I ground and remind myself that I am doing all that I can, and to be here in the moment. I know that next summer I will be on a plane myself, for a very special family occasion. I cannot judge without being judgemental.
What other things have happened this year? Well, in late autumn, a creative burst came through in a completely different media than usual. Photography and video has inspired me these last few months, and it’s nice to take a break from the written word. Expressing myself in different mediums has widened my horizons, and made me realise that I am more than just Jo, the Druid.
Six airplanes in my small field of vision, as I look out across the back garden.
Douglas and Jeffrey have arrived, and are eating peanuts.
My cats are sleeping at my feet, happy and content.
My husband is downstairs, watching the hilarious soapbox races on the television.
It is safe to say that my world has grounded itself in reality of late. The dreaming druid is still there, but she is sitting side by side with many others. She is sharing a table with many aspects of my soul, and there is food enough for all to share. The call of my ancestors is still strong, and my heart hearkens to a heathen past while my head remains firmly in the present.
Other things that have happened: I’ve revamped my website and this blog, and opened up an Instagram account. My Youtube channel is going strong. I also have a Patreon page, where people can support me in the work that I do, for whichever medium I creatively express myself in, day in and day out. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, because for so long my life was filled with simply trying to survive. There were so many ideas in my head that had to be held back because I needed to make a living first and foremost. These last five years have really shifted that way of being, and I am eternally grateful. It feels like I’m opening up, that more and more creativity is coming, in various forms. I have music planned, and art. In the new year, there will be a place on my website where you can order prints of my photography. There is much to come, by the grace of the gods and my own will.
The room is darkening considerably, and I will have to stop writing soon, for the glare will become too strong for my eyes in the candlelit room. I shall take a moment to sit with the candles, and meditate upon what has gone, what currently is, and what may come. I shall be grateful for every moment, every taste that life has to offer, in every spectrum. There may be trouble ahead, there may be smooth sailing. We cannot know for certain, but we can steer the course of lives as best we can. As the peachy sky fades into grey, then indigo and then black, I know that the stars will shine tonight, at least for a little while. And after that? Who can say? I only know that I am thankful for my many blessings.
To everyone who has followed this blog over the year, and some over many years, to everyone who has yet to come into my life, to everyone who has supported me and my work, I give you my heartfelt thanks. I could not have done it without you. There is a relationship right here, though it is often silent, and hidden. But it is here, between you and I, right here in this moment as you read these words. And I honour you for this moment, this shared moment.
May the coming year bring you peace and happiness in the best of times, and strength and courage in the worst. May we all stand shoulder to shoulder, to work with each other to make this world a better place. May we all walk in beauty.
Love, Jo. x
Loreena Mckennitt was absolutely brilliant at the Royal Albert Hall last night. I have been a fan of her and her music for a quarter of a century now, and last night I got to see her and her ten other supremely talented musicians up close and personal.
She played all my favourites, from the new album Lost Souls and also from her older material, including many of my “witchy/pagan” favourites, such as All Soul’s Night, Pagan Trees (newly titled Ages Past, Ages Hence), the Mystic’s Dream and more. For the encore, she played my absolute most favourite song in the world: “Tango to Evora”, starting with just her on her Troubadour harp and Ana Alcaide on nyckelharpa, and then slowly all other ten musicians joined in, until it was just a beautiful wall of music and enchantment that took my breath away. Rousing favourites were, of course, Santiago and the mysterious and alluring Marco Polo. And ending with Dante’s Prayer, and the vocals trailing off into a whisper… “Please remember me.”
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have seen this and heard these wonderful musicians playing together in the incredible setting of the Royal Albert Hall. Overwhelmed. www.loreenamckennitt.com
Loreena McKennitt, Caroline Lavelle and Brian Hughes were amazing, as always last Monday night! A wonderful performance, utterly magical. I laughed, I cried (I sobbed!), I was utterly enthralled (some songs I think I forgot to breathe). It was just brilliant, and lovely to see these talented folk on stage once again. It’s been five years since Loreena and her travelling troubadours have been to the UK, and I last saw her at the Barbican, promoting her album The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
The London Palladium is one of those old theatres that just oozes culture. It was the perfect setting for the ambient nature of this trio, intimate and yet wish a dash of indulgence. Sound quality, however, is not this theatre’s forte, and all sound had to be put through the speakers, which lost depth. The right-hand speaker couldn’t handle the piano’s low notes either and there was some crackling. There were some other hiccups in the show, and those little pixie mischiefs always happen in threes: a harp string breaking in the middle of Annachie Gordon (through which Loreena simply continued playing in true professionalism, playing around the broken string without missing a beat), a spotlight that kept going out, and forgetting the words to Greensleeves and the audience helping out! Their set list got changed radically after the broken harp string, and yet the concert still flowed beautifully. While changing the broken string, Loreena told extremely funny jokes, those long, funny, storytelling ones with a great punchline at the end. It was lovely, to see her humorous side that evening as well!
The emigration section was very powerful. With diary extracts from those at Grosse Isle in Quebec, tending to the Irish refugees, to Loreena’s own musings on her journey to discover the Celts, it really struck a chord (pardon the pun) within the hearts of all who attended. It was a history lesson, a musical journey and a spiritual experience.
Caroline Lavelle excelled that evening, on cello, recorder and squeezebox, as well as her soft, breathy background vocals. On the final song, her voice blended with Loreena’s so beautifully, I was utterly uplifted, and it was the best version of Full Circle that I have ever heard.
More musical inspiration has struck today… feeling melancholy. Played on an old wooden recorder 🙂
This little tune has been knocking around in my head for the last few days, and I thought I should capture it in a recording. Photos were taken at Staverton Thicks, Suffolk, UK.