Our land, if not our country

In year two of Druid College UK, we cover the topic of leadership: what it means, how you can achieve ethical leadership, and what makes a good leader. Today, our country is voting on who it wants to have as a leader for the next five years; basically it’s a two-person contest between the current Prime Minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.

It’s very telling simply in the language that they are using as to what they think leadership is about. Theresa May want us to vote for her in order to “strengthen her hand”. Jeremy Corbyn wants us to vote for him in order to give power “for the many, not the few”.

Leadership is about empowering others. Leadership is about using your wit, intelligence and resources to make something better, not just for yourself, but for everyone. Yes, you can certainly benefit from your own leadership, but that shouldn’t be the goal of leading; that is simply the ego talking. We lead from a place where we want to help others, to bring harmony to the majority involved. Yes, there might be a revolution in the meantime, and peace might certainly not be on the cards, however sometimes this is necessary in order for things to change.

Here in the UK, things are very tense as we await the election results. We have a real chance to turn from the brink of something destructive and harmful to many, to turn away from a Prime Minister who wants to repeal human rights for goodness sake. In a reflection of the turbulent world around us, this tiny little island nation has a chance to say “no” to tax breaks for the wealthy (and their businesses), to taking away fuel allowance for the elderly, to zero contract working hours, to selling off assets of our National Health Service, to dementia tax (other conditions, such as cancer, as funded by our healthcare service, whereas dementia falls under social care, not healthcare). We have a chance to make a statement to the world as to what we want our future to be. And we’re terribly worried about what is at stake, and the misinformation that people have been fed by a right-wing Conservative-led media (most newspapers, for example).

We have a chance to change politics, to make it fairer. We have a chance to elect a leader who doesn’t do personal attacks, and who focuses on the policies, not the power. We have a chance to really change the way we do things. I had hoped that our last election would be influenced by what happened in Canada, with the Conservatives being thrown out of power by the Liberal Justin Trudeau. But no, that wasn’t the case at all. There is a slim chance that this might happen today. That’s the very best that we can hope for. The more practical are hoping for a Conservative minority.

Today, as I walk the land, the bell heather coming into bloom, the oak trees in their full glory, the adders basking in the sun and the deer dreaming in the shade I hope for the best for this country. Like many others today, we are holding our breath, for there is so much at stake.

And even if things turn out for the worst, we know that this is still our land, even if it is no longer our country.

 

A Love Song.

From the Climate Coalition. Just beautiful.

Click on the “Watch on Vimeo” to see this wonderful video. Superb.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/202819000″>A Love Song #ShowTheLove</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/closeuponclimate”>The Climate Coalition</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Hope

Hope can be a double-edged sword. It can lift our hearts, rally us towards a cause, or it can lead us to the depths of despair when it dies. I’ve often wondered whether it is better to have hope or not, whether hope is a carrot dangling in front of us, or whether it is that very real need to invest our emotions into the belief that we can change our world. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Zen approach, in a piece entitled “No Hope“. The words that I wrote four years ago still resonate strongly within me, even as my relationship to hope has changed.

When we are at our lowest, we might still have some hope that things will get better. This hope may be the only thing that gets us through those long, dark nights of the soul. Then again, that hope may be what is preventing us from achieving things in our own right. Hope may cause complacency. If we work without hope, without expectation, then we may be even more motivated to make a positive change in the world in our own right, for the benefit of all.

With hope comes expectation. When we have expectations, we can be thrown against the rocks of frustration, anxiety, anger and despair when those expectations are not met, when things do not go the way that we would like them to. We want people to behave the way we think they should, for the benefit of all. We want our politicians to think of the people that they represent instead of their own agendas. We want colleagues to pull their own weight, spouses and partners to be there for us, children to love us. When things don’t go according to our plans, or according to our expectations, we might crash and burn. We might dive into darkness at seeing a new President-elect, we might look at the environment and realise that perhaps we have simply gone too far, and there is no remedy for what we have done. When this happens, we can lose momentum, we can get stuck. Hope might be the thing that brings us out of this stagnation, or it might leave us altogether, so that we are in an even worse state than before.

So how do we work with hope? I’ve found it useful in the last couple of years to work with Hope as a god. I’ve worked with Time in the same context, and it has been illuminating for me in so many ways. Working with the gods, we learn to create a relationship with them, one that is nurturing for all involved. There is a give and take, a sustainable and reciprocal feeling to it that means that we cannot rely on them to do everything for us, and vice versa. It is in mutual respect where we meet, where we realise that we are part of an ecosystem, and where we need to strengthen the bonds of relationship so that it functions for mutual benefit. We learn from permaculture that diversity is key, that edges are where things happen. We learn to work with both, and in doing so can make this planet a better place. If we give up Hope in this context, if we give up Hope as deity, then there will be a very real feeling of bereavement in our lives; we will be bereft. That relationship will be gone, and when it is gone then to whom do we relate?

Others would say that this might be preferable, and in giving up Hope as deity we then become more self-reliant. But self-reliance is a myth. We are all co-dependent upon everything else on this planet. We do not exist in a vacuum. We need others in order to exist, let alone thrive. We are not separate. Without the innumerable other factors in our lives, beings seen and unseen, we simply could not be. I think that this is why I believe in the gods. The gods are all about relationship, about relating to our world through a means which is personal to each and every being. This is why I’m starting to work with Hope on a new level, when it seems perhaps that all hope is lost. Otherwise, I fear I might spiral into apathy, or depression. If I work with Hope, if I talk to Her and connect those threads of sustainable relationship, then I might be inspired to solve a problem, mend something that is broken, reweave the threads of connection in the best way that I can.

Hope can be the spark of inspiration, the awen that sings to us in the dead of night when all seems lost. Hope can also be a force that keeps us from changing our lives for the better, hoping someone else, someone more powerful or intelligent will do it for us. But when we work with Hope as deity, then things begin to change. Hope will not save us from ourselves. But Hope may inspire us to do better, to be better, to be the change that we wish to see in the world.

Or so one can only Hope.

Moving forwards

You can’t stay stuck. You either have to move forward, sideways, or back the way you came. You have to find a way to follow the flow, to get where you need to go. This was made all the more clear to me today as my husband and I snowshoed the trails around my parents’ home.

These were trails that I had known all my life. In my youth I had spent many long hours in the forest, no one for miles around, hiking the trails in all seasons, with only the birds and the tracks of fox, deer, squirrel and rabbit to keep me company. Some of the trails I had made by my own passage, which are now no longer in existence. Things change, paths come and go.

We strapped on our snowshoes and headed out into familiar backcountry. It was beautiful, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground, heavy on the tree branches and falling lightly out of the grey sky. We followed an old trail that had a few deviances from its orginal path. When the path just ended for no reason, we decided to continue on; we weren’t forging a new trail, and others had gone before. We weren’t too bothered: we knew the area pretty well. A couple of miles up the mountain was a road, and a couple of miles below was the river. Eventually if you got too lost, you could just either head uphill or downhill. Walking parallel to the hill would either hit another road or powerlines, so you could again get your bearings pretty quickly. We had a phone if we needed a pickup from any of the roads.

Still, it was an adventure. The trail moved into unfamiliar terrain, and at one point near the top of the mountain there suddenly appeared “No Tresspassing” signs in the middle of the forest where the trail just stopped. We had been out for hours and we stopped, discussing the best thing to do. It was getting cold, we had climbed 90% of the mountain, and could either spend what little energy we had left trying to find the connecting path that should have been there (even though this meant trespassing) or go back the long way we came. Tired, sweaty and getting cold, we decided to keep going ahead, despite the signs. (Please note: this is not an endorsement to trespass on private property – it all depends on the circumstances.) The old trail used to go through this newly acquired or newly signed property, and I knew we weren’t far from the connection off towards the east. It was the best decision we could make, given our current circumstances and situation. We tried our GPS, but for some reason it had decided not to work. We had to rely on gut instinct. Ten minutes later, after walking past a dozen signs, the trail suddenly appeared again, this time with new signs and following a different path. Breathing a sigh of relief, we continued, moving forward, knowing that home was that much closer. We took out the compass and confirmed that we were indeed heading east, which is where we wanted to go.

The trail had changed, and though the name was familiar the terrain wasn’t. But eventually the trail connected to the old trail that I knew and had grown up with, for we saw some of the old signs that had been screwed into the trees. These little metal signs had been attached to the tree for so long that they were half covered by the tree, which had grown around it, and would eventually swallow them whole. I smiled, realising that these signs were new when I was younger, and reflected the growing, changing, ever flowing nature of time, and the nature of nature itself.
We found our third connection, and came out onto the road with great relief. It had been quite an adventure, physically challenging and mentally stressful, not knowing where you were, breaking the rules and hoping that your insinct is right. Some trails had drastically changed, some were the same, but moving forwards was essential in order for us to find the way home. As we walked down the road in the falling snow, I thought how much this reflected life in general.

Sometimes we work bloody hard to get where we need to go. It can be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. What matters most though is taking those first steps, and getting out there, finding the path that works for you. It may not matter too much which path you start out on, as long as you do start. Sure, you might have to break a few rules on the way. Sure, you may seriously doubt yourself. Sure, you may find the path twists and turns unexpectedly. You may be exhausted. But at least you are trying. At least you are not stuck. Out there, in the backcountry woods, being stuck can be fatal. So you keep moving, you keep going.

We are resourceful creatures. Sometimes we just have to listen to our guts. I was so thankful when we found that connecting trail, confirming that my sense of direction had been right. We use what we have been gifted with, what we have learned, and what we are continuing to learn to help us move forward. Sometimes we may even have to move backwards for a while, retrace our steps in order to find a better path. Sometimes we may not even have a destination in mind; the journey is enough. Take pleasure in the journey, the good and the bad, the stresses and the glories. Use your wits and intelligence, your physical strengths, your intuition, your friends and family to help you get where you want or need to go. One foot in front of the other. You can do it.

All you need to do is keep moving.

Nature is in contant flux. It is never the same day twice. Everything is changing, growing and fading, living and dying. Follow that flow. Be the flow itself.

Walking together down life’s pathways…

Jo&Family-67Today I am getting married. I am marrying the man I married nearly six years ago to the day.

Love changes with the passage of time. This change is like a fine wine, aging quietly, mellowing and creating a deeper, richer flavour to delight the palette. Things have changed between us, as we are not the same people we were six years ago. Things remain the same, as we hold many things close to our hearts as we did six years ago. Life experience has flavoured our journey together, giving it a sweetness and a spice that was only hinted at all those years ago.

We’ve been lovers for fourteen years. We’ve been married for six of those fourteen years, enjoying each other’s company, riding the currents of this river of time together, paddling together through the rapids, floundering when we’re not concentrating on working together. We’re best friends who hold many things in common, loving many of the same things. We are also polar opposites, having many differences in outlook, upbringing, ways of thinking. Having grown together, especially these last two to three years and working through various difficulties has made us see the best and the worst in each other. We don’t take certain things, like health, for granted anymore. We don’t take each other for granted anymore.

As my love for my husband has deepened, so too shall my vows today reflect that change. Nothing stays the same, life is always in constant change and flux. The impermanence of everything helps me to see the joys of life greatly, even in the deepest sorrow and pain.

I am deeply honoured to have married a wonderful man who both adores me and is not afraid to stand up to me. He loves me for who I am, never asking me to change, supporting me in all that I do even when he doesn’t really understand it. He has taught me so much about myself, about the give and take in a relationship, about what it means to nurture something and really being there for each other. Today I pledge my love for him once again, witnessed by friends, the ancestors and the spirits of place.

May love guide us in our journey.