from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 16 February 2013

heading for the hills (and the sea)

One of the joys of my younger life was taking off in our campervan for the coast. Waking up early by the sea, having a walk/surf/swim and then writing, kettle on the hob or slung over an open fire, became a way of life.

My then-husband and I, and later plus our tiny daughter, would also take off down the Atlantic coasts of France and Northern Spain in the winters in our van, following the surf and living wild, earning what we needed as we went. One autumn in the low dense woodland of Les Landes in Southwest France we lived almost entirely off the land for the best part of two months: nuts, berries, mushrooms, and shellfish for those who would eat them (not me).

I'm on the hunt again, 20+ years on, for a small, clean and environmentally not-too-juicy-and-low-emissions campervan. Seems like an impossibility on a limited budget; and only older ones will run on a fair degree of recycled chip oil, but older ones (OK I can't afford a newer one anyway) inevitably come with higher maintenance costs.

I'm someone who takes notice of my nocturnal dreams. I write them down – that way I pick up recurrent and long-distance themes, and have found that paying attention makes a big difference to my orientation and the 'steering' of my life, and adds depth and insight. I make a conscious effort to attempt to incorporate into my life the messages I glean from the psyche that way.

I've been having dreams lately involving water a great deal. Water in various traditions (eg the shamanic, the Jungian) is usually identified with the feeling nature. In one of these, recently, the young woman in brightly coloured hand-made clothes, barefoot, whom I identified as my younger self, was curled up on her side, on a headland near water – dead. The dream wasn't in itself scary, but it woke me up to the fact that something of my younger self, her vibrancy, vitality, creativity, freedom, carefreeness and independence, urgently needs resuscitating.

Flashback: my big dilemma at new year (I hinted at it here) came from the fact that I was offered an utterly magical small piece of land right next door, on which I could realise my dream – dream-dream not night-time dream – of creating a sacred garden, with space for a cabin/yurt to offer retreats and courses, and orchards already partly in place for developing permaculture systems. I could keep bees, goats, bantams. Most exciting of all, there was a barn with a flat area perfect for how I want to develop my ecopsychology work with groups and individuals: into the realm of horse-collaboration for mindfulness and horse-assisted therapy. The whole was, I thought, just possible with my small legacy from my mum. (I should say that I've never owned, nor even co-owned, property – oh save for a very short but very romantic period in my life, in Brittany – my 'capital' is my library – so to buy something like this would be a huge step for me.) Then, same day, I came across the perfect horse, for sale at a price I could just about do.

Well, I dithered for weeks. I so wanted both – this side of me is very strong – but had not envisaged long term not living near the sea or in a Celtic/moorland area. Plus, as some of you might know, I had heart issues last autumn that haven't left me entirely, so the timing felt 'off' – extra responsibility seems like a bad plan to one who has been overwhelmed by responsibility to the point of being quite ill the last little while. In the end, I put an offer in on the land – the most I was willing to offer – and it was immediately rejected. No land, no horse...

So – well, a campervan – and I've hankered after one since I finally drove the old one into the ground and couldn't afford to resurrect it in my 30s – might be nearer the mark anyway. This side of me, the nomadic, is pretty strong too. It would give me the freedom to go where I need to be when I need to, space to write solo in inspiring landscapes, and it would allow me more time in my beloved Hebrides each year either side of the courses I run without it costing for accommodation. I can run my laptop off a solar panel, and sit gazing at the sea writing (and with tea-making facilities right there to hand). Who knows, I might even be able to persuade TM that he'd really like that lifestyle on occasion.

But so far it's proving elusive. I have a hunch that what will work for me into the future is taking routes that prove to be easy, in contrast to my deeply-engrained past that has had me in every area of my life swimming against the currents, upstream. If it doesn't unfold simply and easily, I am learning to walk away from it, like today's campervan that I viewed.

This, though, below, is the one I really want (sadly, I don't believe it's for sale, and I think it's also in California). It's built by a guy named SunRay Kelly, on top of his 1984 Toyota camper. If you see one, let me know.
Meantime said daughter, 30 years older now, is looking for a gypsy bowtop – like this little beauty, perhaps  –
Or this one (thank you, Eloise). Build your own campervan! Well, and –

And if anyone has any associations (I mean imaginative responses/connections) with the words in this email address I'd be interested to hear too – it came from the same dream:

reedy[at] I haven't yet tried the email address to see if there's a bona fide 'real life' recipient.

There's Pan in there; there's Donovan's song about Leda and the Swan, there's Robert Graves' association of Reed with the month of Scorpio, according to the old Celtic ogham alphabet. Any more offers?


  1. There's Psyche, of course, Roselle - Psyche and Pan. You remember? Eros has just left Psyche, after she uncovers his identity with her lamp, and she goes off to throw herself in a river. But the river throws her back up, onto a bank where Pan is sitting ... Pan tells her, in effect, to get a grip ... :-) There's another river and a reed, later in the tale: Psyche despairs of attaining the golden fleece & is about to throw herself into the river when (from Apuleius):'But then from the river a green reed, source of sweet music, divinely inspired by the gentle whisper of the soft breeze, thus prophesied: "Psyche, tried by much suffering, do not pollute my holy waters by your pitiable death..." and tells her how to get the fleece. (Pan is also associated with reeds & rivers via the Syrinx myth in which Syrinx, fleeing Pan, was turned into a reed by the river ... Pan pulled the reeds out of the river and made his pan pipes from them ...)

  2. Sharon, you don't know how useful that reminder is right now. I can't believe I forgot the Psyche/Pan meeting, and the reed-music. Am I right in remembering that the golden fleece is associated with power, and specifically the power usually held by men? In other words, an aspect of the animus?

    Thank you dear friend! Rxx

  3. Dreams of water... and a camper van ...hmmm...sounds like a narrowboat! You'd have a bit of an adventure getting one to Iona though. Jx

  4. Yup, I would say so ... :-) The Pan/ river/ reeds thing is interesting; Syrinx was turned into a reed to escape him, but he plucked the reeds to ensure that she never could ... As always, easy to read these things either as positive or negative but only you can really get a sense of where the relevance is - as you well know. xx

  5. Jinny - well, you never know! ;-) Hope your winter on water's been good.xx

    Sharon - again, many thanks. We can also choose to view what you characterise as 'positive or negative' as pointers towards synthesis, and what's needed for wholeness, too, can't we, rather than buying into the dualistic model? Am reflecting on your contributions - very helpful.xx


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