This morning, in the dark before dawn – doesn't the dark slide in so fast after the autumn equinox here in the northern hemisphere? – two young owls are calling to each other down the long valley. Later, Dog and I stroll out beside the little brook in the valley immediately below the house – and I see for the first time ever here a kingfisher.
I've been saying for weeks now 'Oh, the swallows have gone!' and so many times after that I've seen another little cluster, though increasingly the clusters have diminished in size. Yesterday there were just two youngsters – tail feathers barely grown, a late 2nd or even 3rd brood who will make their way, by instinct or by the lodestone in the brain, or both, across so many hundreds, indeed thousands, of miles to join their parents in a country they, the youngsters, have never visited.
And Dog, despite SO many alarms and serious illnesses, including again lately (taking me to the edge of heartbreak over and over, for she is more than a 'pet': a familiar, a spirit-animal companion as I walk between the worlds, my daimon), and being several years beyond her supposed life-span, is well and content again (though her illness, and the back-to-back work, have affected my own health, hence no blogging). But – I'm contented and inspired, and beginning to recover now, too.
So autumn has drifted across the country, bringing with it that sense of transition and of transience that I find so creatively inspiring – a kind of warm nostalgia that makes me both want to walk out into the hills and keep walking, and simultaneously hole in by a fire, with a view.
I love the way autumn lights the fires in my heart. And finally I can translate this into a blog – I've missed writing it the last – what, month?
The rowan berries on Dartmoor are so bright this year; the picture above, at Huckentor on the moor doesn't begin to do them justice; but Huckentor, after walking the Merrivale stone avenues and stone circle, provided an inspiring backdrop to one of the three days' outdoor writing sessions I led for, I think, the 8th time with a group of Baccalaureate students from Switzerland (an initiative set up by my friend Beatrice).
I so love this work, and the last few weeks have been jammed (in a very rewarding way) with so many workshops.
With the same group, we wrote at Branscombe Mouth, where the silver day was offset by the arrival of this little orange trawler, skippered by an elderly couple and pushed initially over wooden rollers and then winched up the beach to be towed by tractor over the high-tide mark.
I think they're too small to be seen in the picture on the right, but I was delighted to spot the new little herd of feral goats on the cliffs on the distant promontory – presumably part of the National Trust's conservation scheme, and maybe a counterbalance to the herd in the Valley of Rocks on Exmoor who, being so long-established, have had their numbers reduced by culling, sadly.
The Swiss Invasion, as we call it, followed tight on the heels of the two back-to-back writers' retreats I lead in the Cévennes mountains at the end of summer in southern France – such a joy, and such inspired and inspiring writing from the participants; particularly and noticeably strong from those who'd stayed on after my Writing the Bright Moment tutored retreat to join me in Seize the Week, a work-in-progress untutored week with optional feedback and mentoring sessions.
One of the things that I find most rewarding is to work deeply with people on their creative process outdoors in an inspiring location where there is such a vibrant meeting and exchange between inner and outer worlds. And what I'm most passionate about, perhaps, though this is often tacit rather than overt, is the personal healing and transformation that can take place through such creativity, and thereby contribute to the healing of the rifts and fractures between self and soul and then self and other – whether that other is human, other species, the land or place where we find ourselves, and/or the planet herself.
And along those lines, I am finally leading, from early 2017, my year-long Grail of the Heart course informed by myth and archetypes, in Cornwall, this time for a private group, but soon to be available to others. This work is rooted in my very first workshops in 1991, which gave rise to my first (commissioned) book, Riding the Dragon – myth & the inner journey. I see that secondhand copies are available for crazy prices on Amazon, as above, but you can also buy it from me via this blog (or contact me via one of the websites). I'm delighted to say that the new President of The Pagan Federation names this book on his acceptance video as one of the three important books that led him on his psychospiritual journey.
From all this to a very focused course last weekend: Novelists' Bootcamp, where 6 people joined me for a very intensive two days looking at the necessary components of a good novel, and redrafting aspects of their own works-in-progress accordingly. It was refreshing, for a change, to work with such a very specific narrowly-tailored subject (almost all my courses these days are holistic in nature and involve soulwork), and everyone, it seems, found the weekend gave them a boost. I had a waiting list, too. So that's another one for next year's calendar.
I have realised that, banale as it might sound, a great deal of my work, in addition to prompts for the creative imagination, some tools for poetry or re-storying, a depth of soulwork and an invitation to the intuitive nature, involves reminding people of their sensory life: paying full attention via the senses of sight, hearing, etc.
I've been astonished for many years now how if I'm out walking I can hide myself in plain sight – not because I have any special powers, simply that by remaining still I can be as unseen as bird, flower, stone. Most people, I notice, walk with their heads down, or else looking straight ahead. They don't seem to see.
Writers – and not just poets – need to be able to slow down, to really look, really listen, really smell the wind, feel the sun, taste the wild sorrel. This is something I teach.
Another thing is wonder: remember how enchanting the world was, every aspect of it, when you were a child? – That.
So: may autumn's winds tease your skin, its fruits fill your pockets, bellies and store-cupboards, its joys and its magic your heart and imagination.