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Leaning Towards Winter

Samhain carries us through autumn into the darkening months. The mellow sun reaches through bare trees, casting shadows over green fields, illuminating carpets of golden leaves as we yield to darker times and sense the rhythm of life around us. If, like the majestic spider tucked behind the bookcase, we listen attentively to the immediate environment, we notice that Samhain invites us to drop into the perceptive world of the body, nudging us towards unknown corners of the soul.

In the wake of the recent devastating hurricanes, the cry of those powerful winds brings into view the precarity of our future. As I write this, I also read an article reminding me that the Halloween confectionary, now adorning the supermarket shelves, is derived from palm oil, grown at the expense of orangutans, rhinos and clouded leopards, whose very existence is jeopardised by human greed:

Yet within all this horror, I also sense the vibrations of those speaking out against the disparity that perpetuates the perverse system that humans have created. At the Edge of the Wild ecopsychology gathering this summer, Tina Rothery spoke convincingly about her activism to prevent fracking in the UK, challenging the governmental decisions that are undemocratic. A few days ago, I met a friend for tea and cake, and as a result of being inspired at the gathering by Tina, my friend is again on her way to the fracking site to swell the numbers and share her skills. In contrast, at the gathering we also heard from John Cantwell and Karen Ward, two Celtic shamans who shared their practice and facilitated a profound journey with the earth. I really appreciated that all three speakers joined the merry throng of the gathering in its entirety, becoming part of the community and growing with us into the gathering.

The ecopsychology gathering is a place to reflect on how we can support each other both to feel and to act from a place of social, political and environmental justice in the name of a whole earth community. This summer I was left with the beauty and power of the diversity of the life around me. With damsel fly, dragonfly and butterfly darting here and there through the nettles; weaving their magic to welcome the midday summer sun. As goldfinches chase from tree to tree, they lift my attention to the mottled clouds that billow like silk and spread across the wide, open skies of Worcester. The dance of the willows moves me, as the breeze lifts and bends their branches and the kingfisher streaks along the meandering river. I’m struck by the spirit living in the vibrant blue of her feathers and the succulent green of the willow leaves. The cool water that ripples gently and continuously downstream. The sand martins that swoop in and out of their homes in the river banks and then twist and turn high into the sky. As a pigeon lands on top of the solar tent holding a twig in her beak, she looks down at the activity in the gathering. The fire burns; darkness falls and the lanterns are lit. We huddle around the burning logs to share poems, stories, jokes and sweet music. We raise a glass to keeping community alive, before a handful of glow-worms light the pathway to bed.

A small spider crawls up the canvass wall of my tent by the light of the moon.

And now, as we reach Samhain, these images of the summer gathering recede in the shimmering embers of the fading sun. The spiders crouched in darkened crevasses behind the bookcase are ready to teach us a new language that fosters our collective sensitivity to vibrations from the web of life that is our community. A language that remembers that we humans are just one small part of this diverse and beautiful web of life.

{Photo is an image of ‘Spider I’ by Louise Bourgeois}

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