The full moon winter solstice passed in full-on Penzance Montol glory on Friday night. I felt quite exhilarated by the strong and wild atmosphere created by this ancient carnival here – revived over the past 7 years so I’ve heard mostly by the sterling efforts of one passionate local historian! When he talked last week about the quality of the world being turned upside down for a day in a spirit of mischievous laughing at the prevailing status quo, and the sheer exuberance of celebrating ‘out with the old, in with the new’, it brought to mind David Fleming’s writings about ‘the carnival of resistance’, about the importance of a community suspending all rules from time to time, in order to re-examine them, and not to take them as absolutes. He said that by briefly descending into chaos and anarchic hilarity, we can then step back into everyday life renewed and refreshed – that this is the deeper reason for and significance of true carnival. Montol seemed to contain these qualities, it felt deeper than simply a picturesque seasonal celebration. I’m really looking forward to the other festivals down here as the year goes round…
For now however I’m winding down, preparing for a week’s turning inwards and towards the elements in a semi-solitary here in the stone tent, framed by two Chapter Gatherings on Christmas- and New Year’s Eve. This feels quite perfect, especially as the week will now also include packing my boxes again and preparing to move out of my small cosy cave and into a slightly larger longterm rental flat in neighbouring Newlyn, on the 2nd January. Although I will miss the two horses especially, I can’t wait to sit gazing out of these windows looking directly out to the sea:
I will also start working for the NHS again from January, for a day or two, and am really glad about that, and curious to see how this will turn out. And totally unexpectedly I’ve also just been asked to join the meditation teaching team at the class I’ve been going to regularly, and have said yes to that. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to turning inwards here as I say goodbye to my first base down here, perfectly designed for hibernation dreaming. Here is a poem quoted by Sharon Blackie in her latest newsletter, which kind of sums up how I feel right now; note to self: find the novel that is an extract from…
‘Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.’
(Ursula LeGuin, from ‘Always coming home’)
‘Far-ranging and lone-faring is the mind, incorporeal, and abiding in the cave of the heart.’ (Dhammapada)
I’m a bit nervous about descending into that ‘cave of my heart’ this winter, as my moods have been quite turbulent lately, like the winter storms. I’ve grappled with some bouts of loneliness and overwhelm, in the face of the big changes I’ve made, moving away from my familiar friends, surroundings and lifestyle in London. But these storms pass quite quickly, and are always followed by bouts of delight about this astonishingly beautiful place, and how easily things seem to be falling into a new rhythm and pattern down here, with relatively little effort. From the start it’s been a matter of riding the waves of the strong and exhilarating ocean energy I am surrounded by here.
I’m re-reading Virginia Woolf’s quite brilliant ‘To the Lighthouse’ currently, as well as working my way once again more systematically through Ian Siddons Heginworth’s ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’, which despite its clumsy title is a wisdom treasure of a book. It takes as its core the symbolism of the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Calendar which starts with the cold, death and decay of November and works its way around the seasons and corresponding qualities. The quality of December being descent into the heart of darkness, to be transformed there by the returning light. It contains reflections as well as actual practical suggestions for working with these energies out in nature – some of which I will try out this week during the brief interludes between exuberant downpours of rain. And during the times of darkness and rain, I will focus on the six element meditation practice – let’s see what emerges from that mix.
‘It has been said that you do not go into a cave unless you are prepared to become the animal that sleeps in it.’ (Ben Weaver)
I’ve been quite frightened lately by the speed of ecological and political unravelling both in this country and more globally – it’s beginning to feel like we’ve truly entered the time described here by two prescient souls:
‘Things are going to slide in all directions. Won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure any more.’ (Leonard Cohen)
The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats … It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.’ (D.H. Lawrence in ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928)
But strangely and reassuringly, in the face of that fear and sense of instability I’ve found myself feeling really grateful quite frequently, simply for still being warm, dry and safe, with enough food and water, a little car with fuel to take me to the places I need and want to go, and beauty all around me. Not knowing how much longer this fortunate state of affairs will last, but appreciating it all the more through being more conscious of that ever-present uncertainty; no longer taking any of that for granted. Trying to focus on those aspects of the situation I have some agency over – thinking globally and acting locally; finding contexts where I might be able to help contribute to preserving and protecting life and creativity. Life here feels quite stripped bare and much less cushioned than in the city with its many distractions, but in a good way – more enabling of the ideal of ‘elegant simplicity’. Speaking of which – it’s time now for that descent into the cave of the heart…
The mindful who leave home do not delight in an abode ~ like wild geese quitting a lake, they abandon whatever security they have.’ (Dhammapada)