Category Archives: Pilgrimage Walks

Candy Stripes and Winter Blues

Tammie and I found ourselves on a deserted beach at West Wittering, one rather cold and wet day this week.

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This punctuated orange triangle stood out from the crowd

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We dried ourselves out and warmed ourselves up in the pub afterwards

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Then I found this in my bedroom.

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For other Converge posts, this weeks’ photo challenge, see here.

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Pointing the Way

Signs. The subject for this weeks WordPress photo challenge.  All these photos were taken over the course of my week-long reconnoitre trip up to the Holy island of Lindisfarne during Michaelmas last week.  (see also Pilgrim on Horseback for the back story).  Click on any of the photos if you wish to read the messages more clearly!

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Normally, I would jump at the chance to use a title like this to go down the esoteric route and interpret it as ‘signs as symbols’.  Something I am always seeking to find in the landscape as personal messages for me.  These, however, are signs that are literally pointing the way.

this is one I hope to become very familiar with

this is one I hope to become very familiar with

Some are warning signs, some have been defaced: a sheep turned into some of rhinoceros. Information boards, a scratched dedication to a loved one on a bench, and a way marker looking like a crucifix.

Then, on a wild and desolate moor in the North Yorkshire Dales, I come across the Red Flag which stopped me in my tracks.

On the Holy island of Lindisfarne, the signage becomes grand and imposing to shepherd the thousands of visitors around the island as well as marking the way for pilgrims wanting to follow in the Saintly footsteps of Cuthbert.  A couple of the signs, however, are cracked and old-fashioned and seem oddly out-of-place against the ‘corporate’ signage of a place that has become a major tourist attraction.  (Naively, something I was not expecting and found rather disturbing).  For me, these signs seem more home-spun and real and speak of the people behind them.  (Like the dedication on the bench, above)

And looking at them all again, collectively, there is an element of deep symbology for me in them, each one unique in its own way telling their own story.  On my epic journey, I shall be looking for these signs to guide me along the right path, both physically and spiritually.  Not least as a little bit of entertainment to also delight and amuse.

 

To see how other people have interpreted signs, here.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Personal Philosophy, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Layered Textures of a Pilgrimage

Exploring physical textures is a constant theme that runs through my life like a thread that gets woven into every aspect of what I am doing, thinking or creating.  Last month that ‘textures thread’ was ‘grown’ in a digital 3D lab to create a collaborative artwork for the The All Makers Now ? Conference exhibition at Trelissick House, Cornwall.  (see previous post).

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a mechanical device that is programmed to reproduce objects out of extruded plastic, fine enough to replicate fine details and surface textures.

Then, by way of a complete contrast from the mechanical manufacturing of 3D digital textures my focus moves to the spiritual texture of a pilgrimage.  On another one of Richard Dealler’s, 6 day guided Pilgrimages following the Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route.  This time across Bodmin Moor from St. Austell to Liskeard, walking between the pyramids of spoil and aqua waters of China clay mining country to the pony and sheep dotted wilderness that is Bodmin Moor.

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As the days pass, the biggest pyramid gets smaller and smaller as we get further and further away from our starting point until finally it is obliterated from view by the mist.

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I relish the chance to walk once more in silence.  The chance to journey inwards and rekindle that still place within me whilst making visible and felt connections to the natural world around us.  And once more happy to relinquish responsibility for where we are going to our leader, Richard, who has found a new oak staff to walk with.  The one which he had abandoned out of guilt for breaking it free from its mother tree, only to find it again propped up on the gate post where it had been carried by an unknown individual to await his passing by the following day.

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Each overnight camp is marked by a different farm animal and its dung: in order of appearance, cow, horse, dog (heard in the distance only from a rescue centre nearby) and sheep.  Waste products seems to have been a theme running through this pilgrimage.  My shadow on a slurry strewn dairy farmyard on our first camp making a beautiful pattern.  The aroma that stuck to our boots hung around for days.

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Another theme that begins to emerge is that this land has apparently been fashioned by giants.  Lying on the ground as if some giant had just tossed them there with abandonment, are these huge boulders.  They lie scattered across the fields all across this area and have somehow been built into the field boundary walls.

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And then in a clearing in some unidentified wood, there is what is believed to be the largest free-standing boulder in the British Isles.  It lies as if suspended in mid-air, propped up by lesser boulders, huge in their own right.

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This daddy of them all is so big, I struggle to find an angle in which to photograph the whole thing.  It dwarfed us all in its magnificence.  When we toned inside its open chamber, the stones hummed back as if in gratitude of our acknowledgement.

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In this land of giants, we crossed an old viaduct built out of huge blocks of granite.  What is Richard saying?  (Chance for a caption competition here?)

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In the cool, dark woods at Bolitha Falls, we found a spot away from the madding crowd, to sit and eat our lunch.  The deafening sound of rushing white water made having any kind of conversation impossible, anyway.

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We made a mandala of pilgrim feet on the leaf litter in the woods.  The trees giving up their old leaves to be recycled into humus as the circle of life goes on.

a mandala of pilgrim feet

We feed our bodies with nature’s bounty, and Christoffer’s delicious suppers,

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and the porridge bowls are always polished clean.

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We replenish our souls with holy water from sacred wells,

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finding solace, peace and a cool retreat as well as reliving poignant memories inside churches we visit,

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captivated by human stories of war-time heroes,

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or by the patterns and symbols, in the tracery of window panes

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and in the crosses we find outside in the churchyards, like this one at Lostwithiel.

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Or along the way, where the old and the new jostle for our attention alongside each other to signpost our way.

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We walked across many fields of sun-burned grasses,

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and barefoot up scraggy hills to relieve blistered feet.

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Or stopped to meditate or doze away an hour, propped up by the stones in an ancient stone circle of circles that is the Hurlers and shared sacred heart prayers on a node point buzzing with energy.  Here Richard relinquishes his heavy oak staff for someone else to pick up.   Then on to marvel at the stack of boulders that is the Cheesewring on top of Bodmin Moor where the giants seem to have been at work once more.

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But no sign of the Beast.  Only muddy tractor tyre tracks to be found.

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and rusting pieces of old farm machinery seemingly abandoned by the wayside.

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On the final day, we begin our walk with a shamanic walking practice led by Andrew.  Walking with a creeping, cat-like stalk, this very slow, high-stepping crocodile, connected by an imaginary thread begins its snaking progress along the path.  What a sight this must have been and after I managed to suppress my initial urge to giggle, it did provide an opportunity for us to stop and really observe the details in the landscape around us.  To appreciate the ‘accidental beauty’.   Something that I felt up until that moment, because of the pressure to reach our destinations, had been somewhat missing.

And those observations, for me, summed up the sensory textures of this pilgrimage: noticing the variety of grasses with their different seed heads swaying together in the gentle breeze.  Noticing underfoot, the contrast between the dry, ruminant-nibbled grasses and the cool squelchiness of the boggy patches of moss and reed, or the sharp, stoney graveliness of the farm track, remembering the ‘trudge’ through the rain on our first day.  As we turned in unison to gaze upon the slope of the hill rising before us, seeing it as if for the first time: the fields divided by remains of old, crumbling stone walls now dotted with pristine white, sheared sheep, no doubt washed clean by the very squally wind and rain that had blown through the night before.  It was a biblical scene to be sure.  The symphony of bleating notes as ewes and their lambs call to one another, echoing around the hills.

In this place of sleeping giants and semi-wilderness, and in this very moment, the silence is both deafening and beautiful, the scenery both harsh and nurturing.  Wiping the sheep poo off my boots, I am minded to relinquish the old, the wasted, in order to replenish the new as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is an ever-present element that is woven into the textural fabric of our evolving lives.  Every breath we take is an acknowledgement of that.

 

 

For more WordPress photo challenge: Texture here

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Filed under Digital, Mandalas, Paths of Enlightenment, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

Summer Solstice, 21st June, 2014:  Walking on Dartmoor.

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a pilgrims view of her feet – her most important asset!

This is the third day of a 4 day pilgrimage across Dartmoor, beginning at the church on the hill, St. Michael de Rupe at Brentor and finishing at the Church of the Holy Cross, Crediton, following the Mary/Michael Line.

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It is also the Summer Solstice and promises to be another hot, dry day on Dartmoor.  By the time we have finished tucking into Caroline’s delicious breakfast, the mist has dissipated from the tops of the distant moors.   With sun cream liberally applied to exposed areas of skin and full of anticipation for the day ahead, we leave Moorgate Cottage behind us and walk up once more onto the open moorland heading towards a stone circle near Belstone called Nine Stones Cairn Circle.  A couple of pilgrims stop for a quick dip in the stream at Gulliver Steps on the way where I am only prepared to bare my feet to dip into the cooling water.  Nine Stones is a small and intimate circle where we place a couple of heart-shaped stones picked up along the way in celebration of this, the longest day, and re-arrange a bunch of wild flowers left by a previous visitor into a mandala shape around them.

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an offering of thanks for the Summer Solstice

I am reminded of the many Summer Solstices I have celebrated in the past at Boscawen-un Stone Circle in Cornwall.

As we head out on the other side of Belstone towards what will be our steepest climb of the pilgrimage, to Cosdon Hill (550 metres above sea level), I am wondering what I should do with the stone that is still in the bottom of my backpack.  It was discovered lying on the river bed at the base of the waterfall at Lydford Gorge which we visited a couple of days ago.  It bears the cross of St Piran on it, the Patron Saint of Cornwall and has been given to me presumably because of my Cornish connections.  I know there has to be a place along the way where I must leave it, but at this point, I don’t know where that place is.  Somehow, I know that when the time comes, it will become clear what I should do with it.

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the falls at Lydford Gorge, like a stream of light which reminds me of the depiction of the holy light in the stained-glass window above the altar in Belstone church.

It is a long and hot trudge up to Cosdon, with the benefit of a cooling breeze the higher we climb.  The 6 kilos of weight I am carrying on my back feels more like 12, and sun hats are dunked into Lady Brook on the way up to cool over-heated brows.  The footpath is not always clear, either breaking up into animals tracks or we find ourselves making our way across rough, tussocky ground  between squelchy boggy patches of springy heath and cotton grass.

This long climb is easily the most challenging part of the whole pilgrimage and just before we reach the summit, my mobile phone rings.  I manage to dig it out from one of my zipped trouser pockets.  It is Paul, the vet who is treating Sadie for a ‘spontaneous prolapsed disc’.   He tells me her condition has deteriorated and there is nothing we can do now to reverse the situation.  That the time has come for us to end her suffering.   Barely able to splutter out the words, I make David promise to hold Sadie for both of us so that I can be with her too in her last moments.  In that moment, I understand why I have been carrying the ‘Cornish’ stone.

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After my cooling bathe, I decide to walk barefoot up the stone row

On the descent from Cosdon on the other side of the hill, we stop to walk up an ancient stone row.  With the Cornish stone now burning in my hand, I walk up the narrow alley between the stones, imagining Sadie by my side, running up the track for the last time.   I see her elegant body gliding along in slowed, poetic motion, embodying all the runs she has ever done, in joyous harmony.

At the end of this stone row is a small cist or burial mound.  Here I carefully place this stone which now represents my little Cornish whippet, tucking it into a cosy corner amongst the fallen boulders and vegetation that covers the mound.

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cotton grass grows in boggy moorland patches (photo taken from image on greetings card)

I discovered later that this stone row is known as ‘the graveyard’.  I know I will come back to this place one day.   After that, the remainder of this joyous Solstice day is a bit vague, except I remember the large granite standing stones at Spinsters’ Rock (Burial Chamber).  I remember them particularly because they were humming.  A low-level hum in response to some toning we had done which I found strangely comforting, and something I have never heard before.  It was hard to comprehend why I was the only one that seemed to hear them.  Then the long road walk to Drewstaignton, and welcome rest.

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long winter beach shadows of long narrow dogs – Sadie feels like that shadow now

Sadie’s body now lies buried in a shady corner of my paddock where she once frolicked with her pack.  And I am reminded of the stained glass image of St Michael in the chapel on top of the hill at Brentor at the start of our pilgrimage.   In one hand he holds up a sword-cross and in the other hand he carries a pair of scales.  A reminder that life is a precarious balancing act.  In St Michael’s case, a balancing act between the forces of good and evil: lightness and darkness.   I do not think it is possible to have the one without the other.

Even so, perhaps I should have been more prepared for what was to come knowing that the best laid plans can go wrong.  Before I had even begun this pilgrimage, I had missed my train connection and the bus I was travelling on to catch up with the rest of the party had broken down, its engine simply ‘cutting out’, as if to reinforce the notion that rare incidents do happen.

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passengers waiting by the broken down bus for the next one to come along

This pilgrimage for me has represented the fragility of life, the acceptance of unexpected things that happen that probably have some meaning for us if we care to examine them.  The synchronicity of being in certain places at what felt like the right times, and how in a single day, it is possible to experience both the joy of nature at its zenith, and the sadness we feel at the premature passing of a precious life from this earthly world.  Yet another poignant reminder that the cycle of life (and death) goes on regardless of our best laid plans.  Rest in peace, my darling Sadie.

Contrasts

 

 

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Healing Chakra Walks on St. Michael’s Mount

light coming through the C16 stained-glass window, in the chapel dedicated to Archangel Michael, St Michael's Mount.

light coming through the C16 stained-glass window, in the chapel dedicated to Archangel Michael, St Michael’s Mount.

For the past few weeks, I have been creating a special Chakra Walk  to take place on St. Michael’s Mount, the culmination of the St. Michael’s Way.  I offered to run one of these walks in aid of Freedom from Torture, the former medical branch of Amnesty International, with kind permission from the St. Aubyn family and help from the management team on the Mount.

I want to limit the numbers to 12, so I have decided to run two walks and have chosen 2 dates that coincide with a favourable tide as  walking across the causeway is an important element of the walk.  Hopefully, one of these dates might suit you?

chakra walk - plain doc copy

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in doing one of the walks, or you just need more information, please do get in touch with me:

email: caro@carowoods.co.uk,  or call me: 01736 874388

or download the above flyer: chakra walks – with contact details.

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Spriggans of Light: A Pilgrimage from Carn Lês Boel to Come to Good.

About half-way through a recent 6-day pilgrimage, (lead by Richard Dealler of Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way), I learnt a new word.  Spriggan.   It was used by our overnight camping host and transformational healer, Annie Turner, to describe the sparks of light coming from the fire in the pit, a warm and welcoming focal point for weary pilgrims to gather around after a full day of contemplative walking.

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A little research and I have discovered that a spriggan is a nature sprite or changeling in Cornish folklore.  Not a particularly savoury character by some accounts, to be found guarding hoards of ill-gotten gains.   Used to describe sparks from a fire, then I can easily embrace spriggans as nature spirits dancing in the flames.   It occurred to me that, as pilgrims, we were not unlike spriggans: little beings of light  breaking free to sparkle in the darkness before finally evaporating into the ether.

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West Cornwall Beltane Pilgrimage organised by Mary Michael Pilgrims Way guided by Richard Dealler.
The Node Stone
Be still, for this is sacred ground,
A place to stand and pause. Reflect
upon the pathway here –
The lessons learned, the gifts received.
Be still, and listen to the voice
That sings a song of unity,
Blessing the journey still to come
With love and deep humility.
Brenda Desborough.
This poem was read out by Richard to mark the start of our pilgrimage.  We are standing on the node point at Carn Lês Boel.  The point where the Michael and Mary Lines make landfall and come together after snaking their way across the waters from Ireland, (I dowsed it that way on this day, but initially dowsed by Hamish Miller).  The reading perfectly sets the tone for our next few days together.

12 pilgrims in all set off on that journey together: a dolly mixture assortment of backgrounds and eccentricities, such as artists and photographers and, not surprisingly the majority of people from various caring professions which includes a homeopath, a psychotherapist, an Alexander technique practitioner, a few musicians and healers, an ex-lawyer, a songstress and one couple.  And me.   Then there is Christoffer, the backup team: driver, cook and provisioner for the duration, a cauldron of bubbling energy.  He scolds us when we left tea bags lying around the camp, woos us with poetic observations or serenaded us with soulful sounds skilfully bowed from his violin strings.  He also fills our bellies with welcoming, tasty curries and vegetable stews flavoured with foraged herbs.  We could not have done without Christoffer.

This is not just a walk-and-camp holiday as a couple of participants had thought it might be.  The word ‘pilgrimage’ in the title is a bit of a give away.   Walking in silence and sharing this intense experience of internal and external journeying is part of what constitutes the difference between a ‘walk’ and a ‘pilgrimage’.   But due to the nature of silent walking, we rarely get to know our fellow pilgrims  over and above what they do for a living.  For instance, I can’t tell you about family matters or how many children other people might have had.  But that doesn’t seem to matter.  Just being with other people and experiencing their essence overriding words is enough, understanding a power in people being together, body and soul, in the natural environment.  When we do talk, other than the daily natterings, what is slowly revealed, skilfully guided by Richard and Christoffer, are mirrors of our own thoughts and feelings as most of us manage to summon up the words to share deeper aspects of ourselves to each other.

The week is not without its moments of tension that spontaneously erupts and ripples through the group from time to time.  Richard’s experience in working with offenders of domestic violence meant that these troublesome niggles were ‘aired’ and dealt with in the group circle sessions.  But it wasn’t all heavy and introspective either.  There are many, many  light-hearted moments too and a lot of joyful banter and much laughter.  Singing and bright conversation.  Poems recited and musical instruments played.  So that by the end of our time together we felt more like a family of friends, embracing our differences and sharing our truths, than a band of weary pilgrims.

 

Then there is the walking.  Lots of it.  About 60 miles following the Mary earth energy line across the hidden parts of the west Cornish countryside to visit quiet country churches, holy wells, hill-top markers, stone circles and standing stones that accent points along the Line.  What should have been familiar territory for me often felt like we were walking in a foreign land, tacking across it, this way and that, in Mary’s gentle, energetic field.  A couple of themes begin to emerge.   For one,  there is a definite heart vibe going on: everywhere you looked there are shapes resembling hearts, even heart-shaped puddles.  The other theme is a cross, like the cross of St.Piran (a black cross on a white background), the patron Saint of tin-miners (and of Cornwall).  They were on rocks on the beach, like the one I photographed at Nanjizel….too big to put in my pocket.  The turn stile on the path leading to St Piran’s Well, in the gardens of Bryher Cottage, Perranwell was in the shape of a St Piran’s Cross.  (Or were they kisses?)

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When we came to St Michael’s Mount, I was invited to try out my new Chakra Walk on the group.  Realising why I had been prompted to throw my coloured silks into my bag at the last minute, this seemed like a good way to elevate our visit above just a tourist experience as we tuned in with Mary once again on the Mount.  (you can find a report about it on the Mary Michael Pilgrim Way Facebook page)

Then there is Richard, our steady leader and pace setter.  I knew the moment I met him, we were all in safe hands.  A special red-coated leader, often a sweater skirt tied around the waist, ready to hand out the blister plasters or dispatch a casualty or two in a taxi to the next camp when the need arose.  As it did on a couple of occasions.  Once when a ‘gent’ got one of his new boots stuck between a couple of granite boulders whilst crossing a stile, falling backwards into a bed of stinging nettles and leaving his foot wedged at a precariously twisted angle.  The sort of thing you see on ‘you’ve been framed’ only it wasn’t very funny at the time.   After untying laces and a lot of wriggling and a bit of man-handling, the boot is finally freed from its stoney vice together with its occupant.  Luckily with no more harm done other than a pilgrim who was a little bruised and shaken by the event.

As we settle into the rhythm of the days, ‘about half an hour’ becomes a measure of distance to the next resting stop / the first lunch break / the second lunch break / the day’s destination.    Creases of anxiety are gradually ironed out as stresses in the ‘outside’ world get left behind and concerns such as time and distance become blurred, responsibility happily relinquished and the focus placed on simply following our leader.  His quiet, even step, leading the crocodile of pilgrims along the path.   Then just when I was beginning to feel like I could go on for another week at least, all too soon, we had reached our destination: Come to Good, an atmospheric little Quaker Meeting House near Playing Place on the Fal estuary.  Then as suddenly as it had all begun – in the rain – that moment had arrived to say goodbye – in the rain.  Goodbye to our fellow foot travellers and go our separate ways once more, splintering away from the community of pilgrims to scatter across the country and breaking the spell.

Summing up that experience?  For me, it has been quite cathartic.  At many points along the way I was very close to tears, and on some occasions not able to control them from flowing at all.  The experience: a richly woven tapestry of poetry, chanting,  early morning Qi Gong (a form of Tai Chi), a few tears spilt, a bit of gentle snoring and a little toning (or droning from me).  The sound of Skylarks and mesmerizing kinetic wind turbine sculptures:  moments that turn into memories.  I ached in my gluteus maximus and had a coffee withdrawal headache for the first day, but once I got into my stride, quite literally, I took off and flew!  Like a butterfly whose wings are a little tattered at the edges.  I think we have all fluttered our wings a little more and I, for one, wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I am a little wiser and more nourished by the pilgrimage community.  “Basic human contact – the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words – is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. ……….” Martha Beck.   Thank you fellow pilgrims.

If you would like to experience one of these for yourself, Richard is in the process of organising the next pilgrimage.

Dartmoor Summer Solstice Pilgrimage, 4 days (tbc) from 19th June. Contact Richard, contact@marymichaelpilgrimway.org.

For a taster, here is a lovely film about last years’ Dartmoor section of the Mary Michael Way made by Rachel Cornish who was with us on the this years’ Cornish section.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are some of Richard Dealler own words (which he has kindly let me reproduce here) in his poem, Cuckoo Calling.   He was reminded of it when we heard those distinctive cuck-oo, cuck-oo notes whilst walking in the middle of the Cornish countryside, a true harbinger of Spring and new beginnings. Thank you Richard.

Cuckoo Calling

Yesterday,

I walked in search of the cuckoo,

Around Bickleigh and Cadleigh,

Up the valley of the Dart.

I wandered into an old world of marshy meadows

Where cuckoo flowers abounded

But their namesake was absent.

Most unexpected was the heronry,

Where birds vulture-like perched and looked me in the eye,

As if spotting the silvery glint of a tasty morsel.

I got lost, missed an unmarked path,

And ended up knocking on the door

Of a cottage at Little Silver

Where a person 5 feet tall

Would have had to stoop to enter.

Back in Bickleigh, a fading poster

Pinned to the bus shelter, caught my eye.

It advertised Awakening Albion,

A walk from Cornwall to Norfolk

From shore to shore

Between Beltane and Summer Solstice.

It spoke of pilgrimage and community,

Two words close to my heart.

Today,

The incongruity of speaking to one of the pilgrims

As he neared St Austell.

In my mind he was garbed in medieval robes,

With staff, gourd, scallop shell – and mobile phone.

Part of me longed to up sticks and go

To break through to a different life.

Leave the washing up in the bowl, the lawn unmown,

My own message pinned to the door,

“Away on pilgrimage.”

To re-awaken in me that joy of days and weeks

When walking was my life,

The pace and rhythm so unrushed

That my senses like a fairy tale princess kissed, revived,

And where, a long, long way from home

I heard the cuckoo call.

Richard Dealler.

 

 

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‘Holding the Light’ for Angela on St. Michael’s Mount

'Holding the Light', Photograph taken with a pinhole camera, by Angela Shaw.

‘Holding the Light’,
photograph taken with a pinhole camera, by Angela Shaw.

In the middle of Mounts Bay in West Cornwall, there is a tiny island that rises out of the sea just off-shore, near Penzance.   It is here, on top of this Mount in 495 AD, that the vision of Archangel Michael appeared to a group of fisherman in the Bay below.  8th May marks the anniversary of this sighting.

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View of Mounts Bay, St Michael’s Mount in the distance

Living on the hill above the bay, I can see the castellations of the castle on top of the Mount and catch whole glimpses of it when I walk the moors around my home, or the dogs along the beach at Longrock.  The storms this winter exposed remnants of the petrified forest that is normally covered by sand in the bay, reminding us of a time when it was merely a hill in the midst of a landlocked forest.

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St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island 366 m off the Mount’s Bay coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is a civil parish and is united with the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water’ (Wiki). 

The causeway that links the island with the mainland

The causeway that links the island with the mainland

There is something rather magical about the Mount.  Standing alone in the bay like a figure from Arthurian legend, I feel its constant presence and is always a comforting reminder of home.

 

 

This tiny island has a twin, connected by an invisible thread across the Channel, which lies just off the coast of France.  ‘Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country’s northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. 100 hectares in size, the island has a population of 44′ (Wiki).   Here, I have been told, the tide races in at the speed of a galloping horse.  Both St. Michael islands get cut off from the mainland twice in every 24 hours.  Both have been monasteries at some time in their lives and both are dedicated to the Archangel, Michael.  More significantly for me, both lie on the Michael earth energy line where it crosses with its sister, the Mary Line, making them both pivotal points of powerful Gaia energy.

8th May, 2014.  ‘Holding the Light’.

Lantern and pin-hole camera placed on the Michael Line, St Michael's Mount.

Angela’s Lantern and pin-hole camera placed on the Mary / Michael Line, St Michael’s Mount.

 

The lantern on the Michael line, looking out to sea at the spot where the fisherman in the Bay first saw the vision of St. Michael.

The lantern looking out to sea at the spot where the fisherman in the Bay first saw the vision of St. Michael.

Angela's carefully prepared pinhole, primed and ready to go a few minutes before the 8pm start

Angela’s carefully prepared pinhole camera, primed and ready to go a few minutes before the 8pm start

 

Last week I met up with Angela Shaw (www.angelashaw.org), an MA student on the Art & Environment course at Falmouth, for a special visit to the Mount.  Angela was on a recce to check out a suitable location for her ‘Holding the Light’ project and I was on a mission to identify ‘chakra’ points for a walk I am organising for FFT (more later in a new post).  It turned out to be a very fruitful visit for both of us and I ended up offering to help in her ‘Holding the Light’ project: an 8-point photo work and light sculpture.

The 8 positions of Light

The 8 positions of Light Holders (Cudden Point is just off the map in the bottom right corner, my crop!)

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Angela’s invitation to join in the ‘Light Sculpture’.

I was given charge of the St Michael’s Mount ‘watch’.  In her ‘Guidelines for light holders/ witnesses, Thursday, 8th May, 2014’, she explains, ‘the aim is to ‘hold the light’ metaphorically, to give time and attention to the light……in a synchronised pause, knowing that 7 other light holders, over a 10 mile radius are doing the same’.  Each light holder is issued with a lantern, candle and matches, a pinhole camera, notepad and pen to record thoughts and impressions.

8th May arrived and at 7.30 in the evening, I was picked up from the slip at Marazion by a castle Landrover and driven over the causeway to the Mount, now closed to daily visitors.  From there, the castle manager, Pete, and I jumped into a golf buggy and bumped up the cobbled pilgrim path to the castle at the top where I laid out the lantern and pinhole in exactly the place Angela had identified as the chosen spot on our previous visit together, the very same spot where the Archangel had appeared to the fisherman below.

the setting sun just bursting through the mist before sinking behind the horizon

on the boat back, watching the setting sun just bursting through the mist before sinking behind the horizon.  (For more ‘on the move’ pics for this weeks photo challenge see here).

At 8 pm precisely, I opened the aperture on the pinhole camera and whilst I watched the family of Ravens playing on the cliffs just below us, Pete and Adam (and his lovely dog, Eve) went to turn on the spotlights to illuminate the castle.  At exactly 8.20, the tab was replaced over the hole in the pinhole, the candle extinguished and with the lantern packed away, we bumped our way back down the path from where I climbed into the motor craft that was waiting to take me back across the now flooded bay to the mainland, being dropped off at Chapel Rock where Victoria was recording my arrival with her film camera.

leaving the island behind me

leaving the island behind me

With the light now beginning to fade, Victoria and I walked up the hill above Marazion to watch Angela light the prepared beacon.  A few gusts of wind and the fire roared into life, easily sustaining the 20 minutes for the pinhole there to do its work.  The gentle light from the chalky lanterns now replaced by the larger flames of the beacon.  Standing there completely mesmerised by the spriggans dancing in the gloom and the glowing flames fill the darkness, I felt it had all been a rather wonderful experience and a privilege to have been part of something really special.  So thank you, Angela, for inviting me to take part in your project.  I have particularly enjoyed being a ‘light worker’.  And particularly grateful to all those who had made my visit to the Mount possible.  I can’t wait to see the resulting images from the pinholes and how Angela finally interprets her ‘synchronised pause’.

Angela lights the beacon

Angela lights the beacon.

Victoria recording the event, the lit up castle on St Michael's Mount illuminated in the distance.

Victoria recording the event, the illuminated castle on St Michael’s Mount in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light is fading as the fire burns brighter

Light is fading as the fire burns brighter

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20 minutes later and the mission is accomplished.

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