Tag Archives: Summer Solstice

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.






Filed under Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Whippet Story, Wordpress Photo Challenge

The Song of the Black Bird

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The Summer Solstice heralds the longest day and for me this is always the most magical time of the whole year.   The sun at its zenith, my thoughts automatically turn to love.   To embrace this new day, early this morning – lighting a candle to symbolize the abundance of light on this day – I decided to meditate on love, wisdom, grace and inspiration.  I was rewarded with a ‘black bird’, and to look for ‘messages in the stars’ from my messengers.  What a gift and to top it all, unwrapping a package of loo rolls, this image presented itself just going to show these messages are intimately woven into the fabric of my life!


Then as the day unravelled, the mystery deepened.  You see it has become a custom to celebrate this special time with a visit to Boscawenoon Stone Circle.  In the past, anything from a basking adder to an owl carrying a vole off to its young has been revealed on this special day.  So the expectation of seeing a blackbird as confirmation of my message was high.  Looking around the hedgerow on the perimeter of the circle, at first I was somewhat disappointed as there was no blackbird to be seen.  But I could hear one!  And just to be sure, I checked the delightful tune I was hearing with my ‘Birds of Britain’ app.  Playing the song of the blackbird on my app had the effect of setting into motion a thrilling little duet of trills between my ‘phone and the blackbird, at the same time aware that I didn’t want to cause any territorial worries!

One of the Gaelic names for the blackbird, Druid Dhubh, means the black Druid, a bird renowned for its melodious song at twilight, a time of transition between one reality and the next: in this instance the transition between the height of Summer towards the dark days of Winter.  According to Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, (The Druid Animal Oracle), ‘in heeding Druid Dhubh’s song, you will discover healing and new depths in your soul’.

Follow this link to see a sonogram of the blackbird song.

Then, as always happens when visiting these special places, meeting interesting people has become the norm.  This day was no different and I met a charming women who turned out to be a ‘sound’ healer from Plymouth, discovering that we had a few friends in common came as no surprise.  It was only later that I recognized the significance of this particular meeting: I was to heed the sound of the birdsong wherein I would find my message.

The blackbird is renowned for singing at Twilight.  Carr-Gomm: ‘.….Twilight is the shimmering time ….. as the time of daylight and consciousness and the concrete world gives way to the moon-time of the Unconscious, of the Other world.  His song reminds us that these gateway-times are ones of great beauty and potential‘.   Is it no coincidence that within 2 days (on 23rd June) of the sun at its zenith, we will also be experiencing a Super moon: A moon at its largest due to its orbital proximity to the earth  (just 356,991 km away), creating the biggest celestial event of the year?

More details here on the Perigee Moon.

Rebecca Solnit (A Field Guide to Getting Lost), says the art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, ‘….of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control.  To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us’.

rusted gate decorations just off the path to the stone circle

rusted gate decorations just off the pathway to the stone circle

If you are wishing to enhance your own High Summer magic, here is a beautiful meditation for you:


Filed under my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

Summer(?) Solstice

June is nearly over and ‘flaming’ it ‘aint!  Hey ho, we celebrate the Summer Solstice all the same.  This year we joined Angie and friends for a mini fest of music and song.  Using a couple of the pictures I took on the evening, I have made these posters to mark the event.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed my poster-making is becoming a bit of a habit.  Ever since I found this new App, Phoster, I have been hooked.  There is nothing too light-hearted or too serious that goes under the radar of my poster tool, even creating a ‘poster’ section within my ‘Design’ category.  (Be prepared for more to come!).

This Phoster App, however, is seriously limited in what you can do with it and can be extremely frustrating at times.  For instance, if you don’t save a copy you lose it rather than be able to go back a few steps to undo stuff.  There is not a very wide selection of templates and there are no colour choices available except for text, to name but a few.  Also, some of the text is so small I can’t even read it on my phone.  I try to be as inventive as I can to overcome these minor irritations!

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Posters

The Sun and the Stones


This video is an extract taken from Cassandra, a film Anja and I made last year for KerstenWoods Productions.   This sequence is beautiful and I thought it could be a stand alone piece in its own right.   This section is called, The Sun and the Stones, and is a joyful celebration of the mid-Summer sun rising above the circle of stones at Boscawen-un.  It will form the inspiration for the Summer Solstice festivity in our new series of Earth Goddess films charting the cycle of the year.  Some of the raw footage will be re-edited, together with new material and a brand new soundtrack to explore the theme of the The Earth Goddess at the height of her Serpent powers, nourished by the energy of the sun at it’s zenith in the sky.

(The full version of Cassandra is available on DVD from KerstenWoods Productions)

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Filed under Earth Goddess, Films, my sketchbook pages