Fingers poised above the keyboard, not sure of where to start.
Don’t give away the treasure too soon.
My second weekend in Dartmoor at the School of Myth. A weekend that has stood like a beacon, a steady light through the recent chaos, guiding me in.
Midsummer. Which of course isn’t Midsummer at all, we’re barely out of Spring but for some reason, perhaps the Solstice, the 21st is deemed to be exactly that. From now on the light begins to dim towards the Winter and yet Summer itself still stretches out before us. June is the time when Nature seems at her best, roses, peonies, poppies coming into bloom, the trees wearing their freshest green and life bursting out of the hedgerows whether in a veil of Queen Anne’s lace or the growing lambs, the fledgling chicks that mark another turn around the wheel of the year. A time of revelation. A time of magic and dreams, as Shakespeare’s play attests.
Time spent sitting in solitude up on the Moor itself. A landscape so stunning and unfamiliar to me, the unsettling experience of literally not being able to trust the ground beneath my feet as grass oozes water and my boots sink into the bog. Standing scared, scanning the ground, trying to work out where to step next, where might be safe and where I will sink – an experience which in retrospect seems a fairly accurate metaphor for my life right now (and for anyone who hasn’t yet signed up against our government’s eagerness to once again punish the poorest members of society, this time by removing Child Tax Credits, the petition is here.) Large twisted oaks that seem to grow out of the ancient granite boulders, the vibrancy of the unfurling bracken, a sky that changes from blue to grey within seconds, rain followed by sun, the breeze which rustles the leaves, the constancy of the stream splashing past. Fingers stroking the luxuriant moss that cushions the thick bark, sensual, like caressing a man’s chest.
Most of us do not spend enough time outdoors.
Even during my reverie I find myself wishing that our leaders spent more time sitting under great trees, simply listening, observing. Beholding. There has been much talk at the School of sorcery, of hearts buried beneath the ice, of what happens when power is separated from heart. There are a lot of sorcerers in Westminster, I think.
Saturday evening – the beauty of a meal that I haven’t had to plan and cook, a meal spent deep in conversation, ideas flowing around the table. The joy of this being a group which understands the importance of pudding. Tables and chairs shifted out of the way while fellow students came forward to tell stories and sing songs, some confident, some willing to share their nervousness in a way which felt like a generous gift.
Then, when it should be over, the door opened to reveal the Green Man – two green men, bedecked in ivy and branches, unrecognisable, leading us outside. Grabbing glasses and coats we made our way outside, where the path was lined with flickering tealights, the campfire blazing and – most wondrous – the rough outdoor shelter hung with drapes and a sequinned backdrop which glittered in the candlelight like a thousand stars, a magical theatre for this one night. Two lanterns hung centre stage, more tealights grouped like footlights in the grass below, ready for Titania and Bottom to make their appearance, for a few of us primed beforehand to emerge, clutching love poems to read to the waiting audience while the tabla and flute played alongside us. If I live to be a hundred, I doubt I will experience anything quite so magical again. I wish I had a picture to show for it, but magic is notoriously difficult to photograph, and mobile phones and selfies completely out of place for such events. It was the perfect Midsummer celebration, the kind of thing your heart secretly longs for, glimpsed occasionally in novels and films and beautiful set design.
Fire. Wine. Whisky. Good company. Celebration. Whatever else might be going on, there is always something to celebrate. Always something to appreciate, to give thanks for.
It was apparently 3am by the time I got to my bed. As I showered this morning, I could smell the woodsmoke being rinsed out of my hair. The return can be hard.
Perhaps you celebrated the Solstice, or Midsummer itself. Perhaps not. But let’s not get too hung up about calendar dates here, or whether we’ve missed it. There’s always time. This weekend I’m determined to have friends around; food, wine, a bonfire if it’s not raining. I don’t do formal dinner parties, have no interest in trying to impress my guests with canapes and souffle or my ability to match the perfect wine with each course. Simple and tasty is fine; this is about gathering together with people you love. Or even just getting to know your neighbours a little better. Make an agreement that on this night, the shit will be left at the garden gate – this is not a night to argue over politics or complain about your Ex; bring a handful of poems if needs be, just to make sure. Make it a night of delight. There’s enough in life that’s hard, that’s stressful, enough time needed to be set aside for grieving, for struggling, for just-about-coping. Choose one night, soon, the sooner the better and dedicate it to pleasure, to magic, to love. To life.