Monday, 28 June 2010

Avalon Spring 2010

Now that summer is in full bloom I am getting excited about this year's Avalon Spring (Witchcamp). Witchcamp is always one of my summer highlights, and I just know that this year's is going to be wonderful.

I am lucky enough to be teaching again this year, along with three dear friends who also happen to be wonderful teachers and priestesses - Brighde Eire, Georgia Midnight Crow and Deborah Oak. We're cooking up some great offerings (workshops) which I'm really excited about. Once again we will return to the beautiful Earthspirit retreat centre near Glastonbury where we will gather under the stern gaze of the resident dragon, Clifford (really!), bathe in the dappled sunlight of the sacred tree circle and dance beneath the stars in the evening rituals. And this year we are working with a beautiful story, the Feri Creation myth of the Star Goddess.

I can't wait - come and join us if you can, it's going to be amazing!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Gossip, Rumour & Hearsay

One of the cliches about small rural communities is that everyone knows everyone else's business. And like most cliches, this one is based in truth, as I have been finding out in the last few months.

One reason is that many people are related to each other - families that have been in the area for hundreds of years in many cases have intermarried into a tangled tapestry of threads that is often hard to un-knot. I was recently cautioned by a fellow in-comer, 'Be careful what you say to one person about another - you never know whose aunt or cousin they may be!'. This seems to be wise advice.

As an in-comer, I have found the level of interest in other people's lives both sweet and touching - these people care about each other - and also somewhat bizarre and unsettling. My elderly neighbour, for example, loves to ring me up when there is a funeral and tell me all about the deceased, their virtues, vices, peccadilloes, likes and dislikes, even if I have no idea who she's talking about. And then she will tell me who was at the funeral, what they said, what they wore, what they thought about the deceased... again, I only know a fraction of the people she is talking about and often feel like an unintentional eavesdropper. Discomfort arises when she tells me about the things people have done that she disapproves of. I am clearly supposed to condemn these poor strangers for their sins, even though I know only my neighbour's version of their shortcomings. Mostly I umm and ahhh noncommittally and hope she'll soon find another topic.

Most discomforting of all is the recent realisation that I too am the subject of neighbourhood gossip. For example, at the end of last summer - more than a year after T and I had split - I was invited to a wedding. My invitation included a 'plus one', so I asked IB (who I had been seeing for several months by then) to accompany me. The wedding was lovely, I knew about a quarter to a third of the people there and was introduced to many more. When we returned home, a friend who hadn't been at the wedding rang to say that before the wedding had even finished, a neighbour (who also hadn't been at the wedding) rang her to ask why I was at the wedding with a man who was Not My Husband. Someone else - presumably a wedding guest - had rung him to report on my presumed infidelity and brass neck in showing off my fancy man to all and sundry. What really amazed me was that anyone who actually knew me, knew that T and I had split, and that I had started seeing someone. Surely only people who know me would be interested in my private life? Obviously that isn't the case!

Subsequently, I have met people locally for the first time, and in beginning to converse with them have found that they already know I'm divorced, where I live, that my parents have recently moved into the area... in short, they know exactly who I am and quite a lot of detail about my private life. I find this all quite bewildering. How can I be so interesting that perfect strangers are exchanging details of my life with each other. Why would they even want to know?

Perhaps I'm strange in not being that curious about other people. I take an interest in the lives of people I know, but I can't get my head around the notion of nosing into the affairs of strangers... or perhaps that's it. Perhaps I'm no longer a stranger, perhaps I have taken my first step onto the (long) ladder of being accepted as part of the local community. That is a nicer way of framing it!

Either way, I have taken perverse delight in throwing petrol on the gossip inferno by allowing the son of another neighbour to park his car on my drive for the time being. It's a simple 'helping each other out' scenario - he needs somewhere to park his SORN*-ed vehicle, and it benefits me to have a car parked on the drive even when I'm not here so it looks like there's someone in. However, I am now a Divorced Woman (and we all know what they're like...), IB is still on the scene, and now another single man's car is parked outside my house... I can just imagine what they're saying down at the local Tafarn**

"Have you heard about that Moonroot at Halfway Up A Hill - what a hussy! Well I never - do you know, she..."

* SORN = Statutory Off Road Notice. In the UK, when a car is not licensed it is issued with a SORN, one condition of which is that it is not parked on the public highway.

** Tafarn - Tavern or pub.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A Dry Spell

Walking down the hill this evening to deliver eggs to my neighbours, I noticed the ditches are completely dry. The shrunken river drifts in a calm, shallow, meandering way, in contrast to its swollen, raging character in times of heavy rain.

We had a day of steady rain over the weekend, which gave a growth spurt to the grasses and flowers (and weeds!), but after an unusually rain-free winter followed by a dry, sunny spring it didn't make much difference to the streams, ditches and rivers.

For the first time since moving to Wales (ten years ago this August) I am seriously worrying about the well drying up. Halfway Up A Hill has no mains water supply, so if the well did dry up it would definitely be a problem. I have many water butts stationed around the property, but it's amazing how quickly that water gets used when conditions demand it.

I wonder how the birds and animals are coping? A dearth of water in West Wales is not normally an issue. I remember being amazed and impressed when we first moved here by the way little springs would - well, spring up, on the hillside after heavy rain.

I have just checked the five day weather forecast and it doesn't appear we are due for rain any time soon. Don't get me wrong, I am loving the warm, sunny weather, especially after the last few miserable, wet summers we have had here. But I would like the weather Gods to know that it would be nice if we could have the odd heavy downpour too - maybe overnight so we can keep enjoying the summery days. As Joni Mitchell so rightly observed, sometimes you don't know what you got till it's gone.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Real Gold

My Mum's wedding bouquet was yellow roses and mauve freesias. She still loves these flowers today.

Today my parents celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, 50 years together.

This afternoon, they will re-take their vows, with my Uncle Jack, who married them way back in 1960 reprising his role as officiant. Tomorrow we will throw a big party for them. Fifty years of happy marriage is worth celebrating!

Last night we watched some old home movies of their wedding and the early years of their marriage: the building of the home I and my siblings grew up in, family holidays, birthday parties and trips to the zoo. It was strange watching these old films, which I probably last saw as a teenager. This time, I saw them through new eyes. Looking back now that I am in my forties I could see my parents for the first time as a young couple, starting out in life, building their life and family together. I realised how hard it must have been for them sometimes with three small children, only my Dad working, money in short supply, literally building a house brick by brick themselves and turning it into a happy home. But I also know how lucky I am to come from a close-knit, loving family. That is worth more than gold!

So - golden years, leading to a Golden Anniversary today. Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad. And may there be many more!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

St Anthony's Well, Llansteffan

Llansteffan is a lovely place to visit. It is on the estuary of the Towy River, downstream from Carmarthen just before the river flows into the sea.

Up on the hill above the village are the ruins of a dramatic cliff-top castle. The views from up here are spectacular.

But less obvious, tucked away down a narrow, tree-lined footpath leading from the beach is a place to treasure.

Here, stepping through an unremarkable old door set in a stone wall and down stone steps, you find yourself in a tiny courtyard overhung with wisteria and honeysuckle.

This is St Anthony's Well, a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. It delights me that this holy place - hidden away from the casual observer - is still visited and honoured to this day with offerings of flowers, shells, crystals and foliage.

When IB and I visited earlier today, the alcove of the well was filled with such gifts, and the plaque depicting St Anthony himself had been garlanded with wildflowers.

The well has such a tranquil, sacred atmosphere it is one of my favourite places to visit. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone seeking to visit ancient sacred sites in the Carmarthen area. Take some time out to relish the peace there. And don't forget to bring a shell from the beach, or a wildflower from the lane for St Anthony!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Summer Morning in the Garden

Barefoot through wet grass. The smell of damp soil, sun on bare arms.

Teasing seedling weeds out from between the onions. Gently helping bean stems find a hold on bamboo canes.

Bees in the comfrey. Dewdrops twinkle on soft plumes of fennel.

Stems grow, day by day, inch by inch. Leaves unfold into the light.

I am back in my rightful place. The garden and I exhale and relax.