Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Swimming In The Deep.

Summer is slipping away,
into the fading green that is softening towards sepia toned senescence,
the vigor and vim and zest that sang off the trees since May now toned down, flagging,
like a bedraggled party that went on a day or two too long.
Outside my window the autumn mists roll over the hill, over our rooftops, down into the town and out to sea.

The first yellow leaves pop, rain-bright against the grey,
and the gardens around town have lost the puff of voluptuousness that makes them so alluring all summer; among them the air is one of satiated contentment as they wither slowly,
rain heavy,
decaying happily towards winter.

All hurrying towards some Otherness we cannot know.

Our summer was a mixed one.
July busy, bright, beach days galore, while August sneaked by,
suspended in a waiting game for the sun to return, things to begin, things to finish,
and in the end we woke up and it was suddenly September.
Suddenly there are no more beach days. Not the summer kind.
And even though Autumn is my favourite time of year, I somehow don't feel quite ready this year.

Somewhere in August, in the midst of it all I got lost. Fell into a big lacuna. Looking at the world around me was like lying in a dark sea looking up at impossible stars, being overwhelmed by their presence and extraordinariness, but not knowing whether it was a terrible beauty, or just Terrible. I want to believe the former, but secretly believe it is the latter. Given all that is going on in the world, the craziness, the breaking apart of the way things were, events and people that stop us in our tracks in horror, norms that are now taboo and taboos that are becoming mainstream, this coming apart at the seams, this deconstruction of the old story, some parts of it are exciting but most is very scary, and how exactly is that we are all still standing and functioning and carrying on? Human spirit and all that, right? Is that what it is? Or is that just denial?

I didn't write then. I couldn't. I was too cowardly. And I was in too deep. People don't want their faces pushed into it, I know that, (even though all you really have to do is open your Facebook or Twitter feed to get a whammy of a face full) and in some ways I'm not sure what good it does, writing about it - people come to it when they are ready (or their backs are to the wall). But I can no longer not talk about it - my body is talking about it, singing it, a lament of epic proportions, which is hard to ignore.
However, if you find yourself unwilling to engage with this, that's okay, I understand, but some days we just want to know we are not the only one who sees the world the way it really is, as I said before the one that is beneath the market driven consumer enchantment.

But thankfully there is human spirit, or whatever you want to call it. And we all find our causes and our means to continue, because it's what we do. But I truly would love a conversation about this. A healthy, honest, and balanced conversation. I balk at the notion of becoming a catastrophist, really and truly, but talking about this stuff to people who do not want to talk about it can be isolating, and if left to ones own thoughts I can see how it might be a slippery slope.

So we carry on, and some days feel too full of daunting change, others just the right level of excitement overriding that, but in the midst of it all, stuff is getting done. Exciting stuff that makes me feel like we are powerful after all, and we can make a difference.
Yesterday the school we made opened it's new doors to sixteen students, and being there at Wicklow Sudbury School with all those eager, happy students (seriously - kids and teenagers happy to be going back to school?) and parents was a truly exciting thing to be part of, and with a growing waiting list, hope is in the mix there too.

Our active, vibrant community Common Ground  is gearing up for a busy autumn, with a lot of truly great stuff happening, for example we have The Dargle Exchange, which is a 'skills, services and goods trading scheme' which includes our own currency, Cogs. We also have a food savers scheme which is redistributing food which would otherwise be dumped. And these among the many classes and workshops and groups that happen on an ongoing basis.

And we are also busy beavering away trying to get a housing co-operative off the ground, and my, what a brilliant bunch of people we have landed ourselves - after nearly three years fumbling around in the dark we now have folk who can drive the way we drove our school project, and it no longer feels exhausting and overwhelming but exciting and hopeful (those words again!).

So summer slips away from me and much as I love the huddle and nesting of winter, I am loathe to take shelter indoors just yet, my sea fever not yet content, the wild ways of the woodland still with stories to tell before I retreat in to the fireside to distill and extract the fragrant essence of Summer, of whatever our bones and skin and minds have absorbed these last few resting months. I will delve, winnow, and weigh, ponder all of this as I gaze into winter's fire, and somewhere in there will be the nugget, the means for what is next, and my words will find their conduits, and break out into the world, for I've been writing like a mad woman, and I've a great big story to tell.

I am swimming in the deep, still, treading water. But alongside an intrepid ship that I am hitched to, come rain or shine, and there is something about having a ship that is skippered by many.

  The Return by Geneen Marie Haugen

"Some day, if you are lucky,
    you’ll return from a thunderous journey
    trailing snake scales, wing fragments
    and the musk of Earth and moon.

    Eyes will examine you for signs
    of damage, or change
    and you, too, will wonder
    if your skin shows traces

    of fur, or leaves,
    if thrushes have built a nest
    of your hair, if Andromeda
    burns from your eyes.

    Do not be surprised by prickly questions
    from those who barely inhabit
    their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
    their own possibility, who barely dream.

    If your hands are empty, treasureless,
    if your toes have not grown claws,
    if your obedient voice has not
    become a wild cry, a howl,

    you will reassure them. We warned you,
    they might declare, there is nothing else,
    no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
    just this frantic waiting to die.

    And yet, they tremble, mute,
    afraid you’ve returned without sweet
    elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
    a fluent dance or holy language

    to teach them, without a compass
    bearing to a forgotten border where
    no one crosses without weeping
    for the terrible beauty of galaxies

    and granite and bone. They tremble,
    hoping your lips hold a secret,
    that the song your body now sings
    will redeem them, yet they fear

    your secret is dangerous, shattering,
    and once it flies from your astonished
    mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
    before unfolding tremulous wings."


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Mapping; finding. Our Mother Map.

“This we need to know: how to participate creatively in the wildness of the world about us. For it is in the wild depths of the universe and our own being that the greater visions must come.”
Thomas Berry

Today the rains came. I mean really came ~ buckets and buckets of it, the air almost white with it  at times. Just when we thought summer had arrived, the blue sky and balmy breeze of the last few days has been swept away as a covering of torrential rain clouds is drawn up over our heads from the southern seas, (though it's still balmy enough to have the windows wide open which gives the whole thing quite a tropical, monsoon~y feeling, which I love).
But you know I love the rain, any time of year. Its like a pause button. There's something reflective about it, turning our thoughts inward, giving space to dwell and mull and ruminate, and all those other analogous words.

Clare Island
April 2017
Ten years ago, when I started writing at Milkmoon, I was deeply immersed in mother-land, swimming in the milky waves of life with small ones aboard, and completely in my element. To this day I am slightly baffled and bemused when I hear Jay talk about how life~changingly terrifying and bewildering it was for him becoming a father. For me it was like slipping into a warm sea and discovering I was, in fact, a Selkie. Those years were a dream, not without their difficulties, of course, but the parenting part I was comfortable figuring out as we went along.

I have maintained my mother~sense. It leads. Always. But I know we don't always trust ourselves, do we? We are bombarded on a daily basis with other people's opinion and advice, on absolutely everything, unsolicited or not, and sometimes it's actually bloody hard to know when it is actually our own voice speaking and not some (occasionally) well meaning 'latest research'. Sometimes I long for the quiet space between words, thoughts, experiences, that our ancestors had. The time to listen to our gut, to know and trust what we know.

Clare Island
April 2017
In a podcast by Charles Eisenstein that I recently listened to, he spoke about how we have lost our animal instinct around food, we no longer know what our bodies are telling us and so we eat things our brain tells us we want but that our bodies would not if we were to ask them. Isn't this really just a good example that can be applied to any aspect of modern living? How many articles have you read about how we have become detached from the natural world we live in? How many people have written about this topic, lamenting it's loss, or simply stating it as a fact? We no longer know the world we actually, physically live in. The one that is beneath the enchantment that is our consumer focused idea of what the world is. (The truth is, take away one or two key man made elements (electricity, the internet) and the illusion disappears, and what then?)

And we are suffering for it. Our children are suffering for it. Our planet is suffering for it.

Clare Island
April 2017
Carol Black has written about one aspect of this, an aspect that is close to my heart, explained in simple yet powerfully clear words just what it is we are doing.

"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning." 
~ Carol Black
 Read her wonderful full article here.

Clare Island
April 2017
Most parents I know have pretty good instincts when it comes to their children. After all, it is already mapped out for us, in our bones and gut, there for us like a safety net when we need it. It's there even when we can't see it. It's a map that was drawn by our mother's mothers and their mothers before them. Each line carefully added as experience drew their hand, in beautiful curves that echo a sleeping child's cheek, and sharp, painful angles that hurt but are overcome, and without knowing it we are adding to it day by day for our children. Some lines reinforcing what is already there, some finding new inlets, islands, mountains, valleys, and places that cannot be seen or found other than by closing your eyes and looking into your heart. But all of it tracing the outline of something that is deeply inherent in us, that is deeply rooted in our ancestral culture, in our place on this planet, wherever that may be. And if we know how to listen, those whispers tell us the truth we already know.

Clare Island
April 2017
From the time I was a child, I was always a little outside things, always in the edges, never the centre. I was defiantly different, even though this was often a difficult and lonely place to be, but I had no choice, for I had a very loud internal voice that had no problem overriding those other questioning voices when it really mattered.
But when I became a parent, for the first time in my life I was aware of that inner voice, aware my instinct was louder than those other voices. It was like suddenly being released and being able to turn my head to see who it was that had been there beside me all those years, that voice in my ear; and it was me. But my voice was not just one voice, but generations of my mothers, the voices that many of them most likely never had in life.

May 2017
But lets be honest. Sometimes those other voices, call them cultural, societal, whatever you want, they drown out that other inner instinct that knows what is best for our children, and without questioning it we step in (to the straight) line and put our heads down.
We consume, we buy, we don't think about the cost to the planet, to humanity of every single thing we use because we would go mad with guilt and grief. We just carry on.

We send our children to school even when they cry because we don't know what else to do. For if we don't know that a question needs to be asked, how will we know to ask it? 
And do we know where to find answers we can trust?
But ask the why, and the why and the further why, and the neverending why, until you get to the heart of it and find either the true-for-you answer, or you find there is nothing there after all.
You'd be surprised just how often there is simply nothing there - no substance to a cultural belief you've always held as true.

May 2017
Outside my window, seagulls are crying in the rain like emergency sirens, echoing around the hillside, the alarm in their voices has my ancestral antenna twitching. I cannot ignore it.

It's time to listen to ourselves again, my friends. Listen to your children, to the wildness in them that still knows themselves and what they and the world needs, that still speaks the language of Anima mundi.

Every day we tell ourselves a story and we believe it. Every word.
So what is it you want to believe? That you can be true to yourself and live a life that is authentically yours? It's not easy taking that first step, but that's the hardest one. After that it gets easier. Tell your story to whoever will listen, and miracles will happen. You will find others who feel the same, and that's when magic happens.

We create the world we want to live in. Every day.

And here's something to ponder : you are already doing it, so what is that world going to be?

May 2017

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thursday, 11 May 2017

All That Is Good And Beautiful.

‘...fairytales are true.’ He describes a way of looking, seeing right through reality to the truths beyond. He is one of the beyonders, those wise enough and willing enough to yearn to dwell tenderly in the metaphoric world.
~ Jay Griffiths on Italo Calvino.

Storytelling has long been a theme in my life, but it’s only in recent years that I have come to fully understand the importance and significance of stories in our lives. We tell our stories to one another, and on some deep level we understand things more profoundly, it’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we are changing the world. It has become more and more clear to me just how powerful it can be. In sharing our stories with one another, in the act of Telling, we gain insights into our own understanding of the world, and so does the listener. It helps to dismantle the old story, making room for the new one.

Springtime in Wicklow.
A couple of  weeks ago I found myself thinking a great deal about that big theme in our stories, Love. I was thinking about just how essential it is in our roles as adults, how important it is as a ground zero for any and all things we may ever share with our children. The power it has to give meaning to something is not to be overlooked. I understand, of course, that it is a very fundamental need in us as humans, to need a meaning for things, and children know this and trust this instinct because it comes from themselves. And when they trust themselves, their instinct is almost always Love.
We were lucky enough recently to spend a weekend in the company of Rob Greenfield who was in Ireland to start his European tour, which he kicked off with a talk in our lovely community here in Bray, Common Ground. I feel so grateful that my children have opportunities like this to meet and talk to people like Rob and see the difference one person can make, how our choices every day have an impact, and we have the power to choose, every day. It’s far more powerful than coming from mum or dad! Hearing about his adventures, and the challenges he has set himself, was so inspiring for them. They were amazed that it was as simple as me reaching out to him when I heard he would be in Ireland, and the next thing he is sitting at our table, breaking bread with us, and speaking with such honesty and authenticity about his life and his ideas. I know the 13 year old and his friend were particularly inspired, and came away with new eyes for the world.

Rob Greenfield talking at Common Ground.

Rob spoke about the world as it is today, he spoke about how we all have choices, every day, and the impact those choices have. He told stories of just how far he discovered we need to go in order to truly address the brokenness of what we are living with. But he told all of these stories with such love and warmth, and without judgement, that we were left feeling inspired rather than guilty and overwhelmed.  As Rob spoke to the room that Sunday in Common Ground, I couldn’t help but be aware of the love and openness his message was both given and received with. Everyone was there to be inspired, and honestly, it’s the biggest attendance we have had for an event to date. From start to finish, the generosity that was shown was incredible and heartening. From members getting stuck in to our annual spring clean Meitheil work party (nothing like an incentive to put a date on it!) on the Friday and Saturday, to those who helped organise the room on the day, the dishwashers, the techie people, the food bringers, and those who donated to Rob’s non-profit charity fund, and of course to Rob himself in so many ways.

Chatting with Rob in our lovely reclaimed forest garden at Common Ground,

We had a community pot luck dinner after, and as always there was enough food to feed everyone, and a chance for people to meet one another, to have conversations, to share ideas and information about different things that are happening in their area, because that is what it is all about - sharing - an expression of love and openness and authenticity - something that can be hard to find in so many walks of life, but often for teenagers and young adults in particular.

Early morning in the mountains.

And there is the kernel of my thoughts and mullings and ruminations these last couple of days: now more than ever, the importance of those three things, love, openness and authenticity in how we communicate with our children, and by ‘our’ I mean the children of our time, whether they belong to us or not. It’s a scary time we live in, especially for those who are coming of age right now, and we need to instill a sense of hope and power in them. This might seem obvious to most of us, but are we actually expressing that to them on a daily basis?
And what about the idea of connectivity? When it comes to ‘the world today’, and the endless list of imminent crisis’ that always seem to be inescapably looming,  it’s too easy to go down the road of 'us and them', to feel overwhelmed, and to ignore the simple Truth that we are all part of the same organism.

Team work!

There’s an important distinction between fighting for the sake of the fight (our own), and fighting for something bigger than ourselves. One is reactive, the other proactive. And  in both we have a responsibility.
It was so good to see love, openness and authenticity in action in Common Ground on that day. Everyone listening, rapt, drinking it in - the bigger ‘fight’ that does not need to be a fight, but Doing! Here is someone Doing, and we can all Do, we Do every day, but doing it with awareness and intention is what is important. There was a very clear coming together in the room that day, everyone there already Doing in their own way, and even though I am used to this because that is the very essence of Common Ground, it draws in people already there or looking for it, through my experience of the other hat I wear, the school one, I am reminded daily of the need to create a space for our younger folk to talk about these issues, to discover what they already know but cannot name.


Throughout the journey away from traditional schooling that we’ve been on these last few years, I have become so aware of the challenge facing today's children, and their parents, and just how important it is that they are supported and listened to, and not given up on. It’s not enough to wait until they grow up and ‘cop on`. We owe ourselves the honour of being the best guides and mentors we can be, the Elders they so deserve, in order to ensure that when the time comes they can take the reigns with confidence and surety, and bring this new story to the next chapter.

They are the Beyonders, willing to dwell in the metaphoric world, to learn from the stories, from our mistakes.

They just need us to trust them so they learn to trust themselves.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Reaching For Home While The World Teeters And Cannot Right Itself.

Thoughts drawn to the past while contemplating our future.

Sometimes, in the small hours when my drowsy mind wanders through dusty hallways,
or when the rain is falling on the quiet house,
on the yellow leaves that drift in drifts in the abandoned garden,
I close my eyes,
try and reconfigure the cool air from the open window,
the light behind my eyes,
feel the chair against my back,
and for the briefest moment
I am back there - my senses expanding, reaching out to something bigger and greener and wilder.
And in that moment that other silent, lost place is inside me
and I'm inside it,
as though my skin,
painted with a lifetime of invisible layers of its particles
and all that is was to us,
is no longer just Me,
but Us
and It
and everything
that the atoms of our bodies


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mapping; finding. The Door To Joy.

You will find me in the edges of things.

In the hinterland where old things coalesce with new and something else begins to be born.

In the edges of things where it all happens, the new and juicy microbial beginnings we at first don't see,
that slowly grow to become part of us,
open up new, unimagined landscapes,
a bloom on the skin of yesterday.

Is this particular edge a threshold or a precipice? Or both?

I trust and thrust, run
forwards, towards something that is still in shadows beyond the edge,
trusting I am not alone,

the wrenching now sweet relief.

And I find it is true, the door to joy opens outwards.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

What Song Will You Follow?

As we drift lazily towards the end of the summer I am always amazed when I look back through my photos at just where we have been, what we have been getting up to. The lovely reminders. In spite of the odd weather, we have had a lovely time, and I suspect it's not over yet.

'In the forest, the child. Inside the child, the forest.'
Jay Griffiths.

Even though Autumn is my favourite time of year, I adore the summer for what it is ~ time to sink into just 'being', time to stop the schedule, take a different route, try new things, explore. What is it about warmer temperatures that make everything easier? We have wandered all over this lovely isle of ours (as well as a foray to Harry Potter world in London for some of us), and, as is our tendency, dipped our toes in the sea many times in many places. We just can't help ourselves! Each summer becomes a long lovely list of why we love this dear island of ours, why we love where we live. (For more regular photo updates you can follow me on Instagram).

Happiness runs...

Our wanderings took us here there and everywhere, finding pockets of time with lots of dear friends we don't see enough of during the year, time we filled with soul~deep conversations and lots of laughter, around many tables and many campfires that nourished us all no end. In beautiful homes and gardens, on tops of mountains, in deep valleys and by lake shores, in the sea, by the sea, and nestled in mountainous dunes, we delved deep into the human condition, explored our feelings about living in today's world, what it means for our children, and what we are or are not doing. We spent time dismantling the Old Story, examining its parts and figuring out how to proceed with creating a new one that upholds all that we hold dear in our hearts, and in doing so we moved along a little deeper into our understanding of what this future should look like.
One thing that struck me was the collective, deep and abiding love for our world and all it gives us, and a desire to counter the ugly craziness that is going on around the world and that is being flaunted in our face as though it is all we have. It's not all we have. The world is better than this but the power of social media would lead us to despair and hopelessness if we let it.
Instead, each of us, like millions of others, in our own small way, are making a difference.

'Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.'
Mary Oliver

And so, for the first time ever we are looking forward to September. The 'Back to School' signs in the supermarkets don't fill us with dread and spoil the last few weeks of the holidays. We are full of plans and promise and excitement. As I wrote about here in my last post, there are new beginnings afoot here, and not just for the younger two boys, but also for our older two, as well as for myself. Our eldest is off to college, (the very same one where our story began all those years ago), and our daughter has bravely decided to skip her last year in school and go straight to further education ~ 'I know what I want to do so I'll just skip the stressful, unnecessary part and go straight for what I want'. I am filled with admiration for her wisdom and bravery. And the journey we have been on with her has shown me, unequivocally, that there really is Another Way to educate our children, another perhaps more unconventional route to the exact same end, and the bravery is stepping out of line with your peers and finding your own way.

Summer's bounty.

As we continue our explorations of how we are reinventing our future, the more I read, the more videos I watch, the happier I am ~ every qualm and worry and question is being answered or put to rest, and as time goes by I sink deeper into the surety of what we are doing. I am filled with admiration for those who find it in themselves to begin this journey when it first becomes an issue for them, and the only thing that stops me from being filled with regret that I didn't is the knowledge that Homeschooling wouldn't have worked for us, (me teach a curriculum?!) and Unschooling sadly was not heard of here, twenty years ago (oh if only!). I am, however, grateful that I can at least do this for the younger two. I am grateful to our older two for giving me the impetus and bravery to 'be the change I want to see'. Without their two very different but equally difficult experiences of school, I never would have begun the journey we find ourselves on. Their experience and my helplessness in the face of it, ignited my mother-bear, made me take a stand, and so here we stand, on the cusp of new beginnings.

Irish summer...

So the seasons roll along under our feet, carrying us along towards this Next Thing, and this morning when I step into the garden there is a distinct cool whisper in the air after the rain. On the road yesterday we all commented on the sudden golden~ing on the trees, as though overnight they decided, party over, they are tired and its time at last to rest, and withdrew the bright light that gave us that viridian summer canopy that dappled our days these last few weeks. And as the tawny and umber creep in, all around us the trees and bushes are bursting with abundance and we pick and forage and graze as we go, summer exploding in our mouths as we do, warm and intoxicating and vibrant. Sustenance for the months ahead.

Fraochán berries ~ wild blueberries ~ Wicklow at it's finest.
So here at summer's end we dance on, towards this next chapter, full~filled, re~booted, energized, looking forward. We have no idea what is ahead for us, what bumps as well as joys we will encounter, and it is scary, as well as exciting. But given how difficult the last three years have been, it feels good and empowering to be doing something. To be taking control of what we are not happy with and changing it, making it better for ourselves and others.
And I hope to be here in the Blog~shire a bit more often now, as I'd love to share with you how we get on, warts and all, because already I have inspiring stories to tell of our deschooling experiences so far.

Here's to an abundant Autumn, wherever you happen to be.

Looking forward.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Dwellers Under A Different Sky.

Friday morning. I'm sitting in the gloom. We are barely past the Summer Solstice, and monsoon~like rain is thundering down from ponderous clouds, bouncing vigorously on the table outside my window, turning the air white with moisture, the room suddenly dipping into evenfall light. In the distance, car alarms wail, seeming to waver and weave through the thick air. I am in a contemplative mood, and despite a significant to-do list, I cannot help myself but pause ~ something to do with the abundant, dripping green outside my window, and beyond that, Bray Head lost in the rain.

Regular readers here will be very familiar with what the Summer Solstice means to us, and the seventeen years of parties we celebrated in Kilcoole, and how hard it was to walk away from it when we moved to the town. The first two years here we distracted ourselves, but somehow this year it caught up with us and in the weeks leading up to it each child mentioned it to me at some point, with varying degrees of sorrow and nostalgia. It may have been prompted by the end of the school year which required photos to be found, which involved hours of pouring over our iphoto libraries. Each time someone sat down to search, the children, big and small, were drawn to it from all corners of the house, like dustly moths, alerted by giggles and exclamations of delight. And then began the reminiscences, spending literally hours at a time, our years in Kilcoole brought back to us through photos and videos that I realised we have avoided delving into very much over the last three years. We are only now acknowledging how painful it has been, tearing ourselves away from that place that was so intricately woven into the very fabric of our identity we grew as a family. It's impossible. It will never leave us, it will never be replaced, and we don't want it to.

But then, in the midst of our sadness something lovely happened ~ a most lovely friend, sensing our regret, threw a spontaneous Solstice gathering and sleepover (on a school night!), complete with fire and friends, and I cannot tell you how it filled our hearts. To wake with the din of the dawn chorus, in a house that smells of woodsmoke, made us glad and sad at the same time, and so very grateful to be reminded of why we did it every year for so long.

There is something about acknowledging the cycle of the year, our ancient history, how deep and abundant and important and tenacious the Green is. We cannot remove it from our bones, our blood, our genetic memory. So what happens when you turn away from something that is so deeply ingrained in us? What happens when we decide the bright shiny fake consumer world is more important? How long have we been pretending? How long have we forgotten?

This passage from 'Kith' is both magical and truthful, and so very poignant. It both reminds me of childhood yet also of what we lose when we grow up, and I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if we never lost this sense of wonder of the world.

{ "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn', the Pan chapter from The Wind in the Willows, which is situated right in the middle of the book. Rat and Mole are rowing their boat, looking for a little otter which has gone missing, and they find not only the otter, but also Pan. The scene takes place at midsummer, on an island in the middle of the river. At the heart of everything is Pan. (Sadly this core chapter is excised in some editions of the book.)
Rat, entranced, hears the pipes just in the threshold of hearing. The music rouses 'a longing in me that is pain'. As they arrive at the island, Rat knows it with the unequivocal recognition of finding oneself at the heart of things: 'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me...This time, at last, it is real, the unmistakable thing, simple - passionate - perfect'.
Pan grants the animals a necessary forgetfulness so they are not later haunted by a nostalgia they cannot bear. It is as if Grahame is writing of the necessary forgetfulness which adulthood demands, that we forget some of the simple, passionate, perfect knowledge we had as children, dwellers under a different sky."
~ Jay Griffiths, 'Kith'. }

So, over the last year or so I have found myself on a an Unexpected Journey, one that I had no choice about, propelled forward by an awakening that was precipitated by challenges three of our four children were going through in school. I wanted to know if losing that 'simple, passionate, perfect knowledge' was inevitable or not, and what if it was not? What if it was a case of the emperors new clothes? What if we were just buying into something because we were told it was the only way by someone who was only interested in management and control and no one had bothered questioning it before now? Discovering people like Ken Robinson, and reading articles like Carol Black's 'On the Wildness of Children', really just catapulted me into a world there was no going back from.
I was on this journey before I realised it, and I never imagined where it would lead me to ~ to setting up an independent, alternative, democratic school, the first of it's kind here in Ireland.
When I began to give voice to my doubts and questions around the true nature of our children's education I quickly discovered that I really was not alone, and soon there had formed a collective of parents who felt the same, had the same questions, the same vision of something better for their children, and the result is Wicklow Sudbury School, the story of which you can read about here. I will be posting more on this as we go, but here today I just want to express something behind it all for me : the absolute conviction I now have that nature knows the answer, it knows what we need, what is best, how to fix the things that are broken, if we could just learn to listen again. To listen to our children, to listen to ourselves, to pay attention to how things evolve once we remove Ego. And by nature I mean in all it's forms ~ not just Nature, but our nature, our human nature that understands deeply what it is we need, and when given voice can be a powerful changemaker for us.

When we stop clenching our fists, when we soften our hold on our children's lives, when we learn to flow and trust, something kind of like magic happens, and it ripples and flows out to embrace everything else in our lives. I have likened it to a door in our minds (or hearts or souls) that once opened cannot ever be closed, and it is incredible to see your children from this perspective. To give them permission to be their true selves, to run through life like the wind, so sure of it's path, it's place in the wildness that is the natural world that lives beneath our feet and all around us, every day.  It's there, even when we are distracted and disconnected from it, when we are wholeheartedly enmeshed in this unsustainable, crazy, broken world that we have found ourselves living in. Our children don't need to think about it, they just know, but when we don't trust them it makes them doubt themselves.

I know my rejection of traditional school has upset some people. The Sudbury model is a radical leap to make, and the whole idea of questioning the norm makes people uncomfortable, challenges them, I understand that. But I'm not going to say I won't apologise for it because I do apologise ~ I have no desire to make life difficult for people, life is difficult enough without me adding to it, and I know that a lot of the time it's easier to not question things and to just get on with our struggles, and who am I to criticise that? So I am sorry. But I have to do what I have to do so I can live with myself, so I can look my children in the eye and know I did my best to create a better world for them to live in, and if in doing so other children can benefit, then I am happier still.  Earlier I said I had no choice about this and I truly mean that. I, like many other parents, was led to this new place by my children and their bewildered response to today's world.

Not our garden but our Solstice host's one ~ and far lovelier and wild than ours.

The sky has lightened now, the rain softened to a steady downpour. The dripping green outside my window makes so much sense to me now. It is wild and untended, and natural, a mish-mash explosion of all sorts of everything growing tangled and enveloped with one another, climbing our suburban walls, creeping over pathways, everything in it's natural state, just doing what it is meant to do, and I love it. The birds love it.  I recall yesterday's conversation with my lovely elder neighbour who was lamenting the loss of her ability to tend her beloved garden, and I sensed her dismay at our unruly mess that is now hanging over her wall like a friendly but unwelcome drunk. I assured her we would take care of it, and I will, but on days like this when Bray Head is swathed in rain or mist I miss my view so much it makes my eyes smart, and the last thing I want to do is tame it.
Yet I know this wild place where we can be our true selves is also in our hearts, and in our heads, and I am learning to trust myself, the child in me who knows what I need and is learning to give voice to it. And I have faith that in doing that, we are in our way, to quote Charles Eisenstein,  creating " the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible".  And that's a good enough reason as any for me.