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Category — The Red Hearth

Stitching, walking, thinking

I will not die an unlived life
I will not not live in fear of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid, more accessible,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova

October 25, 2013   No Comments

Eleven ‘I Loves’ (of Summer)

Blue skies and heat – oh yes! Summer, I love yoooooooooo….so here are eleven I loves, to celebrate

Walking over the fields that are known locally as “The Heavens”, chatting to all the other morning dog walkers

Getting out my favourite summer table cloths, chair throws and cushions

The handpainted roof at the Red Hearth – a real community effort

Sitting on our deck in the evening sunshine, drinking Pimms

More light coming in to the house, especially since Mark, my hero, made them sparkle (boy can that man clean when the fever comes upon him)

Gathering herbs from my garden – mugwort, lady’s mantle, lemon balm, feverfew, raspberry leaf – my first choice for period pain

Sitting one last time with dear sisters at our Red Hearth in the woods

A bush full of shiny sweet redcurrants in the front garden

Summer flowers in the house

Grass meadows being cut for hay in the fields

All the doors and windows open, light and warmth pouring in

Beautiful summer, for as long as we have you, I thank you (and blow you a ridiculous number of kisses)

P.S. Just a little extra pic, to expel any myths you might be harbouring of my life being one long pretty photoshoot – teenage bedroom, complete with black walls, bin bags, dirty washing, overflowing bins, and a hopeful hound hoping to scoop up any foodie leftovers from dark corners…this is the other reality…

July 11, 2013   1 Comment

The Only Map

There is only one map, in my opinion, that we women need. And this is the book “Women that Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The truest, most deeply soulful piece of writing you will ever be lucky enough to hold in your hands. It took me many years to open mine, to read it, re-read it and finally get it. It showed me another way, a wolfish way, with whiskers and remembering, of courage and certainty, and most of all of wildness.

I am growing into my wildness, and it has not been easy. I never expected it to be. But La Loba, the bone woman, the wild woman has been with me, watching. And we are reminded in WTRWTW that She will come diving over whatever fences, walls or obstructions we face. She will come to us anywhere, in any condition. This is our medicine.

Oh, did I ever need her last Friday evening at the Red Hearth? With Clarissa’s wise words wrapped all around me, I decided to hold an evening of Wildness for Women, inviting some of the feistiest, most wonderfully strong women I could muster up – an open invitation for any woman to come and join us. I was blessed also to have the dearest drumming sister by my side and a circle of amazing wolfy goddesses who were up for a bit of howling in the woods.

I made an Ancestor Shrine with the most beautiful skull from my bone sister. Bone, that which can never be destroyed. To a steady heartbeat of the drum, we processed out to the shrine at dusk, to honour our ancestors in a ritual. By the light of the fiery skull, we know.

Here are some of Clarissa’s ideas, and I hold them dear and close to my heart, for they travel with me daily, and guide me like the beautiful and wise map that they are.

Wild nature is the health of all women. To be wild means to establish our territory. To find our pack. To be in our body with certainty, to find what we belong to.

What are these wolf qualities that we seek? Why they are insight, intuition, endurance, keen sensing, far vision, acute hearing.

Wild nature is about being aware, being bold, being unapologetic. We are entitled to fight tooth and nail to have it and to keep it.

We need to learn fierce qualities. The voice inside us that tells us we are any less than our wonderful wild selves? Well, we must meet this dangerous predator head on by not allowing divisive thoughts about ourselves, our creativity, our self worth. We must capture harmful thoughts before they can wreak havoc in our head and we must dismantle them.

And the bit I like the most? The idea that sometimes what we need to do is to take ourselves, our ideas, our creativity far more seriously than we have ever done before. Ever. Done. Before. Oh I will try Clarissa, I will.

So yes, let us set for ourselves something in our lives that we are willing to reach for, willing to take risks for. For me this is learning to speak without apology. I am willing to be anxious sometimes, and I will try to stand in the scary place of not knowing what will happen next.

Women will be standing right next to me, I know it. And I have my map. Wild woman is already living inside me, biding her time. And then one day, kerpow! She will leap out of me, and my world will change forever.

So must it be. To the power of three. It is done.

July 5, 2013   1 Comment

More Mad Crazy

Oooh hello, it’s been a while. You know what it is like around these Stroudie parts – a week can be a long time, with lots of different, unplanned things popping up all over the place.

This week has been about the magic that happens when women get together.

We gathered for our annual opening of our Red Hearth House by the light of the new moon, and danced, drummed, sang and howled with the most witchy of whiskers. 

This is such a special place that we have created, in Kesty and Martin’s beautiful woodland, and it fed my soul once more to be there, with many different wonderful women and all the stories that they bring to weave in with my own.

Oh you mad, crazy week…I didn’t see you coming. But in I leapt, as I knew I would, with my fast beating heart yearning for adventure and change. There have been camp outs, dawn choruses, badgers, burial chambers, axes, art, get togethers, cake, bitey things, and lots and lots of laughing and chit chatting.

It is also the month that Fiona and John Owen throw open their chapel studio doors to let us all have a peek inside at their wonderful, most magical of creations.

If you live anywhere near Gloucestershire, their exhibition is on until 30th June and is breathtaking. You will love it.

And so my week has rolled on, with a daughter learning to skateboard, puzzling over strange pub quiz questions, rainstorms to be caught in, and art students arriving at our house in a lovely impromptu gathering.

And today, Sunday, it ends as it so often begins, with wool, cake and friends – with Prema’s PicKnit in the Park – and as much as I need to collapse on my sofa and rest, I skip along with my pink peace scarf, dodging raindrops, and slide into yet more mad crazy…..

June 16, 2013   No Comments


Today is Thursday, perhaps a good day to check in and say hello. There’s not been any bigness to my week really, not any grand adventures to make you swoon. No big excitements or scary bits (apart from Tuesday’s mad wind) to report. But it has been pretty nonetheless, in a frothy, blossomy sort of way.

A beautiful quietness has settled in our valley today, and I woke up hearing the sound of swifts in a cloudless sky. Herb and I meandered our way up to the Cemy, a nature reserve, to bliss out under the blossoms (and chase a few balls)

Following on from last weekend, I have been thinking about parenting and all its myriads of choices. Sadness for pathways not taken, children not born, and a love for what is. These ideas have woven their way into my artwork unconsciously and into a new small booklet that I am working on called Blessing the Way. It’s my journey into the land that is parenting, from birth through to the heroic act of letting them go. All from my shed at the end of my garden.

I’ve been squeezing in other jobs between the work of everyday too – this morning making a nettle tincture, from nettles picked earlier. With dropping iron levels and a lecture from my doctor about burn out, I figured this was a good start. No doubt it will taste revolting. Then I will know its working

I’ve been following the sun around my house like a woman possessed…working in whatever little slices of sunlight I can find, and where the wifi will grace me with its presence. A good spot was discovered today, perched on the front doorstep, where I can survey vast swathes of my property – all 20 feet of it. Second big advantage is that I can keep perfect watch over the newly transplanted squash that Cath and Sally gave me – like a sentry – that baby’s not getting eaten on my watch – oh no siree.

And finally, I have been painting a roof panel for Kesty’s Red Hearth which will open for the summer next month. My thoughts keep turning to honey bees and the communities that they create together. So too, the women in my life, and the circling that we do together.

It’s a message I keep coming back to over and over. Together we are stronger. Invincible. One of these days I will perhaps stop trying to go it alone, and actually share the load, delegate some jobs. But for today, there is blossom to smile over, a to-do list to tick off, and the merry month of May to love and be loved

One last word: nettle tincture alone will not deal with anaemia. I’m sure you already know that….but just in case! If you think your iron levels are dropping, get yourself checked out. I’m told cake is especially helpful in really dire cases…..

May 16, 2013   2 Comments

A dog, a frog and plenty of wool…..

Yes siree, this is panning out to be a strange time….where did those strong roots that I was telling you about disappear to? Never mind being grounded, I seem to have been rushing around all over the shop, and not really achieving very much at all. But I have been having fun, I think, in the meantime, and I have been to Wales and back…yahoodie to that then.

Oh, how badly lost do I always get when I venture out alone to Wales? It is pitiful. I always end up sitting on the verge of some remote lane, weeping, while sheep look at me suspiciously. I don’t blame them. Its a sad sight. I am way too impractical to take a map, so usually just rely on my girl guide instincts to get me outta there. They are long days, those Welsh days. But listen, my instincts were sharpened this time – I was on the way to Wonderwool on the other side of them there Black Mountains…and I tell you, my friends, I can sniff out exciting yarn from 100 miles away

Yeah, thought that might make you sit up….nice huh? And you know? There was miles of the stuff….never seen so much wool crammed into one cow shed. These Wonderwool people were not messing around. Mind you, neither was I…I rocked up with a whole load of pink peace scarf and a plan to brainwash nicely persuade woolly punters to join me in my plan of gureilla wool fare – which I did, with the help of a few friends. 

There was plenty of time too for a stroll around to drool at gorgeous yarn and people doing weavy, woolly things (I clearly have all the technical jargon up my sleeve, such a pro) – take a look:

I feel I should be able to tell you exactly what they are doing in those pictures, particularly the woman with the baby…but you know, I didn’t really like to ask, so walked around looking knowledgeable and stroking my chin a lot…oh, I’m so rock n’ roll (not).

Hey, talking of rock n’ roll though, I did meet a very wonderful folky girl and her guitar, singing songs of protest, paganism and knitting – yay to Talis Kimberley, check her out!

Right, so that was the wool bit done and dusted. Back home (I made it back eventually, via a ridiculous detour nearly to Hereford and back) and time for a bit of gardening. I have an exciting snail plan to reveal to you soon. This is my world in the summer months. THE SNAIL ISSUE. Do you think I don’t have it in me to bore the pants off you for the second year in a row about snails…oh think again sweet friends. There’s plenty more where that came from. So, a wee tidy up in the front garden, planting of beans, salad, flowers, squash, tomatoes. 

And look at this little cutie-pie found near our pond…I was seriously tempted to have a little go at kissing him….you know, just to see…..

The other thing thats been going on in my valley is a call to hands to get our Red Hearth ready for its opening in June. I will tell you all about that soon. For now though, witchy women and moon daughters gathered to sing and paint signs to mark the way up the woodland path. We were tempted there by lots of cake (a given).

I was lucky enough to meet Jackie Singer there too, a musician and author of Birthrights, a book of ritual and celebration. Lots of good things to check out. 

Oh dear, have I been nattering on for too, too long? It’s the Beltane energy you know, a time when everything speeds up and there’s just so much whizzing around. Time to trot myself back up to that art studio and get on with some work……

….content in the knowledge that there is beautiful wool in the world, beautiful people, and that the plan of pinky badness is coming along just fine jimboy…with the help of my new and rather goreous P.A….meet Rose….my latest recruit. Go on. Ask her what she’s knitting.

May 4, 2013   2 Comments

Lunar Samhain, plus sparkle…..

After fizzing off into outer space with all the excitement and glory of last week’s demo, it seemed that I was ready for something a little more kitchen table based, and intricate, grounding.

O.k, I know that a mad, sparkly handicraft workshop for a bunch of teenage girls doesn’t sound exactly restful, but it brought me home again, and landed me right back in the moment.

Do you remember a while back that I told you about our Red Hearth – a magical, local space where us witchy, earthy women meet all summer long? Well, it is also a space where young girls gather and giggle – they are called ‘Moon Sisters’. More recently our teenage girls have been learning how it is to talk in circle, support each other, celebrate….and of course…apply a mass of sparkle and glitter wherever possible. Which is where I came in.

It was a real blast seeing the creativity oozing out of these fab girls…and all the different things they did with my box of sequins, beads and batik. Things I could only dream of frankly….how is it that young people are so uninhibited and free, colourful and wild? I watched them closely and learned much.

So after landing, I journeyed back to the Red Hearth on Monday, for lunar Samahain. This is a very special time for us witches – it is a time to honour ancestors, wise ones who have gone before us. It is a time to welcome in the winter, and know that rest and quietness is coming. For me, it is a chance to sit and look at my life, and let die what needs to die. Breathe. Let go. Surrender.

And so the fire was lit, the songs sung, the cake shared, and the talking stick (stone) passed around once more this year, as witness to our precious journeys.

After which the quiet work of getting our roundhouse ready for winter begun, singing all the while: ‘the earth, the air, the fire, the water, return, return, return, return’…….

We had older hands, mother hands and best of all, young baby hands, who will someday become ‘moon daughters’ and until that time will shake rattles, squabble over hazel sticks, and fill the hearth with their loud toddler happiness and spontaneity – all great background music to our autumn ears.

Carpets were shaken out, a summer’s worth of stories and singing tumbling out with the dust…and underneath we found a lost talking stone, a shell fossil from when this land was covered by ocean, that had been hiding all this time, quietly listening and watching. I am to be its guardian over the winter, and will return it in the springtime.

Pathways were trod one last time, arms laden with blankets, sheepskins, cushions and colourful fabrics, all returned inside for safekeeping.

So Samhain blessings on all that is seen, all that is unseen, all that is. May rest find you, gentleness enfold you. May the darkness bring endings, and the return of all good things. Blessed be.

October 16, 2012   2 Comments