Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Lord, the Lady and Lammastide

two corn-dollies made about 30 years ago by a Midlands craftworker known to my Dad.

It will be Lammastide on 1st August, one of my favourite celebrations. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon for Loaf Mass (hlaf-mass) and celebrates the first bread made from the first of the grain harvest - the blessing of the first fruits. There's a 'Celtic' form of the feast too, Lughnasadh. Depending on regional variation of tradition and who you ask, these may or may not approximate to the same thing - given that they fall on the same day and focus on harvests, sun and community celebration.
 It may be that Lughnasadh is a bit more 'pagan' and Lammas is a bit more 'church', but in rural traditional societies of pre-literate times, I suspect there was a good deal of cross-pollination.
There still is a good deal of cross-pollination, actually, although politely wiped up by some, to suggest clear 'either/or' boundaries so we all know where we are.
Take the word 'Lord.' 'Lord' is used with reverence, and I mean no disrespect. In the past and in other places, and this is a subject for another post, it was/is used as a subversive and courageous statement of loyalty to God rather than an earthly power, that could land one in a lot of trouble.
 But 'Lord' is an English word ( Scottish variation, Laird) with a good old Anglo Saxon root. (The first translations of the Bible made for indigenous speakers of the British Isles, were in Anglo Saxon, long before William Tyndale died for his pains.)
from Matthew's Gospel in Anglo Saxon, Lord's Prayer in red box - spot the line about bread ... ?

'Lord' is also a word that causes theological mushiness, to my mind. In Christian circles it gets used interchangeably of 'God Most High' and of Jesus - in some liturgies it is sometimes not clear who we are addressing at all. But the distinction matters; it seems highly improbable to me - but a matter for debate for some - that Hebrew-speaking contemporaries of Jesus would use the same title for Jesus as for the Most High God, regarded by Jesus himself as a practising Jew with utmost love and reverence: 'Our Father, hallowed be your name'. In Judaism the most holy name is not spoken, and 'Adonai ' (in English translation Lord or LORD) is a Hebrew title used as a reverential substitute. Kyrios, the Greek equivalent, is used of God but also of powerful male human beings, and since early Christians tended to rely on Greek translations and wrote their own material in Greek, some of the confusion can be traced back to this formative time.
We use Lord, like Kyrios, of the Divine, and of human beings, and of Jesus who is, according to tradition, both. It's worth pausing to consider what - and who - we mean when we use the word. It is a male title of respect. It therefore seems quite appropriate to use of a male human being, such as Jesus, but today, do we have to have a gendered title to speak of the Supreme Being? The Liberal Judaism prayerbook has already addressed this, and uses non-gendered, inclusive language of God. 'The Eternal One' is used where we might expect to find Lord.

Lord (and Scottish Laird) comes from the Anglo Saxon word Hlaford. The Anglo Saxon theologian-translators decided 'Hlaford' was an appropriate choice to render the equivalent concepts implied by biblical writers, and in many ways it was, as long as we remember the etymology of the word.

Hlaford  is made up of the word for loaf, hlaf, and the word for a guardian or protector, weard - some letters got lost or morphed along the way. The Lord is the one who looks after the bread supply, secures its production and ensures its distribution. Generosity is an essential quality of an Anglo Saxon Hlaford. We might find here a pleasing Eucharistic association. 
But it also illustrates the utter importance of the grain cycle for a people whose staple diet was bread. The line in the 'Lord's' prayer, 'give us today our daily bread,' would resonate with these people, and it's what a benevolent hlaford does.
In the Christian story, the bread-guardian goes further: he is the bread, he is the grain cut down and bound up, threshed with rods, exposed to the elements and trussed up in a shroud-sack, then placed in the dark ... from which he bursts forth in new life. He is self-giving. He is the dying and rising one. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus's teachings are full of references to the grain cycle, it is one of his favourite illustrations. Jesus is Hlaford.

As with so many human titles, the genderedness of 'Lord' implies a binary which adds to the complication when speaking of God. Where there's a Lord, folklore and fairytale insists there must be a Lady somewhere about. Since Biblical faith is monotheistic, we, like the prophets of old,  run into problems - God's aloneness can sound lonely. People throughout the ages have woven consorts and other beloved companions into the Divine story. In some strands of Christianity, it's Mary, Mother of Jesus, who is 'lady,' and there are many folk legends concerning Mary and the grain cycle. In other strands, Mary Magdalene is cast as lover, or holy Wisdom is emphasised, a feminine personification of the Divine. But 'God Alone', divine aloneness, may not be loneliness but Oneness - completeness, not lonely but joyous, not excluding everything else but encompassing it. Some feel that sexual union and erotic love express the mystery most deeply. (Some feel that it seriously doesn't.)
But what does the word 'lady' mean? Once again, it has an Anglo Saxon root hlaefdige: hlaf again, which means bread, and dige pronounced di-ye, related to the activity of kneading dough - another gendered activity in ancient times. Wherever the grain grew, grinding and kneading became womens' work. And there we have it - some might feel the hlaford to be superior, perpetrating the age-old patriarchal pattern. But Jesus himself said that the reign of God is like a woman kneading dough (Luke 13:20-21). The hlaefdige, the lady, gives us an insight into Divine power and creative presence on earth. Can we really do without her? If not, how do we express her rightful belonging within the oneness of God, in a way that has integrity, within our faith tradition?

Friday, 26 July 2013

As long as the Earth endures ...

I noticed a theme yesterday in a couple of leading newspapers, about the economic impact of methane release from the Arctic. Now, I may be naive, I may have missed something and I know I'm no scientist, but it seems very telling that it takes an 'economic disaster scenario' prediction to bring this apparently collosal threat to life as we know it, into the news - albeit a few pages in - as though impact on wallet is the only way we can take it seriously these days.
Back in the late 90's, I remember a new theory coming up, from a British geologist, Paul Wignall, that methane gas release from the oceans, caused by global warming, had been a major contributing factor to the Permian extenction in which over 90% of living things died. In short, some rat-like things, a few plants, sea creatures, birds and bugs survived, and we evolved from the rat-like things. There was even a BBC docmentary about it. Two decades have passed and now we are starting to get publicity about global warming causing methane leaks, some highly alarming, such as the Avaaz campaign in preparation for the 2015 Paris Summit.

Natural phenomena came together to cause the Permian extinction. Clever as we are, we seem to be not quite clever enough to put two and two together and notice that by replicating the same kind of conditions ourselves, we can replicate the same kind of effects. It's not, as they say, rocket science.
There's a saying, attributed to God, that springs to mind, especially as we approach harvest time in the northern hemisphere, and the celebration of Lammastide.

As long as the earth endures,
   seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
   shall not cease.’

Genesis 8:22 NRSV

At what point, I ask myself, does the earth stop enduring? At what point, do the seasons shift and the harvests fail? They are already failing. There's an account in Genesis, of how (some of) the Ancient Egyptians survived a terrible famine: first they bought grain from the reserves with money - if they had any - then, if they had any, with their livestock, then, if they had any, with their lands, then with their own lives so that in time, they had nothing, not even their freedom, they were slaves in their own land (Genesis 47:13-26). And so it is. The prosperous eat and keep their freedom for longer, but at what point are even they reduced to nothing? It is a question for the West, perhaps, a question for the nations of the world who will be affected least and last by the ravages of climate change- a 'who is my neighbour?' kind of question.
We ask a lot of our Mother Earth - too much maybe. I thought, twenty or so years ago, having (so it seemed) sorted women priests, that the Churches might go on to take up climate change and make it the next great mission, to cherish and take care of the earth, believing creation to be good and of God.
I painted this for Ray

I imagined Christianity rediscovering itself as a spiritually motivated greening movement, promoting simplicity, sustainability, an alternative to consumerism, creative care-taking for the love of generations to come, and respect for the sanctity of all life. It's all there in the Bible and Christian tradition, after all. And here and there, there are churches, websites, books, movements, initiatives, the environment gets a mention in the weekly intercessions ... but on the whole, it still feels like a marginal pursuit. 'Why?' is a question worth asking.

Expressing concerns about the possibility of catastrophic loss of life and agricultural failure - and this is not just curtains for polar bears - can we really only get as far as the economic cost? Is the economy really our frame of reference for meaning? Is there no prayer left, no prophetic voice from our times that will be listened to, concerning the intrinsic worth and beauty of the earth and all life? When the Ancient Egyptians ran out of money to buy bread, the wealthy elite survived and the poor majority became slaves or died. What provision do we make in our own times, to ensure that economics and the survival of the richest is not the end of the story? Besides, survival when all else has died, what kind of richness is that? There's a Cree proverb:
somewhere in Birmingham

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught

will we realise we cannot eat money.

To be honest, I'm a bit weary of other Christians asking me if I'm a Pagan because I care about and find spiritual depth in the earth. I think I want to turn the question around: what kind of insane cult would destroy its own home and habitat and all who share it, and preach freedom to exploit and waste as much as they like, because nothing but the short-term satisfaction of the privilidged few really matters? Nobody would listen to them, surely ...

Wake me, ever-present One,
from my sleepy state of self-absorption,
from the cocoon-like hedeaway of blinkered belief
that persuades me of my spiritual superiority.
Wake me with the sound of the whole earth together
singing and dancing as it has done for ever;
dancing with passion and wild delight
to a drum call I only heard
before in my dreams;
deep-souled song
spanning infinite octaves
from the abyss of despair
to pinnacles of joy;
each creature stamping
and chanting the ecstasy,
the heart-melting tenderness
of life lived in You.

Annie Heppenstall: The Healer's Tree

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Who am I, O God, and who are you?

St Francis by Dorothy Woodward

The wonderfully elemental illustration above, can be found on the Franciscan Tertiary webpage. According the the 'Little Flowers of St Francis', there's a question that St Francis repeatedly asked in prayer, in his long retreats on his favourite mountainside, which goes something like 'who am I, O God, and who are you?' It seems like a really fundamental question to me, and one I reflect on in the last chapter of Rejoice with Me.
St Francis himself is famous for a prayer in which he added lots of attributes and epithets to describe God. It's a beautiful prayer, and some say, inspired by his encounter with Islam and the devotion to the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah.

You are the holy Lord God
Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty king. You holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.

You are three and one, the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.

You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility,
You are patience. You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice,
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency...

The Praises of God and the Blessing

It seems Francis was spilling over with things to say about God, but in describing himself, it is said he called himself a 'worm'. It's quite popular to liken ourselves to creatures, or even to identify with animals in a totemic way, with those which have qualities we especially value. Wolves, bears, eagles, horses, leopards, these are popular, but I've not heard many people claiming an affinity or identity with worms.
Yet, on our little altar at home in the prayer room, there's a bowl of garden soil and it's as healthy as it is because of the digestive work of worms. I picked one up the other day, off scorching hot tarmac during our week of summer sun. It squirmed in my hand all the way down the road until I found a patch of shady earth - brother worm, I thought fondly, as St Francis would call it. But then, maybe it should be brother-sister worm, or sister-brother worm, since they are, after all hermaphrodite. 
Sometimes, it seems, when we try to label, categorise or define ourselves and others, we get in a tangle. We get in a tangle when we try to define Supreme Being too. According to Exodus 3:14, God anticipated this and offered help by giving a divine name of utter genius which is simply a statement of existence: I AM. There's something to be said  for just being, and letting others just be - it may even be a quality of the Divine.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Reclaiming the Sealskin: oracle cards?

I've just enjoyed a good heart-to-heart with a friend of mine, at St Martin in the bullring's cafe. I really appreciated hearing about how she has been using the cards in Reclaiming the Sealskin as a way for people to reflect on issues in their lives and go deeper into them.
'Oracle Cards' are very popular these days, they were just taking off around the time this book came out in 2002. I hesitate to call mine 'oracle' cards really, they are simply cards for reflection and contemplation, and the book contains guidance notes on what the cards could represent. The reflections are biblically rooted and refer to passages of scripture and Christian tradition, as well as reflecting on the natural world and folklore.
It always interests me what people do with the cards. The most touching story was of a priest friend of mine, now sadly no longer with us, who worked as a chaplain in a challenging setting and put a card in his pocket to 'accompany' him during the day. I loved the idea of being able to give quiet companionship.
Sometimes specific cards are chosen deliberately, sometimes randomly, perhaps just one, or two, or three ... and people often remark on how appropriate the pictures are to their situation. They also appeal to people who are on the edges of faith, as spiritual seekers, who would not necessarily identify as Christian. As such, they have been used at Mind Body Spirit fairs here and there, which I find really encouraging.

My feeling is, that we tend to be very word-orientated and very cerebral, so when we encounter pictures instead, they can help us to think in a deeper symbol language, the language of our dreams and of the unconscious. Seeing pictures like this often mirrors or triggers something deep inside us.
We are also, some say, meaning makers, and many of us do tend to see connections and look for ways in which things are personally relevant to us. So I don't see anything spooky or alarming going on, it's just the intuitive and sensitive way the human mind is, which if given freedom and opportunity, can help us to tap into our own deeper 'knowing'. If used in a spiritual accompaniment setting, or while praying about or reflecting on concerns, thay can help to focus or clarify the mind, with or without the notes in the book. Some might say that God is helping the process by intervening in the random selection, but that's a matter of opinion.
People have believed that God speaks by interrupting randomness in such ways for centuries. The biblical precedent is the priestly urim and thummim, which are now lost , but were used to 'inquire of the Lord' (e.g. Exodus 28:30).

What I would want to emphasise, is that my reflections are just that: suggestions, pointers, thoughts, but with no pretention whatsoever  to divine revelation. So if you have a hunch about a picture, it means what you want it to mean in that moment, my text is simply a companion voice in the background, which you can ignore or use to develop your own ideas as you wish.

At the time of writing, it just so happens that Reclaiming the Sealskin is on sale at a reduced price, on the Wild Goose Publications website, so now's a good time to make your own mind up about the cards!

unknown sculptor
‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
   the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
   and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
   that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
   and the breath of every human being'
Job 12:7-10 NRSV

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Three Hares

Ray gave me a beautiful pendant for my birthday,
of three hares running in a circle, joined at the ears.
my birthday present, thanks Ray x
It's an ancient design. The oldest examples are hundreds of years old and found  in a Buddhist temple in China. From there it seems they spread along the old trade routes, and wherever the hares went people loved them and made them their own. so, they are found on Iranian Islamic pottery, on European synagogue ceilings,and medieval church roof bosses: the three hares motif is an age-old trans-cultural, multi-faith symbol, meaning something special to each people who adopted it. It is also beloved of neo-Pagans - the hare is an important symbol for many following an earth-spirituality path.

There's a lovely site with photos and details about the Three Hares, by Chris Chapman, who tentatively considers the question of their meaning. The thing, is, nobody wrote about them, so we don't know, we can only guess. Most likely, they took on different meanings, in different contexts. it is interesting that to a Christian, as well as to some neo-Pagans, it is the three-in-oneness that particularly attracts, a Christian, associating it with the Trinity, a Pagan, with the triple Godess. But to other faiths, the hares surely suggest something else.
A 'speaking pebble' I painted last year      

Although I have seen the odd hare while out in the coutryside over the years, including some near the white horse of Uffington, and another near Wayland's Smithy on the Ridgeway, last August, up in Northumberland at Lammastide, they were all over the place! The barley harvest had begun and the hares, it seems, although they are nomadic, were feeling dislocated.
hares near the White Horse

As we walked the last few miles of the pilgrim route to Lindisfarne, there they were, running ahead of us along the edges of the fields at great speed. They are thus, very much associated with the grain harvest to me, indeed, there are European folk traditions that the hare embodies the spirit of the corn and flees as the last sheaf is cut. But there are also many traditions which associate hares with the moon, and while we didn't see any hares during our nights camping in the area, there was, nevertheless, a beautiful full moon.

You can find a fuller reflection plus illustration of the Three Hares in The Healer's Tree, (which is also available as a download) in which I also talk about the Green Man, another widespread and mysterious motif. There's also a Celtic legend to engage with, of a hunted hare who finds sanctuary under the cloak of a holy woman, Saint Melangell.
one of a series of grain-cycle pebbles I painted for lammastide

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Good Shepherdess

As the Church of England continues to agonise over women in the church (visit the WATCH website), specifically the question of bishops, I find myself drawn to the wonderfully iconic Celtic saint Brigid, or Bride, who is said to have come for consecration as a nun, and found herself ordained a bishop, when the presiding minister had a charismatic 'moment' because of her aura of holiness. A good place to read the story is a Catholic Women's Movement for Ordination site, in the article, 'St Brigid's Ordination'.
St Bride with crozier - I found this icon  in a small church in Exmoor

A  shepherd's crook is one of the symbols of office of a bishop, representing pastoral responsibility.
Shepherding as an image of caring leadership, is one of the most well-known and well-loved of metaphors for the Divine and those appointed by God to lead the people, and one that I explore as the principle theme in Rejoice with Me. ( A book  reflecting on times in life when the journey seems hard and relationships with God, the church and our own sense of self  can feel strained.)
 The image of shepherding is a Biblical one. It strikes me as strange, therefore, that anyone drawing on the precedent of scripture, could maintain that this is an exclusively male role, since in the Bible, as in today's world, shepherding is clearly an equal opportunities job.
In Exodus 2:16, for example, Moses meets Zipporah for the first time, at a well where she is watering a flock of sheep with her sisters - that is, she and her sisters are shepherds. Moses becomes a shepherd too, by marrying Zipporah.
In Genesis 29:9, again at a well, Rachel appears with a flock of sheep, to the great interest of Joseph - Rachel is a shepherd.
In the Song of Songs 1:8, the beloved is advised to pasture her flock near the shepherds' tents: the beloved is a shepherd.
Taking shepherding as a more general leading of the people, we find among others, Miriam the prophet, companion leader to her brother Moses and Aaron (Micah 6:4) and Deborah the judge and 'mother' of her people (Judges 5:7).
Shepherds can be male or female. So, to my mind, can bishops.

My Shepherd,
thank you for drawing me into the fold of your love,
for reaching out to me in a way that I can hear,
for healing me from the feeling of exclusion,
from the pain of feeling marginalised, as though I am only second best.
Thank you for raising me up in your eyes to be equal within your flock,
equally beloved, equally valued ...


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Earth Spirituality

It becomes clear after reading just a little of anything I write that my spirituality is rooted in a love of the natural world and a special affection for the 'thin' places of the British Isles. In some of my books I explore this in a 'Celtic Christian' spirit - although appreciating that this means different things to different people. Reclaiming the Sealskin, Wild Goose Chase and The Healer's Tree in particular draw on folklore and natural history as well as the lives of Celtic saints and holy places associated with them.I'll say more about my Celtic inclinations in future posts.
I also have an association with Franciscan spirituality, St Francis being celebrated as a lover of creation. This interest has emerged implicitly if not explicitly in my last two books, Hiding in God and especially, Rejoice with me.
In his Canticle to the Sun, Francis praises God for sun and moon, wind and water, fire and earth, for their intrinsic worth and his delight in them. Many stories tell of him addressing creatures as brother and sister, thanking them for being themselves, as God intended, and exhorting them to sing and praise God in their many voices.
I painted this for my husband Ray in 2009
There is a growing urgency in some movements of Christianty, to deepen our care for the earth, and this, to my mind, cannot happen soon enough. I love the old saying that there are two books by which we can learn about the divine: nature and scripture, and that we need both. Experiencing nature without a wisdom tradition to guide us, we see an amoral world. Reading scripture, shut away from creation, we forget our roots, our true identity. We become less, not more human.
While studying for my Theology degree, in which I immersed myself in the Bible - among other things - my eyes were opened to the way Biblical people lived so closely with the land, and the richness of language, the awe, the glorious poetry that creation inspired. I see the Bible as a treasure trove of imagery drawing on the natural world, and I see Jesus as belonging to that tradition, his teachings richly illustrated by the natural world around him, which could be harsh and difficult as well as beautiful, his preferred place of prayer, a mountain, alone, at night. As I explore especially in The Healer's Tree, care for the earth is a justice issue, it means care for humanity, our children and their children for generations to come, and care for our neighbour.

My love of the earth means I often find an affinity with people of other spiritual paths who seek to respect, cherish and understand the earth and wider universe, and that  includes emerging spiritualities, some of which identify as Pagan. I see it as part of my own spiritual journey to listen to and learn from others, about how they find sanctity and spirituality in the world around them - some might call this finding 'Christ in other'.I hope I can say more about this exploration in further posts.

Yew tree in St Brynach church graveyard, Nevern
Christians don't need to go to paganism to love the earth, unless they feel called to. It's all there in our tradition if we look for it, and this is what I seek to bring out in my writing: Greening the Church. But I do feel that Christians could do with communicating respectfully with eco-spirituality people, to look for meeting places and ways to work together on such vital issues. I think it's true to say that many earth-spirituality people do not see care for earth as a priority to the church, but rather, see 'Christendom' as responsible for large scale destruction and an attitude that the earth is simply there for us to exploit while we wait for 'heaven'. Such observations present a challenge to mainstream Christianity, an invitation for a change of heart, and exploration of possibilities for healing of relationship as well as of the earth. One example among many of just such a venture is the Partnership for Earth Spirituality which has a Franciscan root. Closer to home, the UK Forest Church explores the spirituality of the natural world in creative, reflective ways - and I've been delighted to hear recently, that members have drawn on my first book, Reclaiming the Sealskin. Thanks, forest folk!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Inclusive God talk

In my writing, especially in the last five or six years, I aim to use non-gendered language about God, or to strike a balance between masculine and feminine expressions. The holy and unspeakable name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, is not a male or female name, it is a statement of existence, something like 'I AM.' It is Being itself.  It used to be said that it was more respectful of God to say 'he' because it was believed that 'he' was superior - that's how we end up with 'Lord' as a substitution for the holy name. In this age of supposed equality it is aposite and theologically justifiable to adjust our language.
While prevalent Christian traditions today use almost exclusively masculine language in worship and translation of scripture, this was not always the case. Spiritual writers as widely respected as Julian of Norwich and Anselm spoke freely of Jesus our mother. The Bible is rich in feminine and non-gendered imagery. Jesus may have given us permission to call God 'Father', but would he really mind if some of us chose not to, because it makes us feel uncomfortable? I think not.He himself used feminine imagery -such as likening himself to a mother hen, caring for her chicks. (Luke 13:34)

There are significant concerns in the church about falling numbers. At the same time, growing numbers are attracted to spiritualities which explore and value the divine feminine. It seems to me, that while such paths are the chosen ones for many, others have left Christianity with some sadness - had somebody pointed out where to look, had somebody said 'she' instead of 'he' of God sometimes, and done more to bring out the female voice in scripture and worship, then they might have found the feminine divine within the riches of the Christian faith and chosen  to stay - so in my writing I like to dig her out and surprise people, Christians and non-Christians alike.

I've written a reflection, with prayers, on the subject of inclusive language about God and gendered images of God and how we relate to these in our own faith journeys, particularly when gendered language leads some of us to feel excluded, in Rejoice with Me (Kevin Mayhew 2013):

'Holy One, let me hear your voice in a way that makes me feel safe and included ...' (p. 112)

In Hiding in God, (Kevin Mayhew 2012) is a reflection with imaginative visualisation, on the theme of hiding under God's wings - the 'mother bird' image Jesus suggests and which occurs frequently in the psalms (for example Psalm 17:8).

'Mothering, loving God, hide me in the shadow of your wings ...'  (p. 122)

Something I've been working on for a long time but not published yet is a daily office or daily prayer using inclusive and / or feminine language. Hopefully this is something I can get round to in the near future so watch this space! 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My Writing

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am using it to post about different books and other things I have written. This introductory blog is about how my books came about.

 I started writing around 2001, while recovering from a 'difficult' patch. I found walking in the local woods very healing and drew a great deal of inspiration from the natural world. My reflections took shape as my first book,  Reclaiming-the-Sealskin published by Iona's Wild Goose Publications.Reclaiming the Sealskin has remained popular with seekers exploring the place where Christian faith meets immersion in and love of nature, it contains 70 detachable meditation cards which I painted myself.

As I started to feel more ready to get back on with life, I wrote a second book with the same publisher, exploring thoughts on how I might go about living more simply and more in tune with my spirituality. I called this book Wild Goose Chase. 
This book is a bit of a reflective manual for daily living, with a variety of different elements, from shared liturgy to personal prayer, reflections on rooms in the house to times of day, our bodies, our relationships, our work ...
After a few years I found the time to write and illustrate a third book, a set of 28 reflections on ecology, peace and justice themes, drawing on Biblical and 'Celtic' inspiration. I called this one The Healer's Tree, (Wild Goose Publications) a title taken from a beautiful Anglo Saxon poem called the Dream of the Rood, describing a vision of the holy tree of the cross. Here is one of my book illustrations:

Soon after writing this I needed surgery and my husband, Ray Gaston, suggested I write a journal. This really helped me to see the process from a 'spiritual journey' perspective and while recovering, I put my thoughts and prayers together in a short and simple book of prayers and reflections around health issues, that I hoped would be accessible to a wide readership.This is called Hiding in God, published by Kevin Mayhew. The title comes from an image in the psalms, of hiding under the shadow of safe wings.The process of recovery from surgery and the health issues that had led up to this, prompted me to reflect on the story of my life so far, what I had struggled with and what had helped me. I felt that it was time to draw these thoughts together and offer them up, for the sake of anyone else 'out there' who might be going through similar things. I wanted this to be a hopeful, encouraging book and chose the theme of God as our shepherd, and the title Rejoice with me (Kevin Mayhew). 'Rejoice with me' is, according to Luke 15:6, what the owner of the flock of sheep says when he finds the one that got lost.
Over this time, liturgies, prayers and reflections that I wrote a while back, some drawn from my book 'Wild Goose Chase', have been re-crafted in new formats available as e-publications. This includes among other things a marriage ceremony, a bead-prayer meditation and workshop, a 'leaderless Eucharist', a city prayer walk and a Valentine's Day poem.

People sometimes ask me about writing, and say 'I'd like to write a book but ...' For what it's worth, each of my books has cost me a great deal of time, effort and soul-searching, sometimes the process is frustrating and solitary. I have needed and appreciated immense support in my home life to be able to give the time and space to writing, which has taken significant time away from going out to work, and has asked for a willingness in the household to live quite simply. It's a labour of love. But It is also hugely rewarding, and the process itself is helpful - as I write, I think, I meditate and clarify my thoughts, I go back to holy texts and search again for that quote that's at the back of my mind, or go back to that legend with the enigmatic archetype, back to that favourite hill or wood and let it speak to me again ... it is a privilidge to have the opportunity for such enrichment, and then to be able to share that with others, but it is not - in my experience - a path to fame, riches and glory!