Janey is a writer, performance poet and former herbalist, exploring nature and culture with the intent to rewrite the future in hope and solidarity, for a growing, life- affirming, glorious diversity on this beautiful earth.
Plants, flowers, trees. What do you think of when I say these words? Beautiful scenery? Parks and gardens? Fluffy, pretty, decorative, and pretty much background? I'll tell you what I think of: wild and fierce windy moorland, heather and gorse scratching my legs. The force of a tap root plunging deep into cold earth. The power of a seed, surviving for years without food or water. The tangle of ivy tendrils wrapping around whatever she can grasp. Potent medicines that can heal or kill. Unstoppable dandelions pushing up through cracks. Tree roots buckling tarmac. Grass that never, ever stops growing no matter how much we hack and trim. I think of tenacious goose grass gripping and sticking to passers-by, sharp thistles, the hot sting of nettle, the mighty fat stem of blistering hogweed towering above us, tiny ivy-leaved toadflax and spindly herb robert flourishing in the sparse crumbs of soil that gather in the corners of yards and old walls. I see ancient trees dwarfing houses. How quickly a ruin is reclaimed by a living green carpet and pioneer saplings. I think of how plants transform the sun's fire into matter and movement, bringing this gift of fire to the other living beings on Earth. Everywhere I see the relentless, tenacious power and life force of our green cousins expanding in all directions.
Not Just A Pretty Face © Janey Colbourne 2018
Fabric can last for centuries. I have a mountain of it, in the form of clothes that no longer fit me. They feel like a precious resource that cannot be disposed of lightly, although none of the items have great monetary value. I used to tell myself they might fit me again one day. But I’m not sure that’s the real reason I’ve kept them. Am I holding onto my former selves? Some are from when I was younger. They hold good memories. A few were my mum’s, which I’ve never worn as they’ve never fitted me. Recently, my perspective changed. I no longer see them as old clothes, but as useful fabrics. I might make them into something else. Black linen trousers and dark green jeans become fabric for embroidery. This has shifted the energy of the situation. I moved on and created something new, beautiful and unique. It’s a particularly satisfying kind of recycling. No one can scoff at my hoarding anymore. It has real purpose, and I hold the evidence in my hands. Suddenly these clothes have much greater value and meaning. It feels like movement, a shift from stagnation. I start to have ideas about things I could make. This is no longer old stuff I can’t let go of. It’s something new in potential.
Fabric of Life © Janey Colbourne 2022
My daughter sits by the fire,
weaving light green wool into
snug pockets for treasures.
My mother taught me to sew,
to darn, to fix a tear,
to hold it all together.
In every stitch she’s there.
Laughter fills the library, bright
yarns in comforting heaps,
women gathered round to craft,
making some rowdy peace.
Weavers © Janey Colbourne 2021
May you rise like the phoenix from the ashes.
Reignite your precious embers.
Break from your constraints to dance on air.
Rise like the swelling tide, the harvest moon.
Rise like you will dare.
Rise like you’re awakened from a hundred year sleep.
Rise and keep on rising
like a mountain heaving, growing, peaking,
endlessly replenishing from deep within.
Rise above the mist, to see the early morning sun.
Rise like tender seedlings bravely pierce the frost.
Rise and mend your heart,
as your breath caressed becomes your words let loose.
Arise and say your piece, in truth.
Arise from fear, to be here now, alive,
more alive than you have ever been.
Rise and you are seen. Rise and lift each other up.
Rise. For freedom.
Rise © Janey Colbourne 2020
Find the door in your mind to begin
the journey from disempowerment and isolation
to a new inspiration and direction,
the bliss of creative expression.
All transitions in life are the portals:
painful to open and push through
but so worthwhile once you are there.
Imagination is deeper than mere escape:
As you map your inner landscape you make
transformations, connections, creations,
a breakthrough, revelation.
I'm familiar with limitations, living with disability,
but my mind is free, grown comfortable with liminality.
You can see what you want to see
if you are open-hearted. In here is still uncharted territory.
Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees,
blindsided and parted from family,
until we recall we can forge for ourselves
an inner place of peace,
this ever-present sanctuary,
a universe in this space.
Elevation © Janey Colbourne 2021
For a time I lived in a small caravan on a rural site by the canal, in constant close proximity with wild animals and plants.
One morning as I was walking, a rabbit ran across the lane, a little in front of me, and disappeared into the undergrowth. A moment later, a weasel followed. I crept along quietly, hoping to catch another glimpse. The rabbit ran back across the lane further up, followed, again, by the weasel. At the top of the lane, the weasel ran across first, shortly followed by the rabbit. I thought to myself, either the rabbit is very clever, staying behind the weasel, or the weasel has tricked the rabbit. I saw nothing more, so I have no idea who won the battle of wits.
This was just one of many encounters. Living so close to nature, I began to feel that I was living in a magical reality, in a world filled with my relatives. I was honoured and blessed to be among them. I saw that nature was vibrant, alive and conscious. Each animal and plant was, and still is, a fellow being with a story to tell...
Living with Relatives © Janey Colbourne 2018
Dark night’s cloak envelops me, not as a shroud, but as a blanket; my sanctuary, my hermitage. A time when hibernation is acceptable. A time of contrasts: frozen fingers clasp steaming hot mug; firesides and fairy lights all the more comforting in the deep velvet nights. I sense the mystery and magic of the dark days, and wonder at the slumber of trees; do they dream? Do they stir in their sleep, when the winter storms whip their branches, expanding ice tendrils lacerating their bark, while they shelter the tiny mammals hibernating peacefully in their roots’ embrace? While others fear the long, cold sleep of winter, I relish the keen freshness of the air, the glint of frost casting winter’s magic over the bare earth. More than anything, I crave the clean autumnal days, of glorious palette, before the true cold sets in. Gone is the cloying perfume of tree blossom, summer’s fertility cramming the air with pollen, and hot dry days of swirling dust. I welcome the damp days, the crisp days, the cool wind; catching my breath with its sharp slap in my face, bracing and enlivening me. I inhale deeply, savouring the changing scents, the altered humidity, that first hint at the season’s turning. I am welcoming winter.
Welcoming Winter © Janey Colbourne
Peace descends as I step into the woods, like a softly laid blanket. The air is still sharp, although the sun and birdsong hint at spring soon to come. I slow down, all senses open, fully present. Two magpies dart away to either side of the path. I silently greet them, and smile to myself. In such moments I find inner meaning from the signs of nature, not signs placed especially for me, but the latent language of nature, there for all to read if they so choose, if their eyes are open to see. Whatever strikes the eye may have some inner significance. Like the language of dreams, we can find our own meaning, while simultaneously tapping into the deep language of universal unconscious. I cannot walk in the woods without the feeling of stepping into a dream-like world, a magical realm. A world that speaks to me.
The Magical Realm © Janey Colbourne 2018
Red is my blood, green is your sap,
yet below the skin, we are kin,
complementary, breathing each other in,
mutually nourishing, eternally flourishing.
The iron that dwells in the heart of her,
the iron that flows in my veins, are one and the same.
The heart of suns in the wood and the cell.
I am ocean but for a membrane.
When I die, and the ocean leaves my body,
my spirit returns to the sea.
The part of me that is earth, my bones, I will leave behind.
Under the skin, we are all kin.
Below The Skin © Janey Colbourne 2017
Thank you for your words of courage,
words of truth,
words of encouragement
Thank you for your solidarity,
for lifting us up.
Thank you for breaking ground,
cutting the edge,
standing on that soapbox
with daring and drive,
having the nerve to shout out
what many feel in their hearts
but could not find the words.
Thank you for striving,
for years of graft,
surviving on coffee and solitude,
for making us laugh,
cry, hope and dream.
Thank you for creating new worlds,
from which may spread
the seeds of potential,
to open in this world
and change it for good.
To All You Writers and Poets Out There © Janey Colbourne 2018
I have great hope for the potential future of humanity. We have in our hands an enormous opportunity. In times of crisis we can work so well together. The generations who lived through the World Wars experienced what we can achieve when we have to unite against a common enemy. The greatest enemy now is within. It is our apathy and sense of disempowerment, our despair, lack of courage and self-belief. It is so true that we fear our own power. We cannot afford to do so any longer. We face the greatest environmental crisis in human history. Yet all around me I see visions of hope, inspiration, compassion, courageous action, scientific discovery and inventiveness. We have the creative potential to live the most awesome lives of abundance and fulfilment, in harmony with the earth and with each other. I truly believe it. Only our fear holds us back. Communities of like-minded individuals can unite to inspire each other and act together. Let’s seize this opportunity. Let’s write a new story. It’s time to wake up, wise up and rise up!
A Message of Hope © Janey Colbourne
The air is different here, fresher, by the stream in the woods. I sense it immediately, inhaling deeply, the equivalent for my lungs of putting a cool glass of water to my parched lips, or of sinking into the blue ocean on a scorching day. This is where I am most alive, and at peace. I am blessed. This is home. I have an aching nostalgia for a world I’ve never known, a world where we are all fully immersed in nature, a world in which the drone of traffic is unheard. In reality, nature is home, it is where we belong. I come to the woods for restoration. I need do nothing but stroll or sit, allowing my senses to fully absorb my attention. A wood pigeon coos in the canopy, invisible. The lilting stream is medicine to my weary heart. A hoverfly, confident in his waspish camouflage, basks in the morning sun. I find it impossible to be bored here. My eye moves to the stones on the path grinding inexorably over centuries into particles of dirt. I see with my inner eye the microcosm of worms and fungal networks, the bacteria that make the soil a living substance. My awareness extends to the depths of the soil beneath my feet, and below that, the bedrock. Deeper still, the magnetic core of the earth, the heart of fire that holds us, that keeps us close...
The Air is Different Here © Janey Colbourne 2016
Where does the path lead?
Into the woods,
into the elven halls
Step from the painted scene,
step from the photograph,
into the real woods.
As the door opens,
into the heart,
the spiral journey,
the woods within,
as real and verdant,
step into sanctuary.
Walk in the real woods,
open the door,
into my heart.
The Woods Within © Janey Colbourne 2016
We can all find our own source of spiritual nourishment that grounds us. For some it may be a directly obvious spiritual practice, such as prayer, meditation or divination. However, spirituality and experiencing wholeness of self are not constrained to specialised practices. Activities such as walking in nature, cookery, art, craft, reading, singing and myriad others, can be personally meaningful and bring us into a connected state of mind. It is the conscious intent and focus with which we do these things that makes the difference, and the meaning we put into it. If we immerse ourselves in the experience with all our senses and attention, being as fully present in the moment as we can, our minds and hearts can be refreshed. Returning to this regularly and consistently, with a focus on conscious connection, we can build up our inner peace and strength. Eventually we can maintain the connection and sense of being grounded and centred in other areas of our lives and in challenging situations. It is most beneficial if we remain gentle, patient and compassionate with ourselves as we develop this skill. Our attitudes and behaviours can be transformed, given time and patience, and through this our interactions, the lives of our family and friends and those we meet. In this way, with small steps, we can change the world.
Small Steps Change the World © Janey Colbourne 2015