A writer and fundraising consultant, Liz lives, works, walks and writes at home in rural Suffolk, re-learning (mainly in the garden) how to navigate the world as the intense early years of parenting recede and the self begins to bloom.
Even the tallest tree begins life with the tiniest shoot: “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” Beginning can be scary, and first shoots can be delicate, but what beauty and strength can grow from even a hesitant and fragile beginning.
Challenge yourself to find a flower. Bright yellow winter aconite perhaps, or a snowdrop – everyone’s favourite. (Here’s a tip: look at the trees. Catkins are flowers too.) If not a flower, then a leaf-bud, a shoot, a tuft of grass springing from a crack in the pavement. Celebrate: the wheel of the year is turning again.
Fragility and frailty are within all of us. Fragile can be beautiful: think of the thin, patterned ice crust on a winter puddle. A snowdrop may be delicate, but she withstands the snow and ice and opens the door to spring. Remembering this, accept your own fragility, and accept the hidden strength within it.
Spring is the season of possibility, the home of “what if?”. What if anything were possible? What if you knew that dreams come true? What would you dare to imagine then? Will you allow yourself to believe that what you imagine might be possible – even if you can’t see how? Give your dream a chance to grow a new, green shoot.
Imbolc © Liz Proctor 2019
The gleam of the moon, the gentle morning light, the start of spring. All these speak of promises kept, (winter is ending, dawn is breaking) and promises for the future: good things will grow. As winter ends and spring begins, there is always, always room for hope.
Now is the time to begin. Without thinking too hard about it, make a start on something. Large or small, it doesn’t matter; the magic is in taking the first step. Begin the thing you’ve been putting off, the thing that scares you, the thing that you desperately want to do but don’t know how to complete. Don’t think, don’t plan, don’t worry about the next step – just start. There will be magic and momentum and the next steps will become clearer.
Spring is Nature’s busy time. It seems she never stops growing, changing, reproducing. She knows her time of rest will come. It will be easier to accept your own busyness if you know that rest will follow. Accept today’s reality, and accept your responsibility to ensure that you can rest and be renewed tomorrow.
Light and dark are in balance at the Equinox: day and night are equal length. What would balance look and feel like to you? What might need to change to take you there? Dare to dream – and take – a tiny step 34 towards feeling balanced in your own life.
Spring Equinox/Oestre © Liz Proctor 2019
Beltane is raw physical power, rising in sap and root and shoot. At Beltane, go deep into your body, for there lies truth and wisdom. Feel.
Seek out the delight of physical tiredness. Walk, work in the garden, dance, run – whatever makes you feel your body working. Whatever your physical limits – even if standing or raising your hands is as much as you can do – move your body. Feel it stretch and sweat. Feel how amazing it is.
Change is everywhere. All is growing, moving, becoming. Leaves unfurl, flowers open, bare soil is covered with green. Change is constant throughout the seasons and never more so than at the fertile festival of Beltane. Accept that change can be beautiful, embrace the possibilities it brings.
If you could harness the glowing power of the Beltane fire, what would you do with that limitless energy? What might burst forth? How will you find and make positive use of this season’s strength and warmth?
Beltane © Liz Proctor 2019
Solstice is pause. Solstice is breathing. Solstice is the sun standing still. As the sun stops, so can we.
Today, step outside and stand barefoot in the grass. Breathe. Feel your feet, your connection to Earth. Barefoot in the grass, we pause and breathe. Barefoot in the grass, soaking in warmth, rooting in Earth. Barefoot on the grass, we are a bridge between Earth and Sky.
If you find – as surely you must in this season – that the Outside finds its way inside in the form of soil, grass clippings, sand, insects and the sound of a lawnmower, welcome it as you welcome the blue sky and sunshine. Let the Outside in and take yourself outside.
Turn inward. Remember, the sun stops. We can stop. The sun shines, and so can we. What, in this season of the sun, is shining in the silence of your heart? Allow yourself to wonder: what does your heart need? How might you find it in this pause?
Summer Solstice © Liz Proctor 2019
Every ending is also a beginning. This is traditionally the start of the harvest season: grains are ripening, fruits are forming. This harvest is the culmination – the end – that nature has been working towards, and yet every fruit and every grain contains the potential for new life and new beginnings.
The Celtic god Lugh, who gives his name to this festival, is a sun god. His day is a time of feasting and celebration. In our time, it’s also holiday season for many. Whether you’re on home soil or in foreign lands, take a few minutes to stand and absorb the sun’s rays on your skin. (Morning and evening are safest, and a few minutes is plenty.) Feel its warmth and strength. Recognise that all life – including yours – depends on its heat and light, all year round.
Today contains the fruits of your yesterdays and the seeds of your tomorrows. Accepting that, what harvest might you begin to work towards?
What if there were no plans to be made, no list of jobs to complete? What if, like the birds, your busy time was over and your responsibilities had fledged and flown? Even if just for a moment, can you step into the slow, sleepy sunshine and sink into this moment? Can you carry that feeling through your day? Can you imagine doing the same tomorrow?
Lammas (Lughnasadh) © Liz Proctor 2019
Poised and perfect. Ripe and ready. Balanced at the peak. The haze of golden, slanted light says it all: take what is readily and freely given. Enjoy the fruits of the year so far. Celebrate! Make the most of every drop of sunlight and every juicy morsel. Earth is generous.
Your hands were made to gather. So gather something. An edible harvest if you can: rosehips or the last of the blackberries; apples from an orchard or crab apples from the hedgerow; pull a carrot from a garden if you’re lucky. Savour the embodied sunshine as you eat. And if you live far from an edible harvest, gather pebbles to paint, twigs to use as decoration, or better yet – harvest litter and recycle or bin it. Your landscape will thank you and your hands will remember their purpose: gathering and generous giving.
You are worthy of life’s gifts. Accept goodness, sweetness and possibility with gratitude for what is freely given. Don’t reject positivity because you feel you don’t deserve it. Accept your own worth, accept your gifts. (And if you still doubt your own worth, pretend you don’t. Act as if you’re worthy. You may just start to believe it.)
Autumn is magical, wild and alive with glowing light and roaring energy. What if you, too, are magical, wild and alive? What spells will you cast, what magic will you weave? What power will you unleash? Dare to dream your own magic.
Autumn Equinox © Liz Proctor 2019
Less, stripping away, laying bare. Less, less, always less, so we see the clear reality beneath. Not always comfortable, but always necessary and freeing. Leaves fall, but branches stay strong and clear.
Tidy, sort, give away. Strip out the broken, the “might need it someday”, the “don’t know why I still have this”, the “never liked it anyway”. Purge, lighten the load. Pare back and you may catch a glimpse of those few things that really are essential.
Emptiness. How unnerving emptiness can be when we see it as a lack. Empty time, empty space: our instinct is to fill them. Accepting emptiness, resting in it, we can see that emptiness is just another word for potential. In an empty place, there is room for growth. The first step is to accept the emptiness, just as it is.
As leaves fall and flowers finally fade, trunks and branches stay firm and strong, and roots hold fast. What keeps you strong and true? What will you hold on to even as you let go of what’s no longer needed?
Samhain © Liz Proctor 2019
Drawing in. Drawing to a close. Resting and retreating. Slumber. All these things are as necessary as breathing. As the Earth sleeps, she dreams. As you rest, dreams may find you too.
Go to the window. As you open the curtains in the morning, welcome the daylight, however faint and grey. In the evening, as the light outside fades, draw the curtains closed and honour the nurturing darkness, for darkness brings rest and renewal. Live with the rhythm of the season.
Darkness. Fallow times. Even sadness. We cannot live always in the glare of the sun. Accept even the dark, and you will find its beauty and magic.
Even now, deep in the soil and within seemingly dead twigs, life pulses. What secrets pulse within you? Do you need to let them go, decompose to fertilise new dreams, or is there a spark of life in your buried secret that’s gathering its energy, preparing for its time to come?
Winter Solstice © Liz Proctor 2019
How hard it is, in one season, to imagine another. In summer, cold is an impossibility. In winter, the sun will never shine again. Autumn’s rain is eternal.
Or maybe it’s the opposite: we long for change. Whatever we want, it isn’t this. In sunshine, we long for shade; in snow, our bones cry out for warmth. In a dry spell, we thirst for rain.
Yet there’s no need to project forward, to imagine a new season into being. This season, the one in which we find ourselves today, is abundant and wonder-full. We need only live in it, absorb it, taste it, to learn from it how to be in this season. Tomorrow will bring lessons and wonder of its own – when it comes. And it will come in its own time.
This Season © Liz Proctor 2019
Step outside. Breathe. Listen. Feel.
A wild joy breathes just below the surface, even in this cultivated land.
Beauty is soil-deep, soul-deep.
A Wild Joy © Liz Proctor 2018
I dream in dragonflies, hot summer sun,
All red and green and flashing golden lace
And clockwork wings that rattle, click and chime.
I dream in dragonflies, a secret race.
I dream of hidden growth beneath the surface,
As slender threads are knotted one by one,
To fashion folded hope of future flying,
A silver gauze for hope to rest upon.
I dream of metamorphosis, hard skin
That cracks and ruptures, tearing up the past.
The mist that kisses silent waiting water
Enfolds the naiad taking breath at last.
Dragonfly Dreaming © Liz Proctor
Go outside! Go outside! Whatever the day brings, it will be better outside. You were made to breathe the open air, feel the sun on your skin and taste the rain on your face. It doesn’t matter where you go, how far you travel, who you’re with, or how the weather behaves. When you don’t know where to turn, when everything is too much, when you feel a yearning for a nameless something you can’t identify – you need the wide sky and the wild world. Four walls can never give you the space your heart needs to soar. Go outside!
(This has been one of my most popular pieces in Earth Parthways; several practitioners have told me they read it to workshop participants.)
Go Outside © Liz Proctor
Millstone grit, high limestone pavement,
Peat bog, moorland, mountain crag.
Dead man’s fingers, golden plover,
Moldiwarp, garth, ness, ram, hagg.
Bedrock, scar, clints, purple moorgrass,
Yat, tor, tarn, toft, thwaite, ling, shale.
Harebell, chunter, spuggy, mawky,
Croggy, ouzel, cavern, swale.
Dale, vale, keks, karst, crack, cleg, curlew,
Rugged buzzard, laiking shrike.
Spout, fall, pothole, cliff, escarpment,
Barn, cave, cove, rock, calcite, grike.
Blanket bog, twite, scree, brook, bracken,
Merlin, torrent, lapwing, rigg.
Chert, gorge, ginnel, gormless, snicket,
Sinkhole, peak, oolitic, brigg.
Sedimentary, cleft, mire, river,
Mither, chapel, narky, sedge.
Cottongrass, grouse, nouse, heath, crevice,
Claggy, snipe, beck, skylark, edge.
Fly agaric, birch, gill, bogbean,
Thorpe, slack, stang, ouse, sphagnum moss.
Hart’s-tongue fern, stone, carr, spelk, clarty,
Crosswort, pignut, manky, foss.
Drystone wall, laithe, rowan, wagtail,
Heather, parky, fell, crevasse.
Bilberry, fettle, sneck, tyke, parkin,
Yorkshire fog, hike, moor, muck, brass.
(This poem was first published in the wonderful Dawntreader.)
Northern Childhood © Liz Proctor
Basket in hand, walking
through centuries, searching,
spotting, sniffing, testing,
gently pressing, checking
for ripeness, for rot,
for other tiny diners. Eyes
pick out morsels, hands
deftly gather, lips
pucker at sweet-sharp
rolls the taste:
through the centuries, knowing,
absorbing the land.
Absorbed © Liz Proctor
I know the kestrel’s favourite tree,
Her dead branch hideout, watchful skewer-beak.
I know where bramble claws the sky,
Pink summer promise blooms to autumn juice.
I know where badgers dug their sett
In deep-ditch-depths where cool sleep ends at dusk.
I know where crab-fruits cobble grass
And blackthorn wears a vicious crown of sloes.
I know where wind and lively clouds
Enfold the year and blow the seasons round.
I know where I would make my den:
This hedgerow hollow, sheltered, sun-warmed, still.
Belonging © Liz Proctor
There’s a moment when I begin to speak
wise parental words as I chew this tuna
sandwich, but tears come first – a surprise
to me as to you, but I know
where they come from
And it’s far away
from here, in another time, when rollerskates
were kicked to a corner of the garage
and growing up meant leaving things behind,
not rolling words around every gleaming spider-bridge
that shone between the stars
when there was a perfectly good normality to be populated,
and certainly not wasting the rational
brain that would follow
the straightening tracks and knew
what to do and understood
that loving stories and pens and the way
the wind catches the leaves in spirals
is not the way to get on.
The whispers wouldn’t leave me alone.
(Thirty years, though.)
your drums, my love.
Don’t listen to me.
Listen © Liz Proctor