Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Stepping Into The Past

Dinas DinlleHill Fort

View walking up the hill to the iron age fort

Walls have been uncovered that were built by people over two thousand years ago, and which probably haven’t seen the light of day since the great storms of eight hundred years ago when all the sand blew in and forevermore totally obliterated parts of the coastline.

Yesterday, I went with my family to visit our local beach – the one nearest to us, only four or five miles along country lanes which normally takes us approximately twelve minutes to drive to in the car. Archaeologists have been excavating on top of the hill fort there this past couple of weeks. The public were then invited to go and see what they had discovered.

Gazebos and tents to house photos and maps and other significant information bucked and flapped in the aftermath of the gale which had assailed north west Wales the previous evening. The sun shone but the waves roared in thunderously as they crashed upon the beach relentlessly and the wind nearly blew us away, especially once we reached the exposed summit of the hill which the fort crowns. It was hard to stand still or upright and the furiously swirling air snatched our guide’s words away in a possessive tantrum, but what we saw and discovered there took my breath away far more thoroughly that the exigencies of the wind.

We were told about the Roman watch tower which was probably built from stones taken from the older hut circles and later, the farms which came and went – even a golf course which was laid out across the hill fort at the turn of the last century!

Hill Fort walls

One of the archaeological trenches showing a wall between six and eight feet thick – built to withstand the elements and humanity alike.

But it was the stones. Stones carried, held, placed by hands over two millennia ago… laid with infinite precision and care by ordinary people shaping their homes… people with vision of a new community… ordinary people going about their everyday business, with blisters and sore backs, with loved ones, with hopes and aspirations just like you and me. I felt the intervening years dissolve and I stood with them – those people of old – and looked on with them as their great round houses and animal folds took shape.

I walked with them towards the entrance to the enclosure which faces away from the sea and the wind and envisaged hunters returning home with their prey, farmers walking back up the track at the end of a long weary day from toiling in the fields… the laughter and chatter of children, the women’s voices and the smoke rising from the cooking fires. It was all there, just a blink away… and then was gone. But I was still left with a feeling of shared community… connection… experience.

Dinas Dinlle

Looking across the sea towards the mountains of Tre’r Ceiri

As I walked back across the summit of the hill and looked out across the bay to the mountains opposite, I saw the very same view that these ancestors of the place must have looked at every day of their lives and felt again that frisson of connection. I thank the archaeologists whose care and work enabled me to briefly walk beside these older folk once more. It gave me a sense of place and time and of fitness to carry on the task of preserving the planet and our life upon it – more precarious now than at any other time this past few thousand years.

With much to think about, we descended the steep slopes and sought sanctuary within one of the bright, warm cafes. I bet those older folk would have a loved a cup of hot tea or coffee!

Finished!

Book Illustrations

At last, all twenty-six illustrations for my new book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’, are completed! I suppose that twenty-six full-page illustrations is quite a feat… but even more so when you are no artist!!! What a relief, not to mention an achievement.

Perhaps it was just as well that we had to postpone the volunteering weekend originally organised for tomorrow and Sunday (due to key volunteers suddenly being without transport and the threat of bad weather). It has meant that I have been given some time and space to sit down and finish the last three. Oh, the blessings of a stormy, wet morning and some solitude!

Next stop is the book itself!

Stepping Through The Archway

Earthwalking ArchwayHere is a picture of the Earthwalking Archway – symbolic commitment to entering the Earthwalking cycle. There are still a couple of places left on the next cycle – do any of you reading this feel that you could step through the willow into the space beyond?

We all had a lovely time together on Sunday at the Earthwalking introductory day. Numbers gradually grew throughout the day and as the weather improved, by the middle of the afternoon we were able to move outside into the hot sunshine.

The morning began with lots of grey cloud, damp and cool, as we tramped around part of the land and I was able to point out the stream, (which provides our water), the willow bower where on hot days we sometimes retreat into the shade while we journey or hold discussions. We also walked around the ritual grove area where the embryonic circles of oak saplings are flourishing and past the willow labyrinth with its four interconnected spirals and on to the tiny island of apples… the water channel around it being mightily overgrown at present but bursting with wildlife.

We also took time to connect to the four elements, to spend time with and savour them. People sat besides the lively stream who’s waters were swollen by the recent rain and bowls were individually drawn from it, peaty brown and stirred from the depths of the Earth herself. Tiny fires were carefully built and lit upon the bank of the stream and time spent entering into the dancing flames and appreciating their warm… their cleansing and transformative abilities… their potentially destructive power. Hands were muddied from digging out the earth and cheeks were cooled by the presence of the gusty wind.

Coffee and mint tea (picked fresh from the herb beds) were brewed and home made flapjack passed around before we went on to discuss why it might be necessary to regularly cleanse oneself psychically/spiritually; some of the ways to go about it and the best times to do it.

By one o’clock we were all ready for lunch – thick farmhouse tomato soup, cobs of brown, crusty bread studded with crisp seeds, blocks of cheese and piles of fruit followed by pieces of moist lemon drizzle and sticky chocolate cakes. By this time we had been joined by our youngest visitor to Earthwalking ever – a very small little lady who only celebrates her first birthday at the end of this month. She was  absolutely charming and impeccably behaved and quite stole all our hearts!

The afternoon was spent looking at the Celtic Spirit Wheel which is in fact a

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A Golden Day!

Spent a wonderful day with my family at Cae Non yesterday! The weather was hot and sunny with blue skies and the land was awash with blossom. One of the main focuses of the day was the ritual mixing of our Lammas loaf – or in this particular instance, four flat loaves which were baked on a planc or griddle over an open wood fire. We all took turns to knead the dough and then left it to rise under a damp cloth in the

The land of Cae Non! Our land is actually visible in this picture, but you have to know where to look!

warm sunshine while we wandered off to climb a neighbouring hill.

In spiritual terms, hills can be seen as liminal places, between earth and the heavens. (Think of the tradition of climbing a hill to receive wisdom – Moses and the ten commandments or the Quaker, George Fox, who had certain revelations on Pendle Hill.) This time of year is the season of the grain harvest and in ancient agricultural terms, the time when the masculine energy of the ripening crops of grain sacrifice themselves to the scythe and sickle of the farmer so that humanity might feed and prosper through another long winter.

We climbed to a space which sits high between the sea and the narrow land of Pen Llyn, with the lofty, hazy mountains of Snowdonia in the far distance. Villages, fields, bays, beaches, hills and mountains were spread out around us like a huge and magical quilt. It felt wondrously freeing to literally rise above it all and get life into perspective. To look down and literally and metaphorically see everything mapped out below. We could also clearly see our own land of Cae Non, vigorously bushing out with young tree growth as it transforms from a boggy, weedy, neglected field into a shady, sunny, be-flowered adventure of magic and mystery.

 

How many thousands of generations of our ancestors have sat besides such a fire to cook and eat their meals?

The wonder about the natural world – and life in general – is that there is always something lovely to anticipate and look forward to. I hope that you are enjoying this powerfully invigorating and nurturing season and storing up all the sunshine and Vitamin D against the darker, colder days to come.

Later, once more restored to our own domain, our own miniature domain, my husband lit a fire outside and we began to cook and bake our evening meal. The sun sank lower in the sky. I have noticed that already the quality of sunlight has begun to change from the bright, clear, almost white light of midsummer to more mellow, golden tones which herald the approach of autumn.

For those of us who are lucky enough not to be experiencing deluges of rain and flooding, the beaches, mountains sides, woodlands and sunny gardens all await you – go out and make the most of Lammas-time… and have fun!

Lammas Greetings!

My Lammas Loaf, specially baked in the shape of a sheaf of wheat

Dusk came early to our valley this evening. Throughout the day there has been thick cloud obscuring the mountains after all the rain, but now the rumbling, flashes and downpours have ceased. All is calm, still and quiet. As the light dimmed I went to our front door and rang my tinkling little bell and called to the  fair  folk, the Tylwyth Teg, to come and bless my home. I left offerings of crusty home-baked bread spread with sweet thick honey, a bowl of milk and a glass of home made oak leaf wine for them to feast upon in the dark hours when prying human eyes are tightly shut in slumber.

For I am writing this on Lammas eve. By old beliefs and the natural calendar of the land this is the time when true summer begins to draw to an end and we enter early autumn. Be mindful that this is the beginning of the main harvest season – the grain harvest – although we have already had the hay cut and been gathering fruit, herbs and vegetables from the land for several months!

This is a good time to ponder on what we have gained and what we have sacrificed of ourselves over the light, bright season. Our own actions mirror the bounty and sacrifice which the Earth constantly enacts to sustain all the life on this planet.

This is also traditionally a good time to reassess or appraise relationships, contracts and agreements, and to enter into new ones too. Historically this was one of those times of year when people came together… a brief respite in the gruelling farming calendar between one lot of harvesting and the next… but still a time of light evenings and good weather when picnicking in the fields and boisterous games allowed the young to safely let off steam and the more sedentary to gossip and catch up on news… to discuss business and strike new deals… to come to fresh understanding with one’s neighbour.

There is something here for all of us to take away and think about… and to also put into practical action! It matters little where you live and what your daily occupation and employment is. Perhaps you might like to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors and become more aware of who and what is around you… of what you have to be thankful for… of what you need to improve or make new arrangements for… to decide what you have so far achieved and what you are willing to do or give of yourself in the coming months. And to reach out to your friends, family and neighbours in friendship and understanding.

A very merry,  prosperous and joyful Lammas celebration to you all!

 

The Height of Summer

A wonderfully deserted beach!

My latest literary endeavour is now to turn my attention to the content of my next news letter which is due out at the end of July. (Any of you who haven’t yet signed up for it and would like to do so, just visit my author’s web page at www.gillianmonks.com ) I have to say that I am fairly staggered at how quickly these three month slots pass by!

The beach is a particularly good place for me to be just now… the wide open spaces of land, sand, stones and sky… the quality of light… the fresh breezes… very effective in clearing away metaphorical cobwebs of all kinds! And an utter delight to simply soak up the light and warmth and very essence of midsummer.

Looking around the countryside there is plenty of evidence of the season. Fields now shorn of their verdant grass lie pale, flat and smooth in the evening light; the hay harvest now safely gathered in. Hedgerows are smothered in blackberry flowers and sweetly scented honeysuckle. The tiny bouncy lambs

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Hooray!

Title in sandFirst structural edit of ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ completed today! Work on the cover is also going ahead. I am beginning to feel very excited! After being cooped up inside all day, we drove down to one of our favourite local beaches this evening and I just couldn’t resit making my mark in the sand… and what else could I possibly write?

I have never felt that I was a terribly maternal person, but I feel that bringing a book into being is very like expecting and then giving birth to a child… and, just like a child, as soon as it has been birthed (published) it instantly begins to develop a character and life of its own. Roll on the ‘christening day’!

Out and About

MBS Fair, LlandudnoHow to spend a gloriously sunny Saturday – among other lovely people who share an interest in healing, thinking and different spirituality, of course! This picture was taken of me yesterday at the Mind, Body and Spirit Fair at Venue Cymru in Llandudno. You can even read some of the details of the various workshops which I am offering this summer and autumn! Had a great day and met some marvellous people. Next one is on the 3rd August, if anyone would like to mark it in their diary and come along for a chat and explore the various possibilities of such alternative ways of thinking, healing and living.

Merry Midsummer!

Cader idrisHere we are! Despite the peculiarities of the weather (being hot too soon and cold when it shouldn’t and too dry or too wet at inconvenient times) and all the worries and deep concerns about the state of our planet, we have come through the winter into spring and then into summer.

Here we are at the Summer Solstice – the day of longest light when dusk only comes just before eleven o’clock in the evening and  the nights are hardly truly dark at all. This day is the culmination of the past six months of struggle from the cold and dark into the lush green fecundity of a burgeoning natural world. It seems to have been quite a long hard slog.

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A Summer’s Tale

Me at Portmeirion

On my way down into the village

Summer is here… or so it has been rumoured. I am not too sure about it myself! But what better time to indulge in an cream tea with my dear husband in celebration of Father’s Day – even though our adult ‘child’ was teaching all day and couldn’t join us.

We chose Portmeirion, home of the world renowned pottery of the same name and where the 1960’s cult T.V. series, ‘The Prisoner’, was filmed. I haven’t visited here for some time and we left home bathed in warm sunshine and sporting sunglasses and walking shoes with every intention of exploring some of the 70 acres of gardens and woodland before arriving at the hotel for tea.

Unfortunately this is Britain, and as all us U.K. residents know, the last thing that can be relied upon is

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