Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Month: October 2021

Living In A Dickens Scenario

We have also always made all our own display stands. This is me, some years ago, late one evening, dishevelled and tired, finishing off some display boards.

When I was very young, my mother got very excited one evening when she discovered a cricket, sitting on our living room hearth in our ancient cottage home, ‘singing’ its little heart out. It is an old belief that such an occurrence will bring great good luck. Magical! It stayed with us for several evenings and finally disappeared, never to return.

This led to my parent reading certain passages aloud from the story entitled ‘The Cricket On The Hearth’ by Charles Dickens… but it is only during this past few days that I felt prompted to take down one of my volumes of Dickens and read the whole of that short story all the way through… and there, to my utter amazement, I found a description of my younger family working life… something so common and familiar to us all… it took my breath away!

For in the story, there is a toy maker called Caleb Plummer who lives with his blind daughter, Bertha. Their living room is also their workshop which is filled with every kind of wooden toy in every stage of completion imaginable… among others, horses, animated toys, musical instruments, dolls and doll’s houses… and it is this last which held me spell bound!

In view if my recently rekindled interest and involvement in doll’s houses and doll’s house miniatures through the current children’s story I am writing, this has taken on an even greater relevance than when I first made these observations on Facebook six years ago.

For in my younger years, and for at least two decades of my adult life, my family and I were

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Just Ambling Along

Yesterday I went for a walk, out into the autumn sunshine among the browning bracken and the gold and copper-coloured trees. We left home in low cloud and drizzle, but on leaving our slate valley (which attracts moisture like a sponge!) we drove out onto sunshine.

The magical hill of Dinas Emrys

The path we took follows the River Glaslyn from Craflwyn to Llyn Dinas, passing the ancient hill fort of Dinas Emrys on the way. Legend tells how it was here, aged little more than a boy, that Merlin first flexed his magical powers by identifying the battling red and white dragons which lived beneath the pool on top of the hill.

Llyn Dinas also has its legends and stories – one in which the local community would build a raft at the time of Beltane (beginning of May) and using it to transport their chosen May king and queen across the water to the opposite bank where an ox would be slaughtered and great feasting and celebration take place.

It all looks so placid and tranquil now. Yesterday I was content to sit upon the rocks and simply ‘be’… to absorb the heat of the sunshine, the warmth of the soft breezes, the beauty, space, silence and peace of the place. That is, until a walking party began to approach down the hillside. Loudly talking all the way I could hear them from quite a distance. Unfortunately for me, they decided to make brief temporary camp at the end of the lake where I was, still loudly talking all the while.

The path home

I suspect that they were missing a vital part of their experience by taking their human busy-ness and gregarious sociability with them as they walked. What greater wonders might they have experienced if they had quietened and simply stood or sat for even just five minutes to allow themselves to absorb their surroundings via all their senses on every level? The fact that by the time they reached me I was standing stock still in an inch of lake water, eyes tight shut, with my hands raised to the sky perhaps might have given them a clue.

I recently read in the newspaper that English Heritage have launched an initiative this autumn whereby visitors are encouraged to spend the final hour of opening in silence – switching off their phones and other devices, finishing conversations and deeply entering into the peace of their surroundings in a more contemplative day. What a marvellous idea! After all, what has initially prompted these people to visit such venues in the first  place? A different backdrop from which to send their texts, emails and play games from? Surely not.

The problem is that folk tend to immediately jump to the conclusion that if they are asked to be contemplative they must dive into some deep, difficult, mystical form of meditation which they don’t know how to ‘do’. All it needs is a little stillness and silence; to take the time to look about one and absorb one’s surroundings as best one can… look, watch, smell, feel and taste where you are with appreciation and gratitude… and so we begin to more deeply connect with our wonderful world and our own unique life.

Through the woods besides the Glaslyn

I once suggested a little exercise to my Earthwalking students whereby they were to stop every hour – just for a minute or two – and look about them. (I also advised them to set an alarm to prompt them not to miss the hour.) It didn’t matter where they were or what they were doing – on the bus, in the middle of shopping, eating a meal, at work, bathing the kids, hanging out the washing, (not driving, of course, unless they chose to pull over and stop). I asked them to then take that minute or two to look about them and really see where they were; touch, smell, listen to their surroundings, and be thankful for them…

By the end of one day doing this every hour, most of them felt much calmer and far more engaged with their ordinary mundane surroundings – some even began to see how lovely they were and feel joy and thankfulness for them. Try it and see for yourself. You don’t have to go and sit besides a gorgeous lake in the mountains, anywhere and everywhere is magically beautiful. It just depends on how you choose to see it.

Sunlight or Shadow?

How often in our busy lives do we take time out to truly reflect? To think seriously and deeply about our lives from a position of security, calmness and balance? A liberating position of space, time and free-will?

In the ruthless pressure to simply survive in life, from our earliest days, humanity has needed to withstand the physical wounds, the emotional hurts… has, out of sheer necessity, developed the ability to rise to its feet and stoically move on, regardless of the circumstances and the long-term effects. Society expects it of us, the inference being that if we gave free rain to our emotions we would threaten to destabilise everyone else around us and the very fabric of our fragile society would be at risk of collapse.

For how many thousands of generations have our children be abjured to dry their tears? Told not to be soft? A cry-baby? How may of us as adults have been denied the time and opportunity to grieve? To be heard? To be healed? It has become the habit of the species that we must carry on regardless in our inexorable march towards… what? What are we here for? It is not enough to have life; we must strive towards a certain quality of life.

My personal belief is that we are here to experience and learn. We are here to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way, to the very fullest of our ability. And that also means fully experiencing the pain and confusion of life. It is all a valid part of the experience. The vision of a person finally arriving at the end of their life covered in scars but gloriously unbowed and undefeated springs to mind. But that simply isn’t the truth for many. I fear that most of us are bounced through life from one (or multiple) blows, pains, traumas to the next, without ever having the chance to deal with what went before… to assimilate and heal from it.

A memory of my twenty-year old self springs to mind. My family had just received the news that my uncle and three family friends had been murdered. My parents rushed off to the local police station and I remained at home to stand by and answer the telephone. In the meantime, I tried to remain practical and went into the kitchen to bake bread and finish the dinner which my mother had begun preparing, figuring that whatever happened, people would still need to eat at some point. It has ever been my way of dealing with distress. To be practical, reliable… down to earth.

However, it is just not good enough! I now realise that I am metaphorically covered – not with scars – but open wounds which have never been given the chance to heal from properly. I have simply kept slapping on the temporary dressings which have kept them well out of sight, and learned to live with the ever-increasing side-effects.

We all need to take the time to backtrack, to remember, to re-examine, to bring into the light, and eventually to heal. Not because we are weak and cannot get over ourselves; just the reverse, because we are strong. Because we haven’t crumpled at the first hurdle but have valiantly carried on regardless.

Surely we now need to develop a gentler, more understanding, nurturing society where everyone regularly has the opportunity to take time out, to be listened to, supported and allowed time to heal?

But if we still haven’t advanced sufficiently as a species to communally accept the need for this, then once more, we as individuals must draw the line and mindfully make the time and opportunity for ourselves. This does not need to involve reliving every deeply disturbing and upsetting moment of our rollercoaster lives. I am developing a simple but profound practice for myself to help deal with these wounds. I do not wish to appear to be preaching – here, I confess I am unashamedly letting off steam! But if you would like to read my suggestions, please send me a message.

Which do you choose? To blossom in the sunshine or merely scrape an existence in the shadows?

Taking the initiative to become whole into our own hands is just a tiny aspect of the new world we can be visualising and bringing into being. We must all endeavour not to get side-tracked by day-to-day trivialities but walk our individual path with courage, grace and love.

Good luck!

Falling Leaves

Virginia CreeperThe kindness and support I have received from friends, family, acquaintances and medical staff alike over the past few weeks has been a constant source of delight, wonder and amazement to me.

For those of you following me on this journey, I did indeed manage to lower my blood pressure sufficiently and my operation at Glan Clwyd hospital went ahead as planned.

That was on Monday, 20th September. I returned home the same afternoon, totally as high as a kite on the after-effects of the anaesthesia. After napping for three hours, I was then awake for twenty-five hours, planning my future, mapping out my winter and spring work schedule, even designing the cover of my next book and bopping around my bedroom in the golden autumn sunshine to the strains of favourite pop music from my young years back in the ’70’s.

Then I worked for three days over the weekend – admittedly at a slower, more considered rate… and then went down with a throat infection which has made me feel vulnerable and miserable with a stiff swollen neck, rough throat and cough. I hold my hands up. I should have paced myself better. Mea culpa.  Happy days!

Yesterday, I attended a consultation with my specialist at Ysbyty Gwynedd. The cancer has been successfully removed. None of the lymph nodes also removed during the operation had been in the least affected. All clear. Celebration!!!

But. There always has to be one, doesn’t there? There must always be some ‘governor’, criteria to steady and balance and help to slot everything into perspective. Mine, now, is that the cancer might still be lurking around and in my system somewhere, ready to dive in and stir up my life all over again when I least expect it.

I had already been informed that I would have to take medication – in the form of tablets – each day for the next five years, also take a course of radiotherapy, have regular yearly check-ups and mammograms. Now my consultant is advising me about the efficacy and wisdom of that other emotionally loaded little ‘c’ word… chemotherapy.

Some forms of breast cancer respond very well to chemo and shrivel and die at the mere suggestion. Others are completely unaffected by it. To discover which category my little ‘visitor’ falls into, some of the cancerous cells have now been dispatched, post haste, to a laboratory in California.

It will be about two months before any further treatment of the nasty invasive kind can take place. My task at present is to recover my health and strength.

In the meantime, I have other tasks to fulfil on other levels.

My heart goes out to all the many people who are currently undergoing or have in the past gone through the painful transformational challenges of ill health. It is tough in the extreme. Personally, I have learned to bless my physical body and the varying state of my health. It is a great guide, an all-knowing teacher and a source of wonderful experience and opportunity.

Right now, I have a great deal to process and work through on many levels, so none of you – even my nearest and dearest – might hear anything from me for a few weeks. I am absolutely fine, but I ask that you understand that I need this time and space – please do not take offense. I love you all dearly – and yes, that applies just as much to the reader who has only just discovered my blogs as it does to my closest friend and is not said lightly or glibly but felt deeply and sincerely by me. Love and gratitude – along with the inevitable accompanying sense of joy – is what my private, inner philosophy is based on.

You might come across me sat alone at the beach, or somewhere along a woodland path or out on the mountain side, but I shall be in deep communication with all that is around me and with all that is buried deep within me. I shall be full of love and joy. Rest assured that everything is just as it should be with me.

I might even post a few blogs during that time – I have some ideas which I would love to share with you all.

In the meantime, a huge ‘thank you’ to you ALL for your loving support. It is also incredibly humbling. I have verily floated on a warm sea of good will and loving wishes and it has been such a massively beneficial part of my experience recently – I cannot convey just to what degree I feel wonderfully blessed by you all.

With my love.

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