Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Perspective

Sweet peasAt the end of July I found a lump. As the advert says, just a very little thing. This coming Monday, I am having a cancerous tumour removed from my breast. The prognosis is excellent and full recovery expected.

Yet there are always those unpretentious yet niggling and unsettling little words, ‘what if?’

Throughout my life I have had numerous challenges provided by my health; some have been long and protracted, some agonisingly painful, but I have never had anything which was potentially life threatening before. For many years now I have learned to accept the fluctuating state of my health as opportunities in disguise, wise guides, to be given gratitude and blessed.

My current situation hasn’t affected me any differently. After a very difficult, draining and traumatising time this past year in connection with close family members, that little ‘c’ word has given me focus and permission to leave the past behind and fully enter into and relish every moment, to stop procrastinating in any way and do it now… whatever it is.

In the past few weeks there has been so much love and laughter in our home. Every moment, every breath has become a sacred joy and my gratitude and exuberance to engage with everything around me has brought intense wonder, fulfilment and enlightenment. I find myself continually cresting a wave of energy which is perfectly formed from unconditional love, and I am completely blown away by it.

However, I now find that there is even more to my current situation than I first thought. Our physical bodies and our higher selves will go to the most extraordinary lengths to bring into our circle of experience just the right situation, activity or understanding. In this case, it has been discovered that my blood pressure is far too high; so high that they may refuse to give me the operation in three days time and the procedure may have to be postponed until my B.P. is more healthy.

Now, I have to confess that I have known that my blood pressure was not as it should be for some time; that I wasn’t successfully controlling it any more as I have for the past eighteen years, but I have had other concerns to deal with and have kept ignoring it. Now, my body has taken a firm and unrelenting grip of the situation. I either address the problems with my blood pressure or I eventually die of cancer. No wiggle room. No argument.

Even more staggering is the thought that everyone is so terribly fazed by cancer, but here I have been walking around with a condition – quite easily treatable – which could severely incapacitate or even kill me in the next hour. Where is the sense in that? Therefore, I have even more reason to give deep gratitude to my little ‘blip’ – my cancer has possibly saved my life.

It is all too easy to rant and rage against what life is apparently throwing at us. Right now, I feel even luckier than I did a couple of weeks ago. Life is good and it works in mysterious but amazingly wonderful ways which so often are not at all obvious. I humbly submit to whatever life has in store for me next.

I completely agree with the closing of words in the book ‘Journey Into Spirit’, written by Kris Hughes, who is head of the Anglesey Druidic Order:

‘LIVE! Take this life and be it, run with it through pain and joy, and bring every ounce of colour and brightness you can to the song of the universe. This is your story; make it a good one.’

 

Census For The Future

I have just completed our household census for 2021 and added my signature. All the time I have been working on it, I have kept wondering if one day, one of my distant descendants in a 100 years time might be eagerly reading the same digitised document and wondering about the names of the people and the details which appear here.

What possible picture will they paint from these sparse and often quite stilted entries? In my turn, I have often sat looking at the even more meagre information provided on census forms from the past as I worked on tracing my own ancestors. Tricky things are words – they can be interpreted in so  many different ways. They can convey so much or say nothing at all… or give a totally erroneous impression.

And what will people think of us in a hundred years from now? The world which struggled with the global pandemic? The society which pulled together, suffered so much, squabbled, objected, sacrificed, struggled, grieved, loved and won through – or lost… What kind of a world shall we rebuild now, on the back of all this challenging upheaval? It really shouldn’t just come about by accident; it is something we should all think about carefully, plan and put into action. We all have a responsibility. We need to make it something which future generations can look back on and be proud of.

At this time of the Vernal (spring) Equinox, we seek harmony and balance… we celebrate the spring season and the coming of the lighter, warmer half of the year. We make plans for the summer. What else – of a more lasting and fundamental importance – can we decide upon and bring into being?

Sign your census forms with great mindful presence – it is not simply providing information for our authorities now – it is a snapshot of our time… today… which will speak to the future. we are composing living history… now.

Happy Saint Non’s day!

Daffs and Welsh cakes

Daffodils, a leek, a plate of home made Welsh Cakes… and butter… the Welsh love their butter! There is nothing so delicious as a Welsh Cake hot off the planc, smothered in butter which melts into the fragrant fruit and nutmeg. All emblems of my beloved Wales.

The 1st March was Saint David’s Day, but today, the 3rd of the month, it is the turn of his mother, Saint Non, to be celebrated.

Born in the 5th Century in Pembrokeshire, Non was the daughter of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarf of Dyfed. She grew up to be a devout holy woman but was violated by lustful Prince Sandde of Ceredigion. Non became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at Caerfai, just south of Saint David’s, in the middle of a violent thunder storm. Various versions of this tale recount how in her extreme birth pains, Non pressed her fingers into a boulder with such force that she left their impression in the rock.

When David was born, a brilliant light appeared, the rock was split asunder by a mighty bolt of lightning… and a spring gushed forth out of the ground. This beautiful clear water became know as Saint Non’s well and is reputed to heal those with mental illness.

Non brought Dewi up at Henfeynyw near Aberaeron and later they founded a nunnery at nearby Llanon together. We are all familiar with what happened to Saint David, but much less is known of his blessed mother. Later in life, Non moved on to Cornwall founding another nunnery at Alternon, where an ancient and beautiful church still stands today. However, Non ended her life in Brittany where she founded a third nunnery at Dirinon in Finistere. (Note the ‘non’ element in all these place names.)

Non means ‘nun’, and my middle name is Nonita, which is one of the Latin forms of ‘nun’. Therefore I have a double reason to celebrate today, for not only is it special to the mother of our patron saint here in Wales, but it is also my name day. People have long celebrated their name day across Europe, for they might not know the date – or even the year – of their birth, but they certainly knew their name and the protection and patronage of which Christian saint they were entitled to.

I am very lucky, for I have both birthday and name day… and my darling husband has just walked in bearing a box of chocolates for me!

Whatever your beliefs or genetic origins, I wish you all a very happy Saint Non’s Day – may she bring the nurture and support of a truly good woman and good mother to you all!

Inspiration With A Spring In Your Step

Spring In Your Step coverComforting and inspiring – seasonal poems, recipes, craft and gardening projects, celebrations, festivals and bits of history dotted among tales of modern life in Wales and an unusual childhood in 1960’s Lancashire. Read from cover to cover or dip into as the fancy takes you. An uplifting new approach to spring with timeless humour, poignancy and wisdom. Just what is needed to combat late winter blues and the challenges of Covid.

Give yourself – or a loved one – a treat. Perfect for Mother’s Day.

‘Spring In Your Step; Discover and Celebrate the Magic of Springtime’
by Gillian Monks

Buy from Herbary Books

Buy from Amazon

 

 

Just A Normal Day

Catkins New Year's DayJust a normal day. What is a ‘normal day’? Especially in this time of the pandemic when even our most mundane days have suddenly been rendered topsy-turvy and inside-out until we wonder if anything will ever be ‘normal’ again.

I began to recognise and appreciate normal days some years ago. One sunny October day I had taken myself for a walk around the lake in our village. I sat on a bench in the sunshine for a while and mused about my day and the family – I had left all our felines curled up in their own sunny patches of garden at home… our dog was happily snooting in the bushes besides me… my husband and son both had gainful employment which they were reasonably happy with… I had a simple evening meal already prepared for us. As far as I knew, no one was sick… no one was upset about anything… there was nothing particularly worrying me… I was looking forward to a nice meal and evening of talk and laughter with my loved ones. Nothing out of the ordinary, you might say.

It was then that I realised just how utterly extraordinary this day was, for days such as these when all is balanced and pleasant and stress-free are actually few and far between. I came to understand how incredibly precious it was to be able to sit in the sun and feel at complete peace. More, how amazingly privileged I was to actually be able to recognise it… to realise my wonderful situation and be able to step back and really observe myself in my life and acknowledge how blessed I was that particular day.

I suspect that we all might experience more incredibly wonderful normal days  than we realise, if we just take a few moments to evaluate what is actually happening and how we are actually feeling within our own small sphere of existence. I enjoyed another such flash of understanding a few days ago. I had been baking all day and was just sitting down around mid-afternoon with a cup of tea, ready to literally put my feet up and enjoy a well-earned break. Suddenly, it dawned upon me what an breathtakingly lovely day it was and how deeply contented and happy I truly felt. My son was out in the garden tinkering with his chainsaw and chopping logs… my husband was pottering about by the garage replacing a hinge on one of the big old wooden doors… all the animals were curled up snoozing in the warmth from the Aga… the clock ticked sonorously… the table lamps cast a warm glow into the shadows… a savoury stew bubbled promisingly in the oven… birds chattered outside the window as they swooped in to eat from our bird feeders… the mountains looked gloriously majestic in their ice and cloud-topped state… earlier we had all been teasing and laughing with each other… how normal everything was – and how utterly precious.

Excitement is all very well, but a great deal of it stems from unexpected events which can also bring shock and trauma. Even the nicest kinds of excitement can be inverted into disappointment as the anticipated pleasure frequently doesn’t live up to our expectations – or leaves us feeling exhausted and burned out.

We live in strangely uncertain times – these Twenty-first Century days of  stultifying regulations and restrictions thrust upon us, curtailing and altering our lives, sometimes almost beyond recognition; when illness, loss and grief can pierce our daily existence at any time without warning, changing it forever.

Therefore, my most heartfelt wish for us all is that we all may enjoy many, many normal days.

Happy Valentine’s Day In Lockdown!

Daffodils at Fron Goch

Picture taken at my local garden centre last year, only weeks before we were all plunged into lockdown – they truly lift the spirits!

One doesn’t have to confine Valentine celebrations to those who are a couple/in a relationship. I have always liked to surprise my friends and family with little (home made) cards and treats at this time of year. It is a chance to also honour love and  friendship in its wider sense. Perhaps this year, while we are mostly in lockdown and with not much chance of fine wining and dining and treats outside the home, it is especially appropriate to remember and contact loved ones we are currently isolated from – and to cheer up those whom we are in close contact with.

To this end, I am planning a little family tea for tomorrow afternoon – Valentine’s day – just for the four of us and our dear friend and neighbour who we have been in a ‘bubble’ with ever since this whole rigmarole began. So my Saturday afternoon has been largely spent in the kitchen.

Well, we all have the best of intentions and we all have ‘one of those days’. This was certainly ‘one of those days’ for me! I have two bottomless heart-shaped cake tins which simply sit on a baking sheet. I planned to make a pink cake and ice it with buttercream and decorate with silver balls. True, I have never tried this before and should probably have looked it up somewhere first, but, hey, what the heck!

My first problem was with the food colouring. It simply didn’t want to turn my cake mixture pink. After using at least a quarter of a bottle of the stuff it had only managed to make the mixture an odd off-orange colour (which happily disappeared when it was baked) so I gave up and tipped the mixture into the baking tin. In cooking, about a fifth of the mixture decided to escape through the tiny slit along the bottom of the tin where it had fractionally warped and puff itself up in all sorts of fantastic – and useless – shapes, rendering the main cake skewed to one side.

Then I thought that I would make my darling husband some hand dipped chocolates…. perhaps I should have quite while I was ahead?

But tomorrow we shall gather around our hearth and our tea table; there will be hot buttered crumpets and chocolate ‘tiffin’ and a lopsided heart-shaped cake filled with home made jam and butter cream and decorated with pink icing and silver cashews. We shall each bring to the table poems, readings, songs or stories which reflect the themes of springtime and love. And we shall make a Valentine garland of loving messages and quotations to hang across our chimney breast, to inspire us and remind us all in days to come of this occasion when we sat together and lovingly listened to and appreciated each other’s company. Hopefully, no one will notice the wonky cake or the wildly formed chocolates!

With our human commonality and mutual connection in mind, I send my love out to all who read this. Let’s celebrate our care, understanding and – yes – love for each other. Let’s all try and spread a little love around our world. Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Happy Imbolc/Gwyl Ffraid

PrimrosesGreetings – and very best wishes to you for a truly inspiring and positive celebration of the start of spring! No, not the meteorological beginning to the season, or the official date you will find on the calendar but the time each year which roughly corresponds with what is taking place in the natural world. Take a look outside your door or window – regardless of whether you have snow or frost at present… beneath it all, life is stirring!

Yesterday we went out into the fields and climbed to the top of Caerengan where we gloried in the bleak scene of bleached, lifeless fields and frozen, snowy mountains. As we stood surveying Winter in action, flurries of tiny snowflakes whirled around us. A little sad to leave the raw energy of the landscape, we retreated indoors to hearthside, honey cake baked in honour of the time of year and mugs of warm spiced and honeyed milk – as the Irish name for this festival implies, milk is traditional to mark the early lactating of the first sheep of the season to produce their lambs.

Here we also lit pure white candles… plaited our Brighid’s Crosses from lush green rushes which we had collected along the path home… sang songs… read prose and poetry aloud… followed a journey to Ffraid herself for guidance in this new and challenging year (see my Walking With The Goddess monthly online activities https://www.earthwalking.co.uk/walking-with-the-goddess/ ) and sat around our big dining table to share a hot meal.

Imbolc mountainsThe old song title, ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’ was amply illustrated today. This afternoon the sun was bathing the mountains in golden light beneath a blue sky… birds were singing enthusiastically… and the tightly furled buds and catkins which I was so overjoyed to see at the beginning of January are now beginning to unfold. My snowdrops seem to have disappeared but the little wild primroses bring joy to my heart – that is if the birds will leave them alone; anyone know of a way to discourage our flying friends from tearing these little blooms to bits?

No matter what is happening in the world, the wheel of the year turns… the seasons change, sometimes so quickly that you can almost see it happening before your very eyes. We have reached the beginning of a new growing season – a time of regenerated life and birth, a period of intense stirrings and potential. We have dwelled in the shadow of Cerridwen’s Cauldron since the end of October and born witness to the return of the Sun at Midwinter, now it is time to truly step back out into the growing light. How might you like to celebrate the beginning of spring? How might you mark this singularly wonderful time of hope and new beginnings? Stay positive. Think big.

Rejoice in the fact that we can always rely on the natural world to inspire and heal us… and to be there, doing its thing, no matter what is happening in our human arena. It is constant. We are a part of it. Go out into it – regardless of the weather – and lose yourself, forget yourself…  to actually find yourself. Look around you for all the myriad signs of the warm light days and summer to come.

We are all to entering into a much brighter time – one filled with potential and hope.

 

My Free Gift To You All

Nantlle Ridge in SnowI am offering the January module in the on-line digital cycle of Walking With The Goddess for free. It is my wholehearted gift to all those who might wish to complete or newly begin this exciting adventure. As the years turn and the 2020 cycle reaches its conclusion and the 2021 cycle just begins, this month appropriately features the goddess, Arianrhod, weaver of cosmic time and fate, who will help us to birth a new and better future. It also includes Dwynwen, patroness of lovers, who’s special day is celebrated at the end of January and who will help us to further develop our own capacity for unconditional love.

To register to receive this completely free information – which also includes an audio guided journey, one-to-one support and private Facebook discussion page – simply click on this link: https://www.earthwalking.co.uk/checkout?edd_action=add_to_cart&download_id=825

You will also find lots more information about the other eleven months/modules , which Welsh higher deities are featured, what topics are covered and how they can support and help us by clicking on: https://www.earthwalking.co.uk/walking-with-the-goddess/

I realised nearly a year ago that it was amazing synchronicity that I should decide to forge this new path in conjunction with the Celtic Welsh gods and goddesses of old just as the pandemic was first making its presence felt. Each month I have intuited and channelled what I have been told. Sometimes, as in the case of this month of January, this has delayed the writing and distribution of the module as I waited until the time felt just right and the information was ready to flow.

I wish all of you a year in which you will find connection and love. Only then shall we all be able to come together to heal and build a new and better world.

With my love.

‘If It Were Done When ‘Tis Done’…

Drawing Room Christmas Window…’Then ’twere well it were done quickly’! So the quotation from Shakespeare goes. In other words, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do now, this minute, today.

As January progresses our family Christmas unfurls into more general winter celebration with a couple of birthdays of close family members, Distaff Day, Plough Monday, the wassailing of the land on the 17th of the month and then, of course, a celebration of love on the 25th with Saint Dwynwen’s Day. Who said that there is nothing to look forward to after Christmas?

Yesterday afternoon, at the end of the first very sporadic and half-hearted working week  after the Midwinter holidays, the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy afternoon tea – a simple process of eating up the last of the stollen, spice cakes and mince pies. We shared our news of the day and then got down to singing some wassailing songs in preparation for next weekend. Many people sing these old carols as part of their Christmas activities and in some places the blessing of the land is done on New Year’s Day, but we prefer to follow the old calendar and celebrate it as a completely separate event.

None of us can ever remember the words of the old songs by heart, regardless of the fact that we sing them many times every year, so out came our Christmas carol books where the words to various wassails are also kept. These large plastic folders with individual pockets where sheets of paper can be slid in (or out) have been in our family for nearly 15 years and during that time each family member has added songs, written their own alternative words or collected variations which they liked/preferred. We also have carols in three different languages; German, English and Welsh… with the odd bit of Latin thrown in.

The result is that the original sequence and numbering of the sheets and pages is completely jumbled and a general consensus and quick reference of page numbers now almost impossible. Nor does everyone always have the same words either. Each year the chaos grows worse and each year we all declare that we really should do something about it.

Frustrated, my son suddenly decided that enough was enough and organised us into an impromptu song sheet sorting work party. How it is that four reasonably intelligent and well educated adults can find such a simple and logical activity so complex and difficult is beyond me, but it all suddenly became very complicated.

“Where did you say the Somerset Wassail was?”
“On the back of the Gloucester Wassail.”
“So where should I put the Ancient Lord Of The Dance?”
“I haven’t got A White Christmas!”
“Well I printed one out for you…”
“Oh. yes, it’s here behind the teapot…”
“The Holly And The Ivy?”
“And the alternative words for it with Herne off hunting in the woods…”
“There is also the version with stars shining and longer winter days.”
“Can I slide We Wish You A Greener Christmas in here?”
“Just how many versions of the Holly And The Ivy have we got?”
“Listen, I can easily go and print some more copies.”
“Has everyone got Jackie’s Bleak Midwinter?”
“No… yes! It had fallen on the floor…”
“What about Mother’s Night?”
“No, but I have three copies here of God Rest Ye Merry, Druid Folk… one in larger print…”
“I haven’t got Jingle Bells at all!”
“Look, I can bring the printer down here from the office…”
“Can anyone tell me where I should stick the Boar’s Head?”

You get my drift?

It took about forty minutes to get it all sorted out. Now, all I have to do is type up an alphabetical index. Thank heavens I shall be doing that all by myself! But at least we shall all be literally singing from the same hymn sheet in future.

And the moral of this little tale? Use some if this slower time in January – and in lockdown – to sort out stuff that otherwise keeps getting put off. Don’t try to do everything on your own – aim for assistance and teamwork where you can – it might not always make things easier or quicker, but it can be a heck of a lot more fun.

Happy ‘untangling’!

Can I Get To Number One???

Amazon RatingIf you have bought or read my new book, ‘Spring In Your Step’ and enjoyed it, could I ask you to do something in return? Could you please go and leave a review on Amazon? Just a few words will do – and you don’t even have to have read the whole book. the more reviews ‘Spring In Your Step’ receives, the more notice and exposure Amazon will automatically give it.

So far it is selling very well and over the weekend it reached No. 2 in the category of Festivals and Celebrations… it would be brilliant to get it to No.1! I also feel that reading my springtime suggestions and reflections might be of real assistance to so many of us who are not only combating the usual ‘January blues’ but also having to cope with Covid-19 lockdowns.

Thank you for reading this – thank you for your continuing support, without which my work would be meaningless. And if you haven’t already got a copy, please do take a look.

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