The Doreen Valiente Foundation are holding a midsummer event in Brighton, part of which will be the unveiling of a commemorative blue plaque that honours Doreen.
We have been working on this for a number of years with Brighton and Hove City Council and we are pleased to announce that Doreen’s Plaque will be going on the wall at the apartments where she lived for 30 years and the location where she did most of her seminal writing. This will be a number of firsts. The plaque, as far as we can find out, will be the first on a council apartment block. It will certainly be the first plaque that celebrates the life of one of our own. There are plaques commemorating the wrong doings, but this is the first to honour a witch. There will be two other plaques in the future that we have negotiated for. One for Gerald Gardner in 2014 and one for Alex Sanders in 2015. This is a unique event with the full backing of Brighton and Hove City Council. We do hope that you will come along and support this fantastic achievement. We want hundreds of people there to support Doreen.
For all those interesting in going along to celebrate the life and achievements of this extraordinary and influential woman, there is a link to the Foundations website here
We visited Farley Farm House today – it’s only 25 minutes from where we live, but sometimes the nearest treasures are the ones we keep forgetting to visit, so we fly to the other side of the world and avidly see the sites, but ignore our own back garden. Finally we got to visit it – and what a place it is!
Farley Farm was the home of the model and photographer Lee Miller and the artist Roland Penrose from 1949 for over 30 years. Here they entertained friends including Picasso, Max Ernst and many other well-known artists and surrealists. The house is filled with art, the garden is stunning, and a visit there is as special as visiting nearby Virgina Woolf’s house and Charleston.
You can see pictures and information on Farley Farm House here, so rather than repeating that information, I’d just like to mention one theme that speaks to me. When they saw the house and decided to buy it, the weather was poor. When they moved in, the skies cleared one morning and they discovered that they could see the Long Man of Wilmington in the distance from their garden, which must have been a lovely surprise for them.
The hillside giant then became an inspiration to them, since Penrose painted a vast fireplace inspired by the Long Man, and a visitor (was it Man Ray?) drew a Long Man holding a cricket bat and a drink atop each staff. But best of all, Penrose and Miller created a coloured bookplate depicting the Long man on the hillside above their names, with a huge stylised sun hovering above in a blue sky with big stars, reminiscent of the stars in ‘The Star’ arcana of Pamela Coleman-Smith’s Rider-Waite Tarot. It’s wonderful, but they had no reproductions in the Farley Farm shop and I’ve tried to find images of the bookplate online with no success. To see it, you’ll just have to make a trip there. It’s open every Sunday April to October.
Satish Kumar talks here about taking Deep Ecology a step further into what he calls Reverential Ecology – Nature perceived as Divine.
I have always been fascinated by Thoreau’s approach to living simply. His little hut in the woods at Walden Pond was an exercise in bringing life back to the basics as a way of understanding what is truly important. This act feels very Druidic in spirit. Here is a modern-day approach.
There is something deeply liberating about shedding the trappings of consumerist living. Not everyone could function in this tiny hut but the beauty and simplicity of the design and the quest to become more aware of the excess and unnecessary accumulation that our society encourages, is something that could be embraced by any of us, regardless of where we live. The pertinent question to ask is what do we need to have a happy, comfortable life? The answer might be different for each of us but I suspect that we might agree that many of the things we gather about us serve only to weigh us down. The burden of so much stuff can be like wearing a heavy coat on a hot day; ah, the relief when we slip it off and feel the cooling air on our skin, the freedom to move without hinderance…
A friend Paul Davies wrote today: ‘Yesterday six peace activists (including two priests) entered RAF Waddington by cutting a gateway in the perimeter fence and planting a peace garden inside. The day was chosen for being the fifth anniversary of the first British drone strike in Afghanistan. The six have been arrested and we wait for further news of them. Waddington is the air base near Lincoln where the British government now operates unmanned Reaper drones, which fire missiles killing Afghans thousands of miles away. Up until April this year the UK military carried out this murderous activity from Las Vegas in the US. Since April British military satellite capability makes this possible from near Lincoln, England and air strikes already have been operated from British soil. This technology is “playstation” killing – firing Hellfire missiles at blips on a screen who are actually people living in Afghanistan. And all this killing from the comfort and safety of the Lincolnshire countryside, as we all enjoy the summer sunshine. Think on this Friends, and hold the Waddington Six in the Light for their witness for peace and for the lives of the Afghan people.’
Have a look at this graphic demonstration of the problem produced for the Guardian: http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/
A Guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…
We make plans in life but putting things in place for the eventuality of our own deaths leaves a good few of us a little squeamish. It can feel a little like tempting fate.
Six years ago I sat with my father in the funeral directors as he chose, booked and paid for the funeral he desired. It was a peculiar experience helping him to select his coffin and the manner of his departure. Dad appeared completely unperturbed by it all, his usual jovial self, whilst I endured an uncomfortable hour, fighting back a growing sense of panic that the day I dreaded would come; on some unknowable date, I would be back in that room, without him by my side, putting his plans into practice.
Since my sister’s death, dad knew that he wanted a woodland burial. On a beautiful August day, two years previously, we had laid my sister to rest in a woodland site on the South Downs. We followed her willow coffin – flowers woven into its lattice-work – through the beech and hazel. Shafts of sunlight penetrated the canopy of trees, and as we walked amongst the wild marjoram that covered the grave site, its spicy scent rose like incense. As my sister was given back to the earth, a lone dragonfly circled us in agitated spirals. It was a moving and extraordinary committal, the peace and beauty of that place – a burial so removed from the Victorian residue of gothic death that imbues so many modern funerals – made those last painful moments a good deal easier to bear.
The woodland or natural burial movement is growing. The burials must be ecologically sound, putting back into the earth only natural, biodegradable materials – coffins, shrouds, grave goods and wreaths must all comply with this eco standard. This care and thought seems to lend the whole process a sacredness that can sometimes be lacking in the commercial world of the modern funeral industry.
As the plots are filled, the woodlands grow, trees planted in remembrance of those buried there. This coming together of the planting of trees and the committal of loved ones, strikes at something deep within us. It is no accident that we name our ancestral line ‘The Family Tree’; trees, like families, have roots and branches, a holistic system of growth and renewal that echoes the human experience. Our ancestors root us in history; without them we would not be; we draw from their lives, now hidden from view and essentially unknowable but still influencing us in ways that we might only guess at.
The seasonal round of deciduous trees speak to us of our own life cycles; we too have times of budding, of flowering and bearing fruit. We also must shed all that is outworn, letting fall that which no longer serves us, allowing it to break down into an emotional mulch of experience that will nourish our present and help sustain our future. The tree of life tells us that even with our passing, life goes on, that we are intimately connected to all that have lived before us and all that will come after. The woodland system reflects our own sense of belonging; we stand as individual trees yet part of a wider community, each life form helping to support the health of the whole.
On top of all this, the peace and beauty of these places can be enormously helpful when we are faced with the loss of those we love. There is something eternal and timeless about forests; it is easier to still ourselves and connect to our deeper emotional self when we are in them. This process is so important when we grieve; the woodland becomes a place of sanctuary, a verdant holding that we might feel what we need to feel and gently process our loss.
Less than a month ago, as the bluebells and cowslips flourished and the vivid green of spring leaves brought renewed life to the woodlands, my father unexpectedly passed away. The moment I had dreaded arrived, and for the second time I found myself walking that path into the woods.
This time, I followed a cardboard coffin, topped with a natural wreath in the shape of a heart, woven with cypress, hazel and daisies, made by my own family. The birds sang and the sunlight streamed through, tinged with the otherworldly green of new leaves. As we stood around the grave, that familiar peace descended and despite the pain of the moment, I could feel my dad’s approval.
Dad loved the cycles of nature; he loved the woods and downland of his home. He strongly felt himself a part of the natural round and as he was lowered into the chalk – as the earth tenderly held him – it seemed to me that he was home. And as much as the physical absence of those we love can be so difficult to bear, they are never truly lost. In death, as in life, we continue to be a part of this extraordinary mystery. It is our form not our essence that changes when we die. We never stop being a part of everything. I will feel my dad in the warmth of the sun and the peace of the woodland because there is essentially a part of us all that eternally resides there. Like the woodlands, our individual parts join to make a magical whole; the boundaries and labels that we assume in life quickly dissolve.
Satish will be introduced by Peter Owen-Jones and will talk about the economy, the environment and new spiritual directions. All are welcome there is no charge, just please make a donation on the door.
Satish has been a Jain monk, nuclear disarmament advocate, pacifist, and is the current editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. Now living in England, Kumar is founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies, and of The Small School. His most notable accomplishment is a “peace walk” with a companion to the capitals of four of the nuclear-armed countries – Washington, London, Paris and Moscow, a trip of over 8,000 miles. He insists that reverence for nature should be at the heart of every political and social debate. Defending criticism that his goals are unrealistic, he has said,
“Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me “unrealistic” to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.”