Tag Archives: Santiago de Compostela

2021 Meeting the Moment #18

I have been learning about the Celtic season of May Day, in Irish known as Bealtaine. The feast of the bright fire to herald summer. It is considered I understand as the threshold of the opposites. The yin and yang, masculine and feminine, good, and evil. One of the pairs of opposites I have written about over the years has been the moving on and holding still – and I have come to a conclusion that they are not opposites and I wonder if in these non-binary times, we might be being invited into a beyond opposites era? In the ritual with this festival you move between two fires or perhaps more modestly these days two candles. The humble flame inviting the extraordinary out from you. In every moment we meet, the extraordinary maybe hidden, and we might miss it if we do not take to the time to catch our breath or be curious.

There is a moment always to be met – catching the wave so you can surf to the shore, coming in with precision when the conductor calls upon you, standing firm when a bully is having their way.  And how elegant it seems when these moments are met; there is ease and an oozing of confidence that builds trust with those caught in the same moment. Even those watching on can tell that the safety net is not needed, such is the dignity and evidence of practice visible by the actions that hold the moment firmly in place. These can be sacred, respectful moments.

There are so many opportunities in every day to notice what is emerging, what is being held firmly in place, what builds trust. Vulnerability is the courage you must show up fully to those opportunities, to be willing to risk, to enter the potential for danger, to be in a space inside yourself that holds at least a sliver of anxiety. Inside that space alongside anxiety, ego has also made a home. Detaching can help you cross that threshold and propel you to a new world. The liminal space of the inner and outer worlds meeting as we catch the moment of crossing and play midwife to our own edge.

I love to walk circular bushwalks leaving the car and being able to come back to it having hiked up and down a hill or two and finding my way back. I am comforted by a non-linear approach to destination, as I am never the same person at the end as I was when I first set off. I will have crossed a threshold or two though along the way and the journey not the destination is the pilgrim process. I often find I am out of breath, need water, invoking a Hail Mary to get up a hill, clinging to my walking sticks in case I fall. The opposites of up and down often make me laugh, I think to myself when I am going up well if I were going the other way I would be going down. There are times where I am ambitiously cautious about my edges and take a path more challenging than my level of fitness or capability. There are times too when I choose an easier path so I won’t get tested and my vulnerability stays intact.

These private spaces on my own on a hill, are instructional for spaces where courage is called for in more public domains. The inner and outer, public, and private, can feel very oppositional, although I know them more to be two sides of the one coin. When I am living whole heartedly and with awareness of the liminal it seems more likely vulnerability will turn up. Going to the edges is  where radical transformation invitations are offered. Having the courage to meet those moments when the opportunities arise, and catching those moments, is a practice.

I took this photo of a fire in Santiago de Compostela at the end of walking just over 200kms on the camino. This was an inner and outer experience and am I am still on the pilgrimage. It is the blue flame of queimada – a Galician concoction of brandy, coffee, cinnamon and lemon peel. The drink is prepared as this incantation is said:

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils,
spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches,
charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes,
home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company,
evil eye, black witchcraft,
scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death,
maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman
married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub's Inferno,
fire of the burning corpses,
mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,
farts of the asses of doom,
bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman,
speech of the cats in heat,
dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump
the flames of this fire
which looks like that from Hell,
and witches will flee,
straddling their brooms,
going to bathe in the beach
of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
to you I make this call:
if it's true that you have more power
than people,
here and now, make the spirits
of the friends who are outside,
take part with us in this Queimada.
Flame of Queimada Santiago de Compostela, Spain

2021: Meeting the Moment

This year’s blog will be all about meeting the moment.

Everyday moments provide extraordinary insights, opportunities and challenges. The grapes ripen on the vine as the sun turns water into wine. The path becomes smoother the more often you walk it and if you take your eyes to the horizon as you walk the future comes focus.

As 2021 begins, our species is looking towards vaccinations, our planet is holding its breath as we reshape and some resist what She is beckoning for – a much lighter touch to our shared living arrangements. Shimmering in the skies, the full moon appeared a few days ago and rose high into the night closing out the year. A year, for many where there has been a deep desire to let go of everything that has been hard or hasn’t quite unfolded as they might have hoped. These past few days as the new year arrives we know seeds sown in the metaphoric times of a new moon will now come into harvest. 2021 may well bring a harvest from the introspection from quarantine, slowing and fasting from systems that were already withering away. We will be meeting moments in the year ahead from seeds sown long ago. How ready we are to meet the moments?

The losses of 2020 have come with silver linings. The origin of this idea of silver linings comes from the 17th century from a poem by John Milton. He wrote the poem for Michaelmas Day, a time of the year in his part of the world, when dark nights and cooler days begin. Where the season calls for some preparation to retreat and to say farewell before a new cycle would begin. In my part of the world Michaelmas Day is when the days get longer and there is the hint of warmth on the breeze forecasting a summer arriving in a few months. A lining is an inner layer and a wonderful invitation for these times. To look under the covers, to find something that matches the garment, yet cut from a different cloth, to help the outer garment fall well, it also reduces the wearing strain of the garment and helps it last longer – so surely a silver lining might be an even more precious contribution to holding us altogether in these times too.

Ironically, John Milton’s silver lining phrase, was written in a form of theatre known as a masque, and indeed masks were worn in these ephemeral productions. Surely a prophecy as we meet this moment.

In order to meet the moments, we will need to be ready and 2020 has been in many ways a time to get ready, a time to notice what we have and what we value most. A hug has become precious, the fragility of democracy has been tested and fascist playbooks have been dusted off shelves. We meet the moment at the dawn of 2021 in the full knowledge that invisible rogue cells can close a border, end a life, decimate a regional economy, pull families apart.

Meeting the moment by feeling the silkiness of a silver lining and coming to recognising it as adding protection, warmth, comfort and style to our outer-selves, might serve us very well as we start the year. In meeting the moment we will be fulfilling the promises of those who have left legacies and succession plans for us to step up and take our part. We will be accepting invitations and our inheritance to pathways for just settlements. In my country I expect this to be a public discourse for treaties, for a national conversation about what it means to broker climate justice and I also predict there will be moments as a nation we will have to meet with our neighbours in the region and have a heart-to-heart that goes beyond crayfish and coal.

Inner and Outer layers: Pre-COVID19 somewhere in Portugal on the way to Santiago de Compostela – getting ready to be ready as David Whyte says.