The following reflections were written on return from the Walking with the Land Retreat, organised by the Rabbani Project (Green Deen Tribe). My immense thanks goes to them, for the work they do to create meaningful connections between women, the land and Allah.
Of all the plants that speak to me of the careful balance of life, blackberry is the strongest. She appears at the Lammas portal of the year and shows in her life cycle what it looks like to gracefully bloom, fruit and die. Like this time of year, she celebrates glorious full bodied abundance, whilst signalling the inevitable comfort of its slow decline into winter.
Over the south downs, the white tailed eagle has returned. Seals lap along the banks of the river Arun. And familiar faces – deer, pheasant and dragonfly – appear in the peripheries of your senses with a swish, clap or flicker. The river is tidal, and the current is strong. It takes you with it on a course that meets with willow, oak and hawthorn.
The fields are burnt dry. Something in the air whispers a sad tale to the heart, as you rise with the dawn knowing that its company is the only thing that will soothe on a day like today. You are rewarded – by the light breeze and liminal morning glow that stretches itself, languishing across the land. The sound under your feet is the crackle of stone and crunch of grass that no longer “is”, but “was” in a time when this place felt the mercy of rain.
High on the hills, the sheep turn away down a path only they know, as you ascend to peaks that are familiar with moon, meteor and constellation. Ursa Major makes friends with the wildflowers and heavy seed-heads, that sway in the wind that whistles and rushes through their moon-soaked stems.
Here, we sit. Under the light of majestic creation, feeling as small and unlikely as the crickets that puncture the dark with their croaks. Held in its hands, we are joined together in song, prayer and companionship that doesn’t need words, only the commonality of this timeless experience.
This feels like nothing else, and nothing else will feel like this. That realisation brings gratitude, and certainly a hint of sorrow to the heart. Like the dreams that lift you through the early morning prayers, this moment came to you for a purpose, and will leave you with another one. You seek that, returning to the road, the town and the inevitable reminders of the careful balance that we all steward.
Gallery 1: Keisha
Gallery 2: Maha, Susan Levitt
Gallery 3: Miriam Hicklin, Joanna Powell Colbert, Siolo Thompson