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.
We enter the solstice with the striving energy of Spring growth behind us, and reaching its high peaks, ask ourselves the questions “Who am I?” and “How did I get here?”. Like the flower buds that break at the tips of the herb branches, we are suddenly awakened in a new and intoxicating space that feels enticing and terrifying all at once. Dive deep – and you will meet the waves of joy, gratitude and comfort you have been seeking.
I am here to share a little of what is occurring for me right now, and a few themes that emerge whenever this phase of the year comes.
The summer, particularly after midsummer, feels to me like a restless time of conflicting energies. Perhaps triggered by the years I have spent in education, the thought of September approaching often fills me with questions: “Am I ready?” “What will the next chapter bring?” and sometimes the answers to these questions are difficult.
We are now also entering a new Islamic year, and the blessed month of Muharram. The energy is mixed, between the waning of the meteorological year post-midsummer and the rising of a new, spiritual year. What both of these energies bring to me, however, is the need to shed what is no longer good for me, and all the grief that comes along with that.
It was my first distillation for months, and the most welcome return to heart. The day started early with our journey to Phytology, a magical nature reserve in the heart of urban London. After a reluctant start, as if I were waking up my herbalist bones after a long sleep, I tingled with excitement as I carried my smallest alembic across central London on a clear, cold spring morning.
When in doubt, I try to learn from my toddler. He manages to live and breath a kind of freedom and embodiment that I spend more time thinking about than really being. Today, we walked to a local old growth forest we visit most weekends. It is a place that is slowly becoming very special to us. I knew today was different though, with the spring turning in the air and the sense that a portal was open for us because of it, but also that something in me was opening too. Coming back to life – setting intentions.
In the latter part of winter, I start to emerge from a period of stillness within myself that this year – above all else – has been mostly unsettling. An eerie stillness of things not being “right” – an imbalance. Grief, is the word that comes to me most often. It comes as I grieve the death of friends. Of mothers. Of women all over this planet and of the sons, and daughters. Of it all. I find it all too heavy with sadness. I grieve for the forests, and the waters, and for the creatures whose patterns are intricately and infinitely intertwined with ours. This year, more than any other year, I have been consumed with grief. And I believe that this is OK.