Spirit of wood

Spirit of wood

Part of my job involves working with wood. I generally love it – being creative and making something that is highly visual, useful and that people can appreciate the effort I’ve put in.

I started off doing a lot of the work with hand tools, however over the years I’ve moved over to more power tools. Part of the move has been economic – it takes much less time to produce something using power tools – part of it is also accuracy – a power tool can quickly achieve a perfect cut and getting lines straight and true makes a big difference.

once-she-stoppedBut power tools take you even further away from the essence of wood and from the lessons it can teach us. We become so removed that we might was well work with plastic or concrete. Wood has a heart and soul. Wood teaches us to slow down, to look, to feel, to listen to be intuit.

However, there is as aspect that sits slightly uncomfortably with me. Most of the wood I use was grown outside the UK and is highly engineered. I know little to nothing about the origin of the wood, the landscape, the environment – what, if anything, is being done about re-planting? Was the land clear-cut (disastrous for nature) or were trees picked out to allow recovery time? There’s also the fact that my skills revolve only around using pre-prepared wood. Presented with a ‘tree’, I wouldn’t know what to do.

Getting back to the essence of working with simple, minimal materials is something many crave and this lovely short video of the Stone Dahl family from Wisconsin, USA really whets the appetite! Although from the USA (material availability will be very different from the UK or other places), there is much to learn from what they do and their respect to the tree…


Tackling anxiety with herbs

Tackling anxiety with herbs

A couple of years ago, I started to realise that anxiety and depression were getting the better of me. Despite all the ‘living in the moment’ and mindfulness I espouse, sometimes, you get in a deep rut and you need additional help to get out of.

My anxiety was actually starting to have physical effects on me, as well as that, my mood swings sometimes made me not the nicest of people to be around, which affects my loved ones (more than appreciated).

I didn’t want to take prescription drugs, so I sought the advice of a friend who is a herbwife. She asked me to visit my doctor and get blood tests and a check up to make sure that there was nothing physical.

At the check-up, my doctor was very good, and wondered why I didn’t want to take pharmaceutical anti-depressants, but ultimately accepted that I didn’t (he mentioned the option of counselling…). All blood tests were fine so onwards with the herbal approach…

I was given some herbal preparations and some ‘exercises’. The exercises, which I’ll explore later on, are geared towards getting my mind into a more positive place – one of my ‘problems’ is that I have taken a very negative view on some things, and have struggled to see positives. Elements of this blog reflect that – it’s so hard to find the balance between wanting to be informed and not wanting to be overwhelmed or feel helpless with the bad stuff.

Anyway, I’ll write more on a future blog post, for the moment, here’s what I’m working with, herbally speaking.


The herbal preparations are broken down into ‘daily supplements’ and ’emergency’ treatments.

Daily / Herbal Tonic: tincture comprised of 2 parts Vervain (adrenal support), 2 parts Nettle (blood cleanser, adrenal support), 1 part SJW (nervine), 1 part Evening Primrose (for stress with digestive issues), 1 part Motherwort (nervine). Dose 1 tsp 3 times a day.

Daily / Nettle Seed: 1 – 2 tsp each day (on porridge?) for adrenal support.

Emergency treatment 1 – Scullcap: 1 dropperful under the tongue for the ‘screaming habdab’ moments. Bottle to be carried with me at all times. Not to be used more than 3 times a day.

Emergency treatment 2 –“I don’t give a shit” tea: 1 tsp or 1 pinch each of vervain, chamomile and lemon balm. Infuse in just boiled water for 10 minutes, strain and drink. Not more than twice a day. Recommended to be taken after work.

I also get stressed because I over commit and then struggle to get everything done (can’t see the woods for the trees…). Part of this is that I want to please everyone so have difficulty in saying ‘no’.  To help with that, my herbwife asked me to search out some Yarrow (which I have in my garden) and take a piece around with me to help boundary issues (where you stop and other people/things start).

In addition to the herbal medicines, I’ve also been given some things to think about and some journalling tasks – more on that soon…

One of the important things to remember is the importance of tackling the underlying causes. Medicines will give symptomatic relief, and in some cases, being free from the symptoms enables you to move to a ‘better place’.

Please note that I am not suggesting or recommending treatments. Anxiety and depression are complex issues and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Always seek appropriate advice!

Muffled rain on a shed roof

Muffled rain on a shed roof

It’s quarter past midnight in the middle of June and almost Alban Hefin (midsummer / Litha).

The rain is coming down heavily this evening.

For some reason, I’m drawn to walk up the garden to my shed.

My shed is a very special place for me. I insulated it, boarded it, painted it, re-roofed it, repaired it and generally put a lot of myself in it. It’s become an almost spiritual place for me – quiet and peaceful – a retreat if you will, where I can shut out the world, the noise, the phones, internet and all that stuff.

Anyway, as I walk up the garden, I catch a glimpse of something moving near my feet. I stop, somewhat startled! It’s a lovely frog – enjoying the fresh rain.

I continue up the path to my shed. Inside there’s the beautiful sound of muffled rain on the felt roof. Not harsh, like on a caravan or tin roof, but a soft, soothing sound that makes you aware of the rain but not overpowered by it.

It’s a mellow, protective, feminine, almost meditative sound that entrances me and makes me feel connected again to the natural world. Suitably refreshed, I walk the few paces back to the house, saying ‘hello’ as I pass the frog!

Dandelion, how I love thee!

Dandelion, how I love thee!

Dandelions are great plants and great healers. With their long tap roots, they pull up minerals from deep in the soil and make them available in their roots, leaves and flowers.

This video highlights some of the health benefits to using and consuming the dandelion – if you are blessed to have some in your garden, don’t pull them up and discard them and certainly don’t use herbicides. Encourage them and use them to heal yourself.


Dandelion flower image By Greg Hume – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17890515

Cat Scramble by Elen Sentier

Cat Scramble by Elen Sentier

Every so often I hear some great, inspiring poetry or writing. I posted Tom Hiron’s poem, “Sometimes a Wild God” which still inspires me, especially the performance of it by storyteller Mark Lewis which is at the bottom of the page on this link:


But last week, I caught this, ‘Cat Scramble’ by Elen Sentier. Like she says in the story, “this place speaks to me”, and this writing does to. It speaks of wild places that are good for the soul, of taking and giving back, of the cycles of life. Continue reading “Cat Scramble by Elen Sentier”

Rooted in this land, in my land

Rooted in this land, in my land

Recently, I was extremely priviledged to attend a Sunday service at a Buddhist temple. I was made very welcome and told I could join in as much or as little as I wished. The service lasted around an hour and included chanting, singing, a walking meditation and much more.

One of the things talked about was how, as a Buddhist, you attain to be like the Buddha, who was so full of love that there was no room for hate or jealously or other negative emotions. What a wonderful thought!

Afterwards, we had tea and biscuits and chatted. These people were beautiful and gentle people who were also full of love and I was so grateful for their time, affection and help.

But, in amongst it all, I felt like I was in a foreign land. Buddhism is a beautiful religion, but it is an Eastern religion and doesn’t try to hide that in any way. For some people, that might be significant part of what being a Buddhist is all about, but for me, I was struggling to get a deep connection, perhaps because it is not from my land, my roots, my place.

I’m so glad I went – to have had that experience was brilliant, but I’m also glad I went because it made me realise that my spirituality comes from the Earth around me. Here in Britain and in Ireland where my ancestors are from.

And so it is with renewed enthusiasm and connection I continue my studies and practice of Druidry. /|\



Disconnection from technology and destruction

Disconnection from technology and destruction


In the past week, an author I admire, Paul Kingsnorth (he’s also a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project) announced that he was starting a gradual withdrawl from social media.

He was starting by deleting his twitter and personal facebook accounts, keeping his ‘professional page’ up for a while. He’s drawn a mixed reaction from people, some admiring him (whilst also stating that they couldn’t do that…), others deriding him and pointing out that without social media, he would not have managed to get some of his work published (a fact he accepts).

Then last week, author and ‘Moneyless Man’ Mark Boyle said that he was doing the same after a ‘not so sober’ meeting with Kingsnorth. Here’s what Mark said on Facebook:

Mark Boyle. 29 November at 20:52


Goodbye, facebook.

After a few afternoon pints with Paul Kingsnorth, in our little nook in the wilds of Ireland, we came to the not-so-sober conclusion that the time was long past for leaving the realm of social media, and to instead spend those precious hours doing the things we dearly love doing, with people we dearly love doing them with.

Unlike most decisions made after an ale or stout, this one seemed like an even better idea the next morning. So from next Friday onwards, I shall be on social media no more.

Instead, I intend to spend those hours rewilding myself and the land; creating sanctuaries for people who, like I, have had enough of industrial civilisation and the violence it inflicts on Life; to spend time observing the natural world, and becoming part of it once again; making love unrushed; reading by the glow of a wood fire; and writing – from now on with a pencil and paper – about things I care about, on the off-chance they may be useful or enjoyable to someone else. Fiction, from here on, methinks.

Paul has written an excellent short blog on his website (where you can find his excellent writings) about why he is doing the same. Ditto to all Paul has said, as he says it better than I:


I also intend to move away, one step at a time, from all complex technologies, whose production lays waste to all I love, and to reclaim my life from the bombardment of emails that we’ve somehow accepted as normality.

If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, or need respite from the city and the speed of industrial civilisation, there is always a bed and a hearty meal for you here in The Happy Pig at An Teach Saor. I can’t always guarantee I’ll be free to hang out, but you’ll be welcome nonetheless. If you want to know where that is … find out the way we used to before social media was invented a few short years ago, and then follow your nose. Lets reclaim our sense of adventure.

Lots of love to you all, and thank you for all the wonderful interactions over the years.

One of the things that both Kingsnorth and Boyle have managed to do with social media is get their message out and promote what they were doing.

For example Mark Boyle used crowdfunding, promoted heavily through social media to get the money he needed to build his ‘free pub’. It’s fairly likely that without the exposure afforded through social media, whether directly or indirectly, he may not have been able to proceed.

So what does this say about these guys? One might say that they are selfish and now that they have what they want, they’re telling everyone to ‘get stuffed’, or could it be something else?

Personally, I think they have decided that it’s time to do what you love. Be with the ones you love and spend your time very wisely. There are many, particularly in the environmental movement, who feel that it’s impossible to effect change through government. We can see this right now at the COP21 climate talks in Paris as governments lobby for the ‘best’ result for them – one which doesn’t affect them too much and certainly doesn’t affect their ability for economic growth.

Maybe Kingsnorth and Boyle have accepted that change will not happen this way, that you can’t change the course of consumerism and capitalism, so you need to create your own reality and watch the rest crash and burn?

As Boyle says “Instead, I intend to spend those hours rewilding myself and the land; creating sanctuaries for people who, like I, have had enough of industrial civilisation and the violence it inflicts on Life; to spend time observing the natural world, and becoming part of it once again; making love unrushed; reading by the glow of a wood fire; and writing – from now on with a pencil and paper – about things I care about, on the off-chance they may be useful or enjoyable to someone else. Fiction, from here on, methinks.”

So where do I stand on this? In truth, I’m not sure! There is a part of me that has given up on governments and most people making rational decisions about the future of humanity, and in that sense, there is no point banging on about stuff on Facebook or Twitter (or WordPress!). But there’s also a part of me that would not want to loose the ‘connection’ to people that social media has given me. Perhaps, these electronic friends are surrogate friends and maybe, in an appropriate community, I would be awash with real friends, negating the need for electronic friends. Maybe, but when you get to know people, and like people, real or otherwise, it’s hard to give them up isn’t it?

I’ve also written a little more about Mark Boyle in this blog.