Over the passage of the past few months, I have held the hand of a man as he approached death; massaged aromatic oils, made redolent with their timeless codes of symbolism, into the cooling limbs of a woman who once loved to garden. Gazed upon the resting face of a man in his 101st year. Such sacred, aching moments. The beauty and the tears. The coming in and coming out of life.
There was a woman, an extraordinary woman in the 12th Century and her name was Hildegard von Bingen. She was an abbess and a shaman. She had visions, tumultuous renderings of the divine and the secrets of the cosmos that then wound their way into song and art and prayer and healing. Each note sung plainly calling up earth and stars. Each brushstroke of pigment laying down lessons in life and death.
Each note sung plainly calling up earth and stars.
Hildegard wrote at length and we have her books and letters today. In her visionary illuminations we see that everything is inseparably connected in the cosmic web of the universe. We also see that our deeds have a cosmic impact, either life-restoring or life-destroying. She wrote about viriditas, the green life force of Nature. We are nature she said, our pure heart energy is green, green of the forests and grasses and plants. We lose our connection to Nature and we lose ourselves.
Last weekend I spent two hours in the local reserve with a nine-year-old boy and his mother. This boy loves plants and so I took him on a deep dive into Nature and showed him the healing powers of a handful of plants. I wove their stories around him and in return he gave me a great gift. He gave me insight.
He showed me how we all get tricked into reductive thinking – the pressure to ‘be one thing’. One thing apart, not the oneness of all things. And so I had found myself going down that path too, and I thought it was all about the end of life. Good work. Meaningful work. It is true that I love being of service to people as they approach the end of life. I believe that deepening our connection to Nature at this time can help navigate this transition with more peace and ease. Many people are fearful of this time and space and so I felt compelled to step forward into it. To be there for those who desire it. To name it as my one thing. The pendulum of my intent swinging to the edge of the circle, the periphery of service. But this boy, this fabulous boy with his impish smile, got hold of that pendulum and pulled it, and me, back into the centre.
He reminded me that I love working with people in all stages of life, because, let’s face it, that is life. Young, old, fit, ill we are all part of life, we are everything right here, right now.
I love working with people in all stages of life, because, let’s face it, that is life. Young, old, fit, ill we are all part of life, we are everything right here, right now.
I have learned much from Hildegard and Ficino, Paracelsus, Buddha, the knowledge of Celtic shamans rests within my bones, and this boy, he is a teacher too. And I thank him for that.
So, over the course of this past week, I have reflected on my work and my path and my hopes and dreams. Yes, I will be there to help people navigate the end of life. I want to help with honouring a life that has passed, and offer support in bereavement too, but I’ll also be placing myself within the centre – within the whole of the circle of life. Working with death, teaches us so much about life and it has shown me that I love being there for all people at all stages, and the bigger mission for me in all of this is bringing forth the ways in which we connect to nature – its medicine and its sacredness, for our health and wellbeing. Through teaching and coaching, writing, art and potions, I will continue to share ways that nature, its beautiful emerald viriditas can help us, can help you, in the four-fold healing of body, soul, spirit and environment.
My one thing isn’t one point of life over another, my one thing (if I have to have that) is ‘teacher & guide illuminating the ways Nature can enhance all stages of our life journey’. How does that sound? It has taken over 50 years to be able to say that out loud. This Is My Work. I hope as it deepens and expresses itself more fully, there will be things there for you too. What’s that lyric of Joni Mitchell’s “part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time“. I apologise if I may have looked as if I was wandering away from the place you found me, I was following callings and now I can touch them all from here at the centre. This is my work. My gift to you. And to the boy with the impish smile.