Dreaming awake


I realised a while ago that teaching wasn’t for me. Perhaps it was the constant anxiety and daily nausea. Or the insomnia and the migraines. Or the TIA. Eight years ago I decided it was time for a change. Since all the stress I had been increasingly interested in complementary therapies. I’d been using Bach essences, having massages and using aromatherapy at home. I signed up for a reflexology course. The plan (fateful words) was to leave school work and set up my own clinic. Mid way through the course I left my regular job, started a small admin role to bring in a little regular money and began my business.

Two weeks later my husband, deep in the midst of serious mental health needs, left.

Plan B. Two children to feed, bills to pay, dealing with the loss of an eighteen year marriage, I went back to school work.

In spite of all the crazy I finished my reflexology training and, in between a range of different school jobs, I saw clients in the evenings and at weekends. Every now and again I’d have a go at making it a bigger part of my life, but it stayed small. Maybe everything else crowded it out. Maybe other things in my life’s garden were too prominent and stole the sunlight it needed to grow properly.

Yet other things didn’t really thrive either. I took on a significant role in a special school. It was a job I had wanted for a few years. Within eight months I had burned out. Barely able to walk, constantly dizzy, unable to drive, I left.

I was really confused. I’ve looked for divine guidance for over thirty years. But all my tried and tested tools seemed to be failing. The compass was spinning madly and nothing made sense. I’d try different paths only to hit another dead end. The panic started then, as I plunged down different avenues seeking an answer, too scared to sit still and get my sense of place back.

I don’t know when the shift started. Somewhere in the early summer of 2016, on dew soaked grass, as the sun rose. I was tuning in to natural rhythms, the seasons, the moon. I was using oracle and tarot cards (shuffling soothes my soul). I was making friends with stones, crystals, shells. The fountain-pen edges I had inked onto my life in my teens began to bleed and blur; veins opening, leaking.

It was still only a few hours a week but my therapy work began to push it’s way through. People began to call, I began adding to my tools – Reiki, crystal healing, essences and coaching skills.

The auspicious moments are only so in hindsight. A chance meeting through work. A general conversation about hopes and dreams, about visions and values. Seven months later an exchange of messages and an offer, work in a holistic therapy centre as part of a team of healers.

Looking back the determination, the dog-with-a-bone mentality that refused to let go, was worth it. Looking back the gut knowledge that this was part of my essential self was right. Learning to trust that way of knowing comes hard. Easier to hold on to popular ideas, to fall back on conventional wisdom.

The lesson for me is that its ok to dream, its ok to try, and try again, and then start over. To listen to your body. To listen to the clouds and patterns on the beach or the birds thrown against the sky, like lyrical confetti. Its ok to change your mind, be scared, gain a new perspective, do things differently. Its ok to doubt and have hope at the same time.

Sometimes doors open. Sometimes they close. Sometimes you have to wrap your dreams in gossamer and moonbeams and bury them in your heart for a while.

My friend B says “what’s for you will not go by you.” Maybe she’s right ❤



Some dreams have teeth.  When you wake the marks show on your skin, the images burned behind waking eyes.

We are in a field, tending pigs, my husband, myself and a child (maybe our child). We are focussed on the animals, watching their behaviour, noticing how they interact.  It is a flow moment, we are captivated, enjoying the time outdoors, completely at ease with this time together.

twisterI look up. It is a wide, prairie landscape. In the distance is a rambling, ranch-style house and behind it, on the horizon, incongruous against the clear blue sky, the black spinning column of a twister.

My heart begins to pound.  Time rushes back into the void and I urge them to pack up and head for the house, but they are slow, sleepy with the relaxation and calm.  I am urgent, shouting, calling instructions, dragging at hands and possessions, picnic blankets, bags.

When we arrive back at the house it is full of people, kids on the floor playing Lego, parents on sofas chatting.  It seems we are staying with friends.  The house is surrounded by a porch and all the windows are floor to ceiling, I can see the twister through the windows.  It’s a wooden house.   When the twister hits it will splinter, the glass and nails becoming deadly shrapnel. I start to yell instructions, to try and rouse people, but they are all engrossed in their own activities, the wind is screaming now and I can’t make my voice heard over its shrieking.  Slowly, like a nightmare (oh, wait) they begin to respond. Children whine because they want to take their toys, adults seem indifferent, they are sarcastic about my panic, as though it is unwarranted, chill Fi, seriously.  I get people to collect water, some food, essential supplies.  It seems there is a basement.

Gradually the room empties.  I am checking the window, monitoring the twister’s movements, I know it could miss us, I know it could vanish back into the sky, but it isn’t. It is moving forward, sinuously snaking, brushing up shrubs and small trees in its skirts.

The last person leaves, there is still enough time for me to get downstairs. Only there isn’t. The twister has somehow jumped, it is right by the house, I try to get myself to the stairs but I am paralysed, I try to drag myself forwards, to shout. Nothing.

Everything goes black.

Half awake and before coffee I am spilling this into my journal, my eyes blurred as they watch the images again, my pen racing across the page.  I want to know what this means, what it is here to tell me.  I have dreamed of twisters before.

In this instance there is something about being asleep.  About not listening.  About being too comfortable to see the risks and dangers.

And there’s a message about putting others first.  About expending all your energy at huge personal cost to make sure others are safe and happy, even when they are busy sleepwalking themselves towards oblivion.

I know what this speak of in my life and my patterns.  I know that I need to learn when to stop.  When I have given enough. When it is ok to get myself to safety.  Lessons.  Reflections.

I wonder too about the idea of creating safe space, of what my storm-shelter looks like in the waking world. Of how I can furnish it, of how I can set in place a warning system so I know when to go. How I will bring this into reality is the work.



airportI dream of journeys.

I don’t record my dreams, but it feels like this has been a theme for a while.

I am in an airport with my first husband, the children are younger.  We are working out where to go to catch our flight.  He leaves to make enquiries.  I am adrift in a space with red walls and charcoal grey flooring.  After a while my phone rings.  He tells me I’m in the wrong terminal.  He is in the right place and I have to get there before the plane leaves.  I don’t have my bags.  Or my children…

I am at a station.  I have a whole load of suitcases, heavy and unwieldy.  I need to get to my train.  I ask politely and am directed to platform four.  But when I get there, there is no train.  The announcements are confusing.  I look for a member of staff but there is no-one there.  I have left, as always, plenty of time, but in the last instant an announcement tells me I need to be on a different platform.  I have to cross the tracks, via a footbridge.  I cannot manoeuvre my case, despite my best efforts.I will not make it in time.  I will miss my connection.

I am on a train, looking for my seat.  I need to find the right seat, this is very important, I have a numbered ticket. I ask people in each carriage, each give me directions which I follow as best as I can. I know the guard will be furious if I’m not in the right place, but no matter how hard I try I can’t find my seat. It doesn’t seem to exist.


And others like them

It is only yesterday morning that I wake up and make the connection.

Since my stroke in 2008 I have been trying to get somewhere.  I thought it was to a more balanced life.  Or to my “life purpose”. Or to wellness; the day I woke up feeling connected and peaceful and entirely aligned.  I have been working really hard – in reality, and in my thinking life – to make this happen.  I have refused to believe it isn’t possible, gosh darn it.

It has been exhausting.  And I haven’t managed to find the elusive destination (as shown in all those dreams).


It seems I was here all along.  Suddenly and without warning it drops into consciousness, and it’s so obvious, where it wasn’t five minutes ago…this is exactly where I need to be.  In this place, with these people, doing these things.  This is it.  There’s nowhere to go. Nowhere to run.

This is such a novel idea and sensation.

To simply be.

To have time to catch my breath.



The hallway


I am seventeen years old.  The walls seem to stretch forever and I can’t see the end of the hallway.  I am standing in line.  At a wooden table a man sits with a notebook.  He speaks to each person, but I can’t hear what he’s saying.  Some people head on up the corridor.  Others move to the open doorway behind the desk and pass through.

It is my turn.  He is wearing a non-descript uniform and wearing Buddy Holly glasses.  He looks up briefly, no expression on his face, and then looks back down at his page.  “You can leave now,” he says, “or stay and help sort things out.”

There is a heart-beat of a pause.

“I’ll stay and help,” I say.

He makes a note in his book.  I head off down the corridor, and return to my dream.

It was a beginning.


Unless a grain of wheat

A27A196F-2344-4077-AD81-B30FEA9DBD01.jpegIn the dark soil I wait. It is silent here.

For the longest time I dreamed of sunlight. I remembered the gentle kiss of the breeze.

Before I fell.

Now I am blind. Hidden here, waiting.

There were days I wished it sooner. I wept in frustration, put my mind to the task. I will grow! I can do this thing! Onwards!

Nothing happened.

A millipede wriggled past; an earthworm gliding. The soil grows very cold and I retreat deep into my shell.


No time.


And silence.

What will it be like, that crack, splitting me in two? No longer myself as roots and shoots emerge.

Will I remember the darkness when I return to the sun?


rose-2417334__340Perhaps it was the heavy, yellow blooms in her godmother’s garden, or the vast borders in the local park but for as  long as she could remember Agnes Earnshaw wanted a rose garden.  She drew roses around her exercise books, on her ruler, she even engraved them on the science benches while Mr Finch talked about Brownian motion.

Over the years she developed a collection of rose-related paraphenalia, notebooks, pencils, backpacks, cosmetic purses, t-shirts, socks.  In her first flat she had a rose-shaped rug on the sitting-room floor and purchased rose-edged crockery.  She bought small, potted roses for the window sill, but they tended to shrivel up and shed their leaves within a fortnight.  Never mind, she thought, it will be different in the garden.

Weekends were spent exploring famous rose gardens – Red House, Emmetts Garden – and she kept a copy of Classic Roses on her nightstand.

Finally the day came when she had her own garden.  A two-bed terrace in a south-coast seaside town, red and black tiles marking the path to the front door and a tiny pocket-hanky lawn with well-dug borders.

The first autumn she dug the beds through with manure, and spent the mid-winter researching varieties.  She ordered Rosa banksiae “Lutea” for the wall and the red Lancaster rose  interspersed with the more free-form Great Maiden’s Blush for the borders.  Early in February she went out to nestle her young ones into their new homes, breaking the frosted-crust of soil to dig in the bare roots.  She whispered tenderly to them about how beautiful they would be, and pressed them firmly into place with her freezing knuckles.

Now the waiting.  Each day she looked out of the window, or ventured out into the early March murk to look for buds.  The leaves began to sprout, although she didn’t expect much from the young plants.  This could take a while.

While she waited she read her subscription copy of Rose Magazine and browsed forums.  She cross-stitched roses into cushions and posted rose-scented soaps to her sister for her birthday.

Summer came.  The beds were a riot of colour.  Poppies and cornflowers emerged from winter’s sleep, sunflowers began their stately climb upwards, planted from seeds fallen from the old bird feeder left in the corner.  A honeysuckle crept up the south-facing fence and bees and butterflies crowded its perfumed blooms.

But the roses were not happy.  They grew slowly, if at all.  Something was amiss. She checked for powdery mildew, made sure they were fed.  She posted questions on the Gardener’s Almanac and tested the soil pH.  She took temperatures around the garden and sprayed them weekly.

It became a mission.  Roses were her thing and she was damned if they wouldn’t grow in her garden.  After several years she dug up her first batch of plants and started over.  Different varieties, different positions.  She enriched the soil and read late into the night, looking for clues as to why it wasn’t working. Meanwhile the poppies and cornflowers came back each year, the sunflowers thrived, the honeysuckle bloomed and wind and bird-borne treasures came to join them from neighbouring gardens, honesty and hollyhocks, aquilegia and leycesterea.  The garden was beautiful.  But there were no roses.

Finally Agnes had enough. “I have done everything right!” she wailed to her mother down the phone, “I read all the books, I took courses, I had a vision for the garden, I followed all the rules.”  Her mother suggested she contact a gardener and see what they had to say.

When she came the gardener wasn’t quite what Agnes had expected.  An older woman, dressed in worn corduroy dungarees with white hair whipped into a bun on her head.  She came with a shaggy lurcher at the her heels and smoking a pipe.  Wrinkling her eyes against the June sun she looked around the garden.  She walked around it slowly, caressing the plants that were there and stopping by each rose, as though listening.

Finally she spoke.  “It isn’t a garden for roses.” she said.  Agnes was speechless.  Then indignant, reciting the litany of her efforts.  “I hear what you’re saying,” said the gardener, “But did you ask them what they wanted?  Look at what else is growing, look at what you have here, this is a garden for poppies and cornflowers, for honeysuckle and hollyhocks, see how they’re thriving?”

Agnes felt confused.  For years she had wanted a rose garden.  She had planned for it, she had organised it, she knew all the theory, this was her dream!  “You need a different dream dearie,” said the gardener, as she left through the side gate, dog at her heels, “You need a dream of what’s here, that’s always the best place to start.”

Agnes went to the shed, her head spinning.  How could this be?  She fetched a deck-chair and placed it in the middle of the grass.  She went to the kitchen and brought back a mug of tea and sat down.For a while she wept, for the lost garden in her dreams.  Then, eyes brushed dry with her cardigan sleeve, she took a deep breath in and waited.  I will listen to this garden, she thought, I will see what is here.

Maybe it will teach me about my life. garden chair


Map work

map handsI read this poem by Carol Ann Duffy and felt that deep-gut pull of recognition.  It happened when I went back to the village I grew up in.  In my mind I could feel the paths and lanes, could see the ditch around the church and the tiny, domed graves of long- dead children. I could see the trees, ivy-smothered, where we climbed and built camps, and the wide-open expanse of the fields, flattening to the marshes on the horizon.  This was the land of Pip and the prison hulks, estuary-edged.  I could see the grass, heaped up in the middle of St. Andrew’s Walk, where we rode our bikes and tried to get enough speed to put air between our tyres and the hummocked ground.  training-165021__340I could see the brickwork at the edge of Susan’s house, overlapping enticingly like a climbing wall, and remember the sensation of trying to scale it.  I could see the road, winding black snake, looping round the corner by the shops and down to Jonathan’s house, the pampas grass waving sentinel on the front lawns.

I go back with my new husband, to show him something of where I come from.  The place runs beneath my skin like a scar; horses on the brimp, silhouetted against winter sun, the welly-deep puddles on the bridle way.  It is a liminal place, jammed at the end of the bus route, an hour from town, a dormitory village for the oil-refinery and power station then, we had a wide open garden where strawberries grew abundantly and my grandy prepared bonfires  in the autumn mist.

Firstly it is smaller than I remember.  The roads are narrower.  The vast expanse of the housing estate where we rode bikes is traversed in a few moments, the mountains of memory merely moderate landscaping.  Signs remind us that cycling is forbidden now.  The shops are shabby, the gardens cluttered with old plastic ride-ons and broken patio furniture.  The church, a cathedral once, is in fact, tiny.  I am lost between the powerful memories and the difference of reality.  Time has changed the place.  And me. I am no longer a six-year old in her cord trousers and pumps pedalling a red bike, no longer the pig-tailed eight-year old sitting in the musty shade of church waiting for Sunday School to start.  I have grown and the place has shrunk. Worst of all the prefab building which housed the primary school has been removed.  Its site forms part of the new-build school and houses crowd on the playing fields.

We drive away in a yellowing afternoon, looking out across the marshes, and I try to match the places to each other.  Memory is only partly true.

A similar moment comes when I’m walking home one day.  When I was nine we moved to a cathedral city. I take the path behind the main road, squashed between terraced side streets and a new housing estate.  I tell Simon that this was all hop fields when we used to walk this way to school.  That I went once with Martine and Natasha and we walked from Martine’s house, across the fields as far as the A2.  Martine’s family owned the farm then.  I remember the thrill of being on private land, the sense of secret wandering, exploration, the hop bines twisting above us in the late summer sun. The farm is gone now.  The oasts converted to apartments, the fields covered with tarmac, uniform shurbbery and identikit housing.  It feels like this has just happened.  That I blinked and the fields were gone.  But the estate is more than ten years old now,  and the memories come from over three decades distance.

hop fields Place is both itself and something else, the old is cleared a new layer takes it’s place.  The map is re-drawn.  But surely the land remembers.  I wonder whether it still feels the kiss of childhood steps, the wonder and secret magic of life before adolescence, like the brush of a butterfly’s wings or the step of a spider along your arm. I wonder if I am like this too.  Layered.  The child still seeking beauty and play while the woman covers her over with duties and diary commitments.  I wonder what it will be like when I re-draw the map.  When I erase the work of the past thirty years and begin again, using the stars for a compass and the earth as my blue-print.  Something sits now, beneath the skin, barely breathing, ready to crack open, on the edge of a new journey.



classic car

She is gifted it on her seventeenth birthday.  “It’s a classic,” says her Granpa, “If you look after her she’ll look after you.”  Her parents nod, smiling that smile of knowing parents have when they are in on a secret, the knowledge which comes from being three decades older.

A legacy like that captures her imagination.  She buys magazines, joins forums, spends weekends under the chassis, or the hood, tinkering and tightening.  She buys an oil can, and overalls. When she drives it to see friends, or takes them out on a summer’s day into the woods, coasting down the valleys, the windows wound all the way down, the smell of wax and hot leather, she feels pride at the way she has tended the machine, at her maintenance of the legacy.

It’s a never ending task.  The car eats oil, rust nibbles its way through the body, the parts gradually wear and are hard to replace.  She spends every spare penny keeping it going.  One Thanksgiving she opens up to her folks, “I love it,” she says,”It’s been such an important part of my life, and it was so much fun when I was younger, but it’s eating up my salary and I really need a car that works.”  “Oh my god,” they cry, “what are you saying? Your Granpa would be heartbroken, it was his pride and joy.”  Granpa looks down from the mantelshelf… it’s been three years now but she can still remember the smell of his tobacco.

She perseveres.  It’s a legacy.  She needs to keep it going.  The love, though, has gone.  This is about duty.  She repeats the story to herself, Granpa’s road trip in ’72 down route 66, her dad taking her mum on their first date.  She flicks through the photo albums.  But the shine has gone.  Her credit card is maxed out with paying for parts.

It’s a hot, August weekend.  There’s been no rain for weeks and the city is suffocating.  She decides to head up to her parents; the woods will be cooler, she figures.  It takes two hours to get beyond the city limits, traffic is nose to tail as everyone heads for the open spaces.  Eventually the roads clear, there’s not much now but dust and drying daisies, rattling in a hot wind.  She winds the window down.  She rang her parents the night before, telling them she’d be on her way.  She hints that she is bringing the car, but that she will get the train back.  She can’t face selling it for spares, the stories are too strong, she can’t face finally letting it go.  But she needs to park it up, in her minds eye the car will gradually disintegrate in the garage, the seats a commune for mice, tyres slowly emptying.

A sudden bang jolts her from the vision.  Smoke is rising from the hood, she struggles to hold the line of the road as she shifts down through the gears to bring the car to a halt at the roadside.  The smoke is thick and black, grabbing an old blanket from the back seat she tries to tamp it down. Using the blanket wadded up to hold the hot metal of the hood the peers in.  She feels the heat radiating from the sick vehicle as she stands back and considers.  In her heart she knew this moment was coming, couldn’t be put off forever.  At some point this particular journey would have to end. Dust devils whirl at the roadside as she squints along the tarmac distance, heat haze shimmering the horizon to a blur. She is still hours from home.  There is no traffic. No way to call for help.  She paces the road a while, looking at the car, hearing the stories, remembering the work she has ploughed into keeping it going.  A hawk calls  from above, circling on  a thermal.  She senses the expansive space it sits within.

For a moment the world tilts, shifts and something ends.

Wiping her soot blackened hands on her jeans, she pulls her bag from the trunk, closes the driver’s door and starts walking, each step moving her minutely away.

Time for some new stories.

woman walking



She spent a long time running.  The monster which hounded her needed to be trapped, to be managed.  She ran as far and fast as she could, hunting for answers to tame this demon.  She stayed up late at night with ink and parchment, scheming, studying, before rising before dawn and setting off again, always just ahead of her pursuer.  Sometimes she would encounter it, on a lonely woodland road or in open moorland.  They would wrestle, and, for a time, it would leave her alone.  Sometimes, by cunning arts, she would devise a means to hold it in check, a potion or enchantment, and for a time she would imagine it gone.  But it would appear, a shadow at the edge of vision, a lurking dis-ease in her quiet moments – and the chase would continue.

Months passed, years, decades.  She grew older.  Her hair began to streak with silver, her skin showed gossamer lines around eyes and mouth.  The monster aged too.  Its pursuit continued, but there were months when it vanished entirely.  One dark night she sought refuge in a cave. Water dripped gently from the roof and a cool breeze wafted up from the deeper dark. Exhausted after a long day’s ride she fell asleep.  She woke to the sense of presence.  A breathing nearby, the sound of movement.  Heart in her mouth she lay still.  Silence fell, a heavy cloak.  The darkness of the cave was impenetrable.  She waited.  Her heart slowed.  Her breathing steadied.

Time passed.  With the moon’s rise a grey light began to seep into the cave mouth and finger its way across the floor.  Slowly her eyes adjusted.  She could make out the monster’s bulk.  It had fallen asleep.  Gently, so as not to wake the beast she crawled across the floor.  Now that it lay here, vulnerable, her curiosity took control.  Perhaps she could kill it, finally, as it slept.  Perhaps she could find a way to trap it in the cave and secure her freedom at last.

She reached its first massive paw, black with five inch claws like iron.  She noticed the sheen on its black coat, the lines of muscle running across its legs.  Captivated by its strength she forgot.  Looking up she met with a bright, yellow eye, golden as ripe corn, staring straight down at her. Before she could move the giant paw lifted and pinned her to the ground. The beast shook itself, raised itself up onto its four legs and regarded her.

This is it, she thought.  It is over.  She waited for the claws to rip her stomach open, or tear her limbs asunder.  In this final moment she closed her eyes, and allowed herself to breathe.

It came like a thought, a whisper in her mind.

“Why are you running from me?”

She opened her eyes.

“Don’t you know who I am?”

She shook her head, whether to answer the question or shake the voice she wasn’t sure.

“All this time,” said the voice.

“I was afraid,” she answered, her voice barely a whisper.

“Do you know who I am?” the voice insisted, “Remember.”

She had a sudden picture of herself, barely in her fifteenth year, travelling on board a sailing ship to visit foreign lands.  Of adventures in strange cities.  Of long hours studying at the university.  Of romances.  Of her children and the struggles they had faced when the kingdom was invaded.  She recalled the disappearance of her husband, lost to dark enchantment, she remembered quests and trials.  At each of these times her nemesis had hounded her, clinging on at the edge of perception, pursuing her, increasing the challenges tenfold.

“I don’t know,” she breathed, the weight of the enormous paw making speech difficult.  “I thought you were my enemy,”

“You were wrong,” the creature spoke in her mind.

“I am your shadow,  your strength,  your power.”

It lifted its paw.  She lay very still.

“I was afraid,” she said, rubbing her chest where the paw had left its mark.  “I thought you would destroy me”

“Never,” the creature said, “I was there to keep you safe, to show you the way beyond your limitations, to help you reach the depths of your strength, beyond the thinking mind.”

“I didn’t know,” she said.  She wept a while then, and the creature waited.

Time passed.  A different light crept into the cave as day returned.

She stood, stretching her limbs, grown tired from the cold, earth floor.  The creature rose and shook itself.  They paused at the cave mouth, side by side, facing the dawn.

“What happens now?” she asked.  “If I am not running, what will I do?”

“Now,” said the creature, “You will live.”





7DBBDC7E-0A15-43D3-960D-2C46B1C840E5It has started. On my knees in the dirt I have to pull them away to uncover the soil; brown, yellow, crisping, like old paper.

In the evening the air cools and the half-made moon wears a gauze cloak, her radiance seeping into the velvet around her.

I am living with ghosts. Old friends. Old friendships. I am haunted by the reality of a past present. I can remember  how that felt, the shared experiences, conversations. The triumphs, the survivals. I flick through the memory-album and it feels real.

There are a whole host of these people, once close, now distant, in time or space. I carry them with me, because they have held a special place. But it gets cluttered in my heart-space, crowded. I make futile attempts to reconnect. There is silence, a static crackle at the end of the line. They have moved on. New homes, new careers, new relationships, new lives.

I have too. The world turns and in a heartbeat something entirely other arrives.

The trees teach me how easy it is, when the breeze blows just so, to let go. There is a beauty and grace in shedding the old. A freedom too. Because in holding on I keep a version of myself who no longer exists. A way for them to know me. But she has gone, and I need to let that be. Or I cannot move; rooted to a spot, looking backwards, straining forward, burdened by old loves and likes, tired attitudes and thinking.

I open my hand, and watch the leaves fall. Shake my branches and dance in the breeze. You can see the shape of my soul etched against the sky.