by Laura Cave
Not just a wander
I look at the window then at all the kit laid out in front of me, its summer and I am heading to North Berwick to go on an afternoon with Wander Women. We are going to walk on the beach, take time to reflect, do some guided visualisations and hopefully finish with a sea swim. In true Scottish style the sky is heavy and the rain is teeming against the window, but this doesn’t dampen my spirits I have been yearning for this time to come round. Amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life, routine, responsibilities I often feel like I am on a merry go round with no way to step off, but this is my chance. My chance to step of, to press pause, take time, listen to my soul and reconnect with my true self.
With swimming costume on, under a base layer, a windproof jacket, a waterproof, big walking socks and leggings I set off with excitement coursing through my body and my soul conducting its own merry dance. As I arrive in North Berwick, the sun is out, I almost run down through the lodge gardens giddy with excitement, feeling like a wee girl skipping along on cloud nine. The sun is shining, the warmth on my skin is a delight and the layers start to shed as well as did all thoughts that weren’t connected to that moment.
I see my friend, Anna and a group of women all stood around. Everyone is smiling, connections are made and stories shared, and then we are on our way. North Berwick is bustling, but I am oblivious, I am struck that beach is so empty and yet filled full of delight as it feels like the beach is ours for the afternoon.
Removing our shoes, grounding our feet on the cool damp sand, Anna invites us to take a card, I am drawn to choose right from the bottom of the pack, one I cannot see, but one I appear to want. As I turn over the card, I have a wee chuckle to myself at the words laid out in front of me. The last words on the card were
“ your goal: by the end of the day, commit to that new step, or identify why you’re choosing to sabotage your healing”
Even as I type this now I am smiling and tears are rising through me, this card spoke the words my soul has been screaming at me.
The word sabotage lays heavily on me, feeling like an invisible weight, as I ponder, “ Am I really sabotaging my healing?”
My healing journey started on May 1st 2017, marking the date that my body decided that it was time to stop. The months prior to this I had been feeling unwell and a new array of symptoms presented themselves on a daily basis, but I had forged on, regardless of the message my body was screaming at me to stop, slow down. On May 1st I got up and like any other day I took Bess my gorgeous old girl out for a walk, my feet felt heavier, I felt like I was wading through treacle, and my head was full of a thick fog, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to piece together what I needed to do at work that day. As I stumbled through the back door, took Bess’s lead off I knew I needed to sit down. As I sat on the sofa, I didn’t realise that my body was saying no more, defying me the ability to stand, to think to walk and to function on any level. In that moment I went from being a very tired, exhausted functioning woman, to a fatigued, lost shell like form of myself. All I know is I managed to ring my manager and say I would not make it in, and then the next few months are a blur. I had to leave my job, I loved to draw and write, but my fatigue denied me this pleasure. Pain seared hot through my joints, my head pounded, my temperature was fierce, light and sound were overwhelming and my memory was shot. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also known as ME, told there is a 5% chance of recovery and there is nothing that can be done apart from manage the pain and symptoms with medication. Lost in a fog and bewildered by the words being presented to me I could not believe it, I didn’t want too. I am a runner, a mountain biker, I am fit and healthy, how is this happening? But it was happening.
Months passed I changed to a plant based diet, I sat outside as much as could, the sun warm on my skin, the air refreshing me and making me feel connected to something again. Nature was my nectar, my medicine, and food for my soul reconnecting me to the lost parts of self.
So as I stood on the beach barefoot once again, I could hear my body sigh that one again I was tuning back in, I had heard the screams and was making time for me and time to heal.
As we wandered along the beach barefoot in silence I watched my feet as they pressed against the sand, the change in colour, the water being dispersed and the imprint that is my unique identifier, laid there for a moment before the sand came back and it was like I was never there. Thoughts went through my mind, Am I invisible, who sees me, who do I want to see me, what do I want people to see. My mind wandered to projects I have been dreaming up, that sit on the side lines, I have negated through fear, not feeling good enough and the fear of failing. Looking over I could see the other women in the group, it felt like we were all moving forward with energy and purpose, bringing parts of self to untie as women in nature.
Something stirred within and an energy rose through me, I looked down and felt a strength and a purpose in my stride, I noticed myself, I heard myself and saw myself as I wanted to be seen, and was struck that she had been here all along.
The sky shifted from sun to a glorious light grey, the light dimmed and the rain started to fall as we stood in a circle and each shared why we had chosen to be there. As everyone spoke the energy rose in the circle and the women who I had met just 15 minutes prior, through the gift of silence, connecting to the earth and nature had become focused on themselves and shared their narrative of what had brought them to stand barefoot on the sand.
As I spoke my words came easily and freely, my body was relaxed and brimming with emotion as I shared my experience of being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, my journey back to health and my wanderings about what it is to be feminine.
With the rain falling and the sky darkening with every word spoken, little did I know I was about to share an experience with women with connections to where I am from, to my past and to this very present day.
The sky was alive bustling with rain, powerful clouds, deep shades of greys and blues, reflected in the expanse of the sea. The light glistened of the wet rocks; the beach was empty and ours as we wandered along deep in our own thoughts collecting found objects that our gaze fell upon.
United back in a circle with our found objects at our feet, we were invited to create a joint mandala, witnessing and noticing each other’s findings, sharing stories and dreams of creative processes we each placed our findings down alongside each others’. Feathers, shells, sea glass, old fragments of pottery stones of various colours, sat side by side in the sand, forming a circle, our own unique mandala, 7 women’s findings, dreams and wishes held in this sacred art form, only to be added to by the glorious nature of the rain teeming down upon us.
The rain echoed off my hood, Anna brought out a large shelter and we all huddled underneath it. I was instantly transported to my childhood, having picnics under the kitchen table when the skies darkened and the rain came. Laughter filled the shelter, as we sat around our mandala. Anna shared a guided visualisation with us, the rain offered a steady beat as I thought about myself as a body of water, what would I look like, where would I be, being taken on a journey from source to open expanses of water, through hills, mountains, rivers, brooks, and valleys.
Eyes opening slowly, looking around everyone seemed content, happy to be present with themselves in our own shelter, somehow protected not just by the canvas but also by our joint energies, containing and keeping us safe.
Our souls had been fed, with thoughts and dreams and through the process of creativity; we now fed and nourished ourselves with handcrafted food created by Anna. Hot potato and leek soup warmed my body and again I felt like a little girl, playing outside having the adventure of a lifetime, everything felt possible.
Eager to move on I pulled on my waterproof trousers, pulled my hood back up and set off following Anna’s footsteps. Climbing up and over grassy hills, walking through mud, jumping in puddles, it felt glorious, permission to play and enjoy the delight of the little girl in me that had come out to play. We came to a little bay, the sky was full and energised and I felt much the same, wanting to run a about dive into the water and stay in the wonderful feeling of playfulness.
The sky cracked, light shot through the sky and the clouds above us were thick and dark with intensity. I was conscious that the energy in the group shifted, as we needed to head back as sadly it was no longer safe to swim with lightening brightening the sky. As I climbed back towards where we had come from, I was laughing and giggling, I felt alive and thrilled to be in this moment where mother nature was showing up, being her true self and not being scared to let her strength be witnessed by all.
As we stopped to put our shoes back on and walk back down along the road, rivers of water washed down around us, laughter again started to fill the air, what an adventure we had all just shared, all captured in one beaming selfie of us all. Women who were near strangers brought together by their love for nature, the need to reconnect and mother nature provided a wonderful gift to further untie us and reminded us of the power and the force that it is to be a woman.
Its now several days later and that smile I had on my face is just as present the thrill of being out in a thunderstorm, how it awakened my soul and reunited me with the little girl inside me who has been lost in the darkness and engulfed by the CFS.
The women who wandered barefoot alongside me, connected to many stages of my life. My birthplace of Somerset, to my days as an art student, my work as an Art Therapist, a painful time in my career where I experienced and witnessed many losses to connections that are new but there is a purpose to our paths coming together. It felt as though I was being handed a mirror to take the time to reflect on where my life has taken me, held in nature, grounded by the coolness of the sand on my feet, and echoed in the power of the storm.
As the storm passed and the rain started to ease, a gentle silence fell around us, the sea continued its steady beat, the wind rustled through the trees and the air was still. In this moment I felt at peace with self and understood that I was sabotaging my healing by letting fear win, by negating what I truly felt I am meant to do. My soul is saying you have weathered the storm it’s now time to dance, embrace your ideas and passion and join your tribe. You are feminine and the feminine is sacred, powerful and rooted in Mother Nature. Breathe her, feel her as you are part of her.
I have come away with a great sense of passion to continue to work on a project that has been in the making for several years, to try new things in the studio and to take the leap into the unknown, trusting that by connecting to nature, reuniting with my soul and allowing myself to play, that feeling that everything is possible is alive and burning brightly inside me.
To draw and to create is to play, and as the inner child rose up inside me there felt no better way to capture this, then step into the studio and give myself permission to play. Taking the time to stop and tap back in the feeling of the joy and playfulness from that day, the feeling and the energy of the storm was really strong. The illustrations are a reflection of the energy of the storm, the power of Mother Nature and the sense I have that within darkness there is real beauty.
Creating space to play
Playing is an integral part of life and we are never too old to play, or to be creative. I have set up a workshop to explore tapping back into selves through music and art. The workshop will allow time to stop, connect back to self and give permission to play through the use of art materials. Using instrumental music, time will be given to sit and listen, to notice how the music makes you feel in your body and in your mind. Using the art materials, participants will be invited to play and create pieces that reflect how they feel, to create their unique piece of artwork to capture the essence of them.
The workshop is about playing, connecting to self: you do not have to have art experience, I feel that everyone is an artist, and that given the opportunity to play creativity will always shine through.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”
George Bernard Shaw
WanderWomen experiences can be booked here.