“I must start where I stand. As children, we used to be told that if you dug a really deep hole, you’d come out in Australia. I think in some ways this is very true. If any of us dig deep enough where we stand, we will find ourselves connected to all other parts of the world.”
Soil and Soul, P1 (2005)
One book that changed my life is Alastair McIntosh’s Soil and Soul. I read it when so much of the Theology syllabus at Cambridge University seemed inane and pointless. The book worked the slow, ember-like magic that delivered fire into my soul and smouldered there for years, even when the initial flames had died down. I have re-read it a number of times and it has always brought me back from the brink of surrendering to soullessness. It is a book that on one level documents a grass-roots political campaign in Scotland to reclaim an island from a Laird, and another campaign to protect the Hebridean islands from corporate destruction. Yet on a more universal level it illuminates how poetry, politics, ecology and theology interrelate in ourselves and in the wider sphere of our communities -local and global. It is McIntosh who first introduced me to the idea that to relate positively to the rest of the world, we need to dig deep first and to know our roots.
Human roots always run deep, but for now I live in Lincolnshire and have done for more than a decade. It is now through walking a path of Druidism that I am starting to acknowledge the recent roots that I have laid down here and to nurture them. I work ritually in the land and walk the footpaths of the Welland Valley. When possible I sleep under the vast skies of the East. This in turn brings inspiration – more intense and more frequent connection to Awen which has in turn unleashed a new energy in my song-writing and poetry. I can see clearly how much of my former assumptions have muted this flow over the last decade. In sleeping out in the woods just eight miles from my front door I sense myself perhaps being able to understand farther fields with greater clarity.
It is now a more distant journey that I want to document in this blog. In two weeks time I leave my eleven year career in secondary school teaching. Despite a fast paced, promotion laden whirlwind of professional life (that’s what we all want, right?) I end it spiritually, physically and mentally exhausted. Now, looking beyond the strict accountability measures, the neo-liberal indoctrination we serve our youth, and vicious exam grade driven culture – beyond all this, I am looking for something simpler. In just six weeks time I fly south to start the 600 mile walk from St-Jean-pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees, to Finisterre on the Galician coast of Spain. It is known popularly as the Camino-de-Santiago, or The Way of St James and tens of thousands walk it every year.
This is now known as a Christian route but this pilgrimage was made by Pagan believers long before the medieval Catholic custom was established. I walk to “the end of the world” in order to answer a call of Spirit to break loose from society’s ties for a while, to meditate, contemplate and chase Awen evermore. I am working deeply with the elements on the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the order of which I am a member, and I am seeing this as a journey of fire, inside and out. I guess I will be writing about a whole host of things: from people I meet to good tips for any who may make this or other journeys. I will possibly bore with political rants and amateur philosophy, but I hope that there will be enough to stir a few thoughts, even if they are in disagreement with what I write. I want to unashamedly go in deep with my motivations for this journey and leave no stone unturned in making the most of this experience.