A couple of decades ago, when I was once again delving deeply into my roots in psychology and mythology, I discovered the writings of Kathleen Raine. I’d long admired her as a poet, but hadn’t really grasped the extent of her scholarship in the realms of the imaginal and the imagination – something I was working with and retraining in at the time, and in which I’ve continued to specialise (in one way or another) to this day. One of my favourite books of hers (and I’ve a fair collection) is an old copy of her 1967 essay collection, Defending Ancient Springs. And in that collection is an essay, ‘On the Mythological’, which all those years ago set me off thinking about the role that place plays in our mythology – or at least, the ways in which place used to play a role in our mythology, but has been sidelined for the many wonderful, but rather limited and human-centred, things that go on inside our own bodies. As those of you who’ve read If Women Rose Rooted will know, I’ve been banging on for a long time about the ways in which contemporary culture has confined us inside our own heads, about the ways in which modern psychology (the ‘official’ branches that have sidelined depth psychologists like Jung and Hillman) has encouraged us to think about the human experience as the only one worth studying or valuing. And which has encouraged us to see ourselves as separate from this beautiful, mysterious world in which we are so very clearly, and profoundly, entangled. 3306
I’m 57 years old going on 58, and I keep waiting for my hair to turn grey. It refuses. Instead, the red in it which I always loved has simply faded to duller and darker. The same thing has happened to everyone on my father’s side of the family with my colouring – but I’d rather have grey. It adds gravitas. Makes a little more real those conversations I’ve been having with myself about elderhood. Because that’s the subject of my next (nonfiction) book – you know, the one I wasn’t going to write, because I was never going to write nonfiction again, because it takes so much out of you, and besides, I didn’t think I had anything left to say. 3298
Not so very long ago, I spent four years living on and working the land in one of the wildest, harshest and most remote parts of the UK: on the farthest western shore of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The place where the road ran out, and there was nowhere left to hide. Those of you who’ve read If Women Rose Rooted will know that it was something of a baptism of fire. It broke me open; broke my life open. Four years with my hands in cold, wet, acidic peat which didn’t really want to grow what I wanted to grow there. Four years mucking out pigsties, close-shepherding sheep, cuddling milk cows, crying over dead lambs, burying dead dogs, screaming at ravens stealing away baby geese. Four years battered by the prevailing salt gales from two directions. Four years walking on Llewissian gneiss, some of the oldest and hardest rock on the planet. These are the experiences which tear open the veil for us – which not only show us the opening, but shove us the hell through.