No denying that the world can feel pretty yuk right now if you let it; I know it with my mind and even through my subtle senses, though I mostly choose not to “go there”. Yes, I know “things” have been going on, not least in our capital (family members drop clues, they exchange glances…), but I’ve kept my attention out of the details for the last few weeks; this is a conscious choice that I made.
So when I was due to head up to London this weekend for a concert that I had looked-forward to all year, I was surprised to find that I half-dreaded going there, which isn’t like me; I’m usually harder to submerge below the predominant air of pessimism and gloom. The clanging bell of this feeling seemed to build up in my solar plexus and I could detect a growing repulsion at this way of spending my saturday compared to staying home; like an early warning system in my cells was shouting “don’t, just don’t go there” through my non-specific feeling of misgivings. These didn’t really surface fully until the morning came upon me and I felt overcome with paralysing indecision about train times and what we were going to be doing for a whole day at leisure in the capital (normally a treat). What was wrong with me; was I tuning into the collective fear? Was I starting to come down with something? Was it an actual warning I should be heeding? Attempts to rationalise our itinerary only made me feel more entangled in the of knotted string-ball of indecision since there seemed to be a conflict of interest going on with my deepest intuition; not helped by the fact that my instincts weren’t clearly giving me anything to go on. So we went ahead with our plans; I just didn’t have a clue how we were going to be spending our day as I had really gone off the idea of several hours wandering in crowded streets before the concert that evening. I guess, I was just being invited to go with the flow…
So by the time the train pulled in at a busy weekend Paddington, all I knew for sure was that I wanted to be above ground, not under it…and to walk initially to Hyde Park, which I had been intending to go back to since a momentous walk through it in the summer of last year (subject of my blog A walk in the park: Healing the deepest wound of all). This time it was to take my partner with me, to walk the goddess’ path along the water of the Serpentine, revisit the spot where the preening swan became the inspiration for my painting Heart Centred, adjacent to the statue of Peter Pan and the ever-more elusive Tinkerbell, and grab some lunch at the lake-side cafe. I wasn’t disappointed as a (possibly “the”) swan returned to the same spot to provide more of that elegant preening show right beneath my feet; in fact my mood was already lightening at the comic squawk of parakeets in the trees, tame squirrels carrying acorns dashing hither and thither, so many water fowl and young families feeding them. It was like an action replay of that other journey through this park last year, only much more relaxed for being in an easy male-female partnership where we could jest around and have some lighthearted fun together without time pressure. This way of spending the day, yin-and-yanging without agenda, said such a lot about the journey I had been on since last my last visit; I could measure so easily that I feel so much more complete than I did at that cathartic time. In fact, I could feel myself unfurling, standing taller, inwardly shining a little more with each moment spent in that park; not unlike the example set by so many magnificent avenues of trees. Walking to your full stature through life; didn’t I talk about that in another post just the other day (in my post Growing up); about learning from the most giant and ancient of trees…
By the time we had eaten, I knew I only wanted to stay outside, beneath the magnificent trees of not-quite-turned autumn. So I devised a route of sorts…walk to Hyde Park Corner, cross the road to Green Park and then seamlessly join with the park of Saint James by the Mall. I had never, in my life, done this park version of crossing London though I knew it existed in principle since the city is blessed with so many green spaces. This way, we were able to see London in a whole new light…a green light, like it was a city of leafy avenues, of people at leisure, of comical wild-life so tame you can step right up and feed it from the hand. As we brushed close to Oxford Street, we could feel the city’s everyday vibe trying to assert itself like a frenetic pulse, sending an electric shock wave through the feet and out through the head. It only pushed me deeper, and with more determination, into the park; further into its green spaces and into closer appreciation and embrace with its trees, which I kept stopping to admire and “talk to” like they were old friends. When I felt my afternoon sugar low start to happen after all this walking, I simply threw off my shoes and grounded on the spot, the battery-recharger of all chargers (and doing far better for me than my phone, which was almost drained flat by a few hours in the super-wired city). I recoiled away from statues of men on horses, strategically placed bronzes celebrating military milestones, triumphal arches, lists of the dead; using them as the counter signposts of which path not to take. We paused briefly for an art gallery off the Mall but that was all we were prepared to do by way of divergence off this walking route; this was clearly not a day for going into confined spaces. It was quite amazing how much of this vast city we could walk by uninterrupted pathways of green; those same distances we tended to cover underground without really connecting with each variable of the landscape. The more I relished this way of spending our day, the more important it felt to acknowledge that it was the dark feeling at the beginning of the day that had served to urge me even further into all this radiant light; in other words, it had actually served to get me there!
An inevitable brush with thick shoulder-to-shoulder crowds happened at Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, where the chaotic shopping impulse was drumming its beat loud and strong. Both of us were hard-hit with an electric vibe so potent that it sent a ground current charge up the legs triggering actual physical pain in the legs and hip flexors as we hit those first pavements and the feeling of cross-currents in the head was enough to trigger disorienting waves of light-headedness and feelings of space shifting. Really, the strength of the electric vibe of London’s centre (and its wired people) these days is like a smack to the head to the sensitive being; I really don’t know how those who live there cope or don’t crash into chronic states of illness and I suspect their antidote is just to keep going…faster, louder, sweeter, more inebriated; hands reached out for more more more…aclimatising to the bewildering pace by making it a way of life. Still, there was music playing; buskers were everywhere and those that, like us, had heard the alternate rhythm paused to stop in huge appreciative circles. Really, our bee-line was to reach Neal’s Yard’s oasis of greenness, for an early evening meal of incredible plant-based food (another “green route” that has become our lifestyle preference…) before our concert later on. When a sudden change of timings forced our hand to flag a taxi to that concert rather than break our fast of underground travel (part of me skipped up a beat in relief when that happened), our day of travelling by alternate methods felt complete. We were delivered to the Union Chapel in perfect time for the doors opening and all felt whole again; like we had reached our sacred destination in perfectly divine timing, our journey divinely orchestrated along a completely different path to our norm and all in readiness for an evening of sacred mantra.
When that day began, there had been lots of “oughts” on my list; I felt I ought to make an effort to go to certain points of interest on my list, that I ought to make good use of the rare opportunity to take in some sights or exhibitions, even to shop. All of these things were an overlay of old belief systems; none of them came directly from me, hence the feeling of stomach wrenching confusion and conflict going on when I woke. I should have known, all I really needed was a blank canvas and the preparedness to listen to my instincts as they revealed their steady clues, one after another. As things turned out, our green path showed me many more things that are unfolding gently yet powerfully as I allow them to swell in the aftermath. I have long worked with the original goddess vibe of London that predates all the modern hard structures that shout and dictate our path through the city streets these days. There is a complex network (an earthstar grid) of ley lines crisscrossing the whole of the city…and I walked (quite accidentally) one of the most potent ones running between Buckingham Palace and Charing Cross when I happened upon the far end of the Mall after Green Park returned me back to the road. I crossed the Mall straight into Saint James Park, thinking I was sidestepping the actual ley however my research this morning tells me the leyline runs to the left of the mall, which is the route I followed along the waterside inside the park, all the way to the Mall’s end, enjoying the unusual geese, the herons and the black and white (yin and yang) swans. I don’t think I have ever travelled the full length of the Mall before; certainly never by foot. Indeed, I think I had only ever been to Green Park once before in my life…many many years ago as a young-thing shopping on Oxford Street, when weary feet made me turn into a patch of green glimpsed between buildings and throw myself into one of the deckchairs lying about near the edge. How funny that, all these years later, the potent beguilement of “shiny things” in shop window displays used to distract the herd onto a different path only repulses me all the more than it was starting to back then, allowing me to remember a different route from the time before. This impulse had taken me off piste to, perhaps, one of the most ancient routes into the city; some say the path to its original ancient centre where the Mall gives way to the statue of King Charles on the site of the original Charing Cross.
Women have been so much more than just milkmaids, flower sellers, whores and good wives in this place (though these roles have been part of their journey). Alternate feminine routes through London have asserted themselves to me many times in the last decade or two; in fact they have been the most potent undercurrent of anything I have ever experienced there from the very first time I went as a teenager. I have written more than once about the “hidden” River Fleet, now half buried, mostly turned to underground sewer yet once a sacred and powerful stream joining the Thames at Blackfriars. In fact, many of London’s hidden feminine pathways speak through water since the feminine is the well maiden, the bearer of the overspilling grail to all who are thirsty, yet who fled and left the well barren when the masculine treated her so ill. This city is littered with forgotten rivers and sacred wells that have been filled-in like the suppressed feminine made manifest. I just happened upon this quote from the Times Newspaper May 1st 1874 and it captures the scenario aptly:
“The holy well of St. Clement, on the north side of St. Clement Danes Church, has been filled in and covered over with the earth and rubble, in order to form part of the foundation of the Law Courts of the future. It is said that penitents and pilgrims used to visit this well as early as the reign of Ethelred”. *
This is how the piecemeal process of silencing, subordinating and, in fact, burying alive the feminine aspect to serve as the foundations of a masculine world took place in recent centuries…yet she stirs still, from beneath our feet, when we listen closely with our most attuned senses.
Circles and long straight lines provide other clues (as they have provided to me before: see The Where the circle meets the Line). Temple Church was another of my accidental stop-offs a year ago on the way to another concert (and I had a run-in with it at another potent time in my life, many years ago). Its chapel in the round is probably the most powerful feature of its sacred-geometric design devised by the Knights Templar (modelled, they say, on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) and deeply embedded with female symbology. Well, this time my journey ended with another uniquely round chapel, Islington’s Union Chapel, to experience the music of an embodied divine goddess (Deva Premal) that evening. The Union was built 140 years ago to a design by James Cubitt, inspired by the Byzantium-inspired, 1000 year-old Santa Fosca on the Venetian island of Torcello. Its vision: “to step out of the enchanted circle of habit and precedent … to break through the tyranny of custom” by allowing people to congregate in the round…equally, easily, providing excellent acoustics thus no need to shout to hear yourself heard. Its roundness, then, harked back to some earlier principle, long forgotten yet desperately needed to soften London’s sharp angles; a feminine impulse so urgently welcome back in town. The round, womb-like meeting place reached by a long straight route is as ancient as can be; and London was a nest of such places long before it took on its present-day mantle.
My recent blog talked about Elen of the Ways, goddess of the ancient pathways; well, her long-straight routes (her green and leafy routes!) feature subtly under the surface of London, with more obvious clues here and there, such as Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate, thought to be an extremely ancient and significant sacred site and with a ley line running through its axis. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is well-known to have been built upon an ancient temple to Diana…yet (as I’ve written about before) a deeper-digging theory suggests that dedication was just a Roman overlay upon an even earlier deity (again, the goddess Helen seems likely given shared symbology with Diana), at a site adjacent to what was probably a stone circle (or so speculates Christopher Street, a London ley line expert and author of several books on the topic). This is thought to be the case because, just beyond the north-east wall of St Paul’s, an octagonal marker in the ground indicates where there was once a single standing stone which was removed by Cromwell. That stone had a cross a-top it for many years and was used as part outside altar and part speaking podium where common people gathered to have their say and to debate the suitability of kings (back to the topic of determining sovereignty from my last post; the feminine would once have had this say-so based on the candidates good custodianship of the earth). According to one source, it was known as a place of public utterance for at least five centuries, “one where the conscience of the nation could be spoken” and it was apparently used as a meeting place of the Occupy Movement most recently.
Known as “Old Pol, that stump of a megalith is speculated by Street to have been part of a complete stone circle and the name given to it a reference to Apollo, not to Saint Paul as historians have tended to assume. If so, the name Apollo possibly indicated that this was a king stone (as at Rollwright stone circle and at Stonehenge) of a very significant standing stone circle in days long before all the modern day trappings of church, law and governance came along to sit a-top the same site. According to Mallory’s La Morte D’Arthur, Arthur drew the sword out of a stone in the churchyard of London’s greatest church…so it could very well have been this stone that he had in mind.
When you follow London’s more instinctual impulses, you happen across all these places and more, feeling the pull of them with your feet. A warmer and more open embrace awaits. Sometimes, the clues are still there, built as symbols and shapes into masonry, left behind in a paper-trail of bizarre or thought-provoking street names or felt as an alternate feminine vibe to all the push and shove otherwise going on. The trees and the water have a lot to say on the matter and when we support these natural spaces as the lungs of our cities, we support the feminine aspect in our world.
I have no clear mental idea why I walked the route I did that day but it felt like it kept me safe, like an alternate way simply opened up for me and gave me clear passage through. I knew none of the details of recent explosions on underground trains or acid attacks by gangs (things my daughter, it turned out, had been fretting about when she knew we were spending the day there) until after I returned home; I didn’t need or want to know about the specifics of a world in the throes of traumatic growing pains. My own instincts kept me safe on the path that was meant for me and what a path it was, cutting through all the urban sprawl, parting the ways, showing me the softer underbelly of a city turned hard and so much more besides. I find, this morning I have the title of my latest artwork (my first artwork in a very long time) readily waiting for me even before I decide if it is quite finished. Its a painting of a swan radiantly glowing in a feathery mantle of vibrant rainbow colours within the dark shadows of an reed-entangled corner of an evening lake. Shine Most in Dark Places is what I find I have been trying to say through it; and its less of an instruction than a statement of fact…for you do! We all do; we can’t help ourselves, once we unleash our light.
So open to your instincts and let your feminine impulses be your guide then you too can walk a softer path through so-called chaos; wherever you happen to be. Blaze your trail through it. Dare to unfurl your full stature there. Read all the subtle clues like the pro that you are. Remember who you already are in those places; that these are already your pathways. That there is no need to hide. And don’t forget to slip your shoes off and feel into where you are from your very roots, allowing that feeling to swell and grow upwards to the ceaseless light shining from your crown. For you may be surprised at the sheer power of the affirmative you receive for this simple act of reconnection with the surface of the earth in places that at one time always seemed to turn you away.
* London’s Ley Lines – Christopher E Street; an excellent source of London leyline tips (along with his several other books) and from which the newspaper quote is also derived.