Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Summer Sheiling

Around Beltane, back in the day, the  older women and children of the village would move to the moorland pastures with the livestock, to take advantage of the  better grazing - and to give the in-by land a rest.  While there, they would make butter and cheese, spin and knit, sing and tell stories. They lived in very simple dwellings or shelters known as sheilings, built from stone and turf.  Those left behind in the village were busy with the growing, fishing, peat cutting, hay making, harvesting and all those other activities of crofting. This system of transhumance (to travel across the earth) was once common practice amongst pastoral societies all over the world, and it happened here even as late as the 1950s. Some people still maintain a moorland sheiling today- perhaps for use at peat cutting time, as a fishing hut, or just simply as a retreat.
I mentioned Alice Starmore's writing in Earthlines magazine last week.  In this article, she writes most movingly about her own memories and experiences of Summers spent at the sheilings; her words and images have been haunting me since I read them..  At the same time, I have been dipping into Dr John Francis's book - The Ragged Edge of Silence.  I mentioned him last week too; during his 22 years of walking across America, he became silent for much of that time - as he did this, he found that he was then truly able to listen - and to learn.

These writings have come to me at just the right time.  I had been wondering about where I was going with the blog.  I have come to a point where I feel I am going over old ground - struggling to find something to say. Furthermore, there are so many other things happening that I need to give my energies completely to. I have been posting less over the last few weeks, and I have not been responding to comments or visiting other blogs as much as I would like to.  I don't want to stop blogging  (I don't think I could do that anyway) I do love coming here most days and seeing what emerges.  But -  I  am feeling a need to step back a bit - to spend some time in my own sheiling, if you like.  Working away at life - immersing myself in the countless projects I seem to acquire, but also to take some time, thinking, reflecting, meditating, and re-membering. As well as this, I would like to explore the idea of silence. The physical world is a noisy enough place at the best of times, but this online virtual world seems relentless in it's clamouring, twittering attention-seeking demands. I find myself losing precious time - time I will never get back - being sucked in - often to inspiring, enriching places, but sometimes to those that disturb my soul and my peace of mind.

So, I am taking myself off to the sheiling for the Summer. I will still be posting though -pictures only, or perhaps a haiku or something like that - comments disabled. I plan to use this space as a silent journal of my Summer retreat. I hope you will all put up with my latest notion. It will be strange not to read all the wonderful comments that readers so kindly leave. I know I will miss the conversation, and the validation too. I am not even sure what I am trying to achieve here - only that all my recent thoughts and wonderings have coalesced into this - and it feels as if it is the right thing to do - for now. I hope to begin my posts from the Summer sheiling in a couple of days - much love xxx


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