Some communities live on land, growing food to support each other’s physicality and being from one day to the next. Other communities gather on a weekly basis to break bread, share grief, joy or the very stories that make life, with a deep sense of being listened to and held by those who choose to be present. Our community is non but all of these. We are not of one religion, faith, or ideology. Nor are we of one definable social group or background, although it seems we agree on so many of life’s finer points, especially the power of love. No. We are a community of people who live on the edge, a community of makers, singers, healers, bards, artists, herbalists, activists, educators, decorators and mechanics. And the edge we inhabit is a car park and series of warehouses on a dilapidated industrial estate in East Sussex, and sits on a flood plain next to the river.
If I’m being honest, and perhaps this is self evident, we are a community of people who find it challenging to be part of the mainstream, to fit into the life society demands of us, we refuse to subjugate ourselves to a set of ideas and beliefs each and every one of us knows doesn’t serve our higher being or this thing called love. We are a community consciously living in a space of uncertainty, a space of unknowing. Deeply honouring each other’s gifts we are also a community that live with the possibility of impossibility, and with it, a belief in magic. This is no ordinary community. And I choose these words wisely, as I too can be sceptical and critical of their use.
It seems odd to write words that say I believe in magic. Perhaps this is because of my social conditioning or the fact that until recently I understood it to be something owned by Disney, or the wizards and witches of distant days, something of fantasy and unreality. Perhaps I have always thought magic to be merely an illusion, a career undertaken by someone who wants to mislead and entertain. Until recently I had never thought it to be something real, something of the world in which we live, if only we allow ourselves to fall through. As my understanding now is that magic is something that happens only when you let go, either by choice or by force. It’s the point when we no longer see an event as chance, as something outside our influence, but instead as a moment intimately connected to other aspects of our life. Magic I am coming to understand represents a point when we start to become aware of our interconnectedness and ultimately the fantastical nature of reality and our home, this beautiful planet called Earth.
I have been intending to write this post for some time as what is written happened back in May as the Earth and all its life was waking from its winter slumber. It is the story and sharing of my experience with a man and his magic.
I noticed Mark pretty early on, at a number of talks and celebrations just after we had arrived in the community that is now our home. He’s not an easy man to miss with his fine white ocean going beard and trilby topped head bursting with feathers, and what is clear to me now his trademark green tartan kilt. Neither is he an easy man to resist, with his warm inviting smile (mostly hidden my his beard) and playful nature. I was naturally drawn to him. But it was not until a number of weeks later, after getting to know each other gradually over many moments that we found ourselves sat beside a fire in the early hours of the morning in a moment of becoming good friends.
As is the nature of this community I talk about, it wasn’t long before we were deeply engaged in conversation about the nature of perception. A conversation I attribute at the time to the reading of a most incredible book called Spell of the Sensuous by an American author and anthropologist called David Abram. It’s a book about spells…or should I say the power of spelling and source of words within and of the land we walk. During this fireside communion I decided to share the gift of a poem with my new friend. It’s a poem called Re-membering, one of few I have written as time stands, but one that found its way to breath in quite a potent and magical way in the forest and plateaus of South America.
As I read the poem Marks eyes were alight as he listened intently whilst receiving the warmth and vitality of the fire. The final verse, a moments pause . . . silence broken by the crack of the fire and the soulful embrace of a new friend. The sharing was gratefully received but in its power and reflectivity it had also shown Mark a deeper aspect of my nature, my truth, that of my longing to return home once again . . . to return to the Earth.
In the moments that followed, and in the words of my bearded brethren that longing would be met. Met by an invitation to enter the woods, to play, elementally . . . Met by an invitation to spend time with a man and his art. Met by an invitation to re-member. The fire continued to burn and so did we.
In the following weeks, a morning arrived, in which Mark, I, and the camera found our selves heading off on our adventure, destined for a partially secret location somewhere in the heart of Hastings.
In preparation for our trip I had been supplied with some background reading, a little context to the situation we were entering into. I shall divulge some of this information now, but only in short, because it is not my story to tell (well not yet anyway). It is the story about the death of a man, a man who for reasons close to his being and irreconcilable to his sense of self didn’t want to continue to his journey here on Earth. It is the story of a man gifted another chance of life only to witness the life force of the son he loves so much deteriorate before him. It is the story of a man who helpless and scrambling for answers found himself waist deep in a pool of stagnant water, hands beneath the vile smelling jellied surface desperately trying to clear a blockage in a local stream. But best of all it is a story of man in the discovery of his magic, a story of healing and a story of returning home.
The day spent with Mark was one of the most mesmerising experiences I have had in the woods since being a child. Not only was it the moment that represents the birthing of a long friendship (I have recently asked Mark to support me during the birth of mine and Lily’s child). Through its adventure and the sharing of his story I was invited to re-member, to witness and live the impossible. I was invited to understand that nothing is insignificant and that everything plays its part in the web of life, and just as the blood flowing through our arteries gives life to us, so too does the water flowing through the rivers and streams that represent the arteries of our land. Their health is ours and so to is the health of one another.