Bluebell In The Gorse

What could be more delightful than bumping into a great friend of yours? I think of ‘Bluebell’ as no less than that, even though she is one of the ponies of Dartmoor. And what if your friend had a great, great surprise waiting on a particular day that you knew nothing about….

For the past year or so, Bluebell as I’ve affectionately named her has become one of the particular characters that I seek out here. She has the most exquisite eyes and she is a wonderful, eccentric soul. From the first meeting with her when I had just started going out with my camera seriously, she was just there. She stood and seemed to pose and stop for me to click away. She made things very, very easy. She made it ALL look easy. I’m so glad for that because Bluebell gave me a wonderful insight, early on as to what is possible with them when the connection is flowing. I can say from experience, that from working around many of these ponies now – all are not the same. Some you can get nearer to than others. Bluebell, for me, is an ambassador for the horse-human connection. And I say horse, because, to me, regardless of size, these are all horses in spirit. The ponies that I have the privilege of connecting with here are huge in their personalities and their energy, sometimes three times their physical stature or more. Bluebell is no exception – she tends to win the hearts of humans effortlessly. She allows people very close to her indeed. And I’ll say it once again – not all ponies are the same. Some you need to spend hours around, building trust and then they may just start to approach. Others may never let you close. And that is a great thing to remember because it means that I take nothing for-granted and do not assume that it’s my right to go right in and take what I want whether that’s a photo, a touch, or closeness. When I’m on the moors, when I’m around all animals – for the most part it is a dance of working out what is ok, what is not. When to move forward, when to step back. Intuition and trusting gut instincts is paramount. Sometimes those signals and feelings are subtle, sometimes they are deafening.

Yesterday I went out to the moors for the first time in three weeks with my camera. After a period of time without a car, I was champing at the proverbial bit to find those wild-ones. I went way up onto the moors and came across a herd that I’ve spent a lot of time with now, building relationships with them. But there are always new members to navigate each visit so it keeps me on my toes. I noticed yesterday how incredibly interactive the ponies were, they simply wanted to come in very close indeed. A young and highly spirited colt spent a long time edging forward, eventually to sniff my head and nibble my hat. IMG_0986.JPGIt was a gorgeous, gorgeous moment because the time had been spent to allow that to happen. And for it to happen I had to be OK with all the other herd members too. Being amongst them when this happens is hard to describe. I often find myself with tears in my eyes, recognising how special it is to be so close. Nothing is taken for-granted, because it can also change in a moment if they get distracted or spooked or if they just plain fancy a gallop with the rest of the herd. What is peaceful can change on the flip of a coin. This is a process. I haven’t arrived anywhere, it will always be ongoing and surprising. Perhaps that is part of what draws me in closer and closer – it feels real, it is ‘out of control’, but for us in our often over-controlled modern world, this feels a vital teaching. It’s extremely valuable to learn to be more in the ‘moment’.

Driving homeward I stopped at the place I saw Bluebell last. This is the place where I’d taken a longer walk and fallen into the mire briefly. This is a place where those ponies are pretty well protected as there is a lot of unstable ground in terms of walking there, it is super-boggy in places. I walked along and saw the herd on the hill and a solitary pony having a snooze near some gorse. As I looked up, a mare began trotting and then galloping towards me, making lots of whinnying along the way. She stopped right in front of me and was extremely curious as to whether I had brought anything along food-wise. Several more of the herd did exactly the same thing, catching the excitement of this first mare.IMG_1212 They ran over and nuzzled me, gave me a bit of a barge and hung out a while – it was so exhilarating! I could not see Bluebell anywhere and imagined that she was far up on the tor with the others I could see in the murky light. And then…. then I heard a rustling and I looked into the gorse thicket where one pony had been standing all along. And the most incredibly exciting feeling washed over me as I saw Bluebell. And then…. and then, joy of absolute joys….. I saw the tiniest foal. Incredibly tiny and very young, maybe a day or so.

The most delightful news that I wish to share with you is that Bluebell has had a foal! The most beautiful colt. And he is much like her – curious, friendly and rather eccentric. Spending time around one so young, being circled and held within the herd as they are and I was, has a magic that I will never, ever be able to put a value on. The experience of that has lit up my heart and soul in a way that I can’t describe. My delight for her, for the herd and for my own self being lucky to experience this is huge. That beautiful colt tried to approach me but I just didn’t want him to get too close. Something about that didn’t feel OK just yet for me. But I swear he recognised my voice because his response to me calling for his mother was one of familiarity and warmth. He held absolutely no fear. Of IMG_1301.JPGcourse, all the time she has been pregnant I’ve been around her periodically and chatted away to her about how beautiful she is, how many humans are touched by her ways. We often hear about talking to human babies in the womb. I had not realised that I was talking to Bluebell’s unborn whilst I was around her all this year. There was me thinking that she had been eating rather a lot of the moorland goodies and she was in foal.

As I stood with the them all, tears filled my eyes. Tears of joy, tears of surprise, tears of recognition of the incredible honour of being there with them at such a vulnerable moment. I smiled and smiled inside. I congratulated my friend and her herd, telling them how grateful I was to be there with them and how excited I was for them to have new life in their world. I also worried for that tiny soul, will he make it through the winter, will he be ok? And then I watched as he played and teased his mother, springing around like a mountain goat. This is how it is to love. The fear of loss is immediate, but love we must – no matter what, these ponies teach me so much about love and loss and everything else in between. Everything is subject to change. And I thought to myself… with this family, with this protection and love around him, his wild, tenacious spirit and with those instincts. He just may make it. I do so very dearly hope so…..

 

With gratitude to Bluebell and her incredible herd. And for the new colt that has arrived, long may you remain little one. What a delight to share in the wonder of new life with the ponies of Dartmoor.

Fi x

 

All images are my own and therefore respectfully © Fi Takács

Fine Art Giclée Prints of photographs are also for sale. All beautiful, high quality prints and limited edition. Do contact me for further info –  Connect

 

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King Of The Outsiders

My life has changed beyond recognition in the past five years or so. I did not imagine in those early days that this new direction would bring me – here. And where is that exactly? Because I seem to be on a journey that leads into vastly uncharted waters. People often say about getting outside of our comfort zones, well I can safely say that over the last few years, comfort has been a less frequent visitor. At times I’ve felt deeply uncomfortable. I’ve been delving into new worlds, new experiences and pushing my own boundaries – a lot. I’m sure you may wonder why? In moments, I’ve asked myself that very same question and even thought of putting all of this down and doing something else, but there has been a nagging urge to keep on climbing the metaphorical ‘mountain’.

This work with animals and nature teaches me tenacity. They teach me to feel my discomfort – even when I can’t do anything to make that better. They teach me to push my boundaries, to move beyond what I think is possible and to get on with what ‘is’. In hearing their point of view, in understanding their feelings, I have more perspective of us also. I’ve begun to see a much broader spectrum by listening to animals. Their wisdom is inherent. We are not the only ones who have something valid to say, nor the only ones with knowledge. It is just different ways of speaking and of understanding. The more time I’ve spent in wild nature and around wild creatures, the more I’ve been drawn to listening to them. It was not what I anticipated in the early days, but it’s very much what I’m being asked to do more of. It seems that so many of us are in desperate need of understanding our own wildness. I do believe that it’s this wildness that holds part of the key to us changing the way we are living on our planet.

Much of my time out on Dartmoor is now spent around the wild ponies. I’m slowly beginning to get to know the herds and there is one in particular that I’ve been photographing for the past couple of months. I went to seek them out again last week and as I clambered up the rocky incline to the tors ahead, I came across my familiar mares and foals greeting them along the way. As I got to the top, I saw two young male foals having quite a few games and teasing each other. At one point it got quite rough but that’s normal for them so I just stood back observing them. They were very gentle with me, but with each other it was different. I spent a good long time around them, noticing also that this herd had grown substantially in size. There now seemed to be three herds joined together and around sixty ponies in total. I could see a new band of them right up on the far hill and walked towards them with excitement. What happened along the way in terms of photography was pretty breathtaking. There are times that I’m out in nature and amongst the horses when they give so much. So many opportunities come, so much beauty is translated into the images that I bring home. I’ve developed my own way to approach them – I never, ever assume that I can or that it’s my right. That has been a key to transformation. Sometimes I meet animals who grab me so strongly with their presence that I can’t stop thinking about them. I met one such majesty recently on the moor. He had such an energy about him that it stopped me dead in my tracks and it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.

As I stood there, semi in shock, I realised that I was in the presence of someone formidable. I felt some anger coming from him and also a serious message to step back, I felt fear – mine or his or both? I rarely get that feeling so I followed it immediately. IMG_7955I backed up and looked over to where he stood. I’d been completely thrown as I’d not seen him as I photographed the rest of the herd. But as soon as I did, I couldn’t take my attention away from him. I believe I was in the presence of an Appaloosa cross Stallion, and boy what a stallion. I felt his discomfort immediately. After being so involved with the herds and feeling so comfortable, his discomfort was palpable. I also felt his sadness. It just wouldn’t leave me. I looked at him in his majestic beauty, his physical size much larger than the others and I felt his feeling of not belonging. He was uncomfortable, he felt left out and I could see why. No matter how hard he tried to blend in, his size and markings made him entirely different to the others he was around. How many of us have felt profoundly out of place at times? I do wonder. I also love to think about the power in the messages that all animals bring us, because there is never any accident when they cross our paths. I really could understand his feeling out of place, his feeling of not belonging, his feeling of being different – I imagine that so many of us can. This is the message I have received from him:

I call to your heart and I ask you this – how does it feel to you when you do not belong? I do not belong here amongst these others, set alone against the landscape. Where are the others of my kind? I am lonely here, just me. I wish I had my familiars around me, my family, my kin. I long to be with them again, but for now I am separate. I stand here, mighty in my stature, feeling uncomfortable so I hide. But I was not born to hide, it is not my natural way of being. Even blending here against the ancient stones I cannot help but be conspicuous. I am uncomfortable with my work here – I have never been considered as to whether I wish to do this. I am more than just a seed. I am more than just a breed. I am wild and that is what I most wish to be. I wish to be free of the tasks that men set me, the jobs they feel I am here to do. I just wish to be. There is nothing else for me that is more important than to fulfil my duty and responsibility to the land and to the Earth. We are here as guardians, as protectors. Yet so many remain blind to that. They do not see us. They do not see our mighty task, they do not see their own. I feel forgotten here. I have not lost my connection to the Earth, the land, the sky, the stars, yet somehow I do feel lost. I do not wish to frighten others, but part of me is angry that I have been forgotten. I wish it could be different. One day I will return to my essence, my wildness but for now I am in chains. You may see me here and think that I have a life of freedom but while we are beholden – we can never be totally free. We are not so different you and I. You too suffer the feeling of restriction, of not being able to honour your own wildness. You look like you are free but also you are caught in chains. The chains may not be visible but they are there just the same. We all long to belong, to feel connected, to feel peace. But yet so often we are separated, isolated, lonely. I remind you of that feeling, I remind you of your own feelings that you cannot hide, that you feel alone or separate, your fear that you do not always belong. How many of you feel this way? As you work with those feelings within yourself and with other humans, you will help bring each other back to wholeness. Do not ignore these feelings – delve into them and know that as you work with this, you are also working with us. There will come a time when you will know harmony again, but first you must feel uncomfortable, you must acknowledge the disharmony and the discomfort. It is not too late. We call to you to begin the journey.”

IMG_8036As I look through his message I can feel so much within it. I can understand his feeling of isolation, of not belonging, of trying to hide but not being able to. As humans I feel that we so often just want to ‘be ourselves’ but frequently that is a complicated task. We worry what others think of us, we are troubled by our desire to fit in. We wish to be free yet on many levels we are restricted. How different are we from our animals at times? How different are their desires from ours? We all long to be happy and accepted and to just be. How that is for each person is different, but the desire for it draws us all together – it connects us. I wish I could bring that beautiful stallion a band of appaloosas so that he could be at peace (or return him to them). I wish for him that he could feel less conspicuous. I wish for him that he was not so beholden to the ways of man. But let me ask this question – are we not just as beholden in some ways? We may think we are free, but so often we are not. I really do feel that as we begin to honour our own wild nature, our own desires to be free and each others desires too we will be much more able to honour the desires of our animals. Just as much as we may long to be heard and respected, so do they. The wisdom they hold is immense, if we can only tap into it. I believe that they have many answers for us as to how to return us all to a much greater state of harmony. I do believe its possible, but as this stallion reminds me – there is discomfort to feel first. Sometimes we have to feel the opposite to bring us right back to where we need to be. Speaking only from my own experience and feeling of discomfort as I began this journey, I will say this – it really is worth the work.

Here’s to this moorland King – to me he is a King for he has his mighty presence. Whether he ‘belongs’ here or not, he belongs to the Earth and that is more than enough for any of us. Go well beauty, wherever you may be.

With gratitude and love,

Fi x

All images are my own and therefore respectfully © Fi Takács

Fine Art Giclée Prints of photographs are also for sale. All beautiful, high quality prints and limited edition. Do contact me for further info –  Connect

 

 

Wild Horses Do Stop Me

The animals often visit me when I’m asleep. Sometimes I feel that it’s because in our waking reality messages can be difficult to get across – when we sleep we are so much more open to receiving information. Dreams are heart and soul time. Last night was no exception.

Whilst deeply sleeping, one after one, the wild horses came. They appeared in a long line, far into the distance. Each one greeted me separately, each one so very different. Many of them were pale-coloured, almost ethereal. But one thing held them all together, one thing, they all shared – their wisdom, their peace. It was overwhelming. I reached to touch them, I could hear them breathing through their noses, I could smell that sweet smell that horses have. They were so gentle, so knowing and so powerful. They didn’t need to assert their power to prove it, they just knew what they are capable of. As each one came, I felt filled with peace. I felt filled with their energy, their knowing, their stillness, their strength and power. I was overwhelmed with love. IMG_6045 - Copy.JPGAs I looked at each one, noticing their uniqueness, I couldn’t understand how we’ve got to where we are now, I couldn’t understand how we pick them out and decide which shall live and which shall die. Every wild horse that stepped forward was as individual as you or I. Every wild horse deserved to live. I know that during that dream when I woke a couple of times realising it was a dream, a smile ran through my whole being. I felt like the horses themselves were visiting me over night, reminding me to keep going with what I’m doing. I woke feeling more inspired than ever to be part of their cause, to help be one of their voices. And there are many of us acting as their voices right now and we speak in many different ways. We share the cause across the globe, we unite. Our voices need to get louder. We need more of us.

I’ve been thinking about the plight of wild horses so much recently – not just here in the UK but all across the world. I learnt through a new friend that there are wild horses in Brazil that are now endangered – their population dwindling from 4000 to 200. The mustangs – an American icon, seem set to have their population cut drastically yet again. The wild ponies here have their numbers reduced every year. For all the love we feel of wildness and spending our weekends or holidays in nature, there is often little we know about the reality of that and how we are managing those spaces and the creatures that live on and around them. Perhaps we don’t realise their struggles, their fragility, their worth. I absolutely love the foals here on Dartmoor – they have a unique energy. There is something so ancient about them and other worldly, people fall madly for them. Yet many just won’t make it – numbers of them are culled each year. I’ve begun to feel that photographing wild horses is like photographing ghosts. I see them and then they disappear. They’re recorded as having been here but not for long. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I know that there are plenty of people that may think me over-sentimental about such things and that there are practicalities to be taken in hand, things need to be controlled. But knowing the sensitivity of these amazing beauties, working around them, getting closer to them each time I meet them – it feels awful to know what they go through. I just don’t want to lose them. It’s an unbearable thought that they could disappear because we may not understand enough of their value. And I’m not alone in this feeling. Once a horse has touched your heart, there is no coming back from that. It’s hard to explain, but they just kind of get under your skin.

When a wild horse stops right in front of you and looks you straight in the eyes, well….. that is something else – it is pure connection. I had a wild, pregnant mare follow me with my camera, keen to come closer and as our eyes locked, I was unable to do anything other than erupt in tears. I realised that we are in serious danger of losing our wild animals – it hit me hard. I can remember the healing that was present as she stayed with me, it was a total surrender to the moment. IMG_8967.JPGI’ve never known that much peace before – she looked directly at me and did not move her gaze. I felt that she saw straight into my soul. And with everything that we humans do to animals, with everything that we take from them, all I felt from her was pure love. Perhaps it was that, that got to me the most – to feel that love, in-spite of everything. That is unconditional. Whether it’s never happened to you before, or whether you’ve experienced it many times is no matter, it’s incredibly powerful. It’s also transformational. And I fully think that they mean to do that. I feel that they call out to us and our wildness. They call us to remember our wild selves, our uniqueness, our connection to our entire environment. They call us to remember the urgency of their cause, of the cause of wild creatures across the Earth. Most of all, they call us back to love. And love is the most powerful force that exists, it can override absolutely everything. It’s not rational, we never know when it may happen, but when it does, it’s all-encompassing.

The love we speak about amongst humans is often connected to romance, or families, or friendships between each other. But there is a whole other love that can (and does) happen with animals can be a catalyst for change. They will, and do, offer us their hearts completely – with such honesty. Many of us have animal friends at home, but there are wild animals to experience love and connection with too, animals that just may let us a little closer at times, ones that can completely steal our hearts and stir our souls. I know that if we all woke up one morning, filled with the same love and respect for animals simultaneously, the whole world would shift beyond measure. Certain behaviours would become unimaginable. I think the grief it would unlock could be huge. But that would be worth it for us to feel connected again, to re-connect with animals, nature, ourselves and therefore – each other.

I spend a lot of time on Dartmoor photographing the wild ponies and being in the wild landscape. The more I’m around them, the more I feel their magic. I’ve been around tiny groups of ponies, spending a few hours with them and found myself transformed by the experience. When I share time with them, observe them, become part of their group for a while, it is like being part of a whole different reality. I lose time with them, but come away totally enriched. I don’t seek them out to have that experience, it seems to unfold. It is such a simple thing that happens, yet the value is immense. So when the wild herd came to me in that dream last night, I knew, yet again that it was no accident. Dreams like that stir things up, inspire me to write, inspire me to carry on. I recognised in the dream that these moments, and these horses that were coming, were part of the collective herd of wild horses across the globe. That same energy is present each time I’m with them and return with the images that they gift to me. I simply do not feel that I take anything from them. It is up to them if they wish to share their essence with me, their lives with me, their time. Enough of the taking. It’s surprised me with the photography that the moments people seem to most respond to are the moments where there is a deep peace present. Call of the WaitingPerhaps I imagined that it would be the galloping groups or the stallions fighting that would gain the most attention, but it doesn’t seem so. Although those are absolutely stunning moments to witness and record, and people are wowed, it’s the stillness that reaches out. That stillness, that peace – it touches us on a deep level. I believe it brings us straight back to ourselves and our knowing of what is possible, even what is really needed for us – now. We are in desperate need of remembering that peace and harmony are our birthright. The more time I spend with wild horses and wild nature, the more I know that they hold the key to something very, very special. I hope that we will have the chance to learn what that is before it’s too late.

In celebration of all wild-hearts across the globe wherever you may be.

With gratitude and love,

Fi x

Lose the capture, receiving is believing

I fell into photography by accident. I didn’t really ever mean for it to get serious. At first it was a tool one winter to keep me enjoying the moorland when it was too cold for me to do my landscape drawings outside. I’d spent many months on the moors, working for hours on oil pastel landscape pieces, refusing to create them inside. I loved the atmosphere that came through when they were generated in the place itself, but when it got to the winter I hit a stumbling block. My hands just wouldn’t work for long enough in that cold! So I bought my first little point and shoot digital camera. Very basic, but really great for keeping up my momentum to be out in the elements in all weathers.

The first time I took my little camera up on the moors, I came across a group of three wild ponies walked up to where they were, standing right in front of them. I fully jan-feb2012 036expected them to move but they didn’t, they stood neatly in a row and let me take my time as I played around with the camera. It was an amazing experience, one that I look back on as formative – not just for photography in future, but also as the beginnings of my passion connecting much more deeply with animals. That passion has lead me to becoming an Animal Communicator. The more work I do connecting with animals, the more that fuels my passion for photography and vice versa. It’s something I never could have predicted happening but it’s the source of massive joy. It’s that joy that I dearly wish I could share with others. I work often with domesticated animals which is wonderful, but there is something magical about spending time in wild nature and learning how to get closer to wild animals too. The lessons for me are incredible and teach me a huge amount about patience and releasing all expectations of what may happen. I often go out with the bit between my teeth, itching to be on the land and with my camera, but I never, ever know what’s going to happen. I’ve rarely returned without something wonderful occurring, whether or not the photographs have turned out. I’m learning so much about not worrying if things don’t happen. In a culture where we are often so focussed on getting ‘results’ that are tangible and physical, I’m all for easing that pressure and enjoying experiences – whatever they bring. Sometimes all I have is a story. I can’t record everything, I don’t always have the camera ready and even if I do, some things are sacred and never can be ‘captured’.

It’s a funny expression to ‘capture’ or to ‘take’ photographs. I don’t’ really feel like I take anything at all. One of the great things that I continue to learn as an Animal Communicator is that moving towards an animal with an agenda, or too many questions, or just with too much intention, can be really counter-productive. Animals definitely know what we’re up to and if I walk towards a band of horses with an attitude to take something from them or get what I want, I’m sure they’d just play me for a while. They may even get really cross and shoo me off aggressively, disliking my energy coming towards them. Or they may run off before I get anywhere near them! I’ve definitely had it happen and it’s made me think a lot about my intentions when I’m hoping that I’ll come home with some lovely photographs. The thoughts I’ve come to have been to switch my approach so I never feel that I’m taking, rather that I’m receiving. That’s been the turnaround for me in all my work and it’s such a link between them all.

IMG_6402 - CopyMy relationship with domestic and wild animals has altered significantly – there’s been a lot of magic unfolding, more than I’ve actively noticed before anyway. I relish spending time out in nature and with all the creatures that turn up along the way. There have been many occasions where I’ve gone out hoping for something to happen and only when I give up on the idea of that and start my drive home, something really wonderful happens! Suddenly a herd of horses appear or I catch sight of some incredible flowers, or the grasses against the horizon line look particularly beautiful. I feel that when we are more deeply connecting and connected with nature, the world can look very different. As we work more and more with that connection, something develops – nature and animals love us to notice them – they love to be appreciated and greeted, to be respected and cherished. For me, that’s when photography comes alive, because it is about coming from the heart. It becomes filled with spontaneity and that is the essence of the natural world. It’s not a way of escaping from the world as some may think – but a way of more deeply engaging with all that is around us. Sometimes that’s beautiful, sometimes it’s brutal. Nature is, of course – all things. One of my dearest wishes would be to share how it feels to connect more with nature and our animals and how transformational that can be.

I’ve had a deep love of nature since I was very young but it’s been in the last few years that it has taken on another level. There is no doubt in my mind that the way I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) to listen to animals has changed me on every level. It’s this way of listening and slowing myself down when I’m engaging with the natural world that allows things to happen. All the meditation I did over the years didn’t quite get me to this place in myself. When I’m out in nature I feel absolutely free, I’m not trying to still my mind or quieten my senses, it tends to happen all on its own. This is what nature and the animals teach me. How to be still and how to be utterly in the moment. When a wild foal approaches me, there is nothing I can do other than to be completely in that interaction. When I see a flower that I can’t pass without photographing, that brings me into another kind of present moment. I’m totally engaged with that plant, with observing it’s beauty in new ways, seeing details and personality that I may not have noticed if I hadn’t stopped for a while. It’s amazing what can happen when we’re looking at the world with fresh eyes and senses.

Today I was on the moor with my camera. I came across a set of wild ponies I met a few weeks ago. There seemed to be two new foals amongst them which was beautiful to witness and one couldn’t have been more than a few days old. IMG_6392.JPGKeeping my energies very gentle, I approached the herd slowly, greeting them and acknowledging their new arrivals. Quite exquisite! They were so generous with me and let me in closer and closer, at first letting me in at a distance with the babies. Then within a short while, one of the young foals edged closer and closer, started sniffing my hand, then my shoulder and eventually he touched his head on my forehead, resting it there for a while. He even nuzzled in as if grooming. My heart filled with delight – a fullness that is hard to describe. These are wild ponies – it’s their rules, not mine so it’s always humbling if they let me near. It was a moment I wished someone else could have photographed, because I’d love to have shared that image or seen it for myself! I was so caught up in what was happening I have no idea how long I was there with him or that herd. Somehow time seemed to stand still. It could have been ancient or modern times, it’s that same connection that as inhabitants of planet Earth we have shared for aeons.

Maybe many of us seem far away from that now, but deep down I think we do feel that connection still, even if it’s buried away. Watching how many people get their phones out to snap away at the ponies or the Dartmoor landscape, it’s plain to see that our connection is not lost but merely dormant. Most of us delight in seeing wild horses run across the land, or lambs on the hills, our hearts flutter when we see puppies or kittens, we can’t help but admire the birds if we’re out walking. Most of us will feel upset if we see landscapes destroyed or creatures injured. When we deepen our bonds with all kinds of animals it is much more difficult to accept the horrors that they often endure because they are at our mercy. My dearest wish is that we choose to awaken our senses again and remember the beauty of connecting with many, many more species. It could be the key to drastic changes on our planet, changes that we so desperately need to make. Not just for ourselves, but for the welfare of our animals, the preservation of the natural world and the future of generations to come. I will say this time and time again through these blog pieces because every moment I spend in nature and with animals convinces me of how vital it is. And quite simply, because I hope in some way to share the joy and help to be part of the legacy for our amazing planet.

With gratitude and love,

Fi x

The whittling of a forest’s tears

A couple of years ago I came across a set of beautiful reservoirs right in the moor. I remembered them vividly in that romantic and nostalgic way. Driving out there again, filled with anticipation for the gorgeous forest around the waters edge, I turned the corner and my heart sank. What I hadn’t bargained for when I turned up was the sight that greeted me. What I hadn’t considered, was destruction.

A mass of felled trees, mostly pines were stacked up – part of the forest now barren and bare. The remnants of bark, branches and leaves were now dying back. Severed, rough and torn branches, sawdust, sharp cuts, tree trunks. IMG_3382The stacked tree-spines were numbered with spray-paint. It’s a sight that’s not unfamiliar, but often it’s removed from my daily life. But it has to happen somewhere right? So why not here. We need fuel and resources to survive, but coming across it first hand felt a shock. Much of the process that brings us resources, food and energy are far from sight. They often happen somewhere ‘else’. In many ways, I’m sheltered from that, especially living close to such natural beauty. On some level, I was being brought back to the truth – we do take an awful lot from our Earth. Simply that. 

I felt uncomfortable. But I wanted to sit with that feeling and dig a little deeper.  For such a lover of wood and wood fires – I wondered if I had the right to be upset? So I owned my part in all of this. I stayed with the trees, I walked further in and got a real sense of what was going on. Then I realised that it was something about the manner of the destruction didn’t sit well with me. I simply just didn’t like the feeling of the place. Getting close to the sawn trunks, I saw the sap oozing from them, like blood from a wound, the area around them felt like it had been trampled on without respect. This, I realised was the discomfort, rather than the harvesting. How could I honour the lives of these majestic beings that had been felled in their prime? 

As a long-term gardener I’ve spent so much time around plants and over the years my attitude to them has significantly changed. Since becoming an Animal Communicator, my connection has deepened and broadened not only with animals but with all living things – I experience our Earth as a whole being, understanding much more of my connection and inter-connection with all beings. IMG_3413Trees, plants, animals, humans, mountains, oceans, elements, earth, everything – it’s all part of one and the same. It’s all part of me and part of us all – we are inextricably linked. I wondered how different that place might have felt if the felling of the trees had been done with love, gratitude and respect? My experience of working with plants over the years has shown me some massive changes that can happen quite simply when love and respect is present. I’ve noticed how plants can thrive, I’ve also noticed how they decline. Our energy and our intentions count – they do and we do, affect those around us. I mused on that day about how differently we could do things.

When a storm happens and rips and tears things, that’s an act of nature. When we destroy landscapes and resources to get what to what we want, that is taking. And taking can’t happen endlessly without giving in return. How we approach nature, our needs, our desires, our survival – it is all set with intentions. Intentions can be fuelled with respect or lack of it. IMG_3533As a human living on this planet, just by being here I will use the resources that are around me – that is part and parcel of being alive. The animals do it, the plants do it, the oceans do it. We are all in co-creation with each other. The animals understand their part on Earth and know that that it is all an intrinsic balance. Balance is a moveable feast and goes on and off and must be re-dressed. So what was I going to do about that? On that day, what was I going to do about it? I looked around at that scene, the destruction, the desolation – knowing it was a drop in the ocean of what occurs. Then I saw a wren standing on the branches of a felled tree, I saw it dive into the undergrowth. I knew that there was hope. I stood by a tree stump and vowed to create something of beauty from that destruction and to bring it back to the site and photograph it there. Carefully selecting a couple of pieces of wood I returned home.

Having been recently inspired by several friends taking up wood carving, I decided it was time to start. I took out my unused tools and began to make a spoon. I whittled away at that piece of wood, I carved and carved. My hands got cut, my hands got blistered – I saw this as part and parcel, and the sacrifice I was making for the creation. It was nothing on the tree’s sacrifice. I felt my gratitude growing. At points I wanted to give up – this was seriously hard work! But the desire to finish, to feel that I had honoured my part of the bargain took over – on I went. Sitting amongst a pile of wood-shavings, I found myself going back into my roots, to some deeper part of myself that intrinsically knows that this is the thing to do – to create my own vessels and utensils, my own beautiful and functional objects to have around my home. No machine can do this, even buying from someone else cannot do this in the same way. However weird and wonderful the result, the satisfaction levels reached in creating something of our own are immense.

I’ve been an artist for many years, so I’m all too aware of the pitfalls along the way – much can be lost in the making. Some things break, right before fruition, some things just don’t work, some things look great and that’s it! I can see why we have little time or inclination to begin at times, but there is so much to be found in the making. I could never put into words the satisfaction that can happen. So I finished my spoon and oiled it with walnut oil and returned it to the forest, placing it on the tree-trunk. My heart began to balance and I filled with respect and gratitude. I had been able to honour that tree in my own very small way. From that destruction a new path of creation had begun. When I turned up that day and felt my heart fall to the floor, I never imagined the way things could turn around. 

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I urge us to face that which makes us uncomfortable and see just what we may be able to do to redress the balance. It may just surprise you, it may even fill you with hope and optimism about what is possible. It may fire you up to create changes of your own, however small. We can, together, move mountains. The direction is up to us. Please don’t let the desolation render you powerless, let it fuel your passion, let it be a catalyst for positive change. Let it fuel your power for creating the kind of world we wish to leave for the generations to come.  

With gratitude and love for the unexpected inspiration that happened that day in the forest. And for my very first spoon, carved from a forgotten piece of a pine tree….

Fi x

 

Listening through the bones

I would like to talk about death. Plain and simple, there it is. Hang on in there with me a moment and let’s get through that beginning – there is a story to be told. If you look closely, the natural world is a place where the battle of life and death plays out at every given moment. In previous posts I touch on this time and time again because I’m faced with it in my work – time and time again. Whatever the form life takes, all is in a constant state of change and flux. It is simply the way of things.

Driving over the moor today I saw the unfamiliar sight of an animal skeleton by the roadside. It’s not often that I see one and my inquisitive nature meant that we had to stop and walk over to take a closer look. I wanted to know if it was a wild pony as I expected it was. There was virtually nothing left on those bones but a solitary black hoof, a bizarre confirmation of the life that had been there before. img_2921-copyPart of the skeleton had gone, the remaining coat and mane dotted about in the grass. It was an eerie scene. As the skeleton highlighted the barren landscape further, my thoughts were drawn right back to base level – survival. There is something about being faced with this reality as part of life that always shocks me into the present moment. This knowing was brought to me by the presence of this pony, and I didn’t want it to go unnoticed. Or her. My work leads me to deepening my understanding with animals that have passed over or who are close to death. Listening to what they have to say at this point is extremely powerful. Animal communication is not limited to animals who are physically alive, but works also with those who are in spirit. Honouring that essential part of life rather than shying away from it is very dear to my heart, so I knew that coming across this skeleton was no accident.

I love the symbolism that is brought to us through the natural world, it is never lost on me. Why had we found her today? Only a week ago I’d mingled with the herd and it had been entirely different. As I looked over the remains I asked myself where was this mirroring my own life? I remembered that not all death is physical. As areas of my own life die back and fall away, I am stripped back to my bare bones – the bare bones of who I am. In some ways, I too feel exposed – almost skeletal. Yet I still live. Part of me feels like it has gone, but the essence of my being remains. That which has been let go has had it’s purpose, I can no longer carry all of me forward. Some things do have to be left behind to experience new life. As I observed the remains of this pony and let the reality of this sink in, I recognised that this was her gift to me. For this mare, her new beginning was to return to the Earth, to nourish the land and to be released from her body. Nothing in nature is wasted. The manner of her death was fully present – which by the roadside left little to the imagination. Broken bones and all. I felt saddened by how disposable life can be for our animals (and us). A vast amount of deaths happen each day but we are often shielded from that reality. I often photograph the very essence of life with the wild ponies, and it is fitting that the opposite should be given attention too. Balance must remain. We are all – bones.

Today’s parting gift was the message I felt from this mare which I am honour-bound to share. For me it remains a reminder to always embrace the beauty that life itself – is.

Calling from these bones, I ask you to remember the truth of who you are. You are just a dot upon this land and all of us have our allotted time. Do not fear death, do not fear life! It is but a snippet of time before all has passed and this physical reality is gone. Revel in it, celebrate it, dance with it and enjoy the companionship of all those around you – be they your blood kin or the kin of all life. See how my bones return to the land as yours will too some day? Does this make you uncomfortable? How do you feel as you look upon me now, dishevelled, bare and exposed upon the ground? We are no different you and I, not at this level – we all return to the Earth. What is important is how well you live upon the Earth whilst you are here. Can you make it count? Feel the harmony of your being, see the beauty in death and understand that in life all things must come to an end. Death is but a part of the cycle – it is the inevitability of change. In every moment of life there is death and re-birth. You are not immune – no being can escape this, no matter how advanced. This is the truth that binds us all together. We are but one and the same. We all want to live and there is value to all life. Yet day in day out life is born and life ends, life is born again. There is no greater truth than this.”

With gratitude and love, for this beautiful mare and her teachings….

Fi x

Dying to be herd

Last night I had the most beautiful dream. It is what I have been waiting for. It is more than two years now since the herd first came to me and asked me to tell their story. When I woke, I knew that now was the moment, there was no more time to waste. I couldn’t wait to get writing.

In the dream I was with friends. We wandered into a cafe for coffee and as this happened I noticed that there was a beautiful dairy cow standing outside. Then I realised that part of this cafe was also a shop, a butchers counter stood in full view. In came the cow and she sat down on the tiled floor, beautiful and majestic. Internally I gasped wondering what may be next. The sheer size of her was staggering. Her udder wasn’t over swollen, she just looked naturally as she should be. Next, in came her calf. He too sat down on the floor calmly. By this point I was over there standing with them, stroking and cuddling the calf – he had attracted quite a crowd. In this moment, the love between us was huge and this youngster was incredibly friendly and trusting, I knew it was unusual. In walked the farmer with fire in his eyes. I smiled at him and asked what this young calf’s name was. “oh no, we don’t name them” he said as I saw him choke back the tears “because, you know….” I looked at this man, puzzled as I still experienced the bubble of harmony and said “but… what?” I was baffled. Seeing this man’s hard exterior, the walls he’d put up to deal with his work, with the emotion behind those eyes – that look will stay with me. I’ve seen it before. I felt myself extend compassion to him, seeing his knowing. A young boy was also now stroking the calf, his parents taking photos. I noted the irony. Both these young males – one with virtually no life to live, the other with it all ahead of him. One born to captivity, the other ‘free’, probably not yet knowing anything of the realities for this gorgeous animal he felt nothing but love for. Further inside the room, another young calf had come in, this was one of those gorgeous tan-coloured cattle that I have recently been so captivated by on the moors. He too had settled on the floor, right by the meat counter. Even more irony. I sat down by him, gesturing to my friend to take photos, I knew that there was magic present that would never come again. Never with this chap. I wanted to record this, to share it with the world, so that people could see the possibilities. He placed his head in my lap and I cradled it in my arms. The weight of it was incredible, and he closed his eyes in a sublime expression as I stoked and cuddled him. I closed my eyes too and felt the love, the trust, the divinity of this animal. I merged and melted into his energy. I have never felt that calm. It was incredible. He was smiling, as was I. There was a crowd of humans at this point, all taking photos. Even in the dream, I noted the irony of what was happening. Yet these animals were teaching us all in that place. Their presence created both discomfort and love. Their presence begged questions to be asked of all who were there observing.

img_9703I woke with such a smile on my face, a knowing that I had been helped by the herd to write this. The love that was brought with their message has overwhelmed me, but it has not surprised me. This piece, more than any has taken a very long time to write and form, probably because of the complexities involved. It is no easy subject. I read recently that we are all free to do as we please, but we must be ready to face the consequences of our actions. The more I have learnt about the dairy industry, the more this statement won’t leave me. Our behaviour towards animals sometimes staggers me and leaves me more uncomfortable than I can say. I have to admit that I wish we could go back to a world where we experienced much more balance with our animals, where we knew that to have some milk from a cow was a privilege, one that she bestowed upon us if we were lucky. After-all, it really is hers for her child, not ours to take. In my ideal world, we would have many animals around us that we are in relationship with, and we would respect them dearly. If they chose to give us milk, or their life, it would be with enormous gratitude that we would have this exchange. For me, this is where the balance has gone completely off kilter – we are very distant from what is needed to create the food that arrives at our tables. In our need to feed ourselves, which is pressing and all-encompassing, the how’s and what’s can be lost in the middle somewhere. We simply can’t engage with that. To not think about it is, a lot easier on the heart. I’ll admit that.

Last night I saw a post on social media about a young calf, a baby boy who had been at an animal sanctuary. He had been rescued and then, so sadly, despite massive efforts, had died. He was born to a mother who was a dairy cow and there was no use for him. He had been cast aside like a waste product and some kind souls had taken him to love and care for him. He had had less than three hours with his mother. No bonding for either of them. He is one of hundreds of thousands. The thought of that if we relate it into human terms is excruciating – imagine this for a moment and just sit with it. So why does it happen? And why do we consume so much? I can only think, with compassion in my heart, that most of us simply don’t know, and we don’t know what the alternatives are. It took me a very long time to understand, but there is no going back from knowing. There are alternatives. With rising dairy ‘intolerance’, the range of plant-based milks has multiplied, and now we do have choice. I read also that New York’s last dairy farm closed down recently, a real marker that people were changing. That filled my heart with hope. I do think it is made pretty difficult for us to find alternatives and whilst the demand continues, the supply will too. If our demands change, the supplies do – I live in hope that these small indicators of change will create much greater ripples. If alternatives can be made affordable, so that it doesn’t always become a question of economics, then changes really can become reality and quickly. I cannot remain silent to the disposable approach to animals, nature or Earth. Aside from the issue of money and many of us being on tight budgets, the costs for us, our animals and the planet are – huge.

I have spent a lot of time around cattle recently. They roam relatively freely up on the moor. There are many varieties and they are hardy souls. I have been humbled completely by them. I’ve spent hours photographing them. Watching the herd, seeing each individual face, their behaviour, you begin to notice how different they all are, if you spend longer, the connection can be quite extraordinary. I have felt the energy of those young pregnant females, so vulnerable yet curious. I have engaged with a highland cow with an intensity between us that blew me away. I have learnt so very much from them. On the other end of the scale, in the summer I stood with a herd of dairy cattle at a field gate. They gathered around in curiosity, taking a long time to trust coming over from the hillside. One cow in particular repeatedly nudged the gate, becoming more and more agitated. I felt her frustration, her anger – more than anything I felt her sadness. That sadness swelled inside me, in an incredible frustration, a knowing that I (she) had no choice. (I use the word ‘I’ because in that moment I was merged with her energy and felt it as mine, the knowing ran through my body). I simply couldn’t release the emotion, it was too much to bare. As I looked up at her again, I saw that tears were falling from her eyes. I was staggered. There was nothing I could do to stop my own as they ran in torrents. I could give those cows no solace, no explanation, I could only apologise. “When are you going to tell our story? she said. And here it is, from their point of view.

Two years ago the herd first came to me. I was meditating in the mornings with the purpose of tuning into the energy of the Animal Kingdom as a whole, asking for any guidance, any wisdom, any messages they had to share. I would sit in silence and wait. For a week or so, the cattle came. They joined me in a barren dust-bowl of a desert, the soil exhausted. They came from as far as the eye could see, stretching out to the horizon line as the sun was setting. I sat down amongst them and they circled me calmly and sat down themselves. As I was amongst the herd, they spoke to me of industrial farming, and the drastic effects that they were having as a species on the planet. They were so frustrated, they had no choice. As far as I could see in my mind’s eye, they stretched out to the horizon line. They were aware of their fate. One after the other they dropped away. I can only imagine they were trying to show me the velocity of their numbers being born and dying – it was so quick. I felt that they didn’t want to be a part of this huge imbalance on Earth, that they simply were prisoners of a system, one that has got so out of hand. Yet they sat in that desert with me, so calmly and so full of love. My resounding feeling from them was they just want us to realise what is going on, to wake ourselves up enough to understand. The weight they are carrying for us is huge. They urge us to change.

It doesn’t matter how nice dairy tastes, or how much we want it, or how we may want to eat quantities of meat – it’s the balance that is way off. It’s not our right to continuously take without gratitude, to endlessly drain the Earth of her resources. To take what we need is so very different to fulfilling our greed. Nature and the animals call us back to balance, they cry out to us. For those that are able to make choices and changes, to not eat so much meat or animal products, for those that can reduce that – it will and does, make a difference. Deep connection with nature can teach us the beauty of interconnection, bringing us back to the knowing that we all matter. We are in this together, all species, all life. This is one big relationship we are in on Earth. I hope we make it through the bad patch, right now, it is messy.

Everything that we receive, which sustains us, is a blessing. For every piece of food, every animal born, every vegetable grown, there is sacrifice.  To be able to sustain our lives is a blessing. I don’t ever want to forget that balance between sacrifice and life. My dream this morning woke me to the wisdom of the herd, loud and clear. At last I have honoured my part of the bargain and  shared their story. It is a weight off my mind, but not my heart.

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For the herd and all your teachings, your wisdom is immense, your sacrifice – greater. I live in hope that we may change.

With gratitude and love

Fi x