Not all forests are friendly, I should note this. On our journey south in early January we stop overnight in a French pine forest and my dreams are difficult: jarring images of a fat bronze spider worry at the edges of sleep, he winds the darkness around me with unclear intentions and so, in this dream after exhausting every avenue, I eat him. I eat the spider. I bite down on his body and swallow him whole. The trees are unimpressed and aloof you are not special they tell me in the morning. I agree. They also say that nobody has eaten the spider before. I do not know what this means. That day we move on.
As I dissolve into the river of creativity that is my Self I am bundled unexpectedly downstream. This final evolution becomes the first stroke in a new river as I embrace both fish & current, dipper & mayfly. This is the year of Following My Heart wherever she might lead, of self-directed creative evolution and awakening the mind to her potential – which is both a wonderfully poetic adventure, and a gnarly, awkward, knee-skinned-scramble across twilit liminal minefields.
When the trees agree to be my mentor they tell me we will begin when the snowdrops appear, but I first see them usher new life across Welsh landscapes, white petalled heads bowed in prayer to the land, on the Woodland Trust’s Instagram feed while we are in the winter sun of Portugal. As bright green stems fill land and eyes and timelines from over a thousand miles away I question – has my heart already misled me? She calls me to Portugal to swim in the winter sun when the snowdrops are blooming in Wales? I expected them to arrive in February when we would be back, but it is at this time the Eucalyptus trees unexpectedly reach out: not like the Welsh Oak with rooted wisdom, not like the French Pine with aloof caution, but open and warm with generous healing.
We have to return to Wales for work at the end of January and I anticipate the Welsh trees’ mentorship, but they are quiet in their communications except to say that their silence is to support my connection to the Eucalyptus. I ache to return to Portugal but cannot see how to manage it with work; how to explain to my partner: we have to go back to Portugal so that I can dream with the Eucalyptus trees, but also that I have no idea what will come of it. In the meantime work commitments pile up like boxes against the return door I am attempting to wedge open with dreams and promises that wobble under the weight of expectation and obligation, and we decide that getting to Portugal in April is quixotic and impractical.
But this is the year of Following My Heart and she begs me to start in the spring, in the fire of the Portuguese sun, under the guidance of the Eucalyptus. The next day I wake feeling that heart and mind might split into two from the lightning bolt shock of the broken heart-promise and so I apply logic, rational thinking and cynicism to convince myself that returning would be a huge folly. I spend the morning in tears. The sun and Eucalyptus are calling, and I do not know where it will lead but I know that if I turn away now then I have denied my heart at the very first sign of difficulty and like a sun halo or fire-rainbow sunset I will not know when the next opportunity might offer their hand – if ever.
During this time inspirations arrive via friends or connections: these words from Charlotte Du Cann:
“The eucalyptus is a fire tree. It flourishes within the heat of the desert sun, in the forest fire, its roots plunged deep into the soil. The fiery oil held in its leaves drives out the cold in the human body, dries up the marshy land of colder continents. When it is scorched by fire, the tree grows new skin, the shoots jump out of the land. It stands in all shapes, all colours, surviving the drought of centuries and millennia of aboriginal hunters with firesticks driving out the game from its shade and underbrush, making space and light for food plants to spring up. The fertile ash feeds the soil. Everything starts again. …
… When you begin to dream a fire comes and scorches your old life away. A new one begins. It is not the same story you were told. Or rather if you looked at the story you were told, you might find the bones of this life, waiting there among the ghost gums, in the bones of yourself, in your dreams, for regeneration to begin.”
And I remember that over a decade ago my fire-dragon heart woke and razed my old life to the ground so that I might walk a new path into creativity, and I begin to get that itch, that inexplicable feeling portending the shedding of another skin. Charlotte’s words sing to my soul and the Rebel Sun commands me back to Portugal.
At the same time the citrine stone visits. I don’t wear jewellery (except Welsh gold earrings from my daughter) as I find it an unwelcome distraction. I also have a cynical approach to the use of crystals, so when citrine first makes an appearance on the horizon I have to swallow misgivings and carry out some research. I read that citrine is the stone of golden, radiant energy and when I stand in a shop in Abergavenny holding a double pointed (terminated) piece of the stone in hand I feel a pinch in the stomach and am both delighted that this bringer of creativity and good fortune has found me and aghast that I am turning into someone who is open to the notion that crystals might have some sort of effect, on what I do not know, but I cannot put it down and also hang a small piece of it on a long chain around my neck so that it sits near the solar plexus as I envisioned it the previous day.
The next day I share a waking dream with an old oak tree in south Wales in the falling snow; the ground concrete-hard beneath feet as I ask for guidance. It is so cold as to swallow sound and the tree’s thoughts so subtle I might have once missed them but I persevere and speak a poem, then take a few steps away from the tree, turn to face them and enact the connecting with a winter tree poem gifted by an oak in Bala the previous autumn. I receive this thought: you have my blessing. And I know that I have to go, to make the fifteen-hundred-mile pilgrimage back to Portugal so that I can being this new evolution in the spring, in the fire of the Portuguese sun, under the guidance of the Eucalyptus; I must make this journey so that I might raze the old stories I tell myself to the ground and then wait to see what creative seeds of ideas might sprout from beneath the ashes.