Samhain Quilt

As the pagan New Year approaches, I have been making preparations by completing the next quilt (or altar cloth or display cloth depending on who I am talking to) for my display, and also buying a pumpkin and deciding what to carve into it.

The quilt design is still based on 2” squares, but this time there are many triangles incorporated – which sometimes combine to make diamonds. I wanted a lot more movement in this quilt than the one for the equinox, reflecting the flames of this fire festival. Change can happen. New seeds can be sown in the Earth to put down roots through the winter. Ancestors can peek through the cracks and offer their advice and support. My colours are perhaps a little clichéd, but they are what felt right from my scraps pile – which may even fit in its cupboard again by the time I finish all 8 quilts… Now I just have the enjoyable task of creating my display on top, which like all of our displays will find ways of connecting to the seasons as well as the Sabbat, in this case Samhain and our ancestors being remembered.

Samhain Display Quilt


The vibrant orange in the quilt is almost identical in colour to the pumpkin I have found for this year. Pumpkins are a vegetable I have been carving for over 40 years now; I can remember primary school days when other children brought in carved turnips and swedes, and thinking what hard work it looked and why didn’t they just use a pumpkin? The bits we cut out of pumpkins tasted good in pies as well, mixed with enough sugar, eggs, cream and spices, whereas I don’t think we even ate turnips in our house. However as a child I just carved a face each year, whereas as an adult I like to carve more meaningful designs. One side to represent what has been important to me in the past year, the other to sow my seeds, hopes and dreams for the next year. I usually start thinking about what I will carve a week or so before the day, when I see what size pumpkin I have.

While planning a design always involves a period of reflection for me, as all spiritual art must come from within, this autumn it has been particularly intense.

I mentioned when writing about my Mabon quilt that I had hurt my hip and leg. I have no idea what I did, or exactly what is wrong, but walking and sewing are still very tricky for me, and as for any of the plans I had for when M was in school full time, my leg is clearly telling me they were the wrong plans. Luckily I have found cycling is even better than the physio exercises and really enjoyable in this mild autumn weather. Meanwhile I have had a lot of meditation time to think about what direction I should be going in.

The strange thing is that at the end of all this, I realised there is nothing I need to be doing right now except what I have been able to do – which is to look after my family and myself. Except now I have a very small difference in my approach. I value each person equally, including myself as an equal. I am ignoring messages from the media of what I should be doing to value or look after or pamper myself, because I don’t need it. I have no lack, and I have nothing to prove. As a result I am happier than I have ever been before as an adult. I know that even though I cannot do much right now, I should just enjoy the resting period. The future might suddenly be a lot busier.

So after all this thought, I plan to make this year’s pumpkin a joint family carve, using cookie cutters to make pictures since the first two requests of fairy and frog should be easier cut that way than freehand. I did a frog last year as well; it must have worked since our tadpoles have been hopping around the garden for the last two months. This year it might go on the thank you side.

Cycle Roads

Cycle 'Road'

Cycle ‘Road’

Once upon a time no cycle tracks were needed, because there was so little traffic bicycles had the roads to themselves. Then cycle tracks started to be created, first alongside busy roads and later on old railway lines or other random routes into the countryside. Sadly this isn’t a fairy story with the happy ending of a wonderful cycle network as enjoyed across the North Sea; councils here soon realised that they could tick boxes by incorporating painted cycle lanes on wide roads, and then abandoning them at narrow points or trees. Or assuming the average cyclist travels at eight miles per hour and is just out for a leisurely potter so won’t mind barriers or awkward junctions.

A downhill stretch.

A downhill stretch.

But just occasionally something comes along that is truly a Cycle Road, with a beautiful smooth surface and no through traffic except for bicycles. This is the case for a newly resurfaced road that runs for 2.5 miles in Derbyshire.

Once used for open-cast coal mining, the road was originally concrete slabs but had deteriorated badly through the last few decades of neglect. Imagine sharp-edged, deep, puddly pot-holes randomly placed along the whole length – having tried it maybe three times over the past 15 years I would consider it virtually unrideable on a ‘road’ bike, and I used to ride along a dirt track for a mile every day as part of a school commute!

One gate ...

One gate …

Now it is a perfect ribbon of smooth, black tarmac, traveling between hedges by the sides of fields with only the occasional farm or house along its length – and one gate to stop through traffic but which kindly leaves a bicycle-sized gap to one side. I suddenly feel like my dreams can come true, and that my belief that if it the right thing to be cycling with M, it will all work out okay and she will stay safe. There are fields, hedges, trees, a small woodland and streams that cross, connecting me with nature as I ride and watching the seasons change, instead of dodging traffic. It puts me in mind of comments made by Ordinary cyclists (ie penny farthings) in the nineteenth century, enjoying bowling along a beautiful surface. Oh how they would have loved this – and how we will too!

Cycling in the Nearly Rain

I don’t usually take M cycling in the rain. I don’t mind for myself, but I do like to get warm and dry afterwards. So it was unfortunate that the first opportunity we have had to go for an actual cycle ride, somewhere new, rather than just ‘transport’ on our regular route, it drizzled the whole time. Luckily M is still of a size to have a onesie rainsuit to fit her…

Since May we have upgraded the bike trailer for a Weehoo. For those unfamiliar with this relatively new tagalong, it features pedals but also a strap-in armchair seat, so is suitable from age 2-9 for children over three feet tall. The fact that M is not yet a pedal bike rider herself makes it exciting from her point of view, to be able to pedal and signal and have her own bell to ring, but I have found it rather challenging to pull!

The two-wheeled trailer we had acted as a big dead weight behind me, steadying out any wobbles from either of us, especially mine when in bottom gear uphill. The Weehoo, by contrast, amplifies every slightest error and is therefore subject to some interesting passenger-affected manoeuvres. However having only the one wheel, and the potential for passenger help up the hills (this is Derbyshire!), after a bit of practice I am finding it easier to pull despite being virtually the same weight overall.

The other big difference between the trailer and the Weehoo is starting and stopping. I have found a kickstand to be an essential piece of kit as, while I can just about manage to straddle the trailer bar to do up the straps for M, turning around without dropping my bike requires a level of gymnastic ability that I no longer possess. It also requires a very flat and stable area of ground. Luckily undoing the straps is easy and something she can almost do by herself before climbing out of the seat – provided she is awake! I have returned more than once with a sleeping passenger and have been sorry I could not simply leave her where she was, like I could with the trailer!

So for our first leisure ride, we had the opportunity to cycle the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire’s Peak District. I have walked a few sections, but a few years ago the six tunnels were reopened and cyclists have been able to ride a 8.5 mile stretch from near Bakewell to the railway junction outside Buxton, where trains still run. It is a slow ride! It can be pretty busy, even on a damp day, and the Weehoo makes fast changes in direction tricky; even with the flag flying it was pretty invisible to walkers who assumed a nimble solo rider on a touring bike could get round them easily. Also starting from the Bakewell end, the trail is gently uphill almost the whole way, with a fairly rough surface – but even on the return journey there were too many people to go at more than about 10mph. The Buxton end has a different surface, which sprayed mud and surface water a lot more – the crud-catcher on the Weehoo, which always scratches or digs into my legs when holding the bike upright, remained completely clean thanks to my mudguard, yet the pedal area and passenger still managed to get a good coating. The Weehoo’s wheel could also do with a mudguard, as it flicks mud all over the place including the back of the seat up to the passenger’s head, and onto the tiny panniers that fit it. Yet another thing to sort out for next time!

There are several potential places to stop along the trail, with benches or even picnic tables, facilities and ice creams, but sadly the weather was not conducive to us taking advantage. Instead we enjoyed walking through one of the tunnels and eating an emergency rations chocolate bar in the dry.

I would love to say M’s verdict was big smiles, and that is what she gives me most of the time, but on this occasion I had a contented sleeper for the last three miles instead – and memories of rain. I guess we will have to go back and do it again when it is sunny!

Cycling into Consciousness

I have been back on my bicycle again, after an eight-week break over the summer, feeling decidedly unfit but loving the freedom and speed that comes from being on two wheels. I suspect I am not alone in this, as given a choice M chooses bicycle trailer over car every time. It will be great when she can help pedal!

I have had many people ask me if I am scared of the traffic. My usual replies focus around the fact that I have been cycling on roads for many years and know how to be seen by cars in my riding style and clothing; that while one of the roads is busy it is also wide enough for cars to overtake me; and most people are more careful when I have the trailer than when I ride solo. I could add that if I focused on the fear I would probably have an accident, but when I trust that I am doing the right thing by cycling, and pay attention to the messages I get from the world around me, then there is no reason why I should have an accident unless it is already predetermined.

However last week my experience went a stage further. I had been reading about levels of consciousness, and suddenly found myself completely aware of every other person on or around the roads, before I could see them, and could feel us all doing a dance around each other. I was filled with love for all these people, complete strangers to me, giving me space and acknowledgement at soul level as they went about their lives. After a few miles I found myself loosing focus, feeling overwhelmed by so many souls I was touching, so I pulled back. But having done so, I felt the disconnect and joined up again. It wasn’t a totally new experience to me, having previously tried to be aware of others in a group situation with some success, or nature spirits around me when sitting outside, but this was deeper than anything I have experienced before. Even better, as a result of my cycling experience I now find I can enter this state of awareness more easily in other situations, although it still takes a conscious expansion to do this accompanied by a mind shift to expand into love.

It occurs to me that cycling has characterised several different stages of consciousness for me. Some of my earliest memories are bicycle accidents as I learned how to live in the physical world: getting a foot stuck in a front wheel while riding on the crossbar as a ‘tiny’, falling off onto gravel when a little bigger, occasional bike problems, ice, birds, dogs and one more major accident when riding to school… However the overriding good memories are of companionship and discussions of ‘life, the universe and everything’ each morning cycling to school, and the freedom to explore further afield than my legs alone could take me.

As an adult I used to find myself cycling to work ‘half asleep’, and then waking up a few miles in with no recollection of how I got there. I had a short period of doing this, and looking back it was when I was so unhappy in the job I was in that I really didn’t want to greet the day and wake up in the morning. I’m glad to say this period didn’t last long!

The next stage was when I started paying attention to what was around me and where I was going. Not that I had been ignoring the views before then, but I started to become aware of my body and how it felt, and doing ‘active meditations’. My cycling was no longer for work, but happened when I wanted to go out and ride a bike. I was starting to learn who I was, and what I wanted in life. I became a Pagan, and started to understand and see the value in the Wiccan tenet ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.’

The third adult stage for me was unfortunately when I stopped cycling. This was the ‘testing’ stage, when we go through the dark night(s) of the soul in order to loose what no longer serves us, and take on a different, more loving and forgiving view of the world. For me it took several months of deteriorating health, making cycling impossible, before I realised you cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Yes there were other incidents as well that helped me look at things differently, expanding in love and trust and learning not to judge, but once cycling again it marked the end of this transition and cemented the success of my new ways of being.

And finally as mentioned above, a jump to the fifth level, when we become one with the world and realise how all things are connected. The Wiccan rule goes out of the window and my ego learns it has been promoting separateness instead of the connectedness of all things. To serve the Divine will with love, and to align my will with Spirit. This would be impossible if I hadn’t learned to know and love myself first – I couldn’t possibly know what Spirit wanted of me if I hadn’t got to know myself – but I can see the two growing a little more in tandem from this point forwards.

This is not the end of course, not only because I have a way to go before I can live at the fifth level but also there are more levels (I have read there are twelve in total) with more to learn at each level. However, as each new layer is peeled back there is magic to be found there.

The Earth will apparently soon move into the fourth dimension, the poles will reverse, and much will change just as it did 12,000 years ago with the ending of the ice age and the sinking of Atlantis. Then in another two thousand years, at the end of this Aquarian Age when all the negativity has been transmuted, Earth will enter into the fifth dimension and our consciousness will be able to rise further; compare this with Earth spending millennia in the first stage, the second stage ending with the end of Lemuria 100,000 years ago, and the third ending just a few thousand years ago, and it is no wonder so many people are having rapid expansions in their consciousness right now. It is an exciting time to be alive.

Cycling On

To live in touch with the Earth is to be aware of our impact upon it; one aspect of that is transport. For many years my bike was my main mode of transport, with occasional car or train use for longer distances. I was never particularly fast, so we bought a tandem when we started riding as a couple. It has carried us over the Pyrenees and the Alps, and with more difficulty over Yorkshire’s challenging hills. However, I haven’t been doing much cycling in the past few years, for various reasons, and then when I tried again I discovered I was pregnant. Not the best time to restart!

Now nearly three summers on, I have been keen to get my bike out again. Most of my journeys are around 5 miles, although being Derbyshire it is very hilly! Some investigation of options for cycling with small children followed, and a few test rides to shock the system. I didn’t want to mess about and miss this summer as well though, so after proving my bike worked and I could ride a short distance (three miles), I got out my trusty pendulum to dowse for what would be best for both M and me: a weatherproof trailer.

Bought on a Friday evening, we test rode it the following morning on a trip to the nearest town. I had the great idea that if my husband pulled the trailer I could watch to pick up some riding tips, and he might be slowed down enough that I could keep up. No such luck – we went slowly down the first hill, and then I didn’t see them again until he stopped to wait for directions. If we want to ride as a family, we’ll have to dust off the tandem…

After an even shorter test ride with the trailer myself, I spent the next two evenings checking out possible routes to the parent and toddler group. (The hours are flexible enough that my arrival time there wouldn’t matter.) While the first mile and a half had to be along the main road through our village, after that there were numerous options. I tried the cycle track route first – but some of it was so muddy that it was impassable on my bike, let alone with a trailer; I had to stop to scrape out the mudguards with a stick. The final part was a pleasant smooth tarmac, but when trying to exit the cycle track onto roads on the way home, I discovered that the posts across the entrance were too narrowly spaced to allow a trailer through.

Day two I attempted to retrace my route along the back roads, and promptly missed an unsigned turning. Glad I didn’t have the trailer on when climbing back up that hill! Having corrected my mistake and got to the place successfully by road, I then tried to come back using a popular ‘green road’. Fine for mountain bikes, but not my tourer and trailer; the combination of worn out concrete overlaid with worn out tarmac didn’t make for an easy ride, the potholes having pretty sharp edges to avoid. Very pretty though between the hedges, and lots of birdsong so one of the best evening rides I have ever enjoyed.

I’m glad to say that the day of our maiden voyage was lovely and sunny, and not too hot. (Why would I expect anything less?) Given no route that I had test ridden was any good, I followed another possibility I had checked out on Google maps. It was the prettiest yet, taking us down a well-surfaced footpath alongside a large duck pond, a quarter mile link that I would happily walk regularly were it not for the difficulties of manoeuvring a bike with trailer around a wheelchair-sized kissing gate at the far end. We returned along the road.

So now I have ridden there and back with M twice. It is hard work, and my lowest gear has been not only used but really needed as I twiddle up the steepest hill, but it is also really enjoyable. There is just something about the speed of a bike which I really love – I’m the one with the silly grin on her face when riding in the pouring rain. The traffic is less of a problem with a trailer than when solo, but I just trust I am doing the right thing and most drivers have been exceptionally courteous. As for M, she hops in and out quite happily, and then sleeps really well!