Tag Archives: wildness

The Fear – The Dark is Rising

“It was then, without warning, that the fear came.”

Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising

Oh! The beautiful opening chapter of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, which I’m reading in a massive worldwide book group on Twitter,  has brought back all my inexplicable moments of nature fear – or just The Fear, as Will experiences.

Have you felt, The Fear?

Those times when you find yourself alone in nature and for some reason, your sense of awe and comfort switches immediately to a feeling of pagan animism about everything around you. As if you are so very trembling and small in the scheme of tall tree things.

Being alone in nature is something I am quite comfortable with, and actually sometimes really crave now that it’s virtually impossible to have. I did have some pre-dawn walks for a hour or so earlier this year when we were camping in the remote Flinders Rangers. My husband were still asleep in the tent and I went out by torchlight. There was a slightly similar experience to the one I’m about to tell. Perhaps because I had my dog with me, or because it was morning, or even because I grew up around this wild land, I felt awe, but not fear at the strange undersound I heard as I got closer to the hills.


Watching the sunrise in the Flinders Ranges


There have been a handful of times when THE FEAR has involved not a wild place, but a known place, like it was for Will.

THe last time I felt it, I was feeling comfortable. It was July 2015 and I was outside our rural holiday cottage in Cornwall. A house full of my children and nephews, in-laws and husband asleep. I was outside at midnight with my astrobinoculars and camera taking night sky pictures.


Cosy light from the room when my young children were asleep


Maybe it was because I was marvelling at the novelty of seeing the emerging waxing moon traversing the sky backwards and in reverse around in the northern hemisphere after so long in the southern hemisphere (link explains this if you’ve never realised that there are differences). So, things had been changing in a different way.


crescent moon devon
Waxing crescent moon in Cornish summer skies



Watching the moon travelling ‘backwards’ in the northern hemisphere – Cornwall


Anyway, for some reason, being out there in the dark, even after a long night of Summer light, turned, er,  well, frightening.

It began with a sound from the fields. The gardens were surrounded by tall hedges, puncutated by one small archway cut out with a gate, with fields beyond. The sound had a hint of human cough or maybe throat clearing, but un-animal enough to confuse my senses. It wasn’t a growl, and I’d lived rurally so it wasn’t a cow or sheep or fox sound. Or bird sound. It was just, unidentifiable. Odd. Weird.

Instinctively, in that moment, when my brain could have rationalised, it didn’t. The day spent exploring ancient nooks and crannies of Cornwall took over, and I, the I that might laugh at my reaction,  was gone. THE FEAR had me.

That sound, had set my heart thumping in a rhythm for running. And I wanted to run. I just left my bincolulars and camera on the tripod and ran across the lawns to the sliding door and clambered in to the dark of house and the comfort of the lounge. After a few moments, I realised I had left all my gear outside.  As I tried to slide open the door go back to get it, I tried to let the ridiculousness take over. It wouldn’t.

I forced myself, swearing in whispers,  to go back out and fumble to detach the heavy binoculars, fold down the tripod and pack away my camera in what seemed like an eternity spent in the now thick ominous darkness. It was somehow, one of the most bravest acts against myself.

And that, is The Fear. I’ve felt it only a handful of times.

If you have ever felt it, you will understand.

Just as Susan Cooper must have understood, when she wrote it for Will to experience.

Have you known, The Fear? I would love to hear your tales.


Learning to talk with small gods

Because although I still have a lot to learn, my valley is claiming me through small gods.

whispering voices of sheoak

the different rhythm of the feet of my chickens that tells me they are excited to follow me and makes me laugh out loud

the sound of a blue-banded bee long before it can be seen that tells me if it’s flying with or without pollen-covered legs

the bank of clouds hugging the hillside at dawn

the swing of wind to cool southerlies

the beckoning of the wild island in winter

the first time I notice that the sun signals autumn, something about the afternoon shadows is different

the keening cry of the black cockatoo heralding a rain storm

the burst of green through soil

the unfurling leaf

hearing the blue-tongue lizard trying to walk silently on dried up leaves which betray his presence

the resurrection of moss after the hot summer

the gaze of the magpie that makes me feel small

the longer afternoon light bent through the plum tree

the warm night-scent of native franjipani under a clear night sky

coming home to the valley I live in and seeing it tucked in against the hills, cuddled by trees and feeling its welcome

the trembling of wet leaves in the sun after a rain storm

 a flash of red in the fading strawberry leaves, the slow secret ripe strawberry

a face full of spider web and the apology to the spider

magpies in conference, they meet in a circle,  talk and hush as you draw near

I’d love for others to write about their small gods as a way to begin, but first, listen to Small Gods by Martin Shaw  or find out more at drmartinshaw.com  because writing these down may be a mistake of mine, but I’m still learning how.




I read the opening chapters of Martin Shaw’s, A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness, at an altitude, speeding across the world in a jet plane.

Perhaps days of sleep interruption and exhaustion caught up with me, I found myself in tears with the beauty, not only of Martin Shaw’s writing, but at the foreword, written by Daniel Deardorff. In a few pages describing the essence of Shaw’s book, he manages to make me feel like I did not find this book, but that it may have found me.

However, if you, like me, desire a life filled with breathtaking and inexplicable meaning, then I implore you, read on.

It can happen to anyone: in silent midnight a migratory moth brushes a velvet wing across our skin and the soul is called out of the house and into the wide and starlit unknown.

And Shaw’s opening chapters are about the transition from childhood into adulthood, and the role that myth has through our teenage years.

I’m thinking of a poem I wrote about this feeling when I was 15 or 16 called “Suburban moth” and I wish I had it here to read alongside this book. I’m also thinking of my recent encounter with a white moth which I called “a ghost of autumn”, because one of my favourite Yeats poems is called into the foreword,

white moths are on the wing and moth like starts are flickering out

It has me thinking of moths as a myth symbol.

In stale, recycled air of the airplane cabin, one of the most artificial atmospheres possible,  and on my way to a part of the world where I explicably feel more connected to wildness and myth,  more keenly than my birth home,  Deardroff’s final words, call my attention to  the timing of this book having  fluttered into my life:

Distance does not make you falter
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

Imagination so clearly has to play in our connection to wild, and this is going to be in my thoughts as I traverse these woods and meadows.

Shaw says in his introduction

This is not a book purely about rites-of-passage. It’s more about wildness itself: how it flutters between language, landscape and ritual, and the wild…here you won’t find long lists of how-to’s. The gifts to work with are impacted in the images so as to activate your unconsciousness as well as your conscious mind.

Finally, so much of Shaw’s opening chapters have phrases that link back to thinking about rhizomatic learning, where we began thinking about content as myth – that it feels like I am on a leafy path in the right forest.

Shaw’s phrases that flutter around me…

Leaving the village, finding the forest

The uncanny freshness of disorientation


Boundaries, thresholds of initiation

Coming back changed after a descent into uncertainity

Waves not caught

The mythography of crossroads

Myth as subterraean 

The ability to change shape