Monday 8 January 2018

Woodland Epiphany

The old oak swing, near home
Epiphany is one of my favourite feasts. I did not make it to Mass this Sunday - that happens so often now I have the small one to care for, I used to be able to count on the finger of one hand the number of times I had 'missed Mass'. However, the feast and the wise men were repeating on my mind. Little snippets of the liturgy, poetry I remember, hymns and scripture popped up on the soundtrack of my thoughts and helped me remember the Magi on their journey. My boy helped to - pointing out the wise men in the crib scene and telling me what they were up to.

It began early. On Friday I was unwell. I should have been in school teaching. I was in bed instead. But, I has less cover work to set than usual because the school would be celebrating the Epiphany Mass during the middle of the day. Confined to bed and feeling foggy in the head I was only good for a little crochet. There was a little project to finish - a storage bag for the bears, made out of odds and ends before I could embark on my new adventure - the woodland Crochet A-Long (CAL) blanket from Attic 24. As it happened, between sleeps, I finished the bag and could read the introduction to the woodland crochet blanket.

The woods of home
Lucy, the designer of the blanket, spoke about everyone participating in the CAL as embarking on a journey, taking a walk through the woodland, beginning an adventure. In my sleepiness this appealed to me. I have made many journeys through woodlands. I have vivid memories of crossing the border between France and Spain, high up in the Pyrenees, alone and on foot, beginning a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I remember the musty earth smell of the damp trees the in the mist, a sense of apprehension, fear of getting lost. I rang my Dad and tried to explain where I was. Later in the pilgrimage there were the eucalyptus woods - highly perfumed, medicinal, dark trees which only just allowed the heat of the sun to penetrate to the leaf littered woodland floor. Their bark was sticky and sweet. 

Boy in an old oak tree
Of course, the camino de Santiago is not my only memorable journey through woodlands - just the longest. There are many memories fixed in my mind that have the trees as central characters in the landscape. The fir tree woodland near my Bedfordshire home, Chicksands woods, we used to play pine cone war games there. Wytham Wood in Oxfordshire, where my husband and I courted and learnt to love each other, learning each of the trees by name as we walked along. And, the woodland in which we now live with our young family. Now I have that young family I am unlikely to be found, like a wise man, packing my bags for a journey which will will have me travelling miles on foot, carrying all necessities. But, it does not preclude little fun filled adventures into the trees, armed with flasks of hot chocolate and time to play on the great oak swing a few miles from the old lodge house in which we reside. And, maybe this woodland CAL can be my longer adventure, a pilgrimage without ever leaving home. 

On Saturday Evening I began to make preparations for the CAL journey. I was to make a 'sample' - call it pilgrimage training, if you like - it needed to measure 17cm across and I needed to learn the pattern of our road. I failed on the first attempt, of course. Who wouldn't? I was also being tempted by all sorts of 'needs': all of a sudden I needed stitch markers and a new set of crochet hooks. Like a walker who needs new kit for a trip, I just felt I couldn't resist. However, after a firm 'word' with myself I started again, with the simple kit I have, a couple of old metal crochet hooks (3.5mm and 4.5mm), a measuring tape, scissors, and scraps of yarn for stitch markers. My second sample (it was Sunday by now) was 'near enough', so I started the journey.

The Linden (Lime) Tree
The foundation of this pilgrimage was to be made in lime (the yarn colour). Lime trees, or Linden Trees, mark the approach to ancient churches. They are the 'holy tree' which the Baltic women spoke to as if they were human beings, asking for luck and fertility. It is underneath this tree that the truth can be found (and ancient court sessions were often held in their shade for this reason). It is on the wood of the Linden that Orthodox Icons, such as Rublev's Icon of the Trinity (the hospitality of Abraham) were painted. It seemed a good place to start a meditative journey of counting and crochet.

On the camino the way was marked by yellow arrows. On this adventure tomato strands of yarn showed that I was on track - one every 17 stitches, the pattern repeated.

Lime and Cypress,
with MopMop and the Gruffalo,
residents of the woodland
Cypress was the next phase of mountains and valleys in the ripple pattern. A tree that also graces many churchyards. This time it is often symbolic of death, re-birth, birth and new life. In the Bible Noah built his Ark from the wood of the cypress tree. 358 stitches (x2) - I'm making a double bed sized blanket - of thoughts about the things that need to be let go of, returned to the earth, renewed or brought to life.

Meadow, it was Monday by now and I was still ill, confined to bed with a hacking cough. Meadows are the place of refuge in the Bible. A space in which you are cared for and looked after. Meadows are associated with beauty and a place of rest, a time and space to think about all those who love and care for you and who you love and care for.
Woodland Meadow

Mustard  comes next and I can't help thinking of that short parable from Mark in which the smallest shrub becomes the greatest tree and birds come and rest in its shade. My blanket looks like a small shrub right now, but I hope it will grow and grow - and, that when it is made there will be room for all our small family, including the newbie due in March, and the cat, Moppet.

The Mustard Tree
And so my journey continues. I am not sure what tomato will hold. Perhaps a little reflection on the fruit of our labours here at #lodgehousechallenge. We have been here more than a year, and our efforts to grow our own vegetables, live a sustainable life, make and mend, refuse to waste, use less plastic - it's all an ongoing journey, a pilgrimage - but, we are beginning to see the benefits.

Home and Boy
So it is, that my journey through the woodland, has become a little epiphany pilgrimage. The Magi went of on a journey and found peace in an unexpected stable. They didn't have an easy time of it, as T.S Eliot reflects in his poem, and they had to start, re-start, turn back, get lost and find their way again. My journey with wool will be little different, if more comfortable. But, I am hoping I too will find a little peace in the unexpected places of the woodland, most especially in my home with my boy and my husband and our child yet to be born.

Happy Epiphany!!