Pilgrims' progress

As regular readers of Myth & Moor will know, three weeks ago my husband Howard set off from the center of London to walk to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, a journey of over five hundred miles travelled over nine weeks. He's part of Listening to the the Land: Pilgrimage for Nature, a core group of twenty pilgrims drawn from performance arts, environmental sciences and other walks of life, joined together in their concern for the natural world at this perilous time. They are meeting with farmers and other land workers, earth scientists, environmentalists, and a wide variety of community groups in the towns and villages they pass through, with the aim of weaving their voices into a performance piece presented at COP26. They also welcome all who want to walk beside them for a day, a half-day, an hour. (Information on how to do so here.)

Our good friend Jane Yolen (multi-award winning novelist, poet, and children's book writer) gifted us with a poem for the Nature Pilgrims at the beginning of their long walk -- and in the video above Howard reads her poem (with Jane's permission of course). The setting is the orchard in Oxfordshire where the Pilgrims made their first camp.

Apple orchard

In three week since then, the Pilgrims have walked the Ridgeway across Oxfordshire, received a pagan blessing at Uffington and an Anglican blessing at Birmingham Cathedral, walked up Shakespeare's Way in Staffordshire, crossed Cheshire via Alderley Edge (Alan Garner country), were blessed again at The Monastery in Manchester, and are now in Lancashire near Pendle Hill (a site associated with witches and Quakers). They've camped at farms, in fields, in the grounds of stately homes, in green spaces both rural and urban, and even had a few rare nights indoors in welcoming churches. 

Local residents inspect the Pilgrims' camp in Oxfordshire

I've spoken to Howard most days on the road, allowing me to follow the Pilgrims' progress: the tough first week of acclimatising to walking and camping; days of exhilaration since then, but also of practical challenges; nights of conviviality around the fire, but also of aching weariness; deep conviction in the process of pilgrimage punctuated by moments of self-doubt, of hilarity, of sheer exhaustion...the ups and downs that mark any sacred journey, whether actual or metaphorical...and in this case both.

The Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire

Today, the walkers begin Week Four, heading north into the Lake District. The weather is becoming wetter and colder, the days are drawing in, and the terrain they will be crossing is more challenging than the gentle hills of the midlands. But they are also finding their group rhythm now, allowing them more time to focus on the creative aspects of the project alongside the daily work of the walk itself. The spirit of the land is changing...and the Pilgrims are changing too, individually and collectively, transformed by a walking meditation on fluidity, biodiversity, open-heartedness, and the healing of our planet.

Pendle Hill in Lancashire

You can get a glimpse of what they're up to on the project's blog, Facebook and Instagram pages -- but please note that it's only a glimpse. Jolie Booth and Anna Lehmann, creators of Listening to the Land, didn't design it as a media event but as a proper old-fashioned pilgrimage: a journey across Britain in slow time, real time, step by step -- an experience of full engagement with the tactile, physical world. In our hyper-connected, media-saturated culture, this alone is a radical act.

If you're interest in what it's like to be a Nature Pilgrim, however, Howard has begun to record a video diary, talking about his experiences en route.  You'll find those videos on Facebook here (and you needn't "friend" his page or join Facebook to see them). Comments are welcome, as are words of encouragement to brighten the harder days. He has also just started new pages on Instagram and Twitter, so please give him a follow if you're on either of those platforms.

Nature Pilgrim

At the top of The Cloud in Cheshire

As Tilly and I walk our own beloved land down here in the mossy green South-West, Howard is often on our minds. I wonder: Where is he now? What is he doing? Is he happy, healthy, getting enough sleep? Tilly's thoughts are more succinct: When is he coming home?

We pray to Mercury, god of the crossroads, to light his way and keep him safe. We pray to the ancient spirits of the British Isles for all his fellow walkers: for their work, their art, their collective intention, their love of the more-than-human world and their commitment to being a voice for change. Below is a photo of the offering we left yesterday at the local Fairy Springs on the Pilgrims' behalf: wildflowers and ripe blackberries, with an old dog's thoughts and a quiet woman's prayers and a whisper of wild poetry....

Tilly at the Fairy Springs

Our offering

As I write this, the Pilgrims are walking north. They are walking for all of us.

A journey into the green

Please note: The fund-raising campaign for Listening to the Land continues, to replace a final piece of funding that didn't come through at the very last minute. If you can help, by contributing or spreading the word, the crowd-funding page is here

"Pilgrimage" by Jane Yolen is copyright 2021; all rights reserved by the author. Also, don't miss "Dear Pilgrims," a letter to the Nature Pilgrims written and read by Jackie Morris.


Pilgrimage for Nature update

The video above features the beautiful letter from artist/author Jackie Morris for the pilgrims walking all the way from London to the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, my husband Howard being one of them. Please take some quiet time to listen to Jackie's heart-felt, hope-filled, inspiring words. "It's the hardest thing, in these days, to hold on to hope," she says, "but it must be done."

Jolie Booth (co-creator of the pilgrimage) writes: "Jackie Morris kindly gifted us with seven hand-painted labyrinth stones, a hand-drawn illustrated book that she wrote to the pilgrims, which we read out at the opening ceremony in London on Saturday. The Letters to the Earth campaign will be running workshops along our pilgrimage route for different communities to write and deliver their messages for a better future to the leaders of the world as we walk. What gifts! What magic."

Visit the Pilgrimage For Nature Instagram or Facebook pages for further updates, photos, and the like.  For information on how to participate in the walk, even from far away, go here. And please note that there is a new fund-raiser going to keep the pilgrims on the road (to replace other funding that didn't come through). If you have some pennies to spare, please give them your support. 

Pilgrims for Nature, 4 September, 2021

Above, a photograph of the pilgrims in London on Saturday. Jolie writes: "The bags all packed and ready to go…we finally meet at Tower Hill. We’re filled with excitement and nervousness as we take the step into the unknown. From today we walk north, filled with curiosity and love." 

May the weather gods continue to smile on them, may all the pilgrims stay safe in these difficult times, and may the work they are doing on behalf of Mother Earth be fruitful.

Seven stones for the Nature Pilgrimage painted by Jackie Morris

For those who worry about Covid safety (and I am one of them!), the pilgrims are in a Covid bubble, testing regularly, and there are protocols in place for meeting and working with others along the route. 


Myth & Moor update

Ocean 1

My apologies that there is no Myth & Moor post today. Tilly had an emergency vet visit this morning (don't worry, she's okay now), and the rest of the day was taken up by last-minute packing in order to get Howard off to London tomorrow.

In London, Howard joins his fellow pilgrims for The Pilgrimage for Nature, and they begin their eight-week walk to Glasgow, where they'll be presenting a performance (created during the walk, weaving in the voices and concerns of those met along the way) to the delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in early November. He's just about ready to go now, but boy-oh-boy it's been a busy day, full of unforeseen challenges.

Ocean 2

Ocean 3

Photographs above: Tilly and me on the beach near Teignmouth on Wednesday. She loved it, and so did I. Oh, to be in the sea again! We've been too long away.


Listening to the Land

Pilgrimage for Nature

Listening to the Land is a "pilgrimage for nature" in which a core group of 20 people (artists, performers and storytellers among them) will be walking from London to Glasgow this autumn for the UN Conference on Climate Change.

My husband, Howard, is one of those 20 pilgrims. He'll be setting off from London in early September, walking up the "spine of Albion," and arriving in Glasgow at the end of October -- an eight week journey covering roughly 500 miles, followed by a week at COP26. The group will be holding community meetings and giving creative workshops, talks, and performances in villages, towns, and cities along the way -- listening to the concerns of the people they meet, listening to the land itself, and weaving it all into a performance scheduled for presentation to the UN climate delegates on Monday, the 8th of November. 

Listening to the Land has received funding from Arts Council England, and support from the National Trust, the British Pilgrimage Trust, the Wisdom Keepers, Seed Sisters, Letters to the Earth, and other organisations -- but it's a big project, and they need to raise an additional £4500 this summer. (It's heartening to see they are already half-way there.) If you can help with even a small donation, please visit their Crowdfunding page -- where you can also learn more about the project, and how to get involved in various ways -- including joining them on the pilgrimage route (pictured below) for a day, a half-day, or even an hour of walking.

Pilgrimage route

Howard walking a labyrinth on Dartmoor

I'm delighted that Howard is doing this...and, I admit, a bit nervous too. It's a long, long journey, and England is in a dark place right now...but we need the light that collective art-making creates, and the subject could not be more urgent. Howard is no stranger to pilgrimage, having already traversed the Camino to Santiago de Compostela through the French and Spanish Pyrenees; and for many years he criss-crossed Europe with his Commedia troupe, so he's used to being on the road in one form or another. This time he'll be walking with colleagues from the Nomadic Academy of Fools, doing fooling practice and performance along the way. Nature, pilgrimage, foolery. How could he possibly miss it? 

I have a vested interest in seeing that the pilgrims are fed, so please chip in if you can. (No worries if you can't. It's been a hard year for many. Good wishes and prayers are equally welcome.) The fund-raiser runs for 16 more days.

And the walk itself begins dauntingly soon....

Howard and hound

Picture above: Howard and Tilly earlier this week. She's going to miss him so much this autumn, and so will I. But for such a good cause.