Spring shamans

This is the view from where I live, a rented flat above a shop, and you can see that the spring is well and truly under way. Oxford is justly famous for its architecture, its dreaming spires, but it has some remarkable green spaces too.

Just a couple of minutes away from where I live is the canal, a green corridor that runs through the north of the city and out through Oxfordshire. Many of my friends live on canal boats (though I need the luxury of central heating to get me through the dank days of winter).

Cross the canal and follow Aristotle Lane and it takes you over a railway bridge, where graffiti and the council's ugly anti-graffiti compete. It's an ever-changing work of art, a modern palimpsest.

This is what you see as you reach the other side.

The path leads down to Port Meadow, a great stretch of grassland bordered by the Thames (the Isis) on one side, and the railway on the other. It has never been ploughed. There is buried archaeological evidence suggesting Bronze Age occupation, and the remains of an old round barrow, called Round Hill. I walk here almost everyday. A place to breathe and think and, if you time it right, be alone.

Every autumn the meadow floods, bringing with it a diverse range of birdlife and waterfowl (lapwing, golden plover, widgeon, pochard, teal, black headed gulls, little egrets and the occasional rarity). It's a good place to spot bird watchers too.

It's one of the great joys of living in Oxford: that in five minutes on my bike I can be in the city centre, but in five minutes walking I can be here, on the meadow.

Elsewhere, I went to Dorchester-on-Thames the other weekend, to visit the abbey, with it's Tolkeinesque doors and medieval frescoes.

I've also been lucky enough to spend a day in the company of Hipolito Peralta Ccama, a Quechuan Paqo (healer/shaman) over for the Conversations with the Earth festival that has been running in Oxford this last week. Gentle, humble and wise, it was a treat to meet him and his translator, Maya, and I learnt a little more about indigenous Peruvian spirituality. He led a small but powerful ceremony for us, down at Celtic Chris's gaff, in honour of the ancestors. He encouraged us to pray to, and with, coca leaves, some of which we chewed, some of which we burned. Here we are at one of our ancestral sites, Wayland's Smithy, where Hipolito was intrigued by my bagpipes.

And here is Chris with his lurcher, Bear, inside the tomb.

And then, to the woods with my beloved, listening to the birds, watching the signs of spring everywhere, and quietly observing the deer nonchalantly browsing through the trees.


  1. Lovely post! Drooled over the door... somehow I thought I signed up to follow your blog AGES ago. I just popped over to see why you hadn't posted in forever, only to find out that I HADN"T signed up! So, now I have. And look forward to having some time tomorrow to reading back through and seeing what I missed - and forward, for that matter, I'm taking the non-linear approach to reading your blog. I imagine that the spiral path is more to your liking anyway!

    My word verification word is "coaxl", sounds rather Mayan -though you were speaking about Peruvians...



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