A narrow path lined with vetch, thistle, yarrow, salad burnet and low scrub led us to the beach at Cuckmere Haven. On one side was the rise and curve of The Downs. On the other, our usual route, the low, wide bed of the meandering Cuckmere River.

We arrived at an encampment of delicate white tents.  The evening sun kissed a soft blush on the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Dusk fell and we sat beside the sea eating dark chocolate and raspberries as each tent began to softly glow and murmur.

 

This was the same field where a company of Canadian airmen put up their marquees and bell tents in 1940.  As the sun rose, bombs fell on the South coast of England and they were killed. We remembered them as we wandered through the site listening to a haunting soundscape of love poetry, spoken fragments, folk songs, pipes, slow breath and snippets of the shipping forecast. Forties. Cromarty. Forth. Tyne. Dogger. Fisher. German Bight.

 

There was something respectful about the delicacy of the installation. This companionable cluster of delicate pods glowed orange and white on the gentle slope down to the beach. At seven other remote coastal locations on the British coast thousands of glowing tents huddled on windy shores and cliff tops, pitched to celebrate the Olympic Truce.

 

It was a gentle offering, a place that gave pause for reflection, invited quietude and connection. Silhouettes milled silently in between the tents stopping in front of one or another as if it might tell them a different story. But it was a single breathy incantation that filled the air. Listening and wandering in the dark, each one of us became part of the landscape – our breath, our quiet conversations, our stillness, holding hands and sleepy children.

When the sound subsided, we could hear the sea pulling the pebbles of the beach into the dark water. Rolling in again and again.

We left the beautiful glow to follow the path back to the car, turning around occasionally to catch a last glimpse of the small encampment murmuring out there in the night. Each one of us carrying a deeper peace and searching for the frayed corners of poems we half remembered.

 

Peace
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 24 July 2012

Heavy rain is washing away the smell of the honeysuckle outside the bathroom window. We’re tired of grey uniforms and dark skies.  Everyone else seems to be sun-kissed and holidaying.  So we found a tea light, our own small sun, and ran a warming morning bath.

 

Washing away
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 16 July 2012

We packed the green van with quilts, sheepskins, beer, firewood, lanterns, strings of white lights, thick socks, candles and wellies. We rolled mattresses, found a fruit crate for a table and disappeared into a park of rolling hills and ancient forest. We were there to give – time, love, food, fire, kisses, music, energy. And to spank that dance floor.

With only ourselves to consider, we ate and drank when we felt like it – Manchego cheese and quince paste, apple juice, vodka, slices of warm pizza, dark sea salt chocolate, grapes, croissants, curry, fresh mint and darkly roasted coffee.

We found orange things to dress up in and danced through the nights.

Rain fell. The dance tents filled with water, hot bodies, mud and hay.

We floated from one space to another to find the right rhythm and each other. There were moments when we stood quite still in the middle of a heaving dance floor, feeling the music pulse through us and finding the beat of each other’s hearts.

It was so good to share that wonderfully wild weekend – fifteen of us for three days – a small family in a big, beautiful tribe. All there to celebrate, play, dance, expand, explore, give and receive; for camp fires, silliness, morning coffee, joy and communion.

Before the festival, we were sent an email that quoted Bede Griffiths:

“We become more ourselves as we enter more deeply into relationship with others. In our ordinary consciousness we are all separated in time and space, but as we go beyond the limitations of time and space we experience our oneness with others. We do not lose ourselves, but we lose our sense of separation and division and discover our integral oneness in the One Reality.  This is essentially a mystery of love”.

And the power of friendship, fire, privacy, trust, awesome tunes and the odd outstanding menu.

 

Give
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 12 July 2012

In his book How to Change The World, John-Paul Flintoff told me that Iris Murdoch, “..believed we should cultivate a kind of ‘mindfulness’. By making a habit of focusing our attention of everyday things that are valuable or virtuous, we hone our ability to act well at decisive moments. ‘Anything that alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness will do’.”

In the direction of unselfishness. That sounds manageable.

It’s an inviting, inspiring read – one of several in a new series by The School of Life.  I popped in there recently to sniff about.  I wish it was on my doorstep.

Take a look at their new website: http://www.theschooloflife.com/

 

In the right direction
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 3 July 2012