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  • Writer's pictureMegan Willoughby

Sleep of Trust

"Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast" - Shakespeare, Macbeth, II, ii, 36.

Dreamings often seem to start for me in a little woodland on the edge of a little village. The map to it is engraved upon the souls of my feet, like muscle memory. To me it is a liminal place, neither here nor there, the trees holding space in a way I have not found anywhere else. On occasion I have referred to this place as being like a mother. Growing up, a friend and I would spend our weekends there building structures out of sticks, rescuing lambs from the river banks and performing for one another from our glorious stage; a stick tied to a hanging string. I hope we all know how special a stick on a string can be. We called our little woods The Windy Stream because a very windy stream wove its root right through the centre and in and out of tree trunks, creating a watery labyrinth of islands for us to explore. And so I’ll start here again now, at this place which cradles my innocence, my creativity and imagination. The safest place I knew.

That was until my mother moved to Somerset and began Plotgate Community farm and I met the Plotgate oak; an elder in every sense of the word. This tree is intimate. Unlike the woodland playground of my youth, it does not cradle me, but rather I sit beside it and listen. When looking up into its branches one can glimpse into far away cities that team with life, separate and unconscious of our reality. In the evenings many a Plotgater has sat within the bowls of its roots, leant against the deep threads of its skin whilst the oven-light of sunset stretches across the Somerset levels, tending to our crackled bark. This tree is special to all people it meets, bird-people, people-people and especially sheeple. Many of the Shetland-sheep flock which reside there rest here, and choose this to be the place where they give birth to their offspring. I think it’s almost impossible not to trust this tree.

So following the tread of trust lightly with our fingers, careful not to snap it, I am lead to my art studio of 2018/19. There were no trees here sadly, but the sense of innocent trust certainly came through me from the places we have visited so far, both now so rooted in my grounding. I would quite consciously bring them here to play with, or unravel, and I created things here that still hold me today in my untangling. Mostly that is the final installation I made there. For me it not only navigated the safe liminality of The Windy Stream and the wisdom given by the oak tree but introduced the self-sufficiency and resilience of playfulness; to be open to the lessons learnt from every stick, quite literally. The piece was called ‘From them I made what I thought I needed, and in return they gave to me how they changed’, and when I look at it now it looks just like here to me, just like Tinkers Bubble.

'From them i made what i thought i needed, and in return they gave to me how they changed', 2019.

Aha! Here comes the twist. I am here, at Tinkers Bubble, a place that so readily wove together my tapestry of understanding this world as soon as I arrived. But it does not feel like The Windy Stream or the Plotgate oak here, especially when the storms hit, for that’s when I really start to struggle. What I can liken it to is that moment when you are young and you suddenly realise that your parents don’t know everything. What do you mean you can’t fly into space? Seems to be a regular one… So it’s been quite a journey I’ve been on with the trees since arriving here. What do you mean we have to manage them, to thin them, check them for disease and make sure they aren’t dangerous? They are trees! Have you not seen Pocahontas!? But lately the start of a resolution came to me from a water-vole and a cow.

It happens fairly often lately when I’m a bit stuck on something that my mind drifts to the cows. During our first storm of the season a couple of weeks ago I found myself contemplating what Daisy and her little herd were doing. What do they do to feel safe when it feels like the woods are a washing machine? It felt clear to me that I couldn’t fight this feeling. I didn’t want to ‘fix it’ in the way that feels so dominating in our society, although the shame I felt from struggling certainly would like to buy the new and improved Storm-Blaster 3000. But that’s just silly. I wanted to learn how to trust myself in it.

I read a few days later in Wilding by Isabella Tree that water voles build back-up nests away from the river banks to retreat to in case of quick flooding, which interestingly appears to have originated from living side by side with nifty damn making beavers. From this I realised how attached my idea of a static home and therefore safety is to our structures of protectionism. When trying to move through my fears I felt blocked by my own expectations and segregation of the land into functions and resources; stuck in a dwelling because I thought it was my place and in turn not fully connecting to the dynamism of life. The crux of it is that I hadn’t been listening to myself and actually, hadn't really been very nice to myself. I’ve known the whole time I wanted to be by the cow field, and now that I have tended to my truth, that no longer feels like running away but rather the cultivation of a deeper trust in myself and the world. This trust feels like the return of a lost innocence, one in which we can choose to see the good despite knowing everything, where we can follow our feelings and instincts wisely with care and a trust which inspires a rejuvenated awe for the world. To shed the weight of a society so built upon self-deprecation in a release of celebration and inquisitive wonder by creating what we need for ourselves in this state of playful innocence.

We so often refer to the land as a mother. I think what is happening to me, and perhaps to many of us at this moment in time, is a maturing of how we see our earth-mother, and this is pretty revealing of our attitudes towards the land. Our mainstream society is in many ways juvenile, adolescent in its desire to take, to be fed and to be held by the land. But our relationship must grow up from the stages of dependence to a position of accountability where we really learn to see our role within the dynamic and respect the complex wisdom of a world so much older than us. I believe that one of the keys to this learning of how to care for our carer responsibly is to firstly learn how to properly care for ourselves.

In a talk I listened to recently with Vanessa Andoretti, she addresses a shift of perspective where we realise that what we see we are touching with our eyes; we are accountable for our presence. This can be painful, and I find here at the Bubble it often is. I am awed by the resilient wisdom of the world which functions far beyond my comprehension. However, I am starting to see that so much of the phenomenas which occur are emergent properties, held by the connected collective of life and not individuals. Breaking down the fallacy of division opens us up to the reality that we are all part of this power, tree-people, people-people and sheeple alike.

So when I look at the Douglas-fir trees here at Tinkers Bubble, for these seem to be the trees that I struggle with the most, I’m starting to think that its because these trees don’t feel like holding elders to me, or a giant wooden cresh, but more like mirrors. They were planted as a timber crop in the 1960’s, overcrowded, lacking diversity in their environment and connections. Part of our role in living here is to learn how to assist the strengthening of these trees as an ecosystem through forest management. And isn’t that the magic of it all, for that also feels like what living on the land here at Tinkers Bubble is facilitating for us people-people. It continues to blow me away that when we land with the land it provides us with the lessons, the mirrors that we need.

For me, being at Tinkers Bubble withholds a homecoming. It starkly holds up a mirror every morning in which you can see the dire state of your pelt, your soul-home, and invites you to pick it up, put it on and start mending it. From this tending we see glimpses of the return of innocent truths and at times they can be full of challenge. However, underneath I believe there is a new level of understanding, a new kind of trust that is so much deeper, so much bigger than the functionalities we know today. A sleep of trust in which we see ourselves in the world, full bodied and unashamed, gentle and accountable. To be touched by and to touch the world with our eyes and truly see what we bring to our community, to the land, as in knowing the gifts we hold we can see that which we all hold comes from the land for the land.

“Innocence is a state that is renewed as one sleeps. Unfortunately, many throw it aside with the coverlet as they arise each day. It would be better to take an alert innocence with us and draw it close for warmth.” - Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves, 149.

Into the Woods:

Softly, it is afternoon

And the branches are brushing our hair

With warm fir hands

Palms press upon my forehead

And I remember, it stops.

We dwell beneath the waves

And today they are breathing

With exhaling loss

The breeze washes my crown

And I remember, it stops.

Abruptly, it is night

And the sky switch takes me back

With tight stricken limbs

The tree trunk’s brash clash

And I start to forget that it stops.

Starkly, Barking, Madly

And inside I feel the embers

Of a seven year old sapling

Grappling with the trappings

And I forget that it stops.

Ungrounded, is the dark

And structures tangle into black

With unobstructed recitals

Wood becomes fire and burnt is my lack

Because maybe it never stops?

Sleep, offers its hand

And from a membrane sack

With pine needle punctures

There appears to be a way out

And I start to hear when it stops.

Give in, up and out

As tonight I am resting

With movement abreast

Held by the tides of the trees

I accept when it stops.

Gently, I died today

And the leaves sat and plaited my hair

Without word or sound

root-beds molded my hold

And my fear, it stopped.

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