Years ago when I was deciding what to do post-university all I was sure about was that I didn't want to work in an office, but I had no clear idea of what else I should do. One day I was at a Psychic Fair in the Forest and when I was leaving scooped up a pile of leaflets at the door. When I got home I started to look through them, but I got no further than the one on the top which was for a school of holistic healing in Bournemouth that was offering a foundation course in Tien Chen Shiatsu. I knew nothing about the therapy but I rang the number and booked a place on the course. That was seventeen years ago, and I haven't looked back since. I knew I was home the minute I entered the building to start the training.
Tien Chen is part of an ancient Eastern philosophy of healing that follows a Taoist approach of seeking balance in people, in actions, in responses and places. It works closely with the five elements of earth, water, metal, wood and fire. Each element governs a particular set of organs, a time of day, a time of year, and a set of emotional responses. Spring, for example, is Wood time, and Winter belongs to Water. For me therefore we are now passing out of a time of Water and into a time of Wood. Wood is now the stronger of the two but there are still elements of water energy around.
Yesterday was a day of Water. I found myself being aware of it all day, being drawn to it, so much so that when we went to collect wood from an apple tree some friends had had cut down in the afternoon it wasn't the tree that was occupying my thoughts so much as the water that I'd seen on the way over. Wetlands border the western edge of our nearest market town and the river flows alongside and beneath the road that we take to get to there.
I had taken the camera with us to get shots of the wood, thinking I might do a blog entry about it, and ended up taking pictures of the water instead.
This land used to be farmland but it was allowed to flood some time ago (I think the water always wanted to be here, probably was here before and has just found a way back). It is not a place for people, but it is a place for the waterbirds that live here. It's a beautiful, striking and eerie landscape which I haven't photographed before....
A little further down the road the river Test flows beneath the bridge. It comes wild across farmland and passes more sedately to one side of the town next to a row of old cottages. I love the line of bridges in the first photo. It's another spot I've always wanted to photograph but have never got round to until yesterday. I also love the way the river splits in two with the green path between, and then comes back together as it flows beneath the road....
Water was still making it's presence felt late in the afternoon when I went up to feed Neems. These two were having a lovely time in a puddle by the yard...
Then it rained, quite an insistent shower which cleared away to leave a peaceful sky behind and I thought "Water has probably finished with me now", but it hadn't. M came back after dark calling "Come outside! Look who's here!" So L and I went out and found a grinning M pointing at something on the path. "I know you've been waiting for them for the last two weeks and they're here!"
The frogs are back!
Six years ago, when we moved here, I knew very little about frogs. I couldn't even tell a frog from a toad and I knew nothing about their habits or behaviour, but I have learnt. Every year at about this time (last year it was on Feb 18th, so they're a bit late this year), the frogs start to emerge. They cross the lane in front of our house, come up over the driveway, hop up the path, turn left and slip under the gate, cross the patio at an angle, and jump down under the fence to cross over to the lake behind the house. Which hasn't always been there- it used to be fields, then it was flooded to turn the land into a fishing lake, but there was always water there- a small stream ran down the valley and joined up with the stream that runs alongside the lane. There are some places in the world which are meant to be watery places.
If you have frogs and toads in your home environment the chances are that they will have been there for Millenia- they follow the same migratory patterns down through the generations and we feel really blessed to have them here. The significance of putting up an new fences or walls across the path of migrating frogs and toads is huge- it can have disastrous results for them. If at all possible please check your gardens after dark for the next few nights and if you see any frogs make sure they can get where they need to go- a small hole in a fence will make a massive difference to a frog and only a very small one to a person.
I usually make "beware: frogs crossing" signs to put up and slow people down on the lane because unless you know they're there you won't see them from a car. It's heart-breaking to see the squashed ones in the morning, and we often go on "frog watch" at night at this time of the year armed with torches so we can carry reluctant or slow ones across the lane so they are on the right side for the lake. Human hands contain salts and oils that can irritate a toad or frogs' skin so you have to be quick and careful if you're handling them. My favourite quote from L a few years back on seeing the bigger females carrying the smaller males on their backs: "Oh! You're having a lovely mate!" (which needless to say has passed into common family parlance)
I lay in bed last night listening to them singing- it's such a sweet and unexpected sound, not remotely croaky, far more tuneful and pleasing to the ear, a sort of soft "Pooooooo"- and reflected that it had, indeed, been a day of Water.
I'm very glad they're back. I have been worrying about them recently because they were late. It's one of the signs of Spring for me, and a note that all is well with the world. Perhaps that's what the Water was trying to tell me. A gentle reminder that, in the words of Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism: Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.