I was delighted to be asked to contribute to a wonderful Anthology by OBOD member and writer Steve Gladwin entitled Land in Mind: An Anthology Celebrating Our Love For The Land. Steve has very kindly written a guest piece expaining about the project…
The Land in my Mind
The way the land is formed, its woods and rivers and valleys, are a sort of entry into the imagination. Land and Mind are so similar.
~ Catherine Fisher
In November of 2018, during an ongoing time of crisis, I took up Philip’s offer of doing the ‘Lessons in Magic’ course. I had thought that it might be a nice way of reconnecting with the Druidry I had paused early in the Druid grade. What I hoped was for that reconnection to be with the ‘inner’ part of the course’, but instead it was the outer which ended up giving me a series of delayed gifts which have been unfolding ever since.
Essentially, the course invites you to fulfil your dearest wish, while assuring you that once this process is committed to, it will happen. A big part of this is done through a programme of futurisation, an exercise which comes from Sophrology. Sophrology is the study of harmonious consciousness – a way of healing and enhancing the health of the body through a sequenced series of exercises which combine in what has been described as a form of active mindfulness.
But all of that was for the future! Right now, all I had to do was perform a ten-minute futurisation exercise over the week leading up to Christmas and into new year. What I had asked for was a way of using my own voice to help people, as well as making a living out of it – something I had long wanted.
The year that followed was a perfectly wretched one in an already wretched sequence. I looked in despair for any sign of my dream coming true. But that was also the year that I was invited to review Philip’s book on sophrology in return for a free copy. From September of 2019, I found myself practicing and enjoying many of the audio exercises from the Sophrology Institute, particularly the full foundation practice and futurisation.
At the same time, I had begun another project. I had been writing a monthly blog for children’s writers blog ‘An Awfully Big Blog Adventure’ since 2016, and I had decided to ask several of my fellow writers to contribute to a series of interviews called ‘A Writer in their own Landscape’. One of the first contributors was Kit Berry, creator of Stonewylde, but it was not until I invited two mentors, Kevin Crossley-Holland, and Hugh Lupton to contribute, that I realised I might have something potentially special.
A year passed and with it came the opportunity to begin the full foundation course with Philip and the Sophrology Institute. I begun this in February and having begun volunteering and later working for the most wonderful organisation that is Credu Powys Carers, I was delighted when they offered to fund all four levels of the course. It was one of those rare chances when someone wants to invest in you as a person and has led to a great deal since.
‘Land in Mind’ officially became a book some time in May and after that I approached John Mitchinson of ‘Unbound Publishing’, among whose many other jobs is as technical adviser for the BBC’s QI, and he agreed enthusiastically to it as an ‘Unbound’ project. And by then I had gathered some quite wonderful people. including Philip himself, Ronald Hutton, John Matthews, Katherine Langrish, Nicola Davies, Catherine Fisher, Julie Fowlis, Brian Sibley, John Garth, Kevin, Hugh and many more. The end total is 55, which is fairly astonishing!
So, what is ‘Land in Mind’ about and why should people support it. Oddly enough, I had never thought of it as an anthology, but that is what ‘Unbound’ has called it on their lovely site page. Those interviews with Kevin and Hugh, so lyrical and dreamlike, but above all deeply steeped in memory, and that sense of loss, evoked what we in Wales call hiraeth – which – as much as you can ever describe it – is loss combined with longing. This to have in common. Here were mainly happy childhoods, full of such clearly caught memories and the glow of experience. With it came the realisation that what we so often do with our childhoods and especially the places we live in when young, is carry them around as a form of sanctuary, so that we can draw on them and rekindle them when we need them. And in the case of these interviews – during the last two years – that time was lockdown.
Land in Mind is full of wonders – and full of sevens. As the author of a book called The Seven, how could it not be anything else. There are seven elements, which include the familiar four plus childhood, The inspiration of the Cauldron of Ceridwen and the otherworld. There are seven pieces in the sequence called Places of Childhood by Brian Sibley and Katherine Langrish. And, most importantly, there are seven questions, which were asked in a particular order. With the remainder – the poems, stories and features on King Arthur, the selkies, and the Inklings Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams – a very special magic is woven which makes this a truly unique book. In many ways the books is a synthesis of my own life and creative adventures, my work with Druidry and Storytelling – and Taliesin in particular, told through the people who I have either worked with, or whose work I have most admired.
Unbound are the only crowdfunding publisher, which means pledging money to gain a whole variety of awards from a simple £25, right into the stratosphere of £1000 for those lucky souls who can afford it. There is no book until the amount needed to find it is found, and then – after a suitable time – it is published and those rewards you have pledged for are yours.
The wonderful Kit Berry, to whom Land in Mind is dedicated, sadly lost her battle against Motor Neurone Disease very close to the time of the ancestors. May they grasp her in their arms as her unique spirit joins theirs.
To support this fabulous project and to secure your own copy visit the Unbound page here.