After celebrating the Winter Solstice with all my children on 21st December 2019, I turned my attention to the coming year, and the launch of The Riverbank Witch. I submitted my short story ‘The Dance of Love’ on the 26th December for an anthology, and was accepted. I uploaded another short story, ‘Lowri’s Forest’ to Book Funnel, to send out to volunteer readers, to decide whether to turn it into a novel, and the feedback was unanimous that I should.
Tribal Unity Wales dance classes began in Lampeter and Aberystwyth on 7th January 2020, with new ladies, as well as regular dancers. My diary began filling up with annual dance gigs like Lampeter Food Festival and The Steampunk Extraordinarium in Blaenavon with The Wee Crafty Folk. I joined prayers at 7am on Friday 10th January, the full moon, praying for rain for Australia. I woke the following morning, dizzy and disorientated, and my heart racing. Fear, swamped me, according to my diary. I had a real feeling that something more than the fires was going to happen. I organised knitters to knit joey pouches, and liaised with those transporting to Australia, and delivered our boxes to Bridgend.
At the end of January, my story ‘Leap of Faith’ was published by Zimbell in their Time Guardians anthology, and the idea, to combine all my magical creating under one, and operate as The Riverbank Witch, was underway. At Tribal Unity Wales, we learned Bollywood choreographies with the fabulous Kritika, and I began a list of possible craft fairs/book fairs/ faery festivals/craft markets and pagan markets, where I could set up a stall as The Riverbank Witch.
Throughout February I knitted and danced, and wrote and planned. I was eloquent and alive, and living a useful, worthwhile, helpful life, supporting and inspiring, creating a safe space for women to dance and be, as well as writing fiction about strong, practical, resourceful, amazing women. Inspired by the countryside around me, the magic and the muse were flowing with ideas and words…..and then the world was halted………..and my life was cancelled.
Then began the painful months, begging banks and mortgage companies, and signing on for benefits for the first time in my life. How I found the words to speak, I don’t know, but I still have my roof over my head.
Online dancing was difficult from the start, living on a Welsh hillside with a pathetic WiFi signal, and many of my ladies don’t have space in their homes to set aside to dance uninterrupted. Cancelling events in my diary began, each loss like a stab in the heart. I didn’t celebrate the publishing of my short story ‘The Dead Game’, not when there was a killer disease on my door step, and people I knew were getting sick.
With my partner at home, there was no time or space to write even if the words had been there. But instead of the usual ideas that had pervaded my head for so many years, magical fiction, linked closely with the Earth, now I was grieving for her, ripped apart by forest fires and devastated by acres and acres of cattle and pig farms, spewing pollutants into the earth, rivers and atmosphere.
We worked outside when the weather allowed, creating new vegetable beds and an area on the riverbank for fruit, anything to keep our minds and bodies active; anything we could do that cost next to nothing.
Not being able to go to the beach was almost as unbearable as not being able to see my sons. My riverbank was my solace, but I yearned for the sounds and smells of the ocean, embracing me and enhancing my magic and my life. I focussed on expanding my knitted, cotton range for The Riverbank Witch, determined to make a small difference, encouraging people to ditch throwaway wipes in favour of more sustainable options. I picked up my WIP, the sixth and final book in the Lizzie Martin Series, The Real Witch, and began to read it through with a view to write on, but my head was full of forest fires, rising hospital admissions and death rates.
In the middle of the summer last year, my partner secured a job that could be done socially distanced, but would take four weeks of long days and nights. On a whim, I abandoned The Real Witch, and began writing a new novel, out of my short story ‘Lowri’s Forest’. It’s a post apocalyptic kind of book. I wrote the first half, just over 50k words. They flowed out of me with ease. I allowed Lowri to feel some of my pain, as well as hers, and together we reached the half way point in the novel. I stopped. My partner had no more work and I had no words. Why? Because in order to complete the book, I needed a sense of hope.
It is the 1st March 2021, St David’s Day in Wales, and a bright but cold day, here on my Welsh hillside. The birds join me now on my early morning walk, and beneath my feet, the earth is warming up to spring. After the blessings of the full moon on Saturday, I’ve chakra bracelets to make for Artemis Soul Sanctuary in Monmouth, and seeds to plant to begin my vegetable growing this year. The Riverbank Witch has already launched a new product, our Twisted Headband, updated our Fresh Face bundle with extra face pads, and I’ve done the product testing on a new creation, launching on 21st March.
I haven’t seen my boys for over a year, but I am hopeful.
My depression takes my spoken words from me. I turn inward, protecting myself, keeping silent, knowing that one rebuke will be one too many to bear.
My fear takes my written words. The natural world, that has ruled my life since I was a small child talking to the moon with my toy rabbit, is hurting, because humanity takes with no thought of giving back. Fires, melting ice sheets, rising sea levels and tsunamis, are Nature’s way of fighting back, seeking to rectify the imbalance we cause Her. But I don’t fear for Her. No, I’m afraid that humans won’t listen until it’s too late. The devastation caused by animal agriculture has been known for decades, as has the possibility that an animal virus can and will spread to humans if given the right circumstances, yet the appalling, barbaric conditions animals are reared in, continues. The world is talking about coronavirus, but I’ve heard nothing from any government about urgent meetings to discuss animal agriculture practices or help or subsidies for farmers to diversify, away from animals and into crops. There is no talk of a different, new, sustainable future, but instead, it’s all about getting back to ‘normal’.
‘Normal’ is putting power, politics and profit first. Isn’t it time to put people, parity and the planet first?
I cannot change the world on my own, but I need to be true to myself. As The Riverbank Witch, I stand up for sustainablity, recycling and working with the planet, rather than against her. Every day, I am mindful to do my best in this regard, and encourage others to do the same. The vaccine has given the world hope, and we must not abuse this wonderful blessing, but use it as a platform to create a better world than the one pre lockdown.
And hope is rising in me. My partner is working next week. I’ll be ready and waiting for the words and ideas that flit around the universe, to land in my head so I can write again.
Thank you to my friend and sister, Sheena Cundy, for your love and support, encouraging me to share, even when I feel that I don’t have the words xx