Pushed to the edge
I’m back from my retreat and my biggest fear came true. I was off-grid, on a wild and remote site on Dartmoor, with my phone locked away in a box… and in the dark of night, gale-force winds and torrential rain BLEW MY TENT DOWN!
In 6 layers of clothes, waterproofs and a head torch, I wrangled with tent pegs and mallets as the rain slapped my face. The wind and rain were too fierce, I couldn’t fix it.
When I posted about this retreat on Thursday last week, I decided to approach this experience with faith… not in a higher power or things outside of my control (like the weather!) but in my ability to handle it. Now that disaster had struck, I was surprised to discover I felt calm, I wasn’t scared or freaking out. I went into resourceful mode and with the help of some lovely people, moved all my stuff through the torrential rain and pitch black forest to my car, put the back seats down, laid my mattress and sleeping bag out, set up a torch and got a good 8 hours sleep in my car!
I woke up the next morning, made coffee in the rain, and went to find my sorry heap of a tent. It was filled with so much water it reminded me of emptying paddling pools for my boys. Intent on ‘leaving no trace’, I slowly located and removed all the poles from inside, drained, folded and packed the whole thing back into its bag, then into a black sack, so it didn’t leak all over the car.
Then I went back and carried on with the retreat!
Over the weekend we took part in a lot of group work, designed to get us singing in unison and harmony, connect with nature, inspire our lyrics, and expand our songwriting tool kits.
One of the exercises invited us to find a tree or a plant and mindfully connect with it. I was drawn to an ancient tree in the pine forest, noticing its mighty strength, wondering how long it had been standing in that spot, what it may have witnessed in its years. I remembered reading an article recently about how tree roots communicate with each other under the forest floor and seek out other roots that may be healing to them. I thought about how the carbon dioxide we breathe out is absorbed by the trees and converted into energy, and the oxygen we breathe is provided to us by the trees. We depend on each other, we are connected. I thought about how we need to value our trees more, as we continue to burn our Amazon rainforest ‘the lungs of the earth’.
The final challenge on the last day was to write a song in one hour, then perform it to the group. Let me be clear this felt INSANE! A lot of my songs have taken me YEARS to feel confident enough to perform to anyone.
I could have written a song about my misfortune and struggle… yet I really wanted to use this opportunity to gift myself with a song that drew strength from the experience, so I chose to write about the ancient tree I had connected with in the pine forest the previous day. It stood so tall and strong, the connection with this living thing full of energy and life, highlighted I was feeling small and afraid.
This experience took me way out of my comfort zone. It has really tested and pushed me to my edge. Yet I handled it and have come away feeling stronger. Braver.
So, in a continued effort to keep pushing my edges and developing my courage as a singer-songwriter, I’m going to ignore the fear screaming DON’T DO IT, and tomorrow I’ll record a video of me performing the song I wrote in one hour, using the handwritten notes I dashed out in the rain in the forest, without editing it. As it’s so new, raw and personal it feels very vulnerable, I’m therefore not going to post it on social media but will share it with my email mailing list.
I figure if you’ve trusted me enough to join my mailing list, and clicked ‘read more’ to get to the end of this article, then you’re connected enough to me and my journey for me to feel safe sharing this with you!
Love Angel x