In January’s Wild City Retreat we were thrown into the wild force of the wind. None of us chose to stay out for more than a short while. It was far more comfortable to remain inside sipping hot spiced apple juice while learning about the old tradition of wassailing: “Be whole!” is a hearty greeting at any time of the year but particularly in these cold, wild days. One member spoke of childhood Januarys in Minnesota: “we would just hole up to endure it and wait until it passed.” Or in the words of our beautiful poem by the Welsh poet, Gillian Clarke, “cwtsh up” a word someone remembered her grandma using as a child, associated with warmth and family cuddles.
But outdoors this wind really spoke to people. The wild flailing of the trees, set against their deep-rooted stability spoke of the struggles of living a grounded, creative life. One member gained insight through climbing uphill right into the teeth of the wind:
As I continued to walk along the top I came to the end of the sheltered coppice and as I left it behind me the wind began to rage and really blow with energy, vigour, noise and potential chaos.
I thought that this may be a way God’s wind is blowing. Instead of a ‘still small voice’, perhaps God’s wind is raging and I can make a choice to walk on the top and get myself fully in the midst of it.
From the top was (unsurprisingly) the place where I could see a view, between the sides of the city valley and across to the houses and treetops beyond. Perhaps 2015 is a year for me to find the courage to choose to be in the midst of God’s raging wind, a deeply exciting if slightly daunting prospect.
Wild City Retreats is developing as a cross-fertilisation of traditions and approaches. Someone commented that she was unfamiliar with high church traditions or the folk tales we are weaving into our prayers, “but they are like the spices in the apple juice – they give depth and flavour to our experience.” So we left with the warming blessing of wassail, “be whole” ringing in our ears.