This time of year Cae Mabon is essentially closed to groups. So I take up residence down in the Barn and use the quiet weeks to write. Over the last few winters I’ve been working on a memoir of my early life when I made a 10-year journey around the world. Luckily I kept journals otherwise I’d have forgotten more. Memory is such an ephemeral thing. I find that shaping experience into a story makes it more coherent and meaningful.
What strikes me now is how idealistic and even naive I was. Essentially I was on a quest to find myself and experience ‘God’. I’d studied social psychology and written a thesis on ‘Educational Change and Identity’. But on the threshold of departure I realised I had no idea what ‘identity’ really meant. Also I’d encountered people who’d gone from lives of addiction and criminality to being upright citizens as a result of a divine revelation. So I set out to find out about identity and to be open to divine revelation – beyond dogma. In essence I was searching for my origins and roots. To do this I threw myself ‘naked into the world’ - with no money, family, friends, work, roles and few skills - to find out what solid ground might lie beyond those things. See? Naive and idealistic! But maybe that’s the way of youth.
I spent four years in America, Mexico, Guatemala, Hawaii and Samoa. I worked as a landscape labourer on a freeway in Oregon, a roustabout on an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico, on the walnut harvest in the Sacramento Valley and building a military hospital near Golden Gate Bridge. I studied dance, movement, voice, massage and theatre in the Bay Area. I spent time in Mayan hill villages and on a tiny Polynesian island. I was keen to learn how people in other cultures communed with their gods - through fiesta, fia-fia, ritual dance and tuning body and mind. I went through dark times and hit rock bottom, feeling I was an utterly useless wastrel. But I found my way back up. Nature was the biggest healer, stirring me with its creative vitality. The people I met moved me too, especially those from traditional cultures. I felt their suffering, admired their resilient spirits. Slowly I learned new ways to love, first myself, then others.
There were many landmark moments along the way.
Once, when completely alone, whereabouts unknown, I felt as if an eye in the sky was aware of my every move and that I was both answerable to it and cared for by it. Another time my prayers for help to cross the border were answered by a roughshod angel who dramatically aided me to the other side. On the oilrig I danced at night on the helicopter platform, stars and black sea all around.
At the walnut farm I read ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ by William James. This was an inspiring read and spoke to many of my questions. James concludes: ’Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse.'
After a meandering journey with many side steps I did experience my own version of revelation. It came in the Hawaiian Islands, a place where spiritual awakening comes to many. Ultimately it was to do with a deep feeling that I have been created by the immense time and space of the Universe, and that I am a living human being at the wavering pinnacle of Evolution, bearing the precious gift of consciousness. What a privilege! I am grateful but also responsible. I must put my shoulder to the cosmic wheel and push it round a notch or two. After being hit by that with the force of revelation I’d never sink to rock bottom again.
Scattered through my diaries I found glimpses of my destination. ‘I want the freedom to work and build, to live in rolling hills in a cabin in the country.’ ‘My deepest goal is to live in a radical, creative, celebrational community where I can be rooted yet free.’ I even wondered if I’d be heading ‘back to the Celts and their druid high priests’. These were fleeting visions of distant peaks, impossibly far yet mysteriously urging me on.
Cae Mabon is what became of those dreams. I’m writing now from that cabin in the country, that creative community. Not surprisingly there’s a touch of Californian commune, a hint of Mayan hill village, a dash of South Sea island, an Aboriginal desert dreaming. Many people come here. There’s usually something creative or ceremonial going on, generating radiance and positivity. Immersion in the natural world stimulates health and vigour. One wise man who passed by wrote: ‘sites such as Cae Mabon are like the region’s antibodies, playing a vital role in healing the crippling disconnection within Western culture between body, soul, spirit and place.’
In its primitive but comfortable natural setting, Cae Mabon offers the possibility of feeling something ‘spiritual’. As a 17 year-old once said: ‘Being here… is like being high on nothing!’ The walls have soaked in rich and profound happenings. The grooves of transformation have been laid down. Masks and pressures drop away. People chat amiably as they cook, eat or wash up together. They loosen up, become playful, maybe even sink naked into the hot tub by the river. Sometimes they sit by the Roundhouse fire and listen to tales of once upon a time, tuning in to the enduring wisdom of folklore and myth. Such experience is expansive. It touches something old within. It is ‘Life, More Life’. And that’s before they’ve walked down the path to the lake or seen the sun set on Snowdon. 0