It's That Merry, Happy, Lucky, 
Ho-Ho Time of Year … Again!

Travels with AlohaBears

Back in 2011, I had planned a two-week trip to England — one week in Glastonbury in the West Country to attend a symposium, another week in the north near Newcastle and Carlisle to visit family. Within months, however, I learned my trip would be a good bit longer than I'd intended. I was buying my flight with air miles, but the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, taking place at the same time as my trip, made it impossible for me to fly over and back as intended. Instead, I would have to fly in early and fly out nearly a month later than planned, stretching my trip from two weeks to six. Suddenly, I had a month to kill in the United Kingdom. Strangely, my plight drew no sympathy. "Oh, boo-hoo!" said my friends, "You sure have some high-class troubles."

With the official End of the World scheduled for December 21, 2012, a pilgrimage to one of England's most important spiritual sites seemed in order.

Glastonbury in Somerset County is the Avalon of old, an ancient tidal lake, a place that supported a flourishing religious community before the Romans arrived, which Jesus Christ is said to have visited as a teenager. It was here that King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged and where his body, alongside that of Queen Guinevere, was reputed to have been laid to rest beneath the immense Glastonbury Abbey.

The whole region is studded with places significant to diverse spiritual traditions. No wonder that the Tor, a high hill on the edge of town, was incorporated into the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as the symbol for many peoples coming together in one locale.

The Glastonbury Symposium, the four-day event I had traveled far to attend, was first held in 1990 as a crop circles conference. Now, however, it attracts people from around the world who have interests in the environment, new science, sacred sites, earth energies, UFOs, psychic phenomena, alternative health, metaphysics, sacred geometry, consciousness studies, dowsing, and many other topics usually considered "on the edge." (http://www.glastonburysymposium.co.uk/index.html)

I couldn't wait to get there.

Even King Henry VIII, who ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, could not destroy the Grace that still palpably surrounds the magnificent ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey.
 
A crop circle that appeared in the summer of 2012
  within sight of the Alton Barnes White Horse,
a chalk hill figure created in 1812.

No surprise that symposium participants line up for the chance to tour the summer's crop circles that appear in the agricultural fields of the West Country. Crop circles appear annually in this part of England, and wheat and barley are the usual media selected by their makers. But visitors who are new to crop circles are surprised to learn that these mysterious works of art appear all over the world, sometimes in sand or snow, and that their appearances have been reported since the seventeenth century. (http://www.bltresearch.com/usacropcircles/)

Aerial views of crop circles show off their elegant, often intricate designs to best advantage. A ground-truthing expedition into one is equally mesmerizing. I visited two crop circles and saw for myself how the grain is bent, but not broken, and how the stalks are layered, with each point of an angled interior shape coming down neatly to a single stalk. Pretty complex and precise work to have been accomplished by college kids dragging planks on ropes!

What's more, the energy within a crop circle is different and strange. On that hot, exhausting afternoon, after we'd driven around the countryside and traipsed through fields to reach these mysterious creations, I lay down to rest in a freshly made one that had appeared a few days earlier in the space of one hour during daylight. Fifteen minutes later, I arose completely revived. Go figure.
Sir Ella Grace —
worthy founder of "Team Cousins."
 
From Glastonbury and England's West Country, I traveled north to Houghton-le-Spring, near Durham, and to Brampton, near Carlisle, to spend time with John's distant cousins. And while his cousins may be distant in terms of geographical location and the relative spacing of our branches on the family tree, they are certainly not distant in terms of either congeniality or hospitality. Once again, I had ample reason to be grateful for marital prerogative.

One of these cousins, Ella Grace McClure, is a little girl with a big spirit who turned six this summer. Watch for her in decades to come, because, as anyone who's met her will attest, her destiny is sure to carry her well beyond her native Cumbria. Some say she's bound for show business, others say politics — I say, if she moves to California, she can have both.

And thank you, Matt and Barbie, for our impromptu ceilidh/kanikapila/mixed-strings jam! That was so much fun! Guitar, fiddle, and ukulele make a great combo.
Experiencing previously unexplored sections of the Hadrian's Wall Path.
 

Back in 2009, John and I hiked 63 miles of an 84-mile walk that follows the ancient pathway of Hadrian’s Wall across northern England. The wall was built during the second century by order of the Roman Emperior Hadrian to keep back all those painted and tattooed barbarians living in the northern lands now known as Scotland (i.e., our ancestors). Though most of the actual wall is long gone, its course has been developed into a National Trail. We walked the most difficult and isolated middle section, but skipped the beginning and ending sections — on the east side of the country from Wallsend, a suburb of Newcastle, to Heddon-on-the-Wall, and on the west side of the country from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway at the Solway Estuary.

Since I was to be in the neighborhood for a week and a half anyway, it seemed like a good time to tie up loose ends and complete the walk I’d started three years earlier. I picked up the path in central Newcastle and, on a lovely sunny day, covered the roughly 10 miles to Heddon-on-Wall without incident or damage to myself.

A few days later, I attempted the Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway section, beginning in a village just outside Carlisle. After several hours of pasture crossings that included long stretches of mud and muck in which I sank with each step up to my shins, I realized I would have to call it quits. I waited an hour or so for the local bus in Beaumont, a village whose one and only “service” is a pay phone in a booth. When the bus came, it was going the “wrong” way — which is to say, out to the coast. But I decided to take it, if only to see what I had hoped to see in the first place. Besides, it was better than waiting another hour and a half for that same bus to return and take me back to Carlisle.

A good thing I stopped where I did, too, because alerts (which I later read) on the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail website announced that same day that the trail had been closed between Beaumont and what would have been my next stop: Kirkandrew. The River Eden had risen under the heaviest rains that England had received in a hundred years, and a collapsed bank closed the trail.




On August 18, 2012,
two dozen strangers came together
at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland.

Seven days later,
we all parted as friends.

The “intentional community” of Findhorn in Scotland was founded in 1965, but it took ten years for news of it to reach me in California. In the mid-1970s, I was at a critical juncture in my life, having recently finished college and moved to San Francisco. I was living in the Haight-Ashbury when I ran across a book entitled The Findhorn Garden, and while I can’t say I fully understood the spiritual underpinnings of the place — like Glastonbury, Findhorn is one of Great Britain's sacred places — I certainly got it that here was a community of people living successfully in close relationship with one another and with Nature. I longed for such a context for myself.

Fast forward thirty years to 2012. I’d had my career as an editor … and I'd retired from it. And now, unexpectedly, I was to have an extra month to kill in the U.K. Thoughts of Findhorn returned — clearly the time had come for me to go see this magical place for myself. I signed up for a Findhorn “Experience Week,” which the organization’s website (www.findhorn.org) describes as "the best way to come to Findhorn and find out about what it's like ... seven days that can change your life and your world."

All true. My own Experience Week at Findhorn turned out to be one of the most significant weeks of my life. Many people have asked me what this place was like — and what my experience of it was. I have tried to explain all in an article I call "My Dinner with Findhorn," which can be sent to you as a PDF email attachment. Just leave your request and your email address as an entry in the Guestbook that is the last page this website. (Don't worry: I won't post your entry, so no one else will see your email address.)

 
 


Kumi Nelson and John G (the Great) giving a shout-out to Pele in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, October 2012.
And before our year was complete, John and I traveled once again to the Big Island of Hawaii. Of course, our beloved island was a great place to decompress from John's recent body-slam into retirement. But how much better yet to be able to spend so much time with our beloved friends there — demonstrating, once again, that a visit to paradise with no loved ones there to meet you is only sightseeing.

And mahalo, Chen Yin, for helping me to find my Aloha Spirit, wherever I am in the world!




Little Striding-Man petroglyph in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park inspires us to face our future with confidence and optimism.
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