Together at the Creative Edge

May 8, 2020

Ordinarily, come Beltane we run away to the woods and immerse ourselves in community amongst the bluebells and birdsong with two hundred fellow springtime adventurers at our Space to Emerge micro-festival.

Lockdown presented an opportunity try something a little different this year as we gave our first online retreat a go. Although we had heavy hearts that we would not be able to be with everyone together out in the shadow of the Cumbrian mountains, we at least were able to connect with each other in the best way we could online.

Our focus with Space to Emerge is always about creativity. The energy underlying the Celtic festival of Beltane is fertility: birthing new things into the world and emerging afresh into the world. From our own experiences over the past few months during lockdown we have found that creativity has been our balm, and so it seemed the perfect theme to choose.

Our First Online Retreat​

We spent Friday evening to Sunday evening together, immersing in nature's beauty and the mysteries of the Otherworld. We had nature videos to lose ourselves in, creativity talks, an opportunity to tune into the wisdom of the trees and the medicine that animals hold for us. We each went on a shamanic medicine walk, wrote poems, created art, went on shamanic journeys, bathed in the energy of the healing drum, enjoyed a live campfire shindig together and an open mic session. We laughed, cried, mused and most of all spent time in soulful community.

The Space to Emerge Online retreat has taught us that connection knows no boundaries, nor limitations. That when we meet each other at our edge and peer over we do not see the cliff descending into the darkness that might we expect. Instead we see a collective group of smiling faces, hands stretched out reaching for us, cheering us on, helping us make that step forward we have been grappling with for all these years. Encouraging us to move just that little bit closer to where our soul is aching to be.

A Rite of Passage

This weekend we proved to ourselves and each other that lockdown does not need to mean lock in. That even within the confines of our four walls we can travel on untold adventures to far flung places in our imagination, where we can merge with the birch tree, crawl onto a spiders back, seek lessons from the ant and meet our muse. That through art in all its many forms, we can disappear within the depths of our psyche and inner workings and emerge the other side just that little bit different.

We can step out into our back yards, gardens and crafted videos and allow ourselves to be held and guided gently by nature's wisdom and caress.

In indigenous cultures there is an important rite of passage practice where the individual embarks on a vigil; a stilling, where they sit in the wildness alone for four days and four nights without luxuries and without food. There is something deeply transformational that happens when we move from a place of comfort into a place of shelter, spending a prolonged length of time here feeling uncomfortable: where we open ourselves up to the unknown and face that thing which most terrifies us.

Through this we grow a little bit stronger, a little bit more insightful, and a little bit braver. It is these qualities that will, like the alder tree, firm up unstable ground and give us that foundation we need in order to let go and launch ourselves further into the unknown.

Crisis brings change...

and it is our individual and collective choice as to how we respond to it.

We can bury our heads in the sand and wait it out, with the hope that we will return to normal as quickly as possible. Or we can choose to stay awake through the darkness, fully conscious of everything which is happening around us, staring into the dark forest, knowing that when dawn does eventually come our world will look very different indeed.

It is in this place, eyes wide open with our ear bent listening out for the whispers carried to us in the wind, watching the mysterious shadows dance their strange dance, that we can see the opportunity that is presenting itself, the opportunity to birth something new. Who was happy with normal anyway?

The coronavirus pandemic has given us all a space to emerge into something different. Mothers say that giving birth isn’t easy, but it is rewarding beyond measure. Just as with the birth of a child, this moment in human history is messy, ugly and painful but at the same time joyous, beautiful, expansive and exciting.

The very foundations of capitalism are crumbling around us, and as we sit in the pain and grief of the ashes, rest assure that something new will rise. It is our choice as to what shape that will take, whether it will be a band-aid around civilisation or something completely new. I know which I am choosing to help create.

So how do we begin?

This is our time to follow our curiosity and spend time doing those things we haven’t allowed ourselves to do for many years: that thing which lights a fire in our belly and burns strong driving us forward, no matter how random the direction feels.

This is our time to follow our creative urges. If we can’t feel them, it is time to find ways to feel our way into them. This is not easy. We have years, centuries of conditioning telling us anything which isn’t ‘work’ is a waste of time. But creativity will lead us down the path of the unconditioned mind and closer to our true selves; that part of us beneath the weighted cloak of do’s and don’ts culture has lent to us. And when fear shows up, as it surely will, move it from the driver’s seat to the back seat of the car, and remember not to be fixed on the outcome needing to be any good. Done is good enough.

We had the most marvellous weekend together. Thank you to all of you for making this experience so very special. Let’s see what emerges now we are on the other side.

Art really will save the world.​

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Lovely to hear about the weekend. Yes, time in vigil listening to the Other, and the art awakened by this could certainly lead to something new rather than the aforementioned band-aid… My gods keeping telling me to focus on my ‘gift’ (awen – inspiration) something I’m struggling with for the reason you mention – that it isn’t paid work – and that I’m too worried about being unable to find paid work to find my focus. It’s a bit of vicious cycle… Maybe it’s that fear I need to break free from…

  2. Marvellous. I really felt empowered reading this and although I am a total novice l can’t wait to join in with the online group to take me forward into a fulfilling, mindful wellbeing

    1. Thank you, Denise, this is really great to hear you felt this way reading my blog, and I am very excited about sharing this adventure with you 🙂

  3. That was lovely to read and makes so much sense to me…….it’s also helped me be aware of the things I feel I’m not ‘allowed’ to do , creatively, issues and thought forms for me to address . Beautiful, thank you.

  4. Thank you Jason & Nicola for a lovely weekend and sharing all of your creative talents with us. Shamanic journeying was totally new for me but you made it a safe guided space which gave great insight and a memorable experience. Jason’s video footage and photography was amazing and Nicolas meditative voice added calm. Although by no means would I call myself a poet, but since the creative workshop I find myself writing personal meaningful poems and have even bought a dedicated book for poems – who knew I was an oppressed poet waiting to come out! ?
    Thank you

  5. Thank you Jason & Nicola for letting me attend your online Space to Emerge festival. I haven’t been to one before and I have to say I was amazed at how wonderful the two days were. I thought I would just dip in listen for a bit to the things I was interested in and then spend the weekend doing everyday things we do on lockdown. But from that first day of introductions I was hooked. I loved it all and never moved from your classes through zoom.

    You reignited my photography as I hadn’t taken any pictures in over 7 months, after a sudden onset brain illness (previously a wedding photographer). Thankfully I am coming out the other side now and after a hard slog emotionally and physically I feel well.

    I went on the medicine walk for the first time, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I learned about the spirit animals Ant & Spider and photographed them. You ignited my love for nature and especially trees. You made me believe I could write poems – I never have written one before. I have written since the festival and I love it. So thank you for this too.

    I could go on but the overall message is that I loved it. And I would do it all again tomorrow. Thank you both and I am continuing my learning of trees and spirit guides and getting back to my photography. But most of all I’m back to being me and my love of nature. Thank you both. Love and hugs Shirley xxxx

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Would you like us to keep in touch with you?

If you enter your details in the box we'll be able to update you with our event news, courses and more.