The Story of My Heart

Ann and I share a deep love of nature, and we often exchange stories of connecting with the trees, insects, flowers and birds. So I love that her choice for this anniversary issue is an amazing celebration of what it is to be with nature.

THE STORY OF MY HEART Richard Jefferies

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There is a lovely tale to Ann’s connection with The Story of My Heart, too: as a teenager, she was once at the library, looking for an interesting book to read. She put her hand out to pick up her chosen book, but her hand came back holding The Story of My Heart, which she hadn’t even seen was there! She began to read it, and found Richard Jefferies’ exquisite description of the spiritual opening he experienced whenever he communed with the Earth. As she read, it was as though the world stood still, and she experienced exactly what Richard Jefferies was describing.

What better affirmation could this bring? That nature can give this spiritual connection to you. You can be at one with nature at any time, for you are part of the same whole. It’s as easy as falling off a log!

Here is a blessing received by Ann as she lay in the company of two huge oak trees.

The Blessing of the Trees

Dearest children, we want you to receive, and be filled with, the deepest comfort. Open your hearts and listen in stillness to the song of solace and renewal that you can hear – the song of joy and passion that reverberates through the whole of nature at this time of year.

We know you often think of life and death as two sides of the same coin, and from the perspective of life in a human body, in the world of space and time, that is often how they look. But in truth they are not. They are not of the same order, just as clouds are not of the same order as that overarching canopy of blue you call the sky. Life is eternal, never ceasing to flow, both within and beyond time. Whereas death is merely a momentary incident, a discrete event signifying change. It does not and cannot signify ending, for life – by its very nature – can never end. Just open all your senses, and look and feel around you, and you will know that this is true.

Love is stronger than death. Life is stronger than death. Light is stronger than death. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. See this, around and within you, in all its glory. Know that it fills you, and will never leave you. Recognise that, in truth, it is you. Yes, all that beauty, all that joy, flows through you just as it flows through all creation, giving you your sense of self, giving you life, ever present to wash you clean of those illusory twins: death and separation. Know that this river can never come to an end. Give thanks for this eternal blessing which is given to you freely, and is always yours. And in that state of gratitude, let Life come to full flower within you, just as you can see it blossoming all around you now.

And with this renewed sense of the invincible power of Life flowing through you, step out into the world with courage, knowing that – through your open mind, your loving heart, and your willing hands – this power of Life can soften and dissolve many an illusion, in ways far beyond your understanding.

So dear friends, why not give yourself half an hour to lie or sit under a tree, and let yourself be replenished from the everflowing well of Life itself?

With heartfelt love, Ann and Sarah

To Feel the Embrace of the Earth

In summer I went out into the fields, and let my soul inspire these thoughts under the trees, standing against the trunk, or looking up through the branches at the sky. If trees could speak, hundreds of them would say that I had had these soul-emotions under them. Leaning against the oak’s massive trunk, and feeling the rough bark and the lichen at my back, looking southwards over the grassy fields, cowslip-yellow, at the woods on the slope, I thought my desire of deeper soul-life. Or under the green firs, looking upwards, the sky was more deeply blue at their tops; then the brake fern was unrolling, the doves cooing, the thickets astir, the late ash-leaves coming forth. Under the shapely rounded elms, by the hawthorn bushes and hazel, everywhere the same deep desire for the soul-nature; to have from all green things and from the sunlight the inner meaning which was not known to them, that I might be full of light as the woods of the sun’s rays. Just to touch the lichened bark of a tree, or the end of a spray projecting over the path as I walked, seemed to repeat the same prayer in me.

The long-lived summer days dried and warmed the turf in the meadows. I used to lie down in solitary corners at full length on my back, so as to feel the embrace of the earth. The grass stood high above me, and the shadows of the tree-branches danced on my face. I looked up at the sky, with half closed eyes to bear the dazzling light. Bees buzzed over me, sometimes a butterfly passed, there was a hum in the air, greenfinches sang in the hedge. Gradually entering into the intense life of the summer days, a life which burned around as if every grass blade and leaf were a torch, I came to feel the long drawn life of the earth back into the dimmest past, while the sun of the moment was warm on me. Sesostris on the most ancient sands of the south, in ancient, ancient days, was conscious of himself and of the sun. This sunlight linked me through the ages to that past consciousness.

From all the ages my soul desired to take that soul-life which had flowed through them as the sunbeams had continually poured on earth. As the hot sands take up the heat, so would I take up that soul-energy. Dreamy in appearance, I was breathing full of existence; I was aware of the grass blades, the flowers, the leaves on hawthorn and tree. I seemed to live more largely through them, as if each were a pore through which I drank.

The grasshoppers called and leaped, the greenfinches sang, the blackbirds happily fluted, all the air hummed with life. I was plunged deep in existence, and with all that existence I prayed.

Through every grass blade in the thousand, thousand grasses; through the million leaves, veined and edge-cut, on bush and tree; through the song-notes and the marked feathers of the birds; through the insects’ hum and the colour of the butterflies; through the soft warm air, the flecks of clouds dissolving, I used them all for prayer.

From The Story of my Heart, © 1883 by Richard Jefferies, published by Green Books.