21 February 2024
9 min read

My Movement Medicine Apprenticeship included many investigations and integrations, an exploration of my creativity and my healing practice.

Movement Medicine indoors and outdoors.

As well as the taught sessions, I curated part of my Apprenticeship myself, including integrated creative practice in my garden at home. Dancing outdoors, with the outdoor world was a very special experience. I made my way in and out of movement, writing, making and noticing, and being with the natural world around me.

After a break during the pandemic, I re-entered the Apprenticeship electives with the Vision Quest in Devon. The core of this workshop was time spent solo, without food or much shelter, outdoors on Dartmoor. An immersion, an exploration, an investigation, a deep resourcing and a profound experience.

Here is writing that emerged from my Vision Quest, connecting with the Elements and the Directions, and the natural world.

Vision Quest

And I asked - What do you know about being present in your maturity?

Old Oak - in the South

Here I am, in my glory - green-overlaid-green. You will see great beards of lichen hanging from my branches - not me, but welcome to be with me. You will see these patches on my patchwork trunk - moss, a little dry now, but she'll perk up when the rain comes; white and yellow lichens, and grey; I don't keep count of the kinds, but there they are, spreading as they can, in the direction they will. These flies with the lacework wings, these ants, can shelter from the wind behind my strong trunk. I do not sway, nowadays, although my leaves and branches love to dance with the wind and with the hoverflies and the circling birds. Some twigs and small branches of my great body are dead - I have pulled my energy from them, back into my centre. They are drying, no sap runs there. They can stay or drop, or be broken off, as they please, or according to the pattern of wind and animals - it is no threat to me, either way. It's not like long ago, emerging from the acorn as tiny seed-leaves, tender trunklet - any loss a calamity. I've weathered the sheep and the human boots, I have no need of a protective fence or guard. I keep watch over my land - especially all the places where my shadow falls, throughout the cycles of the day and year - but also all those places I sense through my topmost leaves and my furthest roots. I drink sunlight all the day, and I'm sensing, always sensing, through air and water, how it is, in my place. Squirrel runs up me, wren lands; I don't pay too much heed. They can come and go, from my trunk and branches, as they will. 

Air walk

Walking to the Northing Tree shows up irritation, challenge, conflict. Insects buzz me, annoying, and the dragonflies are fighting for territory, for the best beautiful pool. High on the moor-top, pure air shows her beauty, breezing and stilling, creating patterns in leaf-flit and stalk-bend, knocking off my hat with her gusting as I dance. Coming down to the Northing Tree from above, I am glad of the protection I put on - sun-hat and boots that can ward off the bracken. From here I can see how my camp, unobtrusive and hidden from the path, looks obvious and wrong, with the tarp flapping in an ungainly way, suggesting the pole may have collapsed, the wrong site chosen, ineptness on show. I ask the Tree, the Maple or Sycamore, what she knows of maturity, and how I can find medicine for this skill of being able to see what is wrong. The answer is in the birdsong; the capacity of air to reach out, boundless; to take in variety; to transmit what is good. 

Finding a yes first, to myself, as I notice the variety in how each leaf moves on the single tree, wind deflected through complex dynamics. I see what is good about the camp I have made, and my choices. Cuckoo sings her two notes, and gulls and little birds fly about.

West with the Water

To the West is a Spring. But not a Spring as I might have expected - a Spring that loves the mosses above all things. Those mosses, they have such a thirst - they love to be cool, and sit in a pool and drink as they rest. Spring says, in maturity, the ecosystem is here around me. I don't remember who arrived first, or how it developed, but these flat yellow star-mosses, and these tall green star-mosses, live in my waters. They make places for Tiny Grasshopper to jump around, and small pools appear between them for the floating ones. Damselfly and Dragonfly know where to come for some lunch, or just for a drink and a wing-dip. Later, my waters emerge between mud-walls for a little look at the sun and the foxgloves, before joining the noise-making stream. Here, water is very quiet, and just below the surface. 

Tree of the West says: I am One, and I am a Grove. I was once upright, as young trees are, but I have fallen and tipped into my unique shape. I give shelter to sheep and lambs and people. I have broken, but my broken piece has re-rooted under the moss and earth, and I grow, still, in that part of me. My horizontal branches make places for ferns and mosses to live. In falling, and splitting, I became new, and different, and I also remain the same. My leaves take the same shape, my sap flows, I am secure in my roots. 

At the stream, I play. I let in the resource of Water, to energise me. I sing a song to a waterfall. I find a stick and dress her up in Nature as her protection. Squirrel runs by!

Earth Walk - Up Ugborough

Set off with gusto. I went up to find the sunlight as the day was drawing to a close, and danced on the moortop near my camp. Hedges' shadows grew visibly, catching cattle across the valley. Different things came into view as the sun sank below my hill-top - sheep shone white above the bracken. 

Dancing with sun and sky and shadows, I decided to climb Ugborough to see the sunset. I noticed my way of moving, as I set off through the landscape with direction, a set intention - so different to dancing my Mesa practice. My legs felt strong, despite the heaviness of my pack in the morning, and I climbed pretty much straight up, unsure of when the sun would set. Crossing the line into the sunlit zone was less clear than I expected, as clouds rolled in a little. The moon was nearly full, and had risen before I set off. Moon ahead and sun behind, both played hide-and-seek - high land obscured the moon, in the cloudless South, and the sun came and went behind the clouds.  The top of Ugborough was pleasingly rocky and outcroppy. No-one else was there, although I thought I saw the entrance to a badger's sett on the way up, between the bracken. I climbed up the granite to perch like an eagle at the nearly-top. A bit of wind, but not too much. Fullish moon ahead, settingish sun behind, showing herself now and then between orange-edged clouds. I tried out my peripheral vision, but I couldn't quite get the two in my sights at once. Choice of beauty - which way to face - full moon and the fields sloping down towards blurry sea, or sun playing peekaboo, lighting the sky orange above the moor?

East - Fire

The warm heart of the treecreeper.
she knows her direction -
softly, directly, upwards.
brown back at one with brown bark;
white belly, shining, underneath.

Half of me is in life, half of me is in death. There is brittleness, fragility in my boughs now, even those that still have leaves. The living half of me can give shelter and beauty. I am putting on a cracking display of flowers turning to berries - small fruits now, but you should have seen me blossoming just a few weeks ago! If you come back, in a while my berries will be red, juicy - delicacies for the birds - carrying the seeds of future trees. 

With what you have, put on a great show, where you can.

Back to the East. Late morning sunlight - although I'm guessing the time, having gone beyond clocks. Sunlight picks out patches of ground where it has not been embraced by trees above - a sliver of leaf-mould, eight ferns, the centre of the stream, and five moss-clad stones. Midges are circulating, doing their own special midgey-dance - keep moving, no straight lines. A sudden dimming - a light cloud must have arrived, but it soon passes, and the ground-sun-patches re-emerge. These grass-blades are the lucky ones, a feast of light, generosity for a few minutes. The broken off limb of a tree, fallen with its severed end upwards, is also bestowed with light. What is this sunshine for you? Does the drying feel delicious? Or are you past feeling now, and it's the beetles, worms and little ones feasting on you who may feel the sunshine with joy or with dismay, in their little-one ways?

Bluebell seed medicine

Bluebell seeds know how to rattle.
They have experience,
they have rattled already,
they have called out their rattling nature
from their white bones
standing guard at midsummer.

Bluebell paradox -
not blue, not bell -
they have made their way to the other side,
crossed the veiled opening,
leaving their rattling voices calling the pathway
to go beyond, and come home.

Hannah Mackay

Hannah Mackay

Hannah Mackay is a shiatsu practitioner and teacher, researcher, poet, dancer, maker and mother. She lives in Manchester, UK.