Picture:Tamsin Calidas

I was childless and heartbroken. Nature healed me

Like nearly half of my generation I haven't had kids. Nature, wild swimming and the sea healed me

I always longed for children. Since I was a small child, I envisaged being mother to a large family. An ample tree with strong, generous arms, roots anchored deep into soil, nourishing and nurturing young shoots and saplings reaching for sunlight. My own woodland was sparse. The middle child of three, I yearned for a larger composite than the small self-contained copse that comprised our family. Our ancestral tree was cut off at its roots. Its outgrowth ringbarked. That denser aggregate, on both sides, distanced across continents, uplifted or culled years before, in the immediate and longer years preceding our existence. It intensified a longing, to one day bear fruit to a simple dream. Simply to be a mother, to have my own family and children.

One of the painful truths of growing older is that dreams do not always come true. Life can unfold differently to our hopes and expectations.  Longing or effort can make little difference to the cruelty of reproductive function. Yet in spite of its unpromising start, that journey held untold gifts, germinating, waiting to flourish and grow.

* * *

I remember distinctly the words articulated by a tearful father at his daughter’s wedding: “We are defined by our children.” At the time it was hard to hold back my own tears. Later, that scalding sorrow lit into iridescent anger. I struggled to express my upset and discomfort, as kindly friends squeezed my hand, mouthing “It’s so unfair.” It felt patronising and as if I was a victim. The sympathy felt cloying. It left me breathless, struggling to find my agency, my calm and equilibrium. I realised I was the only woman either without children, or expecting. I wanted to be happy yet I felt flushed and angry. It was hard to find the right words, to fill that lack of understanding, it’s missing.

I longed instead for empathy – that others – friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, society and all those who effortlessly kept creating children – might simply understand what it might feel like. To really feel how that intensity of longing and loss of children might be.

How it might feel to want to love, unconditionally. To mother, and to be part of that great universal gathering.

* * *

A path without children

I have no children. I have tried every path to become a mother. From the age of 29 to aged 49, having a child was my grail. It led to 10 years of fertility treatments that failed.

Infertility is a cruel companion. Its scrutiny is unrelenting. It beckons you, lulling you with sharp listening eyes;  its soft paws pad closer, circling, weaving light and shadows. Its dance is mesmeric. Softly, all the while, coaxing whispered promises, it asks to be your friend and so you trust. You give your heart and soul, your most intimate being, only, still it asks for me. Its smile becoming ever more pointed. When you have nothing left to give, it yawns, and slowly stretches. Circling, you notice its limbs tense, poised to spring. Its smile, no longer inviting, reveals sharp pointed bared teeth. An agonising, exquisite stalking follows, like a starving vixen cornering its prey. It is a strange relief when it springs. You know its pain already. Infertility is like this. In the end, there is no escape.

I attempted to be a parent in other ways

I tried to adopt, but after years of being approved, we were still waiting and eventually my marriage broke down, and with it, once again the chance of being a mother.  Donor eggs were not possible – my hormones were shot, and the one that I lacked, one was the one that cannot be synthetically reproduced.

Could surrogacy work?

Later, I investigated the journey of surrogacy, only to find my eggs in storage had long since been discarded. It was a shattering blow. I made further enquiries, seeking to understand my increasingly limited options, its exorbitant costs, travel, uncertainties and minefield of legal considerations. As a single parent, unable to provide either eggs or sperm, the road is fraught, complex, ambivalent, and uncertain.

More recently, I was simply told I was too old. Fostering is an option that still remains open but after so much grief, the thought of giving back a vulnerable child to an unknown future, with all its uncertainties, feels beyond me. I have experienced enough grief and having made attachments, I worried that it would lead to further anguish.

Giving up hope was a kind of death

It perplexes me, now with hindsight, quite what I was prepared to endure in order to mother a child. It was a relentless, agonising, physical arduous, and emotionally destructive journey. Giving up hope, was a death of sorts.

Nature and childlessness

It is hard to explain now how that felt. The only thing I can offer is an image of nature. Imagine inhabiting an earth that is devoid of all life or growth. It feels a little like this. Inhabiting your body is crippling. For all the seeds you try to sow, nothing in nature, will ever make that grass grow.

In the process of grieving, I was forced to confront another  uncomfortable and unconventional truth; being childless makes you an outsider.

As a woman who is not a mother, you slowly learn to live by a code of invisible rules.  In my thirties, it felt like I had a tight tourniquet around a newly staunched wound. I didn’t dare ease that grip for a second. Over a while, you grow numb to its grip. Some days you are barely aware of it, at other times it is an exquisitely fierce embrace. Its sensation is contradictory, which makes it confusing.  It arrests deep loss, yet it cuts off vital flow.

Loving children feels instinctive

I love children. It feels natural and instinctive. I tried as best I could to make meaningful bonds by seeking to share in the lives of my friend’s children, yet it was often painful, and destructive. After years of losses, it can feel  brutal, raw, masochistic. You open, expose and flay your heart. It is ironic that that beat of longing continues. Our very hormones, flawed or responsible for our losses, can intensify. Our grief can make this yearning harder to bear.

Other female friends, sharing similar losses, miscarriages and infertility, spoke of how it was like turning up to a gathering, but having to join the longer queue. You become increasingly invisible, ghostlike.  It is not just a silencing, by your difference. Being childless is a subtle unconscious form of ostracisation. Sometimes it feels like a caste system. Many of us strive to overcome this but stumble. It can make you wonder when did we lose our birth rite to truly belong to an ancient community of women?

It is not just a silencing. Being childless is a subtle unconscious form of ostracisation.

When I was younger, I remember the disbelief I felt when my childless status was recognised. If you are a woman, it is often assumed that you are childless due to your own choices, and with it an implicit criticism.  I’ve listened to many who suggested I didn’t want it enough, or left it too late, that I partied too much, ate too little, that I made other choices, was too career minded, and consequently missed my window.  The list goes on.

There are others, who, knowing the agonising struggle over years, the long, gruelling reality of infertility that doesn’t always end with babes in arms, who prefer or find it easier to look the other way. It is difficult to acknowledge that some of us longed for children but remain without.  That pain of loss is uncomfortable for all of us to face.  Now I am older, it is a question that simply is never asked.

Society silences those who do not have children.  Lacking the experience of motherhood, and also a partner, curiously denies you the right to express a valid opinion on any conceivable subject. There is a collective silencing of the experiences of older women who are outside of traditional family structures.  Sometimes you are casually dismissed, from conversations, by a silence.  Your experiences or daily life can feel no longer of value or relevant. At best you become unnecessary, redundant, invisible. It is not conscious or intentional. Simply an unconscious bias. At other times, it can feel casually hurtful, dismissive or pejorative. It is another route into separateness, difference or loneliness.

I didn’t realise I was losing my voice until I realised I was talking without sound. Not literally, soundless. But soundless in the way that I noticed those who were parenting children didn’t acknowledge my presence or hear me. Others who are childless speak of similar experiences; a feeling accentuated if you live alone without a partner.

A sliding scale of priority emerged on countless different levels. From returning to your family home, and being asked to sleep on the floor on makeshift cushions, or in the spare room in a single bed, rather than one’s own room. To contributing to conversations about nephews and nieces, yet invalidated or talked down by not having children of one’s own. Apathy often meets our efforts to integrate more fully, or share experiences of daily life.  Family lives have opening and closing doors.  There is a natural limit and boundary to how often you can walk through a door, or share the intimacy of other’s lives.

You find a back way in.  You seek parallel paths. Something shifts inside. Research suggests grief changes our DNA. Holding sadness does this. You try to let it go, but it is tricky.  You still inhabit your body.  You still feel your beating heart.  Life becomes a dance of light and shadows.  Sometimes, at the edges, you feel shamed. It is easier one-to-one. In group, no matter want of willing or effort, the conversation, the experience, can swiftly exclude by its intimacy of a close, shared family life that doesn’t include you. It is a script you know intimately. Yet always an understudy, it’s understood that unless something changes, you will never step up to a leading role. Your heart responds.  You feel a depth and breadth of emotion. You can give love, help, support yet you do not have the experience to truly share in the smiles, small hugs, sharing of childcare, weary banter at how to pacify an infant that won’t feed, or the child that wakes you in the middle of the night. I listened to a friend who like me, was unable to conceive or parent. She told me how she felt she was always nodding, listening to the sound advice on breastfeeding, weaning, how to wake, sleep, stimulate, pacify and coax their children in every aspect of life. Yet it is not her life. And so shortly after, inevitably, she leaves. I know this. It is a different door that opens and closes. It is lonely. And it is hardest in our twenties and thirties, because by consensus these vital years of a woman’s life are for childbearing.

As years passed, I focused. I had a recognised gift working with infants and young children. I retrained, spending time with young mothers, babies and children, in my work as a natural medicine practitioner, active birth and yoga teacher, specialising in infertility and perinatal support alongside GP surgeries, midwifery and in the wider community, brought me closer to sharing in this community of women. I loved my work. I understood the rules. I was able to contribute in a meaningful way. Yet there was an inner door through which I could not pass.

You fill the gap with other things. Yet in the thrum of life, your own life, interests, are by comparison superficial or lacking meaning.

It is not made easier if you seek a different loving companion. A beloved dog is not welcome in all households, as are children. It is merely a distraction, or inconvenience. The love you express, or tears shed if it dies, even after years of companionship, merely raises eyebrows. ‘It’s just not the same.’ Interestingly, I discovered, it is the children who fill that gap with tears and understanding. Words expressed so simply, ‘Why did they die? I will miss them.’

I longed also to share that special bond with my own mother, gifted through grandchildren. It was a different deeper loss, not to share or experience this. It made the years that came later, of the absence that comes with Alzheimer’s, more empty. I lacked those living bonds, by which we might share, and remember ourselves by.

Later, my work led me to working in primary schools, with its immersive and rewarding experiences of caring for children. I loved the intimacy and close contact.  It healed a little of what had broken. I found meaning, as each passing season was celebrated together, even as each cycle closed abruptly with the school bell, at the end of day, each week, and each term.  You build those relationships outside the school gates. Yet still, by not being a mother, an impasse. ‘You have such a way with children – you would have made such a wonderful mother,’ friends told me. I smiled, and yet always my heart ached.  It felt bitter sweet. Gratifying knowing that my connections with children are deep and authentic –  the laughter, the joy, the trust we share. Yet, after, the heartache, at going home time as arms lift to parents, and later, opening the door to the silence of my own home.

The feelings of loss intensified with age instead of declining

It was not simply the loss of motherhood. Nor the sorrow that it brings.  Nor even that, as humans, we live on through our offspring – their laughter, their lives, their children, our grandchildren, the wider round of renewal, their life in the now, here and thereafter – brings joy, meaning, significance, hope for our own, facing the other side of the arc, its inevitable decline. Yet for those of us who are childless, its hard truth feels as raw as an axe, making its first cut into roots and wood of our societal structures. What no one mentions is that over time, that ringing sound, the pain of each of those small strikes, is felt ever more intensely.  Contrary to friend’s and family’s hopeful belief, those hurts do not lessen or simply go away. Far from diminishing, these experiences of loss often intensify as we grow older.

Statistics suggest that women are assuaging this loss, by having the babies longed for, much older. They are also having many more children, through fertility and surrogacy, than their younger peers.  It seems the tug of family warp and weave and closely connected lives, means that midlife and older motherhood, is, as that wedding speech so lovingly described, defined by an onward trajectory of expansion. No one or at least very few, wants to be alone.

It made me feel ambivalent about my body. I no longer felt at home in my own skin. Our reproductive function is one of the defining ways we honour and celebrate the female body throughout the different phases of our lives. That struck me too, how those words “we are defined by our children” rang true of women’s lives and bodies. It made me wonder if that father truly understood the power and import of his words.

The conversation about menopause focuses too often on children

As women, it is true – our patriarchal society does still define a women’s arc by her reproductive function. And as women, somehow, we also define ourselves by our age and stage. Now, listening to conversations around menopause, it strikes me how once again that narrative is framed by the assumption of children.

Suddenly it is relevant to a whole generation of women who are facing up to a change of life marked by their loss of reproductive function – their imminent childlessness. It is another separation. I had an early menopause alone at 39, the fall out of high dosage fertility drugs, there was no support, no solidarity, conversation or community.  Ten years ahead of my peers, it was something else that I did alone. I coped as best I could.  I utilised my own professional skillset in natural medicine, self-treating using traditional acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and natural herbs.

Those years of menopausal transition offered a series of defining moments. It opened a window, and let in cool, fresh air. I realised that life is a series of deaths and rebirths. That our lives as women are uniquely biologically structured for renewal. Rather than the anger I had felt all those years, for the first time, I truly acknowledged my grief.  It was the start of a new cycle.

I believe in many lives. After hope dies, comes a period of absence. And then you become conscious again, and aware of a limbo or waiting. It is like a soul that journeys.  You leave behind the life you once knew. You do the work. And then you hear life calling. It is a rebirth of sorts. So you return.

* * *

Birthing is painful. It is messy, and asks uniquely of each of us. Yet it can also be beautiful. Sometimes in our greatest pain or difficulty, lies our most profound wisdom. It marked a transition. I was forced to confront an uncomfortable truth. Clinging to a dream, albeit long cherished, of being a mother, was perhaps the root cause of my suffering.

It made me face my own mortality. Without children, my own ringbarking is inevitable. With the death of parents, this felt more acutely, existentially. Sometimes I would wake and feel this intensely.  The knowledge that when I am felled, there will be no fruits grown from my own branches to outreach to other, successive generations.  All trace of my existence, will at a stroke, disappear.  Extinction is a difficult truth to face.

It also made me pause. And ask myself a hard question. So how are you going, not just to live with this, but to go beyond it and thrive?

It made me reflect on the concept of emptiness. And how life and death are always in flux. Nature teaches this. The principal of vacuity is a difficult one to learn.  It asks that you surrender all you cling to. Non attachment takes time to practice.  Initially, your effort is too great.  It can feel like shedding a skin. Over time, you become adept at surrendering. You live more gently. It brings you close to breath. The source of life.  I call this touching the void. Each breath exhaled, invites another. Inspiration becomes meaningful. It led me to reflect on how all in nature is interconnected. That our survival depends on this. And how solitude and stillness makes this easier to sense.

It took me back to those difficult painful years. And how as a childless woman you are marked or set apart as different. Your heart still longs to love. It still holds that echo of hope, of being able to love absolutely and unconditionally. It still longs for a child.

Now, I am grateful for this and that I still feel this.  Because it means, that in spite of all the other changes, my heart is still my own. And here lies a gift. It feels contradictory, but this ache is the first step on the real path of renewal.  Nothing comes for nothing. Our most profound suffering aids the heart’s reflex. It renews its strength. Delivering fresh oxygen, our struggles, hurt and pain all serve to make our hearts beat stronger. Loss renews this. And its vitality, determination, lends an even greater capacity to love.

Now at 50, I am still childless. I still feel that fault line stirring in my body. But five years ago, I faced some hard truths. I realised that in order to step off this painful journey, I would have to learn to walk a new walk, and find a different path. To resow the wasteland of my body, not just with love, but with different seeds. Ones not bestowed by a man, that might engender children.

Learning to nurture myself with nature itself

Instead, in order to withstand and overcome the stresses I would still have to face, I needed to nourish myself with a different nurture, sourced from the land itself. Nature’s own life force. I made a promise to resow my life, and the dead ground of my body, with a wilder, elemental, more ancient grain.

Living in the woods, taught me to quieten into nature and exist simply. 

It marked the start of a trail. I learnt to channel my longing for motherhood differently. That journey led me deep into the wild landscape of the small Hebridean island I call home. I immersed myself in the raw elements. I learnt to live off the land. Living in the woods, taught me to quieten into nature and exist simply. I learnt to track wildlife and accept them as my companions. To swim bare skinned daily at dawn, in all weathers, and seasons, meeting the great tides as the sun lifted over the horizon, or as the moon was sinking in the sea. It is exhilarating and also teaches you to surrender and to trust when we are quite literally out of our depth. Each breath draws you closer to the great systole and diastole of the wilds – your own inspiration, a small pivot in the great lung of nature.

It taught me to focus and to embrace all I might ever draw back from.  To accept that the hardest challenges we face are in our own minds.

The washed away the heaviness

The sea helped me to unpick my own locks, and gave me permission to start again. Each day, I felt lighter, returning to the shore. Over time, it led me to question how might I renew the earth of my body.

I challenged myself to revisit those older memories, like picking petals off a briar rose.  You reach boldly, with grace. You try not to prick fingers. Yet those sharp points are where life bleeds. Clinging to a dream, albeit long cherished, of being a mother, was perhaps the root cause of my suffering. Grieving for the years I had lost, was a difficult process. The babies that I longed for were gone, yet in their place, teenage and adult children, whose lives I might share in many valuable ways, yet whose close family lives were distinct, apart, separate.

One night, at home on the island, sitting alone with my dog under the great night sky, I noticed that some stars sat alone and apart from the majority of dense constellations or smaller clusters. It made me wonder if perhaps my own life path was mapped differently for a reason, yet to be acknowledged.

Excavating and holding my infertility up to the light, for closer examination, has led me to discover an important truth. Understanding the suffering, and how to step beyond this experience, has given me permission to live my life authentically. To step aside from traditional structures, and to seek my own freedom.

It has taught me to challenge what no longer is mine to hold, and to learn to create my own rules. Hewing resilience, fortitude and stamina, from out of the daily challenges of island living has helped foster a deeper, regenerative source of inspiration, optimism, contentment and hope.

I lived on an island and navigated to a new life

Nature is source. Our innate nature. Living on an island, it has been my daily companion and inspiration – my family, my kin, lover, and friend.  It has taught me self-sufficiency. In learning to navigate my environment and all the challenges of its landscape, it has helped me understand my own. And to find a deeper place of belonging, a different inheritance, beyond a longing for children. It is the ancient goddess tradition.

My instinct led me to this beautiful teaching. In time of need, my intuition simply whispered to follow my heart. Listening more deeply, treading more gently, and learning to live in closer intimacy with nature has been a gift. It is the path of the goddess. Of all that is of the divine feminine.

Nature is our earth, and the living soil of our body. It gave me a golden key to unlock a hidden door – one that led to a secret garden that I had always longed to find. Here the grass grows, and all that is of nature flourishes. It helped me to heal the trauma of my infertility. It offered a grail that for years I had been seeking – and opened a way of life that daily offers me contentment, joy and deep peace.

Nature opened a way of life that daily offers me contentment, joy and deep peace.

The way of the goddess is of loving all that is conscious and sentient on our planet.  It is our calling to embrace our inner capacity of compassion, sensitivity, nurture and nature. Of living by deep listening, quiet thinking, intuitive being, and seeing with the eye of the heart. It sustains and fulfils the call of empathy I was seeking. Nature light is goddess light. It earths the living soil of our being, and all of nature. By listening more deeply, we learn to understand how to connect at a more fundamental level.

This is a gift – it opens a path to more spiritual and connected living. As women, we are guided by emotional intelligence that is most often framed by motherhood.  Yet in this time, many of us are being awakened to a different calling. By nurturing wildlife, sap and soil, wings and other sentient life, my life opened this doorway.  It connected me to the universe and made me a mother to all. Its grace brought me family. Only it is different to others’. My children are comprised of many wild lives, trees, birds, plants, animals. In the wider landscape, I am mother of mountains, wild grasses, flowing streams, and all of nature.

It has led me to honour my body and spirit, to nourish my womanhood, my Being, and to live by all that is of old traditional wisdom, sacred and of the feminine. Finding true balance in Nature. It is of recognising all that is of beauty and fertility in our body and psyche, and nourishing this in daily life.  I call this seeking the Goddess within.

Nature recognises this stillness. We are ancient beings, often moving too fast in a modern world.  I have relearnt how to attune to a more resonant way of living.  I have experienced many beautiful bonds with wild birds, fauna, deer, seal, and other life that crosses the fiercely tidal waters, that surround this island. Opening to nature is akin to stilling into silence, meditation or prayer. Wild creatures sense this. There is a simplicity to opening to a different, authentic pathway of connection. Trees and plants thrive and flourish differently. Wild birds come to rest, without fear, on an open hand.

It has led me more deeply into my professional work bringing me full circle back to my earlier academic studies, and dovetailing into my natural medicine work, now translated into workshops and retreats, of reanimating the divine feminine in every aspect of our daily, sensory, physical, emotional and spiritual lives.

With my Indian heritage, it has also helped me explore how other cultures integrate this sacred essence of womanhood in practical rituals, secular and spiritual strengthening practices into daily life. Meditation and mantra, myth and instinct, intuition and intellect are beautifully moulded to dance and sculpt a living clay of being. How in many cultures, women are often socially or culturally subjugated, and yet how still the goddesses are alive and revered.  Here too in our own cultural landscape, the ancient Cailleach – with differing folklore traditions – exhibits two faces or seasons. Demonised, feared, and reviled for her barren season of winter, she has for too long been maligned by patriarchal traditions as the haggard old crone, that stalks low over the horizon, visible here on the island, as a daily transit or phase of the Lesser Sun. At Candlemas, she is transformed, renewed and honoured, for her fertility, beauty and youth signalling the coming of the Greater Sun and the earth’s renewal as spring returns.

Nature guides us in our own attitude to women who are non-procreative, condemned to inhabit forever the barren winter. Yet as we grow older, this conversation becomes one that is relevant to us all. It is important arguably that we discuss, dismantle and reconstruct this narrative, to our own changing times and climate crisis. These ancient traditions, of the older woman, her creative power, strength, independence and regenerative transformation, hold great wisdom that have been euthanised in translation, and lost by its patriarchal filter. Importantly, it is time to re-evaluate the role of nature and women in our modern world and wider landscape. It is vital we reclaim not just our voices, but the living soil of bodies and collective psyche. And also invite a new language of compassion, empathy, intuition and growth to more truly reflect our experiences. The loss of our procreative function – at different stages – does not prohibit us from celebrating, honouring and loving what is not youthful, beautiful and fertile in our cultural paradigm. Winter is empowering. It is often a time when nature is most creative and our procreative function is rooted, in rich dark soil, waiting to germinate and engender new life, in other ways. It is a season steeped in reflection, dynamic self-sufficiency and wisdom. As women we inhabit our full selves, and lives, as we grow older. We learn to live in freedom. Strong, powerful, capable, and able to express our full selves.

I rewilded myself

Mothering as a metaphor led me to explore re-wilding my being.  Literally, re-earthing my life.  Drawing inspiration from nature, and the surrounding wildlife, helped me to discover how, in pursuit of motherhood, I had neglected an ancient female wisdom as old as the land itself.  That our creativity comes in many different ways, and our deepest source lies within.  Freedom comes a lack of inhibition, and from tapping into a place of no fear.  It led me to redefine my life and discover my own rituals of belonging.

My new path led me to freshly tousle with my own role in society as a woman.  And how this role is so closely nurtured by a deeply fertile and creative kinship with land.  Why is this?  We are still moving within a dominant paradigm where single women – or those outside the usual family structure – are still regarded with caution, and often suspicion.  These feelings run so deep – “she might steal my man”, is “too successful” or “selfish” – yet actually, this woman has to put herself first in order to thrive.

Living on an island, raises many of these issues.  Living alone as a woman is a daily salve and challenge. I find it helpful to draw upon this day-by-day existence as a metaphor for life. It helps me find inspiration and meaning. The beauty is it is translatable to all of us, wherever we live. Quite simply, when the waves find us, there needs to be a solid rock or clean shore to return to.

The wilderness too is a metaphor. Healing those places of hurt and disappointment is akin to reseeding a barren wasteland. Living on an island, and learning to navigate differing degrees of hardship, the impact of a childless future, and overcoming this by “going there” necessitated a process of facing these challenges alone. I had no support other than nature. Yet I am grateful for this. It taught me to literally learn to weather and draw from all the seasons that the earth might bring me. Once you have done this, you are able to cope with most things.

I have come through. Others have not. It’s important to acknowledge this. It is the first step to understanding the still silenced grief of many other women, still seeking how to find the link road. I am grateful my book has touched others. It is deeply moving and humbling to share the experiences of others. As one woman wrote to me, having experienced similar hardships to those I encountered, ‘Thank you for helping me not feel so alone.’

I know for myself, there were many times, when I was younger, that I simply used to nod. It was easier. It seemed to be the response that others were seeking. In quiet moments, I still grieve for this loss or lack of children. Society, the world of friends and acquaintances, is intricately woven through with family life. Every birthday, celebration, family event or gathering reminds you of this. I am glad to participate, and yet it matters to know when to leave. It is partly why I choose to live so quietly and close to nature. Now I am older, I hope I am wiser. It is easier knowing how to pacify that hurt. Nature soothes and helps to heal that wound.

My daily narrative is different now. I do not nod when I often I am told: “Oh but you must celebrate all the wonderful things you have accomplished.” Or: “Women without children are not celebrated enough.” It is true. I must. And they are not.  And my story is a celebration, of the wisdom that awaits all who find solace in nature and is I hope, an uplifting journey. I find comfort and joy in the wild lives that have found me.

And yet, for the sake of honesty, that does not negate the stark reality that the pain of not having children does not simply disappear as some might like to hope.  It is a great fault line that runs through life. A river of longing and sorrow that even though it ebbs, will perhaps never run dry.

It is important to be truthful. Yet another truth transcends this and gives a greater meaning now to my life. And with it the discovery that our greatest wisdom, joy and growth comes from the very situations that challenge us at our most fundamental level. It has taken years, but I have learnt not just to accept this. But to surrender. And to live by a different set of dreams and hopes. I have learned to channel and transform the grief of childlessness into a procreative river – a deep source of self-sustaining, renewing and regenerative creativity.

I am grateful for those hard years. They were a necessary period of reframing and initiation. Inspired by grief, loneliness and at times despair, the experiences that they engendered were invaluable. From the stark raw years – a testing period literally barren, of children, of hope – I discovered so much that is of beauty, endurance, transformation, inspiration and renewal.

Nature has helped to remould my longing for children. Sowing seeds for future generations, and working with soil sequestration, and helping reclaim environments laid to waste has been one of the many ways nature has helped me to reframe the value of my own life.  Inhabiting landscape consciously as a woman has also connected me to a vital tap root of community, and ancestry.

My own ancestral name is from this ancient sacred tradition.   It is traditionally written as Kālidāsa – Kali, invoking the goddess Kali, the universal Mother and great protector, of the cyclical rhythm of renewal of life and death, and dasa, meaning devotee of god.  It is grounding to find such meaning in this lifetime – an intimation of my own quest or spiritual journey. Seeking motherhood has led me to find voice, destiny and purpose, by living a wilder life, that is nourishing and intimately connected to the goddess of the earth. My own path has led me to seek to find spiritual meaning in nature that increasingly I share with others – finding an unconditional love, and divine immanence in all that is living in nature, the soil of our bodies and psyche, rooted in our belonging to our beautiful earth.

It has brought me full circle to the ancient role of women in the landscape. Each day, I witness in nature, life and death, in so many ways.  Rebirth and renewal returns on a cyclical trajectory, at its right time and season. It keeps me grounded, the living soil of my body nourished and earthed. I have no destination, but simply a journey ahead. I trust the Goddess is with me, nature guiding me every step of the way. It is helpful to know this. It is emotionally and spiritually affirming, and uplifting. It means I am walking in trust and balance.  And that I am still evolving.

 

* * * *

About Tamsin Calidas

I am an island by Tamsin Calidas book coverTamsin Calidas (Kālidāsa) is a Sunday Times bestselling author (I am An Island, published by Doubleday) and photographer. She has a BA/MA from Oxford University in English Language & Literature, specialising in Norse, Celtic and medieval studies and Jungian philosophy.

An experienced multidisciplinary Natural Holistic & Alternative Medicine practitioner, healer, meditation & yoga siromani she has over 20 years working alongside GP services. A member of the British Acupuncture Council and the Royal Society of Medicine, professional qualifications include an MSc (Acu PDip) in Traditional Oriental Medicine & Acupuncture, Traditional Herbal Medicine & Clinical Aromatherapy.

She lives and works in the Hebrides, working with the land, livestock and nature, and is a cold water swimmer. Her Earth Connection workshops & wild retreats explore our sensory & creative journeys into reading landscape, exploring wild trails of salt, sap, flora & fauna, botanical wisdom, geographical dowsing, somatic healing and elemental folk wisdom.

She is currently writing her second book, & working on a fine art photographic commission.

Her Sunday Times Bestselling non-fiction memoir I Am an Island is published by Doubleday (Hardback, Kindle, Audio with paperback release on 8 April 2021.

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