It’s Gilly’s birthday today* and Amanda’s. “It must be true, Facebook told me”, and in one case I know it’s true because one of these women I have known for over 60 years. And have her birth date embedded on the calendar of my childhood memories.

And the other, whom I know only from Cambsdance, an embodied movement practice in Cambridge, England, once told me that she’d found a particular hug from me “like being held by the mother of the universe”.


(to Amanda and to Gilly)

that dark, I played the mother of the you
-niverse, & held you close, & warmed us through
the long night watches of the grieving soul—
for it is touch & love that make us whole;
it is in leaning in, upon another
that we are child, & also we are mother

© Kathy Labrum McVittie 21 January 2022

That affirmation, coming our of a meeting of her need for caring intimacy at the dance session, also met my need. For during several dark times in my life, the two hours of creative and soft movement, in the space at St Philips Church (and before that, at St Paul’s Primary School), were the only relief each week from paralysing anguish and mental distress. (Distress only remembered now as two-dimensional experience, mercifully not in the engulfing 4-D of those times.)

So, these two women, whom I wish heart-felt blessings, greetings and joy on their journeys of the earth round the sun, are like two gate-keepers for me: one from mid-childhood, the other from my first inklings that there might be purpose of gift beyond what I called ‘my barren years’ 2004-2014, after my son had left home and after my formal academic career, such as it was, had ended.

(Had ended by my choice, my choosing not to apply for permanent tenure as an Open University associate lecturer, when the OU finally was forced to put temporary, unpensioned staff like me on a more ethical basis for employment). No, I had succumbed to mental and emotional overload for too long, and gave in to a sense of worthlessness that took a long time, and three more breakdowns, to shift, despite the best efforts of family and friends.

At this point Ican just imagine some of my friends saying “too much information, Kathy”, and maybe you are right. But also I want to set straight the record… if not straight then at least curly, like the kinks in my hair this morning after the pigtails of the last few sleeps/ unsleeps,

Because I am going through a wakeful zone in my night-shifts. Echoing the awakening of earthworms in the horse-dung enriched soil of my adopted veg-plot. The perceptible creep of day-length towards Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Mabon, the coming points on the Wheel of the Year.

And the other birthdays? My childhood friend and I only stayed in touch for five of those decades via our mothers, and we were restored to intimacy following the death of hers in 2015, while I was still processing —from 1986— the dying of mine.

Subsequently we have had a long and stammering conversation about mourning, some of it over these pages. And we are hoping to be restored in a felt, physical hug in this very year of 2022, when I plan to visit her, close to my place of birth in Cheshire. En route for visiting my two remaining blood sisters, Valerie in Colwyn Bay and Sue in Shropshire, and my schoolfriend Hilary in Anglesey.

Perhaps by car; perhaps by train.

Whether or not I get to Cambridge this year is another story. My separation (my choice) from my spouse is still too raw for me to visit our marital home, and the garden into which I put so much passion.

It may be that my ongoing connection to my dance friends (including Amanda), and to Buddhist friends, have to continue over the virtual, virtuous airwaves of Zoom and social media.

It may be that the Reiki training that I started in early 2020 has to rest in abeyance for another few months (although I do seem to be incorporating it into my Deep Listening practice up here, especially when I weave nature medicine walks along “my” beach in Brora).

Who can tell? and as the Wheel of the Year turns, and we approach Imbolc once again, all that remains for me to do today is to wish heartfelt greetings to Gilly and Amanda, and to thank them each, in their oh so different ways, for being women of the light for me.

  • as posted on Facebook a few days ago on the occasion of two friends’ coinciding birthday. Equally I could share the poem similarly with further friends of different ages and genders – and probably will – because we all, each, have been a child of a mother, and many of us recognise my reference here to “the mother-wound”. If that’s true for you, I invite you to be very gentle with yourself, and receive from me this { hug }