Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Our Place. Our Land.

in Guest Post, Nature, Place, Spiritual Practice

(Guest post and photographs by Jason Smalley of Essence of Wild and Barefoot Breathing.)


Her fingernails soiled from digging, my teenage daughter Tanya scrapes the dirt from the bowl of the old clay pipe. Propping herself against a gnarly old Hawthorn she pretends to smoke, inhaling deeply before blowing fake smoke dramatically out into the landscape. It reminds me of a scene from Lord of the Rings, as Bilbo and Gandalf bounce memories around. I stay quiet. I know what this moment means to her. She’s found her place in this old land.

Crows dance in the clouds overhead as we sit and ponder, our bare feet warmed by our summer sun. There aren’t any signs of the farmhouse to be seen now, but we know we’re sitting in what was the heart of it. The hearth of it. Now walled with Holly and Hawthorn, the farmstead, Haddock’s Fold, has recently taken on a renewed significance for us. Few understand, but it doesn’t matter.

We understand. We know.


Standing, we survey the place and let it soak into our bones. We sense the spirit and feel what it was like. Suddenly animated, Tanya springs into life. “Here was his rocking chair, by the fire….  he could sit and gaze out over his fields, puffing on this pipe. There was a larder near that bush, perhaps the grandmas cooked in the kitchen in that corner there…” Her ancestors were coming to life, resurrected by the land, invoked by our spirits. Before we depart Tanya asks the place if she may borrow the clay pipe for a while. She leaves a gift of a stone special to her in its place. A token of exchange, a sharing with this ancestral homestead. A connection.

Walking back through the dry grass by the lake we felt so joyful. A deep satisfaction ran from the land under our feet, touched our hearts and warmed our souls. This place was home and always had been. Anglezarke was our place and we belonged to her. Do you know that feeling of deja vu? When you’ve been somewhere before? This land runs much deeper, the connection is raw with vibrance and energy. We’ve not just walked this land before – we are the land and always have been. Long, long before we were born this place held the plans of us and knew we were coming, that we were already there in many ways. It’s our soul medicine, our muse, and we are its.

Months earlier Tanya had felt the call to explore Anglezarke, this old, old land in which we lived. Together we’d walked her moors, paddled her streams, silently trod her woodlands and basked under her skies. We both knew there was ‘something going on’. Tanya got her teeth into researching our ancestry, knowing that my mother had been born not 50 yards from where we now lived and her mother had come into the world 500 yards across the valley, a mere minute from Haddock’s Fold. Imagine her delight when she found that at least the 5 previous consecutive generations had been born, lived out their lives and farmed at Haddock’s Fold.

Our place. Our land.

Roe Deer by Jason Smalley

For over a decade I’d walked my dog daily along a route that linked these ancestral birthplaces, never thinking why, never querying why it felt so right, so comfortable. But now I knew that I was walking in the footsteps of my ancestors, and my daughter had joined me. The valley below my home, known as Abbysinnia to a shrinking number of older, rooted residents, followed the flow of the Yarrow and was the first part of my morning walk ritual. A high bank protected the west, echoed by a long slope to the east. Through this hidden ribbon of land Roe Deer ran, Buzzards called me home and an ancient riverside Alder became my Axis Mundi. The very same Oaks and Ash trees that now looked on me saw my ancestors as they too trod this way. I feel so grounded here simply because I am home. Long before I first set foot here the rocks beneath the woodland knew my ways and the roots of the trees were familiar with the beat of my step.

Today I often carry Tanya’s one year old son, Rupert, with me into the valley. He loves this land. As we duck and twist through the shrouding thickets he stretches his arms out, reaching to touch. I slow my pace and watch his face as bare wintry twigs caress his baby soft fingers. He particularly loves the old Oaks. He touches their bark, his blue eyes widening with wonder as a smile of ‘hello — I’m here’ plays across his face. The trees, remembering him, smile back.

haddocks fold

My connection with this land, the wisdom we share and the plant medicine we explore have all been deepened since I began to walk barefoot here. It’s as if the land knows me even better, our energies intermingling as my skin earths with the skin of the land. Barefoot breathing has become my daily practice as I strive to know more, to tap into ancient wisdom and lost thoughts. The Barefoot Breathing e-course is built on the foundation of personal experience. Ever since Jackie and I felt the call to connect even more deeply with Mother Earth we’ve enjoyed sharing our work with many who, like us, desire to strengthen their bonds with nature. Would you like to join us? We’re giving away a free place to readers of this blog. Visit our Barefoot Breathing site to learn more about it, then come back here and leave a comment telling us why you feel the course will help you reconnect. We’ll choose the winner on Thursday, March 1st, and announce the result in the comments section soon after.

Jason SmalleyJason Smalley is the co-creator of Essence of Wild and the Barefoot Breathing e-course. He works as a shamanic nature photographer, helping others deepen their connection to Mother Earth and Father Sky through the twin crafts of photography and journeying.

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Jo Macdonald Tue - Feb 28th 2012 4:13 am

    This post is so beautiful and whilst reading it I felt the tears rising. In the 37 years of my life I have lived in 6 different countries, 25 different homes and 7 counties of England – I can only imagine how amazing it must feel to be so connected to one place. I come from a long line of explorers and I have always longed to feel that deep sense of connection to a place and would love to do the Barefoot Breathing course to try and find some connection to the land around me. Huge love Jo ♥

  • Eileen Pardini Tue - Feb 28th 2012 6:11 am

    So poignant and beautiful. I am in the process of uprooting my home of 23 years and moving. I am not sure where I will land. My deepest soul longing is to find “my soil”. Where is my soil? I would love to experience the Barefoot Breathing course while I am in transition and searching for my new home. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  • Aphrodisiastes Le Fay Tue - Feb 28th 2012 1:39 pm

    Because I need to heal my wounded soul, and nature is the best agent to make it happen. When you take care of HER (nature), SHE takes care of you. Then your soul becomes lighter and there is no motive to fear. You are in harmony and beauty. It would be great to take this transformtive ecourse.

  • Judy Tue - Feb 28th 2012 2:58 pm

    Thank you Joanna for sharing this with us. I’ve enjoyed visiting the Essence of Wild website. It looks that like you they have an incredible connection to their place. That is certainly something I would like to nurture myself. Today brought the first real sign of spring – a bluebird! What a gift & perhaps a asign that this course is for me.

  • Carolyn Wed - Feb 29th 2012 8:51 am

    I have lived in a cabin in the forest for more than 20 years now, and I am still working, all the time, to connect ever more deeply with the forest and the trees and the life that surrounds me. I have long looked at your e-course, but I live a frugal life, both by necessity but also by circumstances. Your offer is a wonderful gift, and I would love to be the one to share it.

  • Alex Long Thu - Mar 01st 2012 9:21 am

    Having a one year old little girl has meant that I have lost a connection with the land around us whilst I concentrated on her immediate needs and nurtured her in her early days. However it feels right at this beautiful time of year to begin to return to the land outside and remember to connect to the deeper elements of our joint lives. Our family life is a simple one at the moment hence why I could not take up the course at its full value but hope that I may be considered for your wonderful and generous offer and gain some insights into both myself and the land around us. To undertake barefoot breathing on the South Downs which surround us would be magical.

  • Joanna Thu - Mar 01st 2012 9:55 am

    Thank you all for your heartfelt responses to Jason’s beautiful post. I am looking forward to seeing which one of you wins the prize!

  • Jason Thu - Mar 01st 2012 10:54 am

    What wonderful comments. Thank you all for taking the time to read my post, and thank you Joanna for allowing me to share my words and pictures here. X

  • Naomi Lever Thu - Mar 01st 2012 12:24 pm

    I love that feeling of belonging..and never thought it possible after I moved away from my birth home..but somehow I have made a connection here in this rural county, so far from where my family all came from..and here so far away from ‘home’ the countryside speaks to me in a language I understand. I feel like I have been here before in another life..My young daughter and I walk everyday.. over marshland, into woodland or around fields. She knows how to connect to her birth home already.. her place is here.. and kindly, without judgement, this place has accepted me too. x

  • Jason Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 12:05 am

    Last night, under the gaze of a clear quarter moon, I laid your names face down on the earth, written on strips of paper. I then dowsed them with my pendulum, asking Mother Earth to choose the one to give the free place to.
    Eventually I had just two slips of paper remaining in front of me. The pendulum swung over each one before giving a clear ‘yes’ over the chosen slip of paper. I turned the paper over and, Naomi Lever, your name was there.
    We look forward to welcoming you on the course Naomi. Our Journey to the Heart of Nature begins soon.
    Thank you all for taking the time to comment, I invite you to sign up for the free 10 steps to soothe your soul mini Barefoot Breathing ecourse if you haven’t already done so.

    Nature Blessings, Jason

    • Jo Macdonald Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 1:11 am

      What a beautiful way to choose a winner Jason and congratulations Naomi your comment was so touching and heartfelt ♥

    • Naomi Lever Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 3:52 am

      Oh wow!!!Thank you so much.. I am thrilled to be the winner. Blessings to you all <3 x

      • Joanna Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 7:18 am

        Congratulations, Naomi! I know you will love the course. And thank you Jason again, for sharing your heart, photos and words with us here. Feeling so blessed!

  • Laura Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 5:36 am

    I love the way you chose your winner Jason … or rather Mother Earth chose for you.
    Naomi you are a very deserving winner and I love the beautiful sentiments in your comment. So pleased that it was you who won!
    Laura xxxx

  • Loran Fri - Mar 02nd 2012 8:55 am

    Oh Jason! I can’t begin to imagine knowing the land through five generations. Your story speaks beautifully to why Barefoot Breathing is such an incredible gift to the rest of us.

  • Kate Mon - Mar 12th 2012 7:39 am

    Such a beautiful post. The pictures speak what the words say. It made me long to have a similar feeling/understanding of a place.

  • JD Mon - Jul 02nd 2012 6:06 am

    Hi Jason/Joanna,

    I’ve just come across this website. This is a lovely story, thank you for sharing. It resonates with me particularly because you are talking about my ancient home also! My direct ancestors lived and worked in the Haddock Fold farmstead for generations. Would love to connect and share stories…

    That Abyssinia reference is a new one to me – although I think I can see how it came about!

  • Janette Tue - Feb 26th 2013 2:40 pm

    Just read this post, and looked at the beautiful photos…lying in bed looking over Abyssinia valley, 300 yards from Haddock Fold. My maternal ancestors were from High Bullough, the other side of Anglezarke reservoir via Haddock fold before the dam, my paternal line from Brown Hill, up on Anglezarke Moor…though both families travelled to the mill towns for 300 years before my parents eventually met and married and we moved back here when I was 11, not knowing of any link…my Dad always wanted a house on THIS lane…and as soon as we moved, I always felt like I belonged..we have just bought the house next door to the one I grew up in….we’ve stripped it back to its 1815 self and when we lean on the old hearth…we can smell onions bubbling over the fire….