Southampton is the city which is closest to my heart, it is the place of my birth and indeed has been my home for large parts of my life. Nowadays I live just outside it, perfectly situated between the heart and hubbub, and the more tranquil scenery of the forest and shore. Like most places it has a rich, long and complex history. At times it has shone as a beacon of trade, adventure and invention, and other times has fallen foul of many an invasion, the waging of war and great tragedy. There have been times when I've not been in love with it at all. I have moved away, and then somehow ended up back again. Each time I've looked at it with both the eyes of familiarity and also of new perspective.
Southampton Coat of Arms
It is a place where Five Waters Meet, or perhaps I should say was, because the city has lost it's way a little. There is ancient magick here in the land and it is still very much tangible for those with eyes to see and hearts to feel, but somewhat forgotten in recent years. I will write about all that soon no doubt.
Anyway, regarding the being in love with the place. Often when we begin to look we see much more happening than we thought and an aliveness that we neglected in our surroundings. This weekend, I was reminded once again of how vibrant the city really is, and how much of a glorious multicultural and multigenerational tapestry it is.
On the Thursday evening I held circle for a group of women as part of the regular offerings of Southampton and New Forest Red Tent. This took place at in the upstairs red velvet draped gallery of the Art House. This cafe being a veritable centre of juiciness all on it's own I ended back there on Friday night for drinks and a bit of late night energy work. The cultural quarter was ringing with the sounds of laughter and midnight mayhem as I crossed the Guildhall Square to go home, and there too were the skateboarders flying up and down in front of the the ionic columns.
After food I wandered with friends down to the Mela Festival in Hoglands Park and was greeted with sounds, sights and smells to tantalise the senses. I only stayed for a short time. After a quick chat with the Mayor, in which we discussed our mutual gripe about city pollution and our love of the waterfront and need for access there, we wandered back towards the car. We meandered via the park and the new development at West Quay. There in the sunshine along the old walls was screening of Wimbledon. Crowds sprawled upon the fake grass, temporarily covering the fountains, and the arena like steps. It was a joy to see yet more people of all ages gathered together, finding the common ground of a national sport. Then went on to one of the international food stores. I spent ages perusing spices and oversized bags of all sorts, eventually filling my basket with some favourites.
On the Sunday, just a little out of the city centre I performed with Ancasta Rising at the International Family Day Festival. Our band is named for the Celtic Goddess whose altar stone was found on the banks of Southampton's River Itchen. Our performance is ritual wrapped up in song, a short public ceremony of sorts. By the time we had finished I was full to the brim and rather peopled out, but it was a wonder-fullness from all the events over the few days.
So I do, as I always do, and retreat to solitude for a while. Today I pondered on how much the city gives to me and to others. I felt moved to write this and acknowledge that the more we engage in a place and it's offerings, the more we are enthralled by it. The real joy comes from being part and taking part, not sitting back and waiting for the entertainment to begin. When we become an active member of community we see things we had not seen before and meet people that enrich our lives. It is the people that are the heartsong of the city. It is that which others see when they come and visit. We become part of the rich tapestry, the life and soul, that tourists see and benefit from when they visit. We owe it to the land and our urban settings to be active and present. It is part of our stewardship and care to keep places alive and thriving, and in the giving there is more than enough receiving to nourish the spirit.
Thanks to Jacqui Forster Photography for the Riverside shot of Ancasta Rising