My nan was born in St Ives in 1912, and grew up on a farm near Botallack - right slap bang on the Tin Coast. I always felt so sad for her that she never returned to Cornwall before she died. Having married a military man, she travelled a great deal, settling in Aldershot - quite possibly the most anti-Cornish place you could come across. My Cornish DNA gets very restless and unhappy unless it gets regular top ups of the south-west coast, so I don't know how she managed so far away from her roots. For me, it feels as though I have fragments of iron filings in me which are being pulled strongly and insistently home to their source. I wonder if she ever felt that pull?
The theme of my spring break to Penzance was really all about connecting: the connection between mother and daughter; the connection between place and genetic memory; the connection of DNA between grandmother and grandaughter. Most importantly, for me, the trip was designed to get away from work, away from mobile signal and away from the laptop - so, paradoxically, it was all at once about disconnecting and connecting.
I always get teased for my detailed holiday itineraries, but I'm always determined to make the most of a short trip, and this was no exception. To connect with my mother, I wanted to show her all my favourite places, such as the delicious food at 2 Fore Street, Mousehole, the quirky pub in Penzance, called 'The Lamp and Whistle', and the beauty of the train ride from Reading to Penzance via Dawlish. The connection to my late grandmother was made the moment we reached Penzance railway station (since that's where she met my grandfather), but it was also made in locating the house at Skidden Gardens, St Ives, where she was born. I certainly found myself wondering what those places must have been like in 1912 - the year the Titanic sailed past Cornwall on its fateful maiden voyage and the year she was born to her biological mother. It was lovely to hear the locals of Penzance speak with her accent.
I made sure our itinerary took us along parts of the coastline we hadn't been in the 30 years we'd been making our pilgrimmage to Cornwall. The south west coastal path from Cape Cornwall to Sennen Cove was breathtakingly beautiful due to the blooming of the spring flowers amid the rocks and old mine workings, and I mused on how barren Sennen must have been in those early years of my nan's life when her adoptive parents lived there for a time in the 1900s. The walk between Hayle Towans and Godrevy Lighthouse was equally spectacular. Walking in the sun-drenched dunes of Mexico Towans and Phillack, we could have been in the desert. We walked a lot, and one thing I absolutely itched to do was to get my shoes off and paddle; we paddled much of our way across the beach towards Godrevy lighthouse, allowing the crisp spring sea water to lap around our shins.
All this walking - and especially the paddling - enabled us to make another kind of connection: earthing, or 'gounding' as it is often called.
Now .... if you've never heard of 'earthing' before, it might sound a bit 'winky-wanky', but - perhaps because I'm an electrician's daughter - it's perfectly logical to me. The theory, science and benefits of earthing are all best explained in the book 'Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?', by Clinton Ober, Stephen T Sinatra and Martin Zucker (2010). In their book, the writers urge us to confront the reality of how we all 'live and function electrically on an electrical planet.' What does this mean within the context of connecting, and what's it doing in the blog of a mental health practitioner?
Well, ask yourself this: how long have you spent outside in the past 24 hours? When did you last walk barefoot on the ground? Does your home have a garden or an outdoor space? If your answer to these questions is that you can't recall, or simply 'no', then you're out of touch with the healing properties of the earth's electrical field and all the benefits it can bring. Ober, Sinatra and Zucker write about this disconnection in their book, explaining that modern life has separated humans from the energy of the earth, due to the insulating shoes we wear, the elevated beds we sleep in and the rubber-tyred cars we drive in from A to B. I, for one, cringe when I see yet another estate or block of flats being built with no gardens, because our gardens are one sure-fire place we can spend time outside, in the elements, in commune with nature, and in connection with the earth's energy.
Still sound winky-wanky to you? Ober, Sinatra and Zucker's book is full of case studies of people who have suffered with chronic health issues, such as inflammation and sleep issues, but, who, after starting to use earthing as a technique, found their symptoms reduced; however, the practice of earthing needs to be consistent - if stopped, then symptoms gradually returned.
Certainly, when mum and I returned from our break, it felt like we'd pressed 're-set' in our minds and bodies. Only a month later, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at The Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Cornwall, and every morning and evening we walked bare-foot along Mawgan Porth beach and paddled along the shoreline. I can honestly say that making earthing a regular part of our life for that time left us feeling re-charged and re-invigorated: we returned feeling fitter and healtheir than we'd gone (in spite of the wine in the evenings) - and we certainly both felt the trademark tingling, which is an indication of successful earthing.
How to get plugged into the earth rather than your ipad:
- Aim to connect to the earth's energy for between 10-20 minutes a day for the best healing benefits.
- You can lie down, stand or walk about; for the greatest benefits, walk barefoot, being sure to check the area for any glass or debris first.