With the heaviest of hearts, Embercombe lost one of its fire-keepers, and the most precious soul at the core of its journey this last weekend. Our dearest Fiona Barnes, ‘Fi’, has been part of Embercombe’s history since her daughter, Asha, was small and, over the last decade and a half, wove her life and love inextricably into the land and everyone who came through our gates.
With her blue-eyed gaze and beaming smile, she welcomed thousands of participants over the years, helping each one fall in love with the magic just as much as she. In her bliss and passion, she held an extraordinary capacity to recognise the unloved corners of everyone’s hearts and bring them to the light. She saw essence in an instant and reflected it back with unconditional magnificence and grace, time and again. And with her beloved bare feet, taught us how to honour the sacred. How to stand in our beauty. How to walk with our integrity. How to give with staggering generosity. And how to live with love as the flame that will guide us home.
Over the last week at Embercombe, to support her journey as she passed, we gathered bundles from the land to bring to her. We held a full moon ceremony at dawn on 18 March and lit a fire in our Stone Circle to offer our deepest love, gratitude and prayers for her. Hundreds joined us in ceremony on the land from the wider Embercombe family, and people from Scotland to South Africa, Lanzarote to Australia, joined us to light fires and candles in their own hearths. We sang and sang our hearts out and allowed our love and grief to flow. We also received a phenomenal amount of messages for her and the outpouring of poems, songs and words of gratitude dedicated to Fi has been staggering.
She was an exceptional woman who touched the lives of so many. There are no words to express how greatly she will be missed and fully acknowledge the tenderness this news will bring. We are so thankful to everyone who has reached out over the last few days and imagine many more will wish to do the same. Long may her memory in your hearts stay alight and our hearts and prayers are with her family at this sad time.
We are sharing a poem written for Fi, by Sophia, Embercombe’s Kitchen Manager that was shared in our ceremony at our Stone Circle honouring Fiona on 18 March:
We stand gathered this morning, as the moon reaches its fullest, to hold in our hearts
our dearest Fiona.
This March moon is named the Worm Moon and, for the beloved woman who has
spent years walking barefoot upon this land, it would seem most apt ~ for the worms
and sweet soles of her feet know this humble earth with an extraordinary connection
and intimacy, like few others do.
Fi’s spirit is intrinsically woven into the fabric of this land and, with a staggering
generosity of presence and pure embrace, she has welcome thousands of souls here
to her soul’s home, cracking open the tiny forgotten corners of everyone’s hearts
with such exquisite beauty and love, time and time again.
She is Embercombe’s heartbeat. She is here in its air. In its lifeblood. In its
conversation with the birds, the butterflies, the trees, the water in the well, the
stories, the magic.
Standing here with your feet on the earth, take a moment to open your heart and
feel her here with us.
Bring your love, your tears, your gratitude.
Let the fullness of the moon allow what needs to flow within you move.
And light a flame in your being for Fi.
Speak it to the fire, whilst knowing this land is fiercely and wildly holding us all as we
connect with this dearest, most incredible and cherished human.
She is teaching us how to live.
She is teaching us the gift of being divinely awake.
Let us wrap her in our love and send our prayers to her with the morning birdsong.
Let us honour her courage, grace and remarkable trust of this One Precious Life.
WIth love and blessings from the Embercombe team.
A letter to Fiona from Mac Macartney
She Who Walks Barefoot in Beauty
A few days ago you left us and your passing is like a cloud briefly obscuring the sun.
Yet we all know that the sun still shines and in time we will feel her caress again. It is
early spring and the land is alive with birdsong, the vibrant colour of spring flowers,
and, the first delicious scents of soil awaking. All this wraps around our grief and
perhaps allows the tears to flow more easily. This land knows you well. Knows well
the blessing of your gentle honouring presence, knows well the prayers you
wreathed, and the love that you so generously bestowed on every visitor. We are in
grief and yet we are also deeply with gratitude for the experience of knowing you,
sharing some part of our lives with you, and walking alongside you until the time the
road divided. Now we are separated and yet you are still so close. Thank you, thank
you for the gifts you shared, the example you set, your humanity, your profound
commitment to the principles of inclusivity, generosity, compassion, kindness, and
I remember the Fiona who first arrived at Embercombe some twelve or so years ago.
I remember how bruised you were, how bowed, how self-effacing and lacking in
confidence. I am so awed by the journey you undertook, walking the stony path from
those earlier days to the sure-footed, self-honouring woman you revealed yourself to
be, and who has touched us so tenderly and profoundly. You did, and you still do,
inspire me. I remember how attentively you studied and learned, paving the path
ahead of you one stone at a time. The manner in which you beheld everyone you
encountered as a teacher, taking from each the gifts and challenges they brought,
whether given consciously or not. In the early days I didn’t realise just how
determined and resolute you were, but as time passed it became very clear to me
that you had seen a journey beckoning, and nothing and no-one would deter you
from following it. You lived in service to that which you loved.
To Asha, your beloved daughter, you gave everything, and clear to all of us was how
her existence and your sense of responsibility drove you to locate your strength and
be the best mother you could be. Now this child is a very fine young woman and all
that you invested is witnessed in the extraordinary strength and maturity that she has
shown as she does what she can to come to terms with her loss. The lives of many
other children and adults have been touched and graced by you. A long line of
people stretching to the distance. Then there are also those you never met while you
were alive who will hear the stories, sense your presence, and be guided by your
footprints – finding the courage to walk their own journey of becoming.
Dear friend, from my heart thank you. I am so glad to have had my hand held by
yours. A blessing received and acknowledged.
Go well, Fiona, She who Walks Barefoot in Beauty.