Growth Rings

by | Oct 8, 2015 | Seasons Newsletter | 5 comments

What has a sick child to do with the growth rings on a tree? 


When my seven-year old granddaughter arrived for her much anticipated sleepover, the first thing that happened was that she threw up.

Her mother quickly said, ‘I’ll take her home.’

Sizing up the situation, I replied, ‘No, let her stay.’

At times like this, gut instinct can kick in. It was school holidays and my son was overseas. My daughter-in-law was weary from caring for two little ones, especially as the one-year-old hadn’t slept at all the day before. These are the moments when a grandmother needs to step up.

My granddaughter stayed. After the second episode, I gave her a clean-up bath, and washed the sofa cushion and carpet. Then she threw up over the sofa again. She then continued to do so every hour after that until 3 a.m.

Instinctive caring

An old, primitive instinct made itself felt. I became highly attentive. It was necessary to sleep on the other sofa close by, so I could keep a watchful eye through the night. Did the stomach cramps and vomiting indicate something serious, or would it pass? I watched for dehydration and wondered about electrolytes. I observed how she was in herself, placed my palm on her forehead to check for fever, and listened to the slight cough and whimper that foretold the next throwing-up episode, so it would cue me in to waking up just in time to hold the basin.

Somehow I knew she was OK. Her body was clearing out, doing what it needed to.

Where did this trust come from?

The first level of learning

One level was hard won, from lonely nights as a solo mum when I nursed my son through measles, ear infections, tonsillitis, chickenpox and injuries. Only once did I get really worried, and rush him to the Emergency Dept in the middle of the night. The rest of the time I knew what to do, even through the fog of fatigue.

The second level of learning

On another level, family wisdom flowed in. My mother nursed her five children through many illnesses, some of them life-threatening. My father took his part too. Together they exuded confidence in their caring.

When I close my eyes I can still hear the sound of a teaspoon tinkling round and round in a glass. My dad is bringing a lemon drink for a sore throat or cold. He intuitively knows to signal ‘I’m on my way’,  from the kitchen, down the hall, to the bedroom, a sound that comforts and soothes even before I take my first sip.

The third level of learning

On a deeper level, collective wisdom came through, about how healing and spiritual holding is present, even (or especially) in our darkest hours.

I felt held by grace as I surrendered in service to my granddaughter through her night of illness. Something greater than me came through; a love that embraced us both as I gently rubbed her back while her stomach spasmed and she gasped in distress.

Can you see now why I speak of the growth rings of a tree? These levels of knowledge sit inside you, ring after ring. How do you recognise and access them?

Living layers

Right now, in the southern hemisphere spring, trees are putting down another year of cells. Such growth rings remain alive and vibrant as they respond to the conditions of each cycle. They are living layers, full of stories.

You too are growing and changing with every season. The energy of spring supports new learning and healing, and brings extra energy to whatever you undertake. This is the season to shake off old habits and move into new ways of being.

Seasonal celebrations from cultures throughout the world draw on growth rings that have been laid down over the centuries. In my ritual work I am aware of those moments when I access the three layers of knowledge: the deep wisdom of the past, the celebrations and ‘lemon drink’ rituals of my family, and the rich learning from thirty years teaching and working with this sacred theme.

I wish you well with tapping into your own living layers in this season of growth.

Spring blessings,


The Sacred Art of Ritual

Are you ready for another growth ring?
Would you like to access the knowledge and power to hold yourself and maybe even others through their times of grief, healing or celebration? Then join me for The Sacred Art of Ritual online course, starting next Tuesday October 13.

You will join a group of like-minded souls from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, and right across the world to France. There are still some places available, and I would love to have you there, to join in the sacred circle of growth rings in this season of greening.
Click here to find out more.

What others have said about the course

If we haven’t been taken under the wings of our elder women, [ritual] can become a confusing, even disorientating maze, rather than the beautiful labyrinth to the center of our sacred selves and back out again that it really is.—Paula


  1. Ruth

    What a kind, caring woman you are!

  2. Dana Leigh Lyons

    So beautiful, Juliet–your drawing from three layers of knowledge and the imagery of growth rings. What a lovely, powerful place of reflection and practice…looking forward to exploring how it fits into my own experience of self and others during this transitional time. Thank you!

    • Juliet Batten

      Dana, I’m so glad it resonated for you. In the northern hemisphere, it’s time for the growth rings to consolidate as the sap returns to earth. Thank you, I always enjoy your comments.

  3. Dave

    Hi Juliet,

    The image of your father walking down the hall stirring the lemon drink so you could hear him coming is such a touching detail, I loved that! Your course sounds wonderful, too.

    • Juliet Batten

      Dave, thank you for that feedback. My father was a natural when it came to nurturing. I was lucky.


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