Callum’s Tree

For many years my 30’s I was an ardent organic allotmenter, helping start Mount Pleasant Eco-Parks Organic Community Garden back in 2009 (digging a massillion miles of rabbit proof fencing in the process).

callums apple tree
Mount Pleasant Eco-Park Organic Community Garden

In time I chose to move to South East Cornwall and took many of the trees etc with me to my new home.  In the allotment they had been arranged in rows, but at the new place I had decided to align my gardening along permaculture principles. (Basically allowing nature to do most of the work).

Callum sitting next to his blossoming tree in spring 2007

One tree stood out in all of this. A tree I had a real affinity for since I bought it for my step-son in 2006. So I kept it in a bucket while I decided where I wanted it to go…

Life happened and I didn’t decide, so after fighting through lack of water in June and July 2011 it died… or so me and Callum thought. I truly grieved for it when I realised it had only one leaf.  Then in September it re-leafed, and kept its new (tiny) leaves until December.  It showed me that life is powerful force and that this tree had power.

In permaculture gardens, and in nature some plants grow better than others, the plants that grow well are those who do not experience too much stress, have plenty of good food and water, don’t have to fight too much for space or light, but are grown in community with others. In my garden I noticed that the ones that are given a bit of love when they are weak are the ones that grow the best, have the strongest roots, the healthiest leaves and are the most disease resistant.

Callum’s tree spent years recovering from the bashing my carelessness gave it, sometimes it flowered in August,  for three years its leaves would all fall off in July, black with mould or curling at the edges. It kept trying to give more fruit than it was capable of bearing. It caught illnesses easily and looked like shit. I (and Callum) loved that tree through every step of its healing journey. I gave it rotted dark shit-filled compost, I gave it water in when it was dry, I took away the fruit it was trying to bear so it could recover. I watched it grow weird limbs facing the wrong way and otherwise not have a clue what it was doing.

When I moved three years ago it was one of the only plants I could bring with me. It got planted immediately in a hole and fed and watered. It is near other plants and trees now, in fact there is a ‘nest’ of rowan and hazel trees across the way,  they seem to watch Callum’s tree, guarding it from strong winds and offering support. This year, seven years after I subjected it to severe and enduring stress, it has finally healed. It hasn’t dropped its leaves yet (we’re in November in the Northern Hemisphere) and we have been unable to eat all its bounty on our own. Callum’s tree is alive, growing, and magnificent. It is a little bent and stumpy in some places, but it made it…..

In the years since I became too ill to garden, my love has grown for beings that are a bit  broken and stumpy. Be it tree or human or child.  So imagine my awe as Marc took us into a prehistoric Oakland this half term.

Full of broken, tiny, mould dripping, wizened trees Wistmans Wood on Dartmoor is beyond amazing! There, these broken and battered oak trees have fought hard for survival. The highest native Oakland in the UK, they have crouched together for at least 500 years, in community, protecting each other, supporting. Their roots have had to go down deep.  They are holding each other through the hardest of times. As Treesisters, Red Tent, Hand in Hand Parenting has held me, as my friends and soul sisters have held me until I found my balance again.

Wistmans Woods at 7am in October, we needed a cuppa!

Today I see the lesson from the trees has influenced me more than I realised. Whilst I have in the past not given myself the nourishment I have belatedly given to Callum’s tree.  I am learning to. Sometimes I can now see beautiful humans who I love going ‘at life’ hammer and tongs.  But in truth that full force living no longer makes sense to me. I wax and wane with the moon and the seasons. Sometimes I need to rest, and hide. Other times I need to shine and play and dance!

My ex and I put ourselves under constant stress, ripped me from my roots,  put me in an isolated little box without space or light or community.  We ate food that had toxins in it from pesticides or industrial meat farming, we didn’t eat seasonally. Asked to produce constantly, when I started failing and got stressed, I topped myself up with coffee to ‘keep going’. I didn’t do any of the things that might have mitigated these harms. Rested deeply,  watered myself with love and connection from people who ‘see’ me. I had forgotten how to play and laugh and feel the joy of a sunset.

It scares me that the humans in my life are no longer disease resistant, we experience alarming rates of stress, auto-immune disease, depression, anxiety, cancer, heart disease. Before she was 40 I lost one of the best humans I ever knew to cancer. It’s a killer and I pray for a cure every day, but even without that vicious beast lurking in the shadows there is something in the way we ‘Westerners’ live our lives that makes us the most unhappy people EVER in time or locality!

So I garden me and my family now, rather than that big allotment. I grow us, with a sprinkling of love and laughter and an emphasis on kindness. On the days I can’t walk or experience the shittier bits of being human (grief, confusion, rage, and hurt etc) I try to them put to good use as dark shitty compost that we need for our souls growth. love

My family needed the strong winds and the harsh times, for they have helped us root down deep into our authenticity. Callum’s tree took seven years to heal.  I am only in year three of my healing journey from ME/CFS. If I try to give too much too soon my leaves might fall off. I’m a bit awkward and unsure at times. I deeply need my community around me to hold me and make sure I am safe from the wind.  I am grateful they are there. I am not there yet, but I can feel health returning.

As I sit here and write this Callum’s tree stands out in the garden waving  and jigging in the autumn gale. It could be laughing at me for reading too much into its survival. But I think not. For I know it is wise, indeed it has taught me how to be human.


Who knew that was M.E…


It surprised me recently to realise I have never  talked  about my journey with M.E./ CFS on Social Media. Not once!!  Auto-immune disease is a silent illness #missingmillions so today I’ve decided to open up in a really scary and publicly vulnerable kind of way.

Interestingly (and utterly boringly) in private I have rarely talked about much else in the last two years. Today is different though, today I feel like it is possible that I may be finally healing from “the unhealable.”

The problem is until 3 years ago I believed I must do ‘IT’ all… solo (or with your dream partner) and be perfect at it! By the age of 24 I was convinced…..House, husband, sex goddess, friends, social life,  kids, degree, jobs, charitable works, organic vegetables for the kids? I was SOOOO having that!!

  • Seven years ago age 32 I had 3-4 part-time  jobs, 2.4 children,  an allotment, 2 dogs,  a husband, was a member  of the PTA, went out a fair bit, suffered crippling suicidal depression half the year and felt like a total failure.  But I had GREAT shoes!!
  • Two years ago in January I collapsed, unable to move, that was the point where my marriage ended, BUT NO DEPRESSION!!!
  • One year ago, Collapsed again, but now had strategies in place (counselling, sisters, friends, Sarah Myhill website, meditation, medication, Hand in Hand parenting, a van, pacing, ketogenic diet, huge quantities of supplements). I still had 2.1 kids, PTA, another charity, two dogs, a diagnosis of CFS/M.E. and  NO DEPRESSION STILL!!!
  • Today I have a sense of wellness, 2 + 2.1 children (my new love has two of his own) , 2 dogs. A sense of joy in most of my life. I am resuscitating a career and could write a doctorate on the nature of auto-immune disease and low energy.

The thing is in CFS/M.E. the exhaustion level is INEXPLICABLE…When I say collapsed, I mean physically unable to raise my head from the pillow… for weeks… I had to get well before I could contact my GP for help!

I know I’m going to post this to Facebook and for many of you it is likely you have never known I am ill. There is a reason for that. To not be able to feed your children is so shameful that only a few of you know how I learnt to batch cook and freeze meals so they could sort themselves out. That I go to bed the same time as them. That my quirky hair cut was actually hiding severe hair-loss, That me and my two awesome kids have learnt myriad ways to cope with all the little  auto-immune ‘gifts’ from the universe.

So a SERIOUS question for you……..Did you know waking up more tired than when you went to bed is NOT NORMAL?? For SEVEN YEARS I thought that was normal! Please, please contact me if this is your normal… you and I need words!

For seven years my wish to ‘do it all’ overrode my own bodies knowing, my body gave me depression, anxiety, stress, extreme tiredness. It TRIED to tell me!! I It really begged me to stop! But my fear of looking at my flawed imperfect self meant I ignored its desperate warnings.

It was a deep dive in! Crawling around the house, having to ask friends to do the school run, to be judged by people I had once loved as a failure. To judge myself, to face my worst fears of imperfection again and again and again for years! It hurt and still does sometimes, but out of it grew self love, kindness and a sense of peace that I have never known before.

Just before Xmas 2017, walking this far was hard (500m)

My sisters, my friends who came through for me at this hardest of times, they are my tribe, my community, they have proven time and time again their worth is that of gold.  I was blessed to find them there when all else failed.  Community was the final piece in my healing jigsaw.

If you  or know someone who falls into the auto-immunity disease hole maybe, just maybe, you or they will listen.. We NEED community! Physical, in the flesh 121 community!! For me it was walking into circle (at Embercombe and Earthheart), Red Tent and Listening Partnerships with some wise humans.  I can never express my gratitude for the men and women in my life who have held LP or circle space for me as I have healed.  Wonderful men and women who have helped me learn to put in and hold boundaries around my rest time and special time with my children.

I am lucky, people who get ill with M.E./CFS  are usually told healing is impossible, I never believed that, but if you end up like this there is no quick fix!  Make peace with where you are for you will be there for a while.  To heal I had to be holistic in approach, give myself time and be so, so determined.

M.E./CFS means I have grown and learned. I am in remission. I’m never going to be the person I was and that is a good thing. My name is Sara McFadzean, mother, daughter, sister, lover, meditator, writer, pacer, singer, dancer, circle holder, friend, ex, healer, L.P.er, Human Rights Activist and a soul gardener. I love nature, sunsets and am a treesister.  I love hard, I am flawed, silly, crazy and loyal. I enjoy laughter and adore kindness in all its forms. I am so, so imperfect!!!  and I am so, so grateful to be here with M.E./CFS, for it has taught me how to be ME!


So thank you for reading this. I would love to hear any comments you have about my writing wish you the very best.

Resting again!