Late in the Afternoon

Late in the afternoon,
sitting in a shady garden spot,
watching the bird feeders,
it seemed like Heathrow
with all the swooping and gliding
in for landings on the perches.

The little ones,
flittered and swiftly darted
from and to the small protective tree,
before making off to a farther bush
carrying their dinners of
sunflower hearts
to nibble away in peace.

I counted eight different
kinds of tits and finches,
missing the robins, blackbirds,
corvids, woodpeckers, collard doves,
and wood pigeons
who also frequent the feeders
or scrounge the ground beneath.

What struck me most
in the stillness and silence
of the late afternoon
was being able to hear
the beating of their tiny wings,
single birds fluttering,
the soft whoshing and wha-wha,
not so different except in
volume to that of swans
flying overhead or geese.

In the distance,
swooping almost beyond
the range of seeing,
the swifts chittered
swished through the sky,
and a lone buzzard rode
the thermals in lazy arcs
as the evening began
slowly gliding to steal
the late afternoon’s warmth
and herald the ending of another day.

The Lammas Fire

The Lammas fire now
will ever hold
the energy and memory
of my Wyntre Cat.

It was so appropriate
that on day of Lammas last year,
and done all unknowing
by those at the pet crematorium,
a fire was lit for you
to free the final ties
that might still have bound you
to this life
though you had five days
earlier you bravely
sauntered through
the Pearly Catflap
and met your catcestors
who led you to their feasting hall.

The Lammas fire now
will ever hold
the energy and memory
of my Wyntre Cat.

On the anniversary
of your crossing over
Purfling Cat spent part of the day
snoozing in the spot outside
where you died in peace,
though she was not there
and could not have known
by any marker of our understanding,
a tribute though, I wonder,
which gave me comfort
that long sunny afternoon.

The Lammas fire now
will ever hold
the energy and memory
of my Wyntre Cat.

I have more than once
shed tears for missing you,
your murmming, merranging and neowwing
the loss of which has left
a strange silence in our lives,
which your two sisters
have not seen fit to fill,
as I give thanks
for the eleven years
you graced my life
and gave me your companionship.

The Lammas fire now
will ever hold
the energy and memory
of my Wyntre Cat.

 Wyntre Cat whole cat

Right Now

Right now,
this very second
both as I write these words
and as you read them
political, social, cultural
structures are being undermined
and destroyed.

We know not what we do,
for it is occurring
with little thought
as to what will replace them,
once the flames fanned by
discontent, frustration, anger
have abated and what we
once knew rests in ruins.

Those demanding changes
do not appear to have a path
forward through rubble
beyond the demand that
the status quo is no longer
tenable and what has been
must not continue.

So . . .

So . . .
Why is it so difficult to remember the days
before they all began to blur together,
the days before the lockdown,
the days before mandated isolations,
the days before we would not go
out to the beach,
out to the nature reserve,
out to lunch,
out to be with friends?

So . . .
Why is it so difficult to remember the days
when we took freedom of movement for granted,
when we took going to the shop unmasked for grated,
when we took being anywhere at any time for granted?

So . . .
Is this some sort of mental or psychological mechanism
to shield us from the challenges
caused by the abridgement to movement,
caused by the rampant running of an indiscriminate virus,
caused by the wondering what life will look like in the future,
or if it is even possible to imagine future any longer
the way it had been before
the knowledge that Covid-19 will not be the only contagion,
the knowledge that our fruits and vegetables harbour microplastics,
the knowledge that our planet is virtually beyond redemption?

So . . .
I sit and ponder
what it used to be like when so much of this was out there,
but I just didn’t realise how bad some of it was,
and that it is getting worse.

Meadow Browns & Bumblebees

The merry dance of meadow browns
continues unabated
rising in clouds of delicate wings
fluttering amidst the blossoms.

Foxgloves are the refuge
of the bumblebees who
can only sneak a sip of these nectars,
and claim the catmint,
for their usual haunts
of oxeye daisies, scabious and red campions
are full of other feeders.

The summer sun calls these
delicate creatures forth
in profusion this year
bringing a smile
and gladdening the heart.

Meadow Brown and Oxeye DaisyMeadow Brown and ScabiousBumblebee and FoxgloveBumblebee and Catmint

THE GIFT OF RAIN

The air is perfumed
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The earth is moist
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The plants are restored
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The evening’s feathered choristers
sing thanks for the gift of life-giving rain.

As the clouds separate
into clusters of golds and greys,
parting to allow the night blanket
to cover the land in its velvet
full moon softness,
the place I call home
goes into the hours of darkness and rest,
refreshed and renewed.

It was long in coming
and after the arid days,
I welcome the gifts and blessings
the rain bestows upon the land.

Rites and Rituals

For a good number of years now, I’ve found myself much less interested in, and inclined towards, orchestrated and scripted rites to do any sort of ritual. It simply doesn’t suit me, my spirituality and spiritual practice like it once did. You see, I went from being a fairly high church Episcopalian/Anglican to being a low church Pagan.

Over the years I have tried to follow proscribed and prescribed Pagan rites and rituals – in my case Druidic ones – and I simply can’t do them. The wording always felt trite and often has no real poetry, the cadence of the language fell flat, having grown up with the Collect form that remained essentially that of Thomas Cranmer, the formulae seemed forced or like they are trying too hard. I just never felt authentic casting a circle or calling the quarters, though in the days when I was making a concerted effort my mind would wander and I kept thinking that the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer from the 1970s in the US was doing sort of the same thing – ‘Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and blessed be His Kingdom now and forever.’ Four parts that felt a lot like the circle casting using the four quarters. That being an aside.

Even though I attempted to write my own rites and formulate rituals to follow, I found that I had lost my taste for them. After all, I don’t belong to a Grove or any longer to Druid group that uses scripted rites for ritual. When the Druid group to which I do belong gathers, and we do so very infrequently, we are called together to be present in the space and place with simple words spoken from the heart. Those words hold our time out of time, as it were, and we sit in silence for the most part, individuals speaking or singing in the safety of the shared space. At a time when the one who gathered us in our time together senses that it is time to move back into ordinary time and space, the person says a few closing words and the time together ends.

There is another Pagan group to which I belong that has quite proscribed ways of doing things, at least on the surface, to be in communion with the group’s Goddessess, but again they don’t work for me. This same group has a series of guided meditations that can be undertaken at particular times. Again, I don’t get on with guided meditations, I tend to use them only to get to another ‘place’ then I wander off, usually following some calling from my usual guides. It’s not an act of wilful rebellion, it’s just the way these things work for me.

That said, being a person who no longer uses or desires to use written rites, I have developed a pattern of actions, a ritual, for the morning. It has happened spontaneously and it is one that feels right.

I get up about 0530 and get dressed. I get the food ready to take out to the feeding bowl in the orchard, put on my wellies and head out the back door. I head across the garden toward the west and through the gate into our little orchard. On the way I fill a watering can with water to replenish the water bowl near the feeding bowl and I make my way to fill both. I notice the wildflowers at my feet – bird’s foot trefoil is now blooming amid the buttercups and clover. After I fill the respective bowls I take the food container and watering can back to the orchard entrance.

Walking to each tree, most are still very small, being barely more than sticks when the arrived, and greet them in turn. I say good morning. I tell them how grateful we are that they are at home in our orchard. I make a fuss, if you will. When I come to one of the seven original trees I tell them how wonderful it is that they are making apples or plums and how amazing they are. I do this until all thirty trees are greeted, plus the two white birches and the four trees still in pots at the edge of the orchard. I also greet the badger who is buried near the birch trees.

After I have done this I stand where the front door of my shed will be at some point, at the bottom of the orchard. Facing north, I raise my arms to upward and draw down the energy of the morning into me and ground myself. Then raising my arms again, I chant the ‘Laude’ from Bernstein’s Mass, addressing to both God and Goddess. Finally, I chant to Pomona, who introduced Herself to me as a Goddess of the place where I live – dah, all those apple orchards! I chant to Her to ward and guard the trees of our orchard, and the ones close around. I ask her to bless the trees with fruit and give them strength to be resilient in the face of the changes in climate we are enduring. I have no set tune, no set words, just what feels right at the time, different every day.

When I am done, I walk back into the garden and do my morning watering on the east side of the property and in the front. When I water the garden, I chant to St Fiacre – patron saint of gardeners. He doesn’t seem to mind a Pagan chanting his name and asking his blessing on the garden. It usually takes me an hour to ninety minutes to do all of this.

Before I go to bed, I always look out my bedroom window, again to the west and north, and watch the stars, saying thank you to the day to the world outside my window, facing the orchard and the garden right under my window.

So, whilst I have not written rites, I do have rituals that work for me. Simple. Flexible. Sincere. They are rite-less rituals and that suits me just fine, and they will change with the seasons. What I do now in the summer will not be what I do in the winter, except for the last one of the day, because I think it is vitally important to express my gratitude to this amazing world we live on, for its gifts and abundant blessings, which more and more I am coming to realise we don’t appreciate enough, as a human species, to protect and cherish as we should, and indeed must if we are to survive. My humble thank you, I trust is heard and received with grace.

Tooting My Own Horn

This is a slightly different blog, because I’m sharing places to find my writings that others have published.

Recently, The Deep Music: Offerings for the Awen was published. This is an anthology containing three of my poems, previously unpublished, and a short essay. You can order it here.

The jacket blurb reads:

‘This anthology is a collection of the writings of contemporary awneyddion. Those who have have heard the deep music, followed its call to Annwn, where the awen is breathed into them by the gods, and returned with their own songs.’ The other contributors include: Greg Hill, Catriona McDonald, Angharad Lois, Bryan Hewitt, Lorna Smithers, Cat Heath, Rhyd Wildermuth, Charlotte Hussey, Kevin Manwaring, Hazel Loveridge, Sithearan NicLeoid, Lia Hunter, and Hilaire Wood.

Last week, a story of mine,’The Unexpected Bearer’, was published in the Spring 2020 issue of Shorts Magazine [it’s free]. Just click on the magazine and it opens.

These are the first of my writings published by others in a long time, and it’s been very gratifying see both the book and magazine.

My Twenty-One-Year-Old Self

My twenty-one-year-old self looks down on me,
watching from the wall across from my bed,
as I sleep and waken,
follows me around the room,
leaning out from her canvas home,
curious and enigmatic.



I wonder sometimes what she thinks
of the life I have made in the forty-six years
since she was painted,
a time and a life committed
by brush, oils and skill
to be a wedding present from my father,
when according to him at the time
I looked like everyone and no one,
too young with too little of life lived
to make my features have
the unique signature of self
only time can grant.
 
Sitting here with her looking down on me now,
on the anniversary of that marriage
which failed after a quarter century,
I wonder what will happen to her
when I am gone,
I who leave no descendants,
no one who would want a portrait of me;
but I shelve these musings
choosing instead to wonder
about the life I’d be living now
had I not changed my name,
not been divorced two times,
gone to university at eighteen
instead of thirty-five,
not answered the call to leave
the religion of my birth
as well at its country.
 
For I can see shadows of those other lives
lived surely in other places,
and perhaps on other planes,
from that which I inhabit now,
lives with descendants perhaps
to carry her forth along
with my genetics.
 
I look at her watching me
perceiving no judgement 
sensing no disappointment,
feeling no regret,
rather there is acceptance,
without resignation and the acknowledgement
life has its twists and turns,
that there are eddies and still pools
in the flow of time as well as
raging torrents pushing one onward,
for the trajectory of being is complex,
and the algebra of the heart
and the trigonometry of the soul
remain mysterious.
 
What I make of the life
I have created for myself
by the paths I have taken,
the doors I have either entered or closed,
the decisions and choices I have made,
whether with my heart or with my head,
whether wise or foolish,
each have led me here
to a place my twenty-one-year-old self
there and then could never have imagined,
where my sixty-seven-year-old self
here and now can have a silent conversation with her,
with that me, any time that I desire,
and in those moments find a sense
of continuity transcending there and then,
where place and time
no longer matter for in the flow
of being all are one.

My World Shrank

For the second time in my life
my world shrank.

The first time by expansion when,
volunteering as the assistant
to my then husband,
San Diego’s first port chaplain,
the world came to me
as I sat dishing out stamps and change
to the crew of various passenger ships
regularly calling at there.

In this way, I worked with people
from all over the world,
and though it was a big world
knowing someone from most continents
made it see much smaller,
places I would never dream of visiting,
and in many cases had no desire to do so,
were brought to me as letters to family
passed over my table with exotic,
often complicated addresses.

Indeed, my world shrank
to encompass the whole of it.
Since then I have relocated
to another country smaller than America,
but the memory of that larger
smaller world
lingered.

When lockdown began my world shrank again,
this time contracting instead of expanding
in some mysterious pandemic physics,
to be the acre, give or take,
the property on which I now live,
and it is a world-size that I can truly
get my head and heart,
soul and spirit around.

It is the house,
the front garden, drive and garage,
it is the back garden with its
ten raised beds and soon to be installed
water feature and potted trees planted,
it is the orchard with its new
and previously resident fruit trees.

This is now my world,
one I can easily circumnavigate,
not getting wet unless I run into the sprinkler,
one where I know the non-human residents,
listen in wonder at their various languages
in scolding or in song,
where the wind speaks its own words,
differently through every tree,
where I recognise and know where
the sun and moon and stars
will be each night.

For the second time my world
shrank and though I do not understand
what this smaller world will mean
in the long run,
it a world where I am content,
where I want to be,
where I know and am known,
where I am learning lessons unimagined.

For the second time in my life,
my world shrank,
and I am in no real hurry for it to expand.