First Father’s Day without a Father

My father died last month.
He was 94 and lived a long life doing what he knew he was called to do in the world.

This is the first time in my 65 years that on this day there is no one living to honour, no one alive to celebrate. I do hold his memory, imperfections and all, in a sacred place today. But also the other man who was a father figure for me, who died a decade ago.

I admit to ambivalent feelings about my male parent. He was excessively devoted to his male god and this god’s son. I am not devoted at all to either any longer. He admitted that his love for his deity overrode any love for any human person. A twisted theology – ‘I love God so I can’t love anyone else.’

It is a challenge to understand the place where one should put such complex memories and convoluted understandings where the human and the divine tangle and knot in the mind and had tied up the soul for far too many years.

I freed myself from all of that tangle several decades ago. It made it possible to see my father as a fallible human, a talented artist and an inadequate parent. But that was my life, my history, the reality that shaped me. I am who I am for having grown up in his studio. What I learned there had the most profound impact upon me, matched only by what I discovered about myself and the world when I attended university as an adult.

My mother died 26 years ago, do now my brother and I are adult orphans. We make our ways in the world shaped by our parents’ actions and by our reactions to them as we moved into the world on our own, and we continue to do so.

This is the first Father’s Day I have not had a father alive. For the rest of my life, this will be the case.

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Questions with no Answers

I have been reading a great many books lately that seem to be spinning around a theme, though to my conscious awareness in no way intentionally.

Books on: The Soul; The Self; Time; Quantum Physics; The Daemon; The Gods; Space and our place in it; Healing in its broadest sense to include Soul Wounds, the Mother Wound, Illness; Life and Death; Loss; Belonging; Becoming; Aging; Elderhood; Wild Life and Rewilding Life; History and Natural History; Sentience; Myth,Mythology and Mystery. To me these are all dealing with the same issues at a deep and profoundly basic level. They all are questioning the trajectory of movement and momentum Life and what shape it actually takes: linear, cyclical, circular, or some form we have no way currently to conceive in our three dimensionality. They are all asking questions about what it means to be human and animal, to be alive. Why we are here. Why is there a here at all. What’s it all about.

This is the stuff that has exercised philosophers and theologians, mystics and musers for millennia. This is the stuff of tortured prose and elegant poetry. This is the stuff worth thinking about, mulling over, pondering on a walk in the woods, when drifting off to sleep and in the drowsy groggy minutes upon waking in the morning.

There are no right answers here. There are perhaps better phrased answers and more or less convincing ones. But ultimately right ones? Sorry.

I have found this reading and the matters it has raised mind bending and soul expanding. It has taught me that what I was taught as a child was not the Truth, but one narrowly perceived and conceived version of truth as an originally small group of people understood and elaborated it. It is not my Truth any longer and certainly not The Truth in any sense of my current understanding nearly six and a half decades along on my present journey.

Nevertheless, I am awash in wonder. Knowing how things work from the isolated scientific perspective, another limited truth, has in no way made me less able to look at the night sky and think about all the galaxies and suns and planets out there resting and spinning and dancing in the darkness that is hidden from us during the day and that we flee from into artificial light during the night. It does not make me any less awe-struck when we found a frog in our garden a couple of days ago and moved it to a safer place, a small delicate creature with wondrous bulging eyes, and I wondered what it saw of or ‘thought’ of us. I live in a state of gratitude for birds and animal, the trees and flowers, the insects and ferns, the fronds and the flowers all around me.

At the same time, I worry about the loss of our current megafauna and our pollinators. I worry about the manipulation of our food sources, of being in a position where the only food available to us will be sterile, both unable to reproduce itself and so germ free that we never build up any resistance to what is out there surrounding us in our environment. I worry about the young people who never get to climb a tree or to paddle in the sea, or to bake a cake or whittle a spoon – all now considered too dangerous, potentially injury causing, life threatening.

That said, my worry never out paces nor overwhelms my wonder. My ability to wonder, to engage in wondering remains intact. I have no answers myself, none that encompass everything. Nor do I want one. Living with questions is not a bad thing; but having all the answers certainly would be. I remain restless. I remain curious. I continue to read which feeds my restless curiosity. I continue to write which is how I play with the ideas I read about and how I best assimilate them, it is how I frame a way to comprehend and apprehend my place in all the great swirling Mystery of Being.

Give me the questions any day, any night.

On the other side of Thursday

Galaxies whirl through space,
stars flow across the night dark sky
the cosmic dance goes on oblivious to us,
the earth rotates on her axis,
spring moves slowly on its course
flowers bloom and leaf buds swell,
birds sing their morning song to greet
the rising sun and the moon grows
toward fullness once again,
on the other side of Thursday.

Our stories merge,
blank pages interleaf
waiting for the living of our life
to become a story shared,
your story and my story
will become our story,
where we do not know the plot
for it will only be revealed as we live it
on the other side of Thursday.

There are new memories
that do not displace the old,
nor deny the lives and loves before
embracing the past
reaching to the future,
knowing what had been
in the mystery of being
opened the portal we walk through today
and what is yet will unfold before us,
on the other side of Thursday.

This day we celebrate
that we have found each other,
our hearts rejoice and souls dance,
a life to share awaits with
adventures and challenges,
explorations and learnings,
being and becoming,
for a new wide world opens up to us,
on the other side of Thursday.

I wrote this for my Griffin as his wedding present. We step together in to our new life filled with gratitude, wonder and delight, knowing in the deepest reaches of our beings that all we have together is a gift from a beneficence beyond our comprehending.

A Daughter and a Mother

The deep unknowing
from birth until adulthood
spans of winter years
stretched between you,
neither knowing the other,
always haunted by the absence
in an empty wistful wondering,
was I missed, was she loved,
questions spiralling out
into distances unimagined
bored into the core of the heart.

A daughter relinquished.
A mother bereft.
A time of reckoning outside
their ability to comprehend.
A mother bereft.
A daughter relinquished.

Light has now, though,
penetrated the deep unknowing
as spring has blossomed
in the landscape of the heart,
Persephone, a daughter freed
from the silenced mystery,
unuttered questions swinging
in the silent spaces
dawning between the present
and the fog shrouded past.

Light has now, as well,
shone into the deep well of loss,
the waters breaking forth
washing into the future,
Demeter, a mother consoled
in the mystery of knowing
she now has a chance
to learn and share from the wisdom
borne of separation,
answers flowing gently
through the silent spaces
filling the empty present
from the tear-filled past.

A daughter bewildered.
A mother relieved.
A time of reconnection within
their ability to create meaning.
A mother relieved.
A daughter bewildered.

I wrote this for a friend who is a real life Persephone

Winter’s Turning

The season turned some time ago,
slipping slowly since
into the hard cold grasp
of frost and ice,
now each morning
gilding the edges of the lawn’s
every blade with crystals
golden in the early sun.

Though the season turned some time ago,
only now does the
clinging cold clutch
at skin exposed however briefly
to the wind and marching vapour
rising from the fields
standing wet from recent soaking rain.

Since the season turned some time ago,
the days’ march onward
near the heart of Winter,
darkness’ descent dancing
from light into night swiftly
changing state as
Winter’s whimpers subtly alter to
melancholy whispers in the fading day.

The midseason approaches,
deepest velvet night
replaces shallow satin day,
but soon they swap their places
gradually longer days
for incrementally shorter nights,
as the wheel adjusts once more,
the pattern begins again,
the tottering and teetering
of light and dark
of day and night
of winter facing
the return of summer in its time.

For once more the seasons rocking
to their rhythms show
that to change and shift positions,
as does the sun hour by month
is the way of living, being, thriving
in Nature’s balanced grace.

Shortest day, I treasure you,
Longest might, I honour you.
Winter Solstice, I welcome you.

Ancestors

A couple of days ago I finished reading Tom Holland’s Millennium. I had many reactions to his book. Although I read Mediaeval History and Literature at university, I was not as familiar with the timeframe he was dealing with, having spent most of my time in the 12th century, and Millennium deals with the end of the 10th through most of the 11th centuries.

What struck me most, besides the appalling behaviour of both Christians and Muslims in the time covered by Holland’s book was the fact that I am here at all.

As a Druid, I look to the ancestors for inspiration and guidance, and honour them in ritual and meditation. What hit me as I read about the battles, and sieges, and the battles, and more battles, is how amazing it is that I am alive. It meant that none of my ancestors, in a direct genetic line to me, was killed in any of the serious bloodletting that swept across Europe. I meant that none of my ancestors, in direct genetic line to me, retreated to a monastery. Neither of these at least until they had passed on their genes to another generation.

Looking beyond the turbulent century around the first millennium of the Common Era, it also meant that none of my ancestors died of plague, disease, or in childbirth, and if the latter only after my next ancestor was born. Similarly, none died from making pilgrimages. They did not die by drowning or fire, from being on the wrong side in the burning frenzies that marked the actions of and reactions to Inquisition or the Protestant Reformation several centuries later.

I am here because none of my direct ancestors died in the War of American Independence, or Civil Wars in either England or America before they had fathered or mothered the child who stands behind me. Nor did they die in the killing fields of France in WWI, though it was a close-run thing in WWII. My father being spared the horror of the Battle of the Bulge because his CO faked his papers, saying he had a fever. He did this because he felt my father was more valuable to the war effort designing recreation rooms from Quonset huts, which helped morale, than as a fighter on the front line.

That any of us are here is because, though we may have had ancestors who succumbed to TB in the slums of English cities in the Industrial Revolution or died in the mines or mills, they did so after the next generation of our ancestors was already alive. Ditto the Black Death and its numerous recurrences over the centuries.

Realising this, all of this, makes me more respectful of those whose genes I carry, though I have not passed them on to another generation. I am not an ancestor of the future, except tangentially, but since I am not in contact with my cousins I will join the generic gathering of ancestors who belong to everyone and no one in particular.

That does not make me sad or feel any regret, for it was a conscious choice. What it does make me more aware of the burden those who came before me carried for millennia upon millennia, and whose lives and genes make me, were never aware of. In that awareness then is a special kind of honouring. Honouring by awareness is just as valuable as honouring by action, action in this case being the physical passing on of genetic information.

I am humbled with gratitude. I am humbled by the amazing quirks of fate and faith that brought me to the place I am, to the knowing I have of who came before me. I do not know many of the names, but I know about the world they lived in and the dangers the faced from reading history; I know the sorrows they endured from love and loss because I have read literature. I thank them each. I thank them all.

Young Mountains

Crumpled earth,
landmasses crunched like
stiff brown shopping bags,
rough edges,
uneven surfaces,
crevasses deep fissured,
peaks high soaring.

You are young mountains.

Born of drifting continents,
lands we like believe are stable;
but the quiescence is illusion,
for year on year pushed
and rammed you grow
as the rocks continue
to grate and tear each other.

You are young mountains.

Snow drifted,
snow leopard haunted,
wind ravaged and ice tormented,
rocks slide and snowpack
tumbles terror trapping
the unwary who brave
your craggy slopes for summits,
forbidding foreboding
to deter determined actions.

You are young mountains.

We prod you in weariness,
seeking ways to scale your mass,
because you are there and we are here,
sharing a planet hurling
through space as bulk hurtles
bulk together shaping
reforming making your contours
over and over minutely in increments.

You are young mountains.

You are also made of old stone souls
deep in shadow and bathed in thin light,
and if we would but attend,
you have lessons to teach us:
about the limits of permanence and hubris.
and the cycles of rifts and vaunting,
for we are kin living upon
your ancient rocky ancestors,
your great mineralised predecessors.

You are young mountains,
and we are most of all
foolish young beings of the land.

The first line of this poem came to me first thing this morning when I turned on my computer and the photo as it woke up was of some craggy mountains.