Teaching to Lose

How we teach our children how to lose is now almost more important than teaching them to win.

The world is watching in horror and disgust as a man who has fairly lost refusing to accept that loss is possible. This seems in large part due to his family upbringing and dynamics, but it is lesson for everyone – teachers, parents, adults and children – that winning is not everything.

How this can be accomplished I have no idea, but that is must be done is beyond question. We are at a juncture in human history where always winning and having everything we want, that bigger is better and enough is no sufficient, is no longer tenable. Every year having to have the latest mobile phone, a smart TV, a better tablet is destroying the planet and costing the lives of those who must mine the rare elements that these sorts of devices require.

I remember in the 70s there was a movement focused on voluntary simplicity and something similar, perhaps, needs reviving or reinventing to suit today’s challenges.

We need to learn that faster is not better. Over here in the UK, the faster is better model is destroying ancient woodlands. It is cutting down oak trees that at hundreds of years old, and at the rate of climate change I doubt that the coming environment will be suitable for oak trees who are young now to live long enough to be hundreds of years old.

Faster is better is all part of winning at all costs. And it is destroying our planet and our politics. It is destroying the goodwill of nations and individuals within them.

We must learn that slower is alright and that losing, well, it happens and being gracious in defeat is a huge statement about the person who concedes, as it is when the winner is not affirmed and is derided.

There is not much time left for us to get these lessons and to teach them. If we do not then . . .

Morthava’s Kin are Dying

Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
Wild and treed places
in California and Oregon,
Washington and Colorado,
fires burn from lightning strikes,
in Amazonia and Indonesia,
and months ago in Australia,
fires burn because man has set them,
either by careless stupidity or twisted intention
or by environmental changes
connected to human’s
insatiable greed for more and more.
 
Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
Morthava Wellingtonia
is rooted in a special place in Bath,
recently she reached out in her
anger and grief
asking my why –
why are her kin all over
the planet burning?
 
Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
I have no answer to offer this
tall, wise and deeply rooted one
whose shaggy bark and needled
limbs give comfort to humans
and a home to many others,
others we disregard, ignore, dismiss
because we cannot see them,
choose not to know
who live in all trees,
everywhere.
 
Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
Her pain is palpable,
continues to be palpable,
as I open slowly to the cries
and challenges of my tree kin;
as I now allow myself to feel
a pain rooted literally
in those who cannot flee
the fires or the saws,
those whose resident
communities of others
have nowhere else to go,
for they are also rooted
with their tree hosts,
dependent upon the tree
for food and shelter,
as they have been for millennia.
 
Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
No longer can I flee, either,
the truth that humans’
presumed and barely questioned
sovereignty over creation
and its domination
on the use, overuse, abuse
of every resource,
for some are told it was,
after all, put here for us.
 
Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away.
 
Our wilful disrespect
for other’s habitats and the wild places
where our own distant kin,
let alone our kin among the other,
found a way of life, a way of being
that is now on the brink of ceasing,
our greed and our reckless disregard,
our selfishness, our arrogance,
place all of us and all
our other kin in danger.
 
Right now, Morthava’s kin are dying,
and they cannot run away,
some places it is happening already.

We see the flame burnished skies,
choking everything that lives within
the fires’ ravaging ranges
and well beyond – shock.

We read that rust furred orangutans
trying to find food when their
forests are gone are killed
for trying to survive
as their world disappears – shock.

We are told that if we cleared 
the leaves, dead trees and brush
off the forest floor,
so it would resemble a city park 
with as much biodiversity,
then there would be no fires – shock.
 
Still, still we resist what deep down
we know is that it will not be long before
we will all know what
Morthava’s kin know now,
that there is not running away,
we have nowhere else to go.

To avoid confusion, I should have noted (see Lorna’s comment below and my response) that Morthava is the name that particular tree gave me to address her. Usually, those names are kept between the individual tree and myself (in this case she also allowed me to tell my husband since it is a tree that is also special to him); however, this time given the magnitude and severity of the situation that direction/understanding was waived by the tree so that I could share her message.

Road Kill Speaks to Me

Yesterday, we went on a rare venturing forth to the Willow and Wetlands Centre no too far from us to get a couple of baskets. On the way, driving across the Somerset Levels we passed two creatures who had met their ends in road accidents. They were both young animals in their first, and sadly, last year.

We came across the badger first, in the middle of the road. The energy/spirit of this poor creature was still hovering around the carcass. As we came towards it, she gave me her name. This often happens and, when it does, I know that there is a service that I can perform. Using her name, I gathered her energy/spirit and together we went to the portal for badgers entering the Summerlands. Once there I made my request known, to open the way for her to cross through. The portal opened and arrayed before us were numerous Badgercestors who called to the young one and welcomed her to the badgercestral sett. I nodded my thanks and I returned to the car where I had been sitting and which had moved on.

Not long after we came upon a squirrel. This one was harder as his energy/spirit was resentful and angry, his energy was running around his mangled body chittering and scolding as his tail swayed in the wind on the roadbed. This one I called to me and quietly told him it was time to move on. That’s when a terrible grief and sadness came upon me. He stopped being angry and became still. Then his sadness broke like a storm. He lamented that he never got to live his first autumn, never got to build his own drey, never got to cache acorns, never got to plant a tree.

It was so terribly sad to hear all this regret wrapped in such small quivering bundle of energy/spirit. Using the name he gave me I finally scooped up his energy/spirit and carried it to the squirrel portal to the Summerlands. Following the same procedure as with the badger, I called to the Squirrelcestors who bid him forth to them with gentle calling. They assured him he had a place in the squirrelcestoral drey and the that there would be tress to plant in the Summerlands, for that is what squirrels do there.

As I removed myself from these experiences, I offered thanks that I am able to offer this small service to the little furred and feathered ones who lose their lives on the roads, thanks I am granted to know their names and use them to help them move on. I record all of these names and at Samhain remember them.

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.