You opened your heart

For some time, meaning a quite a few years in this instance, I have struggled with how to identify myself on the paradigmatic timeline of the stages of a woman’s life. I am well past menopause, but I neither look nor feel old nor haggard. I have tried to live with the Crone but I am not her, not yet, not for a long while yet the goddesses willing. Just in the past few days I have come upon the designation of Queen as an intermediate between Mother and Crone.

I realise this is not a new idea, it has been floating about for many years, only it hadn’t until last week floated to me. I am a believer that things come to one at the right time and not before, no matter how impatient I am, if an issue is not ready or I am not ready for it, then it’s not going to arrive. That has caused me much grief and pain in the last several years, but it is one of the truths of my life. There are things I could not do when I was not whole enough to do them, not present enough to present myself. (I hope you caught the change in inflection there).

Two days ago I went to the local small orchard woodland space on the near edge of the village. I went to the Beech tree who has been companioning me for several months.

 

Beech 2

After discovering the Queen paradigm or archetype, whichever — and there is probably an important technical difference between the two — I had to seek her out, because I sensed the reason she had been nudging at me to come into communion with her. I had no expectations of the encounter, when I approached her, I went ready to be . . . What happened was a remarkable incidence of relating to another being at a profound level. I have had deep and profound encounters with Yew trees, for which I have always had an affinity, and for many years I have been struck by the sensual beauty of the Beech tree. I just never thought it related in any way to me personally — how wrong, but it was not then time. I could not have handled the influx of energy, the depth of the knowing, the intensity of the revelation.

In reading about and exploring intellectually the new paradigm/archetype it seemed that it was a fit, one that had been missing. But it was not tangible, tactile, tensile. I was not able to hold the reality, feel the reality, experience the tension upon which such a reality balances and exists. Then I followed my intuition, always strong and getting stronger as I’ve gotten stronger, and went to see Her. She opened her heart to me. In so doing, She changed my life forever.

(This is a place in Her barkskin that looks like a heart, an open one, that inspired the poem.)

Beech heart

You opened your heart
you gave me a name,
a way I might address you,
no longer simply
The Statuesque Beech Tree
in the Orchard Wood.

You opened your heart
and in so doing enabled me
to speak aloud your name
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
as I circled you on the
slope of the hillside
running my hands
over your barkskin
I felt your presence and power
I felt my presence and power.

You opened your heart,
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
speaking instruction
articulating introduction
affirming intuition
that I might listen and learn
the lessons I require.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
you are willing to share
that I might understand
what it means to be a Queen,
Sovereign of the Self
standing tall as yet unbent,
reaching forth to the sky
dancing in the breeze.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
that I might access
ancestral knowing,
ancient knowledge,
deep-rooted wisdom.

For all this you opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
shared yourself with me,
fractured my mental
barriers to acceptance,
shifted my spiritual
perceptions to acknowledgement
that I am not old though no longer young,
that I have a place
of self-acceptance
self-understanding
and ongoing outgoing.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
and in doing so allowed me
to share with you
what it means to be Queen
in our presence and power.

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I am the last one

Am I the last one? Have the others been lost now?

I have traversed the flyway for several years now, making my way back to the grounds of continuation and have found no others like me.

Am I the last one? Are the others all gone?

It has been my fear. Now it is my reality.

I lost one mate to the report of a rife, another to the hurling of a stone. I escaped, but I was then alone. The last mate I lost to starvation, for the sources of our food were no more. I lost my last brood to poisoned bait set for others, vermin they call them. Fellow creatures trying to make their way in a world where are no longer valued I say.

This is the last year I shall fly. I am weary and alone. Lonely. This is the last year I shall chase the dream of finding another with whom to mate or challenge. This is the last year that any shall hear my plaintive call, the last year that my song will sound through the wooded edges, the meadowed margins.

This is the last year that I shall live.

It is the last year that my kind shall be.

Extinction they call it. Extinguishment of the light of our species soul, is what is really is. There will never be another of me. For all of time, for all of forever, in all of eternity there will not be one like me again. We were not a fancy bird. We were not flashy. We were not formidable. We were just an ordinary brown bird, not too big, but big enough that there are those who thought it sport to shot us and little though it was, some food for their hungry families in a world too crowded with your kind and where famine swept through trying to redress the imbalance.

How can I describe what it is like to sing, sing to the wind and leaves and the sky? How can I explain to you what it feels like to call, in desperation and aching loneliness for another of your own kind, and there to be no answer? How can I try to tell you, who are responsible for this that you could have prevented my fate – that you could have acted sooner, behaved differently, lived in a way that made it safe for your children and mine? How can I speak to you who do not and cannot ever be the last of your species ever to be alive, ever to see the sun rise, watch the sun set, feel the wind and rain over your body? Rain weeping with you at the immanent prospect of your annihilation and demise.

It has been attempted by some of your own kind against others of your own kind, it may have happened to some of your distant ancestors from millennia ago, for you have done ethnic cleansing, targeting particular populations. And, if as a species you are able to do that, what chance did my kind ever have when we became scarce, rare, endangered?

I will not any longer try to make you feel guilty. For now, that will not save me, though on reflection it might save another, something bigger like snow leopards, tigers, rhinos, elephants – but they are big and take up more space they we ever did. I am a small being. I hold little hope.

I am unlucky to be just a plain brown bird, nondescript. I am unlucky to have a niche environment. I am unlucky to be a migrator to and from places that have become both perilous and toxic.

I will now sing one more song, a long song of lamentation and despair. I will sing one more solo where there should have been a chorus. I will sing once more for a mate because I must, though I know that there are none to respond. I will sing one last time in defiance of another to try and challenge my territory, though I know there are none to answer my challenge.

I sing now and will let my heart burst in the effort. May you farewell, fare better than . . .

It’s the small things

As is quite usual for me, it’s the small things that seem most to mark my days. Yes, I am aware of larger patterns and shapings, but they are not so immediate until they are. The little things though, well they are there and not always for long.

They catch my attention,

draw my eye,

Wee toadstool

change my whole plan and framing of a day.

It happened several times this week, I paused to look carefully. I spent the time to look very closely to see if I could take some photos I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for days that feel like weeks due to my frustration. But in the last week I got the photos.

            

Doing so was an exercise in patience and perseverance, in gentle negotiation with my subject, battling the wind and rain, and plain dogged determination to succeed if I could. To prove something to myself. About myself, maybe. About my place in the greater scheme of things, perhaps. And, just possibly none of these.

The one incident that stands out, however has to do with a moth. I was walking down one of the streets I take frequently to get away from the village far enough to have a long view of the countryside and not hear the roar of traffic. I came upon a moth in the middle, smack dab in the center of the road. I did not feel I should leave it there, since it did not stir as I approached I knew something was amiss.


I gathered it up gently and began a relationship that lasted nearly an hour, which I imagine for a moth is a very long time.

I could tell it was letting go of its life, having sustained an injury. So I spent some time trying to listen for what it wanted me to do. If it had any last wishes. I tried a few times to put it on a sturdy branch or a wall, but it would have none of it. We went to one of my favourite looking out places and I leaned on a fence and held it to see the wide sky and the fields, it wanted to do that again.

I walked slowly, for though I had errands to do, this was suddenly much, much more important. It did not mind me taking photographs of it in my hand, which was not easy given the shape of my camera, even though it’s one I can comfortable hold in my hand. The shutter, well they used to be called shutters anyway, was on the wrong side. With a bit of hand gymnastics I was successful.

We visited the Hazel and Rowan trees I commune with and one of the Willows. We walked down a sheltered lane with the hedges grown full and high — the cleavers and cow parsley taller than me. The bees were at work in the vetch. The sun was not shining and it kept threatening rain, but I walked on with my companion. Eventually, it became clear that it wanted to go to an Elder tree. I went past several, but I knew the one it wanted. We made our way there, and I plucked a red clover on the last bit of the walk. I knew we were about to say good-bye.

All the time we were together I could feel its clingy, delicate feet on my finger and palm of my hand. I looked carefully at its markings, at its face. It was so downy. I wondered how it managed to fly and land. I wondered how it perceived its reality. As an animist I knew it had its own wisdom and sentience, and more importantly it had a soul and ineffable spirit, somehow and some way.

When we got to the end of our shared journey, I placed it on the top of a tall wooden gate post that reached into the particular Elder tree to which we had been bound to make our way together. I placed it carefully on the post, and put the clover with it. The moth seemed contented. I thanked it for its company and sharing a small portion of its life journey with me. I did not look back. I spoke an intention/prayer that its onward journey be as it was meant to be, but painless and swift as might be.

The way back to the road where we met was a lonely walk. Such a small being took up so much space in my heart for about three quarters of an hour, but it could have been eons for all I was aware at the time. Only when we parted did I re-enter the flow of regular, mundane time. And I have no issues with mundane time. But to have those moments of extra-ordinary time are precious. If all our time was spent there we would not have the same appreciation of those instances of exceptional rarity and wonder.

The rest of that day before and after my encounter with the moth were filled with frustration, taking far longer than it should have, with far more bother to achieve the two main tasks of the day. Those tasks were supposed to be the really important ones — I know now they were not.

The Embrace

Friday was a revelation . . .

I was walking to the weekly Coffee Morning at the local Methodist. I left early and walked the ‘back way’, that is on the footpath beside the fields. It was sunny and not too warm yet.

The birds were singing,

bumblebees humming,

and the scent of May flower

Mayflower 1                Mayflower 2

and the first gentle wafts of elderflower floated on the air.

Elderflower

All of a sudden I was swept up in the glorious feeling of joy and elation at being, at being alive, at being able to walk this path, at being able to see the beauty, at being aware of so much that I could not see, or smell but could perceive going on around me and beneath my feet.

I smiled. I nearly wept, as I am as I recall that experience — my eyes mist and misted over with tears.

Delight. Wonder. Enchantment. Love . . . yes love. Not the mushy kind we often feel for each other. But a deeper and more profound love, that of the Awen, the Source, the Knowers, the Patterners reaching out to embrace me. To hold me in their familiar and yet utterly different, I hesitate to say alien, embrace. Not the embrace of desire as we normally understand it, but desire nonetheless — the desire that I should know and feel the presence of that which flows through and enables all life and living, everywhere and everywhen. The desire that I should experience this in a new way, that I was ready to know and feel this, that I was strong enough, open enough, willing enough to take it on, take it in and be taken on, taken in by it.

It was a moment, broad and protacted, out of time. I still feel it in remembering. It is the most profound such experience I have ever had. And my response was gratitude. It reinforced my understanding that living the Druid path for me is in part about reverence and gratitude and humility. I was awed by what my senses picked up. The smallest thing had the greatest meaning. There was no insignificance anywhere. It spread out from me, the awareness. It was living through Aslan calling all being from himself at the creation of Narnia, standing beside him as life came to be. It is a passage I have always loved, and in some miniscule way lived with him in an instant. I was suffused in grace and bathed in wonder. Everything around me pulsed with life, I could almost see, and certainly sensed, felt the threads of the Awen weaving us all together — one being, one life, One.

The experience changed me forever. It renewed and refreshed and remade me. I do not have words, though I have tried to find some for this sharing. I was given this gift without nearly dying first, and I am also grateful for that.  I take nothing for granted, offer only gratitude.

With a flourish

Yesterday I spent all day with my calligraphy group at a workshop. We were doing revision of the Italic hand and then learning how to add flourishes — those lovely squiggly bits that can dance and sweep across a page of calligraphic work.

The tutor was wonderful, skilled and affirming of our efforts, but also gently critical when we didn’t quite get it. I was surprised to find that I did as well as I did with the basic exercises, doing the basic shapes and forming letters that looked pretty good, most of the time.  After lunch we got down to what was supposed to be the fun bit . . . adding the flourish to letters.

I found that I had a harder time with that part. I found I was way to tight and tense to let my hand go. We were told never to look at the pen as we were flourishing but rather where we were heading and we would get there.

An interesting lesson if applied to life, that latter bit. I have been struggling not only to focus on where I’m going, always looking ahead. Of course that I am aware of patterns and shapes in the yet to be means I can never fully live in the now, am not able only to  be focused on the here is where I am, not up/over there where I seem to be heading. It brought the paradox of when I am and where I am at any given moment into my thinking from a different angle and perspective. At the very least it provided visual evidence that the journey, whether launching out into an unknown with a goal or starting from some distant place and finding one’s way to where there is a anchor, a stable place, is not going to be straightforward and would be of no interest if it didn’t have twists and detours, and cross back over itself on the way.

I hesitated to use the word time directly above: ‘when I am . . . at any given moment.’  Time something I am working to understand and come to terms with, and thus is a rather slippery concept presently — see, you can’t escape referencing some framework of it — time I mean . . .

So I will pull back from that and let the contradiction and paradox speak for themselves and move back to the part about having a hard time — bother, there is again . . . pesky and trouble making! I had difficulty allowing myself the freedom of movement that would let the flourishes happen. I thought about this a great deal, even as I was struggling with a nib that grabbed the paper because the edges were too sharp (the tutor kindly gave me a scrap of 120 wet/dry sandpaper to take care of that and let me keep it) so they did not allow the pen to glide into the curves. After the pen stopped stalling at the curves I began to get the sense of the flow of movement. But still found it challenging to not hold too tightly, to allow the energy that wanted to dance on the paper permission to do so.

I have been working with the tree energies that are most present to, with and, in some sense, within me, two of which are Birch and Willow. Both of them dance gracefully in the breeze, they move with elegance and beauty. I do not dance. I’ve always found it far too . . . golly I can’t even grasp a word . . . uncomfortable will have to suffice here. I have never considered that I moved with much elegance, and beauty is not something one can ascribe to oneself. But those two trees are now much closer to me, more in communion with me so all of that may change — the dancing, graceful and elegant movement part, which I admit scares me a little, what that might mean for me and how I relate to the world and all the other beings with whom I share my journey .

All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was tiring, but that was from the amount of concentration it took to learn something new, and to meet head on the resistance, the internal brakes, the exercise pushed me to confront and acknowledge I wanted to overcome. The lessons of the day had much farther reaching implications for me that the eventual ability, with practise, to produce a decent piece of calligraphy with frilly bits. It had to do with all of how I perceive myself in relation to the how I move through the outer and inner worlds, of how I choose to present myself — flexible or rigid, more easy going and less uptight/tense, more open and less inhibited. These will have significant ramifications for me. If I am to take the lessons and gifts of Birch and Willow, in their purely physical demeanor or presence, I bracket here their deeper and more profound lessons that I am also working with, then I will have to allow myself the permission to let go a bit . . . all right then, let go rather a lot, gently remove the catchy edges, and begin to let the Awen move in a different, less constrained way through my being and allow it the freedom to reshape my becoming.

Of course there are also the other meanings of flourish, having to do with thriving, luxuriant grow/profusion, being in a state of production, and prospering. These are also relevant in the broader and deeper implications of the lessons from the workshop. For, as I reflect upon the result of allowing myself to show forth more to the physical attributes of Willow and Birch, I will live a fuller, richer life. I will thrive in my environment, I will create more as the Awen flows more readily and I do not resist its gift of inspiration and demands to fulfill my creative potential.

That’s a lot for a workshop billed as ‘Italic Revision with a Capital Flourish,’ and just goes to show you never know what lessons and learning lurk all innocently veiled in some experience completely different in its expected intention.

 

 

Lessons from my clocks

I seem to be having challenges with clocks at the moment. There are three here: a striking clock; a chiming clock; and a cuckoo clock. The first two reside in the living room and the third in the upstairs hall.

The sound of the striking clock feels like the heartbeat of the house, and its voice when it calls out the half hours and hours is deep and resonant. The chiming clock ticks to a different rhythm, which in turn is different from that of the cuckoo clock. They each have a different voice, a different way of singing the hours, quarters and halves.

I said before they are challenging me now, the chiming clock on the mantle in particular. Several months ago when resetting it after it wound down I did something. First of all I could not get it to speak for several days. When I finally did it did not speak the correct time. It is hours ahead of itself, ranging from four to eight, of course it could possibly be argued it is behind itself, but that is way too hard to get my head around.

Suffice it to say, it does not keep anything like accurate time, but I did manage to get it to communicate. I was very careful not to let it run all the way down and I never wound it to much. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Purfling, one of the cats choose not to listen to me when I asked her not to make a dash from the back of the chair, over the top of the  upright piano, and across the mantle piece to the front window. My mantle has lots of things on it, at the time my birthday cards were still there, besides the usual residents of the chiming clock in the middle, a candlestick on each side and various bits of rock, stick and the a vase with a rose bud from the bush at the front door sitting between the clock and the left hand candle stick. To her credit Purfling did not move any of the bits, but did jump on the top of the clock. It stopped.

Since the I have not been able to get it to go again. I keep trying the way I was told to do that, which was tipping it to one side. It will tick a bit and then not.

Last night when I came home from a meeting both the striking clock and the cuckoo clock had also run down. No problem with the former, but the latter took several tries before I finally kept going just before I turned in.

Why am I saying all this?

In some profound sense, time is not real – not in the way a radish is real or an okapi is real – but it is has always been important for humans to mark it’s passing, to keep track of it. There have been calendars for millennia, and clocks and watches for centuries. Religions from nearly the beginning of religious awareness have needed to know how to predict the phases of the moon, the circuiting of the sun, particular parts of the day.

We are dependent on knowing when we are. It is as important as knowing where we are. It occurred to me, just this minute, to wonder why watches are called watches. It is something I will have to investigate – but I digress.

To my thinking, the challenge of time runs even deeper than all that, it goes to the heart of our need to orientate ourselves to something far bigger than we are, far more mysterious. Having marked a birthday recently, and thinking back to when I was much younger and remembering that back then I could not even begin to comprehend myself at the age I am now, has perhaps ignited this reflection.

How we spend our time is important. And to use those words as if time is some sort of currency says a great deal. Like pounds and pence we can waste it or invest it in someone worthy or something worthwhile. What we can’t do is bank it for later, as we can money. There is no such thing as a time ISA.  It is a currency whose value, more like a voucher or coupon, has an expiration date. We do not know when that is, but that being the case is not in question.

We are told to take time out for ourselves. Does that mean finding a way to step out of  The Ongoing Flow of Being? I can’t imagine how I’d take time out for a walk or on a date. Is it possible to take time, to grasp it? Too often it seems we try. We cover up wrinkles. We hide the signs of age and aging. We engage in activities that are not always appropriate for where we are on our life journey. We all to often pretend that being a year old doesn’t really matter all that much. Paradoxically, though time is not material, it invades every aspect of our materiality, for the part of us that is matter, it matters.

So, I think the clocks are giving me a message more important than what hour it is, or reminding me of when I have to be somewhere. That they are being fiddly is reminding me to be more mindful of how I use my time, not to let it just slip though my fingers like the sands of an hourglass. Not to obsess about it, but to be careful, pay attention, be attentive. To do something each day for someone else, and by someone I do not mean it has to be a person. To express gratitude and love. To find joy in the small things, no less and even more so than in the big ones. To smell the lilacs and roses. To listen to the birds. To let the wind blow through and tangle my hair. To greet the stars at night. To feel the rain on my face . . . you get the idea.

They remind me that what I understand as time is linked inextricably to the yet, as surely as to the now and to the then, to the future as much as to the present and the past, regardless of how I may understand those concepts on any given day.