Mystery Bowl Contemplation – One

It has been ages, or at lease feels like it, since I introduced this new mode for me to engage in deep contemplation of the elements as I was led to use one for each day of the week. Like everything else over the summer this ground to a halt, but as I have reclaimed myself and my journey this aspect has reasserted itself in its proper place in my spiritual practice. Today is the first day I have claimed back the time and set aside the body/mind/soul space to enter what I knew, as it unfolded for me, would have a profound impact on how I comprehended everything.

0921 hours

The cats are fed, their litter trays sorted, and we’ve had a good old bash of chase the stick and attack the red spot.

Being a Sunday, today’s contemplation is Mystery for which I hold one of my small Iona bowls. It now has an inexpensive white metal spiral in the bottom that surfaced as I was hunting for something in my trim and notion drawer.

Immediately, I am taken to visions of Spirals of all types and sizes: to the swirl of galaxies; the double helix of my DNA; the eddies of water in streams and rivers; whirlpools; hurricanes; tornadoes; spiralling circles in folk dances; whirling dervishes; the unfolding of grape hyacinths and hibiscus flowers; spinning prayer wheels; cats and dogs chasing their tales; the winding steps to the tops of towers; fern fronds and pea tendrils. Each of these images emerged in rapid succession. Everywhere spirals, as everywhere mystery.

It matches the expanse and extent of the pervasiveness of mystery as I contemplate it this morning. Mystery. My-story. Mist–story. All word plays. Mystery, that which is hidden in plain sight before me, around all of us. There is mist/fog/low cloud, call it what you will, settled over the Maize Mothers gathered across the road. There is an ambient and chilly dampness pervading the air and seeping into the bones.

More Spirals. We speak of inflationary spirals in economics. Some know all too well the spiralling descent into depression. When events, behaviours or things go terribly wrong we say they have spiralled out of control. We live our lives on the arm of a spiral galaxy. Our art from earliest times and across divergent cultures use the spiral.

So, the mystery at the heart of today’s contemplation unfolds in me, before me, as I gaze into the bowl cradled in palms of my hands, cupped holding this container of wonder.

The mystery here, for me at least is best stated: How did this come to be? How did this image take such a hold on our collective imagination that is it used in describing so many areas in life?

After all, we use it to describe the pattern of our deepest most intimate reality, that which is at the depth of our very making. The swirling, twirling, spinning we share with so much of the life about us.

Again images emerge. The potters at the wheel, spin and draw up clay to form a pot or wind ropes of clay to do the same. The basket weavers do the same in a different medium. Squirrels chase each other over tree trunks in spirals. Some birds construct nests in a sort of spiral pattern. Yarn is spun twirling fleece or cotton or silk into long, long spiralled strands.

Mystery and spirals merge and part as I continue my contemplation.

Mystery is part of my-story. Wonder. Yes, we know we can explain how certain phenomena occur in nature. But that doesn’t rob from me the elegance of mystery, the mist-shrouded sense of something deeper than what empirical evidenced base science can prove. Intellectually, I can understand much of the language the sciences of meteorology, astrophysics and biology use to describe the mechanisms at work in the certain kinds of spirals; but the spiral that made me and the one I ride on through space/time remain wondrous and awe-filling.

To fall back on Mystery to explain something of faith or what is truly impenetrable is not a copout. I do not feel it is a fudge. For me it is an acknowledgement that there are things, experiences, events and even realities that are cloaked and that Knowing in these instances is a matter of trust, and have nothing to do with empirical knowledge. Mystery is what lies at the heart of wonder; it exists at the limits of human hubris; it is the soft fringe of spirituality and the hard edge of religion.

Now as I ease back from the depth and breadth of this contemplation, and feel the slight weight of the Iona Mystery Bowl in my hands becoming aware I am here, I am aware of how appropriate it is that this bowl is the one for my Sunday Mystery Contemplations. I recall all the journeys I have made to Iona, most at this time of year. Those journeys changed me because the experiences and encounters I had on beguiling, thin and dangerous Iona altered my life, my-story, irrevocably and forever.

How? How did the patterns shape as they did? Why? Why were choices made regarding certain encounters? Why were particular events so charged with significance?

Why? It’s a Mystery.

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The Grain does not know . . .

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

This message came to me over a month ago and settled into my awareness and went silent for a while. Several days ago it came back, chanting and pushing and insistent – a Lammas warning, perhaps.

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

I heard this originally pertaining to a certain dream series I had several months ago that were about an personal matter. But, it has wider meanings this time of the year.

As I walk out into the countryside, the delicate scent of camomile wafts from the field boundaries and on the path flies are zizzing all around me through the stinging nettles.

Camomile 1      Flies

Along the way I saw the one of the wheat fields had been harvested, and another had not.
Wheat cut            Wheat uncut

The grass is rolled for storage.

Grass baled

The maize tassels are turning russet brown in the bright sun.

Maize

The walnuts and conkers are ripening on their respective trees high above my head.

Walnuts             Conkers

I have not yet seen acorns, but not visited the tree who might bear them in a few weeks. The hazelnuts are already being harvested though shells are white and their covers are still downy green and soft, not yet nut brown and dry.

Early hazel harvest   Hazel cluster

The elderberries are still green and compact, though sparse.

Elderberries

However, some rowan berries are red ripe.

Rowan berries

I saw one ripe yew berry, the victim of hedge trimming, but most are still green.

Yew berry on the floor    Yew berries

The haws are turning on some trees and a few blackberries are making an attempt to ripen, but the dry spell, even after all our rains may bring a meagre harvest for the creatures to forage the hedgerows, and for the latter I include me.

Haws      Blackberries

The apples are blushing in the sunshine.

Blushing apples           Blush apple

The mangel wurzles are bursting from the ground; tatties are still flowering, though some are prepared to be taken from the earth.

Mangle Wurzles    Flowering tatties

Field tatties green    Tatties of havest

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

These photos are idyllic, pastoral, speak of the way of the seasons. The natural order of being. Yet, the words still haunt me. They make me squirm. They make me think deeply about every day in the bright, hot summer.

I find it difficult in part because summer has never been my best season, beyond the mosquito bites to which I am allergic and the absence of school when I was younger. I know that the light emanates from sun and shoots out into the bleakness of space. Some of it radiates this planet we call home in the precise amounts to allow us to live, unless we mess it up and lose the ozone layer and cover ourselves in too thick a blanket of CO2.

All that science acknowledged and intellectually understood, the part of me that deals with and senses and feels the energies of all that surrounds me tells me that the plants and the animals invoke the light and call down the heat at this time of year. This is the oppressiveness that I feel nearly every summer, except when their calls go unheeded and it is damp and chilly and mostly overcast. In the height of summer even the shade can feel too heavy as the leaves pull in the sun’s energy and they turn a dark green, and often crackle in the wind.

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

The summer is not passed. The harvest is beginning. The days are gradually contracting, but it is still hard to notice. The sun feels brighter and hotter, though we are slowly tilting away from its strength.
The wheat and maize are standing tall and stiff until they are taken down. The winds glide in graceful patterns over the barley fields. The oats shake and nod in the breeze. None of the individual stocks or stems knows their fate. None of them realise they work for us. None of them know we humans will in due course take their lives away. And we and the other creatures do so to sustain and maintain our lives in the great food chain by and in which we are all, as living beings, bound.

Sobering thoughts. Serious contemplations. In the wider understanding of consumerism, we may not giveth, but we surely have the power to taketh away – take away the life of any other creature or plant that is in our way, that we can exploit for gain, that we can create a demand for. And in so doing we destroy a little more of ourselves. We continue to reap what we cannot sow. In many cases what can never be sown again.

The Grain may not know that the Harvest is coming, but we do.