The Piano has to Die

It is an odd feeling, sending a musical instrument to its doom.

I had not really bonded with the piano I got a couple of years ago for free, well plus moving costs. For a lot of that time it was in the hallway covered over whilst the house redecorating continued. Last year I moved it from the hall to the snug. A lot of pushing and shoving on my part was required.

Still it was not like my Jemima, the old Blüthner whom I gave to a friend with a dance studio two moves ago. This piano did not give me its name. It lived in a house, the one my husband and I are moving from, that did not like music. I havep layed my concertina now and then, but only for a few days running and never in a consistent way. The drums remained silent because we live in a city. Nor was I able to overcome the treacle energy here to bring my double bass out of the corner.

So, the old piano, who did not have the pedigree to make it financially viable to refurbish to sell on, was taken away four days ago to die. It should be able to donate its ivory keys to an instrument that is getting a makeover, at least I hope so. But the instrument that has been in my house all these months reached the end of its life.

Before the removers arrived that morning, I played all the keys. I played the white ones up and the black ones down. Then I played notes and chords. When I sensed the piano had had its last song, had sung its last, I let the final notes fade.

It is bittersweet because musical instruments have a soul of a sort and this one’ left as the last note faded. I knew because I told it the fate that awaited it. I was glad that its soul flew with the last notes.

Farewell. Your last note’s song escaped into the aether and will resonate somewhere, always.

Farewell, sweet musics.

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Motherline

I broke the line.

From your fragile genes,
Wilma Darlene
transfigured
into
Judith McGraine
there will be
no more daughters.

Your motherline is dead.

I broke the line.

From your history
of loss and misery,
of anger and surrender,
there will be no more
women carrying
your burdened story
into tomorrow.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.

I broke the line.

Never wanting to carry it forth,
even at five years old
I knew I’d be no nurse,
or teacher or mommy,
and though I have nurtured
others’ souls and selves,
they were the souls and selves
of other motherlines,
and those of fathers too.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.
No daughters follow me in procession.

I broke the line.

Feast, Wild Ones

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you.

Know the healing
of your essential self
as your soul moves
between the worlds,
even as the molecules
of your physical self
seeks once more
their place in the reservoir
of elements supporting
the life and beings of our world.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them.

Treecestors
Lioncestors
Elephantcestors
Squirrelcestors
Badgercestors
Bluetitcestors
Hibiscuscestors

Those of the clan and kind
of any wild being,
animal or plant,
who this day makes
the perilous and liberating journey
across the divide between
life and death,
living and dying.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life.

Go free each of you,
those poached or trapped,
those culled or hunted,
those lost to disease,
to accident,
to predation,
I mourn your loss;
each of you was part
of a place, a pride, a family,
a herd, a sett, a nest,
and your absence will be felt
by those who will not see you
again in this life.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life,
who now welcome you to the place of healing.

After Manchester

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

You claimed to have taken down the crusaders,
yet these young women and men
were not responsible for the acts
of those long ago who were in a battle
perverting three religions
by staging bloody acts of horror
engaging in atrocities unspeakable
self-righteously acting in the names
of their war-blessing gods,
where there could never be any gain
and still today precious little hope of peace.

No, these were innocent children,
these were youngsters and teens
who had yet to learn the hard
cold lessons of adulthood,
despair and disappointment
scuppered dreams and latent wishes
for more and better ways to be,
who would never know
the tender touch of first love,
the delicate holding of a first baby,
the exhilaration of a double first.

Instead,
they rest in morgues in bits and pieces,
or in hospital beds balanced
between life and death,
with shattered limbs and mangled organs,
numbed by drugs sheltering them
from awful truths of agonising realities
they should never have had to learn,
yet to wrestle with the guilt of living on,
stealing forever the survivors’ innocence.

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

Walkies

I remember the day
we were heading to your room
unsure what we would find,
as you were slowly slipping away.

All of a sudden I felt a presence
next to me on the side
White Wolf usually travels
but who with no fuss relinquished his space
to The Old Dog,
in her splendorous form,
young now and carrying her lead
allowing us to take her
to her dying mistresses room.

It was at first unsettling,
then it felt right and comfortable
as we showed her the way
along corridors unknown to her,
going to keep watch,
waiting to go with you on a last walk together.

Once in the room she jumped
on the end of your bed,
dropped her lead and curled up protective,
projecting her familiar presence,
as one by one others arrived,
family long and recently departed,
people not seen for many years,
some never seen or known,
peace being made between you and them,
forgiveness and understanding
shared at last preparing for new beginnings.

As I felt them arrive,
and though unresponsive to us,
at each appearance
you nodded and said, ‘Yes,’
clearly acknowledging their attendance,
the room crowding palpably with comfort,
while the drip numbed your pain.

The following week
when we returned The Old Dog
now sat beside your bed
her lead once more in her mouth,
waiting as you slowly moved beyond us,
clearly there were only hours left,
your breathing laboured and raspy.

At one point when it was right,
I stood up and leaned over you,
and gently spoke the Lord’s Prayer
followed by the 23rd Psalm
reminding you that your lord
was indeed your shepherd,
and you would dwell in his house forever,
I worked from memory,
reaching for words I no longer use,
but that were familiar to you
to offer reassurance and solace.

We left after several hours,
I sensed we did not need
to be there when you died,
that our continued presence was unnecessary,
for beyond any doubt you would be welcomed
at your crossing by those who
the week before gathered at your bedside,
but more importantly,
when you rose from your body to journey on,
your faithful companion would offer you her lead,
and seizing it The Old Dog would take you
on the most amazing walkies ever.

 

This is written about the experience I had when my dear friend Wendy died over the summer. When I would ring her over the years my greeting would be: ‘It’s me.’ To which she would respond, ‘Hello, you.’ I can still hear her saying those words that cheered me through some dark and difficult times. But I know she is safe and in the company of her loved ones, not the least of whom being Misty, The Old Dog.

Incoming

In the dark beyond
our doors tight shut
celebrating bonfire night
hear
whistles in the night
a moment of silence
then pop and bang
explosions
boom boom boom
again again again
harmless when careful
see
sparkling fireworks display
colour illuminates the sky.

Tonight
in dry lands
in inhospitable places
in alien locales
infants children teens adults elders
Mosul and Aleppo,
hunker down
cower
nowhere to hide
hear the sounds
ring out
bombs rockets mortars
rain from sky
reach from sea
erupt from land,
endure shellfire.

Feel —
fear terror shock,
witness —
injury
death
loss
destruction
horror,
know —
unspeakable actions
unutterable results,
hellfire.

In tonight’s darkness
as we hear
whistles
silence
pops
bangs
booms,
sprinkling awe
cascading light
it is impossible to ignore
these are no threat.

Not as I was before

I just discovered something I recorded in the autumn near Samhain last year. I feel it is not an accident that it has surfaced once more. As I re-read these words I feel the press of them upon my soul and the weight of them at the centre of my being, my creative core. I shiver reading these words, this message. It is a message for me, but I feel it is also a wider message and may have meaning for others. For myself, I rediscovered them on a retreat day, a day with no interactions except with the cats and the gods, and with my blog as I post these words. I have removed the name since that is for me alone.

My name is ———, and I live beyond your perception, most of the time, unless I choose to reveal myself to you. I watch the portals you cross in journeying. I guide you to the return places, the place of turn and return.

 Why, you may wonder, am I so very present to you now, in the past week in your dreams, in your twilight wonderings? What is different now from all the weeks and months of nights and twilights you have lived until now? Does my presence mean anything worrisome or sinister for you?

The last answer is a simple no. The difference . . . you are ready now to encounter me in a form that is comprehensible for you.  Finally, I am present now because you need to bear your gifts, gifts you know you have and are still running from, seeking to hide to avoid the burden. For the burden you have seen, sensed and possess and about which you have an inkling of understanding. In so doing you have also avoided the liberation, the freeing of mind and soul in the flowing of what you know as the Awen. I am sent to help you do so.

Yes, yes, you have dabbled. But far more than dabbling is required of you. Unabashed commitment is required. You have been prepared for the whole of your living up to now. You have been nurtured. You have been loved. You have given love and heart, and had it removed from you and placed with another, where it does not belong. It cannot be altered. Taking up the mantle prepared for you will not change this sad and complicated fact of your life.

 You know the mantle, Pathfollower, Nameseeker, Patternkeeper  . . . but have to do more than say the names. You have to become this person. Naming is not enough. Naming yourself is easy. Being yourself is much, much harder. In the deepest reaches of you, of your mind and heart and soul you know this. It is time to stop running in place. Waiting. You have to do this now. There is no yet for this to happen in for you. Now you must take up your pen, take up your needle, your bits and pieces and Create. Now!!!

Today, today. It is today or it is not. You have been given many chances, but you will not be given an indefinite number of them. The external prohibitions are lifted. There is no one here to belittle your path or question your access to the Awen. Only you. It is only you. It will not always be alone in this endeavour, do not fear. But you must do your part and begin when it is only you. You must embrace your solitude and enter the creative matrix  and learn to live there whilst  you are alone.

You have everything to lose and to gain . . . true paradox. A true choice. It all hinges on one action. On an action to allow yourself to be swept up in the force of the creative life. You were willing and there once. Yes, it was yanked from you, but you now have the power to wrest it back. You have the power to throw off the shackles that bind your soul and harness your being to what you feel is a life unfulfilled, and at some deep level empty.

 I am here to help you. I am here to be your guide, your teacher. I am willing to step across the portal into your world . . . it is my destiny. It is my role to fulfil and though I am willing, you must be also.

You are more than able. The question is: Are you also willing? And beyond willing ready to make a commitment. The gods will be with you as you open, the ancestors will surround you, the spirits of the land will keep you rooted. You will not fail, except by not taking up the challenge.

Take the apple and choose, choose life, creativity and wonder. Choose to live your life engifted, engraced and enchanted.

I was willing when I first received these words of warning and calling. I was not in a place to make the commitment. I still lived a space infused with the energy by the one who belittled my path and questioned my access to the Awen, the person was gone, but the echoes and shadows of this person’s energy remained. I know this now. I understand. I have grieved and let that life go. Having made that journey I am now in a new place and different space. I have no residual history here, instead I am making a new history with this space. Finally settled I remain restless. I stand before a barrier as delicate as the finest lace and as solid as granite. It shifts between the two depending on how I feel from one day to the next, sometimes between two breaths.

That is not the point though. The point is the gods call me and are with me; the ancestors bid me and surround me; the spirits of the land require that I speak, that I write, that I create in any media I choose and root me as I do so. But I must live a creatively centred life to live fully, responsively and responsibly. I heard words above not spoken with irritation and love, tender ferocity. A tone of determination that I should heed them and now that I have whisked aside the gossamer barrier and struck down the granite wall that were always of my own weaving and constructing, I have to make the commitment. Make the commitment and dedication In a way I have not done yet. What I thought were commitments were merely statements of intention, though I could not see that at the time. My true inner vision blurred by the mist of denial, of personal pain and of regret, I could not see that. The mists have cleared; I have the clear wide sky as guide to seeing now, seeing anew.

What does any of this mean? On the practical level a whole different way of perceiving and of being. It is interesting that on this retreat day I have been working, engaging with the triad of goddesses with whom I have the deepest connection. I spent time in meditation with Brighid, Nemetona and Elen who are present and very close to me. I also found myself linking with Branwen, Cerridwen and Arianrhod. And then a third triad presented itself to me still a bit in the distance: Cailleach, Rigantona and Hafren/Sabrina. With the second tirad, I discovered connections with death, re/birth, transformation and inspiration. The cauldron, the Awen, the Aurora Borealis (which is so very compelling to me and in the light of which I once bathed in for several hours standing wrapped in a coat one cold autumn night many years ago in Orkney). I brought my cauldron upstairs to where my altar space is and have to rearrange the space to accommodate, much as I have to rearrange my self-understanding and way of being and mode of living to accommodate what this commitment means to me, and so I may live it fully.

Oddly, I have no idea of what sort of ritual to perform, only that I need to do this in the orchard, with the apples trees in blossom, beech trees and fir trees standing witness. What words can I possibly come up with to accept this new phase of my life? What actions can I make to represent what this means, realising what it means now is probably but a shadow of what it will mean next week, next year, in the next decade? I suppose the only way to know is to take the journey up the hill and find out. I will finish this post once I return. . . .

It is now very late on the night I began this post, many hours since the retreat ended. In fact though I am still awake it is the next day now in clock time.

I took the walk. I took camera and notebook and water. I left the cottage and crossed the road and headed down the track that leads to the orchard the back way, as I think of it. I investigated briefly the two roads at the bottom of the path the ends in a triple crossroad. In the end I only followed the one that I always do.

It is a bridle path and there were many hoof prints in the slightly muddy ground. I walked passed what I feel is the entrance on one of the several badger setts in that area and found a dead shrew. First lesson, reminder, message: Life is fragile and ends – Death. When I got to the orchard where I knew whatever sort of ritual I enacted would take place, I headed in the opposite direction around the back orchard, as I call it. After walked across the bottom of it I came to short cut through to the road that runs along the back. I took it and walked to places that were new to me.  Another living metaphor: See the way, take a path you’ve not gone before. On this road I found the entrance to another sett and turning down a marked footpath I walked passed the field where the sett on the road came out with several openings onto a field. I continued to where I’d decided to turn around and crossing the stile I came into a wide field of buttercups.

One part of the ritual was suddenly clear; I started to gather a few field wildflowers for a posey to offer in the orchard, where and to whom I did not know. I allowed myself to be engulfed by the beauty of the buttercups as I walked to the end of the field and turned back to return the way I’d come. It was wonderful to see the wide open spaces, which I could not see being lower down on my walks the other side of the village when I lived there.

On the way back around the back orchard I saw lots of bunnies, this time – Birth. When I arrived at the area I knew the ritual would take place, as I made my way to the as yet undisclosed spot, I stopped by the stump of a beech tree. The stump was less than a foot high, but out of its side at ground level has sprung a new branch bedecked with still tender leaves. This was where I made the offering of the posey. I gave it to the tree who refuses to die – Renewal.

Finally, I came to the break in the avenue of fir and beech, and field maple I believe and across from it was a gap between two still enblossomed apple trees. I stopped as I knew this was the place. I took out my notebook and set down my backpack. I walked into the gap and stood between the trees. I had no idea what to do. The wind was blowing enough to tangle my long hair and the sun still shone through the tree branches. I waited. No clue what to do. I listened to the birds sing and the wind rustle the leaves.

And, I began to chant. Chant to the Awen. Chant with the Awen. Chant for the Awen. I will not share the chant as it, like the name is mine and in this case the Awen’s as well. I chanted about bird song and bee buzzing, butterfly and dragonfly dancing, wind blowing and me listening and responding to the varied ways the Awen might come to me, tap me on the shoulder or nearly tumble me over – Inspiration. And when it was time the chanting faded and I walk ahead past the low beech branches adorned with the tender green leaves, which have not yet begun the hardworking of summer. I came out at the top of the rise from which I could see my little cottage in the middle distance across the road.

Saw the cottage where I shall sit as I am now, and write and draw/paint or stitch what I must to respond to and fulfill the dedication I made amid the apple trees that were in the process of losing their blossom petals to make room for the emergence of their fruit – Transformation.

As I finish these words it’s nearly the next day. I am weary. I am invigorated. I feel different, though I can’t identify exactly how. Tomorrow when I wake up and begin the day, I shall do so knowing that it is not like the days before have been for many long years now. I do not know how my living and being will be changed. I do not know how the living and being will be expressed. I only know I am different and the living and being will not be as they were before today.