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 ruby was never presented

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Today might have been one of celebration,
alas the years we shared were unkind,
we made it to a century’s quarter,
but afterwards
sharing our journeys no longer
made new lives and alternate futures
unimagined in the days of our youth.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

This was a for day observing
memories etched deep in my heart,
from the exchanging of rings
to their casting away,
and the years since lived
as none would have expected
reshaped by the passage of time.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Furthermore had we remained married
since it seems you were destined to die,
we’d not have made this milestone
regardless
and still I’d have relived this day
with all its memories
belonging now only to me.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Choices and mistakes
made from this day remembered,
have shaped the adult I became,
for that I offer thanksgiving,
yet I can’t help but wonder,
from eternity’s safe distance,
whether you too were recalling
the life we once shared.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

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.

 

 

Welcome message to a Small One

Dear Small One,

You are only eighteen days old now. You do not know me. I know you because your daddy is the vicar here in the village where we live. I was introduced to you on the street by your mum, as she was trying out your new pram, when you were a week old. You were small and beautiful and contentedly asleep. And, it was evident to me, you are surrounded and protected by the love of your family.

I do not know if you are an ‘old soul’ or a newcomer. I have not held you, nor have you touched my hand, which is how I usually sense such things. As I am not family member nor close friend of your family there is no reason I should have had the opportunity to engage you in such a way.

But, having met you I feel there are some things I wish to share with you as you start out on your life journey.

1. Always be open to wonder. Never allow anyone to explain, or try to explain away, all the mystery of life. There really are things we do not need to understand. There are those that a best left to our faith or imagination.

2. Look up at the clouds. Allow yourself to see the great creatures and remarkable skyscapes created by the Cloud People.

3. Walk through the fog. Enjoy that the Mist Folk are giving you a multi-sensory hug.

4. Don’t be afraid to get wet on a rainy day. Lift your head to the sky and let the rain splash down on your face. Be refreshed and cleansed.

5. Take the time, especially when you are an adult to stretch out in the grass under a tree on sunny summer’s morning  and let the leaves dapple the sunlight across your face. Or do the same on an autumn afternoon, letting the leaves drift the first and only time they will dance free of the tree that held them and for which they worked all their lives.

6. Make friends with trees and the hedgerows, old ones and young ones, for they are wise, forgiving and comforting presences.

7. Listen to and be nourished by the stories of your religious tradition, but also find out the stories of other faiths. What separates us is mostly how we understand and express that which is most important from a spiritual perspective. I do not any longer share the faith in which you will be raised, although I was raised in it as you will be. Please remember that religion is not inherently good, any more than religious people. Institutions and people are not perfect, though some more than others claim to strive for perfection or proclaim they possess it and hold the truth.

8. You will find, sooner or later, that life presents you with good times and ones that are not so good. You will experience, because we all do, moments of inexpressible joy and seemingly unendurable grief. These are to be lived through and with. They offer us lessons and opportunities to grow.

9. You will learn that many horrible things can and do happen in the world. Life is as perilous as it is wondrous. There are going to be floods, droughts, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and wars.  The first three are not infrequently the result of shortsighted human action or blatant inaction; the last is caused only by the ignorance, greed or stupidity of humans beings.

10. Do not give into despair though. For nature also gives solace and joy, in the beauty of birdsong and dragonfly dances; puppies and kittens to cuddle; okapis and elephants and frogs, among countless others, to at which to marvel. You will also come to experience directly the wisdom, generosity and intelligence of human beings and share them with others.

11. Live your life with honourably and with integrity. Know what you believe and value. Be able to express those not only in words, but in works. The doing of your belief and acting from your values will be by far more powerful than just speaking them.

12. Know that you are never, ever truly alone, you have Guardians watching over and traveling at your side. You may not see them, and as you get older you may not sense them in the same way, but they are there. When you feel something has brushed up against you and there is no one around and the air is still, it will be one of them reaching out and reminding you.

13. Always, always say thank you. Thank you for life and for being alive, everyday. Be grateful for small things, that seem almost too insignificant to notice. But do notice and respond with gratitude. And do this not to be noticed, but because you are aware of yourself and the world in which you are blessed to share in.

14. Know and come to experience that you are related to every single creature that lives or ever lived on this fragile and amazing planet. The physicists and chemists are right when they say we are made of stardust and thus enkinned to all the animals and plants, the soil beneath our feet and the clouds floating above our heads. But our ancestors knew this before there were any scientists. They knew because they sensed it and felt it.  So, allow yourself to sense and feel it,too. This is knowing that is far deeper and more reliable than the knowledge written in the textbooks  you will study as you go to school.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, know and remember that first and foremost, you belong to yourself. Your essential being belongs to you. Your body is yours alone. You belong to yourself before you belong to your family or your God. You have the freedom, the right and the responsibility, to share yourself only when, where and with whom you choose. Share without coercion. Share without fear. Share from love. Share only from love.

So small one. . .

May your journey through life be one filled with experiences of wonder, serendipity, challenge, companionship and love.

Rejoicing in the hope a new life brings to all of us, I offer you my blessing as you go forth to make your way in the world.

A journey begins

Hail and welcome!

This journey begins with a name. I call my blog Gray Bear in the Middle because I stand between two totemic Bears: a Black Bear who goes before me and a White Bear who follows after me. Therefore, to them, I am the Gray Bear in the middle. They are spirit presences, but that makes them no less real to me. They have names, although I am not permitted to share those.  They are among the Gathering of Guides, Guardians and Companions who have been present for and to me for varying numbers of years. They include other totem animals, particular tree energies, the Ancestors and Spirits of the Land in which I live, and, though I am now a Druid, several saints. Their individual and collective counsel is invaluable. I would be unable to journey without them. I could not live parted from them.

No doubt I will write about them or experiences I have with them from time to time in the months and, hopefully, years ahead.

I choose Beltane to begin this particular journey because it is a one of the days in the pagan cycle of the years that I think of as a Marker Day. As such it acts as a reminder that we ‘live and move and have our being’ in an ongoing flow of time – more on that in the future. What is important today is to pause, even for a moment, to observe and engage with the environment as spring drifts towards summer, much as the willow down glides on the winds, filling the air with the possibility and hope of life yet to be. Marker Days are  important because, not only are they days of festivity and feasting, they call us to account. They keep us from letting our life slip away barely noticed.

If we have a map or life plan of some sort, Marker Days let us pause to consult it and see where we are, if we have wandered off the track. Sometimes it is a niggling feeling of remorse, guilt or absence of anticipated joy that if we pause we are unable to ignore.  If such feelings arise, a Marker Day allows us to regroup and find our way back to where we really wanted to go in the first place. Discovering we may have lost our way, as it were, does not mean that we retrace our steps and try to find our way back the way we came to the place we wandered off. The serious, assessing part of a Marker Day affords us the chance to ponder over the map, consider the plan and seek a way to find our way to where we were headed and meet the path at a point ahead of us.

  Further on we may find that we were not as far off our path as we originally thought. To take the time to assess, consider, ponder and regroup opens up the real possibility of rejoining the way of life that is both appropriate and honourable for us.

Wandering off the track need not be a bad thing of course, in doing so we may have found just where we wanted to be. That said it is still healthy and helpful to pause on Marker Days to take stock and breathe deeply of the joy we have found on our different path.

None of that means that I do not celebrate each day as a gift — an opportunity, unique, unrepeatable, and as such to be cherished. However, having days set aside, as it were, to pause a moment longer and reflect just a little deeper adds an extra dimension to daily life, to being alive and aware. Marker Days such as Beltane and birthdays also enrich the journey providing an opportunity to give thanks for life and living in an intentional way.

Every day, each moment offers an opportunity to engage the journey.

Hawthorn   Walking daily l see the Hawthorn flowers emerging, in time for Beltane.

A new beauty as the blossom begins to fade,  in turn making way for the fruits that will become the autumn harvest.

The leaves are strengthening. They are no longer soft and delicate, now hard at work. The birds are busy gathering food to feed their young. The journey of life and living, being and becoming continues.

So, we are back to the journey, but not where we began . . . we are in a new landscape, soulscape, heartscape, because a journey takes us to some place, some where that we have not been before, did not necessarily expect to be. It is not always a place of outstanding natural beauty, but it is where we have made our way, following the pathway of our life.

I hope you will find among the words I share here some that speak to you, connect with your spiritual and life journey, give you something to think about and comment upon.