My World Shrank

For the second time in my life
my world shrank.

The first time by expansion when,
volunteering as the assistant
to my then husband,
San Diego’s first port chaplain,
the world came to me
as I sat dishing out stamps and change
to the crew of various passenger ships
regularly calling at there.

In this way, I worked with people
from all over the world,
and though it was a big world
knowing someone from most continents
made it see much smaller,
places I would never dream of visiting,
and in many cases had no desire to do so,
were brought to me as letters to family
passed over my table with exotic,
often complicated addresses.

Indeed, my world shrank
to encompass the whole of it.
Since then I have relocated
to another country smaller than America,
but the memory of that larger
smaller world
lingered.

When lockdown began my world shrank again,
this time contracting instead of expanding
in some mysterious pandemic physics,
to be the acre, give or take,
the property on which I now live,
and it is a world-size that I can truly
get my head and heart,
soul and spirit around.

It is the house,
the front garden, drive and garage,
it is the back garden with its
ten raised beds and soon to be installed
water feature and potted trees planted,
it is the orchard with its new
and previously resident fruit trees.

This is now my world,
one I can easily circumnavigate,
not getting wet unless I run into the sprinkler,
one where I know the non-human residents,
listen in wonder at their various languages
in scolding or in song,
where the wind speaks its own words,
differently through every tree,
where I recognise and know where
the sun and moon and stars
will be each night.

For the second time my world
shrank and though I do not understand
what this smaller world will mean
in the long run,
it a world where I am content,
where I want to be,
where I know and am known,
where I am learning lessons unimagined.

For the second time in my life,
my world shrank,
and I am in no real hurry for it to expand.

Young Mountains

Crumpled earth,
landmasses crunched like
stiff brown shopping bags,
rough edges,
uneven surfaces,
crevasses deep fissured,
peaks high soaring.

You are young mountains.

Born of drifting continents,
lands we like believe are stable;
but the quiescence is illusion,
for year on year pushed
and rammed you grow
as the rocks continue
to grate and tear each other.

You are young mountains.

Snow drifted,
snow leopard haunted,
wind ravaged and ice tormented,
rocks slide and snowpack
tumbles terror trapping
the unwary who brave
your craggy slopes for summits,
forbidding foreboding
to deter determined actions.

You are young mountains.

We prod you in weariness,
seeking ways to scale your mass,
because you are there and we are here,
sharing a planet hurling
through space as bulk hurtles
bulk together shaping
reforming making your contours
over and over minutely in increments.

You are young mountains.

You are also made of old stone souls
deep in shadow and bathed in thin light,
and if we would but attend,
you have lessons to teach us:
about the limits of permanence and hubris.
and the cycles of rifts and vaunting,
for we are kin living upon
your ancient rocky ancestors,
your great mineralised predecessors.

You are young mountains,
and we are most of all
foolish young beings of the land.

The first line of this poem came to me first thing this morning when I turned on my computer and the photo as it woke up was of some craggy mountains.

The Hippo Moment

Step by step
moving the surface interface
from air to water,
sliding into an alien
yet not unfamiliar medium,
warm surrounding water
strangely supporting the body

Buoyancy,
from long ago
a feeling recalled,
the facility for deeply held
memory kicking in,
before birth
this sensation recognised
again as known
when eons before
the only place.

Memory,
of fear and thrashing,
not a distant life
but this one
bathed in anxiety
fretting afraid to leave
the security of the side
for deeper waters.

Encouragement,
reassurance
in holding onto the confidence
of another for whom
the medium of terror for me
is one of pleasure and freedom,
slowly learning to trust
the presence and the voice
that it can be done,
head under the surface,
glide, kick, stroke, breathe
head under
blow bubbles
reach and turn to the side
breathe,
suddenly it seems
swimming.

Now comes enjoyment
relaxation and achievement,
otter companions unseen
enter the pool causing
mischief chitting encouragement
showing how easy
it is to be in water,
laughter at slow success.

Lesson done,
high fives and weariness,
for it is well into evening,
sliding into the night,
time to go,
time to change the mediating
medium of being once more,
taking the steps,
almost weightlessness
alters in the moments
step by step
trading selkie skin
for the human one,
another transformation
there is the time between
being water borne
and once more air held
a sudden awkwardness
when gravity is once more
felt with every bone and muscle
weightedness returns.

Ah, the hippo moment.

I dedicate this poem to my amazing swimming instructor Kelly Deakin. The invisible otters and ‘The Hippo Moment’ as I called it made us laugh. A big thank you!

Dryads Retreat

Dancing to unheard music
played deep
within their being,
Dryads toss branches
shake twigs
to shed their leafy mantles,
encouraging
the
earthward
tumble
as days shorten,
their time of retreat approaching.

They quiver preparing,
less and less turned outward,
their focus shifting,
until no longer sustaining
summer’s verdiditas
or autumn’s splendour,
replaced by subtle energy for winter,
releasing the past demanded.

A sharp gust of sudden wind
no reason to hold longer
freefalling
golden
rain
pirouetting on stems
last leaves languid
on the breeze
downward
delicate
drifting
death,
amassing in wind raked clusters.

Frolicking on curb sides
boot tossed shuffled through,
children gather them
attracted to the colours
red bronze copper yellow brown,
drawn by the shapes
oak birch beech poplar sycamore plane,
contorted as they shrivel,
diminishing,
retaining a different beauty
past feeding earth feeding future,
nourishing our souls,
granting needful lessons:
There is no permanence.
There is always change.
There are cycles to being.
Living comes in many forms
Dying is not only what it appears to be.

Winter Arrived

Rain falls.
Mist rises.
Clouds glower.
Sun hides.

Winter.

The outside world contracts.
The inside world expands.
Darkness overtakes daylight.
Morning shortens.
Evening disappears.

There is day.
There is night.
Dawn shrinks.
Dusk vanishes.

Only two times now:
shortened day,
lengthened night.

Winter arrived
damp and dank,
cloud shrouded,
sun starved.

When the golden warmth
appears
suddenly,
an unexpected afternoon
of sunshine
fleeting glorious heartening,
before clouds once more overtake,
dropping temperature,
stealing our illusioned sky
turning vibrant blue to dull gray,
a new pattern
autumn well and truly gone,
replaced subsumed forgotten.

Horizontal rain
wind borne
lashes whips rages
reality tipped sideways longwise
playing with our minds
toying with our souls
dampening our spirits . . .
unless until
acceptance.

Welcome the time of retreat
when dark and chill
replace light and warmth,
preparation for regeneration;
face discomfort
to shatter complacency,
accept lessons
in softer seasons ignored,
embrace the work of winter,
learn not to fear darkness
but to cherish light.

Winter the harsh season.
Winter the winnowing season.
Winter when then and yet
hide forcing the now
into shard-sharp relief
focusing what is most important
no frills no embellishment no decorations
can hide us from ourselves.

Allow the trees’ austere forms
to show what we avoid —
that we too stand naked
before the cold truths unavoidable
we are vulnerable
we are fragile
we are capable of hope.

Ride the Drum Beat

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

Make the passage,
cross the threshold,
navigate the boundaries
between
The Worlds,
leave behind the Homeland,
head for the Barely-Known-Land,
meet the Wise Ones
greet the Old Ones
and the Yet-to-Be Ones,
learn the lessons
hear the tales
sing the Soul Songs.

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

Return at there’s daybreak,
the soul’s bright dawning
write the lessons
rehearse the tales
hum the musics,
unforgetting any mystery
quickly fading
shadows vanishing into light,
hold the mapways,
pathways, soulways
for the next time
always now a next time,
each a new time,
ever into old time.

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

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.