Pivot Points

This week I’ve been pondering the pivot points in my life. You know the ones where you went somewhere, did something or met someone who changed the course of your life.

That’s what I’ve been doing. I looked back not only to my actions, but to others, to decisions my parents made about what to name me, where to live or go to church. If I think about who or what I might have been or been doing now had any of these events not occurred or choices made I see a very different me. For all I know there are those other mes out there in some parallel reality right now living those other lives, but not they are not the me sitting here writing this blog.

Now and again I ponder the one about the other names I might have had, and it might also help to know that I changed my name on the Autumnal Equinox in 1977. Changed the lot, all three names. What I am sure of is that had my name remained that which was given me at birth and affirmed at my baptism I would not be sitting here in the UK living the life I am now.

What triggered all this reflection on pivot points is remembering my first wedding day on 26th May 1974. The man I married that day eventually, after 25 years, divorced me and seven years later died. But I was thinking more of all the steps that led me to the altar that day and whether some pivots are stronger in effect than others. What such pondering does for me is put pay to the idea of life as a linear progression. My view is of a spiral, but even that is far from a simple image when looking at radical, life altering pivotal moments.

I thought of all the people, friends and family, lost to me over the years through death and relocation. There have been many, many losses and many, many relocations over the years. It is poignant to think back on them, who though not thought of often bring a smile to my face and tear to my eye, even today. The experience of our lives, using mine as an example, is a story with gentle curved turns and sometimes sharp angular twists. None of them foreseen, each of them fundamental to who we are and how we become that person.

The trajectory of an individual’s life as it is lived everyday contains small points of possible change, a decision to go somewhere may mean a meeting someone who upends everything and every plan hard thought out over years of patient endeavour. Going to certain place on a whim may mean finding one’s soul home and the ramifications that causes not only to oneself, but everyone else in one’s circle of connection, human and non-human.

What I ended up doing as I thought of the people and places, the names and faces of the people was to say thank you to them. To silently express gratitude for the part they have played in my life, into enabling me to be who I am, and where I am. Although some of those pivoting times were excruciatingly painful, yet were it not for them I would be someone else, somewhere else. Not necessarily in a worse place, though there are aspects of that, but in a very different reality, leading a very different life. The life I live now is mine and I embrace it with joy and gratitude, for though I can imagine others, this is the one in which I am invested in making the best and fullest that I am able.

So, as I whisper all those names and places here and now, I say again: Thank you ________ the time we shared together in the making of me.

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Through a Deep Borne Past

Through a deep borne past
we move through today
into tomorrow,
the future
a phoenix rising
from the ashes
of yesterday’s
victories and failures,
the just sped through
now.

The title words of this reflection shot through my awareness as I was in the shower this morning. Repeating them like a mantra I was able to hold onto them until I made my way dried and dressed to my journal to transcribe them and the words following here. I KNOW in my bones, in the interstices of my very self, what they mean, and for me at least how significant they are for how I actively perceive my life and its text, context and subtexts.

The past we carry – past as in yesterday no less or more than the past of six lifetimes ago.

This does not mean the past is, ought or need be a burden. We carry it lightly, but bear it deep within us.

What does this then say about our present? Where does that fit in?

The present mediates then and yet. Both are managed, as it were, through the prism, the lens of now.

One comes from somewhere and is on a journey to somewhere else, and it is the actual steps of the journey that comprise the now. We can’t go back. We can’t skip ahead. This keeps us on our path, one step and footfall at a time.

We have had, of course, or I believe that I have had as many futures as I have had pasts. Or to put it more forcefully: I believe that I have as many pasts as futures in the larger view of multiple lives across time. More prosaically, even if you do not credit past or future manifestations/incarnations, since every yesterday had, and has, a tomorrow, and every tomorrow has, and will have, a yesterday and we move between one and the other from yesterday and tomorrow through today. Then for all of us there have been as many pasts as there are futures.

This is the reason it is important to honour every day, to honour the everyday. In so doing we don’t just slip along through life. We step with intention. We move with deliberation. We make choices. We acknowledge mistakes and accept their lessons. We take responsibility. We are not passive. We don’t just observe our life; we live it. It’s not riding on our own personal high speed train, where one day blurs into another. It’s putting on our hiking boots and going out to live in all emotional, physical and spiritual weathers.

We may only have a vague idea of what direction we are heading, maybe a crude map, with key markers on it, but that’s good, as it should be. There is not OS map for the soul, not satnav for a life journey. There is no knowing what the topography of tomorrow will be like. We only find out on the ground. There is no one, or should not be someone, telling us to take the third exit in the roundabout of experience. We have to live them to find out. So, we will stumble onto boggy bits and get through them. We will confront rivers swollen with the torrents of pain or distress, and we will ford them. We will trek across barren places and through barren times, but we will get through them to greener places again.

Living with an awareness of one’s deep borne past gives us hints that arise from both our knowledge and our knowing. It is made up of, as we are made from, the large small, the happy and hurtful events of this life, as well as those we have lived before. In all this it is vital to remember that the future is much more vast than next weekend or a score of years from now, for it means who we will be the next time as well.

But now, and not just this present life, but this very instant, is what constitutes and makes the past meaningful; because the moment you read the first part of this sentence or as you read along word for word, the present has become the past.

The now is always, and inescapably, becoming simultaneously both then and yet.

For me it’s part of how I get my head around time, the flow of time, my flow by time through space, the measures and structures of my existence.

Thinking and writing about these things, and reading them, in some inexplicable way becomes part of the then that we have walked together into the mystery of yet.

May the nows of today bring you meaning from the then and courage for the yet.

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.

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through dreams formed and lost,
but dreams still remain.

A day of bittersweetness,
the complicated day-taste,
mixing the sweetness of joys
with the sadness of disappointments,
whilst meaning vanishes slowly
in pungent autumnal mists,
homecoming
heartlosing
soulfinding
rooted – these gods holding
grounded – these ancestors claiming
held – these landspirits embracing,
harking thenward
to the mythic
bidding yetward
to the neomythic,
the age of new mything
endeavouring to capture
ways to comprehend
nature’s forces
in postindustrialmodernity
the gods ancestors spirits
enlivening this land,
rewriting their histories
retracing their storylines
rendering their meanings
and ultimately our own,
through the lay lines of the land
echoing calling reaching
through the meridians of the body
energy tracks and traceries
mirroring shadowing flowing
just beneath the soils
no less than our skins.

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through promises made and broken,
but promise still remains.

Dance with the dryads

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Enter a hallowed world
walk through this portal,
acknowledge the rowan tree,
may she allow you to pass.

Duck under enleafed boughs
a path darkened in summer’s deep shade,
only farther along will shadows dapple
playing hide and seek with sunlight.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Who is it who calls me
insistently bidding me release
the bickering in my mind,
pulling my thoughts
and intentions that tie me in knots?

A stream runs by this path
north from the small bridge
away from the village the fields to greet,
willow shed of catkins,
elder holding brown flowers ,
hawthorn bearing green berries,
hazel with pale blushed nuts,
brambles soft flowers hidden with thorns,
then holly, ivy, ash and oak,
though a break in the trees
looking skyward the yew ogham
written in crossing contrails.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Divine through the waters
ovatically listen
there is speech in the streamcourse
pushing past corners
tumbling over obstructions
given voice for its wisdom
a message you could not read
in the shrew’s entrails
so listen to me.

Abandon your camera
take out your pen
see with your ears
hear with your heart,
record and remember the
strange language spoken
between muddy banks
the speech of the waters
addressed now only to you.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Pause here as the waters pass rushing
no longer a whisper, a hum, or a sigh
here the stream runs shouting
demanding your attention
near the end of your walk,
where two close set stones
guard a wooden armed bridge
and the two hawthorns
bend together to shield the way,
turn then return now.

Going back keep you mind calm,
do not let the old arguments
pick up where you left them,
step by step to straight-trunked poplars
sentinels conversing in whispers,
hoping not to be heard.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

This walk has now ended for the light
once more bright shining,
bird song is louder,
gravel crunches under your feet.

Remember the lessons
so much like a dream
the trees of this pathway
engaged with the waters
affirming your intuition
heightening your knowing
enriching your life.

For you danced with the dryads.
You skipped with the stream.

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.

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.