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!

The Blue Dot Moment

I recall The Blue Dot moment,
when first we saw our fragile world
barely a speck but clearly blue
from across the spaces of vastness,
more profound than earthrise over the moon.

The voice who shared this amazing image
yet echoes in the ears of my memory,
though he is no longer here to see
how we have continued to violate
and plunder the only home we have.

Our world in perspective
is not as the huge or limitless
in size or resources or habitable places
as we try to convince ourselves:
Earth is a bauble hung in darkness.

Baubles by their nature are delicate,
easily destroyed by carelessness or intent,
and though our home planet
is made of rock and hard stuff,
it is not beyond our breaking.

Observing the night sky’s other star-suns
with worlds wrapped in their thrall
too close too far too hot too cold
for life to exist or thrive,
humbles and haunts me.

Yet, I cannot wrench myself away,
and standing on Blue Dot Earth,
the bauble hung in darkness,
gaze up on clear winter nights
to give thanks and wonder about tomorrow.

Hybrid Spirits

When trees
still
danced upon the dappled land
when dragons ranged the twilit skies
when woman and man were unconceived
were inconceivable,
then, then
the tree spirits and the dragon souls
swirled in mists of passion embodied.

Borne from their unions
another being of dragon and treekind both
emerged.

Dragon Willow 2

Creating a new genealogy,
some of those newly genetically encoded ones
with divergent memory
lay with humans when they became
and another hybrid
not fully tree nor totally dragon
not ever woman nor even man
but with bodies one or the other,
who yet remembered
the calling of the ground beneath them
and to whom the fire entered in.

A body dancing to unfamiliar musics
and singing in mysterious harmonics
of trees and dragons, men and women
part of those preceding them
alive together.

From an Encounter with a Four-leaf Clover

I have not done a great deal of truly deep thinking lately, but I have done quite a bit of broad sensing. By that I mean extending myself, reaching out the energies around me farther from me. I was aware about not doing the thinking bit, but only realised in the past couple of days about the sensing part. Or at least how the extending part seems to be working for me, with me, in me.

Extending my energy is a way of pushing my boundaries and in moving them incrementally farther beyond my normal edges I have expanded my awareness. This I realised on my walk the other morning. For almost a week I had the sense that I would find a four-leafed clover. It’s not really a big deal, but the sense was quite strong. There is one embankment along a lane I walk down that is covered in clover leaves, many more leaves than clover flowers. I have been walking past and along this section of lane for months now. Only in the past week did I feel that there was a four-leaved clover hiding somewhere in the mass of its three-leaved companions.

Since becoming aware of the treasure hiding in the bank of green I have been scanning as I walked along. For a week I saw nothing. Then a few mornings ago I hardly had to look at all and my eye went right to it. Yes, I did take it with me. It had been there for some time, because its stem was about ten inches long. I was delighted. It is only the second one I’ve found, ever.

It was a reminder to me that I do know things, am aware of them before they happen. This is not a new awareness for me. I’ve seen snatches of the yet, whilst in the now for years. I was delighted with the gift of the clover, but also did not gloat, because it was a sobering reminder for me. There are things I have ‘seen’ upcoming that are not happy things. At a time when I was doubting whether my seeing is ‘true’ or not an experience, seemingly insignificant happens. In the insignificant experience comes the realisation that only in its time will any event unfold, be revealed, occur.

A little over a month ago I was standing with one of the trees I know and heard: It is easy to remember the past; it is not so easy to remember the future.

As those words, a bit enigmatic and certainly profound echoed inside me, I thought about the fact that I am a rememberer, one who lives increasingly in a state of anamnesis, an unforgetter. Unforgetting  works two ways for me, in my experience, forward no less than backward. It has made me more aware that time is not one way ever going ahead. Time as I experience it, curves around on itself, it is more of a spiral journey. Time as I use the word here is not about clocks or marking day and night. It is more mysterious than that and maybe time is not the proper word, but it is the one I am used to using when I ponder these phenomena and live into the reality of them.

From where I am now I can perceive then as well as yet, provided I am granted the window or portal to see/sense, at any given place or position I am experiencing/perceiving  existence. At some points on my journey what was at a discrete moment is clear, depending on where I am the quality of the memory is stronger or weaker, full or less full of detail, context or conversation. The same is true for what will be. There are moments where I can feel and perceive the context and event more or less vividly, depending on where I am in relation to that fragment of future.

Remembering the future means that in some sense it has already happened in some mysterious way and I am simply on a journey to meet it. It is not deja vu, although I have that experience as well. Remembering the future is when I experience an event I have seen before, in a dream, in a showing, in a vision and often for months or longer before I am in the place where I meet the event. Sometimes I get a sensation or know going past somewhere that the space has a history in the future, and I know the difference between knowing that and that it had a history in the past. My body reacts. My stomach tightens in a certain way. I get nauseous sometimes at the place, or around the people. I will get anxious or feel distressed or sad, if it is a bad thing. If it is not a bad thing I get a deeply settled feeling. For the past and the future these sensations are subtly different and from experience I can discern the difference.

All this becomes more and more refined as I seem to be learning to extend my boundaries. All this more and more as I learn to listen and trust what I see. All this more and more as I come to realise what I know is real, in the yet and the then, as I journey in the now.

All of this from a four-leaved clover found on a morning walk on a late summer morning.

The day the War began

When I first went outside this morning I could feel something different. A different energy. A false calm, and artificial pausing of the frantic energy in all the life forms around me. My walk was a challenge this morning. Too much was seeping into my awareness, to many images began to flood my interior vision, to many sounds assaulted my internal ears. I seemed to be walking in a daze, walking here and walking somewhere far away, in an alien landscape. My soul ached

Yes, the birds sang – muted songs.

Yes, the butterflies danced, but it was not the same sort of dance they danced yesterday.

Or maybe I perceived them differently . . . for though this morning was glorious, memory makes it harsh. Remembrance makes it terrible.

I watched the clouds tower up, rehearsing, remembering the rising storm clouds of the early morning of this day a century ago, that broke before midnight.

It is not possible for me to think back and not feel, feel things I shouldn’t possibly be able to feel. Not to know things I can’t possibly know. Perhaps because I have touched some to the history, lived and worked in the shadow of the energy of this day for many years, three decades ago. . .

In San Diego I worked for a woman whose stepmother was Helen Hayes Gleason Johnson, whose first husband (who died of typhoid in the 20’s or 30’s) was Arthur Gleason. He was a reporter of Colliers Magazine during the WWI and she was an ambulance driver behind the lines in Belgium. I worked for her step-daughter in the house Helen’s second husband built for them and that was their home in the 30’s to the 60’s by which time both my employer had inherited after the deaths her father and Helen.

Helen drove for the Red Cross. She was decorated by the King of Belgium after the war, being the first woman to be decorated as a Chevalier. I was privileged to have read all of Helen’s letters from the war and was supposed to get them to do something with prime source materials — an historian’s holy grail, but only a week before I had arranged to take them, the water heater blew up in the basement and flooded where the trunk was kept. The whole lot was soaked beyond retrieval.

But, several months before the water ruined everything, I spent a week going through the material. Two things stand out for me to this day, clear and in sharp relief. One was the letter I read that Helen wrote on a train going through France the day the war was declared and second was the piece of shrapnel, a chunk of metal the size of the palm of my hand that nearly killed her. I can’t remember the words Helen wrote, but I remember the feeling I had as I held the letter in my hands. I recall the sense of despair and the fear the leaked through time to me as I read the words — that letter opened a portal for me that has never really closed.

As others have commented there is no such thing as a glorious war, nor glorious warrior. The propaganda used to get young men to sign up and the fury unleashed on those who for conscience sake could not take up arms were both skillfully wielded to manipulate the masses.

I feel all this more keenly here, living in the UK, so much closer to the places where this frightful conflict unfolded and stalled and was pressed on. Trenches and gas and barbed wire and no man’s lands, and mayhem and palpable fear and bitter resentment.

What was lost to the world, to families and the sciences to literature, to medicine, to music — these are also things I think about. Also that without WWI and the misery and loss there might not have been the fictions of Tolkien; a terrible price to pay for Gandalf and Frodo and Aragorn, the Elves and the Orcs, Fangorn and Rivendell, Minas Tirith and Mordor. We might by now have a cure for some dreadful disease that threatens us. Would the Spanish flu have taken so many, wearied by war and weeping, bereft and unable to find hope and a reason to go on.

There is so much we might elect to conjecture and so much more we might wish we never had to consider, including that the so called peace at the end of WWI sowed the seeds for the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War. For, not one bit of this happens or happened in a vacuum. Not one little bit of that could have occurred without lots of other little bits that seemingly might, on the face of it, appear completely disconnected.

What is it then that I remember today? I am a rememberer. I am one who is called to live in a state and in the reality of anamnesis, of unforgetting. Today there is much to process. There are many threads to untangle. There are wide vistas to take in and the small sheet of paper, written with a pencil in a train carriage chugging through the French countryside, as the harvest was about be taken in, which landscape was soon to be altered beyond recognition. The ensuing conflict ruined lives and reshaped the entire social and political structure of Europe. This conflict toppled monarchies. This conflict bequeathed us Fascisms in Germany, Spain and Italy, and the rule of the Proletariat in what was at the time still Russia that in time transmuted into global Communisms.

What do I remember today? The weeping mother and the sobbing wife, the orphaned children and childless parents — on both sides of that War that did not end anything but our innocence.

Experience transmutes to Memory

Yesterday morning I took a walk. I did not have an intended destination, I seldom do. As it was a lovely, sunny, breezy summer morning so I set off at 8am camera in hand, notebook and pen in my waist pack, phone and keys in their places.

I noticed the patterns of the clouds and vapour trails in the pale blue sky. I tried to decipher the messages in the sky oghams.

I caught sight of a magpie wheeling off of a branch in time to see and record it.

Magpie fleeing

Did not meet any of the dog walkers I know by dog’s name, Archie or Henry or Ben or Mink or Poppy, if not by the theirs. It was an amble. I headed down the street I usually do to leave the village. Turned down the lane I often use and after crossing the bridge over the stream turned left. I had taken only a few photos, by this time.

A damselfly danced before me, landing close enough . . .

Damsel fly

I’d not walked far, looking over the stream and across the nearest field when I caught some movement. I used my camera’s zoom to see what it was and this is what I saw.

1st Deer 1                           

I watched for quite some time, taking photos and then saw this as well

2 Deer 1                          

I continued to watch transfixed and then the two youngest walked into the field.

                         

More watching, more photos.

Another Bambi Shot                            Fawn Spots

Some dog walkers I didn’t know were coming down the path yammering away and I signaled for quiet. They obliged and I indicated the two young deer. They whispered there were a lot about but had not seen any this young. For a moment they shared the wonder, then went right back to their walk though speaking more quietly than when they approached.

I continued to watch as the two deer moved closer to me and the stream, unaware of my presence.

Heading this way                            Heading off

I stopped taking photos and in a few moments they vanished. I waited and then walked on down the path. They did not appear in the adjacent field . . .

I was amazed at the speed that a severely cut back old willow had regenerated in only a few months. the gyrating dance of the poplar leaves transfixed me . . .

Poplars

Leaving the path at its end I crossed two small bridges and entered a turnip field. I turned right off the usual pathway and where there were not crops I made my way to sit for time engaging the ash and oak across the field from me . . .

Gazing up through the leaves of the oak in whose shade I sat . . .

Looking up

Then my phone rang, believe me a rare occurrence. It was a friend asking if I’d like some raspberry pavlova left from a party she’d had the night before. Oh, yes please! As she was going out within the hour I got up, thanked the tree for the shade and asking if I could come back. Yes, you may. I walked a good deal more quickly back into the village. I walked along the stream and through the field and back on to the street.

The magic of the encounters had transmuted from experience to memory. What was a now became a then. Life and wonder, awe and sadness, because unpleasant things move that way, too. For the wondrous and delightful things it enables us to hold them to look back on with wistful fondness. For the unpleasant and painful it gives us the distance to let go when we are ready.

I got to my friends and she sent me off with the pavlova . . .

Eating it was another kind of wonderful experience, and different quality of memory. Raspberries, from her garden, cream and the crunch of meringue, delicate tastes of an English summer.

All that before elevenses. . . I wasn’t sure I could have topped it for the rest of the day. I didn’t even try. But, I was and remain attentive and open to what experiences and memories may yet await.