Meadow Browns & Bumblebees

The merry dance of meadow browns
continues unabated
rising in clouds of delicate wings
fluttering amidst the blossoms.

Foxgloves are the refuge
of the bumblebees who
can only sneak a sip of these nectars,
and claim the catmint,
for their usual haunts
of oxeye daisies, scabious and red campions
are full of other feeders.

The summer sun calls these
delicate creatures forth
in profusion this year
bringing a smile
and gladdening the heart.

Meadow Brown and Oxeye DaisyMeadow Brown and ScabiousBumblebee and FoxgloveBumblebee and Catmint

THE GIFT OF RAIN

The air is perfumed
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The earth is moist
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The plants are restored
with the gift of life-giving rain.

The evening’s feathered choristers
sing thanks for the gift of life-giving rain.

As the clouds separate
into clusters of golds and greys,
parting to allow the night blanket
to cover the land in its velvet
full moon softness,
the place I call home
goes into the hours of darkness and rest,
refreshed and renewed.

It was long in coming
and after the arid days,
I welcome the gifts and blessings
the rain bestows upon the land.

Rites and Rituals

For a good number of years now, I’ve found myself much less interested in, and inclined towards, orchestrated and scripted rites to do any sort of ritual. It simply doesn’t suit me, my spirituality and spiritual practice like it once did. You see, I went from being a fairly high church Episcopalian/Anglican to being a low church Pagan.

Over the years I have tried to follow proscribed and prescribed Pagan rites and rituals – in my case Druidic ones – and I simply can’t do them. The wording always felt trite and often has no real poetry, the cadence of the language fell flat, having grown up with the Collect form that remained essentially that of Thomas Cranmer, the formulae seemed forced or like they are trying too hard. I just never felt authentic casting a circle or calling the quarters, though in the days when I was making a concerted effort my mind would wander and I kept thinking that the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer from the 1970s in the US was doing sort of the same thing – ‘Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and blessed be His Kingdom now and forever.’ Four parts that felt a lot like the circle casting using the four quarters. That being an aside.

Even though I attempted to write my own rites and formulate rituals to follow, I found that I had lost my taste for them. After all, I don’t belong to a Grove or any longer to Druid group that uses scripted rites for ritual. When the Druid group to which I do belong gathers, and we do so very infrequently, we are called together to be present in the space and place with simple words spoken from the heart. Those words hold our time out of time, as it were, and we sit in silence for the most part, individuals speaking or singing in the safety of the shared space. At a time when the one who gathered us in our time together senses that it is time to move back into ordinary time and space, the person says a few closing words and the time together ends.

There is another Pagan group to which I belong that has quite proscribed ways of doing things, at least on the surface, to be in communion with the group’s Goddessess, but again they don’t work for me. This same group has a series of guided meditations that can be undertaken at particular times. Again, I don’t get on with guided meditations, I tend to use them only to get to another ‘place’ then I wander off, usually following some calling from my usual guides. It’s not an act of wilful rebellion, it’s just the way these things work for me.

That said, being a person who no longer uses or desires to use written rites, I have developed a pattern of actions, a ritual, for the morning. It has happened spontaneously and it is one that feels right.

I get up about 0530 and get dressed. I get the food ready to take out to the feeding bowl in the orchard, put on my wellies and head out the back door. I head across the garden toward the west and through the gate into our little orchard. On the way I fill a watering can with water to replenish the water bowl near the feeding bowl and I make my way to fill both. I notice the wildflowers at my feet – bird’s foot trefoil is now blooming amid the buttercups and clover. After I fill the respective bowls I take the food container and watering can back to the orchard entrance.

Walking to each tree, most are still very small, being barely more than sticks when the arrived, and greet them in turn. I say good morning. I tell them how grateful we are that they are at home in our orchard. I make a fuss, if you will. When I come to one of the seven original trees I tell them how wonderful it is that they are making apples or plums and how amazing they are. I do this until all thirty trees are greeted, plus the two white birches and the four trees still in pots at the edge of the orchard. I also greet the badger who is buried near the birch trees.

After I have done this I stand where the front door of my shed will be at some point, at the bottom of the orchard. Facing north, I raise my arms to upward and draw down the energy of the morning into me and ground myself. Then raising my arms again, I chant the ‘Laude’ from Bernstein’s Mass, addressing to both God and Goddess. Finally, I chant to Pomona, who introduced Herself to me as a Goddess of the place where I live – dah, all those apple orchards! I chant to Her to ward and guard the trees of our orchard, and the ones close around. I ask her to bless the trees with fruit and give them strength to be resilient in the face of the changes in climate we are enduring. I have no set tune, no set words, just what feels right at the time, different every day.

When I am done, I walk back into the garden and do my morning watering on the east side of the property and in the front. When I water the garden, I chant to St Fiacre – patron saint of gardeners. He doesn’t seem to mind a Pagan chanting his name and asking his blessing on the garden. It usually takes me an hour to ninety minutes to do all of this.

Before I go to bed, I always look out my bedroom window, again to the west and north, and watch the stars, saying thank you to the day to the world outside my window, facing the orchard and the garden right under my window.

So, whilst I have not written rites, I do have rituals that work for me. Simple. Flexible. Sincere. They are rite-less rituals and that suits me just fine, and they will change with the seasons. What I do now in the summer will not be what I do in the winter, except for the last one of the day, because I think it is vitally important to express my gratitude to this amazing world we live on, for its gifts and abundant blessings, which more and more I am coming to realise we don’t appreciate enough, as a human species, to protect and cherish as we should, and indeed must if we are to survive. My humble thank you, I trust is heard and received with grace.

Tooting My Own Horn

This is a slightly different blog, because I’m sharing places to find my writings that others have published.

Recently, The Deep Music: Offerings for the Awen was published. This is an anthology containing three of my poems, previously unpublished, and a short essay. You can order it here.

The jacket blurb reads:

‘This anthology is a collection of the writings of contemporary awneyddion. Those who have have heard the deep music, followed its call to Annwn, where the awen is breathed into them by the gods, and returned with their own songs.’ The other contributors include: Greg Hill, Catriona McDonald, Angharad Lois, Bryan Hewitt, Lorna Smithers, Cat Heath, Rhyd Wildermuth, Charlotte Hussey, Kevin Manwaring, Hazel Loveridge, Sithearan NicLeoid, Lia Hunter, and Hilaire Wood.

Last week, a story of mine,’The Unexpected Bearer’, was published in the Spring 2020 issue of Shorts Magazine [it’s free]. Just click on the magazine and it opens.

These are the first of my writings published by others in a long time, and it’s been very gratifying see both the book and magazine.

My Twenty-One-Year-Old Self

My twenty-one-year-old self looks down on me,
watching from the wall across from my bed,
as I sleep and waken,
follows me around the room,
leaning out from her canvas home,
curious and enigmatic.



I wonder sometimes what she thinks
of the life I have made in the forty-six years
since she was painted,
a time and a life committed
by brush, oils and skill
to be a wedding present from my father,
when according to him at the time
I looked like everyone and no one,
too young with too little of life lived
to make my features have
the unique signature of self
only time can grant.
 
Sitting here with her looking down on me now,
on the anniversary of that marriage
which failed after a quarter century,
I wonder what will happen to her
when I am gone,
I who leave no descendants,
no one who would want a portrait of me;
but I shelve these musings
choosing instead to wonder
about the life I’d be living now
had I not changed my name,
not been divorced two times,
gone to university at eighteen
instead of thirty-five,
not answered the call to leave
the religion of my birth
as well at its country.
 
For I can see shadows of those other lives
lived surely in other places,
and perhaps on other planes,
from that which I inhabit now,
lives with descendants perhaps
to carry her forth along
with my genetics.
 
I look at her watching me
perceiving no judgement 
sensing no disappointment,
feeling no regret,
rather there is acceptance,
without resignation and the acknowledgement
life has its twists and turns,
that there are eddies and still pools
in the flow of time as well as
raging torrents pushing one onward,
for the trajectory of being is complex,
and the algebra of the heart
and the trigonometry of the soul
remain mysterious.
 
What I make of the life
I have created for myself
by the paths I have taken,
the doors I have either entered or closed,
the decisions and choices I have made,
whether with my heart or with my head,
whether wise or foolish,
each have led me here
to a place my twenty-one-year-old self
there and then could never have imagined,
where my sixty-seven-year-old self
here and now can have a silent conversation with her,
with that me, any time that I desire,
and in those moments find a sense
of continuity transcending there and then,
where place and time
no longer matter for in the flow
of being all are one.

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.

So, it was you – Covid-19

I felt you coming,
months ago long before anyone
dared name you,
before anyone had a hint
of your existence,
but then I did not recognise you,
could not name you,
until now.

You slid here
on Brexit’s slipstream
unnoticed and undetected,
perhaps longer than
we will ever know,
until it was too late.

The threat of you,
or you kin,
is always with us,
waiting for the opportunity,
a careless or deliberate action,
not a few have issued warnings
over the years that fell
on deaf ears
and onto eyes blinded
by insensitivity and greed.

How do I know all this now?
I scrolled back in my memory
for experiences presaging occurrences,
major events or incidents
that caused radical alteration
on a large scale,
and going back nineteen years ago
I came to the summer before 9/11.

Here I struck paydirt,
for in reviewing the impressions
and feelings of those unsettling months,
I realised that event most closely
fitted a thing so big and world altering,
and the relief I felt in naming what I knew,
after the shock wore off.

It seems mistakenly,
I thought the dis-ease I had felt
since last autumn was all about
the scrambled energy
present here concerning
the island on which I live
severing ties with its largest neighbour,
about the effects of the
unaccountable arrogant and self-righteous
appeals to former greatness,
evoking by implication if not utterance
the time we ruled the seas
and much more land on every continent,
that we would be greater on our own.

As it turned out,
I was only partially right,
for though those ideas and energies
were surely present they were not enough,
because when the time of parting came
ever closer week by week,
the apprehension grew,
restless, anxious, fretful
energies swirled around me,
doom, fear, panic
for Brexit to be the only cause –
and how in all this I missed
the looming spectre of death
I do not know, except,
it was woven amongst the other
sensations carefully hidden.

All this changed a few days ago,
I knew then it was you,
a wraith stealing in under
the larger shadow
of our insular concerns;
perhaps, in part my confusion
came because the same issues prevail
in your wake as in the wake of Brexit:
food and border security,
international and institutional cooperation,
movement of goods and people,
loss of jobs and livelihoods –
though not the thousands of deaths,
no, they are yours alone.

Would it have helped
if I had known sooner it was you coming,
though there would have been nothing
I could do to stop you,
for was never in my power
to prevent you
breaking on these shores
any more that I could halt
the sealing of those same shores
from Europe and its misapprehended dangers,
which are nothing compared
to the dangers you brought here?

In all of this there are lessons
I have learned to apply in the future,
and there will be futures like these
for those of us who survived this time,
when individuals and governments
will make misguided choices and decisions,
for surely there will be other
pandemics, viruses and existential threats,
when other energies will crash over me,
portending death and danger,
when I trust I will remember from this time
I need to dig deeper and look farther,
to perhaps understand sooner,
what I know and thus find a way
to prepare myself and hope
I will not again be overwhelmed.

May the cures for Brexit and you
not be worse the dis-ease and disease
you both have already caused me and others,
stealing a half a year of my life,
though thankfully not ending it,
leaving me the rest of it to be
lived out in a world reshaped and unfamiliar.

Dancing with the Dryads

You arrived at last,
anticipated and prepared for
to join the few of your kin
already planted in our orchard.

We unpacked all twenty-five of you
from the transporting bag of straw,
bare rooted and mostly branchless
to await your planting.

The map was meticulously drawn,
the holes to be your home forever
carefully dug with stakes set
for your support.

You are in the ground now,
the earth that holds you close,
spun and mixed in precise proportions,
placed about you with gentle firmness.

The crossing braces are in place,
your names and root stock history
burned into wooden tags for tying on,
so we will always know you tree names.

Now it is up to me to introduce myself,
to play your dryads’ musics
to dance with your dryads as I have done
with the trees whose company you now keep.

I will sing with and to you,
I will dance with you in the breezy sunshine,
and over the Summer our connection
will strengthen as we move into Autumn.

Do not think that I will not sing you
a dryad’s lullaby to ease you
into your Winter’s slumber,
or never come to be with you until Spring.

It is the task I have set before me
to nurture and nourish you
so you may grow into strong and fruitful
apple, pear and plum trees.

Grow well and know the warding
of Pomona who resides in the orchards
round about us and will be a guardian
to you for the whole of your lives.

Expanded Orchard (2)

The Messages are Clear

I have been reading, or my husband is reading to me (he does in the evening) books that relate to climate changes, earth changes, changes in the movements of peoples related to climate change, life during and after the last glacial maximum, life during the little ice age, life during the Mediaeval warm period, how big business is sabotaging any efforts to control climate change.

The messages are clear.

They cannot be denied or avoided if we are to have any sort of liveable and habitable planet in the next 30, 40, 50 maybe even 20 years now. I am 66 and I will not live to see the worst of what the projected effects will be, but I still care deeply that life remain viable on this amazing planet on which we live. I cannot imagine what life will be like for children born in the last 20 years when they are my age – should they live so long with antibiotic resistance, superbugs, micro-plastics in the food chain, besides climate change.

The messages are clear that things are not good now.

The signs are there for all to see and yet there are those who refuse to admit there is something radically wrong with the way we are exhausting the earth’s resources, at an alarming rate. The signs are there for all to see and yet there are those who refuse to acknowledge that we are abusing our fellow creatures and condemning them to famine, disease, war and extinction. The signs are there for all to see and yet there are those who self-interests and their desire to continue piling up money cause them to ignore what is obvious to those of us who are not so motivated. The signs are there for all to see and yet governments are dragging their heels and burying their heads in the sand in the face of the facts that daily are more and more irrefutable.

The messages are clear that things are not good now, and are set to get a whole lot worse.

Every morning and evening I open my bedroom window when I get out of bed and before I retire for the night. I look at the sunrise. I look at the stars twinkle. I look at the wind ruffling the leaves of the trees. I see bats swooping. I see birds flying. I hear the dawn chorus – solo, duet, trio or choir. I sniff the air and since I live in the country take a deep breath. I reach my hand out if it is raining. I say thank you for the amazing world that I share with all the other precious life forms here.

We cannot run away to another world and think that will make everything all better. Humans are human after all and all of our proclivities will go with us. We will not instantly become creatures who will cease being greedy, cease wanting to exploit resources, cease wanting and thinking we are somehow granted the right to dominate the weaker (be they be human or plant or animal). It may take a long time, but the same problems we have now will manifest sooner or later in any world those with enough resources to flee may colonise. Those with the resources are the ones whose actions in acquiring more resources here are a huge part of the problem now.

The messages are clear that things are not good now, are set to get a whole lot worse, and we cannot run away to another world.

At some point someone has to be the one to say enough is enough. Not in 30 years from now. Not even in 10 years from now. But now. Right now. Someone has to be the first. Someone with real authority, real clout, real power and prestige to back it up. Someone. Some country. The UK where I live is itching to get free trade agreements after Brexit. Free trade means nothing, however, if our food is poisoned or otherwise compromised, if the goods come from places where exploitation of people and resources is rife, if getting cheap is best at all costs. If we do not look at these issues then free trade is going to be way too expensive both the long and short run.

We need to rethink everything. We need to know that our individual actions mean something. That what I can do as one person, what my husband and I can do as a couple means something. Otherwise it is too easy to try, and in the frustration as it all keeps getting worse and worse, just throw up our hands and say why bother.

The messages are clear that things are not good now, are set to get a whole lot worse, and we cannot run away to another world; we need to rethink everything, now.

Time is running out here. The young people are rising up and challenging all of us. We need to listen, not just pat them on the head and tell them we admire them and carry on doing all the things that are wrecking their and our world.

Strike for the Climate. Act for the climate. Change for the Climate.

Now!

Robin Sang for Willow

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The magnificent old Willow
was being taken down,
limb by limb,
branch by branch,
and finally,
segment of trunk by segment of trunk,
all day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The louder the chainsaw
roared
the louder you
sang,
so she would know
you were there
singing to her,
singing to ease the pain
to honour her living
mark her dying,
so she would know
she was not alone.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang when the squirrel
fled its drey
moments before the chainsaw man
ripped it out of its place
nestled in between
two strong branches,
and threw it on the ground
like rubbish;
it had been a good place for a drey,
the squirrel now has
no bed for the night.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang as the wood dust
spewed from the whirling saw
and fell sparkling in the sun
like snow or rain on a sunny day,
but it wasn’t rain or snow
it was part of a life
being cut down;
and as the parts fell,
thudding after they were
too heavy to tumble
crashing earthward,
the sky opened up
bright blue
on a sad day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang farewell
to an old and noble
being who had stood
where it could not flee
when it got in the way,
got too big and had to go,
like so many of its kin
right now around the world
lost to clear cutting,
lost to fire,
lost to greed,
lost to commerce,
lost to progress,
lost forever
and we shall never know
the weight of the loss
until it is far too late.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.