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.

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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.

Don’t waken the gods

I went on a walk this morning with a great deal on my mind. I have a job application to do this week. My desk looks like a whirlwind blew through. I work by shoving stuff around, sometimes with one of the cats sitting on top of the pile. Nonetheless, I went forth to move in the sunshine, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze tangle my hair and take some photos of the progressing summer.

I went further along one track than I’d ever been. Previously, it was awash in mud and standing with water. At a point I felt was right, I found a place to sit and reflect. Had it not been for the tractor two fields away, all I would have heard were the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. I haven’t sat down at the edge of a field for a long time. The late morning sun was warm. The clouds were broken, mountainous, slow moving. I was on the far side of a field I had been walking along from the other side separated by a stream and long gatherings of trees along the footpath.

Settled down, I pondered. My mind went in time to asking the question, partially rhetorical: Who is the goddess of the Somerset Levels? I figured with all the water and willows it was unlikely to be a god in this instance. I asked as I don’t live all that far from them and am familiar with the places that were so badly flooded over the winter. I figured that the deity would be pretty much for the area where I live as well. I asked and just sat, open, listening. It was hard not to have other things interfering  and distracting, but the heavy drone of the tractor and the chirping and calling of the birds did help me to hold my focus. I didn’t need to travel. I waited.

In time I sensed an answer and it was not the one I was expecting. Well, quite frankly I wasn’t expecting anything, but had I been what I was gathering was not what it would have been.

Do you really think it wise to wake up the old gods? Do you think it appropriate to call me forth? You do not know what I demanded of those who followed me in the past. You have no idea if I am merciful to be reverenced or fierce to be placated. You do not know if I am who or what your world needs.

This was a bit of a shock. I don’t think I wanted to wake her up or call her forth . . . or maybe I did, though unwilling or unable to admit it. I acknowledge I thought it might be helpful or inspiring to be able to call on a local goddess. But in this case I was wrong. She made it very clear she did not want to come back. That she is there still is not in question for me. It is a matter of letting sleeping gods lie.

The experience did present me with a poem though. Unfortunately since I can’t get lines of poetry to work in the drafting space here, I’ve put forward slashes between lines in each stanza.

Don’t waken the gods,/sleeping under that tree.

Why do you want me,/ignored for so long?/My voice too faint/for modern ears ever to hear.

Don’t question the gods,/resting under that tree.

Why do you tempt me,/ignored for so long? My answers too harsh/for modern minds ever to cope.

Don’t test the gods,/restless under that tree.

Why do you chase me,/ignored for so long? My presence too strange/ for modern sensibilities ever to bear.

Don’t seek the gods,/concealed under that tree.

I wasn’t chasing her. I was merely musing on a possibility. The answer, however is quite clear, totally unambiguous. Am I disappointed? No. It is enough to know that such a Presence was once a part of the lives and practises of the people who lived here, near here, the ancestors of this area. No written record. No name to call. Vanished and traceless. In this instance, as it should stay.

The Spirits of the Land Whisper

The Spirits of the Land whisper to me. Today. Many days. Most days. I try to walk softy, I attempt to tread gently. Yet, it feels like each step has the potential to disrupt, although that is in no way my intention or desire.

I make my way carefully off the road. The field is muddy, the footpath slippery once more. There has not been much rain, by comparison, but the water table here in Somerset remains far too high, even where I am relatively high on the edge of the Levels. I listen. I stop. I breathe quietly, expectant. Straining for some indication the communication will resume, now only a hushed silence fills the space within me, beyond me.

Then just at the edge of my awareness, I catch the faintest whisper again. I keep moving through the lengthening grass, thick and green. Beside me the hedgerows of holly and hawthorn, gowned in flowers bursting forth, are edged with cow parsley lace. There are slashes of blue, pink and yellow from bluebells, red campian, the first buttercups and swathes of dandelion. In this riot of growth I strain to hear what the Land has to say to me.

I continue on. I continue to listen. I keep trying to absorb the sounds that follow, or lead, the sights. Whispers. Whispy echoes. Did I hear a sigh just then? Perhaps it was a soft whimper. Am I trying too hard today? Am I not trying hard enough?

I try to discern what the Spirits of the Land are attempting to communicate to me. And, perhaps, it is as simple and complex, as easy and difficult as: Tread gently always, all ways. 

But, can I do that each time I open the door and step over my threshold into the world? I wonder. Sometimes I am in a hurry, determined to be somewhere else, to do something else. Can I, do I, tread gently then, when I am not really paying sufficient attention, on those days when I am not as attentive as I am today? Can I, do I, even listen for the whispers then?

Or, are those the times when they shout: Careful, child. Be mindful and aware, for you are called to care, have the capacity for caring, are burdened with cares.

At those times, when I am chided, reminded to slow my pace, I may come upon an earthworm either struggling in a puddle or as the pavement heats up on a sunny day covered in grit. I stop. I gather it up. I walk to the nearest grassy bit and place it there. Or, I find in my path a stalled bumblebee, scoop it up and seek out a fuel flower to revive it. Another time I will refuse to crush a tiny snail or squish a slug, as I see so many have done already, and find a place for it away from anyone’s garden.

These are actions I do not because I can, I do them because I must. If I try to walk on and not stop, invariably I end up turning around and doing what I must do.

In these instances, I share a moment of my life with a small being  who is radically different from me. A small being whose way of life and of being I doubt I could ever fully understand. What I can share with it is that we are related by being alive and ensouled and inhabiting together the spaces of our living.

The actions I take in such instances are barely perceptible in the huge scheme of existence, but are part of it nonetheless. They are assistance given to those who have no understanding of gratitude, as humans understand the concept, and are unable to say thank you in any case — or maybe I’ve just not learned understand their languages yet. And that is the point for now, too, for they are actions for no tangible reward whatsoever. These small acts of kindness, however, expand my soul, fill my heart and unleash joy. I have, until I type these words, thought that these responses came about because neither notice can be given nor gratitude expressed by those I have aided. But as I listen now to the Deep Wisdom of Being, those sensations may well be the manner in which I perceive how they communicate that they noticed, that those feelings are the way their gratitude is expressed.

In the space or writing a paragraph, I radically changed what I perceive as ‘speech’ or communication from quite different beings. I did not rewrite it on purpose after I listened and reflected; I am allowing to to stand as a witness to an amendment in my understanding. What I have just learned changes everything. It alters my understanding forever. And, although I am sitting on my sofa, with my laptop, I can sense the Spirits of the Land nodding in approval.

The Spirits of the Land shout: Slow down. Give care, be caring. The Spirits of the Land whisper: Perceive through my Sensing. Work with my Knowing. Live by my Wisdom.

The Spirits of the Land whisper, whisper, whisper.

The Spirits of the Land teach me. Sometimes in neither a shout nor a whisper, but in silent resonance. It is my task to listen, to be attentive, aware and open.

Today, the Spirits of the Land whispered . . .