The Fall, THE FALL and the Apple

There are two different understandings of ‘The Fall’ that have influenced my life and my understanding of life.

One is a theological construct that I have jettisoned and the other a reality in the natural world which I have always embraced with a bittersweet sense of joy and wonder. And then there is The Apple, which plays a significant part in each understanding.

The Fall as a theological construct was drummed into me from the time I was an infant. The story of Adam and Eve, the Garden, the Serpent and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was the myth that for Christians made Jesus inevitable to redeem humans (and everything else, everywhere else) from the theologically championed Fall from grace that the incident with the serpent and the apple supposedly initiated.

I was not brought up being taught that this was a myth, or a mythic way of explaining the human condition. I was taught that Adam and Eve were real people, and everything else about the story of the Fall, as it were, fell into place from that understanding.

Needless to say, I no longer subscribe to that understanding, nor the faith the taught it to me.

But THE FALL is still an important part of my life, and this other FALL ran in parallel with the theological one all my life. The other FALL is that which happens in the Autumn. Where I grew up in the US, Autumn is called Fall, but THE FALL is when the trees shed their leaves. Autumn is so much more. It is the time squirrels and chipmunks and other creatures cache food for the Winter ahead, when bears and hedgehogs feed up before the hibernation. It is the time when people change wardrobes by putting away light coloured and lightweight dresses and shorts and bring out the woolly jumpers, hats and mittens in preparation for the cold to come.

It is the time that the apples ripen and are picked. When the harvest of this amazing fruit floods the farmers’ markets and roadside stands. It is the time to make applesauce and apple cakes, press and pasteurise apple juice, and tend to the orchards.

Apples fall in THE FALL. The falling of apples and leaves is an event in which to rejoice. It means that Nature and the natural world still maintain some sense of order and rightness.

The Fall of Adam and Eve, so called, to say nothing of the religion that is supposed to be its remedy, has led to misery and guilt for two millennia. THE FALL of Autumn cyclically brings home the reminder life and death are conjoined in a process as old as being itself; of fruit and harvest and plenty, and also scarcity and privation when the harvest is meagre. The Apple plays a role in both these stories.

One story is totally bound up the humans and is for humans. The other is Nature’s story and links together all living beings in the environmental web in its due season. One is a story of shame and loss of childish innocence. The other story is one of glorious colours and sweetness to savour, of the opportunity to experience the world around one with childlike wonder.

So now I celebrate THE FALL and rejoice in the Autumn that brings with it really of release and the reminder to prepare for the Winter, without which, lest we forget, there would be no Spring.

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Living Our Golden Autumn

Our path together reached
an impasse when we
arrived at a chasm’s edge,
where we each had to find
our separate ways across
to the future’s far side.

Barely looking back,
he departed from me
beckoned into the
reaching arms of another
and together they flew,
disappearing from my sight,
into the comfort of their
mutually awakened desires.

Alone I made my way down
along a dark and difficult path,
eventually ascending to the
other side of grief and sadness,
thankful and guiltless and free,
to dance through the tall trees,
walk amongst the standing stones,
and unexpectedly to meet another.

And now he and I
are living our Golden Autumn,
enjoying the fine blue bright days
and crisp cool nights,
before Winter’s winds dry us to dust,
when our inner fires burn down to ash,
and we will be blown in silence
into a future distance out of sight,
but never beyond our knowing.

Chalice Well

Monday we went to Chalice Well, a favourite haunt in Glastonbury, where we are Companions. Whilst I did not initiate the idea of this venture, not that far from where we live, I was enthusiastic. When we stepped into the space I understood the reason it was so important to go there, though that was not known to me until we arrived.

My partner lay in the sun on the hill at the bottom of the precinct near the new gift shop. I, however, had things to do, things to hear and I had to do them alone.

First of all, I went back to the entrance and bought a small bottle to collect water from at the lion head fount. Then walked back up the incline to stand between the two yews that stand sentinel as one prepares to go to the healing pool. They had been staunchly reassuring as I came to stand with them occasionally during the nearly six months I had to await the final decision on my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. They had assured me that I was rooted here. That my roots were entangled with those of the gods, ancestors and spirits of this land. They made it clear that no one had the power to remove me once I had been thus claimed. And yes I did trust them, but part of me wondered how the Home Office officials would know. Given they were working with documents well prepared and presented I must say by my immigration solicitor, who to be fair also thought I would have no trouble, but you never knew for sure until they said yes.

Moving with deliberation and openness I walked past the pool and instead took of my shoes and socks and walked in the water that flowed into it from above. It was cool and refreshing. There it was clear to me that I was cleansing myself of all the accumulated gunge that had adhered to me in the 15-year process to gain settlement in the UK. That was granted on the Autumnal Equinox, though I did not find out about it until the day after the 15th anniversary of my arrival in the UK. In the flow of that water that had stained the surface of the trough a rusty amber colour over years of mineral exposure I found I was walking into a new life. It was a stunningly simple act, but one with complexly amazing ramifications. For a while I just sat.

When it felt the time was right, I moved on up the steps to the lion’s head where the two glasses sat waters from the spring lemniscating between them. I sat on the bench hidden by the beech bower. I wrote in my journal. I was clear that a bargain had been struck between me and the gods, ancestors and spirits of the land. In that clarity I knew that because they had kept their word to me, I was now free. Freedom, however in this and every other instance entails responsibility. My freedom is granted so that I might be able to fulfil my destiny, in its fullest and broadest, widest and deepest sense. I just sat there staring at the water pouring through the lion’s mouth. Grateful, humble, terrified, cautious and joyful.

In that frame I walked to the fountainhead. I first took a drink out of each glass, then replacing them filled my little official water bottle with some lemniscated water. I washed my hands and with the glass poured water over my forehead and let it run down my face. It was truly a baptism, a cleansing and dedicatory action. I drank some more water then went to sit down before proceeding to the final stop on this impromptu pilgrimage.

Again, waiting until I felt the time was right, I moved on to the Chalice Well herself. I was able to sit with the Vesica Piscis facing me and under another yew. I just sat and listened. The birds sang and I heard sheep bleating.

The Well gave me one message: I am a Well of Wisdom, who partakes of my gifts receives my blessing. For you it is the Awen who flows from my depths. This is a source place for you and so you must come here often. I am for you the Mother of Awen.

What can I say to that?

Except to express my gratitude by honing my gifts and strengthening my creative skills. Write poems. Write stories. And, write more. Learn the art of linocut, become a more proficient calligrapher and accomplished photographer. In all things be humble and live in a state of grateful awareness.

Orion

I have searched for an image to go with this post, but none are as clear as the one I saw inspiring these words. I got up at 0300 to see the special eclipse not sure what to expect. In my pajamas, jumper and furry slippers I walked out of my little porch. Immediately in front of me was Orion. There were not lots of other stars confusing the view it was pretty much Orion standing tall above the Maize Mothers. There appeared ever so briefly a shooting star reminding me of the depth of space/time.

Although I got up to watch the moon slip into totality, and stood looking up in awe of her colour wreathed in darkness, but I was most taken by the view of Orion.

I made the acquaintance of Orion properly on Iona nearly 20 years ago. It was the first place he was close enough to touch. As I visited the island most often in October, it is not surprising that he was there to greet me. For me, his energy is quite powerful and mysterious. I look forward to my first sighting each Autumn and on such a special night this year, when the energies of the space/time were so evident made the moment even more powerful.

Orion 1

I revere your presence,
leader of the Sky hunt
through the wastes of Winter,
gathering your power
in the nights of Autumn.

I honour your authority,
caller of the Sky hunt
through the wilderness of galaxies,
focusing your strength
in the darkening of nights.

I respect your dignity,
master of the Sky hunt
through the mysteries of space/time,
holding your nerve
in the density of darkness.

Orion 2

I greet you, Orion,
this clear bright night,
ever deepening to the
cold harsh heart
of Winter.

I ask you, Orion,
to share your energy,
celestial light blazing
through the frozen sky
of Winter.

I thank you, Orion,
for offering your presence,
to sustain the fearful and weary
during every night
of Winter.

Orion 3

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

The Hunter and the Gatherer paired
provision the larder,
enabling the tribe
to be sustained and healthy,
year on year
through every season,
moon and moment.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

No longer able
to partake the flesh Beasts,
for in these days
it is neither freely given
nor reverently taken,
I still require
this energy to survive.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

When I greet and reverence you,
with grace and gratitude
I am able to receive this energy,
these gifts the Beasts
can only provide if taken
with respect when given the dignity
of a freely surrendered death.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

* * * *

Even for me the third poem raises issues and paradoxes that are complex and not easily resolved. What I am able to do is articulate and then wrestle with them. And always, always eat with an open and grateful heart.

Maize Mothers

I have interacted with the maize field across the road ever since it was planted early in the summer. The field is quite large and the rows run parallel to the road. Apparently, some years ago they were planted vertically to the road and the cottage flooded. Thankfully, the change in planting direction was the remedy, but I digress.

For some time now I have been thinking it a field of Maize Maidens.
Maize Maidens 5Maize Maidens 4Maize Maidens 3Maize Maidens 2

However, in the last week or so it has been made clear to me that at this time it considers itself a field of Maize Mothers.
Maize Mothers 3Maize Mothers 2Maize Mothers 1Maize Mothers 4

And, thinking about it that re-framed designation makes a lot more sense.

Maize Mothers

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

At our beginnings we were
supple and able to bend in the breeze,
and our song sung with the wind
was soft and gentle for who listened.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Through the early searing heat
and later protracted torrential rains,
we stood together growing taller,
our stocks stiffening with age.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Awaiting the inevitable harvest,
our silks no longer free flowing blonde
emerge tangled brown from ears full to bursting,
our crop is ripening and strong.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Our songs are now dry
as we rustle in the Autumnal winds,
our crowns are thin and empty,
the work of our life nears ending.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

We do not seek your sorrow or your pity,
we came to provide food for man and beast,
it is our burden and our gift,
we only ask your gratitude at each partaking.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

The Father Tree

Yesterday was Autumn at its glorious best.

The sky was bright blue, clear but for a few slowly forming stark white clouds that merged into light overcast as afternoon progressed.

I went out on a walk with my camera. It was the first time in ages. Not only did I not blog all Summer, I stopped taking photographs as well. I got some of a thrush feasting on blackberries.

Thrush 1 Thrush 2

I took rose hips
Rose hips
and turning leaves. I walked with meditative deliberateness, aware of each step and noticing any slight movements or sounds. It was an alive walk. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for many months. The world was alive, even as it was beginning the process of retreating and dying back for the Winter ahead.

I did my last picking of blackberries of the season. And I assure you there were masses left for the birds — it seems unfair that the biggest and plumpest ones are way out of reach for us — but I smile at that thought and wish the birds well in their feasting. I walked through the local recreation ground on the way to the Harvest Festival and Fete and also on the way back. I stopped to notice that the huge Oak Tree had lots of acorns this year and fewer knopper galls. This made me happy because last year there were no acorns that I could see when I walked by a few times.

I spent more time approaching the Oak on my return. It seemed to be something I needed to do. I felt a deep sense of reverence for this huge wide spreading tree. He is a magnificent specimen.
The Father Tree

I paced out the diameter of his branch extension and it is 260! That would be feet! I walked around the trunk as well and it came to 16. It seems a very slender trunk to hold such huge branches, but it does.

As I circled in towards the trunk, after pacing it all out, I bowed to him, I have always thought of this tree as he, and when I got close enough I reached out my hand. Immediately there sprang between us a link, some connection. By the time I was close enough to touch the bark he began to speak to me. ‘Welcome daughter‘ were his first words.I pulled back a bit and shook my head. This tree had never spoken to me before.

There is a bigger, older Oak on a field boundary out beyond the village in the opposite direction whose name is Reverend Mother. She is very conversant. Last spring when I was walking there she asked me, it felt more like pleading me, to save some of her children. A number of very small Oaks were growing where they would be smashed by the tractor when it came to plowing. A few days later, I went back and working through the hard ground managed to retrieve two healthy seedlings. They are in pots and doing well, growing at the slow Oakish pace.

After a quick regrouping, I moved towards him again. There was a rush of recognition, from where I could not tell you. He told me I must visit more frequently. He assured me my roots were as securely placed in the soil of this land as his. A reassurance I had not expected. He flooded me with strength and energy. I am sure he is capable of being strict when he wants to be, but yesterday he was all gentleness. Maybe so he wouldn’t scare me away.

On the rest of my walk home, I thought about my genealogy in relation to trees, to specific trees and groups of trees I have made connections to and with since moving to Somerset. I wondered how would I plot, quite literally, my family tree. Though I know I am a daughter of the Yew, I see that at being in the sense of Yew, or a particular Yew (whom I’ve also written about) as, in relation to me, a grandmother/generational matriarch. My connection to the Yew is long standing and sacred in a way that other trees aren’t to the same depth, though Willow is very close in this regard. But I am sure now the other relationships will also deep, broaden and strengthen.

So, thinking about the trees who ring me with their energies for protection and in presence, the list might read like this:

Grandmothers: Yew and Willow
Mother: Beech (Whom I have written about as the Queen Tree)
Father: Oak
Siblings: Birch, Apple, Hazel and Rowan
Uncle: Holly
Aunt: Hawthorn

This was an exercise to try and look at very personal way of relating to particular trees in my environment. Since it flowed so effortlessly out my my encounter with the Father Tree, it seemed a valuable way to comprehend my relationships with certain trees. For some the relationship is fairly generic, there isn’t a particular tree I can identify with the assignment that feels right, well, not yet anyway. This is the case for Apple, Holly and Hawthorn, but I’m sure there is one waiting for me to meet it. With these three trees I have a general connection, maybe because Holly and Hawthorns are hedge dwellers and Apples are orchard trees. They live in groups and so to perceive an individual voice is likely to be harder to discern.

I believe I have written before of the Oak tree in whose lap I ran to sit in on the way to the grocery store every week with my mother and brother. Looking back I would say she was more a Nanny Tree. She was a source comfort and familiar presence with whom I felt safe and understood by in a way I never did with my human family.

At the time I could not have said why I felt that way, and it was not anywhere on my young radar that over fifty years later I would feel a so much stronger protective and profound connection to the Tree Folk. If anything that experience enables me, all those years later, to accept the gifts of connection with and claiming by the trees who ‘people’ the land and landscape which I Know is home. These connections will continue to unfold and the understandings expand for me. It seems no accident that all this is following on what happened on the Autumnal Equinox.

This deep, broad and intense Knowing is so sacred that to speak of it is like liturgy and prayer for me.

So, this is a liturgy and prayer I am sharing with you.

Autumnal Equinox

I have been away from here most of the summer. I have been reorienting myself. I have been realigning my soul. I have been clearing the clutter of my mind.

Now, on the day of balance before the slow slide to Winter and its deep darkness, I feel more whole than I have for some time.

I set my alarm so I would be awake by 0630 and could watch the sun rise as I sat in bed. Quiet. Contemplating. Reflecting. I not only felt part of the sunrise as an observer, I was aware of participating in it at a profound level. I observed, but I was more than an observer.

At first the whole horizon was awash with soft light, diffuse, gentle. Slowly clouds came into view. Gray like smoke, wispy and fragile. The last light of the night braved the growing light. Refused to be extinguished. Resisted the light that would make it disappear for the length of the day.

The corvids flew from their roosts crawing and scrawking across the sky. A wood pigeon flew, rising and falling in flight like a winged tide moving closer to me. Another called in the distance.

With the clock ticked towards 0700, the traffic on the road below my window increased. The commute began. People in metal boxes with wheels hurled themselves east and west. They did not notice the sky or the growing light of the day’s sun’s return. Now the smokey clouds turned to fire as the angle of the light changed. More clouds in streaks gathered to witness the moment with me. Incrementally, the previously diffuse light on the horizon shrank.

The light consolidated. Brighter and brighter the place where the sun would appear revealed itself.

I sat transfixed before the open window. The cool morning air filled my lungs.

The last few moment seemed to drag out like hours. Then, then from behind an oak tree the great light blazed. A fixed point of intense energy compacted from where before there had been only energy so thinly drawn that it could not possibly have come from our nearest star. Gossamer light transformed to pure energy, fierce and no longer friendly. From light like that of a gentle shower to light like what comes from the mouth of a water canon. Light easy on the eye to that which blinds.

The field of Maize Maidens directly across the road did not dance for this sunrise. They stood still. Reverent in anticipation.

Going down to the kitchen to feed the cats I was treated to the second sunrise over the field. The light glancing off the tops of the Maidens’ headdresses. A different kind of light again. At a different angle energy scattered as it spread over the field.

During all this I kept pondering who was doing the moving, for the first time aware of the spinning of the earth in space. Aware that though I was sitting on my bed I was moving, whirling on this rocky world swathed in cloud and wrapped in oceans. It was a profoundly humbling moment. I sat there aware of everything around me. Aware of my smallness in the vastness, not only of space, but in relation to the earth as well. Infinitesimally small, but member of a species which in aggregate has caused so much damage to each other and the planet we call home.

Joy. Exhilaration. Grief. Gratitude. Regret. Anger. Wonder. Hope. Love.

Each emotion in turn as a thread and woven together in a Celtic knot of awareness in the centre of my being. Simultaneous. Discrete. At once, as one.

The day of balance has called me back to my truest self. To why I am here. To what I have to do. To my call and my purpose. No excuses. No equivocation. Only being and doing. Wholeness for me being oneness with creation. Insights. Words. Images. Not mine to hold. Mine to share. The spiral of time on which I ride through life has come back to this place again of decision and dedication. Being and becoming one now. Merged. Healed enough to begin. Again. For the first time.

The day of balance. Autumn. Harvest. Reaping. Ingathering. Tipping towards winter. The darkness without which there can be no creation, no birth.

May the blessings of the Equinox be yours this day.