The Dawn Quartet

I was wakened by the rain
heard through open windows
pat patter pat beating
like a small tight drum,
then beyond the cloud water’s music
the winged ones began
their chirruping songs
to scores they only know
once the pattered drumming
slowed and ceased.

Head resting on my pillow,
cats eager to see if at
o four hundred I was awake
enough to heed their
presence and desire
to break their nightlong fast,
I heard the morning’s
emerging avian songs,
voices added one on one
the vocal ensemble reached
but four this morn,
no dawn chorus then for me.

Still, I was blessed,
and with a grateful heart
listened to the sweet refrains
of the dawn quartet
to begin my day,
the damp air perfumed,
the ground wet and leaves
bedecked in glistening droplets
after several dry weeks
under a cloud shrouded
breeze bearing sky.

Haiku on a Stormy Day

Unable to flee
Trees bend in thrashing storm wind
Roots reach deep hold firm.

Birds wheeling sideways
Wind rushed wings onward fly
Difficult to land.

Pollarded treescape
Land floats on hidden waters
Somerset Levels.

Catkins dance waving
Pollen spreading far and wide
New generations.

Sun peaking from clouds
Clouds pushed on wind swiftly
Calm soon returning.

Wind unrelenting
Atmospheric songs wail
Silence forgotten.

Howling wind keening
Mournful song marking the day
Waiting for relief.

An afternoon at RSPB Swell Wood

First I want to thank my friend who is an administrator for the area RSPB for taking me on this wonderful adventure, since I don’t drive.

When we headed out from my cottage yesterday afternoon, it was a bit mizzly so we went to plan B – Swell Wood, plan A was Ham Wall. That’s for another day. It had nearly stopped when we arrived at the car park where there were only two cars.

Arrival

From the time we opened the doors, and in spite of the road noise, bird song filled the air. Since the feeders were empty, she filled one of them with sunflower seeds.

Our first stop was the hide for the heronry. With all the leaf cover it took a few minutes to locate the nests. And, I forgot my binoculars so we shared. Saw several nests heard lots of calling from the treetops. Saw an egret nest and egrets flying off as well as heron. There were other little birds in closer as well.

We then walked around the top walk and at one point the road noise vanished. The atmosphere was magical. Once we’d made that circuit we took off for Scarp Trail, lots of up and then lots of down, followed by way more up to get back to the car.
Virdiditas 3Virdiditas 2

All around there were delicate grasses, yellow archangel and remnants of bluebells, and one lone cuckoo-pint.

Grass with seedsGrass with multiple seeds

Yellow archangelCuckoo pint

Saw Alfred’s cakes and for the first time knew what it was that I’d seen a few times before.

Alfreds cakes

The ivy twisting around the tree trunks looked like Celtic knot work. I have wondered before if it is not where the idea for such patterns originated.

Knot work 5Knot work 4

Knot work 3Knot work 2

Knot work 1

The views across the Levels were amazing. Hard to believe how recently they were under water for weeks and weeks.

Levels 1Levels 2

I marvelled at the beetles on the green leaves, and what I think are musk beetles, though I didn’t get a photo.

Red beetles

When we got back to the car after filling a second feeder my friend moved the car to the other side of the car park and we waited to see who’d take up the offer of food. It didn’t take long for a pair of Chaffinches to arrive and work the ground for what had fallen from the holes in the feeder right in front of us. Then to the other feeder a Greater Spotted Woodpecker arrived. We heard some hungry noises coming from a hole in a tree before we were back at the car and figure this must be a parent bird.

Greater spotted 3Greater spotted 2Greater spotted

At the same time a squirrel showed up with the Chaffinches and worked the ground. When the woodpecker moved to the closer feeder another visitor took over the second feeder.

Squirrel 4Squirrel 1

Squirrel 2Squirrel 3

For those brief few hours, I soaked up the tranquillity and the virdiditas. Tall trees reaching up to embrace the sun, which wasn’t much in evidence, linked like the ribs of a vaulted cathedral ceiling. Air slightly moist and smelling sweetly clean. It was an opportunity to relax and allow the spirits of the wood, on the edge of the Levels, to reach out to me as I opened to allow the connection and communion. There was the low strong murmur of tree speech all around me. I felt welcomed. I felt at home. I felt the presence of dryads and woodland sprites. I sensed the dancing energies of trees and of the bird life all about me. Chirrup, song, melody was all around me heard with my inner and outer ears. Vision, vista, beauty were everywhere I looked seen with my inner and outer eyes.

I was walking in Swell Wood and I was walking in The Wood, if that makes sense. I was there and beyond there. The magical nature of this small, magnificent gem of a woodland opened the portal for me to enter a Wood much larger and far more complex. I was moving in two realms, happily nattering away with my friend and at the same time communicating in silent presence with the greater energy of where I was, beyond where I was.

I was very aware of being on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a place of fascination and enticement for me. Although I am not able to get down into them without much travel and expense on buses, I love them. They are a place of particular mystery and wonder. There are connections I’ve not had the opportunity to explore fully, but I feel the pull. I it feel more strongly now. The gods and spirits of the Levels are calling me and I know I need to find ways of entering the openness of this landscape and meet them more fully. Yesterday, as we drove back through the spaces they inhabit I heard whispers and echoes reaching out to me, calling me to engage with them. It is another calling I am not going to be able to pretend I don’t hear for very much longer.

The deep Mystery of Willow is present in the Levels in a way that I sense is unique. Where I live I tiptoe on the edges of it, does this sound familiar? But I have not allowed myself, and also at some profound level of my being not been allowed until now to contemplate such a connection.

I have made deep links with Yew and Beech already, but Willow only by a gentle touch not mutually deep exchanges between self, being and presence. And it’s not only the mystery of the Willow; there is other mystery and magic there for me. There is something about the land itself, even beyond the surface and visible landscape that calls to me. From where I sit now it is ephemeral and insubstantial, but it is surely real, reaching out and pulling me to explore.

All of these experiences are intensifying my practice of Druidry, enriching my spiritual and religious path, as well as my self-understanding as a Druid. They show me I have so much to experience still and only hint at how deeply these realities and experiences will take me into the realms of the gods, the ancestors and spirits of this land who frame, shape and ground my life and being as a Druid, as a person.

All this wonder, enrichment, challenge, awareness from a brief journey to and through an RSPB reserve.

Any Wednesday

Today I walked with the gods, ancestors and spirits who dwell in the landscape nearest where I now reside.

I walked passing houses storied by the people who live in them. Storied by their inhabitants through acts of love, violence, indifference, hope, and despair. Storied by those who chose wisely and with honour, and those who are trapped in decisions made in haste and acts of self-indulgent deceit.

I walked beyond these and also by the hedges and banks that are home to the small ones, furred and feathered, sheltering from the increasing and inconsistent cold. I walked alone. I walked shedding feelings of sadness, of promises made to me and not kept, of days never allowed to achieve the potential invested in them. I shed these. I walked. I took photos to focus my intention and attention on the world of nature all around me.

It was any Wednesday
as I left the tarmacked road
and moved along a different trail,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
as I followed the beckoning of the stream,
and moved along the muddied way,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
yet bore revelations most profound
through the yawning gate of deepest winter,
and I saw with newly opened eyes,
and I heard with unblocked ears,
and I felt with reawakened senses,
walking with and amid those
who long before walked paths
not so different from my own
in following the lure of the winter’s day.

I watched the robin watching me,
saw the wren dart past from a withered hedge,
listened to the wind in the bare branched trees
and through dry hedge leaves,
I saw the preening swans and flying ducks,
and heard the stream coursing relentlessly to the sea.

We do not know the musics
our ancestors sang to
nor the languages of their song,
but we can know what inspired them
in the squelching mud,
the sharp bite of cold wind,
the warmth of midwinter sun,
the tumbling of the stream’s waters
and the calling of the wild things:
the quacking of ducks,
the cackling of herons,
the crawking of ravens,
the thrumming whoosh of swans skeinning low,
the howling of hounds.

We can still see bold oaks
twisting ivy and whithered bracken,
a cheeky robin,
a furtive wren,
a flitting band of sparrows,
but we must open the inner eye
and allow the deeper ear to hear
and the mind to pause its ceaseless doubt;
we must be willing to walk and pause,
to greet and be greeted
to watch and be watched
to wait upon and welcome
those unanticipated,
those least expected,
those who are willing to pull back
the curtain between now and then
as yet is a step we take together.

It was any Wednesday
but no Wednesday nor any day
will ever be the same.

A Day too Still

Walking on a day too still,
the world all silent waiting,
wondering what portends,
querying the hush,
quiet enough to hear
Poplar’s leaves
drifting
groundward,
though in the distance
combines rake the fields bare.

Going farther
at the stone bridge can be seen
through Stream’s running waters
long tendrilled trailing grasses,
bright Stream Nymphs’ hair.
and the gathering of bubbles
over mini rapids congregating
air’s infusion linking
elements and Elementals.

On down the path
where Stream babbles singing water’s song
to mudded banks eroded
in days well gone and long forgotten,
hear Heron call when taking flight,
strain to see Woodpecker least spotted
rhythmically tapping muffled on a living tree,
see Old Yaffle airborne low,
and Moorhen crossing in front ignoring danger
eager to enter Stream’s bidding,
‘come join my swirling dance’.

Turning round where the path ends
at a mown and empty field,
no gleaning birds to see
the harvest truly past there,
back now observing elderberries
hanging heavy where once
flowers held heads high,
spider woven portcullises
drawn down before the blackberries
with stinging nettle sentinels
only the brave or foolish,
insect or walker,
reach for the fruit.

Then came out the sun
clearing clouds overcasting,
creating a less white sky,
the temperature rising muggy,
but the silence remained
etched into the space
marking fast the day.

Avian Pinnacles

The avian pinnacles
stand tall and watch.

Surmounting
church spires and roof peaks,

BB on roof 3
gargoyles and chimney pots,

two on cloudy day 2
antennae and hunkypunks,

Crow  hunkeypunk
reaching beaks upwards
calling and scrawking,

Surley starling
singing and chattering,
songbirds and corvids,

Finch antennae 1   Different two. 2JPG
and those we call nuisance birds,

gull   MOckingbird
large feathered ones and small.

White pigeon on roof peak  Lone sparrow staring

The avian pinnacles
stand tall and watch.

Searching
whilst eyeing us,

One a watcher

calling each other
passing the news,
a few acting as sentinels

Jackdaws on spire
silently holding the space
enfolded between the air
and the structures
we build replacing
the great trees once
covering the land.

The avian pinnacles
stand tall and watch.

Swifts

Swifts tilting with the clouds
soaring swooping singing
sharing locations
perhaps
to avoid collisions
as the best rehearsed
aerobatic teams.

Parents seeking sustenance
for the young.
waiting hungry
nestlings straining
reaching out to be
first in line
when food arrives
of a sudden feathered swirl
unannounced,
mouth opened
straining,
eager to be grown
and ready
too soon going forth,
their epic journey
making for parts
they know for never
having been.

On a summer’s morning
a future unimagined
overcome only
by their hunger,
as through the sky
reaching closer each pass
towards the clouds
parent birds
seasoned swifts swirling
singing staccato squawking
ceaseless motion barely
pausing even to the nest,
delivering nourishment
building for the future
strengthening their kind
for more tomorrows.

Swift flyers       Two Swiftlets 1  Two Swiftlets 2  Swift feed Swiftlet reaching out

 

I am the last one

Am I the last one? Have the others been lost now?

I have traversed the flyway for several years now, making my way back to the grounds of continuation and have found no others like me.

Am I the last one? Are the others all gone?

It has been my fear. Now it is my reality.

I lost one mate to the report of a rife, another to the hurling of a stone. I escaped, but I was then alone. The last mate I lost to starvation, for the sources of our food were no more. I lost my last brood to poisoned bait set for others, vermin they call them. Fellow creatures trying to make their way in a world where are no longer valued I say.

This is the last year I shall fly. I am weary and alone. Lonely. This is the last year I shall chase the dream of finding another with whom to mate or challenge. This is the last year that any shall hear my plaintive call, the last year that my song will sound through the wooded edges, the meadowed margins.

This is the last year that I shall live.

It is the last year that my kind shall be.

Extinction they call it. Extinguishment of the light of our species soul, is what is really is. There will never be another of me. For all of time, for all of forever, in all of eternity there will not be one like me again. We were not a fancy bird. We were not flashy. We were not formidable. We were just an ordinary brown bird, not too big, but big enough that there are those who thought it sport to shot us and little though it was, some food for their hungry families in a world too crowded with your kind and where famine swept through trying to redress the imbalance.

How can I describe what it is like to sing, sing to the wind and leaves and the sky? How can I explain to you what it feels like to call, in desperation and aching loneliness for another of your own kind, and there to be no answer? How can I try to tell you, who are responsible for this that you could have prevented my fate – that you could have acted sooner, behaved differently, lived in a way that made it safe for your children and mine? How can I speak to you who do not and cannot ever be the last of your species ever to be alive, ever to see the sun rise, watch the sun set, feel the wind and rain over your body? Rain weeping with you at the immanent prospect of your annihilation and demise.

It has been attempted by some of your own kind against others of your own kind, it may have happened to some of your distant ancestors from millennia ago, for you have done ethnic cleansing, targeting particular populations. And, if as a species you are able to do that, what chance did my kind ever have when we became scarce, rare, endangered?

I will not any longer try to make you feel guilty. For now, that will not save me, though on reflection it might save another, something bigger like snow leopards, tigers, rhinos, elephants – but they are big and take up more space they we ever did. I am a small being. I hold little hope.

I am unlucky to be just a plain brown bird, nondescript. I am unlucky to have a niche environment. I am unlucky to be a migrator to and from places that have become both perilous and toxic.

I will now sing one more song, a long song of lamentation and despair. I will sing one more solo where there should have been a chorus. I will sing once more for a mate because I must, though I know that there are none to respond. I will sing one last time in defiance of another to try and challenge my territory, though I know there are none to answer my challenge.

I sing now and will let my heart burst in the effort. May you farewell, fare better than . . .

Farewell Sparrow

I went out the front door to check for the post, which hadn’t arrived.

I walked the short way to the sidewalk and looked down the street, then up.

Looking up the street I saw a sparrow on the ground.

I went and picked it up. I saw no signs of a violent end. Its legs were stiff and its eyes partially closed. It didn’t look like it had been in pain when it died or the death was too sudden for it to register.

I stroked it gently, such a fragile being. Such tiny feathers. Such a delicate creature that usually flits about in and out of the shrubbery. Always in a hurry. Never staying still for long. On the look out and on the move.

A creature whose way of life I can barely understand. Life between earth and air. Life lived on the ground, among the bushes and in the air.

I held it for a long time. Thinking about its life and why it ended it where and when it did. Pondering the reason that I found it, saw it – others had been up and down the street before me. It was right in the middle  and couldn’t be missed and surely someone earlier would have moved it. Could have done, but it was there and so was I.

What then, since we were placed at the same place together, is its lesson for me?

The tenuousness of life, perhaps. The need not always to be flitting about because you will be stopped. The necessity to pause and pay attention to the chirping and twittering, of the birds I mean. That life is a gift and a promise  to be  neither ignored nor dishonoured.

Many possible lessons and no sure answers . . . as it should be, as mysterious as the life this small one led.

Farewell then small soul. May you be welcomed with open wings  in the enshrubberied halls of your ancestors. May you join your voice to the eternal dawn and dusk chorus and the everlasting daily chirping that echoes between the silences of the gentle summer’s breeze.

Farewell Sparrow, and thank you for the lessons you will teach me that I am not yet able to comprehend. You rest now on the roots of the rose that climbs beside my front door. I could not bury beneath the soil, one who always flew free in the bright air. I will remember you as I come and go and we will speak in the whispers of wonder and the intimacy of intuition.

Farewell and welcome.

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.