Awen and Creativity

Always the challenges for me as a creative person:

Not to resist the Awen’s insistent bidding.
Not to let the inspired thought slip away.
Not to assume if I wait a few moments, hours or days it will still be there.

The Awen’s spark of inspiration is just that, a spark, an ember of an idea flying through the air. If I’m not the tinder waiting, if I’m not the patch of ground so long dry, ready to explode with the intensity of the vision or idea and be engulfed by its wild ferocity then what might have been will never be. I will never know where the journey through the flame of creation would have led. I would have denied the git of Awen its due.

That is what I find hardest in dealing with the Awen, with the flow and fire of creative inspiration. It is a sacred moment and a sacred process. A moment and process I yearn for, one I seek and at times shy away from; but, it is what offers me the opportunity to be my truest self, most fulfilled and most at one with all creation and every creature, all Knowing and the Knowers.

I have too often in the past let the ember die. Not allowed the winds of desire to create something fan the tiny flame into an all consuming, passionate expression of what I felt in the heat of dancing embers all around me. This has left me frustrated and separated from the Divine Energy of Being. I try now harder not to let the ember die, though it is not always easy to do despite my best intentions.

When I wait too long I am left with a burn mark in my being where the ember landed and faded. It feels like the way a fleecy top looks if a spark from a campfire lands on it – a hole with a melted edge. Sometimes if I just stop long enough to make a note, jot the gist, draw a quick sketch, then I can come back and tend the low burning fire in the hearth of my being.

This morning walking to the bus and watching the sky, as I do, the ember flew and caught the tinder. Fanning the words gently to keep them alive until I got where the bus would arrive in its time I hurried on, still gazing at the sky. Rehearsing the words as I walked, getting to the bus stop I tore out the notebook I am never without. And I wrote. What I wrote is not great poetry; it will win no prizes. What it is though is taking something I saw, that I experienced and was able to record to share. The image was clear, the words flashing quickly, no slow burning fire this one. Flaring, searing the mind, and once recorded the fire burns on through the words and images, but it no longer burns me. It was made of the tinder, the small twigs not the giant logs great halls require for warmth and feeding — those are the fires required for longer works, prolonged explorations and creative projects. This small fire has burned and warmed me and here I offer it that it might warm you a bit as well. Even if not, in this poem, as in every creative work, the fire still burns and will never cease.

Sky scrawled oghams
vapour trail gibberish
ephemeral glossolalia
undecipherable
even as the clouds approach.

To discern such is not possible,
lines hither and thither
crisscrossing the pale sky
a bit of Phagos,
perhaps that was Furze
or maybe Ailim,
surely Duir.

There was no real way
to hold the atmospherically drawn
messages whose messengers
do not realise
they send and carry
forth mysterious meanings
thrust before the clouds.

Frustration at insufficient clarity
through my intuitive senses,
or perhaps because the sharing
and the wisdom is meant for another –
straight lines traced
back and forth crisply
only to diffuse,
scattering upon the currents
the earthbound cannot feel,
do not perceive.

Quickly the dispersal begins
lines smudge smearing into patterns
reminiscent of pictures
a child’s chubby crayon
draws but unlike
those images this one
cannot be saved and cherished.

Lasting only moments,
a moving message
written in shifting vapour
upon the sky.

The Challenges of Heavy Summer

July and August are the hard part of summer for me. Summer and I have never gotten on well, not even as a child, but that was partly because we lived in a flat over a shop in a medium sized town in east central Indiana. Because my father was an artist, and this was the late 50s and early 60s, classmates weren’t allowed to come and play with me and I was never invited to their homes to play either.

Consequently, I spent lots of time in my father’s studio, which was another flat across the roof and one floor up from where we lived. It was some consolation and compensation for the lack of peers to engage with. I engaged instead with colour and form, and watched art being created. What I could imagine in my mind I could at least attempt to manifest with my hands. I did my first wood block print at age five. I soaked up creative energy like a sponge, but not the energies of land and earth and I had never see the sea at an age I could remember it.

Yes, there were two parks in the town. There were the occasional adventure walk with my father and year younger brother. But I lived pretty much an indoor life, most time outdoors spent walking to school and we also walked home for lunch. Always in a hurry, never really any time to look at things. The most engagement I had with nature was squeezing ‘gushy berries’, as I called yew berries, between my fingers.

I read the dictionary from the time I was nine or ten. It was my favourite book.

I missed school in the summer holidays, which were pretty much two and a half months long.

I never really accommodated myself to the season of heavy shade and oppressive humidity and with my severe mosquito allergy, well . . .

I never lived where crops were grown, except when visiting my mother’s people in Iowa, which we did every couple of years, my mother, brother and I. In Iowa it was maize, acres and acres of it ripening in the July sun. I remember the air conditioner in my Aunt Alberta’s beauty salon and the smell. It was icy in there and a relief from the worst of the heat. She and Uncle Fletcher lived in a rambling two storey house with a full basement and wrap around porch. There was a cherry tree one the side and rhubarb that I used to eat raw with salt. I can still see and smell it all clearly.

But, summer never felt right to me, an alien season. Summer is the season about the land and its productivity. I never had any real sense of that driving by or seeing it slip past outside the window of the Zephyr heading west from Chicago on the way to Iowa. I was an observer of the land and the landscape. I was never a participant in its energies. I never heard it call to me. Never was invited to meet its guardians, those I now understand to be the ancestors. And certainly had no notion of the gods.

When I was older and I lived in different places and had gardens to be in I tried hard to connect. I still was not able to do so. And, of course, summer was the hardest. Still plagued by reactions to mosquito bites and not keen on sunshine, finding its glare hard to take, summer was still not my best time of year.

Only since I’ve been living in the UK, nearly thirteen years now, have I been able to come to terms with summer and its excesses, as I always saw them. Here the summers are not as predictable as where I lived in the US. It can be hot and dry one year and the next chilly and sodden. And, I’ve not lived in a city. I lived on an Orcadian island, and in Devon and Somerset, where I still live, visited parts of Wales and spent time in the Highlands of Scotland and the far end of Cornwall. Always close to the land. Always welcomed by the ancestors. Always aware that the gods here are my gods.

With a flourish

Yesterday I spent all day with my calligraphy group at a workshop. We were doing revision of the Italic hand and then learning how to add flourishes — those lovely squiggly bits that can dance and sweep across a page of calligraphic work.

The tutor was wonderful, skilled and affirming of our efforts, but also gently critical when we didn’t quite get it. I was surprised to find that I did as well as I did with the basic exercises, doing the basic shapes and forming letters that looked pretty good, most of the time.  After lunch we got down to what was supposed to be the fun bit . . . adding the flourish to letters.

I found that I had a harder time with that part. I found I was way to tight and tense to let my hand go. We were told never to look at the pen as we were flourishing but rather where we were heading and we would get there.

An interesting lesson if applied to life, that latter bit. I have been struggling not only to focus on where I’m going, always looking ahead. Of course that I am aware of patterns and shapes in the yet to be means I can never fully live in the now, am not able only to  be focused on the here is where I am, not up/over there where I seem to be heading. It brought the paradox of when I am and where I am at any given moment into my thinking from a different angle and perspective. At the very least it provided visual evidence that the journey, whether launching out into an unknown with a goal or starting from some distant place and finding one’s way to where there is a anchor, a stable place, is not going to be straightforward and would be of no interest if it didn’t have twists and detours, and cross back over itself on the way.

I hesitated to use the word time directly above: ‘when I am . . . at any given moment.’  Time something I am working to understand and come to terms with, and thus is a rather slippery concept presently — see, you can’t escape referencing some framework of it — time I mean . . .

So I will pull back from that and let the contradiction and paradox speak for themselves and move back to the part about having a hard time — bother, there is again . . . pesky and trouble making! I had difficulty allowing myself the freedom of movement that would let the flourishes happen. I thought about this a great deal, even as I was struggling with a nib that grabbed the paper because the edges were too sharp (the tutor kindly gave me a scrap of 120 wet/dry sandpaper to take care of that and let me keep it) so they did not allow the pen to glide into the curves. After the pen stopped stalling at the curves I began to get the sense of the flow of movement. But still found it challenging to not hold too tightly, to allow the energy that wanted to dance on the paper permission to do so.

I have been working with the tree energies that are most present to, with and, in some sense, within me, two of which are Birch and Willow. Both of them dance gracefully in the breeze, they move with elegance and beauty. I do not dance. I’ve always found it far too . . . golly I can’t even grasp a word . . . uncomfortable will have to suffice here. I have never considered that I moved with much elegance, and beauty is not something one can ascribe to oneself. But those two trees are now much closer to me, more in communion with me so all of that may change — the dancing, graceful and elegant movement part, which I admit scares me a little, what that might mean for me and how I relate to the world and all the other beings with whom I share my journey .

All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was tiring, but that was from the amount of concentration it took to learn something new, and to meet head on the resistance, the internal brakes, the exercise pushed me to confront and acknowledge I wanted to overcome. The lessons of the day had much farther reaching implications for me that the eventual ability, with practise, to produce a decent piece of calligraphy with frilly bits. It had to do with all of how I perceive myself in relation to the how I move through the outer and inner worlds, of how I choose to present myself — flexible or rigid, more easy going and less uptight/tense, more open and less inhibited. These will have significant ramifications for me. If I am to take the lessons and gifts of Birch and Willow, in their purely physical demeanor or presence, I bracket here their deeper and more profound lessons that I am also working with, then I will have to allow myself the permission to let go a bit . . . all right then, let go rather a lot, gently remove the catchy edges, and begin to let the Awen move in a different, less constrained way through my being and allow it the freedom to reshape my becoming.

Of course there are also the other meanings of flourish, having to do with thriving, luxuriant grow/profusion, being in a state of production, and prospering. These are also relevant in the broader and deeper implications of the lessons from the workshop. For, as I reflect upon the result of allowing myself to show forth more to the physical attributes of Willow and Birch, I will live a fuller, richer life. I will thrive in my environment, I will create more as the Awen flows more readily and I do not resist its gift of inspiration and demands to fulfill my creative potential.

That’s a lot for a workshop billed as ‘Italic Revision with a Capital Flourish,’ and just goes to show you never know what lessons and learning lurk all innocently veiled in some experience completely different in its expected intention.

 

 

The White Spider

First of all I want to aplogise to any of my readers or followers who suffer from arachnophobia — of course if that were the case I doubt you would be reading on in any event. I take the risk of lowering my look in stats as well! But, it’s only just this once, really, and the photos are at the end, if that makes any difference. Ah, no . . . well,  then I hope you will read the next post.

Since I will be busy the next several days and may not have time to do another post before the end of the weekend, and I wanted to share my reflections about this amazing creature who has been living in one of my columbines, right outside my front door, for most of the week — well, I just noticed ‘her’ this week.

Don’t get me wrong I am not an arachnophile, I am pretty much arachnid neutral. If there is one in the house I catch it and re-home it outside. I do not court their presence. And, unless of course they are of the gianormous wolf-spider variety when do get a bit twitchy, will calmly do what needs to be done for all of us to live happily ever after. If it is a great big one I grit my teeth and get on with it. I never kill one.

For the record I found Shelob and Aragog to be completely revolting to look at, so for the most part I didn’t after acknowledging briefly the skills of the CG artists who created them.

I find this particular specimen to be quite compelling. I have seen lots of brown spiders. I have even once seen a black widow, its red hourglass marking reminding that should it bite your time is up.

To be honest I did not even see her until I was taking a photograph of the flower she was living in/on and picked her up in macro mode. I was instantly taken by her.  Her beauty. Her delicacy. Her sense of presence. I felt some sort of connection to her, with her. I have always felt good about having a Guard Spider, as I call them, spinning a web near my front door. It feels like there is a watcher there. I have not seen any sign of her web. I don’t know what kind of spider she is, what her proper scientific name is, and it doesn’t matter. She is White Spider to me and that seems to be fine with her when I speak to her each time I’ve left and returned home this week.

I am concerned as her flower is beginning to fade and pull back into the next part of its journey. It has been rainy today and I admit I have not looked to see if she is still there, though I will when I finish writing this.

What she has caused me to do is to think about how we let fear rule us. Fear can be justified as a rational response to a particular situation and totally irrational at the same time. That paradox doesn’t make the fear any less real, nor the often visceral response to the trigger an easier to overcome or assess. Fear can be a warning not to do something or go into a certain situation — it is well to listen to those. I have experienced that kind of fear and had my own fears of the other sort. I know whereof I speak.

Whilst I’m not afraid of White Spider, there are those I know who would be, people I love and care about who would not even engage the notion that she could be possessed of a beauty because her very form is found to be revolting, dredges up terrible childhood memories or just is something unidentifiable about her that is squeamish making.  It occurs to me as I write this that fear in some ways is not unlike prejudice, in fact the former often feeds the latter. Both fear and prejudice diminish our opportunities for engaging with the world around us and those with whom we share it – spiders . . . immigrants. . . .

I guess I say some of these things to remind myself as much as anyone else that fear is limiting.  I am/have been struggling with certain things that I have been afraid of and the journey to overcome them has not been easy. But, as I move away from the place in myself of fear into the not-fear place I can say the journey has been and continues to be worth the effort, the pain and the struggle. It isn’t just one time thing. I know I will have to remain vigilant. However, the rewards of the new way of being me and perceiving my reality are so amazing I know I can’t return to the fearful me. I missed so much. There so much more I won’t have to miss in the future.

Here are some photos of her, and you can see why I might have missed her without the camera lens:

White Spider 1 White Spider 2 White Spider 3 White Spider 4

Lessons from my clocks

I seem to be having challenges with clocks at the moment. There are three here: a striking clock; a chiming clock; and a cuckoo clock. The first two reside in the living room and the third in the upstairs hall.

The sound of the striking clock feels like the heartbeat of the house, and its voice when it calls out the half hours and hours is deep and resonant. The chiming clock ticks to a different rhythm, which in turn is different from that of the cuckoo clock. They each have a different voice, a different way of singing the hours, quarters and halves.

I said before they are challenging me now, the chiming clock on the mantle in particular. Several months ago when resetting it after it wound down I did something. First of all I could not get it to speak for several days. When I finally did it did not speak the correct time. It is hours ahead of itself, ranging from four to eight, of course it could possibly be argued it is behind itself, but that is way too hard to get my head around.

Suffice it to say, it does not keep anything like accurate time, but I did manage to get it to communicate. I was very careful not to let it run all the way down and I never wound it to much. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Purfling, one of the cats choose not to listen to me when I asked her not to make a dash from the back of the chair, over the top of the  upright piano, and across the mantle piece to the front window. My mantle has lots of things on it, at the time my birthday cards were still there, besides the usual residents of the chiming clock in the middle, a candlestick on each side and various bits of rock, stick and the a vase with a rose bud from the bush at the front door sitting between the clock and the left hand candle stick. To her credit Purfling did not move any of the bits, but did jump on the top of the clock. It stopped.

Since the I have not been able to get it to go again. I keep trying the way I was told to do that, which was tipping it to one side. It will tick a bit and then not.

Last night when I came home from a meeting both the striking clock and the cuckoo clock had also run down. No problem with the former, but the latter took several tries before I finally kept going just before I turned in.

Why am I saying all this?

In some profound sense, time is not real – not in the way a radish is real or an okapi is real – but it is has always been important for humans to mark it’s passing, to keep track of it. There have been calendars for millennia, and clocks and watches for centuries. Religions from nearly the beginning of religious awareness have needed to know how to predict the phases of the moon, the circuiting of the sun, particular parts of the day.

We are dependent on knowing when we are. It is as important as knowing where we are. It occurred to me, just this minute, to wonder why watches are called watches. It is something I will have to investigate – but I digress.

To my thinking, the challenge of time runs even deeper than all that, it goes to the heart of our need to orientate ourselves to something far bigger than we are, far more mysterious. Having marked a birthday recently, and thinking back to when I was much younger and remembering that back then I could not even begin to comprehend myself at the age I am now, has perhaps ignited this reflection.

How we spend our time is important. And to use those words as if time is some sort of currency says a great deal. Like pounds and pence we can waste it or invest it in someone worthy or something worthwhile. What we can’t do is bank it for later, as we can money. There is no such thing as a time ISA.  It is a currency whose value, more like a voucher or coupon, has an expiration date. We do not know when that is, but that being the case is not in question.

We are told to take time out for ourselves. Does that mean finding a way to step out of  The Ongoing Flow of Being? I can’t imagine how I’d take time out for a walk or on a date. Is it possible to take time, to grasp it? Too often it seems we try. We cover up wrinkles. We hide the signs of age and aging. We engage in activities that are not always appropriate for where we are on our life journey. We all to often pretend that being a year old doesn’t really matter all that much. Paradoxically, though time is not material, it invades every aspect of our materiality, for the part of us that is matter, it matters.

So, I think the clocks are giving me a message more important than what hour it is, or reminding me of when I have to be somewhere. That they are being fiddly is reminding me to be more mindful of how I use my time, not to let it just slip though my fingers like the sands of an hourglass. Not to obsess about it, but to be careful, pay attention, be attentive. To do something each day for someone else, and by someone I do not mean it has to be a person. To express gratitude and love. To find joy in the small things, no less and even more so than in the big ones. To smell the lilacs and roses. To listen to the birds. To let the wind blow through and tangle my hair. To greet the stars at night. To feel the rain on my face . . . you get the idea.

They remind me that what I understand as time is linked inextricably to the yet, as surely as to the now and to the then, to the future as much as to the present and the past, regardless of how I may understand those concepts on any given day.