The Third Fall

When I wrote ‘The Fall. THE FALL and the Apple’, I only thought of two Falls that were part of my personal story.

There is another, however, one which I have only been introduced to since living in the UK. One I witnessed yesterday, and only the third time in such a spectacular fashion. But this time there was a difference, for in the middle of the experience I connected it to the other two Falls, and it too was connected to apples for it occurred within the mysterious realm of Avalon, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

This third Fall is that which occurs at the end of a Starling Murmuration sequence.

We were at RSPB Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. I had spent the day indoors at a meeting nearby whilst my partner explored the reserve, and he brought me there after he picked me up to share what he had discovered. During the day it had gone from sunny and bright to overcast and windy, eventually adding mizzle to the mix.

We walked down to the big hide and back in a cold wind, waiting for the Starlings to come in for the night. I had seen the murmuration there before, from a distance, with a friend who works for the RSPB, a couple of years ago. I had also seen it when out on the Levels many years ago, also from quite a distance the big sky the sky dancers stage. My partner had never had the experience, seen the display.

At the time posted on the notice board at the RSPB building on site, the Starlings began to arrive. Last evening was different from the previous times I had seen the massed dance, from a distance. I had heard the beating of hundreds of wings swooping over my head. I had watched them turn and swirl and wheel, seen masses of starlings blacken part of the sky and then open up into a loose mass. This time was different.

What I had never seen up close was want happens when the aerobatic display ends: what happens after The Fall.

The Starlings rise and drop several times on the way to the reedbed to roost, but the final act in the aerial ballet, The Fall, I had not witnessed up close. The reedbed was swarming with Starlings. Literally thousands and thousands of them. This sort of display only happens in late Autumn and Winter.

There are no adequate words to describe the spectacle. The entire reedbed roiled and quivered, the chittering was incessant, the sound of the thousands of pairs of wings continued to beat as the mass settled for the night, which took time; it was not a rushed settling in, settling down. Some of the birds stopped to take a bath or have a drink. The reedbed was thick and dark with Starlings as small groups continued to move back and forth. Even when it appeared the space could hold no more, overhead another huge group would arrive from behind us churning and whirling, and then another from the right, over the trees. Fall after Fall after Fall. More and more Starlings arriving.

I could feel the intensity of whatever drove these amazing birds to seek the place of their night’s roosting, the place they would shelter for the night. I wondered who choose the site for the night, of all the various reedbeds on the Levels, wondered why they all came to the one in front of us at Ham Wall. I wondered how they all knew when the gathering was taking place. I was curious how come there were always a few stragglers who came in at the very last. I wondered how they got separated from their group. I wondered if a raptor got to any who were late and not part of the massed sky dance.

So many questions. And, I suppose I could find some of the reasons behind this behaviour; for now, however, I am content not to have the answers. The mystery is fine, essential still. The mystery is part of the magic of experience.

I would love to see the morning rising, and am sure I will manage to do so one day. In the meantime I am left to ponder this Fall, the third Fall, its deeper meaning and its lessons.

Leaves fall from trees in the Autumn. Sap rises in the Spring after the trees Winter rest bringing trees back to life, reawakened. Starlings fall from the sky into the reedbeds to rest for the night. In the morning they awaken and rise to begin their daily cycle again.

Mystery. Wonder. Connection. Awe.

For all the words I have written here, I was speechless last evening. Clearly, to me, the marker of a deep and profound spiritual experience.

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Reunion

Near enough to twenty years
since last we saw the other,
first sighted in the shadow
of old Salisbury Cathedral’s
twisted spire with a chill breeze
yanking the flowers
from a short row of horse chestnuts,
extinguishing their candles
under a grey clouded sky,
arms flung out as suitcase dropped
a long-holding hug and whispered tears
melting away time
retracting distance
renewing connection.

Sitting in the cloister
introductions made between
her and my new partner,
three cups of different teas,
mint, hibiscus, camomile,
and then he excused himself
leaving us to reminisce,
indulging in nostalgia
washing between us like tides,
revealing in our sharing
the good days and the dark times
we have each lived
in places far from where we met.

Time stood still,
distance evaporated
stories merged
interests twined,
whilst we sat together,
speaking punctuated
by shared tears and laughter,
hands reaching out to comfort
and affirm deep connections
yet exist between us,
stronger today than we had before.

Alas, our brief time together
came to a close marked by
the striking of the Cathedral’s bells,
and walking to the place of our parting,
we both knew that what we had
will remain and what we have now
will continue to grow
as yet more years tumble behind us,
for our reunion revealed
a deep abiding friendship,
neither of us will leave behind.

Elen of My Way

As I recently blogged I am now traveling with Elen, or perhaps have acknowledged that She has been traveling with me for nearly five decades.

For many years I have had a connection to Brighid, not the least since one of the names on my parents’ short list for me was Brigit. When I began to walk my Druidic path I approached Brighid to see if we might have some sort of relationship. Having Welsh and Irish ancestry She became an important link. As a result, I have been engaged and working with Her for the longest of any of the goddesses of my panthean (yes, the spelling is intentional from thea the Greek word for goddess).

Another of the goddesses I have a relationship with is Nemetona. Not surprising really, since my space is Important to me and is also sacred. With her guardianship of the sacred grove and by extension the sacred space I live in and that is in me. When I leave and enter the house I affirm three things: Nemetona bides here. Badger wards here. Awen flows here. I picture a triskele as I say this and it affirms the presence and protection around me and my home. Again, I invited Nemetona into my life.

Cerridwen is the member of my panthean whom I invoke as I begin an important project. Quite literally I do this sitting before my cauldron. I place the notes, jottings of ideas, or just the name of the project into the cauldron and meditate on where I wish to go with it, or ask that it take me where it wants to go.

The fourth presence with me now, and I did not invite Her, but given my age She just showed up and said: ‘I’m here, and you are going to have a relationship with me’. Who was I to argue? A presence not to be messed with. A presence of force and wisdom. The Cailleach.

And now Elen. Unlike the Cailleach, Elen did not just plonk down in my life, She hunted and haunted me for all those years. She sought me out. After many years since beginning my journey to find my true spiritual home, my real soulscape, it came at last to turning and facing one whom I can no longer deny or ignore. I have been reminded and nudged that there are certain things I must do. Activities, creative works and workings, that I must engage in or my body will pay the price. Well, now it is paying the price, and the only way to change that is to engage faithfully, and fully with those activities I have been told and shown that I must. The goddesses have been patient, well one goddess has been patient, but They/She are no any longer willing to wait. I have been confronted. I have been challenged. I have been called. I can no longer pretend that I have not been.

Now that Elen has made her presence felt in a way that is unmistakable, in a manner that is unavoidable, I have to turn and face what I have so far managed to duck away from, the full understanding of what I must do and how I must do it. And I must do this in a way that is rigorous, disciplined and radical. Radical in the sense of fundamental, not necessarily outrageous, although I can’t say for sure it won’t seem so to others.

In my original About page, I said I worked shamanically, but changed the wording at one point, because I was not a shaman. The word not being that of my ancestral lineage. It was a borrowed word and concept that, in my opinion, has become well recognised and too well and easily used in the past twenty years. Besides this, I couldn’t really use the term then in good faith because I was a casual traveler, using the methods and techniques to put me in touch with the source of creativity for me. Now I am called to be more than that. I am called to work in ways that are ways my ancestors in these islands worked, both Welsh and Irish. My religion is Druidry, but my vocational path has a different name – a name I have flirted with, but not been able or willing to commit to until now: Awenydd, to become a Awenyddion. At some point, I may have thought I was ready and may have said so, but I now know that was not the case. Now, in turning to embrace the reality and persistent presence of Elen, by beginning to work seriously with Her, I can take the steps to making an open eyed, open hearted, open souled commitment to follow Her where She will lead me as I follow Her trods.

I am still adjusting to all of this. As I am becoming more open, as the barriers I built over the past decade and a half are crumbling and disappearing. Day by day I am more and more able to sense and feel the world around me. I can sense and see energies better. I can hear again behind the words, and see beyond the projections. I can feel what rests more deeply beneath the surfaces of things and events. This is not always comfortable, and in some instances downright unpleasant. But it is the way I am learning to live.

There are consolations as well as challenges. There are delights no less than dangers on the Way of Elen as I experience Her. She showed extraordinary patience no less than persistence, and I honour that now by following Her leading. Her way now frames all the other relationships I have with the other goddesses to whom I turn and who uphold and companion me on my journey. And, it feels right. In saying so I am admitting there has been something subtle and essential missing in these relationships: The Context. The Matrix. The Shaping.

That is now present, though I do not fully comprehend and apprehend the nuances of this context shaping matrix, I know it’s there and and I accept the unfolding mystery it presents. As such, I have reason to give thanks. More reason than ever before to move onward in gentleness and genuine humility.

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.