Paused at the Edge of the River Flowing

On 2nd December 1982, I wrote a sequence of poems to mark the successful completion of a course of counselling to get over writer’s block. I had worked with a wonderful counselor who taught me to journey, though I’m not sure it was called that, and begin to engage my inner landscape/mindscape/soulscape. I can still go to the places I discovered with his guidance, still see and feel them in my being when I choose to do so.

The sequence of poems became a book I published two years ago: Paused at the Edge of the River, Waiting. Only since last week has that book gained a much fuller, deeper context for me. I have a new relationship with the words I wrote so many years ago. Words written by a me of several lifetimes ago, or so it feels. I used imagery that I really understand now.

And here is how I know this is the so . . .

Last week I spent a day in Langport, on the Somerset Levels, to engage the River Parrett. It is a river I’ve known since the Autumn of 2000. I have visited it and walked its banks in the company of another who has stepped out of my life, leaving pain and sorrow in his wake. At some point over this past Summer, however, I knew that the Parrett was my Muse. It is possible to reach a bit of it by walking out of the village where I live, but it is not a familiar part, and I really am not sure of the footpaths. Not yet.

Somehow, I knew that for my first real engagement with the Parrett it would have to be in and outside of Langport and on the way to Muchelney, parts of the Parrett I know. Well, last week I felt the time was right so I took two buses and spent £14.40 I didn’t really have to make the journey – the pilgrimage to meet my the River as my Muse for the first time.

The day was perfect, not too hot or chilly, sunny with clouds and a day there weren’t many people on the River. When I got there first, I walked out onto one of the little platforms standing over the River to look down into it.
Lgpt walk on
Then I ate the lunch I had packed sitting on one of the benches near the riverbank gazing into its flow.
River runs deep

After eating I walked out of Langport towards Muchelney. Being in no hurry I took my time, camera in hand as well as my notebook. I juggled recording visual and impressionary images to return to and ponder later. I walked with and through and past Willows that were alive with the calls of Willow Warblers and Long Tailed Tits. There was a Moorhen on the water skirting the edges of the bank. And Dragonflies, the whole path seemed to have become a dancing ground for them, their handsome red bodies shining in the Autumn sun.
Dragonfly

One had gotten too close to the water’s surface and was unable to get out and I had no way to rescue him. I could feel his terror and fear, flailing his wings trying to escape the River’s grasp. I sensed him getting tired and finally his resignation to his fate, a fish would come along at some point and take him. I sent my thoughts for a crossing to his Ancestral Dancing Ground that would mean he’d celebrate soon with his Dragoncestors, including the giant prehistoric ones.

I walked on and saw a Kingfisher hovering like a Kestrel and plonking into the River, again and again. When I looked at the not too well focused photo at home it turned out there were two of them on the far embankment.
Kingfishers

Just beyond the Kingfishers I paused at a place that held deep memories of time spent with the man who had stepped out of my life. Memories of sublime joy and affirmation, as well as ones of shard sharp sorrow. I paused and allowed the hurtful memories to be released, but there seemed no point banishing those that taught me about the joy my body could experience.
Puddle 1
The Willows who witnessed my joy also stood witness to this act of letting go. So, the hurt is gone, dropped into a puddle that will dry away and take the memories of pain with it. The memories of joy join the flow of the River, the Awen and Life. These are available now in the vast reservoir of experience to tap into when creation requires it.
Puddle 2

I walked farther on but did not get all the way to Muchelney, as I didn’t want to walk with the beasts in the fields. I got to where I got a clear look at the church there and that was fine for this visit.
Muchelney
So, turning around I ambled back.

Deep and magical encounters with River continued,
Reeds and flow
and those with the Willows followed.
Three Willows
I love Willows and have done for as long as I can remember, long before I knew they were my birth tree.

Then there was the Apple Tree. She is an old tree, or at least I sensed her thus. She is not whole, but bears a hole in a part of her that is broken off.
Apple 3Apple 2 Apple 4
Lichen covered she is wise. Still bearing fruit, she gave me an apple and told me that I must come and take some of her Mistletoe for Yule. I felt comfort in her presence and a connection of spirits, hers to mine and mine to hers.

I encountered a corvid who companions me. Corvid 1
As well as signs of the Mole People who guard my steps when I request their presence.
Mole hills

Taking a slightly different path, off the main track, for the last bit of the way into the village, I came upon, under more Willows, a swathe of tiny mushrooms.
Peedie mushrooms
I took a photo with my pen to show the scale. Peedie mushrooms.2 JPG
They were a wonder, though I didn’t know how much so until I pulled the close-up I took onto my computer.
IMG_4073
There were also some scary grey-black ones. A wonder, too, though in a different way. scary mushrooms

Back where I started I felt refreshed and renewed. Where it began

I had engaged the River Parrett as my River, my Muse. I claimed the space as sacred for and to me, in my life going forward. It is no longer shackled to memories that hurt my heart or stab my soul. I am free to know the Parrett as a manifestation, a riverfestation of the Awen.

I am building new memories. I am enjoying new experiences. I continue to learn about myself, my place and my purpose.

No longer am I paused at the edge of the river, waiting. Not even am I paused at the river flowing. There isn’t any more an edge at which to pause. I am part of the River. Part of the Flow. Part of the Awen that connects me to my Muse. Connects me to everything of wonder and mystery. life and being, creation and creativity.

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Beyond the Day of Balance

Yesterday was an amazing day, the beginning of which I wrote about and posted in the morning.

It was of course followed by the rest of the day . . .

A day marked by intensity and contrasts, of emotions and reactions. I felt myself open, or being opened to a far deeper experience of the world around me, particularly the natural world. The terrain of my gods, those of this land and its memory. The landscape of my ancestors here and their wisdom. The spirits of the land upon which I live and who share with and sustain me as engage them walking  the fields and the footpaths near my home.

The opening up further, sensing more deeply, apprehending more fully came as a bit of a shock. I heard more that would be unuttered but for the the rustling Maize Maidens in the wind, the beating of the bird’s wing, the whistling of the breeze through the corvid feathers in my hat (that sometimes I mistake for the buzzing of bees). The longings of the small ones to be safe; the worry of the badgers, tucked in their setts along the path I walk, for their kin in the midst of the cull; and the relief of the apple boughs released from the burden of the fruit bending them nearly to breaking.

The happiness my cats feel at the demise of the fleas that have tormented them and me for too much of the summer, is palpable in the cottage. Their purrs are freer and more freely given as they stretched out in the morning sunshine in the middle of the floor in the same room within touching distance of each other. This I rejoiced to sense and to hear – their gratitude.

I looked at the various writing projects that have stacked up for far too long. Projects I could not face. Did not know where to start engaging. I looked at the stories and the worlds renewed before me. The characters, whose names I have heard for so long, reached out to me from the pages both typed and handwritten. I was able to renew the relationships, friendships with these individuals who have trusted me for so long to share their lives in story, history, poetry and song. Again, profound gratitude and a sense of responsibility — trusts remaining unbetrayed, and promises made, yet unfulfilled. I hope they wait in an orderly queue.

I am ready, with the experiences of yesterday, to embrace the disciple to fulfill those promises and keep faith with the trusts granted me. And for me to write more poetry, and share my insights in case there is meaning in my words not only for me, but for you who read them.

I feel still as if either I have burst some inhibiting bonds, or they have been shattered for me. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do with this newly found and new felt freedom. It is the time to do, more than to be. For me being, in the sense of the opposite of doing, is not a good place for me to stay. It is stagnating. I need The Awen to flow,  and more importantly, for me to flow with and be immersed in it. I can no longer just watch it go past, or ride it but to no creative result. The flow has certainly burst its banks. I have engaged The Awen and pledged myself to its work for me, but until yesterday I was somehow constrained in the fulfillment of my pledge, unable to work constructively with the energy. Even though I knew and know it is the energy that is at the centre of my life, the core of my being and the shaper of my soul.

I don’t really have any idea what happened in the intervening months, but they are then and this is now and yet beckons me onward. I am sure there were some lessons I had to learn, and I sincerely hope I have learned them and have, in ways I do not comprehend, assimilated them into my life to help carry me onward.

Beyond the Day of Balance is living with the full awareness that whilst balance allows renewal, it is not a place to create from or in, but a place to go where insight flares demanding acknowledgement, then from the few hours of refuge to begin once more the journeying forth into the next adventures and even more meaning.

The Badger’s Gift

Last weekend I happened upon a dead badger on the sidewalk around the corner from where I live. S/he had been hit on Friday night or early Saturday morning.

It was very upsetting to see this sight. I reported it to the Badger Trust, who log such incidents to help keep track of badgers and see if there are patterns around deaths, and the to Council for removal.

Several people walked by and were trying hard to ignore the body.

I spent time with the body, I allowed myself to marvel at the front claws so perfect for digging and the so sharp compared to the well worn back ones.

I studied the fur, appreciating the texture and colours.

After a while I sensed that the spirit/energy had not left the Badger. So, I spent time helping him/her let go and return to the Feasting Sett of the Badgercestors. I was given a name to refer to this badger – Baskin. After a brief visit to the Badgercestoral Sett, Baskin returned to me. This is not unusual. Other creatures have done this when I helped them let go and I needed their aid for some purpose.

Since I am looking for a new place to live, it was clear Baskin would remain and help me locate my new sett, as it were. I was humbled by this act of generosity and presence. Baskin now walks with me everywhere at little ahead on the right side, about 2 o’clock. It is a comforting presence to me.

Fast forward six days. Today was not a good day starting out. I have not been sleeping well worrying about the enforced move upcoming due to the landlord selling up, still looking for a job, and taking a course to help me be more employable since my university degrees are of no use to me in that regard.

I went out for a walk out of the village and made my way to the stream. The sun was glinting on the water at the bridge.


The clear ringing message to me was: You cannot capture the dance of the flow any more that you can hold the sound of the musics. Then I went to the gate into the field where I saw the young deer last spring. I called on the gods and ancestors, and the spirits of the land in the place where I live. I asked Nemetona to assist me as well in finding the safety of a new sanctuary. Baskin was there just the other side of the gate, looking up with affection and approval. Badger companions have at times been rather harsh with me when I needed that, apparently now I need gentleness.

As I turned to walk up the drive to where the Tall Oak stands I looked down and saw

My heart rose and I laughed with joy. . . A Badger Stone, a wee Brock Rock on the cement drive over a metre from all the stones of the rest of the drive.

Thousands of them and this one made its way to the crest of the bridge. I picked it up and sang my gratitude for the gift of encouragement.

From there I walked to the Tall Oak and around the path along its other side. After I had taken a few photos of the newly budding and blooming Gorse, my phone rang. It was from the HR department of a business I applied to on 8th December! I’d been short listed for an interview to be held on Monday. Because of the experience of finding the Badger Stone, I was feeling happy and positive and sounded it on the phone. The job would make enough money to live on and have a life. I don’t know how the interview will turn out, but it is the first one I’ve had in months. And at a time I really need one. It seems more than just an accident in the timing.

I have done other things to alter my perceptions of things and let go of past hurts, this has also cleared the way for new opportunities.

But I also feel much gratitude for Baskin, who although s/he is physically gone, has left an imprint on my soul and awareness as s/he continues to walk this part of my journey with me.

The arrival of the Badger Stone also encourages me to face the future, in trust and in the full awareness I am never alone. Badger is a powerful presence for me and has been for many years since I arrived in the UK. These events just strengthen my links with Badger and help give me the determination to move forward.

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.