Ancestors

A couple of days ago I finished reading Tom Holland’s Millennium. I had many reactions to his book. Although I read Mediaeval History and Literature at university, I was not as familiar with the timeframe he was dealing with, having spent most of my time in the 12th century, and Millennium deals with the end of the 10th through most of the 11th centuries.

What struck me most, besides the appalling behaviour of both Christians and Muslims in the time covered by Holland’s book was the fact that I am here at all.

As a Druid, I look to the ancestors for inspiration and guidance, and honour them in ritual and meditation. What hit me as I read about the battles, and sieges, and the battles, and more battles, is how amazing it is that I am alive. It meant that none of my ancestors, in a direct genetic line to me, was killed in any of the serious bloodletting that swept across Europe. I meant that none of my ancestors, in direct genetic line to me, retreated to a monastery. Neither of these at least until they had passed on their genes to another generation.

Looking beyond the turbulent century around the first millennium of the Common Era, it also meant that none of my ancestors died of plague, disease, or in childbirth, and if the latter only after my next ancestor was born. Similarly, none died from making pilgrimages. They did not die by drowning or fire, from being on the wrong side in the burning frenzies that marked the actions of and reactions to Inquisition or the Protestant Reformation several centuries later.

I am here because none of my direct ancestors died in the War of American Independence, or Civil Wars in either England or America before they had fathered or mothered the child who stands behind me. Nor did they die in the killing fields of France in WWI, though it was a close-run thing in WWII. My father being spared the horror of the Battle of the Bulge because his CO faked his papers, saying he had a fever. He did this because he felt my father was more valuable to the war effort designing recreation rooms from Quonset huts, which helped morale, than as a fighter on the front line.

That any of us are here is because, though we may have had ancestors who succumbed to TB in the slums of English cities in the Industrial Revolution or died in the mines or mills, they did so after the next generation of our ancestors was already alive. Ditto the Black Death and its numerous recurrences over the centuries.

Realising this, all of this, makes me more respectful of those whose genes I carry, though I have not passed them on to another generation. I am not an ancestor of the future, except tangentially, but since I am not in contact with my cousins I will join the generic gathering of ancestors who belong to everyone and no one in particular.

That does not make me sad or feel any regret, for it was a conscious choice. What it does make me more aware of the burden those who came before me carried for millennia upon millennia, and whose lives and genes make me, were never aware of. In that awareness then is a special kind of honouring. Honouring by awareness is just as valuable as honouring by action, action in this case being the physical passing on of genetic information.

I am humbled with gratitude. I am humbled by the amazing quirks of fate and faith that brought me to the place I am, to the knowing I have of who came before me. I do not know many of the names, but I know about the world they lived in and the dangers the faced from reading history; I know the sorrows they endured from love and loss because I have read literature. I thank them each. I thank them all.

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Pivot Points

This week I’ve been pondering the pivot points in my life. You know the ones where you went somewhere, did something or met someone who changed the course of your life.

That’s what I’ve been doing. I looked back not only to my actions, but to others, to decisions my parents made about what to name me, where to live or go to church. If I think about who or what I might have been or been doing now had any of these events not occurred or choices made I see a very different me. For all I know there are those other mes out there in some parallel reality right now living those other lives, but not they are not the me sitting here writing this blog.

Now and again I ponder the one about the other names I might have had, and it might also help to know that I changed my name on the Autumnal Equinox in 1977. Changed the lot, all three names. What I am sure of is that had my name remained that which was given me at birth and affirmed at my baptism I would not be sitting here in the UK living the life I am now.

What triggered all this reflection on pivot points is remembering my first wedding day on 26th May 1974. The man I married that day eventually, after 25 years, divorced me and seven years later died. But I was thinking more of all the steps that led me to the altar that day and whether some pivots are stronger in effect than others. What such pondering does for me is put pay to the idea of life as a linear progression. My view is of a spiral, but even that is far from a simple image when looking at radical, life altering pivotal moments.

I thought of all the people, friends and family, lost to me over the years through death and relocation. There have been many, many losses and many, many relocations over the years. It is poignant to think back on them, who though not thought of often bring a smile to my face and tear to my eye, even today. The experience of our lives, using mine as an example, is a story with gentle curved turns and sometimes sharp angular twists. None of them foreseen, each of them fundamental to who we are and how we become that person.

The trajectory of an individual’s life as it is lived everyday contains small points of possible change, a decision to go somewhere may mean a meeting someone who upends everything and every plan hard thought out over years of patient endeavour. Going to certain place on a whim may mean finding one’s soul home and the ramifications that causes not only to oneself, but everyone else in one’s circle of connection, human and non-human.

What I ended up doing as I thought of the people and places, the names and faces of the people was to say thank you to them. To silently express gratitude for the part they have played in my life, into enabling me to be who I am, and where I am. Although some of those pivoting times were excruciatingly painful, yet were it not for them I would be someone else, somewhere else. Not necessarily in a worse place, though there are aspects of that, but in a very different reality, leading a very different life. The life I live now is mine and I embrace it with joy and gratitude, for though I can imagine others, this is the one in which I am invested in making the best and fullest that I am able.

So, as I whisper all those names and places here and now, I say again: Thank you ________ the time we shared together in the making of me.

Now I’m Sixty-four

Well, I have been reflecting about being 64 today. I have been ranging back over birthdays past. I have been amazed at how different my life really is now from when I fleeting pondered this age in my twenties and thirties.

I would never have imagined I’d that two husbands would have divorced me. It was inconceivable that I would be living in a country different from that of my birth. To be a vegan was certainly a completely alien notion, even in my California days, although for eight years I was a vegetarian there. None of the assumptions I made about my future in those years is what I am currently living. Those assumptions were much, much narrower and more parochial.

Certainly, in my twenties I never imagined I’d have gone to university (late thirties into my forties) let alone do as well as I did, which was astonishingly well considering my background. In my thirties, I did not entertain the thought that once I plotted a path of vocation that it would not manifest, let alone that I would completely alter my spiritual path and embrace a pagan one.

One thing I take away from these ruminations is that life can never be planned out for a straight from A to Z journey. At least, in my opinion would, to do so would seriously compromise the opportunity for growth and learning. It would hinder the possibility that chance can throw up amazing options and opportunities. It would deny the gift of serendipity and the wonders of risk taking, to whatever extent risk is comfortable.

I rejoice and give thanks that today I have been granted the privilege to be alive, that I am in good health as far as I know, and living in a place that sings to my soul and dances with my spirit. I celebrate having an amazing partner who wants to create with me a Golden Autumn to share together and engage the Mysteries of the Winter of our current passage.

 

 

Counting the Days

I no longer do Christmas, so I no longer do Advent.

This year, however, it does not mean I’m not opening little windows every night to expose what’s behind them. It is a calendar of sorts. It comes in the form of blister packs. Twenty-eight days to mark off until the Winter Solstice. Twenty-eight days until I am free of the anti-depressants I’ve been taking for the past three years and nine months.

I began the journey off of them just days after the Autumnal Equinox. It did not register at the time that it meant I’d be taking the last one on the eve of the Solstice. The timing may seem a coincidence, but I prefer to see it as a co-incidence. Not a random series of events, but one with more intention behind it. More power to assist me on the journey to be ‘drug free’.

I could undertake this step, and knew I would do, once I was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain the UK. It also came soon after the Decree Absolute from my second marriage came through. Both of these pieces of paper gave me freedom. Freedom of soul, energy, mind and body. That they arrived within weeks of each other . . . hmmmm . . . another coincidence? I think and believe not.

In any case, I am taking the journey to liberation from the tablets with deliberation and intention. I have always thanked them for enabling me to make the passage through some very difficult and challenging years and circumstances. I worked with them and they worked for me. Now that I no longer need them I am working with them be released from their hold on my body and mind. Over the course of the 45 months I was on them the dosage was gradually increased under the supervision of my GP, as my body seemed to have gotten used to the amount of drug and needed more to maintain the same level of functioning. The dose was doubled twice; and again under a different GP’s supervision over the past three months the dose has been halved gradually to the original amount of medication. There is no going off such powerful drugs cold tofu.

I realise that the journey of liberation I am making has not worked for everyone. For some it is just not possible to completely be removed from the medication and function. We are all different. Some who have had terrible withdrawal symptoms and say that if they’d known it was so hard to go off them, they’d never taken them in the first place. It depends on the person. It depends on the prescription given.

These last eleven days I approach with gratitude. I am thankful that the medication worked for me and did what I needed it to do at the time I needed the support. I am equally grateful that I am able to cease it now that I no longer need that support.

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.

Joy the Morning

Joy this morning
And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Severed from active presence
another’s inadequacy dictating
actions that should have been
mine alone to take or reject,
but I was not strong enough
I was not secure enough
I was not safe enough
to challenge.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Years later,
at the urging of my gods,
the ancestors of the land
and the saint who with
this friend brought me
for the first time to
my soul’s home
my spirit’s home
the land of my truest
connections –
I reached out.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

I reached out across
the waste of seas,
the wasteland of seasons
devoid of sharing,
and to my delight and hers
future seasons now open,
friendship redeemed
redemption grasped,
welcomed and embraced.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

The years of then are lost,
the years of yet are found,
different people
different paths
different stories,
the same reassuring presence,
the same willing smile,
the same deep story
alive between us.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Welcome back
my friend
my sister
my daughter,
for the man with whom
I now share my life is not jealous
but with me instead rejoices,
that a friend of deep connection
is found again
and we are linked once more.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.
 

 

 

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.