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.

Neither Jam nor ‘Jerusalem’

This evening will be one of the one or two times a year that, as vice-president of my local WI, I will run the monthly meeting. It is not an onerous responsibility as the women are known to me after nearly three years and some are my closest friends.

The challenge for me is not running the meeting, but that I don’t sing ‘Jerusalem’. I quite confidently la la my way through standing facing the 60 or so members, but I can’t sing the words. And the reason is that words have power in my personal metaphysical/spiritual/religious understanding. I do not believe you should just sing words to any hymn or say the words to any prayer just to be polite. It used to cause me great discomfort when in church I’d be standing next to someone, even now and then a clergyperson, saying one of the creeds and knowing that they did not believe several of the statements – statements that men killed each other in early church councils to have included or excluded. If I know the music to a hymn and I am in a situation where hymning is happening then I will hum along, and once recently I carefully altered one or two words so I could join in, no one around me noticed, but it was able to join in a bit.

The problem with ‘Jerusalem’ as a hymn/song is that if you really pay attention to the words, and a quick survey of the other members I know well indicates that they do not think about them or pay attention, is that this hymn is asking for something quite specific to occur in and to our ‘green and pleasant land.’ First of all it seems to me generally to be a call to desecrate green space in favour of cities. This is something that as a Druid I can’t sanction. And secondly, is the stated desire to build a particular city, Jerusalem, which would bequeath nothing but conflict and strife in our country. Jerusalem is one of the most contested cities on the planet and has been the sight of more bloodshed, destruction and death over centuries than any other metropolis in the world.

In the way I understand the power of word and intention in language to seek such a thing for this country is unwise, misguided and dangerous. Simply because Blake wrote it and it has been such an important song over the years doesn’t make it all right to carelessly sing it.

I’m sure there are those who would say; 1) she’s over reacting, that it’s just a song; 2) get over it and sing with the ladies for crying out loud; 3) she just doesn’t understand.

But sorry, this is one of my most deeply held principles: Language has the power to shape energy, change or control minds, alter the course of history. Further, since what we say aloud can’t be unsaid, we are responsible for our words, though we can’t control what others choose to do with them, look what happens to politicians when they misspeak, which is the reason it is wise to be prudent, essential to be cautious.

One of the new ways the WI is attempting to reach out to bring in younger members is by saying: The WI isn’t just jam and ‘Jerusalem’ any more. For me it is neither and never has been, as I’m not really a jam person either – it’s way too sweet for me – bring on the pickles!