The Hippo Moment

Step by step
moving the surface interface
from air to water,
sliding into an alien
yet not unfamiliar medium,
warm surrounding water
strangely supporting the body

Buoyancy,
from long ago
a feeling recalled,
the facility for deeply held
memory kicking in,
before birth
this sensation recognised
again as known
when eons before
the only place.

Memory,
of fear and thrashing,
not a distant life
but this one
bathed in anxiety
fretting afraid to leave
the security of the side
for deeper waters.

Encouragement,
reassurance
in holding onto the confidence
of another for whom
the medium of terror for me
is one of pleasure and freedom,
slowly learning to trust
the presence and the voice
that it can be done,
head under the surface,
glide, kick, stroke, breathe
head under
blow bubbles
reach and turn to the side
breathe,
suddenly it seems
swimming.

Now comes enjoyment
relaxation and achievement,
otter companions unseen
enter the pool causing
mischief chitting encouragement
showing how easy
it is to be in water,
laughter at slow success.

Lesson done,
high fives and weariness,
for it is well into evening,
sliding into the night,
time to go,
time to change the mediating
medium of being once more,
taking the steps,
almost weightlessness
alters in the moments
step by step
trading selkie skin
for the human one,
another transformation
there is the time between
being water borne
and once more air held
a sudden awkwardness
when gravity is once more
felt with every bone and muscle
weightedness returns.

Ah, the hippo moment.

I dedicate this poem to my amazing swimming instructor Kelly Deakin. The invisible otters and ‘The Hippo Moment’ as I called it made us laugh. A big thank you!

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Trust and Assistance

It has been many weeks since I last posted. Many weeks of wondering and stressing. Many weeks of holding on to trust and continuing to know I would be led to my new home. Baskin (see previous post The Badger’s Gift) was with me, reassuring me, snuffling about quietly, but never far away.

My friends were losing sleep for me. My friends were hassling me to do this or do that. Those who were once close were giving me advice that was totally unrealistic and inappropriate. I did things in the order that worked for me. I took steps as the time presented itself to me. It was not in other’s time, or the time others were sure was right for me.

The time ticked away. I did what I could. I continued to trust. I felt the presence not only of Baskin, but also Nemetona. Other’s fretted and panicked. What would I do if I did not find a home? All I knew is that I would. I trusted as I looked on the internet at places I could not afford, in places I knew I was not supposed to live. I looked everyday. I called a few agents and when they heard my situation they pretty much told me to forget about it.

I was offered through a family member help with paying a deposit. And when I learned I’d have to have a guarantor I approached, with trepidation, this same family member to do that for me as well, the answer was of course. I breathed a sigh of relief. But with only a couple of weeks to go nothing had turned up. I was in the nearest town visiting agents when the agent for the property I was being asked to leave because it was going to be sold texted me. He had a place that had just come up and offered to show it to me. He met me at the then home and took me to the new place. It was on the other side of the village I knew I was not supposed to leave.

As soon as I walked in I said yes. It felt right. It was a home. A bit tatty. Cat airlock already there (a little porchy bit). Big fireplace. Enough space once I got rid of extraneous stuff. I breathed another sigh of relief. Things were immediately set in motion. All the papers were signed four days before I was due to be out of the old place. Unfortunately the guy tidying up the new place was not to finish until midday of the day before I had to move.

The move took ten days. I had friends and friends of friends who helped me. Cars and a trailer. I was given grace of an extra week to clear the old place, though I lived in the new place from the day I was due out. Another family member came for three days from a considerable distance away to help me, she offered I did not ask.

I am awash with gratitude. I did not have to spend any money. I was helped because I needed the help and my friends rallied around me. An hour or two here and there, willing hands and generous hearts. I said thank you lots and some of them got little gifts that were appropriate and suddenly given. There was never a plan, only knowing at the time this was for that person.

As I sit here still getting rid of stuff there is not room for and things I do not need, I reflect on the gifts of friendship. I ponder the inexplicability of trust. I give thanks, so much gratitude to so many.

I am aware that Baskin is still with me and is a guardian of this home, this sett he helped me to find. I am aware of Nemetona whose presence graces the energy in which I now reside in a way much fuller than from the place from which I came. I am aware of the determined energy and power of trust, when coupled with the inadequate actions I could take in the face of what confronted me. I did my bit, and all along I was aware I would need a different sort of assistance.

On the last day of dealing with the previous property another lesson came. It was a rainy morning, I was told I really needed to sort out the garden before the owner of the property came the next day to do an inspection. I was tired. I did not think I could do any more there, and was surrounded with what felt overwhelming where I was. All of a sudden I felt a presence of one I had not thought of in over 20 years. I felt the presence of St Fiacre, yes I am a Druid but I am willing to receive assistance from those who offer it, the patron saint of gardeners. I felt within a few moments renewed energy. I knew I was not alone in this project. When I got to the house in the rain, wellied and waterproofed, with my sturdy push broom and a bag with a plastic dustpan and a stiff boat brush, I got to work. Two sheds had been in the small sloping garden for a number of years so I had to reshape the slope and take up six cement squares supporting the larger hexagonal shed. When I flagged I knew I could lean on Fiacre’s spade for a bit. In a little over two hours what looked like an impossible task had been completed. I was a mess, but it was done.

I was texted the next day by the letting agent that the owner was perfectly happy with the way I’d left the place and that I’d done a great job with the garden.

Now I am working my way to bring order out of chaos. Of getting back into a routine in a place I know will be good for creating. I feel I have missed a lot of the early spring. I’ve not really been on a proper walk, not taken any photos. But I am home. I know I have friends and family who love me. I trusted. I did what I could do. I accepted assistance when offered, and was willing to ask for it when I needed it. I learned much. I have a renewed sense of contentment and energy. I am home.

Dryads Retreat

Dancing to unheard music
played deep
within their being,
Dryads toss branches
shake twigs
to shed their leafy mantles,
encouraging
the
earthward
tumble
as days shorten,
their time of retreat approaching.

They quiver preparing,
less and less turned outward,
their focus shifting,
until no longer sustaining
summer’s verdiditas
or autumn’s splendour,
replaced by subtle energy for winter,
releasing the past demanded.

A sharp gust of sudden wind
no reason to hold longer
freefalling
golden
rain
pirouetting on stems
last leaves languid
on the breeze
downward
delicate
drifting
death,
amassing in wind raked clusters.

Frolicking on curb sides
boot tossed shuffled through,
children gather them
attracted to the colours
red bronze copper yellow brown,
drawn by the shapes
oak birch beech poplar sycamore plane,
contorted as they shrivel,
diminishing,
retaining a different beauty
past feeding earth feeding future,
nourishing our souls,
granting needful lessons:
There is no permanence.
There is always change.
There are cycles to being.
Living comes in many forms
Dying is not only what it appears to be.

Winter Arrived

Rain falls.
Mist rises.
Clouds glower.
Sun hides.

Winter.

The outside world contracts.
The inside world expands.
Darkness overtakes daylight.
Morning shortens.
Evening disappears.

There is day.
There is night.
Dawn shrinks.
Dusk vanishes.

Only two times now:
shortened day,
lengthened night.

Winter arrived
damp and dank,
cloud shrouded,
sun starved.

When the golden warmth
appears
suddenly,
an unexpected afternoon
of sunshine
fleeting glorious heartening,
before clouds once more overtake,
dropping temperature,
stealing our illusioned sky
turning vibrant blue to dull gray,
a new pattern
autumn well and truly gone,
replaced subsumed forgotten.

Horizontal rain
wind borne
lashes whips rages
reality tipped sideways longwise
playing with our minds
toying with our souls
dampening our spirits . . .
unless until
acceptance.

Welcome the time of retreat
when dark and chill
replace light and warmth,
preparation for regeneration;
face discomfort
to shatter complacency,
accept lessons
in softer seasons ignored,
embrace the work of winter,
learn not to fear darkness
but to cherish light.

Winter the harsh season.
Winter the winnowing season.
Winter when then and yet
hide forcing the now
into shard-sharp relief
focusing what is most important
no frills no embellishment no decorations
can hide us from ourselves.

Allow the trees’ austere forms
to show what we avoid —
that we too stand naked
before the cold truths unavoidable
we are vulnerable
we are fragile
we are capable of hope.

Ride the Drum Beat

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

Make the passage,
cross the threshold,
navigate the boundaries
between
The Worlds,
leave behind the Homeland,
head for the Barely-Known-Land,
meet the Wise Ones
greet the Old Ones
and the Yet-to-Be Ones,
learn the lessons
hear the tales
sing the Soul Songs.

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

Return at there’s daybreak,
the soul’s bright dawning
write the lessons
rehearse the tales
hum the musics,
unforgetting any mystery
quickly fading
shadows vanishing into light,
hold the mapways,
pathways, soulways
for the next time
always now a next time,
each a new time,
ever into old time.

Ride the drum beat.
Ride the purr.
Ride the ticking of the clock.

Mount the Wild Wind,
the Untamed Horse,
the Owl, the Eagle, or the Wren.

You opened your heart

For some time, meaning a quite a few years in this instance, I have struggled with how to identify myself on the paradigmatic timeline of the stages of a woman’s life. I am well past menopause, but I neither look nor feel old nor haggard. I have tried to live with the Crone but I am not her, not yet, not for a long while yet the goddesses willing. Just in the past few days I have come upon the designation of Queen as an intermediate between Mother and Crone.

I realise this is not a new idea, it has been floating about for many years, only it hadn’t until last week floated to me. I am a believer that things come to one at the right time and not before, no matter how impatient I am, if an issue is not ready or I am not ready for it, then it’s not going to arrive. That has caused me much grief and pain in the last several years, but it is one of the truths of my life. There are things I could not do when I was not whole enough to do them, not present enough to present myself. (I hope you caught the change in inflection there).

Two days ago I went to the local small orchard woodland space on the near edge of the village. I went to the Beech tree who has been companioning me for several months.

 

Beech 2

After discovering the Queen paradigm or archetype, whichever — and there is probably an important technical difference between the two — I had to seek her out, because I sensed the reason she had been nudging at me to come into communion with her. I had no expectations of the encounter, when I approached her, I went ready to be . . . What happened was a remarkable incidence of relating to another being at a profound level. I have had deep and profound encounters with Yew trees, for which I have always had an affinity, and for many years I have been struck by the sensual beauty of the Beech tree. I just never thought it related in any way to me personally — how wrong, but it was not then time. I could not have handled the influx of energy, the depth of the knowing, the intensity of the revelation.

In reading about and exploring intellectually the new paradigm/archetype it seemed that it was a fit, one that had been missing. But it was not tangible, tactile, tensile. I was not able to hold the reality, feel the reality, experience the tension upon which such a reality balances and exists. Then I followed my intuition, always strong and getting stronger as I’ve gotten stronger, and went to see Her. She opened her heart to me. In so doing, She changed my life forever.

(This is a place in Her barkskin that looks like a heart, an open one, that inspired the poem.)

Beech heart

You opened your heart
you gave me a name,
a way I might address you,
no longer simply
The Statuesque Beech Tree
in the Orchard Wood.

You opened your heart
and in so doing enabled me
to speak aloud your name
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
as I circled you on the
slope of the hillside
running my hands
over your barkskin
I felt your presence and power
I felt my presence and power.

You opened your heart,
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
speaking instruction
articulating introduction
affirming intuition
that I might listen and learn
the lessons I require.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
you are willing to share
that I might understand
what it means to be a Queen,
Sovereign of the Self
standing tall as yet unbent,
reaching forth to the sky
dancing in the breeze.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
that I might access
ancestral knowing,
ancient knowledge,
deep-rooted wisdom.

For all this you opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
shared yourself with me,
fractured my mental
barriers to acceptance,
shifted my spiritual
perceptions to acknowledgement
that I am not old though no longer young,
that I have a place
of self-acceptance
self-understanding
and ongoing outgoing.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
and in doing so allowed me
to share with you
what it means to be Queen
in our presence and power.

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.