Through a Deep Borne Past

Through a deep borne past
we move through today
into tomorrow,
the future
a phoenix rising
from the ashes
of yesterday’s
victories and failures,
the just sped through
now.

The title words of this reflection shot through my awareness as I was in the shower this morning. Repeating them like a mantra I was able to hold onto them until I made my way dried and dressed to my journal to transcribe them and the words following here. I KNOW in my bones, in the interstices of my very self, what they mean, and for me at least how significant they are for how I actively perceive my life and its text, context and subtexts.

The past we carry – past as in yesterday no less or more than the past of six lifetimes ago.

This does not mean the past is, ought or need be a burden. We carry it lightly, but bear it deep within us.

What does this then say about our present? Where does that fit in?

The present mediates then and yet. Both are managed, as it were, through the prism, the lens of now.

One comes from somewhere and is on a journey to somewhere else, and it is the actual steps of the journey that comprise the now. We can’t go back. We can’t skip ahead. This keeps us on our path, one step and footfall at a time.

We have had, of course, or I believe that I have had as many futures as I have had pasts. Or to put it more forcefully: I believe that I have as many pasts as futures in the larger view of multiple lives across time. More prosaically, even if you do not credit past or future manifestations/incarnations, since every yesterday had, and has, a tomorrow, and every tomorrow has, and will have, a yesterday and we move between one and the other from yesterday and tomorrow through today. Then for all of us there have been as many pasts as there are futures.

This is the reason it is important to honour every day, to honour the everyday. In so doing we don’t just slip along through life. We step with intention. We move with deliberation. We make choices. We acknowledge mistakes and accept their lessons. We take responsibility. We are not passive. We don’t just observe our life; we live it. It’s not riding on our own personal high speed train, where one day blurs into another. It’s putting on our hiking boots and going out to live in all emotional, physical and spiritual weathers.

We may only have a vague idea of what direction we are heading, maybe a crude map, with key markers on it, but that’s good, as it should be. There is not OS map for the soul, not satnav for a life journey. There is no knowing what the topography of tomorrow will be like. We only find out on the ground. There is no one, or should not be someone, telling us to take the third exit in the roundabout of experience. We have to live them to find out. So, we will stumble onto boggy bits and get through them. We will confront rivers swollen with the torrents of pain or distress, and we will ford them. We will trek across barren places and through barren times, but we will get through them to greener places again.

Living with an awareness of one’s deep borne past gives us hints that arise from both our knowledge and our knowing. It is made up of, as we are made from, the large small, the happy and hurtful events of this life, as well as those we have lived before. In all this it is vital to remember that the future is much more vast than next weekend or a score of years from now, for it means who we will be the next time as well.

But now, and not just this present life, but this very instant, is what constitutes and makes the past meaningful; because the moment you read the first part of this sentence or as you read along word for word, the present has become the past.

The now is always, and inescapably, becoming simultaneously both then and yet.

For me it’s part of how I get my head around time, the flow of time, my flow by time through space, the measures and structures of my existence.

Thinking and writing about these things, and reading them, in some inexplicable way becomes part of the then that we have walked together into the mystery of yet.

May the nows of today bring you meaning from the then and courage for the yet.

Not as I was before

I just discovered something I recorded in the autumn near Samhain last year. I feel it is not an accident that it has surfaced once more. As I re-read these words I feel the press of them upon my soul and the weight of them at the centre of my being, my creative core. I shiver reading these words, this message. It is a message for me, but I feel it is also a wider message and may have meaning for others. For myself, I rediscovered them on a retreat day, a day with no interactions except with the cats and the gods, and with my blog as I post these words. I have removed the name since that is for me alone.

My name is ———, and I live beyond your perception, most of the time, unless I choose to reveal myself to you. I watch the portals you cross in journeying. I guide you to the return places, the place of turn and return.

 Why, you may wonder, am I so very present to you now, in the past week in your dreams, in your twilight wonderings? What is different now from all the weeks and months of nights and twilights you have lived until now? Does my presence mean anything worrisome or sinister for you?

The last answer is a simple no. The difference . . . you are ready now to encounter me in a form that is comprehensible for you.  Finally, I am present now because you need to bear your gifts, gifts you know you have and are still running from, seeking to hide to avoid the burden. For the burden you have seen, sensed and possess and about which you have an inkling of understanding. In so doing you have also avoided the liberation, the freeing of mind and soul in the flowing of what you know as the Awen. I am sent to help you do so.

Yes, yes, you have dabbled. But far more than dabbling is required of you. Unabashed commitment is required. You have been prepared for the whole of your living up to now. You have been nurtured. You have been loved. You have given love and heart, and had it removed from you and placed with another, where it does not belong. It cannot be altered. Taking up the mantle prepared for you will not change this sad and complicated fact of your life.

 You know the mantle, Pathfollower, Nameseeker, Patternkeeper  . . . but have to do more than say the names. You have to become this person. Naming is not enough. Naming yourself is easy. Being yourself is much, much harder. In the deepest reaches of you, of your mind and heart and soul you know this. It is time to stop running in place. Waiting. You have to do this now. There is no yet for this to happen in for you. Now you must take up your pen, take up your needle, your bits and pieces and Create. Now!!!

Today, today. It is today or it is not. You have been given many chances, but you will not be given an indefinite number of them. The external prohibitions are lifted. There is no one here to belittle your path or question your access to the Awen. Only you. It is only you. It will not always be alone in this endeavour, do not fear. But you must do your part and begin when it is only you. You must embrace your solitude and enter the creative matrix  and learn to live there whilst  you are alone.

You have everything to lose and to gain . . . true paradox. A true choice. It all hinges on one action. On an action to allow yourself to be swept up in the force of the creative life. You were willing and there once. Yes, it was yanked from you, but you now have the power to wrest it back. You have the power to throw off the shackles that bind your soul and harness your being to what you feel is a life unfulfilled, and at some deep level empty.

 I am here to help you. I am here to be your guide, your teacher. I am willing to step across the portal into your world . . . it is my destiny. It is my role to fulfil and though I am willing, you must be also.

You are more than able. The question is: Are you also willing? And beyond willing ready to make a commitment. The gods will be with you as you open, the ancestors will surround you, the spirits of the land will keep you rooted. You will not fail, except by not taking up the challenge.

Take the apple and choose, choose life, creativity and wonder. Choose to live your life engifted, engraced and enchanted.

I was willing when I first received these words of warning and calling. I was not in a place to make the commitment. I still lived a space infused with the energy by the one who belittled my path and questioned my access to the Awen, the person was gone, but the echoes and shadows of this person’s energy remained. I know this now. I understand. I have grieved and let that life go. Having made that journey I am now in a new place and different space. I have no residual history here, instead I am making a new history with this space. Finally settled I remain restless. I stand before a barrier as delicate as the finest lace and as solid as granite. It shifts between the two depending on how I feel from one day to the next, sometimes between two breaths.

That is not the point though. The point is the gods call me and are with me; the ancestors bid me and surround me; the spirits of the land require that I speak, that I write, that I create in any media I choose and root me as I do so. But I must live a creatively centred life to live fully, responsively and responsibly. I heard words above not spoken with irritation and love, tender ferocity. A tone of determination that I should heed them and now that I have whisked aside the gossamer barrier and struck down the granite wall that were always of my own weaving and constructing, I have to make the commitment. Make the commitment and dedication In a way I have not done yet. What I thought were commitments were merely statements of intention, though I could not see that at the time. My true inner vision blurred by the mist of denial, of personal pain and of regret, I could not see that. The mists have cleared; I have the clear wide sky as guide to seeing now, seeing anew.

What does any of this mean? On the practical level a whole different way of perceiving and of being. It is interesting that on this retreat day I have been working, engaging with the triad of goddesses with whom I have the deepest connection. I spent time in meditation with Brighid, Nemetona and Elen who are present and very close to me. I also found myself linking with Branwen, Cerridwen and Arianrhod. And then a third triad presented itself to me still a bit in the distance: Cailleach, Rigantona and Hafren/Sabrina. With the second tirad, I discovered connections with death, re/birth, transformation and inspiration. The cauldron, the Awen, the Aurora Borealis (which is so very compelling to me and in the light of which I once bathed in for several hours standing wrapped in a coat one cold autumn night many years ago in Orkney). I brought my cauldron upstairs to where my altar space is and have to rearrange the space to accommodate, much as I have to rearrange my self-understanding and way of being and mode of living to accommodate what this commitment means to me, and so I may live it fully.

Oddly, I have no idea of what sort of ritual to perform, only that I need to do this in the orchard, with the apples trees in blossom, beech trees and fir trees standing witness. What words can I possibly come up with to accept this new phase of my life? What actions can I make to represent what this means, realising what it means now is probably but a shadow of what it will mean next week, next year, in the next decade? I suppose the only way to know is to take the journey up the hill and find out. I will finish this post once I return. . . .

It is now very late on the night I began this post, many hours since the retreat ended. In fact though I am still awake it is the next day now in clock time.

I took the walk. I took camera and notebook and water. I left the cottage and crossed the road and headed down the track that leads to the orchard the back way, as I think of it. I investigated briefly the two roads at the bottom of the path the ends in a triple crossroad. In the end I only followed the one that I always do.

It is a bridle path and there were many hoof prints in the slightly muddy ground. I walked passed what I feel is the entrance on one of the several badger setts in that area and found a dead shrew. First lesson, reminder, message: Life is fragile and ends – Death. When I got to the orchard where I knew whatever sort of ritual I enacted would take place, I headed in the opposite direction around the back orchard, as I call it. After walked across the bottom of it I came to short cut through to the road that runs along the back. I took it and walked to places that were new to me.  Another living metaphor: See the way, take a path you’ve not gone before. On this road I found the entrance to another sett and turning down a marked footpath I walked passed the field where the sett on the road came out with several openings onto a field. I continued to where I’d decided to turn around and crossing the stile I came into a wide field of buttercups.

One part of the ritual was suddenly clear; I started to gather a few field wildflowers for a posey to offer in the orchard, where and to whom I did not know. I allowed myself to be engulfed by the beauty of the buttercups as I walked to the end of the field and turned back to return the way I’d come. It was wonderful to see the wide open spaces, which I could not see being lower down on my walks the other side of the village when I lived there.

On the way back around the back orchard I saw lots of bunnies, this time – Birth. When I arrived at the area I knew the ritual would take place, as I made my way to the as yet undisclosed spot, I stopped by the stump of a beech tree. The stump was less than a foot high, but out of its side at ground level has sprung a new branch bedecked with still tender leaves. This was where I made the offering of the posey. I gave it to the tree who refuses to die – Renewal.

Finally, I came to the break in the avenue of fir and beech, and field maple I believe and across from it was a gap between two still enblossomed apple trees. I stopped as I knew this was the place. I took out my notebook and set down my backpack. I walked into the gap and stood between the trees. I had no idea what to do. The wind was blowing enough to tangle my long hair and the sun still shone through the tree branches. I waited. No clue what to do. I listened to the birds sing and the wind rustle the leaves.

And, I began to chant. Chant to the Awen. Chant with the Awen. Chant for the Awen. I will not share the chant as it, like the name is mine and in this case the Awen’s as well. I chanted about bird song and bee buzzing, butterfly and dragonfly dancing, wind blowing and me listening and responding to the varied ways the Awen might come to me, tap me on the shoulder or nearly tumble me over – Inspiration. And when it was time the chanting faded and I walk ahead past the low beech branches adorned with the tender green leaves, which have not yet begun the hardworking of summer. I came out at the top of the rise from which I could see my little cottage in the middle distance across the road.

Saw the cottage where I shall sit as I am now, and write and draw/paint or stitch what I must to respond to and fulfill the dedication I made amid the apple trees that were in the process of losing their blossom petals to make room for the emergence of their fruit – Transformation.

As I finish these words it’s nearly the next day. I am weary. I am invigorated. I feel different, though I can’t identify exactly how. Tomorrow when I wake up and begin the day, I shall do so knowing that it is not like the days before have been for many long years now. I do not know how my living and being will be changed. I do not know how the living and being will be expressed. I only know I am different and the living and being will not be as they were before today.

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through dreams formed and lost,
but dreams still remain.

A day of bittersweetness,
the complicated day-taste,
mixing the sweetness of joys
with the sadness of disappointments,
whilst meaning vanishes slowly
in pungent autumnal mists,
homecoming
heartlosing
soulfinding
rooted – these gods holding
grounded – these ancestors claiming
held – these landspirits embracing,
harking thenward
to the mythic
bidding yetward
to the neomythic,
the age of new mything
endeavouring to capture
ways to comprehend
nature’s forces
in postindustrialmodernity
the gods ancestors spirits
enlivening this land,
rewriting their histories
retracing their storylines
rendering their meanings
and ultimately our own,
through the lay lines of the land
echoing calling reaching
through the meridians of the body
energy tracks and traceries
mirroring shadowing flowing
just beneath the soils
no less than our skins.

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through promises made and broken,
but promise still remains.

Experience transmutes to Memory

Yesterday morning I took a walk. I did not have an intended destination, I seldom do. As it was a lovely, sunny, breezy summer morning so I set off at 8am camera in hand, notebook and pen in my waist pack, phone and keys in their places.

I noticed the patterns of the clouds and vapour trails in the pale blue sky. I tried to decipher the messages in the sky oghams.

I caught sight of a magpie wheeling off of a branch in time to see and record it.

Magpie fleeing

Did not meet any of the dog walkers I know by dog’s name, Archie or Henry or Ben or Mink or Poppy, if not by the theirs. It was an amble. I headed down the street I usually do to leave the village. Turned down the lane I often use and after crossing the bridge over the stream turned left. I had taken only a few photos, by this time.

A damselfly danced before me, landing close enough . . .

Damsel fly

I’d not walked far, looking over the stream and across the nearest field when I caught some movement. I used my camera’s zoom to see what it was and this is what I saw.

1st Deer 1                           

I watched for quite some time, taking photos and then saw this as well

2 Deer 1                          

I continued to watch transfixed and then the two youngest walked into the field.

                         

More watching, more photos.

Another Bambi Shot                            Fawn Spots

Some dog walkers I didn’t know were coming down the path yammering away and I signaled for quiet. They obliged and I indicated the two young deer. They whispered there were a lot about but had not seen any this young. For a moment they shared the wonder, then went right back to their walk though speaking more quietly than when they approached.

I continued to watch as the two deer moved closer to me and the stream, unaware of my presence.

Heading this way                            Heading off

I stopped taking photos and in a few moments they vanished. I waited and then walked on down the path. They did not appear in the adjacent field . . .

I was amazed at the speed that a severely cut back old willow had regenerated in only a few months. the gyrating dance of the poplar leaves transfixed me . . .

Poplars

Leaving the path at its end I crossed two small bridges and entered a turnip field. I turned right off the usual pathway and where there were not crops I made my way to sit for time engaging the ash and oak across the field from me . . .

Gazing up through the leaves of the oak in whose shade I sat . . .

Looking up

Then my phone rang, believe me a rare occurrence. It was a friend asking if I’d like some raspberry pavlova left from a party she’d had the night before. Oh, yes please! As she was going out within the hour I got up, thanked the tree for the shade and asking if I could come back. Yes, you may. I walked a good deal more quickly back into the village. I walked along the stream and through the field and back on to the street.

The magic of the encounters had transmuted from experience to memory. What was a now became a then. Life and wonder, awe and sadness, because unpleasant things move that way, too. For the wondrous and delightful things it enables us to hold them to look back on with wistful fondness. For the unpleasant and painful it gives us the distance to let go when we are ready.

I got to my friends and she sent me off with the pavlova . . .

Eating it was another kind of wonderful experience, and different quality of memory. Raspberries, from her garden, cream and the crunch of meringue, delicate tastes of an English summer.

All that before elevenses. . . I wasn’t sure I could have topped it for the rest of the day. I didn’t even try. But, I was and remain attentive and open to what experiences and memories may yet await.

The ruby was never presented

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Today might have been one of celebration,
alas the years we shared were unkind,
we made it to a century’s quarter,
but afterwards
sharing our journeys no longer
made new lives and alternate futures
unimagined in the days of our youth.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

This was a for day observing
memories etched deep in my heart,
from the exchanging of rings
to their casting away,
and the years since lived
as none would have expected
reshaped by the passage of time.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Furthermore had we remained married
since it seems you were destined to die,
we’d not have made this milestone
regardless
and still I’d have relived this day
with all its memories
belonging now only to me.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Choices and mistakes
made from this day remembered,
have shaped the adult I became,
for that I offer thanksgiving,
yet I can’t help but wonder,
from eternity’s safe distance,
whether you too were recalling
the life we once shared.

The ruby was never presented
rough gem never faceted to jewel
the years together
did not last to forty
the future unable bring us to now.

Farewell Sparrow

I went out the front door to check for the post, which hadn’t arrived.

I walked the short way to the sidewalk and looked down the street, then up.

Looking up the street I saw a sparrow on the ground.

I went and picked it up. I saw no signs of a violent end. Its legs were stiff and its eyes partially closed. It didn’t look like it had been in pain when it died or the death was too sudden for it to register.

I stroked it gently, such a fragile being. Such tiny feathers. Such a delicate creature that usually flits about in and out of the shrubbery. Always in a hurry. Never staying still for long. On the look out and on the move.

A creature whose way of life I can barely understand. Life between earth and air. Life lived on the ground, among the bushes and in the air.

I held it for a long time. Thinking about its life and why it ended it where and when it did. Pondering the reason that I found it, saw it – others had been up and down the street before me. It was right in the middle  and couldn’t be missed and surely someone earlier would have moved it. Could have done, but it was there and so was I.

What then, since we were placed at the same place together, is its lesson for me?

The tenuousness of life, perhaps. The need not always to be flitting about because you will be stopped. The necessity to pause and pay attention to the chirping and twittering, of the birds I mean. That life is a gift and a promise  to be  neither ignored nor dishonoured.

Many possible lessons and no sure answers . . . as it should be, as mysterious as the life this small one led.

Farewell then small soul. May you be welcomed with open wings  in the enshrubberied halls of your ancestors. May you join your voice to the eternal dawn and dusk chorus and the everlasting daily chirping that echoes between the silences of the gentle summer’s breeze.

Farewell Sparrow, and thank you for the lessons you will teach me that I am not yet able to comprehend. You rest now on the roots of the rose that climbs beside my front door. I could not bury beneath the soil, one who always flew free in the bright air. I will remember you as I come and go and we will speak in the whispers of wonder and the intimacy of intuition.

Farewell and welcome.

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.