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.

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.

The Ancestors

LISTEN! Listen. listen . . .

Do you hear them . . .
the whispers
screams
laughter
shouts
the weeping?

Are you paying attention
to the ancestors calling?

SENSE! Sense. sense . . .

Do you feel it . . .
the fluctuating of energies
the altering of dynamics
the shifting currents?

Have you noticed when suddenly
absence transmutes into presence?

WATCH! Watch. watch . . .

Do you see . . .
their memories hovering
over the water
as autumnal mist
drifts on a cool morning;
their stories lingering
on the air
as bonfire smoke
curls on a hazy evening;
their presence persisting
upon the land
as the teasing light
dances on a cloudy afternoon.

Are you awake?
Are you alive?
Are you alert?

For they are all surrounding
if they choose to be heard
if they desire to be felt
if they wish to be seen.

When they are ready
to reveal their mysteries,
it is for us to be ready
to receive their revelations.

Dance with the dryads

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Enter a hallowed world
walk through this portal,
acknowledge the rowan tree,
may she allow you to pass.

Duck under enleafed boughs
a path darkened in summer’s deep shade,
only farther along will shadows dapple
playing hide and seek with sunlight.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Who is it who calls me
insistently bidding me release
the bickering in my mind,
pulling my thoughts
and intentions that tie me in knots?

A stream runs by this path
north from the small bridge
away from the village the fields to greet,
willow shed of catkins,
elder holding brown flowers ,
hawthorn bearing green berries,
hazel with pale blushed nuts,
brambles soft flowers hidden with thorns,
then holly, ivy, ash and oak,
though a break in the trees
looking skyward the yew ogham
written in crossing contrails.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Divine through the waters
ovatically listen
there is speech in the streamcourse
pushing past corners
tumbling over obstructions
given voice for its wisdom
a message you could not read
in the shrew’s entrails
so listen to me.

Abandon your camera
take out your pen
see with your ears
hear with your heart,
record and remember the
strange language spoken
between muddy banks
the speech of the waters
addressed now only to you.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Pause here as the waters pass rushing
no longer a whisper, a hum, or a sigh
here the stream runs shouting
demanding your attention
near the end of your walk,
where two close set stones
guard a wooden armed bridge
and the two hawthorns
bend together to shield the way,
turn then return now.

Going back keep you mind calm,
do not let the old arguments
pick up where you left them,
step by step to straight-trunked poplars
sentinels conversing in whispers,
hoping not to be heard.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

This walk has now ended for the light
once more bright shining,
bird song is louder,
gravel crunches under your feet.

Remember the lessons
so much like a dream
the trees of this pathway
engaged with the waters
affirming your intuition
heightening your knowing
enriching your life.

For you danced with the dryads.
You skipped with the stream.

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.

Don’t waken the gods

I went on a walk this morning with a great deal on my mind. I have a job application to do this week. My desk looks like a whirlwind blew through. I work by shoving stuff around, sometimes with one of the cats sitting on top of the pile. Nonetheless, I went forth to move in the sunshine, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze tangle my hair and take some photos of the progressing summer.

I went further along one track than I’d ever been. Previously, it was awash in mud and standing with water. At a point I felt was right, I found a place to sit and reflect. Had it not been for the tractor two fields away, all I would have heard were the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. I haven’t sat down at the edge of a field for a long time. The late morning sun was warm. The clouds were broken, mountainous, slow moving. I was on the far side of a field I had been walking along from the other side separated by a stream and long gatherings of trees along the footpath.

Settled down, I pondered. My mind went in time to asking the question, partially rhetorical: Who is the goddess of the Somerset Levels? I figured with all the water and willows it was unlikely to be a god in this instance. I asked as I don’t live all that far from them and am familiar with the places that were so badly flooded over the winter. I figured that the deity would be pretty much for the area where I live as well. I asked and just sat, open, listening. It was hard not to have other things interfering  and distracting, but the heavy drone of the tractor and the chirping and calling of the birds did help me to hold my focus. I didn’t need to travel. I waited.

In time I sensed an answer and it was not the one I was expecting. Well, quite frankly I wasn’t expecting anything, but had I been what I was gathering was not what it would have been.

Do you really think it wise to wake up the old gods? Do you think it appropriate to call me forth? You do not know what I demanded of those who followed me in the past. You have no idea if I am merciful to be reverenced or fierce to be placated. You do not know if I am who or what your world needs.

This was a bit of a shock. I don’t think I wanted to wake her up or call her forth . . . or maybe I did, though unwilling or unable to admit it. I acknowledge I thought it might be helpful or inspiring to be able to call on a local goddess. But in this case I was wrong. She made it very clear she did not want to come back. That she is there still is not in question for me. It is a matter of letting sleeping gods lie.

The experience did present me with a poem though. Unfortunately since I can’t get lines of poetry to work in the drafting space here, I’ve put forward slashes between lines in each stanza.

Don’t waken the gods,/sleeping under that tree.

Why do you want me,/ignored for so long?/My voice too faint/for modern ears ever to hear.

Don’t question the gods,/resting under that tree.

Why do you tempt me,/ignored for so long? My answers too harsh/for modern minds ever to cope.

Don’t test the gods,/restless under that tree.

Why do you chase me,/ignored for so long? My presence too strange/ for modern sensibilities ever to bear.

Don’t seek the gods,/concealed under that tree.

I wasn’t chasing her. I was merely musing on a possibility. The answer, however is quite clear, totally unambiguous. Am I disappointed? No. It is enough to know that such a Presence was once a part of the lives and practises of the people who lived here, near here, the ancestors of this area. No written record. No name to call. Vanished and traceless. In this instance, as it should stay.

Lessons from my clocks

I seem to be having challenges with clocks at the moment. There are three here: a striking clock; a chiming clock; and a cuckoo clock. The first two reside in the living room and the third in the upstairs hall.

The sound of the striking clock feels like the heartbeat of the house, and its voice when it calls out the half hours and hours is deep and resonant. The chiming clock ticks to a different rhythm, which in turn is different from that of the cuckoo clock. They each have a different voice, a different way of singing the hours, quarters and halves.

I said before they are challenging me now, the chiming clock on the mantle in particular. Several months ago when resetting it after it wound down I did something. First of all I could not get it to speak for several days. When I finally did it did not speak the correct time. It is hours ahead of itself, ranging from four to eight, of course it could possibly be argued it is behind itself, but that is way too hard to get my head around.

Suffice it to say, it does not keep anything like accurate time, but I did manage to get it to communicate. I was very careful not to let it run all the way down and I never wound it to much. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Purfling, one of the cats choose not to listen to me when I asked her not to make a dash from the back of the chair, over the top of the  upright piano, and across the mantle piece to the front window. My mantle has lots of things on it, at the time my birthday cards were still there, besides the usual residents of the chiming clock in the middle, a candlestick on each side and various bits of rock, stick and the a vase with a rose bud from the bush at the front door sitting between the clock and the left hand candle stick. To her credit Purfling did not move any of the bits, but did jump on the top of the clock. It stopped.

Since the I have not been able to get it to go again. I keep trying the way I was told to do that, which was tipping it to one side. It will tick a bit and then not.

Last night when I came home from a meeting both the striking clock and the cuckoo clock had also run down. No problem with the former, but the latter took several tries before I finally kept going just before I turned in.

Why am I saying all this?

In some profound sense, time is not real – not in the way a radish is real or an okapi is real – but it is has always been important for humans to mark it’s passing, to keep track of it. There have been calendars for millennia, and clocks and watches for centuries. Religions from nearly the beginning of religious awareness have needed to know how to predict the phases of the moon, the circuiting of the sun, particular parts of the day.

We are dependent on knowing when we are. It is as important as knowing where we are. It occurred to me, just this minute, to wonder why watches are called watches. It is something I will have to investigate – but I digress.

To my thinking, the challenge of time runs even deeper than all that, it goes to the heart of our need to orientate ourselves to something far bigger than we are, far more mysterious. Having marked a birthday recently, and thinking back to when I was much younger and remembering that back then I could not even begin to comprehend myself at the age I am now, has perhaps ignited this reflection.

How we spend our time is important. And to use those words as if time is some sort of currency says a great deal. Like pounds and pence we can waste it or invest it in someone worthy or something worthwhile. What we can’t do is bank it for later, as we can money. There is no such thing as a time ISA.  It is a currency whose value, more like a voucher or coupon, has an expiration date. We do not know when that is, but that being the case is not in question.

We are told to take time out for ourselves. Does that mean finding a way to step out of  The Ongoing Flow of Being? I can’t imagine how I’d take time out for a walk or on a date. Is it possible to take time, to grasp it? Too often it seems we try. We cover up wrinkles. We hide the signs of age and aging. We engage in activities that are not always appropriate for where we are on our life journey. We all to often pretend that being a year old doesn’t really matter all that much. Paradoxically, though time is not material, it invades every aspect of our materiality, for the part of us that is matter, it matters.

So, I think the clocks are giving me a message more important than what hour it is, or reminding me of when I have to be somewhere. That they are being fiddly is reminding me to be more mindful of how I use my time, not to let it just slip though my fingers like the sands of an hourglass. Not to obsess about it, but to be careful, pay attention, be attentive. To do something each day for someone else, and by someone I do not mean it has to be a person. To express gratitude and love. To find joy in the small things, no less and even more so than in the big ones. To smell the lilacs and roses. To listen to the birds. To let the wind blow through and tangle my hair. To greet the stars at night. To feel the rain on my face . . . you get the idea.

They remind me that what I understand as time is linked inextricably to the yet, as surely as to the now and to the then, to the future as much as to the present and the past, regardless of how I may understand those concepts on any given day.