My Dryadic Self

Out of time.
Out of season.
Out of self.

Awareness
of my dryadic form
intensified and changed,
dramatically altering my physical appearance
over the past several seasons
marked as the years crawled on
or I crawled through them.

I reverted initially to Birch,
imagine at my age!
I lost weight became thin
and could have vanished.
I moved differently
no longer young,
attempting to play a game
whose rules I did not
do not know,
misguidedly trying to hold
onto a past by then already lost.

Gradually,
the Birch dream or nightmare faded,
as waking I arose
shifting form again,
this time an Oak sapling
and grew to stand alone
in the field of my despair
sentinel for my own life
sole watcher of my being.

As Beech now I have emerged,
from the leaf litter of my past,
completely formed rounder and fuller
in a body I do not yet,
or perhaps resist according recognition,
shaped in unfamiliar curves,
weighted more than feels healthy,
unsure if Queen of the Wood
suits me or not.

Will I next be Willow?
If so I will not weep,
nor pollarded will I tilt precariously
clinging to the edge of a rime,
but I will stand roots sunk
deep in the flowing waters of life,
drinking deep of being,
ever reaching forth,
embracing my dryadic self until the end.

The Father Tree

Yesterday was Autumn at its glorious best.

The sky was bright blue, clear but for a few slowly forming stark white clouds that merged into light overcast as afternoon progressed.

I went out on a walk with my camera. It was the first time in ages. Not only did I not blog all Summer, I stopped taking photographs as well. I got some of a thrush feasting on blackberries.

Thrush 1 Thrush 2

I took rose hips
Rose hips
and turning leaves. I walked with meditative deliberateness, aware of each step and noticing any slight movements or sounds. It was an alive walk. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for many months. The world was alive, even as it was beginning the process of retreating and dying back for the Winter ahead.

I did my last picking of blackberries of the season. And I assure you there were masses left for the birds — it seems unfair that the biggest and plumpest ones are way out of reach for us — but I smile at that thought and wish the birds well in their feasting. I walked through the local recreation ground on the way to the Harvest Festival and Fete and also on the way back. I stopped to notice that the huge Oak Tree had lots of acorns this year and fewer knopper galls. This made me happy because last year there were no acorns that I could see when I walked by a few times.

I spent more time approaching the Oak on my return. It seemed to be something I needed to do. I felt a deep sense of reverence for this huge wide spreading tree. He is a magnificent specimen.
The Father Tree

I paced out the diameter of his branch extension and it is 260! That would be feet! I walked around the trunk as well and it came to 16. It seems a very slender trunk to hold such huge branches, but it does.

As I circled in towards the trunk, after pacing it all out, I bowed to him, I have always thought of this tree as he, and when I got close enough I reached out my hand. Immediately there sprang between us a link, some connection. By the time I was close enough to touch the bark he began to speak to me. ‘Welcome daughter‘ were his first words.I pulled back a bit and shook my head. This tree had never spoken to me before.

There is a bigger, older Oak on a field boundary out beyond the village in the opposite direction whose name is Reverend Mother. She is very conversant. Last spring when I was walking there she asked me, it felt more like pleading me, to save some of her children. A number of very small Oaks were growing where they would be smashed by the tractor when it came to plowing. A few days later, I went back and working through the hard ground managed to retrieve two healthy seedlings. They are in pots and doing well, growing at the slow Oakish pace.

After a quick regrouping, I moved towards him again. There was a rush of recognition, from where I could not tell you. He told me I must visit more frequently. He assured me my roots were as securely placed in the soil of this land as his. A reassurance I had not expected. He flooded me with strength and energy. I am sure he is capable of being strict when he wants to be, but yesterday he was all gentleness. Maybe so he wouldn’t scare me away.

On the rest of my walk home, I thought about my genealogy in relation to trees, to specific trees and groups of trees I have made connections to and with since moving to Somerset. I wondered how would I plot, quite literally, my family tree. Though I know I am a daughter of the Yew, I see that at being in the sense of Yew, or a particular Yew (whom I’ve also written about) as, in relation to me, a grandmother/generational matriarch. My connection to the Yew is long standing and sacred in a way that other trees aren’t to the same depth, though Willow is very close in this regard. But I am sure now the other relationships will also deep, broaden and strengthen.

So, thinking about the trees who ring me with their energies for protection and in presence, the list might read like this:

Grandmothers: Yew and Willow
Mother: Beech (Whom I have written about as the Queen Tree)
Father: Oak
Siblings: Birch, Apple, Hazel and Rowan
Uncle: Holly
Aunt: Hawthorn

This was an exercise to try and look at very personal way of relating to particular trees in my environment. Since it flowed so effortlessly out my my encounter with the Father Tree, it seemed a valuable way to comprehend my relationships with certain trees. For some the relationship is fairly generic, there isn’t a particular tree I can identify with the assignment that feels right, well, not yet anyway. This is the case for Apple, Holly and Hawthorn, but I’m sure there is one waiting for me to meet it. With these three trees I have a general connection, maybe because Holly and Hawthorns are hedge dwellers and Apples are orchard trees. They live in groups and so to perceive an individual voice is likely to be harder to discern.

I believe I have written before of the Oak tree in whose lap I ran to sit in on the way to the grocery store every week with my mother and brother. Looking back I would say she was more a Nanny Tree. She was a source comfort and familiar presence with whom I felt safe and understood by in a way I never did with my human family.

At the time I could not have said why I felt that way, and it was not anywhere on my young radar that over fifty years later I would feel a so much stronger protective and profound connection to the Tree Folk. If anything that experience enables me, all those years later, to accept the gifts of connection with and claiming by the trees who ‘people’ the land and landscape which I Know is home. These connections will continue to unfold and the understandings expand for me. It seems no accident that all this is following on what happened on the Autumnal Equinox.

This deep, broad and intense Knowing is so sacred that to speak of it is like liturgy and prayer for me.

So, this is a liturgy and prayer I am sharing with you.

Autumnal Equinox

Yesterday’s air different,
today’s breath visible
in the early morning air
with hands stinging
for the first time since
last winter.

Hardly cold
suddenly cooler,
the air having
a faint metallic tang
the one of autumn
full here.

A heavy dew fall
or a light frost unfrozen,
too hard to discern,
though unwellied feet
shoe shod soon soaked.

Blackberries enbrambled
turn to mold and mush
as the thorns still
grab passers by
intent or oblivious
impossible to tell.

Conkers and sweet chestnuts
tumble to the ground,
both encasing treasure
in spiked or prickly shelters
hiding unexpected in downy soft,
velvet smooth nurseries
until time propitious
sets them free,
now.

Beechnuts exposed
in their four sided
hideaways crunch
underfoot
most empty with
little fruit
revealed for all
the tree’s hard work
and hope-filled efforts.

Hazelnuts falling green empty
or emptied quickly
by the tail whipping
harvester or thief,
nearly every oak ravaged
by the tiny wasp
knopper galled trees surrounding,
only hawthorns
abundant and hanging
heavy with haws red and plump
unequivocally inviting feasters.

Equinox upon the horizon
balance between
day and night
then all the energies
tip from creeping
to swifter darkness
leaving only memories
of light as life
and the living
prepare through the
rest of autumn
for the harshest season
once again.

A Day History is Being Made

My alarm went off at 0700 this morning, as the polling stations in Scotland were opening. It is a day history is being made.

I live in the southwest of England. I have lived in Orkney, on one of the outer islands. I have travelled though Scotland many times and spent time there. I have my own opinions about the referendum, but that is not what I have been reflecting on, nor what I woke up this morning keenly aware of looking out at the low clouds through my bedroom window.

This morning I feel the weight of history. Trained as an historian I have read a lot of the patterns of change and the alternations in the fates and trajectory of nations. What I am most aware of is the burden of change facing all of us who call at this moment the United Kingdom home. No matter what happens by this time tomorrow, or soon after, we will all know in what way the difference in all our futures will be shaping.

All of us are living through what our grandchildren and our future descendants will be reading about in their history books. I know this is true of many things happening in the world right now, the actions of Russia and its agents in the Ukraine, the Ebola epidemic in the west of Africa, the ongoing and terrifying deeds of IS in Iraq and Syria . . . all these are making tears and ripping huge gaps in the tapestry of stability as we have come to perceive, or misperceive it in the geopolitical, cultural and social maps of our world as we have tried to come to terms with it in recent times.

But the Scottish referendum is here. It is now. It is happening in our own country. What it will mean, let us be honest, neither side really knows. There are projections and modelling from both sides of the issue. What is undeniable is that it means uncertainty and dis-ease for many months and years to come. Perhaps because this vote and the journey to it have happened in such a public way, in such a disciplined and carefully argued and negotiated way that it seems unlike the chaotic and disorder way such events have occurred in the past. But there is the anxiety of chaos and disorder underneath it, there are the currents of passion and footfalls of fear sounding not far below the surface.

History is being made today. Yes or No, it is history shaping into the future very close to home. We may have been aware of it vaguely or acutely with other actions or votes or treaties before, that our movement onward would be altered, but somehow this feels different.  Perhaps it is just me and the way I perceive and sense and feel the shiftings of energies. But there is a weight today pushing down all around and even so far away from where the choice is being made it feels like there is a collective holding of breath. A sense of worry. A presence of deep unease. The palpable feeling of hope and the testing of trust.

Whatever way the vote goes, some of this feeling will be around for a very long time.

Right now I am going to get dressed and go for a walk. I am going to visit Rev’d Mother, an old oak tree of my acquaintance who has lived through much history, who is wise and insightful. I seek her out today for a sense of deep continuity to balance the disrupted energy all around me. I seek her out and the gods and ancestors for their wisdom and perspective that is far deep and broader than mine.

The world is not ending because of the referendum in Scotland. But something may do. And with such an ending at stake it is important that I seek and spend time with a being who has endured as we all shall do. We shall endure and carry on because it is what we have done. Even in the face of change, to whatever degree, it is how we have survived. It is how we have lived through the ravages of history and it is how we shall live into the future being shaped today. Each and every day we wake up to and with the potential to make what happens in all our tomorrow different. It is something that is so easy to forget, but that is one thing that the Scottish referendum has given all of us, a reminder that we have choices to make and courses to set for ourselves, doors we can open and those we may close as we write our own personal histories minute by minute, day by day.

Ah, the mist is lifting and the sun is beginning to shine.

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.

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.