Paused at the Edge of the River Flowing

On 2nd December 1982, I wrote a sequence of poems to mark the successful completion of a course of counselling to get over writer’s block. I had worked with a wonderful counselor who taught me to journey, though I’m not sure it was called that, and begin to engage my inner landscape/mindscape/soulscape. I can still go to the places I discovered with his guidance, still see and feel them in my being when I choose to do so.

The sequence of poems became a book I published two years ago: Paused at the Edge of the River, Waiting. Only since last week has that book gained a much fuller, deeper context for me. I have a new relationship with the words I wrote so many years ago. Words written by a me of several lifetimes ago, or so it feels. I used imagery that I really understand now.

And here is how I know this is the so . . .

Last week I spent a day in Langport, on the Somerset Levels, to engage the River Parrett. It is a river I’ve known since the Autumn of 2000. I have visited it and walked its banks in the company of another who has stepped out of my life, leaving pain and sorrow in his wake. At some point over this past Summer, however, I knew that the Parrett was my Muse. It is possible to reach a bit of it by walking out of the village where I live, but it is not a familiar part, and I really am not sure of the footpaths. Not yet.

Somehow, I knew that for my first real engagement with the Parrett it would have to be in and outside of Langport and on the way to Muchelney, parts of the Parrett I know. Well, last week I felt the time was right so I took two buses and spent £14.40 I didn’t really have to make the journey – the pilgrimage to meet my the River as my Muse for the first time.

The day was perfect, not too hot or chilly, sunny with clouds and a day there weren’t many people on the River. When I got there first, I walked out onto one of the little platforms standing over the River to look down into it.
Lgpt walk on
Then I ate the lunch I had packed sitting on one of the benches near the riverbank gazing into its flow.
River runs deep

After eating I walked out of Langport towards Muchelney. Being in no hurry I took my time, camera in hand as well as my notebook. I juggled recording visual and impressionary images to return to and ponder later. I walked with and through and past Willows that were alive with the calls of Willow Warblers and Long Tailed Tits. There was a Moorhen on the water skirting the edges of the bank. And Dragonflies, the whole path seemed to have become a dancing ground for them, their handsome red bodies shining in the Autumn sun.
Dragonfly

One had gotten too close to the water’s surface and was unable to get out and I had no way to rescue him. I could feel his terror and fear, flailing his wings trying to escape the River’s grasp. I sensed him getting tired and finally his resignation to his fate, a fish would come along at some point and take him. I sent my thoughts for a crossing to his Ancestral Dancing Ground that would mean he’d celebrate soon with his Dragoncestors, including the giant prehistoric ones.

I walked on and saw a Kingfisher hovering like a Kestrel and plonking into the River, again and again. When I looked at the not too well focused photo at home it turned out there were two of them on the far embankment.
Kingfishers

Just beyond the Kingfishers I paused at a place that held deep memories of time spent with the man who had stepped out of my life. Memories of sublime joy and affirmation, as well as ones of shard sharp sorrow. I paused and allowed the hurtful memories to be released, but there seemed no point banishing those that taught me about the joy my body could experience.
Puddle 1
The Willows who witnessed my joy also stood witness to this act of letting go. So, the hurt is gone, dropped into a puddle that will dry away and take the memories of pain with it. The memories of joy join the flow of the River, the Awen and Life. These are available now in the vast reservoir of experience to tap into when creation requires it.
Puddle 2

I walked farther on but did not get all the way to Muchelney, as I didn’t want to walk with the beasts in the fields. I got to where I got a clear look at the church there and that was fine for this visit.
Muchelney
So, turning around I ambled back.

Deep and magical encounters with River continued,
Reeds and flow
and those with the Willows followed.
Three Willows
I love Willows and have done for as long as I can remember, long before I knew they were my birth tree.

Then there was the Apple Tree. She is an old tree, or at least I sensed her thus. She is not whole, but bears a hole in a part of her that is broken off.
Apple 3Apple 2 Apple 4
Lichen covered she is wise. Still bearing fruit, she gave me an apple and told me that I must come and take some of her Mistletoe for Yule. I felt comfort in her presence and a connection of spirits, hers to mine and mine to hers.

I encountered a corvid who companions me. Corvid 1
As well as signs of the Mole People who guard my steps when I request their presence.
Mole hills

Taking a slightly different path, off the main track, for the last bit of the way into the village, I came upon, under more Willows, a swathe of tiny mushrooms.
Peedie mushrooms
I took a photo with my pen to show the scale. Peedie mushrooms.2 JPG
They were a wonder, though I didn’t know how much so until I pulled the close-up I took onto my computer.
IMG_4073
There were also some scary grey-black ones. A wonder, too, though in a different way. scary mushrooms

Back where I started I felt refreshed and renewed. Where it began

I had engaged the River Parrett as my River, my Muse. I claimed the space as sacred for and to me, in my life going forward. It is no longer shackled to memories that hurt my heart or stab my soul. I am free to know the Parrett as a manifestation, a riverfestation of the Awen.

I am building new memories. I am enjoying new experiences. I continue to learn about myself, my place and my purpose.

No longer am I paused at the edge of the river, waiting. Not even am I paused at the river flowing. There isn’t any more an edge at which to pause. I am part of the River. Part of the Flow. Part of the Awen that connects me to my Muse. Connects me to everything of wonder and mystery. life and being, creation and creativity.

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Maize Mothers

I have interacted with the maize field across the road ever since it was planted early in the summer. The field is quite large and the rows run parallel to the road. Apparently, some years ago they were planted vertically to the road and the cottage flooded. Thankfully, the change in planting direction was the remedy, but I digress.

For some time now I have been thinking it a field of Maize Maidens.
Maize Maidens 5Maize Maidens 4Maize Maidens 3Maize Maidens 2

However, in the last week or so it has been made clear to me that at this time it considers itself a field of Maize Mothers.
Maize Mothers 3Maize Mothers 2Maize Mothers 1Maize Mothers 4

And, thinking about it that re-framed designation makes a lot more sense.

Maize Mothers

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

At our beginnings we were
supple and able to bend in the breeze,
and our song sung with the wind
was soft and gentle for who listened.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Through the early searing heat
and later protracted torrential rains,
we stood together growing taller,
our stocks stiffening with age.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Awaiting the inevitable harvest,
our silks no longer free flowing blonde
emerge tangled brown from ears full to bursting,
our crop is ripening and strong.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Our songs are now dry
as we rustle in the Autumnal winds,
our crowns are thin and empty,
the work of our life nears ending.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

We do not seek your sorrow or your pity,
we came to provide food for man and beast,
it is our burden and our gift,
we only ask your gratitude at each partaking.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

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.

Hybrid Spirits

When trees
still
danced upon the dappled land
when dragons ranged the twilit skies
when woman and man were unconceived
were inconceivable,
then, then
the tree spirits and the dragon souls
swirled in mists of passion embodied.

Borne from their unions
another being of dragon and treekind both
emerged.

Dragon Willow 2

Creating a new genealogy,
some of those newly genetically encoded ones
with divergent memory
lay with humans when they became
and another hybrid
not fully tree nor totally dragon
not ever woman nor even man
but with bodies one or the other,
who yet remembered
the calling of the ground beneath them
and to whom the fire entered in.

A body dancing to unfamiliar musics
and singing in mysterious harmonics
of trees and dragons, men and women
part of those preceding them
alive together.

An afternoon at RSPB Swell Wood

First I want to thank my friend who is an administrator for the area RSPB for taking me on this wonderful adventure, since I don’t drive.

When we headed out from my cottage yesterday afternoon, it was a bit mizzly so we went to plan B – Swell Wood, plan A was Ham Wall. That’s for another day. It had nearly stopped when we arrived at the car park where there were only two cars.

Arrival

From the time we opened the doors, and in spite of the road noise, bird song filled the air. Since the feeders were empty, she filled one of them with sunflower seeds.

Our first stop was the hide for the heronry. With all the leaf cover it took a few minutes to locate the nests. And, I forgot my binoculars so we shared. Saw several nests heard lots of calling from the treetops. Saw an egret nest and egrets flying off as well as heron. There were other little birds in closer as well.

We then walked around the top walk and at one point the road noise vanished. The atmosphere was magical. Once we’d made that circuit we took off for Scarp Trail, lots of up and then lots of down, followed by way more up to get back to the car.
Virdiditas 3Virdiditas 2

All around there were delicate grasses, yellow archangel and remnants of bluebells, and one lone cuckoo-pint.

Grass with seedsGrass with multiple seeds

Yellow archangelCuckoo pint

Saw Alfred’s cakes and for the first time knew what it was that I’d seen a few times before.

Alfreds cakes

The ivy twisting around the tree trunks looked like Celtic knot work. I have wondered before if it is not where the idea for such patterns originated.

Knot work 5Knot work 4

Knot work 3Knot work 2

Knot work 1

The views across the Levels were amazing. Hard to believe how recently they were under water for weeks and weeks.

Levels 1Levels 2

I marvelled at the beetles on the green leaves, and what I think are musk beetles, though I didn’t get a photo.

Red beetles

When we got back to the car after filling a second feeder my friend moved the car to the other side of the car park and we waited to see who’d take up the offer of food. It didn’t take long for a pair of Chaffinches to arrive and work the ground for what had fallen from the holes in the feeder right in front of us. Then to the other feeder a Greater Spotted Woodpecker arrived. We heard some hungry noises coming from a hole in a tree before we were back at the car and figure this must be a parent bird.

Greater spotted 3Greater spotted 2Greater spotted

At the same time a squirrel showed up with the Chaffinches and worked the ground. When the woodpecker moved to the closer feeder another visitor took over the second feeder.

Squirrel 4Squirrel 1

Squirrel 2Squirrel 3

For those brief few hours, I soaked up the tranquillity and the virdiditas. Tall trees reaching up to embrace the sun, which wasn’t much in evidence, linked like the ribs of a vaulted cathedral ceiling. Air slightly moist and smelling sweetly clean. It was an opportunity to relax and allow the spirits of the wood, on the edge of the Levels, to reach out to me as I opened to allow the connection and communion. There was the low strong murmur of tree speech all around me. I felt welcomed. I felt at home. I felt the presence of dryads and woodland sprites. I sensed the dancing energies of trees and of the bird life all about me. Chirrup, song, melody was all around me heard with my inner and outer ears. Vision, vista, beauty were everywhere I looked seen with my inner and outer eyes.

I was walking in Swell Wood and I was walking in The Wood, if that makes sense. I was there and beyond there. The magical nature of this small, magnificent gem of a woodland opened the portal for me to enter a Wood much larger and far more complex. I was moving in two realms, happily nattering away with my friend and at the same time communicating in silent presence with the greater energy of where I was, beyond where I was.

I was very aware of being on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a place of fascination and enticement for me. Although I am not able to get down into them without much travel and expense on buses, I love them. They are a place of particular mystery and wonder. There are connections I’ve not had the opportunity to explore fully, but I feel the pull. I it feel more strongly now. The gods and spirits of the Levels are calling me and I know I need to find ways of entering the openness of this landscape and meet them more fully. Yesterday, as we drove back through the spaces they inhabit I heard whispers and echoes reaching out to me, calling me to engage with them. It is another calling I am not going to be able to pretend I don’t hear for very much longer.

The deep Mystery of Willow is present in the Levels in a way that I sense is unique. Where I live I tiptoe on the edges of it, does this sound familiar? But I have not allowed myself, and also at some profound level of my being not been allowed until now to contemplate such a connection.

I have made deep links with Yew and Beech already, but Willow only by a gentle touch not mutually deep exchanges between self, being and presence. And it’s not only the mystery of the Willow; there is other mystery and magic there for me. There is something about the land itself, even beyond the surface and visible landscape that calls to me. From where I sit now it is ephemeral and insubstantial, but it is surely real, reaching out and pulling me to explore.

All of these experiences are intensifying my practice of Druidry, enriching my spiritual and religious path, as well as my self-understanding as a Druid. They show me I have so much to experience still and only hint at how deeply these realities and experiences will take me into the realms of the gods, the ancestors and spirits of this land who frame, shape and ground my life and being as a Druid, as a person.

All this wonder, enrichment, challenge, awareness from a brief journey to and through an RSPB reserve.

What do the Trees feel?

Since the weekend there has been a lot of wind blowing over the high bit of Somerset where I live. It is the other side of being blessed with big sky. As I walked into a meeting in the village last evening I saw what the wind had done to the young leaves on the trees along the way I have to walk. As I walked I listened. I opened by senses and my soul and was rocked by what I felt, what I heard.

It was a mixture of sadness, grief and what I can best describe as stoic resignation. There was keening, but also the shrugging sigh. Clearly, from this I have learned that trees not only feel loss, but have their own ways to cope. This is my reflection.

How did you feel,
for I know that you did,
when the wild wind
tore through your branches,
sending young twigs with their leaves
to the gutter and pavement below?

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Key seeds unripened,
never reaching the stage
spinning you into the future
uncertain at best,
pale remnants strewn,
hope unfulfilled
as harsh winds
drove through your boughs.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Indeed there are still leaves,
yet more twigs and other seeds remain,
indistinct in the green mass
remaining to deepen to shade,
but those at my feet now
discrete and distinguishable,
separated from the your holding
are most easily seen.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Do they cry out when the wind
shears them off in the gale?
Do you hear them cry but turn
your energy from away
easing their journey below?
Do you feel their pain or only your own?
For now I know that you do
in a tree’s different way.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Deep was the sadness,
raw was the grief,
resignation articulated,
felt in my soul wrenching my heart,
as you bent with the next gust,
one last time to your lost leaves,
though no bitter farewell,
paying homage to those departed
strewn at my feet.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

The Badger’s Gift

Last weekend I happened upon a dead badger on the sidewalk around the corner from where I live. S/he had been hit on Friday night or early Saturday morning.

It was very upsetting to see this sight. I reported it to the Badger Trust, who log such incidents to help keep track of badgers and see if there are patterns around deaths, and the to Council for removal.

Several people walked by and were trying hard to ignore the body.

I spent time with the body, I allowed myself to marvel at the front claws so perfect for digging and the so sharp compared to the well worn back ones.

I studied the fur, appreciating the texture and colours.

After a while I sensed that the spirit/energy had not left the Badger. So, I spent time helping him/her let go and return to the Feasting Sett of the Badgercestors. I was given a name to refer to this badger – Baskin. After a brief visit to the Badgercestoral Sett, Baskin returned to me. This is not unusual. Other creatures have done this when I helped them let go and I needed their aid for some purpose.

Since I am looking for a new place to live, it was clear Baskin would remain and help me locate my new sett, as it were. I was humbled by this act of generosity and presence. Baskin now walks with me everywhere at little ahead on the right side, about 2 o’clock. It is a comforting presence to me.

Fast forward six days. Today was not a good day starting out. I have not been sleeping well worrying about the enforced move upcoming due to the landlord selling up, still looking for a job, and taking a course to help me be more employable since my university degrees are of no use to me in that regard.

I went out for a walk out of the village and made my way to the stream. The sun was glinting on the water at the bridge.


The clear ringing message to me was: You cannot capture the dance of the flow any more that you can hold the sound of the musics. Then I went to the gate into the field where I saw the young deer last spring. I called on the gods and ancestors, and the spirits of the land in the place where I live. I asked Nemetona to assist me as well in finding the safety of a new sanctuary. Baskin was there just the other side of the gate, looking up with affection and approval. Badger companions have at times been rather harsh with me when I needed that, apparently now I need gentleness.

As I turned to walk up the drive to where the Tall Oak stands I looked down and saw

My heart rose and I laughed with joy. . . A Badger Stone, a wee Brock Rock on the cement drive over a metre from all the stones of the rest of the drive.

Thousands of them and this one made its way to the crest of the bridge. I picked it up and sang my gratitude for the gift of encouragement.

From there I walked to the Tall Oak and around the path along its other side. After I had taken a few photos of the newly budding and blooming Gorse, my phone rang. It was from the HR department of a business I applied to on 8th December! I’d been short listed for an interview to be held on Monday. Because of the experience of finding the Badger Stone, I was feeling happy and positive and sounded it on the phone. The job would make enough money to live on and have a life. I don’t know how the interview will turn out, but it is the first one I’ve had in months. And at a time I really need one. It seems more than just an accident in the timing.

I have done other things to alter my perceptions of things and let go of past hurts, this has also cleared the way for new opportunities.

But I also feel much gratitude for Baskin, who although s/he is physically gone, has left an imprint on my soul and awareness as s/he continues to walk this part of my journey with me.

The arrival of the Badger Stone also encourages me to face the future, in trust and in the full awareness I am never alone. Badger is a powerful presence for me and has been for many years since I arrived in the UK. These events just strengthen my links with Badger and help give me the determination to move forward.