Winter now, whether by light, temperature or precipitation, and the trees know. Walk in a woodland, an orchard, a forest, or stand by a tree, listen, sense, engage what the tree lives now – it is time to rest, it is time to connect deeply with the nurturance of the land where roots sent deeply, rapped in mycorrhizal blankets, sustain and strengthen, preparing for the spring awakening Winter now, whether by light, temperature or precipitation, and the trees know. Trees teach that always pushing out, always reaching up, always producing, is not a show of power, is not a badge of strength, is not s sign of wisdom, for trees, many far longer lived than humans, spend time each year in winter in quietude, no leafing, no twigging, no flowering, no fruiting, all of which have a season, have a place and purpose, but the purpose of winter, this is different. Winter now, whether by light, temperature or precipitation, and the trees know. Listen and learn from the trees this year; this winter slow down, allow time for renewal, experience quietude, reach deeply for what truly nurtures and sustains, and know what the trees have always known – you cannot be powerful, strong or wise if you do not. Winter now, whether by light, temperature or precipitation, and the trees know.
Today is the day I grieve for the Dragon.
I do not honour the slayer saint, patron of the land I love, for the Dragon here, like the Snake in one of my ancestral lands signify other realities. Yes, dangerous but are we not untamed as well.
For these may indeed pose a threat to the powers of state and church, but they are the realities which sing in my woman-soul and nurture me at levels deep and broad.
This is the day I remember the wild energy of women dead and gone, those live and present, and ponder on those not yet amongst us.
It is a day I hold close the transformative Mother energy of Earth, the raw and raging dynamism of the planet which is so close under foot and seem seldom enough that we try to convince ourselves that our world is a calm and tranquil place.
Today is the day I celebrate the Dragon.
For the Dragon energy lives near us always and no saint could extinguish this potent force resident within our souls.
Let her free to roar again today.
Let her roar to call us to action to protect the land, the trees, the rocks, the rivers.
Let the roaring turn grief into deeds.
Let the roaring turn loss into renewal and regeneration.
Let the roaring turn pain into the hymn of our wild selves singing with the wild Earth, affirming we will be tame and tamed no more.
Let her free to roam again today.
I realise that I have been silent for months. It was time I needed to dive and delve deep into myself, to look, to learn and to accept. Time I required to adjust to life with a new partner. Time to settle into a new home, a new city. Time to rest and relax. Time to be.
I come back refreshed. I come back with new insights. I come back with enthusiasm. I come back with gladness. I have missed my blog, but the Gray Bear in the Middle needed time in her den, curled up, waiting for her own spring of renewal. She has, I have woken from this deep long hibernation, this extended hiatus ready to amble along the paths of wisdom newly discovered, swim in the waters of insight, and scrabble along the edges of wonder, and bring you along with me.
I am grateful that you have stayed with me, or at least I hope you have.
I have returned.
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.
Then I ate the lunch I had packed sitting on one of the benches near the riverbank gazing into its flow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, turning around I ambled back.
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.
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.
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.
I took a photo with my pen to show the scale.
They were a wonder, though I didn’t know how much so until I pulled the close-up I took onto my computer.
There were also some scary grey-black ones. A wonder, too, though in a different way.
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.
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.