I Could See My Breath

I could see my breath
on the Lammas early morning air,
the season surely shifting
summer beginning to fade,
though not yet over,
for the heat may yet return,
but this morning,
the cool mist of my being
lept forth to join the swirling
dance of one season’s waning,
as another steps up
to sweep me off my feet
in wonder, gratitude, delight.

Seeing my breath
as the sun creeps over
the ripening apple boughs
reminds me that time,
though we created
our own notions of it,
is never still always moving,
farther on along
the spiral of life’s journey,
and we are not ever
in the same place,
though the seasons
repeat and reappear.

We see each season
with the fresh sight
of all the experiences
between the last time
the year’s wheel
turned this way,
the breath I breathe
in and out,
the cool morning air
filling me with life and promise,
the scents of Autumn
hinted in the reminder
that as I inhale and exhale
I change the essence
of my being as surely
as I alter the whole of creation
round about me.

Joy the Morning

Joy this morning
And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Severed from active presence
another’s inadequacy dictating
actions that should have been
mine alone to take or reject,
but I was not strong enough
I was not secure enough
I was not safe enough
to challenge.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Years later,
at the urging of my gods,
the ancestors of the land
and the saint who with
this friend brought me
for the first time to
my soul’s home
my spirit’s home
the land of my truest
connections –
I reached out.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

I reached out across
the waste of seas,
the wasteland of seasons
devoid of sharing,
and to my delight and hers
future seasons now open,
friendship redeemed
redemption grasped,
welcomed and embraced.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

The years of then are lost,
the years of yet are found,
different people
different paths
different stories,
the same reassuring presence,
the same willing smile,
the same deep story
alive between us.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Welcome back
my friend
my sister
my daughter,
for the man with whom
I now share my life is not jealous
but with me instead rejoices,
that a friend of deep connection
is found again
and we are linked once more.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.
 

 

 

Winter Arrived

Rain falls.
Mist rises.
Clouds glower.
Sun hides.

Winter.

The outside world contracts.
The inside world expands.
Darkness overtakes daylight.
Morning shortens.
Evening disappears.

There is day.
There is night.
Dawn shrinks.
Dusk vanishes.

Only two times now:
shortened day,
lengthened night.

Winter arrived
damp and dank,
cloud shrouded,
sun starved.

When the golden warmth
appears
suddenly,
an unexpected afternoon
of sunshine
fleeting glorious heartening,
before clouds once more overtake,
dropping temperature,
stealing our illusioned sky
turning vibrant blue to dull gray,
a new pattern
autumn well and truly gone,
replaced subsumed forgotten.

Horizontal rain
wind borne
lashes whips rages
reality tipped sideways longwise
playing with our minds
toying with our souls
dampening our spirits . . .
unless until
acceptance.

Welcome the time of retreat
when dark and chill
replace light and warmth,
preparation for regeneration;
face discomfort
to shatter complacency,
accept lessons
in softer seasons ignored,
embrace the work of winter,
learn not to fear darkness
but to cherish light.

Winter the harsh season.
Winter the winnowing season.
Winter when then and yet
hide forcing the now
into shard-sharp relief
focusing what is most important
no frills no embellishment no decorations
can hide us from ourselves.

Allow the trees’ austere forms
to show what we avoid —
that we too stand naked
before the cold truths unavoidable
we are vulnerable
we are fragile
we are capable of hope.

The Challenges of Heavy Summer

July and August are the hard part of summer for me. Summer and I have never gotten on well, not even as a child, but that was partly because we lived in a flat over a shop in a medium sized town in east central Indiana. Because my father was an artist, and this was the late 50s and early 60s, classmates weren’t allowed to come and play with me and I was never invited to their homes to play either.

Consequently, I spent lots of time in my father’s studio, which was another flat across the roof and one floor up from where we lived. It was some consolation and compensation for the lack of peers to engage with. I engaged instead with colour and form, and watched art being created. What I could imagine in my mind I could at least attempt to manifest with my hands. I did my first wood block print at age five. I soaked up creative energy like a sponge, but not the energies of land and earth and I had never see the sea at an age I could remember it.

Yes, there were two parks in the town. There were the occasional adventure walk with my father and year younger brother. But I lived pretty much an indoor life, most time outdoors spent walking to school and we also walked home for lunch. Always in a hurry, never really any time to look at things. The most engagement I had with nature was squeezing ‘gushy berries’, as I called yew berries, between my fingers.

I read the dictionary from the time I was nine or ten. It was my favourite book.

I missed school in the summer holidays, which were pretty much two and a half months long.

I never really accommodated myself to the season of heavy shade and oppressive humidity and with my severe mosquito allergy, well . . .

I never lived where crops were grown, except when visiting my mother’s people in Iowa, which we did every couple of years, my mother, brother and I. In Iowa it was maize, acres and acres of it ripening in the July sun. I remember the air conditioner in my Aunt Alberta’s beauty salon and the smell. It was icy in there and a relief from the worst of the heat. She and Uncle Fletcher lived in a rambling two storey house with a full basement and wrap around porch. There was a cherry tree one the side and rhubarb that I used to eat raw with salt. I can still see and smell it all clearly.

But, summer never felt right to me, an alien season. Summer is the season about the land and its productivity. I never had any real sense of that driving by or seeing it slip past outside the window of the Zephyr heading west from Chicago on the way to Iowa. I was an observer of the land and the landscape. I was never a participant in its energies. I never heard it call to me. Never was invited to meet its guardians, those I now understand to be the ancestors. And certainly had no notion of the gods.

When I was older and I lived in different places and had gardens to be in I tried hard to connect. I still was not able to do so. And, of course, summer was the hardest. Still plagued by reactions to mosquito bites and not keen on sunshine, finding its glare hard to take, summer was still not my best time of year.

Only since I’ve been living in the UK, nearly thirteen years now, have I been able to come to terms with summer and its excesses, as I always saw them. Here the summers are not as predictable as where I lived in the US. It can be hot and dry one year and the next chilly and sodden. And, I’ve not lived in a city. I lived on an Orcadian island, and in Devon and Somerset, where I still live, visited parts of Wales and spent time in the Highlands of Scotland and the far end of Cornwall. Always close to the land. Always welcomed by the ancestors. Always aware that the gods here are my gods.

The Grain does not know . . .

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

This message came to me over a month ago and settled into my awareness and went silent for a while. Several days ago it came back, chanting and pushing and insistent – a Lammas warning, perhaps.

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

I heard this originally pertaining to a certain dream series I had several months ago that were about an personal matter. But, it has wider meanings this time of the year.

As I walk out into the countryside, the delicate scent of camomile wafts from the field boundaries and on the path flies are zizzing all around me through the stinging nettles.

Camomile 1      Flies

Along the way I saw the one of the wheat fields had been harvested, and another had not.
Wheat cut            Wheat uncut

The grass is rolled for storage.

Grass baled

The maize tassels are turning russet brown in the bright sun.

Maize

The walnuts and conkers are ripening on their respective trees high above my head.

Walnuts             Conkers

I have not yet seen acorns, but not visited the tree who might bear them in a few weeks. The hazelnuts are already being harvested though shells are white and their covers are still downy green and soft, not yet nut brown and dry.

Early hazel harvest   Hazel cluster

The elderberries are still green and compact, though sparse.

Elderberries

However, some rowan berries are red ripe.

Rowan berries

I saw one ripe yew berry, the victim of hedge trimming, but most are still green.

Yew berry on the floor    Yew berries

The haws are turning on some trees and a few blackberries are making an attempt to ripen, but the dry spell, even after all our rains may bring a meagre harvest for the creatures to forage the hedgerows, and for the latter I include me.

Haws      Blackberries

The apples are blushing in the sunshine.

Blushing apples           Blush apple

The mangel wurzles are bursting from the ground; tatties are still flowering, though some are prepared to be taken from the earth.

Mangle Wurzles    Flowering tatties

Field tatties green    Tatties of havest

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

These photos are idyllic, pastoral, speak of the way of the seasons. The natural order of being. Yet, the words still haunt me. They make me squirm. They make me think deeply about every day in the bright, hot summer.

I find it difficult in part because summer has never been my best season, beyond the mosquito bites to which I am allergic and the absence of school when I was younger. I know that the light emanates from sun and shoots out into the bleakness of space. Some of it radiates this planet we call home in the precise amounts to allow us to live, unless we mess it up and lose the ozone layer and cover ourselves in too thick a blanket of CO2.

All that science acknowledged and intellectually understood, the part of me that deals with and senses and feels the energies of all that surrounds me tells me that the plants and the animals invoke the light and call down the heat at this time of year. This is the oppressiveness that I feel nearly every summer, except when their calls go unheeded and it is damp and chilly and mostly overcast. In the height of summer even the shade can feel too heavy as the leaves pull in the sun’s energy and they turn a dark green, and often crackle in the wind.

The Grain does not know that the Harvest is coming.

The summer is not passed. The harvest is beginning. The days are gradually contracting, but it is still hard to notice. The sun feels brighter and hotter, though we are slowly tilting away from its strength.
The wheat and maize are standing tall and stiff until they are taken down. The winds glide in graceful patterns over the barley fields. The oats shake and nod in the breeze. None of the individual stocks or stems knows their fate. None of them realise they work for us. None of them know we humans will in due course take their lives away. And we and the other creatures do so to sustain and maintain our lives in the great food chain by and in which we are all, as living beings, bound.

Sobering thoughts. Serious contemplations. In the wider understanding of consumerism, we may not giveth, but we surely have the power to taketh away – take away the life of any other creature or plant that is in our way, that we can exploit for gain, that we can create a demand for. And in so doing we destroy a little more of ourselves. We continue to reap what we cannot sow. In many cases what can never be sown again.

The Grain may not know that the Harvest is coming, but we do.

A journey begins

Hail and welcome!

This journey begins with a name. I call my blog Gray Bear in the Middle because I stand between two totemic Bears: a Black Bear who goes before me and a White Bear who follows after me. Therefore, to them, I am the Gray Bear in the middle. They are spirit presences, but that makes them no less real to me. They have names, although I am not permitted to share those.  They are among the Gathering of Guides, Guardians and Companions who have been present for and to me for varying numbers of years. They include other totem animals, particular tree energies, the Ancestors and Spirits of the Land in which I live, and, though I am now a Druid, several saints. Their individual and collective counsel is invaluable. I would be unable to journey without them. I could not live parted from them.

No doubt I will write about them or experiences I have with them from time to time in the months and, hopefully, years ahead.

I choose Beltane to begin this particular journey because it is a one of the days in the pagan cycle of the years that I think of as a Marker Day. As such it acts as a reminder that we ‘live and move and have our being’ in an ongoing flow of time – more on that in the future. What is important today is to pause, even for a moment, to observe and engage with the environment as spring drifts towards summer, much as the willow down glides on the winds, filling the air with the possibility and hope of life yet to be. Marker Days are  important because, not only are they days of festivity and feasting, they call us to account. They keep us from letting our life slip away barely noticed.

If we have a map or life plan of some sort, Marker Days let us pause to consult it and see where we are, if we have wandered off the track. Sometimes it is a niggling feeling of remorse, guilt or absence of anticipated joy that if we pause we are unable to ignore.  If such feelings arise, a Marker Day allows us to regroup and find our way back to where we really wanted to go in the first place. Discovering we may have lost our way, as it were, does not mean that we retrace our steps and try to find our way back the way we came to the place we wandered off. The serious, assessing part of a Marker Day affords us the chance to ponder over the map, consider the plan and seek a way to find our way to where we were headed and meet the path at a point ahead of us.

  Further on we may find that we were not as far off our path as we originally thought. To take the time to assess, consider, ponder and regroup opens up the real possibility of rejoining the way of life that is both appropriate and honourable for us.

Wandering off the track need not be a bad thing of course, in doing so we may have found just where we wanted to be. That said it is still healthy and helpful to pause on Marker Days to take stock and breathe deeply of the joy we have found on our different path.

None of that means that I do not celebrate each day as a gift — an opportunity, unique, unrepeatable, and as such to be cherished. However, having days set aside, as it were, to pause a moment longer and reflect just a little deeper adds an extra dimension to daily life, to being alive and aware. Marker Days such as Beltane and birthdays also enrich the journey providing an opportunity to give thanks for life and living in an intentional way.

Every day, each moment offers an opportunity to engage the journey.

Hawthorn   Walking daily l see the Hawthorn flowers emerging, in time for Beltane.

A new beauty as the blossom begins to fade,  in turn making way for the fruits that will become the autumn harvest.

The leaves are strengthening. They are no longer soft and delicate, now hard at work. The birds are busy gathering food to feed their young. The journey of life and living, being and becoming continues.

So, we are back to the journey, but not where we began . . . we are in a new landscape, soulscape, heartscape, because a journey takes us to some place, some where that we have not been before, did not necessarily expect to be. It is not always a place of outstanding natural beauty, but it is where we have made our way, following the pathway of our life.

I hope you will find among the words I share here some that speak to you, connect with your spiritual and life journey, give you something to think about and comment upon.