Elen’s Long Presence

When I was lost and wandering
at nineteen years of age,
the suggestion was made
that I retreat for a time
to a nunnery,
spend a week with the sisters
at the convent of St Helen,
but it never happened,
I was not sent,
I did not go.

A decade later
on a journey guided
by a counsellor,
because the way of writing
had closed itself to me,
I found a Lady of great power
trapped in an amber coffin
bedded in wildflowers
and healing herbs
upon which strayed
her auburn hair;
I revived her,
who was in one sense me
yet very other.

Thirteen years later
at the initiation of one
dear to me middle named
Ellen I made my way with
her and others to thin Iona,
where and when I found
there was a soulscape
and soul homeland for me,
here I remain today,
on its larger landmass
safe and settled,
as much as human
embodiment will allow.

In another three years
I commissioned a drum
and rattle be made,
the latter’s soundings sung
by small Iona stones,
both instruments shaped
in a North American elk hide,
the most powerful and mysterious
the maker had ever used he said,
and its remains remain with me.

A lull then
growing shifting changing
beliefs partners countries
that resulted eventually
in receiving a ring
crafted in red gold from Rhyl,
in the land of my ancestors,
a connection to Mascon’s dream
of sovereignty’s goddess Elen,
who had red hair and
wore red gold and amber,
long before I knew their story
red gold was my favourite
and amber held as yet it does
great power and presence for me.

Over the next five years
two experiences,
one on the track
near Wyland Smithy
a group of deer jumped a fence
in front of me and one paused,
a young antlered stag
to stare deep into my eyes
and pierced my soul,
in the way the sound
of a bellowing stag
on a hill across Loch Tarff
stirred in me ancient wanderings.

Away from the wild places
of the Highlands and Islands
tucked on the edge of the Levels,
a stone came to me
an Antlered One raised on its surface,
but even as images appeared
and reappeared,
the link was not made,
and it would be another
four years before the books
arrived that would corner me,
to turn and face Elen,
and begin my journey to understand
the trail on which she
both led and followed me
for half a century,
patient no longer
now as Winter descends,
for the Reindeer Goddess and I
must now begin our work together.

This poem is a timeline of sorts for my relationship with Elen (Elen of the Ways, the Antlered/Reindeer Goddess), even and especially when I did not know that I was connected to Her. In the next few days I will write more about this relationship and how I am coming to understand it. A relationship such as this has implications and ramifications across all areas of my life and will frame every part of it from now on. Excited? Yes. Uncertain? Oh yes. Terrified? Who would not be? But given what I have shared here there in an inevitability that is in an odd way reassuring.

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Remnants of My Love

From paranoia to delusion,
to ill made choices
life changes made from a place
of psychological disintegration.

What now remains?

Face like thunder,
a storm waiting to break
the inertia of self-indulgence,
denial held and truth avoided.

Heart like flint,
sharp knapped edges,
shards piercing ever deeper
poised to destroy the essential self.

Soul like ash,
encased in ice unmelting,
frozen solid unable to blow free
for the phoenix of the self to be reborn.

Only these and my compassion,
and the remnants of my love.

Winter’s Cold

Winter’s cold weaves
expanding icy lace
barely visible, upon
dark needled yew,
bare branched ash,
berried brazen holly,
spreading fernish tendrils
patterning across surfaces,
setting miniscule shards
of crystal standing upon
leaves alive and dead,
making no discernible distinction.

Winter’s cold rests
in places saturated by preferences
eons old and untamed still,
raises misty on the rimes
bounding fields again water swollen
too sodden for any but the swans,
when night-water standing shallow
transubstantiates to ice
slippery and shining
seen in unexpected beauty
on the dawning of the day.

Winter’s cold steals
upon and over roads and pathways,
undetectable until too late,
ice black as night
as dangerous as
frozen projectiles thrown
by no hand seen by human eyes,
plummeting,
from eaves and rooftops
crashing to break the quiet
impaling the unwary.

And now Winter’s cold
drapes shoulders undetected
and gloves fingers invisibly,
it can steal into the Self,
it can freeze the soul
with discontent,
it can freeze the heart
with regret,
it can freeze the mind
with memories,
if one be not careful
it can reach out grabbing
the joy, the hope, the wonder
from the season’s bright festivities.

Be wary then and watchful,
though most of all,
be bold with wonder,
be extravagant with joy,
be generous with love,
be not afraid,
embrace with delight Winter’s gifts,
short lived each year,
filled with immense mystery
and the deepest magic.

We say we know

We say we know,
but we do not understand the way,
we do not perceive the paths
torqued and tortuous
through the deeply shadowed
regions of the self,
the secretly inhabited
landscape of the soul,
the mysteriously wrought
structure of the heart,
where desires dwell
where hopes haunt
where wishes wander
unvoiced unfulfilled unannounced
to the consciousness of the mind,
which could not bear the revelation,
could not endure the unveiling
of the hidden terror
of the unacknowledged fear
of the dangerous truth,
that we are all more
than who we appear to be
and less than we believe we are.

Do I exist?

If you refuse to acknowledge me,
does that mean I do not exist,
I have no worth or value
past or present in your life?

If I greet you and you ignore me,
does that mean what we shared,
all those years had no worth or value,
that our time together had no meaning?

If you grimace when you see me,
does that mean I am beneath contempt,
and my very being is somehow
offensive and hateful to you?

I do not understand,
I fail to see how a smile,
a simple act of kindness,
would despoil your grand new life,
unless it would fracture
your carefully placed notions
set around you now as a fortress
to keep at bay the fear,
to protect against the guilt,
to shield against the questions
and reality you have never faced
as you yielded to the temptations
of the flesh and for them abandoned
the intentions of the soul.

Farewell Sparrow

I went out the front door to check for the post, which hadn’t arrived.

I walked the short way to the sidewalk and looked down the street, then up.

Looking up the street I saw a sparrow on the ground.

I went and picked it up. I saw no signs of a violent end. Its legs were stiff and its eyes partially closed. It didn’t look like it had been in pain when it died or the death was too sudden for it to register.

I stroked it gently, such a fragile being. Such tiny feathers. Such a delicate creature that usually flits about in and out of the shrubbery. Always in a hurry. Never staying still for long. On the look out and on the move.

A creature whose way of life I can barely understand. Life between earth and air. Life lived on the ground, among the bushes and in the air.

I held it for a long time. Thinking about its life and why it ended it where and when it did. Pondering the reason that I found it, saw it – others had been up and down the street before me. It was right in the middle  and couldn’t be missed and surely someone earlier would have moved it. Could have done, but it was there and so was I.

What then, since we were placed at the same place together, is its lesson for me?

The tenuousness of life, perhaps. The need not always to be flitting about because you will be stopped. The necessity to pause and pay attention to the chirping and twittering, of the birds I mean. That life is a gift and a promise  to be  neither ignored nor dishonoured.

Many possible lessons and no sure answers . . . as it should be, as mysterious as the life this small one led.

Farewell then small soul. May you be welcomed with open wings  in the enshrubberied halls of your ancestors. May you join your voice to the eternal dawn and dusk chorus and the everlasting daily chirping that echoes between the silences of the gentle summer’s breeze.

Farewell Sparrow, and thank you for the lessons you will teach me that I am not yet able to comprehend. You rest now on the roots of the rose that climbs beside my front door. I could not bury beneath the soil, one who always flew free in the bright air. I will remember you as I come and go and we will speak in the whispers of wonder and the intimacy of intuition.

Farewell and welcome.