Robin Sang for Willow

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The magnificent old Willow
was being taken down,
limb by limb,
branch by branch,
and finally,
segment of trunk by segment of trunk,
all day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The louder the chainsaw
roared
the louder you
sang,
so she would know
you were there
singing to her,
singing to ease the pain
to honour her living
mark her dying,
so she would know
she was not alone.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang when the squirrel
fled its drey
moments before the chainsaw man
ripped it out of its place
nestled in between
two strong branches,
and threw it on the ground
like rubbish;
it had been a good place for a drey,
the squirrel now has
no bed for the night.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang as the wood dust
spewed from the whirling saw
and fell sparkling in the sun
like snow or rain on a sunny day,
but it wasn’t rain or snow
it was part of a life
being cut down;
and as the parts fell,
thudding after they were
too heavy to tumble
crashing earthward,
the sky opened up
bright blue
on a sad day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang farewell
to an old and noble
being who had stood
where it could not flee
when it got in the way,
got too big and had to go,
like so many of its kin
right now around the world
lost to clear cutting,
lost to fire,
lost to greed,
lost to commerce,
lost to progress,
lost forever
and we shall never know
the weight of the loss
until it is far too late.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

A Deity of the Land Where I Live

I have wondered for the year we have been living in a small village in Avalon who the deity/deities of the land here might be.

On Saturday I got the answer. I was waiting for a gathering of our Village Hall Committee, of which I am a member, to decide on the new paint colours for the Hall. Across the road is the Village Green that not only has over a dozen apple trees, but it, like our property (which includes a very wee orchard) abuts the Great Orchard. I was just looking and enjoying the quiet of the morning before the grass cutting commenced in the fields around the village.

All of a sudden Pomona arrived. It makes sense, the Romans were here for a goodly while. They seemed to have left Her here, or She decided to remain after they up stakes and returned to the continent. I’m not sure when the apples trees arrived in Avalon, but they are all over the place. Mostly, I have to admit, cider orchards. Ours was part of the Great Orchard and the cider trees were taken out and replaced by eating apples. Our trees are young so our harvest was not huge. We got half a dozen Bramleys. There were over a dozen Howgate Wonders and one Worcester Pearman. There is one tree in our garden of an undetermined variety, but has many sweet red apples. We also have a pear and plum tree, the former is laden with fruit and the latter had a dozen or so plums that were added to some others gave us for my first, and unsuccessful, attempt at jam making. The resulting plum sauce is yummy though and I have since gotten the hang of jam making.

Today I looked for images of Pomona as part of wanting to create a shrine for Her, and found a nice one on a prayer card that I ordered and, as a project for some time in the future, a very complicated cross stitch pattern based on the famous image by Bryne-Jones. I took a glass dessert bowl shaped like an apple (I have a set of five of them so it won’t be missed). I took some artificial apple blossom from a bunch I have and a plastic red apple I’ve had for ages and placed them in the bowl. Behind it is a postcard of the Apple Pavement at Hereford Cathedral. This is special since my husband was the Project Manager at the quarry that provided or sourced the stones for the pavement and he did the drawings used to construct it from the original design. It’s quite stunning, if I say so myself, and worth a look in on if you are ever in Hereford.

Pomona Shrine

One of our projects after the leaves fall, to the relief and with blessing of the owner of the Great Orchard, my husband and I are going is to tackle removing the mistletoe from the trees there. You might think this is not something a Druid would do, but sorry. Mistletoe is a parasite and has already killed one tree in the small orchard right next door to us. I really think they ought to remake the classic image of the Druid with the golden sickle taking the mistletoe from the oak and replace it with a Druid with a golden chainsaw removing the stuff before it kills the tree. If you are all warm and fuzzy about mistletoe I suggest you read about how it grows and what it does to the trees infests; you might begin to think about it differently.

Our orchard tending is one reason that I think Pomona arrived. Even my husband who thinks I have way too many altars is nonetheless quite happy for there to be a shrine to Pomona where we can both engage with it. The photo of it here is not in place it will ultimately reside, that is still to be figured out, though I have some ideas.

Haiku on a Stormy Day

Unable to flee
Trees bend in thrashing storm wind
Roots reach deep hold firm.

Birds wheeling sideways
Wind rushed wings onward fly
Difficult to land.

Pollarded treescape
Land floats on hidden waters
Somerset Levels.

Catkins dance waving
Pollen spreading far and wide
New generations.

Sun peaking from clouds
Clouds pushed on wind swiftly
Calm soon returning.

Wind unrelenting
Atmospheric songs wail
Silence forgotten.

Howling wind keening
Mournful song marking the day
Waiting for relief.

Wood into Stone

In the hand
cool to the touch,
a side polished to a high sheen,
a side smooth and dull,
bark in textured edges
still present in mineral form.

From the land of lemurs,
red ruffed,
ring tailed,
black and white,
the aye-aye and sifarkas,
too long ago to comprehend
this tree may have known
the swinging and resting
of these creatures
on branches hung with
tangles of vine,
perhaps.

Fossilised tree,
wood into stone
transubstantiated,
a different mode of being,
a different form of existing,
a different sort of appearing,
no longer a branch
wherein the fluid would rise
awakened from the ground beneath,
called up into the canopy.

Stone from wood,
mineral emerged from zylum and phloeum,
patterned rings blurred in alteration
from one material to the other,
longevity a challenge to decipher,
but its beauty not dependent
on its age in life or from death,
wondering how it died,
what disaster felled or befell it
to bring it from tall standing
to resting on its side.

The story of its existing and its perishing,
may reveal itself in time
through meditation or contemplation,
journeying in thought and imagination,
until the breeze can be felt,
again perhaps,
in its twigs and branches,
the creatures of the day or night
swaying or climbing,
hiding or feeding
on its fruit or foliage,
may any revelations be the way
to reach beyond the present material
to touch by mind or heart
a time before humankind
came into the Madagascan forests
leaving trails of ruination and destruction.

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.