My Dryadic Self

Out of time.
Out of season.
Out of self.

Awareness
of my dryadic form
intensified and changed,
dramatically altering my physical appearance
over the past several seasons
marked as the years crawled on
or I crawled through them.

I reverted initially to Birch,
imagine at my age!
I lost weight became thin
and could have vanished.
I moved differently
no longer young,
attempting to play a game
whose rules I did not
do not know,
misguidedly trying to hold
onto a past by then already lost.

Gradually,
the Birch dream or nightmare faded,
as waking I arose
shifting form again,
this time an Oak sapling
and grew to stand alone
in the field of my despair
sentinel for my own life
sole watcher of my being.

As Beech now I have emerged,
from the leaf litter of my past,
completely formed rounder and fuller
in a body I do not yet,
or perhaps resist according recognition,
shaped in unfamiliar curves,
weighted more than feels healthy,
unsure if Queen of the Wood
suits me or not.

Will I next be Willow?
If so I will not weep,
nor pollarded will I tilt precariously
clinging to the edge of a rime,
but I will stand roots sunk
deep in the flowing waters of life,
drinking deep of being,
ever reaching forth,
embracing my dryadic self until the end.

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.

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.

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.

Dance with the dryads

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Enter a hallowed world
walk through this portal,
acknowledge the rowan tree,
may she allow you to pass.

Duck under enleafed boughs
a path darkened in summer’s deep shade,
only farther along will shadows dapple
playing hide and seek with sunlight.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Who is it who calls me
insistently bidding me release
the bickering in my mind,
pulling my thoughts
and intentions that tie me in knots?

A stream runs by this path
north from the small bridge
away from the village the fields to greet,
willow shed of catkins,
elder holding brown flowers ,
hawthorn bearing green berries,
hazel with pale blushed nuts,
brambles soft flowers hidden with thorns,
then holly, ivy, ash and oak,
though a break in the trees
looking skyward the yew ogham
written in crossing contrails.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Divine through the waters
ovatically listen
there is speech in the streamcourse
pushing past corners
tumbling over obstructions
given voice for its wisdom
a message you could not read
in the shrew’s entrails
so listen to me.

Abandon your camera
take out your pen
see with your ears
hear with your heart,
record and remember the
strange language spoken
between muddy banks
the speech of the waters
addressed now only to you.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Pause here as the waters pass rushing
no longer a whisper, a hum, or a sigh
here the stream runs shouting
demanding your attention
near the end of your walk,
where two close set stones
guard a wooden armed bridge
and the two hawthorns
bend together to shield the way,
turn then return now.

Going back keep you mind calm,
do not let the old arguments
pick up where you left them,
step by step to straight-trunked poplars
sentinels conversing in whispers,
hoping not to be heard.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

This walk has now ended for the light
once more bright shining,
bird song is louder,
gravel crunches under your feet.

Remember the lessons
so much like a dream
the trees of this pathway
engaged with the waters
affirming your intuition
heightening your knowing
enriching your life.

For you danced with the dryads.
You skipped with the stream.

It’s the small things

As is quite usual for me, it’s the small things that seem most to mark my days. Yes, I am aware of larger patterns and shapings, but they are not so immediate until they are. The little things though, well they are there and not always for long.

They catch my attention,

draw my eye,

Wee toadstool

change my whole plan and framing of a day.

It happened several times this week, I paused to look carefully. I spent the time to look very closely to see if I could take some photos I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for days that feel like weeks due to my frustration. But in the last week I got the photos.

            

Doing so was an exercise in patience and perseverance, in gentle negotiation with my subject, battling the wind and rain, and plain dogged determination to succeed if I could. To prove something to myself. About myself, maybe. About my place in the greater scheme of things, perhaps. And, just possibly none of these.

The one incident that stands out, however has to do with a moth. I was walking down one of the streets I take frequently to get away from the village far enough to have a long view of the countryside and not hear the roar of traffic. I came upon a moth in the middle, smack dab in the center of the road. I did not feel I should leave it there, since it did not stir as I approached I knew something was amiss.


I gathered it up gently and began a relationship that lasted nearly an hour, which I imagine for a moth is a very long time.

I could tell it was letting go of its life, having sustained an injury. So I spent some time trying to listen for what it wanted me to do. If it had any last wishes. I tried a few times to put it on a sturdy branch or a wall, but it would have none of it. We went to one of my favourite looking out places and I leaned on a fence and held it to see the wide sky and the fields, it wanted to do that again.

I walked slowly, for though I had errands to do, this was suddenly much, much more important. It did not mind me taking photographs of it in my hand, which was not easy given the shape of my camera, even though it’s one I can comfortable hold in my hand. The shutter, well they used to be called shutters anyway, was on the wrong side. With a bit of hand gymnastics I was successful.

We visited the Hazel and Rowan trees I commune with and one of the Willows. We walked down a sheltered lane with the hedges grown full and high — the cleavers and cow parsley taller than me. The bees were at work in the vetch. The sun was not shining and it kept threatening rain, but I walked on with my companion. Eventually, it became clear that it wanted to go to an Elder tree. I went past several, but I knew the one it wanted. We made our way there, and I plucked a red clover on the last bit of the walk. I knew we were about to say good-bye.

All the time we were together I could feel its clingy, delicate feet on my finger and palm of my hand. I looked carefully at its markings, at its face. It was so downy. I wondered how it managed to fly and land. I wondered how it perceived its reality. As an animist I knew it had its own wisdom and sentience, and more importantly it had a soul and ineffable spirit, somehow and some way.

When we got to the end of our shared journey, I placed it on the top of a tall wooden gate post that reached into the particular Elder tree to which we had been bound to make our way together. I placed it carefully on the post, and put the clover with it. The moth seemed contented. I thanked it for its company and sharing a small portion of its life journey with me. I did not look back. I spoke an intention/prayer that its onward journey be as it was meant to be, but painless and swift as might be.

The way back to the road where we met was a lonely walk. Such a small being took up so much space in my heart for about three quarters of an hour, but it could have been eons for all I was aware at the time. Only when we parted did I re-enter the flow of regular, mundane time. And I have no issues with mundane time. But to have those moments of extra-ordinary time are precious. If all our time was spent there we would not have the same appreciation of those instances of exceptional rarity and wonder.

The rest of that day before and after my encounter with the moth were filled with frustration, taking far longer than it should have, with far more bother to achieve the two main tasks of the day. Those tasks were supposed to be the really important ones — I know now they were not.

Don’t waken the gods

I went on a walk this morning with a great deal on my mind. I have a job application to do this week. My desk looks like a whirlwind blew through. I work by shoving stuff around, sometimes with one of the cats sitting on top of the pile. Nonetheless, I went forth to move in the sunshine, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze tangle my hair and take some photos of the progressing summer.

I went further along one track than I’d ever been. Previously, it was awash in mud and standing with water. At a point I felt was right, I found a place to sit and reflect. Had it not been for the tractor two fields away, all I would have heard were the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. I haven’t sat down at the edge of a field for a long time. The late morning sun was warm. The clouds were broken, mountainous, slow moving. I was on the far side of a field I had been walking along from the other side separated by a stream and long gatherings of trees along the footpath.

Settled down, I pondered. My mind went in time to asking the question, partially rhetorical: Who is the goddess of the Somerset Levels? I figured with all the water and willows it was unlikely to be a god in this instance. I asked as I don’t live all that far from them and am familiar with the places that were so badly flooded over the winter. I figured that the deity would be pretty much for the area where I live as well. I asked and just sat, open, listening. It was hard not to have other things interfering  and distracting, but the heavy drone of the tractor and the chirping and calling of the birds did help me to hold my focus. I didn’t need to travel. I waited.

In time I sensed an answer and it was not the one I was expecting. Well, quite frankly I wasn’t expecting anything, but had I been what I was gathering was not what it would have been.

Do you really think it wise to wake up the old gods? Do you think it appropriate to call me forth? You do not know what I demanded of those who followed me in the past. You have no idea if I am merciful to be reverenced or fierce to be placated. You do not know if I am who or what your world needs.

This was a bit of a shock. I don’t think I wanted to wake her up or call her forth . . . or maybe I did, though unwilling or unable to admit it. I acknowledge I thought it might be helpful or inspiring to be able to call on a local goddess. But in this case I was wrong. She made it very clear she did not want to come back. That she is there still is not in question for me. It is a matter of letting sleeping gods lie.

The experience did present me with a poem though. Unfortunately since I can’t get lines of poetry to work in the drafting space here, I’ve put forward slashes between lines in each stanza.

Don’t waken the gods,/sleeping under that tree.

Why do you want me,/ignored for so long?/My voice too faint/for modern ears ever to hear.

Don’t question the gods,/resting under that tree.

Why do you tempt me,/ignored for so long? My answers too harsh/for modern minds ever to cope.

Don’t test the gods,/restless under that tree.

Why do you chase me,/ignored for so long? My presence too strange/ for modern sensibilities ever to bear.

Don’t seek the gods,/concealed under that tree.

I wasn’t chasing her. I was merely musing on a possibility. The answer, however is quite clear, totally unambiguous. Am I disappointed? No. It is enough to know that such a Presence was once a part of the lives and practises of the people who lived here, near here, the ancestors of this area. No written record. No name to call. Vanished and traceless. In this instance, as it should stay.