Living Our Golden Autumn

Our path together reached
an impasse when we
arrived at a chasm’s edge,
where we each had to find
our separate ways across
to the future’s far side.

Barely looking back,
he departed from me
beckoned into the
reaching arms of another
and together they flew,
disappearing from my sight,
into the comfort of their
mutually awakened desires.

Alone I made my way down
along a dark and difficult path,
eventually ascending to the
other side of grief and sadness,
thankful and guiltless and free,
to dance through the tall trees,
walk amongst the standing stones,
and unexpectedly to meet another.

And now he and I
are living our Golden Autumn,
enjoying the fine blue bright days
and crisp cool nights,
before Winter’s winds dry us to dust,
when our inner fires burn down to ash,
and we will be blown in silence
into a future distance out of sight,
but never beyond our knowing.

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Teasing

You tease us for a day,
give us blue sky
and a warm breeze,
once the early morning
chill and mist lift
from the combes
and hillsides.

You tease us into thinking
that because you are here,
have arrived,
it is safe for us to venture out,
walk footpaths,
climb tors,
stroll gardens,
enjoying the sights:
dangling catkins,
dancing snowdrops,
delicate crocuses,
and we are willing to be lulled,
so tantalising are your offerings,
for we want you to take from us
the sting of Winter.

You tease us with
a warming sun suspended
in a bright blue sky,
but it is a rouse
and Winter-weary
we are easily taken in,
blissfully trusting
the cold and gloom
are driven back,
so out we go unprepared
believing the promise
of a clear bright morning.

Then of a sudden
you raise dark clouds
upon the horizon
blotting out the blue sky,
warm sun-drenched breezes
forgotten in an instant
as sleet-bearing winds
lash out stinging our faces
before horizontal rain
descends in torrents
obscuring the view,
pursue us scurrying for cover.

You tease us into complacency,
for we are too eager to believe
harsh Winter is gone
replaced by gentle Spring,
gullible and optimistic,
we foolishly think
and unwisely assume
your gifts set forth in
dangling, dancing, delicate
crocuses, snowdrops, catkins
mean more than what they are:
heralds, signs and promises.

Teasing February,
every year on each bright day
when the sun warms
more and stays longer,
you catch us out,
tricking us into trusting you
the seasons have
well and truly changed,
and in so doing
hope for renewal
is kindled in our souls.

 

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.

Orion

I have searched for an image to go with this post, but none are as clear as the one I saw inspiring these words. I got up at 0300 to see the special eclipse not sure what to expect. In my pajamas, jumper and furry slippers I walked out of my little porch. Immediately in front of me was Orion. There were not lots of other stars confusing the view it was pretty much Orion standing tall above the Maize Mothers. There appeared ever so briefly a shooting star reminding me of the depth of space/time.

Although I got up to watch the moon slip into totality, and stood looking up in awe of her colour wreathed in darkness, but I was most taken by the view of Orion.

I made the acquaintance of Orion properly on Iona nearly 20 years ago. It was the first place he was close enough to touch. As I visited the island most often in October, it is not surprising that he was there to greet me. For me, his energy is quite powerful and mysterious. I look forward to my first sighting each Autumn and on such a special night this year, when the energies of the space/time were so evident made the moment even more powerful.

Orion 1

I revere your presence,
leader of the Sky hunt
through the wastes of Winter,
gathering your power
in the nights of Autumn.

I honour your authority,
caller of the Sky hunt
through the wilderness of galaxies,
focusing your strength
in the darkening of nights.

I respect your dignity,
master of the Sky hunt
through the mysteries of space/time,
holding your nerve
in the density of darkness.

Orion 2

I greet you, Orion,
this clear bright night,
ever deepening to the
cold harsh heart
of Winter.

I ask you, Orion,
to share your energy,
celestial light blazing
through the frozen sky
of Winter.

I thank you, Orion,
for offering your presence,
to sustain the fearful and weary
during every night
of Winter.

Orion 3

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

The Hunter and the Gatherer paired
provision the larder,
enabling the tribe
to be sustained and healthy,
year on year
through every season,
moon and moment.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

No longer able
to partake the flesh Beasts,
for in these days
it is neither freely given
nor reverently taken,
I still require
this energy to survive.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

When I greet and reverence you,
with grace and gratitude
I am able to receive this energy,
these gifts the Beasts
can only provide if taken
with respect when given the dignity
of a freely surrendered death.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

* * * *

Even for me the third poem raises issues and paradoxes that are complex and not easily resolved. What I am able to do is articulate and then wrestle with them. And always, always eat with an open and grateful heart.

Frost Folk

Brown leaf 1

The nights dark on darker
cold on colder
shelter the growing of the Frost Folk,
who cannot live in the bright light
or warmth of the day.

The Frost Folk live in shadows,
short is their time the Mayflies of winter
rising up of an early morn
sinking into oblivion before day’s end,
yet they are musicians
making music in crunching thin ice
and the slow mournful drip of their death.

The Frost Folk grow over rock and heather,
altering the structure
of fragile flowers too late blooming,
reaching up from the edges of leaf
for a better view of a world
observed but briefly.

The Frost Folk are the denizens of winter
they are those who paint on glass
shiny textured undecipherable images
and who decorate the grasses
in white lace and bangles of crystal luminescense.

Pause and delight in the Frost Folk’s gifts
for even in winter
they are not always present
making music or leaving art
in the wake of their passage across
our landscapes from the mysterious
world from which the grow
and to which as droplets they return
weeping for a life too short
and a cold darkness not long enough.

Any Wednesday

Today I walked with the gods, ancestors and spirits who dwell in the landscape nearest where I now reside.

I walked passing houses storied by the people who live in them. Storied by their inhabitants through acts of love, violence, indifference, hope, and despair. Storied by those who chose wisely and with honour, and those who are trapped in decisions made in haste and acts of self-indulgent deceit.

I walked beyond these and also by the hedges and banks that are home to the small ones, furred and feathered, sheltering from the increasing and inconsistent cold. I walked alone. I walked shedding feelings of sadness, of promises made to me and not kept, of days never allowed to achieve the potential invested in them. I shed these. I walked. I took photos to focus my intention and attention on the world of nature all around me.

It was any Wednesday
as I left the tarmacked road
and moved along a different trail,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
as I followed the beckoning of the stream,
and moved along the muddied way,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
yet bore revelations most profound
through the yawning gate of deepest winter,
and I saw with newly opened eyes,
and I heard with unblocked ears,
and I felt with reawakened senses,
walking with and amid those
who long before walked paths
not so different from my own
in following the lure of the winter’s day.

I watched the robin watching me,
saw the wren dart past from a withered hedge,
listened to the wind in the bare branched trees
and through dry hedge leaves,
I saw the preening swans and flying ducks,
and heard the stream coursing relentlessly to the sea.

We do not know the musics
our ancestors sang to
nor the languages of their song,
but we can know what inspired them
in the squelching mud,
the sharp bite of cold wind,
the warmth of midwinter sun,
the tumbling of the stream’s waters
and the calling of the wild things:
the quacking of ducks,
the cackling of herons,
the crawking of ravens,
the thrumming whoosh of swans skeinning low,
the howling of hounds.

We can still see bold oaks
twisting ivy and whithered bracken,
a cheeky robin,
a furtive wren,
a flitting band of sparrows,
but we must open the inner eye
and allow the deeper ear to hear
and the mind to pause its ceaseless doubt;
we must be willing to walk and pause,
to greet and be greeted
to watch and be watched
to wait upon and welcome
those unanticipated,
those least expected,
those who are willing to pull back
the curtain between now and then
as yet is a step we take together.

It was any Wednesday
but no Wednesday nor any day
will ever be the same.

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.