Dreams, The Gate To Eternity?

20180810 DREAMS THE GATE TO ETERNITY

Ancient cultures, Celts, Druids, Hebrew nations and others have long held great store in dreams. Perhaps, we can learn something from them?

That evening, as I sat alone reviewing the day, his depression weighed heavily on my heart. A myriad thoughts vied for space in my mind as I thought about that young man in need. As I slowly dozed off, I fell into a deep sleep and began to dream – one of those profound dreams that seemed to be lived in ‘real time’, a lucid dream.

I was in a thick, old, dense forest, walking towards what looked to be a clearing in the distance. I laboured onward, slowly and with considerable effort. As I walked on there was, indeed, a clearing that was well lit as if it had an encampment fire in the middle of it, except, there was no camp fire. Just a bright light without a visible source, lighting up the clearing and the perimeter trees, but not permeating further into the dark forest.

’Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.’ Khalil Gibran

I was standing near the centre of the clearing, and the plight of that young man, his depression was on my mind. Looking at the surrounding trees, the light played on them and I perceived creatures hiding behind many of the trees. Angels? Elementals? The Fae etc? No one at that time said a word but in my heart, as I looked around, I felt that these hidden creatures were of enormous power, and were hiding not because they were fearful of me, but because they were so powerful that they were fearful of doing me harm.

I stood there and ‘heard’ what one of them, or was it all of them, said. ‘Learn what you can about Juniper trees’. Still unable to speak, and standing there for what seemed hours, nothing more transpired. I awoke.

Over the next few days, I did some research, but even without trying too hard, synchronicity ‘kicked in’.

In ancient sacred text I re-read of a man named who had carried out, what he believed to be God’s will, but was running in fear of his life from a ruler. He laid under a Juniper tree and fell asleep, twice, and on both occasions was woken up and nourished by an angel. Later, having believed himself to be alone and retreating to a cave he had an encounter in the cave. A voice spoke and said, ‘What are you doing here’. I get goose bumps every time I read that account. The Voice was in the cave, too (and not outside), thus assuring Elijah he wasn’t alone. The Source of All never leaves us (even if we think the Source does). And, confessing his fear and depression that man received power and boldness from perceiving things differently. The circumstances may not have changed, but his outlook did change.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It is we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

In some cultures, I found out that the Juniper tree is thought to be a guide and gatekeeper to the Imaginal realm, bringing humankind in contact with the powers and blessings of the Invisible realms. In Germany, I’m told the name for the Juniper tree is ‘wacholder’. It means the ‘tree of awakening’.

I found out that Juniper is used cross-culturally to bring blessings, and to make sacred. Thus, it is said, it can help one to listen more closely to our inner wisdom, uncover our true path, and connect more deeply with matters of the Spirit, bringing one in touch with the Sacred in your life. Truly, there was great wisdom to do as those creatures had tasked.

Over the next few days as I pondered on such things, and an assurance ‘tumbled’ across my spirit, and it seemed to me that that young man, currently depressed, was undergoing something much more profound and deeper than I had first envisaged. Something deeper than he knew, too.

Also, in the ‘cave’ he found himself in, he needed to know that he wasn’t alone, and so, so far as I possibly could, I drew alongside the younger man and ‘held space’ for him – walking along with him, without judgment, sharing his journey to an unknown destination. I knew that this was his current path, and that there was nothing I could materially do, except to be there for him. Sometimes the best aid we can give someone comes not in words but in the simple action of being there for them.

’ Perhaps the oldest working truth of self-discovery is that the only way out is through.’ Mark Nepo

Maybe there are some dreams that you have dreamed that were significant, or perhaps with hindsight you now see them as significant to you. Dreams can be very powerful wisdom-givers, for when we’re asleep we’re free from distractions and our barriers are lowered. And the Source of All, who communicates profound matters in metaphors and ‘pictures’ (as there is no other way) has our undivided attention. When asleep and dreaming we are (more) receptive to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Truly, dreams can be very important.

After some months that young man’s depression lifted.

 

‘Tis Mystery All’. Living With The Unknown In An Age Of ‘Must Know’

20180804 TIS MYSTERY ALL LIVING WITH THE UNKOWN IN AN AGE OF MUST KNOW

I’m in London and it’s still hot – heatwave weather. Earlier I took myself off to the local park and that’s where I am now. In the bustle of a busy city, I’m sitting in the shade of a mighty oak tree, with a coffee nearby, a good book, and eyes that are half closing in the heat of the day, as my mind begin to wander. I wonder…

‘Hamlet: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ William Shakespeare

It is on hot, balmy days that much musing takes place. Have you noticed how, in ancient text, in those hot lands of old that Divine contact usually took place near or under trees, where men and women were resting from the day’s heat and perhaps were more ‘open’ to the numinous.

‘Then God appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day, while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing nearby…’ Genesis 18:1-2a, The Book

It was many years ago, and I suppose I was six or seven years old at that time, that my grandmother told a story to me one evening. We were at the far end of her garden, sitting in the shade of an old, mature, gnarled oak tree, an oak tree unlike the many others in her garden. Quite similar to this oak tree in this city park. It, too, was a hot August evening. My eyes were half-closed, then, and my imagination ran riot.

She told the story of ‘the lights’ in the wood, which she described like fire-flies, but as she would say, ‘there’s more to it than that’, or just ‘there’s more’. She said that several years ago she had been walking in the nearby woods once evening and out the corner of her eyes she spied several lights in the distance, gaily dancing. Luminous green orbs they were. She said she wasn’t afraid as she seemed enveloped in an almost palpable peace. As she drew near, she said, the lights just disappeared. I was enthralled. Even at that young age it got me wondering.

She went on to say that they might have been the spirits of the place, or tree spirits, and as she said that she winked at me. Was that a ‘knowing wink’ meaning that I should take what she had said to heart? Or was it a ‘make your own mind up’, kind of wink?

‘One day you might find out…but then you might not’, she said enigmatically. ‘It’s the journey that counts…’. Perhaps, nature or the One behind it all gives us a periodic ‘wake up’ call?

’Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Hebrews 1:1, The Book

That was then.

Now, I know that the ancient Celts, Druids and Romans did have a belief in the spirits of the place, protectives spirit, the genii loci as they called them. They had a deep and abiding belief in such a spirit in each location with its own perspective and mannerism. Today, we might laugh at such a notion, but admit that, at times, we do ‘feel’ at home in certain places, but then dismiss it as nothing more than an emotional feeling. A shallow view of the genii loci when compared to our ancestors.

But suppose the Celts, Druids, Romans, and not forgetting my grandmother, suppose they were right, and our disbelief is nothing more than twenty-first century ‘distancing’ and scepticism?

I also remembered, at that time, her saying that the lights might, indeed, be the Will-O-The-Wisp. And as I look back now I wonder if that was what I saw, once.

’Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.’ Neil Armstrong

About eighteen months ago I wrote that a few years ago I went for a night stroll in the local woods. I can’t remember now if it was a problem getting to sleep or being woken up in the early hours and unable to get back to sleep. But I went for a walk. Then I wrote: My thoughts were then interrupted by a brilliant bright yellow-green light, visible some 200 feet away through dense forest. The mysterious light had piqued my interest, and once again my heart rate quickened. I sat there watching it. It made no noise. It never seemed to move. After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, wondering what it could be and not drawing any logical conclusion, I got to my feet and slowly moved towards the direction of the light.

Then, the air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out! No sound! No light. I stopped. After a few minutes I carried on walking, gauging my steps so that I’d have a rough idea of walking some forty feet. After forty feet, I stopped. I must have been right on top of the light source, and for the next few minutes looked around for evidence of what had caused the bright light – but I could see nothing untoward. A mystery.

So, now I’m wondering: Will-O-The-Wisp or dryads?

’It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.’ Antoine Rivarol

Years ago, under that oak tree, my grandmother pondered if it could have been the Will-O-The-Wisp or a dryad, that is, a tree spirit, or the spirit of the place. Who knows?

Perhaps somethings are just too mysterious. Interestingly (as I was then sitting under an oak tree, as I am now), there is much to say that trees, and especially Oak trees have a spirit associated with them. When you think oak, think dryad or a similar term, drys. And, as regards the oak tree, think Druid. Drys signifies ‘oak’ in Greek, and dryads are specifically the spirits of oak trees, whilst the dryads of ash trees were called the Meliae.

’There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

So, as I open my eyes fully on this still-oh-so-hot London day I am now no nearer solving the challenge: Did I witness a dryad, the Will-O-The-Wisp, the Canwyll Corff [pronounced can-noo-will-korf] that is, the ‘corpse candle’ (see here), or something else? Was it in this physical realm or in the imaginal? Did it have a specific meaning or was it a ‘nudge’ just to prompt me into a state of awareness?

Maybe, the ‘message for me and perhaps you, is that we might need to wonder (more)?  To have a beginner mind as Buddhists say, to be born again and again and again, to see through the eyes of a child maybe needed? It’s the journey that is important, and as we journey onward it is perception, wonder, mystery and awe that, perhaps, we can open ourselves to, and profit from (more).

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’ William Blake

My grandmother, always ready to listen (as well as tell stories), would often conclude her stories by saying to me, ‘Now, what do you think, dear one?’

 

Overcoming Fear At Y Goeden Mellt: Status, Power And Right-Thinking

20180720 A LESSON IN OVERCOMING FEAR AT Y GOEDEN MELLT

It’s interesting the memories that spring to mind when one looks at old photographs and the stories they remind us of, of what they  can teach us (even years later).

I’m looking at a photo of me when I was, perhaps, aged about seven or eight, taken a mile from where I lived, and still live. In that dense old forest where the photo was taken, stood Y goeden mellt, a special-to-us (then) children. It was an old, gnarled, twisted, yet majestic tree – Y goeden mellt was our childhood name for the tree. In English we called it ‘the Lightning Tree’ (See here).

On one occasion, at about the time that that old photo was taken – oh, so many years ago – having misjudged the time I was walking alone in that area at twilight. I was a very confident child, usually. Always, ‘at home’ in the forest. Infact, I loved the forest, and still do.

But on that occasion a little seed of doubt was sown in my mind. The sky grew darker, perhaps a storm was coming. The trees seemed somewhat taller and formidable. Sounds in the forest undergrowth seemed amplified and eerie, or certainly unnerving to a wee lad as I was then. There are lots of myths about elementals and others in the forest, stories that my grandmother would tell me. Always, she would say that there was no harm to be had from them if one respected them. Oh, I was a respectful boy.

But, still….

On that occasion, I can remember my mind went into ‘overdrive’ and I quickened my pace toward home, our little cottage called Ty Gwyn (that is, the White House due to its brilliant white exterior) in the wildness of  Capel Curig, north Wales.

It grew quite dark, and the wind started to blow strongly, and so, as a wee lad, I broke into a trot. It was as if there was a voice in my mind which said, ‘Run, little boy. I’m on your tail.’ It didn’t seem a friendly voice.

I started to run, dodging the branches of low trees, almost instinctively, turning this way and that. I had never been fearful of this area of the forest, but on that one occasion that had changed. ‘I’m closer than ever, and I’m coming to get you’, the voice seemed to say. I ran faster and faster. Now, quite fearful, I was colliding with some small twigs and would find out later that I sustained some small bruises on my bare arms and legs.

‘I’m all around you, little lad. Behind you, to the sides, and yes, in front of you’, the voice in my mind seemed to say. With my heart beating faster and faster, and sweat upon my brow I ran even faster, and then stopped.

Even at that age I realised that if this animal or ‘entity’ was all around me, then stopping, standing still was probably the best course of action. My heart was racing. Could it be a wild animal? A bear? (such was my fertile imagination as a child). Perhaps it might be that hag, the Gwrach y Rhibyn (see here). Similar stories of mythical and supernatural creatures occur in ancient Celtic, Druidic and Hebrew-Christian thought and/or writing, and elsewhere. Leviathan? Scylla and Charybdis? Grendel in the story of Beowulf? Spring-heeled Jack in more modern times? Monsters?

I stopped. Waited. With my heart beating fast, still, I looked around. Everything seemed brighter, my senses were more alert, everything louder, and I waited. And, I waited. And,……nothing. No monster!

Words of my dear Christian-Celtic-Druidic grandmother permeated my mind. ‘You have nothing to fear, except fear itself’, she would say. I was reminded also that somewhere in ancient text it was written ‘Do not fear’, written some 366 times. Though my child-body was reacting – heart beating fast, quick breaths, sweat on my brow and cheeks – I was determined to stand still and be intentional about not fearing. Slowly my body conformed to my inner state.

In the years that followed that childhood event I read about the story of Milarepa. He was a clever man. So clever that many people shunned him and thought him weird. He was a hero, one of the brave ones, albeit a loner, for he lived in a cave, well away from people. And, yet in times of stress and trouble some sought him out for advice and encouragement.

One evening returning home to his cave, Milarepa found it full of nasty spiritual entities. They were eating all his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. He believed that they might be a projection from his own mind, yet he was anxious and confused as to how to get rid of them.

Later, it occurred to him that one way forward was to teach them about oneness and how they were a projection of his mind. And, so he sat down and spoke to them about compassion. Little happened. He got angry with them. They laughed at him and carried on.

Then he sat down on the floor of the cave and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to leave and I guess you’re not, so I suggest we all live here in harmony’. As he said that, all of them disappeared. Except one!

Milarepa saw that this spiritual entity, or rather, his mind’s projection, was particularly nasty-looking. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but slowly approached that entity and stopped just in front of its bloody, sharp-fanged mouth. He surrendered himself to the situation and said, ‘If you want to eat me, here I am’, Milarepa said to it. Immediately that nasty spiritual entity left him.

It is said that Milarepa discovered that when resistance is gone, so too are demons or nasty spiritual entities, or mind-projections or negativity.

And, so I stood there in the middle of the forest. Nothing came for me. Nothing bothered me, and so I purposely, intentionally, walked slowly (as if to prove a point, as best an eight year old can). It took me another ten minutes to walk to Ty Gwyn. My grandmother, I discovered, was right: show respect, don’t resist, and do not fear.

I got home. My grandmother noticed the few, small cuts and bruises on my arms and legs. She asked, ‘So what was pursuing you that made you run so fast, judging by those cuts and bruises?’ I can remember myself looking up at her and replying, ‘I thought something was, but…when I stopped I couldn’t see anything after me. So, I then walked home’.

‘Good man’, she said. I remember thinking that she called me that, even though I was only 8 years old, but I felt encouraged. I felt as though I was ten feet tall. It felt good.

In the tough times that we all inevitably face – and perhaps are facing now – it seems to me that we all need a timely reminder of our status and power. To realise who we are – much loved by The Source of All, the Universe, The One behind It All. And, a reminder of our power – I can do all things….’ it says in ancient text. Meanwhile: And, as my grandmother used to say: Please, do not feed the fears.

 

 

Here Be Dragons: Encountering Nature In The City & Looking Beyond The Veil

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

It is no secret that I like ritual. Ritual, if the intention is there, takes us out of ordinary time and into sacred time, away from only an awareness of mundane space and into sacred space; and it opens up a doorway, a liminal threshold to the Other. We enter a place and time where things happen. Really happen. Even if we’re unaware of the sequence of events.

And, it doesn’t have to be formal ritual. There are many rituals, simple ones, too, that are useful to us as individuals, that we do daily, beneficial routines that open the path to the imaginal realm, that realm of power and potential. This can lead to an encounter that can be wholly other (as in the imaginal), wholly ‘here’ (as in the physical realm), but is usually witnessed as a somewhat confusing combination of the two.

Holy superimposition.

‘There are two worlds: the world we can measure with line and rule, and the world that we feel with our hearts and imagination.’ Leigh Hunt

park1

Bishop’s Park, London

Today was very much like that. One of my daily rituals when in London is to take some valuable time out at the beginning of the day and visit the Magic Café, when in Fulham, south-west, inner London. There, over a latte I pore over a good book for an hour, at least. It is a time of grounding, ‘earthing’, drawing energy into my being to prepare myself for the day ahead.

In many senses I am so absorbed by the book I’m reading, at those times, that events can happen around me and I’m totally unaware of them. I might have ate a croissant and looked up about half an hour later only to find the empty plate has gone from my table. In such circumstance I try to catch the baristas eye and thank him or her for clearing the table, as it might have appeared rude not to acknowledge their good work at the time. Totally absorbed, was I in that liminal realm. The baristas know me well.

Something similar happened again, today. Serendipity.

The weather in London and, indeed, the UK has been unusually hot. Usually after a few days of hot weather (say, 26 Celsius or hotter), here, the weather breaks, we have a thunderstorm and it goes back to being mild and changeable. It’s been hot, between 25 and 31 Celsius for about three weeks, and although some local areas have had very brief rainstorms, they’ve missed Fulham.

‘Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.’ Glauco Ortolano

park2

Bishop’s Park, London

And, as it happened, all the outside tables and chairs at the café were all occupied by others when I arrived there this morning. It was clear, there was only one thing for it: order a take-away latte and take myself (and the good book I was carrying) off to a nearby (riverside) park. Bishop’s Park. Ironic, really, as the book I was reading was about encountering nature deeply (in both rural and urban settings), and so I walked the four minutes to the park, slowly (as it was hot) to put into practice what I was reading.

I found a wonderful shady spot near the lake (which, courtesy of the local council’s ‘bio-diversity’ and wildlife welfare policy, is amazingly overgrown at the edges). It is a beautiful area. The sun was hot, the sky blue and cloudless but I was in shade. The air was filled with the fragrance of a myriad of flowers, and birdsong. I sat on a bench to read my book and occasionally sipped the coffee.

I read for about half an hour but was disturbed by a few ducks that had arrived and stayed for several minutes, a couple of dragonflies who seemed to want to ‘buzz’ me, and a large water rat that ambled out of the undergrowth and came towards me at some speed, stopping about six feet (two metres) in front of me, sniffed in my direction in an exaggerated manner before shuffling off.

Ofcourse, these weren’t interruptions at all.

‘We live in a relative and contradictory world. We go to work, care for our family and friends, and manage ordinary details every day. And yet we are timeless. We are the rhythm of life’. Llyn Roberts

If the book I was reading was anything to go by, and it is a good book by Sandra Ingerman and Lllyn Roberts, then this was just the time to take up one of its suggestions to put the book to one side. I did.

I relaxed, adopted a meditative state, half-closed my eyes and revelled in nature that was all around me, and if you take into account the fragrances in the air, then nature was within me! And, there’s more. As I sat there, in the middle of London in a lovely park, and in an awesome, overgrown, lush area of the park, ‘disturbed’ only by nature,  I was in bliss. I wasn’t apart from nature looking on, but was part of it, part of that rhythm of life.

Liminality.

It was then that I saw, resting on undergrowth to my side, a wonderful dragonfly – well, actually a damselfly. Very similar to dragonflies, but they’re smaller. They are close ‘cousins’ to the dragonfly. Both are members of the odonata order. So-called by a Danish zoologist some two hundred years ago who, mistakenly, thought they had teeth. The lovely creature resting on a flower was a (UK) common blue damselfly. Magnificent.

In the world of the imagination, myth and magic, it is said that dragonflies and damselflies were the dragons of old: think scaly winged, fire-breathing creatures. Now, much smaller they are ‘disguised’ when they appear in this realm.

park33

Bishop’s Park, London

They are said by some to be one of nature’s shape-shifters because they inhabit two elemental realms: air and water. Some believe that to see them up close means that your life will never be the same. Others believe that such creatures break down ones illusions and expose truth, usher in winds of change, wisdom or enlightenment, and if one lands on you then good luck is sure to follow. Dragonflies carry messages that deal with deeper thought – and they ask that we pay attention to our deeper thoughts and desires.

‘It is one thing to read about dragons, and another to meet them.’ Ursula Le Guin

I’m told the Swedish name for them is trollslända, which means ‘hobgoblin fly, and comes from a time when dragonflies and damselflies were thought to be the ‘horses’ for elves, brownies and the fae, who would travel around on their backs.

Meanwhile, that wonderful common blue damselfly was still resting on that nearby plant, and then suddenly he or she flew off. Gone. Did its presence have a significant meaning?

At one level it’s clear that nature is flourishing in this place and I (and you, wherever you find yourself, and even in the city) are part of it: connected. At another level, there is the view of acceptance, that we are one with nature and nature is one with us: kin. And, at a still deeper level, maybe there was a ‘message’ today in that damselfly’s visit that was pertinent to me (just as at other times and places other events are pertinent and meaningful to you)? Awareness.

Mark Nepo calls such events ‘quiet teachers’: natural events that can speak volumes to us, if we but take time to rest and let natural wisdom ‘soak’ into our being so that we are ‘taught’ something special, and deep, and wholesome from that event. It’s what our ancestors, ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans, ancient Christians and others would have understood, almost without trying. Participation mystique, or mystical participation. Something that doesn’t come easy to us, but which can be experience with some intentionality.

Why, then the wise thing to do is ponder upon its meaning and apply it to ourselves. Or, perhaps, or in addition to all this, is the fact that each of us are blessed in living on a wild and ‘life-full’ planet (whether we live in a rural or urban setting), and are part of the web of life; and today, in one small way I spied another creature, a dragonfly/damselfly also attuned into, and part of the web of life, and in looking beyond the veil I understood it to be a gift from the Source of All to you and I, and others. Gratitude.

’Hic sunt dracones; here be dragons’.

 

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

 

 

An Encounter With Vulpes Vulpes In London: Nature In An Urban Environment

20180619 AN ENCOUNTER WITH VULPES VULPES

Last night was one of those evenings where it occurred to me that I had been sedentary for far to long.

It was approaching midnight, and I had emailed a few urgent emails, completed a liturgy for an upcoming handfasting of two wonderful people, had watched the football on tv, and had just picked up a book to read. Sedentary, that the thought that occurred to me. It was if my whole body was experiencing restless leg syndrome and not just my legs, and it yearned for movement.

The best option seemed to be to go for a walk, and that’s what I did.

I’m back in the city, in my small ground floor maisonette in a central London borough, which nestles very close to the River Thames. I am surrounded by city parks, an abundance of wonderful cafes, and densely packed housing, And so, with the thought of movement in mind, I strode manfully out of the door at midnight.

’Solvitur ambulando.’ A Latin phrase meaning, ‘It is solved by walking.’

The streets, well at least the side streets, here, and not the main road in the distance, were deserted, empty of people and devoid of moving cars. It felt great to be in the city and yet have space to myself. Surrounded by thousands of people and yet no one in sight. Oh the people were there. Inside their houses, curtains drawn, and in some the light from the tv flickering away was perceptible, but only just, as I walked by.

I thought I might walk towards Parsons Green, and to get there I’d have to walk down a long, well-lit side street. It had now just gone midnight, and I was half way along that street, and it felt, unnervingly, as if I was being watched. I purposely stopped, looked around, expecting to see a stalker or some ne’er-do-well, but saw nothing. No one.

’Being a nocturnal creature myself, I often find myself in dark alleys or strange places late at night. If there were werewolves around, I’d be likely to run into them, being the night owl that I am.’ Dean Ambrose

I continued walking, and still the feeling of being watched persisted. I carried on walking and the line of cars parked either side of the road ended. I was passing by a school and the road marking prohibited parking at that point. I walked on about thirty paces further on, giving enough time for my stalker to be denied the shelter of parked cars, and I stopped, turned around in the most untimid manner I could muster, and faced my stalker. And, there he was.

Vulpes Vulpes.

Yes, my stalker, my ‘watcher in the night’, was a rather splendid, well-fed red fox. Fulham has many urban foxes on its street, and most can be heard, or seen, or smelled when they move about at night.

My companion was about twenty (human) paces behind me, and he too, stopped, and just looked at me. I didn’t move a muscle. Not afraid, but I didn’t want to scare this little chap away. I stopped for some time. He remained still.
Looking at me, his little head cocked to one side as if trying to solve a mystery of what I was doing. I felt the urge to do the same, but resisted it.

It is thought that there are about 150,000 foxes in the England. Here in London they scavenge their food from litter bins and so their food is usually an unhealthy diet of human food scraps, consisting of curry, chips, fish fingers and bacon butties, and as were near the Thames, maybe the odd water rat or two. Considered by man to be a nuisance, I have to admit that I am in awe of nature as it pushes back to reclaim, in part, the domain that was once solely its world. And, the fox is a particular favourite. I admit crows come a close second and they can be seen early morning and throughout the day in Fulham, but I love foxes, especially city foxes. And, this particular fox was still looking at me, and had sat down.

Did you know: The red fox is the most common type of fox, but there are about 47 different subspecies of red fox; Foxes belong to the dog family and use similar facial expressions and body postures to pet dogs, such as wagging their tails when greeting family members; Foxes have strong family ties. Young foxes often stay with their parents for a few years and help raise future cubs.

Having watched this wonderful beast for sometime I turned away and carried on walking. But only for a few paces. I stopped and deliberately turned. He had moved, about the same distance I had covered and had stopped when I had stopped, and was still twenty paces behind me. I laughed, and walked on and stopped. I turned and there he was. Twenty paces behind. I was nearing Parsons Green, and so stopped one last time, turned, and…he was gone. I felt a little loneliness creep in, having lost my companion and that feeling of being watched.

There are some who say that when humankind was in its infancy and we lived in peace with all animals, that communication between humans and animals, and vice versa, was possible. Others say that in that world of blurred boundaries, even shape-shifting was possible. Are these ideas true, or metaphorical or romantic? That’s a rhetorical question, as I don’t need an answer as I love mystery, and however we interpret those ancient-world notions, there is always something to learn.

There are some others who believe that animals that appear ‘out of nowhere’ and come unusually close to us are attracted by our inner being, our soul. Have you ever been somewhere and an animal or insect has come close, perhaps too close, and unexpectedly so, to surprise you?

Or, perhaps, they say, the animal companion (for a while) is a manifestation of our soul.

In Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy ‘His Dark Material’, Lyra Belacqua has an (external) animal representation of her (inner) soul which manifests itself as a red moth when she’s a child, but as a red-gold pine marten when she’s an adult.

Or perhaps an unexpected animal, the red fox in this case, is a messenger from That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves (and who cannot but remember those old Sunday School stories of Balaam’s donkey and its urgent spoken message?).

’We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form far below ourselves. And therein we err, and err greatly. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost…living by voices we shall never hear.’ Henry Beston

Being a man in this age, ofcourse I wanted to know. And so, I researched something about the red fox, and sadly discovered that they are generally hated as a terrible nuisance on city streets. Okay, I accept in January, or thereabouts, the cry of the vixen, can sound like a baby’s cry, and can be somewhat unnerving or alarming on city streets, and the result of all those curries they eat does make a mess on the pavement – and what an awful smell! But, they are wonderful creatures.

They have lost much of their habitat to humankind (and if truth be known it is us who are a nuisance to them, as they were her first), are they are sorely misunderstood, and present no real danger. I like the idea of nature ‘pushing back’ in the city, as if to say, ‘I’m still here, and I don’t mind sharing, but just share with me, too, please’.

Understanding wild creatures is one thing, but there’s more. There is a point where we can so draw near to them that we can sense them – and I do believe that being ’watched’ feeling I had, or the surprise you might have had when an animal or inset came unusually close to you, is part of an intuitive sensing and connectedness with that animal that we might experience in short bursts, but our ancient ancestors, druids, celts and others would have experienced it much more or perhaps all the time. Lucien Levy-Bruhl, a French philosopher, calls this ‘participation mystique’ (mystical participation) and it occurs beyond our logical, rational thought processes. It is like a ‘sense’ that we have but seldom use now , but it can be increased by usage, like a muscle, if we choose to exercise it.

Foxes, I believe, are a gift from the Universe, from That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and are a reminder that nature is abundant and beneficent, ubiquitous (even in the city) and to be enjoyed, and can be understood at a cerebral and knowledge-level, but also by that ‘sensing’, by taking hold of that mystical participation of deep connectedness at a soul level that our ancestors possessed.

And so, I’m almost back home, having completed my walk. I’ve walked for almost an hour, my fox-companion is nowhere to be seen, the streets are still deserted, but I am left wondering: just a chance encounter, a shape-shifter, an outward reflection of my inner soul, or a guardian of some kind who kept me safe from an otherwise dangerous event, or a messenger from Beyond? Thank God for Vulpes Vulpes.

What was the meaning of that encounter? No, don’t answer it. I want to revel in the mystery of not knowing cerebrally, as it brings me (and us) closer to the Mystery.

 

 

The Tree Called Coeden Niwl: A Different Perspective

2018012 A TREE CALLED COEDEN NIWL A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVEMy grandmother used to love to name things. Usually it was the trees at the far end of the garden or nearby this cottage (near Capel Curig, north Wales). Sometimes it was large rocks, the boundary rivulet, but always things that would last the test of time.

There are some large trees at the end of the garden, here, interspersed with moderately sized trees, but the one that catches your eye, if you were here with me know looking at it, is a majestic one, larger and older than all the others. Its trunk is wide, and gnarled through age, and its many branches reach out and are twisted like a ballerina’s arms when ‘warming up’, and doing exercises to loosen taut muscles. The seem to dart out an odd angles, but are strong and unmoving, unyielding.

Some may see just trees and a larger one, here, standing above all the rest, but I see more. That tree, a huge alder is full of meaning to me, especially but not only when I was a wee lad.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.’ William Blake

This wonderfully large, old, noble tree was called by my grandmother, ‘Coeden niwl’, and to this day, and as I look at it now, that is the name I know it by.

As a wee lad I would play in that garden, and with the far end somewhat wild and where these larger trees grew, I was in a world of my own. Just like now. Frequently, mist would roll down from the mountains, tumble across the field and waft, effortlessly into the garden, or heavy, thick, grey clouds would descend without notice, and I loved it. Then, all but the tallest trees and nearby shrubbery would disappear, sounds would be muted and then I was alone, or was I?

Ah, the trees were here, and they’re alive.  And, the large alder tree, the one called Coeden niwl by my grandmother was here. Never alone. When I was a small boy, should I ever get lost, my grandmother always told me to look for Coeden niwl. Coeden niwl (pronounced ‘koh-ih-dun noo-ul’, meaning ‘mist-tree’ or ‘fog-tree’). Whether my grandmother called it that name because even in the mist and fog that tree is visible and is a good landmark, or whether the tree, itself, ‘invites’ the mist or fog, I don’t know. But, I loved that name for this tree, and still do.

‘Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning.’ Bob Dylan, song.

Why name a tree, why give it a personal name?

In ancient cultures someone’s name marked them out as special, and in very ancient cultures, a name was thought to confer power (or power over someone) and so it was usual for there to be a public name that everyone was to use (and that name might be declared by the baby’s father), and the baby also would have a real and deeply meaningful name (and that name would probably be whispered into the baby’s ear by his or her mother). Names confer meaning, respect and power, and allow relationship. And, this tree deserves it.

’No naming is causally performed in this old country. Names hold power, and memory; names tell stories of people and their relationship with the land.’ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life

I believe my grandmother gave this tree the name Coeden niwl so that it would be remembered, and it has, and to build up a relationship with it. It would be difficult for me to fell the tree, without knowing that it has a name. It is not just a tree, an anonymous lump of wood, or an incumbrance. It is Coeden niwl, and the tree is alive, and I value trees (especially the ones with personal names). And, yes, I admit it….when no one is around I speak to Coeden niwl. How about that for relationship?

It is alive, after all.

’The tree and I are having a conversation. Yes, without words. In fact, I’ve learned that trees don’t use words…The tree, located in a favourite park that is a visiting place of mine, is 300 years old. Now, I have discovered the trees have their own lives, quite separate from ours. Yet the tree and I are mysteriously close friends. We share a lot of feelings. We don’t exactly share a sense of humour, but genuine friendship stirs between us.’ Malcolm Boyd, author, gay elder and civil rights pioneer, Episcopal priest.

Coeden niwl, as an alder tree is sociable. Not just to me. The alder tree (Alnus glutinosa) is noted for its important symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. This bacterium is found in the root nodules of alder trees, and it absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. The alder, then, in turn, provides the bacterium with much-needed sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis. Amazing. And, the alder trees catkins provide an early source of nectar and pollen for many under-threat bees. Relationship.

The sap, leaves and bark of the alder were all used to make dyes; green from the leaves, red from the sap and brown from the bark. Wood of the alder is flexible and resistant to the rotting effects of water, and was much used in ancient house building.  Relationship.

But, there’s more about these wonderful trees. In Irish mythology the first human man was made from the alder tree, and it is also considered a tree of the fae (fairies), protected by the water fairy-folk but also representing fire and earth. In various parts of old Ireland it was said to a crime to cut down an alder tree because it would offend the tree spirit.

We’re losing trees at an alarming rate. What better way, well, one way at least, to take more of an interest in trees than by naming one local large tree or more than one? Whether you live in a rural area, or an urban area (with a park nearby) I would encourage you to name a tree, take an interest in it, maybe one that you can sit near or under, perhaps; and build a relationship with it.

Whether or not you believe in elemental spirits inhabiting or frequenting trees, it cannot be denied that that view, in ancient times, meant that ancient Celtcs, Druids and others saved so many trees and they cultivated a greater respect for trees and the natural order  (and which is sorely missing today).

It was reported that In 1999 the upgrading of the National route from Limerick to Galway was delayed, rerouted and eventually opened nearly ten years after it was supposed to have started, because part of their contract stipulated that they had protect the fairy tree, and that ‘access is not permitted within a minimum 5m radius and a protective fence has been erected around it.’. Newspaper report.

And now as I stand in front of Coeden niwl a fine mist is drifting down from the mountains and starting to blanket this and other trees with an other-worldly veil. Slowly, the landscape is drained of its colour, sound is muted, and everything seems to take on a ‘flat’, two-dimensional look. The mist moving slowly, holding water, leaves minute drops of cold water on my hair and skin, and I can feel the fresh wetness bathe me, almost. I can only stand and watch, and be in awe at nature and this tree in particular, as the mist gets thicker and thicker, and the landscape takes on an even more mysterious look.

’But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.’ Genesis 2:6, The Book

Things happen at such times, such liminal times as these, and perhaps Coeden niwl, the fog tree or mist-tree, does actually attract the mist and usher in liminal sacred-space/time events. What happened next is the subject of another article.

 

Cantre’r Gwaelod, The Welsh Atlantis?: Stories From The Heart(h)

island CANTRER GWAELOD THE WELSH ATLANTIS STORIES FROM THE HEARThWe live in a mysterious universe, and on an even more mysterious planet. That mystery opens up and yields its treasure to those who are fortunate to have eyes that see and ears that hear, as it says in ancient sacred text. Mystery is ‘shy’ and only the respectful may gaze upon her.

Hy Braesil, as mentioned recently in an article, is a mysterious island that appears and disappears, allegedly, off the coast of north-west Scotland. Rather like an oceanic Brigadoon – a Scottish village that is supposed to appear for one day per century in Scotland, and which was the theme of a 1947 musical and a movie some seven years later – it is an elusive place and is yet another mystery to encourage you to visit these ancient Celtic kingdoms.

And so, as I sit here in London, in my small ‘town garden’ (a backyard?) with a glass of cold mineral water in my hand (I really like the effervescent kind), and with my eyes half closing, I begin to relax even more.

My mind ‘circles’ around the idea of water, and my imagination starts to ‘dance’, and it’s as though I’m transported back in time to grandmother Rhianwen’s cottage. There, as a wee lad,  I would sit beside the hearth in the evening, and she would tell another story. She was a seanchie, a Celtic story-teller, and a good one at that. I loved hearing her timeless, mysterious and deep stories. Stories full of meaning. And, the memory of them, even today, is pure gold.

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.’ G K Chesterton

‘There was a time’, my grandmother said, ‘when there was a great city off the western coast of Wales, an island-city, but it had sunk beneath the waves some time ago’. Perhaps seeing my alarm at this she added, that it all took place in the seventh century, and so allayed my fears.  Something like that, she assured me, wouldn’t happen to Capel Curig as we’re inland, and the sea is some twenty-eight miles away. That relieved my childhood concerns, and she continued.

Her rocking chair creaked as she gently rocked back and forth, the fire in the hearth was ‘baking’ one side of my face, and so I moved from the side of the rocking chair to face her. ‘The great city’s name was Cantre’r Gwaelod’, she said. ‘It was a good mile off the mainland coast, and could be reached on foot at low tide. Then it’s gates would open, only to close as high tide approached’.

O dan y môr â’i donnau
Mae llawer dinas dlôs

Beneath the sea and its waves
Are many cities fair

But, on that particular evening one of the watchmen, whose task it was to close one of the sluice gates as the tide came up, got careless’, she said. ‘His name was Seithennin. He was madly in love with the King’s daughter, and when she got married to someone else he couldn’t bear the thought, and spent too much time in a tavern, got even more careless, and got drunk.’

‘A storm arose that night, the sea crept higher and higher, and lapped at the city wall of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but Seithennin was unaware. All the other city sluice gates had been closed, except for one – the one that Seithinnin was in charge of. He was in a deep, drunken stupor in the tavern.’

‘He was awoken abruptly by screams, and staggering out into the street, he could see water rushing toward him at great force. Sadly, Seithinnin lost his life that night. Some of the city people made it to the mainland, but the city was flooded and sank beneath the waves.’

Aeth clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ô’r golwg dan y dwr.

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Vanished beneath the water.

My grandmother could obviously see that such an unhappy ending was perhaps too much for me, and added, ‘But, the city of Cantre’r Gwaelod was, and is, a special place. And some say a magical place. Even now, especially when a storm arises off the western coast, there are some who say they have heard music and singing, much merriment, and churchbell sounds coming from Cantre’r Gwaelod, miles out to sea.

A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

It seems’, she said and smiled, ‘that life goes on there and is eternal now, even though many on the mainland can’t see it or hear it. But some can! Yes, Cantre’r Gwaelod is a place of mystery, and some would say magic.’

Hyd fedd mi gofia’r tywod
Ar lawer nos ddi-stwr,
A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

On sand till the grave I’ll remember
Many a peaceful night
And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

Did Cantre’r Gwaelod actually exist? Was it a myth full of meaning? Does it matter if was a tangible place or is a spiritual place only? Sometimes, isn’t it enough to just accept mystery?

There is no solid, reliable evidence of the physical kind of this Welsh Atlantis ever having existed. But, we’re talking about Wales, and the whole of that realm is liminal, a place of mystery where anything can happen to those who look gently upon the landscape. Sometimes, the most we can hope for are imaginal-prompts, peripheral fleeting glances  or spiritual ‘glimpses’.

In 1770, a Welsh antiquarian scholar William Owen Pughe said that he witnessed sunken dwelling places about four miles off the coast of Ceredigion. And in 1846 The Topographical Dictionary of Wales described a feature of stone walls and causeways beneath the shallow waters off Cardigan Bay. Even today there are those who will tell you that they have heard the sound of many conversations on the wind that blows from that part of the sea, or have heard the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod.

Years later, as I sit here, now, in my little garden on a balmy London evening, with my eyes now wide open and with a now empty glass in my hand, that story heartens me. It tells us that that life goes on, seen or unseen, it goes on in another realm – a place of eternal peace. Okay, Seithennin was distraught and got careless in that story, and perhaps one moral from it is that we should not neglect the day of small things (tasks), as it says in ancient sacred text, for such tasks may have the biggest effects.

‘Sin is behovely’. The Lady Julian of Norwich

But the story also assures us that we are altogether very human and that’s not a bad thing, and as humans we will sometimes make mistakes, but through them the Universe, the Source of All is able to turn them around to the benefit of all, and they become blessings.

Yes, the voice of grandmother Rhianwen, who ‘borrowed’ the words of Julian of Norwich on many occasions and reiterated them in a north Welsh accent, continues to echo in my mind, even now, and even here in London: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’.

 

[The poem extracts in Welsh with an English translation, above, are from Clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod), a poem by John James Williams (1869-1954) who was a pastor and a poet. J. J. is his bardic name.

That Place Of Peace: A Personal, Celtic Perspective On Death, Mourning And After

20180604 THAT PLACE OF PEACE DEATH MOURNING AND AFTERWith white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.

It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.

This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.

So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.

It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.

As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.

Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.

In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.

’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.

More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.

As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?

’ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.

’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond

Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.

Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.

Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.

Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.

But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?

‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’

William Wordsworth

Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.

‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.

Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.

 

The Quest: A Story From The Heart(h) From Beyond The Veil

20180521 THE QUEST ANOTHER STORY FROM THE HEARTH BEYOND THE VEILIt’s a great evening here, as I sit in my garden of Tŷ Gwyn cottage, north Wales. It’s one of those evenings that, after a fine, sunny, cloudless, quite warm day for the time of year, it has now become somewhat cold, or as they say around here, ‘bracing’ or ‘fresh’.

‘Imagination is the true magic carpet.’ Norman Vincent Peale

As I sit here with a glass of good red wine on the old wooden garden table, my mind wanders and I remember former times. My stomach is full, some of that red wine is coursing through my veins, a pleasant glow seems to envelope me and my imagination is fired up, especially as my eyes seem now to be half-veiled.

As a wee lad I would gather by the hearth and listen to one of my grandmother’s stories. She was a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic] a story-teller, and would tell me many a profound story that only now, in some respects, do I see a yet deeper layer of meaning in the retelling.

‘Lift the veil that obscures…and there you will find what you are looking for’. Kabir

As the sun sets, so in my mind’s eye I can see the past, me as a wee lad, the golden glow from the hearth, and I can feel its heat on just one side of my face, something which periodically causes me to move from the side of the rocking chair, where my grandmother is sitting, to the opposite chair. There is a satisfying and protective feeling of warmth around the hearth, and not just from the fire.

I can remember telling my grandmother, somewhat reluctantly, that I had forgotten to do something that she had asked me to do – it had slipped my mind as such things do when a child is engrossed in play especially when surrounded by the majestic beauty of valleys, lakes and streams, mountains and an abundance of wildlife, such is north Wales.

My grandmother used my forgetfulness as the basis for another story.

‘There was once a small child’, she said,‘ who lived in a palace with fine food, luxuries of all kinds and who never wanted for anything. His father was the King, his mother was the Queen, and the small child was a prince.

There came a certain day when the King and Queen told the prince of a quest they had set before him. Giving him provisions for the journey they took from him his prized purple toga and glittering white robe. They instructed him to head west and to bring them back a most beautiful pearl and he would be rewarded, but to be careful as the pearl was guarded by a ferocious huge serpent. And so, off the prince went with his two guardians.

The prince travelled far and arrived on an island, his guardians left him. He asked many questions of the locals about the pearl and the huge serpent, and as he bided his time, for he wanted the huge serpent to fall asleep, he got bored and lonely. He really missed his home and his family.

He shared his provisions with his new neighbours and became good friends with them. Why, he even started to talk like them and to dress like them. Dressing like them, talking like them, eating their strange-but-now-familiar food he forgot that he was a prince, home seemed a distant memory or a fairy tale now, and he even forgot his quest for the unique pearl.

Years went by. When their son didn’t return home the King and Queen wrote a letter to him, signed by the King and Queen and all the nobles, which was delivered to their son by an eagle.

The young man, for he had now grown up into a fine young adult, awoke with a start. The eagle spoke to him and gave dropped the letter on the young man’s bed. He read the letter and remembered that he was indeed a prince and his home were there is no want, and he remembered his quest for the pearl. The veil of forgetfulness immediately fell away from his eyes.

He manfully went about his quest, located the pearl and the huge serpent, and sang, and sang, and sang until the huge serpent fell asleep. Then he took the pearl, went back to the village, cleaned his clothes, and embarked on the long journey, eastward, to his home.

Just as he reached the city gates to his home he saw his family running to greet him, and they brought with them his favourite purple toga and his bright, glittering, white robe. As he put on his fine clothes, he thought of how many years had passed, but his over-riding emotion was of joy at being back home with his family.

Giving the King and Queen the wonderful pearl, they rewarded him with even more fine clothes, luxuries of every kind, and as promised he inherited the kingdom to rule, along with his bother.

My grandmother finished the story by asking, ‘Do you think you might be that prince, the one who forget and then remembered?’. Ofcourse, I knew the cue, nodded, and she let out a hearty laugh.

‘Awake, O sleeper…’, Ephesians 5:14a. The Book.

‘Yes, yes, yes you are, ‘she said. ‘We all are. It’s as though we’ve all fallen asleep, we’ve all forgotten where we come from, our purpose in life and where our true home is. But, some of us are now waking up, starting to remember, aren’t we?’. Again as a small boy I knew another nod was required.

And even today, many years later her story rings true.

We have all forgotten our real home, our status, our purpose, and our return. But, some, maybe I as I retell this story and you, as you read it, are getting glimpses of the truth behind the veil.

Research showed me that my grandmother ‘borrowed’ that story from the Acts of Thomas and loosely adapted it. Nevertheless, it does contain gems of truth about our origin, status, purpose and journey home, and that we currently live in a world where many have forgotten the most important thing in life. Many are asleep.

The sun has now gone below the horizon here in north Wales, and my eyes are now wide open. There’s a distinct chill in the air and its pitch black. But, it’s a wonderful evening. It’s dark. There are many walking in darkness, but not you, and not those you draw alongside. As my grandmother passed the lighted-truth onto me in that ancient-future story, so you and I pass it onto others, sometimes even without knowing it by what we do and say. The veil is lifting. Don’t go back to sleep.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

(Rumi)

The Forest’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And Time

20180511 THE FORESTS QUIET TEACHERS AND TIMEIt’s a wonderful morning. Sunrise was about an hour ago, and the early morning high and mist-like clouds are slowly being ‘burned off’ by the sun – yes, I’m back in north Wales. Valleys, here, have their own micro-weather system – and it is glorious. It almost seems that time itself has stopped and you can see and hear elementals hopping from one flower or blade of grass to another. Bliss.

’Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!”’, Talmud

Timeless, yes.

I am sitting in my garden, sipping a cup of nettle tea, my favourite, and words cannot really do justice to the wonders of nature that I am beholding. Wherever we are, rural or urban landscape, we are part of the wildness and beauty of nature – you are beautiful, and however much we are told we’re separate from nature or feel so, it is an illusion. We swim through nature, breathing it in, breathing in air as a fish swims in water and gulps in that water and ‘exhales’ it to live.

Nature is awesome, even though I can spy a few weeds growing here and there on the lawn.

’ Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better’. Albert Einstein

There are different schools of thought about creation, the origin of all that is. And, as I sit here sipping this tea, my mind wanders to consider two of them. Journey with me.

Firstly, there are some who read ancient sacred text and interpret it (because the notion isn’t actually present in the text, so we have to take that information and work with it where we are), and deduce that everything was perfect (or good) on Earth but somehow it ‘went wrong’ [emphasis on the latter]. Many call this ‘the fall’.

And then I got thinking a wee bit deeper.

But, suppose, secondly, the perfection we have in our mythic memory is of Home, before we ‘arrived’ on Earth? And, the Earth didn’t ‘fall’ and ‘go wrong’ (although it may seem so in comparison from our pre-life ‘Home’ – see Jeremiah 1:5a), but that the Source Of All created everything good, and left a just little bit of it for us to do in ‘finishing it off’? Rather like, perhaps, our mum did, when we were wee kids, when she baked a cake, say, and let us stir the mix so we could, with pride, understand that we had a small hand [no pun intended] in baking that cake. Then we can say ‘I did that’, and then our parent (and the Source of All) can say, ‘my child did that’.

This idea, some call tikkun olam.

Tikkun olam has everything to do with ‘finishing off’ or ‘repairing’ the world. It, along with the ‘fall’ idea really is only understood by our own particular viewpoint, whatever it may be: ‘fall’ and in need of ‘repair’; or ‘unfinished’? I prefer the latter.

As I look out at the length of the garden the gardener, who initially worked on the garden some years ago, ensured that about three-quarters of it was a well ‘manicured’ lawn with plants and small trees ‘sprinkled’ throughout and a few paving stones here or there, as I had suggested. And, now there’s a few weeds. But, I digress.

But, the furthest quarter of the garden, the part that leads into a wild copse is wild by every stretch of the imagination, and that’s exactlyhow I asked the gardener to leave it.

The lawn area is different to that wild area, but just as much as nature as anywhere else. That wild area does need a bit of attention from me every so often. Tikkun olam.

Most of my garden is easy to manage, but the wild area needs some extra special care, understanding and management, stewardship from me. It is forever requiring attention so that I can appreciate its wildness and yet walk through it rather than me being ‘crowded out’ by the unbridled growth of plants and trees.

A human presence is needed to ‘repair’ or ‘finish it’ depending on your viewpoint) until, ofcourse, the following year and growing seasons repeat themselves. And so it goes on. I love it. It grows, I tend it, It grows. Tikkun olam.

Perhaps, that ‘finishing off’ applies to every walk of life, and not just to garden weeds. What do you think?

That wild quarter of the garden is a ‘guiet teacher’. It ‘speaks’ words of wisdom to us and all who are attuned to it. The area of my garden is lovely, but it may not be perfect as some people define perfection. If I waited until that part of my garden was perfect in human terms I might have to wait longer than one life span!

Perhaps, nature, the ‘quiet teacher’ is informing us, that life is good, but until we get Home, it won’t be perfect or well ordered – there will be challenges and upsets along the way, weeds. We can do our best, but we will have to wait a long time before everything is orderly in our life (if ever), and if we are waiting to start a project or do something only when that happens, then we will probably wait ‘forever’.

’We carry these [to do] lists near our heart and finger them like worry beads. It doesn’t matter what is on them. They are thieves, and it is the insidious virtue to have everything in order before we live that is the greatest thief’. Mark Nepo.

Life is a wild and sometimes circuitous journey, with challenges along the way but always an adventure, with things to learn along the way as we move through it. Yes, move through it.

As I walk through the wild copse, now having no more nettle tea left in the cup, I look at the contrast in the garden, the lawned area (and the weeds) and the wild part, and though different and not perfect (from a gardeners point of view) I love it just the way it is.

It’s almost as if the forest and garden are saying to us, ‘You will always have a few weeds  here in your life, but embrace them and work with them, but don’t let them bother you and procrastinate or you’ll wait forever’.

For the moment we are in time. Are there things in our life that we’ve put off, and like me, can look back? It’s never too late to start! Maybe it’s an educational course, a new hobby, a project at work or at home, or maybe it’s a long overdue phone call to tell someone you miss them and love them, or something else that you’ve put off? Until now. Tikkun olam. Is there something to start, ‘repair’ or ‘finish’?

’I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren’t getting done quickly’. Freema Agyeman

Finally, ofcourse, there are times when it is right to pause and wait, but invariably we know the difference between honest waiting for a good reason and kicking things time and time again into the long grass.

‘We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?’ Dr Who

After all that deep thought, here I am walking back to the house thinking that I deserve a second cup of nettle tea. How about you?