The Elements: In Praise Of Earth

20191002 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF EARTH

As the days shorten and nights becomes longer, we’re moving towards winter. Already in the UK mornings, evening and nights are becoming much, much colder, and the midday sun sits ever lower in the sky.

Winter is that time of nature’s rest, even death, and plants and insects die; and even then there is a paradox that life is ‘home’ and active deep in the ground, and some of it is dormant and ‘sleeping’ deep in the womb of the earth, the soil that we tread so blithely .

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

(In the bleak midwinter: Christmas carol)

As winter approaches, here’s a few words of a seasonal introduction; the primacy of story, memory and ritual at this time; a new song; and something for those of an inquisitive nature and interested in a simple but profound scientific experiment centred on nature at this time of the year.

STORY, MEMORY AND RITUAL

With naked trees and animals saving warmth and energy, and many species dying off for the winter (until a new generation emerges) there is a silence that descends at this time – a primordial silence.

Human voices can predominate as animal noises momentarily reduce, and it is no wonder in nature’s silence that our ancestors warmed themselves around tribal fires and recited stories of old.

‘The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.’

(Wendell Berry)

Many of those stories might have been tribal histories, and who hasn’t on a winter’s night, especially at Christmas and the New Year reminisced about relatives that have moved abroad or who have ‘gone ahead’ to that heavenly realm? It is a time of story and of memories.

The landscape, cold and bare, also shares its memories if we ‘look’ deeply. We might see a tree taller than it was, a plant thicker, and the ‘scars’ on tree barks, that still tell their story to those that stop and look. Nature has a memory.

Story, memory and ritual come to the fore at this time.

The following can be incorporated into your Samhain celebration. Samhain starts the evening of Thursday, 31 October and runs for twenty for hours (but there is nothing to stop you celebrating it over the weekend).

The following can be used at (or about) the time of the Winter solstice in December, too, or indeed at any time during the season of winter. Use the following, adapt it, enjoy it.

This is a time to reminisce, tell stories, to remember that death is part of the cycle and new birth is ‘on its way’, and it’s a time of celebration (and yes, even mirth).

Here, then, are some wonderful words that can be incorporated into your seasonal ritual/liturgy:

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up like rooted, like trees’. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

And,

‘We come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh. While we live our bodies are moving particles in the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures’. (Wendell Berry)

And

‘The vines that are tended by the Divine Gardener’. (Catherine of Siena)

And

Spirit of the Abundant Earth,
allow me to live in the knowledge that
I am of the earth, from the earth, and returning to the earth.
Blessings of the earth be upon me.

(Christine Valters Paintner, Book: Water, Wind, Earth & Fire, part)

SONG: THE DAYS ARE COLD (A WINTER’S SONG)

The following song can be sung to the old, traditional Scottish tune, ‘The Water is wide”, and hails from the 1600’s. If you want an idea of the tune, do check here. (The tune for each of the three verses below is a repetition of the first forty-seven seconds of the link’s tune).

The days are cold
And night comes soon.
The circle turns
As in days of old.
Nature does sleep
And the winds do howl.
And my eyes do weep
Through the cold air now

The snow falls harsh
Upon the land.
There is a light
Within and without.
We raise our hands
To the Source of all.
And nature responds
with elementals call.

The days of change
Are here again.
Our voices raise
To the loud refrain.
We wish you peace,
We wish you well.
All nature sings
Winter’s farewell.

Tune: “The Water Is Wide”
Words: Tadhg Jonathan

THE QUADRAT
FOR THOSE OF A SCIENTIFIC OR INQUISITIVE NATURE

If you want to get an overall view of what wildlife is present in your garden, local park or nearby wild area eg forest etc even at this time of year, either because of your concern about the biosphere, sheer interest in the local environment, or out of general curiosity and personal interest, then you (and any children) may be interested in making and using a quadrat.

’It is apparent that no lifetime is long enough in which to explore the resources of a few square yards of ground.’ (Alice M Coats)

A quadrat is a merely a hand-made frame, maybe made out of thin cane or similar, and is generally one metre square (three feet by three feet in size approximately), with the four canes tied at the intersections to form a simple square.

Once made, it is a great way to sample a large area by concentrating on a small area. On suggestion is that, once in an area of wilderness, you randomly throw the quadrat (safely and gentlt), and see where it lands. If you want more information about quadrats, please see here.

Then, depending on your time, you can have endless hours of fun surveying plants, wildlife and insect life within the randomly selected area of that frame.

The idea is to explore and catalogue so do be careful not to destroy anything, nor cause too much of an upheaval to that area as you gently brush aside grass and plants or dig a little (and if you, inadvertently disturb anything,  do ensure you return it to its former state as much as possible, so that no one would ever know you had been there).

You might like to take a pen and paper to record results, and/or a camera, too, to take a photograph of anything interesting. With that in mind you might also like to record the scale of something found so you might like to take along a rule(r) or a coin  for comparison sake and lay the specimen alongside it  or it alongside the plant etc – a two (UK) penny coin is 25.9 mm wide (so close to one inch you can call it an inch) as you photograph specimens.

Don’t forget this is an adventure, and experiment, and it is also fun and respectful of nature – so record only, and so, no take-away specimens, please.

’Our world is a web of interdependencies woven so tightly it sometimes becomes love.’ (Tim Flannery)

If you want to email me a copy of your notes and findings (with the date, time and rough location of the one square metre quadrat, I will most certainly be pleased to look at them.

For the mathematically-inclined, if you know the total area of the garden, park or wilderness area in square metres, you can, roughly, multiply your findings by that total amount to gain a rough idea of the numbers and variations of wildlife in that total area.

But, I find just checking and recording what is alive in that one square metre to be fascinating and profound! Have fun!

‘The land is a mother that never dies.’ (Maori Proverb).

 

The Elements: In Praise Of Air

20190919 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF AIR

Air, I should explain, becomes wind when it is agitated. (Lucretius, On the Nature of Things)

Breath

There is a school of thought that says we each have a limited, unknown, number of breaths that we will take before we expire. And, by slowing down ones breathing, maybe with focused breathing, slowing exercises or meditation we can increase our lifespan.

Breathing.

Air.

It’s important to life and our longevity.

There is another school of thought that says by regulating our breathing we can place ourselves ‘in the way’ of the Divine, The Universe, the Source of All. Breathing has a natural rhythm of its own, and something we take for granted, but in hatha yoga this pause in breathing is called kumbhaka.

Kumbhaka, then, is the pause between inhalation and exhalation when the lungs are full, or between exhalation and inhalation when the lungs are empty – I prefer the latter. Then, in that pause there is no breathing. All things being well, the pause should only last for a few seconds – it’s not a competition to hold ones breath until one metaphorically bursts, but it is a gentle cessation of breathing for a short while, and then a return in inhalation/exhalation, ready for the next pause. In that way we ‘jump out’ of ordinary time for a split second and move closer. An ever-so important exercise that we can use in our own time ritual or group ritual.

Breathing.

Pausing.

Air.

It’s important to deep meditation and encountering.

Exhaling air we can speaks words of wisdom, and words of encouragement, and yet the same breath can be used destructively. I went on a march to Parliament – yes, I must be one of the oldest protesters around, but I felt so strongly about the case. A group of ten thousand of us chanted, ‘Save our democracy, stop the coup’, outside a prorogued (‘suspended’) Parliament. A positive, heartfelt response to a dire situation. At one point, heavily surrounded by police, a small opposition group of about forty fascists marched by. The jeered, they snarled, they pointed their fingers accusingly. It was as though a dark cloud of hate and confusion had closed in, almost. They chanted, ‘We’ve got a lamppost just for you’. Our words have consequences.

Breathing.

Air.

Giving our voice the power of positivity, and sadly, we have the option to be negative.

Also, lets not forget (though I’m a not-so-good clarinet-player and flautist), that with our breath, with air, woodwind musicians can make delightful tunes that can move us deeply within ourselves, and move us closer to the Divine.

The Druids, the Ancients, and other tribes (and ‘tribes’) knew of the importance of air to their lives, of breathing, and celebrated it in song, liturgy and ritual.

All praise be Yours, my God, through Brothers Wind and Air.
And fair and stormy, all the weather’s moods,
By which You cherish all that You have made. (Francis of Assisi)

Air, in Welsh is awyr (pronounced ah-weir, and preferably ‘rolling’ that ‘r’), can also mean sky, and was important to those Ancients, and to discerning and fellow ‘deep’ followers of today who revel in nature and the Spirit.

In ritual, many would turn to the east to celebrate or think deeply of air. To some it represents the intellect, is understood by the colour yellow, and others associate it with several constellations. To others it represents spring and life, new life. It is the only natural element that is invisible.

The letters of the Name of God in Hebrew are Yod, Hay, Vav, and Hay. They are frequently mispronounced as “Yahveh.” But in truth they are unutterable. Not because of the holiness they evoke, but because they are all vowels and you cannot pronounce all the vowels at once without risking respiratory injury.

This word is the sound of breathing. The holiest Name in the world, the Name of the Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.

(Rabbi Lawrence Kushner: Eyes Remade for Wonder)

Don’t you find that so profound and so comforting? That the name of the Source of All is the sound of breathing, and is on our lips constantly.

Ritual / Air

And, so there we were a few of us, Druids and Christo-Druids (or Druidic-Christians) deep in the forest at sunset, a liminal time. Part of the ceremony had us facing the four cardinal compass points in turn.

As we all face east, hands were raised in the orans position (ie  the position one would adopt, say, if someone was pointing a guy at you and said, ‘hands up’. Your hands would be about eight inches from each ear and at ear level, and that’s the orans position, and was used in antiquity in prayer, praise and blessing).

I recited a blessing:

Deep peace of the flowing air (be) to you,
which fans your face on a sultry day,
the air which you breathe deeply rhythmically,
which imparts to you energy, consciousness, life.
Deep peace of the flowing air (be) to you.

Everyone responded with the word ‘amen’ or Awen’. Interestingly, I find that when I talk about the Awen to others, the Welsh word and notion for inspiration, the Spirit, I use a two-syllable sound, ie ah-wen. Here, in this ritual they and I, and for formal liturgy we used the more correct three-syllable sound ‘ah-woo-un’ to invoke the Spirit.

Later on, in unison, the group exhaled slowly, five times, and each time used the word Awen, this time ‘aaahhhhhhh-wooooooooo-uuuuuuunnnn. It was a wonderful and powerful expression of deep spirituality resonating though the ether.

At one point, one person was to be ‘commissioned’ into a certain role. Words were spoken, promises made and I reached out to touch that persons shoulder in mutual blessing and others did the same.

As I was leading this, I was in front of the person and gently got them to lower their head, and breathed on the crown of their head. It felt the natural and seemly thing to do, a good ritual of blessing, conferment and consecration.

Interestingly, shamans would do similar when healing others. But, it is something that many ancients did, and though it might seem odd to us, it wouldn’t appear so to them. ‘And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20.22, the Book).

Shortly after, we all went home.

But, air is not just our breath, important though it is. It is around us and is witnessed as wind. Invisible wind, and yet we see and feel its effect.

Close your eyes and turn your face into the wind.
Feel it sweep along your skin in an invisible ocean of exultation.
Suddenly, you know you are alive.

(Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration)

Experience

A few years ago, I spoke about experience the blustery wind on that wonderful and remote island of Iona on the west coast of Scotland. The wind picked up on that Iona beach, and a storm comes ever closer.  I might like to think I am in control, but the weather doesn’t obey me, and the Source is not at my behest, either. It is easy to fall into thinking that, but the wind blows where it wishes. To read more of that encounter on Iona, see this link.

 

The Elements: In Praise Of Fire

20190906 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF FIRE

Sitting by that hearth as a child I was mesmerised by the ‘ghostly’ flickers of orange, red and yellow as flames danced around the lumps of coal.

Occasionally a plume of blue or purple, ignited coal-gas, would prevail for few seconds and catch my attention. The coal would splutter, and shift, and settle as lumps of coal would disintegrate. The fire would hiss and crackle, and emit heat – so much so that, that, as I usually sat too close to the fire, one side of my face would be red for a while and hot, and the other seemingly cold. But, they were wonderful childhood memories of the hearth and of fire.

It is no wonder that the ancients and some today believe fire to be alive. The mythical and elemental salamander, often depicted as a typical salamander in shape, is elemental fire.

What follows, then, is research and words of liturgy (usually indented, below, that you might like to use and/or adapt) on the fascinating subject of the element of life-giving fire, that I hope with enthral you and inspire.

‘The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire’. (Leigh Hunt)

Since the beginning of humankind fire has held many in awe, and much myth surrounding its ‘finding’ abound in many cultures. Remember Prometheus in Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gives it to humankind? Or the story of dragons, flying serpent-like creatures in many Celtic tales who gifted mankind with fire and with speech.

As regards fire, the rekindling of  fire in ancient times was problematic, and it was probably because of that that Abraham carried live coals with him when offering a sacrifice (Genesis 22.6, The Book). Others, especially travelling tribes would have done the same. In those times, sometimes, children were made to ‘pass through the fire’ as a sign of dedication (and not sacrifice) by some tribes.

In the beginning, some fourteen billion years ago, there was nothing. Then, about 13.8 billion years ago, the universe erupted into being and the temperature of it, for a brief moment,  was an astounding one billion degrees Celsius (though, it you still work in Fahrenheit then it was 1.8 billion degrees). Fortunately, it cooled down, and as we know from science energy is never lost or destroyed, but is changed, transformed, and so that energy is still around to day.

‘Fires from the beginning of time empower you right now – this instant. What you are thinking and feeling…is possible only through the cosmic fire. (‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’, Brian Swimme)

The energy of the cosmos, from the Big Bang, continues. Not just in each star that we can see and not see, not only within the molten core of our home planet, but it is within each one of us, within everything that exists.

But fire is not always destructive and negative. In some cases, it is used as a purifying process or to signify truth, sometimes it is used to herald a theophany, and sometimes to talk about love and burning desire.

‘To love is to burn, to be on fire.’ (Jane Austen)

And, to ancient and latter-day Chinese people and those who practice Qi Gong, yang is the fire within and also the positive energy that circulates around the body, with its ‘chief’ organ being the heart.

It is no wonder that many cultures revere or hold a special place for fire in their community or home. Indeed, in many Celtic or Druidic ritual, fire is one of the main elements:  many face the southern compass point  in ritual to commemorate not just the season of summer, but also fire.

Blessed be you Light of Life,
Source of the sacred flame within each of us,
Light which the darkness cannot put out.
I rise up with you this day/I rest with you this night.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward

The Carmina Gadelica – a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs etc gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909, and recorded by Alexander Carmichael Gaelic-– speaks of smooring the fire in the hearth.

Many translate smooring as smothering the fire before one goes to bed, but it really means subduing the fire when rekindling the fire was a challenge (but, please, do safely smother any fire you light at the end of each day or as necessary). Smooring in that older sense meant that embers could easily be kept and rekindled the following day, and according to Carmicheal the following prayer would be used when smooring (or maybe used by us as we smother a fire or candle flame after (ritual) usage.

I am smooring the fire
as the Son of Mary would smoor;
Blessed be the house,
blessed be the fire,
blessed be the people all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

Or

I will smoor the hearth
as Mary would smoor;
The encompassment  (encircling) of Bride (Bridget) and of Mary,
on the fire and on the floor,
and on the household all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

And so, that childhood memory of the hearth returns to me. Happy days. Ofcourse, the circle has turned many time since then. Endless smooring and rekindling has taken place, and those around the hearth in my childhood, then, save one, have ‘gone ahead’ and been transformed. But, the memories and good times, and their words and example remain. The words of our Elders and loved-ones, though they may not be physically present, can positively  burn within our hearts and rekindle kindly action within us, even today.

That ancient and noble fire of love and truth, of light and encouragement continues on, in you and I.

‘Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames’. (Rumi)

 

A Story From The Heart(h): The Two Cave-Dwelling Fae

20190830 THE STORY OF THE TWO CAVE DWELLING FAE A STORY FROM THE HEARTH

There are some fire-side stories and chats that are so memorable, and worth re-telling many years later. The ancients, those ancient Celts and Druids, pagans, Christians, tribes people and others knew the value of story to teach, inform, question and to take us into deep places. I remember a story from my childhood that had a profound effect on me (and hopefully on you, in the re-telling).

‘Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.’ (Sue Monk Kidd)

The fire crackled in the hearth. I was, then, just a wee lad, perhaps six or seven years of age, and was huddled probably a bit closer to the fire that was best for me. One side of me seemed cold, one side of me, I could feel, warming a bit too much. My face was hot and I’m sure had became reddened. I moved a little further away from the fire, as the logs in the hearth glowed, cracked, crackled, broke and fell an inch or two.

Fyrgevraec – pronounced feer-ye-brak – is such a wonderful old English word. It describes in timeless and ancient tones what that fire was doing – crackling, snapping and breaking up with a sharp sound in that hearth. Those ancient words hark back to mysterious times, as did the story I was told by my grandmother that evening.

As I half closed my eyes, as I sat by that hearth of yesteryear, my imagination run riot, as she told a story, a parable:

There were once two fae, old fairies, more like crones, really, she said, who each lived in a cave – one cave was on the eastern side of the valley, one lived in a cave on the western side of the valley.

The fae who lived in the cave on the eastern side of the valley was a real charmer, she could talk the hind legs off a donkey my grandmother said. She was old, but dressed gaily, in an ancient-future sort of way and her long-flowing robe-like dress would always ruffle as if a wind was blowing, even if no wind was present! Very mysterious. Very intriguing.

People would visit her when the moon was full – she wouldn’t accept guests at any other time – and when they gave her some food, she would ask them, ‘past’ or ‘future’?. Her gift? She had a reputation of putting the past into perspective or giving assurances about the future. So they said.

She was very popular. The better quality the food or the more food she was given so the better were her ancient or future assurances. Ofcourse, people came to see her, mainly,  if they were ill or had family upsets, and would ask her what, in their past, had caused this.

She would give them a ragged stone with a word scratched on it, and that would be the reason for their illness or family problem, or indeed any other problem or challenge they were facing. Oh so they thought.. Ofcourse, one word etched onto a stone didn’t give much detail, and so most people who visited her were non-plussed and none the wiser. But, they felt they had tried.

Sadly, there illnesses or family upset or other challenge continued, but there was always the next full moon coming when they could visit her again, and again and again, with more and more food, and get more information about the past or future, perhaps.

‘Nothing distracts one from one’s true purpose in life more than following the crowd mentality.’ (Edmond Mbiaka)

The fae who lived in the cave on the western side of the valley was softly spoken, almost shy, and stammered somewhat. She, too, was old, as old as the cave itself some said. She dressed in contemporary clothes, and her dress had that washed-out look, and sported a patch or two on the dresses elbow or where her knees were.

She accepted guests at any time, and rather than demand food from guests as a fee for her services, she always laid on a lavish meal for them at no charge whatsoever. Her gift was of speaking about the present. She would give guests a rock with a word etched onto it – the word was always the same, it was the word ‘now’;  and over the meal would lovingly share with them what it meant.

People would visit her if they had an illness or family upset or some other challenge, but only a few, a very few people would visit. The few who visited her always left buoyed up, some knew what to do next – whether it was a call to action or patience and endurance. – and many lives were changed.

On most occasions she would look across at the small nearby town and cry that only a very few would visit her. It wasn’t that she was lonely – after all she was a fae and as old as the cave, and a thousand years to her was like an hour to us – it was just that she was upset that so many were troubled, and yet she had the answer for them.

And, so, little one, my grandmother asked me: if you had to visit one of those fae who would you visit? Would you visit the one in that eastern cave who could show you a ‘picture’ of the past or future for a fee; or would you visit the one in the western cave who freely spoke of the present?

It was a rhetorical question, and my grandmother answered as quickly as she had asked. Ofcourse, you would visit the fae in the western cave, wouldn’t you? Yes, ofcourse you would. I smiled.

She continued: You see, the fae in the eastern cave, who spoke of the past and future, and who charged a fee, and whose dress would ruffle in a mysterious and seemingly magical way, had no real answers for people. We know that beacause nothing really changed in their lives and they kept coming back again and again and again. They were always looking back into the past or into the distant future to solve their problems.

Now, the fae in the western cave new the richness of her gift, a gift so profound that no money could buy it, and so she offered her services freely to all. Her manner was rather subdued and her dress quite ordinary – no mysterious ‘smoke and mirror’ wind effect with her. But, the few people who visited her obtained satisfaction. To  some she would offer advice to wait and be patient, and to others to act immediately, but her guests always left lifted up and positive. Her give was ‘nowness’.

And my grandmother’s story finished there.

’…now it is high time to awake out of sleep…’ (Romans 13.11b, The Book)

As an aside it is interesting that half way up Moel Siabod (pronounced moil shab-bod), a mountain in Snowdonia, Wales, there is a point where you can look down at both sides of the valley below and just make out what really does look like a cave on one side, and another cave on the other side of the valley slope.

Now, I’m much older and hopefully a little wiser. I can see the appeal in uncertain times of delving into the past for significant answers or seeking the services of those who might predict the future. But, I believe the story my grandmother told me was that looking back and looking forward, in many cases, may not solve our challenges of today. If you want to understand what is happening and to effect change then, I believe, it must be done ‘now’, as the fae who lived in the western cave might inform you if you had visited her.

We only have ‘now’.

Last Wednesday, I got a text that something awful had happened. Forgive me for being ‘political’ (of sorts) for a moment. I had heard the the government intends to close Parliament and stifle debate on a major issue. Putting that issue to one side (and in many senses regardless of peoples differing views on the issue of Brexit as I wish to respect all views (even if I hold my own)), it hurt me to the core that the government of the UK – the Mother of all Parliaments – could do such a thing. I could tell you about past precedents or my future fears, but I realised this was above party politics and something had to be done now, now in ‘the now’. And so, and I hope you forgive me if you have an alternative view, but I had to act in the present – and at my ripe old age I went on my first protest match to College Park, London, and then with others to the Houses of Parliament, then Parliament Square and finally onto Downing Street. Something inside called out, something deep and profound and I had now to respond. And, I responded.

My grandmother was right. Looking back or into the future in many ways solves nothing. It might appear to (and maybe, just maybe, sometimes there is some usefulness),  and it might be very popular, but of those two fae the one who had the greater gift by far was the plain, stammering, somewhat shy fae who spoke of ‘nowness’ and told how it is. We only have ‘now’, this present moment in time to act.

Sometimes we need to act or endure in the present, I felt it was a time for action.

‘Nowness is the sense that we are attuned to what is happening. The past is fiction and the future is a dream, and we are just living on the edge of a razor blade.’ (Chögyam Trungpa)

Which fae would you visit? Which gift would help you more? What do you think?

 

Ancestral Thoughts At Llynau Mymbyr: Alternative Perception

20190808 ANCETRAL THOUGHTS AT LLYNNAU MYMBYR ALTERNATIVE PERCEPTION

Not far from Capel Curig in north Wales is the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr (see this article’s header photo). It is a delightful area, full of myth and magic, legend and the feel of a ‘thin place’ about it. It exudes an energy that is both comforting and unnerving, it is an area where you can believe almost anything can happen. That expectancy flows though the very air like the ozone that one senses as a storm approaches.

As a child I used to frequent this area often – wonderful lakes, surrounded by tantalising (lake) beaches (albeit on the small side, but with intriguing rock pools, odd-shaped rocks and small pebbles of curious colours and shapes). And, I’m in that place again. It’s a sunny day, and a few clouds are sprinkled high above me.

Now, as I sit on a log with the water almost lapping at my feet, the view is a wonderful blend of grey-green, of slate rocks and mountains, and fern and lichen. In the very distance (in the photograph’s centre) is Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon, again, full of myth and magic, and though distant it dominates this area by is sheer presence.

The sun and clouds are reflected in the lake’s water, too,  and my thoughts drift. In what ways would those who went before us, our ancestors, think of this place: the pebbles on the lake’s beach, the few high clouds drifting by that I can see, and the sun shining down on me?

We often take if for granted that we know what they thought, and though we might get glimpses, I wonder if we can make that mental adjustment to ‘go back’ a thousand or two years and move about ‘in their shoes’. As a wee lad I used to love the Robin Hood tv series. Robin’s outfit was always clean and well pressed, and maid Marion’s hair was never out of place. I loved the series then, but in looking back now, ofcourse I know Robin Hood’s tunic would be muddy, smelly and probably patched. Maid Marion’s hair would have been devoid of conditioner (that hadn’t been ‘invented’), and if she lived in the forest she might have been missing a few teeth, and so not worry about ragged, dry, dishevelled hair. Apologies for being so graphic.

But we do get glimpses.

Our early ancestors may have had less knowledge of the way the world worked, but they had a greater and deeper appreciation of nature, and earthy wisdom.

With a notebook and pen in hand to take notes in wilderness areas – I don’t use computers in the field – my thoughts are drifting about: How would our ancestors have seen this environment or the world differently to us?

I do believe they would have had a deep(er) understanding of connectedness. As I look around my environment at Llyn Mymbyr I know that I am connected – but is it only a ‘cerebral’ understanding rather than a holistic one? How do I immerse myself in that belief? Or is it a case that understanding it then means I need only ‘surrender’ to that thought to imbibe its wisdom? Wise words about connectedness flow though my mind, words that I read some time ago:

‘Interbeing: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. [And,] If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow….”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Yes, we are all connected, ‘inter-are’, but not just with each other now; and in opening up ourselves to less limited thinking, we come to know that we are connected in deeper ways through space and time, and not only to humankind but to the rest of creation. Even the cloud above, we know now,  has an effect far more reaching than we might have realised than when this article began.

I’m still sitting on that log, and gaze at a pebble, just under the water, that has caught my eye. Did you know that this whole area is part of what is known as the Capel Curig Volcanic Formation? If you read the science books it will explain this means that the area comprises some 1400 yards thickness of compacted ash that erupted some four million years ago. This resulted in rhyolites (and igneous, volcanic rock which  rich in silica and sometimes have a glassy texture and appearance). I’m gazing at such a pebble. What an ‘ancestry’ for a small pebble about the size of a kidney bean.

I can’t resist it. I admit it – I’m a ‘feely-feely’ person. If I see an interesting tree, I not only want to look at it, but want to run my fingers over its bark. If there’s a market medieval cross in an ancient English village or a standing-stone in the middle of an expanse, I not only want to take a photograph but also want to touch it. Who knows what that tree has ‘seen’? Who else might have touched that ancient market cross or standing-stone and thought of future generations, like me, who might touch it. There’s connectedness right there!

And, so I pick up the pebble, and another thought flows through my mind, of something that I had read about some time ago. And it’s this:

‘A man, walking on a beach, reaches down and picks up a pebble. Looking at the small stone in his hand, he feels  very powerful and thinks of how with one stroke he has taken control of the stone. ‘How many years have you been here, and now I place you in my hand”. The pebble speaks to him, ‘Though to you, I am only a grain of sand in your hand, you, to me, are but a passing breeze [in comparison]’. Martin Lowenthal and Lar Short, Opening In The Heart of Compassion’.

This small pebble had also ‘spoken’ to me. We are each connected; the same, yet different; but we all ‘inter-are’. But, the story makes us think. We do get glimpses of a different and deeper perception of nature, the universe and our place in it, but there is always more. I placed the pebble back from where I had removed it. And sat there, and wondered.

In thinking of this article, I thought: what about where you are right now? What might someone have done and thought in your location a thousand years ago, what was their view of the universe, and in what way are you connected to them? Some would say that you are separated from them by time and space, but are you? I don’t believe so. We are all connected, but we think we’re not. And the latter is, in my humble opinion, error. We are far more connected than we release – just like paper and the cloud. There is always more to discover.

And, as I stood up, ‘dusted’ myself down, slowly strode back towards the car, another thought came to me:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40b, The Book

I laughed out loud. Fortunately, no one was about – well no visible entities, at least. In thinking of connectedness and seeing things differently, and with that verse from ancient text flowing through my mind, a word formed deep within me: theosis. But, that awesome theme is for a future article.

 

[The article’s header photograph, cropped and overlaid with text is copyrighted by David Gill, and is used with permission: see here.]

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Wild Places: Deer, Gnats & More

20190720 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED WILD PLACES EVERYWHERE DEERS GNATS

Ah nature! It is true the ancients were far more ‘in tune’ with nature than modern humankind, but all is not lost.

It is possible to rekindle that which in us is muted and appreciate nature (in a rural setting as well as in an urban setting). There are benefits. Awareness of nature around us can give us new insights, not only about the universe, but ourselves; not only in preserving the planet and therefore preserving humankind; not only enlarging our wisdom about the physical world but also about that that inner world we also inhabit in our innocence and essence.

It’s a warm morning.

The temperature is rising and the current humidity level heralds an even hotter, balmy and sweltering afternoon ahead, and I’m in London. But, having travelled just a short distance, several miles west of London, I am quite comfortable sitting in the shade of a huge, ancient, gnarled and majestic oak tree. And it’s bliss.

This particular old and ancient oak tree is in Richmond Park in west London, a huge open area consisting of over 2,500 acres of unspoiled space, and which has protected status as an important habitat for wildlife. And, that’s where I am. I’m in a wild place.

‘All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. Marie Curie

There are six species of deer that inhabit the park, regal, wild and yet surprisingly tolerant of humankind. Red deer and roe deer are indigenous. Fallow deer were introduced after the Norman conquest, almost a thousand years ago. Other species arrived later.

And as I sit under this tree, wildlife, because of my earlier ambling has ‘retreated’, vanished, gone. And yet, within minutes, almost oblivious to me it returns. In many senses of the word, by being quiet and still I am becoming ‘invisible’.

It seems to me, that nature, once it has been disturbed, ‘returns’ seemingly in order of height, or weight or complexity. I’m aware of the insects returning first: butterflies, bees, assorted flies, and those black flies or gnats – the ones that seem to swarm and fly above your head regardless of which way you turn, or does that just happen to me?

I’m told the reason gnats fly around your head is because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide flume that you and I emit when we breathe out.

Most gnat  repellents rely upon us spraying ourselves with large amounts of chemicals or sweet smelling perfumes to help prevent gnats from landing and biting, but the trick, however, may be not to prevent the gnat from biting you, but rather to prevent them from finding you in the first place. If you wear a hat, allegedly, sprinkling it with Geranium or peppermint essential oil (properly mixed and properly applied) or anything that is peppery this will keep them at bay. You too, will become invisible to them.

I’m wearing a hat, yes, but no spray, and they’re back. So far, they seem to be leaving me alone, but they are there. Just a nuisance? Apparently not!

‘One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature, for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us, and… may wish to communicate with…[us]’. Black Elk

Gnats are small flies of the suborder Nematocera, so I’m told, which also includes midges, craneflies and mosquitoes. And, whether we like them or not, they, even as small as they are, and sometimes as irritating as they can be, they do serve a purpose in nature. They are an important food source for birds, bats and larger insects, and they also pollinate flowers.

Should I move to avoid them? There is no point as they seem to follow me (and you), and hover over our heads! Nature is wonderful.

As I continue to sit quietly, bigger creatures seem to ‘return’ next. The tops of some long grasses ‘flick’ monetarily as grasshoppers spring off them, and maybe a mouse scuttles nearby, then a squirrel somewhat timidly draws closer. After many minutes, a small herd of deers come close – not too close, but close enough so that I can make out individual markings, and hear their grunts and sighs, and that distinctive ‘bark’ as the communicate with each other. Nature is awesome.

‘Every creature is full of God and is a book about God’. Meister Eckhart

Still some way off, but close enough to relate to them, eye contact to eye contact is made, and it feels like a secret communion has taken place. Soul to soul? Shy, vulnerable and gentle as they are they approach even closer. A few of them, particularly those nearest to me in this small herd, are ‘side on’ to me. It’s a defensive strategy. They know I’m here, pose no threat, and yet they are wary of me, and rightly cautious.

The closest deer licks its nose. This wets its nose with saliva and the moisture on its nose improves its sense of smell, and then its ears twitch. It is checking me out.

Having researched me, those deers nearest to me, join the others is foraging, lowering their necks below the ‘browse line’ of the tall grass, with only a periodic lifting of their heads as if to double-check on me. They’re acknowledging that I’m no threat.

I remain still, watching them for about twenty minutes, and as cramp sets in in my ‘nether regions’ I have to shift my weight as I sit under this tree, and a few small twigs crack. It is enough. Immediately, a few deer’s heads arch upward quickly, gazing over the ‘browse line’ of the long grass and look in my direction, their ears twitch, and the deers let out a muted, but distinctive ‘bark’ – an alarm call to the others. Nature is so balanced – we can learn a lot from it.

‘Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.’ Milan Kundera

I watch, now, as they run away from me, in a zig-zag motion. Some do a typical ‘bounce’ upward before the turn and scatter, others who were ‘side on’ to me only have to do a quarter-turn to flee (which is probably why they were not ‘face on’ to me as one would expect, because then they would have to do an about turn, a half turn to flee. That would take more time and energy. ‘Side on’ to me is more efficient, quicker and safer for them).

Even, there departure is beautiful to watch. They all run for about two hundred feet, and then stop, regroup after a few minutes, and start lowering their heads to feed, with the occasionally lifting of their heads above the long grass. And so it goes on.

‘The truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures’. Mechtild of Magdeburg

Over the millennia deer have been admired, revered and even worshipped. They have been the subject of children’s stories, fables and myth. In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is said by some to be a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and the Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He is said to naturally have deer-like antlers upon his head, ride a horse, torment cattle, and rattle chains.

It has been suggested that the concept and name ‘Herne’ is derived from an ancient source, citing that ‘Herne’ may be a cognate of the name of ancient deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English ‘horn’ is a cognate of the Latin ‘cornu’. It makes you wonder, yes? Cernunnos being the conventional name given to depictions of the ‘horned god’ of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was/is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. Ofcourse, the aforementioned is a brief outline only, and others will know more and have varied beliefs on this theme. This is an outline only, and an attempt to show how marvellously nature ‘speaks’ to us even through story and myth.

Indeed, Some see the qualities of Cernunnos are thought to have been subsumed into the life of the fifth century Saint Ciarán of Saighir, who is acknowledged as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. When he was building his first tiny cell, as his ‘sacred journal’ tells, his first disciple and monk was a boar, followed by a fox, a badger, a wolf and a stag.

It’s time to go.

And so, I’m  walking back to the car, and within half an hour I will be home. Whenever you can escape to wild places, and even if you can’t, my encouragement is to pause and look at the wild things around you. Nature abounds in all its wildness even in the city, even in London (or wherever you are) for those who are aware. And though our ancestors may have had a head start on us in relating deeply to nature, it is a ‘skill’ that we can develop, especially as in essence we too are part of the web of nature and not apart from it; and that awareness can be awakened and grow.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.

Edna Jaques

 

Tadhg On The Road To Norfolk: Awareness & Expectations

20190701 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO NORFOLK 1

I’m deep in the countryside of Norfolk now, having driven here earlier today, and the scenery is magnificent. As the sun slips below the western horizon the sky changes colour in the distance, the air is cooling, and a slight, refreshing breeze – hardly detectable, but it’s there – can be felt upon my face.

Solitude.

Anywhere, away from the hustle and bustle of regular life, can be a place of deep awareness and peace, of solitude, and enable us to go deep, and deeper still. And, Norfolk, where I am now, is just such a place. Of course, even in the city, there are parks and other places of quiet, and even in part of your home, a time and place can be sent aside to centre yourself and go inward on that imaginable journey of solitude. You don’t have to travel to remote places to enjoy it.

But, sometimes, and you will know the occasions, sometimes some extra ‘effort’ is need to do the ‘nothing’ of awareness and solitude by relocating for a while.

The air temperature is dropping now. After a hot, windless day, and a barmy evening, the temperature drop and slight breeze is most welcome, most refreshing. It’s getting dark, and darker still.

‘The best thinking has been done in solitude’. Thomas Edison

I’m alone. And yet, surrounded by the wildness and wilderness, the wild things of Norfolk. A bird, maybe a crow, cries out and flies off into the distance. There is foraging in the nearby under growth, but I can’t see the animal, but can see the trajectory it takes as plants rustle and move as it moves from me.

Solitude. Awareness.What did I expect? There is a school of thought that says that if you don‘t expect anything, and nothing happens, then you won’t be disappointed. Others, might say we should expect for them we’ll look, and in looking we will find. But, it depends on your aim, your purpose at that moment in time, and right now ‘no thing’ apart from solitude is sought.

Here are a few thoughts about the awareness of solitude and experiences, or expectations as I sit here, having finished my meditation. They are:

– solitude, as opposed to being lonely, is about choice and awareness. To be lonely is to feel bereft of support and company. With solitude, one has chosen authentic solitude – but at the back of your mind, and after that act of solitude, you know, just know that you we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, elementals, some call them angels, or the Companion encouraging you onwards, invisibly, impalpably.

– solitude can bring about deep peace, even joy. Happiness or not may depend on external influences, but joy is very much a decision, lifestyle, a way of being which is firmly in your grasp. As I sit here, all the ‘challenges’ of the day melt away. However, there are other ‘avenues’ that may be open to you as great works of art and music can have the same joyful effect.

’Hildegard viewed music as the key to opening a third state of consciousness, a trance-like strate’ HeathyHildegard.com

– solitude can enable you to gain an insight into your fundamental values, goals, your unique strengths and weaknesses.

– solitude can create a clear perception of what is important in our lives, what to expect, what not to expect and how to deal with events when expectations are thwarted. Remember, there is always tomorrow.

It’s now quite cool, and to any casual observer I have been sitting here for an hour and nothing has seemingly happened. But it has. My aim was solitude, and the purpose was meditation.  Anything else is a bonus.

But, at one fundamental level here, and where you are right now, great movements have taken place, perhaps unaware to all of us.

“I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?”

(Juan Ramón Jiménez)*

Tomorrow, another day, and I will have different expectations. Tomorrow I perform a land healing ritual in Norfolk and I’m looking forward to that, and the following day I meet up with a dear friend and his wife. Would you believe that I haven’t seen this friend since I was twelve years old – some fifty two years ago. Time flies.

I’m now back in the little cottage I’m staying in, in Norfolk. As I sit here with a hot cup of milky Ovaltine and boyhood memories come flooding back, I realise that great expectations can come to us sometimes disguised as quite small and insignificant occurrences. Treasure those times, and revel in those times when nothing seems to happen – perhaps, then, we really are standing in the new life!

 

* [Apologies for not earlier accrediting the poem to Juan Ramón Jiménez. Now corrected]

 

Inner Journey: Transformation 101: The Map Is Not The Territory

20190629 INNER JOURNEY 101 THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY

As a wee lad I used to love to wander off, with friends or by myself. I really loved maps, and when I was a little older and able to use a map and a compass, I was off on further boyhood adventures, albeit only for a few hours.

On one occasion, given a pencil and paper by my grandmother I was off exploring the immediate local countryside of Capel Curig, making notes and sketches as I trekked over ‘manicured’ lawns, jumped noisily over the rivulet that marked the garden boundary and trekked boldly into fairly dense forest. On that map-making journey of adventure, it became clear that I had to decide on the scale of the map and would have to decide what to include or not. Somethings I included, somethings I excluded. Big things I included, and smaller trees etc I excluded as I didn’t have a big enough sheet of paper, and if I’m honest what was left off was, sometimes, quite arbitrary.

Later that day, I showed the map to my grandmother, and although she was very encouraging, it was clear that, as I explained the map, I had left off an awful lot of detail either by design or because I hadn’t noticed it. The map was only partially useful.

‘To journey without being changed is to be a nomad’

As an adult I am an amateur astronomer with a huge telescope, inspired by my Dad who, when I was a wee lad, bought me my first telescope. To me, then, it was huge, but in comparison to the one I have now it was small. But, to a small boy it was an awesome size and opened up the universe to me. And, it set me off on another child-orientated project, of a stellar kind. Assisted by a planisphere, a star chart, I was commencing yet another journey of adventure.

My first use of the simplified star chart was a lesson in ‘economics’! I could see more stars with the naked eye, and many more through the telescope that night, than were depicted on the star chart. My Dad was encouraging and explained that the start chart was like a ‘road map’ for the stars, and would only assist if bright stars were included and others omitted. Too much detail would render this and any map useless. The map was essentially an ‘outline’.

‘To change without journeying is to be a chameleon’

As an adult I still love maps – global positioning satellite maps for their functionality are wonderful, but oh, give me a paper map that I can fold, feel, smell, and hear as it crunches and bends as the wind catches it.

But, I now use maps differently to when I was a child.

Then I would avidly look at the map and ‘fit’ the world around me into it. I was so intent on looking at the map, hand-drawn by me, purchased Ordnance Survey maps or gifted star charts, that I missed much of what was going on around me, missed much of the wonder of nature.

Now, I gaze at nature, the countryside or the heavens, and then use a map to confirm what I’m looking at, or to pick out some feature on the map and find it in real life and aim for that. The map is now secondary.

I’ve learned that ‘the map is not the territory.’

Odd then, that as grown-ups so many of us use maps of different kinds, such as philosophy books, prayer books, ancient sacred texts, liturgy etc, and then gaze at the world around us. Our primary focus seems to be elsewhere, when our primary focus should be on nature and others, on life itself, with a gaze, then, afterwards, at the philosophy books, prayer books etc. Ofcourse, the latter are important, but too much gazing at them alone may mean we’re missing out on what on going on around us. They are ‘pointers’ to reality or a greater reality.  ‘Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin.’ [Matthew 6:28). Max Lucado rightly says that, ‘Nature is God’s first missionary’.

‘To Journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim’.

(This, and indented quotes above by Mark Nepo, ‘ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen: Staying Close To What Is Sacred)

We can be so busy on the intricacies of the journey, so focussed on the map, that we miss much of the journey of life and transformation itself. For instance, we can be so ‘involved’ in planning and doing (performing) a ritual that we can miss its deep meaning. Ofcourse, planning and doing it well are good, but if perfection ‘distances’ from the deep meaning, the inner journey of transformation, then we’ve missed out.

Our spiritual journey rightly involves outward activities, sacraments, rituals, liturgies, but focus too much on them, and though we might do them perfectly and even have praise heaped upon us by others, one wonders about the corresponding inner journey of transformation.

‘As above, so below’, it has been said. Others speak of an inner/outer congruency. It seems we need both: outer activity and inner transformation. ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2a, The Book).

‘Change is inevitable, but transformation is by conscious choice.’ Heather Ash Amara

And, yet, that transformation may be lacking, or delayed, or stalled! You can see that sometimes when someone says one thing but does another, or seems outwardly spiritual in their actions but inwardly is materialistic or immature by what they say. None of us like to admit that, and our ego rebels against such a notion, but if its tries to ignore the challenge (and it will be true for some, and perhaps true for al of us at sometime in our life) then we miss out even more on that inner transformation. Better to name it, and work for change.

‘Transformation isn’t a future event. It’s a present day activity.’ Jillian Michaels

On our spiritual adventure of a lifetime, maps of all kinds may assist, but they are not the territory, or as Alfred Korzybski said, ‘The (spoken) word is not the thing. Perhaps their role is to point out the need for transformation and to give hints about it, but it is up to us to do it – to be transformed (bit by bit. It’s continual).

Mark Nepo mentions something similar to this, and concludes with an exercise – see below:

– Centre yourself and without judgement bring to mind a time that you refused to let your experience change you. [Resistance].Simply feel that time’s presence.

– As you breathe, bring to mind a time that you changed yourself to please or avoid another. [Distancing]. Again, simply feel that time’s presence.

– As you soften, bring to mind a time that you journeyed forth and were changed by the journey. [Surrender]. Feel this time’s presence.

– Without judgment, give thanks [Gratitude] by accepting all of this. Give thanks for being human.

‘The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.’ Albert Einstein

Ofcourse, all this begs the questions: what is transformation, how is started, how is it completed, what are transformational ‘tools’, what are the benefits of transformation to the individual and the world? Yes, there’s more (which will appear here over the next few weeks).

 

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Clouds (2/2)

20190624 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS 2

How we perceive clouds, when we stop and stare, pause and look up depends on our intensity, or mood, our worldview.

For some the cloud they see might only be a combination of water billowed along by barometric pressure, for others there might be a recognition that that type of cloud heralds a storm, for others it may be a portent of a future event, for others it might initiate something deep inside. Whatever it does, clouds have a certain mystery about them, and hold a wisdom from which we can learn if we are open to that natural awareness like the Ancients were.

‘Never lose hope. The darkest clouds precede the loveliest rain!’ Avijeet Das

Last time [see here] we looked at low level and mid-level clouds, and now we consider those above that level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At about 7000 feet to 23000 feet are altostratus clouds – mid-level layers of thin, featureless grey cloud. Usually thin enough to reveal the position of the sun, and sometimes the moon at night, and because these diffuse clouds may contain ice crystals you might also see a halo, a coloured ‘corona’ around the sun or moon in the clouds.

Laying on my back, aged six years (and so, some years ago), at home in Capel Curig, with friends and gazing at the sky, and spying a halo around the sun we would make a wish. I would like to say that the wishes were lofty and noble, but we were only young and on the few occasions we saw those halos we would wish for (more) sweets, a tree-house or new bicycles. Typical children. Happy days.

‘Ring around the Moon, Rain Real Soon’. Anon

cloud b BrockenspecterWith that kind of diffuse cloud in mind, it is worth mentioning the Brocken Spectre. Sometimes called Brocken bow or mountain spectre, this is the magnified (and apparently enormous) shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite of the Sun’s direction. The projection is often surrounded by the halo-like rings of coloured light.

The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank, but the frequent fogs and low-altitude accessibility of the Brocken, a peak in the Harz Mountains in Germany, have created a local legend from which the phenomenon draws its name. The Brocken spectre mentioned by Johann Silberschlag in 1780.

‘The colour has faded out of the sky. It is grey, becoming darker as the world turns herself round a little more. The clouds are long and black and ragged, like the wings of storm battered dragons.’ Keri Hulme

If you’re thinking of thick grey clouds that bring heavy rain, hail or snow, then look no furtheNimbostratus virga. Bearbeitung: Unscharf maskieren auf HS_V_, Weiche Kanten.r than nimbostratus clouds which reach altitudes of 2000 feet to 18000 feet. These are the clouds that you might see in the distance and actually see the rain failing as a thin, diaphanous ‘curtain’.

The word ‘Nimbo’ comes from the Latin word nimbus, which denotes precipitation. And, whilst on the origin of words – and you know how I love myth – nephos is Greek meaning “cloud”. In Greek legend Nephele was created from a cloud by Zeus, who shaped the cloud to look like Hera in order to trick Ixion, a mortal who desired her.

‘Clouds are just nature’s stepping stones to the heavens.’ Anthony T Hincks

clouds 33 untitledLeaving the mid-level clouds behind we look at those high level clouds, the first of which are cirrus clouds. The clouds ‘reside’ at altitudes of between 17000 and 45000 feet. These clouds are usually detached from each other, and appear as patches or bands of cloud. These are fast-moving clouds, buffeted by high winds – think of aircraft turbulence; but because they can be so high, as anything far away, the ‘illusion’ is that they are slow moving. But, this isn’t the case.

clouds 4 Cirrocumulus_clouds_Thousand_Oaks_July_2010If there are to be any clouds about on a summer’s day, then the lofty cirrocumulus clouds at 17000 feet to 45000 feet are the ones that will delight. These clouds are high and are really tiny ‘cloudlets’, regularly spaced, and maybe with a ‘rippled’ effect. Cirrocumulus clouds tend to reflect the red and yellow colours during a sunset and sunrise, and so they have often been referred to as “one of the most beautiful clouds”. This occurs because they reflect the unscattered rays of light from the early morning or evening sun.

‘Clouds are on top for a reason. They float so high because they refuse to carry any burden!’ Jasleen Kaur Gumber

clouds 5 cirrostrat 240px-Clouds_CH7Finally, in our brief look at clouds, the ‘high-flyers’ are cirrostratus clouds, ‘floating’ above 20000 feet. These can often be referred to as ‘the clouds that aren’t really there’, as they can cover hundreds of square miles, but can be so ‘thin’, so high and so subtle that they’re often overlooked by earth-bound observers.

Hopefully, this and the previous article has (re)kindled your love of the nature of clouds, and further your knowledge, wisdom and awareness (of them).

‘A parade of clouds
and little puffs behind them
they follow as their Mother’.

Julia Hartwig, Spojrzenie

Clouds, I would suggest are not just to be seen as objects to be scientifically analysed (though there is nothing wrong with that), but also to be understood as part of weather-lore, and something more – that they might trigger a deeper spirituality of awe in you, and yes, for some, to be seen as wonderful objects that give us some other-worldly wisdom, and/or entertain us for hours as we gaze at their majesty and changing shapes. Was that a whale? A television? An angel?

Next time you see a cloud (and it’s safe to do so), why not pause, and when you can, let me know what you ‘saw’, and if it had a deeper meaning to you. Perhaps it’s a ‘message’ from the Great Cloud-Giver? Happy cloud-spotting!

 

20190624 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS 2

 

 

Life, An Ever-Widening Circle Of Discovery

20190606 LIFE AN EVER WIDENING CIRCLE OF DISCOVERY

There was a time, as a very wee lad in Capel Curig, when I believed I was so brave and knowledgeable. I could navigate the distance between my grandmother’s house at the small stream at the furthest boundary of her garden. And, there it was, a rivulet I called ‘Bach ac yn gyflym’ [see here]. It means ‘small and fast’. Very apt. Very Welsh.

I thought of that watery boundary as almost the end of the world, and indeed it was then the end of my known world. And, such is a child’s imagination that I imagined that beyond it lay a wild place, full of dangerous animals, and half expected a lion to stroll by.

You’ll be pleased to know that as I grew up little by little, and so my boundaries changed, and widened. Some time later I ventured to step over the rivulet, and with my friends I ‘discovered’ Y Goeden Mellt [see here], a place to play together. This was our name for a most unusual, lone tree in a clearing, which seemingly had an ominous presence. It means ‘the lightning tree’, as we knew then that lone trees had an increased chance of being struck by lightning.

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.

And, ever outward, as a young explorer I strode even further into the Welsh countryside, and I and my friends then spent considerable time, still children, playing around a tree that seemingly was two trees that grew apart and then arched back to form a ‘door’. Yes, as children, with vivid imaginations we saw this as the door to other words, and named it Drws-i-fyd-arall [see here], the ‘door to another world’. Oh, the fun we had there.

As I grew so my knowledge of geography, boundaries and perception changed. My circle of geographical ‘comfortableness’ widened. I like the idea of the metaphor here of the circle – ancient Christians, Pagans, Druids and other cultures revered or understood the circle to be a representation of the eternal, immortality, the never-ending journey, a ‘finger’ pointing to the Mystery, and more.

And, so my boundaries widened, perhaps almost imperceptibly, until one day I reflected upon how I thought as a child I was knowledgeable and brave, but actually how limited I was. However, I would never disparaged that younger version of me even  in my memory – we all have to start somewhere – but now I can see clearly (as that old song says).

But, my views today are different to then, and one would expect that. Fast-forward to the present, and very recently I found myself at the Festival of Mind, Body & Spirit (Wellbeing) Festival in London, where my new views came to the fore.

The Festival is a wonderful kaleidoscope of peoples and philosophies, a cacophony of rhythm and sound, bright lights, and a myriad of vying energies, and yes, to be honest, a rather large dose of money-orientated materialism – but it gets everywhere.

But, I love the Festival.

I had a long talk with a guy who held a Bible close. We talked, we laughed, we agreed on much, and yes, disagreed on a few things. We looked at verses in the Book and he interpreted them one way – the way I might have twenty years ago – and I shared how another (maybe a better) interpretation existed. I would like to share with you that he accepted my interpretation without question, but he didn’t.

I may not complete this last one
but I will give myself to it.

Oh, how I wished that, when I was his age, someone would have come up to me with a new, different and challenging interpretation, less materialistic view of the Book to ‘open my eyes’. As we concluded our discussion – and it was all very pleasant and cordial – I really wished, inwardly, that I was able to write to my younger self what I know now, and that his future self was doing the same for him, now.

And, now here’s the irony. I’m Tadhg Jonathan (and I’m happy for people to use one or both names, whichever is easiest), and as I wished him all the best and said, ‘I’m Tadhg Jonathan, and by the way, you are….?’, he replied, ‘Jonathan’!

As I walked away it struck me. In speaking to the guy with the same name as me, with similar views I held some twenty years ago, even if we  wrote a letter to our younger self (or our future self wrote to us today), would we  accept the content of that letter, or would the knowledge or wisdom contained therein be too odd, bizarre or unsettling for us? I don’t think I would have? Would you?

Life is a mystery that slowly unfolds. A series of enlarging boundaries. What I knew twenty years ago is different to what I know now, and I’m hoping it is the same for you. Because we move toward the edge of our current boundary filled with new ideas of knowledge and wisdom, only to see a further boundary of knowledge and wisdom in the distance urging us ever forward. We then realise that we may know more than twenty years ago, but at the next boundary we will look back at ourselves knowing we really  only knew in part, and so it goes on and on and on.

It’s a never-ending journey, and perhaps each step of the way we’re given what is sufficient to us to spur us onward, and in some cases that knowledge, wisdom or experience is for us and no one else?

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years

Perhaps the great mission we each have is to support those around us on their journey, realising that events in their life will, inevitably, be different from ours. ‘You cannot put an old head on new shoulders’, so the saying goes. Perhaps, then, our work (or part of it)  is to ‘travel’ with those around us on their journey, encouraging them to experience things for themselves, realising that they will appreciate the assistance of encouragement, as we do from those further along the journey than us. Because, in the end, there are many things we don’t know. ‘…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25.40b, The Book).

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

There is a time, and for me it’s now (and it may be the same for you), when I realise that I know a lot, and the ‘biggest’ thing I know is that I, and you, have only just started out on our never-ending cosmic adventure, our journey to get ‘back home’, and for that we need each other because there is so much we don’t know. And as we peer into the distance, there, just there, can you see it, is another boundary urging us ever onward.

 

[The indented words, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke]