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

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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.

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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 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?

 

Earth Hour 2018: A Joyful Response

20180319 EARTH HOUE 24 MARCH STEWARDSHIP MEDITATIONSoon it will be the time of Earth Hour 2018.

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. That event saw over million homes and businesses turn their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change that year. Now, Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and annually encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off all non-essential electric lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on a specific day towards at the end of March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet.

‘Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.’ Jonas Salk.

The ancient Celts, Druids, ancient Hebrew tribes, first century Christians and others were Earth-focussed, in-touch with the seasons and the land, and knew that their livelihood depended on the Earth’s bounty. Somewhat removed, now, in modern society it is easy to forget our inter-connectedness and dependence upon the Earth, and a feeling of helplessness can overtake us.

What can we do?

Earth Hour this year will be on 24 March, and so all of us can participate in large ways and small, and all are encouraged to turn off all non-essential lighting and other non-essential power-consuming devices, wherever we are on the planet from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm (our) local time. A symbolic easy-to-do act just for one hour.

Below are some ideas, quotes, liturgies/poems and memories etc that have been used, and that you might like to use, adapted, or which can be used as prompts to encourage each of us to do something symbolic for the planet, this Saturday, and live simply for one hour, and joyously. The latter is important, as it shouldn’t be seen as an arduous task or a chore, but as a profound time, an enjoyable time in the main.

Blessing:
And so, before eating, by candlelight, we used the following as a blessing:

‘All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Earth, our mother
who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
various fruits and coloured flowers and herbs.
[St Francis of Assisi]

Meal:
We wanted to meet as friends and have a simple meal together. Just bread and soup in gratitude of the immense bounty of the Earth that we often forget. A simple meal in good company was perfect.

As a centre-piece on the table, as a reminder of why we had gathered was symbolism to represent the elements (five in this case, but you might have less or more), and so we had: a flower to represent earth/soil/rock, a small bowl of water, a joss-stick to represent air, a few candles to represent fire, and a small clay wild goose (an ancient Celtic representation of the Spirit).

We ate, we laughed, we enjoyed the occasion immensely. Ofcourse, afterwards you can supplement the time with music and/or singing.

Meditation:
Bathed in the light of a few candles, each member of the group was asked to close their eyes and imagine a scene. Initially, the co-ordinator asked the group to visualise the Earth as seen from space, blue, cloudy, majestic, full of life, a planet set in a sea of stars. One by one each person described what they had imagined.

After a short pause, the co-ordinator, asked each member of the group to visualise one distant land, perhaps seen on tv, full of animals and vibrant nature, and to describe it, and one by one each person did in just a few words. The co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

After a sort pause, each person was asked to imagine an element of nature from their local neighbourhood, some to be thankful for. Each shared, and the co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

Then, the co-ordinator asked each to imagine one scene where the Earth was ‘distressed’, through pollution or over-farming, through the loss of natural habitat, the further extinction of species, and each member shared what they ‘saw’. The co-ordinator summed up with prayerful words.

Lastly, the co-ordinator, asked each to imagine the Earth as it was when they started this meditation – a wonderful blue planet set in a dance amongst the stars, and to ‘flood it’ with our thanks, well-wishes and good-thoughts.

Sharing-time:
We shared prayers and poetry in a circle of fellowship lit by the light of one candle. Each invited person was asked to bring some prayer or relevant poem to share, and after each recitation a few minutes of silent meditation and reflection ensued. One such prayer was:

Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you,
who herself unmoving, harbours the movements
and facilitates the life of ten thousand creatures,
while resting contented, stable, tranquil.
Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you.
(Old Celtic Blessing)

A variation of this, one year, was to ask those attending to prepare a piece about their favourite mountain, or animal, flower, tree, ocean or river, as a way of giving thanks.

For instance, one person talked at length about trees and their connectedness, and how they actually ‘communicate’ with a beneficial and ‘joined up’ root system. Something similar was televised recently with Judi Dench, and can be seen on Youtube, here.

Another person shared about a written piece (and a short video) wolves and what remarkable animals they are, and something similar can be seen here.

Another shared a short video about Snowdonia – my favourite, and I admit to a slight bias here, see here.

Eucharist:
We shared a simple breaking of bread and wine in the home. One person blessed the bread and wine, and we passed the bread around. Several minutes later, the wine was passed around (and as we also wanted to think about the Earth, on many occasions the wine was substituted with unfermented red grape juice). And then several read relevant verses from the Bible, such as:

‘In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.’ Psalm 95.4 The Book.

All very simple, easy to plan and expedite. Very profound.

Baraka:
On this occasion, with lights off and the tv turned on, we watched part of the video ‘Baraka’. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. It is a wonderful series of profound clips and ethereal music that is nature-based, deep and spiritually moving, and highlights  our interconnectedness with all that is around us. It can be seen on Youtube, here.

Conclusion:
How will you commemorate Earth Hour? Whatever you do, by yourself or in the company of friends, my wish is that you do something simple, symbolic and joyful to mark the event, which ofcourse, is a prompt for us all to have a greater regard for the planet thereafter.

Blessings of Earth Hour be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Reflections On A Puddle: A Quiet Teacher At Drws I Fyd Arall

20180125 REFLECTION ON A PUDDLE A QUIET TEACHER AT DRWS I FYD ARALLI am back in Capel Curig in north Wales for a while. I’m outside, and have walked the relatively short walk from my little cottage, Tŷ Gwyn (pronounced ‘tee gwin’, meaning White Cottage or White House), to an area that, for years, has been known to me as Drws i fyd arall. It’s raining hard – the ‘gift’ of storm Georgina that is sweeping across the United Kingdom.

Soaked, I sit on a felled log. It’s still about half an hour before sunrise.

‘Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down…’ Isaiah 45;8a, The Book

And I feel wonderful, expectant, in awe at the two, old, trees in front of me. I sat there looking at these two trees, so different to the others around them, as these two trees had grown in a way that they bowed towards each other to form an arch. As children we noticed this, and I and my friends had called these two arched trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world’. Such was the imagination of us children that we played endless games by jumping through the arched trees, and in our minds eye believed that we found  ourselves in strange new worlds. Star Gate, the tv series, was still many years in the future. We got their first!

For more about Drws I fyd arall in previous articles, see here, and here.

And, now I’m sitting in the middle of this delightful forest, in suitably rain-proofed attire, and though its cold and there’s a great wind – I’m protected from that wind by the high trees around me – but not so from the rain. It’s raining even harder, and I love it.

By my feet, raindrops converge into puddles, multiple puddles and some of them quite deep, and as the puddles fill up with rain some of them join together to form even large puddles around me; and for a moment I am mesmerised by the sight of the rain splashing on the forest floor and into puddles, and by the soothing, continuous, hypnotic patter of fresh, cold, wonderful rain.

‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Loren Eiseley

As I gaze at the large puddle in front of me, joining with another, and then being  ‘syphoned off’ into a larger deep depression on the ground inches to one side, I spied that water takes on the shape of that which it fills, and reshapes itself umpteen times, yet it still remains water.

‘I find inspiration in the movement of water. Sometimes I think about the journey the water has travelled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.’ Janet Echelman

How we could learn from water. If you’re like me, it is oh-so-easy to take on board the opinions of others sometimes; to be caught off guard and to be affected by their bad words and actions, and perhaps want to metaphorically strike back; or be adversely affected by ‘bad’ situations. Water is not changed by what it fills. It changes shape, but remains faithful to its nature. It loses nothing. How we could learn from water.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Mark Nepo talks of this sort of awareness of nature. He calls them ‘quiet teachers’, for that is what they are: nature opening itself up to human awareness for the connection, which surely already exists, to be made understandable (at least in part) to us, in a quiet, authentic manner

And so this puddle, this ‘quiet teacher’, a puddle at Drws i fyd arall taught me that water adapts to fill the ‘shape’ of its surroundings, but remains faithful to itself.

And, in a ‘flash’ as I sat on that felled tree, I realised that, as humans, we are should (or perhaps, are encouraged, is a better way of putting it, to) adapt to situations in our daily life, albeit some tough events, or situations brought on by ‘difficult’ people, and yet remain faithful to our ‘humanness’, our core. It is possible to adapt and not take on board the negative ‘stuff’ around us.

And then, I experienced another ‘flash’ as if lightning had filled the sky: it dawned on me – our body and soul may be seemingly affected, but the lesson of this ‘quiet teacher’ was that that need not be the case, but it came to me that our soul, our being, our very essence is never affected by it at all – we just think it is. There is something in us that ‘higher’, still. And from ‘that place’, a place of Love, we can have compassion on others, and bear tough situations come what may.

I had to sit on the felled log for some time to ‘unpack’ those two ‘flashes’ of thought(s) from Beyond.

‘…the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.’ Mark Nepouiet

The Enchantment Of Snow: Tadhg’s Journal

20171211 The Enchantment Of Snow Lessons From Frozen PrecipitationComing down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.

Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.

‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy

The street was busy. So many people.  Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.

The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.

I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?

In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.

The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.

Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.

Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.

‘The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?’ J B Priestley

Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.

Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?

Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?

Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!

Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?

‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean

Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?

I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?

‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous

And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?

People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was:  in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.

I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.

We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’  and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.

 

Poem: The Winter’s Light [Winter Solstice]

20171128 THE WINTERS LIGHT POEM

Winter solstice is coming nearer.

I do so love this time of the year. Dark evenings arriving earlier, the temperature dropping, and plans are made. That which we could take for granted now has to be planned. Heating system okay? Enough fuel? Enough salt for the paths, or enough food in the larder? Is my neighbour prepared? What about local wildlife? The season of winter is upon us. And, I love it.

So, one evening (or more) draw up close to the fire or a table lamp, or your favourite corner of your favourite room, making sure the tv is off and distractions are unlikely, and relax.  Contemplate on the turning of the circle as we move to midwinter, and the year just gone. Sometimes I find it’s best just to ‘rest’ at those times, in an attitude of gratitude to the Source for nature etc, and keep thoughts to the minimum. When lovers meet, their company is enough – words are unimportant.

The following poem may assist you in your contemplation of the season, and doubly so if you imbibe your favourite drink – for me, I’ve ‘re-discovered’ Horlicks malt drink, and I’ll be sipping that. Or, you might like to use the poem as part of your liturgy, as an individual, or for your family or (faith)group.

Winter solstice approaches.

The day is over, and night comes early.
Orion is higher in the sky now,
and imaginations are unshackled.
Above us the gods of yesteryear move across the heavens.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

The silvery December moon rises
and the face that smiled upon the Birth,
of yesteryear, also smiles on us.
Above us Rhiannon advances.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Wise ones seek the Truth,
and beings of light, lit their Way.
Angels? Fae? The Watchers? Elementals, The Others?
And, about us unnamed, invisible Companions guide us still.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

We dance together in the dark,
as the Circle turns, and yet
we dance joyfully and with purpose.
We celebrate the season, that is.
And, around us, in the darkness
we ‘see’ the Friend at work.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

And yet in the darkness,
there shines a Light.
And, in remembrance, we light this festive candle
to the Sun of Righteousness.
And, we declare to all, near and far;
peace and hope, light and love
be to you and yours.
Now, and forever more.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Winter solstice approaches.

Blessings of The Source of All be to you and yours at this time,
Tadhg

Alone With The Alone At The Machair: Poem

20171026 ALONE WITH THE ALONE AT THE MACHAIR POEM

This is one  of several poems inspired by my pilgrimage to those wonderfully ‘thin places’ of the Isle Of Iona (also known as the Isle Of Druids) and the Isle Of Skye – rugged and awesome islands off the west coast of Scotland.

This poem is based on thoughts, feelings and an encounter at the Machair. The Machair is a Scottish/Gaelic word for ‘fertile beach’, and is pronounced ‘makkah’. It is a delightful, part sand-part grassy coastal area on the Isle of Iona with a unique eco-system, and is a windswept and wild,  liminal place, a place of myth and magic, indeed. Things happen here. Visit, and you will not be unchanged.

The weather changes and the blue sea turns white.
Dark clouds speed from the horizon
to where I am standing, and the wind blows a gale.
The light dims.
The tide recedes as a mighty storm approaches.
And I wait.

There was a time when the Voice was heard
speaking words of peace, and love, and hope.
Now the age of neon shines
and a cacophony of sound fills the air.
And I wait.

For a moment I hear murmurs in the wind.
Could it be the sound of martyrs and monks of yesteryear?
Could it be angel-sound, or the gleeful chattering of the fae?
Perhaps it’s the  words of Druids of a bygone age?
And then it’s gone.
And I wait.

The waves crash against mighty rocks
and yet the rocks are unmoved, unchanged.
Gulls  squawk in the distance, but have moved inland.
The wind blows a mournful sigh.
A howling that increases and decreases in volume and pitch.
And I wait.

At the Machair
I am alone with the Alone. I listen.
Could it be that the Voice still speaks
words of peace, and love, and hope?
Love personified, prevails. Surely?
Doesn’t Wisdom cry out to all who listen to her?
I listen but shrill sounds fill my mind.
And I wait.

In a time of plastic
I yearn for that age of myth and magic.
And when all that matters, that is substantial and real
seems, oh so far away,
something calls to me to stop and look.
And in waiting,
I notice that,
ah yes, the tide is turning’.

 

A Note From A Reluctant Edge-Walker

z 20171023 reluctacnt edgewalker

Having disembarked from the ferry at the port on the windswept Isle of Iona, I left the small village and headed along a path, as instructed. I knew the journey would take about half an hour, and so with light failing and with a flashlight in hand, I set off. All that seems an age away, now.

I’m back, and for various reasons it looks as though I’m going to be in London for a few more weeks.  Behind me, metaphorically, is the pilgrimage to the isles of Iona and Skye, and now I’m’ here. London.

I’m back. It’s a shock. A sort of punch to the solar plexus. Winding.

I had such  great experiences on those islands. Profound. Deep. Ancestor-Connecting, Loving. Source-encountering. God-filled ‘Thin-place’ experiences. I didn’t want to leave, and yet I knew I had to. I had so easily ‘acclimatised’ to that island lifestyle – and do believe one reason for that is something we all share – we all ‘possess’ (or, perhaps it embraces us), an inner, ancient, ‘drum beat’ that continues, wherever we are.

And, that same ‘drum beat’ beating in my chest, seems at odds with the ‘world’ that I now inhabit in London. The pace is faster, it’s shallow, its priorities are different, it’s loud, far too loud, and yet….

This is where I should be for now. I know it.

And so, I’m becoming more of an edge-walker, again. An edge-walker, one who straddles both spheres of spiritual and physical encounter, holding them in balance, in ‘tension’, equally, and joyfully. Yes, that balance is returning. And, once again I’m getting used to that way of living. It’s probably not what I would want – those islands still call – but it is the way it is for now.

Someone once wrote about the desire to be in heaven and to enjoy all that that means, but tempered it with the realisation and desire to stay here for a while to do the work that they had been called to. One destination was far better, but this ‘destination’ was necessary and expedient. For now.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to ‘unpack’ some of my experiences experienced on Iona and Skye – both wonderfully ‘thin-places’. There were some great encounters of the spiritual kind, and perhaps another example of the necessity of us being edge-walkers was my physical journey from the port on Iona to the place where I was to stay.

It was my first hour on the Island, as regards this pilgrimage, and as I was a little wet. A light rain was falling, it was getting darker, and I came to the first of three gated fields that I was to pass through. The field presented no problem, and though these fields gently undulated so you had slopes and dips to encounter, it was a pleasantly green field to behold, although less was being seen by the minute as the light faded.

Not so the second field. It had a sign on its gate: Beware of the bull. I had hoped this was a farmer’s sense of humour running riot, but no. As I moved through the field in a direct line, following the path, there he was. Suddenly, and I know you will be shocked by this, but suddenly the peaceful presence that had embraced me on this island seemed to ‘evaporate’ and the ‘angel of common-sense’ spoke. I looked to the ‘spaces’ either side of this field and they were not navigable, and it was getting darker, and there were some treacherous drops around.

My pulling back into the non-spiritual was competed only when I decided to walk through the field, but on the furthest side of the field, as far away from this lumbering, brown, wonderful-but-wild beast. Once again I was an edge-walker on a spiritual journey but having to deal with physical challenges – and isn’t that like your daily life and mine, usually?

‘It seems to me that we do live in two worlds… there is this physical one, which is coherent, and there is the spiritual one, which to the average man with his flashes of religious experience, is very often incoherent. This experience of having two worlds to live in all the time, or not all the time, is a vital one, and is what living is like.’ William Golding

You will be pleased to know that the bull, having turned his head slowly to look in my direction, slowly turned it away as though thoroughly disinterred in me, for which I was grateful. He had discovered three cows in the neighbouring field and had wandered off in their direction.

And, so I journey on, both physically and spiritually, thus confirming that we are all, indeed, edge-walkers, working our way through life in all its spiritual glories as well as driving along highways, catching trains and buses, and dealing with our taxes. That ancient ‘drum beat’, though, still beats within your chest and mine, too. Pause, and you may here it. Hear it, and you might want to respond, my dear edge-walking brother or sister.

 

‘Eucharistic Planet’ : Celtic Thought About Life & Geography

20170824 EUCHARISTIC PLANET CELTIC THOUGHT ABOUT LIFE AND GEOGRAPHYI am back in that place of paradox. Fulham cemetery in central London, so ancient and full of the remains of human bodies and ashes, and yet with the lush trees and foliage that abound here , it is a place teeming with life. To the materialIst, to those steeped in twenty-first century (maybe so, even without knowing it), to those who see only with physical eyes, there is no more.

But, there is more.

We are surrounded by ‘biological’ life: insects, animals, trees and plants etc, but even there, there is more. I’m in a physical location that has pebbles for pathways and a myriad of other stones with etchings on them, but there is more. There are things I cannot see – some would call them spirits or entities associated with this place (and, the Romans called the genii loci), and then there are the ancestors. How materialistic and limiting to presume that because we cannot see something that it does not exist (especially as ‘our science’ informs us that more that 90% of the universe is invisible to us).

There is more.

‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…’ Quote/Misquote from Star Trek

There are some who believe that all things – that which we call animate and inanimate – are ensouled. Even the pebbles on the pathway that I’m currently looking at are ensouled. They have a story to tell, are part of the created order, and though many would say that that idea is nonsense their was a time when those who thought the earth was the centre of the solar system would have argued vehemently that they were right and others were wrong.

‘I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ Luke 19:40, The Book

Having the view that everything has a soul, may sound bizarre to some, but even to sceptics there are benefits. If I gaze lovingly at a tree – and their are two beautiful, old, gnarled and noble trees to my left and right with stories to tell, and I believe they are ensouled and I’m in error, then nothing has been really lost. I slowed down, I might have given the trees some ‘respect’ that some materialists would say I didn’t need to do, but nothing is really lost.

‘Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.’ Gerard De Nervalok

However, even then there are benefits. I will not be so quick to view these trees, and creation in general, as a commodity to be dug us, used, and causally discarded. Even if the is no ‘ensoulment’ of all things and we act as though there is, it makes for a kinder, cleaner and more nature-based world, and one that is appreciated because it is reverenced. However, currently at the hands of materialist-thinkers the planet is being merely being ‘used’ and poisoned. ‘Ensoulment’-believers are very good for the planet and for future generations, at the very least.

There’s more.

For me everything is ensouled, and using the wisdom of ancient Celts, proto-Christians and Druids etc that ‘theology’ is wonderfully (and logically) life-preserving.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Hamlet, Shakespeare

I’ve now relocated. I needed to stretch my legs and I’ve walked about a mile south-west of the cemetary, and I’m now in the delightful Bishop’s Park (see header photo, above) which nestles against the River Thames .

And what of other entities? We live in such a materialist age that even many of those who frequent churches, mosques and synagogues etc struggle with the concept of angels. Call them Angels, elementals, genii loci, dryads, ancestors; there are things known, and there are things unknown. Perhaps we’re not meant to solve this mystery, but just to admit that this mystery exists, to experience it, and to revel in it.

These other entities, the spirits of the place, they exist. They exist here in this ancient land called by some, myself included, Clas Myrddin (or Merlin’s Enclosure), and they exist where you are. Even if you’re the other side of the globe, and in a ‘new’ country with a modern history of several decades or a just a handful of hundreds of years, the land is more ancient than that and so are those who inhabit it in the unseen realm. If I said this land was more special that would be for my ego to gain the upper-hand, or to give credence to some kind of ‘purist’ or arrogant fantasy. I would say every place on the face of the earth is special, and holy, and inhabited by genii loci. So, make friends with yours, wherever you are.

‘What if the universe is not merely the product of God but also the manifestation of God – a ‘eucharistic planet’ on which we have been invited to live?’. Joseph Campbell quoted by  Barbara Brown Taylor

In Bishop’s Park just a short walk away from that cemetery, the geographical location is different, my view is different, the ‘feeling’ is different, but the spiritscape shares an ancient commonality wherever we go, wherever you are, wherever I am. Different, but the same. Indeed, a ‘eucharistic planet’. Ensouled.