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?

 

Nature’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And The Three Lessons

20190214 NATURES QUIET TEACHERS AND THE THREE LESSONS

We all live in a fast-paced society, regardless of where we live. Things to do, places to be, people to see. Never with enough hours in the day, it seems. It creeps up slowly on us all, and only a determined effort will expose its grip on.

We live in an age of ‘fast’, as opposed to those Ancients, the Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others whose life resonated to a much slower, deeper time.

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why’. Eddie Cantor

With that thought in mind, and acknowledging that I had been caught, lately, in the trap of ‘fastness’, I took myself off for a break, and recently spent several wonderful days in the New Forest in the southernmost part of England, and loved it.

It was cold, wet, and muddy, and some might have described it as miserable. I would call it an opportunity to be alone with the Alone. And, what a blessing it was.

I’ve mentioned some of the thoughts and experiences of that New Forest encounter, already, and the blessing it was to me, but it seems to me that the Universe, the Source of All doesn’t delineate things quite as neatly as we want, and because of that there is always something to learn.

Here are some recent events, in no particular order, with learning experiences.

One: There is a guy who is homeless, local to where I live in London, and whenever I can I strike up a conversation with him, have shared information about helpful agencies with him, and sometimes given money. It can almost be ‘robotic’. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes when we see mass appeals on tv for this concern and that need, it’s possible to get ‘overloaded’ and blasé about those in great need and their needs. Without realising it, in our busyness we miss out.

And then it happened. I was in a café belonging to one of the large companies, inserted my debit card at the counter/check-out till and it wouldn’t work. I tried three times, and fortunately there wasn’t a queue behind me so no one was upset  – except me. But, it wasn’t working – the card had a ‘tear’ in it.

Just then a young guy who seemed about eight foot tall and looking down on me, it seemed (and that was a bit of hyperbole on my part), and who was in front of me, having paid and was waiting for his coffee, offered to pay. And, before I could say anything, he wafted his wrist over the contactless reader (just like Obi Wan Kenobi did in that movie when he said, ‘These are not the ‘driods you are looking for’) and the transaction for my latte and croissant had been dealt with. Just like that.

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

In my mind, the ‘accuser’ spring to life: ‘He thinks your down on you luck. He feels sorry for you because he thinks your card has been declined because of insufficient funds. That’s what he thinks of you.’ And so, I wanted to say to him, I do have enough money in the bank you, know! But, the ‘quietness within’ also spoke to me and urged me to accept this goodwill gesture, knowing that I needed to pay for it, and that the pay-er would be blessed. The most I could say to him, overjoyed at his assistance, was ‘Thank you, bless you!’.

What goes around, comes around. The blessings we send out, do come back in the same form, similar forms, or altogether different forms; but they do come back. I do believe that young man will be blessed. Reciprocity.

From that café event I learned humility and the need sometimes to allow others to act on my behalf – is that the same for you?

I will look at the homeless man in the alley near Putney Bridge differently – as a truly humble man and an example to me.

Two: Having spent some time in the New Forest, it gave me sometime to spend a few hours with some new friends in Portsmouth and to celebrate Imbolc and St Brigids Day. And it was wonderful. Many people there had parts to do and say in a wonderful ceremony, and they did so with passion. I was asked to call one of the Quarters. I declined. I didn’t have my hearing aids with me, but I was impressed at the welcoming, friendliness and inclusiveness of the grove. Isn’t that what it should be like? I guess so, but isn’t it wonderful when it really happens.

‘Everyone has a place. If we do not realize this we are not living in an inclusive world. Divisions are created by fear, anger and ignorance.’  Independent Zen

From this group I learned humility, and the need to accept graciously extended invitations. They were an example to me. Receiving.

Perhaps I could have managed with the hearing aids?

Three: Very recently I attended a Leaders’ course. It was in Solihull, near Birmingham and seemed to cover a theme that I’d like to discover more about. I will be polite. There was room for improvement in the logistics of the day, but those leading it were passionate and I liked that, even though they made no allowance for anyone’s slightly different theologies.

‘If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.’ Wanda Sykes

We had had the introductions from the front, the short course explained and ‘dipped’ in to the first theme. This was followed by a ten minute break and it was then that I hoped to find out about the twenty leaders, who, like me, were participants and might have travelled from the four corners of the country.

As soon as the break time had been declared, mobile phones came out, ipad computers were ‘fired up’, and all manner of busyness took place.

I looked around and wondered how these people’s organisations could do without them, if they had to check in like this at the first opportunity? Ofcourse, in a fast-paced and busy society the hallmark of having made it is to ‘look busy’!

It’s easy to point the finger and say that this display of busy-ness is ego (although, perhaps their organisations could not do without them), but it could be. But, another, deeper thought came to my mind.

The over-riding thought was: ‘this was you (and could it be you?). It’s easy to slip back into it. Pray for those who are still in the clutches of busy-ness’. I almost fell into the trap of judging them in a self-righteous way.

The cult of busy-ness is insidious, but we are more than that.

‘He showed me that there was another world where strangers helped strangers for no other reason than that it is good to do so, and where callousness was unusual, not the norm.’ Hyeonseo Lee

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

The Ancients knew the art of slow, of perceiving deeply and leading an uncluttered life. They had their challenges just as we have ours. We are not in their situation, and so in many senses we need to ‘work’ at rediscovering  what they experienced.

I’m back in London now. The New Forest experiences were wonderful, but so were the events that followed it. Could it be that in any encounter with the Other, the ‘unpacking’ and assessment and application of it comes later, and do the blessings keep on coming as ‘distant echoes’?. I think they do. Residuality

Wherever we go, there are things to perceive, things to learn, things to share. We are surrounded by nature’s ‘quiet teachers’ – and such teachers are in wild places as well as in the city, in deep spiritual moments and in the ‘mundane’.  We are surrounded by such teachers and the One who is engaged in an everlasting conversation with us, should we only ‘stop and stare’, and listen, and put the cult of busy-ness in its place.

 

Poem: Gratitude At Bach Ac Yn Gyflym [Revisited]

20190107 poem gratitude at bach ac yn gyflym

I’m back in Capel Curig, the location of my north Wales ‘cottage’ in the wilderness. I like to connect with the wilderness every so often, and here I am again. Around me is green and grey, around me is grass and mountains, as white wisps of mist embrace me.

Surrounded now by that mist, you could be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t in my garden, as all the familiar landmarks, named trees, much-loved foliage, small rocks have all but become invisible as the cloud descends.

And as I slowly walk on, there it is. That, small, wonderfully inviting rivulet that flows unimpeded. Even if it is unheeded, it flows. It needs no human eye to convince it of its status, but when around, it does indeed invite all to look on in wonder. And, as you look into it in awe, I do believe others look back in a similar manner.

Water, particularly wells, the tides ebbing and flowing on the beach, and rivulets, like this one, are liminal places, ‘thin places’, where here and the Other are unusually close. Could this rivulet be a place for angels, the fae, elementals, the Waters, or the Others, ancestors etc to come near(er)? Who knows. But, there is a presence here, a Presence!

I call this watery friend, this rivulet Bach ac yn gyflym. Welsh geographical place-names are very descriptive, and it seemed right to call this stream by this name. Its name means ‘small and fast’. Very apt. Very Welsh.

Some time ago, deeply moved by it, I wrote a poem, and now as I gaze on at this constant companion, this faithful flow of water, almost mesmerising, I recite the poem to the rivulet, once again.

In this rugged, wild, grey-green place,
Bach ac yn gyflym, that ancient stream flows.
Downstream represents that past, of days gone by,
the old, the familiar and known.
It is an empty plate of cakes, just crumbs, now gone; it is yesterday’s meal.
This flowing water is time.

I surmise that you look upstream! Most do.
Upstream is unfamiliar.
It is tomorrow charging towards us and becoming ‘now’.
It isn’t red-shift; it is blue-shift.
It isn’t the past, it is the future.
It is potential, opportunity,
a ribbon of possibility reaching out toward us.
It is the unknown. A challenge. A risk. An adventure.
Time could be the harbinger of good or of bad,
however we define those mysterious words.
And yet Rumi’s wisdom of old, words of invitation
to accept those who knock at the door of one’s life echo loud.
For in playing host to all,
we may accept a benevolent ‘guide’ from beyond,
and grow in stature.
The flowing water is time.

As I stand motionless and observe, the water flows and yet so do I.
A body that ages.
A mind that thinks.
A heart that beats involuntarily.
A planet that spins. And one that orbits.
A solar system that moves.
Tempus fugit.
Everything is in a state of flux.

And so, like you, I look upstream.
Could this be Bach ac yn gyflym or even Pishon?
But, I crane my neck and look upstream,
for it is from there that the Spirit calls out to all of us by name.
The Bat Kohl whispers in the desolation, the forest, even in the city.
Her activity is recorded in the past, felt in the present, and reverberates to us from the future.
The flowing water is time.

Time moves on.

Is time an illusion? Is it inear? Cyclical? Or a combination of the latter two, a ‘slinky’: repeating itself but with the progress of minor changes and adaptations, new things, along the way? For now, all I know, is that this rivulet has a sameness and a difference in its flow: a paradox. . Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 BC. said, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.’

Yes, time moves on. But, ‘chronos’ or ‘kairos’. The former is mechanical time, the relentless tick-tock of the clock which governs our rising and sleeping, our working and relaxing, marking the seasons in the heavens or instructing us of the time of the next bus home. The latter, ‘kairos’ is opportunity, time that allows us to do something. For the ancients, this would have been an important thought, perhaps the most important of the two, for they would say to us; ‘now is the time’.

However, having just glanced ay my wristwatch I am walking briskly back to the cottage now, as time indicates that its breakfast time, and somethings are too important to miss. But, and it is an encouragement to each of us: today there will be times of opportunity, kairos (time) to seize and take hold of, to enjoy and make the most of. Carpe diem.