The Tree Called Coeden Niwl: A Different Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is alive, after all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Another Tale From The Heart(h) Remembered: The Nwyfre Is…

20180327 TALES FROM THE HEARTH REMEMBERED THE NWYFREGathered together by the hearth, my granddad would listen, I would watch and listen so intently, and my grandmother, a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic for a story-teller] would tell me a story. To me, she was the best at storytelling, and her stories were profound – so much so that I am learning more through them, now, even as an adult, in the re-telling. Here’s one.

It was many years ago – I’m guessing I must have been six or seven years old – on one of those still-bright August evenings, that I heard her tell another story. The hearth had a small flame flickering in it, as even in this part of Wales the evening temperatures could drop rapidly, depending on the wind direction as it blows through the valleys, even though it was the height of summer.

She told the story of the Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv-ruh’), and as I drew ever closer and closer to her feet – I always loved sitting on the rug around her rocking-chair – she told one of her ‘question and answer’ stories.

In the beginning, she said, before anything was created, the Nwyfre existed. The Nwyfre is the creative force of life, all life, and is Personal. To describe the Nwyfre at an ‘it’ would be to miss the point she said. The Nwyfre is Personal, both male and female and beyond those limiting ideas. It would be many years before I grasped that concept.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way’. Edward de Bono

She continued: The Nwyfre created light and dark for the first time, though I believe the Nwyfre is Light, too, but of a different kind. A life-force light. The Nwyfre created the sky and the air. And then, the Nwyfre being a creative and joyful Spirit, one of a kind, drew the water and the earth together, and made the seas and dry land. But, what was missing, she would ask me? Ofcourse, I would gleefully fill in the ‘blanks’ and answer the question – sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting in wrong. I loved those ‘tests’.

She continued: And the Nwyfre thought into being the sun, moon and stars, but who could see them? ‘No one’. I replied. She smiled and said. ‘Exactly right, little one……no one….except for the Nwyfre. I smiled and nodded that I thought I might have got the question half-right, but to this day I’m still wondering about it.

She digressed somewhat in that story and asked me, ‘So where was the Nwyfre?’ Without thinking I replied, ‘In the light and dark, the sky and air, the sea and land and rocks’, but I would end the answer, that time, with the tone of my voice ascending at the end, to make it more of a question than a statement. She smiled and said, ‘Yn wych’, (which is somewhere between saying ‘marvellous’ and ‘great’, colloquially), and my face beamed. I’m a little bit more reserved and adult now. Honest. But then I was a wee lad.

There was more she said: And then the Nwyfre created all the animals and fish and insects that you can possibly imagine, and many more that we can’t possibly imagine. All of them having the Nwyfre in them. But, still there was something missing, she said. ‘What could it be?’, she said in my direction, and paused expecting an answer from me. After a little thought and a little more, I tentatively said, ‘Us!’. ‘Right’ she said and laughed. Finally, the Nwyfre created men and women, and they too have the Nwyfre within them, even now, although many don’t know that.

My grandmother slumped back in her rocking chair, an indication that she wanted to rest, but I had a question. ‘Where can I find the Nwyfre?, I asked.

The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant. There is nothing as near as the eternal. This is captured in a lovely Celtic phrase: ‘tẚ tír na n-ổg ar chul an ti’, ‘the land of eternal youth is behind the house’….The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused’. John O’Donohue

Many years later my grandmother’s story still reverberates in my mind, though I know others have different stories, but most seem to agree that that life-giving Spirit is in everything. And even though her story, then, had been simple, yet profound, only part of it had ‘sunk in’, hence my childlike question (which had, effectively already been answered. But I was a young lad at the time).

‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3.8a, The Book

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘In the grass on the little hill at the edge of the garden, in the birds and insects, in the air and storm clouds, in the rocks and pebbles, and more places’.

Without hesitation, I ran outside, and for the next hour I went in search of the Nwyfre.

Climbing to the top of the little hill – not that little for a wee lad as I was then, clambering up it on ‘all fours’ – I sat on the grass at the top. Yes, grass. Nwyfre! I felt the cold mountain air blow against my cheeks. Yes, Nwyfre. In the distance I saw Jones the dairyman drive past at some speed I think, and saw birds fly across the sky. Yes, Nwyfre!

And then I headed back to my grandparents’ house with my ‘research’ complete. I sat by my grandmother’s feet, she looked down, and said, Well?’. And then I recited my embellished  list at breakneck speed and without pausing for breath: ‘grass, flowers, trees, birds, Jones the Dairyman, the wind, the rain’.

‘And, there’s more’, she said. As she said that a lump of glowing coal fell from the fire and granddad used the coal-tongs’ to put in back. ‘Ah, I replied, ‘Coal and rocks and Lapis lazuli'(a semi-precious stone my grandmother had recently given me, and probably the longest word that I knew…apart from those lovely Welsh place names and words), and ‘You and granddad, and me’.

I looked up and said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere.’ And then after a pause I said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere….so I needn’t have gone outside! The Nwyfre is here!’. Her face beamed a most lovely smile.

‘Nwyfre is ‘…this living, energising current of life that flows through all living beings’. Penny Billington

Many years later I was to understand that many people have different names for the Nwyfre – such is the creativity and grace of the Nwyfre – but most acknowledge that Life-Force in all things, in a web of loving connectedness throughout all that is, seen and unseen; and without the Spirit, the Nwyfre, nothing exists and happens. The Nwyfre is so important in what we say and do, not just in our prayers and rituals and ceremonies, but in our very life, in nature, daily life, the nine-to-five job, relationships of all kinds, and more. The Nwyfre is ubiquitous.

I never knew what ubiquitous meant, but now I’m seeing it everywhere!

Although the Nwyfre is everywhere, sometime ago I wrote about an encounter (or perhaps a greater awareness of the Nwyfre in a forest, devoid of distractions), and you can read it here.

Meanwhile, wherever you are, you can encounter the Nwyfre right where you are!

 

Encountering The Òran Mór

20180226 ENCOUNTERING THE ORAN MORI’m sitting cross-legged, in a darkened room. Dark, save for one, small candle with its gentle flickering light projecting barely-seen shadows on the wall. It’s peaceful. I’m at rest.

Tonight my meditation is kataphatic – that is I’m going to use thoughts and ‘pictures’ from my imagination to be my ‘silent teachers’, and then in an unstructured way – that is non-directed, and I aim to be open to the Awen (pronounced by some as ar-wen; though I like the three syllable pronunciation, ah-(w)oo-ern), that Spirit of creativity known to ancient (and latter-day) Celts and Druids, and others (and known by various other names).

As I sit here, eyes closed, there is no sound except for the sound of the wind, outside. I’m back in London, and my small apartment is one of a few, that, like most modern architecture can be prone to ‘funnel’ the wind and create a sound – like that of a long moan. I love it. I can hear it now. The wind is blowing from the east, and it’s cold air. As I begin a time of quietness, it is nature reminding me that, even in the city, nature predominates.

My mind wanders, and I let it.

The mournful sound outside reminds me of a story I once heard when I was a child. The flickering candle light, even with my eyes closed, gently reminds me of the glow of the hearth as that story was told. My mind conjures up pictures of yesteryear, of childhood, of innocence.

My grandmother, would tell me that: In the beginning, and it varies between cultures, nothing existed. But all that is, was brought forth by a sound. Some call it the word or Word, others of a Celtic or Druidic persuasion call it the Òran Mór (some pronounce this Oran-mor, others oh-ran mohr). The words differ, but the wonderfully deep meaning persists.

Òran Mór, the Great Song or Great Music, song of the universe, was (and is) the continual love song of the Source of All, and through it everything that is, was brought into being, and continues because of the Òran Mór, my wise grandmother would say to me.

‘…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy’. Job 38.7 The Book

Everything vibrates, my grandmother would remind me, and so everything is ‘dancing’ to the music of the Òran Mór. Then, the former was a difficult concept to understand as a child, but the latter was understandable. As a child I loved dancing. And so, Òran Mór is nature’s dance, such as a bird chirping, a frog croaking, leaves making a sound in trees when the wind blows, the sound of rain or the waterfall, our breath, a babies cry, our cells, and for those with scientific instruments to measure it, the very rocks and stars oscillate and participate in Òran Mór.

‘As you entered the world, your first independent action was to breathe, and then to make sound – the sound of your creation. Since then, each time you’ve made a sound you’ve re-created yourself’. Stewart Pearce, The Alchemy Of Voice

Oh, she was clever, if not confusing, especially to a wee lad to me, as I was then. I only partly understood then what my grandmother was saying about about the Òran Mór, but in remembering now, I can piece together much of what she said, and now understand it more so.

‘All things emanate from this Great Song of power that is spinning vibrantly through all life, from the microcosmic level of electrons, atoms…to the giant swath of whole galaxies…’, Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

My grandmother would often ask me to listen out for the Òran Mór, as for us, it can also be heard as a barely audible whisper of wisdom, heard in nature, those ‘silent teachers’ or on the lips of others. Have you heard the Òran Mór as an audible sound, or as an inner whisper, or a paradoxical unheard ‘sound’ of inclusion that seems palpable, or through nature?

For humankind, we share in the ‘dance’ of the Òran Mór along with nature, but are blessed to acknowledge it – to be both part of it, and to ‘understand’ it (in part), objectively. In that sense our very words and singing can form part of the Òran Mór. Our breath has power. What a blessing to add to it. To be embraced by it. How important it is for us to speak words of ritual or ceremony, to speak positively to others, to utter gratitude, to sing or chant in groups or individually to nature and/or the Source of All. When we do so, we join in with the Song of the Universe, and the latter joins in with us. We become part of a magnificent cosmic symphony.

‘The Òran Mór is already within us waiting silently for the activation of our memory…The human soul enlivened with the Great Song becomes aware that it is a manifestation of the theophany of Creation…’ Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

And so, often, my grandmother would send me out into her garden to listen. I have a feeling that it gave her time to attend to other things or to be by herself for a while, but it fascinated me – I was sent on an adventure to discover…who knows what?

When I returned she would ask me what I heard. And like the small child I was I would recite at breakneck speed, and without many pauses for breath, everything – listing the buzz of flies, the sound of birdsong, the bleat of a ragged sheep, the sound of thunder reverberating in nearby mountains, the sound of my footsteps, the sound of a babbling brook, the crack of a tree branch breaking nearby and falling from a great height, and the sound of an aircraft overhead.

‘And which of those was the Òran Mór?’, she would ask. ‘All of them?’, I would answer, hedging my bets and phrasing it as a question. ‘Ofcourse, all!’, she replied, and smiled as only she could.

I’m sitting here now in this darkened room, eyes half open, listening to my breath as those wonderful  ‘picture’ images of yesteryear disperse in my mind. The candle flame dances and splutters, as I realise that’s Òran Mór. The wind outside is howling like a ban-sidhe (pronounced bann-she), that’s Òran Mór, and as I sit here and chant then I, and you too, as you sing or chant or speak now or later, join in with the Òran Mór, and we add something valuable to the fabric of the Universe, and the Source of All joyfully sings with us.

‘And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and the loud rumbling of thunder. And the sound I heard was like harpists strumming their harps. And they sang a new song…’. Revelation 14:2-3a The Book

I blew out the candle flame. Sat cross-legged in the silence of the room, but still  hearing the howling, moaning sound of the wind outside. Yes, wherever we are, rural or urban centres, in a forest or an apartment block, we are reminded that Òran Mór is ubiquitous. It is with us now (though many would say the Òran Mór is personal, and so ‘it’ is not quite the word to use, but such is the limitation of language in dealing with major spiritual themes) . Even as you read this, rest assured that you and I, and all of creation are part of that glorious, ancient, powerful, connection that is the Òran Mór, the Great  Song.

 

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.

 

Gwyar: Up Close & Personal: From Tadhg’s Journal

20170925 GWYAR UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

It is a glorious day, all the more remarkable that it is the last Sunday in September and the weather is warm, still and dry, as I walk through this wonderful park, Bishop’s Park, which hugs the River Thames, here in London.

Sitting now on a park bench, and peering between the tree branches I can just make out some huge, white, high, fluffy clouds – cumulus clouds -driven on their way by some unseen stream-like force. Ofcourse, to the meteorologist that would be wind at about 5000ft. You and I know that behind that force is Gwyar – the flow, the energy of the Source.

Gwyar, a Welsh word is pronounced ‘goo-yar’.

The trees here are a mixture of recent plants and ones that must be a hundred years old, gnarled, noble, arching at peculiar angles, but all are subject to Gwyar. Gwyar flows through them, and the inherent cycles of nature of growth, maturation, shedding and resting are evidence of this. There are some wonderful trees here.

Gwyar is flow, movement, like streams of invisible water.

And then, my perception changes as a child rides a tricycle past me on the path. Giggling as he or she goes by, with a parent frantically running behind, the child is having fun, and is oblivious to anything else. The tricycle’s movement – ah yes, movement – his or her glee and the parent’s concern are all pointers to the presence of Gwyar – energetic flow.

Gwyar is an energy, but don’t think ‘impersonal’.

‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” John 7.38b, The Book

And then, as I perceive all these things, the clouds, the trees and their seasonal cycles, the child racing by on his or her tricycle, a parent’s concern and a thousand and one other things all form this park bench, I’m struck that I can grasp these things, and so can you by reading this page – and isn’t that amazing? That we are aware and can objectively look at things, and a few (that would still include you) are aware that we are simultaneously embraced by such things – that Gwyar moves through us, too! That the universe is made conscious because of us, and can look back at itself, is truly amazing. Gwyar.

‘Love is the water of life, jump into this water.’ Rumi

And now the child is coming past me again, walking, and from the opposite direction. The parent is holding his or her hand, and looking stern, and dragging the tricycle with the other hand. I’m guessing that the game the child thought he or she was playing wasn’t appreciated by the parent, and some anger was being displayed.

If it’s a negative emotion and some anger can be that, does that mean Gwyar has stopped flowing in that person? Perhaps, Gywar always flows but that person has chosen to ignore its promptings, stopped dancing in it’s life-giving flow and lost out to its benefits? Or, perhaps they’re oblivious to Gwyar and so are unaware that they’re operating, now, outside of its beneficial effects. Another way of looking at it is, the laminar flow, the kind of flow that you see in a gentle stream where the water is unimpeded, is interrupted, as if by a large rock. And then the flow becomes turbulent. Either way, the flow isn’t as it was before, and something is lost.

‘…but in this laminar flow, different sheets of time [are] moving at different rates…many different times coexist, flowing at different speeds, enshrining different worlds.’ Adam Nicolson, Sea Room

Ofcourse, in this case, with the child and his or her safety at stake, anger may be a legitimate response, and so Gwyar would still flow, beneficially. Indeed that parent’s concern may be as a result of Gwyar, itself.

Sometimes, Gwyar is not easy to recognise, but it is ubiquitous.

Yes, Gwyar is the ‘personal’ force that connects everything. Every person. Every tree. Every part of nature. The cosmos. The past and present and future. Events. That which is visible and invisible. All connected. Everything. There is no division to this Source-given, personal and loving, all-embracing flow. That’s Gwyar.

‘You are dreaming your thirst when the water you want is inside the big vein on your neck.’ Rumi

Don’t be anxious about accidentally stepping outside of its flow. Any concern you have might just be Gywar working away deep inside of you. And don’t be upset that you might not have regarded Gwyar before, or haven’t for a long time. Gwyer, isn’t an impersonal force, Gywar is love, and love forgives and forgets.

Gwyar is the Source.

Whatever we do, it’s Gwyar that enables us to do it. Ofcourse, I think at this point I would say to myself to do good things. If we make mistakes, errors or accidentally stray, Gywar understands, and maybe even expects that to happen. Those errors, in some strange way, can work out for the good.

‘Sip a cup of coffee..and all the fir trees grow warm’. Brian Swimme, The Universe Is A Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story

And so it’s time to take a slow stroll home. Ofcourse I’ll be passing my favourite cafe on the way home, and so will stop there to pick up a take-away latte. The good plans we have, all that we hold dear, the wonders in store for us tomorrow, are all a sign of grace and love extended to us as it moves through us, or is it that we ‘swim’ through it. [And apologies for using ‘it’, but language dictates that personality must be he or she, and Gwyar is beyond gender. Not solely a ‘he’, not solely a ‘she’, and certainly not an ‘it’, but that’s all our only-takes-us-so-far language provides].

And, so I’m in the café, with my take-away coffee and as I head for the door the thought strikes me: right now as I’m in the café, and right now as you read this article, a steam of Gwyar is running from me to you. Oh yes, the timescale may be all wrong from our point of view, and we could be ‘days apart’ and miles apart, and yet I don’t think such restrictions apply to Gwyar. (And that’s an interesting concept when one thinks about the ancestors!) We are connected you and I via this personal, moving, loving force, and ‘upon its back’ I send you a personal blessing to you and those whom you love. That’s Gwyar in action, too.

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

 

Become The Duet [Revisited]: Poem: Celtic Connectedness

20170912 BECOME THE DUET REVISITEDBeing in london for a while longer, I miss the wilderness of Capel Curig, north Wales. Capel Curig has such a wild-peace about it, and London by contrast is hectic. And, right now, though I miss the solitude, London is where I am. However, it is an amazing city.

The drawback is that it can be overwheleming, and ‘up close and personal’. It can be full of disctractions which pull you in competing directions, and yet for myself, one who loves the countryside and the lights of London, an ‘amphibian’, London is a wonderful, inspiring city.

But, oh the distractions. It’s easy to forget to ask those big questions, easy to forget to pause and ponder, easy to forget why each one of us is here. In London, a crowded city of eight million souls all of that is so, so easy. I am surmising it may be the same where you are (sometimes)?.

We can get so busy ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.

We can get distracted.

We forget.

Status?

Here’s a poem I write some time ago, revisited.

Poem: Become The Duet

If we were to travel from the wild, ruggedness of Capel Curig,
near the foothills of Yr Wyddfa,
that place of green, of open-space, of dragons, myth and power;
Myrddin’s lair.

If we were to travel to the busy-ness of Old London,
that place of the ancient river of the Celts,
of crowded streets, of neon lights, Druid-energy and oh-so many people,
the Voice can be heard.

If we were to pause,
wherever we are, just for one moment,
to revel in life that is happening around us, to us, in us, through us,
we would hear the Voice.

Distractions come,
and a distancing from all that is natural seems to happen.
But, only seemingly, so.
The Voice that spoke creation into being,
thunders in the wilderness, whispers in built-up places,
but speaks, still.
The Voice can be heard, if….
…if we have ears to hear.

If we would but listen to the music of our life,
our body would sway in time to the primal beat of times of old.
If we would but gaze at beauty around us,
our mind would laugh crazily with delight at the colours seen.
If we would but ponder, and feel deep within our soul
the love-song of the Friend,
then we would know the reason why we are here.

Become the duet.

 

‘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.

The Unbelievable Strangeness of Soul

20170814 THE UNBELIEVEABLE STRANGENESS OF SOULI’m back in London after a few days break, and I’m in my inner London apartment, which is graced with a back garden (some would call it a yard), and though small it may be, it is greatly appreciated by me as a modest space to imbibe a steaming hot cup of coffee, read a good book, and in the evening or early night hours, like now, it’s a good place to rest with a few candles burning away to provide light, and to think.

The last few days have been relaxed. Very busy before that – hence the need to get away for a few days – and the next few days have the potential to be ever-so busy, and more so, if I let them. I’m not going to let that happen. As far as possible I intend to pace myself, plan ahead, and move smoothly through some complex issues regarding house-selling.

But, at times it can feel like a distant storm is approaching, such is modern life today. However, here in my small patch of garden or yard, I’m at peace. Come what may, we determine the effect events have on us.

And right now, ‘it is well with my soul’.

In the twilight, with nearby lamp posts just lighting up, their light is harsh and abrasive. The candle-light offers no competition, and is gentle and seems to hark back to more leisurely times. Candle light, just is. In the fast pace that modern life can move at, the soul can be buffeted even without us knowing. Buffeted, fragmented, parts lost, chipped away. The soul is indeed a vital part of ‘us’ some would say, and delicate, but one many do not consider at all.

‘I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
and held it to the mirror of my eye,
to see it like a star against the sky. Claude McKay)

There is a notion that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And, it certainly seems that our soul resides behind our eyes, and in our skull. For those that are unsure about soul nature, that’s a good start. But, I do believe the soul is stranger than that. There’s more.

Why should we surmise that our soul is behind our eyes and located in a small ‘box’ where our brain resides? Like most people, the idea is that the soul, infact, inhabits part of the body.

The candles on the garden table number seven distinct, small candles and yet their light travels far. At first, their light seemed to travel just a few inches, but now it seems their flickering light can be measured in yards or metres. The change is no real change at all. The candle light travelled just as far as it ever did. What changed was my perception of their light and the ‘acclimatisation’ of my eyes.

Strangeness #1: Could it be that your soul doesn’t inhabit your body, but that your body inhabits a much larger and all-pervading soul, and that your soul is the size of an apartment block? Ofcourse, the soul is immaterial, but to be ‘materially-minded’ for a moment, yes, your soul is bigger than your physical body. I think so.

Have you ever looked deeply into someone’s eyes, and had that ‘ocular swap’ episode, that sensation, feeling or ‘shock’ where you can see (of feel) yourself looking back, even for a moment? And that may happen in rapid succession in a few seconds?

The idea that the soul is separate may be useful at times and it may be the dominant view in our society – but then we live in an individualistic age – but it isn’t the best way of looking at the soul.

Some of the small candles on the garden table are flickering, spluttering and for a moment one or two emit less light, and yet no shadow is cast. Together, whether glowing at brightly or reduced in light, they work together.

Strangeness #2: There is also a soul-connectedness to other people. It’s as if, as we move pass people (whether physical or otherwise) we ‘connect’ and influence them, and they affect us. Sometimes, just their presence does that.

‘…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40b

And, perhaps there’s some reciprocity occurring. What we do, send, think about others comes back to us. Perhaps, by way of analogy, our soul appears individually like the spokes on the outer rim of a wheel, so that we can see another soul at a short distance on the rim, so to speak. And, then as we travel nearer the hub our souls become ‘closer’ and entwined, so that we are ‘soulishly’ connected to each other.

Strangeness #3: ‘Soulishly’, we are all connected to One! But, there’s more. At the hub we become one with the Hub of All, that which some might call the Source of All. Simultaneously individual, and yet connected and entwined, and yet One!

‘There is something strange, hidden in the symmetry of the soul. When you diminish another person, you diminish yourself. When you diminish yourself, you diminish others’. John O’Donohue.

It’s late. The air is cooling, and it’s time to take the now-cold cup of coffee and book indoors. Extinguishing the candle-light the garden or yard (I like to think of it as a small garden) is plunged into darkness. No more light. No more analogies. Except that speeding away from the little garden table, and at the speed of light, that candle-light is indeed continuing on a journey, unbeknownst to me, but seen by others if there were twenty light-seconds away. [I worked it out: potential observers would be about 3.75million miles away, and would just now be seeing me extinguish the candles].

Perhaps I can ‘sneak’ in another strange theory (Strangeness #4) that: however it looks from our perspective, the soul continues on, just like that candle light.

And, then, as an after-thought. Our language has limits (hence the use of analogies and metaphors) and our journey into the strangeness of the soul is  a slow one – slow is good – and so in talking about us having a soul, perhaps we should bear in mind, as a timely reminder, the words of C S Lewis.

‘You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.’ C S Lewis

Le Point Vierge: Regarding The Soul: Haiku #8

20170519 LE POINT VIERGE REGARDING THE SOUL HAIKU #8As you may know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – those short Japanese poems consisting of three pithy lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five.

Below are a number of verses to a poem, with each verse being a haiku, and each (hopefully) seen as progressive, and saying something (albeit brief, and poetic) about our awesome, complex, mysterious ‘composition’ as humankind.

Flesh and blood yet flow
within our soul’s great embrace.
Animated dust?

‘Yet more!’, the sage says.
The soul, the immortal light,
is the precious ‘you’.

Where the soul resides,
time and timelessness exist
in a paradox.

There, le point vierge,
a meeting place of the soul,
Wondrous rendezvous.

The ‘go-between’ soul
encounters, there, the spirit,
always faced to God.

butterfly 111 animal-2028155_960_720In liminal space,
there we dance the dance of Love.
Graceful theosis.

Triune personhood,
as above, e’en so below.
You, mirrored Spirit.

 

20170519 LE POINT VIERGE REGARDING THE SOUL HAIKU #8