Deep Calls To Deep: Iona Pilgrimage 2017: The Plan

20170913 IONA PILGRIMAGE PLANPeriodically, it is right, I believe to take stock of where we are, where we’ve ‘come from’ and where we’re headed, and where we would like to head to, where we feel called.

It seems an age away, when I last visited the isle of Iona, off the Scottish rugged and wild west coast. Infact it was twenty-eight years ago to the month. Then, in my mid-thirties and with umpteen years of informal study, theological practice and experience under my belt, I stepped out of seminary, after a three year period of formal study. [Tadhg’s Journal: 1989]

Quote: ‘Too often we don’t trust our own deepest truth; it makes us feel too vulnerable or it seems incongruous with the person we think we are or must be.’  Emily Hanlon

And, right now, with various significant things that have happened this year, and a number of major decisions ahead, I need to return to the beginning, to where it all began in earnest for me.

Twenty eight years ago I was on the isle of Iona. Just south-west of the island’s centre is a path that leads westward. It leads to the seashore, but just before you get there, there is a small hill. The hill has two names. Some know it as Sithean, the Fairy Mound, others know it as Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels.

It was in AD563 that columcille, also know as St Columba, sailed from Ireland and settled on Iona, founded the Abbey on eastern part of that island, and from there (officially) set out to evangelise the Pictish tribes (of what is now Sctoland) and the rest of the country.

And so I sat on the top of the hill and pondered. To me, this place is Sithean. It was humbling. Humbling to know that 1426 years ago, that Columcille had sat or stood here, on this very spot – and according to Adomnán, Columcille was seen meeting with angels.

There is a power here.

I know that we don’t need to travel to far off places to encounter, that we can encounter wherever we are, and can even encounter using our imagination, our mind’s eyes or what some call our vision-eye. But, at this time, this place assisted me.

There is a peacefulness about the island, a ruggedness, and yet in the wind one can hear the soul of the island, or is it angels or the fae?

And as I sat there, I lay back, half closed my eyes, and rested. It ‘felt’ as if a ‘thin place’, a liminal-door had opened. In the distance, when the wind changed it sounded like children playing. Then the wind blew from another direction and the sound was lost, and then it was, again, ushered along with the breeze. I could hear the sound of children in the distance, high-pitched laughing and giggling. Playing? I immediately opened my eyes, sat up and looked around. No laughing. No children could be seen. There was just the silence. Silence, apart from the low ‘murmur’ of the continual wind blowing from the sea.

Wherever we are, we are encouraged to expect the unexpected. There is a story from ancient times, of a man sitting at his tent door. In the heat, desert heat, of the day, he looked over at the oak trees of Mamre. Suddenly, he saw three men standing there. He was gracious to them and offered them food. It is said that these three men were infact angels, and some believe that the man had, infact, encountered The Source Of All.

Expect the unexpected.

I lay back, again. Half closed my eyes. Some minutes later the sound of children laughing was back, but this time I remained still. It grew louder. And then suddenly the giggling sound, subdued but distinct, was all around me. I was bathed in innocent laughter. I remained there, not moving a muscle, enjoying the experience – knowing there was nothing I could do to enhance the experience. It was a sacred time, a sacred place. I just enjoyed it. So much so, that after many, many minutes I couldn’t help but fall into a light sleep.

I woke up about half an hour later. The was no sound, except for the howling wind. It had started to rain.

But, this is Scotland and I had come prepared. The rain was fine, but constant. Typical for this area. The Scots call it dreich (pronounced ‘dree-ch’. The ‘ch’ sound is like that in loch. It’s not a ‘k’ sound, but a guttural sound as if you’re clearing you throat).

I walked back to were I was staying, and pondered further my experience at Sithean, the Fairy Mound, or Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels, and that encounter

That evening, I considered the reason I was here.

It is good to draw away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and if that means not going to a remote area like Iona, then perhaps a change of habit and a relocation of a few miles for a couple of days. But, then there’s always the imagination.

I sat there, pondering. As I gazed at the horizon the word reverence sprang to mind. John O’Donohue wrote: ‘Our world seems to have lost all sense of reverence…Ultimately, reverence is respect before mystery…Reverence is also physical – a dignified attention of body showing that [the] sacred is already here.’

Having finished theological studies, it was time to embark on further studies and a ministry centred on Christian Celtic, and then later, Druidic theology, but inclusively. In a way that would draw alongside all people, to share and to learn as iron sharpens iron, and to know them as friends. A fledgling ministry in serving The Way, that would grow, was my Iona prayer, then.

And so it started, twenty-eight years ago. And now with major changes ahead, I plan to go back to Iona, and to Sithean in the next few weeks. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. A time to decide the future of this ministry as vows need to be re-made, tasks finish but new ones approach, and a time to decide whether to write as I do here or write and lead workshops, and more. Good challenges ahead.

In your heart and mind’s eye, your vision-eye, in your imagination, I want to invite you to join me when I embark on my journey to Iona, and will write daily. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. And, hopefully for you, too.

Quote: ‘Life is a journey. When we stop, things don’t go right.’ Pope Francis

However,  articles continue as normal, and your company is always sought now, and even more so on the planned Iona pilgrimage.

Blessings, Tadhg.

 

A Great Cloud Of Witnesses: Celtic Thought

20170811 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSESAs you may know, I’ve spent the last few days in in a beautiful, secluded, thick, old, ‘magical’ forest to ‘re-charge my batteries’, and be ‘primal’. Without creature comforts, no tv, no mobile phone, no internet. And it worked. Batteries ‘re-charged’. And, I’m back.

A lot has happened over the last few months and I needed this break.

There were a jumble of reasons for the need of a break of some kind, and sitting on a log, now, in this secluded forest, overlooking a wonderfully still lake I realise the benefits to me of taking this ‘time out’ in a rural area.

In the tranquillity of these surroundings thoughts pour out in an unstructured way, and I’m content with that. It needs to happen.

Thoughts flooded my mind. I had thoughts of being absent from my Dad. My Mum passed-on about three and a half years ago, my Dad about four and a half months ago. I miss them. I have fond memories of them both, and now the grief at my Dad’s passing-on is changing, like my Mum’s did.

Could it be that the greater the love for someone, the greater the grief at their passing-on. And even if so, this wonderful, new-to-me, strange and unfamiliar place is helping me.

In ancient Roman ‘theology’ they would say that each area, such as this one, has its own genii loci – its own ‘spirits of the place’. To ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids and others we might talk of the elementals and dryads that inhabit each area, and in modern parlance some might talk of the ‘feel of a place’, though I suspect ‘modern’ people are interacting with the spirits of the place without knowing, and yet lack the ability and language to be fully aware or describe it. This place is different, but just as welcoming as any rural, natural wilderness. There is a peace here.

‘…there is still a beauty in grief. Your grief shows that you have risked opening up your life and [gave]…your heart to someone’. John O’Donohue

It’s starting to rain now. Could they be tears? There’s part of me that reckons this may be so, but there’s a deeper feeling, a ‘voice’ deeper inside, deeper ‘out there’, that subtly hints that the rain is a ‘washing away’ of the old, and a ‘cleaning’ in preparation for the new, for the next stage. I remain on that log. Expectantly. And soaked.

Grief changes, and our memories of loved-one may never fade (I hope not), but how we consider them, daily, does change. In this ‘Eden’ of a forest something is changing in me. No longer do I just look back to my parents’ form of bodies, for that for me, would now be to ‘entomb’ them in the past and be backward-looking, and ‘restrictive’. Something has changed. I’m content.

‘Now you glimpse the possibilities of being with them in a new way. If you loosen the sad grip of grief, a new belonging becomes possible between you…the belonging between us and our loved ones in the unseen world. It is a subtle and invisible belonging…’. John O’Donohue.

Birds are still singing high in the trees, and though the light rain is making ripples, occasionally on the lake, fish can be seen coming close to the shore and gobbling food. The clouds are high and sparse, and so the rain is more of a drizzle. There is mist ‘rolling’ slowly down nearby mountains. It is bliss. I’m happy.

Everything seems so right. I look around and there is a natural balance to everything, a harmony, that everything is as it should be. A calmness pervades everything here, including me. For now, we only see in part.

‘Depth is height.’ Meister Eckhart.

The thought comes to me, that it is time to view my ‘loss’ in a different way and if I were to remain at the stage it would be as if I were held back. It’s now time for me to move on. Not to forget, but to remember and to do so with deep gratitude, but in a new(er) way. Now, it is time to realise that my, indeed, our loved ones live on – just as real and energetic as they did before when in physical-body form, but now in an unseen and subtle realm (from our point of view, at present), and just as close to us as ever. Perhaps, more so.

‘From their side, our friends in the unseen world are always secretly embracing us in their new and bright belonging’. John ODonohue.

It’s stopped raining, but I am joyfully soaked. A jumble of thoughts still flood my mind, but that’s all right. I find myself laughing – not a hearty laugh, but not a keep-it-to-myself laugh, after all there’s no one around. No one, except nature and elementals, dryads, companions, and angels maybe. Who knows? And that’s the overriding thought as I get up off this log, and as cold, wet clothes now brush against parts of my body as I walk – not entirely clothes-comfortable – but it makes me laugh even more. Oh, the overriding thought….is that there’s more. That’s my favourite Welsh phrase that I quote and which has been quoted to me in sacred places, in liminal encounters, and in ‘thin places’.

There is more! Mae mwy (pronounced ‘may mee-oh) as it is in Welsh. And there is more. There is more to our surroundings than we have so far imagined if we have eyes to see. More to life. And, for those who have loved-ones who have passed-on there is more, for them, for you, for me, and not only by way of fond memories, but the fact that they are still with us, loving us, encouraging us, embracing us in real, but albeit subtle ways.

‘…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,..’ Hebrews 12:1b, The Book

I rose up, walked back to the small cottage I was staying in, soggy but joyful, cold but content, missing my parents, yes, but ‘energised’ by the fact that they live on – as do all of those that we have said ‘goodbye’ to as they enter Bliss, that which some call the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it is called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). Life goes on there, and the ancestors are not far from any us.

Take heart. Blessings to you and yours, here and there, Tadhg

(Many thanks for your prayers, well-wishes and energy sent during my break. Greatly appreciated and felt).

Celtic Thought & Journal: ‘I Have No Words’

It is not often that I find myself speechless, but there are times. Such times, are times when those who should know better, act in a less-than-expected way (eg perhaps inept politicians, but this isn’t a rant. Honest), and times when, say in an argument, it’s best to say nothing, or feign that you have no words (but you certainly have the thoughts! I know, I’m not perfect). But, there are other times.

And, other times are times and places that take your breath away. See the photograph below.

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This photograph taken in that ancient land of the Celts, of Druids, and Christian saints of old, underscores the amazing, wild, rugged, prodigal and beautiful creativity of the Source of All.

When words are few or absent, then it is best to just stand a stare, and appreciate the expanse that is nature; to give gratitude to the Source in absolute silence; to acknowledge how special-we-are-and-yet-how-small-we-are, and do what comes naturally….

…Standing there, I had no words…but, yes, enveloped by the ‘magic’ of that place, cocooned in its power and majesty, I could do nothing other than be overwhelmed and cry.

The Last Word On The Clackitt’s Wood Mysterious Light: About The Canwyll Corff: Tadhg’s Journal

20170130-canwyll-corff-tadhgs-journal-3You may remember that about a week and a half ago I wrote an article about three encounters one night in Clackitt’s Wood: one encounter was with a stout, aged, farmer-friend of mine; another with a super-fit friend, called Ben who was out jogging; and the third encounter was the oh-so mysterious bright light in the woods. <See here for details>.

Ofcourse, the light was the really mysterious encounter, or near encounter, as it disappeared as I got close. What was it?

I thought, and wrote, that it might have been Mallt-y-Nos (a mythological hag that, it was said, frequented deserted places and who carried a lantern, and rode a horse with the Cŵn Annwn, spectral hounds). I loved those stories as a child, but even as an adult the stories never quite go away – always remembered. In such myths, which many dismiss out of hand, there is always a truth to discern.

Now, after doing even more research and speaking to some older, and wise locals, I think that that mysterious light I witnessed on the night of 19 January could have been a Canwyll Corff.

Ah, the Canwyll Corff.  Only a myth?

‘Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence…’ Italo Calvino

Canwyll Corff [pronounced can-noo-will-korf], is literally the ‘corpse candle’ (sometimes known as death candles) of Welsh legend. I’m told they don’t actually look like candles – more like glowing balls of light which hover above the ground. Today, many might call them orbs, and such mysterious appearances signified an impending death.

Ah, the Canwyll Corff. Only a myth? Consider these two old(er) stories:

In January 1872, it is said that a farm labourer returning home to his farm near Llangynidr saw a light coming towards him, and several yards behind it, a funeral procession. He moved to one side of the country lane to allow the procession past, only to notice that the bearers and mourners made no footprints in the snow. Several days later a neighbour of his died.

Some 80 years ago an elderly lady who had lived in that area all her life, made the claim that she had seen every Canwyll Corff  light going to the churchyard before every funeral procession in her lifetime.

Ah, the Canwyll Corff. Only a myth?

It is said, that one night in Pontfaen, a schoolmaster was walking home, when he saw a Canwyll Corff in the distance. He followed it quite some way, until it reached the graveyard in Llanferch-Llawddog. There, the light disappeared. The following day, he was in his classroom teaching, when an almighty noise from the attic above him, startled teacher and pupils alike. Upon inspection everything in the attic seemed in it’s place – nothing had fallen. Several hours later, sadly, the teacher received news that one of his pupils had died.

Ah, the Canwyll Corff. Only a myth?

There’s just one more story – my recent encounter – about the Canwyll Corff I witnessed – if indeed that is what is was, on 19 January 2017:

On that night I saw a brilliant yellow-green light some 200 feet away from me, through the dense forest of Clackitt’s Wood. I walked toward it. The air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out!

I’ve written about what it could have been, but I now wonder if it could have been a canwyll corff, a corpse candle apparition? I’ve since discovered that on 22 January, just three days after that mysterious-light encounter, sadly, a man fall to his death while climbing in Snowdonia – not too far away.

Ah, the Canwyll Corff. Only a myth? What do you think?

 

Journal: Three Mysterious Encounters In Clackitt’s Wood

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Have you ever had one of those ‘something is going to happen’ moments?’ It’s the kind of feeling of ozone or ‘electric’ in the air as a distant storm approaches, a good but also slightly unnerving feel of anticipation, an impending unknown.  I hope so, for then you can relate to how I felt last evening.

‘The greatest storms on our Earth break not in nature but in our minds!’ Mehmet Murat ildan

Last evening as I sat in the living room of my oh-so-cosy humble cottage – Tŷ Gwyn (meaning, the ‘white house) -in north Wales,  I had read two chapters of a most interesting book, and that was enough, and as their was nothing on tv, I sat there, a little listlessly.

A ‘call’ to get some exercise or at least leave the confines of the cottage beckoned from deep within. The more I sat there, the more this feeling grew to become an almost tangle ennui, a fidget,  an unmistakable  itch that just wouldn’t go away until I moved.

Deep within a voice spoke, and as if it were a memory, I was seemingly going to expect three words of wisdom, or three encounters, or three somethings. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I wasn’t even sure where that thought had originated.

And so I moved.

Hopeful Man…
Sometimes you just have to face what is coming. Sometimes we have a choice; sometimes we don’t.

Tonight, I had a choice, but deep within my soul there was a good-unease, a ‘call’ that just would not go away, and so, as comfortable as I was, I wanted to put myself in the path of what was coming.

‘Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.’ William Congreve

Moving to the back door located in a small boot room, off the kitchen, I  donned my outer gear, including my trusted wellington boots, and headed for the garden with a flashlight in hand. It was a cold, damp, and foggy out there, and the wind howled in the distance like a wailing bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’). It was about 10pm.

Walking down toward the bottom of the garden it grew darker, colder, more damp, and the fog grew thicker, freezing fog, causing visibility to drop from thirty feet to about ten feet. Just before the boundary of my garden the forest, wonderfully, encroaches, hiding a small rivulet. To me, this ‘watery companion’ is: Bach ac yn gyflym. <For more details from a previous article, see here>

Jumping over the rivulet, the forest become thicker, and technically I was now on the edge of Clackitt’s wood – my favourite local place an ancient and wild place, the haunt of yesteryear of Celts, Druids, Pagans and others, and latter-day ones, too; and a place full of mystery, full of ‘magick’.

I continued walking for many minutes, before spying the felled tree that always makes for a seat to ponder. I sat on it, and pondered. The fog was even thicker here, the temperature dropped, and my levels of expectancy rose. I had the feeling that I was supposed to just wait, and as I grew into that thought, so a calm and powerful peace came over me, a warm glow enveloping me, almost like being bathed in warm milk and honey. Tranquillity

Have you ever had that ‘remain-at-peace-whatever-happens’ feeling?

Wise Man…
I waited, and waited , and waited, and it grew darker, colder, more damp, and the quietness of  this ancient place was both comforting and unnerving. I waited, some more.

About an hour past when I heard footsteps in the distance coming my way. My heart rate quickened, until a dog appeared, and moments later its owner – a local farmer and friend appeared. here>

He is a ‘stout man’, ‘solid’ like a tree, but maybe carrying a few excess pounds (but, who isn’t?), semi-retired and with several sons who now do  much of the farm work for him. <For more details from a previous article, see here>

He let out a muted grunt, presumably of surprise, as I shone the light on him, and then on me to allay his fears. Recognising each other, he came closer, and then sat beside me. We didn’t talk for a while, and later, only sporadically as we took in the solitude of the place. He is a man of few words.

‘You’re wrapped up warm, Tadhg. So much so it looks as though you’re going to be here all night’, the farmer-friend said, as he got up to leave. ‘I could well be’, I replied. My farmer-friend called his dog to heel, turned to me and said, ‘Wise, Tadhg. Ne’er cast a clout ’till May be out’, and he left as we said our respective goodbyes, and I was once more alone.

It occurred to me that we often dismiss old adages and wise sayings, and yet the ancients, the Celts, Druids and others knew things, especially about the seasons, that we often belittle or are unware of. Do you feel there is room for you (and myself included) to grow into this knowledge.

Was this the first encounter? Study and take to heart the wise words of the ancients!

My farmer-friends words echoed in my mind. He was right: ne’er cast a clout ’till May be out’. Stayed wrapped up warm until the May blossom comes about. How often had I recited that, but never really though it through. In the solitude of Clackitt’s wood I thought long on hard on that saying. Wise words indeed.

My thoughts were interrupted, by the sound of fast-paced footsteps coming my way, accompanied with a rhythmic, deep and fast breathing sound as though someone or something was running fast, and the sound was getting louder, so it was coming my way. Once again my heart quickened. So unexpected was this sound – which seemed frantic and distinctly ‘odd’  and out-of-place, that I instinctively found my right hand had grasped a branch that was on the forest floor – it was  about three feet long, and a solid, and dense, about three inches thick, and heavy.

A minute later the running, noisy steps stopped. Whoever it was, whatever it was, was now at the edge of the small clearing – I was sitting in the middle of, say a twenty foot clearing – but the deep, heavy, laboured breathing sound continued. Whoever it was stepped forward, turned to face me, and a forehead-flashlight shone in my direction. I aimed my torch back.

Tarzan…
‘Ben?’, I said, rather hesitantly, but in a way as to not display any timidity. And, as this person stepped forward, I was relieved to see that it was indeed him – a good friend of mine was Ben. And here he was doing some kind of forest jogging.

‘Tadhg?, he replied, expressing some surprise, and using a couple of expletives peppered thought his sentence.

He, too, sat down beside me, on the felled tree, extended his hand for a handshake, and I responded in a similar fashion. One thing I should mention about Ben is that this young guy is super-fit, an immensely muscular man, a ‘gym-rat’, with great strength (witnessed by me as he works on a local farm), and he wrestles; and he could fell Superman, Batman, Tarzan and an assortment of superheroes, I do believe. Why, in his current running gear he even looked the part! <For more details from a previous article, see here>

And, to make me feel (even more) unfit, as I shook his hand, his hand was powerful, determined and huge compared to mine. If I had an out-of-control ego it would now be reeling from a bruising.

We talked, but not before he spied the branch that I was letting slip onto the forest floor, which he grabbed, perhaps knowing this was my impromptu ‘weapon’ when I didn’t know if he was a stranger or a forest wild beast.

Now I felt not just unfit but puny, as he put the middle of the branch against one of his brawny knees, as he sat, and grabbed either end of the branch with his hands, and pulled it towards him, with a huge amount of effort. With a deep, determined, prolonged grunt, a flexing of huge biceps, the branch broke into two, with a loud crack.

He laughed. I laughed for different reasons – remembering that after I had thrashed this guy at a game of chess, recently, he has invited me to ‘hit the mats’ and face him at his sport: wrestling!  Friedrich Nietzsche once said that, ‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.’ but I don’t think Nietzsche was thinking of wrestling a brute of a man, like the one that sat next to me.

We talked some more, and then we said our goodbyes as he continued his keep-fit jogging regime he had talked about, but not before another almost-debilitating handshake from him.

He left. I was again alone. And my thoughts raced. What was the lesson here. I knew the answer.

It occurred to me that we can become so spiritually-mind, and/or so busy doing all manner of ‘good’ things, that we can neglect physical fitness, and I had. I need a regular fitness regime. The second encounter? Keep-fit encouragement: balance!

Okay, I wasn’t going to get as fit as Ben, and wouldn’t want to, otherwise he might think I was doing it in anticipation of accepting his wrestling challenge. I consider myself a tough guy – fairly tough guy, tough-ish – but I’m not foolish.

But, it is easy to ignore our own, personal, physical fitness and aim to be ‘super spiritual’. But, I see that imbalance as an error, and  I now knew this encounter with ‘superman’ Ben was an encouragement to get fit and stay fit. But, does this apply to you? Do you have an appropriate and balanced fitness regime?

‘Second by second you lose the opportunity to become the person you want to be. Take charge of your life.’ Greg Plitt

My thoughts were then interrupted by a brilliant bright yellow-green light, visible some 200 feet away through dense forest.

Maybe…
The mysterious light had piqued my interest, and once again my heart rate quickened. I sat there watching it. It made no noise. It never seemed to move. After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, wondering what it could be and not drawing any logical conclusion, I got to my feet and slowly moved towards the direction of the light.

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

As I stood there, and wondered: Maybe, it  had been pure imagination, a product of a waking dream or something else. Maybe it had been a ‘will o the wisp’, gas emissions that hover over lakes in summer when the evenings and nights are warm and are ignited into a glow. But, there was no lake here, and it was cold, and there was  no smell of methane. Maybe it was….? I had no idea, and yet even as that mystery ambled around my mind, I experienced a deep calm in that place. Extraordinary peace.

It occurred to me that sometimes we won’t know, and that life is going to be a mystery, and that we should enjoy that not-knowingness. A close encounter of the third kind? Revel in mystery!

I walked back to Tŷ Gwyn  wondering what the light in Clackitt’s wood could have been. Any ideas?

Having removed my outer gear when I got home, I slumped onto the sofa, and recounted the three encounters and what they meant. I also considered the fact that had I been to lazy, too busy, or too spiritually-minded that I might never had left the cottage and ventured forth on a foul evening into Clackitt’s wood – that ancient and wild place, full of mystery, full of ‘magick’

What might we be missing in life? If you had three encounters today or tomorrow (and you might), what three things would they ‘say’ to you? What do you think?

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘Drws I Fyd Arall’: Encounter Or Imagination?

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This morning, having gone to bed earlier than usual last evening, I was awake early. And, having done all that was necessary – ablutions-wise, it was still only 7am! At times when I can’t sleep, or awake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep (something which rarely happens, but I always feel is significant), or wake up (too) early, I always head for  Culpepper’s Wood, when in north Wales.

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ John Muir

So, at about 6.20am this morning, with a couple of layers of external clothing on, and donning my faithful woolly hat, I ventured out for the short walk, only to be met by an oh-so-cold blast of air as I opened the kitchen door to leave the cottage. My…it was cold (and that was a British understatement). It was a good-to-be-alive, but please, ‘no colder’, sort of air-embrace. If I wasn’t awake before, I was wide awake then, and more so, as I ‘battled’ through the morning, freezing fog so common in these parts.

I slowly made my way to Culpepper’s Wood.

I’ve mentioned before, how as a child, my friends would avoid the area in the middle of Culpepper’s Wood which contained Y goeden mellt, the Lightning Tree (see here). We would all avoid it, except for me. I loved the power and mystery that both seemed to repel and invite, in equal measure, even as a child. And more recently, I wrote of a mysterious and meaningful ‘encounter’ there (see here).

Today, I passed Y goeden mellt, the Lightning Tree, having paused in its presence just long enough to be respectful, and walked further into the forest for another few minutes. Beyond the Lightning Tree is another area that all my childhood friends liked, and felt safe, and played in, as did I.

‘I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives…
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’ Wendell Berry

It’s interesting how recollections as an adult of childhood occurrences can change over time. I was looking for two, very tall, thick silver birch trees. As a child, these were two huge trees, exactly 153 steps beyond the Lightning Tree (and I did measure the steps, then, but none of my friends at that time, would – they really didn’t like the Lightning Tree at all). Slightly fewer steps now, as an adult. And, there they were – looking a little thicker, older, weathered, both bowed a bit more that I can remember, and not-so-tall. Probably about fifteen feet in height, and still arched like an ancient door.

Ah, the door! As children, and our child-imaginations ran rife at the time, we called these two trees  Drws i fyd arall [pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’].

‘We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.’ Walt Disney

I’m not sure, as children whether some or all of us had access to some unknown source of esoteric wisdom (or maybe that’s inbuilt in children, and there’s a thought?), or whether we had all watched too many sci-fi programs on tv.

This was well before the days of Star Wars or StarGate (and the myriad of off-shoots), but comfortably placed in an era when ‘Lost In Space’ was first aired on tv.

Oh, how we all related to our-same-aged Will; and emulated the robot when it bellowed out, ‘Danger, Will Robinson’, as it seemed to do far too often; and how we hissed when Zachary Smith got up to no good. Indeed, it was probably one or more episodes in particular that might have been behind us calling these two trees, Drws i fyd arall. Zachary Smith was usually the one to find some alien artefact, conceal it from the rest of the team, try to use it for his own ends and end up with problems…only for others to resolve the problem at some cost.

There were several ‘Lost In Space’ programs where Zachary Smith had come across a alien’s ‘standing mirror’, which he thought was just a mirror, but unknown to him (initially), it was some kind of alien transport system – yes, stepping through the mirror would take you to an alien world that was totally different, and so you would know things have changed, or it would allow access to a parallel universe where only subtle changes might occur (and so you might now know that you’ve been transported, initially). It was cross between StarGate and Sliders, but many years before both – what a brilliant idea.

And so, early this morning, having walked on further than the Lightning Tree, there were the bowed, arched, silver birch trees: Drws i fyd arall.

It was like a home-coming. There they were. Drws i fyd arall as we called them, or in English, ‘the door to another world’ was right in front of me.

As children we had endless fun passing through these arched trees, that door to another place. Our imaginations ran riot. Today, I stopped to look, sat down, and dwelt on those old memories.

Each one of us has our own Drws i fyd arall, our door to another world. We might not want to imagine stepping through that portal to another level of existence (though you might find it fun and/or beneficial to try), but we might, as adults, distance ourselves from that, and call it potential or opportunity, or choice. That’s the grown-up thing to say. We might call it prayer or meditation. How we use it is important. Take prayer or meditation, for instance. One can dip ones toe into the water, have a shopping list of prayers, or meditate ‘lightly’ and reap some benefits; or one can dive deep and deeper still, and go beyond to be alone with the Alone. One is ‘distancing’ and partial, the other is all-embracing, powerful and culminates in an encounter.

I sat down, and stayed looking at Drws i fyd arall for about ninety minutes, until the sun came up at 8.05am. I was in no rush. And then stood, to head back to the cottage. Walking just a few yards, with so many wonderful thoughts in my head of childhood memories of what Drws i fyd arall meant as a child, and now as an adult, I looked back. It seemed to call.

As children, we would have no hesitation running through the two arched trees and pretending we had entered a door and everything was different, as though we were in a strange place – and after Brexit and events of the last few weeks, it seems as though we might have been transported to an alien world, in fact!

‘I have a thing for doors. I always think of them as a threshold to something new.’ Jada Pinkett Smith

But, it seemed to call. Turning and getting closer, there was part of me that wanted to walk through Drws i fyd arall or ‘the door to another world, and part of me that thought that to do so was ‘as silly as a box of frogs’. For some minutes, a mind-battle raged. Ofcourse, I knew that I wouldn’t literally be transported to an alien world if I walked through these two trees, and I knew the outcome (of passing through them or not) would be the same.  Or, would it? And so, I tarried for a few minutes, before trekking back to the cottage.

Ah, now you want to know if I once again walked through Drws i fyd arall or ‘the door to another world?

Well, I did! And it was fun! Frivolous! It brought back some great memories! And confirmed one thing: I may not have been transported to an alien planet, but by succumbing to Drws i fyd arall I chose to allow the ‘magic’ of the place to win the day and enter, for imagination to gain the upper hand on this occasion,  to embrace the unknown, and go forward positively with a smile on my face. For many people in these tough and strange times that might be such a change in outlook that it would be like them entering a different dimension.  But, maybe that’s what  Drws i fyd arall or ‘the door to another world’, is all about. A metaphorical-yet-real change of perspective that alters everything. A portal to another place (of attitude, rather than location)?

So, have you found your Drws i fyd arall or ‘the door to another world’?

 

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘Of Morphine And Men’ Or ‘The Day I Met Gabriel’

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Tadhg’s Journal Excerpt: Some time ago, on this very day (it was about 10am) I was waking up, after spending some eighteen hours comatose.

Here is an account of a time that was terrifying, profound and which includes some humour.

Some of you will know that nine years ago I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer (and given the ‘all clear’ four years after that – extreme gratitude to the Source of All, and the UK NHS system), and that year was ‘the year of hell’. There is no other way to describe it. Old ways of living, neat and clear ‘theology’,  the mundane and expected, all fell away. It was a year of concern leading to worry, worry leading to anxiety, and a resignation – not a ‘giving up’, but an holy acceptance, and an eventual living one day at a time,  and a ‘face into the wind’ mode of living; a deep knowing that there is more. In one sense, a deep peace. What else could one do?

More about that time appears here.

But, exactly nine years ago, yesterday, I went down for a massive operation – I had had three cycles of chemo already,  had been irradiated, probed, and cameras inserted through the navel etc, and yesterday (some years ago) had that major operation through my stomach and neck.

Because I went into the operating theatre at about 11am and they expected to finish about 5pm, I elected to remain comatose until the following morning – meaning I wouldn’t be as ‘fresh as a daisy’ when I awoke and neither would that day ‘feel’ six hours longer to me when compared to the rest of the world, meaning that I wouldn’t start feeling sleepy until 4am and so have my body-clock thrown out. It also mean I was comatose during Hallowe’en. Awww! A night and a half (equivalent) imposed rest was the least of my concerns, (and at my age) was greatly appreciated.

So, I slept, until this morning, mid-morning (nice years ago), and awoke connected with ‘drains’, machines bleeping, and on a morphine drip. I remembered the following:

Voice in the shadow: Good morning, Mr Gardner. You’re awake.
Me: (Somewhat groggily) Good morning.
Voice: How are you feeling?
Me: (Pausing to recollect my thoughts and make a quick analysis of my surroundings): I’m feeling very well, thank you.
Voice: Do you know where you are?
Me: I’m sorry, you’ve got me at a disadvantage. You know who I am, but who are you? (I really did feel wonderful. Physically, mentally, emotionally alert and ‘raring to go’, but really wanted to know to whom this Voice belonged).
Voice: My name is Gabriel.
Me: (I could now answer his question. With a name like that, it was clear to me now that I didn’t make it through the operation. I had been informed that there was always a risk, albeit a small one (but always larger than one hoped for), and now the thought raced through my mind: I hadn’t made it.) Oh!
(I felt good, though, so if this was heaven I was very happy. It was then that the owner of the Voice came out of the shadows, and into the light where I could see him. And immediately I had to review my thought of being in heaven.)
Me: Oh! (He was about 5ft 4 inches – small for an angel, I thought; and he was dressed in a male nurses uniform with no hint of wings, so I began to suspect; and he had an American accent  – odd, as I thought God would have been considerate enough to minimise the transition by at least giving an angel the accent of the ‘arrivee’, me – no disrespect to my Americans friends).
Voice: Yes, I’m from New York.
(In one moment of time, as I looked upon an American with latino roots (am I allowed to day that?) I realised that I hadn’t passed-on, but discovered two things. Firstly, this male nurse could have at least explained all this, initially, when he declared his name. Anyone waking up after an operation might have such a shock at meeting a supposed angel, well, it might kill them! Secondly, I realised that the Source of All has a sense of humour. I guess there was a third discovery: my extreme gratitude to the Source of All, the NHS free-at-the-point-of-need health service, and , yes, gratitude for people from America who are nurses – or angels in disguise!) Thank you. 

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘Become A Pole-Vaulter’ Or ‘A Time To Reflect’ [Revised]

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Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: Winter is nearly upon us. We’re in that time of shedding. As I sit here with a hot cup of coffee, I can see outdoor plants ‘slumbering’, leaves falling from trees, and animals scurrying about, storing up food for the winter.

And us?

Well, we can use this ‘shedding time’ to strip away all that has served its purpose but no longer does, to look back and also to look forward, albeit for different reasons.

I have a friend who is a pole-vaulter, and like a pole-vaulter, it’s sometimes necessary to look back, go back, ‘walk back’, and reflect and sometimes, momentarily remember those past moments, as they contributed (in part) to what we are today.

However, we cannot stay in the past.

For me, in looking back, I remember that thirty years ago I graduated from theological ‘school’, was ordained at Steyne Hall some twenty-seven years ago, and twenty years ago took up additional studies in Celtic theology, then esoteric theology, then literature, acupressure, herbalism etc, ‘battled’ oesophageal cancer ten years ago  (and interestingly, the anniversary of that major operation (which was preceded by three cycles of chemo and umpteen weeks of radio-therapy) is on 31 October!), got the ‘all clear’ six years ago (as all the ‘follow-up’ tests we’re good), and more.

But, what about you?

And along the way there’s been (even more of) the usual ‘life ups-and-downs’, that we all experience. Oh, and a year ago I fell and broke a rib (or two). All these ‘negative’ events I wouldn’t change. I’ve learned from them, but not like a Superman. I was ‘intimately’ involved with each one of them – the really tough events caused sleepless nights, pain, anguish and tears. If you thought I could ride the ‘storms of life’ and say ‘ha’ to them, you’re wrong. It was more of an ‘ughhh’, punch-to-the-stomach sort of sound (metaphorically), and grim determination. They hurt, deeply. But, deep down inside the spirit encouraged me, as it does the same for you.  If I’m honest (and I do try) those experiences, even the tough ones,  taught me a lot. If I’m very honest, I wouldn’t want to experience them again, though.

I’ve moved on.

They contributed to make me the person I am today, but none of us can live in the past. They were useful memories and experiences, but they contributed to the ‘me’ of today,  just as experiences today may mould you and I, the ‘future us’, and so we realise we live in a state of transience. The season of winter is a good time to reminder that.

‘There was never a dawn, regardless how beautiful or promising, that did not grow into a noontime. There was never a noon that did not fall into afternoon. There was never an afternoon that did not fade toward evening. There never was a day yet that did not get buried in the graveyard of the night. In this way transience makes a ghost out of everything that happens to us.’ John O’Donohue

And, so this time of year, Winter, is a time of shedding. What is holding us back? What can we release? And, what can we do in our life to shed the old and embrace the new?

Like a pole-vaulter pacing backwards before he or she jumps, we look back, pace backwards, and then run forward.  Looking forward is important. What do we want to accomplish?

Walking backwards, running forwards, like a pole-vaulter is really about ‘nowness’. We look back for one reason, we look to the future for another, but we only have ‘now’ in which we live, in which we have the ability to do.

Carpe diem. It’s about ‘nowness’.

What are we doing today, now? Having shed all that holds us back, its time to move forward. And yet, we live in a culture that encourages us not to ‘rock the boat’. Our tv advertisements, politicians’ speeches, and life in general, urge us to just dip our toe into the water. We might become like pond-skaters – those insects that ‘run’ across the pond’s surface but are unable to go any deeper. Shallow? Are we skating across the surface of our faith, our belief, our life and unwilling to go deeper? Are we aware of that depth, that calls to us, if we have ears to hear? It’s time to move on.

If we’re stuck, if we’re living a life at half-speed, remember: There is more!

I’m not disparaging a friend’s prayer-life, but he said his prayers consist only of a shopping-list of wants! And, that’s it! Oh, but there’s more! There’s nothing wrong with that kind of prayer and it may be a good place to start, but I encouraged him to explore the prayer of gratitude, and then prayer as a time of encounter using his imagination, and to go to an ‘inner place’ beyond imagination, where stillness abounds and encounter is palpable. Going ‘inward’ is good. Go deep. But, as my liturgical (Celtic) Christian and Druid friends will know, there are times when it’s right to engage in (public or private) ritual – an outward affirmation and invocation -and that can be just as deep!

I suggested to this friend that it was time to shed old inhibiting ways and move forward. A challenge? An adventure? Yes. But,  potential that could unearth great benefits.

It’s that time of the year to shed, and go deep. Shedding is a stripping away, but what will you put in its place? Winter is a time of storing up ‘goodies’, making a food-store, or perhaps storing up energy for the future, as in tomorrow, maybe?

What will you shed? What will we store up?

Like seeds buried in the soil, apparently ‘dead’ and ‘frozen’, asleep in the dark, it is there that much activity will soon take place, maybe is already taking place, invisibly to us! In our ‘inner place’, much activity takes place and we can benefit, if we visit. Do you visit that inner place, that imaginal realm of power and potential, by using your imagination, or ritual etc, and benefit – and not just you, but others, also!

Like a pole-vaulter, it’s time to look back, and then, mightily, to propel ourselves forward into the new life.

Tadhg’s Journal: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone…

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Tadhg’s Journal Excerpt: As I sit here, thoughts tumble through my mind, and a few of them settle. So, my journal today is just a simple thought, based on several eclectic events.  The thought: We don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

‘I said
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone’

Joni Mitchell

Summer is gone, and autumn is almost over. And, winter is almost upon us. Leaves have changed colour, trees are shedding, and the temperature is falling – especially noticeable in the evenings, nights and early mornings. Okay, we’ve lost summer and autumn is fast receding, but oh what wonderful colours those leave are exhibiting. Each season is a joy and brings many blessings, each season teaches us something, and encourages us to go deeper, but what wonderful colours – russet browns, orange, yellows, and all kinds of red – are visible now, that were hidden before. I can’t wait for winter.

We don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

I had my hearing tested a couple of weeks ago. I know as each year progressed my hearing diminished more and more. I first noticed it eight years ago, and for one reason or another, I didn’t do anything about it. But, bit by bit I began to miss some sounds. When the audiologist declared that my hearing level  accessed at ‘moderate to severe hearing loss’, I knew I had to act.

‘Sweet is every sound, sweeter the voice, but every sound is sweet.’ ‘Alfred Lord Tennyson

We don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

But, it’s not all negative. The good news is that this morning I picked up a pair of state-of-the-art hearing aids, invisible (almost) and they work wonderfully. I think on a good day I will probably be able to hear conversations on the International Space Station! Maybe, not.

And, last evening I was watching a movie, and just couldn’t get ‘into’ it. It didn’t help that one of the main characters was a wee bit too ‘gung-ho’ for me. There were times when I was mentally re-writing the movies script – am I alone in doing that, or do you do that? I mean, when there’s danger in the form of a zombie (or something resembling one – and I admit I watched the movie only because there was nothing else on tv), but when that zombie is running away from you, why pursue it? Limited ammunition, your family are behind you, the ‘danger’ is receding, so why pursue? If you did, as that character did, your family would then be alone and vulnerable, you might run our of ammunition that you might need later, or the zombie might be leading you into an ambush. I know, I think too much! And, if the scriptwriter had followed my advice, the movie would only have been one-third as long.

But, it seems my imagination is still fully functioning, albeit someway to go in its level of maturity, after that zombie movie. Note to self: Never watch a zombie movie again.

But, many adults do lose much of their imagination as they move from childhood to adulthood (and whatever stages there are in between). Many, not all.

We don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

But, I have a sneaking suspicion that all is not lost, and that it is dormant or being ‘drowned out’. I say drowned out, because when we’re asleep and the body is relaxed, when the world and busyness of daily life cannot grasp for our attention, we dream. And, generally, those sleep dreams are filled with a myriad of colourful, perhaps noisy, bizarre and illogical events that seem to make no sense, but they may infact be just what we need. Some believe night dreams are just strange thoughts due to random firing of the brains neurons. But, what if much of what we dream is exactly what we need to know. Then, those dreams, filled with symbols and archetypes of all sorts, mean something. Our imagination plays at night in our dreams, and we’re usually unaware of any meaning. We’ve forgotten our dream language and how to interpret dreams. We’ve forgotten to playfully use our imaginations during waking hours.

We don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’  Albert Einstein

I’d like to suggest that we can access those dreams, can enter that dream-like state using our imagination, and be the better for it. I’d like to suggest that we playfully use our imagination – a source of power, potential and development – during our waking hours and benefit from it…but, more about that tomorrow.

 

Tadhg’s Journal: So, What Do You Do When Nothing Happens?

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Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: What do you do when nothing happens? Today was such a day for me – not that I’m complaining. It’s just that I like to keep active, but I realise that sometimes its good to slow down or even pause. But, today I didn’t have much choice. Nothing seemed to happen. It was as if time had stood still.

I read a lot, as you know, and some of the books I read are spiritual, motivational, even mystic-al etc, and there certainly does seem a lot going on in some of those authors lives. But, you and I know that not every day is like that.

True, if you read and believe some of those books, you’ll find that every day that that Christian author opens their front door they are greeted by the seraphim. Or the Arch Druid climbs out of bed only to find breakfast is being cooked by a whole ‘platoon’ of obliging elemental spirits, or a light-worker sees auras around everyone and can instantly diagnose a suitable remedy for their ailment or predicament and does so, or a latter-day Celt has discovered the translation of an ‘unknown rune’. At least that’s what you are told is happening if you read some of those books. And, it can leave one with the impression that everything is happening to everyone else, but not to you and I.  Please, avoid those books.

Ofcourse, there are amazing days where great things happen. Co-incidence or God-incidence! Synchronicity? Cledon? And, more! But, there will be days when, seemingly, nothing happens. Today was such a day for me. Do you have days like that?

I could bore you by saying that today the highlight was that I searched high and low to buy a tin of pease pudding, had my ears syringed as my tinnitus isn’t getting any better and I have a hearing test booked for next week, or I could tell you that three replacement cinctures arrived by post today, but I wont. Oh, too late!

But as I type this, I know it’s really been a great day. God, the Source, Spirit has been active as always; the world is still spinning; babies were born and parents lovingly looked on and smiled; someone got a promotion; many ate well; my heart is still beating within my chest (and so is yours); and we have great family and friends, and more.

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…
–Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramon Jimenez

Today, a thousand and one things really happened of which we were unaware. The Source blessed you, angels lovingly guided you, elementals gaily dance around you, the Universe smiled at you, and amazing discoveries were made that will impact your life, Celt or not. In the small things, as well as the large and profound things, in the mundane and common-place a lot happened, today; and I’d say that that was a miracle. A lot really did happen today?

So, how was your day?