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Sometimes

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Sometimes


Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.

My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
And an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions. What should I reply?

Herman Hesse

Vardaan

 Vardaan 2

Sometime in the fifties or sixties, the old stone bridge over the river at the other end of the village, which is single traffic only, was replaced by a larger one. The old bridge was left in situ and it’s stretch of  road became a long lay-by. There’s a modest field sandwiched between the two roads on one side of the river and a tiny picnic area on the other.

The river is at the bottom of a valley and the new road goes straight down and up it, which means that you usually pick up quite a bit of speed. I don’t know whether I was going slower than normal, or was being particularly observant, but the other day on the way home from work I just caught a fleeting glimpse of ‘something’ in one of the trees in the picnic spot. The next day I made a special effort to look and realised it was a statue of some sort, so the following day I stopped off to have a closer look …

 Vardaan 3

Unfortunately the picnic spot has suffered over the years – the benches seem to have disappeared, there is litter everywhere and nature is taking over. I began to wish I’d gone home to change, it wasn’t easy walking in there in a skirt and court shoes! However I love what I found ….

Vardaan 1

The statue was a group of Hindu gods, Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama (blueish figure centre) his wife Sita (an incarnation of Lakshmi) in red, his brother Lakshman to his right and Hanuman the monkey god kneeling. The little metal plaque has the ohm symbol and ‘Vardaan’ which can be interpreted as ‘a boon’ or ‘a favour’, or perhaps in a wider sense as ‘a blessing’

"Both teller and listener shall be treasurers of wisdom for Rama’s tale is mysterious." Indian saying.

The story of Rama is told in many legends and songs across India and South Asia, and is known as the Ramayana. There are versions by many poets, in 400AD, Valmiki wrote 24,000 verses in his epic poem and arranged them into seven books, inventing a new metre called the sloka which has influenced all subsequent Indian poetry. There is a simple (and shorter!) version of the myth here which was written for teachers. The story reveals the origin of Divali, the Festival of Lights, as after their adventures the group are guided home by the lamps people lit and left on their doorsteps. To this day people place lights in their windows at the darkest time to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into their homes.

Now what the statue is doing up a tree overlooking the main road I don’t know! But I’m really glad it’s there!

Druid Gorsedd 2015

Mirfield 1  

This is a catch up post!

On the Spring Equinox weekend, back in March, I attended the annual Druid Gorsedd, which is a meeting for Druid Grade members of OBOD. Each year it’s facilitated by somebody different, and this year Roger from West Yorkshire had volunteered, which meant that it was finally held ‘Up North’, hurrah!

It was rather a treat to drive for just an hour up the motorway to the venue, which was Mirfield Monastery in the Calder valley, rather than the usual four to five hour trip down south. The monastery is a large collection of different buildings, including a college, B&B annexes, two refectories and a full size church. The grounds run down to the banks of the Calder river and are pretty extensive, with woodland walks, kitchen gardens, orchards, lawns, flower beds, a labyrinth and an amphitheatre!

 Mirfield 2

I can’t talk too much about what we got up to (first Rule of Druid Gorsedd and all that!) The theme was ‘Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Service’, it involved an evolutionary walk, discussions, workshops, a Ceremony and an Eisteddfod! The Gorsedd usually takes place at the end of February, but this year it clashed with Alban Eiler which meant a lot of Grove and Seed Group leaders couldn’t make it, although holding it in the North opened it up to a host of new people and it was very well attended. One of the highlights for me was visiting the church after our ritual. The church is built in the Italianate style but inside it has been stripped back to basics and has a wonderfully modern interior. We all stood under the central dome in our robes and chanted Awens.

I had a really great time but unfortunately woke up with a terrific migraine during Saturday night which meant I missed Sunday breakfast and spent most of the following morning session fighting nausea. It was a bit of a relief when I was finally sick in the loos during the morning break, but it ruined the final day and I left before dinner to head home to bed. Thank goodness it was so close!

As always, the magic of these events trickles through slowly to the apparent world and I’m still receiving insights, synchronicities and gifts from the weekend.

Mirfield 3

May Pole

This morning the Wildwood held our Beltane celebration out on Lindow Moss. We had terrific wind and rain overnight and it was still going strong early on, when I nipped out into the garden to gather some bits and bobs of greenery. I was fully expecting to have to perform the ritual in waterproofs like we did at Alban Eiler. Fortunately the rain stopped just as we were getting out of the cars and we had a wonderful walk through the damp fields and woods to the Moss, shedding coats and jackets as we went.

The pathway onto the workings was surprisingly firm considering the deluge, and we managed to reach our destination with less slipping and sliding than in the autumn. The Moss itself was damper, the ground trembled when you walked on it and began to ooze if you stood still too long. There was a wonderful sense of being betwixt and between, not quite solid land and not quite water. There was a delicious smell of damp earth, and in the sunshine you could actually hear the peat drawing down the water. We set up a simple altar, with a May Pole as the focal point. For a few weeks now I’ve been driving around making mental notes of where there might be whitethorn in flower for the ritual and this morning I collected some from the side of a local road. I felt  lucky and really grateful, as this is the only hedgerow hawthorn I’ve seen in bloom hereabouts. I also collected a sprig of late blackthorn flowers that you may be able to make out in the photo.

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The Moss is greening up nicely – this is the pool where the wreath was cast last August. According to the lady from Transition Wilmslow nothing much has changed (in the apparent world) regarding the Moss so far, but I remain hopeful. Today we worked with the Beltane energies to stimulate the restoration. Channelling the energy of fertility and growth generated by the union of the Lady, Sovereign & Mother of the Land, and the Lord, Guardian & Father of the Wild. We also invoked the energy of the Green Man, the irrepressible force of Nature which refuses to be tamed and managed.

I incorporated Tom Bombadil’s Song from Lord of the Rings into the rite:

 

Now let the song begin! Let us sing together!

Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,

Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,

Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,

Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water.

 

It’s a beautiful and evocative piece of writing. I see Tom as a personification of Nature and as a Nature Spirit. The Ring has absolutely no power over him and he has no interest in the affairs of Middle Earth. If it ended I think he and his valley would continue on as before. It’s like us worrying about climate change, deforestation, etc, we worry because we are ultimately destroying ourselves. Nature will carry on without us, maybe in a changed way, but it will carry on. What I wanted to do is draw on the primal energy of Nature embodied in the Green Man, that force which is engaged specifically with the nuts and bolts of creation in every form, along with the power of working with the local landscape as symbolised by Tom.

As part of the working we created our own Green Man on the Moss using the greenery we had collected earlier. Despite getting wet through gathering it all, I felt really happy in the garden, picking the leaves and flowers reminded me just what a variety we had, and also how much everything has grown lately. You could almost see the leaves unfurling this past couple of week.

Beltane Green Man

Making up the Green Man we have wood and reeds from the Moss, marsh marigold, wild garlic, hazel, hawthorn, borage, clematis, forget me not, lemon balm, yarrow, yew, ragwort, holly, ivy and many more! It was a marvellous morning and we had a lot of fun and laughter. 

Swallows!

White albino swallow sets twitchers a-flutter

After a couple of weeks anxiously scouring the skies I have finally seen my first swallow! Actually there were three of them, swooping low over the field opposite. This is a couple of days earlier than I saw them last year. To celebrate their return and the start of summer, here’s an albino swallow that was spotted in Scotland some years ago, and this year’s swallow poem by John Clare.

 

Swift goes the sooty swallow o’er the heath

Swift goes the sooty swallow o’er the heath
Swifter then skims the cloud rack of the skies
As swiftly flies its shadow underneath
And on his wing the twittering sunbeam lies
As bright as water glitters in the eyes
Of those it passes — ’tis a pretty thing
The ornament of meadows — and clear skies
With dingy breast and narrow pointed wing
Its daily twittering is a song to spring

John Clare

  Roeburnscar gate

A couple of weekends ago I attended the ‘Spring Into Life’ Shamanic Retreat, which was facilitated by Jason and Nicola from Way of the Buzzard – these are the lovely people that lead our Drumming Circle! It was their first residential workshop and was held at Roeburnscar. We ate and slept in the bungalow but held our workings in their beautiful new bell tent and out in the surrounding woodlands and moors. Roeburnscar is sat on a cliff overlooking a valley carved out by the Roeburn River, which runs merrily past the house. It was such a lovely sound that my room mate and I slept with our patio door open so we could hear the water.

bell tent 1 

Stove 2

The bell tent was well equipped with a dinky little stove which threw out quite a bit of heat, especially if the door was down. There was a beautiful altar in the centre and blankets and sheepskins over the floor, it was wonderfully calm and cosy, I think we all secretly wanted to sleep in it!

Blackthorn Hedge

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This blackthorn hedge was full of insects enjoying the sunshine. I loved the furry lichens on the branches.

Blackthorn and Lichen

Jason took some much better pictures of this than me, and you see them on his website here, where he describes his encounter with the Butterfly Ancestor.

Pond and Skunk cabbage

There were a series of pools and boggy patches in the gardens, fed by streams running off the hillside.  These had many ornamental water plants, the absolute stars being these Skunk Cabbages which added an almost prehistoric look to the gardens. They did have rather a peculiar smell but it wasn’t too bad!  Their other name is swamp lantern which is a little more poetic. The leaves were really glossy and firm, while the flowers were almost waxy to touch. It’s a native of North America and related to the arum lily.  It was introduced to the UK in 1901 and there are populations of escaped plants in Hants and Surrey as well as the North West.

Apparently it causes a burning sensation when eaten because it contains calcium oxalate crystals. American Indians used it as a cure for headaches and coughs, and for treating burns, and for more prosaic uses like wrapping foods when baking and to line baskets.

skunk cabbage

As part of the weekend working on the Saturday we each had to find a spot in Nature to contemplate/meditate. I went down to the river and sat on the bank in a tiny hawthorn grove.

Roeburn 1  IMG_7649Roeburn 3 Roeburn 4

The water looked very inviting – there are pools higher up where you can swim but I had to make do with a little paddle. The bottom was full of round slippery rocks, and It was freezing!

Roeburn 5

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I spent a lot of time lying on the second stone from the right with my eyes closed. :)

Mossy stone

On the way back I came across this piece of rock which made a lovely mossy chair.

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Wood Sorrel growing in the moss on a fallen branch.

deck

The veranda ran along the back of the bungalow and was a very popular place to sit and relax – our bedroom had a door that opened onto it too. Jason and Nicola had brought along a large selection of books  and it was nice to be able to dip into them. I was especially happy to find a copy of  Meeting Fairies by R. Ogilvie Crombie which has been on my to read list for ages.


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And this is the view up the valley from those chairs!

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A patch of a comfrey type plant by the wood shed, which I keep meaning to look up and identify properly!

         hot air balloon

On the Sunday I got up early (six o’clock) and decided to go out for a walk. I headed up the lane, when I got high enough I  looked back towards the Lake District and spotted a hot air balloon in the distance. It turned out to be rather an eventful walk, I had no idea where I was going, but I had the vague idea that I would be able to find a footpath over to the river and then come back along the water.

I seemed to spend rather a long time walking away from the valley. I was just debating whether to turn back when I saw a patch of gorse in flower by the lane and decided to go just that far – I’m very fond of it for various reasons! When I got there I found a new born lamb in the field on the other side of the lane. It was still damp with amniotic fluid and had a long umbilical cord. I took this to be a good sign and carried on.

Further up the road I looked up to see a hare slowly lolloping down the tarmac towards me, it paused and then jumped into the hedge. I walked up a little way to look into the field for it, and then spotted a bridle path sign pointing in the right general direction so I headed off through the fields. There was a lapwing calling and making a display flight above me, I followed the path which was along a ridge which may well have been the remains of a dry stone wall. Every so often there was a lone hawthorn tree – fairy tree – along the way, so I was feeling confident. At last the path entered the wood and ran down a hillside. At one point I had to scramble over a fallen tree with two trunks, then I wandered over a tiny meadow and finally came across the river.

For a minute I couldn’t see how to go on, but then I realised there was a small stile in the fence and suddenly I was on my way downstream. I was walking above the river through another meadow, it was here I found a wonderful large heron feather.  A little further on I entered the trees and I came across a roe deer. It stood in the woods in front of me and then walked slowly up the hillside, on a parallel path to me as I walked down. There was somebody bivvying in a hammock tent, slung between three trees on a knoll by the river bank, but the path I took headed back up. At the edge of the wood there were the very first bluebells just unfurling into flower.

lamb The whole walk had an almost otherworldly feel to it and felt almost numinous. Certainly it was a brilliant way to start the day. A gentle reminder that there is magic everywhere, providing that you get off the sofa  and go and find it!

I had a lovely relaxing weekend, and enjoyed good company and great food. Saturday evening was another highlight, as we enjoyed a bonfire following the ritual, and sat together under the stars. It was almost dark enough to see the Milky Way and we caught a glimpse of a shooting star. I watched an iridium flare – I wouldn’t have known what it was but for the fact that Mr Stoatie used to drag us all out to the hills when the kids were younger if he knew one was due. I had a very gentle magical weekend and am happy that the effects seem to be working their way through slowly this time round, last April it was a tad more dramatic!

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 Church Bay 9

Now that we have a long weekend I’m hoping to be able to catch up with those jobs that have been put off in the mayhem that was March. One of these is to get the blog up to date of course!

To start off with here are a few photos from our trip to Anglesey. We set off on the Sunday and drove the familiar route to North Wales through driving wind and rain. Fortunately by the time we got to the site things were looking up, and we had a lovely clear evening.

The campsite was a three minute walk from Church Bay and was one of those small sites that we love. It had no hard standing which was a bit of a worry as the ground was quite soft but it seemed to stand up quite well. The location was fantastic which made up for the fact that the site was rather basic. It’s the only small site we’ve been to that didn’t supply toilet paper! There were no hot taps in the toilets and the showers were rather off putting (I didn’t bother!) According to Mr Stoatie they were rather cold. There were also a lot of notices that started ‘Don’t ..’ and hardly any of the usual friendly ones with information and things to do.

All was just about forgiven when we saw the beach, there was just one slipway down to the cove which meant the dogs could run around to their hearts content. We went down everyday and there were never more than four of us on the beach at any one time, sometimes we had it all to ourselves.

Church Bay 8

 

Church Bay 3 

The weather the second day was rain and extremely strong winds which meant we didn’t do much besides drive to Holyhead to find a supermarket (for toilet rolls!) We spent a lot of time reading in the van which I enjoyed. This trip we’d invested in a day tent  to store boxes, folding chairs etc, when we’re camped anywhere for few days, to save packing and unpacking the van. The idea is to park the van’s side door against one of the two open sides and use it as an extra room. It did work quite well, although I had to block off the gaps between the van and the tent walls. The only problem was we had to continually adjust the guys in the wind and it had an annoying habit of moving into the van so we couldn’t get the door open. I think this may be solved by more pegs!

In the evening the weather cleared up completely and it was back down on the beach :)

Church Bay 4  Someone had left an artwork.

 

Church Bay 6

 

Church Bay 7  

Church Bay 2

 

Painted stone

This whitewashed stone was on the far side of the cove. I’d love to know the story behind it.

 

dogsThe only way for both the dogs to get on the comfy seat is to squash up. They’re not normally very keen on cuddling up together!

St Ruthladd

The following day dawned sunny and clear which meant Mr Stoatie could go on his planned bike ride. I’m getting a bit fed up of the bike being shoved between the seats every time we go out and I’m trying to persuade him to buy a rack. Charlie ended up covered in oil yet again this trip and whenever I needed to get in the back I had to get out in the pouring rain to use the side door. Oh well, at least we could put it in the tent when we were on site.  While he was gone the dogs and I had a meander round the village of Swtan. The parish church is called St Ruthladd and was founded in the 900’s. Ruthladd was a daughter of the Earl of Leinster. It’s mostly a Victorian restoration now. I particularly like the mounting steps against the wall – there are two, one large and one very small. The village also has a ruined windmill and a couple of tea shops – unfortunately closed!

Swtan Longhouse 2

We could see this old Welsh longhouse in the gardens behind the van. It dates from the sixteenth century. On the way back I walked round with the dogs to see when it was open. The lady said it wasn’t until Easter but I was welcome to take a look round, the dogs too! Apparently it was lived in until the 1960’s when the roof collapsed, it was restored by the villagers and furnished as if it were the late 1800s. The living room had a sort of bunk bed arrangement and a tiny parlour, with the original earth floor. It reminded me very much of the black houses we saw on Skye. It’s also very similar to my friend’s house over Caernarvon way. I was really lucky to walk round at just the right time!

Swtan longhouse

The weather forecast for the next day was more driving rain and so we decided to pack up and head home a day early. We spent a lovely afternoon over at our friend’s house before heading back so it wasn’t a complete wash out!

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