Sunday, April 22, 2007

Afon Glesyrch valley (Esgairgeiliog)

Saturday April 21, 2007

I am touched to the heart by the generosity of my pilgrimage companions in sharing with me the places sacred and personal to them. Often they are not the spectacular monoliths or grand monuments, but a simple spring by a green river or a dishevelled beach on the North bank of the Thames. Be they simple or spectacular places, I honour my companions for allowing me to visit.

These are their “sit spots”, the places they go to be in sacred space. Here they find stillness and solace. Here they mark the seasons, their various rites of passage in their development as spiritual people. Here they work out how to shift problems and here they manifest healing for themselves and the world.

My “sit space” is my rowan tree and the alter at her foot in my garden. Every day I am at home, I stand and pray, observe the festivals and work magic beside her. I stroke her slim and graceful trunk and branches, finger gently her delicate new leaves and frothy blossom, I revel in her beauty. In turn, silently she hears me out, brings clarity when I am cloudy minded, comfort when I am grieving. She shields me from harm for she too is an aspect of the goddess as protector.

I limped after the stiffly walking dog up the road out of the village. Sheep dozed in the fields on one side and an ordered Forestry Commission plantation covered the hill on the other. The gate at the top of the part leading down to the river crossing was almost off its hinges. The bridge wooden, narrow and rickety, the little river shallower than it ought to be at this time of year, rushing busily underneath.

Retrieving the dog from the water, we crossed and followed the river to a ford and a stream joining it. Here was a moss covered rocky outcrop, sheltered by the canopy of an old oak leaning across the little stream. The dog tumbled back into the water and we sat down to be.

The sun dappled the rocks and mossy grass. On all sides the valley rose enclosing us. The dog splashed happily, the stream bubbled, the birds sang and in the distance sheep bleated. And in this moment, just for now, the land seemed to hold me in a gentle embrace and I felt truly loved.

I breathed deeply. Stretching, I raised my face to the warm sun feeling its energy fill me. Stiffly I rose and knelt on the wet grass and dipped my hands into the water. It felt coolant soft. My companion handed me a piece of wet river slate. I traced its layers with my fingers, smoothing away the water drops tenderly.

Behind us, the hill upon which covens had been used to meet in days gone by rose steep and wild. My companion reached up and picked a sprig of new oak leaves. I stroked their new curled softness, giving silent thanks to the sheltering tree.

It was time to leave. We gathered ourselves together and took a different route back. Stepping carefully across tree roots and slate boulders, we walked through yet another field of sheep. The dog found a nice juicy ewe poo and began rather disgustingly to eat it. Another stream babbled enthusiastically in a small ravine guarded by another old Oak. Sheep quietly watched us as we left their territory. Kindly, the hills looked on and I wished yet again that I didn’t have a train to catch and a revolution to organise back in the world!

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