Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moel Ty Uchaf (The highest House on the bare hill)

Friday April 20, 2007

Set on the side of the Berwyn Mountains, beneath the Cadair Bronwen (the chair of Bronwen) is a small, low circle of 53 standing stones. All around, the mossy grass is mown to golf course smoothness by the sheep that graze there.

Beneath a high blue sky under streaming sunshine I stumbled along the steep path. My companion had brought his ancient auburn “bitza” bitch who, despite her age, was not finding it as rough going as I. The rock strewn track led steadily upwards through a flock of mildly curious grazing sheep. Ewes watched disapprovingly and their fluffy offspring lay basking in the April sun.

Out of breath and sweating, I stopped to rest, turning to face the way we had come. The earth seemed to drop away and, with the high arching sky above, I felt as though I were standing on the edge of the world. Quietly, my companion described how the river Dee curved below and the bare mountains encircled us. The sweet vanilla scent of gorse flowers drifted on the wind, mixed with the sourness of freshly laid ewe poo and the rank odour of the dog’s breath as she panted beside us. Swap the sheep for goats, add the tinkling of goat bells and we could have been in Greece or Spain, so hot was the sun. I breathed it all inn then turned to march resolutely on.

The landscape was deserted. In time we struck away from the rocky path and up across the green hillside, the moss springy and soft beneath our feet. And then, there in front of us lay two circles of brown grass amongst the spring green, like giant coffee mug scorch rings one set like a finger ring with the shattered remains of what looked like an old burial chamber. I reached down to touch the grass –one leaf was moist and smooth the one next to it was rough and brittle. We walked through the circles towards the stone circle.

The solitary lead stone was warm to touch. Silently asking permission to move closer, I stroked its rough surface. It felt okay to go and on and we cautiously approached the circle. A blackbird somewhere close sang a welcome.

My companion and I walked in silence around the perimeter. The stones were set edge to edge, with some spaces. There were one or two small gaps but really only one real way in. I sat down outside the stones and waited, for it was not yet time to enter.

The wind was stronger here. I strained to hear the song of the blackbird but could not. Other birds called somewhere off in the distance. From time to time, the wind carried to me the contented baaing of sheep further down the hill.

Stiffly I rose and began to walk around the outside of the circle. I touched each stone, stroking it, running my fingers across it’s contours, for I wanted to greet each one separately. And as I walked, bent and shuffling, edging my way around, with no particular plan in mind, I called silently to the elements. I called to the wind, to feathery thoughts and sudden illuminations like a breath of fresh air to come and be with me. My hands held the warm stones and the sun’s energy, it’s intensity and passion entered me through my skin. I felt the waters beneath the earth flowing and moving onwards as the blood in my veins pulsed. I held the ancient stillness of the stones with the palms of my hands and felt steadied. The circle was complete. It was time to enter.

I moved inside, at first near the stones and then spiralling inwards to the centre, a round depression with some stones haphazardly placed roughly at it’s centre. Something called me to sit down. There were no words, I just knew I had to touch the earth and be silent with her. I sat down on the edge of the central depression facing west, hands flat on the turf and waited.

The water was a dark dark blue, almost a purple colour really. It mirrored the dark sky. The rocks were shiny black, like coal, jagged and rough but also weathered and smooth. The water was calling me but I was not sure I wanted to climb in. It looked bottomless.

The light shifted and I saw the dark mouth of a cave. I edged round the pool, (for there was not much room between the water an rocks) and approached the dark hole. I was scared but yet I knew I had to go on.

Back in the stone circle, the dog circled me purposefully. I felt safe because she was watching. I returned to the rocks and pool, I bent down and entered the darkness.

It was a small smooth cave, two low to stand up in. I crawled forward, following the passage with my shoulder and arm. I lay down on my stomach to wriggle into a kind of chamber which was only just big enough to allow me to shuffle around on my knees as I explored its contours. The smooth, cool rocks became a tunnel and I crawled through.

Dappled sunlight shifted across the dark rock walls. The cool breath of air licked my face and I pushed my way through greenery and out into a wood. The shuffling and panting I had heard in the back of my mind was louder. In front of me stood the old whiskery boar, breathing heavily as he fixed me with his small dark eyes. He turned away as though to lead me. Scrambling to my feet, I followed him through the trees. He stopped at the edge of the woods. I saw the mossy green grass of the hillside and the stones lit under the bright sun and moved forward alone and back to now.

My companion was outside the circle, leaning with his back to a stone. The dog lay panting nearby. I got up and moved slowly out and round the stones. I touched each one, thanking them for holding the space, for their gift of stillness, for the ever flowing water that is the symbol of love, the heat of the sun that is my energy and passion and the inspiration through the dreaming that I always find when I allow myself to be with Her. The circle was open. I felt at peace.

We ate our lunch under the clear blue sky; the hill was surrounded by an approaching haze. All was quiet. My companion and his dog lay down and slept. I sat listening to their quiet and steady breathing and soon began to feel drowsy. I needed to put my belly to the ground. The afternoon moved on, the soft moss cushioned me as I dozed.

The chamber was dark, larger than before or perhaps it was a different one? I was hanging, I’m not sure what by, it wasn’t uncomfortable, it was just odd. No one else was there. I was hanging and waiting, just waiting.

The dog snorted and got up. I stroked the mossy grass and then sat up. It was time to go.

Carefully, we clambered down the rocky path. Twice I fell, landing hard on my knees, but it didn’t hurt. The wind dropped as we moved down. The sheep followed us incuriously with their eyes.

Suddenly, another human being was in front of us. We stopped to talk – my companion had met him a few weeks before, somewhere else. The stranger was making for the stones and hoping to read and be at peace. We laughed about how the stones had made us drowsy and wished him a restful afternoon and then turned to walk back.

Soon too tired to go further, I sat on a bank by a jagged old hawthorn hedge covered in white blossom and waited for my companion to fetch the car. The wind sang through the barbed wire gate and I joined in, humming peacefully as the sheep baaed contentedly and pulled up the short grass with little tearing noises.

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