Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Circle of Peace (Sissinghurst)

The Kent countryside was a riot of greens in the early summer sunshine. Formal and neat, the summer flowers burst over the constraining paths in an excess of colour, texture and perfume. We were at Sissinghurst Gardens to mark the anniversary of the death of our chosen sister. It was a perfect summer day.

I climbed the tower and stood on its parapet. I needed to sing and this was just the right place to do it. AS I had done once before on the top of this tower with my chosen sister years ago, I sang “tower of Strength”. The breeze snatched my song and tossed it out over the trees and hedges, down to my waiting companions below.

From this high vantage point, my companion described the grounds. Her attention was caught buy a curious little enclosed garden amongst the formal beds and paths. A small grass circle, edged with grass lay in the centre of the garden. The hedge was segmented at the quarters with entranceways. It was just the right place to do a ritual.

Time had passed. The sun was hot. The grassy circle was cool and quiet. Through the four exits, vistas of garden could be glimpsed, composed like paintings, framed by the box hedge. We sat on the moisten grass in its forbidden centre and cast our circle and called the spirits of the place to be with us.

Footsteps passed beyond the high box hedge, voices exclaimed over the beautiful flowers. Two blackbirds called across the clear sky to each other. In our circle of peace, all was still and quiet. I breathed quietly and allowed my mind to drift.

The fountain, shimmering with water, seemed smaller than before. The central grassy circle had four gateways, one set at each of the four directions. Through each I glanced a different landscape. I dipped my finger in the water and brought it to my lips in a gesture of reverence and self blessing.

I got up and walked across to the northern gateway. Stepping through, I found myself on a mountainside, amongst great rocks and boulders. All was still under a dark night sky and a bright moon.

I stepped back into the circle and moved towards the west gateway. Here, under a sinking red sun and a darkening blue sky, a river curved in front of me, flowing quietly down to the sea.

Through the South gateway, bright flowers raised their faces to the fierce midday sun. Amongst them, a small fire danced palely in the brilliant light.

The gateway to the east brought me out on a cliff top above a quiet sea lit by the soft gold of the rising sun. The sea-breeze flicked at my hair experimentally as I stood.

I returned to the centre and knelt down by the spring. Tracing the contours of the delicate sculpting, I gave silent thanks for the beauty of this place.

My companion spoke. Stretching and yawning, I shifted my cramped limbs. The blackbirds called to each other across the quiet space. Outside the hedge, people walked and talked. I was back in the everyday world, in the circle of grass in the middle of the gardens at Sissinghurst.

I breathed deeply and stroked the soft grass. I felt full of gratitude. I had learned to be still in nature. Whether in the everyday world or in my inner journeys, I had found comfort and a growing sense that I had at last come home to the goddess.

WE closed the circle and got up to go. I stroked the smooth grey river stone I had brought with me, placing it tenderly on the grass as a remembrance of the stone snowdrop spring of my dreaming.


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