Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Wood’s wisdom

Wednesday August 1, 2007

I began to beat a heart pulse on the small deer skin drum. “I journey to harvest the learning of grief on this Lammas night”, I said aloud. Our Lammas celebration this time was a meditation or journey on something we have harvested or are harvesting. I shifted from foot to foot, moving with the rhythm of the drum beat as I began to dream.

Immediately I found myself in a cool leafy tunnel of tree branches which led me out onto a rough heath land. All around me, the shaggy velvety meadow grass covered land undulated like a green furry sea frozen in time.


In the vale, lay a small wood. I walked through the trees until I came across a huge jagged holly tree, dark and shiny in the dappled light of the wood. I stopped before it and saw that it was also a figure. I felt the urge to bow, so I did! In my mind came the thought; “channel the intensity of your grief into action for change.” Taken slightly aback by this, I thanked the tree and turned to move on through the wood.

Right in front of me stood a middle-aged rather than ancient oak. It was straight and strong. Was that the structure of trunk and branches, dressed in leaves or a figure or was it a trick of the light? “Hail Oak King” I said to the tree, bowing. Into my head came the words; “Learn to live in harmony with the circumstances that fate may have put in front of you.” I stared at the tree, holding my breath as the words arranged themselves in my mind in order to make sense. I sighed, understanding at last, and thanked the tree, turning once more to move on.

My foot was caught by a thick leafy vine of ivy. Reaching down, I gently disentangled it from around my ankle and noticed that it had twined itself around the oak and the holly, uniting them both. “Strength grows when you allow others to support you”, came the thought as I traced the ivy branches around the two trees. I ran my hands along the thick stems and stroked the heart shaped leaves as I whispered my thanks for this wisdom.

The thin, elegant branches of a rowan caught in my hair as I stood and turned to move on. The feather dark leaves and clumps of bright red berries, gave an almost festive air to the woods. I leaned over and stroked her smooth trunk, fingered her feathery leaves, and ran a tentative fingertip across the little clumps of berries, clustered amongst the leaves. “Know that you are protected”, the tree seemed to say to me as I touched her. And I knew that I was safe. I bowed and thanked her and sat down at her foot. I needed to rest and Wanted to think about what I had found here.
Time moved on. The leaves of a bush shook as something large pushed its way through. There in front of me was the tusked, whiskery old boar. Our eyes met and I understood that I was to go with him. I struggled up and began to push through the shrubs after his rapidly retreating back.

The white path snaked through the trees, which grew closer now. Brambles snatched at me as I pushed through, but the woods did not feel unfriendly.

Emerging at last into a small clearing, I saw at its centre, a white stone bowl into which a spring trickled. I was hot by now and gladly knelt down beside it to quench my thirst.

When I had drunk my fill, I looked up and saw that the boar had disappeared. On the other side of the glade, between two large trees, stood a white figure watching me. I got up and walked towards it and saw that it was a woman, naked and with long white hair. Then she moved and I saw that her head and torso was that of a woman and her body, the graceful curves of a white mare.

Awe-struck, I knelt before her, unable to speak. “Come, ride with me” she seemed to invite. I moved cautiously towards her, for she was a large horse. Looking at her closely, I saw an equine but beautiful face, solemn eyes regarding me quietly. Then she tossed her head and I knew that it was a command rather than an invitation.

With some considerable difficulty, for I am no horsewoman and she was a very tall horse, I clambered upon her back and we shot off across the glade, through the trees, up onto the heath land. Here we had a clear run and we thundered across its undulations, leaping obstacles, dodging others. I clung on for dear life, fearing I would fall, but still we pounded on, and the ground raced beneath us like a video on fast forward.

My pulse raced. I was exhilarated, yet terrified. I wanted it to stop and I never wanted it to stop. In time, her pace slowed and she trotted back through the woods, stopping at the holly, oak and rowan and let me get down off her. I felt a huge surge of relief. I was so glad to be back on terra firma. Turning to thank her, I found myself bowing to thin air. She had gone. I turned to walk back, my whole body remembering the ride, glad to be alive as an urgent drum beat called me back, back to now.

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