A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Friday, September 28, 2007


Hastings Country Park

Saturday September 22, 2007:

Well I thought that the country park walk, a mere 4.5 miles, would be a peaceful stroll along cliff tops! How wrong was I?

It was a fabulous day. According to my companion, who waxed lyrical on the subject, the sun shone out of a perfect clear blue sky. The sea glinted turquoise to dark blue, grey to silver. The grass was green, the gorse a cheerful yellow and the ferns and brackens every shade of green, the hedges dark and full. As I walked across the springy turf, I breathed the gentle air, so warm and fragrant that it could just as well have been May instead of September.

The coast between Hastings and Fairlight Cove might once have been flat and smooth. A million years ago or more it had been squashed like a concertina. Now it was a series of violently steep lightly wooded,-gorse strewn hills and valleys.

Breathing heavily, I inhaled the damp woody greenness of the woods as I climbed carefully down the jumbo steps to the first glen bottom. Beyond the trees, surf rushed the rocks on the beach far below. High in the sky the gulls shrieked, in the nearer treetops, robins and tits sang as though it were spring again.

More energetic ramblers puffed past me as I struggled to climb the huge steps leading to the next cliff top. It was necessary to crawl up these and I fervently hoped, as I heaved myself up to my feet for the fifth time in as many metres, that I wouldn’t have to go back down them again!

Atop the cliff, the sky widened and the sun streamed down. Far below, behind the buffeting wind, the sea roared. I caught my breath and made ready to ascend the next glen, lured by the promise of a nice beach.

My knees shrieked their protest as I clambered slowly down. There, standing on the valley bottom, my companion described the sea, framed by trees, pushing its way between the scarred rocks.

Limboing under a gate, we squeezed our way past the official signs warning of the instability of the cliff edge. Nearby, a stream tinkled invitingly.

We edged our way down the crumbling cliff face. Someone had made rough steps, restraining the unstable earth with heavy railway sleepers. Placing my feet in my companion’s footsteps, I shuffled across a precarious plank bridge over the bubbling stream and slowly clambered down the uneven steps which snaked down the cliff face.

A half spiral later, we rested on a bench on a rough-made terrace overlooking the beach. Next to us, a shrine festooned with flowers, soft toys and other offerings had been set up in honour of a small girl called Kylie, killed by a drunk driver. I took a twig of slim leaves which I had been wearing behind my left ear all morning and placed it on the shrine, making a silent prayer for the little girl and those she had left behind.

Rested, we made our way down to the large sea-weed covered rocks, and the pools of seawater that they held. We climbed carefully across the shifting stones and down to a rough rock circle which seemed to be inviting us to rest further.

I sank down gratefully and began to explore underneath the great boulders for stones and shells. My Companion climbed amongst the nearby trees in search of fuel to make a fire.

The rocks waited and held me as I sat casting the circle and calling to the beings of this place. The steeply wooded cliffs, our backdrop, a huge bowl in which we sat, safe and warm.

At first, the fire resisted our call. The wind blew out the matches again and again. My companion, an expert at beach fires was having none of this. Persistently, she shifted and stirred, blew and fanned the tiny flames until they began to eat at the dried vines curled between the rocks. I wafted a smudge stick and soon the sweet sage smell, entwined with the salty tang and sour rotting smells of the seaweed, rose upon the smoke of the fire. To encourage it, my companion began to sing to the fire.

Make of my heart a burning fire, fire.
Light burst
As from the earth, the moon the se

The flames snapped and crackled, the dried wood took and the fire roared with gusto, encouraged by the song and fuelled by the sharp sea wind.

I sat back, and allowed myself to become still, aware only of the sounds of the fire, water and wind and the solidity of the rock beneath me.

Down the steps, a small girl, yellow dress flapping about her thin thighs stepped purposefully. She balanced on the rocks as she moved across the beach. From amongst the trees, a taller girl in flapping purple velvet loons, teetered carefully across the uneven rocks, her steps hesitant, shoulders bowed but chin set in determination. With a jolt, I recognised my two selves; the sad and lonely little eight-year old, bewildered and scared and the angry, brittle sixteen-year old, doggedly moving forward despite her terror. Peering round, the little girl caught sight of the other one and began to head in her direction.

From the safety of my ring of rocks, I watched as the two figures met, the smaller one, reaching out to take the hand of the taller one and lead her to safety. Carefully, the small girl guiding the older one, they picked their way across the beach towards the ring of rocks where I sat.

They sat down either side of me. I reached out and took their hands. They reached out to each other to complete the circle. We sat still for a long, long time, no one speaking, no one moving. Between us, the fire danced bravely, consuming and transforming, cleansing and purifying.

The sun moved and the sea crept closer. Soon it would be in our rock circle. On either side of me, the girls moved nearer and nearer until there bodies merged and melted into mine. Now they lay safe at last. I sat still, breathing, integrating.

Someone was climbing down noisily past me. The pebbles skidded under the heavy forceful footfalls. Back in the present, I shook myself, rubbing my wet eyes. The smoke circled me and I breathed its familiar smell.

The beach was emptying. Time to climb up and out and treck up and down more glens till our day was done. I thanked the spirits of the place and my younger selves for coming here today. Gathering our belongings, we made ready to make the stiff climb up the rock steps to the summit of the cliff once more.

An Equinox Dream

Friday September 21, 2007:

Balanced on a shining thread,
Laced across the turning leaves,
Green to yellow, then to red,
Spider spins her grateful web.

The evening was cool and fresh. The fire in the brazier whooshed into life as the dried leaves from the wreath made by a friend after my own last burglary were mixed with dried rowan leaves and herbs from my garden and sprinkled on.

My companion had been burgled a few weeks earlier. Her sense of violation still tangible, she wanted very much to do some protection work in her home. What better time to work to restore balance than at the equinox, a festival also of thanksgiving and future dreaming?

Our ritual was simple. We used the power of fire to cleanse and purify; smudge and the rattle’s voice cleared each room. Taking small Rowen twigs, we wove them together with red thread and hung them at every window and on both the front and back doors. We journeyed to the drum to give thanks for what we have and then wove our thanks and wishes into more twigs to fashion the eight legged form of a spider, conscious that eight was also the number of festivals in the year for we wanted our bounty to last that long.

The drum and rattle beat together insistently. “My intention is to journey to give thanks for my life and its ripeness.” I whispered as I stepped between the worlds.

I could se the fire. It was dancing brightly amongst the trees, throwing up great long shadows. I hurtled towards it, dodging round trees, pushing through the undergrowth with little care for how the brambles tore at my skin, so urgent was my desire to be near it.

And there it was. Flames leapt up into the darkness, the trees around glowed warm in the flickering light. I moved closer and stretched out my cold hands. Inside, my soul danced with joy. I never wanted to leave.

In the shadows, the presence stirred. Insistently, she bade me go, move on in my life. I knew I had to obey. Reluctantly, I turned away and walked on through the trees.

The ground beneath me rose steeply; the trees edged closer together and then fell away. I was at the top of a hill looking down on a sleeping world, lit only by the pre dawn light.

Now the wind was fiercer, tugging at my feathers. I lifted my wings and flew up and over the earth. Below me, the land fell away, spinning as I flew, the sunrise bringing colour and definition to its rolling contours. It was so beautiful, so fertile and lush, so varied and unspoilt. My wings beat powerfully as I soared up to the sun.

I saw a river snaking through the trees. It glittered in the warm sun light. I dove down and into the rushing water. I flipped and turned as I swam through the turbulent waters, darting in and out of the rocks, rolling over, righting myself and then leaping out into the fresh air and back into the water, the sun glinting on my wet scales. I was filled with joy for life as I somersaulted in and out of the rushing waters.

With one great leap, I landed on the bank. I stumped heavily through the forest, revelling in the soft earth beneath my paws, nuzzling the rough barked trees, chewing on a juicy leafy branch. I moved back up the hill, through the trees and back to the still burning fire.

The big dried log we had put in the brazier had now caught. The fire was burning purposefully. The air filled with that sweet pungent smell of wood-smoke. I stood and allowed the wind to blow the smoke to me. As it sought every part of my clothing, I savoured the warmth and the smell and gave thanks for the power of the fire and for my life.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Beyond the Sandstone Arch

Findhorn Beach

Wednesday September 19, 2007:

The low sun warmed our landward cheeks as we stepped carefully upon the chattering tumbling pebbles. The tide was high but not yet full. The sea-breeze buffeted our seaward cheeks as we tottered across the piles of shifting stones.

I had a desire to lie, wrapped against the cold, my woolly hat over my ears and just be. Snoozing on a quiet beach in the afternoon was my current idea of bliss. My fingers longed to push into the crevices between the pebbles, tenderly brushing way the grains of wet sand, searching, always searching for that special stone. I flopped down on my belly and began lazily to sort through the nearby pebbles.

The pebbles held me and I shifted to get them to roll and cradle my body. All was quiet. My companion lay spread-eagled upon the sand nearer the water’s edge. The sea sang her lullaby and I allowed myself to drift. After all, there was nothing to do, nowhere else to be but here.
The beach I was walking on was flat. Pebbles, all shapes and sizes, all shades of grey and cream, crunched beneath my feet. The sun behind me, threw a great pointing shadow along the water’s edge.

Ahead of me rose a natural sandstone arch glowing pinkly in the afternoon sun. As I approach, I saw beyond it, the curve of a cove, the water edged by soft warm golden orange and red sandstone boulders. It looked beautiful.

The cove was deserted. Great golden orange cliffs rose from the softly rounded rocks. I sat by the water’s edge to rest and watched the late afternoon sun glinting on the gently moving water.

The tall cliffs curved to almost enclose the little cove. Beyond the jutting headlands, the greyer choppier sea danced in the stiff breeze beyond. It was calling me!

I strode into the water, striking out across the cove. Soon I was in the wilder greyer sea beyond. And then I was swimming round the headland, past the arch under which I had walked, back to the pebbly beach from which I had come. I rolled in the turning waves and allowed them to propel me on the current, to bring me to the shore and back home again.

The sea sounded closer now. I was beginning to get a bit cold. The sun had sunk beyond the sand dunes. Carefully, I rolled over and staggered to my feet, my hands full of round, warm pebbles, all needing to come home with me! I stretched and called to my still snoozing companion lying by the encroaching water.

The Commingston Lady (Morey Coast)

Wednesday September 19, 2007:

At last the sky had cleared. It was a lovely sunny Scottish September day. The caves were calling me.

Commingston’s worn sandstone cliffs had been moulded by the persistent pounding of the sea into great clefts and caves. The headland, criss-crossed by trickling streams and meandering paths, was thick with gorse and brambles.

We found a path of sorts, darting down the broken cliff face it shared with a small stream. My companion led me carefully down the slippery cliff, my feet stepping into his footsteps, his hands steadying me on the wet rocks. And so, we eased our way between great yawning gaps, down under a ragged sandstone arch, down to the rocks at the edge of the sea.

As though thick grainy honey had been poured from the skies, the rocks lay undulating and flowing. The carved curves of a never-ending great recumbent figure, beautiful, smooth and soft lay there at the bottom of the cliff. I sank down against the weather-smoothed warm cliff face to rest.

Sandstone rocks, their shapes organic and balanced, littered the water’s edge. The cliff jutted out to our left preventing our getting to the caves I had so long to visit. I sat and stroked the sandstone beneath me, mesmerised by its gentle flowing structure. Reaching down, I searched through the jumble of rocks until my fingers found a beautiful stone, a palm-sized sandstone egg, perfect in its symmetry, its rough surface transferring tiny grains of sand to my skin as I stroked it.

The sea slowly edged towards us. Our rocks were below the high tide line and it was prudent to soon consider moving. WE stepped carefully across the sea-smoothed rocks to a triangle of rough grass, edged by great flat grey slabs. Here, we spread our blanket and I lay down in the warm sunshine whilst my companion climbed the flat rocks out towards the sea.

The mournful sound of the tin whistle danced on the breeze running across the beach. Sea-gulls keened. I lay and watched the figure moving down the cliff path towards me. She was tall and statuesque, her golden skin glowing in the morning light, her long red hair dancing in the sea-breeze.

She strode down over rocks, and pushed through the water, finally plunging into its shining waves when they reached her waist. She struck out strongly, her crawl easily cleaving a way through the moving waves.

When she was just a few feet away from me, I moved forward and down off my rock, diving smoothly into the sea to join her. Together we swam out to sea, far out until the land was just a soft line in the distance. When the sun moved across the sky, we would return.

Day after day, week after week, year after year, it was the same. WE did not need to speak. We only swam, keeping pace with each other, united by the caressing water’s embrace.

In time, my pups would watch for her, slipping smoothly into the water when she came, swimming with her out to sea and back again each day. And stars moved and my pups and their pups swam with her and so on as the world turned round.

In time she grew stiff and bent. It became harder and harder for her to swim out. There came a day when she came to the water’s edge but did not stride in. On this day, she lay down at the bottom of the cliff and let the water wash over her.

The watching seal, heavy with unborn pups, saw this and decided to go to her. She dove through the waters and climbed heavily out onto the lady’s great curving belly. Here the seal sheltered and in time, brought forward her pups, who curled to sleep, warm and safe in the hollows and rising contours of the lady’s still body.

And the years passed. The water licked at the lady, smoothing out her curves until she melded with the cliff. Travellers climbed down from the gashed rocks with some difficulty and were supported to walk to safety on her dry and strong curves.

My companion plonked himself down next to me. I rolled over and sat up. I reached into my rucksack for the sandstone egg and gently stroked it with my fingers, giving silent thanks to the beauty of this place.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In Search of the Mony Stone and Corrimony Cave

Tuesday September 16, 2007:

The Mony stone, Near Glen Urquhart, proved very difficult to find. It took a late lunch and some delicious chocolate cake and the helpful advice of a tea shop manager to put us on the right road. It seemed so easy, we thought, driving up the wrong road! Strange trees there were, but no stone nestling in it’s midst. Inviting paths there were, over styles, running purposefully across fields, but no stone to be found. Not a sol was in site. The smoke rising from the chimney of a nearby house briefly tempted us to ask, but we thought better of it.

The Mony stone (raised to commemorate the death of a Norse Prince) stands under some very large and ancient looking trees. The trees, Wellantonias, look like they have been there since the stone was raised; however they were planted many centuries later. The stone has three Pictish symbols carved into it and these days is framed by several carefully placed fallen trunks, very handy for sitting on. The dense foliage of the trees, the stone and the trunks, provide a very comfortable shelter in which to rest.

But by this time, I was wanting a cave. The map mentioned one and a big waterfall so we left the humble looking Mony Stone to sit quietly under its canopy of trees and cross the river Enrick and began to walk up hill.

Beside us, the river gurgled busily. The path led up the hill, weaving in and out of the trees. The river merged from steep and deep banks and ran past us down a series of random steps.

Here, the forest encroached, the trees growing thickly, the undergrowth denser as we climbed higher. There, the river glimmered intermittently between the trunks, growing further and further away, and I grew impatient to be back by its side. So we turned and edged our way back down, looking for that other path, the one that would lead us to the waterfall and the cave in the riverbank.

Of course we never found it. The trees near the water clung precariously onto the steep banks, the path almost obliterated by the undergrowth. We came to a fence across our way where the near invisible path disappeared altogether. There was no way through.

Disssapointed, we turned back and walk down to the bridge. As we walked I imagined the salmon leaping joyfully down the rushing river steps and the sharp-eyed bird of prey swooping to follow its shining summersalting path. I felt a great rush of joy. I breathed in the cool fresh air and gave thanks for life and the opportunity to walk in peace, here in nature amongst her trees and on her undulating land.

Corrimony Cairn

Tuesday September 18, 2007:

The Corrimony cairn, Near Glen Urquhart, is a partly roofed passage grave constructed in the "Clava Cairn" style and surrounded by a ring of standing stones. It lies on the level flood plain of the River Enrick and is built from water-worn stones and pebbles.

The rain had abated slightly as we made our way damply across the rough grass and through the circle of standing stones. The cairn sat solid at their centre, round and magnificent, more complete than any we had yet seen. Crouching, I crawled through the passage, via the muddy puddle at the entrance which greeted visitors.

The central chamber walls arched overhead, the cap stone set aslant as though casually pushed back. Inside, the chamber was warm and dry. I walked slowly round, touching the stones, marvelling once more at the ingenuity and simplicity of their stacking, finding hidden nooks and little shelves in which to put a candle and some incense. AS I walked, my companion played a sad tune on his tin whistle. Meanwhile, the stones seemed to listen, silent in their empathy.

WE sat down back to back on a rug in the centre. Quietly, I invited the spirits of the place to come as, to the soft shaking sound of my pilgrimage egg rattle, we settled back to dream.

Fear and excitement merged as I crawled through the tunnel. The chamber was silent, the ground softened by skins and cloths laid upon it. I crawled in and curled up to wait.

All was silent. I could hear the earth gurgle, like lying on the stomach of a huge creature. My heart beat loud, my fingers laced through the fur and wool, and I was comforted by their familiar texture.

I drifted off to sleep. In my dream, I was a small boy sitting under an old tree on a hillside. Below me, scraggy-looking sheep gambled round the cairn of stones in the meadow below. In the distance, the river, swollen with the winter rains rushed on.

A sound, was it the shifting of the stones, woke me? I blinked, dazzled by the sudden shaft of bright sunlight pouring in through the passageway. The chamber, no longer pitch-black was starkly illuminated, every stone picked out; some glinting, others glowing. I scrambled to my feet and, perhaps a little stiffly (for I had lain there a long time) crawled out into the dawn of a new day.

My companion’s back was warm against mine. Gentle drops of rain began to patter softly against my skin. In the distance, a car door slammed. Distant voices approached.

Slowly, I got to my feet and began to walk counter-clockwise around the chamber. I thanked the elements and the spirits of the place for visiting and the cairn itself for the sanctuary it had offered in the past, for I felt certain that the woman who had been buried here was not the only user of the chamber. I opened the circle and we crawled back out into the meadow and the watching circle of stones.

The singing wind and the seals Findhorn Harbour

Monday September 17, 2007:

Determinedly, the wind found her way between the hard surfaces and the more pliable ones, and buffeted us as we leaned into her strength. With a series of clacks and thwacks, tings, tangs and pings, she howled and whooshed, whistled and sang in a cacophony of rhythms and pitches so that we were surrounded and engulfed in her.

Despite her energy, she did not deafen. Rather she sought to weave amongst our voices, and the call of the gulls and the purr of an occasional passing car.

The harbour at Findhorn was deserted. Sensible folks were behind closed doors, settled by the first warm fires of the autumn. Foolish souls such as us were out bent on a walk on the beach at sunset, come rain or shine.

We stepped from hard concrete onto yielding sand and moonwalked our way out towards the water. Moving behind a sheltering sand dune, the sounds of the singing harbour receded amongst the peons of the gulls and the smash of the waves on shingle in the distance. We stepped onto rolling pebbles and skittered our way down towards the water’s edge.

“Oh” said my companion, coming to a sudden halt. Opposite the harbour is a sand bar almost surrounded by eddying water, for there are many currents in the bay? On top of this sandbar, my companion informed me were maybe twenty seals. They lay still, occasionally shifting and rolling. Every so often one would lollop into the water with an unheard splash; another would bob up and lumber back onto the sand bar.

As he talked, I remembered my dream of the seals, the dream I had had when snoozing one April afternoon on this very beach. I dreamed that the sea had taken me to meet the seals and that I had slept safely whilst they protected me from the wind and the sea. I remembered their mournful hum and rasping breathing and the sense that I was being protected. I was glad to know that they were still there, still steady and solid as ever, guarding the harbour and watching over the inhabitants of the village.

The Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava

Monday September 17, 2007:

It was a bit of a shock to the system first thing on a Monday morning to descend from the sleeper onto a chilly platform at Inverness. When I left London the day before, the city was bathed in unseasonably warm sunshine. I hadn’t banked on autumn turning up just yet and was inadequately clad for adventures in gale force winds and driving rain.

The sky lowered threateningly and the nasty little easterly squall spat ice straight from Siberia into my face. During the night the weather had turned and shown, for the first time in my various journeys, a rather disapproving face. Shivering, I trailed after my companion in search of a hot breakfast and a woolly hat. Both successfully obtained, we made our way to the Clava Cairns.

A mile southeast of Culloden battlefield along the east side of the River Nairn, lies three ancient cairns each ringed with a circle of standing stones, dating from around 2000 BCE. Two are passage burial cairns and the last is a ring type cairn.

In a fit of romanticism, Victorians had planted the sight with a grove of what looked like beech trees. The result was a rustic greenness which did not however shelter us any the more from the rain which took turns with the brave sunshine to splash our faces. Still, it meant that we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The Cairns are all without roofs. When complete, it would have been necessary to crawl on hands and knees to get into the burial chambers. Quarts is embedded into the stones at the back of the chambers and both passage cairns have been angled in such a way to catch the rays of the setting sun on the winter solstice. All the chambers and the rims are open now to the elements and, on such a day as this, rather muddy inside.

Walking between the hip high stones of the passage, I could only imagine what it would be like to crawl in. The chambers were used as burial mounds, but I wondered whether, in later times, they might also have been used for other ceremonies. Certainly, to crawl on hands and knees into a darken round chamber would feel like crawling back into the womb of the earth. Emerging later, perhaps after a significant period of contemplation into the light of a day, might feel like being reborn.

I walked around and around the chamber, stroking the stones, getting the measure of the place. I called the elements and asked the spirits to be with me as I made my slow walking meditation.

The procession moved slowly, the still figure they carried held preciously on an open litter. The river burbled behind them as they made their way to the field of the dead through the dark night, pierced by the sad keening of the mourners.

All was still. Light seeped in along the passage, gradually bringing the structure of the stones, heaped upon each other in apparent disorder, starkly into relief. The grey winter day light shifted towards dusk. It would soon be time.

Suddenly a warm golden ray penetrated the womb like chamber and splashed glittering on the wall, sparkling like a scatter of stars in a darkened night. The watchers, flanking the body, shifted and began to make ready to leave. The sun had returned.

Turning, I moved back, unwinding the circle. AS I walked, a voice chanted in my head:

“Rocks surround the earth mound,
The silent one is homeward bound.
The wheel turns and the sun returns,
The darkness will soon be over.”

Voices brought on the gusting wind, told us we were soon to be interrupted. Silently thanking the spirits of the stones, we moved out and across the field.

Watched by the stones standing in the circle, on hands and knees, I clambered over the piled boulders to the inner circle of the ring cairn. Here, the grass was short, as though grazed by sheep, but there were no sign of their presence. I wandered the inner circumference calling silently to the beings of the place to connect with me. My hands touched gently the casually seeming though carefully balanced stones, inquisitive fingers explored the crevices, stroked the damp lichen covering those with their back to the sun and caressed the soft dry graininess of those lying in its intermittent but warm beams.

I sat down on the grass in the middle and, sheltered from the sharp wind, basked in the warm sun. In the distance crows cawed and the wind shook the trees. All was still.

The sun, an intense beam, warmed me to my core. In the dark, the fire danced. I was in the fire; I was the fire dancing.

Shooting hot tongues of flame into the sky, I danced with the wind, leaping and turning, coasting on its every breath, allowing it to shape me as I moved. Flickering and spiralling I consumed and was consumed; transformed and was transformed, purified and made new.

I felt young, filled with energy. Getting up with surprising agility, I made my way back to the inner edge of the ring and began to move counter-clockwise, unwinding the spell, breathing in the fresh gusting wind, rejoicing in the warmth of the sun beam through a gap left by the rain.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The bull and the thread

Saturday September 15, 2007: Queen’s Wood Highgate, London

Acorns and newly fallen leaves crunched under my feet as I hobbled slowly down the steep path into the oak grove. The September sun warm on my shoulders, a light breeze gently brushing my cheek.

She walked on eight legs into the circle. Winding around her silvery thread, she created her all reaching web, catching us all within it. Like so many other goddesses, she wove and span and in turn, in her honour, to acknowledge the turning of the wheel, so we also entwined our voices, our words following each other in a cannon as the harmonies lifted to the tops of the watching trees.

“We are the weavers,
We are the Web,
We are the flow
And we are the ebb”

And into this place of gratitude came Demeter, Corn Mother, Gaea and others. Symbols of abundance, we honoured them and our own harvest here now and that which was to come.

And there too following the great Isis, wings spread across the city, into the quiet woods came my green eyed muddy coloured river goddess, her brown hair flowing like the water, snaking as the river does through the city.

The soft wool wound and twisted as we wove a web of community. Our feet led us in a gentle circle, binding the connection closer.

“Weave and Spin, Weave and Spin,
This is where our love begins.
Mend and heal, Mend and heal,
Take a dream and make it real?

Strand by strand,
Hand over hand,
Thread by thread,
We weave our Web.”

One by one, we followed the path through the labyrinth, walking amongst the waves of song, held by words, intention and melody.

“Every step I take is a sacred step.
Every step I take is a healing step.
Healing, healing, healing my body
Healing, healing, healing my soul”

Carefully I walked for the way was rough. Only the thin gold shining thread showed me where I was to go. Round I went, turning suddenly back upon myself, now walking straight forward, now twisting this way and that.

It was dark, but I felt that I was not alone. Tired though I was, doggedly I walked on, carrying the invisible load, feeling it weigh me down, feeling the pain in my knees from the weight.

A last turn, then I stopped. In front of me, under a golden light he stood. He was huge, a great black and shining bull. He lifted his head and seemed to fix me with an amber gaze. I met it, feeling a trembling take my whole body, wondering when he would charge and how long it would take me to die.

But he stood still and in his gaze was a kindness I had not expected to meet. It was going to be alright. The weight lifted. I stood up straight. I knew now that I had all I needed. I bowed my head in reverence and gratitude and turned and made my way back, light of heart and foot.

Hands grasped mine as voices lifted and we moved easily into the spiral dance, passing and connecting with each other as we danced, voices lifted in gratitude for the abundance of our personal and community harvest. Hands raised, we sent the cone of power up into the sky. Beside us, a small boy who had solemnly walked the labyrinth with us, applauded. Dropping hands, we laughed together and made ready to open our circle and feast. And the amber eyes of the beneficent bull watched me and I felt complete.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Beneath the silver pool

Cortijo Romero, Andalusia, Friday August 31, 2007

Dawn bright, eastern morning light,
Feathered touch, breath on warm skin,
Fleeting thoughts to bright ideas
Dance on the timbre of my joyful voice.

Southern Sun, flames of fierce fire,
Dance in spirals of desire,
Interweaving, interlocking,
Consuming and transforming.

Soft waters of the West,
Holding, shaping, moving me
Lulling with tender love
You cradle me in your depths.

Belly to the ground, I lie
Cushioned by the thick soft grass
Held by the bold great mountains
I rest, replete, satisfied.

Sunlight poked warm fingers through the arched window and splashed upon my crossed ankles. I stirred and stretched. Climbing carefully to my feet, I walked slowly round the room running my fingers lightly along the walls as I moved. My circuit complete, I came to rest in the warm pool of sunlight opposite the east window, feeling its heat on the soft wooden floorboards beneath my bare feet. I sat down and leaned my head against the cool wall.

Bare feet slapped purposefully on stone floors, receding rapidly into the silence. The cool enclosed air held the memory of their fall, an imperceptible echoed just out of range of my hearing. Where was I?

Cushioned by moist dew drenched grass, soft beneath my feet, I walked quietly through the still pre dawn garden. My path wove between the trees, dark against the grey. I moved on and felt rather than saw the sky lightening with that thinning of air that comes as dawn approaches. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught something white amongst the trees. I turned and moved towards it.

Behind a tall and elegant tree, I saw a solitary white rock. Moving closer, a second rock appeared. Then I saw that it was the dark opening of a cave behind a rough hewn bowl into which a spring trickled, shining silver in the lightening sky.

I dipped my fingers experimentally into the bowl. The water was freezing. Raising my cupped hand to my lips, I sipped the freshest of cool water. I bent my head and put my face into the water and began to lap thirstily.

My thirst slaked, I raised my dripping head and shook it like a dog. Looking round, I saw again the dark dark opening. I stepped behind the rough bowl, stooped and entered.

It was cool and dark in the huge hall. The sound of my bare feet pattering softly on the cold smooth tiles was tossed back to me from the high vaulted roof above. Silver grey dawn light fell in bars across the wide floor from tall arched windows to left and right of me. Half open doors, gave glimpses of other rooms, corridors and gardens beyond. I stepped from darkness to light and back to darkness again as I made my way across the space.

In the far corner stood a huge closed double door, covered with tooled carved latticework, its handles, twisted wrought Iron loops. The wood felt warm beneath my hands, the iron cool. I pushed gently and the door swung in easily and soundlessly.

Light dazzled me, light shaped and stained with dark curling lattice patterns. I stepped onto smooth cold stone slabs and stood blinking and listening to the sound of the courtyard or chamber. All was still and quiet.

In time, the space defined itself as my eyes grew used to the light. I was standing in a great stone rotunda with floor to ceiling unglazed windows above which, an arched canopy fashioned from intricate open-weave ironwork rose. The space was empty save for a perfectly round pool of about six feet in diameter set in the centre of the stone floor. The pool shone still and silver, reflecting back the ornate roof and the light pouring in.

Moving to the edge and peering in, I saw my own face gazing up at me, framed by the elaborate roof. Eagerly I bent lower until I found myself falling, falling down and down into the pool’s coolness as I dove into its very depths.

I flicked my tail and moved effortlessly into the dark tunnels, breathing easily as I swam through into a round chamber. Cool soft daylight shafted in from the right, shining on the water lapping a dark flat rock and throwing shadows upon the walls. I climbed out into the rock and tucked my tail around me, pushing my long straggly hair away from my eyes.

And there she was, as she had been before, a fresco carved into the rock, but yet a living, moving figure. She sat in that half lotus position, her hands in their familiar gestures, one hand, the tips of her first finger and thumb together her other fingers splayed out, the other hand holding a lotus root. Her smile invited me to relax.

I curled up on the rock to rest. The boom of waves on shingle echoed in the chamber. My eyelids grew heavy and I breathed deeply the salt tang of the sea.

I was being watched. I raised my head and looked toward the grey light and saw a dark angular shadow, an ugly long legged bird standing in the mouth of the cave, the grey sea beyond him. I bowed my head in respectful greeting and humbly withdrew my eyes.

Light glimmered on the rocks. Kwan Yin’s smile was warm and serene. I felt bathed in love, curled up, happy and safe on my rock in the gently moving water. But I couldn’t stay here for ever.

I sat up and looked towards the cave mouth. The bird stood watching, the grey sea shifting behind him. I looked up at the rock face and saw its rough surface, her features carved there still. I bowed low to her and to the bird and slid off my rock back into the water.

In no time, I broke the still surface of the pool and climbed out, my legs my own again. Kneeling by the pool ‘s edge, I bowed low to it, thanking the water for holding me so gently, and got up, retracing my steps back through the great hall and out into the wet green garden, now gilded with morning sunshine.