Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Guiding Dog - Parliament Hill, London

Thursday January 17, 2008:
The west wind pushed damply against us as we walked up the steep path to the Hill’s summit. The threatened rain had not materialised; the sky was a high opaque grey against which the trees in their Best winter aspect stood out starkly. Against the wind’s howl, a crow cawed. Somewhere nearby small birds high up in the tree tops, chattered as though shivering with the cold.

A year ago today, my father had died. I had come to Parliament Hill to commemorate him.

We stood at the summit of the hill. The grass beneath us was matted and smeared with the mud churned by a thousand paws and the stout boots of their owners. Below, to the east, a small lake glimmered in the morning light.

The glory of that famous London skyline spread out to the south, pierced by thrusting cranes, the buildings hiding the snaking river running in it’s midst. Behind the buildings rose the Crystal Palace Arial and beyond it, the Surrey hills.

In the west, suburban London lay behind church spires and the Royal Free hospital. Beyond a belt of lacy winter trees, in the north lay more houses.

All around me lovely crazy London lay, as though cradled in a bowl of pale hills. This city held and sustained a myriad tongues, a network of communities interlocking and distinct, often comradely, sometimes unfriendly. London, my London lay below me and I imagined its beauty and felt proud to be a Londoner and the daughter of a Londoner.

Turning, I called the directions and cast the circle. My rattle gentle against the wind, my companion’s drum beating a steady rocking beat. I called the beings of the heath, the spirits, the creatures and especially the energy of the dogs to come and be with me as I held a space in remembrance of my father.

I began to walk around, turning and returning, snaking back and forth, meandering in a slow purposeful dance. I was a rivulet of spring water, making its cautious way down a hill, a stream pushing through the turf, a river carving through the clay. I was the snaking mighty Thames flowing down to the sea. I was leaping salmon plunging my way through its grey running waters.

The woods were thick and almost impenetrably tangled with briars and low growing shrubs. Yet I knew I had to force my way through for there was a place I had to be. In time, scratched and bruised, I saw the soft flicker of firelight, dark bars of tree trunks in front of it. Creeping curiously now, for I did not want to be seen, I snuck quietly up to the edge of the clearing.

In the clearing burned a small fire. Around it, a group of men hunched, quietly talking, and their hands busy working. Roughly dressed, they were thin and bowed. Yet there was a purposeful dignity in them.

In the firelight, I saw the lineless one to another, for they were obviously related. As I watched, the fire sparked up and I saw that each bore some resemblance to my father, here one had his nose, there another had his chin. My father’s people sat before me. I crept out of the shadows and drew close to them.

I was welcomed. I sat by the fire with them, in companionable silence as they worked and I studied them closely, feasting on the similarities and differences between them and my father. I felt their kindness and I felt safe.

In time I said goodbye and got up, stepping away from the fire. Leaning against a tree, I watched the circle of men.

I was still for some time, not wanting to be too far away from them, yet knowing that I had to go. Then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and turning, saw a honey-coloured Labrador walking towards me. As she drew close, I saw that she was a mother, she was old and a little stiff but very purposeful. She came to me and poked her mussel into my hand. I stroked her velvety head and she leaned it against my thigh.

We turned and walked through the wood. I followed her as she led me along my lifeline into the future. She led me through the pilgrimages I was beginning to plan, to moonlit nights and sun filled dawns. She led me through great winds, dancing fires, flowing waters and through the great woods and hills of the earth, on and on through my life.

The words danced into my head, on the tongue of the drum beat, held by the gentle rattle and I began to chant to myself:

“Guide me as I walk
Protect my every step,
Stay with me always,
Stay with me always.”

And with this prayer upon my tongue, I became conscious of my stately dance. My feet led me circling and circling till I formed and stepped the figure of eight, the affinity sign, the number of this year, the shape of a curvy woman. I stepped circling diosil and then widishams, invoking and banishing, led by the dog that would never leave me.

In time, my feet were still. The drum was silent and the rattle quiet. I stood and listened to the singing city muffled by the heath.

From my heart I spoke out my thanks for the gift of the dog and for my continued journey with the goddess, for the beings who witnessed this gentle dance and the heath itself for holding me as I moved. In prayer, my companion and I remembered the murdered women of Ipswich, the Tottenham gang rape survivor who had been viciously burned by acid, the lovely robin’s boy who so bravely led a community to rise up to protest the murder of those five young women, and my dead comrade in struggle, still socialist after all these years. I gave thanks for my father who helped make me who I was and whose death deepened my relationship with the goddess. My companion remembered her elderly cat Arnold, he who was the May chick slayer and who was now moving slowly towards another place. The wind caught our prayers and sent them blowing across London, as we opened the circle and began to walk back down the hill.

I sniffed the air, wrinkling my nose like an inquisitive dog, my sense of smell heightened. And in the distance, behind a house, I heard a blackbird sing out loud and proud, cheerful in the morning air, piercing the dull sound of the rattling engine of a nearby lorry, and my heart was lightened.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home