A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Holly’s brief Embrace

Saturday June 28, 2008:

WE HAD WANDERED SLOWLY THROUGH THE PARK, GREETING TREES AS WE PASSED, EXPLORING QUIET CORNERS, WEAVING IN AND OUT OF THE PUBLIC AT PLAY. We had filled the Motherstone bowl with water and appreciated the stones. My companion wanted to show me the old gnarled holly tree standing next to the Motherstone.

Bending, I climbed under the swinging prickly branches. Inside, the holly trunk, forked into two great columns, the arching branches overhung and in places almost touched the ground. Inside, we were in a green and gold secluded cave.

I sat down at the base of the tree and lent against its firm trunk. The ground beneath my bum was dry, scattered with holly leaves and flat. I closed my eyes and breathed in the quiet stillness.

Behind my eyes, a fire danced. It cracked and popped, its heat warming my face. A dark figure moved behind my eyelids, jagged and dark, horned and tall. I bent my head in acknowledgement and he was gone.

On the other side of the tree, my companion hummed softly. Beyond her, a soft drumming danced towards us on the breeze. I pondered what it would be like to sleep here, so close to theMotherstone, cocooned in this sharp, brittle fiery old holly tree with its many twisted tendrils falling down to the ground like a dark green spiky cave. But this was a Public Park, with locked gates and patrols – and it was not yet holly time and I would come back, soon.

Emerging into the evening light, the drums beating in the distance sounded indistinct. Time to go.

The oak dappled peace – Greenwich Park

Saturday June 28, 2008:

The rain had held off. IN fact, it had turned into a lovely golden sunny summer afternoon. It was perhaps with greater optimism but little expectation of peace that my companion and I had decided to visit oaks in Greenwich Park, it still being oak time.

There was a tree we definitely wanted to work with, a great spreading oak with branches curving down, the space beneath, dark and cool and secluded. Hopefully we moved across the burial mounts towards it.

Alas, the tree was otherwise engaged. Encircled by bright coloured flags, flapping merrily in the wind, the tree sheltered a cluster of people engrossed in some joint activity. Disappointed, we moved on, advancing towards other great trees, finding under each of the bigger ones, clusters of people partying on down.

AS we walked down Snow Hill, my companion spied a small grove of oak trees in a little hollow some feet from the path. I climbed down to check and found myself in a quiet and deserted shady sun-dappled peaceful dell of seven oak trees standing up to their knees in long grass. Around them, a circle of bushes and more long grass bordered this cool haven. The only problem was that my companion, a wheel chair user would have to have a miracle cure to get down.

She had her miracle cure. I lay back under the cool flapping leaves and breathed in the green woodiness of the dell. Incense spiralled up and round the tree. My head cushioned on my arm, I gave myself up to the drowsy laziness of the summer afternoon, letting the grasses play across my face, allowing myself to be warmed by the low slanting sun on my arm. I had nothing to do but just be, and worship the day.

Somewhere, if I rooted around long enough, I’d find something to eat. I nosed my way round the base of the tree, pushing my snout into the long grass, poking into the hollow places between the roots. I liked nothing better than to snuffle an snort my way around under a shady tree on a hot summer’s afternoon.

I lay back in the long grass, my limbs relaxed, and my head resting on my bent back arm. Above me, the leaves danced shadowily ; the sun glittered between them, the sky beyond their darkness a soft blue. I heard snuffling approaching and, looking down my great long slim length, I saw a small white pig approaching. Any moment now and that snout would encounter my bare feet. I wonder when it would notice I was alive; I thought and steeled myself not to move as the bristly snout found my toes.

There was something there! I’d been so engrossed in digging out a nice juicy acorn that I had hardly noticed the warm smooth things lying amongst the grass. I raised my head and peered between the waving undergrowth and saw a tall figure stretched out under the tree, apparently asleep. His or was it her face mottled with sun dappled leaf-shapes, the long grass waving above her/his head as she/he slumbered. I backed off and headed towards the darker shade of another tree and began my hunt anew.

Something was tickling my face. A shape seemed to block out the dappled dancing sun leaf waving above me. I reached out and brushed another’s hair from my face and looked up into a darker shadow that must have been her face, gazing down at me. And in the moment before she was gone, my eyes grew accustom to the gloom and I caught the glimpse of a strong androgynous face, with large dark set eyes and a serious mouth half obscured by the falling dark hair.

I relaxed back into the earth, allowed the grasses to dance all around me, lent my left knee against the warm tree trunk beside me. Breathing deeply, I felt the tree moving above me in the wind and a vibrating gentle warmth reaching through my jeans. To my right, something substantial and purposeful pushed through the long grass. I swear I heard a rasping breathing snuffling.

It was another sunny day. I crouched in a small leafy chamber in the shelter of a large leaved bush. Beyond, I could just make out the sun splashing on the trodden grass that was the path. The sweet smell of newly cut grass wafted in on the breeze. Carefully, I examined my dirty dress. Was it torn where I had caught it, tumbling out of that tree? NO, it was alright, just a bit grubby. I crossed my legs and leaned back into a shrubby embrace. A cool silky leafy touch on my cheek was gentle and innocent. I breathed deeply and stilled my body. If I kept still, no one would find me. Oh if only I could stay here for ever.

Oh if only I could stay here for ever, I thought as I slowly sat up. I reached out and touched the oak tree, stroking its rough warm bark. My companion stirred and quietly, we began to speak of our journeys. That done, softly, against the rustle of the leaves above us she began to recite a blessing for the trees written by her witch teacher.

“A nine fold blessing of the sacred grove,
Now be upon all forests of earth.
The willow of the streams, hazel of the rocks ,
Alder of marshes, birch of the water force,
Ash of the Shade, yew of resilience,
Elm of the bray, oak of the sun,
And all the trees that live and grow
On hill and break and glen,
No axe no saw, no fire shall harm you.
No mind of ownership shall seize you.
No hand of greed or profit claim you.
But grace of the stepping dear among you,
Strength of the rooting boor beneath you,
Power of the gliding hawk above you.
Deep peace of the running stream through your roots,
Deep peace of the flowing air through your boughs,
Deep peace of the shining stars on your leaves,
That the harp of the woods be heard once more,
Throughout the green and living earth.

(the manifold blessing of the trees)

Something stood before me, tall and dark against the light sky. His antlers stark against the woodland setting, the sun glinting on their tips. Pointing in acknowledgement, I bowed and he was gone.

But we still had a tree to get out from under and a bank to climb. I eased myself slowly up unsteadily to my feet whilst we located and summoned my companions P.A. Leaving our gifts swinging on the branches, we climbed out back into the world and the hot sunny afternoon.

The Blackbird’s golden world – Hampstead heath

Sunday June 22, 2008:

Oak, (Duir) known as the king of the forest is revered by many. It is long lived; grows tall and thick, with deep roots and a wide canopy offering a shelter to wildlife and humans alike. It is an emblem of hospitality and strength and its wood is hard, tough and durable.

Many myths and legends surround the oak. Originally a symbol of the earth goddess, the oak is strongly associated with Diana and Herne, with Esus, Thor and many other gods from different cultures. It is an oracle tree, connected with the element of fire and represents protection, strength, fertility, courage and the door to the mysteries.

Oak’s healing properties are wide ranging, it aids the spirit and soul, helps to restore imbalance and strengthens vital forces. Its bark in decoction is astringent, antiseptic and tonic, sooths inflammation, diarrhoea and much more. Its leaves when applied externally heal wounds and can be made into a good tonic wine. Ground acorns are nutritious and healing.

Just past the turning of the year, on the evening after Litha, I walked with a companion across a softly sunny heath, in search of oaks. The sun lay low, glowing through the trees, gently warming our faces. Holidaying Londoners were beginning to make their way home to their suppers and Sunday night television. The last dogs, small children and wayward adults were being rounded up by those whose joy or task it was to do this.

We moved amongst the trees in the heart of the heath, the air gentle with evening smells and sounds, the wind dancing in the high leafy branches. The drizzle of the day before had left a perfumed woodiness of sweet bitterness amongst the bark, grass, leaves and wood. It was a perfect summer Sunday evening.

Storms had torn down some mighty oaks. One lay like a huge dragon, its roots stag-horned, smooth by many winters, carved and beautiful. Another, casualty of a more recent storm, flung out its roots still soil clod into the air. It’s hollowed inside offered a womb-like cave, dark and mysterious. Its great branches carved the air into chambers, their strength offering many opportunities to clamber and explore. I leant against its solid bulk and stroked the warm wood.

Further in, an upright, wide and living tree offered itself for appreciation. Circling it, I bowed to it and sat down on one of its buttressed roots. It was a bit close to the path, but what the heck - weirder things could be seen on the heath than a large middle-aged woman leaning against a tree.

The candle uplit the warm light coloured columned wood as, small as a field mouse, I climbed upwards. Inside, the tree was chambered and rounded, beautiful shapes shadowed where the soft candle-light could not reach, invited me to play. In the gloom, other shapes moved, scurrying on their way, ignoring me.

Now it was completely dark. The feeble flame of the tea-light was long lost below me. I climbed on, listening to the groans and creaks of the tree, the muffled swishing of leaves outside dancing with the evening breeze. I felt safe and cocooned but also curious to explore this dark soft world inside a world.

High above, a glimmer of light paled the darkness. I climbed on, my focus on that small penny sized beam of golden light, growing larger and larger as I approached. At last I emerged and sat on a rocking branch, peering through the canopy of the leaves out to the tree tops all around me. Up here, the sounds were different, the great hissing and swishing of trees, pierced by the joyful song of the blackbird in the tree opposite singing to the last rays of the sun. I threw back my head, opened my beak and joined him. Our songs spiralled, entwining, moving away and rejoining as we bathed in the last rays of the evening sun with the world below as our kingdom.

With a final thrilling warble, I launched myself off the branch, my wings brushing the leaves as I soared between the trees. I circled and explored, darted in and out of the branches all around. And there it was; the twisted leafy antlers of a fierce and magnificent oak. I circled it watching to see if it wanted me to come. The great branches swung and nodded. Taking that for permission, I flew down onto an outstretched limb and, taking a moment or two to get used to the motion; I began once more to sing as I swayed with the movement of the tree. The tree groaned and creaked, branches rubbing and rasping each other in a deep rumbling voice, its leaves shaking and flapping in a descant accompaniment.

Down there in the wood, a woman sat beneath the tree I had left, wrapped and still, listening to the evening sounds. She looked so peaceful sitting there, her eyes closed, her cheek lent against the rough bark of the tree. Her tree, my tree swayed and bowed towards the singing stag headed tree in which I sat carolling.

Still singing, I stretched out my wings once more and flew out and up in to the Deepening evening. I circled the wood, the grassy heath land beyond, the surrounding buildings that stretched for miles across the hills and valleys of the great city and which edged smaller patches of leafy greenness. The sun was bronzing the buildings to the west. The great river shimmered beneath its copper slanting rays. Shadows began to stretch themselves out, navy against grey concrete.

I flew back across the heath, in and out of the tall trees until I found my own tree. Home at last, I climbed mouse-like into the darkness and warmth of its shelter.

The air had cooled. My left leg had gone to sleep. I shifted and stretched, eased myself carefully to my feet and lent against the strong tree. The bark was rough and warm on my cheek. Stepping back, I bowed and reluctantly turned to walk back with my companion across the now quiet heath.

High in a tree, a blackbird called a final good-night to the sun. I raised my face to his song, blew a kiss and breathed deeply the fresh greenness of the woods. With every step I silently thanked the goddess who was this beautiful land laid out beneath my feet. How wonderful to be alive on such a glorious evening.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Solstice Circle – Andalusia

Friday June 20, 2008:

Today, the sun is almost at its fullest. Its roundness echoes the shape of the earth and of the first fruits of summer, ripe and ready for eating.

We stand in a circle on the roof, girdled by the magnificent mountains, the low hills, serpentine roads and the leafy gardens below.

Turning, I call the directions and say:

“Summer fruit so good to eat,
Melting softly on my tongue.
Turn dreams to actions, rich and sweet,
So they may be both true and strong.”

A bowl of soft fruit is handed around the circle. As each person takes a piece of fruit they speak their dream. As each person bites into the fruit, they speak the action that will bring their dream to life. In the circle they are held and their dreams and actions witnessed by the listeners all around.

The circle of dreams and action finished, as one, we move towards the west, to stand and look over the earth bathed in the warm rays of the retiring sun. As each person throws the fruit’s seeds into the garden, they call out wishes for this place, a personal blessing for its continued growth.

Someone starts to drum their fingers on the metal railing. One by one, others join and the rhythm steady at first, gathers pace and thunders like a thousand galloping horses into the soft evening wind. And a cone of power is sent out unconsciously by our fingers into the world, carrying in the sound all that we wish for ourselves, each other and this place in which we have been nurtured this past week.

The sun slides towards the mountains. The air cools. We turn and take hands, circle, connecting, as we honour the solstice. And I send out a prayer to the glorious mother who is this beautiful land, that I may know what my next task in this world is.

The Olive’s Embrace –Andalusia, Spain

June 18-19 2008:

Midnight chimes across the valley. The mother moon looks down upon a still and sleeping world, save the bloody dogs! They have just begun their chorus of barking which spreads from dog to dog, like a necklace across the quiet countryside. I block out their noise and pretend I am alone in this beautiful place.

I creep slowly along the path, treading carefully; swinging my stick silently in front of me, lest I disturb the sleepers, snuffling, snoring and muttering somnolently behind each door I pass. I am bent on meeting the lady of the olive. Her tree, older than time itself it seems, stands squat and bulbous in the grassy courtyard and gazes quietly across the complex, past the green man by the fountain, the oval swimming pool, the rough stump of the great palm tree beyond, and the dark orchard below.

Here she is. Fat, rugged and ancient. Propped up by thick metal cords, she sits, her lap spread invitingly in the form of rough carved benches. I stroke her gently and rest my hands upon one of her buttresses as I climb up onto the grass in which she sits.

Her bark is dry, cracked and old, yet she is filled with life. Clusters of cascading slim pointed leaves move gently in the night breeze, tenderly stroking my hair as I pass beneath on my circumnavigation of her. I walk clockwise then stand and bow.

Here is a seat, slightly crooked but firm enough. I sit down and lean back against her bulbous trunk, my feet firm on the ground. She is warm and I feel her heat enter me as I relax into her strength.

I breathe and listen to the night beyond the barking dogs. The undergrowth rustles; I hear the sound of small paws scurrying through the grass, and I imagine the stalks tall as trees to them.

Dry twigs pop as something heavier than an ant moves across them. Leaves drift gently to the ground with a sigh of release. The txya-tzya-tzya-tzya-tzya of the cicadas plays a continuo to the night sound symphony. I wait, breathe softly and cast my circle.

I rest my cheek against her rough warm bark. She is humming! I can hear deep down in her trunk, a dark rasping breathing growl. I breathe with her, growling deep in my throat in answer.

A bird flutters busily in a nearby tree. Behind it, I know I can hear the soft velvety paws of Ramona the cat, prowling through the herbs in search of a midnight snack. I wait. The cat waits, the tree waits.

In front of me, at first just a flickering but then gradually growing more and more distinct, a tall fire dances, a fire with swirling red hair and skirts, her arms flung up, palms to the moon as she spins and spirals. I see her behind my closed eyelids but know that she is there in front of me and as I trace the shape she dances in my mind, she is gone.

The hill is a patchwork of browns sloping down into the valley and then up again to the great tall mountains beyond. As I watch, its bareness greens, plants rise, trees stretch up to the blue sky and the land evolves. The earth turns.

Rubbing my cheek against her roughness, I feel a heavy pressure across my chest and stomach, a pressure which; pins my arms, holds my hands in my lap as I sit. She is holding me, pressing me to her. Her touch is gentle but focussed.

Allowing the embrace, I lean closer into her bulk, curl up and rest. I am cradled. I feel her pulse beating steadily through my flesh that touches her tough old flesh and we breathe together, both growling deeply in a wordless song of love and contentment.

A cacophony of yowls hisses and spits rend the air. By the sound of it, the cat has met her match! Something belts crossly across the lawn. Shifting, I feel my kaftan catch on something sticky exuding from the old tree. I touch it, bring its resinous discharge smeared on my fingers up to my nose, smell the slight sharp bitter tang, and taste its sourness.

I climb to my feet. My fingers explore her cracks and hollows, her bulges and curves. Rough hewn by wind and rain for perhaps a thousand years, she submits silently to my loving examination. I want to know her and remember her.

I walk around her, delve into the gaps behind the seats of her skirt. My fingers find a rough piece of bark, a long slim twig, incongruously a large pine cone, and finally a fragment of painted tile. Pocketing these, I edge carefully round her, thanking her for being here, for being the place to which I bring my sorrows, the place in which I dream and connect with the spirits of the land. I ask her to continue to watch over this magical place and provide comfort for those who seek it. And I remember my chosen sister, she who died when I was here and in dying brought me to the trees. It was to this great grandmother olive that I retreated when I first learned of my chosen sister’s death, and from this beautiful old tree that I found strength to go on afterwards.

Bowing, I whisper my thanks to this great old tree and returned, creeping quietly and surreptitiously back to my own room.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The White Hart and the Mother Beech - Highgate Wood

Monday June 9, 2008:

The sun had been shining now for at least three days. It was an auspicious day to go clean my dead chosen sister’s bench and remember her on this the seventh anniversary of her death.

I skulked grumpily beside my mild and calm companion along the tarmac paths, for I was dancing with time panic and anxiety. To compound my gloom about regime change and its effects upon my professional life, my ancient Mum was in hospital after a bad fall. Nothing had been broken but she was bruised and sore. I had seen her the day before, her cheerfulness lighting up the whole room, her irrepressible optimism lifting my heart for those few hours. But now, back at home, I was anxious for her future and her health.

I needed trees, oh how I needed trees! I hoped my dead chosen sister would not mind sharing her day with me and my old Mum whilst I searched for the strength to go on.

We’d cleaned the bench and sat eating cherries and strawberries in our sister’s honour and memory. Now it was time to be with the trees.

Her beech, a great copper beech, tall and skirted in great wooden columns sat waiting for me.

”Help!” I prayed sinking down at her feet. I leaned my aching back against her wooden skirts and became still under the cool green wood's canopy.

Resting, I breathed with the tree, grew quiet, waiting, listening. The wood crunched and rustled, softly shifting as though making itself comfortable, preparatory for an afternoon snooze. Deep in the belly of the tree, I felt the rhythm of her sap moving with the beat of my heart. I breathed, we breathed, we were as one.

From the very roots of the tree, a deep voice growled,
“The trees and I will always be with you, no matter what happens in your life, remember that."

And I became conscious of approaching rustling nearby, a hoof falling softly on the loamy soil, a scrunching of twigs and leaves underfoot.

And there it was - a reflection in silver against the soft brown earth. Miniature white deer, head erect, shimmering in the gloom of the woods stood and watched, proud and graceful.

I blinked. It was gone. Only the leaves, the twigs and the moist rich earth lay still, alone and quiet.

I bowed to the place where it had stood. A blackbird called across the tree tops; in the distance, a dog barked. Scrabbling noises in the nearby undergrowth told me I was not alone. I stroked the skirts of the tree, whispering my thanks to her for her words of wisdom.

Wishing I could wander through the woods, walk under the watchful gaze of the trees, reluctantly, I rose and joined my companion waiting on our sister’s bench.

The wolf and the amber dancer - the great yew of Much Marcle, Herefordshire

Wednesday May 28, 2008:

It had not stopped raining all night. There was no way we were going to prance around the woods. It was time to visit the Great Yew of Much Marcle, where there were proper paths just a short walk from the car and a hollow tree in which to shelter and commune. What could be better on a day like today?

I didn’t even have to duck or squeeze, I just stepped right into the centre of the hollow tree. It was massive, with great brown red columns sweeping up into the heart of the tree above me. According to my companion, the new green fluffy leaves stood out beautifully against the rich red brown of the rough old bark. I stood inside and reached out hands to touch the jagged bark, soft and rough, hard and dry. Large holes in the side of the trunk let in the steadily falling rain. I sat down on the seats, carved from the tree and breathed in the resin, damp, leafy smell of the place.

Inside the tree it was so spacious. To one side in an arched recess was a great hearth with a determined fire dancing beneath the shadow of the huge rough mantel hewn from the very heart of the tree or so it seemed. I moved closer, drawn by the leaping flames, their liquid amber, every shade of red, orange and yellow reflecting upon the red brown walls of the chamber. Warmth embraced me and I reached out my hands in supplication, worshiping the beautiful fire spiralling and curving from its Feri blue base to the golden halo of the tip of each tongue of flame.

And I thought, as I stepped closer and closer, how hot would it be to dance in that fire? And before I could answer myself, I was in the fire and twirling and spinning around, dancing for my life. The joy, the exhilaration, the ecstasy seized my body and danced it into liquid motion, moving every muscle in my body in a fluid wave of love. And I felt no pain, only energy.

I gyrated and turned, leaped and spiralled, the flames becoming me and I them, till I knew not what was the fire and what was me. I melted; the flames melted, transformed into great globs of amber which poured from the fire and pooled on the rough earth floor like liquid marmalade.

The energy left the fire. I grew still, standing in the softly glowing embers. Beyond the heart, a red-orange pool that was the fire was solidifying upon the cool earth floor.

Stepping carefully around it, I knelt and with cautious fingers began to peel it off the floor. It was warm and pliable in my hands. Tenderly, I shaped and pulled it, moved and moulded it, stroking it into a leaf shaped tear shaped pane which I hung before the mantle, through which the dying fire glowed softly.

I knelt down to watch the vivid orange red embers fade to a soft grey, a shadow of their former glory. My heart grew heavy. Beyond the corner of my eye, something moved in the shadows. A dark shape approached and lay down next to me, resting a velvety mussel upon my knee. My fingers touched and stroked the wrinkled softness of the old she-wolf who had come to comfort me. Together, we watched the last of the embers fade into darkness.

In time, it was pitch black. If I stared hard, I could see one tiny shiny red spot, right in the heart of where the fire had been. I reached into the ash and felt for it, carefully stroking away the cinders, I bought forward a perfectly formed leaf shaped, tear shaped piece of amber, iridescent, glowing and still warm to the touch. Bringing it closer to my face, I saw that the face of the old she-wolf had been etched upon it. Gentle in repose, she was the essence of peace and acceptance.

I slipped the amber leaf into my shirt, placing it close to my heart. The she-wolf moved her head upon my thigh, shifted position and slowly got up and began to walk stiffly to the dark recess next to the hearth.

Rain dripped upon my cheek. The seat was damp and rough beneath my bottom. Outside, a crow cawed, a pigeon cooed her answer. I rose and touched the columned roughness of my wooden chamber, reached fingers into damp crevices, brushed sticky cobwebs with gentle hands and stroked tufts of furry yew leaves that seemed to be growing from within. I bowed and thanked the tree for allowing me to be with the spirit of the fire and the old she-wolf and moved back out into the drizzle, my journey back to London and the world.

The MAY Ewe - Croft Castle – Herefordshire

Tuesday May 27, 2008:

After several days of relentless downpour, the rain had finally abated. I’d gone to Herefordshire in spite of the chaos slowly manifesting in my professional life resulting from recent regime change in London. I was pursuing peace in which to decide what on earth to do next! I was grateful therefore to damply squelch across the sodden ground on a humble search for ancient oak trees.

The sky was low but unthreatening, the ground beneath our feet muddy. Climbing over a rain slimed wooden gate, we entered a field of cows. AS we moved through them they turned to follow us, peeing as they walked – a sure sign, so my companion said that they were a bit agitated by our presence.

High on a hill with the dark hedge framed green countryside spread below us; we sat down to appreciate the hawthorn –for it was still that time of year. I smiled to think of the hawthorn’s association with the beginning of summer, for this day was more like a damp autumn day. Still, the vegetation smelled sweet and the hawthorn bush under which I sheltered obligingly scattered raindrops upon my head as though in benediction.
Hidden in the shadows at the edge of the field, I sat and waited. A long time ago, a bright fire danced merrily. It was so hot that my face grew hot and even though I sat on the damp ground, I was warmed through by its great heat. In time, came the dancers, shadows shifting, looming and diminishing, moving faster and faster around the flickering fire. From the dark hawthorn’s shelter, I watched, pleased to be on the margins, appreciative of the energy being raised by the dancers. In time, the dancing stop, the figures merged into the shadows and the fire died down, fading as the dawn light crept into the eastern sky.

The sun was rising behind the hedge. Golden drops glistened on the dew wet leaves. All along the hedgerows, white blossoms trailed a dancing journey. The may had definitely skipped her way across the countryside during the night.

Backlit by the sun’s first rays, she stood against the hedge, her leaf green dress toning softly with the darker green of the leaves. Her hair, white and curled, gilded with gold, was garlanded with pure white blossoms and framed a face shadowed and unknowable. I knew that she was beautiful.

She moved, and came to stand in front of me as I sat under the tree. I looked up and saw a face, not a woman’s after all, but the mild eyed stair of a calm ewe, her silver white hair, her curling fleece, and her curving ewe’s horns peeping out from amongst the crown of May blossoms she wore. Serene and still, she was magnificent. I was transfixed.

Time past. We stared at each other. Thoughts danced in and out of my mind, but I was barely conscious of anything but her. What was she? Who was she? She had a woman’s strong yet feminine body with the face and head of a ewe. She seemed regal with her crown of May and yet humble with those quiet ewe’s eyes and simple ewe’s face.

And as the sun rose higher in the sky and I turned momentarily to follow the sound of a fluting blackbird, she was gone. Across the hill, the breeze danced, catching at the hawthorn bower above my head and I was sprinkled once more with cool raindrops. I reached up and plucked a spray of leaves, pausing to remove the sheep’s wool wrapped around the stem, popping them in my mouth and chewing thoughtfully.

I rose and bowed to the hawthorn, and then to the place where she had been. All hail, the May Ewe, she who skips like a spring lamb across the country, scattering the hedgerows in May blossom, I prayed. She is the herald of summer, the harbinger of the greening time when all is fertile, when everything reaches out to the life giving sun in sheer joy of life. Perhaps one day, I too would feel the sun in my heart again. Then my summer would come skipping along. But right now, I needed to wait, just wait and think.