Sunday, June 29, 2008

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.


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