Friday, June 13, 2008

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.


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