Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The totem guards

Tuesday February 17, 2009:

A blackbird sings loudly. His call, a tumble of fluting notes, astonishingly loud in the early morning garden. I blow him a kiss and I move down the path towards the dear hornbeam tree.

Cool ivy leaves flutter under my tenderly stroking fingers. I reach round and clasp the trunk in an urgent hug. Today is this dear tree’s final day as a tree.

I lean my cheek against its rough bark. “Dear tree, I am sorry”, I whisper, “I am so sorry.” Only a few hours now to go. What can I do to support the tree now that it is about to die?

The path leads down between overhanging bushes, their leaves damp and cool, misted with dew. I push through them gently and edge my way down. All around is green, a riot of shrubs, great trees rising from beyond them into the dawn sky. A gently woody sweet perfume pervades the air, laced with a rich moiste loamyness. Everything here is so very much alive.

Here I am in a dark leafy dell, sheltered by the branches of trees meeting overhead. I edge my way down to a scattering of rough hewn stones and the darkness beyond them. A Fogou lies behind a curtain of ivy. I stoop low and make my way in.

It is warm and dark in here. I breathe deeply, savouring that distinctive Fogou smell that damp slightly mildew earthy aroma, so familiar and so evocative. The soil beneath me is soft. I subside down onto the ground, leaning my back against an earthy bank and wait.

“What can I give the hornbeam tree on this it’s last day?” I ask of no one in particular. I wait.

The darkness oranges, flickers warmly and I see the reflection of a dancing fire on the packed earth wall before me. I turn and, there is a vibrant little fire burning brightly in a great square hearth, which seems to have been hewn from the Fogou wall. Before it, lays the she-wolf. AS though hearing me – though I have said nothing, she turns, pointing her mussel at me and makes that soft whining noise in her throat that makes me want to cry and to hug her all at once. And then she is with me, leaning her heavy head upon my thigh.

We sit and wait. The light from the doorway darkens and I know something is outside but is reluctant to come in. I touch the she-wolf’s head and we rise and move out into the relative light of the dell beyond. A great bear sits by the doorway and I crawl over and sit down beside her, the wolf following.

A shrub shakes and I hear a snuffle. The snout, eyes and then whole head of the wild boar emerges, then moves slowly over to join us. Above me, a goat bleats and I turn to see her standing precariously on the top of the Fogou. I smile and she leaps down and joins us. Adder slides out from under a pile of rocks, a blackbird begins to sing loudly on the tree by the Fogou’s entrance. a raven’s guarg-guarg joins the cacophony as it struts into the dell. My power animals have come to join me!

And then I know what I must do. I need to bring all my allies to be with the hornbeam tree today, to sit with it till the time comes for him to be destroyed. I get up and lead the animals back to the tree, stand before and call the garden animals to come join in the vigil.

A blackbird is certainly giving it some welly in the tree a couple of gardens down. On the other side, a robin is chirruping at a nonchalantly cooing wood pigeon. The fence rattles and creaks under the weight of the cat. The squirrel pelts along on the other side, keeping his distance from the prowling mog.

“Come animals of the garden, birds of the sky, the creeping crawling things of the earth, come! Come allies of my path, totems of my life with the goddess, come! Come and be with this tree until it is no more. Come and be with me in my pain and sadness. Help me bare what must be done. Help this tree now”

I breathe and stroke the tree. Reach into my pocket and find the container of seeds. I pour it over the alter and on the ground around the tree. Then I kiss the tree tenderly and leave.

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