A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Sunday, January 17, 2010

36 In my father’s line

Sunday January 17, 2010:

Three years ago today, my father died. At 10:30am, the time of his passing, I light a candle and set up sacred space. Here I sit all day and write. Words flow, crafted sweet words, not over frilly but just right. I revel in my enjoyment of my word craft.

Night falls. I go out into the garden and sit down where I always sit when I want to connect or to journey. In the road, the occasional car hisses by. High up on the Parkland Walk, a small child converses with an adult as she walks along. A plain grumbles overhead and is gone.

Last night at this time, I heard an owl. I am half hoping to hear one again. I wait but the skies are empty of birds right now. Perhaps it is too early. Perhaps the owl has something better to do. Perhaps I don’t need him right now.

Here on the anniversary of my father’s death I sit and remember. I ask to know what wisdom my father’s line might bring me. I ask to know something of benefit to me, something of healing to me perhaps, something that will help settle my connection with my father and the male line of the family in some way.

Only the little egg rattle’s swishing can be heard, dancing with the sound of the tiny frosty wind touching my cheek. I breathe and smell the odour of damp old clothes, something musty, slightly unpleasant yet familiar. I rattle on, listening to the soft voice of the egg in the quiet garden.

I walk briskly uphill through the woods. The terrain is rough and I am surprised that I am really quite sure footed. The dog rubs her soft honey coloured flank warmly against me as I move. Together we place foot and paw on the uncertain path.

We reach the crest of the hill and stand amongst the trees looking down. The wood continues and we descend. For a moment, I fear I will fall but the dog places herself in such a way to best guide my feet. I allow her to lead me down.

We walk through the woods. I see a fire dancing between the trees and stand on the edge of a clearing. I see a group of figures sitting around a fire. I recognise them, but this is not my destination. I walk on.

The woods stretch on for a long way. In time, we emerge and are on a frosty snowy cliff top. The black cliff falls sheer to the wild fermenting sea. It dashes and tosses itself frenziedly on the jagged dark rocks below. Beyond, the water is grey and tormented as far as the eye can see.

There is a small boat. We climb aboard and are Bourne away on the frantic sea. The land behind us disappears. The ocean spreads out on all sides. The dog and I huddle in the boat. In time, hours, days, weeks later, the horizon becomes dark with land.

We float through the open mouth of a wide river, through a sprawling settlement and out the other side. The river snakes through the plain and begins to rise as it grows smaller. In time, we can no longer use the boat. We get out and begin to climb along beside the small stream.

We climb through mountains. Down in the valley bottom spreads wide green pastures, with another river winding through it. We follow the water until it is lost as a spring amongst the rocks of other mountains.

Beyond, in a great flat plain lies a huge circle of stones. Inside is another and as we approach, inside that, a cairn or burial chamber.

The dog leads me forward and I follow her, scrambling on my hands and knees into the burial chamber. Inside it is warm and dark. The floor is covered with thick skins. I lie down with the dog and we sleep.

I dream. I dream I spin and weave tales. I sing songs, tell stories, use words to persuade and encourage. My tongue is silver with the beauty of my words.

I walk through the ages and I am a story teller, a minstrel, a singer, a convincer, a spinner and weaver of words. And it is so easy. It is my birth right, the gift from my father’s line. I talk, I sing, I persuade and in time I write.

The soft warm touch of a low golden beam of light wakes me as sunshine pierces the dark chamber. A memory stirs and I know that it is the winter solstice and this is the sun’s return come to wake the year.

We climb from the burial chamber out onto a winter scene. Virginal snow lies on the ground; Snow covers the tops of all the dark standing stones. Snow crowns the mountains and bows the trees on their foothills.

But we must go home. The journey is long. Still, we walk on through the mountains, the green pastures and then more mountains. We follow a dribble of a spring as it widens and becomes the great river making its way to the sea. We float through the sprawling settlement and out of the river’s wide mouth. The great grey sea rears and falls eagerly but bears us safely back to the jagged dark rocks below the lowering black cliff. Our path through the woods feels easier. We pass the fathers gathered by their fire. We strike through the trees and before it seems possible, arrive back in the garden beyond the fence.

I am sitting amongst the castor oil plant. My hands are cold. The dog is gone. Momentarily I feel bereft then remember I don’t have need of a dog in this part of my life. Still, I blow a kiss towards the trees and bow to them. Is that the sound of a vigorously wagging tail whacking undergrowth I can hear amongst the trees or is it the hum of the Sunday city?

“Woof-woof”, I bark playfully, getting up to go indoors.

35 Snow song and the snow Robin
Wednesday January 13, 2010:

For a month now, a Siberian wind Marauds across the land. From time to time, it loses interest and sends a wet westerly instead. Rain falls as snow blanketing the city. With every new fall, the world is shrouded again in silence. Each settles on the half melted fall before. As night comes, it freezes into a lethal glacial icing, defiantly loosening the step of even the steadiest gait.

I lurk indoors, snarling and growling. The local Council has more or less cleared the bus routes, but there is no way to get to the bus stop, so thick and treacherous has the ice become. I am imprisoned. Twice, hope rises along with the temperature and a fall of snow-obliterating rain, only to be dashed again as the silent softness once more descends.

I am grateful therefore for my garden. Each day, I listen to the silence. Snow clogged roads mean that there are very few cars. People stay indoors, unless forced to go out to work, to get supplies or occasionally to play.

I walk carefully around the garden, meeting the snow cautiously with my boots. As I walk, I listen to its various voices as it speaks beneath my feet.

“Hah” sighs the newly fallen snow, breathing softly as it submits to my weight. Here is the loving snow flake fallen to earth to become a gentle carpet.

“Err-eek”, squeaks the frost rhinded snow as I move. At first it is unyielding and I think for a moment it might even hold my weight until protestingly, it subsides like the shell of a meringue, crunching dryly as it caves in.

“Crick-crack” snaps the ice-shaded globules of frozen hard snow, chattering beneath me as I step cautiously. I hear it splinter and imagine bright rainbow shards scattering before me.

“Slurp-squelch” sucks the slush greedily. It slides away guiltily, pushing out from under my feet to leave my footprints smeared, blurred and distended as though the abominable snowman himself has passed this way.

But silent is the black ice as it whips my feet from under me. Frantically, I wave my arms in a semaphore of falling as the treacherous smoothness topples me.

The snow is cradled by the shrubs. They bend under their Burdon. It lies frothily across the leaves of the evergreens. Starkly it outlines the twigs and branches like white knobby bones. The paths are obstructed by the stooping hunched bushes. I squeeze past, and as I move, the plants gratefully give up their Burdon as though it were a gift and I, their carefully chosen recipient.

Surreptitiously they drop gobbets of snow into my pockets. Tenderly, they let fall soft cold icy kisses of snow down the back of my neck. They even bend and reach for the warm inside of my boots and dribble their offerings coolly down into my socks. In silence they proffer and deliver their gifts and I feel winter against my warm skin. I shiver but am also glad to be reminded of the season for a cosy gas fire is only moments away.

The birds cluster about the squirrel-proof feeder and chatter. Above in the snow-filled sky, crows caw and their cousins the magpies rattle. High in the ash tree, the robin sings out his merry song. I imagine him, red-breasted against the white snow incrusted branches; beak opened every bid like the image on the traditional Christmas card. He sings out in the quiet winter air and I know he knows he is beautiful.

I turn towards him, wrapped in the song. Confined to barracks I might be, but at least I have the garden and the birds and especially that lovely cheerful singing robin. It is a week past Twelfth night. Yet I cannot bear to take down my Christmas tree. Somehow, until the snow goes, it doesn’t feel right.

Other snow watchers tell me that the snow reveals who has been in the garden. I imagine the snow is scattered with bird prints, dark against the pale like a carefully printed fabric. Amongst them the larger paws of the cat, squirrel and even perhaps the fox may be seen. As delicate as a pen and ink drawing, the black on white is over washed in blue, green, purple, rosy pink and warm orange under the icy white as the changing light of the day effects it.

I reach down to touch my garden alter. It is domed in soft snow, shielded and shelled by ice. I plunge warm fingers in and feel the snow submit then slide away as my body temperature melts it. Hiding underneath, the things on my alter are stuck fast to the log with the fierce grip of the ice.

I bow to the singing robin, stroke a snow edged branch of the rowan tree and make my way carefully indoors. I long for the snow to go so I may be free. yet, this confinement, and this standstill just as the year has turned, this contemplation of the possibility that the light is returning, has allowed me to go within myself, a place I’m still not quite ready to emerge from.

“Thank you Holder, snow queen of the white days,” I whisper as I close the garden door.

Friday, January 01, 2010

34 The Temple of the birds - Finsbury Park

Thursday December 31, 2009:

Just before midnight, I sneak out into the garden. I lower myself carefully into my sitting place amongst the castor oil plant. From here, I feel invisible.

The sky is already crashing and crackling with anticipatory fireworks. They are far enough away not to be bothersome.

“Dad, it’s nearly time!” wheedles a young boy from a few houses down. Soon his father is in the garden, issuing instructions. My heart sinks.

Effervescently, the air fizzes and hisses. Shortly followed by a series of seemingly random bangs, growing ever louder, the relative peace of the neighborhood is rocked.

“Harrumph!” I mutter darkly as I get up and stump in doors. “Next year,” I say, slamming it rather petulantly, “I’m going to go somewhere out of town where bloody jollity can’t find me!”

Friday January 1, 2010:

Morning comes. I take a cupper into the garden to greet the day. The dew has frozen on the leaves. They are stiff with frost rind. My warm curious finger dislodges a thin sheet, which melts in my palm. Icy shards crackle underfoot as I walk.

Peace reins. I sit down in my usual place and am still. The houses slumber behind their closed curtains, like a sleeper with eyes tight shut determinedly denying the dawn. I have the world to myself!

The robin sings in the apple tree. Beyond the fence, the pigeon coos comfortingly. A magpie rattles irritably and a crow caws high up in the sky. I hear blue tits chattering and behind them, the almost soundless tread of a creeping cat.

The undergrowth hisses and rasps softly as something pushes its way through. I can almost hear the tinkle of breaking ice, falling from the shaken leaves and disturbed bare twigs.

All around beings stand and watch or move quietly. I am surrounded and I sit and enjoy the feeling of being observed. I nod my head at them and listen to how a larger shadow shifts, approaches and then is still.

“Tic-purr, Tic-purr, Tic-purr” sings an unknown bird from near the tall hawthorn.

“What on earth is that?” I wonder, listening hard to the strangeness of the song. Behind it, the wind brings the sound of the geese in the park. They are hooting and babbling, quarrelsome as usual.

“What is it that I will do when I grow up?” I ask of no one in particular. It being a new year, it seems right to reflect right now on that question, especially given the uncertainties that a General Election will bring to my career.

The eagle offers his broad wings. I climb upon him and we soar above the earth, see ourselves reflected most beautifully in great sheets of water. Here, I find a world described in words, my words, carved beautifully in multi-dimensions, painted lovingly in colors that sing gladly in the heart, told cheerfully in songs that everyone knows the chorus of.

The dove dances in the fire. Her tail fanned out, her breast succulently plump. But she is not harmed. It is almost as though she and the fire belong together. Passion and love combine, I think as the flames dance about her. That fits. And this year too, I will journey with fire, I remember.

Bobbing up and down on the water, the duck quacks comically and I laugh and join in. There is really nothing else to do but stick ones bottom up and hunt for food. Amongst the rocks, a tall gaunt crane stands watching. The sun sets behind him. His shadow is austere and the warm glow. So there will be joy and contradictions. I hope I will learn from them.

The owl is silent on his tree stump. Serene and still, he looks harmless but his beak and talons are efficient at catching and dispatching his prey. In the dark of the night I can rest. In stillness, I can be with me, gladly. Doing nothing purposefully is as good as unfocussed frenzied busyness. I am not afraid of the dark for “When the owl hoots, expect a bright ‘morrow”

Wings beat vigorously against the bare branches. Softly, the “thwo-thwo-thwo-thwo-thwo-thwo” of their wings soothes and comforts me.

High up on the Parkland Walk, a large dog barks. Peremptorily, his owner calls him to heal. In the house next door, the washing machine begins to whine.

I commence the rest of my morning circle. As I stand in the mountain pose at the beginning of the “Ha Prayer”, the sun gently touches my cheek. And I think about the dragon from the blue moon eclipse working last night.

“This year,” I say to no one, “like the dragon in the blue moon, I will lick out fear and loathing and breath in love. That’s what I’ll do when I grow up!”I walk back round the temple of the birds and place my hand on each in thanks and farewell. “And this year too,” I say to the birds, “I will dedicate this space to you.”

33 The dragon in the blue moon – Finsbury Park

Thursday December31, 2009:

I’m feeling frustrated. My arrangements for New Year’s Eve have been sabotaged by adverse weather conditions in the West. My plan to be amongst trees as the calendar year rolls into 2010 is no more. I feel caged and confined. I long to stride the hills, to step carefully through the woods, to dance along the cliff tops, to be anywhere but here, confined by walls, fences and people. But the weather has decided that I’m not going to be set free this night now and I’m growling!

But it is a blue moon! My companion and I sit drinking tea and discussing what we will do to work with it. Even more significantly, it is also a partial Luna eclipse; a moment in time when the earth gets in the way of the sun as the moon passes and thus is obscured. On this occasion the earth’s shadow will fall across its most southerly edge

In the past, people have feared eclipses; in ancient Mesopotamia they used to think the great dragon Tiamat was eating the moon. We talk of how we can use this to do a working to challenge homophobia across the world. We think about the places where homosexuality is punishable by death. We think also of the internalized homophobia that blights LGBT people’s lives too.

Homophobia is often fuelled by fundamentalist interpretations of religions. When partnered with fear of difference, the other, the strange, it is often lethal.

We think about what we could do to change this. We need to lead people from fear and loathing, to compassion and tolerance and eventually to acceptance, respect and honoring. We decide to work from the place of anger into the place of noticing and getting used to difference and other, as represented by the partial Luna eclipse.

It is surprisingly quiet out in the garden. It’s not as cold as my companion feared. She tells me that the moon is partially obscured by thin cloud but that the cloud is moving and from time to time the moon beams down upon us from the east above the trees.

We enter the temple part of my garden, the area guarded by the eagle of the East, the dove of the South, the duck of the West and the owl of the North. All are invited to join our working. We settle to begin our work.

Post menopausal women are great growlers. My companion who has a deep rich chocolaty contralto voice growls most marvelously. I am encouraged by her excellent example to connect with the trapped frustration I feel and to begin to growl too. My throat shakes and I grumble deep in my chest. I snarl and scowl, snap my lips and grind my teeth. I grimace hideously, feeling my skin stretching across the fine bones of my face. It feels good so I do it some more.

I prance from foot to foot, like prowling on the spot. I stamp my feet. My hands claw-like, pawing the air malevolently as I begin to enjoy the truly nasty noises I am making.

My great wings spread out over the spinning land below. I wheel across the land as it spins beneath me. I can see my shadow darkening the earth for the moon is shining brightly behind me. I know I look scary and I like that!

Their eyes are white with fear. I swoop down and land upon their chests, one by one. I drink from their hearts. I drink up all their fear and loathing. I feast until I am filled by their fear and loathing. I roar with anger and my roar shakes the earth.

And as I suck out all their hatred from their hearts, I breathe my hot breath into the space left behind. I warm their hearts, Breathing and breathing until I am breathless and can roar no more.

When I am done, I spread my great wings and fly up towards the silver disk that is the moon sailing through the dark sky above me. I fly with the moon as she moves, my great dark body shadowing part of her southern face. We sail together towards the west.

Down below, the people stair up. They see the moon looking different and because their hearts are empty of fear and loathing, they love her because of her difference. Now, they realise is the time to celebrate her when she has an unusual face.

I lie with the moon like a lover. I am sated. My great body relaxes and I sleep, my heavy head resting on the roundness of her.

I know what I have done and I am satisfied. In breathing the hot fiery breath into their hearts, I have breathed in love to replace the fear and loathing that I licked out. So if they accept and learn to love the moon with this unusual face, can they come to accept those who live amongst them who are different, are strange, and are other?

My companion begins to sing to the moon. I join in. We croon along gently, like singing a lullaby. Soon we find words of comfort to sing, words of endurance, of gathering strength and of celebration.

The moon shines down, her lower right side shadowed slightly at the edge. I imagine her imperfect face and I love her for that difference. I think about the other moon gazers, watching her from across Europe and Africa and hope they are loving her beauty in her difference too.

Our work is done. We bow to the moon and thank the northern owl, the Western duck, the southern dove and eastern eagle. We thank too, the great dragon sleeping on the breast of the moon. Soon she will slip away into the dark night again to continue her work of feasting on fear and loathing and leaving behind love.