Monday, November 08, 2010

14 the Ancestors Fire

Saturday November 6, 2010: Kit Hill, Cornwall

I am dancing with the stress of going away for a rest or staying and facing the music at my leisure. I decide to chance it. Grumpily, I charge out of the house and climb into the tardy taxi. The driver tells me to cool. I want to hit her.

As soon as I am on the train, I feel myself relax. I sit back and snooze over a book.

Emboldened by my solo train trip across Europe, I opt to take buses to get me closer to my final destination. I stand on the kern side with an "I'm-catching-a-bus" purposeful look on my face and hope that no one thinks I’m plying my trade. I also hope that the bus stops! It does.

We wind through the Devon and Cornwall countryside, autumnal sun slanting through the windows buffs my cheek warmly. I remember the tall banked hedgerows of this part of the world and imagine their darkness against the light sky, their outlines jagged and somehow primeaeval. I am feeling very happy and sit with an idiotic smile on my face.

Successfully I change buses and arrive at the rendezvous point. My companion and I walk boldly up the busy b road and climb the rough track to her house on the hill.

I am here to make ancestor fire. Over tea and cake, we agree on what we will do. The sun sinks low and casts a pink glow across the gorse and bracken shrouded hill outside. The weather is auspicious.

After dark, three of us gather at the little fire pit at the end of her garden. The fully sighted one (for my other companion who is the guardian of this land is also visually impaired) tells me the stars shine between the clouds. There is no moon for the new moon won't rise for at least another 24 hours.

Expertly (And I am rather proud of this, I lead the building of the fire. We cast a circle and as we do so, the rain begins to fall.

Undaunted, we wrap ourselves in blankets and set to lighting the fire. With songs of fire and general encouragement and a replacement of all the damp kindling, the fire catches and begins to snap and pop.

We settle down beside it, for it has stopped raining and the stars are out again. Wrapped in blankets against the coolness of the night, huddled and still like old crones, we are silent. I listen to the fire and the sound of the hill all around me.

A heavy footfall, something approaches and stops beyond the hawthorn. All is still. Another movement, slower and more hesitant, and I feel warm heaviness leaning against my knee. She wines in the back of her throat as she maneuvers herself under the blanket. The old lady wolf has come to join me. Together, we shelter against the wet night.

I sink into the stillness. Thoughts come and I bat them away. The fire crackles. The wind, firm and determined now puffs the fire into lively action. Gouts of smoke invade the shelter inside my blanket. The wolf and I sit still and enjoy its smell, allowing it to pervade our whole bodies, like being ritually cleansed.

The rain starts again and I draw my blanket close around us. Like two content and companionable old ladies, she and I sit, huddled by our dancing fire, our two companions similarly clad and sitting.

"Stormy weather, weather the storm" I think. “Now what does that mean?”, I wonder silently.

I think about hard times, like 1979, it feels like we are going back. It's time to resist, organizing and fighting back, I think. Oh but do I have the energy, I worry.

In the distance, something shifts in the undergrowth. The presence is benign and I feel easy with it. There will be time in the coming dark to rest and plan.

Is that metaphor of the dark for another reason too? Are we going into the dark politically, setting back the hands of time and marching back to a poorer, angrier place of class resentment and false jealousies?

We talk of what the fire has bought us and the ancestors who have come to share this space with us. Can I make a pyre of my fears and give them to the flames? I don’t know. I am scared for the future.

The wolf leans heavily into my thigh. I stroke her velvety head, feeling the bones beneath the skin and her fragility. At least this time, I’ve got magic. I am older and wiser and not without influence. I am settled in myself and confident. Surely I can find a way to use my skills to feed the opposition? Surely I can use my wits to find another way forward?

Whispering my thanks to the she-wolf, I pull back the blanket and the driving rain bares down coldly. Efficiently, we open the circle, pack up and leave the fire to fizz in the downpour. With some difficulty for the terrain is rough, we return to the warmth and shelter of the house.

Beyond the dark window, out on the hillside, the animals tread the hill. My old wolf walks amongst them, as spirit and earthly horses blow gently to each other in the dark night.

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