Saturday, November 19, 2011

24 Autumn Gratitude

24 Autumn Gratitude
Saturday September 17, 2011:
Walking through the woods, the hard edged noises of traffic moving through
suburban streets are abruptly swallowed by the trees who sing with the
softness of the wind. Acorns rain down from the oak boughs above our heads.
Damp mushroom odours, wind in and out of sharper green smells, misted by the
air into something hinting at autumn. There are not a lot of birds, and as
yet the children and dogs are not in evidence. We miss our way and end up
coming out of the woods and walking down the road.
A small group gather for the ritual. We agree and adapt what we will do to
suit the unexpectedly small numbers of participants.
Sitting back to back on a rug on the still warm earth, I draw strength and
comfort from my neighbour's strong back leaning against mine. The woods are
quiet aside from a small child in a red dress fascinated by our peaceful
circle and whose voice charged with questions pipes clearly through the soft
stillness.


I am small. The rough horned tree sitting before me moves. The Lord of the
wildwood is mellow and benign. He exudes encouragement, reassurance,
steadiness and strength. Breathing the muddy, mushroom, loamy smell of him
edged with something muskily potent, I feel calm. In my hand, the smooth
round acorn is warmly silky. My skin in contact with it, tender.

My mind is in turmoil. My thoughts shove each other out of the way
chaotically. It's hard to articulate what I am searching for; the thing I
feel will help me through the winter into the uncertain times ahead. In the
end I describe it as a desire to throw away the agitation that makes me
overeat. I fling away my acorn and immediately feel better.

Walking into the labyrinth, I turn the notion of how agitation affects my
behaviour. I would not have described myself as an agitated person; I am
often externally commanding and confident. The knowledge that there is an
underlying state of agitation and anxiety is one that is familiar to me.
Purposefully I step forward, weighing, examining that agitation and anxiety,
cast it off for it does not serve my purpose as a whole human being.
It had its purpose once. There was a time when it was the most rational
thing to do, but I don't remember how it came to manifest itself as a useful
behaviour, I only know I don't need it anymore.
Because she is silent, I am unaware that the strikingly fae red clad child
from earlier is walking the labyrinth too. She steps solemnly, deeply
focussed on her own internal process. Her mother watches her incuriously and
with delight.

I arrive at the centre of the labyrinth. I feel almost clear of that
anxiety. I light my candle indicating new beginnings, hope in the darkness
and warmth. I start walking back. On the edge of the labyrinth, I stand,
cupping my hands around the flame for warmth, dancing it with my palms, as
we sing:

"Every step I take is a healing step.
Every step I take is a sacred step.
Healing, healing, healing my body,
healing, healing, healing the land."
We stand in a circle, offer prayers for the dead Welsh miners and their
grieving community, the people of Libya, struggling friends and communities.
All around the wind touches the oak boughs and they cast acorns onto the
earth with cheerful abundance.
Holding hands, slowly, gracefully, thoughtfully, we dance and sing, to turn
the wheel, to wind up the connections we brought to it, to weave the magic
into being. We sing:
"Lady spin your circle bright.
Weave your web of dark and light.
Earth, air, fire and water,
Bind us as one."
Like the air, our circle is soft with gratitude. WE pass juice and fruit,
sharing blessings for the winter to come. We thank the earth for her bounty
and sing Pat-Mary Brown's Gratitude Chant:
"Thank you for the good things in my life.
EARTH AND WATER, SUN AND MOON AND SKY.
ON THIS LAND, HERE I STAND;,
IN GRATITUDE.
FOR A WHILE AFTER THE RITUAL'S ENDING, WE SIT IN THE EVENING SUNSHINE ON A
ROUGH HEWN TREE BENCH. THE WOODS ARE QUIET. ONLY THE SOUND OF THE WIND
RUSSLING THROUGH THE OAK BOUGHS AND THE PITTER-PATTER OF THE FALLING ACORNS
DISTURBS THE PIECE. BUT IT IS TIME TO GO.
MY COMPANION AND I WALK BACK THROUGH THE WOODS. THE SUN SLANTSLOW THROUGH
THE TREES WARMING THE BACK OF MY HEAD. AS WE MOVE DOWN A CURVING PATH, THE
SMALL RED CHILD AND HER MOTHER STEP OUT BEFORE US. THE MOTHER ASKES ABOUT
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LABORYNTH. WE EXPLAIN AND, EXCITED AND CURIOUS, THEY
RUN OFF TO WALK IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

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