signs and wonders

The ousel singing in the woods of Cilgwri,
Tirelessly as a stream over the mossed stones,
Is not so old as the toad of Cors Fochno
Who feels the cold skin sagging round his bones.

                       –from R.S. Thomas: ‘The Ancients of the World’

It could only ever be an inward map, impressionistic, unique – we might agree on its outward symbols, but what it maps for each of us is different. It maps the way in; from there, all paths diverge.

It is so much easier to say that than to feel it, sometimes.

Some people venture further than others, or travel more quickly to different points, and what they bring back is enchanting, it sings with the wild soul of the world – which sings within us, also; we are part of it and it is part of us. These are exciting times to be a druid. I want to play my part.

So what am I doing? Why am I still here – why aren’t I there yet?

And if I ask myself openly, the answer comes: because you chose to be here, now. All the choices you have made have led you here. Why should you not be? What you are doing is what you have chosen to do. You are walking your own path.

And if I calm my thoughts, the answer guides me. But on dark days my thoughts are never calm, and I cannot see the map, cannot understand that the map is always within me, the map is everything I am, and cannot be lost (though sometimes I lose it).

This is a dark day, and I am standing surrounded by the rubble of myself, struggling to recognise it for the rich and beautiful tapestry it is: struggling to see the map. This is where I need to thank my friends and fellow travellers for pointing me to signs. Yesterday, a hard nut fell into the palm of a visionary friend; a problem. It took a crow’s cunning, and adaptability, to crack it. Today, I remembered something I had long forgotten: a nut-sized nugget of iron that was once a smith’s anvil, worn down over ages by the ousel of Cilgwri. Cilgwri, the place that has become my home. The ousel, the bird that once sang words of pure inspiration to me by the well; words that led me inwards and began this journey. Iron, the smith’s anvil, where I rekindled my spirit and learned the craft of my ancestors.  And the nut, which is both nourishment and a seed seeking to root itself.

I am here because I choose to be here, now.

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7 thoughts on “signs and wonders

  1. I try to think of rubble as an opportunity. Granted, when things are falling down around me and breaking open, it never feels like an opportunity, it feels like unrelenting, miserable shit, but once over the shock, and able to poke the exposed archaeology of self a bit, new things become apparent, new building becomes possible… coping and surviving are good short term responses, and I have put myself back together so many times just to break again, and I have no idea what that means, but there we go. More to explore, probably…

    • I have a perverse love of rubble – knowing that things are as bad as they can get is strangely heartening, even when it’s awful. Learning not to reduce everything to rubble when I feel I can’t trust it all is something I have struggled with in the past; this seems to be a long, drawn-out period of unlearning habits which might have got me through some difficult times but have become destructive now that things are easier. And… delving a little deeper into the philosophy of it all… there’s the you (or the me) that breaks, and the you that puts yourself together again; I wonder what that means. That relationship, between the breaking self and the mending self, is so important, but I still haven’t probed it very deeply. Perhaps I’ve been afraid that I could scare the magic of it away by analyzing. Hmm. More things to think about :) I hope you’re doing ok, your recent blogging has been hugely inspiring in reminding me that it’s ok to break and mend, without having to hide it all. I put so much energy into hiding it.

  2. The blackbirds are singing loudly at the moment!

    I think that too often we compare ourselves to others, spend too long on dwelling on what might have been. Not realising, as your inner knowing speaks, we’re meant to be where are with the insights we’ve gained. Often hard won. Frequently doubted. Sometimes the map’s more like a crumbling labyrinth… but therein perhaps lies its magic?

    • Very true – and finding the right perspective is often the trick, I think. Feeling awestruck by the work of others *can* engender feelings of insignificance and comparative failure, but it can also illuminate the parts of our own paths where the awen flows. My response to your book, for example, was mostly one of awe and wonder – and gratitude, even, that the craft of the bard can still re-enchant the land (I will get round to writing a review one of these days!). When I found myself wishing, slightly wistfully, that I could find such an absorbing and rewarding path to walk, I was flooded with the realisation that I already *am* on my own path. Though I still sometimes struggle to see it for what it is, I am finding my way, inspired and guided by the works of others. The trick is to keep walking…

      Sorry for the late reply, by the way! I… er… accidentally locked myself out of my wordpress account.

      • I think we all have in our inadequacies and guilty spots. Whilst I’m very proud of Enchanting the Shadowlands and feel I’ve done a good job helping develop the local poetry scene at a grass roots level I’ve suddenly realised this has been at the cost of not being as involved as I should in movements to oppose the new road networks and developments being put in place by the City Deal and fracking… so feeling pretty awful about that now… I was more politically engaged when I was part of a local transitions movement a couple of years ago but dropped out due to disillusionment and have been doing my own thing pretty much since… the book finished my inner knowing is I must stand up for the land its come from… I feel bad about jumping on the bandwagon at this late date. Whereas I know you’re involved with your local green party etc. so it’s swings and roundabouts!

      • But think of how much would not be done if you were not doing it – even the smallest thing makes a difference (she says… do as I do, not as I say :) ). And your poetry is part of the whole effort, because without re-enchanting our relationship with the land, how could we work in its interests? The work of the Awenydd is political, even if only obliquely – and can be directly political in works like ‘The Litany of the Meadows’. There is nothing shallow or bandwagon-ish about doing something you feel is right (another idea I struggle with myself, but have no problem telling other people!).

        The biggest problem for me, I think, is feeling pulled in so many directions that I am not committing fully to any of them, and end up accomplishing little bits of nothing instead of whole bits of something. I worry that committing to becoming an archivist will take me away from my druid path, even though the skills I gain will ultimately be something I can use in the service of the land and its ancestors, and thereby also in the service of my gods. As for politics… I reached the ‘disillusionment’ part of the cycle a few days ago, but seem to be re-engaging again now. I think I am always going to have one foot in that world, no matter how much my tendency towards mysticism pulls me away in the other direction! Though most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing…

  3. The pull and push of conflicting desires, wants, hopes, needs these all throw up barriers in our way. Maybe that you perceive rubble is a good thing, ultimately. It may mean that with the wall down there is the opportunity to scrabble to the top of it for a better view. I know the feeling of having one foot in each world as you say, of walking the boundary place, of walking the curtain wall of the castle I built to protect myself. The challenge of where and when and how to commit to a path or a cause will always be there, I think. When I come to that place I think of what my African -American preaching professor of blessed memory said: Live with holy boldness. I have found when I look there are pathways back and forth between the places of various and conflicting pulls and tuggings. But they are not aways visible until they are needed. This is also a response late in arriving and therefore well passed it sell-by date.

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