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Black Elk

Hal Borland on Autumn

September 18th, 2017

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.

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The hush comes with the deepening of Autumn; but it comes gradually. Our ears are attuned to it, day by quieter day. But even now, if one awakens in the deep darkness of the small hours, one can hear it, a foretaste of Winter silence. It’s a little painful now, and a little lonely because it is so strange.

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Essentially, autumn is the quiet completion of spring and summer. Spring was all eagerness and beginnings, summer was growth and flowering. Autumn is the achievement summarized, the harvested grain, the ripened apple, the grape in the wine press. Autumn is the bright leaf in the woodland, the opened husk on the bittersweet berry, the fruit of asters at the roadside.

*

Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of completion; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with Autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the substance of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?

~ Hal Borland

The Bookstall

September 16th, 2017

The Bookstall

Just looking at them
I grow greedy, as if they were
freshly baked loaves
waiting on their shelves
to be broken open—that one
and that—and I make my choice
in a mood of exalted luck,
browsing among them
like a cow in sweetest pasture.

For life is continuous
as long as they wait
to be read—these inked paths
opening into the future, page
after page, every book
its own receding horizon.
And I hold them, one in each hand,
a curious ballast weighting me
here to the earth.

~ Linda Pastan

The Miracle…

September 15th, 2017

The Miracle often lies outside our comfort zone. ~ Marianne Williamson

The Lark of Leith Hill

September 13th, 2017

Philippa Reed and Chris Maxfield explain a little about their song:

It was was written as a plea to protect Leith Hill in Surrey – a designated area of outstanding natural beauty – from fracking. The ‘lark’ of the song is a nod to composer Vaughan Williams who lived at the nearby Leith Hill Place. 

Philippa explains,

I feel passionately about this cause, not least because I have spent many an hour inspired by the Awen flowing through the area of Leith Hill. The idea for this song’s title came to me when visiting the home of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at Leith Hill Place.

As I was hearing his beautiful music pour out from one of the speakers at the top room of the house, I looked out to the garden and spotted a lone tree in the distance that I couldn’t take my eyes off. I decided to go outside and walk to the field where this tree was. As I approached I saw it was an oak tree that had at some time been struck by lightning. There was a large hole in the trunk, in the shape of a ‘keyhole’!

I kept returning to that oak tree during the following weeks, so drawn to it, and instinctively felt it had some kind of wisdom or message to share with me. I didn’t know at that time that Europa Oil & Gas had been given permission for an exploratory drill just over the road in Bury Hill Wood… I did keep thinking of a musical ‘key’ when I saw the hole in the oak tree, so perhaps that was its message; to use music to give voice to the land which cannot speak for itself.

And here is Philippa and Chris perfoming the song and a transcript of the lyrics.

For more information on anti-fracking groups:
http://www.voiceforleithhill.co.uk
http://surreyprotectors.com
http://www.warriorscall.org
www.facebook.com/groups/frackfreesurrey/
www.facebook.com/groups/LeithHillCamp/

The Lark of Leith Hill ascends at dawn
As a magical Surrey Hills day is born
Ribbons of mist adorn the fields
Of pheasant, fairy, fox and fawn

And over the Tower the Lark flies free
To beauty as far as the eye can see
Rhododendrons and lightning Oaks
The Greenman’s home blooms a symphony

The Lark at dusk descends to rest
But a sorrow weighs heavy upon his breast
A shadow is hanging over the land
And a tremor of terror lies under his nest

And is his future marred
From a land disfigured and scarred?
The earth she will bleed as she blackens from greed
So how can we look on from afar?

Our voices we’ll raise to hold back the rain
Of those who try to bury our pain
And so for the Lark of Leith Hill we’ll sing
For Bury Hill Wood and Coldharbour Lane
For Bury Hill Wood and Coldharbour Lane

~ Words & Music Copyright Reed Maxfield 2017 Vocals & Bowed Psaltery – Philippa Reed Guitar – Chris Maxfield

The Sight of a Soul

September 8th, 2017
One of the marvels of the world
is the sight of a soul sitting in prison
with the key in its hand.
Covered with dust,
with a cleansing waterfall an inch away.
A young man rolls from side to side,
though the bed is comfortable
and a pillow holds his head.
He has a living master, yet he wants more,
and there is more.
If a prisoner had not lived outside,
he would not detest the dungeon.
Desiring knows there is a satisfaction
beyond this. Straying maps the path.
A secret freedom opens
through a crevice you can barely see.
The awareness a wine drinker wants
cannot be tasted in wine, but that failure
brings his deep thirst closer.
~ Rumi

Fire & Ice, Drifting Continents and the Problem of Greed

September 6th, 2017

The unusual hat of the King of Atlantis – from a sculpture by Einar Jonsson

Stephanie and I have just left Iceland, having spent four days there. I gave a talk at the Theosophical Society in Reykjavik, and we took the opportunity to explore the city and countryside.

America and Europe slide apart, a sense of impermanence takes hold, and the alchemical opposition of fire and ice hints at the potential for transformation in this land of volcanic rubble, glowering skies and very expensive everything.

There are only 350,000 souls on this island that sits atop two tectonic plates, the American and Eurasian, moving a few millimetres a year away from each other, and I made the mistake of reading an article on the plane entitled ‘Volcanic Apocalypse Now – the ever present risk of death’. In 1789 a volcanic eruption on the island killed 25% of the population, and apparently at any moment ‘it is an inevitability that a similar event will occur.’ Oh great! But it does force you to adopt an Eckhart Tolle-like focus on the Now. One of the reasons we are in a mess is because we cling to the illusion of permanence, so to be reminded that in reality we are only here by ‘the grace of the gods’ is perhaps good for the soul. A visit to a hospital can have the same effect: sad but salutary – tempering any sense of omnipotent invulnerability that might be lurking in the ego.

But as well as that part-scarey, part-exhilirating frisson of danger that accompanies a visit if you know the facts, there is something else going on. Spiritual teachings throughout the ages have talked about the power of bringing opposites together. Daoism, Tantra, and Alchemy all encourage a contemplation of opposing forces, and here in Iceland fire and ice live perilously side by side. No wonder a belief in Otherworldy beings is so prevalent. An OBOD member from the US happened to be in town at the same time, and when we met at the Theosophical Society he explained that he and his wife had just come from a seminar on Elves. The country’s most renowned landscape painter, Johannes Kjarval, peoples his images with hints of faces and figures of Otherworldly beings. See how many you can spot in his pictures here:

The. Work of Johannes Kjarval

Everyone, it seems, was a Theosophist or a Mason (a massive lodge is in the centre of the city) and beside the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja church, home to a font carved from a single huge crystal, stands the home and studio, and now museum, of Theosophist sculptor Einar Jonsson whose work is shot through with esoteric symbolism, unsettling resonances with Fascist art and the sentimentality of Victorian funerary sculpture, but also a powerful sense  of life and death and the sheer force of the elements. Look at his ‘Earth’ sculpture for instance:

‘Earth’ by Einar Jonsson

And since you’ve seen the splendid mane and pyramid crown of the King of Atlantis, here he is viewed from the front:

Einar Jonsson’s ‘King of Atlantis’

Iceland is unique – strangely stirring, even unsettling. The ‘Hermit Island’, as it’s been called, almost seems to mock its latest source of income – the stopover tourists who fill the sightseeing buses and the bars and restaurants of downtown Reykjavik. Everyone we spoke to told the same story: the situation is unsustainable. It’s a once in a lifetime destination. The majority of visitors will never return, because the tourists are being fleeced with meals at £100 and a two hour trip to see whales or puffins £100 too. The shadow cast by Airbnb means blocks of apartments are built, not to house citizens, but to rent out on Airbnb, while the contingent of many thousands of mainly Polish workers who service the ‘hospitality’ industry are forced to pay sky-high rents or even sleep in tents.

But when you live in a land so volatile, when the reality of impermanence is so present, why not take advantage of whatever comes your way? So runs the thinking, no doubt, of the few fat cats who are milking the situation, but everyone knows it’s wrong. Psychology departments around the world should be prioritising research into the question we most urgently need to solve: Why are humans so greedy? Why does wealth, generally, breed the desire for more wealth rather than the desire to be a force for good in the world?

Despite the exploitation, though, there is a beauty here in this land, and an extraordinary history. In the darkness of its nights the Northern Lights can be seen, and rather like this single block of polished crystal in the Hallgrimskirkja, this place is hard and yet strangely transparent. The ancestors gather… and the time I felt most in tune with the audience during my talk, was when I spoke of Samhain, and how as Druids we honour the Departed.

The. Crystal font in Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland

Bringing the Dark Mother into the Light

September 5th, 2017

Another Fabulous Retreat from Wild Women Retreats

Wild Women’s AUTUMN GATHERING: ‘Bringing the Dark Mother into the Light’

Saturday 11 November 2017 | 10-5pm
The Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury  £40 per ticket

This November… as the skies darken and the falling leaves and bitter winds of Samhain blow under our hems and hearths, come join the women of Wild Women Retreats and call the lightening to your fingers. For we are going to delve into our own darkness; to acknowledge our shadow, step into the underworld for a moment in sacred space and time; to dance the void and raise the awareness that ALL is balance. So we can emerge re-energised. To sing her song, drum her heartbeat, honour her existence and shine.

We can promise you a beautiful, warm welcome, a chance for friendship, fun and laughter and a full programme of inspiration. Our guest speaker will be Anija Hutten, a feminist historian who will be inviting us to explore the dark side of the divine feminine.

So join the women of the Wild Women’s Retreat for a day of deep connection, powerful magic and jubilant celebration…

Contact Natalie Green at info@wildwomenretreats.co.uk  to book.

Spiritual Stasis and the Void of Becoming

September 1st, 2017

Butterfly Wing Detail

A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…

Anyone who has followed a spiritual path for some years will know that at points along the path we can find ourselves in a place of stasis. All those techniques and practices that we once found inspiring can suddenly lose their luster; what once made perfect sense can now feel a little meaningless. It can be a deeply frustrating state but one that I have come to believe is all part of the spiritual journey and offers its own special lessons for our growth.

These strange pauses can range in intensity from a mild ennui to a life-changing dark night of the soul; it is a time when we cannot force a shift; try as we might, the lethargy takes root, the colours fade and we wonder whatever happened to the magical connection we once felt.

If you find yourself in this place of uncomfortable spiritual suspension, do not lose hope (even though losing hope is often a symptom of this condition!). The torpor, as excruciating as it can be, gives us an opportunity to examine our relationship with the notions of patience, surrender and trust.  We have, in effect, entered the chrysalis, and no amount of wriggling will release us until that inner transformation is complete. Just as the caterpillar completely dissolves into a gloopy mass before reshaping itself into a butterfly, our sense of ourselves becomes a kind of psychic soup, worked upon by mysterious alchemical forces within us.

So often, we associate times of transition with a good deal of external movement and change but this is only one part of the process. I have found in my own life that momentous external changes – both self-created and that of circumstance – have often been followed by a spiritual slump. It is funny how humans become obsessed with the idea of continual growth and movement. We have an economy based on the idea; it is deeply destructive and doesn’t honour those fallow moments that are vital to the cycles of life.

I have come to believe that on those occasion when the spark has deserted us – despite shaking a fist or two at the gods and bemoaning the fact that our inner compass feels out of whack – this fallow place is the most fertile of voids; our old self – whether we know it or not – is redundant and gradually  dissolving. Any forward movement, no matter how desperately we desire it, will not happen until our new and more authentic shape is fully formed and ready to break out of the fragile boundary of our old being. This all happens in a subtle way beneath our surface; we become like winter soil, still, dark, resting but full of potential.

I have a deep love of the Mineral Kingdom and lately quartz has been teaching me much about this curious pause on the path. As most will know, quartz crystal is transparent, hexagonal in structure and grows to a point. I have been lucky enough to be gifted with a clear quartz and a couple of citrine quartz. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that each of these has the most beautiful phantoms inside them.  Phantoms are wonderful things: at moments in the quartz’s growth it can actually stop growing. A  light sediment of minerals settles upon the surface. When the conditions are right and the quartz begins to grow again, the layer of sediment becomes encased in the crystal and this is seen as a ghost-like shadow of its former self.

My quartz contains five phantoms, very clearly visible and defined; the citrine have several more, some thick bands, some tiny threads that can only be seen if you shift the stone in the light. These phantoms speak so much to me of those spiritual pauses; those resting points between our old shape and our new self waiting to emerge. Phantoms remind me to honour the pause;  like the concentric rings in a tree trunk , they are a record of the many transformations that my spiritual growth has brought along the way.  When looking at them, I get a sense that the moments of my life between the pauses, are indeed like a series of past lives and these layer one upon the other, each the foundation for the next, all of them a part of me. The spiritual pause gives me the chance to examine what has been, to give thanks for it and to open myself with gratitude to the next stage on the journey.

So when you are find yourself feeling stuck and stagnant, when no amount of action seems to cut through the fog, rather than naming it as a spiritual crisis, look at it as a time when the sediment is settling into a beautiful phantom. Not only is it a line that marks the transition from one phase to another, it is an honouring point, a surrendering to the fertile void. When you finally sense the shift into forward movement, that ‘empty’, frustrating time will reveal its deeper beauty.

Examples of phantoms in quartz from energymuse.com

The Beauty of Nature in Time Lapse

August 29th, 2017
Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new…but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery and design?

~ Paracelsus