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" A good traveller has no fixed plans,

and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

Beautiful Days at OBOD ECG 2017

September 25th, 2017

Some of the more soberly dressed participants at the OBOD East Coast Gathering, Milford PA 2017

One of the greatest pleasures in being involved with the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids lies in the people I get to meet. Look at them! A bunch of people not afraid to be themselves, to have fun and celebrate being alive on this wonderful planet of ours. While Stephanie and I were there for four days of workshops, rituals and eisteddfodau around the fire, we had so many great conversations. Click here to listen in to just one…

And if you’re wondering about that fellow with the blue face, watch this:

Hope for Dry Tropical Forests

September 25th, 2017

An encouraging article from Science Daily about breakthroughs in restoring endangered Tropical Dry Forest…

…A new study has uncovered some valuable information on ways to maximize the success of replanting efforts, bringing new hope for restoring these threatened ecosystems.

The good news: Recognizing the incredible value of forests in providing habitat, storing carbon dioxide, purifying water and more, people around the world are working to restore forests destroyed in the past by human activities such as logging and farming. The bad news: In some places, it’s practically impossible.

Among the toughest forests to regenerate are tropical dry forests, species-rich ecosystems found near the equator in regions that experience alternating wet and dry seasons. Over the past century most of these forests, which help keep water clean and provide valuable habitat for wildlife, were replaced by farms and cattle pastures. Now, as conservationists work to replant deforested areas, they’re finding that the already challenging, high-clay soils underlying them have been degraded to an extent that makes it hard for tree seedlings to sink their roots.

A new study led by graduate student Leland Werden and associate professor Jennifer Powers of the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences has uncovered some valuable information on ways to maximize the success of replanting efforts, bringing new hope for restoring these threatened ecosystems. The study was reported September 22 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

To find out what works best for reestablishing tropical dry forests, the researchers planted seedlings of 32 native tree species in degraded soil or degraded soil amended with sand, rice hulls, rice hull ash or hydrogel (an artificial water-holding material). After two years, they found that tree species known for traits that make them drought tolerant, such as enhanced ability to use water and capture sunlight, survived better than other species. Some of the soil amendments helped get seedlings off to a good start, but by the end of the experiment there was no difference in survival with respect to soil condition.

“This study is important for a number of reasons,” Powers said. “First, it demonstrates that it is possible to grow trees on extremely degraded soils, which provides hope that we can indeed restore tropical dry forests. Second, it provides a general approach to screen native tree species for restoration trails based on their functional traits, which can be applied widely across the tropics. Third, it is a great example of CBS researchers partnering with Costa Rican foresters to achieve a shared restoration goal.”

In follow up, the researchers have planted additional plots using the 12 top-performing species identified in the study. They are using these additional study sites to explore the appropriate mixes of species to plant at different stages of a forest’s life.

“This continued work will help us to further develop best practices for the restoration of tropical dry forests,” Werden said.

See original article here.

Cortez tree (Tabebuia ochracea) in flower on the slopes of volcan Miravalles, Guanacaste

Happy Equinox!

September 22nd, 2017

For the autumn…

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.

~ Mary Oliver

***

For the spring…

Spring
By Mary Oliver

I lift my face to the pale flowers
of the rain. They’re soft as linen,
clean as holy water. Meanwhile
my dog runs off, noses down packed leaves
into damp, mysterious tunnels.
He says the smells are rising now
stiff and lively; he says the beasts
are waking up now full of oil,
sleep sweat, tag-ends of dreams. The rain
rubs its shining hands all over me.
My dog returns and barks fiercely, he says
each secret body is the richest advisor,
deep in the black earth such fuming
nuggets of joy!

 

 

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.

*

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.

*

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