Nice weather for ducks

Hellebore

It has been raining yet again. So much for getting anything done outside today. Walking the dog will be enough. The camera is getting used to it by now. Though not designed as waterproof, it has been out in all weathers, tucked under coats and shawls. It is seldom that I move without it. A road trip, where I know that all I will get to do is drive, still sees it tucked up on the back seat of the car, looking at me as hopefully as Ani when it is time for her walk. You just never know what you will find, or where you may be able to pull over.

magpie strutting

One recent, rainy day saw me drenched and with squelching feet, wandering around a west London park. My son was there on business, and I was there on taxi duty. While he was dealing with the sharp end, I wandered off for a while and was glad I did, in spite of the fact that the little lace slippers were rather less than appropriate. That too, seems to be something of a feature.

mallard

“Nice weather… for ducks!” grunted an elderly gentleman sheltering under a big old tree. The ducks may well have been appreciative. Other birds were less so, though the rain did not appear to have dampened the amorous ardour of at least one determined suitor. It is, after all, spring, and, in spite of the drenching they were getting, or perhaps because of it, the trees and flowers were making the most of the season.

pigeons

I think it is the contrast between freshly washed petals and rain-darkened bark and earth that does it. While sunshine shows the playful gaiety of spring, rain seems to highlight the details on every leaf and petal, throwing textures into relief and marking a sharp contrast in the colours. The sparkling drops add an extra dimension that links earth and sky in a very intimate manner.

blossom

Thinking about it, I realised that our instinct is still to think of the sky as being ‘up’… like the blue strip a child paints across the top of a picture. Yet the sky and the earth embrace, their meeting as close as it can be as every contour of the earth and sea, every grain of sand, every leaf and blade is touched by the sky, without any possible separation. As are we.

wet thrush

Yet we imagine a separateness; simply accepting that the sky is above us. The poets tell us so with their starry heavens… yet those heavens are here on earth too, all around us. How could I have missed that, all these years? What logic knows lacks a soul until understanding illuminates it. We are not children of earth, but creatures of earth and sky.

flowers bike 032

I remembered my younger son, drinking the water dripping from a rock face half way up Ben Nevis one day. He had asked where the water came from, so high up… “So, I am drinking clouds, then?” he had said. The child’s logic too was poetry to me and I realised that by extension of the same thought, I was myself poised between heaven and earth, breathing in the sky. I wondered about that; an analogy could be made there… how many other things do we live and breathe and know without Knowing?

magpie

Thinking about that as the rain fell changed the feeling of the day from simply soggy to glorious. The all-pervading damp was no longer a chill imposition but the kiss of the sky upon my brow. The little plumes of steam that rose from both me and the sheltering creatures more than just a drying out… it was a reaching up, an answering embrace, like a child stretching their arms to a father.

water bird with big feet

A little clumsily, still learning to find our feet in the world, unsure of quite who or what we are, we walk through life in unconscious wonder. We may focus our gaze upon the earth and its rewards, or we may look up to a distant sky and reach for diamond stars. Yet perhaps we do not need to strive so hard to reach the apparently unattainable; perhaps the beauty we seek was right here with us all along.

magnolia

The Great Mystery: Crowds

*

The mystery needs no

shrines or temples

save those that nature provides.

*

It may be met in the shadowy

heights and aisles of a primeval forest,

on the sunlit expanse of virgin prairie,

the dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock,

and beyond, in the speckled vault of the star-lit sky.

*

All who live a lot out of doors

know the magnetic force

that accumulates in solitude

swiftly flees when confronted

by the faceless vagaries of a crowd.

– Ohiyesa

*

Weland Mind-Weld…

14th September 2021…

*

‘On such a day as this two fools who laughed at death

embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime…’

*

…Today, the adventure is all but over

with just a sealing of fire

and water, inevitably, and air, and earth still to accomplish…

‘Stones for the earth,’ he said.

*

Comparisons with our first trip here together are unavoidable.

Dragon Hill looms equally unexpectedly,

and is also just as gracefully, ‘unoccupied’.

*

*

Had we known then what we now know

would things have been different?

‘About the hilt of Albion’s sword…’

Probably.

Small wonder then that it is difficult not to

lose balance when approaching this point.

Think what could have been done.

And still can…

*

*

The ash shadows the grooves of the manger.

A Dragon-Wing,

mirrored in staccato billowing…

‘Deep Breaths of the Fire-Drake.’

Obeisance turns brackish.

*

*

A raking cough greets us from the ‘forge’.

Manifest irony or iron-age humour?

Our grinning Jester emerges from the copse

with dancing dog in tow.

If more magic were required…

What once held no faces now holds hosts.

‘I’ve made a circle with the stones.’

A web-of-light where once the heat-haze rose…

*

*

The manure mounds become

a million hubs of cobbled-corn.

No birds to speak of,

only flying rabbits…

hopping bad, and a rare hare.

*

No fare at an Inn which had previously provided the finest…

The Greyhound, though, ‘salved’ the day.

‘It’s got lights on and everything!’

With an over abundance of those things most needful,

and, incredibly, Red-Kite Ale…

*

*

But what a tale!

Of shooting stars,

and ‘Old Skool’ bars.

Of skirt tails and hair trails,

to tell in the slow, slow, dawns of mourning…

Sue would have been sixty-three years old today,

‘Now, she is everywhere.’

*

Sue, and beloved Ani, at one of her favourite haunts – Photograph courtesy Alethea Kehas

*

The adventure, continues…

*

File:Reconstruction of face A of Leeds cross fragment 2c.jpg

Weland-the-Smith with Swan-Maiden

*

In the Land of the Living Heart

Brig and Weland Mind-Weld are playing fidchell…

Brig: Wen to Blakey-Topping.

Weland: She’ll never get there.

Brig: But I have a poem for her.

Weland: Which she will never receive.

A mist on Blakey-Topping.

A mist of mists on the Old-Wives-Way…

*

… BRIG’S LAY

Lay me down beneath an Iron Sky

In the centred stillness of a Dragon-Eye

And let sweet-odorous heather be my pall

On a speaking hill where angel-feathers fall

With earth beneath my skin and sky above

I shall await, in silence, the descent of love…

Heart of Albion

***

Heart of Albion – Stuart France & Sue Vincent

On ducks and weather…

Bakewell Imbolc 001 (14)

There is a saying here in England, ‘nice weather for ducks’. It is generally used only when it rains, of course. We have it wrong. Summer is nice weather for ducks… they certainly have the best of it, being able to plonk themselves in a nice, cool river and let the water carry away the heat.

We don’t do weather well in England. Which is odd, because, on the whole and barring the disastrous and tragic exceptions of major weather events, we live in a very moderate climate. In winter the country can grind to halt with a few inches of snow. We complain when it rains, then preen ourselves on the beauty of our green and pleasant land… and grumble about hosepipe bans when it doesn’t rain.

north meeting 046

And then there is summer, brief though it may be. Midsummer saw temperatures here lower than the midwinter temperatures in parts of Australia. With some justification, therefore, we complain about still wearing woollies and turning the heating back on. Then we have the ludicrous situation of leaving for work wearing a jumper in the freezing dawn, only to have the sun come out and cook the country. It was borne home on Wednesday when the temperatures soared. Half the population shed clothing and bared tender flesh to the sun, many, with such unaccustomed exposure, rapidly turning a nice shade of scarlet. Others headed for the shade, closed the curtains and like vampires or trolls, fearing the kiss of the sun.

Bakewell Imbolc 001 (18)
I am of the latter bunch… and, let me make this clear once and for all, I am the only person allowed draw comparisons between my person and that of a troll… Others may do so… at least one probably will… but they do so at their peril…

I could, of course, simply complain about the humidity of summer heat in this country. That is a common favourite. I might mention the fact that fair skin burns… except mine doesn’t as a rule. I could fall back on the consequences of the exploding coffee pot, or the misbehaving extremities… which all give me a perfect excuse for staying out of the sun…

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But the truth is, I don’t like it. Not when it gets that hot. I feel as if I’m frying. Melting. And, enrobed in a certain percentage of fat, I find it extremely unfair that in this heat… I don’t.
Put me high on a northern hilltop, however, and I am perfectly happy, no matter what the weather. The exhilaration of a thunderstorm or a windy day, hail, sun, rain or snow… Which is just as well, as that is where I am going for the weekend, and all of those have been forecast apart from the snow. So whatever the weather decides to throw at the hills, I’m guessing the ducks won’t mind. And besides… we have a book to publish 🙂

 

Wayland: The White Horse…

*

But according to some, Wayland has far more onerous

responsibilities than shoeing the horses of passing way farers…

*

A group of local lads were enjoying a drink

one evening at the White Horse Inn, Woolstone,

when an unknown man wearing old fashioned garb

entered and ordered a pint of the local beverage.

*

He wore a leather apron, a tall hat,

and he took his drink and sat

to one side of the ale-house by himself…

*

After awhile the sound of a horn rang out

and could be heard

echoing eerily through the vale…

*

Startled from his reverie by the horn,

the stranger leapt to his feet and hobbled

out into the night, his pint unfinished.

*

As the uncanny sound faded over the downs

the locals looked out and up to the hillside

to find that the White Horse was gone!

*

When dawn broke the following day

more than a few of the previous night’s imbibers

looked out of their windows

and up at the hill with some trepidation…

*

Only to see the White Horse

back where it should be on the green hillside

but with feet-tips

that seemed to shine in the morning sun light.

 

*

 

Wayland: The Blessed Isles…

*

The tone of the tale once Britain is reached,

becomes very different…

*

Alighting on Berkshire’s High Downs,

Wayland came upon an ancient chambered tomb,

and made it his home.

*

Tradition now has it,

that if ever you are riding the Ridgeway,

and your horse loses a shoe,

you need only tether it nearby,

 leave a silver-sixpence on the uppermost stone of the tomb,

and on your return your horse will be shod and your money gone…

*

Wayland, it seems, never works while being observed.

*

 

 

Season Changing: Levens Park

We had just begun our evening walk, the collie and I. We were going to visit ‘the oak’, and say our goodbyes to its ‘fullness’; its summer glory, as we knew that one or two of the leaves would be turning.

There’s always one walk, one outing, where you realise that the season is giving you the most it can; is conveying to you the ‘harvest’ of that time. Usually, you don’t realise until you set off – like so many things in life… You have to be in the river to truly appreciate the river. The constant change of ‘the flow’ is the essence of what it is to be a river. I’m thinking metaphorically, of course…

There would be a real river, later, but I didn’t realise it at the time. We had come to touch and say farewell to the special oak as it began its turning into autumn. In winter, this tree becomes a stark skeleton, devoid of other features. I often walk past and talk to it, telling it the spring will not be long; though it knows these things far better than I do. It’s far more in-volved than I am in the procession of the seasons.

Something made me carry on, after the special oak, and soon, we found ourselves leaving the line of the old canal, where it sits, oddly high – a line on the hillside from the 1820s, just a filled-in part of the field. Only the purposeless stone bridge – No. 178, they are all numbered – showing where it was. In parts the basin of the canal survives, as here, but you have to be several miles south to find any remaining water in it.

The early evening was so pleasant, I carried on walking, reaching the gate that leads to the road that crosses this pleasant landscape in stark contrast. The A590 is the main feeder road from the M6 motorway. It’s the place where you see the most smiles on the faces of the arriving families; as they realise their long drive is almost over. Windermere is only another 30 minutes away.

(Above: the A590, the main route from the M6 into the heart of the Lake Distict

My options were narrowing. I could follow the minor road and loop back, taking in mainly agricultural land, or I could head for the raised gate, above, and enter Levens Park – ancestral home of the Bagot family. The footpaths through Levens park are open to the public, though dogs must be on a lead.

(Above: Levens Park, showing the footpaths and the course of the River Kent)

Levens Park marks the final course of the River Kent before it flows out into the northern end of Morecambe Bay. It’s not a vast estate, and you can walk around it in an hour. My main interest was to give Tess a good walk and take photographs in the golden light.

(Above: stone cottages of typical Lakeland design mark the northern entrance to the park)

Once you’re into the park, the wide path stretches out into the distance, in a perfect straight line; though it eventually curves to follow the River Kent. At this point, the landscape falls off to the right, leading to the water, though the actual river cannot be seen from this angle. That awaited us, and I was looking forward to a few good shots of the evening light on the water.

(Above: the wide path, lined with trees, runs the length of the park, and begins with a long, straight section. Later, it curves right, following the curve of the River Kent)

Wildlife is abundant in Levens, with the famous Bagot Goats roaming free, as well as Muntjac Deer. Sadly, none of them were visible, so I’ve included a photo from last year, below. The goats are very tame and not bothered by passing visitors. Not so the deer…

(Above: the celebrated Bagot Goats)
(Above: first view of the River Kent, far below)

For another fifteen minutes, we walked the straight path. Suddenly, there was a flash of gold from the right, coming from the main part of the the river: a perfect twinning of sun and reflection bounced back through the dense trees – a beautiful moment.

Many of the park’s trees are oaks. I stopped to pick up a branch that had fallen from one of them. It was a microcosm of the season’s change. There, before me, were all the colours of Autumn. A poignant image…

There is a strong identification between the English ‘soul’ and the oak. Mythically, the two have been linked throughout history.

From here, the vista of the River Kent opens in an a wide turn towards the final bridge and the sea. The sun sets to the right and makes evening shots ‘foggy’ – but good enough to give a feel of the place at this lovely time of year.

Eventually, the lines of tall and ancient trees ends, revealing the River Kent in its splendour.

(Above: one of the many ancient trees that sit like tall columns along the raised bank of the Kent)
(Above: the wide expanse of the River Kent’s valley)
(Above: the old steps taken you up to the road, from which you cross over the bridge, before descending, on the other side of the river, back to the lower ground of the park)

The road here is the historic A6, once the main north-west ‘trunk-road’ to Scotland. The entrance, above, is to Leven’s Hall, with its amazing topiary gardens, modelled on the original Elizabethan style; one of the few such in Britain.

(Above: from the Leven’s Hall website)
(Above: crossing the river bridge, next to the A6 main road, you get a great view back up the river valley)

Once on the opposite bank, the landscape changes, and most of the walk back is away from the river. We made one final stop at the place where dogs are allowed free to drink and play.

(At this point, Tess makes a bee-line for the water. To drink, and, often, to play)

On the return leg, the focus was very much on the sky. The sun was beginning to set and pastels of pink and blue were everywhere.

(Later, I processed one of these shots in Snapseed to exaggerate the colour)

At the end of the park, we crossed over some farmland and down to the river, again, but this time the route takes you – dramatically – beneath the carriageway of the A590 (actually now the A591). Two very different aspects of the same road!

(Above: over, then under. Our journey ends by crossing beneath the massive A591 and back into the village of Sedgwick)

And then it’s a short climb back into the village of Sedgwick and home.

(Above: climbing the lane into Sedgwick, and home)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Towards parting

harvest being 2014 068

We left the stone circle in lighthearted mood. The walkers we met all seemed to be smiling broadly… and that included the ones who hadn’t witnessed our antics up there. The grouse have a very peculiar call and seemed to want to laugh with us as we walked down towards High Lanshaw reservoir where we stopped to debate the temperature of the water, the merits of bathing whilst going blue and to share the chocolate one of our number had been thoughtful enough to provide.

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The moors here are high, close to the top, and fields of fading heather hint at a glory just missed. We walked down towards the Lanshaw Lass and onward to the necropolis of Green Crag Slack. Here we stopped to examine some of the many carved stones… including the ‘pointy’ stone that re-opened the debate on the significance of this form. This ancient landscape of the dead is a happy place, strangely enough… it feels ‘right’ and holds neither fear nor sadness. You really seem to understand that it is a place of transition, and that death itself may be a birthing rather than an end.

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So it is with many things and this too had been borne in upon us over the weekend as the fruits of the yesterdays of the world had become the seeds of its tomorrow. As we descended towards the Haystack, carved with yet more ancient figures and, for me, personal memories, there was both a gentle regret that the weekend was drawing to a close and an acknowledgement that in such an ending we were carrying new understanding out into our individual worlds. Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end… but which, after all, is which?

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We sat beneath the old stone, talking quietly and sharing the last of the cedar given in spring by a dear friend we had held in our hearts over the weekend. ‘Ned’ would love these moors. It was a moment filled only by a poem, and it caught me right in the heart, marking the end of our present journey.

harvest being 2014 258
We come together sometimes with others who share a part of the way, then we part to walk alone again for a while. We hope, but cannot know, that our paths may meet again in the not-too-far-distant future, but in some ways we do not part at all. We share a single thread of a universal life, entrusted to each of us to weave our own tales into the greater tapestry of existence. And just as we would carry away from the moors their essence in the water of her streams and the sharp scent of bracken on our clothes, so too would we carry away the things we had each taught and learned from this shared time together.

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The first of the School’s Harvest weekend workshops had passed. It had been largely unplanned, wholly unscripted, apparently unorganised and completely informal, yet by accepting the gifts offered by each moment and colouring them vivid we had shared a journey together that leaves none of us unchanged. And as we sat around the table in the hotel garden for a final coffee, one smiling voice spoke, I think, for all of us at that moment.
“Can we do it again?”

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***

 

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land…