The opening of the Eye – a magical birth

The Opening of The Eye (1)

There are some things for which words are never enough. Things it is almost impossible to share. There are some things which should not be shared, perhaps, but the birth of the School was symbolic and not just for those who could be with us on that Derbyshire dawn.

So here I will share how it was through my eyes, holding nothing back, for it was never mine to keep, only to live.

This telling will be longer than usual, and yet will only skim the surface of that morning.  I offer it from my heart to all those who could not be with us on the hillside on Sunday morning. There were many who were with us in thought and prayer across the world, some who shared with us the weekend yet who could not physically make the climb up the hill. These people, many of whom have been with us every step of the way, who have shared our laughter and tears, have taught so much through their loving support. I offer this telling to those who guided our steps over the years, who held our hands and opened our minds.

We carried you in our hearts. Now see through my eyes.

“…They have always been ready, now you must bring it to birth…”

At 3.20 in the morning I stood outside the centre in my dressing gown under a canopy of deepest velvet blue sprinkled with stars. The sky was clear and mild, lacking the biting frost that had glittered under the previous dawn.

There was no nervousness, just a deep serenity, a knowing and a purpose in the silence.

I breathed deeply, filling myself with the clear air and night’s beauty. Already tears pricked my eyelids, knowing what was to come to birth. Months of constant work, lifetimes of preparation for both of us. The culmination of an incubation nurtured in silence. The birth of a dream.

I closed my eyes and offered a silent prayer, asking the blessing of the One on what we were about to do, quietly reaching out across a sleeping world to touch in thought and love all those who had brought us to this moment, and to the little mother, so far away, whom I have loved so very much for so long. She too is part of this as we carry forward a spark of the Light she showed us.

There was a sadness too, a gentle sadness, as I saw a familiar life slip away and prepared to step onto a new path that will carry me where it must. Though I go willingly and without regret, there is always a sadness when the current lifts you away from the life and love of the past. Though the outer life may seem little different, the inner one also came to birth that morning.

As I showered and robed I could feel love around me, the fleeting caress of other minds and hearts, as if those who watched around the world left butterfly kisses on my brow. I was not alone in my solitary room. The sense of presence was tangible and warm. Following a dream a few nights before I dressed in the gold of dawn with jewels like gilded dew at my throat. I remember looking back at the room, strewn with robes and colour, wondering.

I knocked on Steve’s door to leave my key. He opened it, robed in blue, the Eye of Horus on his breast, golden. In silence he bowed and I walked alone to the temple.

The lights were low, I took my place in the centre of the ancient symbol, hallowed by the hearts and minds of the companions. At my feet the golden chalice, engraved with the symbol of the sun, holding only light. I composed myself and the vigil began.

For a while there were the fleeting thoughts as the mind settled into stillness. Who would come at this unearthly hour? After a night of conviviality in pub and library, little sleep and with long journeys ahead later in the day? A few, I hoped. Few I expected. It was an unfair thing to ask. Yet it was symbolic, it mattered only that we were there and played out in the waking world what we had been given to do.

With my eyes half closed the golden light from the chalice seemed to fill the room. The temple itself was a chalice, itself not important, only its function, to give shape and hold what was pouring into it. At the centre I saw myself, still, golden, unfamiliar. I too was only a cup, a container to hold and shape that fluid Light we serve. Around me, spiralling like leaves in an autumn wind, it seemed as if motes of brightness danced with the shadows and the sparkling expectancy was palpable, like the air before a storm. I felt a strong sense of presence. Myself, siting motionless on the chair, others, unseen, arcing around that tiny point of light in the centre. Holding vigil in the silence with the Mother.

The door opened and he who walked that morning in the robe of the Father came in and sat before me.  The eyes that met seemed not our own, the hands that met in blessing and greeting felt other than our own. He broke the silence, but the few words spoken were not simply his own and had their place in that moment.

He took his place on my right, his left hand outstretched resting on my shoulder and the vigil continued. Like another note added to a song in harmony, the feel of the room changed and took on depth and the sense of presence became more profound. Some time later the Child entered. He too sat before me, with eyes I shall not forget, glowing with love in that moment. A gesture, an offering  that brought serene tears to my eyes. They were not my hands. Then he too took up his place on my left, his right hand on my shoulder, and the harmony deepened.

Shapes touched the edge of vision, whispers of song in the silence, words unspoken that I will seek for a lifetime. I felt caught between worlds in a vast, womblike cavern as an unseen heart beat beneath my feet. Unfamiliar even to myself.

I saw shadows through the tiny window of the door, others were there. The silence was absolute, their gift to the moment. Then the door was opened and the companions filed in, one by one, to take their place before the Mother and silently offer, heart to heart, and receive what was offered in stillness.

And they were all there. All those who could be there, all who could walk up that pre-dawn hillside. All of them.

I cannot describe the feeling in that moment, the outpouring of loving blessing, the gifts given by people who should have been asleep for hours to come, yet who had sacrificed their rest and joined us in silent vigil. The eyes that met mine as I watched through the lens of tears at the beauty before me. Through the other eyes, it seemed, lent to me for a moment out of time. The hearts that were open, the smiles, all gentle, the one who knelt and gave all he was to that moment and the unknown moments to come.

They took their places around the circle, forming what felt like great wings holding the Light within. I closed my eyes and gathered the threads of Light in my heart.

At the appointed time I rose, placed a cloak around my shoulders and led them from the room, pausing to allow them to don their coats, the silence incredible in the soft light.

The morning was mild and beautiful, the sky streaked with colour, the rose and blue, the hint of gold, painted by the Master Hand. We walked slowly through the sleeping village, silent ghosts in strange garb climbing the hill to the gate.

Yet there was no strangeness, only a sense of rightness in the moment…present and not present, watching within and without, and the utter silence. Beyond the low wall to the right a young lamb looked up, bleating, eye to eye, three times. As if we were being given a blessing, recognition, acknowledgement. Such a simple thing, but so very beautiful.

We walked up the dew damp slope, to the little lawn between the tree to the west and the notch in the bare fingered trees in the east, silhouetted against the growing light. We placed the chalice and plate on the altar and Father and Mother stood to greet the dawn.

Those moments of waiting, in the miraculous silence made only deeper by the symphony the birds were singing, are some that will live in my heart forever. The small arc of the companions felt like a great host behind us as we raised our arms to salute the sun in its rising, and the greater Light it symbolises.

Turning to each other, arms still raised, we became the gate of dawn, a portal through which the Child could pass. Our arms extended, eyes holding, unable to see beyond the raised arms, we saw the Child come within our embrace and pass through to the Light as we broke the silence with a single chanted word. Cromaat.

The weight of the cloak against my throat was too much, I let it fall.

Overhead a hawk wheeled in the dawn glow.

One by one the companions passed through the gate that we were, emerging on the other side to be greeted by the Child. They were asked why they had passed through the gates of Light and Life… to the Child who is Love. In turn, they answered, the first giving the response of those who have chosen to walk with us in the School, these were anointed with consecrated oil and accepted. Those who were with us in love and support affirmed the wholeness of the One. Together they formed the wings of morning before the gate.

When all had passed into the east, we proclaimed the birth of the Silent Eye and, blessing bread and wine, we broke our fast in shared communion on a hillside bathed in gold and birdsong.

With laughter, many embraces, very many tears and smiles, our School came to birth as the sun rose and something new was brought into the world with joy and with Love.

The opening of the Eye – a mother’s tears

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I was up to meet the dawn on Saturday, finding the world covered in a heavy frost and very beautiful. The morning began with a guided meditation. The companions gathered at 7am and closed their eyes. It was a simple journey… that of a seed thrown by an unseen hand to the winds. The tiny point of consciousness watched from inside itself as it grew, illustrating the journey into becoming.

Breakfast and preparation… and then it was time for the second of the ritual dramas.

These dramatic episodes, played with conviction in a place made sacred, have a profound effect, enabling understanding, engaging the emotions as well as the intellect as they bring the teachings to life in a unique manner.  This is one of the ways we will teach, through workshops and teaching sessions and the weekend workshops, open to all.

These do not form an essential part of the School’s course, they are not required, nor is attendance limited to School members… but rather they enhance and enrich it, as well as allowing friendships and companionship to grow. Study can be a lonely thing and the personal journey must be ultimately walked alone… but that does not mean there cannot be company along the way, a hand to hold when the ground seems rough or laughter shared in sunlight.

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The first ritual drama saw the arrival of nine travellers, sheltering from a storm in the monastery of the Keepers of the First Flame. A shamanic drummer and two Troubadours, accompanied by a strange Child also sought shelter. They were following a quest to rescue an imprisoned king, or so they believed, and sought shelter and refuge for the Child while they continued their journey.

The first drama introduced these characters, and ended as the Troubadours left to continue their search, leaving the Child in the care of the nine and the Keepers. On Saturday morning the second drama was to explore the characters further, seeing deeper into their innermost being.

As the Troubadours were ‘absent’, Steve assisted our technician and had placed me in the role of the Great Mother, simply  to bless the individual journey each was about to undertake as they entered the Temple.

And that felt odd. All the very human insecurities raised their head as I had read this point.. me, as Great Mother? How… what could I, just me, bring to this? And that question, I realised, was also the answer. I could bring my Self, it is all we can ever do.

The costume was simple and symbolic, grey veiled in clouds of night, a girdle of stars, dark tears at my throat and a simple nine pointed circlet, beautifully crafted by Katie. All chosen for their  simplicity and symbolism… especially the veil which prevented the pilgrims from seeing Her face, yet allowed them into her embrace. I thought I had it sorted.

I do not know and cannot tell what others felt. Only what I saw and felt myself.  I stood in the silence of the sacred space and waited for the first of the companions to enter, a silent prayer in my heart, not knowing really what to do, simply trusting that I would know when the moment came. The bells called the companions in, and the first saluted the central Light and turned to me.

And it was simple. I just held out my arms and embraced them and the cloudy veil held them like dark wings.

It sounds very little. But, from my heart to yours, I tell you that this was the most profoundly moving thing. Each pair of eyes met mine with radiant joy, each heart was open and full of Light and Life and Love, each face lit with so much beauty. One after another I held them. Overwhelmed and humble, with a glowing, incandescent sun, it seemed, blazing in my heart.

I sat in silence to watch the drama unfold and behind the veil the tears slid across my cheeks to meet my smile.

It was I who was blessed.

Hill-of-the-Buried-Sun…

*

…It was, after all, rather disconcerting to be thus accosted by a total stranger…

*

“Does this count?” he demanded, ferociously,

and pushed an admittedly intriguing photograph across the bar at us.

“Does that count as what?”

*

“One of them ‘Black’ places”

“Well, it might do, what is it?”

*

“It’s one of them there mounds.”

“Is it really, it looks just like a pyramid of light?”

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“That’s why I was thinking it might count.”

“Strictly speaking, in order ‘to count’ it would have to be called

‘Black-something’ or ‘Something-black’. Does it have a name?”

*

“Oh aye, it’s got a name alright.”

“And that name is?”

“Silbury Hill!”

*

And at that, the Red-Lion, or so it seemed to us,

burst into a collective paroxysm of laughter…

*

Damaged vessels

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There are good days and bad ones, and some that are just plain odd. Waking this morning in a cosy bed, emerging from dreams of light and beauty, I lay there in the pre-dawn softness feeling that today was going to be good. Images forming in my mind of the painting to be done, the colours already occupying the table downstairs… all ready for an early start. Time to stretch and get moving. And I’ll finally get my car back today, all fixed from the garage.

I open my eyes… well, that was the general idea. Only nothing much happened.

Any lingering visions of beauty from my dreams faded in front of the bathroom mirror as I contemplated a reflection I was none too keen on. Dripping icy water, the eyes opened just enough to show me it wasn’t a good idea to look. Vanity was not happy with the sight. They were swollen shut. And my hands were as bad. Novel, though. I sort of look as if I’ve done ten rounds in a prizefighter and lost.

Cold compresses for the next hour, anti-inflammatories and antihistamines to be on the safe side, and I could just about switch the computer on, if not actually see it much. By eight, the eyes were open a bit and the hands moveable. The head and neck aches made their presence felt and a call to the doctor was in order. So I await yet more results. Why am I surprised….?

So painting has gone out of the window so far today and writing is a bit of a struggle… but I can’t just sit and twiddle my thumbs and the mind doesn’t switch off regardless. So I await two phone calls… one from the doctor and another from the garage where my little car is in for repair.

I was thinking about the current physical hiccups, all more annoying than anything else, much like the car. She drives like a dream and is my pride and joy, elderly and shabby as she is. The repairs are just down to age and wear. I saw the comparison of course and got to wondering what the purpose might be, what I am supposed to learn and take away from this passage. Quite apart, of course, from the simple realisation that I will not get any younger, even if my mind appears to.

One thing, of course, that stands out in sharp relief is the contrast between my body and I. It is not ‘me’. I am full of energy, raring to go, bursting at the seams with ideas and feel younger and more vibrant than I have for a very long time. This past year seems to have vivified me in some indefinable way and I feel alive and full of laughter, a sort of beaming smile of the soul. The body, however, seems more inclined to indulge in a wry and mocking grin. That it is merely the vehicle in which I move through the world seems patently obvious as I look at the discrepancy and wait for the repair guys to fix it.

I remembered a picture I had seen somewhere a while ago, an example of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken vessels. The broken pot is fixed together with a lacquer that looks like pure gold, rendering the object even more lovely and precious than before. Almost celebrating the breaking as, it is said, the damage means the vessel has a history and survived to grow in beauty.  Someone cared enough too, to undertake the delicate work.

It is not quite that simple but is analogous, perhaps, to the human condition. In order to grow in beauty through any kind of suffering, we have to pick up the pieces and be prepared to fashion them into something new, taking a little time and care, holding the cracks together with the gold of joy, hope and purpose.

It may be an odd day today, but it is still a good one, even though my plans have changed and I will probably not paint. However, I do need to go and bring my little car home…. And that is a joy in itself.

Without words

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Good morning. It is sunny today, with the sky a clear cerulean blue. My grandmother always said it was going to be a fine day if there was enough blue in the sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers. Today I could probably kit out the entire navy. If the makers of paint could capture this colour in all its transparency, they’d make a fortune. Not that they don’t already, given the price of artists colours.

There is a heavy frost this morning though and the cold has me by the throat, both literally and metaphorically. The dog has the door standing wide open, the heating has gone on strike again and my son’s prayers have been answered. I will not be singing today. My throat is as swollen as if I’d talked all through the night. I vaguely remember that scenario.

I am lucky at present. I see my son every day and the depth of the conversation we share can be astonishing for stone-cold sober and mid-morning. We can cover ground from the most ridiculous to the deepest philosophical debate, passing via music and neurology, pizza and sturgeon to the nature of God and the soul. But other than Nick the majority of my days are spent in silence, apart from a very dear friend on the phone from afar and my conversations with the dog.

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There are few things I enjoy more than settling down to long, varied and frequently random discussions over a bottle of good wine with a friend. Living in France was a perfect introduction to that, because there is always cheese. If there is cheese left, it is almost obligatory to open a second bottle to accompany it, and if there is bread left, one needs more cheese… it would be wasteful not to… and so it goes on, sometimes all night. Conversations can go very deep at these times.

We don’t talk enough. Or not about things that really matter. We chatter about the simple things, mundane problems, the latest news but we seldom seem to have time to sit and simply listen to each other these days. Or even to listen to the world around us. One of the downsides of electronic conversation is that it is often so short and factual. We cover the necessities and rarely allow heart to speak to heart, sharing the inner depths of who we are and what matters, really matters, to us as a person.

Listening, I think, is one of the greatest gifts we can give. To listen, with ears and heart and mind while someone shares themself with you is a beautiful thing. And you can hear as much in the silence between the words as you can in the words themselves.

Mind you, I have no objections to silence either. It is, after raising a family, a luxury. I have always loved silence and it was a rarity in a household full of growing children. It is an animated silence, my mind seldom quiet, pursuing trains of thought down convoluted alleyways, imagination always online and seeking ways of expression. There is a richness in this type of silent working that can be drowned in the normal noise of everyday life. One can see the value of the contemplative life. Though, as a friend has said on many occasions, I was not cut out to be a nun. I would be constantly doing penance…

There are also, though, moments where the internal dialogue stills into quiet. The dog is usually asleep at these times, the distant road noise hushed and the only sound in the village the song of birds.  At those times the surface mind is silent and something deeper still can speak in the heart. There are no words, just a knowing, yet it is communication. There is something within that reaches inwards and upwards, deeper and wider than the conscious chatter of mind, and it is answered by something deeper still that seems to be waiting with arms open wide. It comes out to meet us like a friend and lover that has been waiting for our presence and listens in the silence of those moments only to the murmuring of the soul.

Birds of a Feather

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That the birds were there first means little to Ani. It is, as far as she is concerned, her garden and she decides who gets to play in it. Apart from the stray babies, those she makes an exception for and will even call the cavalry to their rescue. There is no malice in her vociferous warnings to the feathered fiends who invade her space. In fact, she grins all the time she is chasing them off.

The cat next door, on the other hand, stalks them silently, moving a whisker at a time, closing in for that final, fatal pounce.

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Me, on the other hand, I like birds. I love to hear them herald the morning as I wake, the first light washing the bedroom in pale colour. I love to watch them darting around the garden, or soaring in the blue above. They are creatures of grace and beauty who carry music within and rise above the landscape, seeing it with eyes other than my own. In quiet moments imagination lends me their wings and I can rise with them to greet the dawn.

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The three of us watch the same sparrow on the fence from completely different viewpoints, with different emotions and imperatives fuelling our actions. I suppose we are simply following the dictates of our own species and nature. Yet these are neither inevitable nor unchangeable. There are many cats that never chase a bird. There are probably few dogs who warn them off quite so joyfully. And as a human being, I could simply ignore them, see them as a source of food or raw materials, or even through the eyes of myth and legend.

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The three of us are not so very different after all. It is a personality shaped by instinct and experience that impels our individual reactions to the birds every day. Ani sees them as both invaders to be warned away and playthings with which she can have fun. The cat I don’t know personally… for some reason, Ani refuses that acquaintance… so I cannot say whether it is the thrill of the chase, or a quest for dinner that drives it. For me it is many things. Memories of being taught their names and stories as a child, the simple love of their beauty and the knowledge of the thread of life that binds us, associations that run deeper than the surface, perhaps.

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I remember my grandfather explaining a picture in a book to me, when I was very young, where the heart was weighed against the feather of truth. There is more to that than the simple lightness, for Horus, the Divine Child of the Egyptian faith, was depicted as a hawk and truth was a goddess with a feather in her hair. The Egyptians, indeed, had many birds associated with divinity, from the Benu bird, a symbol of rebirth, to the protective vulture goddess Nekhbet. Odin had his ravens, a story brought to life for me on a first visit to the Tower of London, observing their curiosity and intellect in action. Christianity has the Dove and the Pelican. Symbolism,  folklore and fairytales are littered with feathers.

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Experience shapes us in ways we often cannot see. The innate nature can be overridden by learned behaviours, habits and acquired reactions that may seem obvious to those looking on, but to which we ourselves are blind until something throws them into sharp relief. These habits can be both positive and negative, overcoming inner battles or seeing us lost in a sea of fears. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

But we do not have to be a slave to our reactions, there is always that poised instant when we stand at the crossroads of choice and can break the cycle if we so will it and, to paraphrase the famous quotation, be the change we wish to see in ourselves.

Infinity and beyond…

Yet, if one could ignore space and time and be everywhere and every-when at once it would, theoretically at least, be possible to count them. Even taking all future snowfalls for the projected lifetime of our planet into consideration, it would be a finite number. There was, once upon a time, a very first snowflake to fall. There will be a last. There would come a point where there were no more snowflakes to count.

Mind boggling as the concept is, the magnitude of that number is probably as close to the idea of infinity as our normal human thoughts can grasp. Yet it is so far short of an infinite number! Scientists calculate that there could be as many as four and a half billion planets similar to earth in the Milky Way galaxy. Each one of those with its own possibility of snowflakes.  And it is thought that there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the universe. Yet are we sure that there is only one universe? Quantum physicists don’t seem to think so…

Suddenly our infinity of snowflakes seems a little puny compared to the possibilities that exist in this wider reality we but dimly perceive.

We in the UK may consider we get a lot of snow. On the whole, it isn’t a vast amount. A couple of inches can be considered ‘a lot’ in southern counties. The north gets more as a rule. We do have the occasional bad winter, and higher ground is harder hit. But I’ve been to places in Europe where snow meant that roads were cut through it with fifteen foot banks of the stuff on either side. Yet a friend in Malta, not so very far away, has never seen a snowfall.

It is all relative.

We think in terms of personal experience, taking into account, perhaps, what we know from the experience of others. While we are aware of these other realities… such as snowless countries or the ones that get twenty times the volume we do… we behave almost as though we don’t truly believe it. We look out of the window and see a foot of snow as either a wonderland or the end of the world… depending on whether we are going out to play or have to brave the roads. We react to what is in front of our eyes, not what the other possibilities may be. Our survival mechanisms are designed that way perhaps, taking in and processing what needs to be dealt with in the waking world of the moment.

Yet we are also designed in such a way that we can at least conceive of those greater realities. Curiosity, imagination, thoughts, hopes and dreams… through these we touch a different reality every day that has its own inner life for us. These hidden realms may occasionally be populated by apparent impossibilities and within them we may be able to transcend the limitations of physics and experience. We may question the accuracy of the reflected world within this sphere, but we do not doubt the reality of mind and imagination. Through it we access concepts and abstractions that surpass the limiting bounds of physical existence. We create and innovate and can comprehend the mind-boggling at a level and in ways we cannot in ‘real life’.

We cannot count every snowflake ever to fall, but imagination gives us an inner feeling for the infinite. It is so far outside the bounds of direct experience that we may never truly understand it. Maybe we do not need to. But we are able to get a personal picture that represents it for us, whether we look at the ocean from the point of view of a single drop, or see ourselves a pinprick in the vast sea of interstellar space. The mind allows us to form an image, a representation that allows us to ‘know’ at a very intimate level. After all, we live within the matrix of infinity and are intimately woven with it.

For many, the idea of the infinite is inextricably linked with that of divinity. Here too imagination allows us to form a personal image with its attendant emotions, regardless of the tradition in which we were raised or the path we have chosen. The image we have will be unique, like a snowflake,  whether we have chosen to view it with faith, belief or dismissal. Divinity is as impossible to grasp in Its entirety as the idea of the infinite within the mind of the everyday world. Maybe we do not need to. If we accept Its existence in any form, then here too we live within It.

A single snowflake is made by hundreds of individual ice crystals coming together and there are so many different ways in which they can arrange themselves that it is said that no two are alike. Statistically, who knows whether or not it is true? From the billions that have fallen or are yet to fall we have examined, perhaps, a few thousand. It doesn’t really matter. Their delicate beauty is transient and can be destroyed by a breath, transformed back into the element from which it came, not lost, but returning to earth to begin the cycle again.

I wonder sometimes if our thoughts and dreams are not the same, fragile and ephemeral as they are, easily damaged or dissolved by the wrong touch. Perhaps they are not lost altogether but return to their component parts, waiting for us to bring them together again in a design more beautiful than the last.

Yes, I know I have a weirdly wired mind, my sons tell me so frequently….

Ambushed by Stone…

*

Not content with capturing one rather large stone circle, under rapidly darkening skies, we set off in pursuit of another.

Which was a mistake.

For one thing, we got lost…

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And then we ran into this motley lot.

Hiding from us they were.

Waiting for the sun to go down before they pounced.

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Anyway, we tentatively made our way through their ranks.

And eventually confronted their leader.

She seemed okay and assured us her troops meant no harm.

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So we determined to return on the morrow.

In the hope that the morning light might be kinder.

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Some of them…

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I had half expected the town to be deserted.

That is Memory again.

It acts like  some indifferent film director moving extras around, concerned only with their ebb and flow.

Over time the ‘peripherals’ fade leaving only the ‘principals’ behind.

And that goes for events too…

I have no memory of our initial ‘run up’…

Only the camber to the stones and the ravens, wheeling and cawing, and eventually settling in unison on the portals as we approached.

*

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Contrary to the insistence of our fastidious manipulator of experience, we had not been alone that first time…

There had been ‘others’ in the field but it had not seemed to matter so much then.

Possibly because in those days I did not take photographs.

There were no ravens this time, but plenty of people.

A line of motor vehicles clogged the lane and patches of bright colour flitted about the stones, uncertainly, like overgrown butterflies.

The colours too have now faded, as colours tend to do…

*

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Perhaps, I have become over sensitive to synthetics?

In the event we easily outlasted three separate groups before the extreme cold became too much.

They do not stay long.

They have, you see, nowhere to file their experience…

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Nothing to lend it context…

Maybe, it appears crude to the mind too far removed from nature?

Would one call hills crude?

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