Heroes in a Landscape (3) Learning from Nature

(Above: Castlerigg on the Friday. We had to begin, storm or no…)

Continued from Part Two…

My phone wasn’t dead – it looked perfectly bright against the dark landscape, but it wasn’t responding to any finger gestures. And it contained my copy of the script, now locked away by the storm.

I reached into my ‘Fool’s’ kit bag, a sturdy old canvas friend that I’ve used for years. Often in the run up to workshops, I will, at the last minute, throw in a paper version of a script as an absolute backup. My wet fingers encountered paper and I extracted what turned out to be a last but one version. That would be okay, as long as I remembered the final changes we had made.

(Above: ‘The Cove’ within Castlerigg Circle! Photographed on the Sunday)

With the help of a mentor, the hero will cross a guarded threshold, leading them to a supernatural world, where familiar laws and order do not apply.

I held it up at chest level and began reading. The group let out a collective sigh of relief, but they couldn’t see the heavy raindrops dissolving the ink and melting the paper as it became increasingly saturated.

(Above: Castlerigg at Sunset)

I had the idea to memorise the next few lines, then fold the paper along its original creases and hold its axis vertical to the descending water. It worked – after a fashion – but every time I reopened it, the text was less legible and the paper itself had continued its journey to mush.

We have survived a few scrapes; Stuart, Sue and I, and found that it’s not unusual for something unseen to come to the aid of the drowning performer. But in this case, only we had the scripts. Our companions were being guided by our words, alone. Their faces expressed empathy, but they were powerless to help.

It’s difficult to remember at exactly what point I abandoned the ‘toilet paper’, as Stuart later christened it. He could see the change, he said, because I began to relax… simply letting what we have always called ‘the flow’ take over. And trusting…

…simply letting what we have always called ‘the flow’ take over. And trusting…

It did… Instead of behaving like someone reading a book, I let the flow take me and improvised in the moment, thankfully recalling from memory what we needed the Fool/Magician to do to get the companions through to the final gate and release them into their symbolic strange, new world, where – within the context of our play – nothing would behave as it had in the previous place. A fitting tribute to what we had just endured.

Somewhat post-storm, we left the Castlerigg circle. We would return here for the final act in our landscape play, but not before seeing the site from a mystery great height – fitting for a Hero looking down on the end of the quest.

The rain was abating but we had another problem. One of our companions – who had confirmed and paid for his attendance – was missing. During the damp ceremonials, I had thought he might be sitting it out in the car, having arrived late. But he was nowhere to be seen.

I didn’t have his mobile number but sent him an email as we left the circle. He had the information sheet and would know where we were headed next.

We had two important things to do…

The first was to escort everyone to a specific car park on the outskirts of Keswick. This would be our meeting point for the rest of the weekend, and it was essential that everyone knew its location.

The second was to have an early dinner. Weather, tension and stress had taken their toll… We were starving.

Our usual format for a first evening in Keswick is to have an inexpensive fish and chip supper. The central Moot Square boasts a fine chippy with upstairs restaurant, which offers vegetarian options. The small convoy drove the short distance to the car park and, now on foot, we followed the path of the river along the park and over the bridge into Keswick centre.

Dinner was a joyous affair. We laughed about the difficulties of open-air mystical theatre and resolved to learn the lessons of the day. This will be covered in the next post. Part way through the meal, the evening was brightened by the arrival of our missing companion. He had endured a nightmare journey up the M6 motorway with tyres that had been wrongly inflated by a defective pump at a service station near his home. At one point he felt the car was ‘floating’ and going to crash. He had the good sense to stop at the next services and get the problem diagnosed and fixed. But it had cost him the afternoon.

Stuart and I both had the thought that we might be able to do something creative about that…

The skies were clearing. The evening sun was mellow and promised a better day tomorrow. We had little idea how much better, though the long Saturday would not be without its challenges…

(Above: The day was ending gently)

To be continued in Part Four.

Previous parts in this series:

Part One, Part Two

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

Heroes in a Landscape (1) Arrival

(Above: the splendid setting of the Castlerigg Stone Circle – but it didn’t look like this on the Friday!)

It’s a method for uniting a group of people to a common purpose. It’s a technique for ‘washing’ the immediate environment and dedicating your effort to the highest motive and energies. It’s a wonderful way to align yourself to your immediate surrounding, teasing out that sense of really ‘knowing’ what’s around you – especially in a landscape as beautiful and powerful as the English Lake District…in spring.

We can call it ceremony. Modern psychology, recognising its value, named it psychotherapy and psycho-emotional journeying. For thousands of years, it has been known simply as ritual and, once you remove the populist rubbish from around its edges, there lies revealed a beautiful and empowering use of the human mind and emotions.

The best example of ritual I know is the simple hug. It has rules: the touching of bodies is proscribed in a certain non-sexual way. The hands grasp the other in a gentle embrace, and the heads align so they don’t clash. The duration of the hug and, indeed, the distance of the other person, can be adjusted according to the level of personal trust involved. A hug carried out with loving respect is a powerful and uplifting thing… It’s a wonderful ritual.

Like many ‘mystery schools’, we use ritual. But only when appropriate. The greater part of our ‘communion’ with the landscape on the Journey of the Hero weekend was simply walking and taking in the fresh green delight of spring in northern Cumbria. When we did use ritual, it was powerful…and in some cases, created there and then to adapt to the specifics of the landscape of beauty around us.

The idea for the ‘Journey of the Hero’ workshop began shortly after Sue Vincent’s death, a year ago. Keen to signal that the Silent Eye would be continuing its work, despite her sad loss, we came up with the idea of adapting the core of Joseph Campbell’s book; ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ into a three-day event that would reflect the Lakeland spring’s splendour, using the hills, lakes and even rivers of the region to provide a series of delightful challenges for our group of ‘happy adventurers’ – as Stuart named them.

(Above: the 1949 edition of Campbell’s groundbreaking book. Wikipedia)

A happy and wonderful bunch they turned out to be… But the weekend was to challenge us all in ways not always foreseen. The idea that the organisers were actually in charge of events in the underlying hyper-myth: life itself, was to prove deeply amusing…

Campbell proposed that all the world’s myths and fairy stories followed a common theme; a kind of ‘meta-structure’ whose building blocks were the skeleton on which each detailed journey was mapped. We wanted to use this structure to find synergy in the landscape, rather than an actual story. In this way, we would be more focussed and more in-tune with the beautiful places in which we wandered. He proposed the name ‘Monomyth’ for the underlying meta story.

The Monomyth contains the following stages;

1. The hero’s adventure begins in the ordinary world.

2. He/she must leave the ordinary world when they receive a call to adventure. This is sometimes refused – initially.

3. With the help of a mentor, the hero will cross a guarded threshold, leading them to a supernatural world, where familiar laws and order do not apply.

4. There, the hero will embark on a road of trials.

5. Allies sometimes assist.

6. As the hero faces the ordeal, they encounter the greatest challenge of the journey.

7. Upon rising to this challenge, the hero receives a reward or boon.

8. They return to the ordinary world, empowered to act in a higher way. The world gains much from their renewed presence.

(Above: the Tarot Card ‘The Star’ from the Paul Foster Case deck)

While I concentrated on the locations and the vital timings, Stuart was busy crafting a method whereby the above stages of the Monomyth could be emotionally linked to their sequence. He proposed the use of the Tarot cards – that ancient method of both ‘divination’ and, more importantly, perhaps, the use of ‘active imagination’ to take us into a series of meditative states that reflected the Hero’s journey.

(Above: The ever-present Skiddaw mountain)

We were to begin, on the Friday afternoon, with the famous stone circle of Castlerigg, a ring of large stones at least five thousand years old, set on a natural plateau surrounded by some of Lakeland’s tallest mountains. Simply standing on that plateau is an act of magic, as nature quietly invites you to contemplate and share the reasons for the existence of this remarkable edifice.

(Above: Lakeland most famous weather – heavy rain!)

As we approached on the busy and fast A66 road, the skies began to darken. By the time we arrived at Castlerigg, we were in the middle of a full-blown Lakeland downpour… showing no signs of stopping.

It began to look like the ‘ordeal’ stage of our Monomyth was going to be thrust upon us ahead of schedule…

To be continued in Part Two.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

Spirituality in Transition

(Above: wonderful light and dark contrasts in the mysterious Lacy’s Caves alongside the River Eden)

There are times when you know that a particular world is changing. By ‘world’ I mean a specific part of life, not the whole world, though that could be said to be in a state of apparentl chaotic change, too…

(Above: Castlerigg as we first found it – Driving rain on the Friday)

The ‘world’ I mean is that of spiritual teaching; and the challenges to its present methods come in two forms:

The first is the worsening economic situation across most of the planet. If you’re not a billionaire, you’re getting poorer, as essential goods, such as sources of energy for heating, cooking and transportation become the subject of international strife.

(Above: Castlerigg on the final day – a basket of bright sunshine and a thankful contrast to the Friday)

When many are struggling to pay essential bills, the idea of paying out more for what appears to be a speculative investigation into the inner nature of ourselves may seem a scrambling of priorities. When such considerations are set at the end of a pandemic, and the world is struggling to get back to some sense of normal, we might expect little interest…

But last weekend, a group of dedicated adventurers from a variety of traditions enjoyed the immense beauty of the northern Lake District in all its spring glory, even venturing into the nearby Eden Valley – home of some hidden and mysterious treasures.

(Above: the ever-present Skiddaw mountain looms over everything around Keswick)

This experiment in using the outdoors, rather than a conventional indoor setting of rented hall, was forced upon us by the decline in the ‘old model’ of how such gatherings are conducted. Covid simply stopped such meetings from happening But it’s eventual fading did not automatically trigger a restart of the ‘old world’. No-one knew what would happen when travel was allowed, again. Things whose time has come can often fail to revive in these circumstances.

To compound the problems, there was a ‘new world’ in town, in the shape of Zoom-based meeting (and similar technologies). In order to maintain some contact with those we used to see, often, we too had begun to hold at least monthly meetings over zoom – involving people from across the world and slowly learning how to conduct meaningful dialogue and shared experiences across international video links.

(Above: beyond the Friday, the Lakeland countryside blossomed into one the most perfect weekends)

But, although here to stay, most said that video conferencing was no substitute for face-to-face gatherings. Having said that, the costs of travel and accommodation, post-Covid, mean that Zoom and its rivals are here to stay. Although this post is primary to introduce the weekend’s outdoor explorations, the Silent Eye team will be continuing and even expanding their Zoom presence in parallel with pioneering new ways of mystical experience in dramatic landscapes, as in Keswick.

That’s not to say that it was all plain sailing. The weather on the Friday afternoon – our first slot of the weekend – was enough to send anyone home. The ancient stone circle of Castlerigg was the soggy setting for the opening, and it was a challenge to get through, let alone enjoy. But it did begin the event, signaling, possibly rashly, that we were intent on making this happen.

(Above: the shores of Derwent Water, home to some of the finest views)

There is always some mischief on these meetings. It would be rash to attribute them to ‘mischevious spirits’ but sometimes it felt like that – especially on the Saturday; that long day of wonderful adventures… and some challenging mishaps.

Yet, enjoy it people did… enough to say so, as we all hugged in the bright sunshine of the final Castlerigg session and resolved to meet again in September.

The photos, here, will provide a taster. The detail – involving much humour and not a little irony – will be present in what follows over the course of a series of posts. We hope to convey to you a little of what it was like to be there. It’s a wonderful journey and often a triumph over unexpected adversity, but its a story that’s never dull…

Part One will be on Thursday, here and on the Silent Eye blog.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

Orderly and aligned

(Image by author)

There’s an old aphorism in the field of teaching mysticism: that if you endeavour to do something of significance; something that requires careful planning and even more careful resourcing, then you will be surprised how ‘testing’ the ‘final approach to the event will be. Moreover, the difficulties thrown at one may- humorously – be taken as a reflection of the event’s importance.

(Above: Castlerigg Stone Circle in its magnificent north-Lakes setting)

The word’s ‘final approach’ are borrowed from the art of flying a plane. As a much younger man, I did have ‘private pilot’ flying lessons; about fourteen hours of them in total, nearly enough to do my first solo flight – a big moment in a trainee pilot’s life… Sadly, we set up a software company at that point, and I didn’t have the time to dedicate to anything other than commercial survival…

I remember those days of flight-training, well. I learned a lot about how focussed pilots have to be in those last few minutes – then seconds – before the wheels hit the ground, hopefully together and in an orderly and aligned way. My instructor had a great sense of humour and those words of his stuck in my memory.

The same is exactly true of running a mystical workshop – any workshop, in fact, that requires acres of planning and ‘what if?’ testing.

(Above: the town of Keswick, seen from the shores of Derwent Water)

In theory, the Silent Eye’s ‘Journey of the Hero’ workshop, centred around the beautiful town of Keswick in the northern part of the English Lake District, was ready to roll about a week, ago. All the proposed walks – along lakes, rivers, ridges and mountains, had already been rehearsed and timed. The written material for our opening and closing ceremonies at the wonderful stone circle of Castlerigg had been examined and fine-tuned.

The only thing that remained was for me to design a new language…

(Above: the shores of Derwent Water)

J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor of ancient languages, and once designed the whole Elvish language so that the books comprising the Lord of the Ring trilogy would be founded in an actual spoken tongue. My admiration for this knows no bounds, especially since I’ve spent the last several weeks attempting to create an infinitely simpler language of ‘gesture’ so that we can carry out part of the workshop in complete silence…

It’s part of a series of ‘triggers’ that, with the right sense of place can induce the ordinary rational mind to have a rest and let the whole of our being come out to play. For hundreds of years we have lived too much in one side of our minds, and much damage is being done by this. The high goal of the Journey of the Hero weekend is, in some small part, to extend this.

(Above: the man and his amazing digger)

And then the Fates began to have their sport…

On Sunday, Simon – a local contractor who has done wonderful things with a small digger to remodel what was once an old canal and now actually looks like a garden – called by in his pick-up truck to tell us that he was ready to start work on our new fence… the day after. The old fence having been storm-damaged some time ago. I swallowed hard. Part of the deal with Simon is that, when needed, I act as his labourer. It’s not exploitation; it’s just that he’s a one-man-band and wants to stay that way. It’s not even a money thing, it’s simply a question of time. He’s very good at what he does and works on the projects he likes and with the people he gets on with. The issue is that he’s always short of time to finish each project, and deeply appreciates my help fetching and carrying things and materials (like truckloads of earth) to his point of focus in the garden. We had waited three months to get him back, and the spring was in full riot… I had little choice…

(Above: Lakeland’s weather can change in an instant)

In the middle of his first day, with me a dirty and sweaty bundle, the phone rang, again. This time it was the company from whom we have just ordered two exterior doors to replace the low-budget ones we had to settle for when the ‘building fund’ ran out, ten years ago. This company came highly recommended and we were eagerly awaiting their arrival… just not this week. We said yes, of course, knowing that it was going to detract from the available time to ‘write that language’.

Fast forward to this morning, when, after the third 05:30 start in as many days, we were driving through a violent downpour on the M6 south, enroute to our annual checkup at our old dentists near Chorley. We liked the team there so much, we elected to stay on their books and put up with the hour’s travel when needed. I’d already allowed for this interruption to the week’s plan, but not in concert with the other two… My ‘light aircraft’ was fast becoming, in the immortal words of Johnny Depp in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, ‘full of ‘oles’. I was beginning to lose my presence of mind.

(Above: who knows… we might even have time for an evening sail on the lake)

And then, on the outskirts of our destination, the mobile rang in the car. It was the receptionist from the dentist… frantic. She’d just arrived in, to find a phone message from her boss (the dental surgeon) to report that he’d been up most of the night with food poisoning – possible Norovirus. She knew we had driven down from Kendal through torrential rain… for nothing.

It was then that the magic happened. My wife and I looked at each other and burst out laughing; assuring the lady that it was okay; just another link in the testing chain of the week and something that could be re-arranged.

So here I am… typing away, having lost three days of my ‘finals’ week and hoping my remaining energy reserves will pull off a small miracle and deliver that ‘language of gesture’ before we leave for Castlerigg on Friday.

It’s not the first ‘final approach’ to an event that has been bumpy like this. Hitherto, they have gone well. I think I can see that small strip of safe landing space in the far distance. It’s starting to look orderly and aligned… I just hope my wheels are, too. Wish us luck!

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

Lakeland in Winter (1) Bowness-on-Windermere

I thought you might like a walk through Bowness-on-Windermere. It’s the place that most people think of as ‘Windermere’, but the actual town of Windermere is a 45 min walk up the hill from the lake: the final station on the rail line from Kendal, and as close as the Victorian engineers could get to the lake from the surrounding hills.

Holidaymakers arrive in droves from Easter onwards, so it’s nice for us ‘locals’ to make the most of the Winter quietness. We’re driving to the outskirts of Bowness so that our stroll into the town can incorporate a dog walk and ‘frisbee chuck’ on the hilly pitch-and-put course that wends its way to the ferry point.

We were expecting it to rain the whole day – as it has for the previous two; but the skies are brightening. My trusty iPhone 12 is in hand and I’ll be making this a very visual walk, so you can ‘feel’ the atmosphere of this beautiful place.

After much barking and running – and that’s just me – we cross to the other side of the pitch-and-put course and arrive at the far hillock that overlooks the town of Bowness-on-Windermere (Bowness) and its busy ferry point.

The local council allows dogs on the mini-golf course, which is deeply appreciated. Being a former (but not very good) golfer, I stay off the greens of course!

It’s at this point that we realise that it’s a lot busier down there than it should be on a winter Monday… We share this view with a passing fellow dog-owner who laughs, and reminds us it is both half-term and Valentine’s Day. We remember exchanging cards, and tea in bed, but the school holidays have somehow eluded our radar…

Crestfallen, we descend towards the crowded ferry wharf…and don our Covid masks…

As we near the bottom of the hill, a graceful shape slides through the trees. One of the large passenger ferries is about to dock. You’d think it was summer…

You can take ferries along the whole ten miles of Lake Windermere; from Lakeside, in the south; via Bowness; and on to the northern tip near Ambleside, whose ferry point is Waterhead.

The boat – now seen to be the M.V. Swan – the largest of the passenger boats on the lake – beats us to the dock as we watch its graceful entrance to Bowness. There’s something deeply moving about seeing a large craft like this dock, elegantly.

Ahead of us, the Swan dominates the space, its sheer, white presence lighting up the winter water.

Bernie notices a panel on the side of the ticket office which shows the height of the terrible floods caused by Storm Desmond in 2015. She has me pose with extended elbow to show the water level at the time… The ferry harbour was closed for weeks.

The picture below shows the same place after the floods … Devastating.

It’s time Tess had a drink of water, and we’re due a coffee, so we head along the shore and into the town. We’re about to turn off the road into a Costa Coffee shop (with outside seating for dog owners – we know how to live!) when I notice that the intensity of the ‘holiday’ traffic on this main road has diminished…to nothing.

I turn to view a road empty of traffic and there’s one of the largest articulated lorries I’ve ever seen. It’s slowly climbing up from the ferry point, flanked by an escort car that is racing ahead to halt and disperse all other vehicles.

Tess has been in the adjacent ‘coffee garden’ many times. Terrified of the behemoth roaring up the gradient, she drags me towards the gate…

I manage to grab a final shot of the monster as it rages past, then turn to console the Collie… Large coffees, we think… are they licensed? She nods… we’re a complete synthesis of human and dog. Inseparable.

And that’s about it, really. We amble around the shops, loving Bowness’ artisan back streets and alleyways…

There are even some period arcades, their original woodwork intact…

I always look for some humour on these occasions; something to end the piece with a smile… Here’s today’s offering. The new owner of a shop that’s been there ‘forever’ has repurposed its space.

I’ve expanded their wonderful (and I’m sure tongue-in-cheek) tag line in the image below…

Next time you need that unique sterling silver statement jewellery with repurposed attitude, you know it’s time you visited Bowness-on-Windermere… love it!

It’s never dull in Bowness. Come and join us…

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

THE HILL WITH TWO STATIONS

(Above: In the foreground, the village of Sedgwick. In the distance, The Helm – a local peak with two stations!
photo taken in summer)

Our small village, Sedgwick, near Kendal, has a landscape shaped in the classic terminal topography of ancient glaciers. This area of gentle, rounded hills is typical of the final stages of the glacier’s course. The English Lake District, where we live, has them in abundance. ‘Basket of Eggs’ is another term you may remember from those geography text books at school. They are also known as ‘drumlins’.

(Above: Lake Windermere and the high glacial basin (corrie) from which it was formed in the background)

These small hills get bigger as you journey nearer to the centre of the region. The northern half of Lake Windermere was formed from a glacier whose origin was the mountain of Fairfield, a few miles north of Ambleside, at the head of the lake. See picture, above.

It’s the Friday before the third Sunday in the month. You’ll find me with a very happy Collie dog – Tess, walking from Sedgwick along the quietest country lanes and tracks towards the hill you can see in the distance in the opening photo – The Helm (also spelled Helme). It doesn’t look too far in that shot, but it’s a three mile walk, and takes about ninety minutes at a fast walking pace.

I love walking. You couldn’t live here and not do. But there’s a practical side to this monthly outing. I’m meeting up with Stuart France, my co-director of the Silent Eye… and we’re planning on having a couple of beers, whilst mapping out the next month of activities – including our new monthly Zoom chat – open to anyone interested.

That’s right – it’s a board meeting! But one held in a station… which may sound odd, but all will be revealed…

A year ago, Sue Vincent – as the third Director of the School, would have been part of the group meeting. This would have taken place in the distant hills of Derbyshire – the place where we’ve regularly held our Spring workshops.

Sadly, as many readers will know, Sue passed away last Spring, leaving the two of us to sail the Silent Eye ship. We are not alone, though, and have a great team of people to assist us – for everything from healing groups to highly-skilled administrative and document production assistance.

Technically, Stuart and I are ‘retired’…but you wouldn’t know it from our average working week of writing, teaching and lesson supervision.

Stuart used to live in Sheffield, which was an ideal base for our monthly meetings in the hills of Derbyshire. After Sue’s passing, Stuart decided to relocate back to his native Lancashire. This was to our mutual advantage because there is a fast rail connection between Preston and the place I’m headed – Oxenholme; the only mainline station in the UK located in a village. Quizzers take note. This might win you a prize!

(Above: the main West Coast line to Glasgow passes over this)

My journey takes me from our house near the centre of Sedgwick, along a steep country lane that runs beneath the West Coast Main Line. We’ll meet this vital link between London and Scotland, again, later. The bridge and line are only ten minutes from the house. If the wind is in the right direction, you can just about hear the trains at night as they thunder northwards to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh. There’s something magical about it…

The road crests a hill then descends to the village of Crosscrake, where we take a tiny lane up the first of several steep ‘drumlin’ hills. These are lined with dense hedges, most of which have just been trimmed. The resulting sharp relief is a pattern to be exploited by the photographer.

(Above: the bare, sharp hedges offer exciting texture to the Winter photograph)

Frustratingly, the lane then plunges down the hill to climb all the way up again – an unavoidable property of the egg ‘basket’ hills. This one is very steep. But, ten minutes later, and somewhat hotter, we’re at the top.

(Above: the tiny lanes are a pleasure to walk, with only occasional traffic)

Soon, we pass one of my favourite gardens, with its oak tree set just off the entrance drive. The photo was taken in October, and the autumn colours allowed me to indulge in a little fine-tuning.

(Above: The ‘oak tree’ garden)

The country lane marks the end of the ancient drumlin and leads to a minor junction of the celebrated A65 – the old trunk road that links Kendal to Skipton – and beyond to York and the East Coast.

There is always beauty to be found in the hedgerows, even on the busy A65. This image was taken here in October…

(Above: The A65; a fast road hostile to the walker – but those colours!)

Beyond the major road the way begins to climb up the initial slopes of The Helm, but the trees are so dense you can’t see the large hill looming above.

(Above: the dense woodland masks the beginning of The Helm)

We now have a choice… We can continue along the narrow lane and skirt the base of The Helm… or, with the Collie expressing a strong preference, we can set off on a rapid and lung-challenging ascent of the steepest face of the hill.

(Tess, the Collie, expressing a preference as to how we navigate The Helm. In the distance are the major hills of the central Lake District)

If we are feeling fit – and the Collie insists – we arrive, breathless at the summit of The Helm, fifteen minutes later. It’s a steep but rapid scramble to the ‘trig point’, but the views are worth it. Kendal is laid out below us like a street map, with the West Coast Main Line skirting the base of The Helm. The air is always pure… and often freezing!

(Above: the old ‘trig point’, now defunct with the advent of satellite navigation and mapping)
(Above: From the top of The Helm, the sweeping landscape takes the eye all the way down to Morecambe Bay in the distance)

Tess loves being here because it’s where we often come (by car) to ‘chuck the frisbee’. Today, however, her fun is curtailed by the sound of shotguns in the next valley. She scampers around, tail down and frightened. Collies are very sensitive creatures…

We’ve done all we can up here. The Collie’s walk will have to be sufficient. Now it’s time to descend to the edge of the village of Oxenholme, where Stuart will be arriving by train in the next 30 minutes.

The Helm is topped by a beautiful, long ridge. We can follow this all the way down to the road that leads into Oxenholme Station.

(Above: The ridge atop The Helm. Following this takes you to the road into Oxenholme, where one of the stations is to be found
(Above: photographed in the early hours of a day-trip to Glasgow, the station’s platform sign)
(Above: Oxenholme Station. Considering it’s just a village, it offers a glorious way to arrive in the Lake District)
(Above: Part of the puzzle revealed… There are two railway lines in Oxenholme. The first is the West Coast Main Line, the other links to the local shuttle service between Kendal and Windermere. The Helm is bottom left on the map. However, this is not the answer to our ‘two stations’ puzzle)

Stuart arrives on-time from Preston. We’re now going to leave one station to have our ‘board meeting’ in another – and its not the one in Kendal.

(Above: the luxury of intercity travel for a short journey)

Fifteen minutes later, two humans and a Collie are ready to have their meeting…

(Above: The other ‘Station’! And the best Guinness for miles around)

And that’s the end of the journey…. Except if we decide to walk home at the end of our chat. The alternative is to ring Bernie, who will gladly drive the fifteen minutes to collect me, while Stuart strolls down to the station to catch his train.

But the thought of walking home through that beautiful coming sunset and the photographs it might offer is calling… But we’ll not be going over The Helm!

©Stephen Tanham 2022

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

emerging from the mist…

There’s a certain amount of ‘fighting back’ in this. The long period of Covid restrictions, followed by a summer in which we all got a taste of gentle freedom again; the sad death of the ‘third musketeer’, Sue Vincent, in March of this year, the inability to hold our regular workshops in the mystical landscapes of Britain…

But then there were positive things: learning – and continuing to learn – the techniques that make Zoom a powerful tool for holding get-togethers across the planet in a way that eliminates cost and distance – though not time; the emergence of new people, in particular a lady from Canada who we will be introducing as part of the team in the next few months. Caroline is already at work updating the three-year course with which we literally accompany those willing to work on themselves and their relationships to ‘the world’, in order to enter a new land of the mind and heart.

And finally, the sheer sense of determination and creative energy that we all feel, the flush of new ideas, and an absolute conviction that we need to not just carry on, but expand the work of the Silent Eye.

The first of these was the Healing Circle, a combination of group meditation and focus, and the mental and emotional creation of a place of working. We had the help of a lovely artist and friend, Giselle Bolotin, who lives in Australia, to paint a beautiful motif for the endeavour, reproduced below. Our own Barbara Walsh stands guard and guide as our high priestess of a beautiful and gentle place that does not physically exist in this realm, but is a solid reality in another – as many who have received its healing assistance will testify.

(Above: the Healing Circle motif, created by Giselle Bolotin for the Silent Eye)

And then Stuart returned from many years working in South Yorkshire to his native Lancashire, meaning that, with me just over the northern edge of that fine county, the two of us could meet on a much more regular basis, and perhaps over the odd glass of Guinness or two…

These more regular meetings have enabled us to focus on the immediate needs of the School, particularly in dovetailing what we do on our monthly Silent Eye Explorations evening, held over Zoom, on the third Saturday of each month. It’s a coming together of interested people – not all from the Silent Eye’s world – but people who understand the importance of such a gathering, regardless of time or place. It builds an ‘egregore of the mind and heart’ as an old mentor and friend once said… The Zoom meetings – Silent Eye Explorations (a Facebook Group) is open to all. We welcome new visitors.

The third is the return of the workshop. We cannot predict what the currently increasing Covid rates will do to restrictions in the coming winter, where Zoom meetings may again be the only way of meeting, but we can look forward to the spring and the potential for having a completely new style of workshop; one that does not rely on the use of a hall, or conference location. We dearly miss our visits to the heart of Derbyshire, and the Nightingale Centre, but Covid and understandable inability to travel has forced us to look at a different formula. That ‘old style’ of hands-on workshop may have become a luxury that few can take advantage of. It’s our duty to explore the alternatives.

Our landscape weekends, which did not rely on a certain number of attendees to play the dramatic roles we had scripted, have always been popular and financially viable. So, we thought, let’s combine the two ideas and have a big one, where people don’t take on dramatic personas but play… themselves. Our last Zoom meeting was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell, who used the word ‘monomyth’ to show that the world’s myths and legends had a commons meta-story at their heart. This generic ‘journey of the hero’ will be the basis for next May’s journeys in the landscape in the northern Lake District. Each person will become their own hero, during several experiences over the weekend of 6-8 May 2022,

(Above: The Journey of the Hero – weekend of 6-8 May, 2022)

Viruses willing, we will emerge from next winter to a bright May morning where an international gathering of spiritually inclined people will follow a mysterious trail through lakes, mountains, waterfalls and, most of all, a silent language of ‘movements’, each one building on the previous until we culminate the power of this in a final visit to the magical stone circle of Castlerigg, high in a natural ring of mountains and surrounded by nature’s grandeur.

Our final project is in honour of our departed Director, Sue Vincent. The three of us often discussed the power of the traditional Tarot images to convey many of the deeper aspects of the mystical journey towards the deeper Self. We wondered if we had the capacity to create a set of ‘oracle cards’ for use by ourselves and our student/companions. The Silent Eye uses the enneagram, rather than the Kabbalistic Tree of Life as its teaching basis. Any such project would have to reflect the unique and circular basis of the enneagram, rather than the vertical down-up structure of the Tree of Life.

(Above: the Silent Eye’s Teaching Enneagram – the basis for the coming Oracle)

At the time, we parked it. Sue was uncertain that she had the artistic skills to do it, and we decided that we would be better equipped to scope it when we had a generation of companions who had made the three-year journey with us. We are in discussions with an artist of great skill, whose work has often been this type of vivid depiction. By the time of the spring workshop in the northern Lake District, we should be well on with the project and ready to give an update. Who knows, we might even be able to use some of the prototypes oracle cards for the weekend…

The mist is certainly clearing. It appears there is a lot to do… wish us luck!

©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

Links:

Contact points and web addresses for the Silent Eye’s work:

Click the link below to go to the Healing Circle page:

The Silent Eye Healing Circle

Silent Eye Explorations (Facebook Group page)

The monthly Silent Eye Explorations Zoom meetings are open to all. The documentation for this is on the Facebook Group ‘Silent Eye Explorations’. As Facebook is a closed environment, you will need to click the link requesting to join the group. We will then authorise you, and you will be able to see the previous meetings and join us in meetings to come. These are held on the third Saturday of the month at 8:00 pm.

For more information on any of the above, email us at rivingtide@gmail.com

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