A clear draught

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I came across an old photo quite by chance, putting things away in the loft. It set me off thinking, as such things do. In the picture my late partner is holding a coffee cup… You can’t see it, but I know precisely what it looked like all those years ago. White with a blue rim and dots, with three tiny flowers, red, yellow and blue.

I remember it because it meant something. Not in itself, of course, but because of circumstance. When he died I had just made his morning coffee. There was a moment when it was all ‘over’, when the ambulance men had left and I waited for the undertaker, and I picked up the cup, still bearing the last traces of warmth, and I finally wept.

I used that cup for a long time afterwards… just me… even when it was chipped and the handle dangerously cracked. I used it till I didn’t need to… then it went in the cupboard. It stayed there until I didn’t need it to be there anymore. It took a while.

Why? Because it had held more than coffee for me and it had become a symbol of something more than its physical form.

As I drove into town, I got to thinking…

We can be picky about cups and glasses, those vessels which seem to epitomise that which they hold. Champagne… a rarity, of course… I like to drink from a flute, red wine from a deep bellied glass. Tea must come in a china cup with a saucer… or a big mug filled with a deep mahogany brew.  Coffee, to be fair, can be administered through an IV drip for all I care… but my preference is for the tiny cups of espresso.

There is a reason beyond habit for these things. Champagne really does taste better in a flute… honestly, there have been scientific analyses done to prove it… something to do with the way the gas bubbles collect in the glass. The same for red wine, though more to do with the warmth of the hand that holds the bowl. Tea ? Let’s not go there… I’m a Yorkshire lass… it isn’t up for discussion.

I do wonder though if the vessel holds expectation just as much as liquid. We see the shining silver and porcelain of a tea-room and expect good tea… A tiny cup and a pavement café in Paris are synonymous with that certain je ne sais quoi. The misted surface of a cold glass of beer simply invites thoughts of a hot summer’s day… We see and expect even before we taste.

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Yet, if we are thirsty, truly thirsty, do we care about the vessel that holds the water? The vessel merely contains, so that what is held within may be moved from source to lip, it gives the water shape… may even seem to colour it… but what lies within the vessel is still water.  Do we need crystal glasses or fashionable plastic bottles? A cracked mug, a paper cup, our hands… or even, perhaps especially, just plunging our face into a mountain stream  and drinking from the earth. All will serve, for it is not the vessel that counts, but what it holds. To those whose thirst is urgent and visceral even a muddied puddle holds salvation.

In many of the Sufi poems we ourselves are likened to vessels shaped by the Hand of the Potter. It does not matter if, as Khayyam wrote, the Hand shook in the making, nor if  the vessel has been chipped and cracked by usage. It matters little if it thinks itself fit for champagne, comfortable enough for tea, or as holy as a chalice… it is filled with what is needed to quench the thirst of the one who drinks. The pot has no say in the matter. It is filled by another Hand.

When we are seeking the clear water of inner truth we can find it in many unexpected and unlikely places and the expectations we have for the vessel may not reflect what it holds. The draught in the chalice may be wine or bitter herbs, the clay bowl hold pure water, we cannot know until we raise it to our lips and taste what lies within.

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Leaf and Flame: The Foliate Man #2

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“…where strange things, strife and sadness,

at whiles in the land did fare,

and each other grief and gladness

of fast have followed there…”

– J.R.R Tolkien

#2 Hart to Heart

…“In which the Ladies of the Round rediscover the Tale of Blessed Bran, Merlin and the Lady re-convene the Assembly of the Wondrous Head, King Arthur and his Knights go hunting and Gawain enters the Enchanted Forest in pursuit of the hart and stumbles upon another ‘Death-Pact’ the solution to which lies in the discovery of the correct answer to an elusive riddle.”…

The eyes have been dotted, the tees have been crossed, to all intents and purposes the ‘donkey work’ of writing the five dramas for next year’s April Workshop: Leaf and Flame- The Foliate Man has been done. There will undoubtedly be minor changes between now and then, there always are and these are usually flagged up in the communal read throughs which will take place at our three remaining monthly meetings.

There is still an awful lot of work to be done in terms of music, props, costuming and the presentations which are used throughout to properly set the tone and theme for the weekend…

But more importantly what we really need now is… people!

So, what are you waiting for?

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 Weekend of 22-24 April, 2016.

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.

Click the image for further details of this weekend workshop with the Silent Eye

and a special appearance by Mister Fox.

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Harvest of Being 2015: Ilkley Moor…

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XXIV THE LION’S SHARE

“Tell me,” said Joshua, “why is that
person carrying a lamb to the city ?”

Judas Thomas said, “so that he may kill it and eat it.”

Joshua said, “whoever has come to know the world has
discovered a carcass, and whoever has discovered a
carcass, of that person the world is not worthy.

Damn the soul that depends on the flesh.
Damn the flesh that depends on the soul.

How miserable is the body that depends on these two ?

Together they are like a dog in a cattle manger,
where neither the dog nor the cattle can eat hay.

During the days when you eat what is dead you make
it alive, but when you are in the light, where the dead are
not alive and the living will not die, what will you do ?

If the body came into being because of the spirit then
it is a marvel: if the spirit came into being because
of the body then it is a marvel of marvels; I marvel
that such great wealth dwells in so much poverty.

Cursed be the man who eats a lion
that the lion becomes human.

Blessed be the lion that eats a man
when the lion becomes human.”

The Living One

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Harvest of Being 2015: Ilkley Moor…

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III A BAPTISM OF FIRE

Joshua said, “Judas Thomas, while you are still
in the world, attend to the questions of your heart,
and it shall be revealed to you: who you are,
why you exist, and how you will come to be.”

“Who are you to say these things to me ?” Said Judas Thomas.

Joshua said, “you do not know who I am from what I say to you ?
Then you have disregarded the living one who is in your presence.

You are like a fruit picker who loves the fruit but hates the tree.

I am the light that is over all things,
I am all: from me all has come forth,
and to me all has reached.

Split a piece of wood…
I am there.
Lift up a block of stone…
I am there also.

I shall give you what no eye has
seen, what no ear has heard,
and what no hand has touched,
for the thing that I shall give you
has not arisen from the human heart.

I have thrown fire upon the world, and
look… I am watching it until it blazes.

Whoever is near me is near the fire.
Whoever is far from me is far from the kingdom.”

-The Living One

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