language, Poetry, trees, Uncategorized

Securus

sundappled riverSecurus. Just seeing that word can make me smile.

I cannot now recall where I first saw or heard it. But I rushed to note it down (all the better to capture it and keep it close?) once I read its gloriously uplifting definition:


securus (latin; adjective)

– free from care, fearless, composed, cheerful, bright, serene, safe.


Have you ever heard a more perfect description of a good life, a happy person, a wonderful aim?
My blogs are usually wordy, but this one single word, this marvellous little dose of lexical soul-medicine… well, I reckon it can just be a blog in its entirety. Because I can literally add nothing more to a word like securus.

May the good people of this world be forever securus.

PS.  please, Latin purists, please don’t get on my case about cases.  I know.  But right now, I only want one version of securus. Because life really is too short, too important, and too complex to be fretting about case-determined inflections.  This time, grammar can wait.

 

(photo by Daisy – no reproduction without permission, please)

culture, history, language, Photography, Time, Uncategorized

Time, part 1: midnight

ungraspable timeTime is a foreigner to me.

A dark-eyed beauty who blinks seductively, hypnotically, then slips away before I can grasp it or hold onto it, leaving just the sense of Time having been and gone in a teasing, faintly mocking, clocking, tick-tocking encounter.

No wonder I’m so often just a little late (versus the precise alignment of metal lines on a disc of numbers, or liquid crystals in a set of tiny square window frames set under a glass top): I’m forever only getting the gist of Time’s language, not the detail.

Time is a foreign language to me.

I fail to understand it, no matter how loudly or slowly it continues to repeat its incessant, strident labelling of my days and nights. I have tried. I have watched Time passing, tried to feel its pulse, tried to assimilate the system by which my culture (European, for now) insists it should be measured. And I have failed. Because I cannot grasp it or sense it in any useful way, when utilising this abstract conceptualisation of time.

Time is an abstraction to me.

Abstract concepts of Time are a very Western thing. This First World determination to parcel up and delineate something as ancient and infinite as Time has been a kind of control freakery bordering on hysteria. Or arrogance. …As bad as climbing mountains “because they are there”, “conquering” them, with a view to making of the word ‘summit’ a verb (about a human climber) rather than a noun (about an upcrop of this glorious planet)… but that’s another blog, so I’d best not deviate. Not for a bit, anyway. (note the unspecific time indicator, there, and don’t even get me started on the use of ‘summit’ as a noun indicating a clutch of over-privileged, dangerously empowered Stale Pale Males taking private jets to a golf-course-sized monoculture of well-irrigated lawn with attendant 7-star facilities in the middle of a salty atoll or parched desert… breathe, Daisy, breathe!)

Time is a dark wonder to me.

Many simpler cultures (usually in a tribal or pristine state, unsullied by our greedy ‘modern’ handprints that start as a wave and turn into a slap) see time in a totally reversed way to the First World countries. They will tell you that the future is behind you, not in front of you. This took me a while to grasp, but once I did, I was amazed – and delighted – at how this concept of Time made total sense.

Time harnessed

Imagine being on a train, one of those old-fashioned ones which hurtled startled Victorians across ‘new’ (to them) continents at a speed almost suffocating (to them). Imagine you’re sat at the back of the train, looking out through that little  windowed door on the end which has a railing and steps, and that you’re watching the landscape flinging itself into your field of vision, coming from behind you and to your sides, and then receding away in front of you. Well, that view is Time to many so-called ‘primitive’ peoples: Time is invisible, unknowable when it is the future; but visible (though disappearing fast) when it is in the present; and invisible (though able to be remembered) when it is in the past. If I’ve confused you, just remember that to say that you are travelling backwards through Time, not forwards, is merely a matter of differing social semantics: Time cannot be defined in relation to your physical location.

Time is out of my control.

That ‘travelling in reverse’ is one pretty important distinction, though. Humans should not think they can ever have a hope of seeing the future or controlling it, is what that ‘primitive’ view seems to suggest. Seeing Time in this way is a useful means of sweeping away the natural arrogance of assumed control, and to relax about the stressful impossibility of ever arriving ‘on time’: on whose time, exactly? And do people really have nothing better to do than fume, if the person for whom they wait is ten minutes ‘late’ in relation to their measuring of The Time? Could they not reverse their perception, and see that ten minutes as a gift? A precious little longer to engage in the present, to wonder at the Here and Now, to (gasp!) daydream and ‘do nothing’ but look. “Time to stand and stare…”

Time is a cruel enslavement.segments

And who decided, and why, that the best way to divide up each terrestrial spin was into 24 chunks (why not 25? or 10? or 3?) , then 60 minutes (which weren’t even measurable with any certainty until relatively recently in human history), then seconds and micro-seconds  and milli-seconds and nano- and and and… oh spare me, will we never break our thirst for self-flagellating in this way?  It is like a tyranny of technology: if we measure in those tiny segments, we have to live at that pace. No wonder life has become so dizzyingly frenetic in the ‘modernised’ world.

 

Time is, was, and always will be.

I sense midnight at my heels, creeping around my feet to scuttle off into shadowy depths ahead of me. I feel rather than hear it ‘strike’. Hurtling backwards into my future on that train, there are obscuring swirling smuts and steam all around. I realise that Time is indeed breathing down my neck. How appropriate, then, that we to attempt to locate and  pin down Time using the word ‘tense’.

midnight supermoon

 

All photographs (& effects) by Daisy. No reproduction without permission, please.

 

 

 

creativity

The mysterious source of creativity

I admit to being baffled as to the source of my creativity. How I wish I did know its triggers; then I could turn it on (and off) like a tap!IMG_20121210_212446

Some days, my creative ideas flow like a fast stream in whose waters I wade, and with which I struggle to keep pace, but am delighted to feel its energy rippling and splashing as I step carefully, smiling and trying to keep my feet on a distractingly slippery, half-invisible surface.

Other times, it is as if I wander, frustrated, along the same riverbed now run dry: then my feet only feel the dusty, hard stones. Yes, I am steadier on those days, but the walk is lifeless: a functional, destination-directed path, rather than a journey-focused experience.

From conversations with others who love to create stories, music, poetry, art, songs, photography, gardens, and meals, I don’t think I’m alone in this ebb and flow. The metaphor of ideas as a flow (on a good day) or a dried-up void (on a bad one) is one much-used, so I’m not even being that creative in writing about it!

But oh, the joy when a theme shimmers into focus, or a rhyme becomes a stanza, or a line becomes a sketch, or or or…! Because (to me) the creativity ‘thing’ is indeed cumulative and multi-faceted, so once I have tapped into the flow, suddenly I am almost swimming in a rushing, energising flood of ideas and inter-related thoughts. I suppose this is when creativity becomes like a many-channelled delta, and the only challenge is to choose which channel to chase…and which, agonisingly, I must ignore this time.

IMG_20150717_081931

Maybe the trick is just to try to make, something, anything, each day. Just make. Even the smallest thing. And if nothing substantial results, well, just get up next day, focus the energies, and – at some point – try again. Because sometimes the habit trips whichever switch, or pulls at whichever trigger is needed to get something creative out. And without that release, well…I’m not sure my mind would cope with all the other ‘stuff’ that follows us around in the maelstrom we call ‘daily life’.

Phew. I feel better already! Now where did I put that drawing pad…

Avebury, landscape, Nature, Photography, Uncategorized, Wiltshire

Avebury’s energy, solar & otherwise

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It was a Whitethroat singing in the treetop, its notes bouncing and scattering as if juggled by the wind. It kept its mystery by wearing silhouette black until it trusted those watching not to pursue it with more than their ears and eyes.  Then it revealed itself with a flash of white and buff feathers, as cool a palette as the ground up on the Ridgeway, as chalky as the field edges. A sudden flicker of energy, the bird darted down into the hedgerow shrubs then back to the tree, like punctuation or a page turn. Then the watchers moved off, grateful but chased by the need to visit the valley before the threatened rain.

This was a good start to a wonderful walk in Wiltshire. A greeting of sorts. If the whitethroat sang the Matins, the rooks sang the Vespers (“sang” is a generous term, given their cries tend to sound more like warnings, or irritated judgements of those below their acrobatics). The omens were good, the forecast bad. The wind was doing its best to scrub away the clouds from a Wedgewood blue sky, but more were marching in, aerial icebergs moving magisterially along the width of the valley. Yet the rain took pity on the watchers and took a day off. The huge, muscular clouds knew how good they looked and puffed up with pride, resisting the relentless half-gentled wind trying to move them on out of the valley. This was weather on steroids. A sky on a trip. A sky for a trip. A good day to meet with a friend new to the place, whom I truly wanted to “feel” Avebury. Still, it was with trepidation that I stepped out, through the gate, into the circle of stones. Please, I thought, please like this place; please understand why I do.

I am used to Avebury taking me by surprise, despite my many visits, but this time I was almost silenced (a rare thing in company!) by the astonishing light and magnitude of sky almost dwarfing the stones. But of course, this just made me feel even smaller. A useful rebalancing of perspective is always the reward of an outside day filled with Nature: as you don’t matter so much, your problems matter even less. Avebury’s circle was peppered liberally with people, it being a school holiday. I am used to a more deserted space (or a Solstice throng!), so some waiting was needed for taking photographs sans smiling visitors…though I should add that I love the stones to be appreciated and shared. Avebury is not a Stonehenge, whose stones are as fenced off and aloof as race horses in the round; rather it is a wild scattering of curious mustangs. Visitors may approach and reach up to marvel at those which gather close, or wander wide and long to search out those more shy and less often seen.

For me, it was a relief to see that Avebury knew she had new people to impress, and my heart sang out gratefully to those big sunlit stones and wide bright skies.  The day was full in its generosity. Was that just a sparkle of the sun or did I see the Queen Stone wink at me? “Did you really think we’d disappoint, child?” she seemed to say. Hours of walking later, recalibrated, aglow with the Avebury energy, I levered off shoes caked with chalk and mud. Chalky white dust fluttered down. Like the scattering of notes of the Whitethroat singing its praises in a high hedgerow.

Panorama of the centre of Avebury circle

Avebury, landscape, Photography, Poetry, Stone, Wiltshire

The Poem for the Queen Stone – musings and an extract

The Queen Stone (my name for her)
The Queen Stone looms large in my imagination as well as the landscape

The Queen stone of Avebury has been mentioned on this blog before. I identify her as Queen because her top edge resembles a crown and she seems so distinct in shape, generally. Her form is feminine: rounded, generous, sheltering, yes, but sharp-headed and standing strong against the withering, weathering winds of the place. Raindrops linger and shimmer on her upper edges, like a mystic’s pool, or tears of regret on a proud face.

If Avebury was indeed a site of pilgrimage or worship, (holy or heretical, holistic or hubristic), or even simply a gathering place for tribes and traders, there will have been people of rank as well as the common folk making up the crowds, so maybe a queen or a priestess held court there. I imagine this stone as encapsulating this commanding presence.

When I wrote a poem about her, to be set to music by Andy for the upcoming Haven Avenue album, the words tumbled out without much need for summoning or marshalling: the Queen was calling the shots. She had a tale to tell, orders to give, private tears to weep, and she wanted no pity. I felt the form of the poem was vital: like a royal protocol or a formal dance, there was an order and a structure to follow, verse to verse. It imposed itself – yes I wrote this poem, but it found me, bubbling up from within.  I think of my doughty Queen as holding onto power in the midst of change and challenge: she will not cede, not yield, …not yet.   The poem begins thus: for the final verse, you’ll have to check out the album!

She buried him deep, her king.
Refusing to weep, she walked instead.
Trod paths round and round.
Turned thoughts in her head.
Told sons to wait their turn.
After her. Her heart turned to stone.
Her crown, three jagged points.
A Trinity devoid of jewels.
And yet she glitters in the sun.
Her beauty untouched by four thousand years.She buried them deep, her fears.
Refusing to weep, she talked instead.
But made not a sound.
On mud paths she’d tread.
Told us to wait and learn.
Look at her. Her face turned to stone.
Her throne, a chalk circle.
A Divinity devoid of rings.
And yet she welcomes everyone.
Her soul untouched by four thousand years.
(copyright of author, please respect!) ©2015
Avebury, landscape, Nature, Photography, trees

Threads Through Time

Avebury - the chalk path atop the mound, seen from between the Magic Trees
Avebury – the chalk path atop the mound, seen from between the Magic Trees

The magic trees, I call them.

Threaded into the chalk mound with criss-cross roots in patterns as delicate as crochet, but a grip as strong as boot laces, they stand and endure the endless tugging winds of Avebury.

These beech trees scatter beech-masts like blessings to the devoted; modern pilgrims have festooned their branches with ribbons and threads, feathers and beads, sweets and travel tickets. All manner of secret prayers and imprecations have been bound to the out-stretched arms of these trees: the spiritual and the physical combine to spin a potent web of modern magic.

The Magic Trees of Avebury hold fast like friends or sisters. embracing
The Magic Trees of Avebury hold fast like friends or sisters. embracing

The trees gather round as if embracing; sisters maybe, born of a long-departed central mother tree. The Avebury winds are strong enough, relentless enough, to make survival hard. Most days, the trees thrash and sway, sighing as they yaw from foothold to fingertip.  These trees cannot dip their roots into fertile, sweet-watered soil. They must battle through shell-bone chalk, hand-thrown metres high and trodden down over the millennia. Avebury’s trees must hold fast, endure attrition, and grow slowly; no wonder they fascinate and beguile the hopeful modern visitor as much as the stones attracted the ancients.

The joy and fascination of a long tradition connects us with our ancestors like threads through time.
The joy and fascination of a long tradition connects us with our ancestors like threads through time.

The magic trees, I call them. They are a visual, tactile, aural reminder that Nature maintains her place in the world as the provider of a woven tapestry of hope: threaded through time, memory and dreams.

Through Nature, at least, we are connected.

Avebury, landscape, Photography, Solstice, Stone, Wiltshire

Summer Solstice at Avebury

Solstice is an edgy time.

Together we gather, to wait and watch and wonder, at the rise of the Solstice Sun
Together we gather, to wait and watch and wonder, at the rise of the Solstice Sun

Peoples across the globe have long lined up in high or open places, turned their faces to the East, and waited for the sun to rise. Fervent or irreverent, maybe depending on their level of certainty that the sun will return, they have always felt thankful when the solar light surges above the horizon. The ability to rely on this change from night to day, celebrated at the passage of each half-year, inspires hope for continued certainties in troubled time. “Sleep on it!”, we say, to those with seemingly insurmountable problems. And sure enough, the morning light can illuminate the darkest corners and bring new perspectives. We “rise to a challenge”, as the sun rises to light our way. Renewal and resilience are the promises made by each Solstice.

With this in mind, I made a singular (in both senses!) journey to Avebury to witness the Summer Solstice of 2015. I am quite partial to early morning walks, but it takes an iron resolve to actually get anywhere for 3:45am. Braving the Winter Solstice is less problematic in terms of logistics, as far fewer people make the journey in the bitter depths of December: I know from experience how the drizzle and freezing winds deter all but the most dedicated modern pilgrims, who know the need for thermal layers and a flask of something warming. But the Summer Solstice is a far cheerier and more popular occasion, with people sleeping out next to stones, sharing a laid-back party vibe, and needing a little more (gentle) supervision.

As I entered the huge central circle of Avebury, just before 4am, it was still dark, but with a steely blue-grey emerging beneath dark, ashy clouds. The buzz and excitement was palpable around the stones, and under the trees, with good-natured groups of modern revellers and would-be druids ebbing to and fro: a human tide pulled in by the moon and mood of the place, shepherded by the most benign of police officers (whose pockets were rapidly emptying of sweets!), high-res’ jacketed guardians of this modern festivity.

Even the most ale-fuddled of the crowd fell almost silent as – yes! – the sun crept up and out from behind a duvet of clouds, stretching its fingers of light across the mist-blanketed fields of Wiltshire, brushing swathes of peach and gold across the sky. Sheep appeared out of the long grass softening the Avebury circle; drums and cymbals struck up a clamorous welcome; folk young and old listened, looked, smiled and hugged; hundreds of cameras tried to capture the moment. I recorded sounds and sights for nigh on two hours, but really it was within me that the memory of this shared magic was best captured.

Walking back to my car, following the short grass and tall stones of the Avenue‘s pathway,  framed within a boundless, exuberant froth of wildflowers, I felt a curious peace and softening of my modern sensibilities. It is hard to resist the lure of Avebury once you are smitten by its harmonious beauty.  I, for one, am shamelessly, hopelessly in love with the place. And yet I feel no reluctance to share it with others: it is less of a cult than a culture,  more about people than pilgrims, more folk than faith.

It is a welcoming landscape, with the village threaded as carefully through it as the many offerings left on one of the trees. Come dressed as you are, at any hour of the day or night. Tread lightly, look carefully, trace the circle, stroke the stones, listen to the wind tugging at trees and lifting corvid wings: what a generous, enduring, seductive mystery there is to Avebury.

Put simply, it inspires.