Blessings of friendship

  The Easter holidays have been upon us. It is not a universal truth that the holidays are a time for great release and out-breathing. Many people have to struggle with work and family commitments, no time nor money to do much at all. The weather no doubt plays a deeply important role in enjoyment at this time of year: a warm sun and a gentle breeze can lift even the dourest of spirits, where rain and perpetual cold can dampen anyone’s joie de vivre. Yet surely and obviously, once we actually stop making excuses to ourselves and stop believing our own negative reasoning, adventure is there to be had.

For isn’t this your life? Right here, right now? Why are you even looking at your screen and not rushing out to step into the great flow of chaos that is out there, ready to sweep you and your imagination out into the Wild Unknown?  When did the worry of not-now-ness drag you away from the scream of YES that is so, so close to the tips of your lips you can almost hear it? That tingling in your spine that meant you were about to do something a bit crazy with no idea if the ending was going to be good or bad, or even if there was going to be an ending at all? Don’t book anything or think about anything, JUST DO IT, as the old advert so wisely declares.

Some things occasionally remind me that this really is my life and that I’d better get on with it. Quitting my day job, buds upon trees that I’m pretty sure weren’t there the other day, mountain walks with friends, tears of joy of the marking of a big birthday in someone’s life, children making odd and wise statements for the very first time…. So much reminds me that I’ve actually no clue about what is going to happen next. I am constantly surprised and overjoyed by life, when I stop talking myself out of living it.

This is not to say that the things that go on in our lives, the big things, the worries and concerns will simply  disappear at the rattle of a handful of acorns. Of course they do not. And this is also not to advocate sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending that we are not of this world, whether we like it or not. Because we are.  Bills need to be paid, health maintained, relationships managed and other things that seem so terribly mundane must be worked upon. Yet, there is deep wisdom in saying the following mantra to yourself at least once a day, and more, if necessary:

Fuck it.

Just that. Fuck it.

Let yourself smile. Because the mountains exist, birthdays come and go, friends in human and animal form bless our lives, as do friends in all the other forms that we love. I don’t know about you but I collect beautiful things that I find on my walks and I put them onto my Windowsill of Wonder. They sit there and I observe them as I cook. They remind me of the things that make me happy and they are there, just being, precious in their own right. They are talismans of the days I said fuck it and I went out to find what the world showed me.

I saw the power of love this week. I saw how kindness, patience, gentleness and a loving spirit in a person attracts that back. I saw and was blessed to be a witness to what a single person can mean to others and that marking their birthday marked everything in their lives that had led to this moment; good and bad, sad and joyful, without judgement and without pride nor rancour. I saw that friendship can heal great wounds, open up hearts, give closure to those who needed it and make people smile. I felt gratitude flowing like a great swirling vortex, engulfing us, connecting us and drawing us ever closer to what we secretly yearn for all of our lives: honesty. Honesty of being. No facades of politeness and etiquette, no worrying about reputation or attitudes. Good, marvellous honesty.

There was honesty right there alright, and it swept away the murky, polluted stagnation of lives of not-now. fuck it dwelt inside us all and was given voice to speak, then legs to walk and dance, then teeth to eat and ears to hear. Fuck it made the days shine and the people glow. It was an arena within which people looked towards a place of safety and security where they really could just be. How rare this is! How gratefully received.

We were blessed those days. But, then I catch myself wondering if all days have this inherently within them, yet we have lost the eyes to see it, the senses to feel it any more? Do I really need to take a couple of days out for a significant birthday, a rite of passage, to invite the spirit of honesty into my life? Perhaps it needs no invitation and it is I who needs to simply walk through an open door. It is always there, you know, honesty, magic, connection, nwyfre.




Counting the cost and planting anew

I am struck by the amount of mature trees that this winter has claimed in its ferociousness. Ashes bent and humiliated, the land torn up and roots splintered by the collapse of such enormous beings that have stood sentinel for so long, unnoticed for so long, lucky in the story of survival, of the hundreds of years they have witnessed. The sky line can never be the same again. It is clear that many of these beautiful lives had grown old and perhaps were ready to fall some day. But there are so many, so many. Paths meander round the fallen canopy, or over the trailing trunk, allowing me to walk in solemnity around their rather imposing size. How come, as they soar above, it can pass my attention by that they really are so huge, hulky, vast? Held up by watery sinew, resilience and sheer force of the will to grow, to Be. I have hugged trees and felt them bend and sway beneath me. I have stood on a grand oak’s roots barefoot and felt the humbling power of the grip they have upon the Earth in order to hold up such a creature. I have eaten brand new beech leaves, soft and bright green, tanniny taste making my mouth salivate with its bitterness. I have sucked the sugary blossom leaves of the hawthorn in May, a little way-side treat. I have watched the same leaves grow, flourish, turn and fall in a single year on a single tree and I have been thankful that the creature itself was doing what it knows to do.

Treebeard: Many of these trees were my friends. Creatures I had known from nut or acorn.
Pippin: I’m sorry, Treebeard.
Treebeard: They had voices of their own.”

There is a grief that wells within me at this devastation. These trees really were my friends, they have shaped this landscape for far more years than I hold. They have led the eye on gentle meanderings, on joyous Spring days and head-down-coat-zipped freezing, wet winter walks of necessity and magiclessness. They have been there, noted or not. And now they are gone, bypassed, circumnavigated, reconfigured, and eventually cleared away by industrious landowners for firewood.

As I walk home, I remember that last year I bought a little pear sapling, to keep company the struggling Old Pear tree that clings to life in the tangle of the bottom garden. I should have planted it in the winter. Perhaps I’m too late already. I walk up to it. It is budding. Pear is awakening. It needs a home. I should plant no more than four meters from Old Pear. Like an orchard of two. There are three apple trees already in the garden and like frilly, blowsy old ladies at a tea and cake morning, they are getting on famously. Old Pear has needed some help for some time, even though I was delighted that It produced two fruits last year, it is not famous for bumper crops. I fetch my spade and the sapling and I bring them down into the bottom garden, where inquisitive chickens come to oversee and scratch around where I work. I dig a hole.

Dig. The blade cuts smoothly into the brown earth and I feel a wave of calm spread up from it, into my being and into my face. It changes my muscles, contracting my mouth into a little smile. Soft tears start to well in my eyes as I make the hole even on each side. I feel the scrape of a pebble against the spade, the momentary halt, then the juddering descent into the ground as the earth rearranges herself and yields to the cut. I dig more. The little mound of excavated soil grows and the chickens investigate. Scratch, buuuuurrrrp, scratch, scratch, burrrp beeuuuurp. Contented are we. Their soft throaty sounds mingle with the gentle swish of the branches overhead. Even with mere buds upon the boughs, the sound of trees in the wind is changing from the dull clack of wintery, wind-swept branches to the prelude to the full, oceanic, rustle of Spring.

The hole is dug. I take New Pear out of Its pot and I place it into the ground. Yes, I think, I’m just in time. It is hungry for the earth and I should have done this before now. I feel an urgency to the job, this sapling is in my care and it needs all the help it can get. I replace the earth and water the ground. Blessings come to my lips, without a thought: grow and be fruitful. The simplest of blessings, calling straight to its heart. Do what you need to do, because your nature requires it of you.

As I turn away, I remind myself to do what I am requiring of myself to do. Old trees fall and new trees grow. This is the unassailable truth. But planting, that is a choice.


Excerpt from The Lord of The Rings- The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkein