Mantle of Brighid About Me   Leave a comment

Mantle of Brighid about me,
Memory of Brighid within me,
Protection of Brighid around me
keeping me from harm,
from ignorance, from heartlessness,
this day and night,
from dawn till dark,
from dark till dawn.

John O’Donohue (adapted), The Four Elements, Transworld Ireland, 2010, pg. 109. (Also available in Random House editions.)

stbrigidscrossI find in this poem a prayer most fitting for these darkening days till Yule and sun-return (never mind the ritual season). I add to it these visualizations as I say the opening triad of actions:

I see and feel the soft, warm cloak of Brighid furl and drop around me. I touch the weave of the cloth. I see the mantle extend outward, expanding the presence of Brighid all around me. “Beneath your mantle you gather us.”

I feel the memory of Brighid arrive as I whisper her name, her presence in thought and feeling, in the hearth-fire, in human warmth and affection, in animal caresses, in the sun’s brightness, hidden behind clouds or yellow in the December sky. Her mantle means we help manifest her, bring her here. “Remind us how to kindle the hearth.”

I feel the awen of the divine kindling in and around me whenever I put off despair and choose better. I sense the awen in others, upholding me even as I uphold them. I name them now, sitting or standing before any fire or flame or light, which I declare Brighid’s fire and flame and light.

O’Donohue writes: “One of the reasons for the modern poverty of spirit is amnesia. Even though there is a great harvest of healing energy within memory, people seem to make so little use of it. Rather than living from this harvest within them, they seem in the demented rush of modern life to live more out of their poverty” (pg. 113).

I hold my hands up before me and say more of this prayer-poem:

To keep it bright,
to preserve the flame,
your hands are ours,
our hands in yours
to kindle the light
both day and night.

And then I close, repeating the opening triad once or twice more as it feels right.

Mantle of Brighid about me,
Memory of Brighid within me,
Protection of Brighid around me.

And I see Brighid’s cross, feel it foursquare, if I receive no other intimation of the goddess. I sein my thoughts, feelings, and actions of the day with it, sometimes continuously through the hours if I need it, to preserve, preserve, preserve the flame.

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Image: Brighid’s cross. Pic w quote below:

quote-jodonohue

“Collapsing Now” and “Inevitable Progress”   Leave a comment

[OK, what follows is a rant. Continue for your own discomfort. I say little that’s new here. Just retuning and returning with notes I’ve sounded before. Mostly, as with blogging, I’m talking to myself, but out loud. Say it to see how it sounds. Flavo(u)r to taste. You indulge me by sometimes liking what I write, if it has any merit you can use. And your comments, as always, are welcome.]

“Collapse now”, counsels John Michael Greer, “collapse now and avoid the rush” as industrial civilization devolves and careers along an increasingly wobbly course. Greer, whose words and ideas have intermittently appeared here, is a “talk-walker”, someone who lives what he advises others to practice. An increasingly widely read blogger and master gardener, as well as author and mage and archdruid emeritus of the Druid order AODA, Greer lives largely off the grid. Owning no car, and growing a large portion of his food, Greer and his lived choices make his words carry more weight with me than the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

Of course, Greer’s choices are just one possible set, and not even the best for many of us. But they’re his, not manufactured for and sold to him by someone else.

And Stephen Hawking? Just yesterday he wrote in an article in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper that, yes, he’s lived a life of extraordinary privilege; that, yes, elites like him and his circle have long ignored the plight of working-class folks; and that, yes, recent elections and votes in the U.S. and U.K. and elsewhere betoken a cry of anger and anguish. But he can still write in an astonishing stew of ignorance and arrogance that

what matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these votes as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake.

No, in fact, the reaction of elites matters far less. It will be quite predictable. We’ve seen it repeated endlessly over the span of millennia. They won’t do what they could do, because it’s really not even theirs to do, though we’ve often abdicated choice to them. But as we always have, we choose day by day to put into action the causes that bring us where we go next.

three-things-cannot-be-long-hiddenThat’s neither good or bad in itself: it’s simply how cause and effect have worked, and will continue to work. But so often it’s not in the self-interest of any elite to do what the “electorate” may want or need. That’s what makes them the elite. Plotting a course of self-interest is how they got to be elite. That’s what “people do” in such circumstances.

And — always — people can do something else. I can, and so can you. I did yesterday, and you did too.

Not according to Hawking, though. Current trends and practices

in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits [Hawking’s link] while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.

Inevitable, progress, socially destructive. There it is, in a nutshell, the reason we’re collapsing. The first two assumptions are just that, assumptions. The third factor looms before and around us, resulting from the first two.

We’ve demonstrated over time, far better than any New Age workshop or guru ever could, how we create our reality. Assumptions are, after all, powerful magical techniques. Hold them strongly enough, inject them with emotion and attention, and they shape consciousness. They make up the outer circumstances, often the inner ones, of life. One life, a billion lives, in high tech or on a factory floor or in a studio or classroom or garden. One life, a billion lives, filled with pain, joy, a mix.

“With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present,” says Hawking. But who will start today? You, privileged physicist Stephen Hawking? Whenever I read or hear “must” and “have to”, I know someone’s avoiding actually doing that “must” or “have to”, or, more likely, is shunting it off onto someone else’s shoulders. I try to minimize that in this blog, but my percentage slips from time to time.

Waiting for “elites” to act is exactly the wrong course of action. We each take steps each day to build whatever balance we have in our own lives. Sharing resources? One way I share is to “consume less”, of course. Will I recycle this bag or box, or throw it in the trash? Will I replace these lightbulbs with higher-efficiency ones, or maybe just not use lights as much? Candles, or darkness. Will I reduce my car-trips, combining tasks and appointments? Will I sell the car, and use public transport? (It may not be available.) Will I unplug appliances that eat energy even when they’re “off”? Will I grow anything at all that I can prepare myself and eat, rather than buy from halfway around the planet? Will I downsize a habit, a car, a house, a hoard of possessions, an attitude, a life?

One and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one make ten. “Suddenly” a lot? Nope. Accumulating every day. We know this. The world now vividly reveals the human psyche. (The fact that it also does many other things needn’t be lost on us either, in our species-centric obsessions. Other lives have their say.) Our Western popular culture now gives us The Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100, Terra Nova, Incorporated, The 3%, and so on.

The beauty of our individuality is that there’s no “single solution” but a multitude of choices, because we’re a multitude of people.

brian-savage-thank-god-a-panel-of-experts-new-yorker-cartoonThe city-dweller in a third-world nation foraging for scraps through piles of refuse exhausts her options and migrates with her family to another region where she can grow a small garden. Or find work. Or mount a protest with others large enough it draws media attention to a problem. Or, sometimes, die trying any of these. Sometimes we can shame ourselves into fixing things. Sometimes we just turn away. Every choice matters, every choice contributes to the pool. Nothing is lost. All that we do returns to us, so we can see our choices more clearly. Why else have worlds like this, where choice is possible and makes such a difference?

Americans, of course, are all elites in their own way. We’ve seen the figures, how we consume a very large percentage of the world’s resources, far larger than our share. Greer counsels “collapsing now” as something prudent, as an act of self-interest, because our two choices are not really choices at all. We can collapse more gradually, with foresight and preparation, or we can collapse painfully, in places violently, resisting change all the way down. Collapsing or not collapsing are no longer the options. How we collapse is.

It’s not some unique event, the collapse of a civilization and economy. History doesn’t so much repeat itself as find endless variations on a small set of themes. The collapse of a petroleum-consumption-empire-supported lifestyle doesn’t mean “the End” but it does mean massive change in a certain set of imbalances.

It’s safe to say large portion of the readership of this blog is blanketed, for now, against the worst sufferings these changes can bring. If you have both the leisure and opportunity to ponder the words of a privileged white blogger, you’re statistically pretty likely to be privileged yourself. Yes, we’ve been “inconvenienced” by changes already. Yes, our “standard of living” may be declining. Most of us aren’t yet starving, in prison, or dead. But our heads and hearts are troubled, our bank accounts are scary-shrinking, our stresses, health, credit-cards, relationships and uncertainties maxed out. We’ve had a foretaste, certainly. Those of us who live more on the fringes in any way will, like canaries in the mine, bear more of the assault of change. We’re already beginning our own forms of collapse, of hopefully creative down-sumption.

The healing, creativity, practical tool-kit, and hope that Druidry offers, like other spiritual paths also do, involve steps we can take now and daily. Whether we actually take any of them, whether we see them as beautiful and wise opportunities to begin to reclaim ourselves and our world, or as RAORPSEMFs, Ridiculous Avoidances Of Real Problems Somebody Else Must Fix, will determine to a great extent how the next minute, month and decade will go for any of us.

Yours along the journey,

A Druid Way.

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Images: Three things; panel of experts.

What We Do Is Us   Leave a comment

“Each mortal thing does one thing and the same”, sings Gerald Manley Hopkins, that wonderful bard who observed his world so loving-wisely. You can read the poem I’m reflecting on here at this site, which includes a bite-sized biography, along with short, helpful observations.

“One thing and the same”, Hopkins says, sounding confident, like he really knows.

What? you ask. The thing we all are, a self that “[d]eals out that being indoors each one dwells”: the “indoors” we each inhabit, the self we look out from onto everything around us. Deal it out, pay it out like divination, rope or money or time.

Hopkins gets it. He goes on: “Selves – goes itself, myself it speaks and spells”. Each self does this, it goes as itself, it “selves”, as if we are all verbs now, and everything we do speaks us and conjures us both out of and into the cosmos. To live at all is a magical act, “to be alive twice” as another poet calls it. From time to time we hear the echo of both lives, the two halves of us we can’t ignore, that kindle in us a human restlessness we can never extinguish. It’s also what we are, what we do as selves.

I’m born and I come upon myself, I gradually become self-aware, the self simply a larger and more engaging preoccupation among all the other things I do. Each of us sits in a self like we sit on benches. The bench of the self weathers in place, this place, the world of heights and depths, times and places.

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And what is the “speech” and “spell” it utters? Bard-like, Hopkins says it like he hears it: all these selves “Crying What I do is me: for that I came“.

I’m doing it right now, and it also will take me my entire life to do it completely. When my heart stops and my last breath goes out, I’ll have finished this particular doing, one turn on the spiral, whether I become the lichen near the bench or the shadow of tree-trunks or a tree or a human again, or something else “different”, says Whitman in another poem, bard singing to bard and to all of us, “different from what any one supposed, and luckier”.

Have you felt it, luck in the sunlight, possibility on your skin? There’s Druid-luck just in living, which I can know if I heed the reminders, or ignore them and suffer.  Either way, it hurts, says therapist Rollo May. I’ll suffer anyway. OK, on to do something through and around and even, if I have to, with my suffering. What I do is me: for that I came.

“Don’t you know yet?” scolds Rilke. (Damn these bards! The conversation hasn’t stopped since awen first stirred in us. One thing and the same. We recognize it in others, in the voice of the Bards, because we’re doing it too.

What? I ask again. Rilke answers, part of the Song singing all of us here, the voice at the center of things that makes music out of us all, the voice we hear in dreams and silence and sound, laughter and tears and the spaces inside us.

 

Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe;
perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

…..

Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,

to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things in terms of a human future;
no longer to be what one was in infinitely anxious hands;
to leave even one’s own first name behind, forgetting it as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one’s desires.
Strange to see meanings that clung together once, floating away in every direction.
And being dead is hard work and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel a trace of eternity.

Retrieval. Of course we fear death, if we’ve done it so many times before. A healthy fear of death, something I know, rather than terror of what I don’t know. I’ve done this death thing countless times already. What’s one more?

Well, a great deal. How many years to retrieve this time around, to begin to recall things I’ve never forgotten, maybe, but misplaced, thrown out, ripped up and shredded even, for decades, centuries. A self that emerges out of nothing, returns to it, and also manages a retrieval, with the help of crazy bards and singers on the edges, reminding us. Pointing us back to song that’s still singing us, notes on the wind.

What I do is me: for that I came.

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Tending One Thing   Leave a comment

On several occasions my teacher has shared with the small circle of his students his practice of tending with love one thing that he does regularly anyway. Then to do it with intention and focus and care.

The action can be as simple — and simple works well — as tying shoelaces. Getting out of bed. Shaving. Watering a plant. Opening the front door. The technique transforms a quotidian something that has till now just sat there in its ordinariness and now begins to flower in our awareness, once we give it that kind attention. I was going to write kind of attention, but “kind attention” fits, too. Do this, I keep finding, and like pockets or balloons of energy, the world through the particular thing we are cherishing and tending opens itself as a gift. This happened to me on my regular 3-mile loop walk, when I walked with intention. Putting each foot down, lifting the other, breathing, listening.

What remains green when other things are dying?

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Mosses and lichens nibble at stones, evergreens of a different tribe. I run a hand lightly over them, this first cool green being on the walk.

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I give thanks for all that comes free — air and earth, cloud and sunlight, birdsong and breathing.

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I give thanks we have language to name such things, our round, treaded words rolling us from perception to perception, good pointers that they are.

Numbers, letters, the signs we make to write speech onto things — little wonder we’ve attributed their origins to gods — Thoth, Hermes, Saraswati. Attend closely enough to roundness and the shape echoes, singing in the ear. Who knew worn round things have such stories to tell?

I will tend you until who you are is more important than my opinion about you.

img_1535I give thanks for this world of contrasts where, according to one of the Wise, many beings wait on the threshold, longing to incarnate for the extraordinary lessons it offers. The denser and harder its energies and challenge, the more it offers them opportunities to grow as they can nowhere else.

Shadow and light, new equilibriums possible with each step, so many things whose tending reveals things coming into existence because we have tended them.

Light and dark hold hands — or clasp branches, as the case may be.

What questions does the world answer that we haven’t asked — but could?

 

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ann-hallAncestors, relatives, descendants — who really is a stranger in the end, when so many are kin?

From the flat pink-yellow photo paper my great-great-grandparents Ann and James look out on their wedding day.

Did you foresee the Civil War gathering its bayonets and gunpowder, gangrene and despair?

Picture frame like a ship’s porthole — I half expect you to stand and move about and take up your lives as I gaze at you. I give thanks that because of you, I exist. I know you in my bones, though I know little enough about you: this image, and birth, wedding and death dates.

(I’m grateful even for the big noses you both obviously bequeathed to us your descendants.)

The world follows its own dells and channels and boundaries, often ignoring ours.

Build a wall and before long, birds, wind and animals help seed the beginnings of a thicket instead. Tree roots thrusting from below make a ruin of any wall. Trees might have served better to begin with.

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I’m grateful walls sometimes simply end abruptly. Should I leap from the capstone? Build a sacred fire on it? Shift it to seek for treasure cached beneath it.

Maybe just listen and see if it has something to say other than whatever I’m thinking. My thoughts may have less to say than its silence.

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Then there’s time’s rough handling. Hang around long enough, and the things you’ll lose, as much as anything you’ll gain, will build your character, all our ancestors mutter.

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I’m grateful for the tracks of things, however faint, that pull me out of thought and into larger possibility.

I give thanks life meets me halfway — just not always where and how I expect it.

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I give thanks, finally, that the path itself doesn’t always stay the same. Sometimes I think it changes underfoot, just to check if we’re paying attention, and not sleepwalking along our ways.

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Posted 27 November 2016 by adruidway in Druidry, gratitude

Tagged with ,

Is Magic Necessary?   Leave a comment

“I’m here to have an argument.” (Welcome to our daily flying circus.) I’m enlisting the aid of high art and low craft to get through this post.

This post is an argument — not a disagreement, but an argument in the older sense of the word: a proof, a seeking of an accurate assessment of our world. Did the title put you off? It’s going to get worse. Maybe you should just enjoy the Monty Python video, and let the net distract you from there.

Are you allergic to magic, having tried it and found it to be mostly flash and bluster? Does it simply not rouse in you any response — the kind of response you’ve learned to listen for, the kind you’ve come to trust intuitively along your spiritual journey?

You can sigh justifiably — go ahead! — as I pursue yet another topic tangential to your interests or needs. Check back in later. If you’ve been coming here for any length of time, you know I’ll roll around again soon enough to something you can use. Till then, compost and ruminate. It will do you more good. This post really isn’t a downer, but it’s one that will get few or no likes, and recede ignored into the archives.

Because mostly with this blog I’m arguing with myself, of course. (You’re all much too kind and rarely call me on my crap, for which I think I thank you.) But like a madman, I do the arguing semi-publicly, flopping and writhing on the sidewalk, because what else is worth doing, if I don’t also put myself on the line? Do I mean what I do and say, or not? All right then.

[If you’re not like me or most other humans, you move through life blissfully, largely untroubled by the shifts and turns of living in this world with a body that ages and will eventually die. If indeed you belong to that singularly uncommon group, please leave now. I have nothing to say to you. However, you perhaps have something to teach me. It’s likely you’re spending down a karmic store from a previous life. Spend wisely. But if in fact you’re an enlightened being here for the upliftment of others, and you have no personal life or what we now like to call issues but used to be more accurately called hang-ups*, please open your school/temple/retreat/grove/workshop and get on with your mission. The world needs your wisdom.

*hang-ups: those weak spots in our make-up that serve as ideal targets for tests and challenges and other people’s hang-ups. Shrike-like (warning: video at link!), they hang us up on the thorns of uncomfortable truths behind our comfortable illusions before they rip into us. Because pain is often the creator of awareness. I don’t know about you, but some of my most valuable learning has come at the price of pain. And — after the pain has passed — it’s usually worth it. Cancer, deaths in the family, end of relationships, arson, loss of friends: like most of us, I’ve had my share. And like you, I’m still here. The best revenge is living well.]

Having dispatched some of my readership with one or the other of the last few paragraphs, I ask those of you who remain to consider the following. If you want to grow or make changes in the world, or both, and you’ve been frustrated, recently or for a bad long while, here’s an observation worth trying out in the laboratory of the every day. To put it in concrete terms, if during the upcoming holidays you’re up against a Clinton or Trump supporter in your immediate circle (or, with a change of nation, Brexit or Erdogan or Putin or Modi, etc.) who just doesn’t see the world your way, step back a moment and prepare to get magical:

The tools of magic are useful because most of the factors that shape human awareness are not immediately accessible to the conscious mind; they operate at levels below the one where our ordinary thinking, feeling, and willing take place. The mystery schools have long taught that consciousness has a surface and a depth. The surface is accessible to each of us, but the depth is not. To cause lasting changes in consciousness that can have magical effects on one’s own life and that of others, the depth must be reached, and to reach down past the surface, ordinary thinking and willing are not enough. — J. M. Greer, Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, Weiser Books, 2012, pg. 88.

For “magical” effects, read “transformational.” I’m a sucker for a good transformation. Aren’t you?

It may be that our wands, like Ron’s, simply need replacing. We’re all “truth (im)moral high ground rights victory” and what we really need is just a new, and appropriately charmed, stick of wood.

51qgd7w1ecl-_sx408_bo1204203200_To add to the mix, I’ll add a line from the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 16:32) that’s resonated with me since I was a teenager (read in your own appropriate pronoun): “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

Yes, I’m as subject to confirmation bias as the next person. I like this passage because I’ve seen in my immediate family the ravages that anger can leave. I’ve also shed any expectation that another person will or can do the work in my life that only I can do. (Politicians top that list, no surprise. Blame is always easier than change, and they’re so obligingly convenient to blame.)

iluupncRound this off with Gandhi’s admonition to be the change we wish to see in the world, and I’ve got a lot of changing to do. But better me than you, I remind myself: if I’m hard to change, you’re even worse. The world — by which I mean you and anyone else in my circle — refuses to do almost anything I want. Me, on the other hand, I’ve hand some success in shaping. Small steps, to be sure. “I love you, you’re perfect, now change.”

How to reach the depths? Like others who’ve learned the hard way, Greer lays out a number of testable, practical suggestions. (Because they’re not “new and improved” they get less attention than they merit.) You’ve already heard me grapple with a number of them on this blog.

What I’m proposing, then, once a week going forward, whatever else I’m doing, is an account of my own experience with some of these specific practices , together with my results. I like the spiritual laboratory of experience, not because I “succeed” but because my failures are often remarkably instructive. I learn how to hear and integrate wisdom or make room for enlarged awareness in my own odd life much better by making “mistakes” with it than I ever could merely by reading or giving intellectual assent to others’ ideas.

A sign I need to grow: I’m either strongly attracted to, or repelled by, a person, place, thing, idea, or feeling.

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Images: Wandlore; “I love you, you’re perfect, now change.”

 

 

When’s a Sign a Sign?   Leave a comment

Yes, there are signs and signs. And whole bunches of debate, at intervals, over what “really” constitutes one.

Here’s my in-progress rule of thumb: if it helps me see more deeply, love more richly, create more vibrantly, wonder more amazedly, then it deserves the name “sign.” Coincidence doesn’t enter into it — in fact, it’s irrelevant. (Most days, though, I won’t go as far as Carl Jung and say “Superstition and accident manifest the will of God.”)

What matters with a sign for me, then, is not its origin but its effect. If I don’t invite such causal ripples, funny thing, they tend not to manifest for me. Tune myself away from the universe and it doesn’t vibrate for me like it did. I cut myself off from that original song that’s always singing just beyond my hearing. That’s a form of spiritual death.

If a potential sign doesn’t manage to do any of these positive things, however woo-woo* it appears, I’ve got better things to do than wade in superstition. By which I mean a vague sense of woo, yes, but without anything concrete and transformative that rises out of my encounter or experience. Those are just dime-a-dozen woos.

And if it’s your sign? Go with it! What does it say to you?

But I tend to discount signs others witness and want to “give” to me. To each our own. There’s a reason you and not I witnessed what you witnessed. And vice versa. That neither validates nor invalidates the sign. It simply personalizes it. If, following Leonard Cohen, the “cracks in the world let the light in,” the person or persona lets the sound of awen through. Latin persona: the theatrical mask (and later, a character or role) that lets a voice come out that did not speak before.

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you …

sings Leonard Cohen in “If It Be Your Will.”

But he continues:

If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell …

As long, then, as the rivers fill and the hills rejoice, I take it that there is a choice — and it’s our choice.

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On to my “sign of the day” — two giant red oak leaves I spotted during my climb up Wantastiquet Mountain, detailed in the previous post.

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The larger of the two leaves comes in around 10 in./25 cm. Are they “signs”?!

I find meaning in them. They make me marvel. They come at a needed time. More about that in a minute. They resonate in my thoughts. They also objectively stand out in some way — in this case, a measurable physical dimension. Together, those qualities are enough for me for them to earn the name “sign.”

As a primary tree of Druids, the oak already comes laden with symbolic meanings. (Some plausible etymologies, after all, define druid as “oak or tree knower.”) And now, for me, more: to stand up in a way that expresses my best. To be more visible in my walk (especially since I found the leaves on a mountain walk, and after asking for sign). Not to shy away from living the values that matter to me. To leave a legacy that inspires, even as I have been inspired. Simply, to give my best.

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*woo-woo: a deeply scientific term, used here, of course, with ultimate precision. Urban Dictionary obligingly defines it as “any belief not founded on good evidence.”

Light Gets In   Leave a comment

To begin this post I invoke with the words of a great Bard, the late Leonard Cohen, who sings in his song “Anthem” : “Ring your bells that still can ring./Forget your perfect offering./There’s a crack, a crack in everything./That’s how the light gets in.”

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Doing my small part to ring some bells and locate some nearby cracks to work with, it’s been in my thought more and more to explore Wantastiquet. But it took word of another’s recent climb to the peak to prod me into visiting this local treasure. As a Nigerian acquaintance said to me recently, quoting an African proverb, “Those who live nearest the church arrive late.”

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Just over the Connecticut river east into New Hampshire, Wantastiquet Mountain rises to approx. 1350 feet. It’s a moderate 1.5 mile hike to the summit — about an hour’s walk along numerous switchbacks for this 57-year old. From downtown Brattleboro it’s a little over half a mile to the foot of the mountain, so plenty of hikers and their dogs were out enjoying the afternoon. The sunny weather hovered in the mid 50s, oak leaves carpeted the trail all the way to the top, and as mountain treks often do for me, the climb had the feel of pilgrimage. There is a berg-geist, a mountain spirit, if I silence the mind chatter and attend. The rumble of weekend traffic from nearby interstate 91 which the river valley amplifies begins to fade around 500 feet up.

The site is a perfect shanshui — landscape, literally “mountain-water” — one of my favorite Chinese words from a year in the mid-80s spent teaching English in the People’s Republic of China. The Connecticut river valley defines the state line between New Hampshire and Vermont for 150 miles, and seen from the west, the peak appears to ascend right out of the river. Here’s a view from perhaps 70 feet up on the trail, looking back toward Vermont.

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Evergreens march along either side of the path, but the few remaining leaves on oak branches above them account for the trail’s leaf cover.

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The pines and oaks busy themselves both splitting the rock and holding it in place.

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Gathered near the marker at the summit were several resting hikers who left shortly after I arrived.

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In the distance, the peaks of Ascutney (45 miles north) and Hogback (13 miles due west) loom through the haze.

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I’d gathered a handful of acorns along the way, thinking to plant them as I establish my grove at home. But as I neared the top, an impromptu ritual (my favorite kind) threaded into my attention and I made an offering instead. Finding a clearing a few hundred yards away, I bowed to each direction.

I gather, I give away.

To the North:
you are holy —
may it grow there.

To the West:
you are holy —
may it grow there

To the South:
you are holy —
may it grow there.

To the East:
you are holy —
may it grow there.

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Images: Wantastiquet map.

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