Archive for the ‘Ascutney’ Category

“Sorry, You’re Doing Druidry Wrong”   Leave a comment

What is it about our insecurities, that headlines like this draw readers? Partly it’s just clickbait, of course: we read out of pure curiosity or boredom or distraction. “What fresh hell is this?”, critic and author Dorothy Parker supposedly exclaimed, every time her doorbell rang. But partly and too often, we ARE insecure. Taught to trust authorities over our guts, or to ignore our guts altogether, we get taken for a ride, conned, hustled out of our own good instincts.

Doing Druidry Right (DDR) Principle 1: Always take into account what the gut has to say.

Are there ways to do almost anything wrong? Sure. That’s not news, however, and the universe usually lets us know first of all, before anyone else has the slightest inkling. If you’re not sure, there’s always Facebook, where you can post and invite potential mockery on a worldwide scale never before available. A piece of unsolicited advice in the form of a question: who really needs to know absolutely everything you’re thinking and doing and feeling right away, before even you have taken time to reflect on it, at least twice, if not a good Druidic three times? Practice only that much of wisdom, and a good half of our current hysteria would die off like flies after the first hard frost.

Now that research confirms the the “second brain” of the nervous system surrounding the gut [link to Scientific American], the old proverb gains new life. “Gut is second brain, and sometimes better”.

DDR Principle 2: Unless death is imminent, I have, and should take, the time to pause and reflect on whatever I’m thinking, doing and feeling — and more than once. Only then, and  only perhaps, should I speak — or post about it. “Dare not to overshare”.

“The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad”, says Thoreau, “and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?”

The opposite, of course, holds true just as often: “The greater part of what others think is bad …” In these days of extremes, I no longer always take this as literary exaggeration but good counsel. If I carry suspicions around like nutcrackers, I often find the meat of an issue still untouched in much debate and controversy and shouting.

DDR Principle 3: Keep asking, like the rallying cry to the soul that it is, that old Latin tag: where is wisdom to be found? Ubi sapientia invenitur?

When you know your answer truly, you’re usually halfway to an answer for others, too. Then it may be time to share. Not because you know, but because you know your way to knowing. And your way (not The Way), is a useful guide to encourage similar trust and perseverance in others as they manifest more of who they are becoming.

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“Congratulations, you’re doing Druidry right”.

That’s much more useful and salutary feedback. Ignore for now — unless they’re life threatening — any glitches along the way, and focus on growth. Build a store of successes, a reservoir of energy, and then tackle the inevitable pests and parasites that have accumulated around your growth.

The Well of Segais, Vermont’s new OBOD seed group (a first step to forming a Grove), met to celebrate Lunasa yesterday at Mt. Ascutney State Park on a rainy and gorgeous day.

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Seek out even semi-wild places in off-weathers and you’ll often share the space with non-human inhabitants. We had this pavilion “to ourselves” for ritual and after-feast. The mountain presences greeted and participated with us.

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And what a dreamlike scene across the valley — the view from the pavilion of impossibly rich shades of green, and mist-cloaked mountains.

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Five of us gathered to celebrate this first of the the three harvest festivals, with a lovely ritual and a feast of the season.

“It is the hour of recall. As the fire dies down, let it be relit in our hearts. May our memories hold what the eye and ear have gained”, says the close of the OBOD ritual.

And so they do.

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Fog-weaving with Lugh   Leave a comment

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Mt. Ascutney, seen from West Windsor on a clear day.

Our local OBOD Seed Group is planning to gather on Vermont’s Mt. Ascutney for Lunasa in about a week, and so I scouted locations on the mountain this morning. We’ve had rain in Vermont since Sunday, so not surprisingly fog shrouded the crown of Ascutney, which stands at 3144 feet (958 meters).

Every leaf was dripping, and the blacktop glistened dully as I drove the 4-mile road to summit parking. When I arrived around 10:30 this morning, mine was the only car in the lot, which has spaces for 50.

If you’d told me that with climate shifts parts of New England are destined to become temperate rain forest, this morning at least I would have believed you. More likely we may well face sustained droughts here as elsewhere, but for now, Vermont lives fully up to its name of the Green Mountain state.

I scolded myself for not bringing my camera — next week will have to try to make up for the lapse. But it’s right I did not even try to capture in a frame what I saw and felt. Fern and myrtle, moss and emerald, shades of wet green I have no names for. Bird-calls sounded through the mist, and rivulets sparkled crossing the slabs of stone of the 2/3 mile trail and final 300 feet of ascent.

Fog-weaving at such times needs so little effort. The climb quickens the breath, and the cool air is lush with oxygen. Without the chatter of any human companion as a distraction, and with the fog collapsing the field of vision to just a few dozen yards in any direction, your attention narrows in on step after deliberate step. Light trance comes on like cloud itself. Without thought you can slip through to the “realm next door” between one step and the next, and you may sense the god dreaming on the peak. And rather than needing human action or imagination to weave or conjure vision, the fog itself curtains or reveals what is already there.

For some forty minutes I was alone on the mountaintop. Only on the last leg of the descent back to the parking lot did I meet another solitary hiker, rainjacket tied around his waist as we passed each other.

So did I “meet Lugh”? As a god of storm, sun and high places, he wrapped the mountain with his long arm, as one of his epithets, Lugh Lamhfada, names him. In such places and spaces, the ideas and doubts of rational consciousness don’t intrude. That’s for before, and after.

Even an hour later, with a second or third cloudburst filling the air with its sound, as I stepped out of the car in the parking lot of the medical office for an afternoon eye appointment, perhaps I didn’t “meet the god of storm”. But rain spattered my glasses, ran down my cheeks, wet my bare legs and left my feet squelching in sandals. I quickly pulled my raincoat around me and headed for the entrance.

And there in the waiting room I sat damply, thumbing through a National Geographic magazine, gazing at pictures of endangered birds. I didn’t “meet” those birds, you could argue, and in a sense you’d be right, of course, yet light from images of them reached my eyes and brain, and I know what they look like. I can describe them to you.

I may or may not have “met Lugh”, but water from his storm, and a sense of his long-armed presence continued to accompany me after the appointment as I recalled the climb, and thought about him on the drive home. My clothes are wet, I stood on that mountain, and I can tell you what makes Lugh different from Brighid.

And I am content, “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” * during such experiences — more than content — whatever I may think or do or say after them. And that proportion — a “during” that is different from a “before” and an “after” — seems to me a good one. Relinquish nothing, gain all.

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IMAGE: Ascutney.

*John Keats in his discussion of “negative capability”.

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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