Archive for the ‘grove’ Category

Shinto and Shrine Druidry 3: Spirit in Nature   2 comments

[Shinto & Shrine Druidry 1 | 2 | 3] [Shinto — Way of the Gods ]
[Renewing the Shrine 1 | 2][My Shinto 1 | 2]

Below are images from our recent visit to Spirit in Nature in Ripton, VT, some eight miles southeast of Middlebury as the crow flies.  An overcast sky that day helped keep temperature in the very comfortable low 70s F (low 20s C). At the entrance, Spirit in Nature takes donations on the honor system. The website also welcomes regular supporters.

spinentry

As an interfaith venture, Spirit in Nature offers an example of what I’ve been calling Shrine Druidry, one that allows — encourages — everyone into their own experience. Everyone who chooses to enter the site starts out along a single shared path.

spinpath1

The labyrinth helps engage the visitor in something common to many traditions worldwide: the meditative walk. The labyrinth imposes no verbal doctrine, only the gentle restraint of its own non-linear shape on our pace, direction and attention.

spinlaby

Beyond the labyrinth, a fire circle offers ritual and meeting space. Here again, no doctrine gets imposed. Instead, opportunity for encounter and experience. Even a solitary and meditative visitor can perceive the spirit of past fires and gatherings, or light and tend one to fulfill a present purpose.

firepit

Beyond the circle, the paths begin to diverge — color-coded on tree-trunks at eye-level — helpful in New England winters, when snow would soon blanket any ground-level trail markers. When we visited, in addition to the existing paths of 10 traditions, Native American and Druid paths branched off the main way, too new to be included on printed visitor trail maps, but welcome indicators that Spirit in Nature fills a growing need, and is growing with it.

pathsign1

The Druid Prayer captures a frequent experience of the earth-centered way: with attention on stillness and peace, our human interior and exterior worlds meet in nature.

druidprayer

The trails we walked were well-maintained — the apparently light hand that brings these trails out of the landscape belies the many hours of volunteer effort at clearing and maintenance, and constructing bridges and benches.

sinbridge

A bench, like a fire pit and a labyrinth, encourages a pause, a shift in consciousness, a change, a dip into meditation — spiritual opportunities, all of them. But none of them laid on the visitor as any sort of obligation. And as we walk the trail, even if I don’t embrace the offered pause, the chance itself suggests thoughts and images as I pass that the silence enlarges. I sit on that bench even as I walk past; I cross the bridge inwardly, even if it spans a trail I don’t take.

benchsign

Sometimes a sign presents choices worthy of Yogi Berra’s “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

druidpath

Perhaps it’s fitting to close with the North, direction of earth, stone, embodiment, manifestation — all qualities matching the interfaith vision of this place.

moss-stone

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This is the 200th post at A Druid Way. Thanks, everyone, for reading!

The Druid Dialogs: Aithne, Part 3   Leave a comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9]

In our last conversation, Aithne had said nothing about needing my help.  All this stuff about ancestors and bloodlines, and now I was wondering about that piece.  Had she forgotten?  But even if she did need me in any way, how could I really help?  After several decades of living, I have a pretty clear sense of my talents and abilities.   It wasn’t false modesty that told me both Rosmert and Aithne could certainly handle challenges and obstacles I couldn’t.  Wasn’t that why they were teaching me, and not the other way around?  There’s an innate order to things that we ignore at our own peril but that we can also learn to our advantage — that’s one of the foundations of my worldview.  I guess when I thought about it that I saw helping others along the path is a form of payback, or maybe paying it forward.  It’s a way to show gratitude, a way to keep the heart open.  Gratitude feels good.  Just do it.

So it was when all of this was still spinning through my brain that Aithne appeared again.  It had been more than a few days since  I’d tended to my Sacred Grove.  The excuse doesn’t matter; it’s a poor one.  But shortly after I returned, there she was.   But she certainly was not dressed the same this time.  Biker chick was all I could think:  leather jacket, torn and faded jeans, bandanna, dark glasses, snake tattoo on her neck, even chains.  Again she was gazing off into the distance, and when she turned toward me she took off the sunglasses and winked.

“You ready?” she asked.

“For what?” I replied.  That was Aithne, I was beginning to understand.  Small talk rated low among her priorities.  And it was rubbing off.

“A ride,” she said.  “I’ve got an ’86 Harley Sportster, 1100 cc’s.  Want to try it out?”

And that was how, maybe an hour later, Aithne and I were roaring down a little-traveled country road that arrowed flat and straight toward the western  horizon.  After a series of lessons, practice runs, one spill and a bruised right knee, I felt reasonably confident handling the heavy machine.  I wasn’t ready for a lot of traffic yet, but the basics were coming along nicely.

“We’ve got clear road,” she said.  “Let’s open it up for a couple miles.”

The big bike still ran smooth when we topped 80 mph.  I eased back on the throttle, listening to engine as it lost the high-pitched whine of speed. A few minutes later we were sitting on the side of the road, sipping Gatorade.  Aithne was studying a ladybug on a blade of grass she held in both hands.

“You can help me, you know,” she said.  “We need you healthy for the work, and for your part which only you can do.  That’s your focus for now.  Get healthy, and balanced.”

“I wanted to ask you about that.  What can I do?”

“You can begin again.”

“Begin what?”

“You’ve completed another spiral.  The next months may look familiar, but they aren’t the same thing that’s come before. Pay attention to what they can show you.”

“But what am I supposed to be looking for?” I asked.

Aithne paused and looked at me for a moment.

“You’re thinking about quitting your job after this academic year.  You’re wondering how little you can live on if you do, how much food you can grow for yourself back in Vermont.  Those aren’t bad things by any means, but your principal focus needs to go beyond that.  Those aren’t ultimately pathways to the next two decades.  You’re looking at surviving.  I’m talking about thriving.”

“After the last couple of years, surviving looks pretty good to me.”

“And it is,” she said.  “We had to work with your wife to get you to that surgeon in Baltimore.  You weren’t listening when you most needed to.  Fortunately, she was.  So you survived the shift, you kept this body through the turn.  You’re still here, and the ancestors aren’t finished with you in this life yet. You’re on commission.  Did you know that?”

“Commission for …  for what?”  I stuttered. “Can I have some clarity just once about what I’m supposed to be doing?”

“You’re confusing clarity with looking back on a path you’ve already walked,” she said.  “So often you can know by going.  And for as long as you’re here, you’ll find that’s one of the things time’s for.”

And then I was back in my living room.  The clock said 9:48 pm.  It had been a long day, and I had much to think about.

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Updated 23 April 2015

In the grove the Druid sits — Part II   2 comments

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9]

The day was fading into twilight, and I could feel the dew settle around us like a third party at this meeting.  “What is your name, master?” I asked him.  In a grassy spot near us I made a firepit, seeing and touching the rough gray stones, feeling their weight to make it real.  Then I gathered a bundle of sticks and lit a fire, because now there was an evening chill in the air.

“I’ve been given many names.  Some of them I even like,” he said in a wry tone, smiling at me.

Suddenly I knew his name.  “Wadin Tohangu,” I said.  “That’s an African name?”

He nodded.

“You’re an African Druid?  Is there even such a thing?!”

He chuckled at my surprise.  “I travel a lot. And you’re as much a Druid as I am.”

This wasn’t exactly the answer I expected.  And I wondered what he meant.

“Yes, you may call me Wadin Tohangu.  Call on me when you need help,” he said, “or if you wish to talk, as we are doing today.”  He spoke English clearly and very well, but the way he said his name, with the slightest accent, set off echoes in my head.  A familiar name.  I knew it somehow.  How?

“It’s a name you can use,” he said, as if in reply to my thoughts.  He put his hands out toward the heat of the fire.  “It’s as magical as you are.”

“Some days I don’t feel very magical,” I said, and paused.  Time always seemed to pass differently in the grove, both slowly, and faster than I expected.

“That’s one key, of course.  How you choose to feel,” Wadin answered.  “Which things are your choices and which are simply given to you would be helpful to contemplate.  We confuse those two quite often.  And which to be grateful for, we misunderstand even more!”

“How much can we be grateful for?” I asked.

“That’s a question to answer by experimenting,” he replied.  The pile of burning twigs and small branches shifted, settling.  “Gratitude is another key.”

“Choices and gratitude,” I said, half to myself.

The dog started barking again somewhere in the distance.  I swallowed a flash of annoyance.  This was important — I wanted to hear everything Wadin was saying.

“Yes,” he said.  “And a third point is attention, as we’ve seen.”

I looked at him.

“For you that dog is a most useful guide,” he said, laughing at my expression.  “Why not find out his name, too?”

The darkening sky behind him showed several stars.  He stood up.  “Each moment offers what we need, both for itself, and for moving on to the next one.  How else can time pass?”  As I watched the firelight flicker on his face, he said, “Remember these things.”

I looked around at the grove one more time, and when I turned back, Wadin was gone.  I stood up.  Then I moved to touch the altar and said goodbye to the trees.  The fire had died down to glowing embers. I stirred them with a stick, pushing them into the sand of the pit.

The dog was still barking.  So I followed the sound back to my room, where it was coming in through a screened open window.  I heard a car door slam at Jim’s place, and voices.  Then everything was still again, except for crickets chirping in the dark.  I turned on a light, and sat there quietly for  few minutes, thinking about the experience, and writing it down in my journal.

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Updated 23 April 2015

In the grove the Druid sits   Leave a comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9]

In the grove the Druid sits.  In my grove, the one I’ve constructed in an inner world, via imaginal energies.  With the tall slender trees of entrance standing on either side of the portal, a space between them wide enough for a single person to pass through.  And he is welcome here, though I don’t remember inviting him.  He is always welcome, a friend who will never presume.

Today he indulges me by wearing Druid robes — they make him familiar, with his dark brown skin, that homely, beautiful face  I would know anywhere — and I relax into our conversation.  I know him from somewhere else, too, someplace on the edge of awareness, a realm or time not quite pushing through to full consciousness.  He does what he needs to in order to reach those under his guidance, and to put them at ease so that he can work with them.  Awe or fear or worship is useless to him.  Attention?  That he can use.

His words issue from a place quiet and full of listening.  I’ve come to trust him instinctively, the way wild animals do in the hands of those who love them with touch and gentleness, a welcome of care and compassion for a fellow being in the worlds.  They know that touch, that presence, and their knowing has nothing of the talking human about it.  It’s a language older than words.

He knows when to use words, too, and now he’s speaking about a past I’d forgotten.  I remember it as he speaks, things I didn’t know I knew, things I have not needed to remember until now, because until now they would find no place in me to live, or have any value or significance.  They would feel like they belonged to somebody else, foreign to me, alien, no more at home than a bird of the air caught in a small chamber, fluttering at the windows.  What is it that stands between me and freedom, this transparent flat barrier I never knew was there, blocking me, hard as thought?  But no, I have no wings, I’m not the bird.  But for a moment, there …

The Druid turns to me, a look deep as evening in his gaze.  “You are all you have ever been. Do you remember our first meeting, long ago?”

“It was a market,” I said.  “And I remember.  I was … I was drunk.”

“Sitting slumped against a wall.  When I walked by, though, you spoke to me.”

“What was it I said?  ‘Keep walking, don’t talk to me now.  I don’t have anything left in this life for you.’  Something like that.  I was embarrassed.  I didn’t even know you.”

“Yet you gave me some fruit from your stand …

“Yes, I remember.  A handful of marula.”

“Where were we?” he asked me softly.

“It was … West Africa.  Africa was my home then.”

“Yes. What else do you remember?”

But somewhere in the distance a dog is barking.  My focus falters, pulls me away from this place and back to my room in our Vermont house.  The neighbor’s dog, Jim’s — barking as he always does, every afternoon, impatient for Jim to get home, release him from the chain and walk him, feed him, let him back into the house.

Damn, I think.  It’s all gone, the vision’s gone.

But he’s still with me.

“Dogs bark on all the planes,” he’s saying.  “They’ll bark, and then for a time they’ll be silent again.  You can use them as a guide, or a distraction.  Is there a dog barking near this grove?”

I listen.  “No,” I say.

“Good.  You’re back.  Now, let’s continue …”

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Updated 23 April 2015

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