Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rest Well Fellow Traveller

With the end of October fast approaching and the nights drawing darker, I take stock of the year and harvest my thoughts.

For me it has been a summer of hard earned lessons and a few more battle scars to add to the character. But I am still here, still watching and learning, still passing on what I have learned to those who want it. Much as in the ways of those who have gone before me and will follow.

I hope to enjoy warmth in body, mind and spirit. I will pay my respects to the land and to those who have borne wisdom over the ages. I will also do my best to earn the respect of those who follow in later years.

Rest well fellow traveller, I hope winter is kind to you and shows you her beauty.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Clarity of Thought

A week or so ago, a little before the full moon I was blessed with a clear night of few clouds with a gentle breeze. This is beautiful weather to walk at night, once I was wrapped up against the chill I took to the trails. As the paths through the wood were dry I was able to keep my gaze on the canopy and the sky without fear of sliding in wet mud, I was also able to put my mind to productive use. I mentally turned over problems and sticking points from the week and solved more than a few issues while taking in the scenes before me. I returned home and was able to put pen to paper.

A couple of days later I found myself in an office catching up with a client and updating them with progress. I listened to the coughs and sniffles of the staff and watched them hold their ground until the lunch break. A steady stream of people left for a breath of fresh air and to escape the sight of the computer monitor that stares them in the face for many hours a day. It seems to me a most unnatural form of existence and must surely go some way to explain the amount of sick days office staff take and the relief of enjoying or even living for a weekend. For me it is a life I am glad I have stepped away from.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sitting in the Folds of the Water Dragon

A little over 8 years ago I took a walk without my pack. To walk without my dogs is a rare thing and a sure sign that I have something on my mind. After a mile or so I found a spot by the side of one of our countries largest rivers. I squeezed my way through the undergrowth on the upper bank and found a spot beneath the trees where I could observe the river and wait for the sun to set. The volume of water passing by me was staggering and I sat watching it listening to the gentle wind ruffle the leaves overhead.

In my mind I was struggling to bring myself to this incredible spot. I had worked hard over many years to gain a respected position within a company. I enjoyed working with the people within the company and I felt appreciated. I was also beginning to enjoy having a little money and the possibility of promotion, however I had also experienced first hand the disgusting aspects of corporate life, not within the company itself but with their clients.

The delegation of powers down the clients structure was clear, they were utterly obsessed with deadlines and money. The shareholders drove the thirst for money and the managers and underlings beneath them were concerned with little more than becoming shareholders themselves and putting forward a show that would demonstrate to them the lengths they would go to in order to protect the money invested. Even if that involved lies and discrediting those who were working to create something for them.

I watched the rivers constant passing as the sun set and realised that I needed to make a change. The money from the job was welcome and appreciated, but not worth the personal cost. With my choice made I relaxed into the river bank, took in the scene and began to put together ideas for a life that would give me other choices. Freedom was still a long way off, but I could still aspire to it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Escaping the Voices

Images and sounds seem to build up within my mind. At first it is something that may well appeal to my sense of humour. Other times my attention is drawn to an advert yelling for my attention. Tonight I reached a saturation point, random catchphrases and tunes popped into my thoughts and still images of Saturday night TV seemed to hold an echo in my eyes. There is so much of it now that many are hardened to the onslaught and seem to respond like a machine to vote lines and tv (or telephone) competitions.

I decided to step away and walk out into the night. Once in the fresh air I began to adjust my thinking and perspective. The full moon creates a glorious light within the woods and to tread among the pools of light and darkness becomes a pleasure. After a quarter of an hour. The paths seemed to have helped purge me of the constant commercialism and once again my mind was traveling freely. Listening to the sounds of the wood, drinking in the clear sights under the full moon and feeling the cooling air on my skin.

It seems that when we look at the world though a narrow window, we begin to think of it as a whole. The reality is actually outside of the door, but many choose to disregard that. The window of journalism is something that can inform us but is limited to the perspective of the journalist. Sometimes there is more to the world than what is told.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Contrast of Light in Shadow

Last nights walk proved to be a greatly rewarding experience. On reaching the nearby woods there was not a cloud in the sky and the moon  was truly radiant. Brilliant white light flooded the woods, illuminating the paths and throwing deep moonlit shadows from the pine trees. The autumn air was still & cool enough to numb my nose and mouth as I took breath. Only the distant sound of traffic on the road and an occasional passing headlight in the distance was a reminder of the presence of other people. As is often the case, the scene was mine to enjoy alone and I felt honoured to be there.

As I made my way through the shadows of the pines, a pool of moonlight was cast through the canopy and onto a small tree by the side of the path. Such was the intensity of the light, the foliage was lit up as the light passed through the small leaves. I stood for a moment to take in the spectacle, while the moon shone at that particular angle that simple tree was by far the brightest thing in the wood. The effect was quite theatrical, but all the more impressive because the lighting was provided by a celestial spotlight.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Defeat of The Ego

Wandering the woods last night I remembered my early years when school awards were given out. Awards for the athletic kids, awards for the smart kids. Praise for excellence. We all seemed to aspire to the praise and recognition, it was encouraged and to be thought of as a looser was a ridicule that bit deeply.

The issues of childhood seemed to stay with me into my 20's and I sought for perfection and recognition. I also remember a point at which my ego finally shattered and I gave up on trying to achieve these and instead focused on what I could learn and understand. At this point I began to listen to my failings and study them. Every time I was defeated with an issue I made a point of trying to put aside the stubbornness, denial and scapegoating that the ego seemed to hide behind. I began to take apart every detail and learn, I would then put myself back into the situation.

I was surprised by the results. Not only did I begin to loose my own fear of failure, but I began to systematically dissect the strategies and attitudes of people who were previously seen as high achievers. Then I began to learn from their failures. In addition to this I also began to question the very rewards of success. The expensive cars, gadgets and homes of those who were apparently "successful" began to mean nothing to me. In many ways I find those who feel the need to show off in such a manner breeds a distrust within me. I found many previous role models lost their influence and control as I looked beyond the apparent.

The repressed ego doesn't mean I have to be used and abused to fuel the ego and desires of another. It does mean that when I deal with such a person my actions come from a logical place and are intended to correct their manners rather then worsen my own.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

To Exist for a Moment Within a Moment of Existence

To bring your pure attention to a single moment in time is a wonderful art. It is something I have been working with for an age. I find the moment can vary from admiring a sunset  or starlit sky to a piece of work or moment in creation.

A cluttered mind is an easy thing to accept. All you need to do is turn on the television or radio and you are continually bombarded with marketing and catchy images, jingles and tunes designed to burrow into your subconscious. Ridding yourself of clutter & distraction within your mind is not as easy as it seems. It can take an magnificent sight or the internal sounds of a song close to your heart to bring your mind to focus.

For me, unleashing an arrow is a fine meditative art, it allows me to focus on on moment in time, a very specific point not only in my own existence but also that of the bowyer, the fletcher and the power and state of the elements. To bring this focus to the tasks in my own life and career is something I aspire to and I find I am delighted with what can be achieved with a meditative state of creation or objective.

To search and focus on excellence is a rare and often misunderstood thing.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Craftsman

Look at any surviving historical element and you are likely to see the work of a craftsman. Often it stands out like a shining example of artistry, care and attention. Mass produced components and materials seem to have taken over from the skill of the maker in recent years, however I don't doubt that there will be a time when the skill and artistry of a careful hand will be required once oil becomes too expensive to transport cheap mass produced goods.

A good maker will use the skill of the hand, the knowledge of the mind and will embed spirit within an item (the nature of the material itself, the form of the item and the influences of the maker) to breath life & meaning into it.

Created with care, attention and purpose the item gains significance way beyond that of cheaply mass produced items and the owner is more likely to feel a bond that will enrich their life.

I treasure the work of artists, crafters, musicians, writers, poets and anyone else who truly involves themselves with the spirit of creation. Through them we may learn to live more fulfilled lives with fewer more valued possessions.

(thanks to Ginny for inspiration with this post)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Three Fold Existence.

For the last 15 years I have been studying in depth the behaviour of people, from instinctive, threat response to hierarchy through to meditation and  healing. It has been an interesting decade and a half and I have begun to share my thoughts with other like minded people.

It seems that a well balanced creature has three distinctive sides to their existence. The body, the mind and the spirit. When these are in tune with each other, remarkable achievements can be made. In my own unique way I will try to offer an explanation of these aspects.

The Body: I see this as not only the physical, but also the instincts and sub conscious that drive for self preservation. On a darkened night the body is very much the creature that will jump at that sound in the shadow and when alone will look for threat around every corner. It will be the gut feeling or instinct that will look for, food, comfort and the protection found within the company of other bodies.

The Mind: The mind should be the voice of reason, understanding and intrigue. The mind can help control and calm the body but is often slower in its response due to the involvement of conscious thought. In the night it is the mind that provides reason and reminder to actions. The slower assessment of advantage and disadvantage to the path taken and the potential rewards and dangers. It is worth mentioning that the mind can be subject to the instincts of the body and subconscious, in a bad situation this can result in flawed reasoning and poor choices.

The Spirit: The spirit is harder to define, on many levels it seems to be a sense of connection that goes beyond conscious thought or un-conscious response. One of the ways I think of the spirit would be the sense of connection that is felt when looking into the night sky and comprehending the vast size and presence of life, time and space. To be in touch both with your body, mind, the surrounding trees and life forms through to the vast expanse of earth, stars and space. The sense of time, both present past and future and your existence within it. The spirit can flood the mind and provide overwhelming sensations but can also be pushed back from the reasoning of the mind by a single conscious, questioning thought.

From my point of view it is sad to see that many people are unbalanced. Many live and sense the world bodily. Instincts drive them to grab what they can, to control and survive. Exhibitionism and evolution within the species. Happiness is often achieved by these people in a diluted form much like a short acting drug. Once it has worn off they will look for another conquest to fill their instinctive needs.

Luckily I do seem to happen upon others who have a more balanced approach, for these people I will do what little a twenty first century serf can. Even if it is only to wish a safe journey to a fellow wanderer.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Smoke on the Horizon

The sun set on another humdrum day, in the early evening I set out on another errand. Glancing up I noticed the crescent moon. After the cloud cover of the last few days it was a most welcome sight. I looked forward to my night time wander and the possibility of clearing my mind.

Sadly by the time I had finished many tasks and headed out into the night with the pack the cloud had returned to obscure the moon again. Hoping it would lift I took to the paths around a wood within a few miles of the near by town. As I reached the edge of the wood closest to the town I was bathed in the sickly brown/orange light reflected off the low cloud and the spewing sight of smoke from either the local factory or power station just beyond the horizon. Looking around the trees the light pollution was bright enough to put the trees in shadow and the silence from the lack of wildlife was quite eerie.

Turning my back on the town I headed into the darkness. Once I was far enough into the wood, the hoots of Tawny Owls within the tree cover and the screeches of a Barn Owl from the wood edge became evident and reassuring. By far the finest sight of the evening was the briefest glimpse of a Tawny gliding through the trees.

The Sentinel

A few years ago ferocious winds ripped through this area, overnight they had torn a huge clearing in one of the local woods. The combination of tall conifers and sandy soil had allowed the wind to cause immense damage.

Strangely one of the few trees to survive in the clearing was little more than a tall dead trunk of a silver birch. As the trunk is away from the footpaths it seems that the forestry commission specialists had decided to leave it standing as dead wood.

I have passed it many times since, the trunk is popular with the wildlife. There has been woodpeckers foraging its length to kestrels and occasionally the shape of possibly an owl perched on top. Because of its position central to the clearing it is difficult to get close to those birds standing sentinel, it allows a clear view on all its sides and provides a prominent position to safely watch over the clearing.

I find it pleasing to see that a feature of the wood that is of no financial value and could be seen as some as a risk to people, has been left. It will need many more gestures like this over long years to provide habitat for the wildlife.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Soul of a Tiger

I had an unusual encounter on one of last weeks walks. Often I am treated to the sight of wildlife and on some occasions it is surprisingly close. As I walked with my dog pack our german shepherd was trotting along in her familiar position in front of me. Suddenly she became distracted by something in the undergrowth off to the side of the track. Whatever the creature was, it was not going to give ground to her and out of the the darkness a barrage of hisses and growls grew in ferocity.

Concerned for the safety of my dog and the creature, I hurried up to join her. Even with me and my other dog the beastie was still not phased and seemed to become more agitated. I considered passing by but the dogs were too interested by now and there was a chance they would slipped back past me in the darkness and returned.

I stepped into the light undergrowth with the dogs sticking close beside me and lit the lantern. A burst of light flooded the area and the creature fled crashing past low branches before jumping over a drainage ditch and making its escape over a field adjoining the wood. I prevented the dogs from chasing to ensure the creature was safely away.

Sadly I could not identify the creature, the noises it made were certainly feline in nature (certainly not the noises of a fox or badger), but I have the feeling it was no farmyard moggy. Perhaps it was a feral cat of some kind, either way it seemed to have the soul of a tiger.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Inspiration for an Ent

A few nights ago I happened upon a striking sight on a walk. Beside a road an aging tree loomed out of the darkness. Much of the tree had died off but some life still remained and was portrayed by clusters of leaves. The effect was feeling like I had walked into a set from Lord of the Rings. I can imagine such a tree could have been the inspiration for Tolkien's Ents.

It also left me in mind of an image called Dalkeith Park Oak by artist & illustrator Sav Scatola , here is a link for your interest

Given the rough grassland around it and the abundance of field voles in the area, the tree could easily make a superb vantage point for the barn owls we have in these parts.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Shelters Below a Canopy of Needles

A few years ago I attended a meeting called by an anxious resident of a wood I often walk. The forestry commission were considering developing the wood and were using terms such as "no firm ideas but a possibility of business units" and "blue sky thinking with experts", all words that made those of us that use the wood very nervous regarding its fate.

One gentlemen at the meeting made mention of the fact that the children from the near by area were on occasion making shelters within the wood under his supervision. Thankfully it seems that nothing has come of the idea to develop the wood and last night I spotted a new shelter beneath the canopy of the pine trees.

The shelter was unoccupied, but there was little doubt of the skill involved in its placement and structure. Sitting in the light undergrowth among the tall trunks it was sheltered from the winds. Its main opening faced south towards a clearing. This would no doubt allow the warmth of the sun into the shelter in the morning. It was made from branches and sticks gathered from the area and carefully put together to ensure it would be unlikely to collapse during a windy night.

To me it was a splendid sight, a simple thing that showed ingenuity and respect for the surroundings, a superb way to use the wood and a demonstration crafting.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Off the Beaten Track

I remember well a piece of advice given to me as a young teenager, "if you are walking at night, stick to well lit areas, walk with purpose and do not linger". This piece of advice achieved much, by following it I was on the end of verbal abuse, ridicule and on occasion violence. In the area I grew up there was a tendency for gangs to form in the suburban areas. Lads walking in the wrong area were easy targets for these thugs, the fact that you walked under the street lights with "purpose" meant sod all to them.

To escape them I took to walking in more well to do areas or the roads to the villages in the surrounding countryside. This was were I met a very different type of thug. The local policeman seemed to hold vigil on these quieter areas and seized the chance to stop me or my friends at every opportunity. It was obviously easier for him to maintain his form of law and order in these neighbourhoods rather than go into the rougher areas where he was actually needed. No amount of reasoning seemed to reassure him that we were merely walking and trying to enjoy a little free time. In an attempt to avoid this authoritarian half wit our behaviour became strange. At the suspicion of his vehicle we hid. This varied from hiding behind parked cars in a village to diving over dry stone walls or hiding behind trees. This was no doubt incredibly suspicious to anyone who may have been looking on.

I remember well looking down the first darkened track I took to avoid a night of confrontation. At the time it was intimidating, overshadowed with hedges and trees. It led out between the grounds of two expensive rural houses, beneath a railway line and out onto the moors. I could barely see as I stepped along it with visions of mythical night creatures lurking at every opportunity. What I found when I emerged from the bridge beneath the railway was the stunning view of the moorlands under a starlit night. No waiting thugs, no mythical beasts, just nature in the raw, the wind and drifting clouds in the night sky. I would always advise caution and common sense to a fellow wanderer and to step off the beaten track is not always easy, but a step I have never regretted.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Freedom of a Simple Home

My journey tonight took me down an unlit dirt track and away from the lights of the village. Out of the darkness was the silhouette of a traditional gypsy caravan. I have seen the caravan in the light and though it does not have the highly decorative work I have see on some, its spirit is very much of the traditional caravan.

As I passed by the lantern lit doorway and onto the footpath to the deeper rural areas I considered the life the owner must have. Doubtless it is at the mercy of the elements and lacks appliances we take for granted, but for those in search of a simple life it must give so much and ask little.

Climbing the hill the caravan vanished into the gloom and I made my way to a vantage point. The village was visible below and on the horizon was the all to familiar glow of the near by town and city, also easily visible were two power stations. The belch of fumes rising from their stacks and the glow of lights stood glaringly proud in the night.

It must be a wonderful thing to have a home that is not reliant on imported power, perhaps in our desire for the latest appliances and services we have unwittingly allowed ourselves to become modern day serfs to the energy companies. Because of our upbringings and the constant barrage of advertising we may not even question what we are letting ourselves in for when we pay up and plug in.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Columns of Silver Light

In some ways walking off into the darkness feels a little like turning my back on society for a while. Today I could feel my mood dropping as various minor incidents seemed to get under my skin and make an annoyance of themselves.

Once out in the night I began to reconnect with the bigger picture and feel a little more at ease. Again I was treated to a starlit night with little breeze, as I walked a shooting star flew overhead. A little further along the walk I stood close to a tree with a Tawny Owl calling into the night and in the darkness I could make out the sight of the trunks of silver birch, standing like columns of silver light.

Sometimes it seems that my batteries need recharging, and for me this is my place to do it. Some will use an experience at a theatre or cinema, for some it will be a meeting with like minded friends. I often have to remind myself of a meditation technique to help me through the dreary points of a day. I will share it with you here just incase it is of some use.

Bring to mind a fond memory or perhaps a picture or object that reminds you of a joyous moment in your life. For a short while let the moment fill your mind, then allow your mind to focus on the feeling itself, hold the essence or spirit of that feeling and allow it to grow as it needs to.

To me the mind seems to move in spirals, upwards or downwards. The trick seems to be recognising the point when the mind is sinking and change things yourself by taking that walk or quiet moment to reverse it without waiting for things to improve by luck or circumstance alone. Otherwise this can make for a very long wait.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Moment in an English Village

Tonight I passed through a rural village on my travels. It was pleasing to see some of the locals enjoying an autumn evening, however the very structure and vernacular of the village raised a few thoughts in my mind.

The traditional buildings are utterly charming, bonded brickwork, pan tiles and traditional sash windows. In this part of the world they would probably have been built in the 1800's as cottages for farm workers. I can imagine the windows flickering with the light of a fire and candles as people took their rest after working the land, from the chimney woodsmoke would have risen as the houses source of heat.

Now the windows flicker with the light of the widescreen television and in the background the stark white light of the designer kitchen. Outside is the executive 4x4 or company car. A hole in the wall steams with the flue of a gas fired central heating system. By the eaves glows the street light, providing background light regardless if it is needed it or not. The farmland between and behind the buildings is now crammed with standard estate type houses, complying to the letter of the current planning regulations. All this seems to have become accepted and unquestioned.

As oil becomes expensive and steadily runs dry, I wonder how these humble little buildings will evolve in the future.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Starlight From the Depths of the Woods

Initially I was reluctant to venture out tonight. I have been tapping away on a computer for many hours and moving storage and shelves for the remaining hours of the day. It was the sight of the dogs by the door and occasionally nudging me that made me decide to head on out into the night.

With a stiff back I struggled to put on my old training shoes and muttered and grumbled my way to the door. The first thing that came to mind on stepping out into the night was the clear sky and the stars, my thoughts changed from whining to admiration of the night sky.

With no moon, the woods were incredibly dark, the tall conifers seemed to absorb all the light and leave the stars in night sky shining like diamonds scattered on dark velvet above the trees. I walked the tracks deep into the woods and allowed my eyes to adjust to the surroundings, all the light came from above and I found myself walking and looking up to take full advantage of the night.

Strange, but after quarter of an hour in the depths of the woods, gently walking and taking in the celestial spectacle. I realised that the discomfort on my back had eased, I now back at home, I feel I am ready for better sleep and my body will be less restricted in the morning.

Clarity of Perception

Allow the conscious mind to influence the subconscious,

The subconscious governs the body in action and initiative,

If the mind is rational and quiet it will direct the subconscious and guide the body,

A quiet mind is open and uses all the senses,

Both the conscious and the subconscious work with the senses,

Fear is a natural instinct and should be listened too but rationalised.

The mind must be free to make choices and perceive the world as it is.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Gentle October Rain

Heavy cloud cover shrouded the night sky and not a trace of a breeze ruffled the autumn leaves. As I made my way around familiar paths it was the sounds of the wood that took centre stage in my mind. A gentle rain began to fall tapping the foliage and undergrowth in the darkness.

As the walk had left me a little warm I couldn't resist taking off my jacket and letting the rain cool me down on bare arms and through my shirt. On a mild night without a breeze it was indeed refreshing. It is sometimes too easy to sit indoors and stare out of the window, to actually feel the elements on skin leaves me feeling alive and better connected to the environment.

I remember hearing comedian Billy Connolly once saying how he hated people saying it was bad weather, and that there is only weather, dress appropriately and go and enjoy it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rising Mist in a Clearing

For most of the day I watched it pouring with rain from my office window. As the night drew in the sky turned an amazing grey purple colour, finally as the light was failing I noticed the first signs of the sky clearing. I often enjoy walking in the rain but at times it is more practical to undertake my wanders in the dry to prevent the dogs from becoming soaked. I took this opportunity and headed out in the last of the rain in the direction of the woodlands.

Despite being very wet underfoot and a few of the paths becoming difficult underfoot the walk was enjoyable. As I reached a familiar clearing I looked up to see a clear night sky, the moisture that had soaked into the vegetation and ground in the clearing was beginning to rise. The first few feet of the clearing floor was cloaked in a mist softening the shapes of the plants and landscape. Beyond the trees stood in sharp silhouette rising out of the mist against the night sky and the stars.

Many times I get the feeling that I am indeed lucky, I was the only one to witness the scene. I was delighted to stand for a minute or two and soak in the image. On returning home I put pen to paper to recount the moment.

Friday, 1 October 2010

From Status Symbol to Modern Armour

The sight of an oncoming car is something that always brings a sense of unease. Cocooned in a vehicle and traveling a many times walking speed the connection to the world is limited and behaviour changes. A few drivers will do me the courtesy of dipping their headlights or slowing down a little, most do not. On occasion I have been treated to insults yelled from windows, hand gestures and an occasional thrown object. I very much doubt this would happen if they were on foot. The car has a disturbing way of inflating the ego.

To those drivers who show good manners and a little kindness to wanderers such as I, you have my thanks and my respect.