Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Specter in the Mist

Sometimes the depth of darkness can become staggering. Tonight I took a brief car journey to a wood I know well, the mists and fog surrounded me the instant I stepped from my aging car and away into the night with my two younger dogs. Once their excitement subsided and my eyes began to adjust to the gloom I found it easier to get to get my bearings and read the track ahead. The trees became a faint outline obscured by the mist against the clouded night sky, the calls of the Tawny Owls within the wood were the only sounds that crashed through the still lightless night. I pressed on, following familiar paths and stepping around the dull shapes on the floor of the wood that I knew to be fallen branches.

Once into the depths of the wood the Owl calls subsided and I glanced up. Undergrowth lay bare on the opposite side of the woodland ditch and amongst the branches a white humanoid figure shifted as I moved. For a moment I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand and was aware of adrenalin beginning to surge through my system. I wondered how someone could get so close to me in my own environment without me becoming aware of them, I steadied my mind and took stock of my situation. A glance to my dogs revealed their ease, on the rare occasions that I encounter someone on our wanders the dogs are aware of them well before they get close. They showed no such signs and I stood for a moment watching the figure. I shook the adrenalin from my system and calmed my mind. For a moment I listened. The sounds within the wood were as they should be. The disturbance of the undergrowth by the dogs and my own feet were the only sounds. The figure in the undergrowth on the opposite side of the ditch made no such noise. This was not as the laws of nature and could not be as it appeared to be.
Once the rational mind restored control over the impulses of the body I decided to confront the situation head on. A bridge over the ditch lay close by and I decided to head for it and close on the apparent lurker in the darkness. As I moved and focused my eyes the truth became apparent. The lurker was a freak of perspective and illuminance. The last of the snow and ice combined with the defining shape of the undergrowth had created an illusion that even an experienced night walker such as myself could misread. The specter was banished with a smile and a reasoned mind.

The night has again shown me a valuable lesson, and one that is perhaps reserved for an experienced student. Had I seen such an illusion in my younger years I would probably have been frightened away, giving tales of ghosts within the wood to those who would listen and want a few minutes of entertainment.

Recently I met with a fellow environmentalist who asked the question "have you ever seen something that cannot be rationalised or explained?" I replied saying "I have come across strange and on occasion disturbing things, however such sights can be explained my nature and are part of it, especially once you have a reasoned perspective" tonight I was put to the test and I feel my perspective is still as it should be.

Thanks to Gerry for your thoughts and question, they have inspired this post.

From Rags to Ditches

The treks and trails I often tread have had many influences on me over the years. One of the more physical adjustments is my appearance. Nature and the elements are no respecters of fashion and I found my clothes and foot ware becoming worn and tattered. The constant repairs to our homes and cars over the years have also taken their toll.

To begin with I often replaced items when they became stained or torn. The influx of cheap clothing from the far east ensured this was no real financial hardship. But over time and with awareness I began to become uncomfortable with this. As is often the case I decided to give up on "keeping up appearances" and simply repair or put up with what I have, however it did become interesting to see the reactions of people to my shabby nature.

Many of the well dressed salesmen and executives simply ignored me, my apparent lack of wealth and status became a drawn conclusion. Such a conclusion results in the thought that I will be of little use to them. Interestingly the charity workers on the streets also tend to disregard me. Many times the young enthusiastic soul who bounds up exclaiming "hello, can I have a moment?" would pass right by me targeting the younger well dressed and outwardly respectable females. On occasion I would attract hostility, usually from young males who sought the approval of their peers. Barbed comments or insults are sometimes the way of communicating their contempt and desire for attention, luckily my mind is still fairly sharp and a swift and brutal put down as a response often results in a stunned silence. This is never achieved by a well dressed office worker walking by pretending the comment was unheard.

There are those who do take time to speak with me, I find these people are often quieter souls who make more of their opinions based on the first few moments of conversation. For me I find they are often far more rewarding to talk too. The exchange of opinions and ideas is a pleasure and in many ways I find myself dealing with fellow observers, wanderers, nature lovers, artists and craftsfolk.

Appearance and fashion is a language, it reveals a great deal about people. Like all languages, there are depths, deceptions and truths concealed or revealed within the code of human perception and interaction.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Craftsman Part 2

A While ago I posted my thoughts regarding craftsmen and the value of their work. Interestingly I noticed a tweet from Shelter Publications on Twitter that further provoked my thoughts:

"He who works with his hands is a labourer, He who works with hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with hands and head and heart is an artist".

I have often felt an affinity with the craftsman, I work with materials such as metal and wood, as well as with ink and pencil. The focus on a task is something I greatly enjoy. To draw the mind to a point of focus and concentration with the aim of creation becomes a meditation in itself. Outside of that task and focus, the issues of the world fade away to allow both the conscious and sub-conscious mind to dedicate themselves to perfection.

After reading the above quote I began to think of the line between the craftsman and the artist. Again it seems to become an issue of the focus of the mind. It seems that the artist draws inspiration from external sources and allows the mind to open rather than narrow onto a set task. The issue of opening the mind while remaining dedicated to the task is difficult, the mind can easily become distracted and wander from the task. So at what point does the craftsman become the artist?

I would suggest that it is like undertaking a journey down a track. The destination may be arrived at by watching the ground beneath your feet and stepping carefully. It can also be reached by learning to walk and read the ground with your sense of touch. This way the eyes may be lifted and the ears opened to all the information around, this way the everything possible is gathered on the journey to the destination. The inspiration around becomes part of the solution to a task and the artist is then revealed.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Eve of the Winter Solstice

Standing beneath a clear blue night sky I gazed upon the landscape before me. The night carried with it the sharpest frost I had seen in many years, the trees and plants wore a heavy white coat and stood still in the windless air. The full moon threw its light over and through the few clouds in the sky as they seemed to hang motionless.

The scene stood in silence, as the existence of people lay in only the past. The fences and labours of the farm workers from years gone by stood as tribute to their presence, but tonight the landscape belonged to the raw elemental cold against nature. Closing my eyes for a moment I could feel the night air claiming claiming the warmth of my body as if needing payment for the solitude and wonders before me. After a while I returned to the hovel to take a few hours rest before waking to watch the rising sun on the winter solstice.

The increasing glow of the sun pushed through low mists and clouds, gently at first as if giving the eyes chance to adjust from the night but it was soon in its full glory. The light rushed across the frosted landscape giving the trees a radiant and spectacular glow. Flutterings of wings reached my ears as the birds made their way to find food and show their survival of a brutally cold night. The walk towards spring has begun and I hope the nights will be a little warmer and kinder as we travel, but I have no doubts that there will be sights of wonder to inspire, let us hope they are appreciated and learned from. With luck more people will take the time to observe.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Scriptures of Flesh

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to meet a teacher who helped me a few years ago. At the time I wished to learn more about psychology, hypnotherapy and influence, what surprised me was that my motives for seeking the knowledge were disturbingly pure. I had already given up a corporate life and the rat race. I wanted to find a way of looking deeper and more productively into the human mind, to see what makes people think and act as they do. I also wished to find solutions to common problems that affect behaviour and to understand the reasoning behind the techniques.

I was shown a better way to use language and also an interesting technique to assess a person based on much older human behaviours patterns. By looking at the older traits of Nomads, Settlers and Warriors in both positive and negative terms I found I was able to understand how the balance of a personality can be tipped into problematic areas and adjusted to bring well being back to the individual. More details on this is available in a book by Terence Watts called "Warriors, Settlers & Nomads: Discovering Who We Are and What We Can Be" however I had the benefit of the structure being shown to me and explained by a professional clinical hypnotherapist, this for me was to be of significant help.

It was a strange feeling to commit such knowledge into my own sub conscious. I combined it with my own experiences of reading body language and mannerisms. Doors seemed to unlock within my mind and I was able to begin reading people once I had learned to turn down my own pre-concieved ideas of image and perception. From watching quietly within a crowd I find the gestures and positions of people sing familiar songs of insecurities, bravado, manipulation, enjoyment, friendship & threat.

It seems I have a new pathway to walk within my own mind and many fascinating sights to see and learn from along the way. The act of observation with a clear and open mind is indeed a powerful tool.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Many Long Miles

To step out into a darkened landscape opens the mind to thoughts and observations that may lay hidden at the back of the mind or be obscured by the overload of information that seems to accompany daylight. Within my wanderings I have been blessed by the company of quiet companions. The dogs enjoy their freedom, being away from people, roads and livestock they have no need of a leash. As we travel they choose their own position and excursions away from the pack. This often shows their standing within the pack and reflects their own personalities.

Sadly we lost our top dog in early autumn to an infection. She had walked the paths with me for nearly a decade and a half and this had amounted to thousands of miles over the years. I find I still look for her in the gloom, her white colours were always well ahead of the pack leading the way. On occasion she would happen upon a rabbit and the chase would begin heralded by the scattering of undergrowth and her shifting form and route through the trees. With two creatures evolved for running at speed the chase was always spectacular. Luckily for the rabbit her instinct was for the chase and not for the kill, her quarry gave her reason for speed and a demonstration to the rest of the pack.

On our wordless travels she had given me many lessons to learn and a different perspective to see the world from. Nature is the finest of teachers and to learn requires a mind that can drink deeply from all the senses and scenes before us. Over the last few months the pack has adjusted to our loss, our youngest dog has taken the position. She now holds her ground at the front of the pack and accepts the challenges and the chase. It appears she has been taught well too.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Celestial Faerie Lights

A gentle evening stroll through the village close to my home revealed to me the onset of the festivities. Gardens and homes are already decorated with led lighting and ornaments. A glance in the window of shops shows the seasonal displays and adverts. The footpaths tended to draw most of my attention due to their ice, in many places they prove to be quite difficult.

I was relieved to be back out in the fields and woodlands later that evening. The ground seems to be so much easier to walk on and allowed my gaze to be lifted. I took a moment to look upwards as I passed along a small hedgerow. In amongst the hawthorn and blackthorn is an aging oak tree, its branches are bare leaving it standing skeletal on a still night of a new moon. Within its form I could seem the stars sitting like jewels in the branches. The new moon is not generally renown for its dramatic sights, but this was magnificent. The magnitude of the slumbering stillness of the oak with the vast distances and lights within the sky overwhelmed the mind for a moment. This was natures seasonal decoration in the garden of rural England and it was my honour to be the one to see it. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Snow Bound Hill

As late afternoon gives way to the evening I found the gentle glow off the white landscape helped light my way through the flurry of falling snow. There were no obvious tracks before me, just my own knowledge of the paths and furrows to hold my feet steady. Rounding a corner the unseen narrow track lead up a steep hill flanked by ice bound trees and hedges, drawing breath for a moment we pushed on working as a pack. My strongest dog showed the way crashing through the deep snow with enviable ease. The rest of us followed enjoying the benefit of a furrow in which to ease our steps. As we reached the summit it was time to regroup and brush the snow from coats, ears and eyes.

The first snows of winter have proved to be heavy, but I see no reason to let up walking the trails. The difficult conditions bring the pack closer together and strengthen our bond. The rewards are found in the time spent together and spectacular scenes that lay before us together with the lessons of natures force. In allowing ourselves to be touched by the wild it seems we can find cooperation and understanding beyond the games of civilised society.