Thursday, 22 December 2011

Learning to Fly & Needing to Swim

A small procession of hi-visibility jacketed men trudged through the plywood entrance gate to a building site. Despite the threat of redundancies, work still carries on albeit with less enthusiasm and a lot more mutterings and grumbles from staff. Walking into the meeting room I spotted Karl, a likable fellow who shares my enjoyment of dogs. I decided to grab the seat next to him and enjoy a quick chat before we began with the formalities of the meeting.

Karl is the proud owner of a 2 year old Newfoundland dog. For those who are unfamiliar with the breed they are water dogs and can grow to quite some size (around 170lbs). His training and day to day life is usually interesting to say the least. Within a few minutes he had informed me they were not having a christmas tree this year due to the fact the dog had stolen last years. After hearing rustlings in the depths of the night he crept downstairs to find his faithful dog dragging the tree by the stump from the living room into the adjoining room. He also informed my his good lady had agreed to buy another Newfoundland puppy without first confirming the price with the breeder. I nearly fell off the chair when I was told the cost was £1200!

A couple of hours later we found ourselves leaving the site and walking the steep hills of a peak district town back to a clients office. Once again we returned to our canine conversations, the result of which left me leaning on a wall trying to catch breath between guilty laughter bouts. The previous night Karl had taken his Newfoundland for their usual evening walk. The winter rains had left the ground sodden with several large muddy puddles, naturally the dog enjoyed these immensely and steered Karl towards them at every occasion. Realising he could end up spending quite some time cleaning his dog before settling into a comfy chair for the night Karl made the decision to walk along the much drier tow path to the Chesterfield canal. All went well for a short stretch until something caught the dogs attention. In a sudden burst of energy the dog leapt from the tow path and into the canal, sadly for Karl he was clutching the other end of the lead and was caught off guard. It is apparently a strange sensation to find yourself flying towards the black waters of the canal. He was unsure of turning his flight into an elegant dive or curling up to cannonball. Regardless of the method of entry he found himself swimming, much to the delight of the dog who was clearly well pleased to be sharing the environment with his master.

After scrambling out of the canal he was faced with a cold and wet half mile walk home before being greeted by the horrified exclamations of his partner as he slopped in through the door.

Karl should you pass this way please accept my thanks for the tale, I can only imagine what you will happen while walking a second young Newfoundland. I hope any one else who has called by has enjoyed it too.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Braced Against the December Air

A familiar feeling crept into my shoulders and around my eyes. It was the dull ache of stress and clinging tension, slowing my thoughts and ladening my body with a state of unease. The last couple of weeks have been awkward to say the least. Work issues seemed to be constantly cropping up in my mind. It had not been helped by the high winds and driving rain of the last two days. I had to abandon our usual wanders as it was plainly unsafe to be walking within the woodlands or the country roads, but to try and explain this to my dogs is of course impossible. They remained restless by their containment within the hovel.

Tonight the winds had eased slightly and the sky was clear of cloud and full of moonlight. I decided to take to make a short drive to a nearby woodland and allow a few miles of muddy trails and the roar of air through the trees to clear my mind of the tensions within. Releasing the dogs from the back of the car was a noisy affair of barking and excitement as they rushed along the first track and into the undergrowth. I followed as I could holding onto my hood and wrapped up against winters cold blast. Nervously I watched the tall conifers for a while to gauge their movement in the winds. After reassuring myself of the conditions I felt at ease and stepped deeper into the woodland and away into the shifting moonlight shadows.

The wider trails and clearings left me leaning into the wind and bracing myself against the force, but once within the trees the coldness lost its bite and the warmth stripped away from skin covered by 3 layers began to return. I turned to the smallest of paths within the trees, some are barely a foot wide and tangled with roots, tree stumps and fallen branches. Even with the brightness of the moon I had to resort to the lantern to ensure safe footing. Its white light captured the gentlest of movement in the branches and gave the depths of the wood a feeling of moving and breathing with the winds. The trail would have been impossible to follow were it not for my familiarity with it. A bare branch pointed the way as the trail vanished in the root system of an old tree. As I passed by I reached for the branch and patted it with a gloved hand as I have done many times before, in many ways it is like shaking hands with an old friend.
Passing though a shallow ditch and stepping over a fallen tree I could hear the eerie sounds of the steel gates in a near by field rattling as if an old ghost sought to discard its chains. The hedgerows and oaks stood bare against the starlight with every leaf ripped from the skeleton of the canopy. The winds hurtled though the empty branches rattling them in a strange applause as I trudged through the waterlogged and mud bound pathways beneath them. By the time I reached the drier routes in the centre of the wood I was breathing hard and relieved to be on firmer ground. These routes gave an easy walk for a mile of so back to my aging car standing on the edge of the road untroubled by the vehicles who trawl through the darkened car parks used by the visitors in the daylight hours.

I slumped into the drivers seat and enjoyed a moments rest before heading off. My mind was clear and my body was comfortably tired from the enjoyment of walking and breathing fresh air. I still have many tasks ahead of me for the week, but the feelings and fatigue clouding my mind & judgement have lifted, and all for the sake of a hour or so within the realm of nature and the elements.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Crucible of Moonlight

One beautiful aspect of walking at night is the relationship of the scenery to the moonlight and the phases of the moon. Familiar sights can be transformed from the depths of shadow to a resplendent scene in an instant making even a regular journey a different experience every time.

One such place for me is a glade to the western fringe of a Nottinghamshire wood. The closeness to the fields and the greater spacing of the trees seems to act in a way to collect the moonlight and sets itself aglow with the silver light. A fine sight with the woodland undergrowth shifting shadows onto the earth and spectacular living columns of the trees standing proud against the darkness of the deeper wood. Sitting within the centre of the glade are the roots and lower trunk of a fallen tree. Its curious fracture line forms a rustic chair with a seat and a rising shard of its old sapwood to create a back rest.

I often stop for a moment to appreciate the sight before me, but strangely I have never felt the urge to sit within the rustic chair, perhaps something within me tells me the experience would not be as comfortable as I would hope, but also to step into the scene seems an inappropriate imposition. In a moment the scene can fade to grey as the cloud covers the moon but retains its form in the veiled and reflected light. Passing by the glade within the hours of daylight I find it blends with the surrounding wood and is impossible to see the qualities it shows in the night. This is supported by the walkers I have observed marching by without even giving a glance in its direction. It is indeed a pity to see people missing such splendour. There are lessons I carry from this place to help me understand the perspectives of light, scene, passing time, seasons and the elements. I hope you will one day find such a place, a place that is both ordinary and completely spectacular.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Rend Limb

The world is awash with languages, from the tones of humanity to the communications of the natural world. The more time I spend in nature with my own mouth closed and my perceptions open, the more I begin to understand of the signals given off by creatures around me. With soft steps on a woodland trail I listened to the sharp calls of the little owl deep within the darkness and the familiar calls of the tawny finding their like high in the canopy above.

My gaze returned to the shadows of the woodland floor as I looked for my dogs. With a whistle akin to the call of the little owl I summoned them from their adventures. Clattering through the undergrowth they appeared on the trail beside me and in their own canine language began to speak volumes without words. My lead dog trotted around me with her head held high and her tail slowly wagging from side to side, closely following was my collie his pace matching the steps of my lead dog as she paraded. Their strutting caught my attention and I wondered why their manner had changed from a few minutes ago. Clutched in the mouth of my lead dog was a stick and for a moment I was reassured of their language and of a game they were playing to establish positions within the pack. I set off on the the trail with the two dogs circling me.

Moments passed before I again became suspicious of their behaviour, normally the stick would have been quickly broken in powerful jaws and the game would be over but the parading and strutting continued. Both dogs stopped abruptly as I demanded their attention and called them close. This provoked a stubborn reluctance from bearer of the stick as she tried to lure me into the same game being played with my collie. I refused to play and refused to lead the pack further on the trail until she came to me. Pace by pace she slowly approached until I could grasp the stick.

Beneath my glove I could feel of fluids of saliva and soft tissue on what was actually a bone of a considerable size. It took some effort to take it from her, but after a struggle I found myself holding part of a leg. Turning on the lantern revealed it was not the butchered discard of a picnic or barbeque from the daylight visitors to the woodland. This had been torn from a carcass and still bore skin and matted fur. It also held a coldness to tell me the poor creature must have died some time ago.

The lantern light reflected in the bright eyes of my dogs waiting excitedly for me to cast it aside, I decided they would not have the pleasure and looked about me for somewhere to dispose of it where it would be out of their reach. I placed the limb within a near by tree much to their annoyance, I suspect anyone walking the trail in the dawn would be given a gruesome surprise should a creature not discover it before they do.

For a moment I considered the fate of the poor fallen beast and a reminder to me of nature in the raw.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

One False Step

Strange how things can change in an instant and how the ordinary can become something so very different in the briefest flash of time. I have often been wary of this while wandering alone at night and I take steps to keep risks to a minimum, even on my familiar trails I am well aware that an injury or fall could cause considerable difficulties.

Yesterday brought about a moment of the unexpected. I will only take my oldest dog Fen (she is mentioned in the post The Company of an Old Friend) on longer walks once or perhaps twice a week. My good lady will taker her on gentle strolls near to the hovel and during daylight hours to keep a careful eye on her. In many ways it suits both of them, my partner broke her ankle a little under two years ago and her recovery has been a long one. While I was making a few repairs to the hovel she decided to take Fen for a short walk to stretch her legs. Taking her phone she headed out of the door with Fen excitedly bouncing around beside her.

Almost half an hour passed by before my phone rang and I found myself on the end of a cry for help. It was a brief dash down the country lanes to find them at a bridge crossing one of the larger drainage ditches in the area. Fen had managed to stumble while crossing the narrow foot bridge and had toppled off the timber planks into the ditch some six feet below. She was already shivering from the cold water and caked in the thick slurry at the bottom of the ditch, my partner had not the strength or footing to get her over of the steep sides and Fen had repeatedly fallen back in after making several attempts to get herself out and given her advanced years she had simply run out of strength.

I slid down the side of the ditch and joined my dog in the filth. It took a hefty lift to drag her clear of the mud and after a few careful steps up the ditch bank I was able to lift her back onto the bridge where my partner escorted her onto the country lane. Amazingly Fen was unhurt apart from being very cold. After getting her back home and cleaning her up with warm water she seemed to be non-the-worse for her fall. Another such step at another time could have brought about far more serious consequences.

The ditches in this area seem to catch people out every winter. Usually drivers who hit ice, but last year I was once nearly in the depths of an icy ditch myself until I realised I was about to take a wrong step. Sometimes it takes a close call to bring a moment of clarity, the trick is remembering those moments and recalling them at the right time.

Travel well and travel safely my friends.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Stave

It is always a pleasure to visit and talk with a craftsman. Last week I made a brief visit to a local woodworker to look into replacing a broken quarterstaff. During the time spent standing chatting outside his small rural workshop his enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff and the longbow was easy to perceive. Within a few minutes we had discussed the merits of timber and grain and I left having purchased an ash stave.

On my way back to my hovel I realised how my view of purchasing had changed over the years. Ten years ago I would have been making a trip to a specialist martial arts supplier in a big city and probably would have paid too much for a neatly turned (and probably an imported) staff. Its light and elegant form would have spun quickly and easily through the air but in reality it would have been of little use in terms of its strength & durability. In the times I would have needed it for walking support in poor weather it would also have over flexed and possibly been more of a hinderance than a support.

The stave now sitting in my studio is a robust item and is very much in a raw form. I will need to shape & finish it myself to suit my own needs, what it lacks in refinement it certainly makes up for in substance & potential. I have little doubt that as it takes its final form it will be an item which should last many years, take the knocks from sparring with my good friend on our twilight meetings and also travel many miles with me. I also take comfort from making my purchase locally and to a fellow enthusiast. Perhaps if more people bought locally we might find people making a living within their communities, developing skills and getting more enjoyment out of their labours rather than looking for that middle management role within the big company to lift them off the shop floor.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Young Poacher

With the sun obscured by the clouds & fog I caught fleeting glimpses of the Peak District countryside as I enjoyed a free ride on my way to work. Conversation flowed easily between myself, the driver and a fellow passenger as the miles ticked by, all of us were enjoying the commute and with little traffic on the roads good humour and past tales were shared.

Our driver recounted growing up in the countryside of the area and as a boy had lived with his family close to the land owners estate. Passing by a small river he told us of his desire to fish the rivers on the Dukes land, but as his family were ordinary working folk the fees to buy the "rights" to fish were well out of their means. He also mentioned that for a while he did not have a fishing rod either but undeterred he would sneak onto the private lands and down to the river to tickle trout.

On one occasion he slipped up and was caught by the game keeper. Hauled back to his parents house he was presented back to his father on the doorstep and received a telling off & a clip around the ear in view of the gamekeeper. Once the door was shut his father said "sorry about that lad, did you have any luck with the trout," he replied that he had, and his catch was safely hidden in his inside coat pocket. Much to his fathers approval it had appeared that dinner was as fresh as it came that night.

His brief tale brought a smile to my face and also triggered many fond memories of enjoying the outdoors as a child. I couldn't resist telling it here. As more of the countryside comes under threat from urban sprawl, development, increasing population and sell offs, I wonder if a few stolen moments on privately owned countryside will be the way it is enjoyed by those without the funds to pay for the privilege.

(Should you ever pass this way, thank you for the tale and for the lift John)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Within the Gloom

The familiar sight of mist and rain greeted me again as I stepped into the woodlands. With the solar year heading towards the winter solstice it is to be expected and one again I took enjoyment of my solitude in the gloom with the chance to order my thoughts and take stock at the end of a difficult week.

With the student protests and the occupy movement taking centre stage on the social sites I prefer to use instead of the media it becomes easy to see how many of the ordinary people of the country are feeling. With so many people being brought into a system where money is the measure of your worth and the main resource for gaining the essentials of warmth, shelter & food, it becomes understandable that such resentment shows itself when the promises of the past begin to fail.

This week I listened to two men I am working with revealing the facts of enforced pay cuts & reduced pensions, together with their thoughts on what they could possibly do without and how to make funds stretch a little further. Last month I listened to a good friend telling me of changes to his place of work and of redundancies being enforced, not because the company was running at a loss, but because targets were not being met.

Such times strengthen my resolve to break away from the systems as they are. I still work, but I have made the choice to invest any money that can be spared into my own endeavours. As I make these improvements I should have less need of money and hopefully I should gain greater freedom and quality time. I live in a place rich with natural & sustainable resources, I hope to spend my time with these. I can have warmth, shelter, food, good company & inspiration all for a fraction of what I am paying at the moment. But I need to make adjustments to my life and home to allow the effects of these. There are also things I will need to do without, luxuries that many a suburban dweller would consider too great a loss, but from my view I will consider my life to be richer without such things.

Within the gloom I found my eyes had adjusted, paths lay before me. I have a feeling my journey is only just beginning.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Mists, The Wolf & The Phoenix

What a difference twenty four hours can make. Last night I took to my wanders among the mists and rain. In the light of the full moon the mists carried a white glow between the dark forms of the trees and gentle rain relentlessly fell upon us in the darkness. I have noticed many people dislike such evenings, but for me they are magical and beautifully quiet. I long since gave up listening to the dull tones of the weather report and the patronising sympathy of the announcer to declare that bad weather is on the way, but never mind. Weather is simply weather and I prefer Billy Connolly's thought of "put on a sexy mac and go for a walk".

Tonight was different and beautiful to the eyes, the full moon lit up the trails and trees, casting long moonlit shadows into the depths of the wood. I glanced upwards to the moon between the trees, the light clouds had formed a wolf like shape in the dark blue of the night sky with the full moon sitting as an eye within the form. Small fallen leaves sat on the trails reflecting the silver light and laying a glorious path before me.

I wandered the paths and gazed up through the darkest of evergreen canopies catching fleeting glimpses of the moon & stars as I sped along the softening ways between the trees. Once in a woodland clearing I gazed upwards again to see the clouds had taken a phoenix like form, again the full moon formed the eye. Looking about me I could see I was the only person for miles, no lanterns, no lights and no human sounds reached my senses deep within the wood.

Given the nature of human beings to dominate everything they can I find such evenings are a true blessing. Good company is a fine thing, but it is well to look upon the distant splendour and stand uninterrupted in awe for a moment. Light, darkness, life and the elements conspire to create a special moment, and I was glad to stand and watch it.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Secret of Learning

I have had many teachers in my life, some paid to do so and others unwittingly giving me far more than they realise. Learning (along with thinking) is something I see as a skill in itself, it needs to be practised and honed. 

Sitting at a desk in a lesson while information is presented to you is only the smallest aspect of learning. Sitting at a desk and drawing in all the information before you is far more significant.

Every part of what sits before the learner tells its tale, from the clothes and appearance of the teacher, the delivery, the marks on the desk left by previous students right through to the building fabric itself. All portray the real message behind the situation, the incidental information begins to speak far louder than the technical lesson. Once I made the switch to this way of thinking and learning, vails began to fall. The systems, thoughts and the wills of others became clear.

Such learning and thinking needs to be calibrated, for this I return to nature. I found when I looked upon nature in the same way, I became part of a world which does not seek to categorise me as humans do. It is life, essence and it is existence in its purest form (with of course vast lessons without the coded language of people). This is something which I find useful when assessing the approaches of others. Their own agendas and the agendas of their upbringing and past teachers become much clearer. I can then learn deeply from them and be well aware of the hidden.

Enjoy teaching what you know,
Enjoy learning what you do not,
Enjoy time spent in good company
And look for the lesson beyond.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Memories & Paths of Autumn

Tonight I stood beneath the crescent moon within the nearby woodlands to gather my thoughts. I find it a strange time of year, quite magical in some respects and absurd in others. A few days ago I found myself running an errand for my good lady, I wandered into a supermarket and found myself face to face with vast quantities of plastic skulls, rubber spiders and model witches holding cauldrons. Many of them emitting moans, screams cries for help or laughter. A shop floor worker stood among them smiling brightly and asking those who strayed too close if they would like to buy one. I glanced past the plastic macabre to see the christmas isle taking shape.

An all too familiar sensation was settling in, the question of just how out of touch I am becoming with human affairs, or perhaps worse still the possibility that your average shopper takes all this within their stride and no longer chooses to question the meaning behind the facade.

Beneath the moon I allowed my thoughts to drift to more personal matters, it has been another year where a loved one has passed away. With the falling leaves of autumn and the softness of the moonlight I thought of her. I miss our regular phone conversations and her voice is still fresh within my memory, I suspect it always will be. I thought of the lands we are from and the tales and history. I cast my mind to others of my line and good friends passed on and thanked them. The soft energies of autumn always seem to draw forth such thoughts and it seems appropriate to pay my respects.

Within the past I find more than memories, there are lessons, teachings and paths to the present & the future. As always I will gladly take to the paths and perhaps with good fortune will meet fellow wanderers. Should it be so, I will toast your good health & look forward to hearing of your experiences too.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Company of an Old Friend

Yesterday I received one of those calls I dread. Sitting with a client in the Peak District our discussions were interrupted by a message from my good lady to tell me our old dog Fen had fallen ill during the day. After driving through the twilight traffic and seeing the beginnings of a storm forming ahead of me I made it back home.

With the storm gathering outside we sat with our old dog and tried to give her some comfort. Time seems to pass slowly when your mind is full of concerns and it was a little while before I realised the skies above our home had become clearer with only an occasional cloud drifting by to cover the stars for a moment. I decided to take a stroll with Fen to see if some gentle exercise would help her discomfort and also give my good lady a much needed break after a day attending to her needs.

A short while later we found ourselves in the woodland with the ground around us illuminated by the white light from my lantern. Above us the night sky remained clear but with the surrounding trees still shedding the water from the earlier downpour, glistening shots sped down to the undergrowth rattling the foliage and carrying the sounds of heavy rainfall in an echo of the storm. We wandered slowly along the wider well trodden paths and woodland road, stopping every now and again to ensure journey was a pleasure and not an endurance for Fen. In the distance the storm clouds still lay heavy on the horizon and flashes of lightening lit the sky and landscape in spectacular and blinding flourishes.

Further along the track we reached a familiar clearing and again we stopped, this time it was to watch an etherial mist rising against the distant backdrop of the lightening and the clouds gathering the light from the town a few miles away. With our eyes feasted we moved on into the quietening trees before taking a track that would lead us back to the car and the warmth of home.

I have no idea how long my old companion will be with us, at sixteen and with her health failing she is certainly well into her last years. I remember with great fondness the exploits of her youth and the energy of a young dog happy to be taken into a pack after being rescued by a shelter because her original owner had left her tied up on a bus.

She still has her love of life I will do the best I can for her.
(my thanks to two twitter friends, Di (@di-lew) for her best wishes and also to Jocelyn (@Miss Phosphorus) for her work & inspiration in finding homes for shelter dogs)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Listening Within The Silence

Blessed with the surrounding elements & nature there is very rarely a total silence but compared to the comings and goings of people it may seem so, it sometimes seems that folk even strive to avoid the quiet as I have mentioned in a previous posts. Often I have seen an uncomfortable shifting as a conversation trails off between people and often the conversation turns to the mundane to avoid the pause. When company is not available it is easily replaced with technology; television, radio or the internet are there to fill the spaces of a mind missing its barrage of stimulus. Alternatively silence develops a stigma of focus, the need for a 2 minutes silence to mark a tragedy or the silence of the academics exam room.

To sit within silence for a while and open the senses and mind to the natural world can bring a wealth of awareness, creativity and peace. The mind and body begin to resonate with a very different frequency as the quiet information of our surroundings beings to seep into the body and nourish the spirit. Like many skills, such a process is not always easy, living in a world saturated with noise and clutter the mind tends to grab at thoughts or looks for distraction to turn its full focus on to. Wants and desires can begin surface taking the mind away from the present to a possible future.

Once I had learned to sit within the silence of nature and perceive the seasons, elements and time around me for a while I was able to carry the thought patterns & perceptions with me to other places or even the close confines of a conversation and do the same. With a mind tuned to the vital baseline of the natural world, the words and games of those within a debate or the passions of an enthusiast begin to take on a new meaning and perhaps not the meaning they would wish to convey.

I found that within my own silence I began to understand deeper issues, by perception and not preconception or focused thought. Within the natural realm all sounds carry a wealth of direct information and even the quietest can carry huge importance, to filter out the deceptions and irrelevance in the dealings of people is a skill I feel I am becoming competent with, but it seems to have the effect of making certain people uneasy. That is something I am comfortable with.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Paradise Abused

As I wander I have realised many times that we should live in paradise. Within the natural world we have all we need, but sadly it seems we do not have all that everyone wants. Many of the places I pass by show the scars of industry and mining, some are still active, some have been closed for decades and nature is beginning its reclamation of these areas. But within the landscape the ruts are there to be seen and below our feet sits the unwanted wastes in concentrations way in excess of the natural order of things.

This week fellow outdoors folk over the other side of the Atlantic have raised my awareness of the proposed mining extraction at Bristol Bay. I was staggered by the size of the proposals and the sensitive location. Over the last few years we have had horrific damage caused to the environment by developments such as tar-sands and the spill in the gulf, but here we are once more, still looking at highly destructive development.

I find myself wondering how we came to be in such a situation yet again. For my thinking it is partly down to the way developers and investors see land purely as a commodity and partly because money is perceived as the main security for the future. Perhaps one of the awkward issues is the realisation of smaller involvements, how we save and invest small sums of money for pensions, savings or bonds without questioning how the banks will give you the promised rate of return. Maybe it is time to take out some finance to get that new car, after all how are you going to know what the companies you transact with will invest their profits and what commodities they will work with. I must admit I have been guilty of both of these in the past, but I am determined not to repeat my mistakes.

Until we look carefully at our own dealings and truly question the effect we have, there is always the chance of money being invested in one country causing huge problems for others elsewhere. If that is of little concern, perhaps it is worth remembering that money invested overseas could cause hardship on your own doorstep.

For me the lands and seas are not commodities, they are an integral part of our very existence. We should always harvest carefully and treat them with respect. Below is the link to raise awareness of the goings on at Bristol Bay.

http://www.savebristolbay.org/

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Waxing Shadows

With the clear twilight skies and the waxing moon, the autumn woodland becomes a truly enchanting place to be. Walking the paths I find myself cast into contrasting worlds of light and shadow within an instant. Looking towards the moon I find the lea side of the tree trunks are in pure darkness but beyond them to the canopy of pine needles hold the silver light and as the branches shift gently in the breeze, they are as shimmering clouds only slightly overhead. Turning my gaze from the moon the trees are vibrant and defined by the light against the depths of the wood. My own moon cast shadow is defined and thrown to the undergrowth.

From the deeper within the woods I can hear the calls of many tawny owls, such a night always brings a host of calls from the canopy. Once I have passed by the realm will be theirs to survey and hunt. Scattered on the floor and shifting in the breeze is the first falls of leaves rattling their way through the wood before the rain of future nights presses them to the floor and their decay begins to fuel the growth of future foliage. Ahead of me on the path I can hear the disgruntled raspings of a badger. My dogs seem to have learned to leave them alone, but it doesn't stop their curiosity when the happen upon one on the footpaths. The rasps and growls serve them  reminder that these creatures do not appreciate canine attention and will return to foraging and the set once we are out of the way.

Nights such as these are a blessing, within a few weeks the turning of the season will bring the winds and rains of late autumn to soften the steps. Within my teeth and bones I can begin to feel the chill of the cooler months growing as the solar year draws older.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Chase in the Clearing

A few weeks ago I witnessed a chase between my lead dog and a rabbit she had seen in a woodland clearing. The chase was furious pace of long runs down the clearing paths and weaves through the low plants. As my dog had not yet had her evening meal she took after her prey with hunger and pure intent, the rabbit was clearly in prime of life and had no intention of ending up in the life crushing squeeze of the jaws of a german shepherd. The rabbits smaller frame allowed for cover among the undergrowth and rapid turns, my shepherd was simply bigger, faster and much stronger. Where the rabbit ducked beneath the cover, she would simply crash through.

My dogs had a meal waiting back at my hovel and I had no intention of watching her kill the rabbit, but my first attempts to call her off failed as she had focused intently on her prey as only a hunter can. As the rabbit turned from the undergrowth and took to the path another quick turn was made and to my surprise the little creature ran towards me and my older dog. If we had been hunting the creature it would have been a fatal mistake, but I held my older dog and stepped away from the path to give a clear run past us. My shepherd was bearing down quickly on the rabbit, the ground drummed to the beat of passing feet as the rabbit passed me kicking up a small cloud of dust from the dry track. As my shepherd was passing I stepped towards her and called her. The moments distraction was enough to slow her and give the rabbit time to turn back to the undergrowth. I called her in to my side and praised her for her return.

I looked up to see the rabbit reaching the cover of the taller undergrowth by the tree line. Looking back to my dogs I could see their noses lower to the floor and they immediately picked up the rabbits trail and began to track. Their relentless nature brought a smile to my face but I was determined the chase would not resume. Again I called them and lead them away down the path.

Watching nature in the raw gives meaning to flesh, it carries life, spirit and meaning. Later that week I sat drinking black coffee in a fast food restaurant. The children there seemed more interested in the plastic toy with their meal over the food itself. Sadly in many cases there seems to be little reverence and a loss of connection to the food sustaining us. The sight of the rabbit running for dear life is burned into my memory now and for me helps remind of the reality beyond the packaging and trinkets to sell us cheap food.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Tale from Lucky Bob

One of the pleasures of wandering and traveling the country lanes is finding a like minded soul and exchanging a tale or two. A few years ago I was working in an office in south Lincolnshire for a couple of days a week, it was there I was introduced to Lucky Bob. A that time Bob was approaching his retirement age and was one of those people who I tend to think of as a true gentleman. He was friendly, polite and professional but also had a razor sharp wit and a perceptive mind ensuring he was nobodies fool. Although he had not been blessed with the best of luck in his earlier life, it seemed fortune had begun to smile on him over the previous few years and had even won three significant wins on European lotteries setting himself up nicely for his oncoming retirement. He continued to work because he enjoyed it and he was good at it.

Realising we both had travelled the rural lanes on many occasions (Bob was often driving, where as I have a preference for walking) we began to chat and exchange experiences, I will now pass on a little tale he told me, this has brightened a few peoples days over the years when I have recounted it, I hope it does for you. For me it proves that wealth does not mean worth. I hope Bob is now retired to his cottage in France and is enjoying both red wine and fine company.

Working freelance, Bob had often to take contracts in offices some distance from his home. He tried to make his journeys as enjoyable as he could to avoid the scrum of driving in the rush hour traffic and the scenic routes were a welcome break from the nose to tail driving. He recalled that one such morning many years ago (in the time when mobile phones were not affordable almost all of the population) he was winding his way down a country lane, enjoying the peace and freedom of a quiet road before a day in a warm office. He glanced in his mirror to see a car in the distance behind him and thinking nothing of it he carried on driving as he felt was safe for the road. A few moments later he glanced in his mirror again and realised the vehicle behind him was closing fast and must surely be traveling well in excess of the 60mph speed limit of the road. Feeling a little wary of the driver behind him he carried on, deciding to maintain his speed just has he would if the driver was not there.

Within seconds his rear view mirror was filled with the sight of an expensive Jaguar car just a couple of feet from his back bumper  and snaking around in the lane to try and overtake. Bob carried on keeping one eye on the mirror wondering what the driver behind must be in such a rush for. Again he kept to his speed and within his lane deciding the driver would overtake when it was safe to do so. The lane weaved its way towards a sharp blind corner and Bob slowed his speed as any normal driver would. The roar of engine noise behind him became deafening, glancing into his mirror Bob was horrified to see the driver behind had lost both patience and reason. He started to overtake on the blind corner, the next moments felt like an eternity as the Jaguar rounded the corner on the wrong side of the road and with no possibility of getting back into lane without colliding with Bobs car. Luckily for both Bob and the other driver there was no oncoming traffic and in a squeal of tires and smoke the Jaguar found its way in front and back into the correct lane before accelerating off into the distance.

Bob was left shaking with adrenaline as the danger passed. He was also left opened mouthed by the recklessness of the Jaguar driver, if another vehicle had been coming the other way, they would have been lucky if any of them had survived. A few deep breaths and a shake of the head helped him regain his composure and he carried on his way thankful to be in one piece.

The next few miles passed uneventfully until Bob could see something to chill the blood just off the road ahead. He pulled up at another steep corner to find the Jaguar wrecked in a hedge having crashed at some considerable speed. He switched his hazard lights on and leapt out expecting to find bodies among the wreckage. He was surprised to see a business man clearly shaken but apparently unhurt. "Oh my god, is there anybody else in there?" Bob asked. The business man replied "No", Bob looked about and could see no other vehicles or people what so ever. "Is there anybody else involved?" Bob asked. The business man shook his head "No, just me he replied,". Bob looked the man up and down before asking "And are you ok?". "Yes I am fine, its just the car that is wrecked," he answered.

Bob just smiled and said "Thats a pity," with that he climbed back into his own car, switched off the hazards and drove off leaving a stunned business man stranded in the middle of the countryside.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Return of the White Shadows

Setting out in the late afternoon I find myself in a realm of colour, the red of the hawthorn berries against the yellow greens of the turning trees in the hedgerows and all against a backdrop of sky blue. The young rabbits are ever present at the edge of the long grass taking their chance to dash across the county lanes while flocks of sparrows flit along the edge of the fields taking their fill and making the best of the hedgerows cover from the threat of the sparrowhawks who seem to melt from sight in the taller trees until a careless bird strays too far from the safety of the flock and foliage.

As time passes and the sun lowers, the horizon takes it crimson hue, throwing long shadows as the air begins to cool. Fluttering wings of the kestrel portray a mastery of controlled flight, holding position over the ditches and field edge. Dipping and repositioning further down the lane after the land has been scoured by the piercing eyes of the little falcon. Across the field the vixen takes her turn to run, this rural predator shows no desire to raid close to the village before the cover of darkness.

Night draws in with soft steps and quiet miles, the breeze and gentle rustling of leaves fills the senses of hearing and touch as the blue fades to the horizon and the depths of space are revealed overhead. As my eyes adjust to the silvers, grey and black of the nightscape I am treated to the rising white form from the ditch further down the lane. The Barn Owl floats and drops on silent wings, they have been a rare and distant sight in the past summer but the cloudless evening and the harvesting of the small creatures has summoned them from their roosts to grace the darkness like white shadows.

Within the quiet of the land, the cycles of time, nature and light are turning in harmony.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Moon Drenched

Clouds anointed by the moons silver light passed slowly and silently overhead set against the stretching blackness of the night sky. We stopped on a timber bridge to drink in the sight of the mill pond before us, such a calm body of water under the full moon forms a spectacular pattern on the earth as if reflecting the entire cosmos and  laying it at our feet. A moving shadow and a gentle ripple declared the presence of a water bird, the ripples moved across the reflected face of the moon animating the reflection and serving as a reminder of the movement of life within the shadows and moonlight.

Leaning on the timber handrail for a moment I glanced into the darkness beneath the bridge. Within such blackness it seemed time itself had chosen to rest and a small portion of the world descended into an elemental stillness so rarely seen on this crowded isle. The timber bridges and the mill pond have been a sanctuary for us for many years, the turmoil of the day with the frictions of living close to many indifferent people always seem to melt away. I have often listened to people refer to the curtain of night and have found it a strange saying. Here the curtain seems to have been drawn back, before us in the sky and in the reflection is distance, space & time. Filling the senses and showing a depth of existence way beyond the blue skies of summer and the direct warming light of the sun. Where the sun brings light and life to wonderful aspects and landscapes, the darkness gently shows the true depths of the realm we live in.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Uneasy Watchers

My recent wanders seem to have shown a different side to the woodlands from my usual peaceful meanderings after twilight. Arrangements and appointments have left me walking in the early morning and early evenings during daylight hours, with the light I decided to reacquaint myself with area of the wood I normally steer clear of. It would appear little has changed in the areas accessible by vehicles. A usual array of closely parked clandestine vehicles with shady sorts talking in hushed voices positioned themselves just off the car park road under cover of the tree canopy and foliage. Heads turned and conversations stopped as I passed by. One of the trees was adorned with the the word "weed" painted in red paint across its trunk and patches of fast food litter lay about where I suspect they had been cast from parked car windows.

Once away from the vehicles and road the serenity of the woods returned. The clatter of the wood pigeons wings was the only sound to raise itself above the gentle breeze in the trees, the shafts of sunlight seemed to shift and move in time with the movement of air. Many of the smaller paths had become choked with undergrowth leaving only the main paths clear and easily passible. I headed for a place where an old watch tower once stood but was disappointed to find only the rotten remains of its main structure ripped to the ground and scattered among the trees. On finally finding a clear small path I decided to change course and found myself treading carefully around deep tire ruts from heavy machinery which had long since passed by. At the paths end I appeared at a small car park deep within the woods. One vehicle positioned itself at the head of the car park, its owner gawping at me out of an open window with his head resonating with the battering of drum and base from a stereo possibly more powerful than the engine. I returned to the smaller tracks and made my way round and back in the direction of home.

Again the serenity of the woods returned to me like a welcome shroud, I found myself stepping over small fallen branches and ducking beneath the low canopy. One of my dog pack stopped to scoff a few blackberries from a trail side bramble, I have had the company of many dogs over the years but he has been the first to show me such a skill and never a cut mouth from the thorns close by the fruit. With the walk approaching an end I found the trail passing through a ditch. The summer had left the bottom of the ditch quite dry but the presence and arrangement of planks showed the footholds to avoid topping out a boot in the winter months. To the side a makeshift fence or handrail had been dug into the sides of the ditch. Standing in the bottom of the ditch it seemed the world was a silent place barely touched by the wind overhead, after enjoying the peace for a moment I carried on, back towards the car park area where stares and uneasy sideways glances would await my passing intrusion on in the world of the secretive and unwelcoming watchers.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Key Within the Mind


I am rarely alone when I walk the woodland tracks at night, my dogs are good company and the breeze through the darkened leaves whispers gentle songs to flow around me as I make my way through nature's time and space. On occasion something malicious travels with me like a deranged creature muttering spiteful thoughts to interrupt the gentle songs on the breeze.

Last week I suffered one of these presences, normally as I walk the mutterings lessen as if it tires of following me and pales into insignificance beneath the sight of the stars, but not so this time. I stepped away from a life of corporate advancement many years ago when I realised I was becoming someone I did not like, but recent circumstances has pushed me back towards dealing with some of the personality types I used to come into contact with on a daily basis. Their office games and methods have pushed their way back into my work and I have found the thoughts clinging and lingering past the closing of the office doors.

As I wandered my thoughts would clear but were soon snapped back to dealing with issues that had no place within the woodlands. I could feel my anger growing both with the situation and with my inability to throw the thoughts from my mind and gain a little peace. I find an enraged mind is a little like a caged wild creature, it lashes out at those who stray close to the cage regardless of their intentions or well meanings. I decided it was time to deal with the issue and put things into perspective before those close to me could begin to suffer.

I walked with my pack and the demon within my mind to the western edge of the wood where the twilight from the sunken sun still set the horizon aglow and I stood beneath the canopy edge. As space, light and landscape stretched before me I began to gain a sense of the scale of the movement of planets and stars turning in space. I also began to flick through images and sounds within my mind to draw relevance to the scene before me, sounds seemed to fall into place to accompany the songs of the breeze and after a while a song I had enjoyed but not listened to for many years began to play (here is a link to the song, however I do believe that anyone else who searches for a song, text or image to gain a connection to the wider world and their place within space & time will have their own, and these will be of far more relevance to the person who searches them out) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1pyvnw9Sko

As my mind became calmer and resonated, the thoughts that had previously plagued me faded and vanished. I was relived I had not looked for distraction from my own mind. The distractions of sports and entertainments seem to fill the minds of many I have worked with and they seem to reach a point of obsession as pressures grow, but for me distractions are short lived cures for my problems, to turn a key within the mind to gain connection and perspective brings a comprehension and steers me away from the "head in the sand" cure.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Bones of a Shelter


With the storm clouds building overhead and the distant rumble of thunder passing across the woodland I stepped off the wide track and onto the woodland floor beneath the dense canopy of the conifers. The woodland floor was carpeted with fallen pine needles and lay barren of the undergrowth that flourished in other areas close by. Before me lay abandoned shelters, their framework resembled the exposed carcass of a long dead beast clustered around the tall trunks of the pine trees.

I walked amongst the structures as the first drops of rain tapped into the canopy overhead. The frames had lasted many years but the covering of branches and fallen debris had slipped to the base of the frames or had been carried away in the passing of time. Some shelters would have comfortably held a single soul for a night or two, others were bigger and must have held a few occupants. I smiled as I stood among the rustic ruins, it appeared the youths from the village near by had received instruction on how to put together these shelters and had no doubt enjoyed some time in the company of friends and mentors in the past.

In the failing light and the approaching storm the bones of the shelters could have passed as a woodland sculpture. A bold statement of form and function harvested from the surrounding environment and gently decaying in harmony with its surroundings. Earlier in the evening I had passed the remains of another abandoned camp, a budget tent lay broken and strewn with plastic bags, its decay was far less harmonious and brought the traces of a throw away culture to a place that should be treated with a greater respect.

I allowed the images of the harvested shelters to fill my mind for a moment, I suspect it had been many years since the woodland floor had been used for teaching and enjoyment in such a way. I hope the sight of the shelters will spark a fond image and perhaps encourage another group to enjoy the experience.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Contrast of Night & Day

Earlier this week I was reminded of my past life, sitting in an uncomfortable humid heat within a clients office I watched as staff became ill at ease with each other and the tasks passed to them by management. I remember well the feelings of striving for promotion and struggling with systems and instructions made by those who are not hands on with the projects on a daily basis. It was a relief to leave the office at the end of the day, but such relief was short lived as I sat on congested roads for two hours steadily baking in my own sweat with the sounds and smells of combustion engines around me.

It was early evening by the time I arrived back at my hovel and after taking care of a few tasks I decided to take two of my dog pack for a wander to help clear my head and enjoy the cooling air. Low clouds obscured the twilight sky depriving me of the vision of the emerging stars between the trees as I set off on familiar tracks and the issues of the day were still turning in my mind in an attempt to distract me from the here and now. It was perhaps a quarter of a mile before I could feel myself beginning to relax and enjoy freedom of movement as the muscles began to shed the tensions of the day.

I emerged from the cover of trees into a wide clearing on a broad and little used vehicle track. A sharp call cut through the breeze and caught my attention, turning I watched two sparrowhawks chasing each other through the young trees in the clearing, vanishing for the briefest moments in the lengthening shadows before reappearing within ten yards of me and circling around me calling as they went. I gained the impression they were not hostile to each other and were perhaps young hawks enjoying their last flight of the day before settling for the night. As they sped away into the far reaches of the clearing I lost sight of them and carried on to the tree line and turned to the smaller tracks.

My two dogs trotted ahead into the gloom, eager to stretch their legs and enjoy their freedom until I was aware of the sounds of growling and scuffling from the track in front of me. I assumed they had perhaps come across a stray dog and I ran forward to ensure a fight would be quickly stopped. I was surprised to find my two dogs either side of a badger, needless to say the badger was not happy about the canines following and investigating as he trotted towards me. The badger stopped for a moment as he realised I was blocking his escape along the path. Standing to the side of the path I created a gap for the badger to escape, the creature scurried by and was only perhaps three feet from me as he accelerated past and into the shadows. It took a few stern commands to prevent the dogs chasing him as they followed their instincts.

Returning to our journey it was only a short distance before we came across another night creature lurking at the edge of the wood with the boundary of a sheep field. Both dogs halted and held their gaze to a vixen watching the sheep. The vixen soon realised her position was exposed and in a flurry of movement sped for a gap in the fence and sprinted across the open field. Again it took stern commands to the dogs to prevent them from giving chase, but I was rewarded by the sight of her escaping to the hedges beyond the open ground.

With a journey of such sights it was little wonder I was calmer and happier by the time we reached the last of the woodland trails and began heading for home. It was a relief I had not given in to the temptations of a chair and the distractions of the TV, within the twilight I had been given far greater gifts.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Urban Forager

On the back road hidden among the urban sprawl lights from the takeaway and the street lamps bathed the tarmac and the parked cars in an unnatural glow and contrasted with the deep shadows beyond their reach. Passing headlights and the drone of engines passed by on the main road at the top of the embankment above me and the occasional footfalls and conversations of people walked by filled the air between the passing vehicles. I leaned against my aging car and enjoyed a quieter moment in an area that becomes intolerably cluttered with noise and the passing of vehicles and people during the day.

A shifting from the shadows and undergrowth of the embankment before me caught my attention, a rat appeared from cover and scampered across to the litter bin some ten feet or so away from me. I remained motionless as the creature gathered itself and sprang from the embankment to the rim of the bin before diving inside and emerging a few moments later with a mouthful of takeaway food. In a swift movement he sprang back into the cover of the shrubs and vanished. A little patience rewarded me with more sightings of the tenacious creature as he returned time and time again to scavenge the scraps from the litter bin.

I have never found fear in watching such creatures, just a willingness to understand their resourcefulness, the lack of wild predators combined with the busy road to keep the domestic cats at bay, together with the ready supply of thrown away food provides them with such rich pickings. it is little wonder they go beyond survival into thriving and flourishing. It seems our transient existence and throw away culture suits such creatures. Watching the movements of the creature I found it to be both powerful and agile for its size. Leaps to and from from the edge of the bin to the floor three feet below were achieved with ease and even grace. Watching the passers by and listening to their conversations about current trivia and sports I was hardly surprised to find I had more empathy and understanding with the rat.

Within the urban night, nature has shown me where there is abundance a creature will emerge to take advantage. If the thought of such creatures is abhorrent, perhaps we should look at the abundance we have given them and why the predators who would naturally control the numbers are prevented from doing so. No doubt someone will soon contact the local authority about the bold forager and insist they send a "man" round to deal with the problem. I doubt the issue will be looked at in any depth, just another short term solution involving poisons will be the likely outcome.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Seat in the Canopy

Line after line of tall conifers stood to attention either side of the worn earth trail. Each passing step provided the same hypnotic effect as the planted lines revealed themselves and it seemed only the undergrowth provided the aspects of random nature around the base of the trunks and scattered the regular patterns of the shadows off the setting sun. A subtle twist in the path ahead signaled the end of the plantation area and the sight of self seeded silver birch and taller undergrowth began a gentle sprawl back to the impression of a woodland forming its way in its own time.

I followed the turn in the path and began stepping towards the edge of the wood in what was rapidly becoming twilight. Oaks lay on the western edge of the wood against the boundary with the fields, lining the dry ditch and overhanging the arable crop rustling gently in the slight breeze beyond. Propped against one of the straighter trunks of the last trees was a giant ladder formed of branches from the woodland. To the top of the ladder sturdier timbers formed a seat and backrest setting a chair among the lower canopy with a makeshift handrail to give security to those who would trouble themselves to climb the lookout.

The sight of the simple structure brought back fond memories of tree houses and the excitement of climbing in childhood years. I found it a shame that the lookout viewed over the field and not the woodland, but it was perhaps built for providing a vantage for those who cared for any livestock that may have roamed the field in past years. Within my mind I became aware of the possibility that I could well be mistaken regarding its purpose. Perhaps it could have been built for the fun of it. If something is built for the reason of an alternative perspective and enjoyment itself from such modest means as the fallen materials around the area it could indeed hold qualities way beyond the utility.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Depth of Perception

Walking the woods and trails will always give a fine sight of nature and its beauty. Looking to a distant vista, colours and composition of landscape sit before the eyes and in our mind we are the artist or photographer capturing the image to our living memories. Before you walk away from such a sight I would like to encourage you to stay a while longer and look more deeply.

Our perception is often linked to the moment, to look beyond the moment into the past or the possible futures opens the mind to a greater picture. To see the trees in a younger state struggling their way clear of the undergrowth, the ruins or marks on the landscape once part of a way of life and now just a hint at the toils of another human through the mists of time.

The colours of the earth and the flora will give the clues needed to establish the qualities of land beneath your feet, from clay to stone to fertile earth. The pools and weirs of the streams and rivers define the energy of gravity and rainfall, the type and size of fish and their likely food source from the smallest of plants by the waterside. The water should also be a window on the bed beneath. Hills and mountains demonstrate the greater movements of plates, glaciers and the effect of earth upon water and air. To see a torrential downpour channelled to a stream or the fine mists forming in the low lands as the earth releases its moisture to the air. To see light and shadow change as the turning of the earth alters the suns rays and reflected moonlight on the scene before the senses.

Looking beyond the moment is not easy, the mind can sometimes find distractions to disturb the thoughts and send us into a world of dreaming. But on occasion it will be a scent, a sound or a sight that will give us signals of what lies beyond.

Perhaps it is the way we are taught to think that limits our perceptions, teaching aspects of life in neatly contained categories to allow for easy assessment. But to step outside of these limits and look at the world in an interconnected way passing beyond a subject or a moment into a journey and purpose can be liberating. To draw our full attention to a task in the moment is a fine and most rewarding thing, it can clear stagnant thoughts from the mind but to take that clear mind and give it the ability to change mindset and perceptions to the wider picture takes us beyond that point in the moment to the realms beyond.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Seekers of the Light

With the still, heavy heat of the summer evening clinging to my skin I found myself shifting uneasily and dragging my clothing an inch or two away from my body to allow a little fresh air to pass for a brief while. At least there was a slight breeze in the darkness to ease the discomfort and remind me of the cycles and greater movements of the elements around me.

Standing on the back step of my hovel I glanced up into the sky, a few clouds remained motionless across the scattering of stars far beyond. To the horizon was the last visible arc of light on the moon sitting above the haze of light from a city several miles away. I turned to glance through the window back into the hovel and was stunned to see the glass alive with the movement of several dozen moths of all shapes and sizes, all drawn to the dim light inside.
The faintest flutter on the air announced the arrival of more moths as they to headed towards the unattainable light and found themselves pressed against the glass. Gently I removed one of the moths from the window to study the shimmering markings on delicate wings. As the little creature tired of being the subject of my attention it took to the air and immediately headed back towards the light. From the edges of the window spiders emerged to sit among the moths and try to claim a meal from the rich bounty surrounding them. The smaller spiders were jostled by the wings and movement, the largest remained still and patient, the size of the spider was testament to the success of the tactic.

Strange how one small light can attract such attention from the darkness and how others to respond to the flock of powered wings beating against the window. It would appear that many who head for the light are taken to sustain others. My thoughts were interrupted by the flash of distant lightening and its promise of cooler fresher air to come and I turned to watch to night sky again before stepping back into the hovel and turning out the light.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Lantern Bearers

There are many times in my life I have looked into the darkness of the night landscape watching for the return of the lantern bearer. That lone light appearing in the gloom to let me know a person who brings light into my life is returning safely to the home fires. As the years have passed I became aware that the mantle of the lantern bearer has passed to me and it is one I cherish.

From my perspective I can literally be the bearer of the light returning from my wanders, but for others in this day and age it could be the headlights of the car or the bike to cast a welcoming glow and announce the arrival of the traveling soul.

I still look for those lights, and will never stop doing so. As my life journey continues I have found many other lantern bearers, those fine people who strive to make a difference, to search for empathy and understanding. To read the tales of those looking to become self sufficient, who have learned to question aspects of life that are unjust and are simply doing things their own way without compromise is inspiring. From writing, crafting and art through to living a harmonious life, such souls are truly inspiring.

In many ways I have been lucky to have those lantern bearers visit here, to read or leave a helpful comment or compliment. This blog post is something of a milestone for the Quiet of Night, it is the 100th post and for those who have taken the time to visit and comment you have my thanks.

Every question we ask is a spark to light the lantern and every piece of understanding we gain is a flicker to the flame. Perhaps as other learn to look deeper at their lives they will look to the horizon and see the approaching lights of thousands of enlightened souls.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Gift of Rainfall

Orange and violet hues from the setting sun cast their light through the western fringe of the woodland. Above the trees heavy clouds shrouded the evening sky and I had only a moment to wait before the pattering of rain began on the canopy above me. With the sinking sun laying between the horizon and the spreading darkness of the edge of the rain clouds I was given a perfect view of the world between the elements of fire and water.

As the rain cascaded off the canopy and down to the woodland floor the drops caught the light and blazed like jewels for the briefest of moments. Looking around me the bark of the conifers glowed with warmth and a stunning green light emerged through the young leaves of the woodland shrubs.

The gentle rain seemed to wash away the stresses of the day, as it had done many times before. As I watched the scene before me I put my hand into my pocket and passed the few coins held there through my fingers. I had to smile, the coins I had would barely buy a coffee at a cheap cafe in town, but there they had no meaning at all. As the light faded and the rain increased the colours changed to delicate muted tones, but I was none the poorer for the passing of the light. The soothing sounds of the rain on the leaves together with the aromas stirred by the movement filled the air. I felt the softness in the ground beneath me as I continued my wanders on the boundary of the woodland and the fields.

The jeweled light of the living energy of the sun with the scents stirred in the twilight of the woodland are the most modest of the gifts of rainfall to some, but to others they are treasure beyond compare. As with many things, it depends on where you stand and the perspective you take.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Solitary Oak in the Storm

As the landscape flattens towards the river a solitary oak stands among the grasses of a fallow field. The eye is drawn to the distant flickering movement of the brown hares, the wide open ground combined with their speed allows them to display a bolder side to their nature.

Above the oak the sky begins to slowly tumble with dark clouds and the air lays heavy with charge. As spring turns to summer there are often impressive storms, the low lands provide a spectacular stage to watch the lightening strikes against the horizon and turmoil of the clouds.

My eyes again rest upon the form of the oak, within the nearby woodlands I have often seen these trees bearing the scars of lightening strikes. It seems the shelter of the neighbouring trees on occasion will do little to stop the blinding white light from seeking out the oaks, but the solitary tree seems to show no obvious signs of damage. It has clearly held its ground for many years against the onslaught of the elements. Perhaps the virtues of fortune and good roots has allowed it to remain strong, while those among the crowds of trees have not always done so well.

As the skies darken my mind turns, the strength to stand alone is something quite special in nature. It is something only a few beings seem to be capable of, but with a little good fortune and strong roots it would appear it is possible, even against the difficulties and turbulence that surrounds our lives.