Friday, 29 April 2011

Embers by the Bow

Last weekend I found myself among the crowds at a Saint George's day parade in an english country village. Above me red and white flags draped the sides of 18th and 19th century vernacular architecture and spanned the streets setting their colours against a clear blue sky. The chattering of the crowd was overcome by amplified announcements and wandering folk musicians would occasionally make themselves heard as they weaved their way through the throng. The aroma of frying meat drifted on the air where it mingled with the scent of sweet donuts and pungent smell of alcohol from the pub and beer garden.

Despite the jovial atmosphere I remained a little awkward. I have never been fond of the notion of nationality, it has always felt like a mandatory club you are instantly a member of and are expected to conform unquestioningly to its requirements. I stopped for a while to watch a local theatre group telling the tale of Saint George and listened to a few words from the village church leader before drifting away to stand by the small stream trickling its way through the heart of the village.

By the stream I found a most welcome sight. Traditional wood crafters were using pole lathes, turning bowls and wares. A few children were encouraged to try their hand as they showed interest. Sitting quietly under a tree was a bush crafter carefully working and shaping the elements of a fire starting bow. Once he was happy with his preparations he set about assembling the bow and the process of creating the hot embers. He had no need to herald the attentions of the people near by, they were drawn as moths to the prospect of the flame. After smoothly working the bow for a short while the tell tale signs of smoke began to appear and his demonstration concluded with the glow of the embers suitable for starting a fire should he wish it.

For me the noise of the crowd, the lure of entertainment and ancient words from across the stream faded away. I sat for a while and waited for my good lady and my friend to join me away from the people. With the sound of the running water, the scent of smoke, the warm earth beneath me and young leaves set against a clear blue sky I feel I have found the true heart of the land. For me it dwells within the structure of the landscape itself and with those who understand and can harmonise with it, the colour of the flag are pale by comparison.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Haunting of a Young Mind

Stopping for a while I gazed upon the twisting forms of the trees above and head of me. Shifting in the breath of a warm twilight the woodland seemed to pulsing with life and energy. Among the darkening trunks and branches were shapes reminiscent of twisted limbs and features animated by the movement, among the element of wood these forms are natural and quite spectacular, but to hold them within the context of human anatomy would twist the mind to a realm of horror.

As I looked around I could recall the tales of childhood and the dark, lonely pictures painted by the imagination. As a young mind seeks out excitement and adventure it is a shame to be instilled with a controlling fear. I am never sure if the fear gives way to realization or if develops into phobia and superstition as the mind grows, much depends on the individual and circumstances of their life. I sometimes wonder how those who catch a glimpse of a figure passing by in the darkness and of their regard. Perhaps suspicion or curiosity. There are many ways to perceive the world but I have always preferred wonder and awareness.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Heart of the Silent Wood

As the days lengthen and the warmth of the sun rejuvenates the plants and animals, I have often noticed a less enjoyable side to human behaviour within the spring season. It is in some ways hard to describe but in essence it feels like being pushed or jostled. It is perhaps in due to the greater quantity of people being enticed out by the warmer weather that I notice just how many human beings their are and how crowded this island has become.
Once the sun has set and the land begins to cool, I find I am alone again in the folds of the night, and after a day in the presence of society it is a welcome relief. As the cooling air surrounds me I can feel the tension leaving my body, shoulders lower and the neck begins to regain greater movement. The glow of moonlight soothes the eyes as they adjust from the harsh light and focus of the day to the peripheral vision and relaxed gaze needed to hold the sights of twilight. As my vision adjusts, so does my mind set, the details and intricacies of the day give way to the more perceptive and creative mind.
With barely a ripple of wind in the trees I cast my eyes up towards the moon glowing brightly through the tree canopy. While the sun seems to be the heart of the seasons, the moon it seems is the heart of the silent wood. The wax and wain of its cycles holds sway over the hunting creatures of the wood, and even over the people who tentatively conduct their activities in the car parks at the wood edge. The full moon always heralds more activity and the new moon makes for a stiller mood.
It would seem we are as moths, creatures drawn to the light. The stronger and warmer the light, the more are attracted and the jostling will begin again. I  find I have no desire for the competitive world of the spring and summer rush, the slow and quiet beat of the moon will remain the  light and pulse I find most comfortable. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Cascade of Moonlit Blossom

The reflected light of the full moon lay across the clearing, the bounding wood set a distance away gave the impression of an impenetrable blackness walling in the shrubs and grassland. My mind was at ease with the surrounding wall of darkness, the trails are well known to me and I am aware that once in the trees the woodland floor and tracks would be well lit once the eyes adjust.

I trod the uneven earth as I made my way towards the edge of the clearing, passing small clusters of trees and hedges. It was then I saw something new to me, several trees wore a cloak of white blossom. In the moonlight the blooms shone as if the trees had caught a cascading cloud among their branches. No doubt these would be pleasant in the light of day where they would stand side by side with pink blossom and the new leaves, but in the full moonlight they were unequaled in their impact.

Standing beneath the trees I cast my eyes upward. The clear night and the void beyond teased the warmth from my face but my fingertips could still sense the warmth of the earth beneath me. It appears the theatre of the night has treated me to another splendid display. Such moments should be seized by the senses, cherished by the memory and fuel the inspiration. It is a regret that such things are brief, the blossom will be gone by the next full moon, but I have been fortunate to stand in such a place and such a light, for a while at least.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Qualities of Leadership (Part 1)

Many years ago I was treated to a few words of wisdom from an old boss, after I gave a series of bumbling and awkward replies to his questions he said "always appear confident, even when you are not confident, it will help inspire confidence in others and you will be able to lead them".

Perhaps I should have been flattered that he was willing to start teaching me his techniques, however I found myself viewing his comments from another perspective. How much of leadership is based on experience and knowledge? How much of leadership is based on the ability to deceive and manipulate?

It becomes fascinating to watch the act of influence from business leaders, politicians and anyone else who would try and stir a crowd. Within my mind I turn down the sounds of their words and watch their gestures and body language. In many ways I find their words have only one meaning "this is how it should be" however the content or the subject is being portrayed. I find animals have evolved this skill much more efficiently then humans. They do not need the coded words or debate. A look or simple noise will suffice, it is curious to see how many leaders can adopt something of that "look". Those that submit to that leadership will of course adopt the nodding, upward looking gaze of compliance.

As we move forward into more turbulent times, I find myself scrutinising the various public figures and personalities who seek to gain favour, influence and power. I try to strip away the layers of the act of leadership to stare into the core of the being. Once inside truths are revealed. Maybe next time you find yourself holding an upward stare and nodding, you will find the curiosity to peel away the layers and look within.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Sun to the Spring Evening

Stepping through the tracks and into the clearing on a spring evening I find I am able to sense new life and warmth from the woodlands. As the clear blue sky gives way to night the ground resonates with heat and new scents are lifted from the buds and leaves. The calling of the birds hold longer into the darkness and the undergrowth is disturbed by the foraging of small animals. Insects are lifted into the night sky by the rising heat of the earth and the flitting shapes of pipistrel bats claim their first meal of the night.
On such nights the twilight world holds an uplifting energy and slows my steps as if encouraging me to drink deeply of its vitality. The crescent of the moon adds it gentle light to the failing light of the sun and among the trees the calling of the tawny owls begin. Quietly I tread off the track and into the trees following the call. Above me I soon find the shifting shape of the tawny perched high in the branches. Aware of my presence I can see the shape turn to look at me before returning to call into the night unconcerned by the silent and still land roaming creature below.
Once again time melts by and the moments gently roll on in time with the nature. Easing the mind and lifting the spirit.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Sometimes shouting & the desire to attract attention reaches a peak, from all around there are people wanting, demanding and imposing. The noise become infernal and wearing. There is so much that can be tolerated and so much that asks politely but repeatedly until it screams like an unreasonable demand in the mind. Today I decided to step away from it. No real grand gesture or martyr like shriek of defiance. There would be no point in that. Just time to step into the quiet evening and the failing light of day.

The trees to the side of me carried the dead leaves of winter and I found myself listening to them rustling gently in the wind and felt the last warmth of the sun on my skin. Tonight I walked and watched the bats skimming the edges of the trees, dipping below the horizon to hide their flight against the undergrowth and earth.

As I walked the stresses of the day began to peal way. I looked upon the deepening blue of the sky with the outlines of the trees etched in shadow against the slim crescent moon and its faint glow. The gentle warm breeze was as a vital breath of fresh air breathing life and clarity into my ears and mind, among the breath of the land I found comfort along with the resolve to make a few changes. For me it is time to focus and bring to bear skills I have worked on over the years. I have things to do and will need a clear mind to achieve what is best. For those on social websites who may wonder at the vanishing of an owl you have my apologies for a departure without ceremony. As always I will wish any reader here well and I hope you avoid such turbulence.

It is easy to fill the mind with clutter or empty it with the wash of distractions, but for me, to ensure the mind is clear and ready for tasks in hand is not so easy and needs preparation.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lessons From Small Creatures

With the lights of the village glowing in the distance I wandered through the darkened lanes, clouds slowly passed overhead lit only by the light from the towns and cities in the distance as they were pushed along by the very gentlest breeze. From the distance came the familiar rattle of a petrol engine and light appeared down the road. Instinctively I reached for the lantern and turned it on to alert the driver to my presence and save them from the awkwardness of running into me in the darkness, the driver responded with the usual courtesy of putting their headlights on full beam. I stepped off the road and waited for them to pass and stood still in the darkness while I allowed my night vision to recover.

Muttering a soft curse under my breath I continued once my retina had ceased to burn and made my way into the village under the dead light of the sodium street lights. As I approached the late night store the silence was shattered by the sound of a young lad starting the engine on his car. The noise was almost unbearable in the silence of the night. The engine was certainly not powerful and the layer of filth that covered the small car and its registration plates betrayed the lack of care of its owner. It was the lack of any type of exhaust that  gave rise to the cacophony, no doubt the vehicle's original exhaust had long since corroded away and the current owner had either not troubled themselves to replace it or had decided that the vehicle sounded better without it. The vehicle roared off into the distance, shaking windows and barely troubling the speed limit of the village. Again my muttered curses were carried away on the gentle breeze.

As peace returned I cast my eyes up the road.  From a side street the unmistakable form of a fox cast a wary glance up and down the road before elegantly trotting across the street to the quiet lanes on the opposite side of the road. A smile returned to my face as I watched my fellow night walker carefully make his way into the safety of the small lanes and the enveloping darkness. I carried on walking silent steps, distant enough to avoid startling the splendid creature. After a short while I turned into a smaller road, the showers of the evening still stood in puddles along the kerb side like darkened mirrors holding the intensity of the night sky. One puddle seemed to move and shimmer in contrast to its neighbours. For a while I watched, the ripples were as invisible footsteps carefully padding around the water. For a moment they ceased and a shape emerged onto the footpath. A hedgehog trotted its way into the undergrowth, the puddle had provided the creature with a suitable bath and the undergrowth was both a bed and a larder. The smile remained on my face as I walked away from the village and back to my hovel in the darkened lanes.

Once again, life within the darkness had shown me many things. The activities of people had left me deaf and blind as people had made their inconsiderate & self obsessed way in the night, the smaller creatures had shown me how to adapt to the surroundings and take advantage of what they have.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Immortality of the Academic

Today marks the passing of another year of my life and I have had a peaceful morning to organise and put things into perspective. As the years have gone, I have noticed the effects upon me and the slowing down of the body and the steadying of the mind. In many ways I have also seen how to effectively live past the limited years of the human creature. Some time ago I began to see my own existence as an interconnection with time, space and the living energies of the moment. I decided to draw, write and pass on my skills and knowledge to those who I thought could make use of them effectively. I have always been wary of the self appointed masters and gurus who teach secrets for money, so where I can my experiences are passed on freely.

Where the academic would seal their works in words, I have found it provides only a coded existence of what I can pass on. By explanation, teaching and leading by example it seems I have been able to communicate more effectively and also have been able to improve and further myself as other like minded folk have opened up and shared their thoughts.

The transition of a skill from one person to another is a magnificent thing. The skill has an energy and life of its own, as it passes to another it evolves. With care and guidance it becomes stronger. No doubt I will return to writings soon enough to document what I can, but I will always look to pass on skills first hand wherever I can. To be a part of life and energy beyond our immediate circumstances is a fine reward. 

My thanks to Craig & Dan, for inspiration over the years.