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.

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.