Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dryad by the Water

As the seasons change so do the tasks of a dryad. With spring she is holding the new leaves clear of the water. In summer she will bear the weight of the canopy to shield her trunk and ground from the sun. By autumn she will sprinkle the leaves back to the flowing waters and in winter she will reach into the skies with bare branches to take what warmth she can by day and point to the stars by night.

To some the dryad is a living tree spirit, to others the dryad is a myth from the past. Regardless of the opinion, for me the issue of empathy and understanding with nature. The forms of trees and features within the world have provided inspiration for tales and teachings. The dangers and delights of nature can be woven within the words of a story, and a good story is a well learned and remembered experience. When the final words are uttered you can release the breath you seem to have been holding for the duration of the tale, but what then?

Perhaps the search for a new tale begins or perhaps the story can carry on beyond the words of the teller into the future. It could give life and meaning to your own tales or encourage a furthering of knowledge with the subject itself. A true craftsman might find features within the wood or stone to refine into a sculpted form, tool or structure. A writer might find new depths for a world of their making or the beholder might find a precious moment of rest while they drink deeply of the sights before them.

I find myself wondering how many people have turned their backs on such tales and teachings. The lure of brands and corporate imagery seem to hold the attention of children and the easily influenced in a way which removes them from the essence of creation and understanding. I hope fashions will change and the skills of todays writers and artists will show through. To be an individual is often a difficult thing, you become responsible for your own actions and have no mass label to hide behind or blame for your failings. For me it is that honesty and reflection I need to bestow upon myself to avoid being carried away by a crowd. Maybe next time you look into the forms of nature I hope you will consider their individuality, inspiration and adaptability.

I hope you will delighted at what they may teach you.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Wealth of the Land

Looking through the windows of a city office I watched as people trotted past beneath umbrellas and the grey of the pavements turned deep in colour as the rain bore down on the urban setting. The downpours brought about complaints from those within the office but I felt strangely comfortable sitting within the warmth looking upon the scenes outside.

Later that day all was not so well back at the hovel, the colder temperature and weather front brought about a huge hail storm, blocking the valley gutter and sending melt water through the roof. I was fortunate to be on my way home when this occurred and after a swift climb onto the roof with a shovel I was able to clear the hail and standing water before any major damage happened. Relieved by my good fortune I stood for a moment on the roof and cast my eyes over the landscape, enjoying the higher vantage point and the cool breeze drifting over the ridge.

It was a few days more before I could take to the roads in the early evening to put my thoughts and week into perspective. The sky was still laden with the tumbling grey rain clouds. I headed up a hill between two rural Nottinghamshire villages and found myself traveling alongside hawthorn hedges with their young leaves clinging to the rainwater. An old oak tree stood amongst the hedge. It too was beginning to burst into life as the branches bore the beginnings of a new canopy. It would not be long before the leaves would be able to carry the drum beat of the later spring rains and offer some protection to walkers who might seek shelter from the beginnings of a shower.

The spring rains remind me of the power within the landscape. They seem to bring a vast charge of life and vitality. The ditches and watercourses thunder with the rush of water as they carry it into the lower river valley. A wet spring may not always bring the comfort people seek after winter but it gives the later months a chance of bountiful crops and a land swathed in deep greens. I am lucky to live within a place of such power and energy. When I listen to tales from other wanders of their time spent within the drier lands of the world, I realise how much energy the land here can hold and how much life it can support. It seems that we are truly wealthy but so many people are unaware of it.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Branches, Smoke & the Little Falcon

With the spring and the growing hours of daylight I find many of my walks begin during the warm light of evening. It seems many people await the height of summer before they realise the pleasures of an evening walk, so I take advantage of the spring and enjoy the solitude with the setting sun and the onset of twilight. Sitting within the bare branches of standing deadwood I looked upon the kestrel ahead of me, I would assume he too is enjoying the quiet spring evening without the rabble and rattle of families and walkers beneath his branches. He held is perch until I was almost beneath him then with a flutter of angular wings he sprinted across the air of a large woodland clearing to take his place in a new vantage point.

I passed through the clearing and into the woodland paths beyond as light began to fail. Looking through the encroaching gloom beneath the trees I noticed new forms among the lower trunks. My interest was sparked and I left the track to investigate, I found new shelters built by budding bushcrafters. These were impressive debris shelters. The first was a ridge pole set between two trunks. The ridge was set well of the ground and the walls well laden with branches and foliage to keep the breeze out of the structure. I glanced through the south facing door to see two tree trunks on the floor. They would serve well as seating or if crossed with sturdy branches they would make a bed clear of the woodland floor. It was only a short wander to the second shelter. This was even larger, it used four tree trunks to form the corners of a square plan. Hefty branches formed an eaves to the square shelter with branches laid both over the beams to form a roof and laid from the ground to the beams to form the walls. It appeared this shelter was not as complete as the first, but it would be easy to finish or repair to give cover from the wind for a group of friends.

With not trace of rubbish or manufactured materials around the structures I was impressed and carried along my way with a smile. I rounded a corner to head back to my car parked off a woodland road. Next to it I could see another vehicle and a figure walking around it. As I approached I could see the vehicle was modified in the usual garb of a boy racer and the figure next to it was a young lady chatting to the driver through the window. They seemed unaware or perhaps unconcerned by my approach. As I passed them by I was aware of the aroma of weed in the air and startled voices as they became fully aware of the presence of my dogs and I. It was only a moment before I was back into my car and away on the country lanes heading back for the hovel. It had indeed been an evening to appreciate and grant me the gift of amusement and enlightenment.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Wooden Sword

Standing for a moment beneath a clear night sky and gently illuminated by the moonlight I waited for my dog pack to return to my side. I  closed my eyes and listened to the rattling of the undergrowth nearby as they investigated and ran among the ferns and bracken under the darkened canopy of the conifers. As I reopened my eyes I became aware of a tension and awkwardness in the skin beneath my eyebrow. Reaching up to touch the source of irritation I discovered a scab sitting within a surround of sore and healing skin. Thoughts rattled within my mind to try and identify the cause of the little wound. I live a fairly physical life and discovering a small wound shrouded within the mystery of short term memory  loss is not uncommon. The events of the past few nights tumbled through my mind until I discovered the cause and broke out into gentle laughter. Two nights previous, I was practicing sword techniques with a good friend. It had been a tiring day and I lost focus for a moment while attempting a strike. My friend flicked his waster (a wooden training sword) from the back of my own blade and caught me smartly above the eye. At the time I was unaware but the dull edge of the wooden sword had drawn blood. With my pack returning to me in the darkness I decided to step forward on the trail with literal imprints of the wooden sword on my skin as well as within my mind.

I recalled the history of the tool and it varying degrees of importance throughout time to people. From a training aid and preparation for the longsword in medieval history, to the modern and pristine shapes of the wooden straight sword used in slow definition by tai chi practitioners. Interestingly I thought back to teachings on the roman era. The wooden gladius was a symbol of a gladiators apparent freedom, earned after many encounters in the name of entertainment. It seems our modern day equivalent is the traditional gold watch or time piece handed over on the last working day before retirement, a trinket for years spent in service. The wooden swords my friend and I use are different in every respect. They are battered and scarred and in need of maintenance to remove the splinters forming around the damaged grain, but like any tool they have a life of their own. The spirals and arcs they carry have an energy and a link to the wielder, as with all swords the shape of the blade portrays the use, era and  likely armour of its age. In skilled hands and with an understanding mind it begins to demonstrate its essence. I seem to encounter many instances where the aim of life is to retire and relax, to put the golden watch carefully in its box and hold it hidden in a dark corner of the house. In many ways I can sympathise when I look upon the paths some souls take. One thing I realised is I a very unlikely to be one of those people who will have the retirement gift given to be by a well meaning boss or employee. As I hopefully find I am able to drift away from the commercial working world I would hope there is a wooden sword with its scars and dents waiting to be turned, or perhaps the time to make my own. life is living, moving energy, skill in both making and form. Life of course changes as we grow older but its essence is the same, life is to be lived. The golden shackle ticking on your wrist (or in the drawer) to me serves as only a reminder time served & time ticking by. A well worn tool (curiously the wooden sword in my my case) is potential energy in movement and understanding.