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.

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