Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wishing on a dandelion

your courage stoked

your fears dissolved

your imagination fed

your debts canceled

your wounds healed

your apologies accepted

your generosity expanded

your love educated

your desires clarified

your untold stories heard

your insight heightened

your load lightened

your wildness rejuvenated

your leaks plugged

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fairy Flowers

Waterlily Pond in the rain, Kew Gardens

Bluebells. At last, at last.

The gardeners at Kew suggest that the bluebell woods are best viewed by late afternoon light. So I waited. Strolling through the grounds, while admiring the Monkey Puzzle tree and rarer-than-rubies Wollemi Pines, immersed in the Rory McEwen exhibition at the gallery, I anticipated the coming glory; held it to myself, like the prospect of seeing a beloved, long-awaited face.

However. What had begun as a day of lively sky turned overcast, then came rain, a light but persistent spring soaking under lowering clouds.

So rather than being lit by flooding gold, the bluebells lay dim and secret in their loveliness, as drops fell softly on their trembling heads.

As always, the photos can only suggest the presence and wholeness of what my eye sees and what my heart feels. Capture only an echo of elusive violet ghosting over the woodland floor, an unearthly yet utterly of-the-earth beauty. For what it's worth, I offer it to you.

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
—Anne Bronte, The Bluebell

Tomorrow morning I leave for home. "Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration," said Charles Dickens, who expresses it better than I ever could.

So Wildspell will be quiet for a while as I devote time to my loved ones and home and reintegrating my changed self into my changed landscape.

But all the while, I hope to be dreaming of bluebells.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Over the days, I've uncovered the identity of a few of my unknown singers. That is only a small part of being claimed by them, I know, but it is a beginning. Listen to their songs.

...In the evenings, from the flowering tree: Blackbird. Willow warbler.

...In the morning, darting from branch to branch in the undergrowth, curious about two-legged kind and just out of fingertip reach: Blue Tit.

For those moments of rushing beauty when I have been blessed by your songs, I thank you, Manitous, little mysteries.

Photos taken in March in Regent's Park.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Good deeds

Every morning I pick up a copy of the free Metro* tabloid newspaper at the Tube stop and read it on the way to that day's adventure.

Amid the news stories, which tend toward the lurid, is a feature of which I have grown fond: "Good Deed Feed." (I also read "Pet of the Day" and "Rush-Hour Crush" but that has nothing to do with the plot of this post—I just mention it to give you a deeper insight into my character. Heh.)

"Good Deed Feed" passes along brief thank-you messages from grateful Brits to various good samaritans they've encountered. A lot of them have to do with people returning lost items, paying fares for hapless commuters who unexpectedly find themselves without cash, or helping those who have fallen down, are sick, or are lost.

Not only is it pleasant to read about happy outcomes to everyday disasters, I like it because it reminds me that I have been the beneficiary of Good Deeds myself. At the risk of sounding like Zuzu from It's a Wonderful Life, I'll bet that every person who experiences a kindness like this passes it along in some way to another person. And it's wonderful for this recovering misanthrope to have my fellow humans watching my back:

There are several kind London Underground employees who have refunded money to my Oyster Card on various occasions, when I lost it by improperly "touching in" on the card readers. (Trickier than you'd think.)

And more kind people who pointed me in the right direction or even let me tag along with them when I didn't know how to get somewhere—including the lovely British couple on their way to the Isabella Plantation at Richmond Park, who had just spent two weeks on a road trip from Mississippi to Nashville.

Young men who have given up their seats for me on the Tube a couple of times—not because I'm less able to stand, just out of kindness. (I'm not even a "Super Adult," as they call senior citizens here.)

And many other Londoners who have gone out of their way to be polite, helpful and friendly, from people I've met during walking tours to the hospitable couple from whom I'm subletting my flat.

London, I've tried to do a few good deeds of my own in thanks. And even though you won't see this printed in Metro, I send out little angels of gratitude, winging from my heart to cast blessings on each of you. 

I am also grateful to all of you who have kept me company on this journey by following my adventures here on whatever level. Posting a lot of photos and integrating them with text is just plain difficult on an iPad, so I'm not always satisfied with the results; but that's one of those First World problems I can't complain too much about. So thank you for slogging through it all with me, my friends.

*Things I've learned from reading Metro: "Toby" in England is the sort of name that suggests a person who is an accountant, and even actors think that HBO overdoes the nudity on The Game of Thrones.

Photos taken in Regent's Park and other locations the week of May 5.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tales of the Tower

I spent the day at the Tower of London yesterday and two things struck me.

After hearing a number of stories about weapons, torture and beheadings from the Yeoman Warders and our tour guide, I thought how strange the impulse is to enjoy telling and hearing gruesome and gory details about things that happened in the past. The macabre is a kind of folk entertainment; debased fairy tales, like the horror genre and slasher films.

I suppose this response is a form of self defense, to cover our discomfiture? To deflect feelings of sadness about the horrible things humanity did and still does to each other? The centuries of graffiti carved into the walls of the Bloody Tower were so poignant.

But there was also a kind of jokey, patronizing tone to some of these stories—"Our ancestors were right bastards, weren't they? But we're above all that kind of thing today." To which I say, yes and no.

Even the glorious Tower ravens—who, being ravens, love soaring, diving, airborne acrobatics more than all things—even they have had their feathers clipped so they can't fly away. While the ravens are loved and cared for by the Ravenmaster, they are still the last prisoners of the Tower, aren't they?

So on the one hand was the knowledge of all the suffering that had happened in this place, which seemed a fulcrum for drama, dark deeds, violence and cruelty.

But later on, as I wandered up and down spiral staircases and peered out tower windows, I thought about how vast swaths of humanity have surely made progress and enacted many reforms since those lawless days, despite the fact that there are still too many places where violence reigns.

A heart-opening welling of love came over me...for the English and their treasured history, for preserving this amazing gift of the past that they now offer to the world. It feels like generosity. It feels like I have been given the gift to live here for a while, and to experience this people's incredible sense of place and tradition and belonging.

Yesterday was the opening day of Parliament, and fusiliers began to fire the traditional 62-gun Royal Salute toward the Thames as our group entered the Tower. The shots echoed off the stones, puffs of sulfurous smoke tickled my nose before being whisked away on the wind, and there it was again—that sense of alternate reality that probably seems perfectly normal to any British person.

The Tower is a symbol of how London itself is living history, how people here live within and alongside history. In addition to all their individual stories and family stories, they are part of a much larger story...a Dickensian type of story, richly peopled, moving through darkness and light.

Inside the Jewel House, I entered the dramatically darkened room and stood on the moving sidewalk, which ferried visitors past either side of the Crown Jewels. And the great prisms of light that flashed forth from the Cullinan Diamond in the Sovereign's Sceptre entranced me so that I rode by another four times. And even to the story of that starry, lancing silver light, there is probably an accompanying human darkness, somewhere.

That is just our story.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Old Ones and the Young Ones

In one week, I'll be going home.

I say this to myself, not to take me out of the experience of being here now, but as a reminder to listen. Which pathways are most calling to me to be explored?

I went back to Richmond Park yesterday, to meet more Old Ones and to perhaps discover where both deer herds roamed. And to invite this beautiful, strange place to take up residence within, so it will always be part of me...and I, of it.

It was a bank holiday, so there were many more visitors to the park than the last time I went. Most people were respectful of the lands, wildlife and other people. Some visitors, inevitably, were not. It is not the sort of park where there are litter bins, toilets and park wardens at every turn, so some take that as an excuse to leave their picnic trash behind or encourage their children to harass the deer. It is discouraging and upsetting to witness disrespect for the wild passed from parent to child.

Red deer herd... 

...being chased by two different boys from two sides with the encouragement of their fathers.
(I shouted at them to stop bothering the deer. Which they did for the amount of time it took for them to
move out of shouting range, then they continued to harass them. The poor creatures were breathing heavily
 and becoming quite frantic.)

But there must be many more parents, surely, who take their children to the park to teach them love and appreciation for nature, and to model right action. The British overall seem to value and honor their wild spaces and their ancient trees. And while climbing these trees is also against park regulations, for very good reasons, children care nothing for such rules unless their parents explain to them that these beings are very, very old, like great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers, and tender care must be taken to protect them.

The thing is, the children are drawn to these hoary historians like bees to flowers, running from one to the next, engaged with the life of the trees and maybe developing a lifelong love for them. They actively engage with that which they love.

So that is the bright spot amidst all the worries I felt...the Old Ones have survived centuries of wild storms, lightning, fire, war, pollution, disease, infestation, and their branches being pollarded and coppiced and broken off entirely. I hope they will take no harm in being climbed upon occasionally by very young ones, who may come to revere them someday.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tree speech

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ~Kahlil Gibran

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagor

You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters. ~Saint Bernard

Ah, listen! For silence is not lonely

Imitate the magnificent trees

That speak no word of their rapture, but only

Breathe largely the luminous breeze.
~D.H. Lawrence

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Watching and listening

How does a part of the world leave the world?

How does wetness leave water?

Don't try to put out a fire by throwing

on more fire! Don't try to wash a wound with blood.

No matter how fast you run your shadow 

keeps up. Sometimes it's in front!

Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you.

What hurts you blesses you. Darkness is 

your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.

I could explain this, but it will break the 

glass cover on your heart, and there's no 

fixing that. 

You must have shadow and light source both.

Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,

be quieter than a dove. Don't even open your mouth 

for even a coo.


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