Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Specter in the Mist

Sometimes the depth of darkness can become staggering. Tonight I took a brief car journey to a wood I know well, the mists and fog surrounded me the instant I stepped from my aging car and away into the night with my two younger dogs. Once their excitement subsided and my eyes began to adjust to the gloom I found it easier to get to get my bearings and read the track ahead. The trees became a faint outline obscured by the mist against the clouded night sky, the calls of the Tawny Owls within the wood were the only sounds that crashed through the still lightless night. I pressed on, following familiar paths and stepping around the dull shapes on the floor of the wood that I knew to be fallen branches.

Once into the depths of the wood the Owl calls subsided and I glanced up. Undergrowth lay bare on the opposite side of the woodland ditch and amongst the branches a white humanoid figure shifted as I moved. For a moment I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand and was aware of adrenalin beginning to surge through my system. I wondered how someone could get so close to me in my own environment without me becoming aware of them, I steadied my mind and took stock of my situation. A glance to my dogs revealed their ease, on the rare occasions that I encounter someone on our wanders the dogs are aware of them well before they get close. They showed no such signs and I stood for a moment watching the figure. I shook the adrenalin from my system and calmed my mind. For a moment I listened. The sounds within the wood were as they should be. The disturbance of the undergrowth by the dogs and my own feet were the only sounds. The figure in the undergrowth on the opposite side of the ditch made no such noise. This was not as the laws of nature and could not be as it appeared to be.
Once the rational mind restored control over the impulses of the body I decided to confront the situation head on. A bridge over the ditch lay close by and I decided to head for it and close on the apparent lurker in the darkness. As I moved and focused my eyes the truth became apparent. The lurker was a freak of perspective and illuminance. The last of the snow and ice combined with the defining shape of the undergrowth had created an illusion that even an experienced night walker such as myself could misread. The specter was banished with a smile and a reasoned mind.

The night has again shown me a valuable lesson, and one that is perhaps reserved for an experienced student. Had I seen such an illusion in my younger years I would probably have been frightened away, giving tales of ghosts within the wood to those who would listen and want a few minutes of entertainment.

Recently I met with a fellow environmentalist who asked the question "have you ever seen something that cannot be rationalised or explained?" I replied saying "I have come across strange and on occasion disturbing things, however such sights can be explained my nature and are part of it, especially once you have a reasoned perspective" tonight I was put to the test and I feel my perspective is still as it should be.

Thanks to Gerry for your thoughts and question, they have inspired this post.

From Rags to Ditches

The treks and trails I often tread have had many influences on me over the years. One of the more physical adjustments is my appearance. Nature and the elements are no respecters of fashion and I found my clothes and foot ware becoming worn and tattered. The constant repairs to our homes and cars over the years have also taken their toll.

To begin with I often replaced items when they became stained or torn. The influx of cheap clothing from the far east ensured this was no real financial hardship. But over time and with awareness I began to become uncomfortable with this. As is often the case I decided to give up on "keeping up appearances" and simply repair or put up with what I have, however it did become interesting to see the reactions of people to my shabby nature.

Many of the well dressed salesmen and executives simply ignored me, my apparent lack of wealth and status became a drawn conclusion. Such a conclusion results in the thought that I will be of little use to them. Interestingly the charity workers on the streets also tend to disregard me. Many times the young enthusiastic soul who bounds up exclaiming "hello, can I have a moment?" would pass right by me targeting the younger well dressed and outwardly respectable females. On occasion I would attract hostility, usually from young males who sought the approval of their peers. Barbed comments or insults are sometimes the way of communicating their contempt and desire for attention, luckily my mind is still fairly sharp and a swift and brutal put down as a response often results in a stunned silence. This is never achieved by a well dressed office worker walking by pretending the comment was unheard.

There are those who do take time to speak with me, I find these people are often quieter souls who make more of their opinions based on the first few moments of conversation. For me I find they are often far more rewarding to talk too. The exchange of opinions and ideas is a pleasure and in many ways I find myself dealing with fellow observers, wanderers, nature lovers, artists and craftsfolk.

Appearance and fashion is a language, it reveals a great deal about people. Like all languages, there are depths, deceptions and truths concealed or revealed within the code of human perception and interaction.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Craftsman Part 2

A While ago I posted my thoughts regarding craftsmen and the value of their work. Interestingly I noticed a tweet from Shelter Publications on Twitter that further provoked my thoughts:

"He who works with his hands is a labourer, He who works with hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with hands and head and heart is an artist".

I have often felt an affinity with the craftsman, I work with materials such as metal and wood, as well as with ink and pencil. The focus on a task is something I greatly enjoy. To draw the mind to a point of focus and concentration with the aim of creation becomes a meditation in itself. Outside of that task and focus, the issues of the world fade away to allow both the conscious and sub-conscious mind to dedicate themselves to perfection.

After reading the above quote I began to think of the line between the craftsman and the artist. Again it seems to become an issue of the focus of the mind. It seems that the artist draws inspiration from external sources and allows the mind to open rather than narrow onto a set task. The issue of opening the mind while remaining dedicated to the task is difficult, the mind can easily become distracted and wander from the task. So at what point does the craftsman become the artist?

I would suggest that it is like undertaking a journey down a track. The destination may be arrived at by watching the ground beneath your feet and stepping carefully. It can also be reached by learning to walk and read the ground with your sense of touch. This way the eyes may be lifted and the ears opened to all the information around, this way the everything possible is gathered on the journey to the destination. The inspiration around becomes part of the solution to a task and the artist is then revealed.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Eve of the Winter Solstice

Standing beneath a clear blue night sky I gazed upon the landscape before me. The night carried with it the sharpest frost I had seen in many years, the trees and plants wore a heavy white coat and stood still in the windless air. The full moon threw its light over and through the few clouds in the sky as they seemed to hang motionless.

The scene stood in silence, as the existence of people lay in only the past. The fences and labours of the farm workers from years gone by stood as tribute to their presence, but tonight the landscape belonged to the raw elemental cold against nature. Closing my eyes for a moment I could feel the night air claiming claiming the warmth of my body as if needing payment for the solitude and wonders before me. After a while I returned to the hovel to take a few hours rest before waking to watch the rising sun on the winter solstice.

The increasing glow of the sun pushed through low mists and clouds, gently at first as if giving the eyes chance to adjust from the night but it was soon in its full glory. The light rushed across the frosted landscape giving the trees a radiant and spectacular glow. Flutterings of wings reached my ears as the birds made their way to find food and show their survival of a brutally cold night. The walk towards spring has begun and I hope the nights will be a little warmer and kinder as we travel, but I have no doubts that there will be sights of wonder to inspire, let us hope they are appreciated and learned from. With luck more people will take the time to observe.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Scriptures of Flesh

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to meet a teacher who helped me a few years ago. At the time I wished to learn more about psychology, hypnotherapy and influence, what surprised me was that my motives for seeking the knowledge were disturbingly pure. I had already given up a corporate life and the rat race. I wanted to find a way of looking deeper and more productively into the human mind, to see what makes people think and act as they do. I also wished to find solutions to common problems that affect behaviour and to understand the reasoning behind the techniques.

I was shown a better way to use language and also an interesting technique to assess a person based on much older human behaviours patterns. By looking at the older traits of Nomads, Settlers and Warriors in both positive and negative terms I found I was able to understand how the balance of a personality can be tipped into problematic areas and adjusted to bring well being back to the individual. More details on this is available in a book by Terence Watts called "Warriors, Settlers & Nomads: Discovering Who We Are and What We Can Be" however I had the benefit of the structure being shown to me and explained by a professional clinical hypnotherapist, this for me was to be of significant help.

It was a strange feeling to commit such knowledge into my own sub conscious. I combined it with my own experiences of reading body language and mannerisms. Doors seemed to unlock within my mind and I was able to begin reading people once I had learned to turn down my own pre-concieved ideas of image and perception. From watching quietly within a crowd I find the gestures and positions of people sing familiar songs of insecurities, bravado, manipulation, enjoyment, friendship & threat.

It seems I have a new pathway to walk within my own mind and many fascinating sights to see and learn from along the way. The act of observation with a clear and open mind is indeed a powerful tool.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Many Long Miles

To step out into a darkened landscape opens the mind to thoughts and observations that may lay hidden at the back of the mind or be obscured by the overload of information that seems to accompany daylight. Within my wanderings I have been blessed by the company of quiet companions. The dogs enjoy their freedom, being away from people, roads and livestock they have no need of a leash. As we travel they choose their own position and excursions away from the pack. This often shows their standing within the pack and reflects their own personalities.

Sadly we lost our top dog in early autumn to an infection. She had walked the paths with me for nearly a decade and a half and this had amounted to thousands of miles over the years. I find I still look for her in the gloom, her white colours were always well ahead of the pack leading the way. On occasion she would happen upon a rabbit and the chase would begin heralded by the scattering of undergrowth and her shifting form and route through the trees. With two creatures evolved for running at speed the chase was always spectacular. Luckily for the rabbit her instinct was for the chase and not for the kill, her quarry gave her reason for speed and a demonstration to the rest of the pack.

On our wordless travels she had given me many lessons to learn and a different perspective to see the world from. Nature is the finest of teachers and to learn requires a mind that can drink deeply from all the senses and scenes before us. Over the last few months the pack has adjusted to our loss, our youngest dog has taken the position. She now holds her ground at the front of the pack and accepts the challenges and the chase. It appears she has been taught well too.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Celestial Faerie Lights

A gentle evening stroll through the village close to my home revealed to me the onset of the festivities. Gardens and homes are already decorated with led lighting and ornaments. A glance in the window of shops shows the seasonal displays and adverts. The footpaths tended to draw most of my attention due to their ice, in many places they prove to be quite difficult.

I was relieved to be back out in the fields and woodlands later that evening. The ground seems to be so much easier to walk on and allowed my gaze to be lifted. I took a moment to look upwards as I passed along a small hedgerow. In amongst the hawthorn and blackthorn is an aging oak tree, its branches are bare leaving it standing skeletal on a still night of a new moon. Within its form I could seem the stars sitting like jewels in the branches. The new moon is not generally renown for its dramatic sights, but this was magnificent. The magnitude of the slumbering stillness of the oak with the vast distances and lights within the sky overwhelmed the mind for a moment. This was natures seasonal decoration in the garden of rural England and it was my honour to be the one to see it. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Snow Bound Hill

As late afternoon gives way to the evening I found the gentle glow off the white landscape helped light my way through the flurry of falling snow. There were no obvious tracks before me, just my own knowledge of the paths and furrows to hold my feet steady. Rounding a corner the unseen narrow track lead up a steep hill flanked by ice bound trees and hedges, drawing breath for a moment we pushed on working as a pack. My strongest dog showed the way crashing through the deep snow with enviable ease. The rest of us followed enjoying the benefit of a furrow in which to ease our steps. As we reached the summit it was time to regroup and brush the snow from coats, ears and eyes.

The first snows of winter have proved to be heavy, but I see no reason to let up walking the trails. The difficult conditions bring the pack closer together and strengthen our bond. The rewards are found in the time spent together and spectacular scenes that lay before us together with the lessons of natures force. In allowing ourselves to be touched by the wild it seems we can find cooperation and understanding beyond the games of civilised society.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Glittering Realm

Under the light of the lantern the world glistens and shimmers in stillness as if walking a frozen moment in time. The moon sits within a cloudless sky with scatterings of stars to adorn the distant heavens. Not even the gentlest of breezes troubles the light branches of the hedgerows. The energies of a quiet early winters night are subtle but powerful. The heat from my hands and face is stripped away by the void beyond the world and the warmth from my breath momentarily clouds the air in front of me before vanishing into the blackness.

The allure of fire and moving forces may be dramatic but within this stillness is a huge elemental and quiet power. Living energies begin to return to source and seed to cope. For now, winter will give the branch and leaf a statuesque illuminance for the tree to bear until the warmth of spring brings forth the new growth from the root and seed.

Life has an ebb and flow. I will do my best to enjoy the ebb of winter. Not with the exuberance and excess of summer but with the a contained warmth gained from autumns labours. For me winter is a time for reflection and conservation.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A Misfit in the Palace of Commercialism

Way beyond being bathed in light, I sat in the glare of the overhead white tubes. Around me was colour, every aspect of the interior shouted for my attention. Posters, packaging, advertising and menu boards filled the spaces. Dropped from the ceiling was the usual array of commercial christmas decorations and the continual blaring chimes of festive tunes assaulted the ears and raised the level of conversation from talking to a debate so that all within earshot could listen, regardless of desire.

With my hearing and eyesight overloaded with information I focused on my breathing to enlighten my senses of taste and smell. I would have expected a restaurant to be filled with the aroma of cooking food to the point of salivation, but not so. Hot oil dominated my nostrils but there were other scents below the surface and after a moment I recognised them. Cleaning products portrayed the staffs continual efforts to maintain standards after the spills and discards of careless patrons, the body odour of those a few tables away was also evident, but not overpoweringly so. I lifted my black coffee to my face to help mask the scents and cast my eyes around again. I was aware of the usual half glances and considerations directed at me. Not fitting the usual customer profile was bound to draw some attention. My worn foot ware with snagged and tired clothing show the miles I cover but in no way give the image of the family type or workman. I passed a smile and a few pleasantries with the lady clearing the tables, the friendlier side of my nature seemed to help put a few people at their ease.

Once I drained my cup I packed up and slipped out of the door. In the twilight the moon was there to greet me. Clear air cooled my face and began to cleanse my nose of the oils and chemicals. The soft light soothed my eyes and the hum of the near by traffic seemed a whisper compared to the music from within. I glanced around to see the people through the window, against the growing darkness they seemed to be lit up like a stage show, from excited children running around and standing on the seats to the under forties chewing and chatting loudly.

I turned into the new night. "Merry Christmas" I thought.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Bard by the Fireside

The crackling fire and the circle of seats entices the storyteller to fill the air with tales to dance with the imagination. A gentle light within the circle and a quiet anticipation of the opening words sets the scene  and calls to the mind of the listener. The teller of the tale may have many ways to portray the story and many lessons and experiences to impart, but the silence and anticipation before the all so crucial first words is a deafening noise to the ready listener.

To truly listen to the bard is to open your mind to the influence of the tale and to know the motive of the bard is important to the perception of the tale. A bard by their nature should be capable of relaying their own perceptions and beliefs of a subject, to portray the words and meanings of others well, will ask a great deal of faith and belief from the bard to the words they will borrow. The teller who chooses to tell their own tale or version will betray much of their own inner self and risk showing their flaws, perceptions and prejudice. Such a teller is a brave soul indeed when it comes to imparting the lessons and meanings behind their own tales.

The bard and the tale is only a part of the show. The listener it seems holds the key to the success of the tale. The mismatch of the bard and listener will distort the spirit of the tale, but success will result in learning both for the listener and the bard. In this instance I suggest the spirit of the tale grows within the minds and actions of all there. The modern bard will speak to us through many forms; the book, the song and the show. But the essence of their work remains the same.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Freedom of Sleep

From the cool breath of the nights breeze after a summers day to the gentle warm embrace of the winter fire embers, the onset of sleep is the contrast to bring balance to the waking world. The body and conscious mind gives way to the tumbling complexity of the subconscious, here the lowest of peasants can become a king or see the world from closed eyes in glorious colours and emotions. Thoughts and fears can give way to euphoria or can deepen to the point of near madness setting the sleeping body running, kicking and twitching.

The protections we afford the body in the form of fours walls or the company of the pack or tribe are no protection to the turmoil of the subconscious and the release in dreams. So what do we see in those deepest of hours, a guilty mind seeking its release, the formation of a gentle message or sights of splendour to lift the spirit on the waking edge before we return control to the conscious world.

We all take the gamble of sleep and seek freedom within ourselves for a while at least. With luck we will find our bodies well rested and our minds full of learning as we wake.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Transition of Material

The history of development are laid out before me as I walk darkened streets, passing through the historical town centers with their surviving georgian and victorian buildings, through the industrial areas and the surrounding housing estates and out into the countryside where I feel most comfortable.

Here the traditional buildings possess quirks and features that tie them to the surroundings. The best of them show craftsmanship that is borne of the natural materials and skills of the area. The grain of the wood with its imperfections and pegs, the lime render and the roof tiles and stones from local quarries. To walk back into the built up areas it becomes obvious where commercialism and the power of oil takes hold. Mass produced bricks, tiles and windows with timbers brought from afar. Pressed and shaped into standard sizes and units, all so easy to assess and work. 

Little wonder that those who dwell in such an area have lost a connection to locality and its resources. Mass production and transport seems to call from every corner. Even through the ornaments and pictures that decorate the walls and expensive cars in the driveways. Once we are beyond the influence of oil it makes me wonder if future generations will look upon these places with the same regard we have for aging properties and areas now. It seems that the connection to some areas is gained through the sports teams and apparent affluence rather than the ecology, the landscape and the longer history. Those that do retain an integrity have done so because of aspects of the picturesque and have evolved into places where the wealthy are best placed to buy acquire a property.

I will return to my modest hovel and try to use what I can to give comfort and enrichment to life. Perhaps with time and practice I will carve something that may inspire others to look beyond apparent wealth.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fly by Night

Step by step I could feel my every move falling under the scrutiny of eyes that see clearly even in the darkest of hours. I lifted my gaze from the track to the shaded form of overhanging branches set against the night sky. My observer sat among them silently watching. As if indignant of the disturbance the shape raised to a full height, wings were outstretched and the night air carried the owl away into the darkness. The branches barely shuddered by the owls movement and the silence of a still night was utterly uninterrupted. I considered it my good fortune to be looking in the right direction at the moment of take off, otherwise I would have missed the sight completely.

I carried on with my dog pack through the trees and tracked the edge of the woodland clearing. The still cool air crackled with the sound of the dogs paws in the undergrowth and occasional snuffling as they tested the air for scents and traces of life. Of a sudden the silence was shattered by an alarm call and the rattling of wings against branch and briar. Excited the dogs jockeyed for position to take a snap at the pheasant as he rose from the undergrowth disorientated and blind with panic in the blackness. He crashed into small trees at the clearing edge before clumsily landing on a branch only a couple of feet away from me.

The huntsman would have been blessed with an easy meal if he had been in my position, the bird could have been plucked from the branch by hand. Luckily for the pheasant I had no intention of taking him for the pot and I remained still to allow the silence to return and let the dogs to settle. The bird remained unconcerned by my gentle movements and sat tight as I moved away, leaving him to face the night again. All I took with me was the lesson of a creature being caught unaware and out of his element.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Mill Pond Under the Autumn Moon

As the nights draw colder for the oncoming winter months, frost gently touched the plants and cold earth before us. We walked the well trodden dark pathways and enjoyed the brief sight of our breath in the cool air. As the texture beneath our feet changed we stopped to take in our surroundings.

The wooden boards of the bridge were almost slippery in the frost underfoot and the cold of the rails stripped the warmth from fingers. In front of us the gentle mirror of the mill pond took on the deep blue hues of night and dark shadows of the trees at its banks. Only an occasional ripple disturbed the still clear reflection of the crescent moon, the winds took their leave, troubling other lands and most of the clouds had long since deserted this nights sky, leaving only a few to remain and hang in the light.

For a while we drank in the near perfect silence and stillness of the view. The only reminder of time and the passing of elements was the gentle tumbling of the mill weir some way behind us and the ghost like white swans on the water effortlessly gliding by borrowing the moonlight and bringing light to the shadow.

I opened my mind to the scene and felt the living energies and the distant celestial forms and forces. In that moment it felt like the quiet and near silence was roaring. The thoughts and disruptions of modern life ceased to be, there was only the feeling of the bridge sitting among the powerful elements in a segment of time.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

An Audience of Leaves

November can be an stunning time in the woods and fields after dark. The onset of the colder weather will often drive people inside to a night with their central heating and television, with the occasional night walkers from the warm summers evenings taking such refuge I am left alone with the night and the growing strength of the winds.

The paths and trails are often more treacherous as the leaves cover the sodden earth so I find it is more important to stop and take a little time to soak in the surroundings. The shifting moonlight caused by clouds racing across the crescent moon creates a dimming and glowing of the trees. Leaves raise on the winds as they flow and eddy among the undergrowth, shifting among my feet or clattering into my body and face as if disapproving of the choice of pathway into the wind. The roaring of the wind through the empty branches can be deafening one moment and drop to curious silence the next.

Strange that the fallen leaves take on a new life and energy in the Autumn, they mark the passing of time and elements before settling into the earth to help bring new life through the seasons. Much like our own thoughts and actions, they can be carried well away from the source and with luck will help bring new life and fresh energy elsewhere.

(thanks to Winterette for inspiration for this post).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Illuminance in a Gallows

Suspended above a vacant car park is a spot of desolate illuminance shuddering against the darkness. Unnecessary and unmaintained it drains energy and performs no purpose. The housing is rusted and outdated, its location is poor and the glass shade is clouded and holds rainwater captive obscuring what little light it can provide. The barely visible glow is not even appealing to the moths who seek light with energy and vigour, but it remains holding onto an existence that was never been of value.

In many ways it is not the sight of the lamp that saddens me, but the parallels that can be drawn with some of the people that I meet.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

On Reflection

I realised during early years of teaching that one of the best ways to learn is to copy. All creatures have an incredible capacity to copy and it is a trait that is buried deeply into the subconscious, so much so that people are often unaware they are following, learning and being influenced.

The surroundings are also something that will greatly effect the behaviour of an individual. During an evenings wandering I may well be treated to the sight of reflections in dark pools, being close to nature I find this soothing. I also walk areas that are built up, badly laid out and have a tense atmosphere. It is hardly surprising that some people who dwell and are brought up in such an area can become part of the social problems that permeate it or alternatively they will make it their objective to rid themselves of the problems and either leave or seek influence that will grant them a position of apparent power of respect. Some will of course simply keep their head down and try to survive.

The effects of influence and reflection can simple and subtle to begin with (especially if you are constantly in the middle of them). They can however build and become consuming. To question your own motives and influences is not always easy and deep thought and questioning is often not encouraged unless the likely outcome benefits those who control the environment.

For me, I will take my inspiration from nature and be mindful of the spirits of influence and reflection in others. With care, awareness & observation I should be able to learn lessons from others without straying from my own purposes.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Passing By

Those who wander will know well the feeling of letting go of problems. Wandering is in many ways a form of connection for me, no doubt my ancestors would have travelled to suit the harvests and migratory patterns of animals. The passing of people and animals across the face of the earth would have been like a living energy moving in time with the seasons. Wandering would surely give a chance to leave behind problems and the promise of the new prospects in the next place.

I suspect much of this is buried deep inside my subconscious and leaves me with a feeling of tapping into new energy as I travel, even if it is only to walk a large circle and return home. It is rare for me to meet other wanderers as I physically move around, but it is good to know of others who do the same through modern communication. I have learned so much from many a fellow traveller and look forward to reading of their own experiences.

There does seem to be an art to wandering. Any fool can move from one place to another, a true traveller or wanderer will learn as much as they can on the way. Not only about the world but about themselves.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Merchant, The Nobleman & The Thief

I ask your indulgence for a moment to allow me to paint a picture within your mind.

Centuries ago the woods in these parts were a place of caution, law and order was held mainly within the towns and cities. The countryside could be a wilder place where the thieves and those of ill repute could find refuge. It was said that folk found guilty of a crime could be sent beyond the pale. The pale was a boundary between civilisation and the wilderness, to send someone beyond it was banish them and deprive them of civilisation.

During hard times many honest folk would be forced to do what they must to survive, doubtless many would have taken jobs of little reward, or risked activities that could mean banishment (or worse) in their attempts to make ends meet. It is also worth considering that many who lived the habitual life of crime would have the same fate.

Within the walls of a town the merchants and noblemen would sit as safely as they could manage. The manipulation of law, politics and the power of money would be their tools in the game of survival. The populous would be the pawns in the games they played.

As the centuries have passed in some respects it seems that little has changed. By sleight of hand, force of arms/a dagger in the darkness or manipulation of word, the games continue. So who would you trust; The merchant, the nobleman or the thief. It seems they are alike in many ways.

The illusion of honesty and respectability remains a mask for many in society, to be slow to trust gives time to question the motives of those who seek to gain favour. With little apparent influence and material value I find I have also time to watch and learn the game played against other more seemingly more respectable folk.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rest Well Fellow Traveller

With the end of October fast approaching and the nights drawing darker, I take stock of the year and harvest my thoughts.

For me it has been a summer of hard earned lessons and a few more battle scars to add to the character. But I am still here, still watching and learning, still passing on what I have learned to those who want it. Much as in the ways of those who have gone before me and will follow.

I hope to enjoy warmth in body, mind and spirit. I will pay my respects to the land and to those who have borne wisdom over the ages. I will also do my best to earn the respect of those who follow in later years.

Rest well fellow traveller, I hope winter is kind to you and shows you her beauty.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Clarity of Thought

A week or so ago, a little before the full moon I was blessed with a clear night of few clouds with a gentle breeze. This is beautiful weather to walk at night, once I was wrapped up against the chill I took to the trails. As the paths through the wood were dry I was able to keep my gaze on the canopy and the sky without fear of sliding in wet mud, I was also able to put my mind to productive use. I mentally turned over problems and sticking points from the week and solved more than a few issues while taking in the scenes before me. I returned home and was able to put pen to paper.

A couple of days later I found myself in an office catching up with a client and updating them with progress. I listened to the coughs and sniffles of the staff and watched them hold their ground until the lunch break. A steady stream of people left for a breath of fresh air and to escape the sight of the computer monitor that stares them in the face for many hours a day. It seems to me a most unnatural form of existence and must surely go some way to explain the amount of sick days office staff take and the relief of enjoying or even living for a weekend. For me it is a life I am glad I have stepped away from.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sitting in the Folds of the Water Dragon

A little over 8 years ago I took a walk without my pack. To walk without my dogs is a rare thing and a sure sign that I have something on my mind. After a mile or so I found a spot by the side of one of our countries largest rivers. I squeezed my way through the undergrowth on the upper bank and found a spot beneath the trees where I could observe the river and wait for the sun to set. The volume of water passing by me was staggering and I sat watching it listening to the gentle wind ruffle the leaves overhead.

In my mind I was struggling to bring myself to this incredible spot. I had worked hard over many years to gain a respected position within a company. I enjoyed working with the people within the company and I felt appreciated. I was also beginning to enjoy having a little money and the possibility of promotion, however I had also experienced first hand the disgusting aspects of corporate life, not within the company itself but with their clients.

The delegation of powers down the clients structure was clear, they were utterly obsessed with deadlines and money. The shareholders drove the thirst for money and the managers and underlings beneath them were concerned with little more than becoming shareholders themselves and putting forward a show that would demonstrate to them the lengths they would go to in order to protect the money invested. Even if that involved lies and discrediting those who were working to create something for them.

I watched the rivers constant passing as the sun set and realised that I needed to make a change. The money from the job was welcome and appreciated, but not worth the personal cost. With my choice made I relaxed into the river bank, took in the scene and began to put together ideas for a life that would give me other choices. Freedom was still a long way off, but I could still aspire to it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Escaping the Voices

Images and sounds seem to build up within my mind. At first it is something that may well appeal to my sense of humour. Other times my attention is drawn to an advert yelling for my attention. Tonight I reached a saturation point, random catchphrases and tunes popped into my thoughts and still images of Saturday night TV seemed to hold an echo in my eyes. There is so much of it now that many are hardened to the onslaught and seem to respond like a machine to vote lines and tv (or telephone) competitions.

I decided to step away and walk out into the night. Once in the fresh air I began to adjust my thinking and perspective. The full moon creates a glorious light within the woods and to tread among the pools of light and darkness becomes a pleasure. After a quarter of an hour. The paths seemed to have helped purge me of the constant commercialism and once again my mind was traveling freely. Listening to the sounds of the wood, drinking in the clear sights under the full moon and feeling the cooling air on my skin.

It seems that when we look at the world though a narrow window, we begin to think of it as a whole. The reality is actually outside of the door, but many choose to disregard that. The window of journalism is something that can inform us but is limited to the perspective of the journalist. Sometimes there is more to the world than what is told.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Contrast of Light in Shadow

Last nights walk proved to be a greatly rewarding experience. On reaching the nearby woods there was not a cloud in the sky and the moon  was truly radiant. Brilliant white light flooded the woods, illuminating the paths and throwing deep moonlit shadows from the pine trees. The autumn air was still & cool enough to numb my nose and mouth as I took breath. Only the distant sound of traffic on the road and an occasional passing headlight in the distance was a reminder of the presence of other people. As is often the case, the scene was mine to enjoy alone and I felt honoured to be there.

As I made my way through the shadows of the pines, a pool of moonlight was cast through the canopy and onto a small tree by the side of the path. Such was the intensity of the light, the foliage was lit up as the light passed through the small leaves. I stood for a moment to take in the spectacle, while the moon shone at that particular angle that simple tree was by far the brightest thing in the wood. The effect was quite theatrical, but all the more impressive because the lighting was provided by a celestial spotlight.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Defeat of The Ego

Wandering the woods last night I remembered my early years when school awards were given out. Awards for the athletic kids, awards for the smart kids. Praise for excellence. We all seemed to aspire to the praise and recognition, it was encouraged and to be thought of as a looser was a ridicule that bit deeply.

The issues of childhood seemed to stay with me into my 20's and I sought for perfection and recognition. I also remember a point at which my ego finally shattered and I gave up on trying to achieve these and instead focused on what I could learn and understand. At this point I began to listen to my failings and study them. Every time I was defeated with an issue I made a point of trying to put aside the stubbornness, denial and scapegoating that the ego seemed to hide behind. I began to take apart every detail and learn, I would then put myself back into the situation.

I was surprised by the results. Not only did I begin to loose my own fear of failure, but I began to systematically dissect the strategies and attitudes of people who were previously seen as high achievers. Then I began to learn from their failures. In addition to this I also began to question the very rewards of success. The expensive cars, gadgets and homes of those who were apparently "successful" began to mean nothing to me. In many ways I find those who feel the need to show off in such a manner breeds a distrust within me. I found many previous role models lost their influence and control as I looked beyond the apparent.

The repressed ego doesn't mean I have to be used and abused to fuel the ego and desires of another. It does mean that when I deal with such a person my actions come from a logical place and are intended to correct their manners rather then worsen my own.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

To Exist for a Moment Within a Moment of Existence

To bring your pure attention to a single moment in time is a wonderful art. It is something I have been working with for an age. I find the moment can vary from admiring a sunset  or starlit sky to a piece of work or moment in creation.

A cluttered mind is an easy thing to accept. All you need to do is turn on the television or radio and you are continually bombarded with marketing and catchy images, jingles and tunes designed to burrow into your subconscious. Ridding yourself of clutter & distraction within your mind is not as easy as it seems. It can take an magnificent sight or the internal sounds of a song close to your heart to bring your mind to focus.

For me, unleashing an arrow is a fine meditative art, it allows me to focus on on moment in time, a very specific point not only in my own existence but also that of the bowyer, the fletcher and the power and state of the elements. To bring this focus to the tasks in my own life and career is something I aspire to and I find I am delighted with what can be achieved with a meditative state of creation or objective.

To search and focus on excellence is a rare and often misunderstood thing.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Craftsman

Look at any surviving historical element and you are likely to see the work of a craftsman. Often it stands out like a shining example of artistry, care and attention. Mass produced components and materials seem to have taken over from the skill of the maker in recent years, however I don't doubt that there will be a time when the skill and artistry of a careful hand will be required once oil becomes too expensive to transport cheap mass produced goods.

A good maker will use the skill of the hand, the knowledge of the mind and will embed spirit within an item (the nature of the material itself, the form of the item and the influences of the maker) to breath life & meaning into it.

Created with care, attention and purpose the item gains significance way beyond that of cheaply mass produced items and the owner is more likely to feel a bond that will enrich their life.

I treasure the work of artists, crafters, musicians, writers, poets and anyone else who truly involves themselves with the spirit of creation. Through them we may learn to live more fulfilled lives with fewer more valued possessions.

(thanks to Ginny for inspiration with this post)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Three Fold Existence.

For the last 15 years I have been studying in depth the behaviour of people, from instinctive, threat response to hierarchy through to meditation and  healing. It has been an interesting decade and a half and I have begun to share my thoughts with other like minded people.

It seems that a well balanced creature has three distinctive sides to their existence. The body, the mind and the spirit. When these are in tune with each other, remarkable achievements can be made. In my own unique way I will try to offer an explanation of these aspects.

The Body: I see this as not only the physical, but also the instincts and sub conscious that drive for self preservation. On a darkened night the body is very much the creature that will jump at that sound in the shadow and when alone will look for threat around every corner. It will be the gut feeling or instinct that will look for, food, comfort and the protection found within the company of other bodies.

The Mind: The mind should be the voice of reason, understanding and intrigue. The mind can help control and calm the body but is often slower in its response due to the involvement of conscious thought. In the night it is the mind that provides reason and reminder to actions. The slower assessment of advantage and disadvantage to the path taken and the potential rewards and dangers. It is worth mentioning that the mind can be subject to the instincts of the body and subconscious, in a bad situation this can result in flawed reasoning and poor choices.

The Spirit: The spirit is harder to define, on many levels it seems to be a sense of connection that goes beyond conscious thought or un-conscious response. One of the ways I think of the spirit would be the sense of connection that is felt when looking into the night sky and comprehending the vast size and presence of life, time and space. To be in touch both with your body, mind, the surrounding trees and life forms through to the vast expanse of earth, stars and space. The sense of time, both present past and future and your existence within it. The spirit can flood the mind and provide overwhelming sensations but can also be pushed back from the reasoning of the mind by a single conscious, questioning thought.

From my point of view it is sad to see that many people are unbalanced. Many live and sense the world bodily. Instincts drive them to grab what they can, to control and survive. Exhibitionism and evolution within the species. Happiness is often achieved by these people in a diluted form much like a short acting drug. Once it has worn off they will look for another conquest to fill their instinctive needs.

Luckily I do seem to happen upon others who have a more balanced approach, for these people I will do what little a twenty first century serf can. Even if it is only to wish a safe journey to a fellow wanderer.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Smoke on the Horizon

The sun set on another humdrum day, in the early evening I set out on another errand. Glancing up I noticed the crescent moon. After the cloud cover of the last few days it was a most welcome sight. I looked forward to my night time wander and the possibility of clearing my mind.

Sadly by the time I had finished many tasks and headed out into the night with the pack the cloud had returned to obscure the moon again. Hoping it would lift I took to the paths around a wood within a few miles of the near by town. As I reached the edge of the wood closest to the town I was bathed in the sickly brown/orange light reflected off the low cloud and the spewing sight of smoke from either the local factory or power station just beyond the horizon. Looking around the trees the light pollution was bright enough to put the trees in shadow and the silence from the lack of wildlife was quite eerie.

Turning my back on the town I headed into the darkness. Once I was far enough into the wood, the hoots of Tawny Owls within the tree cover and the screeches of a Barn Owl from the wood edge became evident and reassuring. By far the finest sight of the evening was the briefest glimpse of a Tawny gliding through the trees.

The Sentinel

A few years ago ferocious winds ripped through this area, overnight they had torn a huge clearing in one of the local woods. The combination of tall conifers and sandy soil had allowed the wind to cause immense damage.

Strangely one of the few trees to survive in the clearing was little more than a tall dead trunk of a silver birch. As the trunk is away from the footpaths it seems that the forestry commission specialists had decided to leave it standing as dead wood.

I have passed it many times since, the trunk is popular with the wildlife. There has been woodpeckers foraging its length to kestrels and occasionally the shape of possibly an owl perched on top. Because of its position central to the clearing it is difficult to get close to those birds standing sentinel, it allows a clear view on all its sides and provides a prominent position to safely watch over the clearing.

I find it pleasing to see that a feature of the wood that is of no financial value and could be seen as some as a risk to people, has been left. It will need many more gestures like this over long years to provide habitat for the wildlife.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Soul of a Tiger

I had an unusual encounter on one of last weeks walks. Often I am treated to the sight of wildlife and on some occasions it is surprisingly close. As I walked with my dog pack our german shepherd was trotting along in her familiar position in front of me. Suddenly she became distracted by something in the undergrowth off to the side of the track. Whatever the creature was, it was not going to give ground to her and out of the the darkness a barrage of hisses and growls grew in ferocity.

Concerned for the safety of my dog and the creature, I hurried up to join her. Even with me and my other dog the beastie was still not phased and seemed to become more agitated. I considered passing by but the dogs were too interested by now and there was a chance they would slipped back past me in the darkness and returned.

I stepped into the light undergrowth with the dogs sticking close beside me and lit the lantern. A burst of light flooded the area and the creature fled crashing past low branches before jumping over a drainage ditch and making its escape over a field adjoining the wood. I prevented the dogs from chasing to ensure the creature was safely away.

Sadly I could not identify the creature, the noises it made were certainly feline in nature (certainly not the noises of a fox or badger), but I have the feeling it was no farmyard moggy. Perhaps it was a feral cat of some kind, either way it seemed to have the soul of a tiger.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Inspiration for an Ent

A few nights ago I happened upon a striking sight on a walk. Beside a road an aging tree loomed out of the darkness. Much of the tree had died off but some life still remained and was portrayed by clusters of leaves. The effect was feeling like I had walked into a set from Lord of the Rings. I can imagine such a tree could have been the inspiration for Tolkien's Ents.

It also left me in mind of an image called Dalkeith Park Oak by artist & illustrator Sav Scatola , here is a link for your interest www.boxy.co.uk

Given the rough grassland around it and the abundance of field voles in the area, the tree could easily make a superb vantage point for the barn owls we have in these parts.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Shelters Below a Canopy of Needles

A few years ago I attended a meeting called by an anxious resident of a wood I often walk. The forestry commission were considering developing the wood and were using terms such as "no firm ideas but a possibility of business units" and "blue sky thinking with experts", all words that made those of us that use the wood very nervous regarding its fate.

One gentlemen at the meeting made mention of the fact that the children from the near by area were on occasion making shelters within the wood under his supervision. Thankfully it seems that nothing has come of the idea to develop the wood and last night I spotted a new shelter beneath the canopy of the pine trees.

The shelter was unoccupied, but there was little doubt of the skill involved in its placement and structure. Sitting in the light undergrowth among the tall trunks it was sheltered from the winds. Its main opening faced south towards a clearing. This would no doubt allow the warmth of the sun into the shelter in the morning. It was made from branches and sticks gathered from the area and carefully put together to ensure it would be unlikely to collapse during a windy night.

To me it was a splendid sight, a simple thing that showed ingenuity and respect for the surroundings, a superb way to use the wood and a demonstration crafting.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Off the Beaten Track

I remember well a piece of advice given to me as a young teenager, "if you are walking at night, stick to well lit areas, walk with purpose and do not linger". This piece of advice achieved much, by following it I was on the end of verbal abuse, ridicule and on occasion violence. In the area I grew up there was a tendency for gangs to form in the suburban areas. Lads walking in the wrong area were easy targets for these thugs, the fact that you walked under the street lights with "purpose" meant sod all to them.

To escape them I took to walking in more well to do areas or the roads to the villages in the surrounding countryside. This was were I met a very different type of thug. The local policeman seemed to hold vigil on these quieter areas and seized the chance to stop me or my friends at every opportunity. It was obviously easier for him to maintain his form of law and order in these neighbourhoods rather than go into the rougher areas where he was actually needed. No amount of reasoning seemed to reassure him that we were merely walking and trying to enjoy a little free time. In an attempt to avoid this authoritarian half wit our behaviour became strange. At the suspicion of his vehicle we hid. This varied from hiding behind parked cars in a village to diving over dry stone walls or hiding behind trees. This was no doubt incredibly suspicious to anyone who may have been looking on.

I remember well looking down the first darkened track I took to avoid a night of confrontation. At the time it was intimidating, overshadowed with hedges and trees. It led out between the grounds of two expensive rural houses, beneath a railway line and out onto the moors. I could barely see as I stepped along it with visions of mythical night creatures lurking at every opportunity. What I found when I emerged from the bridge beneath the railway was the stunning view of the moorlands under a starlit night. No waiting thugs, no mythical beasts, just nature in the raw, the wind and drifting clouds in the night sky. I would always advise caution and common sense to a fellow wanderer and to step off the beaten track is not always easy, but a step I have never regretted.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Freedom of a Simple Home

My journey tonight took me down an unlit dirt track and away from the lights of the village. Out of the darkness was the silhouette of a traditional gypsy caravan. I have seen the caravan in the light and though it does not have the highly decorative work I have see on some, its spirit is very much of the traditional caravan.

As I passed by the lantern lit doorway and onto the footpath to the deeper rural areas I considered the life the owner must have. Doubtless it is at the mercy of the elements and lacks appliances we take for granted, but for those in search of a simple life it must give so much and ask little.

Climbing the hill the caravan vanished into the gloom and I made my way to a vantage point. The village was visible below and on the horizon was the all to familiar glow of the near by town and city, also easily visible were two power stations. The belch of fumes rising from their stacks and the glow of lights stood glaringly proud in the night.

It must be a wonderful thing to have a home that is not reliant on imported power, perhaps in our desire for the latest appliances and services we have unwittingly allowed ourselves to become modern day serfs to the energy companies. Because of our upbringings and the constant barrage of advertising we may not even question what we are letting ourselves in for when we pay up and plug in.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Columns of Silver Light

In some ways walking off into the darkness feels a little like turning my back on society for a while. Today I could feel my mood dropping as various minor incidents seemed to get under my skin and make an annoyance of themselves.

Once out in the night I began to reconnect with the bigger picture and feel a little more at ease. Again I was treated to a starlit night with little breeze, as I walked a shooting star flew overhead. A little further along the walk I stood close to a tree with a Tawny Owl calling into the night and in the darkness I could make out the sight of the trunks of silver birch, standing like columns of silver light.

Sometimes it seems that my batteries need recharging, and for me this is my place to do it. Some will use an experience at a theatre or cinema, for some it will be a meeting with like minded friends. I often have to remind myself of a meditation technique to help me through the dreary points of a day. I will share it with you here just incase it is of some use.

Bring to mind a fond memory or perhaps a picture or object that reminds you of a joyous moment in your life. For a short while let the moment fill your mind, then allow your mind to focus on the feeling itself, hold the essence or spirit of that feeling and allow it to grow as it needs to.

To me the mind seems to move in spirals, upwards or downwards. The trick seems to be recognising the point when the mind is sinking and change things yourself by taking that walk or quiet moment to reverse it without waiting for things to improve by luck or circumstance alone. Otherwise this can make for a very long wait.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Moment in an English Village

Tonight I passed through a rural village on my travels. It was pleasing to see some of the locals enjoying an autumn evening, however the very structure and vernacular of the village raised a few thoughts in my mind.

The traditional buildings are utterly charming, bonded brickwork, pan tiles and traditional sash windows. In this part of the world they would probably have been built in the 1800's as cottages for farm workers. I can imagine the windows flickering with the light of a fire and candles as people took their rest after working the land, from the chimney woodsmoke would have risen as the houses source of heat.

Now the windows flicker with the light of the widescreen television and in the background the stark white light of the designer kitchen. Outside is the executive 4x4 or company car. A hole in the wall steams with the flue of a gas fired central heating system. By the eaves glows the street light, providing background light regardless if it is needed it or not. The farmland between and behind the buildings is now crammed with standard estate type houses, complying to the letter of the current planning regulations. All this seems to have become accepted and unquestioned.

As oil becomes expensive and steadily runs dry, I wonder how these humble little buildings will evolve in the future.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Starlight From the Depths of the Woods

Initially I was reluctant to venture out tonight. I have been tapping away on a computer for many hours and moving storage and shelves for the remaining hours of the day. It was the sight of the dogs by the door and occasionally nudging me that made me decide to head on out into the night.

With a stiff back I struggled to put on my old training shoes and muttered and grumbled my way to the door. The first thing that came to mind on stepping out into the night was the clear sky and the stars, my thoughts changed from whining to admiration of the night sky.

With no moon, the woods were incredibly dark, the tall conifers seemed to absorb all the light and leave the stars in night sky shining like diamonds scattered on dark velvet above the trees. I walked the tracks deep into the woods and allowed my eyes to adjust to the surroundings, all the light came from above and I found myself walking and looking up to take full advantage of the night.

Strange, but after quarter of an hour in the depths of the woods, gently walking and taking in the celestial spectacle. I realised that the discomfort on my back had eased, I now back at home, I feel I am ready for better sleep and my body will be less restricted in the morning.

Clarity of Perception

Allow the conscious mind to influence the subconscious,

The subconscious governs the body in action and initiative,

If the mind is rational and quiet it will direct the subconscious and guide the body,

A quiet mind is open and uses all the senses,

Both the conscious and the subconscious work with the senses,

Fear is a natural instinct and should be listened too but rationalised.

The mind must be free to make choices and perceive the world as it is.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Gentle October Rain

Heavy cloud cover shrouded the night sky and not a trace of a breeze ruffled the autumn leaves. As I made my way around familiar paths it was the sounds of the wood that took centre stage in my mind. A gentle rain began to fall tapping the foliage and undergrowth in the darkness.

As the walk had left me a little warm I couldn't resist taking off my jacket and letting the rain cool me down on bare arms and through my shirt. On a mild night without a breeze it was indeed refreshing. It is sometimes too easy to sit indoors and stare out of the window, to actually feel the elements on skin leaves me feeling alive and better connected to the environment.

I remember hearing comedian Billy Connolly once saying how he hated people saying it was bad weather, and that there is only weather, dress appropriately and go and enjoy it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rising Mist in a Clearing

For most of the day I watched it pouring with rain from my office window. As the night drew in the sky turned an amazing grey purple colour, finally as the light was failing I noticed the first signs of the sky clearing. I often enjoy walking in the rain but at times it is more practical to undertake my wanders in the dry to prevent the dogs from becoming soaked. I took this opportunity and headed out in the last of the rain in the direction of the woodlands.

Despite being very wet underfoot and a few of the paths becoming difficult underfoot the walk was enjoyable. As I reached a familiar clearing I looked up to see a clear night sky, the moisture that had soaked into the vegetation and ground in the clearing was beginning to rise. The first few feet of the clearing floor was cloaked in a mist softening the shapes of the plants and landscape. Beyond the trees stood in sharp silhouette rising out of the mist against the night sky and the stars.

Many times I get the feeling that I am indeed lucky, I was the only one to witness the scene. I was delighted to stand for a minute or two and soak in the image. On returning home I put pen to paper to recount the moment.