Wednesday, 4 May 2016
It’s May, and starting to feel like Summer might be coming. The last few weeks seemed like they were colder than most of the Winter, but today the wood looks suddenly green and the sun is shining. I have for the past few years participated in the ‘Track a Tree’ project, and it is time for me to start recording the development of leaves on the particular tree I document each year. It is an ash and has consistently been one of the last trees to come into leaf over the last three years. Sycamores are in full leaf, as are hawthorns. Blackthorns, which usually flower before they leaf, seem to be doing the two things simultaneously this year. Oaks have come into leaf, though they still have that yellow-brown colour of their early leaves before the chlorophyll masks it with green. But the ash buds are still closed, big and black but unburst. Gazing up into the canopy for any sign of leafage all I can see is what looks like the first flowers which are easily missed and come before the leaves. I also need to record any flowering plants around the tree. Although this wood is always good for bluebells, there have never been any around this tree, but this year there are, as elsewhere in the wood the bluebells seem to be spreading from the swathes of them on the slopes to other areas. A little further along there are wood anemones, but not near enough to the tree to be recorded.
The tree is high up on the ridge at the top of the wood. Following the path along the ridge I look out for a kite’s nest that is visible in the top of one of the trees growing from the bottom of the steep slope, so the path is more or less level with the upper branches of the tree. The nest is there and when I train my binoculars on it I see the kite sitting on it, head turned towards me so that the beak is in profile. I watch for a while then go along the path to a seat surrounded by bluebells. Sitting in it I can see right across the valley and I spend a little time doing just that. The hammering sound of a woodpecker echoes through the trees then stops. A little later I see the bird flash through the trees below me. Is it now Summer? Not quite. When the ash buds open it will be, and that cannot be very long in coming. So I’ll come back to the wood every few days to record the bud burst, the partially and then the fully opened leaves, by which time the canopy of the other trees will have fully developed and I’ll be lucky to get site of the kite’s nest. Then it will be Summer.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
Ni thau awen o’i thewi(Gerallt Lloyd Owen)
Mae erioed i’w marw hi
Awen is not silent in its silence__________________________________________________
Forever is its finality
These two lines from a master of cynghanedd express with profound simplicity the nature of Awen. My translation of them cannot achieve the woven interlocking of sound and sense which is contained in the Welsh. But I hope it captures something of the concentrated power of the original.
Sunday, 6 March 2016
[Odysseus and Diomedes on a night-spying expedition to the Trojan camp]
“Athena winged a heron close to their path and veering right. Neither man could see it, scanning the dark night they only heard its cry” (Iliad , Book 10)So the voice of the goddess comes in the night unearthly as if far away, but close; echoing through the unfathomable dark, but whispered as if a lover told a secret close to your ear and you reply just as softly yet speaking clearly: ‘O goddess I answer your call’ into the darkness of the night, no light, even starlight (fitful behind cloud) and not moonlight for it is moondark, so dark the voice, the heron’s call in the night: a creak, a croak, a fraink, not sweet like a songbird but a guiding sign to be wary a waymark on the path, showing the track to be taken, the line to follow through the gloom, impenetrable blackness unimaginable in towns, villages even where some distant gleam lightens the hue of darkness, but out here in the ancient dark her piercing cry is the only glint to guide you coldly calling from empty space, but welcome as the sigh of a mother to a feeding child, nurturing sharp-eared attention, opening your night eyes.
Sunday, 31 January 2016
Finding the source, where streams come from
that's a thing to be sought. So I went up on the path
through the wood, following the tumble of water
down the furrow it had ploughed for itself through trees
and paused on the narrow footbridge where one stream
falls steeply into another. Two sources then?
But I followed the main stream up to the top of the wood
where again two streams joined and fell together
into the ravine between the trees. One ran from beneath
a hedge out of a rushy field; the main flow from under the lane
by the edge of the wood. I crossed the tarmac, stared through a drain
listening to the roar of water into a pipe under the lane rushing
through to the woodland stream. There was a stream by the lane once
in a deep trough over the grass verge so cars passing on the narrow road
would sometimes go in, tyres stuck in the stream's ditch. So they filled it
with hardcore to flatten the verge and the stream now runs even deeper
below the old ditch bottom. Nothing stops its flow. But above, where
meadowsweet grew in the damp edges of the ditch, only grass grows.
True, soon other hedgebank herbs will come creeping in, like dandelion
and celandine. But meadowsweet is lost to this quiet lane above the wood.
And the streams? Their sources remain mysterious, each one fed
by streamlets trickling out of wet ground in field and wood, too many
to say which is the source, too various to trace the intermittent pulses,
evasive as the absent scent of meadowsweet in the summer lane.
Thursday, 17 December 2015
I love a fair fort on the side of a hill,
where seagulls glide : there stands a shy girl.
I yearn to be with her but she would not have me
Though I came on a white horse for her sweet mirth
To tell of the love that has overcome me
To lighten my darkness out of the gloom,
To see her whiteness like the foam on the wave
Flowing towards us out of her realm,
Gleaming like snow on the highest hill.
To cool my vexation in Ogrvan’s Hall
Unwilling to leave her (it would be my death)
My life-force is with her, my vitality ebbs
Like a legendary lover my desire undoes me
For a girl I can’t reach in Ogrvan’s Hall.
After the Welsh of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd (died 1170).
Orgrvan’s Hall was identified by Sir John RhŶs as a place in the Otherworld, occupied by the god that ruled over it. But an ogyrvan is also one of the divisions of the Awen (poetic inspiration) according to a poem in The Book of Taliesin.
Saturday, 28 November 2015
Taliesin Pen Beirdd
Said to the dragon-lord
Here are the things
That can make your life
Complete: the flow
Of Gwion's River, the scent
Of fragrant mead, the genius
Of your druids and fair weather.
Did he listen, or was the call
Of the dragon field of battle
More than a bard could discourage,
Greater than a druid's counsel?
Adapted from the final lines of Mygwyd Merweryd in The Book of Taliesin
Gwion's River -: inspired poetry