Endings and beginnings

I write my ending at the beginning; not as pretentious as it sounds, I promise. As we move into a new year (according to the Gregorian calendar) I am in the final stages of my book, A Modern Celt, with a promise to myself and more importantly my publisher to have the beast whipped by Imbolc. Why did I choose this day? Well, Imbolc is all about new beginnings; fresh new starts; fresh young shoots bursting tumescent and hopeful from moist earth; pale, youthful sun hovering over a cloudy horizon; rain and wind cleansing the land and reducing the last of autumn’s fall to compost, ready to feed the new season. I will pass on my offering at this time; my sacrifice of hours and brain power and stiff back and aching eyes and I will give it to the world and wait for it to blossom in the warm sunshine of the beloved reader. Of course I will also be out in the garden tidying and digging, getting ready for the new season in a much more physical and vital way; weeds to banish, seeds to sow; paths to sweep clear. But some paths are ready to be walked upon- may you find your path in 2013, and I wish us all the strength to continue putting one foot in front of the other, as the wheel turns with every spin of our beautiful earth.

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Solstice

So this is the pause: as far as the Earth’s tilt is concerned, here in the Northern hemisphere we’re as far from the sun as can be. The sun set at about 15.30 on a damp but not freezing day, full of consumption and speed and aggravation- in the cities at least. I left this behind. I went to the woods and remembered magic. I touched the oak and felt the sap beating through its wooden veins in anticipation of the returning sun. I felt the birch’s paper bark; scrolls that tell the story of many generations. I sat in front of a tree so old it looks now like a great open hand; like the earth itself is reaching up to join the sky. I closed my eyes and felt the rain trickle down my neck like tiny living creatures; listened to it roll around the bare branches and muddy rocks. I touched the soil and the dead leaves and became winter incarnate. I smelled the motionless air full of the promise of longer days and became the turning earth suddenly stilled. I took a deep breath- and remembered magic.

Dentist

I hate the dentist. Well, not the actual dentist. He’s a very nice man who listens and puts up with my neurosis (and everyone else’s of course). But the whole experience of sitting there, plastic shield over eyes, light searing the face, powerless while a masked woman sucks saliva out of my mouth with an alien device while the screeching scrapers and scalers wind up their wails of hygienic horror. I know that once that whirring dirvish of pain hits the back of my incisors I will tense like I’ve had a cattle prod gently applied to the base of my spine. So what do I do? Well, my friend once did a guided meditation with us where we journeyed to a place in a forest, and there was a great stone to lie on. This place is safe and tranquil. While my mouth is under assault, I close my eyes and let my other feet take me through the path to the trees. I climb onto the rock and at first I am clinging to it, as if it turned vertical and I am hanging off, about to fall. Then gradually as I focus on being in this calm place, I relax and am laying on the stone as if it is a cool, gravelly bed. After a while I get up. I dangle my feet in the stream close by, and watch the shadows of fish darting away. I glance up to see a fox watching me. Before I examine this place further, I am being winched up and ordered to rinse and spit. My mouth hurts but I don’t mind so much now. As I leave, I check the time. 7 minutes. From ordeal to fantasy therapy, I was in that room for only 7 minutes! This tells me several things- mainly, that I’m a terrible wimp, but also that the human mind is a wondrous and powerful machine, and that I have some very special friends.

Me time

Sometimes time alone is not what one needs. Sometimes the quiet outside, allowing the thoughts to free fall through the tumbling anarchy of one’s mind, is the enemy of action. How can you choose when there are so many options? How can you move from this space, where silence surrounds but chaos pervades the space within? Input, you cry out, input from someone who is not living it, not crawling through it, not mired to the waist in the quicksand of problems created not by your solitude, but not aided by it either. Meditation and calm can gently guide your mind to a solution, but when sitting alone only highlights the clamour inside: get out, get out, get out. Pick up the phone, visit, speak to someone. Get some perspective. For lights shine not only from within you, but from within all of us.

Bad Dream

Niggling gnawing gnats
That bite and suck

On confidence and self assurance

Taking away your 
“Doing the right thing”

Gobbling up your 
“All for the best”

Morning shrieks that crumble

All defences; walls and banks

And rushing through the

Black and wet

Is thankless

Gnawing niggling gnats

That bite and sting

And crack the fragile frame of
 “Hope it will be ok”
And perforate the skin of
 “I really thought…”

No really, we all did.

So swat that gnat and spray

The anti venom

Of “I did my best”

And if you hold yourself to account

Then yes, I guess you did.

Copyright Mabh Savage 2012 All Rights Reserved

Relax

I’ve written and sung about being motivated, keeping the nose to the grindstone, and being true to one’s goals and desires. Today however, I’m happy to not push myself. I didn’t sleep well. Simple tasks are tricky. I curdled mustard sauce and was fooled by a pink pheasant. I stalled the car and forgot how to change gear. I forgot a friend’s birthday. I miscalculated funds and budgets and generally got myself into a bit of a tizzy. So this evening, I’m giving myself a break. I’m permitting myself an extension, and my goal is set by next weekend, not tonight. After all, I’ve only got myself to answer to. I hope I don’t get me into trouble!

The Baker

Doughy warmth and rising
Yeasty goodness drifting
Longingly through the house
Luring family back
From their endeavours
To the kitchen
Asking what it is
What’s that smell
Home and love
And dreams of full bellies
Time taken, effort,
Achievement and completion
Some just starting,
Some still cooking
Apron hung as cup of tea
By another’s hand finally
Falls into yours.

Acrylic

Remember the dogs in Up? Squirrel! That’s what I feel like this week. Too many distractions, but too much predilection to be distracted. I feel like I’m trying to focus on the things that matter, but I also feel like I’m looking at a picture where something always draws your eye away- to a corner or to a shiny object- away from anything but what the artist really wanted you to be paying attention to. So am I blaming the artist of my life? And who is that, pray? Oh yes, that would be me. Not that I’m arrogant enough to think I am an island, unaffected by the tides of others, but ultimately, I decide what’s going on in my life. If I decide that something is someone else’s fault, then it’s up to me to hold them accountable. If someone makes me happy, it’s up to me to show my appreciation. I paint the canvas of my life with the brush strokes of action and reaction. But this week, the action palette has been empty, scraped clean, and reaction the only acrylic at hand. Time to clean the brushes and think again.

Sunrise

Orange streaking wonder like
Across the boards of blue
Calling unto you
Twanging every string
In the guitar of your soul
Alto cumulus
Herring backed and tickled pink
Perfect little lines
Framing the moon:
An absurdly gorgeous half
Smooth and sharply cut
A wedge of light
The opener
Before the main event.
The globe of yellow honey
Melting on the marshmallows
Of soft and drowsy clouds
Still awakening,
And gently gliding aside
Until gentle no more
The show hits the floor
The light, the bright, the glory ending night;
Sunrise.

The Power of Prophecy

Throughout the Celtic legends there are references to prophecies, futures foretold and promises made by victors and losers alike. One of the most famous prophecies by the Morrigan is told at the end of Cath Maige Tuired, the great battle that Lugh wins against the Fomorians, and is conflicting at best. Elizabeth Gray’s translation tells us that the first section prophecies a time of fullness and peace, but then the Morrigan goes on to foretell doom, betrayal, and the end of the world. In Tain Bo Cualnge (translation Cecille O’Rahilly, 1976), Queen Medb demands a poetess to divine the fate of her army in the upcoming battle against the Ulster men. The prophetess does as she is told but Medb is not happy, as she discovers, although she does not believe it, that her army will be greatly reduced by the power of one young man. Prophecy of this kind is indeed a double edged sword; sometimes simply hearing the prophecy can be the spark that makes it come true, and sometimes doing everything one can to avoid the outcome of the prophecy can cut the very rut that holds the wheels of fate. Medb, in a way, does exactly what she should do which is to ignore the prophecy and carry on towards the battle field, but in this case the prophecy is not self-fulfilling, and Cu Chulainn is indeed the young lad that will see the host blood stained and red. So what should Medb have done? Taken her army home? What do we do, when faced with the promise of failure? Do we give up? Or do we fight in the face of adversity? Well, each of us will have our own answer for that, and I for one know there have been times when I know that continuing to fight is not the best course of action, and indeed sometimes backing down, though it may hurt the pride and ego, will be less painful in the long run.

(c) 2012, excerpt from A Modern Celt, Mabh Savage

Arrows in the concrete

Sometimes things line up in ways you don’t expect. Sometime what you are looking for has been there all the time, hidden in some way, sometimes by your own actions.
Sometimes you look for ages then two come along at once! Sometimes we see signs and try and force them to line up when there is no pattern at all; but perhaps the fact that we are looking for signs at all is a sign in itself that we should pause and look inwards, to discover what it really is that we are missing. What burden is causing us to see arrows in the concrete and guidance in the grain of wood? Is that a face you see over your shoulder in the mirror? Maybe. But even if not, or even if it is your own face: take note. You are seeing these things because you need to. Just because a sign doesn’t come from a higher power or an external force does not lessen its import. You are sometimes your own greatest mentor. Don’t forget to listen, and to see the signs you send yourself.

Hey

Hey
Miss it once
Hey
Look up
Two jackdaws in a sycamore tree
One edged along the main branch
Blinking down at me in curiosity
Sharing the autumn sun
All three cloaked against the autumn wind
The two birds aren’t hunting
Or foraging
Simply resting and being;
At the most, marking their territory:
Enjoying their existence
Reminding me not to feel guilty
About doing the same.