Monday, 30 January 2017

Imbolc and Getting Lost and What I Found

We've been making and creating and tidying and dreaming in green and the mostly yellow and white petals of what looks like it could be the soft whiskered nose of an early spring. We have been raising our faces to the sun and the sun has been smiling down on us, making floods and puddles magically disappear and birds sing at the top of their warbling lungs.

The Snowdrops have turned up right on time, and so have the first of the lambs and the calves.
This chap is looking pretty pleased with himself, and rightly so. There's a fine crop of his descendants skipping around the fields in the morning mist.

Have I already told you that I love sheep? I don't really know why, it's not a rational thing, but when is love ever a rational thing? Perhaps it's exposure at an early age to the joys of bottle feeding lambs. Or perhaps it's just that their furry faces always look so very friendly, I can't imagine a sheep ever looking judgemental, I'm sure no sheep ever voted for anything other than the common good.

I'm constantly in awe of their capacity to withstand the weather, whatever the dance between Earth and Sky, bucketing rain, blowing a hoolie or simply frozen solid; sheep simply stand there, munching away, until the moment (as any sheep farmer will tell you) that they suddenly decide to keel over and die, for no particular reason. It is said that sheep die for fun, just because they can. But mostly they don't.

I followed a sheep track out onto the moor last week, wending my way along the ribbon of tiny hoof prints. I deliberately allowed myself to be lost for a while, it was a strange but beautiful feeling walking a familiar landscape from an unfamiliar direction, taking feral and seemingly random turnings at this hillock or that patch or gorse as the track led me, losing that sense of time which is somehow marked by the known and the predictable.

I was in a part of the moor that I know pretty well, so I mean lost in the most minor sense of the word, but bimbling about with no guide but the sheep track for a while, brought me a whole new perspective. It reminded me about trust, and the importance of knowing where you're going, or not, which seems particularly relevant at this time of the year when most of us are thinking about new beginnings, new projects, new directions, planning what we'll plant for the growing season..

There are large and obvious land marks, not least of which is the ancient stone circle of Scorhill

This stone circle - when you are reflecting on pathways as you follow sheep tracks across the moor - is the Ancestors, It represents all we think we know, the certainties we take for granted, our moral, ethical, social compass.

We are living in incredibly uncertain times, the ground is shifting under our feet in strange and possibly frightening ways all over the world. So perhaps we're all a bit lost, there doesn't seem to be a map for where to go and what to do when everything is trundling ever more quickly down the hill to hell.

 The moon rose as the sun set and I wondered if this circle has a particular alignment to either of these great heavenly bodies, I don't know. Perhaps you do? There will doubtless have been a reason that these great stones were hauled to this sport and placed in exactly the places that they stand. We no longer necessarily know what that reason was, but we trust that it was good enough for the people of the time.

It seems to be a commonly held belief that the great structures of the past, those that still mark the land, were placed there for sacred or ceremonial purpose. We believe, I believe, that these structures come from a time when people listened to spirits much more than we tend to. Not only the disembodied spirits of the otherworld, but those of river and raven, sea and shore, tree and timeless tumbling brook. There is a beautiful polarity in living this way, there is always a signpost, a path, always a guide to the next step and yet there is also the freedom of not necessarily having the big picture, the whole of the map, When your intention is to live in harmony with nature, you don't need to know much about the distant future, you just need to listen to what is needed here now.

 I'm not at all suggesting that we should all stick our heads in the sand, or under our wings, or anywhere else that hides our view of the mess were in, but I am suggesting that looking at the signposts and considering the next step and only the next step is sometimes more empowering, emboldening perhaps, than trying to take the long view. Perhaps we need to get a little lost, so that we can find our way to somewhere unexpected, somewhere we haven't been before.

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