The Journey (for a kindred spirit)

Here’s how it started…

A typical Spring day, despite the vagaries
Of climate change and atmospheric pollution.
Gossamer wisps of cloud in an otherwise blue, translucent sky,
With the sun dazzlingly bright, and a touch of frost in the air.
On the spur of the moment, you decide to take a stroll
Through the local municipal park, since,
At ten o’clock on this particular Friday morning,
You know the local children will be hidden away
In their respective citadels of scholarly conformity.

As you amble towards the bandstand, placed at the heart
Of the park’s stretched out expanse – which comprises tennis courts,
A cricket field, two interchangeable sports pitches, a bowls area,
Children’s playground and a kickabout enclosure –
You notice your exhaled breath appears like smoke,
And begins to form unfamiliar patterns and shapes,
As it ascends towards the heavens:
A disturbing phenomenon, which leaves you somewhat
Disorientated and more than a little non-plussed.
Perhaps, you speculate, the three cups of coffee you consumed,
In quick succession, before setting off, were ill-advised,
And the phantasmagorical abstractions
You perceive in the morning air are nothing more than
Mild hallucinations, brought about by a quick-fire surge
Of caffeine to your body.
With this in mind, you enter the circular enclosure, and settle down
On an unforgiving wooden bench seat.

As you stare out upon the general vista, with its lofty, well-established trees
And overflowing waste bins; as you hear the roaring of the river,
Tumbling over ancient rocks and rusted shopping trolleys,
Heading for the Severn Sea; a river whose clear source lies high
In the rarefied mountains thirty miles or so inland,
Where chemical rubbish is nowhere to be found,
You begin to sense a shimmering in the air, a dislocation of Time and Space,
A vague perception of something barely remembered from childhood,
Almost as if an alien energy source is attempting to impose itself
On your vision of the world.

Shuddering, as if horrified by such a possibility,
You shut your eyes tight, steady your posture, and breathe deep:
From diaphragm to upper chest, a slow, careful inhalation.
Even as you hold the air in your body, you become distinctly aware
That when you finally open your eyes, things will not be as they were:
A change will have occurred.
Suddenly, without warning, the temperature plummets,
And unfamiliar sounds, scents and sensations o’erwhelm you.
Gasping, with an exhalation of breath, you open your eyes,
And gawp with astonishment at a world transformed.
The park – the pretty, neatly organised, municipal park – is gone.
Instead, as if a door has opened on to a dream landscape,
You find yourself in a natural clearing, surrounded by a myriad
Of Oak trees – an all-embracing assembly, as far as your eye can see:
An Oak forest, whose canopy stretches high above you,
With a sharply coloured sky beyond – pale, intense, azuline.
The bench seat you were sitting on has vanished, too,
Replaced with a tump of green and brown living scrub.
Strangest of all, none of this seems strange to you in the slightest,
Since – somehow, at some point – you’ve been here before,
Although the ‘when’ escapes you, for the time being.

Compelled by the sheer majesty of your new surroundings,
You stand, and silently contemplate the sentient buzz and beat
Which seemingly reverberate through the crystalline air:
Hypnotic, wordless whispers draw you ineluctably forward –
First one step, then another – as the clearing is cleared,
And you enter the body of the throng.
Despite the chilled air, you feel warmed to the bone
By the gentle yet firm embrace of the Quercus robur –
The pendunculate denizens native to the isles of your birthing.
Perhaps this is a dream, you tell yourself, or one more manifestation
Of the morning’s caffeine overload, but in your secret soul,
You know this is real: more real than the everyday, dull,
Humdrum routine of material certainty.
You’ve come home to the roots of your own dark Oak heart…
At last.

Proceeding slowly through the forest, you become aware
Of the increasing imperative of the whispering,
Almost as if the trees are singing to spur you on your way:
A peculiar song-line, signally tailored to suit your specific journey.
As the sound continues, the shape of a woman begins to emerge
In the near distance, and – even though her face
Is indistinguishable at this stage – you already know you know her.
Closer, and closer still, she glides towards you,
As your pulse rate increases exponentially.
And then – there she is, a tall, russet-haired, slim figure,
Garbed in a red djellaba with hood,
Diaphanous white sleeves, and a gold, embroidered
Interlinking pattern dominating the centre of the gown.
On her forehead, a single red stone, held about her head
By a chain of small, white pearls: a Druid priestess,
Standing before you, demi-goddess of the Oak,
Wise in alchemy, medicine, law, science, magic and astronomy.
A poet beyond compare, whose words sing and dance in the air,
In perfect harmony with their surroundings – natural and preturnatural.
You find yourself drawn to her pale blue, moon eyes,
Which suggest worlds within worlds, and endless latent possibilities.
Her perfectly balanced, exquisite face, youthful yet ancient,
With its fine, aquiline nose, pronounced cheek bones
And delicate, smiling mouth entrance you to the point
Of losing yourself in a reverie of ‘if only’ and ‘perhaps’;
A reverie made even sweeter when she inclines her head
Towards yours, whispers in your ear, and almost casually
Brushes her lips against your lips, in an intimate act of mutual recognition.
Compelled by forgotten longings, you reach towards her,
And embrace, as she embraces you – gently, gently –
Till your bodies all-but merge, one with the other:
Two spirits, female and male, one Being; your soul-mate,
The eternal Anam Cara… From the quiet girl in the playground
Who shyly waved at you when you were seven years old,
To the neighbour’s daughter who kissed you sweetly when you were ten;
From the school girl three years your senior who seduced you shortly after
Your thirteenth birthday, to the fearful friend who, at seventeen,
Tearfully asked you to stop before things went too far; from the
Crazy Flower-Child of twenty, who embraced anything and everything,
To the sad student, desperate to lose her virginity at the age of twenty-five:
A sacred litany of lovers loved, on and on and on, and all contained
Within the metamorphosed single creature you’ve mysteriously become,
A seamless amalgam of X and Y chromosomes, with a pinch of faery dust –
For good measure.

The words that were whispered in your ear whirl round your conscious mind:
“We are two spirits dwelling in one body. If thou seest me, thou seest her,
And if thou seest her, thou seest us both.” Suddenly, incredibly,
You and she – two spirits in one – are lifted up, and flying high
Above the trees, a golden eagle, in soaring flight, imperial and serene,
Observing the topography of the earth below.
With wings outstretched, feathers glinting in the dazzling light,
You train your blinking, remorseless eye on all that moves within the scope
Of your telescopic colour vision, yelping as you swoop and glide.
Over hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, deserts, seas you fly,
Untroubled by the constraints of mere gravity.
And then you dive, down down, deep down, crashing through the surface
Of the ocean, and re-emerging further transformed, in dolphin guise;
A bottlenose, skimming the water’s surface, leaping for joy,
Blowing bubbles for the sheer fun of it, and calling out to your friends
“Come and join me”, as you play and chatter and sing your pelagic songs,
Via smart sonar technology, free of charge (leaving Google, Apple,
And all the rest, way behind in their bid to utilitise the whole of Creation),
Sending out erotic signals to would-be partners, using echo location
In your quest for food, and issuing warnings to other members of the pod,
Lest predators lurk in the hidden, murky depths of the ocean’s dark trenches.
For now, you’re content to jump clear of the water, propelled by the flukes
On your tail; powerful, muscular flukes that drive you through the seas
At high speed, and take you down as far as three thousand feet.
Up, up, up in the air you fly, and transform again: now, a mature stag –
A wild red hart, roaming free betwixt woodland and field,
Marvelling in your own magnificent, luxuriant exuberance.
Weighing over five hundred pounds, with velvet-free antlers,
You strut your stuff, and prance in the morning’s light: self-assured,
Confident, at ease with yourself, knowing that your bony display –
A weapon system-cum-aphrodisiac – is bigger than your nearest rival’s,
And therefore more likely to guarantee you peace and quiet,
As well as intense physical delight when the rutting moon appears.
You close your eyes, and contemplate the good times ahead…

Reflection done, eyes unclasped, you discover you’ve metamorphosed again.
Now, you’re floating through distant galaxies, star clusters, nebulae;
Weightless as an atom, free as thought, hand in hand with your substantial,
Yet ethereal twin spirit: she effortlessly guides you, as cosmic vibrations
Echo the peculiar song-line of the Oak trees –
A confluence of phenomena, breathtaking in its implication:
As if the entire universe sings one song, across all of Time and Space,
In a swelling form of perfect harmony – the music of the spheres.
Your eye is caught by a swirling mess of light; a frantic spiral
Of illumination, and you find yourself inexorably drawn towards it,
And to the source of a great unsettling power.
In next to no time, you’re hovering above the rim of a giant black hole,
Although it’s more blue-grey than black, and to call it a hole is to
Understate the matter a million-fold: this Nosferatu of the heavens,
Which sucks energy from everything that falls within its greedy,
All-consuming compass.
Your twin spirit merges deep within you, as you sway
In the petrified atmosphere, half in love with the notion of letting go,
And dropping, as inconsequential as dust, into the unforgiving
Heart of the beckoning maw beneath your uncertain feet.
You force yourself to focus, to think, to imagine an ‘elsewhere’,
But the hellish light enfolds your thoughts,
And the odds are stacked against you.
Shutting your eyes tight, you steady your posture, and breathe deep:
From diaphragm to upper chest, a slow, careful inhalation.
Even as you hold the air in your body, which comprises two spirits,
You’re distinctly aware that when you open your eyes – if you ever do –
Things will not be as they were: a change will have occurred…

The park – the pretty, neatly organised, municipal park – is as it was, as it is,
With its well-established trees, overflowing waste bins, cricket field,
Tennis courts, children’s playground and so on.
A touch of frost remains in the air, and the sun still dazzles with its glare.
The wooden bench seat you’re perched on is as unforgiving,
And damned uncomfortable, as it was before, and life goes on,
Without fuss, as normal… Or so it seems.
And yet, things are not as they were; you are not as you were:
You have been transfigured, from within and without.
Deep down inside your secret soul, another spirit lives and breathes,
As you live and breathe: she and you conjoined, for what remains
Of your fractured life.
Walking home, to return to the routine certainties of the daily grind,
Seems faintly ridiculous; a senseless exercise in keeping up appearances,
Especially given your urgent need to journey again and again, to fly
With the eagles, dive with the dolphins, strut with the deer,
And dance through the starry cosmos.
You’re irresistibly reminded of Bottom the weaver, and his fantastical dream,
As he struggles to express the inexpressible:
“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say
what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream.
Methought I was – there is no man can tell what.
Methought I was, and methought I had, but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what
methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen,
man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to
report, what my dream was.”
Poor, lovely, lowly Bottom, tongue-tied and amazed, cursed for all time,
By a dream, which wasn’t a dream; to which he should never have been privy.
You, on the other hand, have been blessed by a Druid priestess,
Who you knew all along, and who is now your guiding spirit,
In whatever form she takes, as you continue on your travels.

And this makes you smile.

 

Dafydd ap Pedr


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