Saturday, February 2, 2019

Winter Wandering (2 February 2019)

“It is strange to be here.  The Mystery never leaves you alone.” (xv)
-        John O’Donohue  Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom (1997)

Emerging from the deep freeze of the last week, I went out on the hoof this morning.  For the first time in days not bundled up almost like Randy in “A Christmas Story” (so it seemed) I wandered down along the railroad tracks and out of town_ wending a wandering way beyond-streets to the bridge over Willow Creek (so-called by me).  There I stood, in wonderment, listening to the water flowing; which was making a fair ruckus over and under ice sheets still protruding into the stream from either side.
The sound of the water rushing beneath my station on the bridge refreshed me.  Bridges are always ‘places’ between other places; they are neither ‘here’ nor ‘there,’ except that you are ‘[t]here’ when you are on one.  The drops of water slipping from the twigs and branches of the Aspen, Birch and Sycamore trees that are swayed over Willow Creek signaled a quiet rhythmic message to all the woods around that the Vernal ‘spirit’ was stirring and that Spring was now just over half-as-near as it was far-off at Winter’s Solstice.  While there may be more deep-freezes before then, the day was prophesying that in the turning of the Wheel of the Year, Spring is on its way!
          _Before its advent, though, I will no doubt do a fair amount of winter wandering; whether in my imagination or out on the hoof.  No matter how the wandering takes place, it will be an engagement with the mystery of the season; its aesthetics, the naturalism undergirding it, and the continuities of experience and memory that manifest and maintain it.  Mystery is what calls us out into Nature.  It is the allure of what-is!  It is a siren of the unknown and the strange, as well as beckoning us to the deep familiar.  It called me even in the deep-freeze of this week, as I was walking to and from work.  It called to me when I was out clearing the fine, silky snow from sidewalks.  We may encounter the call of Nature; are drawn into it—even in the midst of chores, work and errands—though we don’t often heed it.
On the way to work one day, with a couple inches of new snowfall on the ground, I was struck by small patches on the sidewalks ‘cleared’ by too much salt being poured in one place.  They were no more than a foot in diameter.  The red brick or concrete below the snow showing though, and the snow around the edges of the cleared area seeming a little darker than the surrounding snow (probably owing to being partially thawed), reminded me of some imaginative ‘tear in space-time’ from a science fiction movie or TV show!  The pieces of salt in the midst of the little cleared area made me think of stars on the ‘other side’ of the ‘tear.’  Okay, perhaps I was a little too cold to be thinking clearly (lol), yet it was a spontaneous engagement – albeit imaginative – with the Mystery of Nature.  Poetic ideas mixed with observation of an objective phenomena in the external world; it was an imaginative leap that made the rest of the walk in sub-zero whether more bearable, more en-joy-able.  Along the way I thought of black holes, worm holes and the chemistry of salts and their interactions with H2O.
The next day, walking to work, I crossed over the little creek that flows through town, sometimes above ground and sometimes in culverts underground.  Where I was crossing it, the creek disappears underground for about three blocks.  Looking up the creek, to the north of the sidewalk, I was suddenly struck by the visage of an almost ice-covered rush of water.  I could hear the water flowing down the stream, even through my ear-muffs, and the fact that about the middle third of the stream was not covered over by the ice, and that the ice was translucent near the edges of the water’s flow, made the scene picturesque!  It seemed almost illuminated!  I regretted not having my little pocket camera with me, and though urged onward toward my place of work by the sub-zero temperatures, I stayed for a few seconds, absorbing the scene!  I was impressed with the imaged scene of the ice-edged creek and by the sound of the water resonant in my ears the rest of the way to work. I was en-joy-ed by it.  It was a moment of engagement with the Mystery of Nature!
The next night, as I was walking home just after sunset, I was allured in to that Mystery again by the striking reds, oranges and violets be-streaking the western sky!  I had to stop at the railroad track and lift my hood, to take in the horizon, from just east of South around to near North, captivated by the rich and iridescent colors of the sunset!  Wandering on home, trying to keep my footing on the ice-covered sidewalks while glimpsing up – whenever I safely could – at the changing colours of the sky, I went along hoping to still be able to en-joy the sunset while shoveling walks before supper!  I was fortunate, as by the time I was clearing light, silky snow, the reds and oranges had shifted towards the violet end of the spectrum.  I was then startled to see the snow on lawns on down the street radiantly reflecting light from the blue part of the spectrum.  Blue snow; purple horizon.  The colors were exuberant, and they lit me up in soul-joy!  It was a moment of engagement with the Mystery of Nature.
This morning, standing at the bridge over ‘Willow Creek’ (my imaginative name for that same creek, back in town, in which I’d seen the “ice and water” scene three days before), I felt that sudden sensation of connection-with-Nature, and knew its value.  Not just its practical or economic value; though those are important, responsibly understood and handled—but its value for our very soul-life; that which keeps us from merely surviving—that which raises us up to being able to become the kind of beings that we are; human beings.  We are animals; but we have a particular ‘way’ of being-in-the-world; always becoming.  For we are a part of Nature; Nature is our home—and there is no other home in the cosmos that we have yet found to which we might go.
I stood for a long while – grateful for the fact of the temperature having risen to just above freezing – listening to the water of Willow Creek flowing below me; below the bridge—and thinking about the sciences and how they interface with the imaginative mind & heart.  There are so many ways to express our connection to Nature; our being part of it and living in it, even if we too often experience ourselves cut off from it in constructed domestic and social environments—however valuable they may be.  Yet Nature presences, even on city streets and in our homes; even on sub-zero days when we have to be out-and-about for whatever purpose.
The point of being here, for me; in the world and of the Earth—is to live life, and not merely survive.  Our being a manifestation of Nature is the ur-taproot of our life-as-lived; even if we are not conscious of it on a day-to-day, much less a moment-by-moment, basis, as were, perhaps, our ancestors, long ago.  We are Nature, having become conscious of itself; and reconnecting with that fact that can ground, re-energize and transform us—lifting us above the daily rounds of work and play and the trials that oft beset us.  It can bring us peace and it can help put our lives in perspective.  Training ourselves to pay attention to Nature even – and perhaps especially – in the midst of daily living and all that we have to do to stay in-the-flow and now sink, provides a bridge – over our very own creek – whereupon we can, if only for a moment, plumb the depths and experience something of the alluring presence of Nature.
While its then ‘back to what needs done,’ there is refreshment in paying attention to Nature all around us when and where we can and, I think, this lightens the burden of living.  To experience ourselves part of something so vast and awe-inspiring as the Earth and Cosmos beyond it helps define us as the beings we are.  This is what I have brought back from winter wandering today.  It was an engagement with the Mystery of Nature!

A View from the Bridge over Willow Creek (2011)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Wine of Mabon the Cellarer (30 December 2018)

[A Poetic Narrative Frolick on the 9th Day of the New Solar Year!][1]

Last night I dreamed a dream of rabbits and the Master of Poets; four rabbits in a hutch at the house of Mabon![2]  This hutch was located just outside a cellar entryway, which I intuited was the Dark Hunter’s Wine Cellar!
Mabon our Cellarer had left the keys to his ever-full wine-racks in the keeping of his four furry guards!  _And I knew this was “The Hutch of Mystery’s Cellarer!”  I spoke to them and they seemed to hear; their large ears standing up erect, making these luck-besotted beings seem like strange pookahs, though in all other respects they were just ordinary jack-rabbits; snow-booted and tan-gray furred.

“I sensed that they were full of Poetry’s New Magick!”

Mabon the Cellarer of my Vocation then came, proffering me— the Wine of Poetic Communion.  I declared, “I am unfit for the offer,” to which he retorted: “Come to my cellar and drink as you please, any time.”  Once more I affirmed myself unfit for the offer, to which he plaintively plied: “Come to my cellar, and my jack-rabbits will boot you up for a good slog-and-sloshing.”
I knew I didn’t understand this, and so I stood there, speechless.  Yet Mabon invited me a third time to partake of the wine he’d stored away in his cellars, saying: “Come, and I will gift you a good sherry to light the fire in your poet’s heart.”
For the third time and last I insisted I was unfit, and so he solemnly said: “I am the Wine Press and the Cellarer of Poetic Mysticism.  Everyone who gets drunk on My Vintage shall know New & Ancient Truths.  Come to my Cellars anytime, therefore Poet, and drink!”

Runed in the hutch of Mystic Life
I came to witch out the Truth,
accepting the keys, rhyming the Riddles
and setting the Jack-Rabbits free!                         1

Mabon the Cellarer of Poetic-Truth
there appeared to me—
stripped of all his mythic togs;
with a toast he called unto me!                              2

I stood upon his threshold
tarrying in the Invitation
—thrice offered—
unfit for the service
into which Mabon my Vintner
had enthralled me!                                                 3

Potent and braying
with the burden of my faults,
I called out for a reprieve_
and got a good Brandy to go!                                4

“Take this liquor, my brother,
for I am the Cellarer of Mystical Vision,
and you are the Uninvited Guest!
Take my liquor and be my sop_
for I have the keys
to that blue ek-static adventure
that is and has ever been
open to all Mused seekers!”                                  5

Taking up the goblet he offered me
I accepted his libation
and felt the liberation
of a good spiritual buzz!                                   6

“Hail, Mabon my Cellarer!
Clear my head
with your ever-hallowed Sherry,
and I will follow you –
stumbling and ever-grape-ful –
round the Wheel we go again;
until you call off the party!”                                    7

Everything was reeling—
the world then turned to Schnapps
and I found myself
     thrice three-days hence_
born-again in his besotted image!
Anem!  [Burp!]                                                      8

All day long,
drinking from the Bottle of Sherry
that Mabon had proffered me,
I came to the Place of Peace;
the Internal Nemeton—
where I am who I am,
and no one else.                                          9

Here, I find my Self, coming
into fluid existence
somewhere just beyond
the limitations
that have held me prisoner
for two cycles running.                                         10

I am free,
and there is a Rune
in every snowflake
that falls
on my tongue this evening!                         11

Mabon speaks_
in wined-up and dined-out metaphors
to my Heart,
which ambles out
to some Crannog of Love,
not waiting to be stopped
by a makeshift mock-up
of the Three Policeman of Yore!                          12

“Yet no one will stop you!
Ramble!  Amble!  Saunter!  Wander!
Savor life and its fullness!”                                  13

“There are Rabbits in the Hutch
          of Wisdom’s Cellar!” I cried.

I saw the rabbits dancing, then –
four jack-rabbits in a hutch
near the dark door
where Mystery was Presencing,
and as I approached the house again
where Mabon appeared to dwell
(ever the immanent
Cellarer of Resourcement)
I received a Balm of Remembrance
and began chanting the magical names
by which the Door may be opened:                        14


It was then I heard_
a Choir of Pagan Angels
at some distant Nativity of the Self,

“Blessed be Mabon the Cellarer,
for he has distilled the perfect Wine;
         unleashing our best imaginings
and causing us Divine Drunkenness!”                     15

And at this hymn my Heart burst
into Flames of Mystic Love,
and I knew that I was ‘Home’ again,
where I have always been;
in the Nemeton of Earthen Poets
              where I have sometimes
forgotten to find myself.                                           16



Here I long-ago planted a root of earthen faith.  “You are fit to enter here,” Mabon said,
and I reeled once more!  I saw the door open before me, and knew somehow that I was fit enough, though I feared the wine-dark passage and what it might riddle me, for the Master Cellarer is ever-allusive and deeply paradoxical!
But alas, it was only an old false-self that feared; not the Blue-Woad-Self I am becoming!  The four Jack-Rabbits of Mystic Presence then began to chant an Angelus, and as they did so, I felt a teary and fibrous veil fall from my mind!
                                     _So, soon I began to sing the Angelus, too, the Four Jack-Rabbits harmonizing with me – all of us gone polyphonic! – as I proceeded through the Door!  There I found rack after rack of aged old brews, Burgundy, Sherry, Ales and other delectable beverages of Mystic Delight!  Mabon said:

“Here is your liqueur
of naturalistic mysticism;
have your conversion
and drink it too!
Drink and be Drunken with Me,
and – once in the visioning way;
we two shall go dancing
out across the Heathen Hills
toward Tomorrow’s World—
across the Faery SĂ­dhe of Wonders.”

It was then that – down deep within the Wine Cellar of the god himself; on a rack hidden from the mundane light – I found a bottle with my name on it; engraved beneath the fading label; inscribed in the green glass of the bottle itself!  And I heard Mabon, my host, declare: “Take, and Drink!”
And I did; Anem!  (Burp)


[1] As we are approaching the end of the Yule—Winter Solstice—Christmas Season, on the 9th day of the new solar year and the 5th Day of Christmas, this story – a frolick (a fun, entertaining romp) – represents the desire to discover some new depth or path as we journey and adventure through the Season.  Here we meet a “Master of Poets”  named after the Celtic god Mabon; a hunter—singer—seeker who is guide to many of those who go out on pilgrimages or quests.

[2] Mabon is one of the ‘gods’ born at Winter’ Solstice.  He has become, for me, one of the symbolic personas of the Poet.  He is associated with rabbits as he is a son of the Great Goddess, and they are her ‘avatars,’ in one way of looking at the myths.

[3] There are all names of gods born at the Winter Solstice.  Aengus refers to Aengus Og in the ancient Celtic tradition, a young god of love.  Mabon is likewise the puer eternis; eternally the divine child of winter Solstice.  Bran is a dying and rising god from the Welsh Celtic tradition who symbolizes self-sacrifice and wisdom.  He is likewise usually portrayed as a youth.  Jesus’s birthdate was probably set at or around Winter Solstice, as his followers saw him as the new and ultimate ‘divine child’ and ‘dying and rising god.’