As the Wheel of the Year turns I am back amongst the golden bearded grains, ripening blackberries and plump sloes of the hedgerows in the borders where Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire meet. This year the acorns look plentiful, unlike the previous year. The rowan trees, as I noticed with pleasure in Darlington also, are laden with clusters of berries that are certain to make our bird populations feast, contentedly, in the coming weeks and months.
In fact it is only the first week of August, and harvesting is almost complete here. Last year ’twas not until the end of that largely grey and damp August that the farmers could harvest the grains and leave the fields decorated with collections of scattered square bails that I find aesthetically pleasing, or those circular bails of hay that I admit I do like, but somehow not as much as the square ones!
My elderly parents live here. It is a joy, and a privilege, to visit them. It has been a bonus that this locality is criss-crossed with public footpaths and bridleways. One such is called the Greensand Ridge. You see, this place is a ridge of, well, sand! I am walking upon the hills formed under a prehistoric sea bed! Hence, the English being the masters of the obvious, called a local town, well, er, Sandy!
On the ridge above Sandy, is a place now called Sandy Warren. If you’re a member of the RSPB that might ring a bell. It is their national headquarters! Yet that is just a partial story of this ancient place. You see, it is also the site of two pre-Roman settlements, one of which still exists and is protected at Galley Hill. I visit it each time, and honour the ancestors.
At the start of The Fens, this place is the highest place for miles around. When I first came here the hills were covered in scots pine, thickly wooded and overgrown. Thus, in the past decade, the RSPB has been slowly thinning the trees and returning this place to its original diverse, heathland heritage which is a natural home to natterjack toads, the common lizard, beetles, and those favourites of mine: delightful solitary bees and the less charming, but equally fascinating, red-banded wasp.
Then, about a decade ago, the significance of this place changed for me. You see, I no longer come here to visit the beautiful, wooded hill to observe and enjoy the seasonal changes. I now come here also because it supported me when I was crushed. The trees cared for me, in a time of hopelessness. This place set me on the pathway to something, I did not know what to call it at the time, except mother nature’s voice of trees. Yet I have never been the same.
Sandy Warren, with it multiplicity of nature trails and walks, ancient sites and changing biome, is also my Grove. For the pathway that began here, in the depths of winter, is Druidry. Yesterday I was at the heart of the Grove, under a yew tree, meditating. What struck me as I walked, cast my spells and intentions, and remembered those who have crossed from physical life to the spirit life, was a focus on the choices of life that present themselves to us all. What do I want to become? How am I going to achieve what I believe a good life, well lived, should be? What next steps are the better ones? How can I serve my Goddess? Etc et alia.
The pathways of work and employment. The pathways of choosing to be living a life of honour, respect, peace, love. The pathways of Druidry with its open ended spirituality regarding deity, local myth and stories, seasonal changes, astronomical events. Or perhaps tapping into the Bardic skills, creating your own to help facilitate this wonderful world of ‘Druidry’ further. Pathways. Lughnasadh, with its harvest and looking forward to the end of the year at Samhain is, it seems, the perfect time to think about the next steps. After all, this was the time for new contracts: perhaps a promise to bind yourself in a hand-fast; hiring for next sowing season. A time to take stock and plan. To evaluate ones values. To make commitments that will go beyond Samhain and Winter Solstice. Perhaps, to sustain you through them?
by Shane (Syre Byrd)
See Syre Byrd’s very entertaining blog – Syre Byrd’s Word Emporium – for more musings on many topics!