Rookhow, Grizedale Forest, Cumbria, UK
December 3rd 2014
Spent part of this evening at Rook How, an early 18thC Quaker Meeting House in Grizedale Forest. The room steeped in stories, scent of woodsmoke from logs burned, past and present. A time of quite reflection, smiles, handshakes, welcomes. Large log hefted into the wood burning stove and silence. Candlelit silence.
I stared at the log in the wood burner. What kind of tree was the log that was burning? Oak, I think.
This led me to recalling John Wyatt's wonderful book The Shining Levels that I read oh ages ago, when I was in my late teens, early twenties. How he spent time living in the forest.
How he knew the heft and feel of each log he burned.
Ash incense bright. Holly, hard as iron - a good back burner. Apple its scent saved for special occasions, Christmas. The log tonight was, for me, very much an elder. Not the Elder tree, no, but an elder, shaping the time we spent, sitting in silence.
At first the red glow appeared to me as a heart. Then the heart split in two, became an Owl became a tree, looked like an Ash tree. it burned and sparked, we sat in silence.
The Ash tree turned into sparks. Someone gave witness, spoke of light, mirrors, compassion and reflection.
The log on the fire, it just burned away. Turned, for me, as I watched it mesmerised, into a Bull's head. Two eyes sparked from it, until it then shapeshifted into a Wolf then a Bear and the Bear had fire sparking from one eye. One Bear eye of Ursa Major glowed red and steady. The other, pale green-yellow sparks a shower, as if sprayed from a rainbow.
I got to thinking of dark as well as light. Positive dark, I mean, not fear or terror.
But the dark that is needed. Sleep. Rest. Germination. Hibernation. The dark that is rich soil, composting ideas, allowing germs of seeds, or ideas, to come to fruition.
The log subsided onto its side. The meeting ended.
A Wing and a Prayer
Geese practice their own form of meditation
a wide-winged song
that the supplicant hands of the horse chestnut reach out
photos: Geraldine Green, Firepit Swarthmoor Hall 11th/12th November 2014; Sunrise from Birkrigg, 28th October 2014
"A Wing and a Prayer" poem from a new pamphlet collection of that name to be published by Swarthmoor Hall Spring/Summer 2015
Writer-in-Residence Swarthmoor Hall
Associate Editor Poetry Bay