Penny Reilly's Blog
September 22, 2014
When I sit to write or revise my work I am, I must confess, often distracted by the beauty of my surroundings …it’s supposed to be spring but the last few days have been cold and crisp with many little visitors …robins are always known as the harbingers of spring …not here, they turn up when we are going to receive a wee dump of snow. This year however, they arrived and have stayed, flashing puffed up red breasts to threaten each other and attract a mate. For the first time they are nesting in the hedgerows.
It’s often later here in the hills that spring arrives but as I sit today to write it’s actually a pleasant 12 degrees outside, the warmest day in some time …daffodils have opened their golden heads and the cockatoo make a bee-line for them; not to eat, just to tear the heads off for the fun of it …perhaps they look like a sulfur crest!
Grape hyacinth are flowering as too are snowdrops and soon bluebells, harebells and jonquils and freesia will be sharing space among the sycamore seedlings in the grove on the hill. The first stately Iris is ‘bursting her buds.’ for attention under the rowan. Diversity and biodiversity certainly make for an interesting view from the window …see there you are, that’s how easily I can be distracted.
Slowly unfolding, burgeoning life pushes up from the dark, wet soil …breaking through the loamy crust to uncoil silvery-green fronds…
…stretching toward the still lowering clouds, seeking, a glimpse; a sense of sunlight beneath the blanket of still wintry sky …pulling in each watery strand of light to weave within itself a new shoot, bud, leaf …flower. pushing up, bursting open …hungry leaf or thirsty petal to receive the blessing of warmth …life returns.
Sitting quietly, watching and listening, I can almost hear the rustles and creaks of unfolding nature …the odours on the south-westerly have changed; sweeter now, they speak of life not decay …the soil is still too cold to sow seeds but the new fruit trees, hawthorn and silver birch are waiting to thrust their root-fingers into the ground.
After all the rain and cold the birds are beginning their spring rituals and a flock of silent, tiny fire tails swoop as one to a puddle of rain water as it steams lightly in the weak sunshine …rare visitors to the farm they seek out the hedgerows, grown specifically for the abounding bird life that find its way to the farm.
Tap, tap, tap, on the roof, signals the return of the raven pair …the female with her silvery flash on one wing, ducks away from her mate’s enticing display of a still wriggling, bug: she’s already laid her eggs and won’t stay too long away from them.
Currawong, cuckoo shrike and kookaburra are ever ready to raid the nest for a tasty snack of egg …just as raven raids our hen’s nests at the first triumphant squawk from a layer! Nature is an opportunist and with 7 healthy ‘lay girls’ we have enough to share …in return nature gifts us rapturous mating displays; tender rearing of young, who sit in all shapes and sizes along the fence-line waiting for their food.
Somehow, at this time of year, all the harshness of the winter months simply begins to fall away …elder leaves open, cherry, hazelnut and plum begin to open their buds and sleepy bees will begin to return, humming their bee-songs to coax the nectar and pollen from the spreading blossoms …spring …slowly gently the light returns …Ostara, Spring Equinox is come and gone and life renews in a rush of …messy, noisy, boisterous …teeming life…
Deep in the spring …where the waters sing
…the source of all life can be heard on the wing
You will hear Her song …once weak now strong
…from the depths of the well …feel Her Magicks …Her spell
…in liquid drops of first dew …as all life She renews
I feel with all my senses at this time of year as the air softens with spring rain and the sap rises in all growing things …I love to listen to the sound of new leaves rustling or to the subtle ‘pop’ as a bud bursts open in coloured, fragrant wonder. At dawn there is a moment of utter stillness when clarity of sight, smell, taste and hearing, merge into one faculty; you can taste the air, see it tremble a drop of water on a curled frond of bracken and hear the thirsty suck, as the earth welcomes every living drop …be still, listen …listen for the sound of a horn, distant and haunting, calling you to drop all pretense of adulthood, to come to the dance …this is the time of year for the young and for the young at heart …dare to dream …drink it in …listen
Hear the winds calling a sultry refrain
…He’s out and about …the prelude to Beltane
He can be heard in the rustling of leaves
…sending playful reminders that tug at your sleeves
I am the essence that lives …all unseen
I am the memory of all that is green
Take up the mantle of earth’s greening time
…smell the wild’s fragrance like fresh summer wine
Come to your circle in Hawthorn arrayed
…I’ll meet you in the Greenwood where my music is made…
…blessed Spring days from Beyond the Gate …Penny
June 27, 2014
The last clinging leaves lost their tenacious grip as winter arrived. Soggy fungi dot the grasses, which, lush and green, are inclined to be on the squelchy side.We waited for winter to make an appearance through a long, balmy autumn, yearning for rain and cooler weather. Well it’s here with a vengeance …I’m wearing fingerless gloves to write!
Gale force winds have lashed the landscape with driving rain, for two weeks and there appears to be no let up. I watched a tiny robin, huddled beneath the potato planter before being blown away …righting itself with difficulty it flew sideways before managing to take refuge in our huge old Bay Laurel. The flocks of birds have all found their way there and for once there’s no squabbling as they fluff themselves up into a puff-ball to keep warm.
I must say it’s great weather for planning and writing and with Silken Web released on an unsuspecting public, other works are taking shape. Post Yule there is always so much to think about for the coming season; at present it’s more about keeping warm.
Having established the Wicking beds, at least it’s easy to harvest winter salad greens and Brassica from the fast growing crop. A quick dash outside in wellie boots and wet weather gear, results in a wonderful gathering of soup veggies. Warm curry blends with coconut milk, warm the hands (wrapped around a mug) and the innards.
We struggled this year with our Yule bonfire and few arrived to share the feast in the freezing winds.
Moon tides, fires burning …winds blow cold across the land
Inner dreams and visions glowing …bringing warmth to cold, cold hands
Winter’s darkness now approaches …moving closer on tiptoe
Go within to seek the silence …move in the cycles …ebb and flow.
David’s been building a pond …it started as a small project! Slowly but surely it’s growing to become a small lake, surrounded with wonderful rusted sculptures that create a huge sundial; well it will when the sun shines again! Raven and Kookaburra have discovered they are wonderful to sit on to watch for tasty morsels, while others cling to the slender tree tops of the silver birches close to the pond.
Most of the pieces are assembled from bits of ancient farm machinery left over from the early 19th century.
As the cold continues we can only sit tight, plug the leaks that manage to seep in under the eaves and keep warm.
It is after all perfect weather for writing …if only I could feel my fingers! Here’s a small piece from Cloak of Magick Vol 1 …this series volumes are complete in themselves with tie-ins to both current series.
This first book is set in Cornwall, a place that has many memories for me. Padarn, however is a fictitious village but certainly bares a resemblance to some of the little villages that cling to the rocky cliffs and shoreline of the wild coast.
Stir up the storm sprites
…dance on the wind
Follow the music to where Magick begins
Always remember, ‘with harm to none’
…then follow your dreams ’til they simply, ‘become’.
Padarn, the tiny Cornish village, slumbered in the green-tinged sea mist, stealthily creeping; weaving, up hills and cliff face to whitewashed doorsteps, tendrils seeking and then contracting as if to learn that all was as it should be.
Nyla Dane stirred; a draft lifted the curtains but only the frosty mist that crackled against the panes in silvery patterns, reflected, in the icy darkness. Stillness and peace; so much so, she had to pause to remember where she was, feeling after a couple of days the full effects of jetlag and stress.
Suddenly, briefly, the room lit up; car headlights she assumed, before they moved on plunging her back into darkness. Why a car should be this far down her lane way in the dead of night, who knew; there was only one house further on in the woods, according to the map.
Fumbling at the light switch beside the bed; nothing happened. She realised the storm earlier must have cut power; that or the bulb was spent. Sitting up, she rubbed eyes, gritty after too many hours at her drawing board. Her back ached, due to the poor angle of the old chair in the studio and tiredness. She swore she’d find one to replace it, better suited to the long hours of sitting in one position at desk or easel, day after day.
She felt groggy, disoriented. Somewhere by the bed, she’d seen a candle and matches; groping for them, she lit the candle. Its light brought instant life to the room. Long shadows stirred in the flicker and an almost human groan escaped from under the bedclothes. Throwing them back, she met the dark bug-eyed gaze and grinning face of her Belgian bulldog Frog, named for the obvious. Recalling the storm earlier that night, Frog, terrified of thunder had shot upstairs and under the bed, later to sneak beneath the quilt, curling at her feet while she slept. She couldn’t scold Frog, knowing herself all about fear, albeit not of storms. Frog, fearing admonishment rolled over to reveal her pink and black speckled belly in a coy offering; large ears fell back, making her look bat-faced – a cutely grinning gargoyle, Nyla couldn’t resist her at the best of times.
‘Come on then,’ she said to Frog, rubbing the proffered, silky skinned belly, ‘outside for a quick run.’ Nyla was amazed that Molly had let Frog go so easily. Given to her by one of her lovers, Molly had no real affinity with animals. Frog was not put out by the arrival of Nyla, who gushed over her cuteness. They both had the best end of the deal, although Nyla hadn’t actually known Frog was a part of it. She’d arrived to find the little dog sitting on the doorstep dejectedly, a bow around her neck with a tag that read, ‘My name’s Frog and I’m yours now.’ Goodness knows what would have happened to Frog if Nyla had delayed her arrival, particularly as she’d considered a short visit to her Grandmother who lived in Glastonbury. She’d changed her mind only at the last minute, feeling positively hung-over; a combination of jet lag, after the long flight from Australia three days ago and hours of stress that led her to make the journey. She wouldn’t think of that now.
Stretching leaden limbs, she searched around with her feet for the slippers she knew were there, unless of course ‘The Frog’ had stolen them. As she scuffed around again with bare toes, she felt several brief darts of pain in her instep. Yelping, she admonished the dog but Frog was still on the bed, feigning sleep. Frog was not a morning person.
Nyla thought of the spiders of her homeland and rubbing her foot, laughed at her own fears. ‘I’m in the Isles now,’ she said aloud, applying the phrase her friend Molly used to describe the British Isles. ‘there’re no deadly ones here.’ Frog’s response was a small wriggle of her body, hopeful that Nyla would forget the earlier statement of ‘outside’.
Lifting her foot to the edge of the bed, she brought the candle closer to inspect the damage; tiny red bite marks were visible on the tender skin of her instep. She brought the other foot up rapidly, less it too should be attacked and rolling, she hung over the side of the bed, peering into the gloom. An audible squeak of surprise, at the invasion of candlelight, brought Frog to her feet and under the bed in a movement, elegant for such a short stocky creature.
Nyla caught a brief glimpse of something small and scruffy-looking, scampering off through the dust bunnies; she vowed to ‘get to’ later to clean. Frog’s excited yips echoed in the stillness as the creature disappeared through a small hole in the corner of the skirting. ‘…and I’ll get to you too,’ she said, rubbing her foot.
Seeing the slippers she’d been searching for pushed up under the night-stand, she slipped into them, wincing at the piercing stab of pain the pressure brought on the bites. Nyla limped to the light switch, no power.
Swearing loudly, she vowed to check fuses and the solar power unit as soon as daylight made its appearance. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was only four-thirty; daylight was still hours away in the UK late autumn, and groaned. Wide awake now, cold and disgruntled, she made her way downstairs; candle held in a somewhat shaky hand, the flickering light drew caricature shadow images on the wall as she limped along.
‘Come on Frog,’ she called and Frog reluctantly obeyed, stopping to sniff the air before waddling awkwardly after Nyla. The resulting shadow play on the wall brought a grin to Nyla’s tired face.
Slender and willowy; boyish her mother called her, when comparing her own Rubenesque figure to Nyla’s slender frame. She was a little underweight after the stress of the past months; years even. At 29 Nyla had lived a lifetime of someone much older and was luckily, not only a survivor but also a person who learnt from what life handed out.
This time, after a number of strange and disturbing experiences mostly due to a poor choice in men she’d decided to make a fresh start in a country she loved but only rarely visited. When her Grandmother had held her fifty-ninth birthday gathering, sending her a ticket to come to the celebrations, Nyla had fallen head over heels in love with ‘The Isles’.
She’d questioned her grandmother then, ‘Why 69 and not 70?’
‘Well,’ Rose had replied, ‘it’s the birthday before a new decade begins that we start worrying about it, so why not celebrate the year before and then there’s no stress when the new decade comes around.’
Nyla had laughed at her grandma’s quirky logic as the truth hit home; now at 29, she was already worrying about turning 30. She stopped at the foot of the stairs, realising she’d laughed out loud, almost tripping over Frog who’d stopped suddenly; her sharp bark echoed in the empty, dark hallway.
Grinning to herself, she found her way to the kitchen and the oil lamp, suspended above the table. The friendly, brightly painted kitchen sprung to life and she congratulated herself for having the foresight to bring a large basket of wood in for ‘The Beast’; she’d christened the huge fuel stove at first sight. It lurked, bright red and shiny in a hearth big enough to house it, plus an equally red, leather chair, softened by warmth and its previous owner Molly’s, curvy frame. It yelled ‘sit here’; she promised herself that evening she would.
Opening the valves and chimney damper, caused The Beast to throb and the kettle to hum to life. Nyla sighed with tiredness but also relief as the feeling of coming home flooded her senses.
It had been a long journey and she’d made a huge decision, making a bid for freedom, from a city that no longer had the Magick it once held. After her friend Molly, deciding to move to Australia, put her little cottage on the market, craving the sunshine of a more temperate climate, Nyla had taken immediate action. They’d been to school and uni together all those years ago and Nyla had been devastated when Molly chose to return to the UK to further her studies and to write her thesis on the use of psychotropic plants in ancient cultures.
After selling an inordinate amount of her artwork at her last show, Nyla accepted a commission to paint pieces for a show right here in the Cornwall countryside. With book rights to follow, she would be working with a renowned Cornish poet and lyricist Gerry Mall. This ‘coincidence’ had astounded her and she’d encouraged Molly to stay. They could catch up with the missing years between and enjoy each other’s company but Molly refused adamantly and so Nyla made her an offer for the cottage, which, she’d snapped up instantly.
‘I’m so cold,’ Molly had moaned, ‘I think the very marrow in my bones is snap frozen; it’s not natural.’
Nyla had offered Molly her little garden flat in the suburbs of Melbourne, now on the market but Molly, thanking her, had declined. ‘No still too cold in winter. I need to find warmth and humidity great enough to fry my brains.’
They’d always joked that Molly’s naturally olive complexion, when compared with Nyla’s alabaster skin, meant they’d been swapped at birth; Nyla loved a cool climate as much as Molly craved heat.
Nyla had suggested the Byron Bay area. Molly squealed with delight at the prospect of rolling breakers on sandy beaches, while ignoring warnings of sharks, jellyfish, leeches, spiders, sand flies, mosquitoes and snakes, with a dismissive wave of her hand. Molly had always been the adventurous one and the alternative, ‘green’ community around the region would suit her down to the ground.
Merely three weeks later, Molly arrived in Australia, just as Nyla touched down in Bristol. Nyla meandered her way in the classic, old VW; Molly had left at the airport as part of the deal, to the little coastal town of Padarn.
In turn, Molly had scored a one-off opportunity for such a young Graduate Professor, to teach plant anthropology at Lismore Uni, close to the area Nyla had suggested.
Sad at not being able to catch up with Molly in Australia before leaving, Nyla wondered if their planes had passed in the sky. Now she contented herself with reading a diary left for her and colourful sticky-notes throughout, instructing her on the care of the little dog Frog, foibles of the plumbing, ‘The Beast’ and richly painted word-portraits of the locals and the mysterious, ‘dark man of the woods’; a legend, Molly wrote she thought Nyla would enjoy delving into for her work.
Nyla was legendary for her depictions of landscapes that appeared simply that, until one looked deeper to find them alive with small creatures from fantasy realms. As a kid at school, she’d regaled the other children with tales of fantasy and faerie folk.
She wondered then as her thoughts wandered, why she hadn’t heard from her friend yet. With no mobile signal available, she was reliant on a landline not yet reconnected but Molly would be aware of that. Shivering, a sudden chill raised the hairs at the nape of her neck. She wondered who would let her use their phone but then, the post office would be bound to have a public one.
Bringing herself back to the moment Nyla yawned, stretching long arms she called to Frog, who was exploring behind the chair on the hearth for spidery morsels, to come for the promised run before breakfast. Frog gave an audible groan at the prospect, before following her mistress to the back door. It was like stepping into an icy wall, so cold Nyla almost regretted her decision to leave her warm homeland.
Little hairs on her arms rose as showers of goosebumps covered them. Pulling down the sleeves of the long t-shirt she wore to sleep, she reached for an old oilskin left on a hook inside the mudroom, together with a pair of ancient wellies, a hat and gloves. Grateful; she slipped into them, feeling the weight of the oilskin bring warmth to her shivering limbs.
‘I might have to buy you a coat,’ she said to Frog who was shivering in the crisp air dejectedly. ‘Come on, off you go. The sooner you do what you need to, the sooner we’ll get brekkie.’ Nyla stood quietly while Frog ran out into the wet and back in a flash, to wait at the door impatiently.
Quiet; but for the sounds of dripping trees and gutters, gushing water in the down pipes and from the brook not far away behind the house; she hurried back inside. Rubbing Frog down with an old towel, she realised how remote the cottage actually was, although the village was a mere three miles away, in that moment it seemed like a hundred. She’d looked forward to exploring the woods and fields around the cottage and Molly’s garden too; sure it would be spectacular, given her knowledge of plants. Her own love of same had led her to make a beautiful garden at the little flat in Melbourne she thought with a pang, wondering if the next owner would love it as she had. If she missed anything most, it was her garden studio, a converted shed, light and airy.
Perhaps a bike ride to the village for stores would lift her spirits; she’d noticed a rather lovely ‘girly bike’ in the shed but in this freezing wet mist, it would probably have to be the car, at least until she knew her way around. Her stocks were low, only having brought a few food essentials on the way in. Pausing a moment longer, she could smell wood smoke on the damp air and the rich aroma of leaf mulch rose from under foot, further lifting her mood from one of familiar sadness.
Moving back into the now warm, inviting kitchen, Nyla poked the embers, adding sweet-smelling, apple wood that lifted the crackle to a roaring flame. Placing a heavy skillet on to heat with a little oil, she beat eggs and chopped a few herbs for a breakfast omelette.
With familiar tasks like slicing bread for toast and putting a noisy percolator of coffee on to bubble the room soon filled with sound, warmth and homely odours. She put kibble down for the little dog, much to Frogs’ disgust as she eyed the plate of egg and toast, sniffing the air in appreciation.
‘I’m watching your figure for you,’ Nyla grinned, someone’s got too or you’d be as round as a piglet. Frog trotted to her bowl, eating delicately, her backed turned to Nyla as if snubbing her for the slight to her rounded little belly.
Nyla made herself comfortable on the lovely old, squishy leather chair by the stove, placed so that toes could be warmed on the hearth, large enough to curl up in, which she did sighing contentedly.
Then her feet hit the leather and she yelped as her instep made contact. A characteristic little frown wrinkled the skin between her eyebrows; she gingerly removed her sock to inspect what was now a red and very swollen instep.
‘Drat,’ Frog raised her head to look at her. ‘That really hurts.’ The wound was already looking evilly infected and she’d yet to unpack antiseptic creams or dressings; in fact she couldn’t remember where she’d put them.
Putting her breakfast aside, she hobbled to the bathroom to see if Molly had left anything of use in the cabinet. Nothing; using initiative she made a cold compress with a pack of frozen peas and a tea towel, wincing again at the pain. At least she’d never heard of rabies in mice, she chuckled despite the pain, deciding to keep a positive attitude. Later, she’d drive to the pharmacy for some advice; she might need some antibiotics. Although loath to use anything chemical, she knew there were times when it was appropriate.
Sitting down again, she finished her breakfast, ready to get on with the day; it would take time to acclimatise to the morning darkness. Her foot throbbed sharply and then subsided, the ice doing its work.
Standing to take her plate to the sink, her hand slid over the chair between armrest and seat, encountering something that rustled at her touch. She pulled out a piece of crumpled paper, another note from Molly, she imagined. Stuffing it in her pocket to read later, she went about her day.
Blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny
Tagged: Australia, Frog, Glastonbury, Nyla Dane
May 11, 2014
…Autumn days mean everything becomes gold and red …the morning and evening sun has spikes of jewel like colour and the moon holds a red halo wrapped tightly around her, declaring the mist and frost of the night. Harvest is done and the pantry is stocked, chestnuts gifted by friends await their transformation into ‘maroni’ or into an interesting nutty-spiced soup with a kick that I’ve yet to try …but soon I think!
Tiny bright red strawberries still flourish and the last raspberries are ripening. So much colour; I’m greedy to drink it all in …my favourite time of year is right now this moment and the next…
…the ghost of autumn lingers on …the scratching of leaves …a whispered bird song …but she waits in the night …breathe her scent, feel her might, …in the lightning storm …at the cold edge of dawn, …in the rumbling thunder …hold your breath don’t go under; …for fear’s not the way …it will flee before day …winter’s here …so is She …where the frost giants play
Chestnut and Sherry Soup
1 3/4 pounds fresh chestnuts
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 whole sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
2 1/4 cups white wine
1 1/4 cups dry sherry
2 quarts plus 2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For truffle garnish:
2/3 cup truffle juice
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 teaspoons chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Using chestnut knife or sharp paring knife, make large X on flat side of each chestnut through shell but not meat. Soak chestnuts in bowl of warm water to cover by 2 inches for 15 minutes; drain well. Arrange chestnuts in 1 layer in shallow baking pan, then roast in middle of oven until shells curl away at X mark, about 15 minutes. Wearing protective gloves, peel away shells from chestnuts while still hot. In large pot boiling water, blanch chestnuts 2 minutes, then drain. Using kitchen towel, rub chestnuts to remove skins. Coarsely chop and reserve.
In large stock pot over moderately high heat, heat butter until melted. Add garlic, shallots, leeks, and celery and sauté until very soft, about 8 minutes. Add thyme, bay leaf, and chestnuts. Cook, stirring occasionally until chestnuts are golden brown and aromatic, about 10 minutes. Add white wine and bring to boil, then reduce until no liquid remains, 15 to 18 minutes. Add 3/4 cup sherry and bring to boil, then reduce until almost no liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to moderately low and continue cooking until chestnuts fall apart very easily, about 1 1/2 hours (If chestnuts are not completely cooked, the finished soup will be gritty.) Remove from heat and remove thyme and bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup sherry and honey. Working in batches, transfer to blender and blend until smooth. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into clean pot. Stir in salt and pepper and keep warm.
Make truffle garnish:
In heavy 2-quart pot over moderately high heat, bring truffle juice to boil, then lower heat and reduce by 1/4, about 5 minutes. Add butter and sherry and continue cooking until butter is melted, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk until frothy, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, use hand blender to froth.) Stir in chives, salt, and pepper.
Divide soup into shallow soup bowls. Place 1 tablespoon truffle garnish in center of each bowl. Serve immediately.
Maroni …Chestnut Paste
1 3/4 pounds raw chestnuts
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla
To roast the chestnuts: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut an “X” into the flat side of each chestnut shell. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan with a lip. Roast until shells begin to peel back, about 15-20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes to cool. Peel shells and let chestnuts cool completely.
To make the sweetened chestnut puree: In a medium saucepan, bring chestnuts, sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25-35 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Strain the chestnuts, reserving the liquid. Blend chestnuts in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add as much syrup as necessary to make the desired consistency through the food chute while the processor is running. Let cool completely before refrigerating.
It may be time-consuming but the resulting chestnut paste is delicious and can be used in desserts, cakes and biscuits…
…and then there’s the pumpkin harvest …oh yessss …wonderful things can be done with them …apart from carving the out and creating scary faces to chase away the spirits of winter to come…
..blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny
April 18, 2014
Despite the cold bees are still busy about the place and the air is alive with their buzzing song, luring me into a meditative state as I work, weeding strawberry and herb beds. New Wicking beds have been put in place; I filled them to bursting with winter vegetables and herbs. They will save my back when weeding (and grazing for goodies too).
We have yet to see the first frost but this week it feels as if it’s not far away, as the nights draw in and we light the fire again.
Since last I posted my fourth book has hit the shelves and I feel refreshed to have a little time to myself, to garden and to consider the next volumes. There’s interest been shown in a volume of poetry I’m putting together; something different from my Urban Fantasy but something I enjoy immensely and then there’s the new series ‘brewing’; I really love this time of year as the creative juices flow freely for me.
Equinox is passed already and soon my favourite New Year festival, Samhain will be here; I can feel the earth tremors as the Wild Hunt ride out in my psyche, overflowing into my dreams as usual and onto the ‘digital pages’ of my new creation Cloak of Magick Volume 1, Song to a Green Moon. I’ll keep everyone guessing a while on where this series will be heading.
…and so the wheel turns again and Celtic New year is just a couple of weeks away… how the time flies…
…the Fae speak…
…what strange creatures …how locked in and sad
…their world is composed of good versus bad
…can’t they see that everything really ‘just is’
…they get themselves in an inordinate tizz
…we love to watch as they move with such care
…frightened to fall and of the smallest scare
…so as Samhain approaches we watch with such glee
…we don’t wish to frighten, we’re not scary you see
…we watch through the windows on the threads of the web
…there are some who can see us as the moon-tides ebb
…don’t fear us we’re friendly but cross us please not
…or some things may go missing; some who dared, forgot
…we abide by our word and are always quite fair
…you will know when you’ve crossed us …if you dare to …beware…
Here’s a chapter for you from Silver’s Threads Book 1, Spinning Colours Darkly that underscores the reasons why the Fae are not to be meddled with, without the clear realisation that a price will always be enacted for favours given or wrongs done.
Chapter 45: Mabon Rite
…She is everywhere …including in you …Her rocks are your bones, Her skin, your flesh …Her watery tides your fluid lymph and blood …Her fiery heart your pulsing organs …no separation exists, except in your mind …let go and flow into Her …breath with Her …breath as She breaths …just let go
…extract from Wytchwise…Arianwen Isil’Lindir.
The weekend passed in a blur of activity for everyone. Cal and Morgan found themselves caught up in the excitement of ‘earthly rites,’ as their individual talents unfolded and they found a niche for themselves that went beyond mere coincidence.
Both Cal and Max were used to research and so they made themselves useful, finding any indications through myth and history, that made mention of the situation that was unfolding for them all and the connections that had drawn them together.
Morgan spent time with Bethan as they practised music, with Maeve to help her with the mystery of the fractured crystal shard and with Tara as he continued his own lessons in shape shifting. He showed himself to be a great cook and so helped Flora, or whoever else had put their hand up to prepare meals for the group, as they started to bond and spend more and more time together while they planned for the Samhain Rite in just over six weeks’ time.
Monday was a day off, so with a skeleton team to run the business and take bookings for the following weekend, they had some free time. Tara put in an appearance in her usual way in a flurry of feathers, black silk and lace, catching up on the events of the previous months.
Max was making preparations for the old stables at Bethan’s to be made over and was in the process of moving some of his things into storage in a dry shed at Flora’s. Cal and Morgan had found a house to share rent and so were gathering bits and pieces together to settle for the duration, the blow up mattresses being a somewhat uncomfortable arrangement for two large men.
Bethan had been spinning, weaving beautiful wraps, and cloaks, for orders placed as winter approached.
Maeve, still having difficulty with the shattered shard, had stopped trying for the moment and all had been still in her water cauldron of late, so instead she was working on a secret gift for Bethan for her coming birthday.
Flora continued with the farm and her own work, while Sam disappeared for hours on end whenever she could, to write and draw as the dreams strengthened, and the beautiful etchings on her skin took on deeper colour and more life each day.
Only a week had passed since the opening and yet they had become a team. Cal had taken leave from his work at Uni on the pretence of research and Morgan, after speaking with his sister Lily, had arranged she look after Honey as long as possible to which she had been delighted to agree. Ruark however had had other ideas, arriving with Tara the day before and taking up residence at Grove Street, much to Maeve’s surprise. The large Raven had taken a fancy to the mantelpiece in her studio to roost on and refused to budge when Morgan had called her to come home with him.
Now they were ready, a picnic and some offerings in baskets, camping chairs and a table all packed in Flora’s big four-wheel drive; they all squeezed in for the drive to the Mount.
Mabon, Autumn Equinox, when day and night are of equal length and the harvest of apples, pears and the like, were ready. Tara had said she would meet them there and Claire had said she would try to put in an appearance too.
The Mount was abuzz with activity as people found a spot to put up tents if they were staying overnight and the organisers of the public rite were setting up the Altar, cleansing the boundaries of the circle in preparation.
Bethan felt edgy and could see the wee folk gathering but along with them was an air of dark. Morgan could feel it too and they exchanged glances…Maeve didn’t know what she was feeling and wandered off for a walk, before the light went …glancing at Morgan as she left, a little sulkily.
‘You need to speak with her,’ said Bethan, ‘she’s getting the wrong idea about us.’
‘Why would that bother her Bethan?’ he asked innocently with a little smile.
‘Oh you know as well as I do that the two of you are strongly attracted, even though they do say opposites attract,’ she quipped, ‘There’s too much else unfolding for sexual tension to be an issue,’ she finished.
‘Well, you cut straight to the point don’t you!’ Morgan laughed, ‘But yes I hear what you’re saying but I can’t really make that sort of suggestion to her straight, off can I now?’
At that, Bethan, her laughter ringing out bright and clear, was unaware of Aerandir and Aelish Sensarrius, standing in the gloom of the cedar grove or that Maeve paused, looking back as she heard Morgan and Bethan laughing together, as if at a private joke. She had never experienced the feeling of jealousy before and it was fuelled by the sound of Bethan’s laughter and the rumbling response from Morgan as they set up the chairs and table.
Aithlin Farandir also stood observing the preparations, shaking his head at the silliness of humankin…this group so advanced when compared to many on their spiritual path and yet so naive in their day-to-day relationships, he sighed.
Just at that moment, a bell sounded calling the first signal for final preparations before the start of the rite. Two Ravens arrived noisily announcing their presence from the branch of an old Redwood. Maeve immediately sprinted back, to be handed a robe to throw on, the others following suit.
After a few moments a low pulsing, drumming began and all moved to around the periphery of the circle. Annie and her coven walked, with no little pomp and ceremony, taking up position within the circle of watchers. Many children were present running and enjoying their freedom until, with a scowl, Annie brought them up short, causing them to run back to their parents in a hurry.
‘Charming!’ whispered Maeve, ‘Since when were children not allowed to enjoy the Sabbats?’ she questioned. To her surprise, Morgan simply took her hand and she felt a surge of peaceful energy, radiating from him and relaxed. He kept hold of her hand for a moment longer than was necessary, smiling at her surprise.
Annie cast the circle, four of her conveners calling the elemental quarters, before she took centre stage again.
A hush fell as the Harvest moon rose gracefully above the trees and a gasp went up as they saw that it was blood red. A shiver went through the crowd and a sigh, as the Dark Fae Aelish stepped from the shelter of the forest, with Aerandir in tow.
‘It’s him,’ said Bethan to Samantha, ‘he’s the one you drew and who keeps appearing in the forest and in my dreams.’
Max went to move forward but halted at the arrival of Aithlin behind him, whispering a few words in his ear. He stopped and visibly relaxed at Aithlin’s gentle insistence he let things play out, as they must.
Annie Savage, positively simpering with pleasure at the attendance of these otherworldly beings, stepped forward and about to open a doorway in the energy of her cast circle, gaped in surprise as they simply stepped through for them, the non-existent barrier. Regaining herself quickly she greeted them formally, thanking them for their attendance. A silence had fallen over the crowd and their eyes glazed over, as the spell was cast, that they not remember what they were witnessing, Flora, Maeve and the others being the exception to this, due to the influence of Aithlin’s quiet presence.
Flora glanced across the fire lit clearing and was sure this time that she saw her father standing watching on the other side of the circle. She made to move toward him but again Aithlin stopped anyone from moving. Above him, she noticed in a tree was a white owl, perched looking with fixed focus at the scene.
With a wave of his hand, all was silent as he strode across the circle and approached the Dark Fae. ‘The elders are waiting Aerandir Sensarrius, do you dare ignore their summons?’ he said quietly. ‘Come now and your embarrassment will be spared in front of these humankin or I can just as easily remove the spell that hides you from their sight,’ raising his hand again.
The glade filled with tall stately silver haired Fae, two taking hold of an arm each, which Aerandir shook off with distain.
‘And you Arwen Aelish what are you doing here leading this weak one astray?’ indicating Annie.
‘She needed no leading,’ Aelish smirked, ‘she is a lowly sycophant, nothing more nothing less, who craves the attention of her betters.’
‘All the more reason for you to have a care then,’ Aithlin replied harshly, ‘Take them away,’ he said, and then to Aelish, ‘Be thankful the Forest Lord is not present here tonight,’ then turning he smiled at Bethan and bowed and with a curt nod to the others, was gone …the sound of music followed him.
With the withdrawal of the Fae the stillness was broken, movement returning to the frozen tableau of people as if nothing had happened.
The seven watchers released their indrawn breath as one, exchanging perturbed looks at what they’d witnessed.
Annie continued the rather pompous and over-done performance as if she were the queen of the Wytches herself; even her tried and true acolytes somewhat skittish at the pageantry she displayed.
‘What have we done employing her,’ snorted Maeve, ‘that wasn’t a Harvest Rite that was pure ‘dress-ups,’ she said with disgust. I know it’s not for us to judge another’s rituals but that was beyond all recognition for Mabon, which I understood was all about balance and equality on all levels,’ she finished, with a scowl.
The crowd dispersed slowly to their camp-sites and seats to ready the food for the shared feast. There was no real air of celebration however and the tension was palpable, ‘Something’s not right,’ the majority agreed. ‘Where was the sharing of the festival?’ and ‘what’s got into Annie Savage?’ they wanted to know.
The mood lightened as a group of musicians gathered, Bethan and Morgan being the first to approach to say hello, bringing lap harp and lute with them. Music always breaks the tension; this evening was no exception, as the motley crew played jigs and reels with foot stomping enthusiasm and the evening wore on with shared food and mead flowing, while children slept and the music slowed to a gentler tone. Couples danced and groups chatted, catching up on the weeks between the festivals and shared friendships were rekindled.
Morgan and Bethan played a haunting lullaby for the children as they stirred restlessly, caught in the feelings of the unknown ‘something’ that had visited earlier,
‘…sleep little ones sleep, while the Fae their watch keep …do not stir, do not peep …go to sleep …go to sleep…
…and in sleep you may dance and sing with the moon …listen …hear the sweet gentle cry of the loon
…they will sing you a lullaby …a sweet, haunting tune.
…sleep little ones sleep, while the Fae their watch keep …do not stir, do not peep …go to sleep …go to sleep…
…be at rest, be at ease …snuggled deep in your fleece …the Lady comes quietly …be at peace …be at peace…
…sleep little ones sleep, while the Fae their watch keep …do not stir, do not peep …go to sleep …go to sleep…
…feel Her hand clasping yours like a soft, well-worn glove …feel Her warmth, Her tenderness …feel Her love …feel Her love.
‘…sleep little ones sleep, while the Fae their watch keep …do not stir, do not peep …go to sleep …go to sleep…
…She will take all your cares and the fears of the day …for just as She watched through the hours of your play
…She will watch o’er your dreaming ‘til night slips away,’
The Lady soothed them and the wee folk came to play in their dreaming.
Flora drew a circle of protection around the quietening group as they sat together enjoying the harvest moon and the stillness of the night.
Bethan took a break from playing, wandering off from the group a little, she sat, watching entranced, as a few Makers appeared through a doorway at the base of an old oak tree. They came to cleanse after the awkwardness of the rite…their humankin not realising that a rite without cohesion left gaps in the area’s energy, inviting all kinds of negativity to the sacredness of the space.
Another group appeared accompanied by Silver who looked a little more recovered, the gap in her energy still holding the dark but held in stasis by the healer Makers.
Silver drifted over to Bethan to where she sat under the trees.
‘Greetings Arianwen,’ she sang, ‘it is time to walk the inner paths with me a while.’
‘What do you mean? I’ve just begun to unwind a little from the weeks just gone; this is a celebration after all.’
‘This is just for a few hours, mere minutes in your time-line. There are things for you to see that will make your journey clearer from now on.’
‘What do I have to do; I need to tell the others and…’
‘They will simply see you sitting here child enjoying the night, you will be back before they look for you. Now come, take my hand,’ Silver stretched out her hand to Bethan and she took it hesitantly.
Max happened to glance over to see Bethan talking to something, someone, he could not see. He moved to go to her but found a hand placed on his shoulder by Morgan, who was looking intently at something beyond Bethan and beyond Max’s sight.
‘It’s okay Max, Bethan’s talking to the most beautiful being; I think it must be Silver from all of the previous descriptions I’ve heard,’ said Morgan.
‘It is,’ whispered Maeve.
At that Silver looked at them directly, raising a finger to her lips and singing a few notes, she vanished to them, only Bethan could see her. Once more taking Bethan’s hand, she took her into the tree, down deep into its roots, to a chamber full of the aroma of mould and rich, decaying leaves.
From the chamber, a rivulet from an underground source flowed, its trickling, watery movement bright yet soothing to eyes, and dabbling hands. Bethan sighed with quiet relief as she relaxed back securely into the root bowl of the ancient tree.
‘Be at ease little one, there is one who would speak with you here,’ and at that Silver bowed and withdrew and Bethan waited curiously for who would come, a secret longing inside that it be Hercurin.
Instead, from out of the gloom stepped a being of such intense beauty that Silver paled in comparison …Arianrhod Goddess of the silvery moon-tides, patron of music and the weaving arts and indeed, a weaver of life.
Bethan gasped aloud in awe, bowing her head in reverence and respect that the Lady stood before her here.
‘Arianwen Isil’Lindir, listen there is much that you must know and time, in human understanding, is short …come,’ reaching out she tapped Bethan sharply on her brow, opening her third eye beyond anything she’d experienced before. She was overwhelmed by the amount of information that was coming at her at once.
‘Be assured Arianwen, We would not give you more than you can handle at a time,’ said Arianrhod, calling on the Makers to assist Bethan to collate all the information into an understandable form; they whispered to her in a chorus, of sweet melodies.
‘We are other aspects of you who have risen above the time-space continuum through completion of tasks set and agreed on in this physical realm. Together we make up all the composite parts of Silver Trueshaper. When their tasks are complete all of the Trueshapers combined become avatars, parts of a realised being; as you call them Goddess …in turn, each of them are an aspect of Great Goddess …the ‘All Encompassing One,’’ their song became discordant as they continued, Arianrhod soothing them that they continue.
‘At this time on Her beauteous planet, Her jewel in this universe, there is strife and grief that has caused great damage, not just to Humankin but to other ancient races of being and to some of us, the Makers of this realm too. One of us fell and many others are falling, causing a blight that has taken hold of the etheric realms of the Fae altering them and as the veils thin toward Samhain, it will affect your world in turn. The blight came about through one Maker experiencing the pollution and fear of this world, which has in turn altered the flow through Ungwe the Web of Life and therefore the Great Mother, known by many names to your race. We call her Anu, some Danu …Mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann …the children or tribes of Danu, from which you yourself originate, through your bloodline.
The Littleshape Sybille is lost, as you know. Everything possible is in operation to find her and bring her back that she may complete her journey. In so doing she will merge her consciousness with that of her Trueshaper Silver that they may renew finally on the Skeins of Tyme. However, there are now other energies in play that have altered Ungwe that only Great Mother knows the why or how of and this is affecting you directly as your energy is ‘quickened.’ We do not know the reasons for these changes but we are here to assist you in any way that we can. Be at peace Littleshape Bethan for you are in truth becoming more than any dreamed a Halfling could be …walk with the Lady and be blessed …Arianwen Isil’Lindir …Lady Silver Moonsinger, Spellsinger in the making,’ and with that they fell silent and Bethan was given a mere moment to try to understand the truth of their song.
Again, Arianrhod stood before, her looking deep within her soul and said,
‘We will lend you strength when you falter, words when all words fail, honesty when you would rather be kinder than the truth will be and a love that knows no bounds,’ and turned to leave, with a smile of such beauty, Bethan cried tears of pure joy.
Pausing again for a moment reflectively, as if considering Bethan, She said,
‘This really isn’t something I should interfere with Arianwen but keep your enemies close, they are dangerous in their arrogance,’ and with that was gone; bell-like voices sang her away.
Bethan leaned against the roots of the great Tree, the back of her head resting against soft warm-scented mosses and lichen. She could see and sense differently; could hear the waters from the sacred spring being drawn up through the root system and could taste the bonding of water as it merged and became sap in the great energy network within …she became one with the vastness and beauty of Danu’s Birthing Tree.
She was jolted rudely back to awareness by a tug on her braid, ‘What in…’ and found herself staring into the grinning face of Tara in a half human half raven form …a small woman with dark wings unfurled …wrapped around them as a shield from prying eyes,
‘Welcome back from the realms of the Earth Mother little sisterkin …soon now we begin our journey to bring Sybille home.’
She kissed Bethan on her forehead and tickled her with feathers of musky scents …vanilla or caramel …and smiling said,
‘Come you must eat now. Nothing will ever be the same again but this is a wondrous thing indeed. Oh how I love adventures,’ she finished, handing Bethan warm honey and nut cakes and it was as if she had never tasted anything like it before in her entire life,
‘I want to dance now,’ she said, leaping to her feet…to see Tara disappear with a chuckle and Hercurin step from the tree to take her hand in the dance.
‘Just for tonight,’ he said, ‘we’ll dance and when day dawns you will know that all is changed indeed. In the Mother’s name be blessed Arianwen.’
…blessings from Beyond the Gate where Samhain is on the wind …Penny
March 7, 2014
…the mists clear mid-morning and the air remains fresh; the sun holds the bite of March …along with the March-flies, whose bite can stop you in your tracks …they are ferocious this year…
…I can sleep at night; the mists roll back in by sunset …Saturn has been a beacon in the night-sky; so close it’s like a huge candle, flaring unexpectedly from behind the clouds…
…my favourite time, when autumn gives subtle hints of cold to come …cattle can be heard across the fields as they call to each other; low, full, bellows …young kangaroo bucks make practice runs, ‘play fighting’ for spring, when the call of the mating season comes around again and they gather females to them in small mobs…
…as the wheel spins, I watch the fresh from the pouch joeys, grow to mini-size; playful children, cuffed by their mother for unruly behavior…
…the local Kookaburra return every year, this time with three adolescents …they are heavy and the young silver birches take their weight with ease, bowing down gracefully to the earth …flexible in their strength…
…a harsh summer, yet still the hedgerows give their harvest to us abundantly …we always leave enough for the birds and animals that share the land… there are few creatures that totally strip a plant and leave nothing for others… only humans…
…luscious red orbs and bells are now forming in the greenhouse; tomato and tiny capsicum ripen and trailing vines of pumpkin and cucumber vie for place on the trellis …snow peas send winding green tendrils up between them; their juicy capsules ready to bite into …few make it in to the kitchen…
…this years crop of alpine strawberries has been small until now …just a little moisture and they swell with shy pride, hiding beneath their canopy of green… it’s a battle for who gets there first, Pip the Terrier …the Currawong, the Raven or us… they may be tiny but the burst of flavour on the tongue is like no other…
…I love to wander in the morning mist …when the scent of moss is known to drift …on a wistful wind or in watery drops …as the season changes…turns again …never stops …to think of housework or any mess that’s made …by potatoes dug …from earth to blade …or the dew-drenched berries from a hanging vine …quench the thirst …feed the body …their taste sublime …leaving blue-red stains on hands and face as the season turns again …picking up the pace …slippery sliding down, into places dark …as the birds fly on and the trilling lark …sings one last song as she sails for home …on the winds of change …across earthy loam …as the cycle spins again and the year is spent ….then Lammas is just one last lament…
…blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny
February 9, 2014
…when the first harvest is done I usually feel a slight relief that the heat of summer will soon be over …after a long winter and spring, summer hit with enormous heat and power, with much of our state dried and seared. I always think we are so blessed, here on our cool climate hills …this year so far we have been spared the fires but the heat has been an aberration …and yet …the scent of eucalyptus oils, warm and spicy fills the air and the dusty pollen of fog grass, adds a strange other-worldly view to the scene …it’s like looking through a pale yellow cloud…
…slim pickings from the garden as really, only the tomatoes want to make an effort to show off and without rain, soft fruits shrivel on the hedgerows and so days of constant alertness test the adrenals and we long for a cooling shower or two …and yet this is part of the Australian country life now…
…autumn is making her way slowly as elderberries ripen on the old elder trees …plums begin to colour up and within the month, juicy fruits will grace our table in rich, dark red and burgundy harvest …golden flowers of cucumber, and pumpkin are definitely showing off in the hot-house, they simply close their petals tight and sit it out, waiting for a spray of water night and morning …I love doing this and the chookhens love it too, when I spray their quince trees spreading boughs and they run clucking for droplets of water and any bugs that may have been dislodged from their tenuous hold on slippery leaves…
…I can smell the damp in the early morning air, despite the lack of rain and as another heat soaked day dawns… my favourite time of year approaches, when walks in the surrounding country side are full of wonder …fat mushrooms will soon burst from rotting tree trunks and in dark loamy leaf fall, under wide-spreading trees …it’s the smell I love …Pine mushrooms will be there for the taking and blackberries will plump up with night-time moisture again…
…this year, too many little birds have fallen down our chimney …too many wombats have contracted deadly mange and our own hens and pets have lain, somnambulist’s in the coolest, shadiest spots available …at times I could easily have joined them but writing keeps my mind off the heat and immersed in tales of other cooler climbs.
…waiting is the hardest thing when I’m ready to move on to other things …selling the business, the building and moving full-time into writing and teaching; in the heat of summer if can feel as though the day will never come …and yet it will …soon enough…
Book 4 of my Silver’s Threads series is almost complete …then comes the patience of editing and production …a little poetry volume is almost ready to go and my non-fiction has a nibble from an interested source in the UK …everything at this time of year is about waiting …the days are long but already the light is fading earlier and sunrise later …patience at least is one of my strong points…
…first harvest is over; we move through the cycles and the Wheel turns again …after Lammas, we begin the gentle slide into days of swirling amber leaves and chill dew drops turn to frost…
Lammas is past, the day’s drawing in
A sweet wind prevails, blowing soft on your skin.
Early morning dewdrops, bare toes caress
Nature looks inward, with no sign of distress
She spins in Her cycles, in ebb and in flow
There’s no thought of, ‘I’m dying’,
She simply let’s go…
As leaves, begin changing in coloured array
The sun loses strength in a shortening day.
Cooling mists swirl ‘neath a canopy of light
Nature’s abundance is now at its height
Before gently …softly …falling
…cascades into night.
…may summer find you full of life …and new passions that reach their zenith to plateau in autumn’s mild mists …blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny
January 10, 2014
…raspberries are ripening and blackberry hedgerows are flowering; the honey sweet scent of Elder berries ripening; a fragrance like no other, carries on the stormy air after it passed through, tiny star-flowers left, scattered like snow flakes across the earth.
…outside fledgling raven and magpie gossip under the trees, waiting for parents to bring juicy offerings …one of Pip’s ‘kills’ is easy prey for the marauders.
…the young Goshawk that flew into a glass door is slowly recovering …no concussion; at least not too badly to create brain damage, is being ‘fed up’ to increase her condition and soon she’ll be flying free again in her territory, shared, amazingly with a Little Eagle, who will no longer have the skies or the rabbits to herself. I’m amazed these two raptors tolerate the sharing of space as well as they do ….in fact they totally ignore each other! I call the Little Eagle Lady …she is so elegant, hovering over my head to see if I have a spare ‘kill’ for her …Pip leaves her rabbits everywhere and Lady doesn’t say no if it’s tossed in her path …I can stand within a few feet of her now.
…late planting this year with the inclement and crazy climate change …herb seeds planted weeks ago are only just emerging and the tomatoes in the greenhouse are just beginning to show their honey-bee coloured flowers; some just beyond as tiny green nodules appear.
…today a cool breeze from the east carries a tang of salt, blown in from across the ranges between here and the ocean – no huge days of heat as yet but I’m sure they’re on their way before Lammas, only three weeks away. For us in the highlands there’s been dew on the ground every day and the ponds and tanks are filled to the brim …it will be an easier transition from summer to autumn this year.
…berries, cherries and plums are showing mow and elderberries are heavy on the boughs – a place to sit beneath to write – sheltered from the sun and wind in a cocoon of nature’s beauty…
…writing has once again become uppermost in my mind as a new wave of creativity threatens to overwhelm me …autumn’s approach is always inspiring and I am usually way ahead of any real seasonal change occurring…
…nature shows me the pathways and I simply follow …all the signs… young Ravens are playing at the top of the sycamore trees; they dive to catch the small eddies on the breeze that takes them back up to the top on a free ride… and I remember the things I knew instinctively as a child…
…post the ‘silly season’ for most and for us Litha, there’s a lull as things grow and sprout, with a little water, sunshine and love… the chookhens are laying and I have to check on them more often as Flo has gone broody, stealing and stashing the eggs to brood but fruitlessly as there is no rooster around… but she’s determined, coming over all ‘other’ when I approach her to lift her off and gently coax her outside with food and water, else the eggs will be ‘cooked’.
…we had the first harvest of fresh raspberries and blackcurrants …not enough for jam making or vinegar but delicious for a sauce on sweet potato and potato Latkes made with spring onions in a herb and garlic butter …topped with a cheek of pan warmed mango and haloumi …then drizzled with the sweet-sour berry reduction …mmmm!
Book 4, Silken Web in the Silver’s Threads series is still in process and I’ll be able to finish the main story with Book 5, Skeins of Tyme, tying in all the books…
…my new series Cloak of Magick, Vol 1 will tie back in occasionally with the first …although they will be complete in themselves…
…when I draw a map of the characters it looks like a ‘merkabah’ …how bizarre is that! …the characters and places they visit and meet moves back and forth through the ‘tapestry’ creating a star form.
…yesterday …I sat at home in a grove of silver birches with my NotePad, research books and notes, feeling dreamily relaxed and centered ..little birds flitted in the canopy above, twittering to each other and grabbing snacks on the wing …a creative, and beautiful time at home …in a Grove of Trees…
…in a Grove of trees
…there’s a whispering breeze
…that speaks of a land of wonder
…when we hear the call
…it soaks through to our soul
…so we float …we don’t go under
…when we listen with ease
…here that voice on the breeze
…and we walk every day in the knowing
…that the greening’s begun
…we don’t walk …we run
…to the land of liquid light flowing
…we are free in our hearts …in our soul
…all are one …and in truth …all are whole
…blessings from beyond the gate …Penny
Tagged: Little Eagle Lady
November 28, 2013
…and so the wheel spins on and we move on toward Litha, Summer Solstice …not for me the ‘silly season’ days but rather a family gathering that expresses the time of year, as it is here in the Southern Hemisphere …mind you it’s been a long, wet, mild Spring and one could be forgiven at times for thinking its Autumn!
…the farm is green and lush and we see the elder and blackberry hedges bursting with blossoms for the coming season’s berries …for now it’s elderflower sparkling wine or syrup-making, time…
…birds are busy doing their thing and the tomato vines are growing fast; their first flowers like little bright bursts of sunshine…
…dance of fire …jump the pyre
…revel with the lady of the flame
…dance through the night
…feel your strength with delight
…free yourself …give her all your pain
…fire cleanses and heals
…wounds renewing …old skin peels
…waking warmth as it grows deep within
…spring awakens …births new green
…buds opening …blossoms seen
…revel …in the warmth on your skin…
…after a month or so of re-publishing my first three books (Silver’s Threads series) I’m now in a moment of stasis between writing book four, writing new programmes for next year and having just completed my Bardic Review, (and proudly passed *buffs finger nails on shoulder* into the hallowed halls of the Druid), writing poetry and lyrics for another little volume.
…life has taken me on a crooked path this year and I’m hopeful for 2014 to come as I withdraw more to the land, to the creative cauldron and focus on teaching… so here’s a wee introduction to my work as it unfolds toward exploring non fiction writing…
Who I am
As a small child Nature was my friend, my means of understanding the natural laws of life and a constant solace in a world that otherwise, at times seemed bleak. I’m not saying I was unhappy all the time, but rather somewhat different as I was blessed (or cursed) to see, sense what most could not, and from a very early age too.
I could ‘see’, read a gravestone by touch to tell the story of the person interred there …hold an old book and ‘know’ who had held it, perhaps loved or hated it. I could see-read the energies of Nature, swirling in a coloured dance around everything.
My Grandmother called me Fae and a spiritualist friend of hers wanted to take me to train my gifts for ‘good’. My Mother said I was too young and scoffed at the notion that I might indeed be different, psychic, clairvoyant and empathetic, call it what you will but for me simply different was enough and that ‘differentness’ is what brought me to where I am today.
…by the light of her shining
…white and cool in the room
…moonshadows grow stronger
…gleaming bright in the gloom
…shadowed Fae flit like star dust
…to dispel fears of doom
…as She sails, high on cloud-wings
It is possible however to unlock these ‘other senses’ …to let go the fear and superstitions designed to keep us ignorant and controlled, to discover what it’s like to be attuned to the cycles of life both Lunar and Solar. Symbols and guidelines become as clear as the face you see each day in the mirror …when you know how and where to look.
‘Fate,’ per Se, was not always kind to my family but again I could see, when everyone was bemoaning their personal and mutual experiences they didn’t actually take responsibility for what had happened.
Life led me by my senses, not in a hedonistic way but in the way that Nature called to me, a constant companion. If I were smart, I would always have listened to her promptings without reserve; for the times I did not, life would generally fall apart and so I learned through that beautiful irony known as hindsight.
From the very beginning, I connected to Her, at times one with Her. I would question everything told to me that did not resonate within, right down to my spirit and so my questioning of formal religion began early.
I thought about things deeply and fully, my child’s brain straining to take in all the information around me and to understand how it all worked. I remember being maybe seven or eight, wondering why people thought of God as being a large, old man on a throne who waved a big stick at everyone and said in a sonorous voice, “Thou shalt not” and “Thou shalt.” It would at times make me giggle at the thought because I would then picture an ageing Santa, rolls of jelly fat quaking as he roared, and shook that big stick. Why did people believe that source would ‘smite or smote’ those who disobeyed and why was he, presumably, so far away? He obviously didn’t listen to human prayers and pleadings either, for if he did then he wasn’t very nice when he allowed famine, wars (all in his name) and painful sicknesses.
My family was by no means ‘churchly’ and so there came a time when I would ask the question, “why not,’ wondering why other kids went to Sunday school …and the reply came from my quietly wise father, ‘Well darling, all you need to do is sit under a tree.’ I will always thank him for those words of wisdom, because they gave me the foundation to understand whom and what I am.
Many years later, when a book fell on my head off a shelf in my bookshop ‘Concepts …an adventure,’ by an author and in a genre I had no recollection ordering, the realisation came to me, after devouring it in one sitting, ‘I’m a Wytch!’ That book was Spiral Dance by Starhawk. (Thank you honoured lady.)
Yes, it was that simple and through the years snippets of information fed to me as a child, when I asked relevant questions on the subject, came back to me. All the little rituals and superstitions from both my grandmothers hit home. It doesn’t matter that they were closeted in their beliefs, because that was just the way it was back then …but that two women from such different origins, had the same foundations in their belief system.
It led me on a search all my life and, when life was tough, relationships hard, growing up angst, heartbreak and happiness, nothing really deterred me. Every religion, philosophy, cult and culture led me deeper into the understanding that the same thread ran through each of them, and with that came the knowledge that all of them had been twisted, possibly out of all recognition. They were fabricated, mostly to control others …and so my catch phrase became, ‘what was before that?’
This question took me back further to the very origins of today’s religions and yet further still to the Old Ways. The Christian traditions themselves came from a need man had to control the worship of others; even to the point of the Greenman image that still graces the oldest churches in the UK. It was this image that was one of the means used to bring the Pagan folk into the buildings prescribed as needed, to worship in …which brings me back to my father’s words, “If you need to find source, sit under a tree.”
Wicca was born from the assembled information traced through the Celtic Mystery Traditions, for they are the keepers of the wisdom that would otherwise have been lost and which include Stregga, the Italian Tradition.
Many brilliant identities have written reference books to aid in a quest for historical knowledge, some of whom you will find listed at the back of this book, because the history of Wytchcraft, as I prefer to call it, is not the goal of this volume. I wrote this book in an attempt to help/guide those seeking a stronger rapport with the planet Herself. Wytchcraft or Hedgewytchery and even Fae-craft in this instance, are the multi-faceted Old Ways that combined to create the Crooked Path I will be referring to hear …going beyond the somewhat hierarchical systems born in the last 60 plus years, to find a more spontaneous way to be…
…And so I come full circle, just as Her cycles do, to the first Primordial and elemental ways of Nature, within which we can see and understand everything we need to, know about ourselves if we have the eyes and ears …in fact all the senses to ‘see.’ By ‘see’ I do not necessarily refer to the physical eyes either, although that form of sight is a gift indeed, but rather I will use the term ‘see’ to also mean, sense in whatever way the reader may ‘perceive’ things in a different way to those prescribed as ‘normal.’
Her ways are cyclic and we do need all our senses to survive in what can be harsh conditions, when we are unprepared as so many are, for the sheer breathtaking force when we are out of tune with Her, and then the amazing bliss engendered when we are in harmony with the Seasons of Lunar and Solar change.
Science has methods of discovery that are in fact proving the existence of a driving force that lives behind and within all things, but that is a tale for another time.
Without the curative discovered, from Nature via herbal remedies, which are now synthesised by science, we would most likely, have disappeared as a species centuries ago, but then I guess that too would just have been the way of Nature.
Science has most of us cocooned in a safe world, where everything is insured, protected by security devices, preventative medicines and procedures. When it’s hot, we can flick a switch, likewise when it’s cold.
In cities the stars are rarely seen, due to light pollution or smog; machines take us everywhere and the demand for the latest gadgets holds many captive to their key boards, just as I can be, when I endeavoured to self-publish books in a world of electronic data.
It is more the norm for communication forums and social media activities to be held in cyber-space, than in physical gatherings and most people will email or text, rather than pick up the phone to speak in person. Children have to be pried (or bribed), outside into the fresh air and as a result, we can see why the epidemic levels of Vitamin D deficiency have come about, (in fact not only in children).
Australia has a harsh climate in the first place and so we need to address more than ever the warming globe we live on and what we can be doing ourselves, not waiting for the mysterious ‘they’ to do it for us.
My methods, those that I would attempt to share with you here, are intense and yet they are the simplest to achieve in any life situation; it is connection …with all life, with the cycles of Nature and with the force behind it all …Primordial Goddess.
No matter how we try to control Her however, She will always break free. Imagine if, just for 5 years, no maintenance was done to roadways or railway lines. I’m sure you’ve all seen the small, so-called ‘weeds,’ breaking through solid concrete with slender stems, in their bid to grow. Imagine then in 10 years or 20, how our carefully constructed cities would blur around the edges as Nature took back her territories …for it is all Hers not ours …it is by Her Grace we walk this Planet and I believe it was meant to be as Her caretakers or caregivers, would perhaps be more appropriate.
Our lives are full and busy with doing but whether we pay attention Nature is there, everywhere, even when we think we have Her under control …simply being.
…blessings from Beyond the Gate …my home…Penny
Tagged: lifestyle, Music, nature, Poems, Writing
November 7, 2013
…elder, rowan and hawthorn scent the air with honey; all manner of fruit blossoms add their edge to the fragrance of an early morning in the highlands …spring …overcast and stormy, the magpie are singing their warbling song of joy at the arrival of scrawny, long-legged babies, awkward in their lanky scramble for food …it doesn’t matter if it’s their own parent or another’s …any port in a storm for a worm or two… frogs are singing the rain with their distinctive “pobble bonk” sound…
…after some time away to play, life ramps up for the coming growing season on the farm …my writing takes equal priority as the first 2 books go to press release very soon …love working with live people rather than electronically publishing; the support from the team is amazing …not long now and then the new editions will be available and then my focus will be on the completion of 4 and 5…
…spring rites are a wonderful creative time as my own muse matches that of wildly bursting nature …I am always stimulated by imagery and now the canvas of the changing season is most inspiring …new works emerge from my psyche and so a new series will be born once the first is completed and will be entitled Cloak of Magick (title copyright © 2013) in fact it’s already begun…
…green and white dominate the landscape and the bees are getting busy when the rain lets up …already apple, pear, hazel nut, cherries and plum fruit are set and then tinges of red will appear in the first cherries and the rhubarb stems …no wonder the threes colours of spring growth are the same as the garlands and wreaths made for the Beltane rite just passed …a prelude to Litha, Summer Solstice, just around the corner…
…I feel with all my senses at this time of year as the air softens with spring rain and the sap rises in all growing things …I love to listen to the sound of new leaves rustling or to the subtle ‘pop’ as a bud bursts open in coloured, fragrant wonder …at dawn there is a moment of utter stillness when clarity of sight, smell, taste and hearing merge into one faculty; you can taste the air, see it tremble as a drop of water on a curled frond of bracken and hear the thirsty suck as the earth welcomes every living drop …be still, listen …listen for the sound of a horn, distant and haunting, calling you to drop all pretence of adulthood to come to the dance …this is the time of year for the young and for the young at heart …dare to dream …drink it in …listen
…hear the winds calling a sultry refrain
…He’s out and about …the prelude to Beltane
…He can be heard in the rustling of leaves
…sending playful reminders that tug at your sleeves
…I am the essence that lives …all unseen
…I am the memory of all that is green
…take up the mantle of earth’s greening time
…smell the wild’s fragrance like fresh summer wine
…come to your circle in Hawthorn arrayed
…I’ll meet you in the Greenwood where my music is made…
…art work from tarot of the Hidden Realm by Julia Jeffrey & Barbara Moore
…blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny
Tagged: Beltane, elderflower, fiction, fition, hawthorn, lifestyle, nature, Poetry, publishing, rites of spring, rowan, selfsufficiency, spring, wreath, Writing
October 25, 2013
…the weather decided to ignore my shouts of joy and random leaps in the air, not to mention my wild boogie through the meadows …how rude! …suddenly it’s sullen yellow skies, hail stones, gale force winds and snow for a day …not a lot but enough to make it a little uncomfortable to work outside! A large slab of greenhouse roof blew away but it’s been too extreme to get out and fix it …the tomato seedlings and all the vegetable seeds planted are wearing their bed socks I’m sure, as they stoically nestle in the deep mulch for a snooze.
…despite the chill the blossoms are blossoming and the green things are greening and the landscape looks more like a meadow in the UK than Australia …we chose well and have never regretted our move to Victoria nearly 17 years ago …one day we’ll be as self-sufficient as any one can be and with a quieter time ahead once our business is sold, we can enjoy the busy life of the self-sufficiency gardener until we drop! Ahem! Did I say quieter time?
Writing has been taken over by editing and re-formatting to the publishers requests and Book 1 of Silver’s Threads will be out very soon, followed shortly afterwards by Book 2 …a labour of love as I see all the work of the last almost two years unfold… with the load taken off me I can get down to what I love doing most …gardening, writing Book 4 and 5, not to mention a non-fiction and the start of the new series and a poetry book and, and, and oh …and teaching …the Ovate gateway awaits me at the Order of Bard, Ovate and Druid in just a couple of months so I’ll be busy for the next few years!
…so spring can keep on doing her funny shifts and changes and summer can creep up slowly in a while …Beltane’s just around the corner so a fertile garden and a fertile mind are a great combination…
…the truth you seek’s not ‘out there’ in the skies…
…right here underfoot is where the truth lies
…it’s not hidden at all …if you have eyes to see
…it’s in all things around …every stone …every tree
…with a wicked humour …a giggle …a grin
…just let her out …she’s already within…
…blessings from Beyond the Gate …Penny