In a manner of speaking, and from a certain angle, body leads in archery.Discipline of form carries the student through the usual awkwardness to a wonderful sense of rhythm and ease.The archer’s body gradually awakens, pivots from reaction to response––wasting tensions dissolve into the joy of holding a purposeful draw. Engaged with its own sensuous knowledge, the body savors a new kind of tension––the range simply an extension of the archer, as the web is of a centered spider.
Here, at point-anchor, where vertical and horizontal, spacial and temporal, where stillness and movement meet, the patient moment can ripen into the deeper praxis of surrender.To what?What does such an archer be-hold and see?“Look before you leap,” so the old trope goes.On re-cognizing the Mark, its established in the devoted eye––a visual Anchorpoint to compliment the body’s harmonic twin.Twinship is only resolved in unity’s mirror.
A beloved teacher of mine once concluded the story of an old archer who’d been invited to share his art:Students were assembled alongside a long range giving the old man the sublime support of silent regard.When the archer’s deliberate arrow––his only one––flew and struck ‘Bullseye!’ my teacher was not the only witness who suddenly broke into tears.“He’d shot himself!”
In the Platonic mysteries, its said that “the fruit is the cause of the tree.”What then, dear one, is the archer’s intension?
A new breach in an old long-forsaken dam uncoils a distortion foisted upon the Oconee river.Another chord reemerges from a river-time rhythm––intelligible, but entirely too subtle for the loud and crude to notice.The river clears her throat, preparing new disclosures from an ancient song.
Flow still burdened, sure enough––distortions upriver and down, skinned basin slopes losing ground with every torrent from a thunderous sky––but river-time prevails over our impatience; the river knows.Every dam is a pretense to be overcome; every exploitative abuse of the river’s earthy frame heals beneath living bonds of an unstoppable green, but this––bittersweet for us––is the creative work of a time mercifully beyond our destructive own.Listen deeply, you’ll hear the river’s oddly familiar melody, perhaps for the very first time; observe diligently, you’ll catch glimmers of Oconee’s own flowing glory.
Below the breach on the river’s muddy edge, a storm-gray feather quivers gently in an imperceptible wind.Heron, that old river guardian, strolled here before I arrived.Considering his mythic lineage, I suspect he’s conspiring new beginnings for this beloved river.
The sweetness of this past lunar cycle is unmistakeable, evinced by the crowd of birds that return each morning to pick dark ripe berries of the old Mulberry tree; her’s an abundant generosity extended new-moon to new––a marathon runner in the world of fruitful Georgia trees.
There’s a strong alchemy operating through the brief, Lightening-Bug-Nights of May and June, which enchant bitter ‘n red to sweet ‘n black––its a taste of gold (but for taste) in the early moons of summer.O, to know the spell!But this particular grade of knowledge is privileged to an understood rectitude in the patience of rhythm and in the ripening of need.Accolades to you, fine Mulberry tree! When your fruiting is finally done, you’ll return to the brooding posture of your own deep mystery.
Speaking of sweet abundance in peculiar & prickly places, an eruption of applause greets the Blackberry Moon now ascending our stage; she’s got a tough act to follow.
An amphibic chorus has erupted from our slumbering wetland borders––Spring Peepers at night, and Chorus Frogs at day; their cold waterbeds a-tremble like mercury beneath the generous light of this high lunar cycle. Daffodils verge on early golden detonations, while our Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flashes between big trees, busy keeping springheads open for a share winter’s Elixir.
Barren as our forests may seem to the casual eye, there remains an uncanny and powerful sense of the unseen.
By day we scan our landscapes and cityscapes stepping along a horizontal axis somewhere between hope and fear. Step outside on a cold and clear winter night, and you can’t help but go vertical. Some of our elders spoke of these night lights as campfires, where beings of the stellar domain gather to tell their stories. If you if ever get close enough to listen in, that’s a story I’d love to hear.
From the ancient lore comes a tradition of stepping across doorway thresholds with a deliberate mind. The forefoot advances with unformed anticipation, while the aft briefly lingers with grateful regard. Grace resides in the pause between, a blessing from an unseen source.
Solstice is our planetary threshold, spacious enough for all to freely cross; the southern legions come north––come they must, and go we will. In the intimacies of this grand affair––pole to pole––secrets are sometimes revealed, although usually overlooked for their subtleties. If you were otherwise engaged to notice our recent global passage––sun to sun––take heedful comfort in knowing that a solstice resides in the center of every breath. The lore instructs the attentive further, with an injunction to keep the door-stoop and threshold clear––a practice which speaks for itself.
On the archer’s range we deal with innumerable thresholds, one of the more apparent occurs at anchor-point, where/when a well drawn arrow reaches the nexus of tension between effort and surrender, time’s threshold otherwise called the present moment. If the archer eludes the hazard of hesitation and the temptation of haste, the “still” arrow ripens into a shot that falls from a bow like an apple from a tree.
We’ve been several years sharing archery inspired by Old-World traditions, but have remained keenly aware of a deeper lore embedded in the ground beneath our feet. A beloved teacher once remarked that memory is retained in the crystalline structure of a place; I often walk the land meditating on the meaning of these words. I’ll listen for it in the overhead flight of Sandhill Cranes plying their great wings south; I’ll listen for it in the deep-throated call of a Great-horned Owl urging courtship to open the winter door to posterity; I’ll watch for it in the northern swing of shadows bearing the intensity of December’s waning sun, and celebrate it when a new archer finds the rhythm of a free arrow sailing to his mark.
Sometimes a mark is not what we intend, and so it was that while searching for a wayward arrow, another came to hand. In the sandy bed beneath a clear riffle of Barrett’s Spring, which enters at the northern border of the Shire, an arrow point crafted of dark stone seemed placed for finding. Although 800-years or more may span between this point and those we use––often lose––in the moment held a legacy is bridged, point to point.
Cast by an ancient archer, this crystalline legacy hits the mark; a tactile reminder, leaving me humbled and honored. Hafted to a new shaft cut from the native-cane bed along Noketchee Creek, and buoyed with the curve of fletchings dropped from the wings of ambling gobblers, this arrow is ready for flight. On the other hand, my manufactured point, left in the same spring, would be useless in under a year.
In our August days, the afternoon Cicada buzz––the sound of southern heat––fades into twilight enchantments of the Katydid rattle. Rattles rattling through late summer nights cooling, then break into the wake of the silence––the dew-heavy webs strewn across meadow’s morning explain everything. You ought to see the spiraling arrow scatter these otherworldly pearls of dawn. And speaking of pearls, the Moon, as you know, swells toward another crisis, ahead of its fateful encounter with the sun.
A new student recently brought us a fine expression of traditional East African archery; it’s a bow crafted by a man of the Hadza people. The elegance of its effective simplicity, along with the deep cultural traditions which these people carry, favor a view that the Hadza bow bears a ‘source design.’ If so, it’s not off-mark to call it a Mother Bow. Such regard the bow inspires, that I carried it the other day on a walk around the Shire, introducing places of significance here. It’s clear that the bow is made for travel, and certainly expresses a lifeway shaped by the simple freedom of movement which can be difficult for the “modern westerner” to appreciate, restricted as we are by our mechanical modes and narrow (safe?) channels of travel.
To us the craftsman remains nameless, but the bow traveled a long distance in reaching our hands from his own; it’s a blessing on this place in accepting the grip. Tonight I’ll carry it beneath a Winter starfield, confident that Orion––that old hunter––will be duly impressed.