Our vigil nearly done; the fire embers drowning in ash. We watched the full moon go new, then suddenly wax again––a month coiled into 5 hours. We fed our fire on pine knots and burned our way through the dragon, arriving safely on another shore––the moon shared a few secrets along the way. I was worried about her, cut off from the light of her beloved sun, but in her red-pearl fullness, she was blushing with another light––one entirely her own. Somewhere near the heart of the dragon, I found that prayer is light.
December in Montana gave me a chance to renew a brotherhood and walk some remarkable country. The snowfall was significant and taught me new ways of walking. Returning to Georgia in January, the rivers run high and the land saturated from frequent rains; its a different sort of cold here.
Water, encountered in so many forms, has dominated my Winter, seeping even into imagination––into dreamtime.
In stillness reflecting light, in motion reflecting the creatures of light, water seems warmly engaged in a grand affair. With whom I cannot say, but an intimate devotion carries it through every conceivable state of being, or perhaps better said, that for this intimacy water conceives every state of being. Tomorrow I’ll bring this up with our Yellow-Bellied Alchemist, if he can spare the time, busy as he is, tapping the giant athanors we’ve been calling trees.
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.
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.
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.
In the lore of America’s First Nations is the story of Earth Diver, a mythic precursor of our local Crayfish. Narrations tell of an age when the need arose for new land to appear above the primeval sea, but where such treasure could be procured was lost to the deliberating assembly. Crayfish raised the hopes of the clueless, speaking of a place where such mass could be found; reaching it, however, required the special talent of divers such as himself. The assembly consented to the project and Crayfish descended beneath the trembling surface of the sea. For long days he was missed, and as patience gave way to despair, a color change in the water heralded his return.
Lifting heavy claws above the water’s surface, Earth Diver brought forth the mass for new land; he did so by gathering and then piling clay from the deep-sea bed into a great mound which finally rose above the water’s surface. His service rendered, twas left to other mythic engineers to make the earth suitable for the beings & events to come. Today, Earth Diver’s Crayfish progeny demonstrate the talent of their illustrious Ancestor in the closing moon of winter, reminding us of all that’s gone before to make possible all that is still to come.
While losses to our orbits of family and friends seem to shrink our world of known relations, sometimes it opens us to the creative universe of the unknown. Our town bears the recent loss of a beloved friend, a son of Hermes, who nurtured a heart-full practice of and regard for the arts, and especially for those who bore them in trouble and in joy. Although he never let arrows fly across our range, he intended to do so, and his sincerity in this regard left it simply to be a matter of good timing. Along with others, I share a notion that he’s not done with us yet; that this sudden departure allows him to work and love in a more comprehensive orbit. Godspeed and thanks for the rain, dear friend; we’ll let an arrow fly here for you.
Twilight fell into night and a full moon rose with an amber-red glow, like firelight from a wood stove. Our mountains are burning ‘neath a sky that’s forgotten how to rain. A spring-killing drought leaves a deadly thirst among the highland natives. At the Shire, our smoke-reddened eyes and nasal stings are brought by ashen winds from the Cohutta Mountains northwest of us. We all know what it means, and all the more so, when we lack for words. Midnight, and high in the sky vault, an indifferent moon glows cold ‘n white; its fullness, a cruel parody of our emptiness.
In the Archer’s Lore rainmakers would cast a skyward arrow to breech the high-hidden river, reluctant to share its life-giving wealth. The art may be lost on our modern frame of mind, but we’ll craft suitable arrows just in case, and pray for rain.