It was a beautiful night and I was restless. I couldn’t settle to sleep indoors so I went outside to the garden.
Dimly lit and full of perfume, bats fluttered overhead, moths whirred softly by and with every drifting breeze the petunias and stocks released their scent to float softly on the warm night air.
I fell asleep. And I dreamed:
I saw a young woman. She was beautiful. I looked at her face and in her eyes was all the kindness of the world. Love shone from her skin and water flowed in her hair, the eternal movements of the seas and the patterns of the rivers.
I saw lush forests and grassy plains, alive and full of burgeoning life, shimmering behind her skin. It changed.
The delicate bones of her face filled out, herds of buffalo roamed across the plains now; the rivers and seas teemed with movement, fish, seals, otters, whales and dolphins played and lived. The forests filled with birds and chattering monkeys and the love for all these creatures welled up in her eyes and made her bloom.
She smiled and in her motion humans were made and she loved them, nurtured them, cared for them. Her skin was rich and bloomy, her hair glowed with warmth and being. Then the picture changed again.
Her eyes were worried, unhappy, pained. The lushness of her hair faded to grey, drab and coarse. Across her face and behind her eyes wars and famines raged. Disease and death followed, carving misery in her countenance and sorrow, bleak. People died. And as they died her face grew thin and gaunt, cheekbones like dead branches, till finally, finally burning tiny embers appeared on the plains.
Black holes spread quickly, the ashy edges spreading and charring and killing her vitality. Seas dried up, rivers ran dry and forests decayed. And still they did not stop.
I tried to hold her hand and then I wept as she died.
She walked with grace in her step and the scent of summer in her hair. As she moved, the folds of her dress shimmered with the rainbows of rivers and moths and butterflies fluttered from it as she flowed along Mother Earth’s ways.
Trees leaned confidingly towards her and she touched them as she passed, with love and care so they blossomed. All the golds of this good earth glowed in her hair, buttercups and daffodils, ripe barley and goldfinches.
When she lay down to rest, the trees and grass enfolded her lovingly, protectively and wild deer showed their trust by lying down beside her. Every morning when she awoke she gave thanks to the Universe and Mother Earth for their gifts and generosity and as she sang her gratitude the little birds stopped to listen.
Her eyes were the clear blue of a summer sky, filled with gentle warmth for every living creature; no snake or spider or scorpion held fear for her as they were all Mother Earth’s children.
Indeed, scorpions curled their tails away to avoid stinging her delicate bare feet and snakes curled themselves in her hair and around her wrists, living coils of iridescent jewellery. The spiders spun silk to mend her dress and as she danced the soft breezes were her partner. Tiny white flowers grew in her wake as she walked.
He stunk. Chemically bad, industrially corrupted. He smiled and fawned, ingratiating, yet grubby in mind and spirit. He strode through life with every appearance of confidence and intelligence; yet inside, cancerous doubt and invasive fear lived.
He searched. He looked for something to fill the dark void inside him – he who had seen Hell sought to bring others to him and his understanding, baiting traps with soft words and gifts, anything to catch an offering for the gnawing hunger inside him.
Others slid uneasy from the clawing need, sensing with ancient animal instinct the corrosive burn of his interest. He dressed with care yet somehow always appeared slightly dirty round the edges, fingers stained and sulphurous, fingernails rimmed with grime that reflected his most secret desires.
Assuming familiarity with those around him gave him the courage. The darkness grew. And then he saw her and the fire burned higher and brighter till it threatened to consume him completely and he knew that only one thing could quench it.
She smelt him before she saw him. The dark smoke of his spirit invaded her senses, yet with her belief in the ultimate goodness of every living being, she turned to face him.
He smiled, invitingly, and on his breath she smelled her death. Fear rose in her throat and she turned to run, to fly, to seek refuge among kindness and understanding. He followed. He crept along behind her on slug-soft feet and she felt every step, his starving eyes on her back like poisoned knives, and the want, the terrible Want.
The darkness struck and took her down – gently, oh so gently, he reached out and clasped her throat, rejoicing as he felt the frantic pulse fluttering like a little bird.
And then he crushed it.
Ground out the beat in her throat like a miserly hand-rolled cigarette. She gasped and struggled as his stench overwhelmed her, but the Goddess was kind and she passed quickly, her life spark ascending as swiftly as a little bird, leaving behind only a faint sweet smell, like incense, and a tiny white flower..
Him? Mother Earth took him, for killing one of hers, drawing him painfully through a narrow chasm in the ground, cracking bones and squeezing flesh till all that was left was a yellow puddle, smelling faintly of urine and nicotine.
Father Sun came out and shone, burning, until even that was gone. And the Earth was cleansed.
I suppose it’s an occupational hazard really when you live with four cats you can expect the occasional uninvited and totally unwanted house guest.
This first incident happened when we were at the hospital last week, while my mother was having her moment too. Honestly… nothing for ages then three stories all in one day… but anyway… Usually my partner and I try to ensure one of us is at home for part of the day, so the girls aren’t left too long by themselves. They do of course have access to outside via the catflap, beds, plenty of food and water, emergency litter trays, credit cards… well, maybe not the last, but we don’t like to leave them too long by themselves.
With justification as it so happens. We returned home that afternoon to find Tooty looking suspicious in the kitchen, Charlie and Ting were bot in the front room, managing to look accusing, reproachful, pleased to see us and annoyed. Lily – was nowhere to be seen.
“We’re home girlies, whatever’s the matter?”
Rushing past them upstairs to go to the toilet (peanut bladder) I noticed a huge smear of blood on the landing window, on the inside, horror movie style..
Then I stopped. Went back and looked. Properly. Huddled on a corner of the window ledge was a distressed sparrow. I yelled for assistance and we were able to catch the poor little thing, ascertain the blood was from a scratch on its leg, and let it go outside where it flew off quite rapidly.
We had to take the blinds down and wash them, likewise the window, since the sparrow had managed to splash quite a bit of blood about. Charlie was like:
“Look, I’ve told you before, I really can’t be responsible for the other three if you two go out together and leave us for AGES… “
Sparrow Number Two surprised my partner… Ting and Tooty were behaving suspiciously in the garden hedge – typical teenage behaviour – so he went to investigate and found them prodding a half-fledged sparrow. It had obviously tried its luck from the tree in the neighbour’s garden only to land in the hedge and be found by the two younger girls.
He scooped the poor little bird up in a container, being careful not to touch it, intending to put it high up in our apple tree. He left it on the window sill while he went to fetch the ladders, and as he returned round the corner he was horrified to see a blur of black and white feathers flash past him, knock the container off the ledge, seize the poor little fledgling and make off with it. He was horrified and actually quite upset to think of the magpie, eating another bird, compounded by the fact that two adult sparrows were chirping and flying around looking for their missing baby. Such is Nature though – sometimes it’s cruel.
It’s a mystery where the cats keep getting the mice from and a mystery where they sometimes end up. When we first moved into this house, we had Walter, who although not a keen hunter, liked to keep his paw in. We used to have a large wardrobe with a spare fish tank jammed beside it, one of those things my partner said he’d sort out and never quite got round to it.
One day, Walter had obviously happened across a mouse and thought he would bring it into the house and let it go in the bedroom, where it promptly took refuge behind the wardrobe and died. Unbeknownst to us… Weeks progressed as did the smell. I, (understandably) thought it was my partner. He (unforgivably) thought it must be me. Being polite, neither of us said anything to the other and I just bought more air freshener.
One day, my partner finally decided to move the fish tank and it was then that he found it… a dry… dessicated mouse, pressed flat as a pancake between the wall and the fish tank. One little paw outstretched, pleadingly, towards light and freedom… The mystery of the rotting rodent was solved.
Then the other day, I was vacuuming the stairs quite vigorously, trying to avoid the threads in the dark brown carpet where the cats have pulled it. (I’ll never buy that sort of carpet again – I wince every time they run upstairs and I hear their claws catch in it.) I reached the hallway at the bottom of the stairs and thought:
“Hm. Whatever’s that? Looks like a leaf…”
I bent down short-sightedly and peered at it.
“What an extraordinary looking leaf…it looks like a dead – oh my God it is a dead mouse!”
My partner was summoned for its disposal as I would not have been pleased to have mangled mouse clogging up the vacuum filter. The mystery of that mouse was that no-one ever owned up to it…
The garden always calls to me as the sun rises – no matter what season of the year. There is a particular sort of magic to be found in the very air as the old ways and Mother magic crackles and fizzes before the rest of the world wakes.
There is a wildness, a connection, as I step barefoot onto the grass – left slightly longer, as I prefer it, since to me there is beauty to be seen in something as small as a blade of grass, equal to that of any majestic forest, wild moor or rocky seashore.
Instantly as my bare feet touch the dew wet grass I feel it, I feel the connection, plugging into the universal grid of Life and Love. Everything is crystalline clear and touched with enchantment, everything growing as Mother Earth calls to her children to wake.
The tulips are past their best, now, but still have the mesmeric effect of a Monet painting, splashes of colour, their edges bleeding into one another. A delicate fragrance is lifted on the air, late daffodils, which surprised me with their scent.
The sky is blue and very, very still. A slap of a fishtail reaches my ears from the pond which also startles the frogs into wakeful croaking, subtly different in tone to the toads. There is a busyness, a life to the pond, filled with tadpoles and baby fish, thriving in the rich water.
The cats have woken up and followed me out, Charlie picking her way cautiously across the wet grass to jump and roll on the bench. The others, less fastidious, run to me and flop at my feet, Ting waving her legs in the air and “Wah”-ing. A jackdaw cackles overhead and the cats as one crouch, ears flattened to their heads as they follow its flight path across our garden.
The spell is broken, as faintly, traffic noise begins as the rest of the world stirs. I take a step back and re-enter my one-ness, temporarily separated from the Universal, but aware always. And Love. Always.
Hers was the religion of flower and tree, beetle, bird and dew. In every raindrop she saw the smile of the Goddess, in the curve of every branch, the arms of the Mother.
Barefoot, she wandered through the forest, rejoicing in the feel of moss and twig underfoot. Hers were the old ways, lessons learned when the world was young and still learning itself.
The earth sang and thrummed beneath her feet, the wet and the glory filled with a buzzing life, an energy that could be found in the curl of every leaf, a wholeness in every pebble, every rock; the sometimes wildness and cruelty tempered by the knowledge of a never-ending cycle of life and renewal.
She saw the birds hatch their young and the wild cats nurse their kits, hidden away in dens. She witnessed death, brought by swift fang and slashing claw and accepted it as part of the Mother’s ever-turning wheel; watching as remains turned to bones and scraps, carried away by worms, to be returned to the warm wet earth.
She lived in harmony, balance, showing them how to take no more than they needed, always giving thanks and gratitude and love to the Mother.
Then others came.
From far away, they came with crushing foot and rending hand, ripping and tearing the very heart from the land she loved, the trees she cared for. They came, bringing strange bright gods from hot dusty lands, gods that conquered and devoured.
She watched and wept as they cut down the trees, chained her land in stone and iron. People fled, animals died, and there was no renewal, no honour.
Exhausted, depleted, afraid and angry, she fled, deeper into the wild places where the savage side still dwelt. Finally she found what she was looking for, a rent, a natural cleft in the wet red earth.
She crawled inside, deeper and deeper, till the blood pounded in her ears, her head sang and the arms of the Mother enfolded her in the warm red earth. She closed her eyes and waited.
I do love a good tree… I don’t actually have any of any great size in my garden, other than the apple tree which my partner lovingly grew from a pip about twenty years ago.
Its apples are horrible, but the flowers are beautiful, and I love the goodness, the symbolism of my apple tree. It has had many a wish made on its branches, and next year, in the Spring, it will have Tibetan prayer flags draped around it.
Trees are inherently symbolic and packed full of meaning – just look at the Tree of Life. I feel the bareness of tree branches in Winter, reaching out their empty arms and pleading with Mother Nature to return soon with their leafy covering…
There is something very primitive about walking through a wood in Summer, harking back to our lives centuries ago, when the first upright walkers left the safety of the trees for the open plains.
Every step taken through these enclaves of trees is a passage to the past when Mankind was far more intimately connected to the cycles of Mother Earth. Our lives have been entwined with trees like ivy round a trunk… they provided shelter, fuel, symbols, myths and legends.
Every time I see this tree I fully expect the Green Man to be just around the other side…
There is a stark beauty too, woods in winter, naked, bare and beseeching reaching up to the sky, the very heavens, Nature’s own cathedrals; while down below their roots grip Mother Earth secretly, drawing hidden life to the surface.
Another bridge, another link in Life, chapter in this Book … And when all is bleak and bare, there is comfort to be found in the promise of returning Life.