Sunday, 18 January 2009

Connections: Air, Deer and Drums

Had an interesting day today that was inspiring on many levels. Sometimes you can just get caught out by the unexpected when you begin to make connections with the environment in which you live.

Meditation on the air around me
After a wet and windy night I find myself out for a walk on a cold and windy, but sunny day. I find a place to sit against a fence post at the edge of a field. The ground is very wet so I find some drier dead nettle stalks and sit upon those. I am sheltered by some tall holly bushes and face the sun. It is actually quite pleasant and warm though I am wrapped up well.

Today the air seems excited. A wild wind blew in the night and the roads are littered with twigs, small branches and leaves. Large puddles have formed and not yet had time to drain away. After the cold weeks of Christmas, the air senses a hint of warmth where the wind is calmed and the sun is allowed to warm. The wind is blowing from the north west; brisk, bringing a gentle swaying to the nearby trees. It feels welcoming, alive with hope and a sign that Spring will bring warmth though that may still be a long way off.

A blackbird flies across the field in front of me from hedge to hedge, a constant two to three feet above the ground, on wings made to give effortless flight. It's feathers: formed to create strength out of the lightest of materials - quills full of air yet strong, almost weightless; for flight and insulation. Their design and construction has evolved with air in mind. The blackbird's flight is a movement through the unseen, it enables so much and is vital for survival, feeding, reproduction and escape from predators.

In a hedge a little way away, a large holly bush stands. Its glossy leaves reflecting light from the sun in the sky behind it: glistening spots of white when caught in the breeze - a mass of twinkling, almost like fairy lights on a Christmas tree.

The sky is clear with some hazy cirrus (?) clouds way up high and some smaller faint whisps of white passing hurridly just above me.

I am in a sheltered place with only the gentleness of a light breeze to move the fallen winter leaves and blades of grass a little. Without their leaves, the hedges are transparent to the wind. The dense evergreen of the nearby hollies provide a welcome wind-break.

The air is wonderfully refreshing to breath in. It carries the scent of the damp earth and the winter vegetation. Because of the form of the landscape in my corner of this field with the trees, hedges and gentle undulating fields, the wind circulates around me - one moment on my left cheek, then on my right. Then all is still but another moment brings another change in direction to my face.

The sun and the wind will probably dry the landscape a little today if it stays like this.

Sounds are carried through the air to me. Distant cars, aeroplanes coming into the airport and those way up high, unseen birds behind me, the wind in the trees and the passing of five noisy motorbikes on the nearby bridleway. I am brought the smell of their exhaust too.

The air has no real tangible visible form, yet it affects all the objects in the landscape. It is like an omnipresence that can only be shown to exist by the reactions it has with other things.

Newly formed molehills are scattered around the field nearby. How do they relate to the air? The are made by a mole that breathes air. The tunnels so formed are full of air. The soil itself contains organic matter, either living or dead - leaves, grasses and perhaps even the woodland that may have once stood here centuries ago. Soil organisms break down the organic matter, some by aerobic methods. The texture of the soil depends on the air spaces between the soil particles. The soil upturned is aerated by the mole and now it is exposed to the wind to dry out.

A group of birds, assorted tits probably, is nearby. They make their presence known though calling and by movement.

Where the trees and hedges cast shadows in the sunlight there will be patches of cooler air. Different microclimates, not just around different parts of the field but also deep in the hedgerow. The air is affected by the temperature and humidity around it.

I give thanks to the place and I move on. I've got too cold sitting and writing.

Deer and a Hare
I am now in a patch of conifer plantation and surrounded by tall Scots Pines. I sit back against one of the tall bare trunks that just give life to the top canopy layer far above me. What can I learn from this place that is so different to where I was previously? At first I sense nothing new (apart from remembering that woods can be dangerous places in the wind). Inspire me please...

Out of the dark depths of the wood, three stags and two does walk towards me. I just catch sight of them as they appear out of the darkness into the dappled sunlight - their bodies and huge antlers bathed in a creamy light. Their shapes blending with those of the trees and branches of the woodland. They are about 20 yards away and, with the sun in their eyes, they probably don't seem me until I am startled by their appearance and turn my head to look at them. They pass behind me and run off into the distant trees.

Air. Deer. Silent. Unseen. Freedom. Running. Wind. Wild. Like a gust of wind appearing out of nowhere: present, then gone.

And then I see a hare. Again, only a short distance way. I almost thought it was a small muntjac deer at first. Grey, tall black-tipped ears, moving in and out of the shadows between the trees. Gently and quietly. Then it's gone.

I have to go. Have to be somewhere.

I'm in a tipi with my drum, with others, gathered around the open fire. The air is filled with herb and wood smoke, and the respect we show to each other and to the drums we hold. I remember the deer I saw earlier today. My drum skin belonged to a Red Deer, once running wild through the air. Freedom. We drum. Creating a sound, vibrations and resonances that fill the air. The deer is alive again in the air around us.


We just have to be aware of them.

Thank you for this day.

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