Wind

Wind
I come home to wind
Autumn wind
But it’s only July

I come home to wind
Sounding the chimney
Like it was November
But it’s only July

I come home to wind
Whipping the trees
Shaking the leaves
Blowing the grass and the flowers
But it’s only July

I come home to wind
Blowing round corners
Stopping me in my tracks
Fleeting the clouds across the sky
Battering the windows with rain
But it’s only July

Oh Mother!
Oh Mother Earth
What is happening?
It’s only July …

Moorhen Chicks

Black fluff, feather fluff,
Red cap, red beak.
Plop!
Float like natural,
Perch on leaf,
Lily holds him,
Mother feeds him,
Life is good.

Nest on island,
Hidden shelter,
In the reeds.
Mother knows,
Hides them safely
From the eaters in the sky.

Growing quickly,
Soon be adult
Then I’ll go
To make my way

Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
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Still as Ghosts

after watching the video ringing of the Dyfi osprey chicks 2017

Thump! Crash!
Up from the ground the thing comes.
Still as ghosts we sit.

Smell! Scent! Sound!
It peers over the edge of the nest.
Still as ghosts we sit.

Gone! My brother is gone!
The thing goes. Returns.
My sister is gone.
I am alone.
Still as a ghost I sit.
Afraid.

The thing returns, lifts me,
Puts me in a bag,
Carries me down.
Now we, all three, lie
Still as ghosts on the ground.

Touched. Pulled. Held up. Put down.
My leg is stretched,
A thing is fitted to it.
Itches.
But the thing is gentle,
Its voice feels kind.
Still as ghosts we lie
All three together.
What will happen now?

Where is my mother?
My father?
Will I ever return to the nest?
I am afraid.
Staring, peering, wild-eyed.

Lifted up again.
The thing takes me upwards.
Ah! The nest. Home.
My sister and my brother join me.
We lie there panting, waiting, staring.

Mother. I hear her land near.
Mother come quick.
We sat still as ghosts
All three of us, like you said.
Mother, come back to us …

 

Vidoe: Dyfi Osprey Project – ringing 2017
Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
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Hunter in Darkness

Whiskers twitching
Ears listening
Eyes slit
She senses her prey in the gloaming light

Night holds no terrors
Except for Man
Him she shuns eludes
Escapes if she can

Whiskers twitching in the gloaming light
On the wild island where no man lives
Here she is
In all her glory
The very heart of wildness

Image: Scottish Wildcat by Colette Cheyne
Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
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Four Magpie Brothers

Four young magpies, brothers, sat upon the porch roof this morning.

Squabbling, squawking, pecking the tiles.

Wicked, so they are. Lads and louts.

Waiting to see what I will do.

I go to the window.

They’re watchful

But I get there before they see,

Chuckling with delight at the four young bucks

Performing on the roof.

‘Whooooosh!’ I hiss loudly from the window.

A flurry of black and white and shining blue

Flies up

Squawking, chattering, screaming, laughing.

‘We got her!’ they call to each other.

‘We got her’.

Image: Magpie Mandala by Danielle Barlow
Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
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Dragon Bones

River rushing, tumbling streaming

Flowing faster than your dreaming

River runs between the stones

Washing clean the dragon’s bones

Forest crowding round the brink

Will you swim or will you sink

Trees and water, bones of earth

Cross the bridge to find rebirth

Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
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So-called Renewables …

This article set me off today, it begins … “Expansion of renewable energy cannot by itself stave off catastrophic climate change, scientists warned Monday.” Who, in their right minds (!), ever thought it would? I’m now about to trample on a whole bunch of toes …

It seems that green-folk mostly live in a non-real world and somehow believe everything “will be all right” without enormous and fundamental changes in attitudes, and the whole way human beings think and work. As Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Yet that is what they, and we, all try to do.

How will renewables put back all this ice, for instance ???

When I was born, circa 1950, there were 2.5 billion people on Planet Earth. Now, a mere 66 years later, there are 7.5 billion people gorging on the Earth. Does that not tell you something? Or are you afraid to look at it because it horrifies you to imagine the sudden deaths of 6.5 billion people? That’s what it will take to put the Earth back in balance again. The Earth cannot support more than 1 billion humans, not if the resources – the basics, like air and water! – are going to hold out, let alone food! And that’s not even thinking about anything else except ourselves. If the rest of the Life, which has lived on Earth since millions and billions of years before we apes stood upright, is to continue to live here then we have to get out of the way and that’s going to be hard, if not impossible, for most people.

For me, there are a lot of basic attitudes that must change.

  1. We have to stop the infantile and wrong idea that we humans are “top species”.
  2. This, in turn, means we stop trying to prolong our lives and stop people dying. We must let nature take her course.
  3. We must eradicate the idea of “progress” in the economic and social and success senses. And drop the whole idea of “growth” along with this.
  4. We must totally eradicate the idea of “profit motif”.
  5. We must lose the idea of social hierarchy, ladders to climb and getting on.

I think I’ll stop there for a moment, it’s probably blown a few minds at the idea of such radical changes.

We also have to stop twisting the truth to fit with our own ideas of how things should be – like renewables will sort the climate change and global warming problems. That means losing the whole idea that we control anything! As most people are brought up to be control freaks (if only by adhering to being PC!) that is likely to be another non-sequitur for many. We really do have to get completely out of our heads … and that means most of the currently popular “green” ideas too.

I’ll just consider energy for a moment. Renewables. Windfarms. Wow! Bollocks.

For one thing, windfarms are largely a waste of space and time and money. They make profit for shareholders while losing masses of energy in cable-loss from the farm to the consumer … did you realise that? Additionally, the energy footprint of making one of these ghastly enormous tower-machines is ineffective to put it mildly, along with the servicing costs. Why don’t we all have one of the neat little diddy jobs on our roofs, along with PV panels, and make our own energy, for our own home, with little short cables from machine to power sockets so the loss is absolutely minimal? Why not? Because that doesn’t make profit for the big power companies and their shareholders … no surprises there then.

Add in the idea that we’re mostly conditioned to believe that somebody else should be doing everything for us and if things don’t happen it’s somebody else’s fault. Think of all the injury compensation lawyers who make a mint out helping you con somebody that it wasn’t your own clumsiness and stupidity that made you fall over? Or drive your car into a tree! Grrrrrrr!

I’ve lived my whole life with scientists, mostly good ones. They are renowned for their honesty, for saying when they get things wrong and putting people right when those people jump to the wrong conclusions. The news-people rarely report them accurately because they’re far more concerned with growth of readership, profit and all that list of things I mentioned earlier. But many, most, people believe what they see/hear/read in the news … another good reason, in my books, to get rid of most humans.

I’ve been observing the coming of climate change about since 1990, when I watched our eucalyptus tree threshing about in the wind … in June! Back in those days, if you can remember, that was unheard of, nowadays people take it as normal. Last winter, 2015/6, we had no frost at all here in Herefordshire, that was unheard of too. I found it seriously scary because I know a bit about how nature works, about rainfall and flooding and crops and sowing, and how the temperature of the soil helps or hinders plant growth, as well as what diseases become prevalent over warm winters. But what do we get on the TV weather? Oh it’ll be nice and warm, no nasty frost and ice to drive on, etc, etc. but your kids are permanently sick, full of colds and flu … and so is your garden, and the farmers’ fields.

So, WTF do people think renewable energy is going to do to stop any of that? And why do they cling, like the drowning man clings to the straw, to the ideas that such things can make such changes? They will do bugger all, and for one reason, there are 7 times too many people on Earth. Until that changes nothing we do will make a difference. Except that it might get those of us who will survive the coming cull (from Mother Earth, not stupid humans) to have more nous and kenning about how to behave, how to work with the Earth instead of being arrogant and stupid and selfish in thinking we can control her.

I now need a pot of tea and a cuddle from the cats to get over my anger at humanity …

 

Robin Song

Sometimes the simple call of a bird transports me across worlds, to another time, a memory time …

I’m suddenly back 50-odd years, walking a lane in deep midwinter, snow piled up along the hedgerows, clear over my head, and ruts a car’s-width wide channelling along between the high white banks. Icicles hang from the bare, black thorn-branches overhead. There’s a fluttering up there, brown wings carrying a small round body to just above me. Then the song. His little scarlet breast quivers as he sings, calling to me. I reach into my pocket and, yes, there are some crumbs – more than crumbs in fact for I put the last crust from the cob loaf in my pocket before I came out. And there’s some cheese rinds too.

I take off my glove and collect some crumbs and a bit of rind on my hand, stretch it out where the bird can see. Down he comes. Tiny, delicate claws grip my finger, the sharp pointy beak pecks at the crumbs. He stops, turns his head to look at me, a piece of cheese rind dangling from his beak, then flutters back up into the tree. And more flutters follow, another little brown bird is up there. Peering, I see her as he dips his head, offering her the cheese. She takes it, delicately, chirps a thank you.

And down he comes again, eats some crumbs for himself and then grabs another piece of cheese rind to take up to her. I can see her better now, she’s come down to a lower branch ans perches there, dipping and fluttering her wings like a chick asking for food. But she’s not a chick, this is their courtship, he is wooing her with cheese rind. Her red breast quivers as she cheeps imperiously, ‘Bring me food!’ she demands of him, for he must prove himself, show her he will be a good provider before she will consent to mate with him. And back he goes, bearing rind. She opens her beak and takes it from him, then sending him off again for more.

I’ve frozen stiff. I don’t want to move, to scare them. I want to watch, and the cold is helping me be still, so cold I don’t even feel any ache in my arm as I hold out my hand for the robin to take food to his mate. It’s early, so early, although the snow is late this year. Other years it’s well gone by now, the end of February, but not this year. How is it the robins are mating now when there seems no chance of food for the chicks, at least not yet. What do they know that I do not? And how do they know it?

They’re tuned in, always on the thread, always connected to the Earth and everything around them. They know without needing to know how the weather will be, when the spring will come. All the need to do is touch into those threads that spin their web through the air and everything as mycelium spin through the soil, spreading the word throughout all the living things. Except ourselves.

We humans have lost it, lost the plot. Once we knew, as the robins do, what was happening throughout our planet. Then we decided to see if we couldn’t do better than she, better than the mother, and control her, make her do what we wanted. Well, we’ve screwed that up! We now haven’t a clue, we need machines and programs and algorithms where once we knew in our bones. We no longer trust our bones, our guts, our instincts. We only believe in our minds and they’re not much cop for connecting to everything else that lives.

I learn from the robins. As those tiny claws clutch my finger I let him speak to me with his touch. ‘Listen!’ he tells me, ‘Listen. And look. And smell the air, feel the wind in your hair, the touch of a snowflake as it lands on your skin and the sensation of it melting.’ I hear him. I stand, frozen cold outside but burning with life within. I will listen …

Journey with Trees

Trees for Life’s Corporate & Trusts Development Officer Joyce Gilbert trades funding application forms for a  ‘Journey of Trees’ – a Gaelic place-naming weekend of tree planting and pony trekking.

Last weekend found me walking beside a couple of ponies on a “Journey with Trees” along an old Military Road between Glenmoriston and Invergarry via Fort Augustus. The journey was the initiation of a project I’ve put together to celebrate the place of trees in the local landscape around Dundreggan, but also to highlight the fascinating links between our natural heritage and the Gaelic language. Look closely at ordinary OS maps and you will see a plethora of Gaelic place-names for just about every loch, peak and stream in this part of Scotland. My interest in this was sparked by the realisation that these names can act as a sort of “ecological memory” where the names of animals and plants, including trees are recorded. Just across the Glen from Dundreggan Conservation Estate is Creag a’ Mhadaidh meaning Wolf Crag while just to the east of this is Coille nam Beithe – the Birch Wood. Amazingly, the birch wood is still there, after who knows how many centuries since the name was given to the place by local people. Of course, there are no wolves in Glenmoriston today, but the fact that a remote corrie in the glen is named after an animal that only disappeared from Scotland sometime in the 17th or early 18th Century, is food for thought. Read more …

Being Wild & Hope Bourne

“For money, you sell the hours and the days of your life, which are the only true wealth you have,” she wrote. “You sell the sunshine, the dawn and the dusk, the moon and the stars, the wind and the rain, the green fields and the flowers, the rivers and the sweet fresh air. You sell health and joy and freedom.” So said Hope Bourne, and so say I.

As a somewhat decrepit cripple with bad eyesight, the gods only know how I’d survive off the grid … but I would infinitely rather be there, out in the wilds, than live even in a hamlet, let alone a village or a town. My nearest neighbour now is a quarter of a mile away and that’s far too close! I’d prefer something like five or ten miles to the next nearest person. No, I don’t like living amongst people. And I don’t feel safe amongst them either. I do feel completely safe out in the wilds, amongst the animals and trees, the rivers, mountains and sea, I know absolutely, in my bones, that none of them would ever harm me … but people? Hmmm! Not a safe species at all. Perhaps some of you feel that way too.

One of my biggest fears about growing old is that I won’t be able to take care of myself and have to go live in a home. I think I’d rather take a long walk in January, in the snow, in the Cairngorms, with a bottle of good brandy and a box of painkillers! I would die quickly of suffocation in a home, surrounded by people with whom i have nothing in common, so why not go easy in my beloved wild lands?

I was reading a piece about “ecopsychology” and “pachamama” this morning. Hmmm, again. All sounds so “head-stuff” to me, carefully thought out and written, by academics and with lots of holes (lacunae – to be properly academic about it) in the philosophy, and all seeming to fit neatly with the axe these people have to grind. I know, in my bones, that in order to live (not survive) people must stop prostituting themselves and all the joys of this Earth for money, so as far as the eco-lot go I agree with them somewhat there. But why do we have to go to the other side of the world to find it, find the means of reconnecting with the Earth? Perhaps because the powers-that-be, politicians, academics and others to whom we give our power and turn into authority-figures, tell us there are no indigenous people here in Britain. Ha!

Exmoor valley

Exmoor valley

Do you realise that when you agree with this premise it’s because you are accepting someone else’s definition of indigenous? You give them the power to tell you what the word means. You give them the power to tell you what you are. Is that good?

Indigenous, from the dictionary and the Thesaurus, means native, original, homegrown, local … well, I don’t know about you but I’m all those things with regard to my homeland, Britain. Oh yes, I’ve mixed blood, but what is that? Blood is made of molecules, atoms and particles of the Earth’s body, bits I borrow from her for each lifetime to make a spacesuit for my spirit to live on Planet Earth. They change throughout my life – for instance, the dust you hoover up is largely skin cells you and the rest of your family have shed over the week. Cells die, you shed them, and you grow new ones. That happens with blood cells too. Everything you eat goes to make the new cells, so bits of you come from carrot and cabbage, venison, cheese, pinto beans, grains, beer, coca cola (if you drink the horrid stuff!), etc, etc. so what is all this blood-fetish? DNA, I hear you cry. Well, what is DNA? Is it physical – yes. Is it made of particles and atoms and molecules of the Earth’s body – yes it is. Yes, it holds certain programmes, like how to grow an eye, what colour your skin will be and such, but these also change, that’s thought to be likely how Neanderthal man got wiped out, by interbreeding with other varieties of human. Like how the Scottish Wildcat has been nearly wiped out by interbreeding with domestic cats. So just how far back are you taking this blood-fetish thing? The DNA goes back into the apes and monkeys our human boies developed from; and back into the bodies they came from; and back into the single-cell organisms before them … etc. So I am indigenous, whatever Mr Cameron and other politicians and academics like to say. And so are you.

Tarr_Steps

Tarr Steps

And I am connected deeply with the Earth, though all those molecules and atoms and particles. I’m also deeply connected to her spirit. When I’m surrounded by the fog-haze of human thinking in a town or village or city it really is like wading through mud to reach into the spirit-of-place where I am. It’s much harder to feel nature. It’s also very easy to be mentally swamped by the shibboleths, the beliefs of most people beliefs which are largely empty of real meaning, of the people all round me. Large groups of people who don’t go in for deep thinking spread a miasma around them of their own beliefs, it’s cloying and very hard to resist. I can, and I do when I have to go into conurbations, bit even for someone with my years of experience in doing it, it’s very hard work. For most folk, who don’t even realise it’s there, it has them completely in thrall.

So I try to go there as little as possible. I avoid being amongst groups or crowds people unless I choose. I stick with my friends the trees and the animals, birds, fishes and plants, and rocks. And that’s where I live, not as wild as Hope Bourne, but fairly off-planet to most folk *grin*. This way, I can hear easily what the Earth and all her spirit-parts want, and want of me. I also have the space-time to do my best to do what she and they wish of me. The groups (small) of folk I associate with every now and again, all feel the same way although not all of them have, as yet, achieved as comfy a lifestyle as me, but they’re all working on it.

Connecting with nature, with the Earth, with wildness, means you just have to make the space-time for it. You really won’t do it in large groups, nor festival weekends, nor workshops of loads of people! You have to take your courage in your hands and be alone, be alone for long, long past when it gets scary; be alone in the dark, in the woods, by a river, on the seashore, up a mountain – all of those. And be alone without even your mobile phone turned on!

Spider tree

Spider tree

We’re not taught or encouraged to be alone, so we’re always deafened and befogged by other people and their thoughtforms. Nature, the Earth, the spirit-world, can’t reach us through the fog and, most of the time, we don’t even know to ask it to come to us! We sit about, in a coma-like state, waiting for someone/something to do it all for us. Living wild, even only as wild as I do, means you just can’t be so lazy as that, you have to get off your butt and ask, communicate with the natural world, and with the spirit-world.

The ecopsychology lot don’t seem to realise this. They don’t seem to know anything about folk like Hope Bourne (who, of course, they don’t consider to be indigenous!), nor do they comprehend just how much she had to be in touch, communicating all the time with everything non-human all around her in order to live. Until we all grasp this, that it’s up to each of us to get out there and communicate with all of our ancient brethren who are not human, we can go to as many workshops as we please. They’re just a means of passing the time, like X-Box! They’re not real and they will do nothing but wind us up in yet another fog so we know nothing but what some other person has told us. I wonder how much of the human race will ever dare to be real?

As Hope shows us, there is hope for all of us … but only if and when we get ourselves out of our comfort-box and dare, risk, begin completely alone.

 

 

 

Exploring Thresholds

Following on from writing the Merlin book I’m giving a workshop on Exmoor on Exploring Thresholds. It will be an intimate and informal workshop, just 4 participants, and happens out in the wilds of Exmoor, at ancient crossing-places where I’ve worked with Merlin all her life, and my father before me.

Thresholds can be tough and confusing, difficult places – I’ve crossed enough during this lifetime to have great respect for them. Merlin has always been my guide and ally, helping me across, and I’d like to offer the introduction to him and how he works this way to you. Nowadays, we’re encouraged not to take particular notice of thresholds but it wasn’t always so, we used to celebrate and work with them as I was taught as a child. Acknowledging thresholds, accepting and spending time at them, giving them respect, really works. It helps us, and it helps all those around us too. Exmoor is full of thresholds between worlds and we’ll explore some of them on this workshop … and what they hold for each of us.20160706_190319

I’m starting a new way of working too, working with Dr Kevin Ashby PhD, a poet and writer who’s been studying the old ways with me for several years now. Kevin’s great fun, has lots of insights and a wicked sense of humour, and he’s an ace drummer and overtone singer too. As well as working with me, Kevin will be setting out his own workshops in 2017. Between us, Kevin and I have done a load of threshold crossing and so are good guides to help you.

If you feel this might be fun, get in touch with me at elen.sentier@yahoo.co.uk for more info, and to book. This workshop is really small and intimate, just 4 places, so it’s worth getting hold of me fast to book yours.

 

 

 

 

dawn mist over the Barle deer Stag hind & fawn Dunkery from above Porlock Mounsey mist dawn Ponies at Wam Barrows4 Sun over Wam Barrows sunset 4

 

 

 

 

9781785354533_Pagan Portals_Merlin_PB.indd

 

And this is the Merlin book … due out Dec 2017

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates on publishing and pre-ordering.

 

Trees for Life: Rewilding Grove

I’ve just written a wee story for Trees for Life … this is part of it …

More dreams come to you. This time they begin with a long deep howl. Straightway it’s answered, and answered again and again. Your skin tingles and a smile creeps onto your mouth, you know you are dreaming and have not the slightest wish to wake. ‘Come!’ your heart whispers and soon you hear the patter of delicate, clever paws that know their way so well through the forest, ‘Come,’ you whisper again, ‘please come’. In your dream your eyes open and all around you now stand the grey shadows, tongues lolling, smiling, eyes shining with curiosity. ‘A human!’ you hear in your head, ‘a human who wants to know us!’ The alpha, a white female comes slowly towards you, you sense she doesn’t wish to frighten you. You stay quite still, projecting love and delight. Her nose is two inches from yours, you smell her sweet breath, her tongue comes and licks your face … your stop breathing and your heart gives a little skip. She moves away from you and the others come up, they nose and lick and push you, soon you are rolling in a heap of warm fur, being licked and played with as if you were a cub. The alpha female gives a short bark, the pack looks up, they give you quick lick and nose-pushes, and then they are off, following her back into the forest.

You can read the full story HERE.

It’s part of a piece for the website of the grove of trees I’ve just organised to celebrate and encourage rewilding through Trees for Life. They will begin planting it this autumn which is the best time to plant the trees. This is the grove’s website

I would really love it if you can help by adding trees to the grove. It only costs £5 to plant one tree so if you ever find yourself with a choice of what to do with a spare fiver do think of this grove, it would love to grow and can with your help. I’ll certainly be adding to it myself. My husband says he’d rather have a tree planted than a brithday or Sun-Return prezzie so I’ll be honouring that wish, and the same for other friends who’d like a tree for a present too.

Please share this grove around your networks if you can. It’s one of many but every little sharing helps to grow the whole great wood we’re aiming at … and enables more woods to be planted too.

wolf_1

Imbolc, Calleach and Groundhogs

A lovely way of working for Imbolc that connects our old British stories with American ways by Nancy Lankeston who I’m looking forward to working with in May 🙂

The idea of waiting and watching for the first inkling of spring is not new. The ancient Celts celebrated Imbolc in early February long before Groundhog Day existed. Celtic stories tell us that the Cailleach—the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death—gathers firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Goddess Cailleach wishes to make the winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.

Read more HERE

You can find out more about at her website Sacred Earth Institute.