in the beginning in the beginning was the single song of the songbird that broke the dark silence and pierced the quiet sky so the singing of this world might begin
in the beginning in the beginning the nightjar tumbled moth winged bat whispers across the path and into sky
in the beginning in the beginning was the grey ocean of pre light cresting silver waves to the moon
in the beginning in the beginning our voices measured the dark between us our words unshaping the world that held us bound, making it anew as the car crept closer to the dawn our headlights counting trees.
in the beginning in the beginning we knew the world we were becoming listened for its voice among the falling leaves smelled it on the salt tongue mist that licked the shore.
in the beginning in the beginning was this daily commute, this stretch of spirit become flesh, action become world, this pause between the rush of dark busying and the school bus that meets down the hill.
in the beginning in the beginning was the red light of dawn stretching the expanse of heaven above the dark mountain of all that was and would be.
1. it is a long journey from dust to dust becoming and becoming until we are no more
2. today i sort the wool rank with goat and dirt of living – hook out the bristle thorn, lucerne stalks and seed debris – air it on the table in the sun. sinking fingers into sun warm fleece to say the prayers of thanks
because how can this not be holy grown of the forest and the sun and the earth until shaggy with curls and tree entangled we meet eye to eye on the cutting table.
harvest days spent in the goat house conversations rising and falling into silence while they press their soft foreheads into dip of shoulder, leaning into us as the long curls fall to the ground to be gathered and sorted and weighed.
when winter comes we will spin washed fleece by the warmth of the fire hearing it speak the names of our gods from lap to hands to bobbin.
3. in the caterpillar soup of this transitional phase when all we thought we knew of our work in the world is being dissolved amidst virus and enzyme and dust that storms thick billows from unbreathable desert.
in this time of transition and transiting, it is the imaginal that knows what we never knew we knew, every thought brought forward into action from the deep of our knowing matters, becomes matter in the world we want to be.
4. i don’t think i ever mattered to him any more than he could have mattered for me and i don’t say that lightly – i think we crystallise the immensity of who we are into matter – into embodied form when we love fierce enough, love enough to animate flesh – to become an earthbound conduit, sharing and shaping energy into form. no, i don’t think we mattered at all.
5. the potter sounds the cup to test if the making is whole a cracked cup, no matter how fine the flaw, cannot ring with the sound of its making.
in the same way words written longhand by light of tree or moon or LED, shaped digital and saved by the transient gods of data preservation, are tested by the wind given breath to sound them. to hear if the note they played from the deep holds true.
6. and then what of these moments under a summer night sky when the space between is no more and the leaves on the apple tree rustle untouched in the moonlight and everything ripples ecstatic skin in voices full soft saying it is beautiful it is all so beautiful.
7. it is the slow grind of coriander seeds picked early autumn in the black stone of mortar and pestle, the spinach gathered thick dewed in the morning, it is gloved hands on the wheelbarrow while raven shouts the sky, it is pawpaw and kiwi and plum and grape and chilli grown too tall to reach. it is the slow everyday eating and being eaten until i am here, the location, becomes i am here, the being.
8. because what do we live for dust to dust but this.
In response to Brendan’s excellent essay earthweal’s weekly challenge: EARTHCRAFT(a way of working)
by the clear light of morning
these hands have grown old
counting months and moons
on knuckles like prayer beads –
learning postures of praise
and gestures of thanks,
hands face down
to the cooling earth.
cupped fingers to palms
to wrist to palm,
to the waxing moon.
it is morning now, love,
the days grow short
and ache with beauty,
my hands an empty bowl
to the wheeling sky.
1. there is no sanctuary but here, waiting in the soft between rib and hip and small of back.
2. first light we walked the waters edge amid the silence and the shuffling reeds waiting for the dawn flight of egrets hundreds of white wings flying the seam between river and sky like breath across the water.
3. we came here to this place this steep catchment slope in the rain shadow of this mountain. and perhaps we wanted green pristine light leaf through forest and stream that flows forever clear and clean – but we were not that.
thick wattle infested with snares hidden among old growth forest in the ravine. the skin of the hill crackled dry and disturbed.
4. fed the goats under a low rumbling sky in the goathouse we built through the summer. found and old door with a porthole, wooden walls, sod roof. inside all is quite but the steady chew of cud and the sibilant sighs of new rain in the roof grass.
5. these are our holy of holies the prayers that shape us and the living between.
6. we cleared the wattle. finding forest trees and old scars. had bonfires to the aching moon burning the root stumps sending sparks into the clear night sky – we learned who lived here – sometimes by bloody encounter in the henhouse – sometimes by quiet recognition of other while the mpephu grew waist high and the seedbank dreamed a forest into being
7. how many years in the vegetable garden last light, until trogon showed up perched silent incandescent on the fence post – watching the scrape of hand furrows, planting of seeds in soil black soft now with time.
8. in the counting of these numbered days when waves no longer hiss on the shore but counts its toll in available beds and percentages of patients recovered nine eggs from the hen house this morning are solid smooth sanctuary in my hand.
9. we planted in the name of the goddess and sought blessing of the gods we never knew, and we grew.
by the time trees new planted were casting shade the girls were naming their own gods singing their songs to the soft growing earth and my father had died here his ashes becoming the land
and the years turned and turned again and the rhythms of seasons settled. a wood owl landed with claw scratch on the steep pitch roof of the house to sit the night in deep song, slowly slowly hill becomes forest becomes sanctuary we took time we take time to heal.
10. high summer i had gone to the steep slope forest again – to the tree at the centre of the centre given myself to that yielding forest floor, slept sun-dappled and adrift amongst the curve of root and crunch of leaf until my skin was no more no beginning no end. kingfisher called me from sleep called low branched loud just beyond my reach called until breath by breath i took form once more found feet and walked the world anew.
11. there is no temple but here, waiting in the soft between rib and hip and small of back.
this is our holy of holies the earth prayer that shapes us and the space that lives between.
Posted in response to Earthweal’s Weekly Challenge: Sanctuary
if i say i love and it was not predicted by an algorithm, is it really love or an act of resistance. i don’t want to be mapped, charted, measured.
i want to say lost and taste that word like salt from another ocean. i want to loose myself again and again to this six note feather song that falls from the tree with late light that pools amongst root and leaf to spill over skin new lined with paths made by feet finding their way.
low soft their voices came on white wings across the water reflecting sky reflecting water
and we wanted to join them across that still forever – touch again their shining faces, walk fearless on the reflecting sea. but our earthbound bodies sang kin-songs to the rock spilled shore – took form from the forest that named us trading our wings for words and the knowing and forgetting that brings.
some mornings water’s edge we hear them calling still low soft voices like white wings across the water – and we lean towards that calling toes touching that rippling forever and we cast our words in paper boats towards that distant shore.
For Eathweal’s weekly challenge: Voyage to the Otherworld
drove to the city and back six hours each way returning the art student to the university she evacuated for fire four weeks ago – some buildings still charred stone exterior, roadside trees holding helpless charcoal hands to the sky on the slopes of the mountain that runs black seams up into the high gorges where nothing but eagle and rock hyrax nest.
i slept the night on a riverbank deep within its leafy suburban heart, the treeline hiding a seething multitude of sins but all i could see from my window was the mountain peak fading into the crescent moon sky. i slept dreamless in that place the endless drone of city and aircon and push of river at its concrete banks speaking a voiceless dirge to the night.
and slow the day came warming leaves fallen damp on the path.
we shared a makeshift breakfast of the previous day’s travel food fresh season naartjies and cream cheese from home on the old stone steps of the university near the room where she stays. pied crows drawing slow circles overhead threading red roofs and stone buildings to blue sky and burned trees. the day stretched ahead full with the sadness of parting.
this is the city that bore me raised me through its seasons and shadows, though truth be told it is another world to me now bigger brighter more its shacks and shanty towns bigger and bigger strung spider web with electric cables overhead its relentless gated villas and estates and malls marching off to other mountains swallowing kilometres and kilometres in its suburban daydream. its five lane highways their own special purgatory.
an hour away i climbed those distant mountains looking back at the city like a jeweled illusion in morning light – endless suburbs bathed in soft mist and factory belch, the bays and small harbours postcard blue under the flawless sky.
steep driving down the other side the road unravels horizon to horizon through hills and crop-lands playing pastoral painting – dams and ponds brim full of first rain reflecting the cloud skud sky
(and perhaps and maybe as the fields speed past and for a moment, like in summer when cupped hands to the surface you look through the reflection to the world of waterweed beneath, the fawn stands green clearing on the edge where the the old tree reaches over the stone pile and something twangs in the place where knowing lives and a doorway swings open and shut and the road draws me on and on)
and all the while the distance between stretches until my heart pulled taut is played like a drum – a four beat repeat like a calling like an approaching
and finally end of day rounding the pass that opens rockface to stretch of ocean and estuary and forest and all the voices that speak me i retrieve the skin i left at the shore.
For Eathweal’s weekly challenge: Voyage to the Otherworld
love never changed her mind or changed her ways. she has always been in love with you, with the fiery heart of your living – your burning passions that could set a room aflame – the quiet your of being in the emptiness. she knows your vulnerabilities, your need to keep yourself warm. and perhaps she should have said something (and perhaps she did) when your living flame turned to burning desire and trees began to fall in your wake.
and you need to know she loves you no less now that the world is on fire. that she walks with you, tattered and burned thirsty feet crunching warm ash, that she still hopes you will see yourself in her eyes and know that there never was any need – that you always had been enough.
Reposting for the Earthweal’s Open link weekend #69.
they say that death might come like a thief in the night, but love knows those paths through the deep mystery too, asking nothing of us but all we are to give,
and waking one morning early summer light to find my belly stretched taut marked welt-red and wild like the skin of a shadow-play beast rippling with life, i knew this love would be fierce – that i could be swallowed, torn sinew and bone from what i thought i was
the animal snuffle-yelp of the newborn would devour and devour completely until nothing remained but that which was always becoming
and years later i would come up for breath, those marks now long faded to lightning-strike silver scars, the girls grown like saplings reaching for the light
and winter would find me sitting forest floor, hands deep buried against breath bite cold, heart gulping radiance that spills through tall trees until i come undone unhinged skinless in the morning, becoming this place we always were
For Sherry at Earthweal’s weekly challenge – Fierce Love.