Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Life of Imogen Crest

Incense mystified the enigmatic
halls where I once roamed,
a novice, dressed in

By book, my scroll,
my pen and dark ink,
my wayward hound and cat,
my pillow of spun silk in red,
the fragrant
rose of lavender.

I am a frieze on a
plastered wall,
still wandering
in my halls and alleys,
cloistered there,
to surmise, not judge.

I am neither you
nor I, cast of
many colours
and skeins.
You might see me in
a tapestry of days?

I saw the rose beginning to
I saw the stone on the
I saw my knight laid
Rusty hill.

Tonight I think
to spin straw
into gold,
and drop my silken
on some
poor merchant's sill.

Yours, only for now,
in good faith,
- Imogen Crest.
copyright Monika Roleff 2005.

Silent Mother

with a nod to Monica ...

after 9-11, I went to the forest,
afraid of the foreseen
"lash of vengence" even then.
I walked through unused campgrounds,
and beautiful spots defiled by
vandalism, litter and man's "necessities".

One piece I wrote then was "Mother Earth",
and many who have read it think
I am speaking of a lost loved one,
or of my childhood dreams ..

but you here will know better.



Of the cottage small there is a wall,
anchored in Mother Earth,
where orchids bloom 'neath a rosemary bush
and birds gather to nest in security
near the window of your birth.

In a hidden cleft near the cottage,
water springs from Mother Earth,
where soft ferns wave in peaceful silence
and leaves swirl in slow colored ecstasy
in tune with some laughing mirth.

On the hill there's a path in the forest,
cut into Mother Earth,
where squirrels play in flickering sunlight
and feathered moss hides in the shadows,
protected by the cedar's girth.

There's a tiny cave on a ridge in the forest,
eye into Mother Earth,
where my love lies in peaceful surrender
now safe from the pain and sorrowed travail
that companioned her labored breath.

There is an alter by that pile of quiet stone,
deep in Mother Earth,
where I do pray every day for God's blessing
to blend with the pulse of heaven here found,
in the bosom of Mother Earth.

Laurel Woman

Laurel woman searches the deep caverns of the earth -- nothing escapes her notice. She watches over the lichen that forms on the trunks of trees, to see if it's frilling right. Chasing after signs of disorder, she sends wisdom messages, order, order. Watching over the birth of baby birds, and that owls make their presence known in the deep dark night. Her fingers are black like trees, combing the earth there, sorting, reminding, teaching. Sometimes she hides in the mist, when she has seen enough. She watches over the design of the spider web, the wild bee hive, the hornet's nest. Other times she is the nightmare in the night, urging, waking, keeping order over all living things. When she is done, she slips back into the trunk of a Camphor Laurel tree...invisible.
copyright Monika Roleff 2005.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Enigma of Trees

We saw today, toward the end of our walk in the Botanic Gardens, something that surprised us. It was an old cypress pine, one of the original ones from the mid nineteenth century, and its trunk was old and stiff. Yet its growth was still green. Last year in summer there had been a storm, knocking down some older trees whose roots had done their work, and since then new ones were planted amongst the many surviving ones. But this one was very old and had appeared to have found a mate.

In David Suzuki and Wayne Grady's latest book called simply "Tree", there are many facts that indicate trees in forests "commune", not just in groups, but communicate, in order to preserve the good of the whole. They share root space and nutrients, across large areas of land, for they know they protect the life that depends on them for survival, the birds, insects, animals and also the understory from the ravages of too much sun. Trees actually link through their root systems, swap nutrients, and grow to accommodate each other.

This old cypress had a brand new growth, and we wondered what it was. It curved its smooth trunk up close, from the earth, right up the knarly older trunk, as if it were a ballast. The top of it was green with fresh Moreton Bay Fig leaves, nestled in a cheek to cheek dance with the older tree, quarter way up its tall height. These trees share space with the Cypress Trees and have done so for over a century. It seemed a courteous arrangement for the younger shoot to oblige the older one, lending a hand to the trunk which we saw, on closer examination, had been damaged where a branch had broken off, perhaps from the summer storms. The tree had been in danger of falling over completely because of the missing branch.

Seemed to us this is what life is all about -- and the enigma of trees.

copyright Monika Roleff 2005.

Elk Woman

Of The Grandmothers

Elk Woman

She came out of the cabin toward them, an old, old woman wearing rumpled slacks and a dusty brown sweater. Around her neck was a large chuck turquoise necklace; in her ears, mismatched turquoise earrings one of which had a feather fluttering from it; on her fingers were several large turquoise rings. She walked slowly, slightly bent over, and she carried the lighted stump of a candle. The two men looked at each other, one raised his eye brows; the other shrugged. She hobbled across the yard slowly and it seemed painfully, her hair was cut short and was a wild white bush around a deeply tanned, wrinkled, old face.

The men were equipped with the most expensive “outdoors” equipment to be found while surfing the web from an office in New York City. They had been planning this trip for a long time and had blueprinted everything from their 100% breathable gortex jackets to the emergency rations and space blankets, folded compactly at the bottom of their packs. It had all started when instead of their usual Club Med vacation they had gone to a Zen Yoga retreat in Arizona. It had begun as a kind of a lark, but there had been people at the retreat who had informed them that they had “potential.” Both of them had always known they had potential, but these people were talking about something different than the ability to make it in business. Dave and Stu were both up and comers and somehow they throughly enjoyed the idea that they had “spiritual” potential as well as the ability to make a killing in the corporate world.

Several months ago they had attended a seminar in Madrid where they were taken aside by an old man. They couldn’t really even tell his nationality, only that he had spent many years out in the wild and looked it. “Basque,” said Dave confidently to Stu later, “I’m sure that was the accent.” The old man had repeated what they had heard before, that they had great potential. “You must sacrifice to reach your goals, however,” he said, “And you must study with the best.” They were both ready to sacrifice for the cause of enlightenment, they had discussed many times how they would pay anything to keep advancing. And as far as studying with the best, well that was exactly what they had in mind every time they searched out a new venue.

The old man had told them, almost in a whisper, where they could find a Native American Medicine Man, a real, honest to goodness old fashioned Medicine Man, as in the real thing. Native spirituality had been conspicuously missing from the retreats they had attended, but it was something they were both very interested in; wooden flutes, rattles, soft drumming, wood smoke - it seemed to both of them to be the obvious next step.

The old man had told them exactly where they could find this Medicine Man. He had also given them names of people to contact who would outfit them and guide them there. It was on the airplane between Madrid and New York that they decided that they would by pass the connections and go directly to the source. “If we go with the Communications Convocation,” said Stu, “they are bound to send a huge group, which will just mean that we have less time with the Man himself. If we find him on our own, we can have ‘private lessons’ as it were, more personal time.” “Yeah,” said Dave, “We have all the information. I think we are ready to do this on our own.”

Now, they shifted from one expensive boot to the other; they had been led to believe the Medicine Man was a kind of Hermit and they were a little disappointed to find out that he had a wife, or a mother or a secretary or whatever she was.

As she reached them, the old woman held out the candle as if to see them better though it was broad daylight. After holding the light up to each of them in turn she sighed deeply and then blew out the flame. “Hello voyagers,” she greeted them in a low melodious voice, “it is a long walk up Lady Mountain, what do you come seeking?” “Voyagers!” laughed Stu a little too abruptly and too loudly, it echoed through the thin mountain air. “Well, we didn’t swim up here anyway!” He elbowed his friend in the side and chuckled at his own joke. The old woman inclined her head, “Ah,” she said, “but a voyager, is anyone who travels to an unknown land, whether by sea or shore.” Something in her smooth tone and low musical voice unaccountably irritated Stu. “Yes, well” he said a little belligerently, scratching at his neck, “We are both Americans. I wouldn’t exactly call this an unknown land.” The old woman just looked at him. “Is it not?” she replied.

He started to speak again, but his friend stepped past him, held out his hand and spoke in a smooth diplomatic tone, “Hi, don’t mind my friend here, it has, indeed, been a long, hard hike. I’m Dave Burgon and this is Stu Marks and we were sent here by the Lone Pine Communications Convocation to study with the ah, Medicine Man, the ah, Holy Man or Guru who is located here in Elk Meadows.”

The old woman shook his hand, hers small and dry as pine bark; heavy with blue veins and rings. She lifted one white eyebrow, “Lone Pine Communications Convocation? That is a mouthful. A bunch of people talking to each other by the Lone Pine? Interesting. What makes these people talking by the Lone Pine think that there is a “Medicine Man” up here in Elk Meadows I wonder?”

The two men glanced at each other. Lone Pine Communications Convocation had no idea they were here, but there wasn’t any reason they had to let on about that. Dave continued talking, his voice taking on a slight patronizing edge. “The Lone Pine Convocation is part of a large Consortium of Zen retreats,” he quoted the brochures. “They are located all around the globe now and are all staffed with World Renowned Fully Self-Actualized Masters and Guru’s. During the last retreat we attended in Spain, we were told, as some of the top participants, that if we really wanted to study in depth we should seek out the hermit on top of Lady Mountain; and they distinctly said Elk Meadow. We got the exact coordinates from a geological survey map and we are using a top of the line GPS.”

The old woman shuffled toward a tree stump that stood nearby and lowered herself slowly to a sitting position. “Spain,” she muttered almost inaudibly, “that will be Basilio, that interfering Basque goat charmer.” She squinted up at the men. “And what would be your definition of a ‘hermit’ I wonder?”

Again the men looked at each other, again there were eyebrows raised and shoulders sightly shrugged. Implicitly they decided to humor her for the moment. “Well,” continued, Dave, still using his best ‘presentation voice’, “this hermit would be an old man, a Native American, full blooded . . . one would be able to see immediately that he had a great presence about him and that he was very spiritually evolved.”

The old woman blinked and her mouth twitched, but she didn’t smile. “One would be able to tell this just from looking?” she asked, “you do know that a hermit is merely one who lives in solitude?”

“Excuse me,” Stu blurted out angrily, “we have hiked all day to get here and we don’t really want to stand around in the side yard having a vocabulary lesson from somebodies secretary, or whatever it is that you are.”

Again Dave put a restraining hand on Stu’s shoulder. “No offense Mam,” he added hastily, “but we do have an agenda and it is getting late. We need to connect with the Hermit as soon as possible to discuss cost factors, housing and food and all the administrative things that have to be taken care of before we can get down to mapping out a course of study.”

Now she did smile, the ghost of a smile, the smile of a ghost; it barely lifted her withered lips, but it lit her eyes. “Ah! So you have come to study. And what is it you wish to learn?”

The men glanced at each other again and then Dave answered. This was something they had thought about, something they had talked about, delved into, discussed at length. “Well,” he said, “we really want to go in all different directions. I mean in every regard and in every dimension. We’re really open, you know? To all kinds of paths and disciplines and approaches. Whatever this Hermit does; Native, New Age, Shamanism, we’re real unrestricted in our outlook. Of course we have done a lot of preliminaries, laid a lot of ground work, so we are really ready for the real in-depth-stuff, which is why we came here looking for this Medicine Man.”

She nodded, “I see. You wish to learn as much as possible, this is admirable. And what is it you wish to learn as much as possible about?”

Dave looked genuinely puzzled, “what do you mean what do we want to learn about?”

She shrugged. “Just that. You say you are open to knowledge and you are very anxious to learn a great deal about something I just wonder what?”

The two men looked at each other again, this time with exasperated looks of disbelief. Dave’s voice had lost some of it’s practiced charm and had an edge to it when he answered, “We want to learn about ourselves of course. What else are you studying when you are learning to be self actualized?”

The old woman’s smile only widened and she looked up at the tops of the pine trees as if she was sharing a joke with someone perched up there. “So. You have walked all day looking for a hermit because you have an agenda to learn as much as possible about yourselves?”

Both men had gone rather red in the face, both began to sputter, but neither managed to get out a coherent word.

“Gentleman,” the old woman continued, all signs of humor suddenly gone, “what would you say if I told you that your Medicine Man, your Actualized Hermit with his great look of spiritual evolution was an old woman with rheumatism in baggy pants with a bad haircut?” She ran her hand backward through her hair making it stand up more wildly than before.

Stu’s voice was angry and had become haughty. “I don’t even find that remotely humorous.”

“No? Nor within the realm of possibility?”

“Not in the least.” The voice was now cold and dismissive.

“Really?” She asked with some interest, “Because I am a woman?”

“Of course not,” he snapped, “We are much more ev. . . progressive than that! We’ve studied with several woman Shamans. There was a beautiful Polynesian Woman at the Maui retreat who positively glowed with presence and spirit, but you, you’re . . .you’re . . .”

She smiled again and struggled to her feet, and though she was bent, she suddenly seemed to loom over them. “Indeed I am, indeed I am.” She laughed shortly. “And I think it is time that you gentleman were leaving. You’ve got a fairly stiff hike ahead of you in order to get yourselves off of Lady Mountain before dark. I would suggest you do that, I would not suggest setting up your fancy camping equipment on this mountain, I really wouldn’t.”

Neither man said a word, it was as if they had been struck dumb. They stared at the old bent woman and suddenly they seemed to see lightening around her head, it looked for all the world like . . . no it couldn’t possibly have been . . . Dave and Stu threw their thousand dollar packs against their backs; nearly ran out of Elk Meadow and practically tumbled over Castle ridge.

“There you go, Briette” she said to herself, reaching back to give herself her child’s name, the one that still echoed in the flowers of the meadows, “There you go, just about as much tact as a Badger.” She picked her candle up from the stump and began shuffling toward the deep forest. “And I never got a chance to tell them exactly where they could find that rotten Basilio. A couple of months snowed in at a sheep camp and they’d be self actualized.” She snorted out loud. “I should have sicced them on Dionysio, a lovely “retreat in Greece” . . . and a run-in with a few maenads is precisely what those two fellows need. She laughed softly to herself, but sobered to silence as she came into the depths of the tallest oldest trees. There was a soft, perpetual shade here, even in the heat of the day; a hushed green light, the deep calm smell of pine and the shush of rushing water. Here was the heart of the wood, the essence of the mountain. Coming to the tallest of the mighty trees she placed her empty palm against the trunk and leaned her forehead against the rough bark. “Grandmother’s,” she whispered, “I come to you empty handed again.” She shook her head, “I was so sure I felt something this time. I am growing old, Grandmother’s, too old. I fail you.” Slowly, using the tree as a prop, she lowered herself to her knees and knelt on the damp earth amidst the trees roots. She felt the spirits come into the space around her; felt the echo of their traditions fill the rushing river, swallow the singing wind and slough sighing through the great trees. Slowly she began to sing:

I came to you a child of love
Rocked on a cradle board of Spring
In the meadow, a child of sun
I taught the summer how to sing

Briette I was, twelve years of sun
I carried the joy that was ours
Then blood called to roses, Casanna
They said, Come in from the flowers

I became a counselor, the Beaver
Learned to patch damns and relations
Ninanne, the heavens called me next
Make the greatest of life’s creations

Many years I walked as mother
As midwife, healer, bear
Then the blood dried on the roses
And I knew it was time to prepare

Astra, they called from the circle
And my daughter’s brought my shawl
But not for me the quiet crone
For soon I heard the call

My heart obeyed the cry of wind
To the top of the mountain tall
Into the old and sacred woods
I followed the Grandmother’s call

Here in the silent green shadows
The substance of myth I found
Bright figures all around me
And one dying on the ground

The totem of my people
Lay bent and almost dead
But as I knelt beside her
She raised her antlered head

“You’ve come my child! You’ve come at last!”
In the end comes sweet release!
The forest saved, the burden passed
I can rest my head in peace!”

How strange to be called child
When one has worn Crone’s shawl
But in this strange bright gathering
I, indeed, felt dim and small

I took her head upon my lap
And she touched me between the brows
And suddenly I felt the weight
Of impending heavy vows

To guard the essence of the land
From waters to pine topped breeze
To defend the animal’s footprints
The ancient spirits of the trees

I felt the thunder of mountain
Rise up wild within my breast
I felt the echos of tradition
Close around me pressed

They said I need not lift this weight
Unless it was my choice
For every daughter of the Elk
Retains the right of voice

“We will teach you much of the other world
What you call myth and mystery
We will teach you all of the patternings
That have formed the bones of history

But ‘tis a heavy burden on your head
To vow to guard your land and race
And you cannot set that burden down
Until one comes to take your place”

But I whispered “yes” in the cool green hush
For the need beat in the land
The spirits round me circled
And I heard their last command

If you take this calling, wear these horns
These are our final claims
You will walk this earth as Elk Woman
We must take your other names

I caught my breath in horror
But I nodded just the same
And from the back of my bent neck
Flew each luminous, cherished name

Briette, joy of the flowers
Casanna, the maiden sweet
Ninanne, with a babe at her breast
Astra’s daughter’s at her feet

When I stood my head was heavy
With the thoughts of my self slaughter
But I rose up clear, and clean, alone
No one but the mountain’s daughter

And the wind blew through my antlers
And I felt each beast and tree
A bird flew through my throat
“Oh!” I gasped, “I see!”

Then the glade was filled with laughter
From a large and merry clan
I felt soft hands upon my shoulders
And my learning then began

The Elk Woman stirred on the ground, it was damp and she was suddenly aware of sharp pains in her knees. She sighed. “But Grandmother’s, as you know, that was long, long ago. My blood clan has long since vanished from this earthly sphere, but you have told me if I hold the mountain, if I remain, that one will come whose heart is of the Elk. And so I wait. But each time I feel feet upon my mountain, it is some imposter, some self seeker come to exploit the mountain or myself, to take, to take always to take.” She snorted, “Condo’s. Oil. Cattle, used to always be cattle, now it’s condos and Zen, good lord what did Buddha have on his mind? Well, never mind, it isn’t his fault, anymore than the other crazies are the fault of that poor boy from Nazareth.” She shook her head, “But, Grandmother’s, I’m going to end up like the old Elk Woman, dying on the ground, I’m afraid. Only, I’m going to do it alone.” She tried to stop it, but her voice shook and she wrapped her arms around herself for she felt cold and shivered. Her old eyes had been dry for so long, that no tear leaked out to run down her furrowed face, but she hugged her self tightly and shook silently for a moment.

When she opened her eyes, in the dim green hush of the woods they were caught immediately by the flicker of her own candle. She stared at it. She knew she had not lit it. She had firmly blown it out after searching for the rainbows around those two dreary men and, of course, finding absolutely nothing. But it was burning now. She got shakily to her feet, one hand against the rough bark of the old tree behind her. She held the candle out in front of her as if it might bite.

“Marvelous,” she snorted, “Now, I’m going senile on top of everything else. Lighting candles and I don’t even know it. Next thing I’ll be burning the forest down. Great guardian. Incredible.”

“Whew!” said a voice behind her, making her spin around almost dropping the candle. “That was some climb! I knew I should have really gone around by way of the meadow, but the ridge didn’t look that steep, but it was! THAT steep!” She was standing there in the green light looking a little bit like a sylvan elf, a little bit like an L.L. Bean Summer Catalog cover, wearing hiking shorts and boots, a sports bra, with a shirt tied around her waist. She looked at the Elk Woman’s candle then around at the big old trees, “It is getting dark up here already, WHOA! Oh my god, look at this!” She spun slowly in a circle her face turned up to the tree tops, then repeated the movement with her arms held out to her sides. She smiled at the Elk Woman, a smile that wrinkled her nose and removed all vestiges of the L.L. Bean Catalog cover. “Sorry!” she said, “‘She Dances with Trees,’ this is an incredible place! I am sorry to just bust in on you like this.” She held out a small compact brown hand which the Elk Woman took in her pine dry one. She didn’t shake, but squeezed very slightly and smiled again.

“I hope I didn’t startle you, I did appear from out of no where, I have a tendency to do that. Do you live here?” The Elk Woman could not remember having been at a loss for words for a very, very long time. “I . . . I . . yes. I . . have a cabin, in the clearing.” She gestured feebly over her shoulder and then stood back, surveying the elf girl from a further distance, trying to get her wits about her. The girl only continued to smile, her head slightly to one side. “Well,” said the Elk Woman finally, much more stiffly than she had intended, “what do you on Lady Mountain? What do you come seeking?”

“Seeking?” said the girl shrugging her shoulders slightly, “solitude? Maybe? I don’t know.” The Elk Woman narrowed her eyes. “You have come here to be alone?” “Not really, or I guess, not specifically,” the girl shrugged again, “I’m traveling, getting to know the country, and I’m writing as I go.” Something in the girls words made the Elk Woman’s breath catch. “Getting to know the country?” she breathed, “What do you mean by that? How does one get to know the country?” The elf girl laughed out loud, her head thrown sightly back, “well, the way you get to know anything or anybody, by being with it, living with it, finding out what it likes, what it doesn’t, what makes it work.”

“Indeed.” said the Elk Woman quietly. “And what is it you write about?” “Ecology,” said the girl, “though that is a word that gets over used and I’m not sure anybody knows what it means any more.” The Elk Woman grew very still. This was not Condo’s, Cows or Consciousness. “And just what does the word mean, in your estimation?” She asked quietly. The girl smiled again, hoisted a rather large pack off of her back on to the ground and unceremoniously sat on it. “Well, the word of course just means the branch of biology concerned with the relations between organisms and their environment. The organisms I happen to be interested in are humans, because they have impacted every other organism on the planet. Of course, it’s a matter of saving the earth,” she explained, leaning forward, talking with her hands, “but it isn’t enough at this point just to talk about saving the earth, we have to learn to live with the earth as well, not ON the earth, and not against it as we have been trying to do for god knows how long; nor against each other for that matter; but somehow we have to learn to live with the earth. We have to learn FROM the earth again; We have to learn how to let ourselves listen to the earth and then to learn from ourselves as well. Does that make any sense?”

The Elk Woman’s hands had begun to shake and she felt wax spattering on to her wrist, but she did nothing. She hardly dared to look, she was so afraid of what she might not see. “It makes a great deal of sense. A great deal indeed.” The Elk Woman took a long deep breath. “You have had a hard climb if you came up over the ridge, perhaps you would like to come back to my cabin and have a bite to eat with me?” she asked, keeping her voice as even as she could. The girl smiled again and lifted her pack to one shoulder, “I’d love that, thank you, you are very kind. That is a fascinating candle you have,” she said pointing “it hasn’t burned down a smidgen since I got here and it casts the most incredible shadows. Do you know when I came up over the ridge, I could have sworn that you had antlers on your head?” The Elk Woman smiled and held the candle closer so the girl could see it better. In the cool twilight, the sacred grove was suddenly filled with shooting, shimmering, dancing rainbows. She gasped and spun around again, but the Elk Woman had snuffed the candle quickly out and the rainbows were suddenly gone; it was unexpectedly quite dark under the big old trees so the elf girl did not see the first tear of several hundred years run down the paper thin cheeks of the Elk Woman.

©Edwina Peterson Cross
~ For Sarah ~

Mystery Searching for Mystery

Mystery on the white wind
Mystery in the clouds
Mystery wrapped in faded fog
Tattered drifting shrouds
Mystery in dark water
Mystery in the snow
Mystery’s silent daughter
Knows nothing left to know

A search for mystery, meaning
Leaving dark unturned
Never the back road to knowledge
Tripping on things unlearned
So sure of what must be searched for
So sure of the clear perfect way
The rules are carved in the ice here
Nothing to lead you astray
Speak just the words you are bidden
And find what they tell you to find
To search there must be something hidden
The back of an eye that’s turned blind

A Different Labyrinth


The charging, churning water of the cataract
caresses alike smooth pebbles, soon sand to be.
There is no distinction amongst fractured souls who's
sorrows are swept away, down to a forgiving sea.

The gentle, languid inlet pool by hidden glade
floats bright blossoms and graceful swan for beauty's sake.
This tranquil dark, deep spread may hide much teaming life,
and decay as well, in Divine cycle to partake.

The sparkling, splendid offered sip from a stranger
is fine wine changed back to the water of life.
No gift in any land more profound than open hand
dipped in cooling, escape from fetid heat and strife.

The morning, misted dew drop draws me ever near
to peer within, but view only curved distortion
of a self I would sure deny - thrice perhaps,
for I sense God's presence there, a foolish notion.

In master Moses' song, thoughts quietly distilled
as dew on the petals to only fade away.
Look for the drop of sweat upon the peasant's brow,
or the joyful birth tears that never seem to stay.

On the twisting, tortured path from will bound plain
to dizzying mountain pass in clouds of mystery,
each form of water will be embraced repeatedly,
for we are beyond dust, of water and spirit free.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Labyrinth - Chatres Cathedral

Cloaks and Veils - Sufi Symbolism

"Your Essence is constantly
both hidden and apparent through me,
For I am your veil, and I am your cloak as well."
-- Maghrebi

(I found this so lovely I had to share it in the Mysteries. I really like
the cloak and veil motif. Just right for Mysteries.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Orpheus Again


Where is he?
Did the maenads
tear him apart again
with their glazed eyes?

that is a cycle play -
a drama,
that goes under
and up again.

he is everywhere
and grows
with or
without our

Yet better
with them.
{Open your eyes
and see.}

copyright Monika Roleff 2005.

For Grandmothers


I am caught, as always,
by words and thoughts more ancient
that what we are taught …
taught to forget,
No one listens to grandmothers anymore,
and young men never hear
what women everknow;
and she said …

"Music and singing

do not produce in the heart
that which is not in it."

And this then is all of it --

People have no faith because
their mothers did not sing to them
before they were born.

Men have no courage
because myths are filtered
by religious leaders
changing money in the temple.

Women have no hope
because their children
will only be slaughtered
on the altar of hubris and greed.

But ...
the poets can reach back --
back and in and through,
and "through and through
the vorpel blade went snicker-snak"

the poet can place the seed of love
within the hearts of shallow men,
but not here --
here where we are of the choir
of grandmothers everbeen.

I must go to the market place
and sing a song of joy.
I must dance on the refuge heap
that the homeless can still dream.
I must walk barefoot
in the park and laugh at --
I must touch the tears
of every grandmother I meet,
and lead children to them,
and gift them mirth
and knowledge of the song.

If I am not a poem
rather than a poet,
then why did my mother
sing to me
before I was ever born?

If I,
as I am,
I am today --
do not place a note
within a yearning heart --
a stranger --
that they may hear
and love …

then why am I
a poet?


The Isle of Ancestors by Heather Blakey

I had let the others go to the Isle ahead of me, had deliberately lingered in the Tavern of the Inn, sharing a night cap with the old woman who ran the place. We talked about the group I had bought to Duwamish and she marvelled at their implicit trust. "You do have a gift child" she said as she poured me a smooth musket. I laughed out loud and cynically told her that I most certainly had a gift for waxing lyrical. She looked at me with knowing eyes and said that she thought I needed to take the trip to the island instead of sitting here by myself trying to avoid truth.

So I got up from the bar stool and as I rose I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned I gasped. There, right before me was Dad, looking just as he had looked when he last stood at my door with his basket of homegrown vegetables in his hand. I dropped my glass as I stepped forward to greet him and glass splintered across the floor. I hugged him and held him tightly for ages.

"Come Heather! I have come to take you to the ferry woman. My grandmother will take you across to the island."

"But Dad! Can't we spend some time together?" I pleaded.

"Shush little one" he smiled, putting his finger to his lips. "There will be time for that later, after you have been to the island."

With that my father led me to the quay to journey to the Isle of Ancestors, led me to the boat my great grandmother steered. It came as no surprise that her boat was shaped as, was in fact a black mare.

Dad gave me a leg up and my great grandmother and I rode bareback without speaking to the Isle of the Ancestors. I knew that she would be by my side while I completed the journey, that she would witness a rebirth. She smiled, nodded in agreement with my thoughts and led me through the moonlit apple orchard towards the stone doors, carved curiously in the shape of a vagina.

The doorway was open and we walked together down the labyrinthine passage way. Memories of Chartres Cathedral swarmed back. Memories of walking the labyrinth gripped me.

On we walked, my great grandmother and I, her warm hand guiding me until finally we entered a space that looked like it had been woven by a raven. A raven's nest? But then, as we circled and approached the hooded figures who were waiting for me, I realised that this was the womb I had lain in all those years ago. For a moment I thought I could hear my mother's voice, feel her movements, hear her feel the quickening as I moved. But then there was silence and I looked at the women who had gathered to greet them and gave them the raven feather I had had tucked in a pocket for protection.

As I sat tears welled and I began to sob in the arms of my great grandmother. The tears I shed were tears that I have resisted shedding. They came in torrents, flooding, drenching us.

"Why?" I blurted almost incoherently. "Why have I had to carry such a burden of grief and loss? Why can't I know unbridled joy?"

The women rose as a collective, revealing themselves to be my grandmothers, dating back centuries. I had never known one of them in my physical life yet I knew them to be my grandmothers. These women embraced me, as a collective and held me until I stopped crying. No one spoke. I felt their empathy, their knowing and I knew that they knew my agony of isolation.

It is a blur now but at some point I realised that they had wrapped me in a cloak of their collective knowing, that they were the cloak, that they had transformed themselves and were a part of me. My great grandmother, the Ferry Woman, sat me on a throne, wearing my specially woven coat.

Bells sounded, announcing that it was time to lead and my grandmother led me out of the throne womb, back up the labyrinthine passage, through the stone vulva and we rode on her mare back to Duwamish.

I held her warm hand briefly, pulled the collar of my new coat up to block the dawn chill and, singing with joy danced towards the inn. The Innkeeper told me the others had been down at the bathhouse and hadn't noticed my absence. So I slipped quietly to my room and slept, still wearing my coat, a coat that will always distinguish me and name me wounded healer.

The agony of isolation is over. Praise be!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Reading of ancestors and a fireboat

The great chief spoke
in his language, Duamish,
of peace
and of the foolishness of young men
who spoke of war

I now find myself
in a far place
walking with you, peopling a place named for the ship
that carried his language to the furthest shore
His message is heard on boardwalks in your gentle village

Orpheus - Greek God of Music & Poetry

Orpheus charmed all living
things with his lyre,
moving the stones...

Gusari Mystique

I stumbled across the Gusari
in a search for a suitable SCA persona
and wrote the following piece for
publication in a Slavic Interest magazine.

I had not yet learned (remembered) the influence
of the Alani, the Mongolian invasion,
and ultimately Mongolian Shamanism.

I wrote manystories and poems about my
fictional 13th century persona as a way
of expressing thoughts about the
conflict of spitituality extend in Eastern Europe
at that time. At first this was fueled by
knowledge that people like the Gusari must have
existed. Later I have learned how accurate
my depictions have been -- supported in part by
e-mails from strangers in Slavic areas
with info about the Gusari myths. Most enlightenting
was an on-line discussion with a Romanian
man of about 104 years who had never seen
a computer before, but wished to share
knowledge that he had kept hidden all of his life
out of fear.


Gusari Mystique
Gusari (Goo sa ree like nursery)

This is a term that can be roughly applied to traveling performers in Eastern Europe, Slavic States and Western Russia during the 8th to 17th centuries, and equates to the Celtic "bard" in function. However, there are many important distinctions that could affect the use of this title or label, especially for SCA Bardic competition.
1. It is a slang term of mixed origin that encompassed performance functions from many cultures. Specific references can be found for:
· Anyone playing the Gusli, a Russian lute type instrument.
· A traveler from afar, possibly originating in Qusar by the Caspian Sea and part of the "Silk Route."
· A political satirist of the type associated with inciting the people of Kiev to free the Prince of Polotsk (circa 1225).
· A person who combined story telling with legerdemain in performance as distinct from traveling actors, jugglers, fire-eaters, etc. They did not always sing, but often combined story, recitation, and song according to the needs of the audience or setting. In this way they are linked with the European treverè tradition.
· Synonymous in the Novgorad area with the "skomorokhi."
2. During the formation in Europe of the unified Germanic Duchies and the Growing power of the Lombards in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Gusari were chastised and outlawed because of their outspoken political parodies. Those who could keep their mouths in check became, Jongleurs (Juggler), Magika, Travere', and Skomorokhi. The latter shift didn't work out, however, because of later persecution by the churches in the 15th-17th centuries in Russia. Apparently, speaking the truth out load was not appreciated.
3. The Gusari is linked to the concept of the "baffoon" which inaccurately translates as "clown" in English culture. Thus a person dressed in harlequin type garb in 12th century Moravia would have acted and performed differently than one in English or French court.
4. Actors in the Gusari tradition performed short skits rather than traditional plays. They often substituted the names of local officials and powerful merchants into the skits for parody, humor, and political purposes.
5. The Gusari are based on a merchant tradition more than a religious one, though the later sift to skomorakhi took on unfortunate religious relationships. They traveled from Turkic (silk route) lands north to Saxony and West to France. Southern influence is lost in Islamic expansion. The collapse of the Khazan Empire seems to have severed any link to Caspian area. However:
· 1999 background for the building of a gas line from the Caspian to Romania refers to following the "Trade Route" established by the Gusari.
· In 1998, two students accused of smuggling in Russian Georgia claimed protection under the "Gusari Law." While no details were given it apparently had to do with ancient protection for the merchant class. The petition was denied because the accused could not prove direct personal ascendancy from the 12th century merchants.
6. Modern usage appears to be linked exclusively with the Gusli instrument, which is now far removed from the original 5 string 'block 'n strum' instrument.

Anyone adopting an Eastern European or near Russian persona can rightly call themselves a Gusari if they tell stories, and use music, magic and other arts to entertain. Presentations are not restricted to lyric forms or Bard traditions. The appropriate term is "bylini", which translates as "what happened." Other mixed story/songs are called "starina", which means "what is old." The best term for this unique persona group is "umeltz", which means "a versatile person." Attempts to use satire and political parody in a medieval tradition will probably not be successful. Logical argument was also by parable and "Plato's Dialectic" rather then syllogistic.

Note: Gusari is also a name for Japanese chain mail armor, which greatly complicates Internet research. Many of my links were developed through communication with the Slavic Interest League in Romania

He walks with bird song and gentle kissing of sun,
That does cast a shadow much larger than the man.
By fond legend he is mystic and Shaman,
For he extends gentle help and peace where he can.

Yet he is a warrior of many practice arts
To shield the weak and defy practiced evil.
In fine story and verse he plays many parts,
In parody and jest -- a quest to fulfill.

Small magic is weaved throughout each haunting tale,
To amuse dancing children and draw crowds still near.
To each joined communal friend he does not fail
To provide solace and hope, and drive away fear.

He is traveler and merchant from far distant land,
Owing allegiance to no Lord, liege or Prince,
He bears hungry news, invention and craft of hand.
From Kazan to North Sea he appears quite by chance.

The strum of the Gusli calls back to forest home
Where all may eat, pray and sing and safely come.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Discourse with Windhorse

Mona was forever doleful, I thought,
on viewing her, for that was noble, to be disenchanted,
disappointed, hard at work on something that had no resolution,
the noble work to stress and strain, filling the tolls of hours.
It wasn't until much later I realised she was faintly smiling,
And had an ironic view that served her well, guarding
the gates of freedom as she did.
I noticed also there is not a soul around her to vex her,
yet there was a gravity, about her, that no human could possibly shoulder,
yet this used to be my thought of her, when I looked at her when I was young.
Bleeding hearts, lovers, soldiers, knights, sisters, brothers - you know who you are,
so I don't need to explain your presence, for you just are, and indeed
I don't begrudge your cares and rallies, but note,
in the garden of truth and delight, there is a separateness to the
oneness you all seek, which may lead to your overflowing.
When I looked again at her face, indeed she had been
busy engaged in discourse with Windhorse.....
copyright Monika Roleff 2005.

A Spiral Mystery that isn't

Ancestors and Apple by Barbara Banta

The others have been shopping, or celebrating yesterday's triumph, or resting from it, while I've been standing nearly the whole day on the dock overlooking Duwamish Bay just opposite the Inn. From time to time one of my friends waves or calls out for me to join them but I shake my head and turn away. They probably think me unfriendly, I know, but I can't be with people right now.

I got very little sleep last night; my dreams gave me no rest. They weren't nightmares in the ordinary sense, no monsters chasing me, or fear of what lurked under the bed, no endless descent through a pitch black hole. But there was an empty field with a gate leading nowhere, and dark steps plummeting down to an angry sea. There was a shell on the windowsill in my cell at the Abbey that whispered and wept to be set free, and a green woven basket back in the grotto that shook and trembled at the fierce fluttering inside it.

I look up as the water of Duwamish Bay begins to froth and churn. A fleet of boats approaches the dock, flags fluttering in the soft summer night. I strain to find the one that will take me to the Island of Ancestors but they all look much the same in the dark. The traveller next to me chuckles and mutters something about worrying too much then confidently boards a ferry. How did she know? The flag on the one nearest me, appears to show shafts of wheat and baskets of corn, no clue there, perhaps it's a boat meant more for farm produce than for passengers. Then in the dull glow of running lights I read Trefoil and remember my shamrock suite at the grotto. As I come aboard, the ferry pilot nods a greeting then goes about the tricky business of extricating her boat from betwixt and between the other boats and in a few minutes we are plowing through the starry night toward our destination.

Twenty minutes later the faint outline of the island appears and despite the fact that there are no lights to guide her in, the ferry is soon safely tied up and I find myself walking toward the grove of trees the enchantress told us to find. Apples are in season and I pick some (Braeburns--my favorite) and throw all but one in my tote bag. I walk the moonlit path munching on the tangy juice-filled apple, while I try to quiet my rapidly beating heart.

The stones that lead into the mound are easily two stories high and as I pass through, heading toward the faint red glow, I feel the warmth of the torches and hear them sputter and spit in a passing breeze. The well-worn path leads me downward until I finally emerge into a great hall of shadows whose only light comes from a small fire in the center of the room. My ancestor sits by the fire, cloaked and hooded, facing in the opposite direction and with my heart already overflowing with love, I circle around and sit on the bench opposite.
"Hello Bev." My birthday twin-almost-sister from long ago lowers her hood and smiles at me and I forfeit the question about myself to ask, "Do you walk now, Dear Heart?"

"Not too often," she answers, her eyes shining, "mostly I dance!"

How I long to stay and talk with her but there are rules and reasons for this meeting and I've already broken the first. She draws something from her pocket and presents it to me. It's a cylindrical object four inches long in black and gold. She waits patiently, watching in amusement as I try to make sense of the riddle.

I turn the spyglass around in my hand in bewilderment, wishing I could ask why. Finally it comes to me. "Ah, to see in the distance, to study details--to focus on my stories," the words tumble out and she gives me a thumbs up sign. "You always gave the best presents," I admit. "Okay, Bev, your turn."

"Are you doing what you love?"

"Every day," I assure her. I reach into my tote for the apples and place them into her outstretched hands. We both watch as they flatten and lengthen and turn into the prettiest pair of ballet slippers either of us has ever seen.

Dawn is breaking as our fleet of ferries makes its way across Duwamish Bay. Looking back at the island through my spyglass, I can almost see a slender figure in red and gold slippers dancing among the apple trees.

Isle of Ancestors by Gail Kavanagh

After my strange ride on the carousel, I returned to find my companions gathered on Duwamish Quay.The spell of the carousel had completely driven from my mind that we were to go on another journey tonight.My companions were all getting on their barges and I hurried down the quay in search of mine. A woman called out to me and I stepped down into my barge. I sent a quick thank you to my late father for his insistence on taking me out to sea at the first opportunity. Thanks to him I am quite at home in boats and I settled happily behind the ferry woman as the boat moved away from the quay.

It was a clear night full of stars and the sea was very still. I saw an island looming out of the darkness and felt the ferry jolt as it slid ashore. I climbed out and waded up onto the beach. I found
myself in a grove of apple trees that reminded me of the Abbey – and for a moment I felt a piercing homesickness for my little caravan and my horse Tinker. But faint heart ne'er enjoyed an adventure like this, so I kept to the path until I reached a huge stone doorway. I passed under the torches into a sloping passage and continued down until I found myself in a great hall. What little light there was
came from a dying fire in the centre of the hall. Seated nearby was a hooded figure. Remembering my instructions, I circled halfway round the hall and sat down facing my ancestor – who would it be?

``Greetings, ancestor," I said.

The figure reached up and tossed back the hood. A young man sat there, with a bright, laughing face and thick curly hair. Under the robe he was dressed in a colourful jerkin and leggings. I was
expecting someone wise and sere – this cheeky whelp looked like one of my sons. What question could I ask him? But there was only one question I really wanted to ask.

``What is this place I dream of, where the colours are so much more intense, where I feel so much more alive and happy? Does it really exist?"

He leaned forward and I saw wisdom as well as merriment in his eyes.

``Someday," he said, ``you will come home."

He reached into his jerkin and pulled out a single blade of grass. When I took it in my fingers I felt it pulse with life.

``This comes from that place you dream about," he said. ``Keep it with you always and you will find your way."

It was his turn to ask a question now. His merry eyes danced as he said, ``And after you – does the storytelling go on?'I told him about my children – Lucia, the daughter who writes songs; Kat, the one who tells her poems in pictures, and Chris, the son who creates worlds no one but he has ever seen – and of my grandchildren, who reach out for crayons and paper almost as soon as they can sit up. He listened with joy, this unknown minstrel ancestor of mine. Suddenly I found I was holding a piece of paper, on which was written the words of Lucia's lovely song to her grandmother. I gave it to him, and he sang it softly to himself as he scanned the words.

``It will go on with us," I said, ``as long as there are stories to be told."

Now it was time for me to leave. I followed the circle round the fire and went back to the shore where the ferry woman waited.As we sped across the glassy water, I clutched my blade of grass and felt overwhelming joy.

Isle of Ancestors by Alex Chua

I looked up from where I stand on Duwamish quay. The night is clear;the waxing moon rises over my shoulder, and I hear the gentle rolling of water past the barges that are lined up in the Duwamish. My eyes fell on a worn looking barge with purple paint peeling off everywhere. I looked up and met the eyes of a ferry woman with silver hair. She smiled and signaled me on board. My feet moved forward and I found myself on board the barge as if in a trance. I was soon in the middle of the moonlit sea and under the bright moonlight, I could see the outline of what Alice, the ferry woman told me was the Island ofAncestors.

Alice stops by the shore and I saw a grove of apple trees. These were the biggest apples I ever saw and their fragrance filled the air. I could see a moonlit path between the trees and I follow it to a mound.In the centre of the side is a doorway made of two immense upright stones topped by a massive lintel. There are two torches burning at the door providing light for the entrance into a passageway. At the far end of the passage is a faint red glow.

I was suddenly gripped by fear and I froze in my tracks while cold sweat just poured from my paralysed body. I could feel a surge of energy from beyond the end of the corridor. I heard a sharp sound that
pierced the still night air and the sound grew into a series of shrieks. My mind will filled with images of all the evil that I know in my imagination and I saw something flying towards me from the red
glow. I wanted to run but I could only stare ahead. I could not even close my eyes... The flying object grew and split into four as itneared me... and I start to realise to my embaressment that they were the 2 pairs of love birds from the bay! The birds flew past me into the night and I was immediately able to move.

I proceed down the corridor and emerge into a shadowy great hall. In the centre is a hearth with the glowing embers of a fire. Seated before the fire facing away from me is a hooded figure. Across the
hearth from this figure is a bench. I circle halfway around the hearth clockwise and sit facing the figure. My grandmother looked up from the hood and smiled. She has passed over to the other side fmore than 2 decades ago, but her smile was so full of love and compassion that I felt absolutely no fear. I just looked into her eyes and savored the connection and intimacy of the moment.

"You looked confused" Ma Ma said as a matter of fact. "What is it that you want to know?"

"Ma Ma, I have rediscovered my true nature and purpose in life, but I am so scared of the uncertainty that awaits me... ..." The words just flowed past my lips in our dialect, as if they had waited all a long time for this very moment.

The gentle smile never left Ma Ma face as she reached into her pocket and took out a handkerchief. She handed it to me and I recognised it to be my own... the smell was so familiar and I was suddendly back to when I was 5 years old again. I was washed by a deep sense of peace and joy.

"You only need to stop thinking and start living" she wispered, "Let your inner child come out and play, you have imprisoned him for long enough, he is a part of you, a very important part".

"Make a commitment to me now. Promise to accept and love this inner child. Can you do it?" Ma Ma said in a serious yet calm tone.

I hesitate foe a split second before replying, "Ye... Yes".

"How?" She asked. "Tear a page from your journal, write down your commitment, sign it and give it to me... ..."

I begin to write as emotions bubbled out of my spirits and flowed down my cheeks as tears of life. i felt alive again as I penned these words.

"I promise to accept and love my inner child and be the best that I can be. I wil not imprison myself anymore and I resolve to startliving fully every moment of my life starting from now!" She waved her hand and I complied and finished my circuit around the hearth, go behind her, and pass out of the mound and back along the path. I was still crying uncontrollably and it feels so fresh and

I wiped my tears and re-board the barge to Duwamish as the first light of dawn breaks over the eastern horizon. It wasn't long before I was back at the Duwamish Inn feeling more complete and at peace than I
have ever been since I can remember... ...

What the Ancestor Said - by Lisa Phoenix

You thought
you had failed,
that you were
lost, a

and desolate,
or merely
and numb

But always
you did
what was
striving and
engaging love
and longing,

finding what
you never

always on
your path,
after all

Ursa Major by Karen Roberts

Image Hosted by

I enter the great hall, one torch in my right hand, held high, illuminating my path. I sense that the chamber is round, and proceed carefully clockwise, touching the wall occasionally with my left hand for comfort. It seems to breathe into my hand, a sense of ancientness diffusing across the gradient into my skin, and I feel myself rooting into the earth, even as I step lightly. I am becoming part of this chamber, which I dimly recognize, by scent and sound, a faint pulsing that seems to come from within my own chest. I see a fire, glowing embers with the remnants of small flames licking the air. Seated before the fire is a figure, draped in a magnificent robe of many colors, some snaking through with a metallic gleam, some dull and homespun. The figure is large and powerful, and I see that it faces not only the fire, but a crude bench which sits on the other side of the fire. I cautiously approach, feeling my way around the cavern, and seat myself on the bench after placing my torch in a gnarled tree trunk obviously meant for the purpose. I sit quietly, waiting.

The figure in the robe stands, towering above the fire. Suddenly, the hood is thrown back and I behold a large bear, a female. She stares at me, and I, humbled, bow my head. I recall this bear from a dream I once had. She had stood beside my bed, through a long and dark night of fear. Some time passed. Finally, I speak.

"Hello, Mother," I said. "I know you." She smiles, exposing strong teeth. Her eyes shine. In that instant I feel my thick pelt against the bench, hear the slight whisper of moth wing around the torch, smell the ferry woman still at her post on the island's shore. I feel stirring within me bear essence from time immemorial,feel my heavy paws running across mountain ridges, forested hills, and boggy riverbanks. I breathe, my breath harsh, fetid,powerful.

"Help me, Mother. What is my path?"

She lumbers around the fire, coming quite close to me, and I feel the immensity of her body. I feel the longing to reunite with her, to suckle her rich milk, bury myself in her thick fur. I smell
her essence, smell the same essence on my own pelt, my own skin. I am of her. She places a powerful paw on my head. The weight is massive, bowing my neck. I feel the subtle prick of her claws on my
tender nape. The feeling is nearly indescribable, a rush of bear knowledge, bear instinct, bear lineage, all passing through me, flowing like lifeblood through my veins. I see my fur unravel, become fiber and cell and DNA and atom and subatomic particle, see all of my matter swirl into the air and join with the universe, becoming tree, plant, river, stone, star. All paths are one, all lead to the self, all are bear. I gasp with recognition, the simple beauty of it. In a powerful motion, she wrenches one long claw from her great paw, and hands it to me, still dripping with her warm
blood. I take it and hold it in my hands as though it were a living creature, tenderly cupping it.

I sense her curiosity, her need. Once again she touches my head, this time gently laying her bloody paw on my forehead. Bears fill my vision, all female, all powerful; all dear, known, and beloved. My sisters. They look to me, eyes searching, questioning.

"I will help them come to you, Mother. I will show them the path."

I reach into my pocket and pull from it a smooth stone. Jet black and shiny, it lies in my hand like a glittering eye. It is a stone from my homeplace, one I held throughout many sleepless nights, working it over and over until the oils of my skin had burnished it. It contains all of my hopes, dreams, fears, and intentions. I hold it out to her, my eyes barely meeting hers, my other hand clasping her powerful claw. She looks at my hand, and at my face, with great tenderness, takes the stone, and swallows it.

She moves back to her seat, wraps herself in the robe, and appears to sleep. Pulling the lace from my boot, I wrap her claw and fashion a pendant, tying it round my neck. Anointed with her blood and protected by her gift, I rise and make my way slowly from the cavern, walking fearlessly through the darkness to the shore. My bear senses are keen and I sense millions of tiny presences in the
dark, creatures moving below the earth, fish whispering below the surface of the lake. The ferry woman appears concerned when she sees my bloody face, but my calm,confident gaze stills her speech. I step
aboard the ferry and we start for Duwamish as dawn breaks over the water. The wind is in my face, I smell the earth, the water.

All paths are one. I am Ursa Major.

Isle of Ancestors - by Anita Marie Moscoso

The Ferry Woman who took me to the Island had tattoos on both her arms, the patterns reminded me of the sun, but I think they were actually dieing worlds; worlds that I felt I should know.

She didn't face me, she didn't speak to me and I was glad for it. There was something ruthless and determined in the way she guided the barge across the Duwamish. She was fighting the tide all the way there and she was winning.

She brought us to shore and motioned for me to leave.

As I stepped from the barge to the Pier I saw she was pointing away into the darkness and I was able to see more tattoos on her arms, I saw trees etched into her skin and on the trees were little red apples that looked like splotches of blood.

I don't remember hearing the sound of the tide or the winds or of my own footsteps on this Island.

There was no air here.

" What is this place? " I asked and before she turned her head to answer I hopped off the barge and away from the pier. I realized I didn't want to see her face or hear her voice.

I felt I'd almost made a serious mistake and ran blindly up the path and away from the black waters behind me.

When I came to the cave with the torches out front, I took one down and carefully stepped into the darkness.

The figure waiting for me was wrapped in its death shroud. That didn't surprise me, that didn't bother me. What scared me was the fact that I knew who was under it and they wouldn't show me their face.

I could see the figure turn its head away from me, as if it didn't want me to look at it.

" Who are you? Show me your face " I said.

The hands lifted the shroud away from its face and it was my Aunt Sharon.

I could hardly recognize her because this was the face of my Aunt who should have who should have been.

The one I never got the chance to know.

It was not the face of a woman who died in hopelessness and despair. This was not the face of a woman who drowned all of her pain and torments in alcohol.

" I don't have much time, I'm afraid of the Ferry Woman, I think she wants to leave me here. "

My Aunt nodded and she smiled. Clever girl, the smile said, that's my girl.

" Did you mean it when you'd said Dreams never come true? " I asked, " Did you really believe that? "

" That wasn't me Anita, you know that. You've known that all along. And I don't believe it. I didn't believe it then either. Every time I saw your face and heard one of your stories I didn't believe it...I couldn't believe it. "

My Aunt motions me over and hands me a Tiger's Eye stone. " It's just for luck you know, to remind you I'm always watching you. That's all it is Anita, a token. The real token I'm giving you, that's inside of you now... in your heart. Remember that. "

" Do you forgive me? " she asks as she hands me the stone, " can you forget what I said, and can you let it go? What I said about dreams and hopes? Can you forgive me for saying that? "

" I miss you every single day Auntie, " I tell her, " and I'd never let one word or moment we had slip away into nothing. They're my memories and I love them all. Okay? "

She's smiling at me as she puts her shroud back over her head and I step forward and with a Mortician's Hands I wrap her again as gently and softly as I can. I adjust it over her shoulders and smooth it around her waist and hips.

That was my gift to her… my goodbye. The thing I couldn't give her before.

The ferry woman is waiting for me on her barge and for my Aunt as I step aboard I look it in the face and say, " take me home and don't screw with me. "

The ferry woman laughs soundlessly and as we sail back towards Duwamish we sail with the tide this time...with it.

My Trip to the Isle of Ancestors - by Leonie Bryant

I wandered slowly down to the wharf where the ferry would take me on a journey that proved to be a momentous one. I am grateful for the invitation to go, as well as for all those dear friends who are accompanying me in words and spirit.

My trip across the sea was a little tempestuous – I wasn’t sure if I wanted to meet this person, or who it would be! I was reassured. The beautiful moon shone brightly over the waters. I felt nurtured and cared for.

On arriving at the distant shore, I embarked from the barge and wended my way up to the stone entrance. As I passed by these stones, I was aware of the sacredness of the journey I was taking. Slowly I meandered down the path towards the red light, which guided me to the great hall. The hall was filled with a warm glow from the fire burning on the other side of the hall. Slowly, slowly I walked around to sit beside the figure and waited til I was ready to see who it was.

My Father, who had died in 1981, was sitting there just as I had remembered him. I looked into his eyes and asked him why he had done those horrible things to me as a little girl, his beautiful daughter. He said that he was in the grip of the ‘demon drink’.
He looked very sorry and said that he had loved me and had always been proud of who I was. The tears were rolling down my face as he gave me a beautiful rose to remind me of his love.

He looked into my eyes and asked me if I could forgive him. I told him that since I had recently claimed how much I had been damaged by his actions, I did now forgive him. I had always loved him and protected him. He gave me a beautiful big fatherly hug which I had missed all my life. It felt so good.Add Image

It was time to leave and make my way back to Duwamish Bay holding my beautiful rose.

The Isle of Ancestors - Lois Daley

The concert over,I thought I would be able to sleep for at least 10 hours,but it was not to be...A note under my door written in extra large letters said "Up Up and Away with you"" Down to the Quay at once the last ferry is awaiting your prescence"

Gathering up my few possessions ,(makes you realise you don't need half the stuff we have) I did hurry down the slope to the quay only to see 9 ferries well out to sea and only one left tied up ...must be mine I surmised

She was a woman of mature years,standing round shouldered ,her breathing was laboured and I was worried she would not have the energy to row across the bay."Must give up the cigarettes" she said from under her brown hooded cloak".Keeping your accounts in order "she said with a laugh..I gasped "Maureen" I said...
"Is that you" "Sure is she said in her raspy voice".....

She was my mentor,friend,teacher,neighbour ,and someone who helped me keep my Mother in her own home until she died.

Maureen has only been gone for 8 years but it seems much longer. She was there for me from age 15 when she took me under her wing and taught me to use a book-keeping machine in the office she managed.She was there when I married,had my children,divorced.When my Father and Mother both died she was there beside me and through it all suffered ill-health...When she was dying I helped her son care for her ,she loved me to brush her hair,rub her back under the shower,do her nails etc etc ..We had such good times as she lay in her bed looking out from her front window....." "Hello Darling Maus" I said (I always called her this) " See you found yourself a job ,no rest for the wicked "I said.She slipped the anchor and we set off with a lot of huffing and puffing, luckily the breeze was behind us, the journey only took 15 minutes..."I'll take a turn if you like" I said.

"No way this is my chariot,the other ferrywomen would kick me out of the union" she quipped.

I knew without asking I would not see her again,as my face grew sad I could feel tears running down my cheeks as she turned the ferry around to return to the island,I burst into sobbing ,wading out into the water wanting to hold her against me.....but I knew already I could not ,I had to be satisfied with a blown kiss that was meant for me to catch......

I sat on the shore and watched the ferry disappear until it was no longer visible as a low cloud enveloped the island.

The path ahead was clearly defined by the apple trees in blossom ,so following them through the grove I came upon a large barn like building ,I thought perhaps it was a storage shed for the fruit after it had been picked ...but on opening the door it was empty except for a large fireplace at the end blazing brightly.

Benches placed around for one to sit on and get warm were very welcome.. I had not noticed that on the edge of the hearth was a stack of firewood being topped up by a shadowy figure,carrying 6 logs in their arms meant this person was pretty strong......As they turned to face me after re fuelling the fire I gasped unable to speak ,and for me to lose my voice is something of a miracle ,never lost for words am I....

The hood pulled back revealed my Father Albert Edward Daley (Bert for short or as Mum called him Alby) ...One question only can be asked (Said the Enchantress) ..I sat on the bench unable to move or stand up.He stood with his back against the fire ..His hair was grey and very thick as I remembered it ,his strong muscle bound arms developed from the hard work as a boilermaker/welder/rivetter.....His round face and always rosy cheeks were there to remind me of how he looked 4 years before he died...I was glad he looked well and with no sign of pain on his face I relaxed.

"Dad" I said "You taught me to keep my head above water financially ,don't get into debt, don't pay things off on the never ,never "'.

"Be true to where you come from and this will sustain you in the future, never lose sight of that struggle makes you strong and although the lesson might be hard fought by, in the end you will most often be proved right." he said

He looked at me and laughed ,"Still giving you sermons , are you still listening ".he quipped......" Can a leopard change its spots" I said, I was always ready for a return answer ......

" I and you must be off" I have others in need of problem solving especially with their bosses who can be B..........Y.. difficult

"Once a union rep always a union rep was Dad....Dad had given me a most treasured gift. The gift of fair play" I needed no more.

What could I give him in return ? my love which he knew he had, my promise to look after Mum ,this was done ...What else could there be.

It came to me in a flash .....Dad always played the mouth-organ for as long as I could remember and he was pretty good......We had Christmas concerts and he always played for all the kids....

I opened my small back-pack ,out my small flute wrapped in the handkerchief ,walked toward his outstretched hand and placed the flute in the palm .He unwrapped it ,put it to his mouth and played a tune...Where was he when I needed a teacher in a hurry.

He stepped foward to hold my hand ,not clasp me to him. Dad was not like this( Mum yes) but not Dad, athough with his grandchildren he was very different as I remember, he was the loving Grandfather more so than the un-emotional Father I knew.

Then he was gone as if disappearing in a puff of smoke. He hadn't changed, no fuss Dad, but at least the face I saw was free of as I have said Pain........I left the large barn like building knowing that what he had passed onto me was a gift not to be lightly used,it would stand me in good stead for many years to come.......

Meandering down the path between the Apple trees in blossom I saw the ferry tied up ,it was a large one this time enough room for 10 ,I guessed

We all sat in silence, my companions and I, until we reached Dawamish just as the dawn was breaking over the eastern horizon ...Perhaps when one has met an ancestor who had long gone before us we are in a state of awe and perhaps shock and happiness all rolled into one...and this makes us speechless ... Such a lot to take in and wonder at such an experience.

I feel I need to soak in a tub of hot bubbly water as I am aching all over ,every nerve in my body is tingling like pins and needles.I need re-juvinating.....

Journey to the Isle of Ancestors by Megan Warren

I stand on the quay, the barges lined up with a ferrywoman ready to greet her passenger. I am apprehensive about this journey, the journey itself and who I will meet on the Island of Ancestors, what they will ask of me and what answers I will come away with. I have my thoughts about who it is that I am to meet and what I will ask – I hope I am not disappointed.

The ferrywoman steps forward and beckons me to the barge. She is familiar – she could be my guide. “Yes” she says, “it is I.” The barge is lit by a single lantern and the moonlight. My guide senses my apprehension and encourages me to use my ipod and listen to some music if that will help.

The barge is enveloped in mist, I can no longer see the barges for my fellow travelers nor can I see Duwamish. Out of the mist the island emerges. The ferrywoman brings the barge to a stop at the shore; she then helps me to disembark. I ask her if she will be accompanying me and she replies “No you must go alone, for it is your journey.” She turns and tends to the barge.

I follow the moonlit path that winds its way through the grove of apple trees. Ahead is a mound, its doorway two massive stone uprights and lintel. It is lit by two torches burning brightly. As I approach I notice that it is a passageway. I enter and walk towards the faint red glow.

As I walk the passageway opens up to a large open area, with a hearth at its centre. It was the fire that provided the glow that had lit my path. Seated before the fire is a person in hooded robes – the person I am here to see.

I walked around the hearth and sat on the bench opposite this person. As I sat down, he removed the hood. It was Kirk (my cousin who died when I was 18) he was as I remembered him. I greeted him with tears streaming down my cheeks. He said “I know you have many questions, but I don’t want you to waste the opportunity, so I will tell you that all you ask after are at peace and waiting for you when it is your time to come.”

There were so many questions that I wanted answered, there were many that I know who had questions. He spoke again “It is your journey, you must ask for yourself and not for others.” So I asked “Why, why did this happen to us, our family, why me?” He responded “Everything and everyone has its time and its purpose. It is all predetermined and you will understand in the fullness of time.”

He then gave me a folded paper boat – “A token from me to help you weather those stormy seas.”

“Now it is my turn to ask a question of you, Megan. Why did you not come home?” I thought this may have been the question and have had more than a decade to think about my answer. “I didn’t come home because I was scared. I wanted to remember you the last time I saw you, before I went on holiday. I didn’t want to see you lying in a coffin. I wanted to remember you as you. And I have regretted the decision ever since; even more so since Brendan died. Please forgive me.” “It isn’t necessary, you need to forgive yourself. It was lesson you had to learn.”

I felt in my pocket for a tissue and there in its place was my rose quartz heart pendant. I gave it to Kirk with my love and my thanks. He hugged me and then returned to his bench covering his head again with the hood.

I rose and walked around the hearth and back up the passageway and out onto the path, surrounded by apple trees. I returned to the barge. I was helped aboard by the ferrywoman. She turned the barge and headed back into the mist. Duwamish emerged out of the mist; before I knew it the ferrywoman had secured the boat at the quay and waited to help me disembark once again. I thanked her.

I looked around the quay, some of the other barges had returned, others had yet to return. I walked back to the inn with my little paper boat in hand.

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Journey to the Island of Ancestors

For hundreds of years the Duwamish River has supported the people who have lived on her shores. Idyllic, with an abundance of fish, game, fowl and trees the region was once a vast trading network.

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The Travelling Troubadours have been to the Island of Ancestors and I will be posting some of their work here because what is emerging provides threads for us to explore. If you feel inclined to leave the Abbey for an excursion to Duwamish and a trip to the Island please feel welcome

The Central Mystery: The Journey to the Island of Ancestors

In this meditation, you will journey to meet an ancestor. Remember that an ancestor is a person from your past, who is no longer living, who has helped shape the person you are today; an ancestor may be a predecessor from your bloodline, a previous incarnation, a person who has given you a meaningful tradition or philosophical basis, such as an adopted relative, a teacher, a mentor. You will not choose who will appear to you and it may be someone you know or do not know. Now prepare for a journey. (Pause)

You stand on Duwamish quay. The night is clear; the waxing moon rises over your shoulder, and you hear the gentle rolling of water past the barges that are lined up in the Duwamish. Board the barge and you will be carried over the sea to the Island of Ancestors by a Ferry Woman. (Pause)

You see an island emerging before you. The ferry woman stops at the shore and you see a grove of apple trees. There is a moonlit path between the trees and you follow it. Ahead is a mound. In the centre of the side is a doorway made of two immense upright stones topped by a massive lintel. There are two torches burning at the door providing light for the entrance into a passageway. At the far end of the passage is a faint red glow. Proceed through a corridor inclining downward. (Pause)

You emerge into a shadowy great hall. In the centre is a hearth with the glowing embers of a fire. Seated before the fire facing away from you is a hooded figure. Across the hearth from this figure is a bench. You circle halfway around the hearth clockwise and sit facing the figure. This is one of your ancestors. Greet that person. (Pause)

You may now ask your ancestor one question. It may be about his/her contributions to your life or your family, it may be to clarify something about yourself, or about your future. (Pause) When you have finished, your ancestor gives you a token of help and guidance. (Pause)

In a fair exchange, your ancestor now asks you a question. Answer as best you can. (Pause) You find that you have a gift for your ancestor. Look at it and present it to your ancestor with thanks. (Pause)

Finish your circuit around the hearth, go behind the ancestor, and pass out of the mound and back along the path. (Pause)

Boarding the barge, you return to Duwamish as the first light of dawn breaks over the eastern horizon. At your own pace, return to the Duwamish Inn bringing your experiences and token with you.

The Enchantress

Monday, July 25, 2005

English, French & Scot

From your birth I adored you in
the Glens, as far as my eye could see, white
towered in France,
you and me young in the English grass,
a bond of medieval jewellery exchanged.
Independent Brave, fighting,
high-caused, brilliant, beloved, bound as you were also
to your mother heart and your father's grave
I heard you, - as if I were a bird - as you fell,
black curls, your fighting arm in tatters, but I
was bound and gagged with white silk
and flatterers. Mute.
Long, the screech of you echoed through time,
to a little girl's dream,
louder it rolled and echoed -
until it was a cackling witch-lady, black, and
fell into an address of Scott's works.
I realised you had Gone. You were gone, -
my heart, my soul, my medieval jewel, - eclipsed by white.
My spirit mourned - I was betrothed to another,
distaste I was made to hide.
My soul was dragged - a leather satchel
into the muddied pools of the fields of war.
Catapulted back, a shot from a sling, I journeyed
through the black, where time had stood still, and waved
finer hands over the field where your spirit lay slain, inert, cause lost.
I was black as night with charcoal eyes -
an eagle's crest on my brow -
I called, and screeched as you did, against the
stone-hard queen, and won your favour
rightly, and knightly - your soul was freed
from its dark, agonised void.
And what can I say
to you now,
but breathe?
copyright Monika Roleff 2005.