Wednesday, 21 December 2016

In Darkest Night

by_burzinski-d3b8ts4
The days were now nearing their shortest. Less light, less warmth.
More darkness.

It was always a tricky time for his peoples, for when darkness is late to leave and early to return, what work can be done in between?

The land was cold to her core and with no light and warmth, nothing  would grow.

Still once the winter solstice passes the land would warm anew and the cycle begin again. This he knew for he had carried the knowledge to this land upon the ships of old.

He sat in a grand hall, warmed by fire well fed from a dry store, the scent of wood smoke mingled with that of the many bodies of those who shared in the warmth and light.

Meals were made upon those fires and all had a share given them, for all were part of the people and all had offered some labour of one sort or another through out the year.

After the cold would come the thaw. As the rains wet the earth, the toil of the body would begin. Fixing that which the cold had damaged and preparing the land for the time of growth.

Growth would see the work maintained, as the light and heat turned seed to grain, flocks and herds to full. This time, the warmth of the world filling all with heat, would see the most challenge of raid and conflict as that heat would raise the blood of the warriors.

Next would be harvest. The gathering in and storing of all the other seasons labours. Reaping the rewards for the effort, and taking, at last, a rest for the body's toil.

Once again, as it was now, the time of darkness would return. With no light to see and no warmth to the land, the toil of the body is not needed. What then can a person set their will to?

All of the peoples gather close and hold tight to their meals and memories of the harvest warmth and plenty. Warriors blood cools and the rule of darkness extends.

Outside the hall, a wolf did howl, a crow did cry, an owl did screech. All noises made by the creatures of the night.

Outside in the darkness She held sway, bringing to the people fit reminder of fear, recalling to them that all days end in darkness, all lives lead to the black.

She held sway in the darkness.

He, held balance in the light.

What toil indeed can a person set their Will to?

The toil of the Self.

When the world brings us to a state of in action, When we reach a place where there is no immediate next step, the all of Life's routine comes to a halt, there, in that space are we given time to toil on that which is Ourself.

He looked about the grand hall with its fires and its people, and raising his Harp he began to play, plucking at the strings of heart and memory, strong sure fingers leading the melody of emotion.

In the stillness, surrounded by the dark, feeling the fear, huddled to the fire, the people looked inwards.

With no toil of labour to distract them, with no hot blooded raid to take them, each had to face their true challenge, the honest gaze of the self in the silence of their own heart and mind.

The melody moved about the hall, drowning out the calls of the darkness and the night outside, his eyes roamed about touching upon each as they saw the truth of themselves.

Private and intimate none but each of them could know it's depth. He saw some faces wet with tears, some hang with shame, yet all did, in time, grow firm with acceptance as the music moved about.

When the toil of Knowing yourself was done, when all had made peace with their darkness within and balanced it against the darkness without, when the last of the work was done, his fingers stopped, the strings of his harp hung their vibrating tone in the moment, allowing the space, giving the pause it's own short life.

A smile arose on the Dagda's face as the eyes of one and all eventually found him.

"Enough of that now, how about a tune to raise the spirit?

His thick fingers moved at pace along the strings and skipping the third he did set the hearts a beating and the smiles a gleaming.

"And speaking of spirits, someone pass me a drink!"

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The World from a Snug


The loose leaves hustled in passed the doorman without showing their ID.
Gambolling about gaily on the gusts of an autumn wind, they set to a spin in the open area of the pub's entrance, a riot of orange and yellow.

I gave a nod to the guy standing wrapped up against the oncoming winter chill and followed the leaves in. 

The pub was quite busy for the afternoon. Regulars propped up in spaces almost fit solely to them, families enjoying the social space and food menus, couples leaning in to one another ignoring the rest of the world about them. 


At the bar I called for two pints and once in hand began moving through the people in the place, looking for the seat I knew would be reserved for me. 

Stepping in and around any crowd you pass through a lot of conversations. I slipped in and around the people as I moved between the spaces in attention.

"Are they sure the numbers are right? I mean there was that thing a few years back..."

"That doesn't make sense though. Surely democracy is based on a majority ruling?...

"I just can believe it. Like, my brain can't process this..."

"I hope my family over there are doing ok. I'm sure there are a lot of people really upset right now..."

The emotions in the conversations were easily read for anyone to see. Uncertainty, Confusion, Incredulity, concern all there on the face or carried on the voice.

Under it all though was something deeper, something a lot more powerful and dangerous.

Fear. 

I came out of the crowd into the snug, that comfortable quiet space kept aside in some pubs. 
The empty seat was set beside its twin, a slope backed little tub chair, designed for easy comfort.

I placed one pint on the dark wood table in front of the filled seat beside one which was near its empty, took a sip from mine, then spilling out of my over coat, settled into my chair. 

The silence was the easy comfortable sort as I relaxed into the seat and he finished his pint. Placing the empty down his big hand closed around the fresh glass. Cold condensation running down the glass into the lines and over the work calluses, that hand raised the pint up to his bearded mouth for a first sip. 

A sigh followed as the pint returned to the table.

"You arrived just in time, I have a thirst on me today."

I glanced at the six empty glasses already in situ.

"Well you know me. I'm like a wizard. Neither early nor late and arriving exactly when I mean to." 

My smile matched his as our eyes meet for the first time in a few days. The deep brown of them showing the humour within, but to a familiar gaze such as mine, I noted a redness around that earthy colour. He looked tired and sore.

"Good story that. A long one for sure and leaning heavily upon tales of my people, but still, a good one.
The movies did it fair justice."

My concern did not shift but neither did my smile. 

"We're drinking then? Am I on catch up?"

So saying I downed the two thirds which remained in one long pull and placed the empty on the table.

"Your round old man."

Dagda's smile was warm and eyes a sparkle as he waved to the server and called for more pints. 

We sat in silent companionship sipping pints and watching the people as the existed within the space. It was busy in the pub.

"It's noisy in here."

His rumbling voice came out soft and sad, for my ears alone, and I understood the 'noise' he was referring to.  

All people generate a certain amount of energy or presence and at times this can be coloured by their emotions and felt by anyone one with an awareness to it.

The 'noise' he mentioned was how we referred to a dissonance in someone's state of mind or emotion when they are in pain or fear of some sort. When gathered and shared the individual may ease their own burden but it's spread further to those who share in the moment, which of course can improve the situation or, should many already share a similar state, be made many times worse in a collective.

"Is that why we're drinking? You doing ok?"

His eyes rolled up to the nearby tv screen which showed a country divided red against blue, peoples split asunder by fear turned to hate.

 "There's the cause. People the world over are uncertain of tomorrow, so they gather close with each other and try figure it out."

I glanced around the room and recalled the snippets of conversations I had over heard. I had to say it had triggered some questions and specific worries but less so for me given my own privileges than for friends and community.

"There will always be another Bres. Those who love of power, position or influence. They always  trumpet on about various policies or promises. Yet when it comes time to serving the needs of the entire community fairly and justly, you never see them with shovel in hand digging the drainage, or hands in the river scouring the pot."

I look down from the screen to see Dagda gazing at his callused worn hands. It looked to me that they had fresh marks and even small sections of torn skin recently scabbed over. Working hands. His knuckles popped as he made fists. 

"So, tell me how we fight."

His eyes came up to meet mine and darkened to see the angry frown upon my features.

"Not like that lad."

He exhaled slowly, unclenched his hands, and reached for his pint again.

"You can't fight hate with more hate. Aggression would only be read as a justification to those who have chosen to view their world from a position of divisiveness."

He took a long pull from the pint as I tried to wrangle with the problem.

"So I'm supposed to love those who hate me? Plead to their better nature or some such? That's very Christian alright, turn the other cheek so I can be slapped again and trust to hope that they will get bored of kicking me eventually?"

The words came out with an angry snarl. Dagda locked his earth brown eyes on mine and without a word I realised I had overstepped. The anger abated and I recognized my own fear, riding just below the surface of conscious thought. Still words said are hard to take back. 

"We are a brutal species, driven by base instinct. We think we have come so very far and achieved so much, but given any excuse we would still cave each other's heads in with rocks."

The anger was replaced by a deep heart aching sadness which seemed my constant companion, and though my gaze fell to my pint, I still felt his eyes locked on me, seeing through me. 

"I know you feel it Oakheart, it's what I have always felt since the start. Take it from me, don't let it harden you over much. We need to be tough enough to get on with the work despite the pain, but remain soft enough so that we can care enough for others. Not an easy challenge."

I raised my now wet eyes to his and saw there a deep compassion, not just for me but I knew for everyone of the people in the pub and even more then for those of this land and the others. 

"You know my ways lad. When I'm moved to fight, I Kill. No quarter, no restraint. That is not what's needed here. I Know that much."

"Then how do we fight this? How do we raise the change that's needed?"

He glanced again at the tv screen, seeing the victory of fear over love.

"I don't know."

My surprise must have been written plain on my face when he turned to look at me again.

"What? I'm known as the flame of all wisdom, not all knowledge. You of all should know the difference."

His single raised eyebrow on that stern broad face told me the joke for what it was and I could feel the smile stretch my cheeks. 

His answering smile arrived a split second later.

"If you want to know about change then go talk to Her."

His eyes became distant for a moment as if he gazed out through the pubs walls and into a place I could not see.

"I dare say She saw this coming. Mayhaps that's why She has been recruiting all this time. Gathering the strong, the smart, the wilful to Her. Those who are brave and willing to Stand and be seen. To drive the change right there upon the very edge of the challenge. That is her Way." 

His eyes came back to the room with a slight shake of his head, as if to clear it of distraction, and he lifted his glass for another drink.

"So what do we do? What's your Way?"

He glanced at me, then rolled his gaze about the room, taking in the regulars, the families and the couples. 

"Me? I do the work. I look out for what they need. Protect them, feed them. 

Help them feel their sadness and cry, remind them of joy and song, and when all that is done, help them find a restful sleep.
Maybe if our community comes together, supported in these things, sharing in love and kindness, we can set a better example of acceptance for everyone. 

Maybe that way love can defeat hate, community can overcome division, and the aching heart of our people can be healed."

 He looked back to me, those deep brown eyes meeting my now tear filled ones, and I could feel the warmth of his hope  for the future. 

His gaze fell to the near full pint in my hand, then across to the drained empty one in his. 

When his gaze came back up it was all a mischief as usual. 

"Drink up. Sure isn't it your round? I hope you were well paid recently for I have a thirst upon me." 

The smirk on his broad warm face brought a bellow of laughter from me in an instant and I waved to the server for their attention. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Couple's Ford

The morning sunshine warmed him as he lay upon the grass.

Arriving in the moments before the dawn as he always had, the Dagda stripped off his clothes and waded out, waist deep, into the river's depth.

As the first rays of the sun's light were captured by the water, he raised it in the bowl of his cupped hands and poured it over his head and face.

Breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly with every movement, he repeated the process again and again.

The Dagda cleansed his body, and with it his spirit. 

Standing in the shallows of the river's bank he gazed across to its opposite side. Assessing where the earth met the water, he marked his spot and with a large inhalation, dove below the river's shimmering surface.

Beneath the water's boundary the world was a different place.

A quieter, more fluid space. An area where one thing moved toward the next in a constant, never ending push and pull, measured in the space of a held breath.

Kicking his strong legs the Dagda reached for the bottom and dug his thick fingers into the earth beneath the water. Anchored there, he took his mark to the earth above the water and with a bend of his body, and a plant of his feet, he pulled.

As the near noon sun beat down upon the water, the Dagda rose with a gasp to fill his lungs again. 
It was done.

Clambering forward, he heaved his form up on to the shallows that now forded the river from one point to the other.

Lying on the earth with the water running over his body, air filling his lungs, skin drying in the warmth of the sun's fire... the Dagda rested. Eyes closing and breathing deepening, sleep took him.

With a snort and a shudder he sat upright, mind returning from dream to his body.

Squinting, he looked to the sun’s position. An hour had past at the most. Noon.

Still, she would be here soon.

Looking about for a suitable place, his eyes fell upon some heavy brush not far up the opposite bank.

Returning to his discarded Léine and other clothes, he gathered them up, scuffed his feet through the flattened grass to make it stand, and crossed the river using its new ford.

Moving to the brush he circled around it and finding a suitable spot, crawled beneath its cover.
Wriggling forward on his gut, the Dagda gained a view of the ford, and settled to wait.

She would be here soon.

The heat of the sun at its highest was a need to warm her.

The flow of the water, clean and clear to wash her.

Her eye, which always sees the ways of change in every glance, will be drawn to this place where the land itself was changed.

The Dagda knew all of these things when he chose a space for their coupling.  

It was not long before a shadow flickered by above and the crows' call announced her approaching presence.

The Dagda relaxed his body and made his mind still, imagining himself as small as he could.

Letting go of his intent he allowed his eyes to see all that was there, foregoing thought, judgement or decision for the sake of the moment.

A difficult skill to master, being omnipresent, with no thought of self nor worry for the cares of tomorrow, with no part of the mind returning to the vaults of memory.

Dissipating his Will, the Dagda ceased to be, and became only a pair of eyes observing a moment.

Into that moment she came.

The Morrigan, cloaked in the colours of Autumn. The hues of orange, yellow and red. Her hair falling from her head in a crimson cascade. Skin with the clean healthy pallor of a fresh snowfall. Lips as red as heart's blood. Eyes of the deepest blue skies, surveying all around her.

Stepping lightly to the water's edge she stopped and cast her gaze about. Her Will rolled out across the space - seeking, searching. Only one who knew her well would have seen the slightest of frowns move her brows a fraction.

The land was changed. His hand had made it so. This she knew. Their meeting and coupling here, where earth meets water, in the surroundings of air and fire, was more than mating. 

This was their personal moment of balance. Service offered and given. The exchange that would speak to the next years course.

Every year this ritual was met and the requirements satisfied, and yet every year she could not find him before the right moment. As if he did not exist until the ritual needed him to. Never would she say, but it annoyed and vexed her to so lose track of him.

Slipping her arms from her garment she let it fall to the green of the grass. Time approached and though she could not find him, she did not doubt his presence.

Her face took on a smile at her surety. He always liked to watch.

Stepping lightly, she moved forward upon the balls of her feet, her strong legs taking her naked body out into the waters of the ford. She moved her warrior's physique with a dancer's grace. Lithe muscles moving sinuously, alluring and yet deadly.

 As the sun reached its highest, giving its warmth to her flesh, she stopped in the middle of the river. There she bent to raise water with her hands. Lifting it to her face she sipped of it, and then poured it down her head and body. Turning about she repeated this in the four directions.

The Morrigan cleansed her body, and with it her spirit.

With this done, she came about again, offering the four points of the land the four elements, filling each movement with her Will. Water of the river. Earth of the ford. Air of the winds. Fire of the sun.

Her will gathered in across the land and from that moment, all was in readiness. She cast her gaze about in one last effort to find him, but knew that he would only exist once the call was placed upon him.


Come you then, O Chieftain of the people.
Come you hither in service and in seeking.
 
fís agus eolas
I call you and by your name be made present.

Dagda!


Her voice rang out its clarion call, taking her Will with it in all directions at once.

The eyes that had watched blinked.

The word had been spoken and settled upon him like a mantle - full of power, purpose and responsibility.

Muscles in the body twitched, as that which had until that moment been just part of the land became separate again. Big callused hands placed down upon the earth supported the push of strong arms connected to broad shoulders.

The body moved as a Will filled it once again and the Dagda rose up from the brush to face her.

In the moment his name had left her lips she had felt him. So named, his Will could not be hidden. She was facing the brush as she heard the first rustling of his movement. Seeing his broad shouldered body lift up, as if out of the earth itself, always gave her pause, yet no sign of it did show upon her face.

He moved with a steady grace for one of his size, unhurried and patient. His big naked full frame, covered in ruddy bronzed skin from a life of labour outdoors. Slab like muscles defined on his shoulders, arms, legs and chest with a heaviness about his waist which spoke of wealth and comfort.

His hair hung down about his broad face, features lined and careworn where they ran down to his close cropped beard. The eyes that met her gaze were the rich dark of the fresh turned earth, deep and steady.

“I am here Lady, on behalf of the people I answer the call.
fís agus eolas
I seek so best to offer them service.”


“And what, Chieftain, do you offer in exchange? 
All know that with knowledge comes power, and with power comes responsibility.”


The deepest blue of her eyes locked to his brown as their Wills met in full at that moment. Push and pull in the water's course. Shift and steady in the earth beneath. To and fro in the gusts of air. Hot and cold in the fire's heart. They challenged. Each testing the other's worth. Pushing their full power and focused Will against their opposite.

As the challenge reached its apex, match for match, equal to equal, he let go, allowing her Will to surround and take him. Sinking to a knee in the ford he lowered his gaze from her and hung his head in submission.

“In this moment and upon this ford, I offer all that I have, 
which is all that I am. 
For the vision and knowledge to best serve my people 
from this moment on until next we meet upon the boundaries between all things. "

Moving forward through the water, she approached. Stepping in front of him, standing above his big kneeling form, she placed her hand upon his head resting it there for a moment, allowing time for this act to settle within him.

In a sudden movement, she grabbed a fistful of his hair and painfully yanked his head back, face meeting hers, eyes locking again as she sought any resistance within his gaze. Deep in the brown of his eyes she saw the pain she caused him register, but no resistance came.

Using her other hand she gripped his throat, fingers tight and claw like, ready to rip the life from him, nails biting deep enough to draw a trickle of his blood. In those eyes she saw his willingness. His life was hers to take should she wish it, and he would not resist.

Total and complete submission. His perfect sacrifice.

Pushing him over upon his back in the cool waters of the ford she loosed her grip on his throat. Pressing her body down upon his big frame she brought her lips close to his ear and whispered in a husky tone.

“Tell me you want this.”

His reply was calm and filled with deep rumbling truth.

“I want this, Lady.”

Her smile was triumphant as she clamped her lips around the wound in his throat, sucking to draw a bruise to his flesh and the taste of his blood to her mouth. With her hand she took the tumescent girth of him, and with firm grip pressed him deep within her, filling her completely and stretching her with a pleasant pain.

She owned him. Fully consenting to her whims and wants he was hers to take, and take him she did. As the afternoon wore on she used him. Taking gratification in body, satisfaction in his strength and stamina. Feeding her wants again and again.

As the evening darkness began to exert itself, she was astride him again, facing the west. The water had continually washed the sweat from them and refreshed them. The earth supported and steadied them. The air filling their lungs and carrying their gasps and moans. The sun's fire keeping a chill from their naked flesh.

Just as the sun slipped to its set, its light disappearing into darkness, she impaled herself fully upon him, and with a shared deep moan, pleasure wracked them both as his life seed filled her.

All colour fled her eyes in that second, filling with blackness. She felt her full power, in that moment, without fetter, without rival. Using him, using his consent, she took his power in to meet her own, filling her, rushing in to her being so that she became everything.

Everything that was, is, and will be was hers to see, hers to change, hers to control. Ownership of all of it within her grasp, to take as she saw fit, to create or destroy. 

Total. Unchallenged. Power.

What use had she for anything else? What was there of value to anything that was not of her? What was there in all creation that could stop or hinder her?

The answer came to her mind, of her own mind and without provocation. Memories of a pair of earth brown eyes. A big form kneeling before her. Fis agus eolas.

There was one thing, and one thing alone that could challenge her. 

Herself.

The words came. From her blood red lips they fell. Speaking of the vision she perceived, of the knowledge she held. There were no questions. There were just the words, spilling and tumbling from her to fall into his awaiting ears.

When the words had ceased and all was said she held there, that total unchallenged power. Creation and destruction. Life and Death. Light and Dark.

As the choice was his to start, the choice was hers to finish.

With a last deep breath she closed the blackness of her eyes, exhaled fully, and released him.

His power left her. Flowing back where it came from. Back to that big frame, filling those dark eyes. A shudder ran through her body as the full warm heat of him left her, and she slumped forward atop him, full now only of herself, and completely spent.

His arms when they encircled her were gentle and warm. One big hand moved slowly to her head, there to lightly stroke her hair.

“Thank you.”

The words were soft and sincere. Whispered just for her, with warm breath against her face, followed by the small peck of a kiss.

She allowed herself to be small. Wrapped in those big arms and warmed by his heat, a happy smile came to her rose pink lips.

“Did you get what you need?”

As the power had left her, so had the memory of what she had seen and said, carried back along the lines of energy to the universe.

“Yes. The people shall be prepared and endure because of your gift.”

As the night began to take hold, and the day lose its heat, she snuggled close to him, sharing in his heat and smiled again. They stayed like that until the last light of the day was well gone and the stars had begun to show themselves.

A deep shudder ran through him and a burr for the chill escaped his lips.

“Let's get out of this water now lass before the cold settles any deeper. 
I warm up pretty quick but we both know how long it takes for you, once the cold gets deep in.”

The Morrigan sat up off him and opened her storm grey eyes to meet his deep brown. The smile stayed put as she moved.

His big eyes blinked, seeing her so, and his words rumbled out softly to her.

"You slay me with those eyes of yours, Lass"

"Be glad that's not true, or you would have died many many years ago."

The smile on her reply showed her fondness, but the Dagda's lined face became sincere and his next words direct.

"Oh I did, and do. 
A little part of my resolve dies every time you look at me like this.
You will be the end of me some day. 
Of that I have no doubt."

His words were new to her, and struck something deep inside with a quivering of apprehension. Grasping hold of her Will, she met his sincerity with her own.

"May that day be a long, long way off."

His face softened to hear her reassurance, and a contented smile took on a mischievous tweak.

“Well, you would KNOW for sure,
 one way or the other.”

Rolling her eyes towards the sky, she punched him hard in his meaty arm, yet she couldn't contain her chuckle.