Monday, 30 January 2017

Westward Wings

 Blue.

Part of my brain knows it's caused by the diffusion of light entering our atmosphere. The molecules which make up our planet's air slightly inhibit the passage of one particular wave length of light as it moves through.
This slows it enough so the human eye can register the wavelength as a distinct input known as colour and defined as blue.

That part is useful for the knowing of things, but it can't measure, quantify or completely express the beauty of the sky's azure mantle as I gaze up at it.

Eire is known for its greenery, the emerald isle and such. What they don't tell you is that all that green is well watered by the regular rolling presence of cloud and rain. Thing is, no plant can grow without light.

At times the clouds are peeled back and reveal the open expanse of the heavens in all their blue swathed glory, the bright sun streams down upon the land and every time I'm compelled to stop, and take a moment to appreciate the sky.

I shared this quiet moment with one other, away from the city and its bustle, its people moving to and fro, eyes set on the destination and missing the beauty of the scenery on the journey.

"I will be up there again soon."

It was the first words spoken in this meeting. I had arrived with a request to his Rath and found him atop the mound stretched out on the green grass, arms folded up and behind, with big hands cradling his head. I had watched the rise and fall of his broad chest, slow and steady, his eyes open and gazing without focus at the sky.

I did what anyone should, I joined him for a while.

Simple relaxed unfocused, breathing slowly and deeply. Synchronized breath, sharing the space and not needing to fill it with anything more than the ever present beauty which surrounded us.

I can't say how long we lay on the green grass, beneath the blue sky, warmed by the yellow sun, but I had purpose here and so came the words.

"I don't think I'm built for the sky. Too much of the heavy footed land stomping to me."

I had no need to shift my gaze, I knew I had his attention, though he gave no outward indication. Trust me, when Dagda's attention is upon you, you Will Know.

"America. near enough the other side of the world. My Love is going to do the work there and I'm her roadie, tech support, and coffin full of dirt."

The basso rumbling chuckle was the first noise he had made, knowing the joke for what it was.

How does one connect to your land when far from home after all. No Bram Stoker in this one, no tale of vampire, more a need to be buried in your own land, feel its touch beneath hand or foot, even if you could never make it back. Such is the prized possession of Land to the Irish heart. Such as I am, I'm humbled to be so for Her.

A few more slow breaths to settle the moment, blue of the sky above me, warmth of the sun upon my face, cool of the grass beneath my form, the scent of green life filling my nose.

"Will you come with me?"

There it was. The Ask.

His big chest rose and fell, steady and paced, relaxed yet somehow still powerfully implacable.

"I have been to this place before and its full of amazing, passionate people. They gather around this time of year to share knowledge, stories, food and drink. There is hospitality in abundance and community in all its range of colour and flavour."

The moment stretched out, and I found myself counting the breaths.

"I'm pretty sure you will like it there. There are some folk you would definitely get on very well with."

 The vast expanse of the blue sky filled my vision, my mind slipping into it, beginning to lose itself in its wide open emptiness. The knowing part of the brain started to volunteer more interesting yet irrelevant factoids, stuff about sub zero temperatures, explosive decompression, terminal velocity. I lost my focus and the synchronicity of the moment went with it.

"Ease yourself lad."

The words were but a soft whisper, but the willl behind that rumble stilled my mind.

"I have been asked to invite you. Not just for me but for them. They know you and call to you. Now I have been asked to help in their space and call you and frankly I'm perplexed as much as I'm honored. I don't know what to say or if you would even hear me over there."

The anxiety in my voice was grating to my own ears, yet it brought a compassionate chuckle from my companion. His words rolled out softly, chiding me gently for my apprehension.

"Do you think I haven't been there before?  Do you think I have not heard my name called in all the years they have honoured it? Do you think I wouldn't respond where honest community gathers and hospitality offered?"

Slow and steady breath lead to another rumbled chuckle from his broad chest.

"I have always been where I am invited to be, and grateful I am to each of them who hold a place open for me."

"What do I say when they ask me to invite you in to the space they keep for you? How do I give honour to them who ask this of me and respect to you for the asking?"

His sigh was one of a patient teacher, taking a moment to explain what should already have been obvious.

"Answer me this, how comfortable was it to sit in the space they set aside for me last year? How did you know the drumming of the cauldron? How did you know the words to ease the lost who did visit? How did you have an answer for John when he asked of you the ways of a Dagda devotional?"

My memories of these activities arose and I was warmed by the fondness of them.

"You were there already anyway."

The realization came like weight dropping from my shoulders. I recalled again each moment and looked for that which had been there but I had overlooked. The voice that had spoken but had, at that time, been unheard. The big broad hand that had rested casually upon my shoulder.

Tears started to roll from my eyes and I did not wipe them away. I let them fall down my face and water the earth beneath me. The words didn't matter. What words could? The intent of one's heart was more significant than the noises used to shape it.

I understood, yet still a small part of me held its anxiousness.

"What if I'm just crazy and this is all in my head? Who am I to speak of or for deity?"

His words came and I could hear the broad smile of them without looking over. I knew the shape and lines of his face, the curl of his hair and beard, the creased curves around his deep compassionate eyes.

"If your crazy drives you to be a better person, more caring and compassionate, more giving of hospitality and support for community, more intent on bringing smiles and joy where you can, then I say more people should be as crazy as you."

The blue sky was scored by the trail of a plane as it slid its way westward, metal wings causing condensation clouds to stream out in its wake.

"Oh, and make sure your passport is still in date."

His chuckle followed me as I leapt up cursing myself and rushed off down the hill.



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Hunger


"Right there folks, Lets go now! Move it on there now folks!"

The loud drawl of the security man calling time is a thing often heard. Even in Ireland bars do have to close at some point.

I downed the last of my pint and rose to don my coat. My companion slipped nimbly to his broad feet despite his large size, the full pint still in his meaty fist.

"You right there Big D? Need to leave that one behind do you?"

His dark eyes met mine with just as much mischief.

" You know me better than that, never leave a good one standing alone."

So saying he raised the pint to his lips and with a tilt of his head an opening of his mouth he poured it down in one go, leaning back near fit to fall.

As the he stood straight again he placed the now empty pint glass down with but the smallest of wobbles to his balance.

"Right lads, finish up there now!" called the security man as he purposefully strode past.

"Right you are sir, on the way there now!" replied my companion matching the mans tone and volume exactly, so much so, that the security man broke stride to shoot us a quick glare.

Shaking my head with a chuckle I moved my companion on towards the door and out into the cold winter January night.

"Chipper?" I queried pointing over my shoulder to the nearest take out joint.

"Sure. I will have a battered fish. I don't pay for any of that slave food."

My eyebrows must have shot up to show my confusion at his remark.

"What?"

I found no reply as He trundled on past me in his rolling gait.

We entered the chipper, out of the cold into the fryer scented warmth, my glasses steaming up in an instant, and placed our orders. Smoked Cod for him and a Large chips for me, heavy on the salt an vinegar.

Stepping back outside, with hot food in hand we took a lean against a nearby store front to eat. I tried to wait patiently knowing that he had heard my question, but at times patience is not my strongest virtue.

" Are you going to explain that last remark or what?" my tone indicating that no dissembling would cut it this time.

His dark eyes met mine as he chewed through his current bite off fish under the street light. With a swallow his eyes fell on the brown paper bag in my hand.

"That. Potato. Slave food."

I felt my brows furrow as I tried to think my way around the few pints we had shared to a logical comprehension, eyes looking down in the bag, nose full of the tasty scent, one long chip hung suspended between the bag and my mouth.

"Oh come on now lad, find the Why, no more than 6 pints in you an you're stumped? Slave food. That vegetable was the near death and destruction of our people.

Not native to the island is was brought from the Americas and introduced here by the conquers. Cheap and hardy so it was, growing in almost any patch of dirt it can and as such a stable item to feed the folk of the land, when the more valuable bounties, grown here of the land by its people, were taken to line the pockets of the conquers"

His tone hard with a controlled anger, he looked off into the night, not seeing the cars rolling past, nor the tall buildings around him.

"Over a million taken by an Gorta Mór and another million of the folk scattered all around the world. The land bereft of her people, the strong blood of her, sent out to risk the trials of travel, clutching to naught but hope and the strength of their own Will to survive.

Food there was. Food enough here on the island, but not for her people was it. Oh no. Taken to the conquers land, their laws protecting the wealthy and strangling the prices so a the working folk could not afford to feed their starving wee ones." 

His big eyes blinked quickly as his gaze returned to the now. 

"The Fate of the land was forever changed  by as small a thing as a fungus, and the greed and ignorance of humans.

1 in 4 survived the Big Hunger. The Tough. The Wilful. The Smart. Those with heart enough to fight for life."

He looked to me then, the anger cooling in his gaze.

"I don't know what would have been, but I tell myself that maybe, just maybe, the world is better because that Heart, the beating battling blood of the people can now be found all over. Standing tough and Willfully. Not bowing nor broken nor conquered. Fighters and survivors."

He looked at me, those deep dark eyes seeing down into me.

"Always know where you come from and why you choose to do a thing. You will always be accountable to your own Heart no matter what any other may think."

I looked down at that one chip, suspended between the bag and my mouth. Appetite leaving me I dropped it back amongst the rest of the hot salted potato.

"I don't think I can finish these now."

So saying I began to turn toward the nearest trash bin, when like lightning his big hand snapped out, snagging the bag.

By the time I spun on him he had already stuffed four or five chips into his mouth.

"What?" He mumbled around a mouthful of delicious salted potato.

"I said I wouldn't pay, not that they weren't tasty."

He accepted the punch in the arm I gave him and his laughter followed me as I trundled back to the chipper to buy some fish.

I guess at least I now knew the Why...


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Across the Ninth Wave

Nine.

The salt spray moistened his face as the storm's wind whipped the wave tips to froth. 
Thunder bellowed across the sea sky and rumbled its way toward the land.

The Dagda stood upon the shore, the wash of the waves rolling up across his broad feet. 
He had stood so since his arrival at this place. The place she had said he should wait.
As the waves receded, the Dagda started the count again.

One.

More than a week before the storm, the Dagda had sought her out. 
The foreboding was upon him.
A prickle of intent seemed directed towards the land of Eire and though he was confident of its security, the Will behind that intent could not be disregarded.

From his Rath he had journeyed the long walk across the isle. Those who saw him noted the set of his shoulder, the thoughtful furrow of his brow and left the Dagda to his own devices.
He arrived as the moon reached its full and stood before the pool; where in its silver radiance was reflected in full beauty.

He did not have to wait long.

"Speak o Chieftain of the thoughts you carry. Ask your question, but be warned of the answer.
Truth is ever changed by those who look upon it. "

The Dagda's ears, even one scarred as it was, picked out the source of the sound, and allowing his eyes to relax he saw the Shadow amongst the shadows. 

"What Will is this that sets its intent so firmly upon this isle? "

The Shadow moved slightly and with a faint sound of something breaking the water, the moon's reflection danced to the rippled waves that moved outward in rings.

"Know you this, Chieftain of the Dennan. The Will is that of 'One eye' and that he sets his gaze firmly upon this isle. A challenge I see. A battle. The outcome shrouded in Fate's weave. 
Go, to the Giant’s rocks on the top of the isle. 
Go, and bring no other with you. 
Go, and take but your Will and your club to meet your Fate. "

As her voice faded to silence, the last ripple reached the pools edge and the moon’s reflection was once again still.
Her words set a worry upon the Dagda's already thoughtful demeanour.

Balor Bale-Eye, had been slain. He had witnessed the feat himself as he battled that bloody day. Lugh had borne the burden of his lineage and succeeded in meeting his Fate as prophecy had declared he would.
There could be no surviving the blow that had been dealt, nor the beheading that followed.
He once again looked toward the Shadow, but found that she had slipped away.

There could be but one question.
Those who could not phrase their need as such, had not thought long enough to be worthy of an answer.

Gazing at the moon’s reflection, the Dagda stayed in the spot and thought, until the sun's light turned the pool to gold.


North she said and north he had come. 
The days of walking had given him much time to muse.
To question the message given for its truth was pointless, to look deeper to its meaning was not.

A Will to rival his own.
A challenge and a battle, meant conflict the likes of which could test him.
The outcome of Fate undecided meant that as yet his Fate lay in his own hands, with his Will and club and no other.

Reassured to this the Dagda had come to the place on the coast to the far north and east.
 The land was a broken stretch of rocky steps, thrusting up from the earth.
A place both beautiful and bleak; where pools of water collected upon the stones surface.

The Dagda's eyes remained fixed upon the waves, the steady count continuing.

 The fomorian foe had come from the sea and so it was he kept his gaze upon the tumultuous water. 
Feet firm upon the earth, he waited.

Nine.

As the ninth wave lashed itself to foam upon the land, the sky was torn by a deafening peal of thunder, and rent with a flash of lightning.

 The Dagda's eyes were pulled upwards as the Lightning ripped itself again from the storm and this time struck the land off to his right.
The Dagda set his Will, forced his muscles to relax and the energy to pass up his sturdy legs then down his steady arms, through his club and back to the earth.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

The ninth wave was torn open by the beast. 
Raising its long neck above the waters, it's head a snarling gruesome visage of horn and teeth, mouth set wide and tongue protruding. 
Coming toward the land, moving with such speed as to fly across the waves,  it raced to the beach. 

The monster bore down on him and with a great grinding roar it drove its body up onto the shingle.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

Two black forms arose from the back of the beast and with raucous cries set to wing about the area.
The Ravens flew about the beach and swooped down towards the De Danann warrior.

Their course was abruptly altered and hesitation took them as their call was answered from further back inland.
The two corvus seemed to hang uncertain between the ship and the land, but with a renewed call to them, they set off with black wings all a flutter. 

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute. 

Next from the back of the beast came two massive wolves, One grey, one White. These predators leaping with great agility to the shingle, instantly dropped into a hunched hunting posture, hackles rising and throats growling. Fixing their bright avaricious eyes on the Dagda, their jowls slavering they began to stalk forward.

Just as the pair moved within range to pounce they hesitated. The Dagda allowed them to sense his threat and without even a glance he set his Will upon them. 

The wolves ceased to prowl and lowering their bodies to the beach they averted their gaze with the smallest of whimpers.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

Then came the giant.

Leaping from the beast’s back to land feet spread upon the shore of Eire. 
He stood head and shoulders taller that the Dagda, though not as broad.

Clothed in furred boots with trous of linen on his long legs. His big torso wrapped about in mail and hung with burnished plates.
The spear held in his right hand stood as tall as the Warrior, its blade long and wide with markings etched into its bright metal, a round wooden shield hung casually on his left.

A burnished and winged helm sat atop long flowing white hair that joined a white beard.
The face was lined with age, but still filled with a healthy colour.

When the warrior lifted his gaze from the cowering wolves, the Dagda was stuck by a Will much like his own. It rolled across the distance between them with push and probe, seeking to dominate all in its path. 

The voice, when it came, was strong and rich in timber and though the words and accents were odd to him the Dagda knew them for their purpose.

‘Ho! I , Lord of the Aesir, Bragi of the North’s men, come upon this land. Turn and address me!”

The one steel grey eye of the warrior fixed itself on the figure standing amidst the waves, facing away from him. 

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute. 

A heavy breath filled the Dagda’s big chest and his reply was given with much resignation for his measure of the man’s arrival would not allow for a withdrawal. Still he had to try. 

“Leave. Board your beast and be gone beyond the wave, else conflict and challenge you will find upon the land of Eire.”

So saying the Dagda counted the ninth and felt it wash across his feet.

“Turn and address me stranger or your disrespect will my ire raise to your folly.”

The reply from the Bragi was sharp with his anger, as he forced his Will upon the words.

A Challenge I see.

The Dagda turned to face the warrior and allowed that steely gaze to take its measure of him. From unruly hair and beard tumbling in curls from his head, to broad shoulders tight with muscle. Down arms wide around and thick from labouring. Over a waist whose girth spoke of prosperity and plenty, to legs round, strong, and steady.

“ A fair warning you have received and no other will you have of me. Heed it and leave, or face me and fall.”

The Dagda set forth his Will and drove it hard home across the words to his foe, seeing a tightening of that one eye, as the face took on a scowl.

The attack came fast. 

With a long legged lunge the Bragi closed the distance, spear leading the way. Broad bladed death rode swift upon his arm, surely a thrust which had settled doom upon many.

The Dagda moved. 

The shift of his body and twist of his hips carried him all but clear of the strikes course. 

All but.

Fire and pain scored itself across his bicep as first blood was spilt. Rich redness flowed and with it the Rage took him.

Whirling about, carrying his momentum to its full, Dagda spun, strong arm lifting his club to crash, crush and split the other warriors shield. 

Banded wood and metal flew asunder as the Bragi recoiled saving his arm from the same fate. 

In that stroke the battle began in truth. Move and counter. Blow and strike. All merged into the flow of combat.

 Battle

The Bragi was the faster and had a longer reach. The Dagda was stronger and intractable.

That spear did taste Dagda’s flesh and blood with many a smart positioning and push, but the stranger did not have all the advantage. Crushing bruises and near breaks were raught upon him in reply. 

Knowledge and skill each displayed a plenty as they adjusted and twisted the battle to seek an advantage. 

Lost in the waves they crashed again and again. Stamina driving them now where skill could find no advantage. 

The Dagda, covered in his Red, was near a horror to the stranger. Never had he encountered a being such as this in all the realms of his experience. 

The Bragi was indeed a challenge and an equal, yet the land of Eire required much of her Chieftain, and he was not to be found wanting. 

Bringing his crushing club around on the warriors blinded side the Dagda  met again the readied defense as strong as every time he had tested it. No advantage could a weapon find in that quarter, and again he took another shallow wound for  his effort. 

Around and again they came and that steely gaze followed the club as it arced in presenting that strong block, and as the weapon was turned, finding his opponent a flesh. 

The Dagda took the pain adding it with all the rest as the club moved up and around again.

Steel eye followed the deathshead weapon as the Bragi prepared his block, feeling in full the threat of the woods killing touch. The wood struck his spear shaft block, muscles braced to push hard against it and clear him from its touch.

The one eyed warrior staggered, his gaze following the club as it spun away from him, free of any hand to hold it. 

Overbalanced he stumbled forward, muscles braced to resist, finding nothing to hold against 
His gaze flicked up just in time to catch a glimpse of dripping red doom, in the shape of a broad muscled fist.

Thunder roared in his ears, lightning sparked him his eye, and darkness took him.

Nine.

The wave brought the tall warrior back to himself as its surf washed over his face, cold and salted.

As his stunned and reeling mind took in its surroundings it could not but latch to the Big man standing over him, bleeding from many wounds, the worst of which gushed red down his muscled right arm, broad fists clenched, threat in every aspect of him.

The voice when it can was steady. Will rolled in every sound, intractable, irresistible.

“Speak your Name true, or find your end here as promised.” 

The demand could not be denied and before his brain had registered in full his lips supplied the answer.

“Odin, Alföðr, Asagrim!”

The Dagda heard the true Name spoken and in that moment took power over the fallen.

Releasing a slow steadying breath, he opened his fists and offered his hand.

“Dagda, Ollathair, Dé Danann.”

Surprise registered in Odin’s eye as he heard the true Name spoken and realised the balance that had been freely given.

Reaching up an aching arm he gripped the wrist of the bloodied Chieftan before him and allowed himself he lifted from the water by his mighty strength. 

As he righted himself a wave of dizziness took him and his questing fingers found a lump raised upon his temple and a paining ache to his jaw. 

Looking down at the easy stance of his broad companion he caught again the flash of a fist coming in as a Club sailed away through the air. 

“You gave up the advantage of your weapon.” 

Odin’s voice carried his question unsaid, for well he read the threat of endings on that weapon. 

“Against you and that spear it was no advantage.” 

Rumbled the Dagda’s voice as the Bragi saw him wince for the first time, big hand moving to clamp closed on the deep cut across his right bicep. 

“Tell me, did you bring anything to drink on that big curragh of yours?
I think our fight is done, don't you?” 

The words came to Odin with an easy camaraderie he had not expected following the fierceness of the fight. 

He found himself smiling at the Big man with his easy demeanour. The reply could not but contain a chuckle.

“The mead of Asgard is strong stuff and not for those of mild constitution.”

The Dagda’s face sported a broad grin to hear the challenge behind the words. A new battle about to begin.

“Well I hope it also comes in large quantities for I have a thirst upon me you could not possibly rival.” 

When, hours later, in a flurry of beak and black feather, Huginn and Muninn, returned to Her where she sat feeding the wolves Geri and Freki with meat from her table, they spoke of growth from a challenge, the pleasure of friendship, the loudness of men, and the foolishness of drink.

Her toothy smile lit the darkness as if the full moon had risen. 

Fate decided by ones own hand, and what good hands He had indeed.