The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
equinox, & the light has come such a long way...
Had I managed to get out of our icebound drive to make Merrivale at the winter solstice with the group of writers who join me, last Sunday would have completed the wheel of the year. I began last midsummer solstice, the longest day, with the intention of meeting with whoever wanted to join me on the equinoxes and solstices to celebrate the changing stations of the turning year with silence, writing and very slow walking. We start in the little walled and treed car park, once a school house here in the middle of the moor, near the ancient megalithic avenue of Merrivale with its twin rows of paired stones, and travel via the stone circle and menhir (Brythonic Celtic word meaning 'stone tall', or longstone; standing stone, in other words) to, eventually, the drovers' track, or 'driftway', into the wooded depths of mossy rocks and little bearded oaks, landing eventually in a space I think of as the Sacred Grove.
It's a profoundly peaceful and meditative time, and yes it gives me such joy to see people so immersed in their experience of relationship with the land, and writing the land. The immersion and writing process seems to start the minute we exit the cars into this beautiful small upland wilderness with its 360 degree views. It can be hard even to get participants beyond the little grassy enclosure adjoining the car park, or if I manage that, beyond the stream just the other side of the wall! When I pulled up in the parking area, where normally there might be one other car, if that, last Sunday there were a number of minibuses (students practising for the gruelling Ten Tors trek in May), and it was jammed with cars. The middle-aged man next to me said 'Are you walking, too?' 'Sort of,' I replied. 'I'm leading a poetry day.' 'How far do you go?' 'Oh, maybe 3 miles?' 'How long does that take you, then? An hour?' 'I guess we'll be back around 4-ish,' I said. 'SIX HOURS to walk three miles?' 'It'll take me an hour to get them as far as the stone rows,' I said. 'That's five minutes' walk!' he responded. I know. And it did. And everyone wrote. And wrote.
Merrivale is likely to be both ancient ceremonial site and stone astronomical calendar (see 'Merrivale and the moor's white winter grasses' in my December posts). The double rows can be shown to be aligned to certain landmarks that point up the most southerly and the most northerly points of the setting sun's journey in the west. This in turn would allow our ancestors to calculate equinoxes and solstices, and therefore too sowing and planting times.
The equinox, occurring midway between the longest day and the longest night, is a point of balance, or creative tension, where night and day are, of course, of equal length. It's useful to allow these macrocosmic events to shed light, symbolically, on the microcosmic human turning points, so for me the equinox is a fruitful time for looking at how I relate to or hold together (or don't) the many pairs of opposites in my life, from working/playing doing/being active/receptive to letting go that which is outworn in order to make space for that which is new to balancing time alone with time with others. Or time talking with time listening. And so on. It's also for me a kind of caesura; a pause, a heartbeat, time to take breath in the turning year.
And to do this with the other wonderful people who join me on this day, and to do this as my work – mmm. Bliss. Even though I'm still not better and could barely make it back up to the car!
I leave you with a little poem of mine from the day:
The light has come
such a long way
to fall into your eyes
– Roselle Angwin
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