White Iron Bride

No coward this white train

That dared to speak a virgin’s mind

Stripped, to the abuser’s rule

That sought to quash

Dissent in journeys’ end

It’s flaming red still trails the skies

A freer voice than iron ways

Where iron minds, entitled

Lay down iron roads

Within the minds and tongues of

Those who cannot within their minds

Travel by themselves…

Unliveried, red-bled, she waits,

White naked, now exposed

To be dressed by another

Competing groom, approved

Who also runs the rival line

Nestled beneath the lying blue motion

Of a choice that somehow vanished

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Standing on Plastic (1) – EcoBricks and Suburbia

(Above: Standing on a nearly ready EcoBrick)

I’m standing on a plastic bottle, and, for once, I’m not trying to crush it for disposal so that it won’t fill up the bin–or even the recycling box. What I’m doing is testing it for weight-bearing density.

My bottle, which used to contain four pints of milk, is jam-packed with thin pieces of cut-up plastic, such as wrappers, carrier bags, the outer layers of couriered online-order packages… and a thousand other things for which plastic is essential…

But, such plastic in the wrong place is, as we’re all realising, deadly.

Many, larger-scale plastics are recyclable and so can be put into local centres. This milk bottle is, too. But this blog is not about the bottle, it’s about the bottle as container for the compressed contents – three weeks’ worth of non-recyclable plastic wrappings.

Most of our packaging and food wrapping materials – such as those used for toffee and chocolate – are not recyclable. Singly, each of these feels small – almost not worth worrying about. But start to collect them to fill a plastic bottle and you’ll be surprised how quickly they accumulate.

Sadly, being light, they are most likely to find themselves loose in the landscape, and then the oceans, where, as we now know, they become part of the marine life food chain and eventually enter our children’s brains… Soon, all our brains, and others part of our bodies, will be directly polluted by micro-plastic. No-one knows what the long term effects will be; but we know they will be harmful… possible even fatal to our species. You can’t take an antibiotic for plastic poisoning.

Plastic is a new material in the history of life on Earth. Our slowly evolved natural defences are good at dealing with molecular structures that have been around a long time. Plastic hasn’t… it’s a complex set of molecules derived from oil and it’s new to our biological defences.

(Above: Take a wooden ‘plunger’…)

The bottle I’m standing on is an ‘EcoBrick’, a term invented by the South American creator of the device – Susanna Heisse. Horrified at the level of plastic waste around her home near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. She came up with the idea of using plastic bottles stuffed with non-recyclable other plastic as a building material.

The EcoBricks have to be clean and filled with clean, non-organic material. Once sealed, organic waste would generate methane gas, which could explode the ‘brick’. In addition, EcoBricks need to be stuffed so that an adult could stand on them without deformation to the repurposed bottle, as in my picture.

It’s important to use some brightly coloured plastic at the bottom of the stuffed bottle, because that lets the base of the brick be identified if one construction project comes to an end and, say, a wall has to be demolished and reused.

Once these conditions are met the bricks are used either horizontally as true brick substitutes, or vertically for cavity insulation – which they are very suited to. But this is a technology in its infancy…

Initially, Susanna Heisse built a simple wall, layering the stuffed bottles horizontally, with mud-based mortar on top of each layer. The local community picked up the idea and many similarly poor regions of the world began to investigate the potential for using EcoBricks as building materials.

(Above: and compress it as hard as you can)

But what about families in western suburbia? Are we really likely to have local projects to which we can contribute our efforts?

There are several dimensions to the problem of plastic disposal. The fundamental one is that our societies have fostered an attitude of ‘someone else can deal with this problem better than I can’. That, alone, produces an approach where its someone else’s problem. We could argue that in a society that was functioning for the good of all we could expect this, but the big drawback is it takes us – our shared consciousness – away from the problem – from the cutting edge of why our world is filling up with waste plastic…

Equally significantly, our trust that the ‘commercial’ disposal of our plastic waste will be carried out with care for the environment can be misplaced. As the headlines have shown us, small bits of ‘rubbish’ become part of larger batches commercially sold on. Many of them become part of a huge load dropped onto the open pit of a cargo ship; and then…

Do these end up somewhere that is sensitive to the wishes of those of us who recycled them at the local unit? How many of us would bet on this? Very few, I suspect. We are content with the ‘should have been’ situation that removes us from the problem; someone’s else’s problem.

Only now it doesn’t. Now, the plastic is coming back into the food chain and it is the problem of our developing children…

Sadly, I have to report that I can find nowhere local to take my EcoBricks… I will continue looking, but this has prompted other, and deeper, deliberations.

I may simply have not looked hard enough, but I think we may be missing the point. EcoBricks were developed in a poor part of South America. The greatest take-up has been in countries like South Africa, where projects in poverty-stricken townships have used musical carnivals to be the centre of clean up and restore projects involving them. The difference between them and, say the UK, is that they need to do it…

Will this stop me making my EcoBricks? No…

Every time I roll that washed chocolate wrapper, or cut-up sections of an old plastic bag to stuff them in the latest bottle, I know I’m doing something important… and that’s not just the act of packing the EcoBrick. The important part is the consciousness of the waste, and the determination that we in the prosperous west should be bringing local technology to all of this. I want to own this problem and fix it!

Remember the ‘Back to the Future’ films?

The bit where the time-travelling car needed refuelling and the professor hunted around the street for some rubbish, tipping it into the hyper-recycling unit, before hitting 88 miles per hour and saving the day…

We don’t have skateboarding Martys… or do we? To our children and their children the tyrants who stood in the way of solving these problems will be held up as examples of a (literally) dying age.

So, I’ll go on making my EcoBricks. It will keep me focussed on the need for a solution. Maybe a future government will create a working ‘corridor’ to the needy parts of the world. More likely, some engineering genius will develop a home machine that ‘bakes’ plastic into a universal raw material.

And who knows, when the PortaFusion Recycler Mark I comes along, I might still be here, with my garage full of plastic bricks, at the front of the queue. I hope to see you there…

In the meantime, I’ll keep researching and writing up that search. Please contribute here or on Carol’s blog from the Retired? No one told me! website..

Some useful links about EcoBricks. Warning, some may be commercial:

The GEA, Global Ecobrick Alliance – https://www.ecobricks.org/circular/

Ecotricity: https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/news/news-archive/2019/what-is-an-ecobrick

Earthship Biotecture: https://www.earthshipglobal.com/

UK Facebook Page for EcoBricks UK: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ecobricksUK/

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Whirlpool

Underlying image by Gordon Johnson on Pixabay

It begins with a feeling… A feeling that something has fallen: like a vital bridge being destroyed.

As it develops, you sense the landscape being stretched, allowing forms of life alien to your own to enter the world.

And then you become conscious that there is a velocity, here – that we are all going somewhere we didn’t ask for. After a while you realise that the world is not only changing, but is being buffeted from the same place…

That place is the centre. The place from which the tearing winds are coming.

Soon, the low roar, the dull moaning, gain strength. They become a voice… and there is anger; an anger that won’t go away, like a wild beast dying.

By the time you see that the whole world is moving, beginning to spin, tearing loose from everything you thought was fixed and, and… ‘of the elders’, it’s too late…

The new world is full of creatures, creatures gloating that their views have triumphed against the overburdened weight of the controls that kept the world from breaking up, from spinning, from feeding from that dreadful centre.

You look again at the centre from which the noise is coming; only you can’t see it anymore. It’s gone… spinning, faster and faster, it has become a vertical pit into which everything is being sucked – a whirlpool of hate.

You look at the far edge of the red whirlpool and see millions of people staring back at you – only they’re staring back at all of you and they’re screaming and shouting and laughing as the edge of the red water washes them faster and faster into more energetic screaming and shouting. They are the opposite of what you believe yourself to be, and they generate the strongest of emotion in you… until you realise that this emotion, too, is hatred, and that your loathing of the hateful creatures is adding to the red spinning that now sucks you in, as it does them.

Fighting despair, you raise your gaze to look beyond the descending red waters and see – far away and behind the forces of the vortex, dotted here and there – a set of people whose eyes are not red, who are not shouting… not even speaking. No energy flows from them into the redness, though you can see and feel their pain. There is a different way to react… or maybe, not to react at all, simply to hold the good that was, so much of which is being sucked, like wreckage, into the red whirlpool.

This knowing lodges in your heart. It breaks the force of the red gravity that had been pulling you nearer the whirlpool. You are moving backwards on the boiling waters, holding the eyes of the others who are holding yours… do not feed it, they say, gently.

It is calm, now. The dreadful vortex has gone, taking much of what you loved with it. But the waters that remain are the same waters that gave rise to a new world, long ago. The energy of renewal can begin its work.

The world is washed with its tears, as it always is after war But there is hope. There is no choice, now – you must be an elder… Even if you are young – especially if you are young.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Bad morning at the pharmacy

Not a pharmacy…

It’s been a bad morning at the Boots pharmacy in Kendal, which is why I’m posting some gentle pictures of the park where, earlier, I walked Tess before the catastrophe…

The annual ritual of the flu jab is upon us. We soothe it with breakfast in Kendal afterwards; but we have a Collie dog, Tess, who needs at least two good walks plus frisbee chucks each day. The logistics can be demanding…

Boots Chemist don’t allow dogs in their stores. I’m okay with that–especially after a run in muddy park; so we take turns to have a tiny needle pushed into the muscles of our upper arm, while the other one looks after Tess.

You can probably sense the sinister way the tension is building, so I’ll insert another picture of beautiful, soothing, autumnal Kendal:

Dog, Frisbee, Man, Kendal… nice… Where were we?

Because we were operating serially, and we don’t always get processed at the time it says on the appointment, Bernie usually calls me when it’s approaching my turn.

The phone rang… mmm, early!

Another soothing picture of Kendal

“The pharmacist is stuck on the M6!” Bernie’s voice said. “Twenty minutes at least.” It can happen. Heaven knows we’ve had enough disasters of our own – stuck in motorway tailbacks.

So we decided that I would give Tess a longer play than normal while Bernie waited outside the side door of Boots which they wouldn’t open because the pharmacist had not arrived. And then, if the pharmacist had still not arrived, have a small coffee at the Costa that’s just around the corner from Boots.

It was a crisp morning, and the thought of my wife, on-time and being made to stand outside the store on a cold morning was not peace-inducing. She can have a short fuse on such occasions…

The Soothing ‘Fellside’ district of Kendal caught in the morning sun

“I’ll carry on chucking Tess, then,” I said. “Give me a five minute warning when you’re about done with your jab.”

I started another circuit of the park, taking me away from the entrance. After only a few minutes the phone rang unexpectedly.

It was Bernie. The display said so… But there was no voice. This happened twice more over the next two minutes and I remember thinking of using my phone instead of the frisbee and apologising with my arms to the other – and nearby – dog walker who was getting fed up of hearing me shout, “Can you hear me?”

The phone beeped and, without thinking, I repeated my moronic question. There was silence, then I noticed it was a message, not an incoming call.

‘Please come to Boots, now.’ Read the message.

There was an unspoken urgency in the words. There was also a complete lack of explanation, suggesting that a probing return text would be… unwelcome.

I was, at that point, staring down at a steaming pile of dog-poo, successfully coaxed from Tess after our first twenty minutes of chucking the frisbee. In my left hand was a readied poo bag, clutched like a demonic glove puppet and ready to swoop on the pile. But the summons was clearly urgent!

I left the dog poo where it was…

It was in the long grass and well off the pathways, I reasoned. No-one but me was going to be in that small piece of wilderness in the three days it would take to rot down… In truth, I was more occupied with the raging fury hidden in the phone’s text.

Something bad, really bad, had happened.

(I’m not sure how that photo got in there…)

She was standing outside the door of Boots.. looking… em… icy.

“They processed you quickly,” I said, lamely; instantly regretting it.

“They didn’t,” the icy tones replied. “Give me Tess, they’re waiting for you…”

Two minutes later, I had bypassed the scowling matron at the dispensary desk and was being ushered by a young and clearly flustered locum-pharmacist into the tiny injection room.

“She’s really annoyed!” He managed, looking both surprised and browbeaten.

No kidding! I thought, presuming he meant my wife and wondering how badly this lesson in real-time living was going to end.

“I got here as fast as I could, but I can only process one of you…”

I think I stuttered.

“But she’s standing…” I pointed back out of the cupboard.

“She’s paying,” he offered. “So I can’t deal with her. You’re an old person and it’s free on the NHS. As a locum, I’m only allowed to work on NHS cases.”

He coughed – a kind of insecure punctuation to the sentiment. I suppressed a smile. He had, single-handedly, rubbished my glorious ascent to my sixty fifth year… and ‘free’ flu jabs.

“But,” I said, now incented to increase his discomfort “She ‘told’ Boots all that on the form she filled in!”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just a locum..” Then he added, raising a finger, “We can give her a discount!”

Bernie has told them she will be seeking a new supplier of flu jabs.

I hope the poo is untrodden. I sincerely hope I don’t dream of sneaking out in the darkness and trying to find it… the green plastic puppet in my left hand…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Fear and Love in the High Peak (2) – “I want a posset!”

The first visit of the Silent Eye ‘Rites of Passage: Seeing Beyond Fear’ weekend was to the Derbyshire village of Eyam (pronounced Eem) – The Plague Village.

Our family has a personal connection with Eyam and the terrible events of 1665-6, when bubonic plague, newly arrived in Derbyshire from London, took the lives of 260 of its occupants: over seven-tenths of its population.

The parish church of St Lawrence, Eyam

No-one began the weekend thinking of heroes or heroines, but they were there in the records–and in the living landscape, though the word may not be entirely appropriate to describe the profound selflessness of its former inhabitants during that fateful period that began in 1665.

The Saxon cross in the church of St Lawrence

Our family connection was Edward Unwin. We do not know his occupation, but it was probably that of lead miner, a common occupation in those parts. This assumption is made on the basis that a close friend of his reported the strange events that follow to Catherine Mompesson, the wife of the new pastor of Eyam, William Mompesson, who was a disciplined diarist. Her records are the basis of much of the history of the plague year of 1666.

From Diary of Catherine Mompesson, 5th July 1666:

‘I first encountered John Carter [the neighbour of Edward Unwin] on the morning following his summoning of Marshall Howe to give his ministrations to his near neighbour…’

Catherine Mompesson’s journal goes on to explain how Carter, the neighbour of Unwin, was ‘sharp-spoken’ and unkempt in the way of the local lead miners, but was ‘direct and honest’ in his conversation. In common with the other lead miners, he looked ten years older than his reputed thirty-four years. Catherine Mompesson relates that, in telling the tale, he had ‘a certain jocose air’ about him as he related the story of the previous day.

The grave of Catherine Mompesson, wife of Rector William. She died in 1666 of the plague.

The journal continues: ‘Knowing that Unwin was either dead or on the verge of death, Carter had summoned his fellow miner, Marshall Howe, who was acting as a self-appointed ‘sexton of the plague’; seemingly heedless of the danger to himself, but well aware that, since Unwin’s wife had already died of the plague, choice possessions from Unwin’s house would pass to him as his fee for the ‘sexton’s’ funeral duties…

Bodies had to be buried in the gardens of the deceased’s dwellings to reduce the risk of contagion from communal graveyards. The journal tells that Marshall Howe had already dug Unwin’s grave in the man’s ‘sweet smelling’ orchard at the back of the property and was carrying his body over his shoulder down the stairs when:

‘The still-warm body started to writhe and thrash.. then shouted out, “I want a posset!”

The interior of St Lawrence’s church

Edward Unwin was my wife’s tenth great grandfather. He survived the encounter with the ‘plague sexton’ and got his posset from a sympathetic neighbour. The self-appointed sexton fled but is recorded as subsequently continuing his job and surviving the plague. The incident gave voice to the opinion that Marshall may ‘have been overzealous in the execution of his duties several times…’

We know that Edward Unwin survived the plague. My wife, Bernie, hopes that whatever resistant DNA he may have had was passed down through the generations. The posset in question was a mixture of boiled milk, ale, bread and fats – a miner’s favourite sustenance and inexpensive, too.

Edward was not a hero, regardless of his miraculous recovery… But the plague village and the area around it did have its heroes. Eyam, discovering that it was the new centre of a potential explosion of bubonic plague infection, did something remarkable: with some guidance from the clergy, it chose to cut itself off from the surrounding villages and towns, condemning all those ‘within’ to almost certain death.

The credit for this is normally given to William Mompesson, the young local clergyman. But the truth is more complex… Two rectors were involved in the formidable alignment of wills that gave Eyam its fame and historical status.

1662 was the date of the Act of Uniformity. Charles II was on the throne of England and Scotland, and Cromwell’s age of the Puritans had come to an end. The Act of Uniformity forced the ‘ejection’ of hundreds of puritan clergymen from their ‘living’. One of these was Eyam’s much respected rector, Thomas Stanley.

The old sundial on the walls of the church

Traditionally, these ‘ejected’ clergyman were expected to leave the region in which they had ministered. But Stanley continued to live close to Eyam – something the nearby Duke of Devonshire had the power to correct but didn’t, such was the standing of the former rector.

William Mompesson, Rector of Eyam Church. I could find no surviving pictures of Thomas Stanley.

The plague arrived in Eyam at the end of August, 1665, in the bite of fleas wrapped in a damp bale of a tailor’s cloth. The inexperienced rector knew he had to do something radical but struggled to gain support from the people of Eyam – until he met with Thomas Stanley and shared views across the new religious boundary. Together, they framed the stance the people of Eyam would adopt; to imprison themselves, facing almost certain death, in order to protect the surrounding populations.

The Story of the plague. An unlikely stained glass window in St Lawrence’s church…

The Earl of Devonshire deserves mention in this context, too. He and his family resolutely supported Eyam in its self-imposed isolation. They provided food and other vital supplies for the villagers, left at safe boundary points, for the duration of the plague’s effects.

William Cavendish, First Duke of Devonshire and benefactor of Eyam during the plague. Image Wikipedia, public domain

Space precludes more detail of the beautiful village of Eyam, but Sue Vincent’s recent blog describes our exploration of Eyam in considerable detail.

The day in Eyam had generated heavy hearts, even though these events were four hundred years ago. They let us reflect on the nature of fear… and of love. But this was an important counterpoint to the following day, which would begin on a much more sun-filled note.

———————————-

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Big Bubbles

Once there was an ocean

A bright blue ocean

That shone shimmering gold

As its waves crested and fell

And the bubbles danced with joy

Then a bubble grew bigger

And gathered other big bubbles

We’re not bubbles they cried

We’re a cluster of bubbles

And they rose to the top of the waves

And flew off into the bright sky

Higher thy flew

Towards the burning sun

Which turned them to steam

Which cooled

And they fell and fell

Landing on the single bubbles

Who were dancing below

Together

It’s good to be a part

Of something

It’s better still

To belong

To something

Real

©Stephen Tanham

Fear and Love in the High Peak – part one

It’s not the best of photo resolutions, but the above image says it all. Briony saluting the Derbyshire landscape in her own way at the end of three days of the Silent Eye’s Tideswell-based workshop: Sue and Stuart’s creation; and a wonderful experience for the group of souls who braved the provocative title for the weekend…

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond Fear

…and decided that they would examine the roots of their own fears… and face them in the warmth of loving companionship and symbolic danger.

It’s a time-honoured formula for all mystical organisations; one that brings us all to a point where the day to day ‘fog’ of habitual perception is cut through by the vividness of landscape and experience. That’s what we hope to achieve on these weekends. This one worked well – and in different ways for each person, as it should, for we all have different stories that have brought us to our ‘now’.

Sometimes, especially in reviewing such things, it’s better to start at the end. The picture (above) of Briony is of her at the ‘peak’ of the weekend; the last act of the formal part of our physical, emotional and spiritual wanderings across the ancient and mysterious landscapes of Derbyshire.

A short time later, we would be laughing in one of the oddest, oldest and most wonderful pubs in England…

But that’s for the final chapter of this short series of blogs. For now, let’s drift backwards in time to the sunshine of the Saturday morning. A day of ‘Indian Summer’ as good as any we been blessed with over the years.

Baslow Ridge

We were up high in a place called Baslow Ridge. Looking down on a series of valleys that lead to places like Bakewell, and the glories of the Chatsworth Estate.

The Eagle Stone – a place of proof of maturity, and a precursor to local marriage

The Eagle Stone stands alone, an outlier from a distant time of glaciation. It dominates the landscape like the monolith did in Kubrick’s film of Arthur C. Clarke’s story 2001: A Space Odyssey. People are drawn to it from miles around. It even featured in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as the place that Elizabeth Bennett visited and climbed… to get away from it all.

It is still used by local folk as a rite of passage. Those who seek the hand of marriage with the girls and ladies of the nearby town of Baslow are expected to demonstrate their suitability by climbing the stone unaided. It’s not a trivial ascent, as this second shot of the rock shows:

The Eagle Stone close-up shows how the higher layers overhang the lower; making an ascent difficult

The Eagle Stone is an example of a sacred folk-object at the centre of a local custom; a ritual, in this case. The ritual was a gateway into adulthood–and maturity. There would be real caution – if not fear- for anyone faced with the challenge. But, with some secret help from your friends, there was only an element of danger, rather than the certainty of death…

The Riley Graves

But many in the history of these parts have not been so lucky. Going back in time to our first visit of the weekend, we were brought face to face with personal fear and sadness of a degree that would be hard to envisage in modern life… and one of the most heart-rending sacrifices we could have encountered.

It’s 1666 in a small High Peak town, not far from Chatsworth. In the space of a single week, a lone woman buries all six of her children and then her husband. No-one will help her; no-one can help her. It is the most awful piece of personal history imaginable and yet the act which surrounds it is of the highest nobility.

Stuart… showing how it should be done

And so the story – the plot – of the weekend, moves from an historic example of fear and self-sacrifice – but seen through modern eyes, through the ancient stones set in the Derbyshire landscape and their cultural and symbolic use, to its finale in a rather foreboding place, high above a valley with a dark history…

Seen like this – backwards from the end, we can appreciate the careful construction of the weekend carried out by Sue and Stuart. Sue has begun its re-telling in her Silent Eye and personal blogs. She’s a great storyteller and there is little point in my replicating her excellent eye for detail.

Instead, I will pick certain moments of significance and focus on them – and hence this backwards-in-time introduction to set the scene.

It’s a long way from the Friday meeting place at Eyam to our final (small for drivers) glass of Dark Lurcher at the Three Stag’s Heads near ‘Hanging Rock’, but it’s a fascinating journey. The weekend demanded a degree of serious intent… but we had lot of fun, too.

In the end, on Sunday morning, everyone was alone for a moment on that dark peak… Very Carlos Castenada, really…. but that’s just my personal take on it.

Next time we meet, it will be August 1666 and, in this part of Derbyshire, something remarkable, unique and utterly selfless will be about to happen.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Somber not Sad

A second on an icy breeze

A chill that fears no coat

A fading colour unafraid

Of its own transition floats

From the order of formed green

To the falling of bronze

The collecting whisper

Is the voice of the colder wind

North of the east and south of the west

Nothing turns bad

Culling life-magic, living no death

Is somber not sad

©Stephen Tanham

The cycle of life

The approach of the autumn always makes me reflect on the nature of life; in particular the way the mysterious essence of life takes form and shape, ‘living’ for a while, then giving up its life and surrendering the elements of that form back to the earth from which it arose.

We all feel the poignancy of life’s seasons, but it’s useful to align ourselves with the processes of the autumn and reflect more deeply on the ‘life lessons’ that nature lays before us… quite literally.

Soon, I will walk in my muddy boots, through crisp and cracking leaves; leaves that, a few short months ago, glowed with the mysterious and magical green of the spring. These days, I cannot help but feel a kind of kinship with their fate, as the inevitable process of attrition by the wind, rain…and my walking boots, crushes them into smaller and smaller particles of their former selves, ready for the chemical dissolution that will complete their natural recycling.

But is it just the leaves that are recycled in this way–or something else? The form is a container for the indefinable ‘aliveness’ of what is inside it: its essence. We never actually see this essence, but we feel it – and it glows with the joy of being alive within that spring green which heralds the return of collective outward life. This capacity to feel what we cannot see is an important part of being human – and is really another sense.

Spiritually, we can learn from each season. We can also use our feelings to see a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

The four seasons offer us the following parts of this whole:

In spring, we feel the freshness, the new light, the change of colours, the return of milder weather. We also feel a surge of new energy as the Earth extends itself – through nature – into all the inherited forms of life. Like the leaves, each of these forms is unique; no two of them are exactly the same and yet each follows a type. The type is inherited through nature’s coding of evolution, and makes us what we are – physically.

The spring contains joy, a fundamental characteristic of being. In the spring it is made manifest.

The summer that follows is a time of fulfilment. The promise of the spring is carried to fruition beneath the calm, blue and golden skies above us. There is a feeling of completeness, a deep sense of inner rightness. The fruits of nature’s beauty are there for us to consume, so that we, in turn, partake of the bounty of fullness. In summer, we have that feeling of going outwards into the world.

The autumn is a time for reflection. Winter is around the corner but not yet with us. It is a time for gathering-in; preparing our selves – and those who depend upon us – for the harshness ahead. Our feeling of openness is replaced with the poignancy of knowledge of what lies ahead and a saying goodbye to the forms of things which have shared the spring and summer with us, such as the leaves falling from the mighty and enduring trees. Winds begin to pick up, again, completing the process of outer reduction, and the shaking free of the old.

But the autumn is also a time of harvest. We ‘plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground’ as the harvest hymn goes. Animals scatter the seeds of life for the natural world, ensuring life’s best chance for continuation away from the ‘tree’ from which they fell.

Finally, winter ‘reaps’ that which is no longer fit to contain the invisible life. But the strong things remain. The starkness of the outlines of bare trees dominate the natural landscape… but we cease to see them after a while. Trees are wonderful structures. Ouspensky described them as ‘living four-dimensional patterns’ because they show all the stages of their personal evolution.

We each have a winter tree inside us. It is the pattern of logical and emotional learning in our minds. Like a physical tree it shows us the forking and branching that our life’s journey has taken. It is a friend, an inner book; and we can learn much from its contemplation.

Nature’s key processes in the winter are beneath the ground – within the roots of organic life. They cannot be seen or felt, except by contemplation of the innermost purpose, while the bare structures of the trees above endure the cold, rain, ice and snow.

There will come a time to lay down that personal tree – to offer it and our life’s history to the greater cycle of life. We will have reached a different point of completion in this winter journey, and what we really are – invisible and ineffable – will return to the state from which it can begin a new life, restored, recharged and refreshed. Our small tree of experience will merge with the universe’s story, adding a tiny but important contribution that truly belonged to us, but which now may be read by all life.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.