Rooted in the Land

The Ridge Tree

Rooted in the Land

No raging storm front tears my roots from ridge

No howling sky will twist and drag my limbs from land

The densest deluge will not wash my will

enduring, rooted here to frame and feed this place.

But one day the lightning may come . . .

And neither rhyme nor reason then resist endurance’s end

©Copyright words and image Stephen Tanham 2015

One step…

Sue (and the rest of us) recalls one of the most intense and dramatic moments of the Silent Eye’s history . . . was that only a year ago?

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

dscf1123

I was going through the files and came across a picture that seemed perfect for Colleen’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday. It is very pertinent at present, as my son opens a new chapter of adventure in his story… which inevitably sets off a chain reaction in my own life too. We never really know where the road is going to lead us as we face the mysteries of tomorrow.

It seemed appropriate too as we approach September and the Silent Eye’s Harvest of Being weekend at Ilkley, where, in what seems like a complete lapse from sanity, I crossed these same stepping stones blindfold. That was an exercise in trust, a very visible one, guided by my two fellow directors, Steve and Stuart.

The trust goes deeper than friendship with these two, but there is a trust deeper still that carries me forward, one foot in front of the other, every…

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Mist over Pendle

A haunting photo of Pendle Hill, in my home county of Lancashire; and some deep thoughts from smackedpendtax about one of the sadder periods in that county’s history . . . and the weakness of the human mind in the face of collective fear.

Walking with a Smacked Pentax

Rising up like the bow of an old battleship, this is Pendle hill in nearby Lancashire – the scene of the Lancashire Witch Trials which happened in the 17th century.

Twelve were accused of the murder of ten people by witchcraft, and after a lengthy trial ten were found guilty and hanged. One died in prison and one was found not guilty. It is a fascinating story and much too long for this post. There are plenty of references to it on the web – but for those of you who want a full history here is the Wikipedia version of events.

The prosecutions star witness was a nine year old child – Jennet Device, who was a family member of some of those accused. Jennet gave evidence against her mother, brother and sister. The trials tore families apart and aroused suspicions and resentment in the district for years.

Several years ago I worked in…

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 25 – The Turning Point

Nine Deadly 25 Backwards hat head

I knew it was Alexandra. I could feel her strong presence as she entered the cafe for our Monday morning chat. Even though I could not see it, I could tell, exactly, the moment that she stood still to take in the scene, unmoving by the doorway, gazing across the busy tables, her vision locking on to the spectacle . . .

I had worn the best of my suits. Following a purge of what turned out to be fourteen of them, I had three remaining, of which this plain blue travel suit was the best. It was freshly laundered and pressed. It felt strange to be back in it after three years of living the very opposite of the IT corporate life from which I had departed. Chinos and a good shirt were my usual ‘best dressed’ these days.

But she wasn’t looking at the unusual sight of me in a suit . . .

Around me was a circle of silent people. Despite the usual crush of Monday morningers, as we had come to know them (and us), there was an eerie quiet over several tables on either side. They were waiting, as people often do in this situation. They were waiting to find out why the usual emotional space in which they lived had been ‘stopped’.

You needed the eyes of good friends in a scene like this. Good friends need not be those you already know – in fact, they are often completely new to you; and hence of the moment, which is everythingMy particular good friends of this moment of presence were a rotund couple, presumably grandparents of the two red-faced and excited children, both in stripey tops and clutching buckets and spades still in the post-purchase netting. Several minutes prior, the children had caught my conspiratorial wink, and had, gleefully, winked back at me, whispering to a silent and astonished Janet and John senior that there was a game being played . . . Children are wonderful accomplices, if you solicit their help at the right moment.

There is also, of course, the danger of a real madman, so people are cautious, too. But I wasn’t radiating the same sort of vibes you would get in that situation. I was making it comic, but unexplained, and that can be a powerful combination, as mime artists throughout history would attest.

There was a cough behind me.

“It deserved a response,” I said, looking at Janet and John senior but not talking to them. I winked again at the kids, who crushed together and waved their little legs in glee.

“It was that good?” Alexandra said to the back of my neck.

“It was better than that . . .”

“Will I need to help you drink your coffee?” she asked.

“No, but you might straighten my tie, if you would be so kind – I think it has twisted a bit.”

“It has,” she said, leaning over our usual small coffee table and adjusting the oversized, orange knot I had carefully tied an hour ago, before wresting myself into the suit jacket at the back of the car.

“The tie would be one of nine you have left, I take it?”

I laughed at the cleverness of that. “Yes, I used to have nine, but we have only one remaining.”

“Nine of nine?” she asked.

“Of course!”

“Going out in style?”

“A suitable response to that magnificent performance of yours last week!”

I heard her chuckle. “Well, a girl’s gotta graduate some time . . .”

“Can you turn around and drink your coffee?” she asked.

“Can’t possibly,” I said, rolling my eyes at Janet junior who giggled and shook her head, certain that one couldn’t.

“Because the Nine has his head backwards by virtue of a jacket, shirt and tie that cover his back and not his front.”

“Nope,” said the reversed man. “Now, you’ve stopped trying and are getting piqued!”

I heard her sit down and drink some coffee. The whole cafe had dropped into silence. It can be like that, being creatively different or an idiot, depending on your perspective; but, if you stick with it, amazing things can happen.

There was an audible in-breath, the sort you’d take if you were a barrister and about to make your closing address. Then she let it out and giggled. “The suit isn’t turned around – you are!”

“Big difference?” the reversed man asked.

“Huge difference.” I could feel her neck straightening as the point of the charade came clear.

“He’s turned away . . . he’s fully equipped for the best of life if he were just to use it, but he’s turned away!”

“Metanoia.” I said.

“Metawhata?”

“Greek. Metanoia was wrongly translated when the versions of the Bible we use today were being assembled.” I could feel her listening. “Metanoia was rendered as ‘repent’, but its root word means a turning around.”

“‘Unless ye turn around‘ . . .” said my clever and learned friend. “To face what?”

“To face where you came from – our shared divine origin. I looked at John junior’s shining eyes and smiled back, drawing a pretend halo over my head – something quite difficult in a backwards suit.  He laughed with me and swung his feet again, enjoying the strangest Punch and Judy show he’d ever seen.

“I get it,” she said, much closer than she should have been. With a strength I didn’t know she possessed, she spun my chair around and I looked up into eyes which were shining every bit as much as John junior’s. “I get it,” she repeated, as I ground to a halt. “Now drink your bloody coffee and let all these people have their breakfast!”

There was spontaneous applause at her actions, as everyone returned to a normal Monday morning. There were tears in her eyes. “But someone from ‘in life’ had to swing you around didn’t they?” she said.

I looked back with tenderness into the tears. Shaking my head, I started to speak, “It’s a mirr. . .” But she hung her head and sniffed, speaking very low; really getting it.

“It wasn’t you that was turned around, was it . . . ” It was not a question.

“No,” I said softly. Leaning forward and planting a small kiss on the top of her head. “No.”

“And you did all this for me,” she looked up and around at a room returned to its normal state.

“For anyone who comes to the gate and asks,” I said softly.

It was a little while later. I had, at Alexandra’s insistence, put my jacket on correctly, and removed my tie. At least I now just looked like a vicar, she had said, leaving for her train.

Rose arrived at my table with a fresh coffee. She had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. I looked down at the coffee cup. She had placed the saucer upside down on the cup’s rim. On the top of the inverted saucer were a neatly folded bill and a delicately-balanced, heart-shaped chocolate from a Black Magic selection.

“Five coffees and two ice creams.” she barked, smiling into my open-mouthed response. “Three for you and the lady, and the rest for your backstage team behind – it’s the least you can do.”

I could only agree; and turned to smile at the four happy faces grinning at me, tucking into the additional course.

“And the chocolate?”

“Made me cry, too – you idiot; and I’ve no idea why . . .”

Behind me, John junior’s legs were swinging, happily, making the whole floor tremble.

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness; a place of companionship, sharing and the search for the real in life, using the loving techniques and insights of esoteric psychology. He retired from a life as an IT entrepreneur to establish the School in 2012, and, having persuaded Sue Vincent to . . .

Read more (500 words)

The Path

Another lovely moorland journey from James at smackedpentax

Walking with a Smacked Pentax

This is what I love the most about hiking – walking for miles and miles without seeing anyone else.

This track starts at the old Victorian dam at Scar House a few miles outside Pateley Bridge, and it leads to Great Whernside mountain, passing Dead Mans Hill on the right.

Now tell me, who wouldn’t love to walk this path on a beautiful autumn morning…and spend the day on the fells?

Go on, you know you would…

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Turn of the wheel

Sue does a wheelie . . .

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Jetsons

The car pulled out in front of me and stood out from the rest of the traffic like the proverbial sore thumb. I followed it up the long road towards the village, conscious of how different it looked. Neither veteran nor vintage, it was simply an older model Volvo… nothing special, not that old either; but while all the other cars on the road, including my own display all the seductive curves of a beauty contest, the Volvo still sported the angularity of … well, not so very long ago, when I thought about it.

It struck me that it is only over the past decade, really, that cars have moved into this aerodynamic voluptuousness. Even then, the change has been such a gradual shift, with cars of all ages on the roads, that we barely take any notice. It was only seeing this one against the backdrop of so…

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Home alone…

More of Sue’s amazing ability to reconcile the impossible . . .

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

index

“Look at it this way… you’ll be dead soon…”

By way of comfort for my insecurities this, I felt, left a lot to be desired. My son, however, chose to expand upon his logic and I have to agree. Worrying about the gradual reshaping of a body over time is no reason not to go swimming. He is right, I may never see any of these people again. He is also right that it will actually help… Although I am constantly in motion, the exercise I am used to has become rather difficult with the increasing stiffness in a variety of joints. And anyway, it isn’t about me. The proposed pool-time is about Nick… he needs to learn to swim again.

There is a reason for this, other than the obvious ones…

The triathlon he took part in a week ago was wonderful. So are the two physios he has…

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Ben’s Bit, part four – Into the Dark Waters

Into Dark Waters

The night time is the worst.

Within a world which contains so little, I find myself clinging to what is there; growing more present to the slightest changes in my meagre environment. When the daylight starts to fade in the evening, which happens earlier and earlier under the gathering cloak of Autumn, I can actually feel the waves of darkness changing the atmosphere in my cell.

Light to darkness . . . an exemplar of the polarity that underlies manifestation of the world of ‘things’. I must return to deeper thoughts on this; but not today. Today I must enter the world of ‘not things’ and try to use the brutal facts of my imprisonment to help me find meaning in my new life . . . it’s a big ask, but the alternative is unthinkable.

The twilight is a portal into that worst time of day, but it can also be the best. The best because the poignancy of the last of the departing light is compelling, but it is so brief; and then darkness follows.

It is dark now. I could switch on my cold light, fixed behind a grill in the ceiling, complete with its collection of dead insects, but I do not. Instead, I sit in the gloom and talk without words to the assembling shadows, half real, half invisible, which I must transform from spectre to friends . . . or lose my sanity.

Where do we start? My emotions are in turmoil. The spectacle of psychic cruelty with Yellow Eyes has finished for the day. He is satisfied with a Friday well spent in which he has succeeded in getting beneath my defences by assuring me that the police have found new evidence that I was assisted in the crime which took place here in Bakewell; and that it will not be long before my fellow ‘conspirators’ are caught. I knew he was lying, but the exchange has prompted longing thoughts, and he registered that, and is well satisfied with his ‘hit’.

Through this haranguing I remained silent, using the stream of vitriol to imagine my friends, Don and Wen, who I know will be thinking of me, regardless of their power to do anything. I pictured them walking the hills, among the ancient stones – perhaps discovering new ones? Happy to be in their native mode of discovery, but sad to be accompanied by the unwanted companion that is the presence of someone taken away . . .

What where we thinking? my mind screamed; but Yellow Eyes saw that – the doubt – and was pleased with his success.

Now I am alone with the unmetered darkness.

This black silence is a strange thing. There is, of course, a traditional and biological unease associated with its return. From our genes and our childhood rises the spectre of this ancient companion.

I think about fear. I am growing used to its weight. There comes a point , though, when some deep part of you can choose to be bored of its company . . . and then interesting things happen.

Some days it lies, cowering and vanquished in the corner of the cell, bettered by a disciplined mind. On other days, it invades the cell like a putrid tide, penetrating and filling the spaces where the thin psychological skin of the solitary human is peeled back to reveal the sliding, dark liquid of unnamed terror. Imagination fuels fear. I know this to be true and it opens the inner gates of deeper contemplation. It is time that I carried out the practice that I hope will keep soul alive in this place.

I settle into the position I have found most comfortable for these journeys of the mind. Seated on the floor with my back to the mattress, I arrange myself cross-legged and buffered by a small cushion, which, during other hours of the day, doubles as my extra pillow. At first, I do nothing but breathe, letting myself become aware of the whole sensation of my body, and its associate tensions. Then, as the purposeful attention grows, I slide one hand into the other as though in a prayer position; but then knit the fingers, leaving my thumbs until last, and locking my awareness into my overlapping and joined thumbnails, which lie on the X-shaped support of my crossed forefingers. It is not a formal approach to inwardness, but it works for me . . .

All my consciousness draws itself from the body into that cross and we leave the confines of the physical cell and enter a world where the very notion of ‘wall’ is nonsensical.

I am far from my ideal – which is to maintain this state without effort; but the other way forward is to follow the chains of thoughts which inevitably surface, without becoming attached to any of them, and this will often suffice to bring out the truth.

I return to imagination – the spectre of what I think of as the first gate – at once the greatest gift and the greatest foe of mankind. The dark in the cell is now so total that I don’t need to close my eyes – but I do, anyway . . . The tide of shadows becomes animated with my thoughts, my presence in the moment of dark entry immediately spoiled by the forms and sensual garments it takes.

I should have expected them to be there; to be just below the conscious surface, since I think about them so often. They are on a hilltop, far away in the bright Autumn sunshine. I am racing towards them across the long wet grass, lush from the faded Summer’s constant rain. Don and Wen hear my breathless approach and turn, delight filling their eyes. He holds out his left hand; she, her right. My heart is pounding as I close the distance between us, my own hands outstretched . . . but then the landscape recedes, and they get smaller and smaller as the range of hills takes them away, and I am left sobbing in the muddy grasses, on hands and knees, feeling the water from the moor seep into my skin.

But this is imagination, fuelled by the emotion of longing. It will drag me down, so I choose No and reject the abandoned image and the harvest of despair it will bring. I let my thoughts become free, again.

Images of dark years ahead rise up, taking hold of my heart in the process. In this image, around Bakewell jail there forms a queue of visitors, clutching the Bakewell Gazette  whose favourite pastime is to pay my jailer so they can stand on the other side of the bars and gaze, unmercifully at their corporate captive – the man who dared to interfere with their little-visited heritage. In my mind they nod their approval to Yellow Eyes, their appointed guardian of all things jail and church . . . and pay him in the colour of his eyes.

Jail and church. This thought is different from the last. As though watched from a place of unafraid attention, it is instantly illuminating. I pull back from the early stages of this meditation to lock the newfound fact in consciousness, like a discovered pearl in an oyster.

Yellow Eyes is linked with the local church – the church that was the scene of our crimeI know, now, that this is true . . . from the depths of my unformed terrors the simple fisherman has caught something of immense value . . . I can feel the smile on my face as I cut short the inward attempt and consider the implications of what I have learned.

The shutter in the door slams shut. He has been watching all the time, though he could have seen very little in the chosen darkness. For a second I feel the conditioned response of resentment at this, but every reaction counts, in here; and I reconsider. By spying, he has become part of what I have just experienced; has felt, if not seen, the triumphant smile on my face.

By my not resisting this, and just for a second, Yellow Eyes has become part of my story instead of me being part of his.

———————————————————–< to be continued-

Ben’s Bit is a continuing first-person narrative of the character created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent, which may bear some relation to the author of this blog, Steve Tanham, their fellow director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.  In the latest of their books, Scions of Albion, Ben is arrested for his overly enthusiastic part in a mad escapade, and the other two are nowhere to be seen . . .  For more, enjoy their Doomsday series of books, and the new series (Lands of Exile) beginning soon. Click here for details.

Summer of joyous peace…

Some deeply contemplative Summer poetry from Stuart . . .

Stuart France

cenotaph 004

“The peat-bog is as the raven’s coat,
the stuttering quagmire rehearses
the talk of the rushes is come;

the ocean sinks asleep into
a smooth sea and the river
which runs apace is cut down;

light swallows dart aloft;
a flock of birds settles in
the midst of a meadow.

A bright shaft has been shot
into the land, splendid is colour
now, settling on every height,
like haze on a lake of full water;

white is every fruitful wood
wherein winds a brawling stream
and the bright green fields rustle
their longing to race wild horses;

blossom covers the world,
bees murmuring no protest,
make heavy their harvest;

the rich mast buds,
and the ant, puny with
strength, carries abundant meal;

the soft white bog-down grows,
the long hair of heather is outspread,
the boughs of the wood are a thicket.

The harp
of the forest
sounds music

the…

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 24 – Hot Blood and Innocence!

Detail from: La Belle Dame Sans Merci – by J.W. Waterhouse

I sat, nervously sipping my coffee, wondering where Alexandra was. It was 08:45 and she should have arrived at least fifteen minutes ago.

I was on edge for two reasons: firstly, I was worried that a woman who was never late should be so, now; secondly, an honest description of that part of our mental and emotional make-up that was the enneatype eight was difficult territory, and its explication had come close to costing me several friendships in the past! I had been tense entering the cafe, over half an hour prior – now I was positively anxious!

08:50, and my unease was being compounded by the vivid conversation from the woman sitting behind me, whose perfume happened to be maddeningly attractive. I dared not turn around but I couldn’t help tuning in to the animated conversation with someone I took to be her partner on the other end of the mobile phone call.

“Well, I bet you would! The last time you proved how right you were, you sneered for a week,” she was saying.

Ouch! I couldn’t switch off the conversation in my ear. It was too intense, as though it contained a volcano of passion, frustration and anger; all fuelled by a reservoir of desire.  It was an overpowering cocktail and I was glad to be sitting facing away from her. There was something about that sultry voice that had echoes of my own childhood.  Perhaps it triggered an ancient memory of a domineering relative?

Get out of it – that’s someone else’s life – my conscience screamed. Leave them their privacy! But the controlling voice behind me had enormous power.

“Well, I like Gary,” she was saying, in a low and sexy voice. “He turns me on . . .” I could hear the calculation in her phrasing, keeping whoever it was on the hook. “… In his own sweet way; so I’ve no intention of reducing my list of friends, thank you.” She paused to drink her own coffee for a moment. “Oh you did, did you – well how wrong could you be?”

I winced at this. What had the poor soul on the other end dared to say? That he thought they were an item? The crushing power of her response was surely disproportionate to her partner’s plea. I wondered if I was inadvertently witnessing a long-coming explosion that had been suppressed for some time. From a few feet away, it sounded like a act of vengeance.

I sipped some of my coffee to take my mind off the perfumed assault on my senses from the rear; but the voice had begun to modify, becoming more silky, quite deadly in its sensuality, the soft and curling tones seeming to echo in the depths of my coffee mug.

“Well, I might, if you’re nice to me,” she chortled to the anonymous victim. “And I’ve never complained about your lack of imagination,” she laughed out loud as her victim said something. “Don’t want much, do you? But you’ll have to wait, as I won’t be back until next weekend.”

“For heaven’s sake,” I muttered in a whisper, hunched forward into the dregs of my coffee; hoping my voice was beneath her hearing range. “Give me a break . . “

“What makes you think I’m doing this out of revenge?” the honeyed voice continued.

I put my hands over the back of my head, covering my ears with the heels of my palms. Stop it.

There was the sound of a chair scraping behind me. Then, a long leg brushed past my thigh, and a leather handbag bumped across my right shoulder, helping to ease its owner through the narrow space between the tables. There was a thumping sound as a book escaped from the bag and crashed onto my table, spinning my – thankfully nearly empty – coffee cup into a tumbling sideways motion. In panic, I reached out and tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the mug from falling. I heard her mobile phone click shut.

“Sorry,” said the honey voice, “Keep the change . . .”

This was all happening in a whirl. Keep the change? Why . . .?

And then I looked up, and saw the perfumed woman in the flowing summer dress, the expensive headscarf and the large sunglasses, grinning at me through the cafe windows; just before she disappeared across the road and into the promenade car park.

Gone forever . . .But there had been something in the look. Something for me, though, heaven knows I was better off far away from that chemistry . . . though I had to admire her sheer power of presence . . .

In a state of total confusion. I looked down at the book that had been dropped on my wreck of a table-top. Like the small-scale tide of coffee that had spread across the few inches either side of my upended mug, the realisation of what had just happened was seeping into my awareness.

The book was entitled “The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues” by Sandra Maitri. It was one of the very best text books on the subject and had been a well-loved friend for many years, as my own knowledge had been tested and had grown. There was a bookmark in one of the pages. I let the volume slide open at the selected chapter, grinning like an idiot in confirmation of my suspicions as the section on the Enneatype 8 came into view.

The devious, clever, manipulative . . . but what a perfect way to show her understanding!

I began to chuckle at myself. My concern for Alexandra’s wellbeing fell away, replaced by a new certainty. The spilled coffee, the dropped book, the overload of events; had all conspired to rob me of objectivity, as the mystery woman, in headscarf and Dolce Vita sunglasses, had disappeared across the street, swallowed up by the traffic.

Only now did it all fall into place.

The new mug of coffee being put down by Rose on the freshly tutted and wiped tabletop was a surprise, as was the bill for three lattés . . .

“She said you’d understand,” chortled Rose, in her ‘seen it all before,’ voice. “Said you had it coming!”

She retreated to the counter, laughing. I wondered how far away the lady in the Summer dress – Alexandra – was now? She had not been late at all. She had, in fact, arrived somewhat earlier than me, and taken the seat behind where we normally spent our Monday get-togethers. Perfectly, wickedly disguised, but thankfully, not as intent on true revenge as a Type 8 could be . . .

Now, she was on a speeding train, headed for her weekday office, in London.

Marks out of ten, teacher? said the superbly acted vamp in my head; sitting back in her train seat, and taking out her legal notes . . .

(to be continued)

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Steve Tanham is a founding director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness; a place of companionship, sharing and the search for the real in life, using the loving techniques and insights of esoteric psychology. He retired from a life as an IT entrepreneur to establish the School in 2012, and, having persuaded Sue Vincent to . . .

Read more (500 words)