Windy night – and what to do after…

It’s windy and rainy out there tonight – typcial autumn weather.

Good thing about windy nights is that sometimes trees lose twigs and small branches.

As my regular readers will know, I like to make natural wands from twigs and small branches I find under trees after a bit of a blow.  I am very hopeful that I may find something interesting tomorrow in my local park.

Who knows? the hornbeams may have something for me.

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Lovely hornbeams in my local park

I will take a wander down there tomorrow and see….

 

SD

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Druid-friendly local park and mysterious trees?

I went out for a walk with Mr SD yesterday and we headed for our local park.  We wanted to have a look at some work that was being done on a listed building which is being renovated for community use.

The building was looking great and after looking at it and taking a few photos for my collection we decided to have a look around the park.

I was very surprised when I found a large stone sitting in the middle of the park.  We do not live in an area when you see big stones very much, so I went to investigate further.

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This is how the stone got there

The stone had a plaque on it explaining how it got there, apparently it was something to do with the local Council’s anniversary.

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A stone under an oak tree…

The stone was very well placed for we druid types.  It was lined up underneath an oak tree.  I am tempted to think that the Council are becoming more druid-friendly, but I suspect that this placing was a bit more random than that.  Might be an interesting place to invite druid friends to for a public ritual.  It would be rather public as the stone is placed close to a car park.  Unfortunately it is not the sort of place where we can go at night as the park is locked after sunset.  So unless I am in the mood for a bit of feral druidry there will be no nighttime rituals just yet.

The park has another mystery.  Some beautiful trees with very unusually shaped bark.  I have ridden round the park on my bike for some years and I have often wondered what kind of trees these are.

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The mysterious trees

I decided to get to the bottom of the mystery and took some pictures of the trees and posted them on my social media, asking those who know to identify the trees (a bit embarrassing when you call yourself a druid..to not know what type a tree is..).  I got lots of answers and I now have it on very good authority that these trees are hornbeams.  They have very hard, pale wood and are considered very lucky trees.

I am glad that I now know what these trees are, I have always loved them with their lattice-like bark.

It only goes to show that even in the suburbans and inner cities, the parks have lots of good things to show us.

I think I need to invest in a good tree book to save bothering my friends with tree enquiries.

 

SD

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Oh solitude

 

This evening there was an interesting programme on Channel 5 here in the UK.  It was called ‘In solitary – an anti-social experiment’.  The programme consisted of five different people volunteering to lock themselves in controlled living ‘pods’ with all the basic necessities to sustain life (and of course CCTV cameras so that they could be filmed) for five days.  The volunteers were allowed to bring in three items of their own.  They were then locked in and the only communication they could have with the outside world was a red button which was effectively a ‘get me out of here!’ alarm.

I was really keen to see this programme because I am a bit of a solitude junkie and the idea of being totally on my own for five days sounds wonderful.  I gathered from the name of the programme that solitude was being seen as something negative or scary and those who choose solitude were somehow anti-social.

The volunteers all dealt with the situation as well as they could, with some getting through the experiment and others failing pretty miserably.

What really disturbed me was that one woman was unable to cope with being on her own for more than about an hour after the doors were closed.  She became increasingly agitated and hit the red button.

Is it just me, or is it not worrying that a young woman did not have the inner resources to cope with solitude for more than four hours?

I have said before that I am concerned that people are not being taught the necessary skills to support themselves.  I don’t mean financially, I mean emotionally and/or spiritually.  It is very easy for those of us who are a bit older to slip into the ‘young people today…’ trap and infer that younger people somehow lack moral fibre or staying power. Nothing could be further from the truth, I know many young people with lots of inner resources, but I also I have friends of my own age who freely admit that they cannot tolerate their own company for more than an hour or two.  They start to twitch, picking up mobile phones or hopping online and posting constantly on social media like Facebook, sending endless pictures of the minutest details of their daily life.  I worry sometimes about my friends who do this.  If they are spending so much time recording days out, what they had for dinner, what their animal friends are doing are they not wasting those moments of everyday life?  the taste of their food, the touch of their animal friends’ fur and the laughter of children and grandchildren?

Something that was very obvious was that the volunteers who accepted their situation and their space fared better than those who didn’t.  One of the women volunteers brought in a paintbox and paper with her and personalised her pod with paintings of her family and landscapes taped over the blanked out windows, she walked her space, she made her bed.  She came out the other end of the experiment having gained some insights into how she wanted to live her life in future. On the other hand, the man who chose to leave his pod after 24 hours did not accept or adapt to his situation at all.  He spent most of his time in his pod grumbling to himself and railing against the strong lighting.

This programme showed me a couple of very useful things.  Firstly, being introverted (which I am) can be a very desirable thing.  Secondly, the skills I have learned of stillness and spending happy and constructive time on my own have served me well. It also showed me that I have been pretty lucky in my choice of life partner.  Mr SD has become used to my solitary ways over the years, thank goodness.  I don’t know what I would have done if I had teamed up with a high maintenance sort of husband.

I got to wondering what I would have brought into a pod with me, I think I would have brought a pen, a big pad of A4 lined paper and my crochet.  That, along with walking meditation in my pod, cooking and keeping the place tidy I think I would be pretty okay.

 

 

SD

 

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Labels….and a bit of reading

I haven’t read a ‘druid’ book in quite some time.  When I first started out on the druid path I bought of ton of them, read them and learned a lot.  Then I sort of run out of steam.

I can only think that I read enough to get me going and then spent a lot of time trying things out and seeing what approach worked for me.

Now, a few years down the line, I am still a practising druid, I occasionally go to rituals with my local group and occasionally show up at events to keep in touch with fellow pagans and druids.

I found that my take on a druid way was very simple.  I am not a polytheist, but I do sometimes find the stories of the old gods helpful for illustrating the human condition.  I am not an out and out atheist either, though I have to say that intellectually that makes more sense to me.  So I bimble along somewhere in between, sort of panthetist-cum-jedi type druid, who likes to meditate and chant.

The meditating and chanting comes from my late Father who was a daily practising Buddhist.  Dad was born a catholic and then came to England to work and he and my mother fell into the alternative scene in London in the 60s and 70s.  Mum maintained her catholic beliefs, but Dad broke with that and became a Buddhist.

I have to say that Dad was a bit of an evangelical buddhist, who was keen on bells, smells and folderol.  I remember him asking me a couple of years before he died if I could remove all his statutes and silk flowers and other Buddhist paraphenalia from his flat before his Buddhist cronies saw it.

I think the evangelical part of Dad’s Buddhism put all three of his children off becoming out and out Buddhists like him, but two out of three children meditate and have wandered from the path of Christian righteousness.

As I was never terribly impressed by ‘frilly’ Buddhism, I inclined more towards Zen.  I like Japanese minimalism and the absence of fuss and folderol in Zen appeals.

Imagine how pleased I was when I found ‘Zen Druidry’ by Joanna Verhoeven among a book list sent to me.  I immediately purchased a Kindle copy and have been reading it carefully since.

I am not keen on ‘labels’ but perhaps I have found a place in the confusing world of pagan spirituality to (sort of) place myself.  A Zen Druid.  Fancy that.

 

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Posted in Books, druidry, pagan, pantheism, solitary, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

More football…sorry

Palace

My local football team are in the FA Cup Final tomorrow!! – how exciting is that??  I know it’s going to be an uphill struggle as we are playing the mighty Manchester United, but FA Cup Lore is full of stories about giant-killing.  I am old enough to remember little Sunderland beating the unbeatable Leeds Utd.

Football means a lot in my family and it is going to get a bit tricky because my brother, David is a Manchester United supporter.  Things could get tricky.

My mother always loved the big footballing occasions, especially the FA Cup final.  Our house was always packed with kids for the final and we had sausage sandwiches at half time.  Despite my mother’s death in 2004 this tradition goes on.  I like old family traditions, it keeps me in touch with my own ancestors.

Back to Palace’s chances against Man U.  Perhaps we need to look to Leicester for inspiration.  I am not aware that we have any historical wrongs to right here in Croydon – certainly not any that can be put right by tomorrow.  So we have to look at other stuff that Leicester City did this season.

Leicester City has a very rich owner to comes from Thailand.  He is a very convinced Buddhist, so he asks some Buddhist monks to come over and chant for the team.  Seems to have worked.

Leicester Monks on pitch

Leicester City’s secret weapon

I wonder if some druids raising the spirits of the Palace team with some thunderous chanting of the Awen will assist with the team’s creativity on the Wembley turf tomorrow?

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Druids off to chant the Awen to help out Palace

Or maybe even some particularly alarming local morris dancers to strike fear into the hearts of Manchester United?

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A scary morris dancer from Croydon (Crystal Palace country)

Whatever the outcome, best of luck to all taking part in the FA Cup Final tomorrow, may your feet be fleet (especially the Palace’s), may the game be played with honour and sportmanshiip, may you all remain free from injury and thrill everyone watching with your skill and the spectacle of a great sporting event.

Consider positive vibes sent by the Suburban Druid.

 

SD

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Leicester City, A King, An Inspirational Teacher….and payback

 

Richard III

Reconstruction of the face of Richard III

Ever since I was a teenager I have been firmly of the belief that Richard III has been given a very bad press.  For a King who behaved no worse than other kings of his era he has had to take more than his fair share of stick.  I was so firmly convinced about this that I joined the Richard III Society and gnash my teeth when Mr SD decides to watch his Olivier version of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

My regard for the last Plantagenet King of England was largely brought about by our history teacher at school who devoted several weeks of our history lessons in our second year to the old mystery of who killed the princes in the Tower?  We also examined lots of evidence about the reputation of Richard III and the general Tudor stitchup that happened after his death to keep the Usurper, I mean Henry VII, and his successors happy because they had very little claim to the throne of England at all…

I could go on, especially about the vile abuse he received about his disability, but I won’t.

Nearly 40 years later, it was very moving to see Richard III properly interred in Leicester Cathedral with the magnificent procession beforehand.  I particularly loved this shot of the procession where members of the local Sikh temple led part of the procession, drumming in honour of Richard III.

Sikhs and Richard III

Sikh drummers honour a fallen warrior

After the King was re-interred with the blessings of his own Catholic religion and the added blessings given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, I had a feeling that something had been completed, but also that something was only just beginning.

I believe that good deeds and bad deeds both send their own ripples across time and space.  This act of respect and welcome by the people of Leicester not only put right what I consider to be an historical wrong, but the act was a new beginning for Leicester as well.

Since the return of the King Leicester seems to have been going from strength to strength economically and as a community.  Having a famous King of England interred in the local cathedral brings lots of visitors to the City certainly but Leicester is also a place where many communities rub along happily together and in coming together to take part in the reinterment of Richard III the communities in Leicester have found a commonality that other Cities in the UK, Europe and the US would envy.

This all happened a while back now, but Leicester’s renaissance is in the headlines again because their hitherto rather mediocre football team have won the Premier League! the ultimate prize of British football.

Do good acts give a return?  I am not sure, but Leicester is enjoying happy days since it did a good and honourable thing by properly burying a man who died hundreds of years ago..and what with the football, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

SD

 

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Busy Busy, but no excuse

woodgas stove

 

I was out the other day with a friend who was quite a reader of this page when I used to pace regularly (it was the Cat Fairy).

She expressed disappointment that the Suburban Druid had been very quiet over the past nearly a year.

I have no excuses or explanations – I have been doing my druid thing, but quietly.  I have got myself an allotment, am still working for a living and have been active in the recent elections (and the upcoming European referendum).  So I suppose there are only so many hours in the day….all the same, no excuse.

Ms Cat Fairy, the Suburban Druid will be back in action, watch this space for some more of my regular bletherings.

 

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Lovely Summer Solstice

an amazing sunrise...and a huge crowd

an amazing sunrise…and a huge crowd

No, we did not go to Stonehenge!  It looks like there was an amazing sunrise this year and everyone had a good time, but me and Mr SD decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice in a more sedate manner.

The way I see it, the Summer Solstice is all about light..and heat…and fire, so we were up early to pack in as much daylight as we could.

I had decided to go to an event called ‘Opening to the Power of the Summer Solstice’ a talk, walk and ritual held in the beautiful gardens of an ancient manor house in Chithurst, West Sussex.

We drove down and were taken aback by the beauty of the countryside around Chithurst and even managed to take a wrong turning and end up in a Buddhist monastery.  Fortunately the man marshalling the car park sent us in the right direction and we found Chithurst Manor in good time for our event.

There were a good few people there, but nowhere near as many as there were at Stonehenge, which suited me nicely.  We sat in the garden with the others in the sun and listened to a fascinating talk by Phillip Carr-Gomm (who just happens to be the Chief of my order of Druids).  The talk was good, I have heard PC-G speak a few times now and he is always interesting and informative, but for me the main memory of the day was the beauty of the place: the stunning garden we sat in, the ancient manor house, the wood walk down to a natural spring that bubbles to the surface, the sunlight, the smell of wood smoke from the Solstice fire, even the sound of the loud speakers from the Buddhist monastery next door.  It all gelled together to create a strong, sunlit energy.

We all ate our picnic lunches and most of the participants went off to a walk of pilgrimage to the Buddhist monastery.  As poor Mr SD has an injured knee at the moment, I stayed in the garden with him and we enjoyed the peace and quiet and the ancient feel of the place where we were sitting.

The event wound up with a lovely ritual where we marked the turning on the wheel of the year, both backwards as well as forwards, mead was drunk (the non-druids among the participants seemed to like that) and after we closed the ritual, people seemed to drift away….

We headed off home ourselves and ended up in a traffic jam on the A3 (returners from Stonehenge?).  Why is it that whenever I go to a ritual I end up in a traffic jam?

It was a beautiful day and when we got home we celebrated the Summer Solstice a little bit more with some ice cream – a suitably summery end to the day.

I have never really been a Summer Solstice sort of person, I tend more towards the tremendous charge of expectancy and wonder I experience in the depths of the darkness of the Winter Solstice – but this year has been an exception – or maybe the beginning of something new?

That would be very nice.

SD

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Getting back balance

Hello Everyone,

I have been absent for a while as the death of my dear old cat really threw me off balance.  When I am off balance it is hard to function in anything other than the most basic of ways, work, keeping the house liveable and spending time with Mr SD and some close friends.

Things have moved on, as they always do.  We now have a new young cat living with us – he came from the local rescue and has quite an interesting history.  He has needed a lot of care to settle him down, but he is coming along very well and we are delighted with him.

As I am so keen on balances, it seems apposite that my little animal friend came to live with us on the spring equinox.  He is a cat that seems to do things in equal shares.  He is very good tempered when we are around, but if we have to go out for a few hours, he throws tantrums!  He will either be chasing around the house like a mad thing or zonked out in a comfortable place.  He can be intensely curious which takes him out into the garden on explorations, but the slightest unexpected noise (this runs from a builder whistling to a Police helicopter hovering overhead) and he zooms back inside the house like a complete baby.

He is a great pleasure to have around and I am sure that readers will hear some stories of his doings.  I think that we can learn a lot from observing our animal friends and this communicative, curious young fellow is teaching me a lot.

Curiosity is my cat's middle name

Curiosity is my cat’s middle name

Will be posting tomorrow about our exciting Summer Solstice.

SD

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A sad loss

Hello Everyone,

I have been missing since the end of January because our wonderful cat was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma and we have been spending as much time as possible with him and looking after him.

He was a great friend to us both and lived with us for 17 years, he had a wonderful life and was the king of the back gardens for a very long time.

Fortunately his illness was short and he was still enjoying life right up to the end when he collapsed.  He was put to sleep and did not suffer.

He is very sorely missed and we, his humans are feeling very lost.

A dear friend referred to him as ‘a beautiful soul’.  He was certainly that.

Our lives have been made all the richer for having shared our house with our dear animal friend.

SD

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