“It would be incredible if we could retrace all the times that we lived here
All the collisions
Wasted, I’ve never been so wasted
I’ve never been this far out before
There’s a presence here
I feel, could have been ancient
Could have been mystical.”
Derek William Dick
In one part of the woods there is a glade that sits lower and slightly removed from all that surrounds it. The trees are bent, twisted and gnarled, covered in ferns, moss and lichens. They sit, huddled together like old warriors awaiting the last battle, on the edge of life, and look deep into the woods and reach gratefully for the light. They are crumpling, decaying, and clinging to existence, as they have for decades, maybe even centuries. Around and below them remnants of old earthworks and crumbling walls creep back into the earth, and, with every passing season, they become less distinct, as each new layer of leaves, dust and decay cover them.
Quietly I contemplate them. So, I sit and smoke a pipe concentrating on the flavours and watching the smoke; I become aware of all the life around me – from silence comes a riot of song and chatter, from the decay abundance arises. I sit on the outside, on the perimeter, looking in; I see life – birth, old age, sickness and death – I see the past and I see the future.
I watch the ant cling to the leaf as it falls gently to the puddle waiting below, to become an ocean liner on a sea more vast than imagination. The ant walks around the perimeter of her prison ship before stopping to stare at the far horizon – looking directly at separation from all she has known, and into the hollow face of loneliness.
As the fragrant smoke drifts through the air, in and out of the beams of light between the branches of the ancient trees, I reach down, pick up the leaf and place it back on the branch. The smoke dissipates, mingling with the moist abundance of the green all around me, and the ant returns to her duties as if nothing had gone amiss in her world.
I take what I have come for, some old braches, once young, slender, supple and straight, now bent and twisted, hard and unyielding. I leave behind me a space, a fresh patch of light around the edges of which leaves reach like cold hands to warm themselves, and rustling rub themselves together gleeful in the soothing warmth.
Wondering at the new departure I am about to embark upon I skirt the edge of the woods and along the hedges dividing the fields until I arrive at my workshop, uncertain of the choices I am making. Reaching for treasured tools I work the wood and start to recast it, before standing back, looking, and surrendering to rising disillusionment. As the dust of the workshop joins with the smoke of my pipe and flits playfully in the light coming through the cobwebs across the window, I close the door, look back briefly and extinguish the ember that has sustained me.
For the last 7 months I have looked at the chair, incomplete and naked, hiding in the shadows of the workshop and it has looked back at me, accusing and mournful. As much as I tried to ignore it, it creeps into my consciousness and distracts me from the other tasks I have in hand, on which I need to concentrate – it beckons to me, quietly, holds my attention, reminds me……
….a crumbling fortress, an ancestral home, steeped in life, decay, the rigidity of ancient ritual, and the comfort of unswerving loyalty. The chair sat, a reminder of youth, fresh, upright and purposeful, but now ignored and forgotten, left to rot in a dust cover hall, where no light shines, no feet tread and no voice sparkles with soft laughter in the evening – to become infirm, bent and twisted with age. Where once it exulted in life there are only ghosts, spectres and shadows. I walk around it, look around it, think around it, always on the perimeter of its existence, uncertain what to do, what I have started, where it will end – and, as time passes, I get drawn deeper in, in to this world, and every time I enter I dwell there slightly longer than before, finding it harder and harder to leave.
So, we commune, become intimate, and we ask each other for liberation, peace, freedom, to be allowed to step into the light.
Before the birds start to sing I begin again that which I had started and abandoned long ago. As I work, wiping away the dust of ages, I see the crushing weight of time lift to be replaced by beauty, vitality, strength, resilience and joy – I no longer see a bent and twisted shadow fit only for the crumbling world of the Groan’s where it would fade, unnoticed, unremarked.
Now, I sit in this chair, in deep conversation with William. The evening fades and we talk late in to the night, the only light the brief flash from a match or lighter, illuminating the blue rolls of rising smoke – fragrant and fresh, it rises to wrap itself around the spiders on the ceiling soothing and comforting them, as it does us – and briefly I see and feel the chair enveloping me as I relax with a friend and we talk of many, many things, past, present and future.
“This tobacco has been steeped in the tears of Angels – not the tears of melancholy, shed for the sadness in the world, and the ultimate fate of mortal man. These are the tears of joy, as understanding of all that is beautiful, of all the potential for goodness and happiness, rushes uncontrolled from deep in the soul; overwhelming and passionate.
The Pipe and The Tobacco are in harmony – an angelic chorus – music for the soul, manifest in smoke, beguiling the taste-buds of mere mortal man. No hand could notate this music. It surrounds me, enters me, lifts me, and radiates from deep within. It emanates from The Pipe.
I smoke. I don’t think. I smoke, and I lose myself in smoke. The Pipe has taken me in hand. I relight, often, as I let the tobacco smoulder on the edge of extinction, those subtle flavours leaping from the gently glowing embers. The taste is not of this world – it is ethereal, Angelic.”