The garden lawn, clean shaven and freshly mown.
Reflects the shadows of birds,
From where they’ve skimmed and fancifully flown.
An audacious pair of Robins red,
Dance before me, by their nesting bed.
Under dead grass, the top now revealed,
The moist green grass it once concealed.
Is that what lies under my skin?
Burgeoning youth trapped within.
I rest my head amongst evergreen,
To taste a life not yet forseen.
The trees and bushes we must control,
Else darkness clouds the lawn’s green soul.
For sun and shadow creep from one end t’other,
Shifting light across Earth, our Mother.
Through the course of just one summer’s day,
We see past, present, and then,
Come what may.
9th June 1998
Do you remember the beach?
Exploring the shoreline for treasure.
You picked up a seashell
And through its cavernous opening
You were invited to explore the ocean’s mystery.
Its dreams unravel a mythical journey
Exciting the infant’s imagination.
This magical story unfolds in your palm
As you gazed out at its vastness.
At that precise moment;
There you are.
Have you ever listened to the voice of the ocean?
Today, her cries grow louder.
Tormented echoes are being sent
Through rising currents
And her aquatic kin;
The dolphin and the whale.
Their ancient and peaceful rhythms disturbed.
From the depths of the ocean
Comes a message
Vociferous in emotion.
On those gallant white horses
Rides a pseudo exclamation.
Toxicity slithers in the ether
Poisoning the soul within her.
Carried by her majestic waves
Sent to overpower prosperity’s slaves.
Trading madness for stillness
We add to her illness.
In man’s haste to consume
She will slowly subsume.
Humanity and insanity
An approach we must trade
Else the portent of Armageddon
Will be horrifically played.
Deafened by greed,
Man is hurtling
Toward death and destruction.
Do not be deceived.
‘Prosperity’ is a seductive dark cloak
Worn by the devil.
Rising tide of danger.
Swollen by melting ice.
Extinction will be the price.
The planet is in pain
Through drought and rain,
Let us pray
For her watery spirit.
And that those cries
Don’t grow too faint.
Should icy blood drip from her poles
The ocean’s new chorus to the cosmos
Save all Our Souls.
When you cannot listen to the ocean
You are not.
7th December 2000
A place in my heart,
Where common land marks the start.
The lone beech tree almost hidden,
Around it, tracks have been ridden.
The bank of trees standing nearby,
And dappled light from the summer sky.
From the roadside to the field,
A good many memories does this track yield.
My dog’s musings still echo.
As do picnics, walks and other assorted capers.
I can still walk lightly through the glade,
From the dawn of spring
through mid winter and evening shade.
22nd February 1998
Oh beautiful moon child,
Sleeping in the Agean sky.
Comforted by a silky
Revealing light through its
Lighting up a path to a
Cavernous and serene.
Tonight, home to our dreams.
6th October 2000
I write this having undergone a considerable period of writers block and also having had some time to reflect upon the ongoing discernment process. The weekend at Worth North (15-16th March 2003) meant a return to my student stomping ground in sunny Wolverhamtpon. Amazingly, every retreat and pilgrimage I have ever gone on in my journey towards God has been accompanied by clear blue skies. Startling, given the fact that these have included visits to Ireland, Canada, France, Hungary as well as my native England. The weekend itself was loaded with significance. In addition, it was sandwiched mouth-wateringly between two EUFA Cup fixtures involving Liverpool and Glasgow Celtic, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Saint Patrick’s Day. Events that seemed to perfectly reflect my journey out of a large Irish family. As the Anderton household was full to brimming, I stayed with an old student friend in nearby Penn. Shortly after my arrival on Friday evening, myself, Leigh & Emma, plus Kayla (the dog) headed off to the local park for a stroll. At the park’s entrance, Kayla was set free to enjoy the evening sun amongst her friends. Now Kayla is of fine hunting pedigree. Strong race-like proportions and 7 ½ stone of pure muscle. Indeed, she would not have looked too out of place at Cheltenham! Kayla’s popularity has ensured that both Leigh & Emma have settled well into the local neighbourhood. As the evening progressed, dogs and owners started to emerge from all directions. Each of the characters seemed to play out some form of canine ritual. The most prominent character took the stage, in the wings of his owner, Ms X. In contrast to Kayla’s thoroughbred credentials, this dog was the scruffiest mutt imaginable. There were certainly no pretensions of grandeur. His name was…wait for it…Clive!? Not Bouncer, Muffin, Minxy or Flopsy (grand names is the dog’s world), but Clive. The resemblance between owner and dog was striking, both sporting wild and voluminous grey hair. They even shared a gregarious nature, though just stopping short of being on first-name terms. While Ms X gave us a detailed running commentary on the prevailing canine antics, it soon became clear that the human part in this ritual was secondary. Everything and everyone was in relation to the canine. I was no more than Kayla’s master’s friend. I was the man with no name. At this point, a reality-check kicked in of Anthony De Mello proportions. Words like bonkers sprang to mind. Poor old Saint Francis would have been turning in his grave. Mercifully, given the surreal nature of the proceedings, the spectacle was interrupted by one aloof owner and disinterested dog. Both of them managed to circumnavigate the crazy gang. They were bit–part players in this play, and I was a spectator. Eventually, the dogs ran out their legs. This was a blessing, as it seemed Ms X had small talk down to a fine art. We took the setting sun’s cue and hastened into the Wolverhampton sunset and back towards human society.
Saturday morning started soon enough, awoken by a bright spring sun. With time to spare before lunch at Worth North, the pooch posse re-assembled and converged on the park. Who appeared from nowhere but Clive and Ms X. They were joined by another dog called Linda and Mr X (Junior). The ritual duly commenced and dogs arrived from all directions. A stocky little black dog played fetch with Junior, or was it the other way round? Junior was the conductor of this unruly ensemble.
At this stage, I felt vicariously acquainted with half of Penn’s citizens, albeit through their respective dogs. It was one of those profound ‘Only in England’ moments. As time wore on, I developed a plausible conspiracy theory about Clive’s faction. I believed they were creatures of the park. They walked the neighbourhood only to create the pretence of normality amongst the dog-walking fraternity. My train of thought was now going like the proverbial clappers, faster and more efficient than GWR you might say. The next stop was the White House lawn in Washington DC. An image emerged of George W Bush and his trusty canine companion. Suddenly, the man that many have come to revile post Kyoto and 9/11 had a human face. Now GW Bush and I are a long way from being on backslapping terms, but the image prompted me to ponder the canine influence on human society. How often do dogs provide comfort to the sick, elderly and lonely? It reminded me of a quote I read somewhere recently. “To each dog, man is Napoleon, hence their eternal popularity”. However, we can also use dogs, coveting them to attract others. At the other extreme, they can become devices or barriers in the way people use cell phones, newspapers, books and computers to shield fear and insecurity. Devices that affect our capacity to form meaningful relationships, and ultimately, to reach intimacy.
So how does this comedy have any bearing on discernment within the Lay Community? Do we want our values to be God-centred, or dog-reversed? Do our four-legged friends have an inner life, surrounded by their kennel enclosure? A life that contrasts with their outer world, amongst their soul chums in the park. I wonder if their wilder cousins and ascendants retreat to the inner world. Is there a place under the stars where they can dream of suburban domestic bliss? Do their domestic cousins, by contrast, dream of freedom in a vast fertile wilderness? A place where each dog finds peace with their inner puppy. Where they can fulfil their dog-given potential. How I strive to be in Clive’s (not Wayne’s!) world. There is a certain darkness in this inner world, which can seduce you. The symptoms of which can lead to lethargy and introspection. My Celtic ascendants seemed to understand the contrast between these worlds very well. They become clearer in those beautiful places that enjoy the caress of pure blue skies. In places like Worth Abbey and Glendalough, these contrasts become manifest. The contrasts are acted out in each of our journeys, and are being played out dramatically during the Lay Community’s and my own discernment process.
Note: No animals or humans were hurt or offended during this production.
Spring is the time to jump up and dance,
For nesting birds and courting romance.
We dispose of the old and bring in the new,
So April showers can sweep on through.
May’s blossom shines like city lights,
To precede a season of milder nights.
Summer sets sway and nature reaches peak,
Carnivals or quiet fields for lovers to seek.
Across the land, the sun sets late,
Parks fill up with joy that people create.
In search of the sun, we explore other lands,
To meet the ocean and its soft golden sands.
Oh for Autumn and its rustic charm,
Harvests are yielded in farm after farm.
Crisp leaves gently fall into the street,
Providing comfort under aching feet.
Warm days yet colder nights embrace the nation,
Signalling the bird world’s annual migration.
To winter-time and Christmas tide,
Animals hibernate and people hide.
Cosy evenings spent at fireplaces,
Inviting rapport by warming our faces.
A seasons of seasons from time to time,
Where frozen and mild days fall out of line.
31st May 1997
Flowers bloom in spectacular colour,
They fill a garden with natural wonder.
A sight, a smell so incredibly wondrous,
Next to grass, green and lustrous.
Set amidst a Tudor-style maze,
Ideal for creatures in which to laze.
A secret door beckons,
For those that look towards the heavens.
A might oak door stands aloof,
Luring the inquisitive garden sleuth.
Almost obscured by evergreen,
Hiding treasures that must be seen.
No secret keys or clues to find,
Not just a game of any kind.
No obvious stones in which to uncover,
Just three magic words for the garden lover.
So stand poised and softly utter,
Those magic words you shouldn’t just mutter.
For only those that have a clue,
Will move the oak, and walk on through.
Just think quietly and concentrate,
For the oak door is patient and can always wait.
Quiet meditation must be attained,
If paradise is to be found, then retained.
Once through, the mortal stands aghast,
Reviving dreams long since past.
Avenues of trees line up in majesty,
A heavenly sight for anyone to see.
Flowers dance along rolling green verges,
Resplendent in colour, aided by sunlit surges.
Garden furniture and ornaments abound,
For us to sit and gaze all around.
Birds of Paradise, their wings ablaze,
Like the phoenix it withstands heat and haze.
They usher you toward the garden’s centre,
A place of rest, a peaceful venture.
A crustal blue stream sparkles bright,
To guide you to a magnificent light.
An eternal fountain and its holy waters,
They heal Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters.
At the end of the garden, pick one door from seven,
For only one provides that stairway to heaven.
26th May 1997
Part I – Darkness
On the little shimmering lake,
I met my demons,
Not by mistake.
An echo of shattering calm,
As fresh water caressed my palm.
Cold on my face,
But new light I embrace.
Along the seeker’s green road,
Emotional baggage I sought to offload.
Encircling a Celtic shrine,
Somehow drawn towards the divine.
Summoned by the mountains’ spirits
During a dream of early summer,
I recall its peak and vibrant colour.
In the valley of the light,
Dreams flow out of the night.
The bitter wind pierces me,
Leaving me cold and exposed.
The winter chill snakes through the hills,
Taking the edge off a visual thrill.
Descending through the valley,
I count the crosses I must carry.
Against nature’s brute force,
I struggle for my own inner source.
A fountain of well-being,
What my dreams are seeing?
An angel to fall out of the sky,
How that would catch my romantic eye.
Up to the cell of Saint Kevin,
Eyes lifted up to heaven.
In this peaceful place,
I felt the presence of God’s grace.
The oak circle draws energy in,
Casting out my pain and sin.
The black lake I visited before,
But with guardians
Who kept me safe and secure.
The blackness left me disturbed,
Imagined depths that were absurd.
But from the Saint’s glade,
The dream’s message was played.
And of this irrational fear,
I now embrace the lake
Like the babe I hold so dear.
On the dark side of the lake,
There was a warmth, a welcome break.
A green enclosure and a cavern bed
For a saint; made to measure.
How the volumnous waters descend
They effortlessly glide down
Every crevice and bend.
Ancient rocks alter the flow.
In winter sun, the crystal waters glow.
In the forest, soft soil lies underfoot,
Autumn colours decorate the route.
Rustic reds, bronze and brown,
Warm the face and disperse a cold frown.
Shades enriched by a moist orange sky,
Colouring the carpet where fallen leaves lie.
On this hallowed ground,
Celtic treasures can be found.
Under this sky,
I keep the dream in my mind’s eye.
In a simple visualisation,
I can add to this creation.
In the darkness of the womb,
My own growth was given room.
A watery existence, one can assume.
In this cavernous domain,
I was warmed not in vain.
But upon the first light ray,
Comes the cold light of day!
This moment of birth,
We sub-consciously carry.
Until we revisit
Our own special valley.
Through the wisdom, this poetry sends,
A deeper message soon transcends.
Part II – Retreat House
As the sun crept across the window,
A ray of gentle light streaked across my page.
As if to animate
The beast in my cage!
That same light hugged the mountains,
Just as water filled up fountains.
The colours of earth illuminated,
Just as my dream illustrated.
Part III – Monastic City
On the mountain slopes, a rich carnival of colour.
Green, purple, yellow, red, orange and brown.
The spectrum of seasons
Project on its daunting incline.
How I will cherish this sweet moment of mine.
To the round tower, lofting skyward
Half dressed in shadow.
Its upper body exposed.
As the sun’s rays sweep across the holy city,
Protecting the graves that many so pity.
Celtic souls rest in its looming shadow.
At peace with themselves.
But of some, their lives I poise to ponder.
A thirty month old infant,
Buried with her elderly mother.
Barely a harvest did that babe grow,
But amongst so many,
Her little soul radiates a magnificent glow.
Part IV – Light
The sun’s rays bring out the blue,
And positive thoughts
That have been too few.
Upon the fast-flowing waters,
An explosion of light.
Winter’s mist shines so bright.
As I ascend the forest,
The Goddess moves through its shadows.
The tree spirits cheerfully whisper
To their descendants in stone.
Including those that children have thrown.
I sit aghast, as light pours on water,
And as water travels down the valley.
Down the old mountain,
To a well,
Or perhaps through a fountain.
On the lower lake, blue meets green.
And the demons can now be seen!!
The elegant pines point majestically
Towards the blue sky.
A leafy green surface over which,
Birds only fly.
As I continue my ascent,
The forest’s light show
Luminates my lament.
Light trickles through,
Thoughts and colours imbue.
Back to the lower lake
And a rock for a perch.
Where I can admire
The ‘lady of the forest’, the silver birch.
A tree’s roots pierce the ground,
Like the veins of a wise old woman,
They hold a certain wisdom; profound.
Only when my energies flow,
Can my own spirit
Flourish and grow.
14th-16th November 1998.
A stately father looms in my conscience,
As he earnestly toils the stricken land.
It yields at best, a life threatening harvest,
Barely strong enough to eat, lest trawl.
This evil blight casts a long shadow of death.
My pre-existence falters,
As he treads the narrow valley
Between life and death.
Empowered only by his faith,
His weak spirit gently lights up the land.
Spreading hope; and life.
Only the sinewy grass
Offers him a moment of strength.
The sun shines mercilessly on his weary back;
His prayers usher back the poison,
As it recedes toward its earthly core.
A woman beckons; and his pain sets forth.
And from these grass roots,
Generations have spawned.
A prayer of gratitude we owe this great man.
For although his tomb is grassed over,
‘Tis these grasses that rendered us life.
No more empty voices
Shall bellow and beg;
As we recall the grassy sprawl,
Written January, 1997.