Feathers

It’s been a trying and difficult few days for me, so the reappearance of a few crisp cold sunny winter’s days after so much wind and rain is a welcome boost to my mood. 

Taking my morning walk the ground is still white and frosty where the deep shadows of trees cover the path, and stopping at the top of St Andrews Ridge I relished the view across the fields where the Groundwell Roman Villa once stood. It was here a sculpture complete with a dedication to the Goddess Isis was found and even with modern suburban houses crowding in all around it still holds a deep and sacred energy. Springs bubble up and flow into the valley where brooks and streams flow south and westward before joining the River Ray on its northerly journey onward to the Thames. 

Across the rooftops of the houses I can see the washed watercolour green of fields and low rolling-hill countryside, with the water tower of Minety glinting in the sun, more than 10 miles away westward. Beyond that the distant grey of the south Cotswolds is visible so clear is the air on this beautiful morning. 

A little further along my walk I cross Lady Lane and just to the north of me there is the site of Blunsdon Abbey. Here are medieval fish ponds, now overlooked by a mobile home park, with parts of the abbey that remain standing incorporated into ghastly 1960s buildings that form a conference centre. 

It’s here along my route south of the Abbey that I come across the first bumble bee I’ve seen this year. On such a frosty morning it’s a surprise to see it stumbling along, silvered transparent wings intermittently flashing in the sun. I stop to greet him and bend down, holding my hand in front of it. Unhesitatingly it climbs up my fingers into my hand to sit there basking in the heat of my hand and the strengthening bright sunlight. We stand there a while – 10, maybe 15 minutes – having a conversation (as you do) until I place him carefully on the ground away from unwary footsteps to continue warming himself under the cloudless sky.

There are blackbirds flitting back and forth; sparrows galore, expressing their joy with that wonderful unrestrained noisy chatter of companionship and, maybe, a little touch of rivalry. Squirrels are bouncing through undergrowth and mischievous magpies gather in little groups like rebellious teenagers, ready to show any gull brave enough to interlope their domain exactly who is in charge. High above a pair of buzzards soar lazily on the warming air. A rook calls from the top of an Alder tree heavy with yellow catkins. 

Then on my return home, laying on the damp grass, I find a forlorn little pile of grey brown feathers – all that remains of a sparrow taken by the hawk that visits my garden – a reminder of how transient life can be.

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Thoughts on mortality

I’ve become very aware of my own mortality over recent weeks. The deaths of personalities like Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey and David Bowie, who are such a deep rooted part of my whole adult life have had a profound effect on my outlook, not least because I’ve been having a bit of a tough time with my health recently.

It’s difficult to explain exactly why it was such a shock to see such luminaries leave us other than they were of my generation; ever present through their music, their artistry and talent. That difficulty is all the more surprising because I’ve been involved in holding funeral ceremonies over the last few years. In times past, when life expectancy was less than today, perhaps I would have accepted these deaths as part of my own ageing process, and would have been less surprised. Somehow, these days, at least in my own mind, we are supposed to live well in to our 80s. Yet the recent death of Terry Wogan, who was of a generation a few years older than my own, shocked the nation. The general feeling is that we just aren’t supposed to die so young any more.

My Dad is still going strong as he approaches his 90th birthday and Mum died at 81, so if family history is anything to go by, I always expected to have a good 20 years more to do all the things I still want to do. But recently I’ve been in a great deal of pain and have experienced some rather worrying symptoms, resulting in me going through all of sorts of tests while searching for a diagnosis. It’s all still ongoing, so there’s no clear confirmed result yet, and I’m feeling optimistic that all will be well. 

Over the last few weeks I’ve had my moments of not wanting to do anything, when I’ve been overwhelmed by lethargy and the inability to cope with the discomfort; but I know I must make the most of every single day. I won’t be giving in or rolling over and giving up, no matter what. 

After all, I have no indication that won’t be around for at least those expected 20 years; but I do think I have to reevaluate what is important to me and what I do with my time. I have lead the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr for more than 10 years now, and ran a successful and popular Grove for many years before that; I’ve had my moments offering various courses and given a few talks and presentations over the years, and I’ve lead many ceremonies, celebrations and rituals – I think I’ve done my bit in offering something back to the community over the years. Still, there’s many more things I would like to do while I’m able and so perhaps it’s time for me to concentrate much more on what I want to do; maybe time to reevaluate and step back a little more from that community work. I certainly don’t want this to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself . I’m not (at least not at this precise moment!) I already have some plans to get on and explore some of those personal goals and adventures. After all, there’s no time like the present.