The Place of Being

Last weekend we saw the Red Deer herd out beyond Chale Green. Watching them from behind the hedge, one by one the hinds and their young raised their heads from grazing to look back at us. It is always a wonderful moment, finding yourself in a silent exchange with deer. There is a heightened stillness combined with a buzzing energy about these moments, all concerned held by an acute awareness and focus that makes time irrelevant; we become utterly mindful and present. The deer were silhouetted against the sea and it took a while for me to notice the large stag stood a little lower on the horizon. These creatures touch something deep and wordless in me.

The journey home brought several kestrel and buzzard sightings and before us, for the entire trip back, we were treated to the rising of the full moon, eerily vast as it surfaced from the summit of St Catherine’s Down, its softness sharpening to a hard white glow that stretched across the bay as we reached Luccombe.

The trees this autumn are the most extraordinary colours. They seem more intense than ever but perhaps this is because the memory of their intensity could never do justice to the reality and so each year seems more impressive than the last. Even my tiny little garden appears to be burning, the Acer and the Virginia Creeper so vibrant that I catch myself staring out the window countless times, instinctively drawing in the energy of those reds and oranges – my eyes eager for the lift it gives me.

Saturday, early evening, we ate at The Met, a tapas bar in Ventnor. It has the most amazing views of the sea, right on the esplanade, feet away from the ocean. It is a favourite place to watch the sea on windy days, the massive rollers powering in, so close at high tide. The skies over the sea are often dramatic and changeable and cormorants fly back and forth across the bay, skimming low across the surface, or sitting on the breakers, their wings stretched in worship. Another great plus is that coffee comes with a chocolate flake! What more could any girl want? – Lovely food, good coffee, chocolate, and the ocean!

After our meal, we stood in the dark watching the waves thundering in. The street lamps from the esplanade caught the white foam, giving the crests a luminous glow in the darkness, and the ocean looked vast and black and beautiful. In the sky above the harbour was Venus. Her brightness – just as the deer sighting from the previous weekend – cracked something open in me. Such a tiny but intense light in the darkness speaks simply and clearly to us all because, of course, it is such an obvious symbol of hope. Stars guide us; they keep us on course when navigation gets tricky. By their light we position ourselves and move forward, even when the terrain is too dark, vast and unknown to easily negotiate.

I have been feeling lost this year but feeling lost is not the same as being lost. In those moments with nature – when it touches upon that wordless place inside me – I know none of us are ever truly off course; we might be temporarily blinded or disorientated but this condition is so often a matter of perception, not of place or being. Philip Carr-Gomm, in his wonderful book The Druid Way, writes so beautifully and wisely about the paradoxical nature of journeying, of setting out upon a path and coming to find that the sense of movement (or lack of) we might feel is in many ways an illusion; wherever we find ourselves, lost or found, deep down, we are in the truest sense always home:

But death, like life, is full of paradoxes and although in one sense, on experiencing death of the body we begin a new stage of our journey, becoming a traveller in a wider brighter world, in another sense we may well discover that there is no journey – only a continuing revelation of the still centre – God/dess – the heart of Being. We uncover a great truth when we realise we are on a Journey through life. We uncover a great truth when we realise that there is no Journey.

The sight of Venus over a vast black ocean, spoke to me of that still centre, that place of Being. The fire of autumn reflects the intensity of love that life inspires, even at those moments when we shed all that we know, when we let ourselves fall and lay ourselves down that we might be worked in amongst the layers of our past; a past that can only feed and nourish us if we have the courage to let it go, let it become the foundation for something new.

No matter how chaotic and painful that transition might be for any one of us, if we can connect to that heart-knowing, that still centre – even if only for a second – we will be ok. I have had a kind of grit in my spiritual eye of late; feeling ill has been a challenge that has made staying connected to that still centre much tougher than at any other point in my life so far. However, I know that it is still there, I feel it in the gaze of deer and the light of stars, the dark, seething ocean and the leaves of autumn.

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