I knew it was coming, but there was still resistance. Isn’t there always? The pull to keep those we love here with us fights against the letting go.
The news of her passing was brought through the soft waves of a song weaving through the space between dreaming and waking.
All is calm
All is bright”
It took the repeat of this refrain, over and over again, and me growing irritated by its interruption, before the dawn of realization broke. She is gone. Her soul released back into the union of light.
“All is calm. All is bright.”
Somehow she knew I needed to hear it from her, first. The delivery, perfect, as only she could create.
“All is calm. All is bright.”
I am holding onto those words as the hours pass into this first day without Sue in physical form. I am holding onto the memories that filter through the minutes to remind me of her love. Around my neck I wear one of her gifts, a symbol of the “Feathered Seer,” knowing there is a comfort that she has found reunion with the magic on the other side, and that already she has threaded it back to us.
“All is calm. All is bright.”
I need to hold onto those words, and so I do, because I am still not ready to think about the days ahead. And I know all of you who were graced by her presence will understand. For a tiny, “hobbit-sized,” woman, Sue had the capacity to hold an infinite amount of love in her arms. She was, and I know she knew this, an embodiment of the mother archetype many of us long for. How lucky I was to experience her unconditional love and grace, if only for a few years. How lucky I was to feel the embrace of her hug, knowing I was beloved in her eyes.
Thursdays were days when Sue Vincent would post a photograph writing promptchallenge. In honor of this ritual, I have posted one of my favorite photographs of Sue, which I took two years ago during a shared trip to Wayland’s Smithy. It’s a photograph I hold dear. Filled with memory, magic and love.
I’m not sure if Sue knew I was taking this photo, but Ani sure did. The presence of these two beings made this afternoon extra special for me. Although I can count on my two hands the number of days I have spent with Sue, they rank among the very best of my life thus far. Sometimes you are lucky in life to encounter a teacher/mentor/friend who takes you under her wings and guides you in that gentle way to open your awareness to the magic that exists, but is not always acknowledged. I consider myself one of those lucky individuals.
I can’t tell you exactly when I first met Sue, or exactly how. But, I can tell you she entered my life just when I needed her presence. That is often the way these types of relationships occur. The teacher mysteriously finding the student, the student, the teacher, just when the moment is right…
If it were not for the internet, perhaps we would not have met, but I believe when there’s a will, there’s away. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would meet a woman named Sue who would lead me into the magical landscape of the soul and also the living lands of ancient Albion, I would probably not believe you. Yet somehow, one day, our paths intersected through our blogs, and the rest is our brief history in this lifetime together.
A lifetime that, I believe, stretches well beyond this one, to a far distant past when magic was not so extraordinary…
The photo featured in this post was taken just over two years ago. It almost didn’t happen, but somehow Sue managed to arrange an afternoon, packed full of magic, to take myself and a friend to Uffington. Here, Sue sits with her beloved dog Ani on the chamber of Wayland’s Smithy. It is, for me, a precious photo. The winged soul and her guardian canine in a place the bridges the realms of corporeal and spirit.
It is, most likely, our last day together in this lifetime. And somehow even though I’d like to have more days with Sue, it was fitting and perfect. As much as we may wish to, we cannot control the length of time we have with those we love and hold dear, yet when we review it, we often find that its length was perfect in its essence.
When I first learned of Sue’s illness, I cycled through the emotions of impending loss. There were moments when I decided it was wholly unfair, for Sue, for her family, for all those who love her, and for, selfishly, myself. Our adventures have only just begun.
But who am I to say how long a lifetime should be and when it should end? It is, instead, a choice to accept what one has been given and to realize the fullness of the gift wrapped in this temporary form. Knowing, at the same time, that infinity lies beyond the temporary form. For me there is peace in this knowing. When I look at this photograph, uncertainty disappears and faith takes its place. Although I may resist a plan that is beyond my control, with the surrender there is a doorway to the beauty of truth.
You can see it here. In the place of stillness, it opens. The winged soul bending down to touch the Earth, never truly leaves.
It was yet another place I didn’t want to leave. Whereas I had felt the exhilaration of life at Castle Hill, the more I immersed myself into the energy of Wayland’s Smithy, the more I felt at peace. As the sun wove its golden light through the guardian trees, I walked over the long barrow and around it. Time slipped away and the veil thinned. The air was gently electrified, and I could feel the elemental kingdom and all the guardians of this sacred site watching, but also welcoming us. Below my feet, amid the last year’s fallen leaves, white feathers appeared on the path.
I was, without a doubt, walking holy ground in a landscape of the dead that was very much alive, revered and protected by forces more felt than seen.
“Look at the trees,” Larissa remarked. “Each one has a patch of white flowers.” Not planted, but growing as though in nature’s reverence. It felt like magic, in the purest sense. Each piece a deliberate part of the whole. And, as I walked, I could hear the whisper of the ancient stones.
Pairs appeared in stasis, like long married couples set in their ways, yet determined to protect the love they hold.
It’s quite something to think of the work and care that went into the construction of this long barrow. A tomb to house the dead whose bodies were prepared with care that rivals that bestowed upon the pharaohs of Egypt. A tomb supported with carefully selected and placed stones. Huge sarsens, like that of Long Meg, mark the entrance to the inner chamber of the long barrow. All this work, including the massive stones, once covered entirely in earth. A house built for the dead, 196 feet in length and 50 feet at its widest point.
“You need to leave a piece of silver for Wayland,” Sue revealed as we gathered before the entrance. “To shod your horse.” I didn’t question her words. I had silver in my pocket and I crawled inside the chamber to find a place for it.
“Can you find Wayland, the spirit stone, the totem stone?” Sue continued as we peered at the massive rocks before us. The faces on their surfaces morphing and changing with each angle. All for the dead…
Then Sue began to tell us the story of a visitor before us who had asked a question of one of the sarsens. Within moments his answer had appeared in physical form and still holds true to this day. While she spoke, I watched a bee circle around me. A February bee, but I had already seen two butterflies during my visit to England, so perhaps it was not too unusual…It made me think of the buzzing I had heard, low, but constant, as we were walking the path from the car to Wayland’s.
I chose my stone, as the bee continued to circle my neck, and pressed my forehead upon its surface. I didn’t have a question. Instead, I wanted only to receive whatever might be revealed to me.
The mound appeared before me in the full splendor of summer. Upon its green back, a white horse emerged, strong and sure. It stopped in wait as a figure cloaked in white descended and began to walk toward me. The landscape opened to beyond the barrow, to where people long passed gathered inside a great womb. I saw the path weaving in union between the land of land of the living and the land of the death. It became a processional of people coming towards the barrow. In the middle of the trail I saw a small circle of stones.
The visitors gathered around the mound of Earth, upon which the white horse stood with the figure cloaked in white. I could not see her face, but I knew her energy to be both feminine and strong.
The vision turned inward, and I felt as though I had entered an inner chamber. A shadowed form of a great bear appeared beside me, then morphed into a great serpent whose head rose behind mine. In front of me, a hawk of the sun passed before my vision, circling until all disappeared and I felt my body again. Each cell buzzing with renewed life, as though in those few moments of connection I had been washed with light.
It was soon time to leave, but before we left we placed more offerings for the spirits of the stones. It has been a true gift of a day. Full and complete in and of itself, even though it was just an hour passed noon.
As we collected ourselves back into the car, even Ani appeared withdrawn into her own thoughts, refusing the small bits of sandwich we offered her. Each one of us quietly processing our return in our own way as we paused before our descent back into town.
To read the rest of the posts in this series, please click the links below:
There is an old road called the Ridgeway that connects Castle Hill to Wayland’s Smithy. It’s a mile in length, and had we more time we would have walked it. The Ridgeway joins the land of the living with the land of the dead, and I have no doubt it is as old as the “Castle” and the burial chamber of Wayland’s Smithy. To walk it, is to walk upon sacred ground where feet have traveled for thousands of years. Yet all do not treat it as such.
The tread of reverent ritual has been replaced by the tread of travelers seeking outings from their over-busy lives. On the day we visited Wayland’s Smithy, there were visitors who had arrived before us. Two friends and their toddler-aged children were stationed at the foot of the chamber. The moms looked haggard and distracted as they half-watched their children and studied the screens of their phones. The children climbed the headstones around the entrance to the more than 3,000 yr. old burial chamber as though they were on a playground’s jungle gym.
My mind turned back two days, to that gloriously sunny noon at Castlerigg where a large family had created a picnic ground and play gym out of the sanctuary in the stone circle. “If this were a church, that would never be allowed,” Larissa put words to the emotions rising through me as we watched the young kids hang precariously off the great stones guarding the chamber.
Wayland Smithy is a place of worship. It is a holy ground for the dead, but also the living. A Sue noted, many years ago someone must have seen the site as a home of the sacred and honored it by planting a ring of ash around it, creating the effect of a natural cathedral. The temple of trees holds the stone chamber for the dead in an embrace of such sublime beauty and peace, the present mind cannot help but find sanctuary in the heart.
We had to wait maybe ten minutes for the visitors before us to leave, and continue on with their midday hike. And, in that time, I kept thinking about Castlerigg and how the energy of the sacred had retreated as though in self-preservation, deep within Earth. I looked at the long chamber before me and thought of the stones that were obviously missing from its sides. Stones that may have been callously dug out to line the border walls of houses or fields. Or, perhaps even to be trophies of sorts, displayed proudly on private grounds.
Yet, despite the handfuls of oblivious visitors that visit Wayland’s Smithy, and its missing parts, the site still holds a very special energy. The guardian trees form a ring of protection around it, and I suspect most who enter their temple enter it with a feeling of reverence.
As the mothers gathered their belongings and children and made their way back to the walking path, I stood upon the back of the grand chamber with Ani, ready to receive its gifts.
To Be Continue…
To read the previous posts in this series about my recent visit to England, please follow the links below: