Then I followed the grassy lane that winds beneath the shoulder of the hill to the lip of a shady defile. The way ducks through a promenade of venerable oaks and ancient wych-elms, whose eminence is softened by the velvety lichens swathing their trunks and the ivies festooning their limbs. The brook plays hide and seek with the trail, first peeking up from under the lacy fern fronds then wending away through clumps of woodruff and stands of meadowsweet. Strewing the forest floor are little pockets of betony and creeping mosses and liverworts. There, even the deadfall cannot escape the insistent green.
Tucked away in the verdant fold of the glen is a grassy clearing encircled by oaks. Beyond, the headland hill is steep and leafy, and from out of a hidden cleft, a gush of laughing water cascades in sheets to fill a small pool below. The waters eddy and lap the fringes of the clearing, then hasten away on their voyage to the sea.
If there is any place on Earth akin to the non-place of my songs, it is my little vale.
The moment I parted my lips, my feet began to tingle. Then a jolt akin to lightening drilled me through from foot to head. And before I knew it, all the world had vanished except for my song. Gone were the warmth of the hearth and the lingering aromas of dinner. Gone were the sounds from the kitchen and the stones beneath my feet. Even my mother’s harping grew faint, for the will of the music conquered my senses and hollowed me out to channel nature’s voice. Words rose from my heart, and I sang them to life with my breath. Forests grew from my lyrics. Animals sprang from my rhymes. Each verse and intonation invoked an essential element until, by the end of my song, I had planted a living picture of the valley in the souls of those who listened.
The sacredness of Brideswell alone should have granted me pleasant dreams, for the whole valley floated in an air of serenity, and the souls of those who had worshipped there over the ages still lingered.
Instead of whispers from the wise, my dream began with the keening of a hundred generations of women. They wept for their children. They wept for their Mother. They wept for themselves. And their cries reached back to their ancestors — to me — to return a forgotten pattern to the Great Loom, to help them reclaim their magic.
“See,” they told me and showed me a husk of a world. Steeples and chimneys and towers to vainglory drained the life force from Earth and spewed it into soiled skies. Over the whole of the world, forests fought for survival and lost. Lushness turned to barrenness. Animals vanished, and the seas were putrid with man-made waste. Everywhere the telltale taint of misspent virility poisoned the earth, the air, the water, and the very spark of life. The devas had long since gone underground and the faeries with them. For a world devoid of nurturing is not long habitable for the lighter expressions of God.
So, the women wept. Bereft of any potency of their own, they wept and bore their children into dim futures. They sent their sons to senseless wars and raised their daughters to be hollow until filled with some man’s opinion. Worst of all, their only avenues to God were paved with that same misspent virility and the corpses of exasperating women like me.
The Cosmic Scale
All was dark, as dark as the dryad’s eyes. And lifeless. Not dead, for that presupposes an occurrence of life. There, life was as yet unimagined. I sensed, as one may do in dreams, that “time” was a word without meaning — that in that lightless, lifeless space, such a concept could not exist. Thus I sat there for eons or moments, I know not.
Finally a tiny flicker pierced the void, and light dawned like an idea. At first it was tentative, then it grew bold and erupted in hot satisfaction. Soon the flame consumed the sky and created the air, and the two allied to become the god. And he burned so brightly that I had to look away from all that fire and wind — all that frenzied inspiration.
Still no life existed - only the thought of it.
Then quietly, the goddess called herself into being - a voluptuous vessel of earth and water, sensuality and compassion. She offered substance to the god’s thoughts and a womb to gestate ideas into flesh, for she alone knew the alchemy to transform the chaos of idle fantasy into the flesh and bone of life.
My dreaming mind soared away, and the scene grew small and strange. The god spun himself into a fiery ball that roiled and floated into one cup of a weighbeam. Then the goddess wound herself into a blue-green bauble and rolled into the cup on the opposite side.
Imagine my horror to see myself standing between them — the balance-point of the cosmic scale.