Entering the Cage Brook woods

At last I got my walk to the Cage Brook woods.

Today was delightful, sun slanting across the stubble field, making the puddles after last night’s rain shimmer with all colours like floating rainbows. Overhead, the buzzards called, Mum, Dad and a youngster. I’ve not heard of it before but our buzzards often seem to have the help of last year’s hatchling in raising their brood so I suspect this might be another such.

I walked to the wood.

Entering a wood is always a threshold crossing. The old Arthurian stories say that every knight must always enter the Enchanted Forrest at his own place and alone. I was alone.

I knocked on the wood of the style, asking permission of the spirit of place of the wood to enter her domain. At first, there was a feeling like tension, as I imagine it might be to stand next to a force field in Star Trek, a tingling of the skin, pressure. This eased suddenly, I staggered slightly and leaned into the style, I was allowed to enter.

The path is narrow but well defined, a lot of walkers use it but, again, today I had no company. I always find my footsteps slow and I am enchanted by the trees standing up tall to either side of me, it’s as if they sing to me, en-chanting me.

Spindle berries twined with hawthorn

The bracken grows up high still, not browned-down by the frosts yet – we’ve only had the one really heavy one so far. There are ferns too, the male fern and hart’s tongue. The woods are made up of many of the British trees – ash, oak, hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, alder, hazel, holly, willows, rowans … and there were the usual blackberry brambles, nettles, even some late-flowering pink campions.

I came to the bridge over the Cage Brook. It’s a good stream, flows fast and was chuckling noisily today after the drink it had from the rain last night. I knocked on the planks of the bride, three times – as one always does for the trolls. No trolls appeared, not even a brownie, and again the pressure eased like a force field allowing me to step onto the bridge. I crossed and continued into the wood.

The hawthorns are still loaded with their garnets, many well within reach. Hawthorn, May, is Blodeuwedd’s tree. I knew from the Guelder rose work she would be one of the ladies with me this season, she offered me haws to make jelly or wine with, said I could have a pocketful. The pockets on my red coat are good and big, I filled up slowly.

I went on deeper into the wood, it was delightful. Mrs Blackbird sang to me, a robin carolled from a Scots pine, small birds fluttered in the understory of the wood.

At last I turned for home. Arriving at the bridge again I knocked to cross, the pressure eased slightly then came back again … I needed a gift, and more. I turned back and slowly searched the path and the surroundings. Three sticks lay in the path, I picked them up. Each was a different shape. I was to play pooh-sticks with them, dropping each into the stream upstream along with a wish or request. I took them back to the bridge, knocked again and was straight way allowed onto the bridge.

Standing over the middle of the stream I reached for threads of what to ask for, it wasn’t easy. As always my own wants put their heads up first but sixty-two years of this work has made me quite sure asking only for myself is a no-no. I wanted to ask for fame for the writing and for the teaching. I dropped the first two sticks in, one for each. They passed under the bridge flowed on a little further then were stopped by another log in their path.

Hmm! So how should I ask? I stood still, reaching my threads down through my feet into the heart of the Earth, ‘Help me,’ I said.

It came to me then … ‘Help me to have the reputation to carry forward the work I do for you,’ I said as I dropped the last twig into the brook.

It flowed … flowed on past the log that had caught the other two twigs and on down the brook heading for the river Wye.

It wasn’t just a gift the brook wanted but the spirit of place wanted to give me a gift, the gift of knowing again how to ask. I thanked the brook and the spirit of the wood and took myself home with a pocketful of haws for some jelly.

Thank you, Cage Brook  …

Elen Sentier

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d as I dropped the last twig into the brook.

It flowed … flowed on past the log that had caught the other two twigs and on down the brook heading for the river Wye.

It wasn’t just a gift the brook wanted but the spirit of place wanted to give me a gift, the gift of knowing again how to ask. I thanked the brook and the spirit of the wood and took myself home with a pocketful of haws for some jelly.

Thank you, Cage Brook  …