Realms of the Soul – August 2019

Heading Back to England

Digging a pond in Northmoor, England, 1995

Time travel.  Your mind can do it; it can carry you back to places and periods of time that your feet can no longer travel.

The mind doesn’t need much: a photo, a song, a journal, a film, a book, a scent, a sound, an object. 

“I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back…”

Rod McKuen, Flight Plan, 1967

I’m continuing to explore the gathering of objects into Realms; the collection, in one place, of objects and symbols that have personal meaning and that express the gatherer’s intentions.

This doesn’t have to be a major undertaking nor result in a creation worthy of artistic applause.  You don’t have to hum, you don’t have to chant. It doesn’t have to cost money or take up much space.  Instead, a Realm is a thoughtful bringing together of objects that inspire us, encourage us, and pay tribute to the memories and people we love.  It is a process of gathering that which lifts our spirits, presents our hopes and our intentions to the universe, and which provides us, in the process, a sense of learning, celebration, and reflection.

2nd Tuesday’s August Realm is small – five inches square.  It easily fit on the corner of a table.

It does, however, take up an enormous amount of space in the realms of memory, gratitude, and intention.

I find that the beauty of gathering the meaningful objects we have around our house and into a specific collection is that the gathering process itself has a sense of creating the sacred.  When you feel that you are creating a sacred space there exists a sense of cultivating and discovering a pathway through which to connect your inner world to the outer world.

England on a 5″ square hors d’ oeuvre plate.

When we were much younger, Kathy and I had the fortune of traveling to England on two occasions, once during a sabbatical (and during part of that trip, in the company of four good friends) and on a second trip, traveling with Kathy’s brother and wife to revisit the friends and places we encountered during the first visit.

The gathering on the plate shown this month is a gathering of memories and is accompanied by some photographs taken in locations near where the objects were found or purchased. Collected together (out of drawers, shelves, a jewelry box, and from the pages of a journal where it served as a ‘bookmark’ – the feather) the small presentation dish has significant meaning to us and directs our hopes for the best of outcomes as England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland progress through the very challenging process of Brexit.

A friend with whom we staying in Northmoor dreamed of having a fish pond. I was younger. Shoveling dirt in another country when you are young feels like going to an exotic gym while on vacation. English soil has been cultivated for so many centuries that digging the pond seemed easy – well then. I found the whitish stone that’s in this month’s Realm while digging the pond – the stone, looking like a river rock – probably foreign to that backyard itself. The stone usually rests in a jar of marbles I keep, but seemed for the Realm like a good English base for the dragonfly – you know – dragonfly rests on a rock in Fred’s pond in England. I always look at the ‘souvenirs’ I’ve packed around over the years and wonder how I would now fair through airport security.

Fish pond in process at a friend’s house, 1995, Northmoor – near Oxford – my pre-hat period

It was cold. We were in Scotland on the shore of the North Sea. I took this photo of Kathy and our friends Walt and Dianne and in the process dropped my small camera case. When I reached down and picked up the case, I discovered that under it, on the sands upon which Vikings might have walked, lay this tiny shell. The shell now rests in a drawer beside a stack of my handkerchiefs. Sometimes I reach for a handkerchief and I wonder – what kind of souvenirs did Vikings pick up?

Scotland, the North Sea, 1995

There are so many pubs with names that involved animals. The Drunken Duck, The Moody Cow, The Piggy and Stout. We bought this little brass pig in the hamlet of Swineford, near Bath, down the road from a pub called The Swan. Kathy and I spent a great deal of time hiking and walking in England; souvenirs had to be small and light. Kathy’s red coat had big pockets which were home to souvenirs, sandwiches, and maps.

Tiny brass pig from Swineford, near Bath – pub there called The Swan

There was rain mixed with snow the day we found this dragonfly pin in a shop near Hyde Park. I remember the shop where we discovered it. It had a fireplace and was warm. The pin traveled with us, our striped umbrella, and a bottle of red wine back to Oxford on a bus that day. We had purchased the umbrella in a Woolworth’s store near the bus station. It was so cold and wet that morning that it seemed, at times, that we were the only people in the whole of the park. At one point, near a pond that had a hem of ice, a duck with a bad leg – it limped – stood underneath our umbrella with us and shared the sausage sandwich we were eating. It nibbled on pieces of the warm sandwich, at our pant legs, and our shoes, and it quacked and hissed a warning to all the other ducks that tried to approach. Thirty years later we still have the umbrella – and the pin – and they always remind us of our lunch with a duck.

Kathy under our storied striped umbrella

When you travel everything becomes the potential for lore. We found this little three-legged brass object – along with two brass door knockers – at an outdoor rummage sale in the Hampstead district of London. The knockers made it onto doors in our house. The three-legged something or other that we storied into a tale about an opium-den made it into a storage cabinet in our garage until we decided a few days ago that it has a bright future as an incense burner.

Coconut incense – the fragrance of summer on a stick
Hampstead District – very tony

…and the feather? I found this feather in one of the journals I packed about while in England. The journal entry page didn’t mention any birds but then there is this photograph I took outside of a castle in Wales….. I wonder.

The creation of a Realm is an ideal process from which to learn and to grow rather than be judged. A creation of a Realm is the opportune activity in which to explore both your memories and your creativity. The month of August has a quiet murmur to it. August carries a sense of prelude, a feel of transition. Find a few moments to gather some of those objects of meaning to you. Gather them in a place where you can notice and honor them. Offer up some flowers, a candle – an incense burner you’ve recycled from an opium den created by your imagination. Offer up your intentions. Your hopes. Your prayers. And, in the process of creating a Realm from your experiences, your history, and your intentions – no matter what you feel you look like in a swimming suit – experience a sense of love for yourself and the life you have rather than the feeling of your life as less than. 

Good big breath,

Fred