For My Friend

‘When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him will be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

Ah, good old Kahlil Gibran, always trying to find the positive, the lesson, in the sometimes-tangled mess of life. I suppose this was his way of saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but sometimes absence is just that, a hole in your life, where something or someone once was and they cannot be replaced.

I’ve parted from several friends in my life, simply due to having moved so often and so far, but most of us are still in touch. Each on our own journey, but our paths still intersect from time to time. However, sometimes you get the news that a friend is on another kind of journey, one which we all must take one day, and from which there is no return. That kind of news is always hard to hear, and doubly so in this time of solitude and shielding, where the only comfort you can offer is words, and there is no guarantee that you will actually get to see each other again.

And so it has been for me this week. I am heartsore, and cannot imagine how it must be for her family, for her beloved, to have to deal with this news. Our friendship has been mostly virtual, but we have spent a handful of days together. And oh, such days, where time has stretched and twisted, allowing glimpses of other realms, and some of the most profound experiences of my life. Days of tears and laughter, of good food and company, of ritual and song. Days that have changed the course of my own life, helping me to explore who I truly am. And through them all, a thread of warmth and learning and friendship, of generosity of spirit and understanding that I’ll never forget.

‘I’m still here,’ I can hear her saying. And of course she is. And she will be for a while yet.

So perhaps I’ll finish up here with another quote, this time from Tennesee Williams. ‘Time doesn’t take away from friendship, nor does separation.’

I know you’ll get to see the heather bloom again. And I hope I get to see it with you.


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Maiden, Mother, Crone – Part 2 – Easter Aquhorthies

I realise that Wednesday is usually my day to wander. However, I’m also writing up my weekend with The Silent Eye. So, I’m combining the two and taking a wander to Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle, near Inverurie, Scotland, for the second part of my experience.‘I must be insane,’ I thought to myself. I was standing in the centre of a stone circle on a Scottish hillside, near-horizontal rain and hail hitting the back of my jacket like millions of ball bearings. My hands were frozen and I could feel that my waterproof trousers were not living up to their name. And yet… even though I knew the rest of the group were as cold and saturated, if not more so, than I was, none of us made any move to leave. It was one of those moments that defies explanation. And yet, wasn’t that what I was there for, after all? …

A hour or so earlier I’d walked into a shop, glad to get inside. The weather had alternated between rain and sort-of-rain as I’d made the ten-minute walk into the town centre, and I was glad I’d put on my wet weather gear before leaving the hotel.

A small sign directed me into the café where I’d be meeting the group of companions, and I entered to see I was almost the last to arrive, a table full of smiling faces greeting me. A warm hug from Sue and several other companions I’d met on my last Silent Eye weekend, and then I was introduced to the rest of the group.

And so the connections continued. I knew Running Elk from blogland, so it was nice to meet him in person. It was also a pleasure to meet his wife and her daughter, who happened to be Canadian. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked, having lived many years in Canada myself. ‘Oh, just outside Toronto,’ came the answer. I smiled. I knew that answer well, as it was one I made myself whenever I was asked where I’d lived when I was there. ‘I went to high school in––‘ I answered, and the shock in both their faces was profound. ‘That’s where we’re from!’ It was a wonderful extra layer to the weekend, and led to a lot of reminiscing.

But first, we were to be taken to the first stop on the tour. Running Elk had planned the weekend, so Sue, Stuart and Steve were as much in the dark as the rest of us as to where we were going to go. We piled into cars and headed out of town, following the (somewhat vague) directions we’d been given. The weather ranged between rain and clear, small patches of blue visible among the grey clouds overhead. Not the best outlook for a weekend we would be spending mostly outdoors, but it wasn’t going to stop us from exploring.

Heading along a private road, the land rising to either side of us, we eventually pulled in to a small car park. A track led away from it into fields bounded by low stone walls and lines of trees, the landscape opening up around us as we neared the stone circle we’d come to visit, Easter Aquhorthies.

The circle is a recumbent type, one of only a few remaining complete, and the name Aquhorthies comes from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning ‘field of prayer.’ Recumbent refers to the large red granite monolith lying on one side, a feature unique to this type of stone circle.

We wandered up the muddy track and through the gate. Upon entry, our guide invited us to enter the circle, and find a place where we felt comfortable. I skirted the outside at first but, as I passed the huge recumbent stone, the one just beyond seemed to call to me.

…‘stay with me, I’ll protect you’ The stone offered shelter and, as I stood in front of it, I felt a warmth on my back, like sunshine, or a hug, or the heat from a fireplace. Welcoming. There was no other stone for me…

Once we’d all found our stones, we listened as our guide explained the significance of each one, the alignments in land and sky. I turned to look beyond my stone, and saw a pointed mountain in the distance, the peak disappearing then reappearing in the swirling mists and cloud, like a mirage of a lost land.

Our guide beckoned us into the centre, to stand in a smaller circle around him. I was loath to leave the protection of my stone; the rain, which had been mizzling and drizzling since we’d entered the circle, had increased in intensity, as had the wind. However, it was time to join the others so I stepped away from ‘my’ stone and went to join them. By this point the weather had picked up to storm level and, as we stood there in howling wind and near horizontal rain and hail, straining to hear what he was saying, I must say I doubted my sanity. Yet, at the same time, there was no great desire to leave. The dog of one of our companions, who looked around at us all from time to time with a wonderful expression of doubt, sat still in the wet grass, waiting for whatever we silly humans were doing to finish.

… we were a group, a circle within a circle, listening, no matter what the weather threw at us…

Eventually, there came a point where even our guide had had enough, the wild weather turning blue denim black and filling shoes and pockets with water, even waterproofs not enough to withstand its force. The decision was made to go and so we did, making our way along the muddy track back to the cars.

By the time we got there, only a few minutes later, the sky was showing patches of blue once more.

Later, after warm showers and a change of clothes, we all met for dinner, a convivial evening where we laughed about the afternoon’s events, the weather seeming to most of us to have been a test of sorts. Whether we had passed or not, would be decided when we returned the following day. But there were other sites to visit first…


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City Of Dreams

IMG_0219Last night I visited the city again.

A city without a name, yet one which I visit often and know well. Where a river runs through to the ocean and killer whales beach themselves on the shore, where a walk can leave you hanging at the edge of a perilous drop, and the only way forward is to let go. Where familiar streets from other cities join together into a strange new whole, where I know the way but am often lost.

This time was no different. I had a job, and on the way home the subway did the thing it does so often, the track peeling away to turn along an unfamiliar route, leaving me stranded far from where I wanted to be. I knew how to get back, so my faceless companion and I took the walkway through the Asian market, past scented wood and spice and flowers, to end up dangling above city streets before letting go, fear and exhilaration screaming through us as we sailed down to the streets below.

I woke to the yowl of a cat in the street outside, the familiar humped shape of my husband warm comfort as I shuddered with the aftermath of the dream. Then I went to find sleep again. And I was back in my city, though this time twenty five stories up in a building that may or may not have been burning, with people who, for some unfathomable reason, wouldn’t take the stairs with me.

I woke once more, this time to my alarm.

It’s a strange place, my city of dreams, and yet I know it well. I know if I am driving that the road will be endlessly circuitous and choked with cars, never getting me to my destination. That the buildings are a mix of ancient and modern, that whales call in the blue water nearby, salt spray dashing against the stone walls and railings. If I go out of the city to the nearby mountains, another town awaits. One of stone and twisting streets, castellated walls and golden lit windows, shops filled with gleaming merchandise.

It is a place of fear and beauty, my city of dreams.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.