Personal Essay

Rites Of Passage – Part 2

By Gaia Woolf-Nightingall

Part 1

In my dream, I had envisioned a little wooden chalet, and flowing adjacent to the chalet, winding off into the indiscernible distance, was a small, clear stream. From its source flowed out a vibrant little Spring, gently rising up from the ground in the likeness of an ancient water Goddesses, in-state and awaiting an audience. At her head grew a gnarly ancient Elder tree, which kept a careful watch over the court.

With my dreaming eye, I had drawn closer to the Spring, and as I did so, and without warning, up from somewhere deep within the Elder tree at its head leaped, a dark silhouetted figure, which menacingly loomed towards me. I was startled awake from my dream and found that my body was damp with the perspiration of fear.

Fionnuala listened intently to my recollections and became quite animated with excitement. She believed I was describing her home, at least in as much as the chalet in which she lived.

It felt like I was receiving a message, from whom and to what end, I could not say, but, as was my way, I accepted the verbal letter, and without a care for any possible consequences, crumpled up some clothes into a small bag, and together Fionnuala and I headed off on our walk into the deep woods.

As we arrived in Owen’s Field, the little sheltered glade where Fionnuala’s home stood, I was not at all surprised to see that her home was the very image of the Chalet in my dream. It was a small quirky wooden hut, quite old with the aura of decay dripping from around its edges. The wooden panels that made up the siding of the chalet were dark and damp, and mossy clumps clung to its borders, like the tiny hills, of the rolling countryside. Clearly, the chalet had been gathering memories for many years.

Nestled in amongst the trees that adorned the circumference of the Chalet were other similar small wooden huts, each with a slightly different take on the theme of a large garden shed. The chalets were all made private from each other by the thick overgrowth of Hazel, Elder, and holly brush, that danced between the mighty trunks of the taller trees of Oak and Ash, the reigning monarchy of the forest.

Excitedly but, in truth carrying within me more than a little apprehension, I inquired about the possible existence of my dream stream and the Spring at its head. But according to Fionnuala’s knowledge of the area, there was no stream or Spring there about.

I was disappointed. Of course, I had a strong intuition that the stream and spring did indeed exist and were important in some way. Fionnuala and I talked, and despite the fact that she herself did not know of any water feature in the area, it did not follow that making inquiries with the long-term local residents of the chalets might not be worthwhile. And so we walked from chalet to chalet, investigating, but, alas, no one we encountered seemed to know of any water features around the area except for Caswell Bay itself.

Caswell bay lay at the bottom of the dry, tree-lined valley, of which Owen’s field was apart. The valley led directly down to the open vista of a beautiful, wide crescent-shaped beach, which was sheltered on three sides by tall, dark, shale cliffs, who had, for countless years, bore the brunt of the wild rages of the Irish Sea.

Fionnuala and I were disappointed and about to give up on the whole enterprise, accepting that perhaps, the stream and the Spring were a figment of my overactive imagination when we reached the final chalet in the field. A man named Rob lived there.

Rob explained that a river had once run through the woodland valley but that it had retreated many years ago underground into the limestone bedrock below.

It did, however, emerge in the woodland, at the somewhat ruined site of an ancient church. Rob pointed us in the general direction of the church ruins. Without a moment’s hesitation, Fionnuala and I hurried through the forest undergrowth, determined to discover the hidden secrets of the valley.

A carpet of brilliant wild garlic flowers alighted our way, and as our feet bruised past the dense green leaves, growing tall, from the bulbs hidden beneath the earth, the pungent odor of garlic rose up and mingled with the still air around us. We journeyed on, listening as we did to the cheerful songs of Thrushes, Sparrows, and Green Jays.

We came at last to a large bowl-shaped site, crowned with a cathedral dome of Oak, Beech, and Ash trees. They sprung up from the ground at a myriad of strange angles and had clearly been very persistent over the years in their attempts at reclaiming this old site of worship for themselves. There was a palpable change in the atmosphere of the hollow as we entered. The trees stood silent and proud, and the only sounds that emanated from the ground were the cutting and swishing tones of our shoes as they rubbed against the leaves and flowers of the wild garlic carpet.

We searched, mindful of the sanctity of the site in which we had entered. This place had been consecrated thus by both man and nature. Suddenly, my foot made a deep squelching sound, and from the ground below my feet, the cold, sharp kiss of water seeped rapidly through into my shoes.

I peered at the ground and noticed a thin film of water was floating atop a dense mossy bed. Quickly my eyes followed the flow of the water, which lead on a slightly upwards gradient to a brush-covered opening in the ground. It was surrounded by three old gray stone tablets, partially hidden by the thick bramble overgrowth. At the head of this was what appeared to be a Natural Spring, which bubbled up slow and steady from the ground below.

And leaning, over the top of one of the stone tablets was an old, and, very distinguished looking Elder tree. I was, to say the least, quite taken aback! And now moving closer, I could feel strong energy radiating from the Spring itself, pulsating, drawing me closer, and there I stood for a moment, unsure of what to do next.

I decided to simply listen as I had as a youth. I called out with my inner voice to the water, the Earth, and the trees enclosing me. I felt like I could almost hear the water speaking to me, asking for some kind of aid. Asking for me to clear away the undergrowth that was impeding the flow of the Spring from below to the ground above.

Fionnuala and I decided to get to work. We pulled and scrapped at the ragged vegetation, our hands stung from the many tears that ripped into our flesh. Sharp thorns and rocks affronted us at every quarter, but we did not waiver. The energy around the Spring began, slowly, to lighten, to transcend with every piece of debris that we cleared away. This spurred us on, and soon a new feeling of peace descended upon the scene.

We stood back and surveyed our work. A new feeling arose within me, and I felt called to do more. An offering, an acknowledgment, to the Elder tree guarding the head of the Spring was needed. Unsure of how exactly to do this, I decided to quieten my mind and once more and listened for guidance.

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