A Hedgerow SymphoniaSep 30, 2022
I am very lucky here where I live in a very rural part of Devon as I have a hill forest literally on my doorstep where I am more often than not the only human being walking around, and I enjoy spending my days as a practicing Druid, learning and connecting with the land and discovering new creative inspirations as I travel through the trees.
One sunny day two weeks ago as I was approaching my usual route ( a whole circumambulation takes around one hour and a half ) I decided to find some new spots of beauty and power. At the half way point of the walk through the forest the ancient pathway climbs atop a fairly steep slope and flanks a series of open fields, which most of the time save some cows and sheep are largely empty. There at the end of the forest was this one field that I always could feel had something magical about it, you know just a feel and a language to its tone that was unlike the others, so to me in stood out loud and clear.
Until this day I usually just walked past it thinking this but never actually deciding to venture into it and say hello. It occurred to me that I am often teach my students and talk to them about opening up a dialogue and conversation with the land, but here I was ignoring my own advice and it was time to put pay to that. One of the things that had drawn my attention to this field again and again outside of this very salient vibrational instinct was the amount of times that I would encounter deer in the forest that would run either away from me into this field, or past me entering the forest from it. As a Druid I have always paid heed and notice to places where deer run too and from, as no matter how many times we may meet one when we walk in nature, each time is a magical display and appearance that leaves a profound taste for at least the rest of the day if not the next. So it was time.
I walked in through an old wooden gate falling apart, kept closed by some threadbare rope tied around the latch and walked over the threshold. The grass a deep vibrant and healthy green, the left hand side of the large enclosure saddling the forest, with hedgerows all the way round at its borders. A stunning place to find oneself in, no people for miles apart from perhaps the farmer occasionally visiting to check on things and do his or her work. The field itself part of a gentle slope that fell slowly toward the forest gate of my entrance, rose steadily up towards the high point of the hill and I decided to take a walk to this exact spot to see what else I could see, and gather my bearings. As I walked through the mid centre of the field toward the rise I looked back and I began to realise that the forest with its tall trees had obscured the reality of the open landscape and rolling hills all around. This beautiful vista opened up as a 180 degree sight of distant fields some with mottled black and white tiny cow figures slowing shifting in their herds along them. Timeless. My village had been mentioned back in the doomsday book as having one house and a mill which was fed by the river than ran through my forest down into the valley that was hidden from view at this point. Birds of prey i noticed seemed to hover and glide over this field nosily calling out, their sounds echoing and reverberating around the natural acoustics of the valley.
I had brought a flask of tea with me and sat down to just watch and listen to the world. Here in the field the light was bright an unusual bright quality to it and the eyes almost felt blinded gently by its clarity. Clouds moving fast high up but the pace of the world below simple, quiet and soft. It was in this space drinking my tea that I couldn't help but smile to myself, one of those moments where you feel excellently calm and appreciative and inspired. After a little while in this pause of plenty I got to my feet and decided to walk and continue on into the corner then walk back to the gate along the forest side of the boundary to say hello to the trees there.
This year some seem that way, I had found it difficult to tap into and feel connected with the seasons of spring and summer. It's not that I didn't notice and feel in touch with the land in of itself, but for one reason or another they seemed to pass me by like a cloud. One thing that had been making me happy about this transition into Autumn was that I felt deeply in touch and attuned. Perhaps and well most likely was my decision this year to give up one of my favourite vices six months previously - smoking. These first few months time seemed to be warped more than usual and I thought I was never going to rekindle my enthusiasm - spoken like a true addict ! ;) and how wrong I was I admit freely, gladly. So I began to gather plants and make new things, and learn new skills and found myself even at 43 having to almost relearn life. That feeling I am very open too, but this felt like a new intensity that took me a little time to unpick and unravel. I am a keen forager and cook and to be deeply once again noticing the flows of the plants and the ripening of the fruit was profound joy and serenity. This connection point became embodiments of the teachings I have received over the years, and so often ones that I give people in my classes when I am talking about various mantras and visualisation practices. The alchemical conversation and dialogue with the world around us and then through that and with that an embracing of the fullness that arises, like a natural oozing and bubbling up of nectar streams that flow across the land.
I traversed to the corner of the field and began to walk along by the fence bordering the forest and there was a simply magical parade of sacred trees. I greeted them one by one as I walked along and stopped to listen to the leaves in the wind and watch the sunlight play upon the slowly turning leaves dressed in changing patterns and colours. I noticed the further along I walked that it seemed to be a who's who of our sacred trees that we revere as Druids and human beings. Oak Ash and Beech , Birch and Hazel. Gorse and Elder, Blackthorn and Hawthorn, Willow and Pines and many others. It was here that the trees suggested to me a sonic collaboration and we discussed the idea of doing a musical journey where they all get to have their say and contribute.
This beginning seedling of an idea turned into a conversation where the whole field seemed to pipe up and basically said we all want to do this with you. Interestingly the hedgerows and smaller plants seemed to speak louder as if almost they were going to show the tall trees a think or two lol...… My Human impositions aside, the field planted the idea firmly in my mind that I was to return with the recording devices and equipment and get to work on this composition immediately !. So the intentionality was devised and set that together we would create a sonic celebration of the Autumn with its abundance and fruition. The field explained that I would walk round the entire length and sides of the field and listen out for any plant that had something it wanted to say to express or be playful with. All expressions where allowed, but with the ethos focused on it being a healing song, through which we could share the simple and divine beauty and magic of this field and all the beings within it for the world to hear and feel.
So I returned the very next day fully prepared for this sonic adventure with everything needed and brimming with enthusiasm. I had dreamt of the field and the trees through the night and when I woke up in the morning it was the only thing I could think about. Some of you who may have come across my recent release of Bruwynn may know I have been involved in using Bio Feedback devices and working creating experimental music with trees and plants for a few years now extensively. I spoke about it on Tea with a Druid with Eimear in May last year also if anyone cares to see a little of that. For this last year I have been working on and creating my first proper debut album - a druid medicine journey working with many different plants and trees. At the time of writing this article I am nearing the completion of what is or what has become an epic journey for me, both in terms of the music being made and the making of it with all I have and am learning along the way. The point of me mentioning this however is that with this hedgerow piece I decided that it was going to be improvised and not heavily edited. This more relaxed attitude towards constructing and bringing together the composition was and is a welcome break. A kind of jam I suppose in comparison to the heavily focused and more in depth way that I am making the album, that can be measured weeks of sessions as opposed to a few days with this. So what the plants did would be the finished sound ( with a little tinkering of course ;).
As with the recording of my album I have very much enjoyed exploring with with the various tonalities of the musical modes and their emotional shapes. This recording features in the key of E and in Lydian mode which is often thought of or described as 'dreamy' - which felt right. I have actually devised an alphabet system that corresponds to musical notes and modes which I am employing in the recording of the medicine album, but I shall save discussing that for a later point in time most probably.
So I really hope you enjoy this music and feel a connection with the natural world and the elements and seasons through its joy of ease and simplicity. One of the beautiful things about creating music in this way is like a photograph its a sonic snapshot of a memory and moment of connection. It creates timeless ripples that swim through eternity, the plants and trees too have an experience I would say that they always seem to give me the impression is a joy for them. Like a child blowing into a empty bottle for the first time and hearing a tone come through, the beings always seem to experience a happiness that they can have a new mode and potency of expression. They like us have their own way of communicating and speaking, but the ability to engage with new languages and new sounds never ceases to bring fresh beauty and new togetherness's.
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