Aflame on one side

The newest chapter of my life is slowly beginning to unfold. The last couple of months in Beijing were a blur – crazily busy packing and dispatching my things, I was struck down by some kind of bug, and the general lassitude that sometimes affects me when I know it’s all over and I’m just waiting for the next step.

I’ve been in a transition phase until this week, living with my parents while I looked for a place to live, dealing with things like buying a car and getting it MOT’d and taxed, and then starting the new job. It’s been great of course to spend time with my parents , but of course you’re always aware that you’re not in your own home.

Still, it was a good time, when I began to reconnect with the energies of Ynys Prydain, the Island of Britain, once known in ancient days as the Island of the Mighty (in contrast to Ireland, the Island of the Blessed). The holly tree and the apple trees in my parents’ garden alike bore bright red fruit, signifiers of the impending death of the Summer King, the Oak King, and the approach of the Winter. I spent many happy hours up a ladder picking those apples, with bright blue skies above me and the sun warming my back. Those fruit were pressed, their pink-veined flesh yielding many litres of sweet yet slightly tart juice. Mmmm, delicious.

Last weekend I moved into a new rented house, and I’m delighted with it. It’s in an ancient fishing village, and situated on a 45-degree slope. Above is woodland, now a riot of brown, red and orange as the cold winds beat in from the sea. Below is a tidal estuary, where a flat expanse of land is sometimes green and brown land where sheep and wild horses graze, and sometimes it’s just the sea. Above, the great expanse of sky stretches out to the Atlantic and, when it’s clear, there’s the golden light of daytime making me catch my breath and feel glad to be alive; at night the cold, sparkling stars and belt of Orion wheel, impassive and distant. When the clouds roll in, low and dark, the shadows shift and the trees seem to murmur. It’s no surprise, living here, that the Celts of old believed that reality shifted, and what was real one day may slip into the Otherworld the next; the evidence was before their very eyes that the land itself appeared and disappeared. Shifting paradigms, the five elements are very strong here; it should be the perfect place to regather my qi after the stress and un-naturalness of urban life.

And he came his way towards a river valley, and the bounds of the valley were forest, and on either side of the river, level meadows. And one side of the river he could see a flock of white sheep, and on the other side he could see a flock of black sheep. And as one of the white sheep bleated, one of the black sheep would come across, and would be white; and as one of the black sheep bleated, one of the white sheep would come across, and would be black. And he could see a tall tree on the river bank, and the one side of it was burning from its roots to its tip, and the other half with green leaves on it.
“Peredur son of Efrawg” (Jones and Jones, 1989, p. 211), Mabinogion

It’s a big house for one person; I have room for a workout room, and for a meditation space, so training will resume soon.

All of this is in some contrast to the world of work. I have my own office, which is nice; less nice is that it’s stiflingly hot, and I can’t change the temperature. My only option is to open the windows as much as I can – which isn’t much and – now that the autumn gales are arriving – going to get smaller. An interesting feature of the location is that there are lots and lots of magpies around. One of them loves to sit on the windowsill outside, and will sometimes stare in at me, unblinking and unmoving. Yesterday it actually crept in through the open window and perched on top of the server, still staring at me, until I chased it out. It’s a reminder of the other side of the natural world, this cunning intelligence and voracious curiosity, devoid of any pity. I almost said ‘of ethics’, but that isn’t the case; birds are aware of law, justice, and punishment after all, as evidenced by the rooksparliaments that are sometimes witnessed. Still, British folklore says that a single magpie is bad luck, and should be saluted; there may be wisdom in that tradition….

My new commute takes me over a ridge-top common, what Shakespeare might have called “a blasted heath”. The wild ponies graze up here, too, and on Sunday one of them decided to have a rest in the middle of the road, forcing the traffic to slowly work around it….

I have a good feeling about this next stage of life; I have the feeling that I’m being drawn along a path. I don’t know where it’s leading yet, but it feels right.


  1. Wonderful to see you writing here again, Emlyn–there is a freshness and sensitivity not present in the last few months of your Beijing writing.

    Cheers, and welcome home!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s