I see now that The Boy was a small event in the large landscape of my life. Having called a halt to the refractive patterning the memory of his presence created, I find I am ready to move on. So along comes Charley! But I move ahead of myself.
Back from Maenclochog, I reflect on the way that fate, destiny, free will, whatever you want to call it, conspires to draw me where I need to be. I needed to go to this magical part of Pembrokeshire in order to recognise that I, like all of us, live on a knife edge between memory and possibility. And that knife edge is lubricated with love and growth (the two being inextricably mingled). Mysterious? Read on…
Nothing convinces me of the enfoldment of time more than a visit to Maenclochog. I wrote about it years before I visited it in Allietime. As I walked around the woods and high meadows last week, I realised all over again, how strongly I had been there before in my writing, before I even knew it existed. I don’t understand how this happened but I know that it did. Llangrannwy, the setting for The Pebble Jar, has a real time doppelganger. A walk through the beech trees reveals my imagined world; the fast- flowing trout stream with dark pools and eddies, journeying over rocks and around pollarded trees. An ancient woodland, where even the fallen dead trees are alive with alternative lifeforms. Quarries exploding with ferns and caves lined like jewellery boxes with mosses and lichens. Along the cliff face, ancient fissures zig zag, damp,slippery and full of patches that attract the eye and repel the foot. From this dank base the footpath climbs up the slab towards the middle meadow, where the roundhouse sits looking fat and forlorn, its grassy roof growing hairier with each passing year. This is the Poustina of The Pebble Jar, a place where the alchemist, Haris, has created a home, as well as the laboratory that is providing the community of survivors with the power to live out of time. Which is , it seems now, how this place was brought to mind, before it actually materialised. A holding of place out of time has mysteriously occurred and who am I to question it?
It’s all written down in that first volume of the trilogy. It stands exactly as it came out and only time tells me that it is the first step in an extraordinary string of events. The attractor at the end of the story is love. It is love that took me to those parts and I suspect that it will be love that persuades me to take any path I might choose. I give myself up daily to the powers that be; they keep me moving ever so gently towards the next adventure in love.
As I said, his name is Charley. He wears a bowler hat with ribbons and plays an accordian, which he handles like a lover. He is covered with pockets, in which he keeps his accoutrements; a pair of folding eye glasses, a penknife, a compass- but no mobile phone. He is gentle, kind and deep. He is mine for the taking. I have hopes that something precious will grow between us in the space between memory and possibility but I don’t intend to push it. What is mine will come to me.
He wasn’t the only man to enter my life last week. Raul Rodri Jones is an elf of a being, with curly hair and crooked teeth. He turns out to be my guide to the mushrooms. He sits me down and draws a map of the meadows above, in the drying mud of the glen. He shows me exactly where they grow but warns me against ingesting them. ‘Soak them and drink the liquid’, he says-‘ when the moon is full.’ He smiles enigmatically and I wonder if he is pulling my leg. Later he brings me a huge mushroom that looks like a shrunken breast, with a long tail sporting a ring. The underface is woven like my favourite crop circle. It is so beautiful that looking at it makes me cry.
That afternoon, as soon as I’d completed my chores I collected Tottie from the group of children who were smothering her with love, and headed for the high meadow. There under the gaze of Dragon Mountain, amid the clumps of couch grass, horsepats and the occasional dead shrew, I found what I was looking for. A fragile clump of mushrooms; small, nipple headed ,with a fine black thread circling the face, they grew in small clusters, as if for companionship. Waiting, it would seem, for my gathering fingers and curiosity to pluck them from the ground and pop them in a small bag carried for that purpose. Illegal, ancient, secret and protected by the hills and louring skies, they had grown with the ghosts that wander a nearby ancient and long unused drove road. This is an area cut off from the village by a change of plan. The landmarks have fallen into decay and the spirits of the past are doomed to wander, lost without signs, searching for home.
‘Begone spirits of the past,’ I said out loud. ‘Go to the light. I release you by telling you that what you search for is no longer here. Not for you, not for me. Begone.’
I sat on a lump of quartz the size of a new born calf and contemplate the thought of my ancestors who I feel had once walked the drove. Thoughts that lead me to break through a hedge and crawl under some barbed wire and enter a broken churchyard of about eight tilted and bleached gravestones. A pollarded ash has seeded and disrupted the stone dedicated to Matilda Morgan, who died in 1840. I have to lie on my belly to scrape off the moss that hides the word ‘sacred’ and the ’50 years’ of a life lived.
The sky by this time has turned olive green and there is a wind blowing. I am not the least bit afraid, though noone in the world knows where I am. I know and how pleased I am to know and to feel safe from any fabled disturbances that I have been taught might haunt such a place.
That night I placed the mushrooms under my pillow and dreamt of romance, stretching over time, right to the end of me. The night of the full moon came and went without me soaking or indeed ingesting. I drove back with the packet in my glove compartment. I might not have visited the land of the mushroom but I felt deeply changed by my adventure. Up the road and round a corner I felt the magic go, like a piece of elastic that has been snapped and there I was back in a world of petrol stations and newspapers and bullying roadside signs. Even Charley didn’t seem to be quite the man I had thought he was this side of the magic. It was then that I understood the meaning of the word ‘enchantment’.