Autumn Equinox. A time I had promised myself a solitary journey to sit in Idris’ Chair – Cadair Idris – the lovely mountain whose shape reminds me of a sleeping dragon, curled up with his head pointing to the western shores of Wales. Having been to Dinas Emrys already, now came the time to climb.
The day before I had been off work ill. I very rarely get ill, but it was a sneezing cold which I didn’t want to spread, and so I spent the day recovering. Now, in real terms, this was the way I felt I could recover properly – by filling my lungs to the very depths with fresh Welsh mountain air. I had everything ready – a bag with layers of clothing; candles and torches; incense and dowsing rods; snacks and water; a sleeping mat, a bivvy bag and a down sleeping bag. I had everything a solitary druid could need to stay out on this mountain all night. I would either come down mad or a poet, according to legend.
Walking the Dragon’s Back
To walk along the dragon’s spine was a delight. The approach from the Minffordd side is delightful. The natural beauty of the variety of trees in combination with the dry air and the practically cloudless blue sky was a heady mix, and I felt my illness receding like a forgotten insult.
The stunning ancient woodland soon gave way to the open expanse of the plateau. The surrounding ridges imposed themselves as though they were eminently achievable, and I strode along trying not to rush the experience. I had all day, and everyone else was going in a downwards direction. I would have the mountain to myself, it seemed.Just as I was getting accustomed to that idea I met a man who wanted a chat. Soon I was giving the guy a sympathetic ear, and he was pouring out his life story in some sort of therapy session! Well, maybe it was healing for both of us, this journey?
As I reached the summit I was truly alone. There was no sign of life for miles around. I had only a couple of sheep for company. Please, no jokes about making my own entertainment! I dumped the path at the trig point and took some photos to mark the occasion. It was a triumph in many ways, but mainly over illness. Now I had to prepare for the evening, so I searched around for a hole to sleep in. Wait – what was that? I’d not seen that rectangular building last time I was up here (well, it was very thick mist that previous day). You mean there’s a hut up here to sleep in? And there I was prepared to sleep in a ditch! The gods were smiling on me.
As I unpacked and settled in I became acutely aware that I had none of my usual “distractions”. There was no phone signal. No television. I hadn’t brought an instrument or a book, come to think of it. I would simply have to amuse myself getting to work on finding out why I was here on the hill, and what I could learn by quieting down and clearing away all of the usual distractions.
What I found, as I sat in the shelter preparing myself for the night ahead, was that I kept seeing a face in the rock of the shelter’s entrance, inviting me outside to work. Once it caught my eye I couldn’t stop seeing it in my peripheral vision. It was calling me outside – the spirits of the earth wanted me to tune in. So be it.
I sat at the western side of the shelter and spent an hour or two watching the view. Just letting my thoughts drift like the gentle wind…. ebbing away into the sea which stood guard at the shores below the mountain’s edges. The mountain seemed to stand like a protest to the incursion of the beautiful bays which edged their way inland. The sun began to sweep across the water, playing with the light and sparkling with diamond intensity. I watched the dazzling display until the colours shifted through the spectrum from white to yellow and then I realised I probably had some work to do before the light left at last.
Sitting In The Giant’s Chair
I got my dowsing rods out and used them to guide me to where I needed to be this evening to fulfill my current quest and discover a new one. I was taken close by the the summit, on the northern edge. There is a rocky outcrop there which suddenly plunges down precipitously. You can just about sit on the edge of one of the rocks and feel just enough leverage beneath your feet to prevent your heart racing at the thought of a sudden drop to death on the rocks below. Wow – no safety nets up here!
I got “comfortable” and turned my mind from thoughts of death. Instead, I tuned into the figure of Taliesin….The wind began to tease my hair, to stroke my face, and as an air sign I began to become at ease with the position. Thoughts of the ancient poet Taliesin began to emerge. I had studies poetry at university, but never studies the ancient poets. I felt that this raw experience of sitting in this precarious position was putting me in touch with the very forces, the awen, that coursed through the old poets’ veins and propelled them to write the old knowledge into clever and creative crafted characters whose imagery resonated like a sound wave through the ages to reach us and reveal their secrets to us.
The words from the Hanes Taliesin echoes from somewhere in the depths of my unconscious. Now I think about it, it really was an “Uneasy Chair” – so precarious that it made my stomach churn to look anywhere except into the far distance. I was truly in the presence of Taliesin – whirling without motion between three elements – the earth, the air and the fire of the evening sun.
In The Uneasy Chair I began to spout poetry of my own, composed from the sounds around me, sometime making sense, sometimes seeming to be from someone else’s mind. In a state of inspiration I asked for a new quest that I could follow for the next turn of the wheel of the year. I was told that my new quest is “Compose from the winds“. With that I broke free of the whirling seasick motion of the precarious position and fell back, scrabbled back from the edge, clinging to the safe harbour of the rocky outcrop and searching for its steadiness.
I gasped and drew a deep breath – back once again in the reality of the mountain’s fresh air and the loneliness of the bare hilltop. The short grass began to bend in an inshore breeze that was building. I returned to the shelter – to the stone safety of its square dimensions and study construction.
The Bard and Bardsey
I stood facing west again, watching the fast falling glow of the changing sun as it set around Bardsey Island. There was the “Bard” again! I couldn’t shake his presence this evening.
As I watched the sun setting I sang to the spirit of the hill. I moved through my energy chakras, working on each one, balancing them with the power of the sound of my voice in different tones. Already I was beginning to use the winds to compose a song – a song of harmony and balance. I used my energy to spread that harmony out into the landscape around.
I picked up a stone which looked like a dagger made of slate. For some reason I felt I needed to offer this to Bala Lake. It would be an offering to The Lady of the Lake. A gift from Taliesin, to be delivered by me. I could see the lake from the summit, and it drew me.
That night, as the sun fell and I settled in to sleep I managed a few hours at a time lying on the railways sleepers which formed the benches in the hut before I woke and had to turn. A storm rose and raged around me. The hut was lashed with violent winds and driving rain, but I was safe and warm inside the hut, with candles burning to give me a soft natural light for comfort.
In the morning I felt alive. Re-invigorated. I woke at four and it was still dark. I packed, listening to the last of the storm passing over and hearing the rain easing. At the moment I lifted my pack onto my back the rain stopped and the wind dropped off to almost nothing. I looked outside. It was thick mist and pitch dark! How would I get down?
Luckily, I knew the route. I had Viewranger on my phone, and had downloaded the OS map for the hill. Without it, I think I would have struggled. With it, I was able to somehow keep heading in the right direction, and in a couple of hours I was descending down through the mist and into the clearer air of the plateau. I felt like my way had been guided because my senses were completely overwhelmed by the mist, and I was quite disorientated. Yet, somehow I kept calm and connected. Somehow my feet seemed to walk on barely recognisable paths, and I stayed on course – eventually finding the path down even though I had never found it before even in daylight! Just as the sun rose to greet me so that I could see it. It has been a while since I watched the sun rise like that – not since I went to Kilimanjaro two years ago. Again, it was an emotional experience.
On my way home I passed the town of Dolgellau, whose distant orange lighting I had seen from the summit in the night. There was a stunning rainbow linking me back to the mountain of Cadair. It was such a lovely connection that I stopped to really notice it and give thanks.
I parked at Bala Lake. With a simple single swing I lofted the “dagger” stone into the lake with a thought of an offering. I watched the ripples until they dissipated and calm was restored. In me. Around me. In everything.
Now I had the new quest – to compose from the winds. What would this entail? Where would it lead me next on my travels? I felt I was fully prepared for the journey now – not mad, but a poet – inspired by Nature.