Sources of Inspiration 2 – Places of Peace


The Quest for the Awen, yearning for those three sweet drops to fall upon my tongue, to open my eyes and see the world through the eyes of a poet is still a Quest that drives me every day. Nature is the world’s most intoxicating drug and the great thing is that in all of my encounters with her, the side effects of this particular addiction have all been, without exception, completely positive.

I am blessed by the fact that my chosen medium, acoustic folk, is infinitely portable – from an acoustic guitar or for even more portability, the tiny mandolin. I have written many songs in the quiet of my own home, but a number of the songwriting experiences I remember with most fondness are the songs that I caught whilst playing outside.

Some people find inspiration in conflict. Friction can be a wonderful source of inspiration and it has been for me a couple of times, Only Human instantly springs to mind, a song that I had to write after watching a program about animal experimentation, but for me the main source of inspiration is peace. I guess some may find no inspiration in peace at all, finding it too dull, still or quiet, but I have always known that I have within me an inner hermit who yearns for that sacred solitude that opens us up to the Divine.

Oak Broom and Meadowsweet was written in a woodland near Beltane, the floor covered with bluebells, and the voices of the Faerie almost dictating the words; Noon of the Solstice was written in the same woods, near the time of the Solstice, singing the words to the Horned God standing with my back to a mighty Oak; Hills they are Hollow was written in the stone circle at Merrivale with the ‘Tors standing as Guardians to the rites to Nature’s Gods of darkness and of light’; and Grimspound was written in the large roundhouse at the site listening to the calling Ravens and the voices within the fallen walls.

Other sites have inspired songs that have arrived some time after getting home. Land, Sky and Sea was inspired by a visit to St Ninian’s cave in Dumfries and Galloway where every day St Ninian used to make a pilgrimage down to the sea, to sit in this tranquil cave, and here he said he could talk to God and hear his reply. When I went to the place I also sat and spoke aloud, possibly to different Gods, but still there was a sense of connection that I can vividly remember whilst writing this. It is taking these experiences and putting them into words that have been a large part of my songwriting over the years.

So what to do? Well, I get on my walking boots, go outside, take my instrument with me, and a pen and paper. Choose a site that I love, and make a sacred pilgrimage to the place, making my intent the connection to the Site, not writing a song – the song comes from the connection.

When I get there I open up to the spirits of place, sit and open my senses – look, listen, smell, and touch deeply. A technique I learned from my Bushcraft training was to see with the eyes of the deer, listen with the ears of the hare, feel with the skin of a new born baby, smell with the nose of the wolf. This intense opening to the senses quiets the voice that chatters in my mind about the washing up, the bills to pay, that I am wasting my time and shouldn’t be here, that kind of thing. If I turn my attention away from that voice and solely to my senses, that
voice cannot get through. Combine this with conscious breathing and the connection with the place, and its energies, open to me, and then, sometimes, something wonderful happens, and I begin to hear the words of the Ancestors, then voices of the Faerie, the stories of the Stones.

Usually I just ‘noodle’ on the guitar, playing the words I hear with notes. We know that sound is vibration, that music is tuned vibration, and notes do not end after the string is played, but rather carry on out into the universe, and endless space. That is the space I get into, and if I am lucky I will catch a word or two, and begin to sing over the tune, and sometimes these words become a song.

It is the sense of peace I feel at these places that lets me open up to the flow of Awen. It is when I allow my inner hermit his space that the songs I feel most connection with are given voice. Do you have an inner hermit/monk? Do they get enough space? If not, try to give them time and space, and there you too might find peace, and taste the Awen.

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Congratulations Wayne and Coleen

How can a footballer spend £5,000,000 on their wedding? This just shows that there is enough money, it’s just in the wrong place. How can it be that someone who plays a game, and kicks a football for a living, can earn more money than a surgeon who saves lives?

I saw this on the news this morning (by accident). £50,000 on fireworks, £400,000 for Westlife, and £500,000 for some rapper called Diddy (which was always slang for tits when I was a kid).

In the mean time people are still in trouble in China after the earthquake, are still starving around the world, are still homeless here.

A total spoiled waste of money.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish them well in their married life together, but that kind of excess just sums up so much of what is lousy in this modern world.

Time to Think!

When I wrote the song Only Human I had just finished watching an Horizon program about feral children. The actions of one of the scientists on the program had left me so angry that I had to find a creative outlet for all of that negative energy, and the song was the result.

I didn’t realise at the time what an effect that song was going to have on others who heard it, but I am now understanding that a lot more. A couple of days ago I was sent a link to a video that Lee, a fan of the song, had been moved to create – I think maybe riding a very similar creative energy that caused the creation of the actual song itself. When I watched it, the video, and music together, work beautifully to increase the potency of the song’s lyrics. I do warn you in advance, it’s not easy viewing.

Only Human – (Damh the Bard)
Isn’t it crazy, isn’t it cruel,
That a man can earn millions from kicking a ball,
While for other countries, we role a dice,
For a little clean water and a bowl of rice,
Politicians and empty promises help lessen our pain,
It’s only human

Isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it right,
There’s nothing as worthless as an animal’s life,
But it helps me feel better, when I feel ill,
I can’t taste the pain in this little pill,
A thousand lives given to live just a few more years,
It’s only human.

Cut down a forest for grass that won’t grow,
To help melt the ice caps, to help melt the snow,
We’ll watch the seas rise with nowhere to go,
It’s only human.

Isn’t is holy, isn’t it good,
That people kill people in the name of their God,
A bomb for a Father, a bullet for a Son,
And a smile for the child that carried the gun,
Only one God can be right when all’s said and done,
It’s only human.