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The Road Ahead
(revised)

 

The mountain road lies ahead of me now,

Seen in the distance across the broad valley;

This road ahead, not much more than a path

Has carried many a traveler o’er these lands, via the mysts…

 

It dives down afore me disappearing into trees,

A forest primeval – tall and broad and thick;

Laying before me upon this hill where I stand,

Back-dropped by the mountain, high and dark and steep…

 

Ancient mountain and tree filled valley;

This night ahead, where is it I’ll sleep?

Beneath mighty trees with their boughs o’erhead,

Or will bright stars lighten my spirit as sparkling in my eyes…

 

The road narrows as moving down from the slope at my back,

With the grasses, vine and brambles rising high to each side,

The edge of the forest, approaching, it seems, shadowy and severe;

My feet slowly carrying regardless their speed, yet suddenly it’s near…

 

Entering the canopy, ancient forest where it meets the meadow,

My road quickly broadens, though for reasons unknown…

I peer ahead into the sudden woodland darkness,

With road going straight and true, then seeming quickly to end…

 

The trees are alive, they feel aware as I pass,

Knowingly they rustle and gently sway, though no breeze is felt,

Yet there is no menace here – for they sense my gentle spirit;

Intruder I might be were it another than me, yet they know

 

“Outside” beyond the high trees, setting sun still shines high in the west,

But here ‘neath their mantle dusk is at hand, as I look…

For I know this will be my place of rest this coming night,

And that someplace will be known to me, though as yet unseen…

 

Then I come to where my straight road takes a bend,

Where it ends not, but begins gently to curve, to bend,

Obscuring what’s seen for any distance ahead, becoming intimate and close,

As each new bend, each rise and fall, brings new visions heretofore unseen…

 

Around this bend there’s a long gentle slope, a bit brighter ahead;

Approaching the top of the rise after awhile, it begins to come clear

With road leading towards a clearing, round space devoid of trees

But they’ve not been cleared – it’s as though they’ve just not grown there

-- as if out of respect

 


For within this clearing, perhaps three lengths of a man,

Is a circle of stones, blue-gray stones standing tall and proud,

But to enter this almost glowing place ‘neath open sky

I must pass through a broad archway, lintel of stone…

 

Approaching the lintel, the road is covered in green, dark ivy;

Gort is the ivy, my Celtic plant of lore, of special meaning;

Before going further I sit and take off my boots,

To proceed barefooted into the approaching realm…

 

What is this place, where is it that I be,

Approaching the lintel with bared feet cooled by the gort?

As coming to the upright stones of the gateway, the portal,

The ivy has climbed the standing stones as though in a caress…

 

Standing there, as though on the threshold of a new world,

The shadow ‘neath the wide broad lintel stone overhead

Gives the feel that it’s leading from this realm into the next –

Then I step slowly, one well-thought step at a time, from here

 

Step, pausing, looking around at ancient lichens and mosses amongst the gort;

Step, the walls and roof of comforting stone and growth are almost past;

Step, a clearing is afore me, clear and sunny with gentle breeze on my face;

Step, the doorway’s behind me, place of power has let me past…

 

Entering this place, now I notice its not grass at my bare feet,

But mosses, deep ancient cushioning mosses gingerly caressing my toes;

Near the center of this now broad circle of stones is a dolmen erected,

Flat stone laying on three, table for offerings or, perhaps, shelter from storms…

 

Moving to the dolmen, it’s wide as a tall man fully outstretched;

Boosting myself up to sit upon its broad table I look around at this space.

The gate I’ve passed through is broad as my arms can reach,

As is the space between each of the stones, tall and proud, around me…

 

Including the lintel stones, twenty-five they number;

Each stone of the circle measures wide at least of five of my feet,

And stands much taller than I can reach;

The forest’s canopy reaches almost to the stones, yet not quite…

 

The shadows lengthen as I linger here, savoring,

So I begin thinking of shelter, for this seems a good place

Dropping to the ground from the slab where I’ve sat,

I look beneath the dolmen for what shelter it might afford…

 

Its only then that I notice its not flat beneath,

But obscured in its shadows are steps leading downwards…

Into the living Earth they go, leading into a round chamber encircled by stones,

As though leading into the womb of the Earth it looks, as I believe it does…

 

Loosing my pack and my cloak, laying my blade upon the mosses,

Slowly I prepare to descend upon these cool mossy steps;

But then, something odd is seen, perhaps a trick of the light –

All shadows of the standing stones seem to be leaning in, towards me…

 

Returning my gaze to the steps ahead, I begin my descent,

Eight steps there are large and rough-hewn, laid dry,

Yet worn smooth they are, as through much use

Each step descended brings me closer, to what doom

remains to be seen

 

The doorway is round, portal of blue-gray stones, as

Cool damp air greets my face, not stale but fresh and clean.

Laying my hand upon the stone at my face I kneel to make entry;

Stonework seems to shimmer abit and glitter, from deep, within…

 

Stepping through, placing my hands before my face

And feel all around, as a tunnel I seem to be in,

Leading steadily ahead the stonework continues

Against my bare soles the path is smooth and chill –

            worn smooth by many wandering feet…

 

After several paces the space around me opens abruptly!

As I stand aghast, fearing a fall into an open chasm,

Yet none is there as I get to my knees and feel with my hands;

Moving a bit further I utter the word “hello” to gain a feel for the space…

 

Startling me half out of my skin I hear a reply,

“Hello, friend, do I know you?” and feel a breath upon my neck

Reaching for my scabbard – which is not there – I remember,

Then say, I know not why, “Yes, I am you…, or I was…”

 

Silence is thick then, as we both wonder about the next,

For what seems like hours or seconds I wait and barely dare to breathe

When the voice in the darkness says “I…see…I’ve waited long”

Then I suspect the true reason for my journey – to discover…me…

 

Do any of us ever really know ourselves, the parts we hide away?

Severe and austere, the past of us seems oft to fade away;

And who we’ve been seems so frighteningly vague,

As though a dream we’d not believe, of souls long ago passed…

 

We talk of them as I tell him of life in this world now, for he’s of my past,

And I hear the awe and amazement in his voice as he hears of the changes;

Many questions he asks, “what happened to…, what happened when...?”

But then, finally, it’s here and now again, and its my turn…

 

 

He begins a tale of long ago, of ages long since past,

Of things rumored of but unknown, histories only guessed at,

A time when the Celts reigned supreme o’er this land,

When actions were true, and I wasa brave man, of my word…

 

This jolted me, for of what he said last all I heard was – was…

Am I not that now, for I’d believed me to be true?

My word is my badge, my honor, to not be betrayed;

He knew his words had smited me somehow, and he paused…

 

I could not see his face, nor he mine in the darkness,

But suddenly it came to me that this was his tomb!  And I say,

“You were an important man of great stature,” and heard him breath hard,

“Such things are unimportant now, for you now see where I’m at…”

 

“My loves and my friends were left long ago, and far behind,

Especially one, she for whom I continue to grieve –

For her I’m now unimportant, for she’s dust millennia past;

Times of glory, times of fame and honor, while important,

are for naught…”

 

“Somehow we’re the same, you and I,” I say to him, to myself,

“I’ve been drawn here for reasons I’ve known not, all my life.”

He’s standing there afore me, quietly, saying nothing,

When I hear him clear his throat, and, nervously, stammer…

 

“I’ve known one day you would come, as I lay inside my tomb.”

He guides me over now to the slab of stone at the center of this room,

“I don’t know why you’re here, but know there’s more to it than this.”

Pondering his words, I retreat into myself, within, searching for what I know…

 

All my life I’ve never felt whole, as though part of me is elsewhere;

Is this man before me some part which I need, an un-cast part of the mold?

My goal at the beginning of this day was the mountain ahead and place of rest,

Yet now it seems that my journey has changed, that I’m facing – my death…

 

“How old were you when you met your demise?” I inquire of him;

The answer he gives shakes me to the core, for his age is mine…

Then he tells me more, as I begin to tremble – his birthday was mine,

But what fills me with doom is that he died this very day – long ago…

 

“Why are you here, why have you come?” he asks me,

And I face him again, suddenly full of quiet calm

For it comes to me, the answer, “I’m here for you….”

And I hear the sheer joy in his laughter, as we embrace…

.

.

.

Quietly and soberly I climb up the steps ‘neath the dolmen,

The full moon’ beauty gently shining square upon my face;

A whole man for the first time in my life,

Man of the present and man of the past,

for he’s now part of me

 

He’s always been there, I now know,

Awaiting the time when I’d be ready;

A whole life now awaits me as I gather up my things

And continue my journey down the mysty path,

            Lady at my back….

 

 

 

Written by Hemlock Evergreen in 2006 
and revised slightly in 2013

 

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