The double decker bus waits on the dock where the hydrofoils used to depart Copenhagen for Malmö. It's summertime in the far North.
I dreamed of visiting England ever since I fell in love with Brit Lit in high school. Later the mist surrounding the myth of King Arthur, his magical advisor Merlin, and Morgaine of the Fairies drew me even more powerfully. On this trip, I plan to visit the places attached to the myth—Avalon, Glastonbury, Tintagel, and the great stone circle at Avebury. Tingling with excitement, I climb to the top deck where my seat will fold into a bed at night.
I will arrive in London the following afternoon, sleep that night in a Piccadilly hotel, expecting to take a train west toward Glastonbury the next morning. Only I can't. Upon checking in at my hotel, I learn that no buses or trains will be running the next day, due to a countrywide rail strike. There is little to do but book another night in Piccadilly and spend the strike day in London. Determined to make this an Arthurian trip, I walk to the British Museum and choose the Celtic and Roman exhibits from a time shrouded in mist—Arthur's time. I imagine Morgaine weaving her magic into the ancient, woad-dyed fabrics. I see Merlin wearing the golden torc that now lies behind glass. My mind transforms an age-old sword into to the legendary Excalibur.
The strike cuts a day off of my time in England, and I know I won't be able to make it to Tintagel––Arthur's legendary birthplace with all the mystery surrounding his conception. That evening TV news regales me with another disappointment. More than 100,000 people will be descending on Glastonbury for its world-famous music festival. This does not sound like the meditative experience I've been imagining. First the strike, now the concert. Perhaps for the first time, I embrace the notion that obstacles signify entrance into a sacred journey, every hurdle turning my tour into a pilgrimage. Despite the discouraging news of the festival, I board a train for Bath the next morning, uncertain what lies ahead but still resolute. In Bath I go to a travel board and book a room in a family home––a precursor to airbnb––in the town of Bradford on Avon. The house turns out to be a hefty walk from the town center. The family provides a hearty English breakfast but no other meals, so after settling, I walk back into town for a pub supper, taking my food to a picnic table overlooking the Avon.
I am still ruminating about how I will deal with the anticipated crowds in Glastonbury, a town that many traditions have regarded as a holy place. I notice a sign for a hermitage that served as a hostel for Glastonbury pilgrims in Medieval days. I decide to walk the upward winding trail to see the small limestone chapel. The building is closed, and at first I view this as another obstacle. It turns out to tender an opening.
An intimate garden, filled with summer blossoms, surrounds the chapel, and I find a seat on a bench there. I close my eyes and begin to meditate. Almost immediately an often-repeated scene from The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley's feminist telling of the Arthur myth, comes to me. In this version it is Morgaine, not Arthur, who is the central character. Raised to be a priestess to the Goddess on the sacred isle of Avalon, it is her power I will channel, though I don't think of what transpires in precisely that way.
Impossibly, yet utterly real, Avalon co-exists with Glastonbury in Bradley's story. Avalon is veiled and protected from the outer world and the uninitiated by impenetrable mists. These worlds––one devoted to the primacy of Nature and the Goddess who sustains it, the other to the recently arrived Christian God––will eventually not be able to continue to exist on the same island, despite the continued assertion by Merlin and the bishops that there is only one God, regardless of name, belief, and practice.
The image that comes to me in meditation is of Morgaine entering the Avalon boat, standing upright in the prow, raising her arms and speaking the words of power that raise the mists, taking her away from Glastonbury and onto the sacred isle. In my meditation, I see that, as Morgaine raised the mists in times past, with my holy purpose, I can lower the mists and shut out the clamor of the festival crowd.
In the morning I leave for Glastonbury. And indeed, I have lowered the mists between the festival and the places I've wanted to experience––the Holy Well, the Tor, and Glastonbury Abbey. In point of fact, unbeknownst to me, the Glastonbury Music Festival has always been located ten miles outside the town––the mists drawn down.
It is in the ruins of the Abbey that I am blessed with a deep spiritual experience. I sit on the low remains of a stone wall, surrounded by open arches that once were windows within the broken lines of the sanctuary. Sunlight gleams on the grassy floor. And I have the sudden, overpowering sense that I have been here before, long, long ago, in another life. Spirit in this place far transcends the religions that competed in Morgaine's time.
The word mist was brought to you by Therese Krzywinski, who lives in Bergen, Norway, where mist is a common feature among the city's seven mountains and the sea.
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