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2.30am alarm is ringing! Why is my alarm going off at this time of the night!! Ah yes I remember. So I crawl out of bed stagger around and remember to pack matches and jam jar candles. Along with jars of popping corn, oats and soya milk. Some white flowers from the garden and a swan feather and a white peacock feather. I remember to pack the incense but later recall I didn’t pack any charcoal discs…
After a quick tour of the bathroom etc and a drawn out choice of whether to risk wearing robes on a journey that might see me drenched in a morning shower, I opt for my Japanese hybrid robes/ trousers. And silently prey the Nagas are receptive.
At 3am dressed and packed with offerings and crystal decanters I meet two of the Dharma training course men in the courtyard, Jack and Mirko, Silently we pass around crystal decanters and then put on hi viz Jackets (even I will wear them when needs must! Thankfully mine was blue).
Then we set out walking…it’s very dark in the hours before dawn and the sky is blanketed in thick, hazy, humid cloud so we’re even without moon or star light. The air is cool but not cold and yes still humid. We each of us silently are chanting mantra as we walk….through the night….in the dark. One in front of the other, like the sages of old. Heading for Great Malvern and the Malvina spring in the heart of the town.
There is almost no sound at this hour, apart from the wind in the trees and streams that gurgle and babble at the road side, the birds are sleeping, though an occasional owl hoots. And of course the sound of footsteps. One feels obliged to walk as softly as one can.
I wonder if it will rain, but it’s to late now the dice have been cast.
Padmasambhava’s mantra circles my thoughts, and I feel at home. Street lights emerge and houses get bigger, after an hour of walking a car drives by. I wonder what they think.
The street lights cast amazing shadows, sometimes our silhouette is crisp along the way, and at others the shadows of tree branches cast kaleidoscopic patterns across the tarmac.
We process our way up through the back streets of Colwall, were the rural fields brush up against suburban order, and create interesting mixes.
The road is climbing now and we emerge on the larger road above Colwall and make our way up, more cars pass, well one or two. We pass a blackbird lying dead on the foot path. Is he a lifeless corpse of decaying flesh and feather, or animate even in death. Will he speak with us? On such journeys nothing is impossible.
As we reach the highest part of our procession over the hills one or two birds begin to wake and sing. I call a halt before we go over the pass, from Herefordshire into Worcestershire. As we catch our breath on a bench the view out over Herefordshire is still dark and obscured in hazy, misty cloud.
Our instruction then is to cross the pass and as we descend visualise the Buddha or Bodhisattva we have been chanting to, pouring forth pure white light, and that we like the crystal decanters we carry are empty and now fill with this purifying white blessing from them. So when we reach the spring we will be thoroughly pure.
As we passed over the boarder from Herefordshire to Worcestershire, from West to east, a gentle wind, cool and refreshing blew, and the view over the plain below was of early morning lights twinkling in the predawn, we were much closer to dawn on this side of the hill and so not only were we met with all the lights of civilisation but the full dawn chorus, a few more cars and houses. I felt overwhelmed after the silent ascent, full and brimming over, not exactly painful but uncomfortably so.
We carried on down the hillside into Great Malvern, all still quiet and tucked up in bed, until on a lower road we heard a man drunk and singing as he staggered homeward bound, like ships in the night we passed, close enough to hear but in the twilight unseen and undisturbed.
As we arrived at the spring nearby the postal depot was bustling about its business as cages rattled and the occasional truck departed.
The Malvina, situated in the town centre exists on a kind of sanctuary island, bounded not by water but roads, the upper road above ones head then forms the wall out of which the waters pour, and the lower road below holds back some gardens, thus we stood before the spring enclosed by wall, garden and over arching plane trees.
The Malvina was flowing strongly, a clear jet of water falling from the heart centre of the stone carved spring head, carved in a likeness of her who presides over it, her long flowing hair cut in stone tumbling over her hidden shoulders. The bowl beneath full and overflowing fills the hidden grove with the sound of running, plunging waters, which damp the ground about and seeking always lower ground and eventually the sea, make their way down the paths across the road and vanish into some hidden drain.
We set up, candles were lit and offered, white flowers and white feathers, the jars of grains and milk offered, decanters set ready to fill and a handful of oats each ready to offer.
We recited our verses calling up all those seen and unseen beings to join us at the spring and worship the unsurpassed enlightened one. We made our symbolic offering on behalf of the human race to the four directions and concluded with an entreaty to Malvina to give of her waters.
The decanters filled one after the other, pausing that constant sound of plunging water three times.
We packed our bags and set off on our return journey, it was 5am and as we emerged from the wooded island night had finally turned to day, white clouded sky’s like a blanket, but day all the same.
Sthānaśraddha, 31st May 2018
(The photo of the spring is from a couple of years ago, of the May well-dressing).