Personal practice: The power of handwriting

Since my return from the Keltria annual gathering, I have embarked on a new personal practice — one involving a book bound in faux gold leaf, the scrawl of ink and an ogham set.

The gold-bound book contains my Nine Lines journal. The practice was originally derived by the former archdruid: write nine lines each day, three for the past, three for the present and three for the future. While I occasionally keep a vague adherence to that structure, generally it has become a more simple task: a nine-line poem in three verses, every day. After the poem, I also list a nature spirit of the day — generally something I have seen or felt an affinity to — and pull two feda.

I do this at the end of the day, and the poems — along with the ogham — are a reflection of the day’s tenor. I say tenor rather than events, because they often reflect thoughts or feelings, an image that has stayed with me, a moment of contemplation on a particular topic. I have come to value this process, because it impels me to notice throughout the day — larger meanings of events, the connection with the web of existence, the nature around me. It also forces me to do something sheerly creative, and end the day on a sacred, contemplative note.

And there is an allure to handwriting, the physical process of dragging a ballpoint across high-grade paper. I have always had a deep and abiding love of fancy journals, which makes this process a joy. In my teen years, I also used to write a poem a day, and this journey revives the practice.

Like many Pagans, I have repeatedly tried and struggled with a personal practice. Meditation — whether the focus on breath or clearing the mind — lacks a certain appeal, and every time I have tried to meditate every day, practice trickled to a virtual halt within a few weeks. I do pray at various points in the day rather consistently, but that’s become almost automatic; I need something more involved. Daily rituals and trancework just do not fit within a busy schedule.

In short, a daily practice — one that you will really stick to over the long haul — needs to grow from the fertile ground of your nature. There is a value in learning new skills and forcing yourself beyond the self-built fences, yes; that’s one of the reasons I take aikido, for example. But a daily practice is something other than raw challenge; it should be a sanctuary, a garden that nourishes your spirit. It is a discipline that comforts, a soft sort of power.

For me, the natural affinity is poetry and has been so since the age of 12 or so. For you, it may be something else; perhaps you are one of those enviable people who willingly sit on the zen meditation seat for an hour each day. Perhaps you find it by reading a sacred text, drawing a tarot card, or drawing on a sketch pad. But if you haven’t found it yet, that form of daily practice peculiar to you, meditate upon this: What is my nature? What do I always find myself doing? When do I feel most connected to all that is?

I will leave you with a few of my daily poems. They are fairly raw and largely unedited, being daily productions, so I don’t expect them to make the New Yorker anytime soon.

Unspooling black, a thread unwinding
from the reel of the trees. Galaxies
of starlings spiral in the morning blue

and a V of geese, sharp-edged, points
to the green field south — turning tailfeathers
to the marsh and the river and the cold.

And we gather, too, in those fresh hours
after dawn. Walking, running with joy,
alone and accompanied, one and yet not.

Rushing (written very quickly, I might add!)
Blowing like leaves, in the heart of it
as the hair whips, a blinding halo
and all that you have grasped is spirited —

like horses, then, white lather with
the percussio of hooves. Fair, that shining
line and never closer, lost by a stumble.

May we find rest in the whirlwind,
the quiet eye. May night soften us
into sleep and stillness, even if brief.

So many times, the lumbering steps and
the helper’s hands. Boxes upon boxes —
the cardboard structure of our lives

sheltering our histories, the parts
we deemed worthy of effort, of sweat,
in our peregrination. We leave

behind in equal measure — that which
cannot be packed. Forgetting, then, that
we are snails, with our home on our backs.


About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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