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The Call of Coal

It's not for the faint-hearted is walking in 'the country' during November. The hunt is out. Dogs scream across each other's howls, horses whiney as if on a battlefield, the bugle blasts and my senses are anxious. All around me the leaves have fallen fox-coloured. 'Go to Earth, Fox ... go to earth.'

I'm not here for this. Witness it I do, yet I am brought out here to honour ancestors of this semi-ancient woodland; coal, the ancestors of tree. My feet trod pathways of bare limestone - the fossilised remains of a once ancient sea. Sole-touching shapes of sea anemones and trilobites who lived 425 million years ago, long before today's continents and humans worrying about their place on them were formed. Somewhere in this limestone is the fossilised memory of water - the carrier of life. And carry me all this does, even in their long dead state. Past fields of sheep I go, through old hazel coppiced rides, on until I hear Crow call. There I stop to climb among deep womb-tomb firs to honour the dead of Tree.

Along the way I have collected leaves and stones for the ceremony. Safe in my pocket I bring a piece of sea-washed coal found on a Northumbria coast. At the last steps I find the stone I have been waiting for - a flat slab of limestone - the tombstone for Coal, Ancestor of Tree.

The braying of hound and horse rises a pitch just at the point where I start to drop into silence with the offering created. I tense. Stop. Breathe and intend into my purpose for survival. Like Fox, I dive deep into the Earth for sanctuary. A stillness becomes me and with it no external noise, no stressful rush to kill, no bugling glory towards a messy end. The Earth Spirits have heard and seen what I am breathing into the ground here and I continue what I am here to do - honour the ancestors of Tree.

It seems to me that no amount of tree-planting and good will to cease coal burning will do the trick of reaching our homeostasis with Gaia without our honouring of these fossilised ancestors. Both coal and limestone fueled the so-called industrial revolution, and still now these and other minerals of life provide us with warmth and communication. Yet all lines have led to here and now we are at a cross-roads. I see constant crosses in the clouds and branches reminding me it is so. Drawing my attention to the point where the lines meet, the pivotal moment of being in the centre of all directions, all options. We have choice of many a direction to take today, we have free-will after all. Yet if we are to truly choose life for ourselves and all Earth's children we must first honour the dead of all that Earth is.

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