Beltane or May Day is an ancient tradition, the end of winter and the day Persephone emerges from Hades’ or Pluto’s dark underworld to bring colour and joy back to the earth. Through the centuries people lit huge bonfires on the evening of April 30th and danced, and sang, and told stories. The festivities continue on May Day or Beltane and the belief is that all fairies, sidhe, and elemental spirits are present among the mortals in this celebration of homage to Mother Nature and the earth. It is an important message in today’s world
I would like to pay homage today to a professor and poet who celebrated the solstices and seasons and the magic of nature. After moving from England to Vancouver Island in 1963 he taught English and creative writing at the University of Victoria for many years, specializing in Irish literature. His name was Robin Skelton (1925-1997) and he was both brilliant and eccentric. He was a self proclaimed Wiccan and like Gandalf wandered through the streets and parks of Victoria, wearing a long windy cape and carrying a staff. He had a stream of white hair and magical rings on every finger of his hands. He often traveled with an entourage and their coffeehouse conversations were immensely entertaining. They always attracted both curious onlookers and literary fans alike. He mentored many young artists and poets of the day. He was truly a wizard of words and a wise man of spirit. He was also a ghost buster and was called to many of Victoria’s haunted realms to rid people of pesky spirits or to help come to respectful terms with them. He documented his experiences in a book called “A Gathering of Ghosts.”
Robin Skelton was the recipient of many literary awards and was Canada’s unofficial Poet Laureate.
In these days of social distancing and solitude our longings really break open our hearts like windows. Nostalgia surges like curtains in a gust of air and each pulse of our heart is a place or person missed and remembered and a desire to be with those we love, and so I present this beautiful piece by Skelton called Westfield Lane.
Westfield Lane, a green switchback
humping and scooping towards the wild
flat of the land north of the dyke
by Marsh Cottage; remembering that,
and, clearly, the saddle’s jolt, the spin
of the blurred spokes, and the meshed ruts
tangled at gateways, remembering too
blue sky and boyhood, I begin
counting days back; an abacus
of worlds clicks on my natal string
five, ten, fifteen years back
till Westfield Lane, a scoop and climb
of green between the swaying fields
propels me down into the slack
lands round the deserted house;
dark in this brightest day, it looms
cold and decrepit. The door yawns
at a garden scrawled with a few trees
flayed by salt winds. Just beyond,
the rank dyke threatens the last field,
and beyond that an eight-mile waste
of grey water stirs and waits.
Looking back at Westfield Lane
the eye has altered, the light passed.
The house echoes. I mount and ride
the other road, by graveyard and stack,
home through the silent village square,
chilled and listening. That track
led me too far into my need,
and yet a new need drags me back
among his books are “The Shapes of our Singing”, “Spellcraft”, and “Fires of the Kindred”
a bit of musical nostalgia? The Wizard –(circa 70s) by Uriah Heep
-thank you Paul G.