So another Sunday unfurls……..
Here I sit at my computer, the fire still burning, the last of the April showers falling lightly on fresh Spring growth, helping green up the land and herald summer in all its glory.
Last weekend saw me driving down to Sussex in my campervan for some devotional chanting amongst a colourful group of kirtan singers, gathered at Gaveston Hall for a 3 day Bhakti Gathering in honour of devotional singing, celebrating Easter and Hanumans birthday.
Hanuman being the Hindu God of strength, perseverance and devotion.
Kirtan is a singing meditation; led in a call and response style, with accompanying musical instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, hand cymbals and guitars. Through repeating these ancient mantras (or sometimes English devotional songs), the mind is stilled and the heart is opened, creating a collective sense of peace amongst the singers.
One of my favourites kirtan songs is this Gayatri mantra, sung by Deva Premal.
As well as my chanting experience, I made the most of being somewhere new and took myself off to explore the countryside surrounding Gaveston Hall.
What a beautiful part of the world is Sussex. All around me were footpaths leading this way and that.
So without a map I set off, imagining that it couldn’t be that difficult to work out where I was in relation to my starting point.
Straight away I found myself in a woodland full of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses.
I followed many paths, beckoned on by the lure of the unknown, turning left then right, ever away from whence I came, so as to prolong my walk for as long as possible.
I must confess to losing any sense of where I was in relation to where my van was parked, but no worries, as I wandered on past many grand country piles, full of acres of mown lawns and horse paddocks.
At one point I found myself walking through a deer farm and stopped to watch these rather shabby beasts and wonder at how we humans find it so easy to justify imprisoning and eventually slaughtering such fine fellow Earth dwellers as these, which have roamed these woodlands for thousands of years…..
The next fellow I came across on my explorations, was a fox watching me watching him, until finally nervousness overcame him too much to linger and off he trotted.
Shortly afterwards I entered a wood, where I came across a sign warning walkers to stick to the path due to a planned shooting of ‘vermin’ in the area.
Again I wondered sadly at our beautiful indigenous animals being labelled vermin, to justify their ‘legitimate’ destruction.
I mentally listed all that could be labelled ‘vermin’ and came up with squirrels, moles, rabbits, hares, polecats, foxes, deer, badgers, buzzards, crows, magpies, bats, otters, weasels, stoats….
There are undoubtedly more, but the one missing off the list, who in my opinion creates the most destruction, I shall leave to your imagination.
Later along the journey, I came across a classic old pub, the White Horse in Maplehurst.
Not a gastro menu in sight, just locals propping up the bar, being served by a friendly couple who have been running it for over 20 years, proudly serving locally brewed ales and keeping it real.
Propping up the bar with them I enquired if they knew where my van was parked, describing a sign offering cream teas and another pub, no longer open.
They knew straight away where I meant and offered me directions as to how to get back there.
So after finishing my drink and catching up on the local gossip (pupil sets fire to school…), I carried on my way down country lanes lined with daffodils and back to the van and then on to Gaveston Hall.
Rejoining the Bhakti Gathering, my spirit was soothed by the chanting of ancient mantras, the voices of a hundred or so people joined in song, ringing out across the fields…..