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Mabon blessings

Dear friends, I have sat down to this post with tea and chocolate biscuits and a determination to write, because I care about the people who read here, and want to say hello. And yet, it takes determination. I am deep in wintering, here at the autumn equinox.

Mabon is one of my favourite times, even as autumn used to be a favourite season before it got so humid. I love its story of the underworld and rebirth which seems to be told everywhere, everytime. I don't know if it is a story of hope or promise or simply of noticing the seasons. I wonder what the soul stories of planets with vastly different seasonal patterns would be. My own soul tells me that rebirth from the darkness would find language in any place, because it is the truth of our multiphase existence.

The story my own immediate world is telling me right now is one of letting go. This is the season of the fall, and conversely of the cling. Leaves fall, acorns fall, moisture clings to the heavy air. In the fall we see potential for the future, knowing that all those leaves will enrich the land, knowing that seed pods will grow into new flowers. I told you, didn't I, about the evening that was full of thousands of dandelions flying? There is magic and love and hope in the letting go.

By saying, it is what it is, then we can just be, and do, and love when love comes through us, and cry when sorrow comes through us, like a sky moving. It's radical acceptance. It's freedom. And I guess it's rather Buddhist, when I think about it.

I'm not talking about giving up. That's a very different thing. We should always strive, and plant, and fight, and seek reconciliation. What I'm talking about is allowing the seasons of the sky within, the soul within. When the nights are hard, when the pain is overwhelming, when I'm scared, when I'm angry, there's one piece of wisdom that helps more than anything. Today, the autumn equinox, seems a perfect time to share it here.

Let go and let god.

I wish you blessings of rich golden moons and fecund darkness and the exuberance of light, where ever you are in the world and life.

New Zealand

Dear friends, my apologies but there is no new Tam Ys story this week. Some of you may be aware of the tragedy my country experienced this week. I do believe art is a worthwhile response to evil and grief, but to be honest, with sleepless nights, sorrow, and pain from standing at vigils, there are several mundane reasons I can't manage it this week. 

I don't want to write much here about the Christchurch terrorist act. I have done so a little on twitter and instagram, in the raw moments immediately afterwards, but it feels somehow wrong to blog about it. I will say though, for those of you reading from overseas: this is not New Zealand. The perpetrator came in from outside, choosing us because we are a peaceful nation and an act of terrorism here would shock more powerfully. I'd always thought that was a likely scenario, but when it actually happened it was - surreal. 

And yet everything that's happened afterwards has been so ordinary, so typical, so expected. New Zealanders everywhere have come together in love, support, community, and kindness. That is New Zealand. We have horrific levels of family violence and youth suicide, but generally speaking our community is good. Ordinary people risked their lives to save others. Thousands around the country have come together in mutual support. When it was learned automatic weapons would be banned after this atrocity, cheers went up. We are rather simple, practical, sensible people with big hearts. That's all I want you to know. The goodness. The love. 

Love and Happiness : February Books

I have read some delightful books so far this year. All of them have been cheerful, because I have no tolerance at the moment for dour, difficult, or serious. The longer I go without reading that kind of thing, the harder I find facing it again. Heavy Time by an old favourite, CJ Cherryh, was on my TBR list, and I managed only the first chapter. No doubt this is just a phase, and I'll be reading dark fantasy again eventually. I don't particularly look forward to it.

Here are some of the books I read over the past six weeks, rated out of five stars.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson. This is billed as a romcom, but the romance is so slight it's barely there. Mostly its a comedy about family. It started very strangely with an off-key scene in which the heroine and her crush ended up in bed together, and then he didn't appear again for ages. I spent the first few chapters confused by that, trying to figure out where the story was supposed to be going.  However, the rest of the book was charming. I did have a few problems with it, mostly that I found the humour a little short of the mark. Having said that, there was one scene which had me laughing so uncontrollably that I had to put the book down, and eventually ended up crying in the way that sometimes happens at the far edge of laughter. I wished I had a family like this one (apart from the mother, who was vile), I wished I had a big brother like Danny, and my heart kind of broke at how the book ended. So 4 stars.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I can't help but being keen on the British royal family because of my upbringing. I was raised as essentially an English colonist. So I was set up to like this book, about a commoner who falls in love with the fictional equivalent of Prince William - except that she's American, and stereotypically American too (although the authors are American so perhaps the stereotypes are simply the realities.) In any case, I didn't like her. But I liked pretty much everyone else, even though they were stereotypes, and I read the (large) book right through, and although I never laughed I did smile, so 3.5 stars. 

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down, and ended up reading until 2am. It was sweet. The heroine was nice, the hero was nice, and their friends were the sort of characters you hope get their own book. 4 stars.

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie. This was great, so much fun. I loved the characters and wished the book had been twice as long so there could have been more detail. 4 stars.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. When I'm writing, I sometimes need to read a classic, even for just a chapter or two, to cleanse my mind and reinforce my language. I chose Northanger Abbey this month, intending to read only a few bits. I ended up reading the whole thing. I can't count how many times I've read this book, it's one of my favourite Austens. I wish it would be given a really good screen treatment, in which the youth of the characters was emphasised; I could just imagine how much fun the Tilneys and Catherine had at the Abbey while the General was away. 5 stars.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. The premise and cover of this magic realism YA book were so beautiful, I simply had to get it from the library. But I couldn't read it at all. Something was missing from the storytelling. I find this is sometimes the case with YA magic realism, it is so lyrical and dreamy that the author doesn't do a solid enough job on the plot and relationships. I remember reading the Weight of Feathers by McLemore and loving the premise so much, but being unable to read the book for the same reason. Everything points to me adoring these stories and the way they're told, but maybe I'm too old for them now (although I love Cassandra Gold's magic realism books and long for her to write more.) If you love lyricism and beautiful enchanting ideas, you will probably love this book. For that reason, I give it 3 stars.

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella. My mum used to read all the Kinsella books, so I was hesitant to pick up this one. I don't feel I'm quite ready to become my mum! But I was surprised (haha) by how much I liked it. Some parts were rather heavy-handed, but otherwise the writing was enjoyable, the characters were relatable, and I now want to read more from her. 4 stars.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I got this because it's a romcom with an autistic heroine, written by an autistic author. I expected it to be heavy on the autism, and it was (I'd love to read a book in which the protagonist's autism wasn't the plot driver) and I also expected the autism to be typical, which it was. Obviously Hoang was going by her own personal experience, and that's great. But not all autistic people are good with numbers! Especially not women, in whom autism can look quite different. I certainly can't complain that Hoang wrote what it looks like from her actual own perspective, I merely look forward to reading a book about an autistic heroine who isn't a maths whizz. Still, it was a good book, and the hero was charming. 4 stars. 

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. Grungy, but hilarious. The main characters are delightful - so great to have sweet, shy nerds as heroes! - and the gods are awful, awful people, which makes them very funny. You will hate it, but I give it 4 stars.

The Selkie Wife

The stories at Tam Ys are generally speaking exclusive to subscribers. But my recent tale about a fisherman's selkie wife is one I feel quite strongly about, especially this week with International Women's Day, so I'm going to share it openly. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do you may like to consider subscribing to Tam Ys, where there are many similar stories and more added each week.

He liked to say that once there was a girl with the moon in her hair. He had been raised on words like that - fairytales and fish for dinner, magic like brown specks in the milk, and he was really quite good at repeating them. He brought her shells like a cusp of light in his sun-darkened hands - drowned moons, he said, and lay them on her table as if she was a goddess there at the edge of the sea, at the heart of him. He liked to count her freckles and call them star shadows, and if he could have written he would have composed poems, seven of them, for the seven stars in the constellation beneath her eyes.

She thought he was a little addled, if the truth be told. Too many light-flares half-blinding him as he reached into the sea for fish. One storm more than there should have been throwing him back onto shore. She loved him anyway. She loved his fervent eyes and bashful smile, his house, his hearthfire, the barley and fish he brought her; she loved the world he fed her, and she worked to keep it clean.

They had no children, which was strange because all the stories he knew suggested they would. Infact, he’d expected to one day hold their hands as they wept, watching her swim away. But she never burgeoned, never bled. Perhaps stories didn’t know everything. He brought her sodden flowers anyway, sparkling with sand, trailing weeds that he wove for her into crowns. She was his queen.

And every day he waited for her to find her skin and go back home. She had a laugh like deep sea bells. She blinked watershadows and shark-dark from her eyes. He waited while she braided bread, and waited while she washed his shirts, and waited after tumbling away from her foam-coloured breast into a heaving silence like after a storm. Every day, every year, he was sure she would go. And it might be that his gifts were not blessings but sorrows.

Yet she stayed. He’d come home at dusk to an empty house, his dinner beside the fire, and think that was that - but even before he got properly crying she’d be walking through the door, broiling with stories, drawing gossip out of her pockets - a bit of the cake from the wedding Aefe would never have now; the blood-stained cloth Veryl needed cleaning back to pure white. And he’d realise she’d only been out visiting neighbours, drinking wine and tea with other women. She’d not left him, dissolving back into the sea.

It got that she stayed so long, all his waiting turned into wondering if she’d ever go.

He unburied her skin, only to find she’d unburied it some time before, washed it nice, wrapped it in waxed linen, then buried it again. He hung that skin on the bedroom door. It was black and slick like her eyes after loving. Like the tide after night rain. Like his heart was turning. She hung a bunch of dried lavender against it, so that it wouldn’t smell.

He went to town, came back three days late. She’d given the house a good spring cleaning. He fished in a tempest, brought home torn nets and broken fingers. She’d made soup and beer to warm him. He looked at all the pretty girls. She took dancing classes. He flung himself into the ocean and drowned himself, and she gave him a lovely funeral.

He liked to say that once he’d coaxed a dream out of the sea. And maybe that was true. Or maybe he’d just happened past when she dragged herself out of the endless aching tides, and she’d thought he would do. Whatever the case, he had expected to love her, and love her he did. He just didn’t expect she’d love him back. But she did, she did: his eyes and smile, his poems and house, all his gifts. And it’s funny you know how love can wake you up.

The days of drought

Summer bristles in the air. The sky is raw, the grass crunches beneath my feet. It feels like the world is as weary of this season as I am, and that every breath burns. I think of how we will limp on together, trees and soil and me, until the moment of absolutely not being able to take any more will ease gently into hope. Then the signs of our heat exhaustion - the dried fallen leaves, the scorched sunsets - will become recognisable as autumn, and we will see that in our misery is our repair.

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Thanks & Blessings.