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loving the ugly sister

This is what I believe. That although a woman may be ugly, although her soul may be stained with all the wrongs she learned at her mother's knee or through her mother's genes, a prince still comes for her.

Beats his way through the dark forest for her.

Battles dragons, trawls the aching wind, searches and calls and longs for her.

That's what Love does. It loves. And it doesn't ever give up, or else it wouldn't be love.

The old fairy tales are women's tales, told by women for the secret education of women. And have you noticed, women understand violence. (Not just the violence of a man killing his wives and hanging them up behind a locked door, but also of the beast who forces a woman to stay with him until she accepts him, and of the parents who sell their daughter into marriage, and of a stepmother's jealousy.) Fairy tales are all about women recognising danger and holding themselves strong against it until love finds them.

But I believe Love will find even the weak woman, the ignorant woman, the one with scars and stains and self-inflicted sorrows. Love will lift her out of shame and into her true inheritance of beauty. After all, the message of Cinderella is that souls are lovely even under ashes and rags. Sometimes the ashes are our mistakes. Sometimes the rags are the cruel words we learn to speak, the unkindness we are taught to propogate.

I believe in a story that wasn't told, of an ugly sister sitting lonely and bruised ... and of a handsome Prince who scours the wastelands looking for her until at last he finds the one woman whose fits just right into the beautiful soul-destiny he offers.

for the love and tender care of women

The other night I was reading an old book when a pressed flower fell from its pages. My heart leapt a little at the loveliness of it. I'd forgotten there were flowers in that particular book.

The thing is, I hadn't left the pressed flower for my own sake. I'd never expected to read that book again; it was for future children to find. I am not often tender in such a way with myself.

So many women seem to have inherited the memory of a million mothers saying down the ages, "be a good servant and always put others first." We have an instinct to deny our own hunger when there's only one piece of pie remaining and someone else is sitting at the table. This is really a beautiful thing, and I for one honour that women have taken on the burden and the blessing of ensuring that other people get care and loving consideration.

But of course you know what follows. We must care for ourselves also. Not just so we remain strong and nourished in order to keep on serving others, but simply because we too deserve loving consideration for our own sakes. We tell each other this all the time. But I've been thinking, why do women find it so hard to follow that advice? Is it because they have so few examples to follow? I know there are plenty of women in the media who are infamous for taking very lavish care of themselves. But in real life, how many women do you know who feel no guilt at sitting with a novel even if their children are bored, or staying in bed when sick but there's work to be done, or who spend money on perfume to make themselves happy?

And do you have other women in your lifes who care for you gently, with wholehearted service? Sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours, friends?

For that matter, how well do the men in your lives serve you? I don't mean husbands so much as men in general. It used to be that a gentleman would be thoughtful of the different ways he might smooth the edges of a woman's life - opening a door for her, walking on the outside edge of the footpath, all those small, old-fashioned gestures which were about honouring another person rather than suggesting she is weak and incapable.

If other people do not show a woman tenderness, how will she come to believe that she deserves it? And how will she learn the many little ways she can be kind and loving to herself?

sharing with the wise women linkup

stories from the river

I've written before about how I am a sky-inspired woman, drawn to the evocative distances between things. I personally do not relate to earthbound water, with its depths and the darkness with which it enfolds its secret stories. But there's a photographer who tells stories in the language of water, and I love her work.

I love the soul and rich, mystical power of it.

Michelle Gardella says photographing women in the river is not a choice for her ... not an idea or inspiration ...

"This is my bones. This is the song of my soul. These are the stories I was born to tell the way only I can tell them." 

I have come to understand more and more over the years how imagery can tell stories just as powerfully as words do. The best photographs are not just reproductions, they whisper their subjects' tales, and incite the wordless heart-tales of their viewers too. I am not good enough for that yet. The photos here on my weblog are usually snapshots, although, behind the scenes, I am quietly collecting images that are hopefully teaching me about the mood and magic which resonate with my soul. Michelle Gardella is an artist who inspires me in this because of her gorgeous integrity, and the richness of her pictures. They take my breath away. In their stunning intimacy, they are the far distance I am reaching for. 

The rivers I have known all told dragon tales, wish tales, full of wild beauty, carried out of the lightless heart of mountains, or the interwoven murmurs of suburbia, or the yearning for ocean. The women in Michelle's photographs seem to express this kind of river language, wise woman language. And they make me believe that every woman, whatever her element, has such wild beauty in her.

Michelle Gardella: River Stories. Photos reproduced with permission. 

wayside poetry

Some blog post titles are like tiny poems, drawing me in to the post as if I have caught one thread of a ribbon that might just lead to a secret magical garden.

Here are some I recently saw and loved ...

A life full of rain and wildflowers
Fingerpainting the moon
In the centre of my heart a star has appeared
Tales of a half-tamed land
Seeding the new moon heart
Wildwood light
When words become a song
Ghost forest
Catching stars in your cloak
My winged and fire-souled heart
I wade in the dawn
Birth of a new moon
The blackthorn beeing

You yourself are a poem, whether rushing wild words or a subtle whisper; you are a lyric in the song of the world.

for the love of things

I understand the modern movement towards minimalism. It is mindful, anti-commercial, kind to the environment, and I can even see that it has spiritual value for those who believe material existence is a bind. But here is my confession: I love things.

Antique illustrated story books.
White cotton nightgowns.
Crocheted cushion covers.
Rose gardens.
Chiffon dresses.
Comfy couches.

This world is always tugging on us, trying to unravel us. We are constantly told what to do, what to think and believe. It may come from the government or as a motivational quote on facebook. Clothing stores (for those who don't shop online) only provide what is currently in fashion. Entertainment is shaped by popularity (although hopefully indie publishing will help to reshape this over time.) Even houses are built to a trend-driven sensibility.

In this domineering milieu, I like to surround myself as much as possible with things that reinforce who I am, or who I most want to be. They serve as spirit made visible. They are, some days when the world is too vehement, like armour, or like the comforting embrace of home. For some people, minimalism, utilitarianism, is comfort. Not for me.

I am learning to not buy what is functional, sensible, and appropriate for my basic needs. I discovered that, when I denied the longings of my physical senses, my soul also missed out on a certain richness, happiness, peace. So I am learning to save my money and wait until I find things that also fulfil the deeper needs of my soul. I want to surround myself with love and beauty. I personally believe we have an opportunity in this material existence to make music from its low frequency. To use material things for our spirit's benefit. A tea plate. An embroidered coat. A mountain. A wedding ring. Sunlight on a lake. It's not about buying stuff. It's about choosing, whenever you can, things that you love rather than only what you need. At least, that's how it is for me.

sharing with roses of inspiration

to write with wonder and wish-fulfillment

I do believe I'm a writer because I love reading books. When I write, it's like reading at a whole deeper level. I get to see the goings-on beneath the words and learn more about the secrets of the characters. More often than not I forget I'm actually writing and proceed instead in wonder, because the only way I can read the story is to reveal its words on the blank page by typing.

One of the first pieces of advice I got as a novice writer (other than that it was an impossible dream which would see me starving in an attic) was that I should write what I know. Usually, this advice came from non-writers; I didn't actually know any real writers until I began meeting them on the internet. But I appreciated even as a teenager with an arthritic typewriter that "write what you know" is unhelpful, especially for those of us who tend towards the fantasy genre, but infact for every writer - mainly because it's misunderstood. Write from your own emotional experiences; write about how you see the world - absolutely, this you must do. But when it comes to the action? Well, obviously we can not know all that we want to write about.

The piece of advice I give myself most often these days (infact, just this afternoon, which is why I'm writing a post about it) is to write what I myself love to read. And I really only know what that will be when I start putting pen to paper and see if delight awakens or not. Sometimes the most amazing ideas fizzle when I try to discover their story. Other times, half a phrase, or the suggestion of an image, kindles an unexpected story that keeps me breathless, typing as I chase the next sentence, the next scene, wondering what will happen, full of hope for the characters and their resolution ... this to me is the joy that is called writing.

romancing the heart

Today was supposed to be calm, but rain shook out of the sky, and cold crept up from the white floor of the world, and I was left wondering why we ever try to do more than simply open our doors to Life and see what it has brought us in this moment, and then the next moment ... why we don't fall in love over and again with the magic that continually unfolds?

My current bedtime novel is by Julia Quinn. She is the only romance writer I read. I like her books because they are funny, engaging, and simply good-natured. This probably makes them sound like light entertainment, but I personally believe there's a lot of rich value to be gained from simple good-naturedness. Reading about one of Julia's Bridgerton heroes, or about her lovely and complex heroines, lightens my spirit and gives me a warm feeling towards the world. That's a real blessing. Besides, Julia includes a fair bit of darkness in most of her stories - cruelty, grief, realistic worries. Somehow, though, it makes the charm even more heartening. I think it's nice though to see troubled spirits healed by love, villains overcome by goodness and decency.

And I realise here I am once again being apologetic for liking niceness, sweetness, romance, charm - as if an intelligent woman can not embrace delight; as if it's more sophisticated to take hold of thorns rather than soft pink roses. The feminine in literature has been mocked since its inception. And infact I was going to write about something else in this post - about how Life is full of delight. But I thought it sounded too saccharine. Which is sad, don't you think? Life really is delightful. Love is beautiful. Laughing with each other, finding ways to draw close to each other, wishing for happily ever after - these are things most of us want in our own real lives. So why do we deride the practice of writing about them, reading them?

And why do we not stand at our doors every morning and luxuriate in the romance Life offers us? Imagine going through your day with delight.

when you lack self-confidence

Do you ever have days when you don't feel confident? When you're unsure of yourself, or fragile, or nervous? I wonder why that's always seen as something to be overcome.

I am beginning to think that the ideal of self-confidence is something invented by extroverts.

Imagine if we embraced our uncertainty. If instead of bolstering ourselves with the determination to be self-confident, we instead wrapped ourselves in self-care, and went forth slowly, gently, with mindful steps. Of course we want to trust ourselves, believe in ourselves. I'm not proposing that we turn away from that. But maybe, on those days when we're feeling doubtful, hesitant, shy, anxious, it is worth considering just dwelling within that lack of confidence for a while. Honouring it. Listening to what it has to teach us.

For me, allowing uncertainty can lead to me looking after myself more thoughtfully. Instead of building my self-esteem, I deepen my self-care. I wear clothes which comfort me. Avoid scenes which I know will disturb me. Go slowly with new tasks. Because allowing uncertainty doesn't mean giving up before we start, it just means being tender with ourselves.

It means considering what fear is trying to tell us. Because fear always has a message born from love.

I am not confident many people will understand what I'm trying to say here. It will be interesting to read any comments.

holding space, embracing self

I wasn't going to write a post today, but I read something this afternoon which was so beautiful, and so wise, I now simply have to share it with you. I was introduced to the link through pinterest, which I feel proves what a blessing the internet can be if you set it up to support and enrich yourself.

In the article, Heather Plett writes beautifully about what it means to hold space for someone. She then offers advice in another lovely article on how to hold space for yourself.

"What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control." - Heather Plett.

Heather's articles made me think about how, over the past few years, dealing with various disruptive energies, I've been learning some things about holding space ...

Learning that people can keep themselves safe even if they don't have a hard shell of defence, but instead hold their inner space with warm light (or cool shadow), allowing energy to flow in, either to be transformed or released, and allowing energy to flow out fearlessly. Antoinette wrote on this subject a while ago.

Learning that inner space resonates with the energy of external space, so a person can be connected to their self most easily if they have a safe and loving connection with the environment which surrounds them and holds them in a real, practical sense - the home, the neighbourhood, the daily schedule, the energies they choose to live amongst. LM Montgomery understood this, and Steiner schools are created around the idea

Learning too that things can help shape and hold a person's inner space. We're not supposed to focus on things, are we? But personally, a lovely tea cup, or lace dress, or rose perfume, makes a real difference to how I feel within myself. I also find myself supported ... or disrupted ... by the books I read, the music I regularly listen to, the articles I visit, the influences I allow into my life through the internet. 

And learning that all of this is easier when a person trusts the greater spirit that holds theirs. 

These thoughts are merely what Heather's articles brought to the front of my mind. Please go and read what she herself wrote, I'm sure she will inspire you too. 

the bee-wing moon

The early days of spring are like chiffon drifting against the cold, wrinkled skin of winter. I feel a smile tug at me and then fade again as the new season dances in, dances out, until I feel like I am dancing too because I turn and turn again to find it. Like the Mother, the earth, I am in love with the restless god. I love him when he's old and firelit and we can never know when he'll knock at our door, dressed in storms like rags, grinning like a moon that has cut a beautiful, painful scar of light into the night. I love him when he's young and laughing, luring, dangerous finally in the moment he gets you into some warm deep shadow and you realise there's no getting out again - you're blessed now, touched with the honey fragrance of the wild, tumbled, snagged, in love.

I call this moon the bee-wing moon because it seems gauzy, dreaming, and yet it reminds me of the rich magic in nature that floats up to shimmer like pollen or golden glitter on the sunlit air. Kisses on the smiling mouth of the god. Everything - everything - is part of a love story. It's the only story. It's why I follow the old holy days - because they tell that story. And as they tell it, my heart does too. I remember how I love the natural world of which I am a limb, an offshoot. And I can celebrate (as if I need an excuse) my love for the magician, the storm, the laughing young pirate - the force of change which brings life to the world.

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Thanks & Blessings.