the wild language of selkies and forest-boned women

There isn't a place along the west coast of New Zealand where a small house sits in a dark, damp valley. I have never visited there, spending hours soaking up the old mouldering dreams of the woods and waters and slow brown river; I have not seen its stars crawl out of hill-gold to hound the moon.

But when I described this place in a story which never got finished, I knew it needed its own full story, because it exists somewhere, somewhen, and I longed to really visit there. That to me is one of the best things about writing. You can explore all the dream worlds.







I believe in dream worlds. I believe they are places, and they are also languages - strange, feral languages we have never documented, of salted sea or forest shadow, or misty river valley. They can flow, hum, sing beneath the words of a story. They are visual languages, or languages of feeling, and they belong to the wild people, the selkies, the wind children, the riversouls. 


You may know some of those people, you may have met them at the edges of the world, or in strange lonely places where they have gone to hide from a civilisation which speaks and sees so differently from themselves. If you say hello to them, they will probably be silent beneath their careful response. Or else, if you are blessed, they will speak to you with the voice of the tide.

Then again, you may be such a person yourself, and understand about the secrets within stories, the language of metaphor and poetry and places that don't really exist but we can describe them as a way of expressing a state of being. You may have spent your life feeling muted or unheard. You may have wandered lost in a world of shopping malls, tv shows, fashion, rules, money, grammar, when all your instincts were singing wild and weird with water, stone, flashes of gold, rather than words. 

A language of body and soul as well as speaking.

And you may have spent years looking for others who hear your language, only to give up and escape to the sea, to the mountains, inside yourself, or sadly all the way out of life. But if you are lucky you have learned that going home will bring you to your people, because they have the same home. And they can't talk to you until you talk your own truth. 

This is the other best thing about writing. It allows a writer to shape human words into wild language. To make valleys or rainstorms into soul expressions. For the selkies and forest-boned women lost in the world. 


in the star-stained forest

The days have become hot and inescapably humid. I sit before the half-done loom of stories and try to breathe. Sometimes I can open the door to rain, moonlight, the exhalation of the sea. Sometimes I can smell forest in the air, and luminesence of what people call stars but I don't know - stars, planets, suns, I'm still not sure. I love how science can tinker with our bodies and our machinery, but its such a small thing to measure the sky, the inner skies, the forest and all its dark and light.

But I digress. Which I have been doing alot lately. Words constantly rambling away from the humid heart of things. Words clattering and tangling in a kind of silence. Now and again I remember - hush is more powerful and evocative than any sound.





Here are some things I have found and enjoyed this week.

On instagram, Andy Alexandre and Susan Tuttle. Today's post photograph is by Andy and can also be found in my collection of pictures which evoke for me the wild god of storms and soft love, wild love, breathing.

Are we born into trauma?

How does an introvert make a phone call?

Morven Telling describes life in a refugee camp.

Enya has a new album.

These wonderful stories by Susan Chambers.


I hope you have a beautiful day.



gathering tales along a long & brambled pathway

Despite the night, the old river valley was not sleeping. It heaved trees and stones like sighs into the darkness, and drew down silence to feed the earth that lay still beneath weeds, and hares, and moths : all the slow, wild leaping things. In the woods, a moon hung riddled with shadow branches and moth wing, but it might have been only the earth's memory of a moon, thrown up out of bioluminesence, stone, sorrow. It might have been not a moon of any kind at all but a lamp, shining in a small dark hut deep inside the benighted world.





After a year of storms and shadows, light and deep wild love, I am finally drawing close to announcing a new project to add to our ongoing fundraiser. My hope is that it will be finished by mid-December, which is not particularly good timing but then again maybe people will be interested in getting themselves a little storybook for the festive season.

It has been quite a journey for me though unkempt lands and forests ....






A road lapped against the towered woods, just a small and worried way. It had no beginning, webbing the kingdom, the riverside towns and the cities, the village farms and meadows, stretching and shrivelling, knotting with brambles and bits of strange stories that fell from the pockets of stranger old women, getting lost and limping around itself, until it stopped in the forest.

I have walked that long road and gathered the litter along it, the tales of moons and dragons, magic and mournful oceans, wild-eyed women and lost boys. I have tried to stitch them into something, and whether I've succeeded or not isn't really for me to say - either way, the collection is almost done. And just in time, as funds are much needed for the coming summer season.

Over the next three weeks I will maybe leave tidbits of tales and also some stories-within-the-story of how I found these words, and found a whole lot more about writing and living. Or maybe I will instead hide away, shy, tongue-tied, anxious, in the roots of my dark forest, where witch-words and moon-bits keep falling in piles into my hands, my heart - of course, now that the end of the book is in sight.



women gatherers

Sitting outside with dinner around twilight, I watched a sparrow-woman bring twigs to her nest hidden in the eaves of my neighbour's house. I wasn't giving her much thought, except that she looked cute with such a load in her beak as she hopped along the gutter ...

Suddenly, she stopped. A blackbird sat on the ridgepole above her nest!

For a very long time she stood there, holding on to her twigs, waiting and clearly wondering what to do. If the blackbird minded her, I do not know. I could tell a story of him, in his black coat and cold, smiling silence - but that would be slander. He did not move, and did not move, and the sparrow-woman waited with a growing sense of tension.

At last, her partner arrived. He flew tentatively at the blackbird, which did not stir even one feather. Calling then to his wife, he drew her away to a nearby aerial. They consulted together anxiously for a while. At least, he did all the talking, for her beak remained laden with nesting materials.

Hearing bird song in the garden is quite different from witnessing one bird talking directly, with obvious meaning, to another. I have always loved sparrows and wondered about their lives, but to see this drama unfolding was a reminder of how real they are - more than just flickers of song and feather in the background of my own life.

Would the blackbird discover their nest? Would he harm whatever eggs might be in there? Would the sparrow-man abandon his partner? Would she tire and lose her hard-gathered load? I felt their tension weigh upon my own heart.

Finally, the blackbird flew away. The sparrow-woman, guarded by her partner, flew at once into her secret nest. And I could breathe again.




In our house, we seldom go out without returning home laden with flower petals, shells, leaves. I use them to soften my place. The call these days for everything to be either beautiful or useful is lost on me. I want warmth, comfort; I want to gather the sheddings of nature and bring them in. They remind me that I am sister to the sparrow - small, wild-hearted, and loving home, in this bountiful and fearful world.