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gentle silence

One of these days I will talk about what it's like being a deeply shy and uncertain person who feels called to write for an audience. But not tonight.

(with apologies for the deleted post.)

the power of women

Do not think you have a strong spirit in you, woman. That's not right. You have a strong spirit around you, holding you - you live inside of it. And your spirit flows out like the branches of a wild rose bush, weaving itself through the spirits of other things - through family, and sunlight, and trees, and ghosts. And they weave themselves through your spirit. If you ignore them, you will never understand yourself.

The events at Standing Rock in Dakota have been in my heart very strongly. Even as a white woman, the daughter of immigrants (colonialists), I feel I have a right to be touched by the concerns of this far away place, because I am most truly of all a daughter of Motherearth.

When evil is arising with such power in this world, at this time, the actions of protectors are so very important to at least keep the balance, maybe even tip it gently into hope.

This morning, I read two facebook posts about Standing Rock which threaded through my spirit like long brown feathers from long brown dreams of a faraway sky. The first was like a blessing. The second I would share here for you ....

The area of Standing Rock was named thus after a chiefly woman, who when her husband told her he wanted to move to other grounds with her and his other wife, she refused to go and stood her ground with her baby on her back.

Our small group of First Nations women in this video both witnessed and experienced an imbalance of energy both at the camp and on the frontline. Water protectors and warriors often approaching the enemy in an aggressive, angry, uncontrolled manner and this is a weakness. We also saw how prayer on the frontline can be misinterpreted by the enemy as a weakness due to eyes being closed or to the ground or sky.

We didn't go to the frontline that morning with the intention of performing this haka. Ko te tino kaupapa a tō mātou whikoi i taua ata ko te mahi tiro makutu...we went to pass on the timeless, powerful and successful intentions of our ancestors by staring them in the eye.. and the haka is what took place within that action. Our advance both forwards and back was very slow and very intentional. By the time we performed the haka, all of DAPL had come down from the urupā at the top and were watching.

Mana Wahine - it is the integrity, the potency and the power that belongs to women and women alone. The ancestress of Standing Rock herself embodied this and as women we can tune into and draw strength from this. Our greatest weapons are our eyes, the intentions behind them.. our minds.. our hearts.. and our hips.

This is a call to the First Nations women of Standing Rock.. WĀHINE MĀ.. SISTERS! Continue to link arms together, strategise and take quiet action under the guidance of the elders of Standing Rock who stand for Mana Wahine. This is a manmade war, stemming from mans' struggle for power and control and as the bearers of mankind we as women have the inherent ability to affect the required change. Look to the stories of your ancestors, be they male or female and the answers lie within.

TAANE MĀ... BROTHERS - we need you also - please have the courage and humility to support our women in their stand...!


Credit for this piece ... and the video of the haka ... belongs to this page.

the fictional dog

I love a dog in a book. They seem somehow to represent the innocence and good cheer of us all, and the benevolence of conscious nature towards us; they are, in many cases, guides along the way, even if only guides into our own vulnerability. 

That's why it is always hard for me when writers kill off the dog, the owl, the loyal small creature. Not only do I find the manipulation of sentiment too overt, but I'm saddened by the author's cynicism. Why can't love, innocence, wild loyalty, survive?

Even Ursula le Guin killed off Ged's animal companion in The Wizard of Earthsea, and although I should not argue against a writer so wise and masterful as she, I wondered when I first read it, as I still do - can we grow a character even when they are loved? Must a man or woman have all softness and company ripped from them just so they can develop? Or is it more true to life that people become strong because of love? That infact it's very hard, if not impossible, to do it alone? That a dog's friendship can heal, guide, give courage? 

I do not believe we are disconnected points of light in a long darkness. I believe we are together, and in that togetherness we find ourselves. It's in aloneness that despair thrives. And while many authors want to drive their characters into despair so they may track their journey out of it, I worry about the idea that this journey must be undertaken alone, or with only human assistance, as if we are not really part of the natural, sacred, wordless world. A dog, an owl, a loyal small creature, represents that world and its desire to connect with us. The oldest and indigenous stories know this. I long for a day when our modern stories reflect a better hope for wild sacred community. I think Dog Friday is waiting for us all. 

the poetry of everything

You can not tell me the seasons cycle through a year, just like that. Not when I've lived autumn and summer in an hour, in my heart. Not when I've seen brown leaves raining on a summer's day.

You can not tell me we need the strong people and the gentle people, as if they are different things. There is a woman who cries in her bathroom for less than a minute, softness falling and fading from her heart, before going out again to gently guide her children, make their dinner, take the mail when it arrives at the door. There is a protester embracing cannon-shot water who is there because he dreams like a wild white bird.

Long ago, I used to paint my hair orange, same colour as my boots. Now I shift uneasily between earthy and pale, as if I am a fashion piece and not an island, a hill-haunted sky, a story untold beneath all the stories I tell, a secret at night. I have a friend who says her style is comfort. She wears clothes not to show who she is, but to care for who she is. Really, there are no styles, only poetry from our hearts.

There are no creations, only conversations with the universe.

wanting the trees

The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

It has been hard these days to let the world go and just sit with quiet, with dreaming. But although my mind is clutching on to news piece after news piece, for that is what it does when anxious - equating information quite ridiculously with a sense of control - my heart agrees with Patricia McKillip when she writes in Winter Rose

I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colours, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.

Someone said to me yesterday that they no longer knew how to cope with a world so full of hatred, corruption, and cruelty. They said this only a few minutes after I had been looking at the new Patreon page for Hedgespoken. I wanted to tell them, look for the helpers. Look for the people bringing wonder and beauty. But I did not say it, because the world these days leaves me speechless. And yet we really must not give up knowing that there is goodness out there. And furthermore that we ourselves can be goodness within ourselves.

We can tell the gorgeous stories that don't necessarily solve anything, or speak to any injustice, but that act as flowers beside the hard road.

And by telling the stories I mean writing books, or making a phone call, or baking someone's favourite cake, or setting a moth free out the window, or saying good afternoon to a passing stranger. Everything is a story about what we believe the world can be.

defending the sacred space

There is a space between the waters and the profiteers, a space where you can stand. You may find it at a river in Dakota; you may find it in your own heart. Every era it seems to me has a space requiring a stand; for example, between the people and the ovens, or the emperor and the bread ...

And it has come down to this, that our generation must stand between the necessities of life and mindless greed.

The thing is, when you stand in the sacred final space, determined to protect the necessities of life - the water, the love, the very air we need to breathe - you will find yourself fired upon. It is true in Dakota, and in the American voting booth, in the hospital ward, in the home and school. When you stand, the establishment will always try to push you down. They lie so beautifully. They have big guns.

But when you stand, soaking wet, frightened, watching the blood count rise or the grades go down, fearing poison in the water whether you stand or fall - please remember, you are standing for us all. And we stand with you in spirit, even if we are far from your ground, or struggling with a different issue, or too frightened ourselves to ever get up.

The world is burning, drowning, and I want to protest that while at the same time protecting the quiet, the strange little things, the moonlight. So I'm contemplating how I can set my words in the sacred space, like a peace sign held up. How I can tell about dying mountains and wing-clipped skies while at the same time honouring quiet, smallness, beauty. How to protest and protect at the same time. I am contemplating how to use my weblog as my space. Including here perhaps more fiction, pieces of dreaming.

Yesterday, a group of Kiwis arrived at Standing Rock. They brought with them thermal clothing, food, and a guitar. Because it's not just warmth and nourishment that is needed, but spirit-rising. I can not be with them in person. But I am absolutely there heartwise, my feathers flying in the cold wind. Maybe I will bring story.

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet. I've had the second picture in my home for decades. 

the graceful bones of love, of words

All morning it has been raining. In the language of the garden, this is happiness.

- Mary Oliver

This fountain pen was brought to me from the Vincent Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I actually use it. There is an enchantment in the scratching, in the slow dip for language in old ink; I love to see how words shape themselves naturally on the page, some swelling with gentleness, others barely visible but just as powerful nonetheless. It could be a metaphor, but I only mean it to be a few words about words.

Make what you will of my words, and of the world.

| the labels for this post are love, writing, poetic, rain.  when you write what you love, you tend to write your truth. |

when all the world is the dark forest

"What will you do now?" asked the crone.

"Who will you be again?" asked the fool boy. 

"Who will you help with what you have learned, here in the dark forest?" asked the wild man with the sun on his heart and the great white sword.

"Anything," said the woman. "Anyone. Everyone. If I can." 

"If is a dream in the darkness," said the crone. "Try is a solid road."

"But I'm tired, and the whole of me hurts."

The crone grinned. "I didn't say it was an easy road." 

The boy shrugged. "You could just go home." 

And the man with the sun on his heart, he sighed. "Or you could come with us through the forest, seeking lost souls, helping them sing their way back to themselves." 

The woman sat straighter, although her spine felt still clogged with pebbly dirt, and her heart felt chewed by monsters, and her feet ached. "I would like to try that," she said. "But I have nothing to offer." 

The man smiled. "You have the memory of sorrow. That is more than enough."

from A Womanful of Bones, one of the little stories in The Coracle Sky.

a wind-shaped woman

This is a little piece my daughter wrote elsewhere, and I asked if I might share it here with you, including her photograph. She's seventeen (where did the time go?) and has already travelled further than I've ever been.

i once went sailing. yes, i did literally go sailing.

it was quite a sunny day. the jetskiiers whizzed around, their clean straight wakes pushing my craft and I aside. sadly for them, they wouldn't have noticed the tiny penguins, or the waves between the waves that suggest a secret wind.

i kept sailing, further and further out, past the loud engines. i knew I was too far out to sea, but i couldn't resist the call of the sea spirits. i couldn't help but be drawn just a few feet past the horizon. maybe home was there.

just a bit further, just one more gust then i was going back. just one more gybe, one more tack, one more run. okay, the next gust then back to shore ...

eventually, it was time to go home. i thanked the wind and waves and sailed back to stable ground. maybe another time, i'll pack some supplies, put on a cozy jacket, and sail past the horizon.

the healing power of small and quiet stories

As I wrote yesterday, I've been feeling uncertain lately. I have wondered about the importance of quiet magic and small gentle stories when the world is sliding towards terrible danger. It has seemed to me that surely vigour is more important at this time, and meaningful words, and protest.

But this morning I read Terri Windling's latest post about returning to the work of art, and felt encouraged all over again. It's a beautiful piece, and if you are an artist, writer, mother, human being, feeling uncertain yourself at this time, I advise you to read it.

I believe in narrative therapy. Mythic therapy. After years of watching masculine theories of psychology fail for women, I have come to put my faith instead in the old witchy wise theory of sitting down on the ground and telling the story. Singing the story. Drumming it with fists against the ground. Dancing, walking, digging, wailing the story.

And that doesn't mean necessarily the story of what has happened to the woman. There are many times when some completely different tale is called for. A consolation tale. A little tale of beauty to remind her that beauty still exists even though all she sees is greyness. A ditty. A poem to get her up and dancing just for the sake of momentary laughing.

This is what I believe with all my heart. Actually, I believe there's nothing more important than the stories we tell and do. They make our world, our selves, our languages for gods.

The fact I forgot the potency of small, quiet stories ... especially mythic stories and fairytales ... shows me how shaken I have been - shaken right off my foundations. And none of the clever, strongly worded, sensible advice of determined people could lift me back up. But Terri did. With her gentleness and her empathy, with her small quiet reflections from other people who hauled themselves back up too with ropes of sorrow, of tender song - she gave me a hand, and I am restored. This is the power of the quiet voice.

Now I want to delete my earlier posts and comments, and go forth as if I have always been calm and wise. But I need to learn to live with my fallings. They show me what I want from myself, what feels wrong, and how to get back up. I shall go forth, but not as a wise woman, only as a traveller, with my feet wrapped, feathers tied in my hair, and my hands covered in notes I've written for myself about where to go, how to go, and ways to tell the story.

Art by the incomparable Rima Staines

the writer as an agent of consolation and change

For quite a while now, but especially after the American election, I've come across many articles, webposts, and facebook comments reminding writers of their importance in society. Ours is the privilege and the power to influence hearts. What we write matters.

It has stopped me from writing.

This is not the fault of the bloggers or commenters. It is all within me. Like most authors, I want to create something meaningful. And like many people of my generation, I want to help strengthen and heal this broken world which is increasingly burning away. But each time I sit to compose a poem or story that addresses the important issues of our time ... that has meaning, or even a quality of beauty or song which might inspire readers to find meaning elsewhere in their lives ... the weight of it all clogs my heart and leaves me silent.

I try to remind myself that a story has its own business with readers, and I'm just the intermediary. I never really know what will touch people. (If I did, I'd be writing popular webposts all the time!) The way I've always worked is highly organic. I sit down, open my heart, and let story flow through it. Sometimes I'll start with a piece of art, sometimes a sentence out of nowhere, sometimes an image of a scene that I am curious about, sometimes just a feeling. This process becomes immediately blocked when I introduce the idea that I must write something important, meaningful, inspiring, helpful.

I personally can not be an agent of anything other than story.

It hurts. I long to be the sort of author who writes profound tales. Tales people think are worth talking about on instagram because they want to be part of the message. I am always so grateful when my writing is shared - not because I want fame, but because it means my words are helpful. But the truth is, I was given a quiet voice. A small life. The stories that come to me are small and quiet too, intimate, and absolutely not special. More often than not they're fantasy - and not a rich, mythic kind of fantasy, but just tales about kings with blood-stained crowns, sorcerers too frightened to do the real magic of the heart, and dragons awoken to pain. I like them. I sometimes find them hard to let go. If they were children, they would not be the dux of their school, or prodigious young poets; they would be ordinary children, beloved by their mother but otherwise just part of the crowd.

That should be enough. And for a long while, it has been. For a long while, I wrote from love and my own pleasure in writing. But now there is a deepening sense of obligation. It's not just that I should use my voice for the consolation of society or to promote change. It's simpler than that - I should write because that is what I am called to do, and since everywhere rightness is being destroyed, I should do what is right in my life.

All of this is true, good, and wise. But all of it is noise that clogs my essential creative silence and disturbs my private, intimate romance with Story. And so nothing flows.

every moon is a miracle

She comes out of the sea like a droplet of old, golden memory - like all the things you've thrown away, salted and soaked and given back to you for night dreaming and long, wordless wishing. She is the goddess of self-reconciliation. And what she offers is a promise that nothing is lost, nothing is ruinous, all broken hearts may go into the deep and come back golden.

 sally mann

I drove once to the highest place I could find to see the super moon. I don't do that kind of thing any more. Living on the floodplain these past three years, down by the horizon, I have seen hundreds of moons, and every one of them was beautiful. Fat corn-goddess moons. Fine-boned maiden moons that seemed to have been woven from the luminosity of wet shells on dark shores. The size did not matter, only her soul. For me, looking out my kitchen window every night, wondering what the sea and sky had born this time, it was always about the moon. Not about me, not about mathematical astronomy. Just the old, serene magic of the moon, the daughter of water, the daughter of earth dreaming.

Listening to Francesca Mountfort, thanks to Antoinette. 

strong women rising and singing

These past few days have been terrible and wonderful. I won't talk right now about the terrible things - although I do plan to keep on protesting until evil has been undone. One thing I've learned over the years is that love can inspire action, love can guide action, love should always be at the heart of all things - but only if it is not a passive thing. It must be given a voice, it must be shaped by hands, made into a dance, storified, tweeted, marched. Sometimes love turns over tables, tears down walls, and says no. Sometimes too it is quiet and comforting, holding the warm space at home.

We need all possible kinds of love.

Today I want to share the wonderful, the love.

Sharon Blackie invokes the Cailleach in her appeal to re-remember women's stories told with women's voices.

The NZ Green Party, my own political party, will not smile and politely accept hate.

Neither will Nicola Sturgeon.

A time for refusal : don't become a rhinoceros.

More than three and a half million have signed this petition to the Electoral College.

Fall : a poem by Melissa Wiley.

The Last Harvest of the World : a story by Sylvia Linsteadt.

Thoughts for the tender-hearted by Hillary Rain.

A beautiful, sad Praise Song.

The healing crisis by Asia Suler.

I hope you have a wonderful, loved day.

medicine for a broken hearted world

From the very beginning, we have told stories. We have walked them, carved them, sung them, and made paper so we can write them down. Stories have always been important to every culture in the world. They are the thread that weaves everything together.

And so for me, when trouble comes, I turn instinctively to story. Poetry, song, woodland path, novel. I read and listen, but I also weave too. It is almost always the only thing I can do. I have no wide garden. I have no money. But I can tell story. (Not very well, but still it is something.) This is my small medicinal offering to the world and to myself.

Lately, I've been unable to do much of that weaving. I know all the stitchwork, but I haven't yet found my story. But the longer I sit aching and restless from the silence, the closer I come to understanding. Sometimes stories can be drawn from the air. Sometimes they wash in on an inner sea. But some stories need to be mined from the heart of the earth, and that takes perserverance, patience, and most of all deep courage. Not bold courage, dashing at daily arrows and breaking through noise. But old, slow courage - the kind that allows you to stand still and listen, listen, to the pulse of the dirt, the intricate language of the grass no matter for how long or what tempest blows.

Such courage comes from trust. And trust comes from knowing that, despite elections and  economy and all the awful things of the world, there will always be herbs growing in shy places, there will always be forest song and the wild ancient dance of continents. The best stories remind us of this. That is why I can hardly wait to read Tatterdemalion by Sylvia Linsteadt and Rima Staines. You all know by now that they are my favourite writer and artist. Rima's website was one of the very first I found when I discovered blogland, and her art, and later Sylvia's words, have kept my heart opening. I wish I was more like them. I wish I had their deep courage and their connection with the land. At least, though, I can have their story. It is rich medicine.

If you have particular stories, books, poems, which help you in troubled hours, would you share them with us?

and so in the darkness we fight on

The old world is dying. We thought it was finished when we overthrew segregation, welcomed women into the workforce, passed laws for marriage equality, came together to save the climate. But some things take a long time to die. Especially the enormous, red-eyed, sharp-toothed Beast who was the apex predator for so long. They don't go without a fight.

Now is the hour for absolute courage. We are exhausted, we have battled the beast for so long - for all our lives, some of us. We may feel despair. But remember - we are winning. All over the world, lights are shining, forests are being replanted, we are winning. In some places, though, the beast had its claws dug in deep. And so the fight must go on. Have courage, have courage, be strong!

Those of you in the darkness, don't feel bereft. And don't feel embarrassed by what the election results showed of your culture. Everyone else already saw long ago your wonderful brilliance and  your awful shadow. (We have one too.) But look out at the world - we are holding up a light of sympathy, love, hope, for you.

But first, a moment for weeping. And for despair. It's important. It gives perspective to the danger. And the danger is real, deep, spiked with tooth and nail. The most powerful country in the world is going to be led by a mentally deranged abuser who lies to a pathological degree, and he is going to be supported by an unchecked government of radicals, misogynists, and climate change deniers who are in the pocket of fossil fuel companies.

I don't know how much choice we have in preventing the disasters sure to come. All the protesting in the world won't matter when you have no leverage. But I wrote the other day about an army of the kind. I believe now that is what we must become. And I mean all of us, all over the world. Our economies, our safety, our hopes, are threatened by America's vote. But the tragic election result has at least handed us a challenge, an opportunity, to walk our talk. To help the poor. To stand up for the minority. To plant and protect whatever bits of the natural world we can get our hands on. To understand that our native ground is ALL the world, not just one Rock, one river.

They say this was a vote for change. They're wrong. This was a vote for keeping things the same - keeping the beast alive, the old world from dying in the light. We must all be real change. Winning comes not from electing a leader, but from growing a tree, healing a heart, taking a hand, making your space safer and better for all who enter it. 


I would drape the night over you, the gentle, magical night.
........ I would cloak you with stars.

marginalia : comments

i want to raise an army

We do not need freedom. There is no peace in it, no ease from stress, only a great, gaping silence as we become untethered from the heartbeat of the world. What we need is love.

Love to gently hold us so our edges don't get chipped away. Love to remind us we have value and a purpose in life. Love to protect us, uplift us, warm us to the core.

Imagine troops of love-givers, going through the suburbs, the depressed towns, the cities, the broken places. An army bringing kindness. Imagine them giving hugs, caring conversation, a hot drink. Imagine them listening to half-forgotten family jokes and laughing, and the laughter is in their eyes. Imagine them holding a woman while she weeps because her thighs are big or her hair is grey or she confesses whatever else she thinks must be wrong with her - holding her, smiling at her, doing that deep healing work before even saying a loving word to her.

We do not need freedom. We need to be told we matter. We are loved, and worth loving. Let me tell it to you now. You are important. Your sorrow matters. You don't have to push it away and be grateful for all the good things. Your sorrow matters. Your laughter matters. Your silly, sweet little jokes that no one else gets. The things that make you laugh matter. You are full of flowers and rocks and ocean spray and nightfall. You are beautiful.

the king of light and love

Now is the season of the summer king. Every day lately, the sky has felt like a celebration. The earth has clothed herself in flowers for him, for she is his priestess and his wife (I do not say his queen, for she is queen in her own right, although he is her king.) I stand between them and feel luscious and warm with their love.

As a new moon rises into Beltane, and the young King takes his golden crown, I feel joyous, as if my heart dances even while I sit properly still amongst the sensible people. I know summer will drain me of it all - joy and strength and creative forces. I will become as pale and dry as the grasses. But that is life, and that is the purpose of the seasons. After summer will come autumn to cool me, to rub away my dryness and break me so I will bud anew. Right now, the King is here with his beautiful smile and stormy eyes and scars and his heart wild for love. And I can not help but skip in the encompassment of that love - that wild-lit storm-wrinkled wide wonderful sky, while beneath me the Old Woman lies sleeping, and from her breath and bones grow dreams to seed a long white summer sky.

from a previous Beltane
and another, earlier
a post about the summer king

Beth Owl's post on Beltane

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Thanks & Blessings.