between war and dreaming

It's one of those days where all the colours are perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. I sit in my little coastal cottage, listening to the peace. Because it's midsummer, we have almost no sparrows in the neighbourhood - mostly just blackbirds, and even then only a few of them. They sing briefly, as if pecking at the hot air and drawing sound from it. The noon brightness is strong, but what I really dread is evening, when humidity presses in and breathing becomes a chore.




I am alternating between reading updates of the American situation and working on my upcoming project. This post's header mentions war, and of course we're not there yet (and hopefully won't ever be), but the president just framed two senators' disagreement to a policy of his as an act of warmongering. I have been going from that to dream-haunted rivers and back again, while drinking tea (even in the heat) and wishing for winter. Every now and again I slip away to my garden, to sweep a path or do a little weeding - touching peace in the dirt.



Here is an excerpt from the project ...


People don't write lovely nursery stories for children like me. We find our story fulfillment in the moss and the cobwebs, the unused stairs and locked doors, the old hidden waters which slink through our dreams at night when we forget to leave on the light. You know – the places fairytales come from.  


Whether you are in the space of war words or dream imagery, or outside tending flowers, I wish you everything you need for the day.

becoming ungrounded

What I see in our world of towering of steel and long blank roads, shopping plazas, is that we are a people who have woken up to ourselves. We have embodied ourselves. We strive to be grounded, to be present, to be grateful.

And I think that's a bad thing.




May I ask, how does your body and your spirit find peace? Not your mind, but your bundle of muscles; not your thoughts, but the warmth that holds your core sense of I-ness. I wonder if you will answer: in the sway of water; in watching light drift over tree bark; in the sound of the leaves whispering; in standing lit upon the hill; in putting my hands dirtwards; in closing my eyes and letting it all float away.

Peace can exist only within our simple, natural being.

It comes from understanding our bodies are part of the great body of Nature, and that when we centre ourselves within ribs, personal skin, we are denying ourselves the greater portion of our actual being. Not surprising then that we get sick - depressed, anxious, addicted, body dysmorphic. We are too grounded, too centred. We imprison ourselves.




I think the sorrow of this modern culture is that we have forgotten we are infact Dreaming. I see this ignorance in our gathering of things about us - our determination to create a sense of permanence about our lives - rather than relaxing back into the knowledge that the Dream, the spirit of Life, is the very essence of impermanence within eternity: it is constantly moving and changing, but without beginning, without end. It does not circle, it dances and drifts.

A concern with material achievement allows muck to accumulate in our flowing waters until finally one day Life crashes through all that stuff and we are aghast to find ourselves carried away from what we thought was real, whether through illness, sudden change, or death.

We are aghast because we think Life can end. We have forgotten to watch the clouds that once were ocean. We have put our children in little buildings with books that tell them all about endings and we have called that school, instead of taking them into the forest where they can learn the truth.




We tell ourselves to be grateful for what we have, which is just another ending - it makes what we have enough, which cuts more off at the roots and blocks change, stops us from wishing and from opening our hearts to countless possibilities. It stops us from feeling sorrow. But sorrow is just another thread of love. I think instead of feeling grateful we might be full of wonder for what is emerging and dancing all around us, and we might allow ourselves the vulnerability of really loving, with all that entails of longing and raging and fearing and hoping and yes, Dreaming.

I don't believe we are here to build tall golden buildings, or even to make this world a better place. I believe we are, each of us, a thread of a great Dream or living artwork or story about beauty and love. And so we are created within Life to be life, to be beauty, to be love. We are created to wonder and wish, which are expressions of love, and to dream melodiously with the Dreamer at the heart of it all.

Maybe love means feeding other people, rescuing animals, protesting oil pipelines. And maybe it means sitting riverside watching light spangle the water's slow-dancing surface. It doesn't really matter so much what you do but how you are. Our culture has forgotten Dreaming, it has mistaken beauty and dismissed love. But we can get it back again. We just have to remember.


an offering of morning stars

This morning I stepped out to the cold gentleness just before dawn. A filament of moon hung above the distant pines. Stars freckled the dark like promises drawn out of the sea and left up there to inspire us, sea-children that we are, sky-dreamers that we are. I found myself wishing the world could always be cold, gentle, starlit. Maybe not the world around me, for then how would gardens thrive? But the world inside my heart.




We are coming into difficult days. I have thought a lot about what I can contribute towards the effort for peace, especially as I believe it will now take an extraordinary shift to dislodge the awfulness that has clamped on to certain places in the West, and that is even now encircling other places with intent. I am not a person to sit quietly, I am a talker, an educator. But I also have a deep sense that we're standing on a precipice, and that whatever I offer at this moment will also be a gift to me, a reflection of my better self.

And so, although I refuse to carry on writing ordinary loveliness as if everything is normal and fine, I would like to provide whatever gentle, strengthening beauty I can. Like a star in the cold morning. Like birdsong in the Dark Swamp we are right now travelling through.




I steadfastedly believe that we need a sword-bearer to protect us, and a tracker to show us wise ways, and a herbwife to find us nourishment in the bog ... but we need too reminders of why we are making this journey.




For listen, the Swamp is full of song. And it is strung with a thousand undiminishing stars. They were hung there by the Swamp monsters. We are not fighting the Swamp monsters. We are fighting those who would drain rich brown waters, pull out mangroves, and make a desert so they can sell the dirt to each other as gold.


The beautiful, tender-hearted art is by Alla Tsank

one woman's private march into the storm

I live in a country of lost mountains and witch trees. When the wind comes in from the north, it brings ghosts from ancient battlefields, spirits from drowned islands, blood and wordless poems. When it comes westerly, my heart breaks.

Yesterday I walked through a north wind at the edge of the day. It was like my own private march for the things I love and believe in. And all the long way there were songs for inspiration and solidarity : wind songs, dark tree songs, the little melodies of leaves skittering along the ground. Luscious pohutukawa trees, swirling around their tangly limbs, crawled with spirits - fierce lithe ancient spirits drawn out by the sea-washed storm. I would not call them leshys, as they seemed to be made equally from wind and bark, with claws of black tidestones and eyes of smiling light. (Or else they were shadowed leaves, and I have too much imagination. But I believe it's really up to each of us whether we want to experience this world scientifically or as poetry.)

Perhaps they had been waiting as long as I had for rain. Perhaps they had come out to dance for their Divinity, unable to resist the Beauty and the wild call to be as much in the world as possible, which is a storm call, a call of dark clouds and empty streets and ancestors wanting us to honour their sacrifices.




Thanks to the encouragement of so many of you, I am working on the six-week series of which I wrote a few days ago. I appreciated very much your kind emails. It hopefully won't be long in coming.

I have been reading Martin Shaw's new book, Scatterlings, and intend to share my responses to it via the old e-letter which has mostly be lying silent for a while now. So if you are interested in that (perhaps you have read the book yourself and would like to have a conversation) do feel welcome to subscribe to the e-letters through the link at the bottom of this page.

For all of you walking today ... and all of you standing in place ... my love and gratitude.

with love on a nightmare day

Friends, I could say so many things this morning. My heart and stomach have been lurching since yesterday; oh, I have done much gazing at horizons, at beautiful skies and clean peaceful winds, as if I might draw from them hope, just like people have done for millennia - hope given by the coming sun, the enduring moon! I did have the opportunity to join a public march, but decided in the end to use my precious time working on projects of a quieter, deeper protest.
 
All over the world, people are refusing today's situation by marching, praying, writing, gardening, watching romance movies. I only hope that, whatever they choose to do, they choose it mindfully. I believe vehemently in protest, in the positive forces of anger and refusal. Many times in my life I have stood up with a banner waving. But today is so profound that, for lots of reasons, it felt most right for me personally to dedicate it to my own priorities of love.




Here are some links which I hope give you happiness, comfort, wisdom, and inspiration at this terrible hour of history.




Go well. The world is not broken, the world is a wild garden in need of protectors, flower experts, dreamers to name its weeds and learn their medicines, shooers-away of vermin, earthsingers, bean growers, water diviners, sitters in the sunlight, night dancers, children laughing to make the plants shake with their own delight, fertiliser mixers, sweepers, planners, poets. The world will always be a wild garden. What we ourselves will be is our choice.


suburban magic

I didn't go to that field for spirit-listening. I was only cutting through. But in the wild and weedy way between footpaths, only a span of ten minutes or so, my life changed.

 


I have been writing a few essays about the magical spirits which share this neighbourhood with me. It was my intention to compile enough for a book, but that isn't looking likely at this stage without diminishing the work in an effort to expand the word count. I have therefore been considering other ways I can share the essays and, through them, the lost bunyips, small dirt dragons, bean sidhe, singing mice, and other beautiful, wild, and often endangered, creatures I have met over the years.

The pieces are too long for blogposts, and too dear to me to simply go out as e-letters. One thought I've had is creating a six week series of booklets which I would distribute via email (or perhaps actual mail) in return for a donation to our fund.

Is this something which would interest you? If so, please leave a comment, send me an email (knitting the wind at yahoo dot com) or click the "reading quietly" button. If I have enough of a response, I will go ahead. Otherwise I will think of some other channel for the essays. They are important to me; they are my small way of trying to help a group of refugees who are unconsidered in council plans and climate warning models, but who suffer perhaps even more than we do from the strains of our modern civilisation.



In the end, when my story has unravelled and I'm left standing with the shells and jellyfish below the gritty white tidemark, I can only look out and wonder. I swear I tried to leave, years ago. But she caught me like a pilchard, like a crying gull. She wrapped foam, wool, knowing, around my ankles so I could not abscond. And occassionally she tugs, a reminder that she can reel me in at any moment as she does the sea and her sultry silent daughter. And then I will be like a broken piece of coral tumbling at her feet. She will consider me – and, I think most likely, make me into what I have been all along, inside my bones. A hill-dreaming storm.


In the meanwhile, I am also working on a different novel when I find the right moments.

resisting summer

In this depth of summer, there are seeds of winter that I plant as often as possible in my heart, my vision, my hopes. I remind myself that all the things I love and have lost - cardigans, blankets, tea, warm cake, reading by candelight, cold mornings in the holy dark - will return, they will return, and in the meanwhile I have memory and dreams to keep me going.




I can open my window to night winds. I can go out at the edges of the day, before the worst of the heat descends. This morning, I had to bring in laundry which I'd accidentally left on the line overnight. It was five o'clock and stars were still staining the cold dark sky. A waning moon swayed over the ocean. I knew that, within half an hour, the sky would crack open, splotching green with dawn, but for just a little while the whole world seemed quiet and calm. It had a winter kind of soul to it. And for just that little while I was entranced.




I am learning, at long last, to cope with summer not by accepting it and trying to adapt to it, but by knowing it is a trial I must endure, and gathering about me as much as possible the beautiful things which will give me strength, courage, and hope. The cold moments, the cardigan days, the stories of winter and whatever winds come my way. I think too often we are encouraged to accept difficulties - be grateful, be adaptive, get out of our comfort zone - but I prefer to embrace my sorrow as a valuable part of my self, resist what I do not want, and appreciate that my "comfort zone" is infact the ground of my authenticity.


writing with synaesthesia

This is as big as I can make the font. Any more and it feels like I am breathing through earth. How to describe synaesthesia even to those who may have it? The alphabet does not sit only on my tongue, but in my hands and in my throat. It bulges and bustles, and I try always to make it as fine-boned as possible, for the sake of my real comfort.

How to describe the heart of a woman who learned her poetry from trees and shadows?




There is a borderland where I bring my rain-soaked stories and you bring your needs, and somehow we figure out a give-and-take that hopefully provides value to each of us. I am growing old, I am stranded through with a grey that some people say is silver but I think is sky-coloured like out west, where the wind makes an elegy for its lost rivers far beneath the sea. Many things I can tolerate better than I ever did before. Other things have become more important, such as the weight of words, the space I have to breathe.

Big words, voluptuous fonts, feel like I am filling myself with rocks. I can not read them on other websites. I can not use them on my own without becoming literally, just a little, queasy. I know a woman who feels the same way about orange. How I manage a weblog, let alone entire books, within all the thorns and walls of synaesthesia, I really don't know. I guess I just pick up a silence and run with it, gathering words wildly to fill it, for as far as I can. And then the corner of an F will stop me, or the sudden bitter taste of a syllable.

As difficult as it is to describe the synaesthetic experience, I find it even more difficult to believe not everyone experiences elements of it. Do you truly not see numbers in a particular set map form? Do you not feel words in your body? Does sound not have a shape to you? Numbers and letters no colour and mood? There may be times when, as a writer, I am hampered by synaesthesia (such as when I must write on a left-leaning angle ... this is why I am grateful for keyboards!) but I can not imagine life without the enrichment of this experience.

And that is why I apologise for your struggling eyesight, truly I do, but I can't get the text any larger than this.

travelling from home, taking home with me

I went for a long drive. I went to a hill of ghosts and a pale, silent river. In the night, I slept beside an open door, and the damp wind, the moonlight, the old wild wishes of trees, slipped through my dreams.

And the downs were covered in dust and silent. And the sky was unrepentant.

While I was far away I kept with me certain things close to my heart. A beloved old book. My camera. Twitter for the latest news. A story of haunted Russian forests that I have read a hundred times at least.

Coming home, I saw immediately that someone trimmed the wind tree. But it goes on standing for now, and so my sea-wracked suburban sky still breathes.




I was surprised the mountains I stopped to photograph, finally, after years of holding my camera out the window as we drove past, proved not as heart-stirring as the willows, the river, the gentle busy birdsong beneath them.

I was surprised that, on returning home, all I missed of the countryside were its jessamine hedges (and of course the people I went to visit).




And I was surprised by how my perspective on social media clarified when I was mostly disconnected from it. Facebook in particular feels soulless, pointless. Looking at the photographs I'd taken, the lovely or strange or sunlit moments they captured, I don't want to waste them on instagram. I want to tell their stories leisurely, and know my audience is drinking tea or having a little breather to read with their feet up - taking time, giving it. I'll still use social media, for links if nothing else. But several women are returning to old-school blogging, and I'm glad to be one of them. I shall be giving some thought to this template, and whether I want to enlarge it for the sake of my photographs, or keep it quiet and gentle. Your thoughts on the matter are welcome.

All in all, it's rather good to be home. I love the countryside, and wish it was my home, but until it is my home I stand knee-deep and intimately bound with the heart of my cluttered, faery-ridden, dreaming little suburban town.


petrichor

A little silver rain is falling as if the trees are shedding their oldest winter dreams into the long, languid summer afternoon. I would gather it up, for I love winter; I would use it to wash my hands until they were perfumed with the smell of wet leaves, cold sky, satisfied earth. And I would hold my hands against my heart, and in this way be closer to my wild dream-boned god.


secret tenderness

She had a way of walking, like she was old summer rather than a woman; like she was slow dancing with the world. She had a smell about her that was clean, so clean, I felt mucky in her presence. I wanted to work out the secret of her effortless softness, easy quiet loveliness; I wished I could at least get my hair to look so good when it was messy - not  shambles, but a dreaming tumble of curl and light and curl.

But some people are natural poets, and some have to scrounge for rhymes.




I've come to understand that it is actually the brave or the confident who risk being openly delicate. Everyone else with a soft or magic heart learns quickly enough to protect it for fear of being hurt - finding shelter behind thorny hedges, or in library corners, or with bitter wit. They are still delicate, soft, magical, but they don't dare show it ... and don't dare show it ... until they no longer see it for themselves. They see only the way that not being true to their heart leaves them awkward and uncertain. The longing it causes them. The feeling of exile from their own selves. And I've realised that so often the tenderest of people are the ones who hide it away, pretending to be strong, coming off instead as shy, slightly wrong, socially clumsy, aloof, grouchy. And really, when I think about it, they write the best poems of all.

I will stop looking for gentleness in the way someone dresses and walks, the way they sigh over literature and how they talk. I will look instead in their eyes, and listen to their silence.




remembrances

I was sitting with my grandmother in the garden courtyard, in the sun, remembering our old days together - shelling peas in her kitchen, talking for hours on the phone, wandering beaches and country lanes. It was a blessing to have such simple, wholesome memories of her. I would rather have them than recollections of grand, extravagant adventures. If I was to climb a pyramid, I would stand at the crest and feel wonder, incredulation, love. Filling a bowl of homegrown peas with my nana is a quieter kind of love, but it weighs just as much.

The sunlight in the garden was gentle and warming. It filled me with another memory : standing in my imagination in the courtyard of the Harper Hall, looking up for dragons. This is how thoroughly the books I have read merge with my real life experiences. And it is why I believe in being careful what I read, and what I suggest young people read. For me, books aren't just about ideas and stories, but impressions that can remain over a lifetime. The colour of mountains. The pain of a firebird. The warmth of sun on roof tiles beneath a sky achingly blue with dreams. Love, wordborn and for nothing real and yet the love is real, hollowed only with longing to touch it just as you can touch a pyramid, a pea.

going wordless into the year

I have not chosen a word to guide me through the year ahead. I have not made resolutions. I want to go quietly, simply, letting the year, day, moments, give me their own names if they wish. This moment now is old gold. The sun lies heavy and tired on my neighbour's roof. It flutters in the wind-shivered leaves of my lovely old poplar tree, the last of the poplars around here, the one we look for every morning incase it too is taken away. This moment, it is solemn, sacred, and loving. I would not be able to think of any word that might preside over both it and the next moment, the aftergold moment, here now. All that luscious light disappeared in the blink of an eye. The roof is dulled. The leaves are more bronze than gold. The sun slips so fast away; I imagine the hills gathering it in. The dear old, dark hills - I can almost hear their voices of stone and hidden waters, singing bonds of sleep, of peace, around the bright and weary king. I sense his contentment in the warm, brown embrace of the earth. And I know I can indeed resolve nothing, for what I want is the opposite, to dissolve - my dreams, my awareness, shedding from me, entering hill pores, and sun murmurs, mingling with the beloved world.

the woman who keeps the winter


"Finally the earth grows softer, and the buds on the trees swell, and the afternoon becomes a wider room to roam in, as the earth moves back from the south and the light grows stronger. The bluebirds come back, and the robins, and the song sparrows, and great robust flocks of blackbirds, and in the fields blackberry hoops put on a soft plum color, a restitution ..." - Mary Oliver

When I read this quote on Myth & Moor, I saw not spring but instead had a vision of a dark and white-stained winter, bare of song, a woman left almost alone in the landscape waiting for the birds to return. I imagine this is how it is for country dwellers, this feeling of the emptying out of their world. I imagine they must catch the eye of the owl and the fox across the silent fields, and share a moment of kinship, being the few left behind, the wintered community, the true dwellers there before crowds of happy summer tourists return.




And it makes me think what a responsibility the wintered woman owns - to keep the cold world, protecting it while all others are sleeping or in sunlit lands. She must clear debris, gather wood, burn fires, nurture whatever will grow. She must witness the clean honest beauty of winter, so that the world goes on being loved - for without love even the trees will suffer, even the winds will. And she must sing up the morning, no matter how cold she is, and count each old familiar star - for magic, for hope.




We have all kinds of winters in our lives. I believe we are entrusted with them. We are not small, soft things who can bear only summer; we are the wood-gatherers and the fire makers and the wise wild singers. Winter is our season of truth.


art by flora mclachlan

writing through strength and softness

As a writer, I rely upon my vulnerability. I need my bones to be tuned to the quietest night wind, and my instincts to look for shadow, the moment that breaks a smile, the nuances of sighs. This is how I unthread the poetry of everyday life.

But to knit it again into story, that takes strength. Specifically, confidence. I must be confident that I can find the words, find the style, do it right, make something worthwhile. And then I must have the confidence to share it. Promote it.




I must also be confident a reader will find value in the story for themselves. Anyone can write a script on how one should feel about a subject, but to present the subject and sit back, sure the reader will be touched in ways appropriate for their own needs ... that is a little scary.

One of the most difficult tasks I have with my writing is creating a balance between this vulnerability and confidence. I am not good at it. Either my tender fragile sensibility causes everything to fall apart in a beautiful mess of adjectives and anxiety, or my confidence (bravado, mostly) squelches the poetry. I don't so much balance them as juggle them wildly.

I can use daily structure, good health, beloved weather, as a replacement for confidence. (Encouragement is another good stand-in, but I have no one who reads my drafts, so I generally go without that.) Of course, any of those may fail.

There is no replacement for vulnerability.

As I write this post, my confidence wavers once more. Am I sharing too much on a personal level? Could I have written it more poetically? Will it have any value? Will those who are not writers or artists be able to relate it to aspects of their own lives? These are the sorts of questions I also ask when I sit to a story project, but with blogging there is less time available for contemplation, and so I usually go ahead and publish. Ever wonder why I publish posts and then delete them? Because sometimes juggling fails.


a new story from old

It used to be I had dozens of weblogs on my feed reader. Now there are only a handful, partly because so few people are writing these days, and partly because I no longer have time to keep up with what I consider the "magazine blogs" of certain mothering/crafting writers - truly beautiful spaces, but there comes a point where you understand that lifestyle inspiration doesn't really draw you deep into your own life.




Besides, I am working on a new project, and it's demanding as many of my hours as I can reasonably give it. This one is very different from the books I've produced before. I'm nervous about it, and oh how my hand hurts from all the typing! but I can not seem to stop. That is why, despite there only being a handful of weblogs on my reader, I have seldom been able to visit them lately or leave a comment. My apologies to you. I hope in a couple of months' time I will be able to produce a good reason for your consideration.

The title of this post refers to the project. A new story - although its not really a story as such, not in the way people generally think of such things. It's non-fiction, but it draws on very old stories. You'll see, I hope.

In the meanwhile, I hope this new year is treating you well, and I send you wishes of warmth and love.




the language of a new year

I stood at the sea on the long last day of the year, and I tried not to weep. It wasn't easy. I don't weep so much for the voices of evil as for the silence of the good. But the sea was beautiful, old, and for that moment gentle. The sky went on and on, a contented ghost of the ocean. I'll find my hope in that, and try to hold on to tides, breezes, wild songs and wild dreams. 




This morning the new year, is calm and seems friendly. And of course the year itself holds nothing against us, but yearns for us to do all the good we can for ourselves. I don't believe in having a word of the year, I want instead to untangle the words 2017 has threaded through its light and its quiet shadows. I know they will be, as they always are, hope, promise, offering, opening, love.




Here are some lovely things to inspire you for 2017 ...

Allman Brown and Liz Lawrence : Sons and Daughters  music
Holly Lucero : Monstrous Dogs  art
The Soul of Bones  folklore
A letter from Gaza to Standing Rock  humanity
Foxy Chest  etsy store