places to find strength

the underside of a fern, stranded with old raindrops
half a line of a poem you will never forget
the tipping point of the moon
beneath wet eyelashes
almost at the end of a sigh
leaf-littered shadows drifting down a quiet river
between fresh, sun-scented sheets
a cup of tea, made to gentle perfection
any old paragraph in your favourite book
a box of tooth fairy letters and dried flowers from your childhood
inside newly warmed white socks
one soft corner of a grandmother's garden
churchyards after everyone has gone home
calm eyes that are never hurried
the moment after you blow out a candle's flame
the certainty of someone who knows what they're talking about
a freshly swept doorstep





the memory of mountains

I went to a hill today and looked out over the sea. All around me was a clutter of multicultural shops, many of them cheap, others modernised to within a sleek inch of their lives - and yet the area held a sense of its earlier Victorian days, as if the land remembered cartwheels, and lace hems, and the heavy shadows of horses falling on packed-dirt roads. There was a charm of peace in the air despite the traffic and constant pedestrian noise. Even the rain falling while I had afternoon tea in a little teahouse felt old-fashioned. 

Tomorrow the next issue of Suburban Magic will be distributed. (Last week's was a day early.) In it, I share my love for hills and their faery dwellers. It's been my experience that high country holds close its memories, and shows a hospitality to the wild, to the secrets of the wind and songs of the old wayward sky, that makes it more interesting than lowlands and the coast. But I am biased. My seaside neighbourhood was once as Victorian as that hill community, and yet I do not feel the memory of it. I suspect the memory is there, soaked into verdant earth beneath the tarseal, and with a little more sympathy I would feel it just as strongly as I do on the hill, in the sky. I must remember what mountains taught me : hospitality to memory and to the wild dreaming, where ever I find myself.


Hill Country

16 pages

Preface
1. The Mountain Eaten By The Sea

the quiet and the small wild bells

I have opened my door to the morning. It lies gentle on the cool, singing world. Gold is threading through the memory of night, over the ocean; light seems to be rising from the earth. I can hear cicada love songs, so long and so weary, and the little sparrow bells. I wish I could carry this morning in my heart all through the day. Civilisation is for extroverts. Sometimes to survive it requires the strength of the new morning's quiet - and plenty of tea.

This moment holds me in privacy, intimacy; a long wordless look between me and the sky. I can say so because the moment is gone now - the day broke abruptly into clarity, into a sudden vigour of light. Someone moved outside. I got up and closed my door. I will be out amongst the others soon enough. Trying to hear through all the noise. Trying to keep my own quiet. For now - tea, I think. And the lingering peace of the sky.


the dust and the dreaming of the world

I learned the world through incidental poetry. Maps had no charm for me, although I drew them and labelled them obediently. It was the words falling out of sentences, the suggestions of old sounds, that educated me.

The fig trees of Lebanon, and the hot golden wind coming in off the sea. White nights in Russia, ballerinas dancing in stolen palaces, the witches and talking wolves of deep fir forests. Coracles on the stony Hebridean sea. A map and a textbook will inform you of these things ... but poetry, but story, but old monochrome photographs that show you the memory or dream of the thing rather than its bright stark reality ... here is where you will find their heart. And gently, only barely told, so there is space for a relationship to weave between that and your own heart.

I see the detachment of our youth today, and I wonder at their education. I'm guessing it's efficient, transmitted through whiteboards and handouts and computer programmes. I'm thinking they learn about Russian forests and fine-boned ballerinas only as a side effect of studying the Revolution. They probably don't push the desks back and dance like Cossacks. They almost certainly never read obscure poets. They are informed. Their books are all new.

I can think of nothing sadder than teaching our children the facts of the situation.





the ghosts of poems


I woke this morning in the dark with a mouth full of poetry. I felt that I could write it gently and thereby gentle my world in the way only poems can do, as if they are fine-boned branches with one or two blossoms, placed in an empty room.

But when I put the words on paper, they were only words; they did not fit together. They were what becomes of dreams in daylight: all the glamour faded, the motives confused. I don't really mind. I spent yesterday afternoon reading old poems beneath a tree, beside the sea. That probably explains it.

A poem is such a little thing, but it takes time to write. Not so much in the putting words down, but the readying of the space inside. I always found that poems were wild things drifting through the day, and some came to rest a while in my heart and, if I was lucky, stay. At least, for long enough that I might compose them, until they drifted away again.

I have been writing too much these days to make a wordless space for poetry. Still, I feel them in the ambience: new poems, and old poems that have been waiting so long all their words are now lost - ghost poems, and poems in pieces I might be able to compose if I had the time to compose nothing for a while, and let the word-bits coalesce. If I had the energy to be more inside myself.

I do miss little poems, and just a few words on white space. And I am aware that, when poetry starts coming for you, there's nothing much you can do. Just get a pen and hold on. It's magical, far more magical than writing a novel.


riverflow and rain


At last, a great wingful of rain swept over us, and the world cooled. Summer will return probably this afternoon, but my garden and my heart are grateful for the whispery, pale repreive. The ground is darkened, the sky is soft and plump and eased. This is how it's meant to be. Change, moderation, balance. Dark and light, summer and winter. Sighs and laughter. Work and rest. The frightening conditions in Australia and Christchurch right now prove how too much summer is not at all a good thing.

Later today, issue two of Suburban Magic will be distributed to those who so kindly donated to our fundraising. (As I mentioned the other day, subscriptions will remain open, you will be provided with back issues.)




Riverflow

20 pages

Preface
1. Fishing For Stars With a Creek Dragon
2. The Bunyip's Silence
3. Winged Light
4. The Hollow Night


As I write this series, I struggle with sharing so much from my strange and secret heart. It helps to have had people say they feel the same. My essays have made them feel less odd - their feedback has made me feel less odd. I am grateful. Once, most people believed the way I do, but society has become so sensible. If nothing else, I hope my little collection of essays will at least provide a different perspective on the wild places in suburbia.



this morning




overdue library books
a sky the colour of cold
dreaming of trolls with mountains in their bellies
tea, and strawberry jam on toast
church roses
gathering donations, thank you so much
small poems
finding time and letting go of time

when you rest in your true priorities, there you find peace

a new emptiness on the horizon
seagull song
believing that I don't need to know
the sway of a pale curtain

the sea is breathing on the streets

thank you to everyone who has subscribed to Suburban Magic; there is no time limit on donating, even weeks down the track you will simply be provided with the back issues ... every morning I wonder why I am writing about small, hidden magic at such a difficult time, and then I read the latest news and remember how important are the small, the hidden, and the magic, especially now. 


suburban magic




From the humid quiet of summer, amongst the flowers and the long blue, I have a few words to offer you. They are a protest song in sympathy with those whose voices are almost never heard these days - the old wild spirits of the world who find themselves trapped in our suburban sprawl.



A collection of essays sent out in six weekly issues. Each issue meets with species of natural magic, from little field-keepers to dragons rising out of rivers to the black-eyed bunyip and more.


Magic ... is still there. It lingers in the little waters and the grassy kerbs. Just as gypsy-hearted women live in city apartments and grieve to be there but needs must, so do lithe white water-spirits dwell in catchment ponds, eating dragonflies and tying lolly wrappers into their hair; and leshys live in suburban parks, their eyes gone heavy with traffic fumes; and faery lords can be found buying Chinese takeaways at night in the cheaper part of town.

Magic survives because that is what all life does - it adapts, finds a way, never gives up. Until its time runs out. Several animals that we know about went extinct in 2016. What else did we lose that we don't know about because we haven't noticed it, haven't named it, don't believe in it?


from In The Meadowlands



The issues will be sent to your email in a format which you can print off if you choose so that you may have a copy to hold in your hands and read gently in your garden or tucked up in bed with tea.


All around the world, Snake makes a secret path beneath our understanding. She is the wild knowledge of the land, the hidden waters; she whispers like map-markings ... you are here ... the facets of a diamond and of a coil of lava wedged in the heart of a mountain. She has scales, she has wings, she can become nothing heftier than a difficult dream. Perhaps her long, writhing travels take her through our inner waters, so that our secrets mingle with gem and dirt in her whispers, and we wake up with grit in our mouths. Perhaps the fire she breathes at us sometimes is our own fear or darkened wonder grown too hot for her to hold on to, and so she's giving it back to us. When we take a spear to her - - an oil bore - a story - a bulldozer - a sensible geological report - just what are we killing of ourselves?


from Fishing For Stars With A Creek Dragon





This project is a fund-raiser for our sports fund. No profit is made from it. For a donation of $6.00 you get the entire six-week series.

Please go to my fundraising page to make your donation.

When you do so, write Suburban Magic on your order form so I know which item you are wanting!



Issue One : In The Meadowlands


fifteen pages

Preface
1. The Singing Meadow
2. The Rabbit Who Carried A Star
3. A Dream of Spades & Wild Seeds





in the afterwards

 


Rain has been forecast. I say it like a secret, like I'm whispering about having seen a smile between two people who weren't supposed to like each other. February rain. It is always a treasure.

The sky softens, preparing to receive it. There is less contrast - all that fierce white going a little grey; trees and rooftops gentling into a paler scape. And the earth begins to open its pores, its flowers. Everything feels like the world is anticipating the lovely, langorous afterwards, when it will be full again.

When I think about my best self, it is so often the person I am afterwards. Gentled, perhaps a little battered, my eyes gone heavier and my heart plumped with knowing. You know, after the bread and wine, after the storm. Lately I've been trying to gather strength for the dark possibilities that lie ahead - maybe war, maybe another global financial depression, certainly droughts and hurricanes, food shortages, rising prices - but I find that strength generally isn't helpful to me. I am wiser, calmer, more thoughtful, when I soften myself, quieten my voice, and go deep into the feeling that is like the feeling before midsummer rain - the understanding that nothing matters if you haven't got enough nourishment, body or soul.

I wish it would rain for everyone. I wish bread and wine for the world.


waiting for magic



In the summer heat, and with a computer that has begun struggling, I've been working to be ready for presenting my new project this week. It's been more effort than I expected. Document problems have mostly been my bane, but then again it's not easy doing anything when the air is squelchy and there's barely any hope for storms.

But I do hope to have something on offer in the next few days, for better or worse. Something small, quiet, and strange. If you have ever seen a dragon amongst the trees, or met the king of the wayward fairies on a city street, or wished to at any rate, this series of writing may interest you. And if you agree that the issues of refugees and oil pipelines and patriotism matter, this series may have something to say to you also. Keep checking back to see when it's ready.

Night has fallen since the beginning of my writing here and now my looking up. It has turned the world to a magician's curtain, a poet's dream. I could go outside and soak in it, and becoming softened with quiet mystery. I could light a candle for a star. Have a good night or good morning, where ever you are.




a woman's magic




This morning is seawash over black corrugated rock, surreptitious breezes, gull song. I am sitting both in my little cottage and my old ramshackle house across the water; I have sand and tide spray in my soul, whether I want it or not. And I am thinking of my most beloved role model, the adult Tenar, and of the simple domestic magics that women do, such as sweeping sand from the doorstep, washing of it from windows. The deep, barely conscious relationship we have with the great old world. It breaks apart at our thresholds, and we return it to itself. In keeping sand, dirt, winged things, rain, from our houses, we protect not only our shelter from the wild, but the wild from being trapped in a tamed place.

Yesterday, I wrote about magic for my new project, which I hope will be ready next week. Today, I plan to do magic myself. Wash the floors. Water the garden. Go for a walk in the coral-coloured morning. In the halls of power, men and women are working to keep the world safe from those who would burn it. I can not help them. I can only do the work of my own threshold. It is a work of sand, water, words. Whatever goes on in great halls, they will rise and fall. It is in the little places, the doorsteps and dreams, that we find true, enduring power in our mutuality with the world.


when borders are closed, become a frontier





















The dictates of recent days are in fact the frayed hem of our prayer rug. 
They are our holy hills, our Gethsemane, our Mount Kailash. 
There’s simply nowhere else to be.


This is an excerpt from an essay by Martin Shaw.

A frontier is a richer, more dynamic proposition than a border. A border lacks eros; usually just the thin, officious mark between two areas of geography. A frontier ... is not a bored official flicking a passport, more a tavern filled with interesting strangers - the fire is lit, conversations spark stories spark music spark conviviality spark an educated heart.

So, could we not ourselves be a tavern filled with interesting strangers?

Let’s gather friends and play music from across the waves, tell stories from far off lands, give generously with our money and our time, speak in languages other than English - especially in front of our children. It’s a radical act.

Let’s become apprentices to the intricate metalwork of Scythian art, or decide our hips are an altar to some barely named old North African Goddess and take up belly dancing, or run three week courses from our porch on the relationship between Aztec temples and Gypsy gambling games from Medieval wales.

I promise you, the moment is now. This isn’t an indulgence, this is activism.



- read the rest of it here.


a small harvest



I want to say to all my friends in America that although the situation is bleak, we out here see you standing up for love, tolerance, and welcome. You look beautiful. In that same spirit, I am sharing today some beauty which I gathered from the virtual hedgerows ...



My grandpa has Alzheimer’s so he has no idea who my grandma is but everyday for the last three or four months he brings her in flowers from their garden and asks her to run away with him and be his wife and everyday she says she already is and everyday the smile my grandpa gets on his face is the most beautiful heartfelt thing I have ever seen. - hula-hope

In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating that going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still. - Pico Lyer




Lately I've been replacing my "I'm sorry"s with "thank you"s, like instead of "sorry I'm late," I'll say, "thanks for waiting for me," or instead of, "sorry for being such a mess," I'll say, "thank you for loving me and caring for me unconditionally," and it's not only shifted the way I think and feel about myself but also improved my relationships with others who now get to receive my gratitude instead of my negativity. - vijara, found unlinked on pinterest, possibly from tumblr




Could it be that we are meant? Troubled people born to a troubled time, yes, but chosen by trouble as its balm. Chosen not for affliction but for anointing.- Stephen Jenkinson

How to make cashmere heart hand warmers - the Magic Onions 

And we can be our own alchemists, transforming the everyday bric-a-brac of our lives into something less recognisable, perhaps more other-worldy, but still true. To me, a life is never dull. But when we create a story out of it all, it can be easier to see our own magic, and a beauty we can pass over too easily in the throes of living. The poetry that’s nestled inside our lives. - Antoinette


Tonight is Lammas or Lughnasadh in my part of the world, the first harvest festival, a time of thanksgiving. I have never celebrated it much for we're still in the smoulder of midsummer and it feels as though it has little real meaning to us. But it is a day to contemplate all we have been given, celebrate the generosity of the earth, and commit to maintaining our care of it although that will require sacrifice.This is certainly a good time to bring those things to mind.


Art by Judith Clay