marking the path








So, do you do this for yourself? Do you lay bright fragments on the path to guide you when you come that way again in the dim light? Sticky notes on the mirror, emergency chocolate in the cupboard. Do you leave marks of love and courage for yourself?




talking of stars




Let's stay up late and imagine the secret philosophy of stars. We could compose something wild and lovely between the dark sky and the candlelight, you and I. We could forget about time. And when the dawn dragged down our eyelids, hiding our own intimate stars, we could fall into silence, while the world danced.

This morning a swan flew over me in the gentle, frosted sunrise. It called to where it was going, as if it cast its longing ahead of it like a path. I'm sure we all do the same, sometimes.


art by sulamith wulfing

if we were to go walking




If we were to go walking together, and talking in the quiet morning before stopping for tea and biscuits (perhaps throwing most of the biscuits to swans on the pond or sparrows in the wild grass), we might not say much that was special, because I am shy and cautious. But if we were kindred spirits, then we might talk about the poetry of light upon the landscape, the mood of the trees, memories of books, and what magical things we could see or almost see, and so much more besides. And we'd do a lot of not-talking too, gazing at skies or the smallest wildflowers - if we were kindred spirits. We'd each have a book in our bag of course, and paper and pencil for writing or drawing. We'd be in no hurry.

And it would be morning by preference, so there was the afternoon for remembering, resting, and letting the experience mellow into story.


illustration by jessie m king
quote by mary anne radmacher

the softness of autumn



Seen while cycling through the valley ...
Wild white jasmine on the fence above a river
Clematis unexpectedly amongst a neighbour's lavender
Banks of long grass glimmering with clover and dandelion
A secret grass path winding through flowering bushes and trees
Swans on an old pond


I thought they were going to destroy the wetlands, reclaim the land for factories. But it turns out they were expanding them. Sometimes people are surprising in the nicest way.




I love how autumn teaches me every year about the value of softness. It gives me wisdom such as soft moons like the big old swaying hip of the sky, ambling up amongst mist-plushed stars ... leaf-thickened paths ... soft blankets brought out from storage and layered on beds ... cosy slippers ... soft eyes and voices in nights that are candelit for no other reason than the gentle loveliness of candles' light. Of course, we need the shutters put up and the old fences bulwarked in preparation for winter, but just as much we need the softness inside. The old goddess stories remind us - Brigid within the Cailleach, a lush, warm seed brimming over with dreams of roses, deep in the heart of thin pale days scratched by bare branches and rain. And the old fairy tales remind us too - the disenfranchised ash girl saved by love rather than revenge; love and roses in the Beast's dark house; the huntsman's tender-hearted reprive. So often the greatest strength, and the best source for endurance, comes from softness.


art by dutch illustrator rie cramer

wild peace

 


It is quiet here today, the uptight kind of quiet you get in suburbia - the reminder that everyone else is somewhere else, and you are alone. I would run away to the woods if I could, to the meadows and the hills, where quiet lies easy, languid, on the landscape, and aloneness feels like refreshment. At home, to be semi-invalid seems wasteful, and the story of it is just sad. But there is no shame in resting in the countryside, watching clouds go by and dreaming, like a gentle kitchen maid or princess in some old tale. When we get closer to nature, we become less encumbered with shoulds and oughts, and can simply be what we need to be.




the oak tree, hearing foresters,
hid its heart in a girl
with shy brown eyes, quiet feet,
where only the most gentle of men
would be able to find it


painting by ann macbeth

listening to leaves and stars



"She stood there : she listened. She heard the names 
of the stars." 
- Virginia Woolf


Winter is coming, bringing with it words and a wolfish sea. I am making a space inside myself and around myself to nourish small new seeds of creativity. This happens as sure as the fattening of the moon on autumn horizons, the fall of the leaves. I soften, and then the softness slips away, letting the bone-dark secrets have their day.

dust and dreaming


There is a long memory in the dusty, heavy light of an old library, and a deep memory in its shadows. There is a sense that when you step inside you are entering a piece of the world that is enclosed for the sacred containment of remembrances and dreams. The library books I take home from such places have that same feeling. I think that's why I always liked borrowing books even more than buying them. They come with the ambience of the library.

My personal style changes often, for I am a little lost perhaps in a world that looks nothing like the one I grew up in. The truth is, my real style is old library. Dust and quiet. Memory and dreaming. Rooms that still have all their old ghosts. Longing for the stories of centuries ago. It is a style that sounds like shoes going quietly on wooden or marble floors. It smells of paper and ink. And it includes thrills such as writing your name on the list of borrowers at the back of a book, amongst the names of kindred spirits.

Most of the old libraries are gone from my part of the world. But we can be what we want for ourselves.

keeping the sacred song and fire of the home

The first bird this morning was a stranger to me. As I lay in the cool, frail darkness, listening, I thought the sweet chirp of the song was beautiful but somehow disturbing. What had become of my small, winged neighbours, that some other bird was performing their sacred singing-up of the sun?


 


But what has become of all the keepers of sacred song? Their voices have in so many places been replaced by the chiming clock. How many homes are managed these days by the rhythms of soul-need and body-health? Not so many that I know. Most submit themselves to the rule of commerce. I think of teenagers being forced to school at an hour their brain can not function, small children eating dinner too late for comfortable sleep, women with confused menstruation, men whose pulse ticks rather than sings. And within this all there lies a silence which, from the earliest days, was filled by prayer to the Mother. Houses were the first temples. Now they are places to hold our things.




If you read Suburban Magic,* you know I believe the a home is a sacred space of memory and dream. It seems dangerous to me that we now merely live in them. Without song ... without honour for the spirits of the trees and stone in the walls surrounding us, making for us a cave no matter how elegantly built ... without true shelter from more than just wind and rain ... our souls are essentially homeless.




In response to my post yesterday, nofixedstars mentioned Hestia. I wish I could write now all my thoughts in response, but this is a blogpost not an essay - otherwise, I would go on and on! To me, there is no more sacred duty than the keeping of the hearth. With fire, we have been gifted a bit of the sun, a bit of god, and tending to it is like tending to the god himself, giving him shelter, space, honour, in our homes, in return for his blessing of energy.

How anyone can suppose the woman who attends to this duty is performing some lesser task? It may not be paid in the currency of the modern world, but it is transacting the most beautiful relationship of all - the romance and trust and poetry between we who are the earth and our lover who is the sky.



* all back issues still available


I feel a little fragile about this new template, because softness and femininity are seldom taken seriously ... but I am trying to be brave. At least I want to show that a woman can love flowers and calm colours, lace and gentleness, and still know where the bodies are buried (under the floorboards) and how to go out barefoot, smoked, silent, to find old stories in the storm.

 

sacred homemaking

As I sit here in the pale, quiet light, awaiting the worst storm in fifty years, I feel now and again a seawash of coolness coming through the opening window to touch me. It is only slightly chilling; mostly, it is softening. I do so love the hours before a storm.




And I love autumn too, with its gentle drawing inward. It is such a homey season. It inspires an instinct towards warming, sheltering, which seems to me like an instinct for love. I wonder if in autumn prehistoric people brought the year's last flowers into their caves, and found aesthetic pleasure in rugs, and in whatever softness they could make for themselves. There really is something so sacred about making a home here on earth, in this life - making a space of love which reflects what we experience of divine love. Making a space which keeps people warm, makes them feel safe and comfortable, so they can open themselves to love too.

Which is why I am always saddened where I hear young people being asked what they want to do with their lives, what job they want, with no consideration or respect for the possibility that they might wish more than anything to be a full-time homemaker. It's something many young women struggle with, but I wonder how many young men also feel the same, perhaps even worse, as while homemaking is thought of as a lesser option for women, it is not  thought of at all for men.




My sky is blanching, my garden growing still. Soon the rain will be here. I am going to change my weblog, to make it warmer, more cosy. Homemaking does not only happen in rooms. It happens in your heart and your creative imagination too.


the woman at the heart of an old storm

Dawn came late this morning as the thunder clouds of the night finally furled into the dazed horizon. There are more on their way, but just for now we have a quiet sky creased with soft peach and cream clouds. And we have the breathlessness after heavy rain.

I imagine now people are going out to check their properties, or get their most important tasks done, before this storm's heart breaks and the rain returns. This is the authentic hour. I believe our essential selves show most not during thunder and fierce winds, but the silence between squalls - in the things we do to restore our little part of the world (or help others restore theirs). This is when our real priorities show. Not the urgencies of flood control or securing loose items, but those matters we settle first, like the comforting of children, checking in with relatives, procuring warmth for body and house. The repairs we make before anything else is done.

Of course, storms come in many different forms. Weather, moods, experiences, politics. Their impact is so often determined by the work we have attended in calmer hours.

This is hurricane season in my part of the world. Cyclone Debbie has washed Australia to the bone and now is dragging her last rains over us. Soon, I'm sure, another will come. We'll always have storms in April. But their force is determined by what we have done through the rest of the year to our atmosphere, our climate.

This is why I am particularly fond of womanly stories. They tend to understand the importance of lulls. Rather than focussing on people running around frantic in the fury, I want to see how they first create their vulnerability to that fury, and how they repair and strengthen themselves, their relationship, afterwards.

And now I must get up from my desk. This lull will soon pass, and I have work to do.