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tea and a rose-smoked moon

the shape of you is not the soul of you

I sit in my little house near the sea, surrounded by old books of poetry, while in my heart I walk cold hills with Emma and Richard. Music is playing quietly and the air fills with rose-scented incense smoke. I want a Turkish rug; I want someone to bring me tea in the cup I got from a long while's wishing. Outside, the svelte white moon sashays up through stars. There's a lot of talk lately about planets but I'd rather know what habitable places you have in the darkness behind your own heart.

a new way of being creative

Let's start a new paradigm about creativity. I'm tired of being told, as a writer, that I must deprive myself of comfort, frighten my mind, challenge myself, trawl my own misery, write what disturbs me. and occupy my thoughts with conflict.

I want my creativity to nourish and delight me. 

I want to write to enchant my mind and bring joy to my life. Instead of challenging myself, I want to consult my deep womanly wisdom, and create things that make me interested, absorbed, happy, fulfilled, not scared.

Perhaps it is our heritage of unrelenting war, or else our economic system that defines others as competition, but whatever the case we have a culture focussed on conflict and unease. No wonder writers and artists have so many little rituals they go through before they can begin work. I suspect it's not from superstition but a deep wish for safety, self-care, a little bit of comfort. Once they do begin the work, they must make themselves (according to most advice) frightened, stretched, challenged, self-doubting, tormented.

I do not submit to that militaristic paradigm. I write and take photographs from a place of love and inspiration. Instead of wrestling with my muse I adore him and sing holy, holy, for whatever he gives me. Creativity is not be an exercise in self-brutality for me. It is my haven, my garden, my healing.

art by Jeanie Tomanek

winter songs & silence

it's ok to shed your sleek waterskin awhile if you want
to breathe air, walk the dirt
even for love

it's ok to line your fingers with feathers
and your heart with skies
even to follow someone else

you are not a seabed
you are not a stone
it's ok to leave home, go home, make a new home
the only place you really belong is in your own soul

I am hungry for the white and the light, the grey and the silence. I feel I can't get enough of nothingness. I want to set up house in the sky and learn rain dialects. It seems akin to this craving I also have for walnuts - as if something, something, a mineral, a memory, is missing.

playlist for winter mornings

Lilium - Sorry
Lotte Kestner - True
The Narrative - Don't Want to Fall
Bree Tranter - Float Song
Allman Brown - Sons & Daughters
Matthew Perryman Jones - Amelia

winter solstice

The storm king is singing on this sacred day. His voice is the white-winged wind, his eye the light on the sea rising. He sings through the trees and the bones and into the very soul of me. He sings gull, dragon, thunder, rain. He whispers and roars, is smoke and the gentle breeze.

I don't want a god I need not kneel to, a god who will serve me. I'm not in this wild religion to find my own power or co-create anything. I follow my god into the longest night, unmooned and unsure, for the simple truth of love. What can I do? I am dirt, feather, sea, hill-bone. Every instinct draws me to him. Every moment. I breathe him in; I move through him. My words are rooted in the earth of me, but he gives them sound.

And he sings, he sings, love and storm, on this oldest day of the year.

art by andre alexandre

the difference blogging makes

A Mexican girl sits knitting
as the night spreads out in dreams,
and old women dream of Autumn winds.

She knits time to space,
warmth to cold, love to
alone, strength to innocence.

She knits moons to their orbits,
needles clicking with the certainty of stars,
webbing the known and unknown.

She knits sweet shadows
that breathe a calm to longing,
and drink the emerald waning of the moon.

Her darkness rounds the world with sleep,
past crouching walls of fearful lands,
with the graceful wave of parting lovers.

- Sean Lause

I was saddened this morning to read of the passing of Lin from A {tiny} Cottage In the Woods. She was such a treasure, and the sorrow her loss leaves behind for all of us who knew her only through her words and photographs proves that blogging is as valuable part of "real life" as the connections we make with friends face to face.

I want you to know, dear reader, that your comments, messages, thoughts and letters truly touch my heart. I've made real friends through blogging - some of whom I've known for more than a dozen years now. I've been consoled in times of sorrow, strengthened in times of struggle, and made to laugh more often than I can recall. I've been inspired by all kinds of remarkable creativity in so many women, and learned to appreciate my own creative voice for its small and quiet song, not just an echo of others whom I admire.

There are so many names I could list. Names as a prayer of womanly magic. Names that arise, star-like, from the far-flung lands - from Australia and America and England and India, and so many other places inbetween. When I watch the news from different cities, I think of bloggers and photographers I know from there, and hope they are well. When I have moments of shadow, self-doubt, I bring out the names and say them to myself. If you ever wonder whether you make a difference, well, you do. You make a difference to me. Thank you.

Having said that, I must now sincerely apologise for not visiting your own web spaces more often lately. Life within this little house by the sea has been busy - although quite often the kind of busy that involves sitting infront of a computer screen for hours on end. I do read your posts and admire your instagram feeds, but don't always have time to leave a comment. 

Art by Anastasia Zhdann


One of my favourite authors is Connie Willis. Her books are clever, witty, cunning, and a great deal of fun. She also writes romance beautifully, although in an understated way which somehow makes it all the more beautifully romantic.

I don't remember the first Willis book I read, but it was To Say Nothing of the Dog that charmed me into ensuring I got everything she ever published. The Doomsday Book was incomparable, and Blackout/All Clear is probably the most romantic story I've ever read, despite the hero and heroine being mostly apart. Infact, elements of it inspired Deep in the Far Away.

So I was very excited to get Willis' latest book, Crosstalk, and very disappointed when the first two or three chapters left me exhausted and frustrated. They were too much. Too frantic. Too many people imposing on the heroine, so that it was hard to get a sense of her actual character at all.

However, the book is about the over-connection our society has, not only with social media but also gossip and an eroding respect for others' privacy. At the same time, all this connection is not actually bringing us authentically closer to each other or to our own selves. This is what Willis skillfully showed in those early chapters, made me experience her message. Then the story's pace slowed somewhat, and I was hooked. The kind of hooked where you only put the book down twice : firstly when its deep night and you can not keep your eyes open a moment longer, and secondly when you have finished it. 

One of the things I like best about Willis is that her characters are ordinary people who have random thoughts, and do purposeless things, and not every scene is tied in with the theme or the plot - although inevitably everything that happens proves meaningful to the characters themselves. Some people find this frustrating, but to me it is honest and makes her stories endearing. I also know that, while I can't trust her to be giving me valuable plot information with every scene, I can absolutely trust her with my heart. Those random little tales and moments she throws in for no apparent reason become in-jokes between the characters, or memories they tenderly share, and it's magical to be a part of that. It also demonstrates how true connections form between people.

I will always read any Connie Willis book, even when it initially puts me off. I know she will capture me, fascinate me, and make me fall in love. And she did it again with Crosstalk. Yes, the book has flaws*. It is an exhausting read unless you are able to skim-and-comprehend and not get too bogged down. Many people hate it, and many people love it - which seems typical for a Willis book. I happened to love it despite the flaws. I particularly recommend it for empaths, who will almost certainly be nodding their heads the whole way through (and who may finally understand just why they grieve so deeply the loss of quiet, computer-free libraries.) I have walked into the fire for some people, and never before found my experience described quite as sympathetically as Willis does.

image by jessie wilcox smith

* One of the complaints I've read about Crosstalk is that the heroine has no agency until the end, and keeps having to be rescued. It really disturbs me that heroines these days need to be capable of self-rescue all the time. The best stories are about people's weaknesses, and about how their relationships with others either exacerbates or repairs those weaknesses. Of course we shouldn't believe all women are inherently powerless and need to be saved by a man. But if we only have stories in which the characters are strong and capable, then where is the relatability? The character development? I was always taught that a story is about how a character gains true agency over their experiences through trial, relationship, and growth. 

wonder woman

Hard days. Sad days. My heart aches for London, and for people all around the world who are suffering, just as people have suffered in so many ways for centuries. What is the solution? Well, it resides right alongside the pain : kindness, compassion, love and care for each other.

I watched the Wonder Women movie today. I almost never go to the movies, but had heard so many positive things about this one, I felt I ought to see it. I emerged with many thoughts.

Firstly, the cinematography was magnificent! Special effects woven through with genuine sentiment made my heart rise and my throat swell more than once. Secondly, I like very much what director Patty Jenkins has said about the importance of sincerity and beauty in storytelling, and I could see the effort that was made to bring morality to this movie, although I personally found those moments rather garbled. I also found that, for a feminist movie, there was an awful lot of emphasis on what women looked like : the heroine was staggeringly beautiful; the comic relief was short, stout, and overdressed; the villain was facially deformed.

But what stayed with me most was less the movie itself than the thought that this is what so many people recently have celebrated their small daughters watching, admiring, emulating. This violence, this determination to solve problems by bashing them through stone walls. And at the same time there is a general horror that girls should adore princesses who care for woodland creatures, and who try to see the good in everyone, and who inspire other people to acts of nobility and courage. I utterly fail to understand why those princesses are poor role models - except if it is contemptible to fall in love, and to need help from someone else at times rather than doing everything relentlessly for yourself.

There seems in certain quarters to be a backlash against love. Look how it was twisted in Frozen, so that a generation of girls might now grow up believing they can not trust themselves, for their love of their own power is dangerous and the prince they adore could be corrupt.

But the truth is, love is what saves us all. It's what gives us strength against the negative voices in our society and our own heads. It makes tragedies bearable. It keeps us going when we're achingly exhausted, pushing us over mountains in winter to take our children to safety, allowing us to read bedtime stories when we have the flu. Love ... compassion, empathy for others on a national scale ... is also why the politics of the actress playing Wonder Woman matter, even if only as an invitation to further discussion on the subject.

I grew up reading Wonder Woman comics and watching the tv series. I vaguely recall that I even had a Wonder Woman doll. I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy female warrior characters. I'm only disappointed that we use "feminism" as an opportunity merely to match men in violence, rather than aiming for something higher, deeper, more interesting, more complex, and ineffably more true to the wondrous spirit of women heroines everywhere.

I enjoyed this critical discussion of the movie, it shows me perspectives I don't have clearly myself as I'm not a woman of colour.

quiet and small

I didn't mean for such a long time to pass since my last post here. Lately my writing has been quiet and small as I work on revising Deep in the Far Away; tinkering with words, with tone, reknotting the loose weave of the serial - it creates a macro focus in my mind from which it's hard to shift. So mostly my social media writing these days has involved tiny poems at instagram and on twitter.

To be honest though, quiet and small is where I am most comfortable anyway. I think there must be nothing lovelier than the peace of a garden, of a small green view, with little more to trouble you than too-short library loan periods & what to do about the caterpillars amongst your tomato plants. I've been thinking for a while now about how peace has become a luxury in this world, something it seems at times, and in some places, only the rich can afford. Even the peace of childhood - rambling barefoot through nature, not knowing how your mother got food to the table, reading adventure stories that lit up your heart - is a thing of the past for many families. And then, how many of us find peace only to have it destroyed by selfish loud neighbours?

I could write for hours about how selfishness, greed, and consumerism destroy the simplest hopes of far too many people. But it's probably better to instead give what I can of loveliness and peace.

The undersong of the landscape
30 Days Wild
Tea With Mrs Mourning Dove
Digging deep reveals the intricate world of roots
Michicant by Mree

a feminising of the world

In the replies to yesterday's post, someone asked me how I would envision the feminising of the world. That's a big question, and I don't know if I'll be able to give a full answer. But I can share a few of my ideas, and I'd love to know what ideas you also might have on the topic.

By feminising the world I don't mean making it more woman-centric. I'm talking about feminine and masculine energies, and I know those terms are unhelpfully gendered. It would be better to use terms like active and passive, or change and holding. Also, I believe very strongly in the importance of balance, so I'm not wanting to do away with masculine energy at all.

I don't believe a capitalist society can allow a balance. In such a society, a person's only value is what they can do for the market, rather than how they are as a human being and how they create space for others to be themselves too. This is the fundamental purpose of feminine energy - to hold, to nourish, to be a safe and warm environment for comfort and growth. I believe we need to create or strengthen communities where it is encoded in our agreed manifesto, our government, our laws, that we take better care of each other. The most successful countries in the world have this. I also believe we need to stop educating our children for their future careers, rather than for the people they would like to be.

This is going to be a very long post if I continue in depth. So I'll just list ideas briefly ...

* Religion that sees both male & female as sacred and equal in the creation of life
* Natural energy instead of hacking into our mother earth
* No hunting of our sister and brother animals
* No factory farming
* Prioritising the health and care of children above profit
* Seeing unpaid work as just as noble & valuable as paid work
* Always someone in a family who is the full-time homemaker (man or woman)
* Networked communities, even someone employed to guide this work
* Restorative justice as much as possible instead of prison sentences
* Smaller schools integrated with adult spheres, apprenticeships, mentoring
* Community gardens, cities paved with wood & grass, fruiting trees, medicinal flowers
* Space for quiet and contemplation
* Community-based, nurturing models for healing illness, especially mental health
* More circles and warm colours and old things
* No loud thumping music in shops but a welcoming environment
* Stories that tell about relationships & are enriching rather than terrorising
* Natural toys for children, banning all plastics
* Reverence for the noble protector and the gentle warm-hearted caregiver
* Architecture that is not barren but enriches the physical & mental experience
* Architecture that embraces, warms, & that honours history as well as a contemporary vision
* Fewer junk food stores, more galleries and playgrounds
* Not equating softness and prettiness with weakness or lack of intellect
* Fashions that celebrate the diversity of bodies and spirits
* Language which holds men responsible for their crimes against women
* Kindness as the heart of our social education
* A return to good manners

You will see that my idea of a feminine world is one in which we embrace, nourish, and warm each other. It also honours and holds on to our histories while at the same time creating an environment which allows the future to grow. I believe it's hard to achieve this when we no longer have the home and community as our centre, but the work place (or school) instead. And when our stories, especially in the visual media - tv, movies, news - tend to be about destruction rather than making and strengthening bonds.

I could go on for hours, but instead will invite your thoughts in the combox if you want.

the protection of beauty

Some days I strive to remember that the world is generally populated with good people. The small unpleasantries that strangers sometimes inflict upon each other as they share a moment or a pathway ... the commonplace cruelties ... when I see this or have it happen to me, I am left shaken and reluctant to go out amongst people again. At these times, I try to fill my mind with images I have gathered of flowers, country lanes, gentle afternoons - which is why I often spend part of a morning browsing and archiving images. It helps to have beautiful imagery fresh in my imagination so I can use it like a shawl, or a wide-brimmed hat draped with chiffon or lace, when going out. Not a shield, but a softener.

I was delighted to find this book yesterday for a very low price. Afterwards, I sat in a tea house hugging it and every now and then smelling its old and dusty pages. I have Edith's visual diary, of course, and also the enchanting video series about her life, but I did not know her artistic work was so diverse. I will be rummaging through this book for weeks to come.

Where I live, there is not much scope for imagination, and I can find myself wilting, and also struggling to create. When this happens, I read books like those by Edith Holden, or LM Montgomery, and dream myself away. We need more books of wholehearted, lush-flowering beauty, don't you think?

This world seems very masculine to me. I know there are men who make lovely gardens and gentle art, but I'm talking about masculine energy. Even our woman-centred movies hold that energy - for example, Wonder Woman. Even some feminist neo-religions can be quite masculine in their monotheistic, active-power viewpoint. I would love to see a feminising of the world, without people fearing that it equates to a weakening. Not all the world all the time, but a balancing. Until then, I shall dream of roses and meadows and peace.

with rose-lit eyes

My rooms are coloured with rose light from the rising sun. It is gentleness, it is love. I thought about all the things I could share with you today, which is Queen's Birthday weekend in my old English colony of a country, and that seemed the best of them : gentleness, light, love.

Some people say it's a grim world, full of destruction and pain. But what I see are flower bouquets on bridges and songs uplifted to give people hope. Some other people say it's the end of days, but outside my house the king of the world is standing in his old brown coat, with his voice full of sunlight and dew-bright grass, and if I look at things his way for a moment, then this is the beginning, always.

It all depends on what we choose to see. We can choose the speck of evil or the abundance of good. We can choose to say truth is 2,000 years old or we can consider the 4,000 years of thought, experience, and revelation before that. We can focus on flowers or insults. I believe that how we see is a strong influence on who we become. I myself want to be rose light and wild song, and flowers given for love.

a morning's weather

The old woman is unbraiding her sea-wild hair. And the air fills with rain, and salt like the tiny constellations of the ocean, and forgotten time. The birds sing shanties. The flowers in my garden open their petals like bright sails.

The old woman is watching from the white porch of the world. She has a string tied around her ankle, tied around my heart. It is the same with all her children. She knows my deep trench monsters. She knows the bottled messages waiting without hope in me. She can hold them all in the palm of her hand and still I am free.

When the wind comes from the north, the old woman smokes mountain ash and sends root-brewed dreams - for she is all the corners, all the depths. She is the storm and the peace.

Now the rain has eased. The grove is quiet, and covered in star-pinned water from the last of the night. The sky is all grey waft  and bulge like the sea. But gold shines through it - sun shines through it - the love shines through it, the love of the god for his wife and for me.
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Thanks & Blessings.