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A Basketful of Nettles, A Dream of Swan Wings

You might as well prepare for a degree of befuddlement if you are going to visit here over the next little while. I can almost guarantee the template will change and change again. I'm in the waiting-for-story part of my creative process (which is to say, my life) and am falling in love ... and then out of love ... with a dozen moods and scenes every day. One morning I will be wandering along imaginary lanes hedged by wild roses, by afternoon I will be listening to solemn classical music played by a lonely woman in an old, empty room after the devastation, and the next morning I will be watching rescuers leap over stone walls to save people from perilous magic. It is a little confusing.

The problem is that, once I begin a project, I become absorbed by it to the point where I am something like a girl in a tree, weaving nettles, dreaming of swan wings, muted to reality by the imperatives of the magic. I want to be sure then that the project is worth aching fingers and lost languages. 

Complicating matters is that my reading inclinations are changing as I get older, and so my story telling too. I no longer need to be excited in a story. I don't seek tales of derring-do and danger; infact, I find it stressful to always be worrying what might happen next. I prefer cleverness (alas for our loss of Terry Pratchett!) A book doesn't even have to be beautiful written, just lovely and sincere, and created with a reasonable degree of skill.

Most of all, I read for characters. The interior adventures of a heroine are more interesting to me these days than the exterior ones. This makes writing a little difficult as I can seldom be bothered with all the doings, and the surroundings; I just want to get to the parts when people argue and then make up.

Has your reading changed over time? Or are you still interested in the sorts of books that caught your heart when you were younger?

art by kinuko craft

walking amongst flowers

What flowers grow from the cracks in your heart?

Yesterday I wrote of my belief that one should honour one's sorrows alongside one's blessings. For me, a separate thing entirely is noticing the various lovely things in a day. I've tried to do this for years, and online journalling has helped me a great deal, as has photography. I don't do it to be grateful but simply more aware. Nor do I focus only on loveliness. But I do try to notice the good things and tell my heart gently, see, there is beauty in this world, no matter where you are. 

I visited my favourite village florist today, as I do every week, and wandered through her shop putting together a little bouquet. It's always very inexpensive, just a small gathering of flowers. This time, she had various country garden style flowers in a bucket - discards, leftovers, including some lovely rosebuds. I was so delighted, but when I asked to buy them she was aghast. She finally agreed to wrap them for me, and charged me only for the one "proper" flower I had chosen. She begged me not to tell anyone where I got the bouquet from, or else her reputation would be destroyed.

I thought the flowers were beautiful. I did not care if they lasted only a few days. Their imperfection and fragility was what made them charming to me.

I think if you bring love, you will experience love.

I've had a lot to love this week. Making a little book of Suburban Magic for a very nice lady who took me quite by surprise by her generosity and friendliness. Receiving a wonderful, happy letter from a treasured friend. Rain (although not enough, never enough!) A favourite lunch treat. New plants for my garden. I've felt that I've been walking amongst beautiful tiny flowers overflowing from the cracks in my path. It slows me down. It makes me look where I am going and appreciate it.

keeping my heart like the rose

I tried to stay awake to hear the rain, but sometimes we can't help sleeping.

One of the things you learn when you live far from a beloved homeland is that gratitude must not outweigh grief. I am surrounded in my neighbourhood by all the things I need for my convenience, but none that I need for my spirit's comfort - trees, meadows, flowers, rain, peaceful roads, hills. I've tried being assiduously grateful for all I have here, and sorrow has festered unrelieved, ultimately causing pain and illness.

Neither though must grief outweigh gratitude. I've soaked in my homesickness and that led only to despair. It made me forget my honour and hospitality, so that I became a lesser person.

I don't know that our hearts are meant to be fully open all the time. Perhaps it is wiser to be like the rose, and draw ourselves inward sometimes, quiet in our own shadows. And then open to the sun at other times. If we count our blessings, we should count our sorrows too. We should allow ourselves our truth, our full human experience, and treat ourselves with dignity and love. People talk a lot about happiness being the purpose of life, but I can not myself believe that. We have not been given a garden that needs no work. That work is surely at least part of life's purpose. The dirt as well as the flowers. The digging as well as the rest.

image source : Kelsey King at Fairytale Weeds

Briar Roses and Ink Shadows

When I am dissatisfied, and finding it hard to settle in myself, I always gain comfort and steadiness from what I have loved for as long as I've been loving things : fairytales and the ancient histories of islands on the far side of the world - England, Greece. It may be because I grew up with those stories, and so they are the heart of my nostalgia. Or it may be because the libraries of my youth were dusty and quiet, and in the dustiness, in the quiet, the old stories still lingered like benevolent ghosts. They are mostly gone now. The libraries are bright, polished, computerised, loud. But I have those ghosts still in my heart.

I have Oliver Cromwell, an ancestor from one side of my family who tried to destroy the other side of my family. I have Cecily of York standing in the marketplace with her children, awaiting the coming army of her enemies. I have Ariadne watching a black-sailed ship glide away from her and Danae coming at last to shore. These people are more vivid to me than those in the coffee shops and streets of my neighbourhood. My friends wonder exasperatedly why I don't travel, but how can they understand my worry - if I stand on the road Richard III took to London, will I be overcome with joy or broken-hearted because dreams treasured in the imagination are destroyed by contemporary realities? To have seven seas between me and those beloved places at least keeps them timeless and safe.

Someone asked me this morning how I value simplicity and maintain it in my life. I discovered, upon trying to answer them, that I don't (although I wish I did). Peace is textured like heavy paper, layered with briar roses and ink shadows, loved as fiercely as those of a would-be king's wife, and covered in centuries of fingerprints. I can not sit in quiet contemplation of the light or quiet; always there must be story.

Perhaps I would have a better instinct for simplicity if I'd been raised on plainer language and more straightforward tales. Captain Underpants instead of Jason and the Argonauts. But it seems fairytales and a thorough education in old histories have quite ruined me.

image source

a quiet blossom song

The season's first blossom has arrived, and my heart sings a new soft hymn. Every part of the year is a show of love, but there's something so gently romantic about the love in August, in the fresh young spring. It makes a person inclined to believe any good may be possible.

I am slowly filling my garden with new flowers ... violets, daisies, primula, pansies ... and my imagination with new stories too. Some of these have a plot, but the truth is in spring I tend to mostly sink into imagery and mood, rather than outright narrative. I guess it's part of that soft hymn I mentioned. Come winter, I will have more to say again. Words as if for draping along bare branches. Words like shine for the waters. Right now, I am rather muted by adoration.

But then, when all's considered, there are really only two words the seasons tell us, and our hearts tell us, and we tell each other in the important moments of our lives. Love and faith. What else matters? They are the promise we are given through our winters, and the fulfillment we see in blossom. Maybe that is why spring can bring such joy. It's a holy joy. We see, when we look up at the bare trees now swathed with pink, white, scarlet, that our faith in the cold dark was met as always with flowers, and our love gives worth to all.

stories, magic, comfort

Recently someone took me by surprise, asking for a printed copy of Suburban Magic. As I am in the slow process of printing all my books for my own personal library, I agreed. I didn't know quite how to talk them out of it. But the truth is, I'd not really recommend anyone read Suburban Magic first of my books. This got me to wondering what order I would infact recommend if any newcomer was inclined to read my writing.

I would suggest the novel Deep in the Far Away first. Simply because it is a novel. After that The Coracle Sky, because it is my personal favourite and the more recent example of my fiction. Then Driftways, after which a reader would perhaps be acclimatised enough to my style to venture into Suburban Magic. Then they may like to consider the two poetry volumes, The Memory of Light and Otherwise, which were written several years ago. There is also a selection of my small poems at my instagram gallery.

When I wrote Suburban Magic, I was captivated by a powerful need to do something, however small, for the disempowered enchantment of the world, whether that be actual faeries or merely people's imaginative relationship with nature. I must admit, that need has faded now, or rather has become crippled. It's hard not to feel low and hopeless in the political environment of these days. It's hard not to cry when a neighbour cuts down most of the trees on their property. At times like these, I comfort myself with dreams of beautiful places where flowers are still wanted and rivers are treasured as the spirits they are. I soak in lovely writing, warm imagery. I tell myself there is no shame in resting, seeking comfort, building strength for the long haul. To the people who create beauty that others may rest in it and be uplifted - thank you! You do gentle, vital work.

living in a fairyland

For some of us, the horizon is not where land meets sky, but where eye meets world. And the veil of magic, drifting gently, is not between our world and some hidden fairyland, but our heart and what we suppose to be real.

Recently I spent an afternoon in my neighbourhood sensing castles beyond the small far hills and knights riding through a wide, lonely landscape where it seemed a thousand houses stood but perhaps they didn't, perhaps they were the dream and my lovely wishing was what was real. Perhaps a white and gold pennant flew from a stone tower that overlooked the sea. Perhaps dragons slept amongst dark trees. My heart felt it, never mind what my eyes could see. As I cycled the noisy streets, all I heard was a sunlit wind, and I thought myself alone amongst old country beauty where a magician king quietly ruled. No grimy politicians, no overcrowding, no chainsaws cutting into trees. Just enchantment and peace.

And so I felt enchanted, peaceful. It's strange how we privilege our physical senses and dismiss our dreams as if they don't, sometimes, have more power over us than what we literally experience. This is why I'm grateful for fantasy books, fairy tales, old romances of knight and sword - they are arks for a world beyond the intimate horizon, behind the veil of our hearts.

books and storms

Every now and again I find myself re-reading or watching a whole string of classic stories from Austen, Gaskell, and other tellers of simple, timeless tales about humanity and love. It almost feels medicinal. My days become richer for it (as does my vocabulary). I see beauty and goodness more clearly about me. These are books which sustain a wholesome and complex imagination. I must admit I've never understood the recent passion for graphically violent stories - I can not get my head around people watching such things for entertainment.

My morning was wreathed in magnolia blossom and storms. There's a sense of nostalgia in the winds lately, perhaps because they're damp with sea, or perhaps because winter is receding. Now we have a more wayward spring weather. I head out with the assurance from forecast agencies that there will be sun, only to get rained on by a sky that I'm sure is laughing wryly through the downpour. And yet, when I wait for rain, it does not come. 

Really, it's kind of lovely. It makes one forget about forecasts and have a real relationship with the weather outside one's door.

an enchanting bookshop

Today I visited a bookshop located in an old house. I rambled through rooms that seemed to be set together randomly; doors opened in unexpected places; it seemed unending. I kept turning a corner and seeing more rooms. And each was lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves.

I could smell the fragrance of old books even as I walked towards the front door. I almost hyperventilated, trying to breathe it in so my heart and memory would be filled with it. There were books I would have wept over, and spent all my money on, if I was still homeschooling a young student ... a wonderful big vintage van Loom book! ... a beautiful set of Shakespeare's plays .. and a charmingly illustrated volume of Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra, which I had to bring home. And now I am watching North and South because of it.

I remember learning about the Alhambra years ago as I prepared lessons on it from lovely vintage sources. Such wondrous days. Really, I can never get enough of education; of history; of all the old tales. I don't wish to live in past times - but I do wish people lived now in a nobler, more beautiful, more romantic way, so that we were making gorgeous tales of history for the generations to come.

a dream kind of day

If you follow me on facebook, I have moved (although don't expect much as I'm seldom there, and honestly the book in the picture above is a better one to read.) I'm wanting to reduce and streamline my online places and bring my mood more into quiet focus.

I have noticed even in myself a tendency to devalue quietness, to regret a small life, to think that calm and gentle days are somehow wasted. Don't we all want to be off on an adventure? Surrounded by friends? The truth is, visiting a new beach or forest is adventure to me. There's a deep fulfillment to be found in appreciating even the nearby things, even the mild excitements.

Today is my dream kind of day, clear in the morning, with rain promised for the afternoon. The moon was soft in a lush, foggy, black sky when I woke. A little while later, dawn swelled out of the sea like honey. It was warming, despite the lingering winter cold of the air - warming to a sleepy heart. I have new flowers to plant in my garden, daisies, white primula, and copies of Deep in the Far Away to finish. I'm going to make myself a copy of The Coracle Sky also - it is perhaps my favourite of my books, although Emma holds a special place in my heart. But in order to do any of that I must come out from under this cosy knitted blanket and get about myself for the day. I hope yours is a beautiful one, and wish you many blessings where ever you are in the world.

morning flowers

I went out early this morning between the sun and the moon. This is such a lovely time of day, at a lovely time of the year. Magnolia trees are blossoming, great wings of pink or white unfurling from what seemed to be no more than upright sticks. Daisy bushes are growing plumper. The fences soften with jasmine and, to be honest, some purple flower whose name I don't know but it looks like a butterfly tucked in amongst leaves. I've never really felt compelled to learn flower names. It seems such a colonial approach to wild beauty.

The days stretch gently. It saddens me, and yet in other ways I am looking forward to spring.

the paths littered with camellias
windows lush with morning sun
riding along quiet little roads in search of hedgeflowers
replenishing my garden
storms shaken out of the frost-coloured stars
thrush song and bird nests
cold skies
sinking my toes into the countryside
reading old books beside the sea
dinner on the front doorstep
white witch winds coming down from the hills
lemonade and scones
bees on the rosemary, butterflies

the gentle power of loveliness

I've never believed loveliness could save the world. We need the austerity of laws, sometimes even the brutality of wars, to extract us from our worst moments. Even if we loved everyone sincerely from the moment they were born, there would still be forces beyond our control causing people to make bad choices. Loveliness, though, saves our souls.

As I rode through my little roadway of cottages this morning, looking up at a blue but soggy sky, I felt so strongly the beauty of the world that I couldn't help but smile. My heart lifted to join the song of the birds. I thought of the clover and wild lillies I'd seen yesterday, the magnolia trees in bloom, the rain that had fallen, the smile of an invalid woman in her garden, the delicious warm apple crumble with cream - so much loveliness - and I was imbued with hope.

Beauty is all around us: in the wildflowers, the spied-upon smiles, the students standing against nazis, the poems. It is our heritage and our blessing. But then, laws are beautiful too in their benevolence. And while wars are not beautiful, the impulse to protect innocent people and quell evil is, although I wish it had a simpler, softer power against cruelty. I wish for a vast army of the kind-hearted to spread out across the lands, speaking tenderly to those educated in hatred, comforting those full of fear, finding food for those made desperate and mentally unbalanced by starvation, finding blankets for those who are overwhelmed. Because of course without the hatreds, fears, and desperation of the masses, evil would never secure a throne.

(So maybe loveliness could save the world after all.)

an inundation of art

Even as I watch my weblog stats diminish, like so many other bloggers are doing these days it seems, I have been contemplating the value of instagram to me. All these years wishing I could participate, and now I wonder if it's worthwhile. Not in terms of followers (I am always going to be a small, quiet voice in the world) but as a tool for my own artistic development. Blogging certainly made me a better writer, and it's only a shame that, generally speaking, all but the most popular sites ... the people who have been able to sell their lifestyle ... are fading. I still love to write here and have no plans to stop. I consider it a beautiful opportunity, just as I find Twitter a blessing of information and Facebook a handy place to share links. Instagram was going to be the place where I explored my photography style and grew in confidence.

I actually achieved these goals with one gallery - and then I lost the password to it. Instagram makes it almost impossible to get back in to a locked account. I still have my knittingthewind page, but in all honesty it's a messy jumble of micropoetry, lifestyle pictures taken on my phone, and artistic photography.

And yet, I'm not sure I want to begin a new gallery. Why work hard to create pictures I value, and then upload them to a place where many people will "like" them without even really pausing to look properly at them? Where they will just become another sqaure in a set, another obligation to like so people will like yours back. 

I have the same question about twitter/instagram poetry. On one hand, it's a wonderful way for writers, especially indie writers, to attract an audience and hopefully from that sell books. On the other hand, such an inundation of poetry ... such a clutter of words ...

Do we devalue our artistic creations by oversharing them ... and by extension devalue all art? On instagram there is no quiet space around each image to hold the viewer in mindful contemplation of the piece. On pinterest, people's art is shared without credit in the service of someone else's visual narrative. I am wondering what the next evolution of online art sharing might look like. Perhaps a return to simplicity, to slowness, like a real experience of a gallery, library, or magazine read over morning tea.

I only hope there will always be a place for the small quiet voices, the shy girls, the innovators, the wild and strange.

if the world should end

What can we ever do, those of us who have only quiet voices, except love life and love each other? Every day may have a hundred endings. We can't even be sure when they might come. The only thing we ever know is that we can love.

Unless we do have a voice. And then, what else is there ever worth speaking but love? I don't understand the voices raised in hatred these days. What were millions of children taught all through their school years that they now have no preference for love - for using their voice and vote in the service of peace, kindness, welcome?

Maybe we need in education a few more irrelevancies that are simply beauties. Maybe we need uplifting to see that the world can be worth more than it feels like in our own lives, so we speak, work, vote, for the ideal. Maybe we need our children to be educated not to become merely a participant in commerce but a noble soul.

a quiet kind of beauty

My day began with dark and rain. As the light progressed, slow as a piece of old French furniture music, I became sadder and sadder. I love these early hours. I never thought I would, I am a night-hearted woman and even until last week I was determined to dislike the morning. But I've come to know its intimacy, privacy, gentleness, poetry. I appreciate it so much now, but in a rather melancholic way, for its beauty is ephemeral, and I know what comes next is the bright day.

It's not that I don't want the sun. It's that the sunlit world is often exhausting. The clamour of people and their traffic. The requirements. The prose. I would like to think that, if all the day was grey and green like its first hour, people would go about more softly, and converse in old quotes and wayward translations from fragmented antique books, be more thoughtful and caring. But that's entirely wrong. People would very quickly spoil my sense of beauty. Because of course there are thousands of ideas about beauty, and almost all of them more vivacious than mine.

etre dans la lune
trans. be in the moon
head in the clouds, in a world of your own

someone recently suggested that the aesthetic changes I make here are seasonal ... perhaps, but not the regular four. my season at the moment is lingering cold, and rain, and frangible skies that are strangely illuminated at night to the north, but bruised and sombre southward. I've nothing in me these days that resonates with knitting the wind, but won't move to a new url for practical reasons.

tea and a book

As I listened to fine-stranded, rain-twined birdsong this morning before dawn, I found myself imagining the world made each day by sparrow sound and starling trills - a mirage from music, a little bird dream.

The sky is the colour and cold of a solemn winter sea. I've been feeling my British heritage particularly, so bought myself a jam sponge roll and had it with tea and the quiet contemplations of my worries. It seemed very British indeed.

For those of you who would like a handmade, signed, print copy of Deep in the Far Away, as pictured above, I have the cost of it for you ...

The book itself is (US currency) $18.00

Postage to American, UK, or Europe is (US Currency) $16.00

Postage to Australia is (US Currency) $8.40

I have very limited copies as it is time consuming to make them. If you have already requested one, you're fine, you can go ahead and make your donation via PayPal, and don't forget to leave a note stating what you are requesting. (If the costs have proven too high for you, my apologies, this is why I usually offer only ebooks - you may withdraw your request with no problems.)

Thank you for your donation, all money after costs are covered goes to fundraising.

I have only four more print copies to offer. Otherwise, may I suggest the ebook version?

Please note it will take time for the book to reach you. I have only a few particular days I can visit the printer, and then I need to make the books, and then they're a while in the post.

And now the morning swells with sunshine, the dew-laden grass is twinkling, and I think we will have a bright day after all.

a quiet song on sunday

bees in the lavender
earl grey tea in a delicate cup
chicken sandwiches
a stack of books to read
dreaming with a dear friend
floral sheets
warm socks

the bushes appear empty now, winter-wasted
but i see the rose wishing in their tangles, the summer in their sleep.

There is such a quietness here today, I can hear old song sighing across the plain. Unfortunately, I live in a place where the Hum is strongly audible, and some days it is quite annoying. I'd not experienced it before moving here; infact, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Hum. When it gets particularly aggravating, I cover it with music; however, music affects me quite strongly, so I don't like to play it all the time.

(Lately I have been listening to Fleurie and dreaming grand stories of old, empty mansions and rose enchantments and the longing in the dark. I can not listen to her music while reading or doing housework, as it fills me with such drama that it's hard to go on being ordinary.)

Peace isn't always about the cessation of sound. I experience it best when there's rain, or a wild wind through trees. Living in a house which has no trees nearby offers little peace, for all that the neighbourhood is usually very quiet. In the quiet I hear the Hum as perhaps I wouldn't with the whispering of leaves to shelter me. Peace is the natural world unfolding as it ought.

Have you ever heard the Hum?

ink and sunlight

I went out in the cold sunlight, a little slowly as I'm still convalescing. I went into the river valley and printed my book. Just one copy for myself, to test the process and determine the cost. And I remembered what I learned when I printed off Otherwise, all those years ago, in the little house in the rose garden, high above the sea - that seeing my words in ink, on a page, makes a difference I can not describe.

And now the world is washed with older light - not exactly a golden hour, not this far into winter, when the light and the love is more mellow. A peaceful hour though, tenderly luminous. I find myself wishing that all women were loved the way the sun loves the earth.

When you watch light slide down the thigh of the day, towards the dark, you find such a comfort, for this is what we need to sustain us - this earth, this sun, this wild holy love.

returning to deep in the far away

Imbolc unfurls on my still wintered shore. The dawn was white, the road black with frost. But there are violets in the department store, and a sense, somewhere out there, of awakening. Of limbs and hearts stretching. Spring is on its way.

This means I need to raise funds for the sports schedule ahead. We have some expenses that I can not cover without fundraising, and so every year I try to come up with a creative project to attract donations. After the non-fiction series Suburban Magic, I needed something quiet to bring me back into a narrative-based focus. Therefore, I offer a revised and extended edition of Deep in the Far Away.

Emma's husband has brought her to the beautiful countryside of Linden Cove to recover from a mysterious illness. But as she gets stronger, Emma is drawn into murmurs and old, uncertain memories of sorrow. What are the echoes that haunt the hills and her own heart? And what is it about the sea-fretted breeze that so frightens her husband? 
This novel is a eco-hearted fantasy, a love story, and a mystery. The theme of love and sacrifice resonates throughout as layers of secrets and sorrows are explored. 

If you are interested in obtaining one of the limited numbers of handbound hard copies, let me know and I will put you on a list to be contacted when the time comes - hopefully next week.

These are days of moth-wing mildness. This place is like a lovely kind of old magic. Linden Cove, Richard tells me, and the way he says it makes the name seem an echo of some older season, perhaps another cove we used to walk before I fell ill. I can not remember it. I am like a moth wing myself, too fragile for memory, full of holes. But who knows, I might be a wild white bird except he will not let me out. I may well go mad if I do not go for a walk soon. 

The house he has found for us is small and old, tucked alone at the edge of an odd copse of fir amongst all the oak of the cove. It speaks in sudden moments that sound like sorrow, but are, Richard tells me prosaically, only the wood swelling, shrinking. And then I imagine the house dancing. I have not lived in something so restless before. I contemplate taking up a conversation with it. A phrase of loud dark poetry as the tide comes in, a bit of song with the cold west wind. Sometimes, as I walk from room to room, I slide my fingers over the pale wallpaper and try to resist tearing it to see the tree-bones beneath. Would they be pine or elm or something else? I do not know why it should matter, but somewhere strange inside me it does. No doubt I am still a little mad with illness.

The novel is available as an e-book. This is because professional printing options are expensive and, as it's a fundraising project, I want to keep costs right down. As I've said before, there will be a tiny number of handbound paperback copies available very soon. I'm under the weather this week, literally as well as figuratively, so that has delayed the printing by a few days. I will let you know as soon as possible about pre-ordering for a copy.

He kissed me like the sea kisses shore, with such a tenderness against its worn stones, such a passion laid lightly in the spaces between those stones, that I thought my secrets, broken into a thousand dark and bright pieces, would drag away from him when he left, leaving me hollowed out and drenched with longing. When will he kiss me again?

Someone recently asked me why I've chosen to be an indie author. There are several reasons, self-care being one of them. Of course, I'd certainly like to be a proper traditional kind of author, with my books on proper shelves, with promotional tours and interviews ... but we all do what we can. It has been marvellous enough knowing my books have been read right around the world. I want to thank the many wonderful people who have supported me over the years, reading my books, giving me such lovely and encouraging feedback. You have made possible my joy.


Note: when making a donation, be aware there may be a short delay before your ebook arrives. Sometimes paypal is slow in notifying me. Sometimes I am occupied and don't see the email for a few hours. Also, I am in the opposite time zone from most of my readers, so may actually be asleep when your donation comes through.

If Deep in the Far Away does not interest you, all my books are available - from poetry to essays to stories as well as the novel.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy this weblog you may like to leave a tip.

Thanks & Blessings.