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Showing posts from November, 2017

The Belly Moon

The Owl King's wife is carrying the moon. It waxes within her, surrounded by a blood-black cosmos that is starred with dreams and hopes. Its bones are made from her blessings. Owl silence guides its shape. The Owl King's wife is pregnant with the old country magic of love.
Come night, sparrows and wild horses take her down to the forest lake. Rose petals, fern fronds, drift on the waters - the Owl King has ordered the birds to do this, for nothing is too beautiful for his wife. He has procured honey and cream soap for her to wash with. She lays in the fragrant dark lake as if it is a sky in which the moon can grow, and she cleanses the day from her skin. Dirt specks, difficult moments, hard-edged words. They float away; she becomes soft again. Every night she does this to prevent cracks in her skin as it stretches; cracks in her soul. She is waxing like the moon, like her child: she is growing to motherhood.
And the Owl King sits on the highest branch in the forest and watche…

Married to the Owl King

He brings her flowers and the tiny sweet secrets of mice. He takes off his crown of oak-branch and star-bit, sighing as the weight leaves him, and he lays down slow and soft beside her in the moonlight. She has loved him since a morning in May, when the trees were fatly flowered and little birds leapt into his long black gaze. When he turned that gaze on her, she was caught. 
But perhaps she had gone to the forest wanting capture. She does not remember. It does not matter at all. He has her, gold ring and signed register, heart and soul.
She is like a bird herself, quiet and lithely dreaming of sunlight - and knowing at any moment he might swallow her. When she says this to him he agrees, and yet he answers in turn that she could fly away from him, out of his forest, where he can not follow. The words falter as if his heart is breaking at the very thought. Even though his eyes are so dark. His mouth so brittle. Who knows what he might do. Uncertainty is the only sure thing when married…

The Time of Your Life

I am the nineteen I never got to be. Or at least I have spent my whole life, since nineteen, trying to be. The nineteen that would have come with an old school education, associating with a certain kind of company, not being bullied, not living in the wrong city.

The heart strives to be corrective. Or else maybe it just can't let go. My nana was always nineteen too, but differently from me - her nineteen was some half a century before mine, after all. She seemed to live as if she was holding on to the innocence of the months before the war. Back when my grandfather walked her home from dances under stars; back before he experienced something in Asia that silenced him. For me, nineteen was when I got to university, after two years waitressing to pay the bills, and discovered the Wild Swans of Coole, and French history, and learned that you can read all the books you want but it's the reading them in coffee shops on rainy days that matters; it's the talking poems with like-…

The Quiet Girls

The quiet girls are off somewhere reading. You can find them if you look, they're not actually hiding, it's just that few people look. They are wearing dream-like dresses and their hands smell of old books. And they have tucked the little scratches of the day, the careless words, unkind smiles, too much noise, things going wrong, like flowers between pages, to be drawn out gently later as wild and aching poems.

Whenever you approach them they will be at the most important part of the story and in need of more tea.

And if you shook them, which I hope you wouldn't, they'd shed from their cardigan pockets notes about horses, and leaves of roses (the actual roses are in their hair), and a battered old library card, and tissues. They can do many things with those tissues. They can wipe away tears, wrap small presents, place one into a shoe as a remedy for blisters, use another as a bookmark, tend to the scrapes of anyone fallen from a tree, assess the direction of the bree…

The Seasons of Her Life

Once she was a dreamer on the hill without trees. Once another time she taught about old, wicked kings. And she rode through oak valleys, sailed storms, cast spells in smoky darkness, wore bells around her ankles. A tumble of ghosts live in her reminiscent heart. And she's old enough now to look back on them with love.

But she doesn't want to be them still, for all that she misses their days. She wants to have grown older. That feels right. Shedding skins as she goes through life. What she was then, she gave to then. She lived it deep, she loved it wild. It does not belong in now.

And she understands finally it is not about letting go. It is the womanly way of becoming. She is living all of herself, thoroughly.

illustration arthur rackham

reading between wild stars and the sea

When I was eighteen, I lived alone on an island of ghosts and trees. All night I would lie awake within the shelter of candlelight to compose strange, rambling stories about lost children, ensorcelled castles, singing stars like the stars that sang over the forest hunkered all around me. During the day I wandered the lonely stony paths and read in warm shadows. One lot of books I clearly remember from that time was the Isle series by Nancy Springer.

The White Hart, The Silver Sun, The Sable Moon : these titles alone enchanted me. (The series also included The Black Beast and The Golden Swan, but I only read them later.) Nancy's gentle, lyrical language and characters won my heart. Bevan the son of the moon, Hal the troubled prince, Meg and Maeve and the other wild-souled aspects of the goddess. I loved also the small details - plinsets, wolves, haunted swords, unicorns. Really, there are no other books in my collection that are as poetically, freely magical as these.

I have recent…

On the Profit of Storytelling

I have had moments over the past couple of months when I've wondered why I post stories here for free instead of collecting them in a book to sell. I don't really wonder for long. There's such a difference between writing a story for a weblog and one for a book. The stories I put here are little wild things. Mostly they take a few minutes to write and I barely edit them. They are roadside flowers rather than roses; they are thoughts spun into tales instead of essays. Because of this, there is a joy in writing them, a freedom that allows me to simply have fun with storytelling, rather than labouring over the craft of it. 

One of the stories has for some reason inexplicable to me become quite popular, and been read in the past couple of weeks by perhaps as many people as would buy a published storybook in a year. That's lovely, but honestly not as lovely receiving letters from people telling me how my stories, books, or poems have affected them. I even had a request fro…

Sunshine and Stormheart

It used to be or never was that there lived two sisters in a village at the edge of the tsar's great pine forest. Their names were Sunshine and Stormheart, and each was as unalike to the other as those names suggested - for although both were poor, indeed only barely making ends meet, they minded it very differently.

Sunshine always looked on the bright side. She thought, "I may live in a mud and thatch hut, but at least I have shelter. Thank the god for it! And I may subside on eggs, cabbage, and roots, but at least I have my own little golden hen and a garden to provide for me. What pleasure they bring. And although my body aches, especially when breezes wail through these frail mud walls, I am alive, and the world is beautiful."

Stormheart, on the other hand, felt discontent. She did not like the way her own mud and thatch hut leaked, and how breezes came through gaps in the walls. It was unhealthy, she grumbled. And she was thoroughly sick of eggs, cabbage, and ro…

Sharing the Answers

My sky is coiling with darkness and thunder. Sometimes these summer dramatics come to nothing, but I am hoping for rain. The garden needs it, my heart needs it.

Thank you to everyone who responded to my little survey. The results have been interesting ...

More than half the respondents would prefer to read a novel over any other form of literature, with short stories and non fiction each taking an equal part of the remaining chart. This wasn't surprising to me. I myself prefer to read novels, although I prefer to write short stories.

Just over half preferred a fairytale setting for a story, as opposed to only 4% wanting an imaginary world. This surprised me as the industry wisdom always used to be that people prefer imaginary worlds like Pern, Ombria, Earthsea, Middle Earth. I love them - I love drawing maps and building languages and cultures - infact, love doing this so much I seldom get past it to the actual writing of a story. (You should see my visual notes for Erland and Ce…

Looking for Answers

She walked ways of old roses and broken roads, looking for answers to the weeping of the world. But all she learned was that there were roses, and tiny things with such breakable wings living in the cracks of the roads, and that in the end she could only do what she could do for the world's weeping, and hope it was enough.

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Today is gentle, warm, and calm, as I always think a Sunday ought to be. It is unfortunately not quite peaceful though. The tiny story above was inspired by the fact my absent neighbour's alarm has been sounding for the past three days and nights. I have been listening to a great deal of lovely music to try covering the sound of it.

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And now, I offer you a little survey, because I think they're fun to make and to answer. If you have trouble viewing it here you can follow this link instead. (I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who read my weblog and/or my books.)

The Dreamer in Sunlight Hours

Sometimes I worry that I am not doing enough with my time. I disagree with Mary Oliver that this is my one wild and precious life, for I'm certain something comes afterwards ... but even so. Every day should be full of worthwhile endeavour or adventure, ought it not?

But then I remind myself that my life is not just held in daylight. There is the moonside of it also, the dreamside. We breathe in our waking hours, breathe out our sleep. We live these streets and gardens, and we live our mystical, feral dreams. Who is to say that what we do with the outside of existence is more important than the inside?

Perhaps even the real living is done when we dream, just as the real living for trees happens where we can not see it - beneath the earth, in their roots. And so our days would be just an outward expression of our sleepworld. I certainly believe waking and dreaming are equally real, equally important.

Perhaps the Faeryland we seem to know well enough to tell stories about is right …

Beneath her Forest-Lit Skin

She lived amongst the trees and old wild things, and so her skin had become dappled with oaken light and furred with shed strands of brown and white. She was not even sure what she might look like beneath that. Memories of old cities lined her knuckles. Memories of islands and oceans were half-hidden between her toes. But apparently every seven years you shed all your skin and are new again, so maybe she was ghost upon ghost, held in the substance of borrowed forest.

She loved that wild-populated woodland. But there were times when she wondered if she could love herself too. Perhaps one day she would go gypsing to learn whether mountains lay lovelier on her skin, or farmland painted more beautifully her various scars, or moors could be soft over her heart.

Someone told me recently that it's hard to hold on to happiness and fulfillment when you're an empath, but you can more easily keep a quiet ground of inner contentment. My own sense of fulfillment is like a wild sky, and yes…

The Dark Castle

It did not begin with a rose. It began as all stories do with a wondering. Before the forest, the castle, the storm, there was a ship that went out with a question - what can I find at the far side of the world? This unanswered question, this lost ship, opened a space for story to tumble in. Other questions followed, guiding the story as possibility guides the laying of a new road ... what do we do now, where can we live, what gift would you like, who are you, will you take the rose, will you marry me, will you come back?

The old merchant took the rose for his youngest daughter because he thought his strand of the story was the only important one. But the world was weaving its own strand right along with him. You can not take without being offered the chance to give in return. You may turn down that offer, and then mystery, potentiality, will die without you ever knowing it. Or you may send your heart into the dark castle, the strange old space of story, and see what becomes of it.

Sister of Trees

I went to my old stamping ground today - to pale streets softened by oak and elm, skies filled with hills. There, the air is different. Its wind stories are different. I felt like myself again walking through it. And I came away wondering how much of us is inside stuff, and how much outside. In other words, are our selves perhaps a relationship, a conversation we are having not only with our own minds and muscles and memories, but with the breeze and local trees and the land's contours? Who I am in my current neighbourhood beside the sea is very different from who I am in the oak shadows.

When I returned from there, I was greeted at the threshold of my village by a gaping brown space where a beautiful elm had stood only yesterday. They kill so many trees here. I don't understand them. How can anyone thrive when surrounded by soulless concrete and glass? What are they doing to their selves as they converse so contemptuously with the environment?

For a little while I got to whi…

The Moon Hare Carries Away Winter

In the night a hare was leaping like the last white song of winter over darkened hills. It had a smile in its eyes, shining, brightly shining. It had the moon hanging from its long left ear, swinging, slowly swinging. And the moon was shadowed with hare memories of wild grass, warm earth. And the smile was a tale untold. And where the hare leapt, flowers grew - small heirlooms of the winter, given over to the new season.

In a house in quiet darkness, a woman was watching the lyrical turn of the world. She had stars in her tea and honey in her comfortable silence. And the honey stuck to her tongue like old bee dreaming. And the tea tasted wild. In the morning she would go out to gather white flowers, grieving winter, and when she came home she would leave the door open to let summer in.

the beautiful illustration is by karen davis karen's weblog inspired the mood for the story, but this picture was found after the story was written.