With Stars in Her Eyes


Dear friends, I have a sports-related expense coming up for which I need to raise funds, but am currently only in the early stages of writing my next novel, and have nothing else new to offer right now. I could come up with something like a subscription to a weekly story, but I like posting those here for everyone to read. Therefore this shameless post. If you know anyone who might enjoy an ebook of wild-hearted stories, or a fantasy novel about a dreaming woman caught in a strange, quiet mystery, or poetry, then I would be so very grateful to you for mentioning my collection of books. Perhaps sharing the link somewhere. Perhaps giving an opinion of them (for better or worse!) Only if you are so inclined, of course.

I would offer a special deal - one free poetry book with every storybook/novel chosen, that kind of thing - but people never seem interested. Just as I've given away free copies of books in return for a review, and that review has never been produced. So I'm sadly leery of "free" these days.

Over the years, I've had some very nice remarks about my writing, and people have equated it to the works of some extraordinary authors in a way which is far too generous - and none of it I can repeat because I am too shy for sensible self-promotion. One always takes a risk when getting a self-published book, but I hope people who have read mine aren't overly disappointed. And perhaps it helps that no profit is made, all money goes into a fund as explained on my books page.

To apologise for this tedious post, here is a tiny excerpt from my current work in progress (which is of course subject to change radically at any given moment).



Turning away, she moves her own foot slow, sorrowful, over wooden boards. She moves her hand as if tracing a breeze. This is how a private heaven went once, long ago. This was the dream.  
Stepping between stars, trailing beautiful tempests.
Lifting up the sea. 
But there is a great weight of peace on her now, and she is too tired to bear it. Drawing back the foot, she turns again to stare at the city until it eases with dawn.  
She does not do this always. But more often than not lately, she finds it hard to sleep. Her mind is full of wings and weeping, and she must rise against them, go to a window, and see that the world is real.


Dreaming of Peace and Love



As I look towards 2018, I'm not sure what I'll be writing here at this little space. I'm toiling away quietly at a new novel, which might be gentle or might be madcap, goodness only knows at this stage. I am also trying to manage my health issues, and contemplating the meaning of life all over again. So blogposts might be ... diverse. No one I follow seems to be blogging regularly any more, which is a real shame, but I would like to continue to do so, regardless of how I direct my focus. I try to stay true to the touchstone of peacefulness, although if you followed me on twitter you'd know I have my vehement political side too.

Blogging can in many ways be considered a living, evolving book form. And I have sometimes thought that the books we love best give us an insight into who we are, or perhaps how we should be focussing our lives so that we can offer our love and truth to help others even in just a small way. I adore many different kinds of books ... I've currently wandered down a favourite old road of Connie Willis stories, and feel little inclination to take any new path for a while yet ... but will almost never buy fiction unless it contains a love story of some kind. Connection between people, that is what I want most when I read. (Funnily enough, some of my favourite writers don't deal so much with this. But they write in a way that allows me to enter their worlds and make my own connections with, and between, characters.)

I might write more about books in the year ahead. We'll see. It's nice to keep an open heart. At least I will always try to give you peacefulness even in a small way, if ever I can.



The Mother in the Morning



She stepped slowly into the starlight. Far over east, dawn was beginning to gentle the sky, but here, in the little valley, it was still dark. She felt cloaked in that dark, crowned by those small winter stars. She felt like a queen, for all that her dress was stained and her body taut with aching.

The night had been full of blood, dirt, love. But that is the essence of life. It had been sacred. Behind her in the warmth lay a child. Sleeping, dreaming; a beautiful child, a star in the cold morning, a seamless piece of her heart. He was the dirt of the earth, of human life. He was the blood of passage. He was love. She knew he would bless her heart and break it, because that was the way for all mothers - for queens and women in stables. She had decided nine months ago that it would be worth it.

Love is always worth it.

Quietly came her husband, and put his arms around her. His hands on her - those strong capable hands that had caught the child and drawn him into the world. She rested back against the beat of his heart. These past months had not been easy for him, but he had chosen to trust. And she trusted him in turn because of it. He had led her to safety through the long night - delivered her, as he had delivered the child.

But it was an old story, wasn't it? A story told since the beginning of time. Dirt-woman carries forth life, and the Maker-king delivers it through blood, and if between them is love all goes right.

They watched the sky turn to gold like a gift, and then they went back in to the child.


Retrospective



Every year around this time I do a retrospective post. But to be honest 2017 has been such an awful year for me, I can't bear to celebrate it in any way. My voice is all shadows. I can only say that the world we humans have made for ourselves is cruel, a world which serves only those with wealth, a selfish world. (And no this is not a post about politics.)

I don't really know what more to write. I have no positive addendum. But here is one thing : while I was letting this post sit a while before publishing, I visited some other weblogs, and on one I left a little comment. However, I mispelled "joy" as "you". Turns out though the message was just right for what I want to say here, now ...

I wish you many blessings of you.





The Old Song of Wild Unforgetting Love



He was her first love. He was the wonder and magic of her childhood. He with his bare feet and unkempt temper; he blinked away the fanged tree shadows and night wall-whispers with his soft, kind eyes. She loved him, loved him - and then she didn't.

For she left the forest, grew up, became sensible. She found real magic. And she learned from other sensible people that he had stolen this magic, claimed it was his, destroyed the first magicians. He went against everything she wanted to believe in.

All her new friends disdained him. And so it was that she could not return to him or else she would lose who she had become and what she had mindfully chosen to love. Sometimes he came to sit beside her and she could feel the heart he still had for her. Sometimes she cried for him in the dark. But it was overly far now for her to reach across - she knew too much.

He, however, knew her heart. And whenever she was tired, he was there to lay his hands beneath her feet. And whenever she was burning, he wept to bring cool relief. And one night under a thousand stars she made a wish and he sang to her the wonder of her childhood, unforgotten, undiscarded. And she fell for him all over again. She went home to the wild, impatient boy with his eyes like the evening sky. His gentle, love-coloured eyes. She brought flowers for his mother, taken out of hedges and grass - tiny, feral flowers, for innocence. And despite everything she had been taught, she chose love.



Intelligence doesn't always tell us what's true, only what we want to be true. The heart can be a wiser source of understanding. And the heart knows magic does not belong to anyone, it is the melody of the universe, and anyone may dance to it as best suits them. There's only one fundamental thing: love. If you don't feel it, try a new dance, or an old dance, or a dance no one has ever seen before, until your spirit comes into harmony with it. Life will be there to take your hand, dance with you.


The Self-Made Woman



That day twenty years past had seemed at the time to go on forever. She remembered. She had opened her heart to each moment, letting the summer light and the sea fragrance fill her; she had looked and looked at the world until her eyes hurt. And even when she closed her eyes, the speckled darkness was so beautiful, it too felt like a blessing. Afterwards, when everyone had gone home, even the moon, leaving only stars like speckles in the dreaming eye of God, she wrote down as much of the day as she could. Words did not come easily to her, but that barely mattered for she knew she would always remember that day and all the happiness of it.

But memory is not stitched on the brain. It is speckles in the dark, flaring and then melting into ghosts of long ago light. Over twenty years, she recalled that day in little bits, some of them misattached to other days; she knew the words for how she felt, but no longer held the actual feeling.

And yet, it was not lost, not one moment, not one ribbon of laughter. For each experience had contributed to the marrow in her, the rhythm of her pulse, the way she held her mouth, the timbre of her voice. She did not remember that day so much as she was that day, along with all the other days of her life.

She grew herself every moment.

And she knew it. Which was why she was always so determined to embrace the light, the sea, the salt-tanged breeze of any given day, of every blessed moment. She wanted to be made of joy and peace. She lived her life to be it.


Great Courage For The Small Things




In times of disaster, we often see acts of courage which inspire and uplift the heart. But it's also true that every day people are being astonishingly brave in small, unnoticed ways. I'm writing this to let you know that I'm aware how hard it can be sometimes, and how much harder it is made by the fact courage for small things is not often recognised or celebrated.

answering the phone
wearing something different
asking for a refund
going into the world without makeup
saying certain words
holding up your hand
admitting your true religion
not eating that biscuit
speaking to the teacher
riding a lift to a high up level
walking past a dog
asking to join in
returning a gaze

I suspect even the most confident people have moments when they must take a deep breath before proceeding with some small, innocuous task that frightens them. We don't talk about it, perhaps because it seems strange, pathetic, altogether too vulnerable, to be scared of drinking cold water or buying a ticket or sitting beside a stranger on the bus. And perhaps it's good that we don't talk about it, for if we dwelt on our everyday anxieties we'd probably never move from bed. But I want to acknowledge that even a quiet, ordinary day can hold trials of strength and determination, and yes, sometimes you are heroic for just getting through.


Dreaming of a Sisterhood of Women



There is a busker who often stands outside my local shopping centre, doing something he calls singing. The noise is awful but I don't mind. I never really mind someone having a go. What I do mind is the way he stares at me, and other women I know, as we go past. It may be simply that we divert his eye, but it feels creepy. I will usually take a different, longer, route if I see him, or not go into the centre at all.

Today he stopped singing to watch me pass by, and I involuntarily shuddered. So despite many reservations, I went to the centre management desk to make a gentle complaint. I didn't want trouble for him, I just wanted to have him perhaps moved elsewhere so the way would be made easier for women.

The carefully groomed lady behind the desk was initially displeased to hear that there was a busker on the property. But when I explained my discomfort at his behaviour, she smirked. And of course I understood.

I am not a young woman. I am not attractive. This morning I'd merely dashed out to do a quick shop, and so hadn't applied makeup (not that it makes much difference). It was clear from this woman's attitude that she didn't think me deserving of a man's creepy stare, and that I was silly - or wretchedly delusional - for thinking I was.

What she perhaps didn't realise was that I already know this. I am fully aware the thoughts behind the creepy stare are probably much the same as the thoughts she was having, looking at me. That doesn't make it any less difficult to bear. It's still sexism if your overt gaze at a woman's appearance is negative rather than lewdly appreciative.

I felt so belittled, I didn't confront her on it. I just left, and worried all the way home that the busker would have his feelings hurt by being moved on.

Men can be appallingly horrible to women. It's an exhausting, endless, sometimes deadly, problem, and it's why I complained about the busker today. But the truth is also that women can be appallingly horrible to women. The part of me that wishes she'd studied anthropology can think of several reasons why women do this, but in the end what matters most is saying that it does happen. It is real. And it hurts. At its mildest, the social violence of women involves silly gossip or makes you feel like you can't ever again wear the pretty new dress you just bought. At its worst, it enables the violence of men against women. I'll never believe there is a sisterhood.

No, I've not had to call the police because I can't walk down a street at night to reach my home due to the scary-looking woman lurking in the shadows, watching me approach. But I've suffered the smirks, silences, cutting remarks, raised eyebrows, turned backs, advice, and general meanness of women all my life, and there's no one to call to rescue me from that.



* Not all men. And not all women.

The Stories of Christmas



The sky wept stars last night and rain today, and now the heat begins again. It presses against skin and grass so that everything struggles to open and close, and the world becomes increasingly parched. Down here in the south, we are singing to our Mother Ocean for relief. And she is coughing up slugs and deadly jellyfish.

I love Christmas. I love all the old traditional images of snow-covered cottages, night-eyed reindeer, chimney smoke spiralling into a wizened, grandmother-grey sky, perhaps because it is like a beautiful dream of something I have never experienced. But I become frustrated with all the online articles and posts about this mythic season of winter, light-in-darkness, death, silence. There's an arrogance to it which could take on an -ism if one was so inclined. Myth was made to be local. It may have universal messages, but the particulars of the stories were based on what people saw when they opened their door. That's the point of it - truth, godhood, exists in all forms for everyone. Please do tell me your local myths, your heritage, by way of sharing. Then ask about mine. Together we will weave a tale of many different colours and textures, different seasons and landscapes. When indigenous stories are disempowered, we also lose hold of the sacred truths that not only guide us but also protect our environment from human ignorance.

Christmas here is midsummer. The stories of light-in-darkness do not fit into our brief sweltering smokeless nights when the clouds are so pale you know they are infused with lingering daylight. For us, the king is not a child, but at the height of his glory. He rises to take his golden throne. He feels safe, he is benevolent, we seldom have storms. Lady Nature loves him with a mature love - no delicate trembling petals, but the robust blooms of roses and hibiscus, the laughing colour of pohutukawa. Sometimes it seems she loves him too much, she forgets all else but him, and the earth becomes too god-golden; it becomes dried up.

The message of summer solstice is the same as the winter one : trust. (All these stories, they hold our hands, they remind us we are sacred ourselves.) But now our trust is for dark-within-light, for the little death (rest) of a cool night. We are promised rains to come again. We know the summer birds will find their long way home, same as we will.



Often I read rich, earthy stories from hedgewitches and wild-dwellers, and I wish I could write like them. But being in the forgotten half of the world reminds me of the importance of writing locally - from my own heart. I do not gather medicines from bushes. I gather it from the sky. I must write the universal truths in the dialect of where I live inside. Otherwise I'm just appropriating summer stories for my winter heart, earth-drums for my sky-sighing, and that's the surest way to lose language.



What is the world where you live telling you about Life in this season?


Sonder





You will see her sitting in the coffee house, reading old books for university. You will see him walking down the city street in a suit that must be so uncomfortable in this weather, conducting business on his phone as he goes. You may think she looks like you wish you had been at that age - spunky, interesting, with a genuine interest in Ancient Greek literature and an ability to read it. You may wonder about him, with your eyes narrowed and a heart too hurt - how many women has he harassed today?

You will not know that she struggles with chronic illness, with a depression that haunts her life like a moon, waxing to pain, waning to darkness, and that it's taking all her strength to hold on to the dream of a university degree, even though she can't imagine her future clearly. You will not suppose all the bandages on her brain.

And you will not know that he has to take a deep, unsteady breath before he talks to anyone, and that his father never had time for him, and that he hugs a pillow when he sleeps because otherwise the chips and shreds of old, cold sorrows that embed his heart will stir, and stab him from within. You might not remember that he isn't a gender, nor a representative of the patriarchy, just a person.

All these things you might get wrong, because you are a tangled-up, intricate, uncertain, vulnerable, real person too.




SONDER: the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. (John Koenig)


How To Recognise A Butterfly Girl


Once there was a woman made of moonlight and sighs. She had lived as a child in the forest of winds, and learned strange languages of star, shadow, hedgehog, oak, even before human talk. It made her quiet, wise. She grew up to be a little sad, a little shy. The world beyond the forest was a hard place, full of noise, and every day it hurt her in a new way or an old bitter way. It broke her dream bones. It left her with scars like poems. She wanted to run home to the forest, but it had been bulldozed for a shopping mall. So she went tenderly through the suburbs and the city. Her feet sang against the concrete. Her heart flew frangible, wishful, ahead of her. She was softness in the daylight, sorrow in the dark.

No one knew it. For she weighed more than beautiful, and her teeth were crooked.

The Smile of A Woman



I would say that once there was a princess, but really this is the story of just about every woman I've met. Once there was a woman, and she was told to smile.

Grandmothers told her when she was small. Teachers told her in school. Passersby told her as she was minding her own business, walking down the street. Coaches told her - you can't enjoy your sport if you aren't smiling while you do it. Men told her - smile, smile, as if their own self-worth depended on it.

The woman did not want to smile. Not always. Not when she was dreaming in her grandmother's warmly scented kitchen, or pondering lessons, or imagining out a story while walking to the store. Not when she was fierce with physical activity. Not when some man gave her nothing to smile about. She wasn't unhappy, she was merely quiet, contemplative, tristful, dreamy, distracted, content, private, worried, calculating her weekly budget, entranced, fascinated, tired ... or a thousand other things that did not elicit a smile from her heart just in that moment.

As she grew older, the woman came to realise that she was infact in a war. The territory being fought over was her very soul. As long as she was smiling for the sake of other people, she was signalling that she surrendered to society, order, patriarchy. Not only was she behaving how they said she ought, she was being how they said she ought. And her smile was her white flag, letting them know she hid no secret guerilla intentions.

But the thing is, over the years she had become a woman who took herself seriously. So when they told her to smile, she showed her teeth, or flashed her eyes, and they understood immediately - this woman was going to uncheerfully defend of her choice to be contemplative, sombre, anything damned thing at all. And they could just stand back.

She was a guerilla poem.


The Moon & the Water Magic



Last night it was as if someone spilled one drop of golden tallow into the calm dark of the sky: the moon. The night was enchanted by it, gentled by it; the quiet was full of wordless luminous charms. But then, even before the moon appeared, there had been magic in the dusk, in the reddening of horizons and the long fine threads of silver from houselights falling into darkening waters like lines fishing for dreams, hooked perhaps by sorrows and hopes, mortgages and Christmas grocery bills. And there had been swans dancing together through the sunset - the same sequence of moves over and over, like a tranquil waltz, while three grey cygnets watched.

And there had been the moment when I blinked and everything changed - the softly rippling water moving faster, so much faster it was almost a blur, although there was no wind at all, no sound, no breaking of the surface. I blinked and blinked but it did not change again. I felt like I was witnessing some ordinary, everyday, nameless, ancient magic. Great golden fish rose every now and again through it, impossible fish that everyone says are not there - four times rising, maybe five, as if pieces of the sunset had fallen in and were trying to return skyward. I could have sat there forever watching it all. I almost felt like I had. When I got home I was not entirely surprised to see it was an hour past when I'd expected it to be.

This morning the hot dry light has returned, and its hard to believe the velvet lushness of the night could ever have existed.




The Dreamer Behind the Moon





On the other side of the moon, a woman is sleeping. Her quiet breath stirs our long dark seas.

On the other side of the stars, a woman is wishing, deep in her dreams.

She wishes for forests and fieldmice and peace. It's quiet where she is, so quiet; she hasn't spoken to anyone for three days. She would like to be in a conversation that had space, like the space between the stars, and mysteries, like the oceans on the moons, and magic, like that which illuminates the worlds. But she can not find it, so she sleeps.

Her heart is in tulle, dancing gently. She has words like dirt under her fingernails. The world seems stranger to her than star-shadow and moon-behind - all its fires, ploughed fields, lies. All its meaningless noise. She can not fathom it, so she dreams.

She dreams of community kitchens, free medicines, softly-spoken voices, kings who knock on poor men's doors bearing milk and biscuits. But she knows she will never see it, so she is tired.

Out there in the darkness, alone and unheard. She dreams of a beautiful world.