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Showing posts from January, 2018

My Little Chapel By the Sea

The evening is grey and quiet and shaken with wind. We have had such awful heat lately, this wildness brings some hope for cooling rain. It will obscure the super blue blood moon eclipse, but I don't mind that myself. Every moon is a miracle to me. Last night it drifted so gently through the night sky, with just a little scab of dark along one edge to prevent it being full ... I don't know why full should be special; to me, the becoming is just as beautiful.

The little hanging chimes I have, made ouf of beads and seashells, are swaying, and I could sway too because the wind calls the heart to dance. As I look around the room, seeing the mess, I notice tiny lovely things too - the chimes, my grandmother's lace tablecloth, some jasmine I gathered from a hedge while out riding the other night. They are not in an instagram-worthy environment, but on nights like this, when real feels better than any nice photograph, that doesn't matter. They are like small offerings in a ch…

When Self-Care Isn't Enough

The day is long and beautiful. There is so much you can do for yourself. Whole lists of things, you can find them online or in magazines - self indulgences, self care, hygge. You can buy them at any store. You can paint your nails, have a candlelit bath, go on a date with yourself. Permission is granted, just ask any woman and she will agree - we are allowed these days to spend all our thoughts on ourselves, we can be free, we don't need anyone else to give us our sense of happiness.

But if this is true, why do we keep talking about it, pressing the point? And why is it so popular to look back with nostalgia on the old farming days, the depression days, when women were busy all the time in the service of others?

Why do we find when night comes that painted nails are not enough to help us sleep contented?

Maybe it's more true that, while there's loveliness in looking after ourselves, there's JOY in looking after others.

Maybe evolutionary theory and spiritual theory are…

The Leshy's Captive

I have been into the forest on an old forsaken island, where silence stands in the spaces between the trees. I can't tell you for sure that I came out again. Sometimes at night, or in the worst heat of a summer's day, I feel fungal shadows inside my bones, and the touch of pine needles against my cheek. I can hear silence, regardless of traffic noise and children playing. And this is when I think not that I'm still in the forest, but the forest is in me, perhaps even more so than I am myself - that one afternoon when I was thirteen I wandered through a forgotten forest far out to sea, and got taken up by the trees.

For Ursula

"Who knows where a woman begins and ends?... I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper than the sea, older than the raising of the lands... older than the Making, older than the moon." - from Tehanu

I first came to Earthsea through Atuan and its tombs and Tenar. Actually, years before I read that book I pored over paintings inspired by Atuan which were in an art book of fantasy worlds given to me by my brother. Excerpts and images from Tenar's story drew me long and slow into the whole of it; I finally borrowed it at a library, and went on from there to buy the whole series. (I almost never get to buy books, but some you simply have to.) 
So for me, strangely, the stories of Earthsea were about Tenar. Even the stories that did not include her, about young Ged, and then Ged and Arren travelling to the farthest shore, taught me mostly about the men Tenar loved, and why she loved them. I don't know why I took these stories in such a womanly way. Perhaps it's bec…

Weaving Circles of Leadership

The day is a mandala of light, shadow, song.

I have been thinking about leadership, particularly when it comes to conservation and community care. My perspective of this subject is influenced by having lived most of my life in a small country where there are only two degrees of separation between most people, and where we are blessed to house a mix of family-centred cultures. Individuals do not tend to stand out because our focus is on working together. We also are good at acknowledging all members of a team. Coalition is now the norm in our politics, and co-operation and harmony have great value in our shared community.

The cult of individualism which prevails in the north-west of the world (what is generally known as Western Civilisation) means that certain people are selected for admiration with little acknowledgement of the community effort which invariably supports great acts. Even when a person rushes into danger to save another, where is the appreciation for their family who r…

There Was A Storm

lush rain falling
the sky unspooled
a light from inside the world
peace, healing, hope

the river rushing over black rocks

a bird song trembling
through the late auburn light
and my own heart trembling
waiting for night

sometimes I think our cells play symphonies we have no awareness of
great music swelling, then gentling, old tunes of the half-forgotten universe
deep within us
and we find ourselves roused to dance
or wary of the world for no apparent reason at all
only the unheard, but felt, music in our blood

will you read this I wonder without a picture ... will you fall in for only words?

The Rain and the Song

My day began and ended with rain. It seems like it always should. Water is change. It is the veil between was and will be, here and the otherworld. We are born through it, King Arthur sailed it to Avalon, Jesus made it into his blood like wine, Ceridwen kept it in a cauldron of transfiguration and poetic inspiration, the Snake-Goddess heals us through her underworld springs. When it rains I have to believe in the divine, because nothing so mythic, so powerful for body and spirit, could be a merely accidental sticking-together of atoms.

Cicadas are singing their long song; I wonder, what myths might they have about the transition into light, and do they sing these as they call for a mate? Do they sing the sun and the rain, or in memory of the buried dark? Do they think of our world as an outer world into which they have emerged, or an inner one into which they have delved? Have you ever noticed that, when you start asking questions, and reaching for a strange sympathy for other life f…

The Pilgrim Leaf

A leaf is cartwheeling up the path. It clatters like one of the bright wooden devices my favourite primary school teacher would pull out of a basket and call a musical instrument. It is making a travelling song.

This leaf, it's been in the sky, and now it moves along paths and grasses, luminous and dirt-specked, waiting until the wind is done with it, and the light gone off it, so it can begin the long disintegration back into the belly of the earth.

And now it's coming down the path again - going nowhere really, just around and about as the breezes play - but making a journey of Life, regardless.

I guess we could all say the same.

Blessings of an Evening Sky

The moon is a grove of light
where we can lay our wishes.

The moon is the sacred heart of the world.

The moon is a mother
made mother by the sun.

The wind is dreaming through the trees.

As I went through the world this evening I decided what I want to do with my public space is share some of the beauty and the blessings that I notice every day. I will try for every day. Maybe just a few words sometimes, maybe several, maybe a story or not. Partly it is to simply share, because I think we all need as much beauty as we can these days, and maybe it will inspire you to look for blessings too (and share them in the comments section). But partly also it is a devotional. I believe any space can be a church, and I'd like to use this one in such a way. 

I may change the template here as I go along, or may not. Often I spend too long looking for images to go with posts, and I'd like to free myself of that obligation perhaps. 

The Inner Winter

Dear friends, I am going to take respite for a while, a time of quiet, an inner winter. I need to listen to the old stories and I can't do that well if I'm always thinking of what to say myself. I might be gone a day or a week or who really knows ... not for long, I'm not good at silence ... and I will still be at twitter and facebook a little ... I will return when I have seeds and songs to share.

Here is something small for the meanwhile.

Tin and tambourines On midsummer's morning Copper and a haul of briny dreams
Hare leaping, moon rising Out of the wild green fields Of grass and the sea
Walk your way to quickening Run your way to joy Follow the furred moon's feet
Star and silver harps On winterheart's eve
Lay my love down to peace

illustration by Wendy Andrew

The Ordinary Woman in a Strange World

The day is soaked and grey. I sit here with wet cloths on my bad sunburn and shiver slightly in the damp breeze. Such is life on an island at the edge of the world - one day fierce summer, the next day a storm.

I suppose it's a perfect time for swaying between (re)reading the ostentatiousness of Gormenghast and the eerie bare bones of The Owl Service. I will come down ultimately on the pleasant ground of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, with its cheerful ordinary kind of heroine: I always seem to end up with ordinary.

But I have to say that, despite my own ordinariness, and while I love the grand and marvellous wonder of a Gormeghast or a vivid summer's day, this is an eerie world when you look at it properly, and that's what feels real. More real than clocks, tea tables, swords. Ordinary is, I think, our defence against the wild truth. I have lived in forests and behind old mountains, in the city and suburbs, and everywhere I've seen watchers, I've heard whis…

The Beloved Day

What can I tell you about a night that's almost-dark? About that vulnerable half hour when the sky has softened, become denuded of all but the quietest pink light? Coming inside from it, I can tell you that it is gently held. The day does not go down alone. It isn't abandoned by the sun but carried with it, as if the sun has a pocket, or holds the day in its cupped hands against its heart.

I can tell you that everywhere I look at the world, I see love.

The Winged Woman

Wind is dancing through my house, stirring shawls and curtains, making it seem like the rooms have wings inside of them. The idea captivates me. When we think of wings as the manifestation of our spirit, our determination and hope, we envision them rising from shoulderblades, feathered or translucent, lifting us up to our dreams. But what if our wings are inside us? What if they are not material things, or even made of cloth-of-wishes, but are wind?

The breath of the Great Spirit, or God, or the trickster-god, or the lord of Change - the stirring of wild love through us all.

Perhaps we are uplifted by something that is within us but not of us, and all we are required to do is trust in love ... to open our mental doors, open our soul windows, and let it through, let it move us to where we might go.

photograph by vivienne mok

The Comfort of Rain

I opened my door this morning to a promise of rain. I had not expected it. I had not even intended to open the door, but there was a coolness and a shadow in the room that suggested an interesting sky, even with all the curtains closed.

Already I can see the fierce brightness of summer bleaching away the edges of the storm, and I know my chances of rain are small. I'd like to say the promise was enough. The momentary comfort of chilled air, the beauty of grey where it has too long been blank merciless blue. But the truth is, I want that promise fulfilled - rain. I want the faint thundery wind to be saying something meaningful.

And yes ... it has just fallen, gentle and white, a moment like a poem. Now even the light lying across my table is sanctified. The world smells of soil and leaf and secrets. I still do not believe in promises, I've had too much summer for that. But I remember that rain can exist, somewhere behind the sun.

 photograph by Miguel Constantin Montes

Owls and Stars

Thank you to everyone who read my earlier post, and to those who left a comment. I appreciated your words so much. I decided to delete the post because I felt I was getting tangled up. January is always "the ditch of the year" to me, and I'm determined that while I'm down here this time I will look for stars in the dark water. I will rest on weedy shores and sing myself songs that will make the kind of skies I want for the year to come. I should tell you now what I'm telling myself - I don't want anything ordinary. The world (and the blog world) has plenty of ordinary.

Yesterday I read The Owl Service by Alan Garner for the first time. It was mesmerising, haunting, and not only in its story but in the way it was written. I especially loved how the most powerful elements were never actually seen. The mother, owls ... It was the kind of storytelling that makes me feel utterly clumsy with words and reminds me why I often am more comfortable with poetry - becaus…

The Magic of Dragons and Dust

"I think... that when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn't do. All that I might have been and couldn't be. All the choices I didn't make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven't been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed."

- Ursula le Guin, The Other Wind

Yesterday, The Other Wind arrived on my doorstep. I read it right through. Today it lingers in my heart like a dragon's claw or the memory of sun flashing against a high window. This is the third time I've read it, and I've gone deeper into it than before; next time, who knows how much deeper I will go.

I came late to the Earthsea books, but I'm glad. I came to them after I'd lived on an island of heat and stone and dust, after I'd sailed, slept under the stars. The books…

A few Judgments

An old woman is waiting to cross a busy street. Six people walk past and do not help her.

1. A woman who has just learned she is pregnant after several years of trying. She is deep in thoughts about how she will tell her husband the news.

2-4. Three men who are on their phones. All three spend forty hours a week on those phones, or on their computers, and all too often walk oblivious through the world. They are hyper-focused on work so they don't need to go into overtime; so they can be with their families are much as possible - play games with their children, cuddle with their wives. They are working not for nice cars or fancy holidays, but to buy things like medicine, school books, braces. If they had seen the old woman, they would have helped her, smiling and gently joking as they helped her across the road, because that's the kind of men they are.

5. A young woman who is desperately shy. She sees the old woman and wants to help her, but the fear of it is too much. Not only…

Woman On A Summer Evening

She goes out in the calming of the day and gathers in all the pieces of herself that fretted away through the brighter hours -

contentment that was carried off by mutterings
dreams she dropped in the garden among weeds and sunburned flowers
forgotten things
smiles that dissolved in humidity
tears that she said were perspiration
the worry-worry-worries that came to nothing in the end
ideas that flared like a reflection of sun in the neighbour's window
random moments of peace

They are quiet, softened, like the precursors of stars.

She takes them back in. And as she closes the door, the night gently darkens.

A Summer Reading List

I was wondering if it's time for a book post, but surely it's always so? I have been enjoying those of others recently, and decided to offer my own.

I am currently reading Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, on the ever-reliable recommendation of Melissa Wiley. I didn't think it was my style, but am finding it addictive. I don't think I've read Mary Stewart before, but it's been a long life filled with thousands of books, so perhaps I have.

Next on my list is The Owl Service by Alan Garner, which I've never read despite it twice being in my house. I adore the old Welsh myths however, so I'll be trying it again. Sometimes when I'm without an actual book, I imagine out those myths, making a book of them in my mind - especially the tale of Arianrhod & Gwydion (which my long term readers may remember I love), but also Rhiannon, Ceridwen, and Blodeuwedd.

I also have coming The Other Wind, which is the final Earthsea book by Ursula le Guin, not necessarily m…

wild sky woman

She lived in a house up high, where the clouded breezes were her landscape, and their quiet rush her song. She harvested rain and star pieces, made poems from the sun. And she was drifty, and she was pale, and she spent her days alone.

She wanted to love who she was, but when she looked out her vast windows, looked down on the world, she saw that the best loved things were earthy things, woven with tree roots, stranded with medicinal brambles, and she saw too how they would be beautiful, and loved them herself. And because she was lonely, she made poems from what she saw of tree, dirt, cracked acorn, so that she could be part of the loving and being loved too.

But she did not really understand loam or lichen, or how to nestle your fingers deep into the earth seeking memory, water, buried wishes; she understood the gradients of sunrise, and the silences of white empty rooms. She did not speak with any fluency the conversations of women weaving in a circle, for her own tongue was bone-…

A Wuthering Love

The world is shaken with storm, white with storm. I have had toast and tea, which seems to me a kind of living poetry, and am only waiting now for the fall of the old dark, unkempt and starless tonight, wild with sea and ancient stone magic.

I think sometimes the world is very lovely with its flowers and soft green trees, sunsets and breezes - and then a storm comes and I remember the more hectic beauty of fierce weather, the grin instead of the gentle smile. It's nice to sit peacefully on daisy-lit grass beneath an oak tree. But its utterly transformative to be amongst the roots of low black mountains as a storm shakes all the serenity out of you so that your bones are as stark at the white sky and your breath a tempest.

Every January in my little country, people go on holiday. Camping, staying at the bach, tramping through the forests. And every year there is a dangerous storm. People come home bedraggled, flooded-out, cold. And they say, who would have thought? Every single ye…

daughter of the king moon

She was born under a full moon. It rose silver over the bright silver sea, but by the time it looked down on her where she lay beneath the hill, it had turned gold, the way a summer moon does; the way the eye of a good king does, looking upon his people. And the tug of the moon touched her heart, and drew her just a little out of the world.

Books would say her star sign was Capricorn, but no one born under such a moon could be troubled by the far, far stars. Those same books would say her moon sign was Cancer, a water sign, but again they'd be wrong. She had nothing of the sea in her. She had been delivered into hill shadow and blessed by old sky gold. Sheep had sung outside her first bedroom window. Old witch trees had danced for the summer sky king. She was blessed by things that could not be charted or ascribed to everyone born that night. Some may have heard the sea as they slept this side of their mother's heartbeat. Some may have arrived closer to the dawn. Let them the…

And The Goddess is The Space Between

Climbing down the weedy, rocky hill in the dark, through the oldest hour of the year, you found a chair out of nowhere to sit on. I'll never understand how you manage these small magics while I, moonless, am struggling just to see.

I suspect you were born with magic in your blood, an ancient pine hill gypsy singing magic that has people wondering where you came from - Iran, Turkey, Brazil? They never get it right. You came from a tiny mystic country beneath the fog; you came from the dance of a star. Sometimes I imagine the dusky, barefoot goddess who must have led you to me, the moist earth mother, the sea-voiced queen. Her thighs the mountains, her belly the rolling hills, her throat the roads, of the world between that tiny country and my tinier one; her song the way to go. Why to me, though - that is the mystery. I wish I could tie a moon to my wrist, so I could see it more clearly. I wish Christ would hold his lantern high for me, Arianrhod spin a constellation for me, so I …