May 20, 2017

a wild feminine baptism

We are born of the dark and the mud. The waters are grimy - full of nutrients, full of mica like broken stars, full of the memories of our grandmothers and all the roots, bird hearts, sorrows, they ate.The waters slid through forests where women journeyed and men dug. We are one-third muck, one-third myth, and one-third wonderment.

And through skin light shines, opening our eyes. And when we are born air flows into us, changing everything.

I remember when I was younger, and walking alone through a city far from home, far from my mother, I thought perhaps now I can call myself a woman. But I wasn't certain. Even after I too became a mother, I wasn't certain. I supposed it was a culture scar across my heart. But now I wonder if infact it was instinctive acknowledgement that I had not fulfilled the maiden spirit in me. Perhaps a woman can not feel herself a woman until she has been enough of a girl. A poet or a dancer, a nonsense-speaker, a leap of flame, a flower-scented gust, a rollick of light on the surface of the river.

Perhaps she doesn't get the chance for it until her children are grown, or her bones are old: until the men have finished talking and the parents don't care what you do any more. Perhaps she was a crone long before she got to be a maiden.

It doesn't matter of course. There's never really been anything linear about any woman. (Or any man, either.)

What I think is that sometimes, to grow, a woman must go back to her Mother. She must kneel down in old water, with the moon reflecting like horns in her wet hair, and she must delve into her amniotic mud for what belongs to her but she hasn't yet played on - tendrils of weed, sinew, love, choices, that grew around her, over and over, until they made her bones and heartbeat, and that can be plucked like harpstrings to make a self-song. I think sometimes a woman must get herself thoroughly dirty with the muck and myth of life. That's the wild feminine way to baptise yourself.

And when the woman arises again, the windswept light will dry her until she shines. 

Photographs by the amazing Michelle Gardella, who is possibly my favourite photographer ever. She has previously given me permission to share her work. 

May 19, 2017

the small things in life

Inspired by Jacqueline Honeybee, I have been keeping a diary of everyday beauty. It isn't an exercise in gratitude, but simply encouraging myself to become more aware of how lovely this world can be. As we slip into the solemnity of winter, I appreciate the reminder that loveliness can still easily be found if you look for it, even amongst the bare trees and sleeping meadows.

Here are some entries drawn from my diary ...

roses in the church garden
a swan flying overhead in the gentle frosted dawn
reading by candlelight
peaceful rain
a gauzy half-moon in the late afternoon sky
a plump bumble bee in my garden
shadows like lace on the footpath
a luminous grey evening sky
sea breezes
lavender and honey cake eaten in the rose garden
visiting the library's collection of vintage books
the sky looking like a Van Gogh painting
waking to the sound of rain
sewing lace onto a new dress
chimney smoke scenting the evening
walking in the wind
new kitchen curtains
cosmos, lavender, lemon and roses in the neighbours' gardens

I wish you a wealth of beauty in your days.

May 18, 2017


It came with the rains.

I went out early this morning, before dawn. I went to rescue a river. Going home over crimson soaked into the black roads - traffic lights reflected in fallen rain - I thought the world was so magical I could hardly bear it. Some people find their home behind a white picket fence or on a moorland or beside the sea; for me, it is in the rain. And we have had a very long dry summer.

When I got home, I found the book waiting in my inbox. I hadn't been able to buy the hard copy - books are luxuries here, at this time, which is difficult when you are acquainted with so many writers online and want to support them all. But I had to have this particular story in some form, and so I got the ebook.

I read the first pages as my curtains seemed to swell with the lightening, burgeoning world outside. I read words as birds sang rain-glint and earthworms. To be honest, I'd feared beforehand that I would ache from it, as probably every writer does when faced with something they wished they themselves could write - but infact there is no fear possible when you sink into a book written with sincerity and with service to the story. There is only a welcoming, tender experience.

Tatterdemalion, by Sylvia Linsteadt, is a book of wild magic, and that was what I was most expecting from it. But those first pages have impressed me mostly with a sense of wild ordinary. Nuts and dandelions and hearts and sorrows. And perhaps because of this, or perhaps because of Sylvia's love for the story - and for nuts, dandelions, wildness - which resonates so gently and clearly throughout, the book seems to have its own soul. As if it was not written but is a living thing existing elsewhere and dreamed into word-shape by Sylvia.

They tell writers to write what you know. Tatterdemalion is a good example of why this is helpful advice. When you can write with confidence, you can be brave, and you can be wild, and you can let your love shine through. And I suspect people read books because they are looking for love.

Another of the things which worried me beforehand was that my own feeling for Rima's art would be papered over by Sylvia's interpretation of it. But now I know this won't happen. I have adored the art for over a decade, and there's enough depth in it for a hundred different stories told into a hundred different hearts.

No doubt I will review this book properly when I've finished it. But I've been waiting for it so long ... from way, way back when Sylvia first posted glimpses of it, or something like it, something about wheeled magic and music beneath the moon, on her weblog ...  (and then to find it, on page 37, the very same passage - what a moment of satisfaction!) ... that I had to at least acknowledge its coming.

And soon, I hope, another book, Thick As Thieves, by the amazing Megan Whalen Turner, which has been six years in the waiting. Yes, books are a luxury - but some are simply necessities.

art by rima staines