Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wintersmith

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wintersmith

It started with a dance and ended with a loving, but frozen kiss!

How can a book about a thirteen year old witch, five hundred tiny blue tattoo-covered men with red hair, and a senior witch who goes to her own funeral after forecasting her long-delayed meeting with Death (she’s 111yrs old or 113 depending on who’s counting) for a few hours later, be romantic? I’m not even sure who the books are aimed at – children or adults – though a lot of the humour is very complex as well as being paradoxically quite childlike (not childish, I hasten to clarify). The book (one of a series of four about said young witch and her tiny protectors) is full of humour and quirkiness with precious little that can be described as traditionally romantic, and there is absolutely no direct mention of sex though this is hilariously alluded to by the little blue, Gaelic-sounding men). There is hardly anything in the way of romantic language, very little said about actual feelings, yet it remains one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.

The book, of course, is The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett. I’ve not read much by this much esteemed author despite my love of fantasy (both reading and writing it) but got intrigued by this particular quartet after hearing a music CD by Steeleye Span (my best ever most favouratist  folk rock group ever – even taking into consideration Runrig!) Steeleye Span have created a fabulous musical story from images and direct quotes from the four books. Some of the songs are so good and evocative that I just had to read the books too, immediately.

And so I fell in love, me a cynical old Grandmother (well not really – I must be the most romantic person since the Victorian Romantic poets). Yes, I fell in love … with the idea of a flat earth drifting through the galactic years on the back of a turtle, with the Dark Morris, little blue men (Nac Mac Feegles), and the ‘big wee hag’ – the young witch Tiffany, and definitely with the icy, confused Wintersmith who has in his turn mistakenly fallen in love with Tiffany. I think he thinks she is the Summer Queen and she is, indeed, sprouting vegetation from her footsteps since she danced with him in the Winter Dance but that’s as far as I’ve read – the third book in the series being this fated and doomed love story – so I’m not quite sure how this will pan out.

I have to admit that the aura of romanticism has been enhanced by Steeleye Span’s music and songs which I cannot stop playing (especially tracks: You; and First Dance) – its playing now. But so far, as well as becoming compulsive reading, it has inspired a piece of mixed media art that I set out intending to illustrate a piece of writing on wolves, and which instead, and surprisingly, has become a rhapsody to the strangely compulsive, and gently emotive love story unfolding as I read. I may have to write my own poem to honour this lovely love story in due course, as I did for the Wicked Lovely books about dark Fae by Melissa Marr: Darkest Immortal Destiny (filed in Poetry – earlier posts). It’s strange what simple or unusual sparks of ideas catch the imagination, whilst more obvious examples of similar concepts leave the Muse half sleeping.

The romantic element, it has just occurred to me, is as ghostly and ephemeral as the Wintersmith himself. Yet the story has turned winter into something incredibly evocative which, for me – I hate winter and go into hibernation after the clocks go back – is truly amazing.

I thoroughly recommend the four books, and when I’ve worked through the 200 or so books piled up on my blanket box (with some on my E-book) that I still have to read, I may well try more of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World novels – they are so original and intriguing.

The four books are:                                                        The CD is:

The Wee Free Men                                                         Steeleye Span

A Hat Full of Sky                                                            Wintersmith

Wintersmith

I Shall Wear Midnight

 

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The Cosmic Song and Dance

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Tying in with the main article on Circles within Circles here is a piece of prose and a poem on the subject of the great cosmic dance both written by yours truly:

moons & stars

Music, music all around

Can you hear it: The Music? It’s all around you if you only have ears to hear. Go on open them; take a deep breath, close your eyes and just listen for once, really, really concentrate on the sounds of life, the universe, everything around you: the music of the spheres, the rhapsody of creation.

I’ve always been able to hear it – the ohm, the notes that flow through the spaces in between the stars. A noise quite unlike any other, made up of the sum of all other sounds: the crackle of space energy, remnants from the biggest sound of all – the Big Bang, the first of all sounds … Star Music. If I tune in I can hear the song of the ocean even without a seashell held to my ear. When I still my consciousness I feel the vibrations of rocks and stones, and hear the quiet susurrations made by grass growing, petals and leaves unfurling. In my heart I feel the deep moans of  huge trees straining under the weight of decades, centuries even, of earthly knowledge, and the sounds of great whales serenading the planet and calling to their cousins, the Angels, above and beyond. Can you? The whole universe is singing for your benefit, for our benefit; a daily opera more real than any TV Soap or Covent Garden performance.

Science Fiction writers talk about the silence of space. No! No! Nooo!  Space isn’t silent, Life isn’t silent – it’s shouting, screaming out to be heard; a glorious choral cacophony of rejoicing and thankfulness, purely because it exists – and you can listen in any time you want; no subscriptions, satellites or aerials needed.  All you need to do is take time, be still, listen, reach out with your consciousness, and you’ll hear it whispering … singing … shouting … at you.

So now you know! As you go about your daily life keep your ears wide open. Listen out for those amazing acappellas of ordinariness: the percussion beats of rain as you take shelter in the park, the cracking of ice thawing on the surface of winter puddles and the metronomic drip drip drip of icicles melting, the pizzicato nonsense of garden birds heralding the silvery dawning light of morning, the symphonic scratchings and rustlings of tiny bugs and worms working the earth, the giant guitar strums of wild winter wind in wires, and the full orchestral power of storms and oceans punctuated by the slow sad booming heartbeat of our precious put-upon earth. Listen to the:

flapping, tapping, trickling, tooting, hooting, hissing, clicking, clattering, clashing, crackling, hushing, rushing, whistling, wailing, whining

wonder of this noisy world of ours. Revel in the healingful purrings of our furry feline friends, rejoice as they join their brother wolves and howl at the moon, and join in if you dare. Then laugh along with the cheerfulness of canine  barks and equine whinnies,  and the friendly chortlings and snuffles of guinea pigs and rabbits, the croak of frogs. Cry with the sheer splendour of recorded compositions on vinyl, CD or I player or sung in Sunday Gospel choirs and Monday morning school assemblies and Friday night drink washed bars. Every minute the digital memories of words, thousands upon thousands of conversations (happy, sad, indifferent, or just plain cruel) pass through the telephone wires. Can you hear them calling to you? Do you heed the crackling of electricity in the pylons, or the humming of data in the ether, busy travelling the worldwide web, and urging you to wake up and join in the great concerto of life?

Above all, can you feel, deep in your soul, the harmonic human variations on a life theme:

babies crying, lovers murmuring, people chuntering, chuckling, chanting, chattering, moaning, groaning, panting, praying, whispering,

weeping, shouting, shushing, snorting …. and yes, singing … singing everywhere.

There’s a billion, billion galaxies out there, each full of life; moons and planets all spinning like tops; moons orbitting planets; planets orbitting suns; suns revolving around galaxies; swirling galaxies circling endlessly around each other. All that energy generated: pouring though the Cosmic Radio; everything, everyone, singing together in universal connectedness and concord. Beyond that, in perpetual and holy synchrony with the physical universe, the sound of Angels: the beat of mighty wings, the ecstasy of heavenly voices; Celestial conductors keeping our Universal Choir singing in unison. No-one is alone, nothing lonely – because we’re all making Star Music together. So listen won’t you! You’ve been told. Music is all around you … just listen … and then Sing.

  night sky northern hemisphere

The Cosmic Dance

Starlight tells a strange, strange story

Of time’s fiery beginning

When all was gas and elements

Around nothing, slowely spinning

 

So far it travels, the tale it tells

Is of a universe without form

A swirling tide for eons long

A roiling, boiling thing of storms

 

Still speeding on through space, it speaks

Of a thousand suns so bright

That whirl, and waltz, their fire throughout

A million long galactic nights

 

Then not so long in cosmic terms

The suns spawn rings of worlds

That in their circling, spinning turn

Into that dance are hurled

 

Upon a world, a molten place

Comes lightening, then, and cooling rain

Electrons form, like spinning beads

To start their own entwining chains

 

An intricate dance of twirling pairs

That spiral round and multiply

A pattern for the greatest dance

Of all, allowing life to leap and fly

 

First light, that through the void has spun,

To us, brings tales of awe and chance

Voyaging on, through space it comes

To take our hands, and lead us in the cosmic dance

night sky southern hemisphere

 

Circles within Circles

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Circles within Circles.

Nature abhors straight lines; straight lines are manmade, artificial. I hate straight lines except for pictures hanging on my wall which have to be hanging absolutely straight. It makes me edgy if they are crooked even by a single millimetre. Otherwise I prefer curved lines and asymmetry.

I remember having immense difficulty at school drawing straight lines – whether in geometry or in art for perspective etc. I cannot hang wall paper to save my life, and in my first job (as a lab assistant at BP) frequently got into trouble for not being able to draw straight lines underneath peaks on charts so we could measure the volume of infinitesimal amounts of gases within substances.

Yet give me a plant to draw, or a planet, or a cup or egg (elliptical circles) and I am in my element. I remember one task in art (oh so many years ago) was to draw a kettle without drawing the actual shape, just reproduce the reflections within it – these were full of liquid curves, organic flashes, and spirals of light, and I loved every minute of that project, as with any project involving curvy things. This would include water which again involves actually drawing/painting reflected light to represent movement rather than trying to reproduce a solid object (water clearly not being solid though it is a piece of solid form in terms of drawing it, I suppose).

frog cycle

a Froggy Life Cycle – full of curves – frog spawn beads, curvy plant life and tails, pebbles, and egg shaped bodies

Yes, I was always happier drawing curves – somehow they represented for me – harmony, flow and balance, and as such became acts of meditation rather than work. I suppose that is what attracts me to the Art Nouveau movement, though I have a sneaky and secret passion involving Art Deco and Rennie Mackintosh’s work too, which involve a lot of straight lines though Mackintosh’s work combines these with organic movement, and Art Deco also frequently involves circles and flowing lines, but more stylised.

Since taking up art work again, I notice that I am more comfortable drawing circles and organic shapes than, say, pure landscape. I know landscapes have organic structures in them like trees or water but really, painting a landscape is an exercise in criss-crossing straight lines – hence Mondrian’s slow change from pure landscape to abstract landscape to, in the end, cleverly criss-crossing lines. The reason he is so good at what he does compared to anyone just trying to reproduce his pictures, is that his composition has its roots in his original landscape technique.

No, I’m just not that into landscapes, and it shows in the soulless pictures (barring one spiritual work of a misty Glastonbury Tor) that I have tried to create. After almost despairing that I wasn’t very good at art following nearly half a lifetime of thinking that I was (well since A levels – forty odd years ago) I had a brainwave. I love circles, I love wreaths, and the sacred seasonal circles of plants and flowers, changing the ones that hang on my door regularly throughout the seasons, and not just at Christmas. Many of the most successful drawings since A levels, when I illustrated an environmental magazine for instance, involved using circles or ellipses as a basic shape (see froggy pic), and I once illustrated two books on whales and dolphins – very fluid, curvaceous shapes. Why not, I thought, paint sacred circle garlands, and tie in my spirituality with my painting. Good idea.

sacred garland - daises & roses

original watercolour is for sale, mounted; painting size 260 x 248 cm without mount

contact: www.lavenderfieldstherapies.co.uk

So, on Saturday, I pencilled a circle on some water colour paper, drawing around a ceramic bowl that was etched with a frog – the epitome of life cycles, and hence symbolic – and proceeded to draw in some daisies, wild roses and lots of ivy around the circle – creating a semi-stylised picture of a floral wreath. It was very detailed, with lots of small shapes to paint. So no huge expanses of space to paint in, and I love playing with negative and positive techniques of painting (where you paint darker shapes to give the impression of lighter shapes behind or in front, rather than painting outlines). The whole thing was a delight to paint, and very meditative. It took all weekend to paint and time both flew and slowed, as I disappeared into the artistic ‘zone’. It was a very zen experience. The result is that I am delighted with it, and enthused to paint more – using the language of flowers, and seasonal change as inspiration. This painting is now being mounted at my local frame shop (Images). I have asked them to make me more mounts for a series of floral wreathes, and suddenly I’m enjoying painting again, and the planning of same, which is part of the organic process, too.

So what is it about the concept of circles, and spirals, and curving lines that reaches into my very soul? They are primal shapes, I suppose: circles– suns, planets, atoms, electrons, solar systems and orbits; spirals: galaxies, DNA, shells, sunflower seed heads are all examples of such. Nature is very economical with her patterns, and as such they must be stamped into our own blueprints. Fractals are another example of fluidity and economy of shape – clouds roil, and tiny clouds drift off the main cloud but remain cloud shaped. The edges of leaves at a microscopic levels are mini versions of leaves, trees sprout branches that sprout tinier branches that sprout … you get the idea;  all of these ‘sproutings’ are organic and fluid and have some sort of formula involving a curve (I’m not a mathematician but even I can see that there is a spiralling link here. Back to space and everything in space is spinning around itself, around other bodies; moons around planets, planets around suns, suns around the spin of a galaxy, and galaxies around each other; all of our current universe, and presumably the multi-verses too, spins around the original big bang site in one huge cosmic dance, which I have alluded to before. At a microscopic level (and smaller, at quantum levels – I think, as I said I’m an artist not a mathematician or physicist) even atoms spin and electrons spin within them; apparently even light curves at that level, and so on. So no wonder circles and curves figure naturally within our perceptions, our ideas, and spirituality.

rose galaxy

Humankind has obsessed with circles down the ages – stone circles like Avebury and Stonehenge are magic infused places, spirals and cup shapes have been carved into stone for purposes unknown to us now, meditated on via mandalas, or tattooed onto bodies (Australian aboriginal art); golden torqs, wedding rings, circular headdresses are used to celebrate marriage or success (Formula One winners, or Roman Emperors). All are symbols of eternity and infinity – the never-ending circle/cycle of life. Wheels give us mobility beyond what our legs can offer, electricity flows in circuits, sound and pictures are reproduced on circular discs that spin, and most coins are round. Even the material world is joining in with the natural world’s endless spinning dance.

Stonehenge study sketch

Well now it’s my turn, to make circles with my art. I’ve already written pieces of prose and poetry about the cosmic dance, and now I will paint them, using them to interpret the language of flowers and illustrate the seasonal changes as the year turns relentlessly on, another circle within circles.

Funny thing – about curves – if, as a species, we resonate so much with curves, why are we trying so hard to eliminate them from the human body? What’s wrong with being curvaceous? Curves are sacred.

Silver Wolf

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More on wolves: a poem written today and inspired by my love of fantasy, mythology and my spirit wolf – who is not a shape-shifter, to my knowledge – nevertheless … ?!? (fantasy wolf art from pinart collections – thank you people for providing me with a source of lovely illustrations)

silver wolf

Silver Wolf

Within the enchanted land of legend

I follow my inner dreams throughout the night

Roaming the magical landscapes of my soul

Walking side by side with my wolf of light

 

Deep inside the forest, ‘neath the trembling leaves

The Earth’s strong bones are pounding by our feet

As we dance betwix the moss-streaked stones

And weave my fantasies, like willow, to the beat

conjuring

As wolf and I howl down the moon

And sip mistletoe wine, on knotted apple grown

We awaken a sleepy dragon, shadow and fire

From its lonely wyre in olden myth and poem

 

Wolf’s strong arms entwine my waist

Holding tight, as skin on skin, we kiss and flee

Shape-shifted in this mysterious land

Of elemental force, he captures me

dragonrider

Flying swift on ancient dragon scales,

We howl our joy at Luna’s face above

Then lean into each other’s arms

To whisper sweet incantations of love

 

Our loving touch in rhythms match

The creature’s fiery wings, ablaze with hot desire

And together leave a trail of darkling stars

As we paint the midnight sky with streaks of ember fire

 

Faster than starlight the dragon bears us

Above outlandish realms, with ivory towers high

‘Cross forests dark and moorlands streaked with blood

Hastening to reach his shining castle in the sky

 whirlpool galaxy

Where we will stay awhile, safe within its walls

Rune-scribed, and draped in silk and lace

And there we’ll drown in star-filled eyes

Before we lay, and lose ourselves in loves embrace

 

Painting my skin with silent strokes

He draws me close and breaks my heart

With fervent kisses, becoming deeply one

Until I never want to be apart

 

His touch inflames and clouds my sense

As if the real world loudly, is not calling –

Drawing me, betraying all I want and need

As time flows on; my dreams are stalling

 changing

With reluctant will and fierce longing, we leave his realm

And hand in hand with burning tears, begin

To unweave the magic stones, and steal

A last sweet kiss, before my wolf is fur not skin

 

Then sunlight dawns, treacherous rays of frozen fire

That tint my dream-world bliss with golden light

Yet fill my heart with icy slivers, as for one whole day

I bid my silver wolf goodbye … until tonight

den mother

 

 

 

 

 

Running with my Wolf

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Artwork is either my own or as stated underneath the picture.

RUNNING WITH MY WOLF

There is a wolf, called Sherraul Greel (Grey Wolf Friend), that keeps me company along my journey through this current lifetime. I didn’t know about him, however, until I was in the depths of a considerable drop in confidence that was manifesting as both physical problems, and a deep seated fear of … I knew not what. Because the pain in my neck (literally) was proving unbearable I sought the help and amazing skills of an intuitive Aromatherapist, who just happens to be a friend (we’ll call her Rosemary for the purposes of this article, though it isn’t her real name).

Storm wolves

Storm wolves

Rosemary uses a variety of techniques to accompany her massage skills. Firstly, the oils she uses are made by her, not bought from suppliers. When deciding what to use on a client, at any one time, she channels her spirit guides (often angels or fairies) for advice and inspiration. She also uses visualisations, soul healing techniques, and shamanic rituals.

Rosemary had been working on my neck for weeks, and couldn’t understand why it would not relax from its intensely tight, spasming, muscular state. At this particular appointment, she decided to use some shamanic techniques combined with a visualisation on me, as well as the deliciously fragrant aromatherapy massage. I cannot remember what particular oils she used but suspect it included Rose Oil as she believed this to be a panacea essence (one which is very powerful and can heal a wide range of dis-ease).  So Rosemary began my treatment, and sometime into it, whilst working on my neck (I was laid on my back, and she was working from behind my head) she began a visualisation meditation with me.

I was required to visualise a door. Behind the door was ‘the something’ that was causing me to be afraid. As the visualisation continued I was asked to open this door, Rosemary assuring me that I was completely safe. So I did. I sort of knew what was behind the door, although I couldn’t have told anyone that prior to this treatment, so was not really surprised to find a huge, amber eyed, grey wolf sitting patiently behind it with his head cocked to one side, grinning – well – wolfishly – at me. He was male, magnificent, and entirely benign. When asked, I told Rosemary what was behind the door and she told me the wolf was not dangerous, and it was safe to let him out. Of course, I knew this, instinctively, but she was making a slight error in her analysis of my visualisation.

So I told her … that she was wrong. I was not afraid, per se, of letting the wolf out as he was friendly – in fact, I realised all at once, that he represented my inner higher being. I experienced a moment of epiphany … I was not afraid to let the wolf out, I was afraid to let ME out; afraid to let my complete potential loose on the world for fear of what might happen next. Woah!

Of course, this was crazy thinking, but it was how I felt. We explored my relationship with the wolf for a while before she brought me back out into the real world. My neck had completely relaxed for the first time in ages, though I would need a few more sessions before it stayed relaxed, during which we explored what I was afraid might happen if I let myself fully be who I was supposed to be.

shamanic wolf

The photo on my desk/table (see later paragraph)

That was about eight years ago and resulted in me handing in my notice at work, and setting up my own therapy business, topped up with some freelance teaching of social work students. Now I’m retired, but I’m still not letting my self be wholly free. Since then I’ve discovered that my current life purpose is to learn to go with the flow, and enjoy leading others into the light – be a pathfinder, a beacon, in fact; a hard task but I’m getting there, and my beautiful wolf walks beside me, encouraging me, and nurturing my strength when things get bad. Sometimes I forget about him for a while but always … always … when I call on him do I find the strength to take one more step into The Flow.

There is a picture of a wolf on my desk (stroke painting table, stroke dining table) – clearly not my wolf as he is somewhere with my inner landscape, my subconscious, but the nearest I can find to his image. For my recent birthday my daughter and family have sponsored a wolf for me, she lives in a sanctuary somewhere in Shropshire ( www.wwuk.org) and is called Poppy (chosen by my 9 yr old granddaughter). Why, I wonder, am I so attracted to wolves, enough that my spirit guide (my frustrated spirit guide due to my neglect of him … and hence of myself) has manifested as a wolf when I do not particularly like domestic dogs?

               Wolf Poppy  Poppy (Wolf Watch UK)

I think the answer lies in the shamanic symbolism of wolves. They are the guardians of the environment, and spiritual pathfinders. Both characteristics could be used to describe me at certain times of my life. I taught environmental education as a voluntary youth worker, and have guided the young and adults through my work as a breastfeeding counsellor, as a youth- and play-worker, as a social worker, and as a trainer. My therapy work involved guiding people to reach their aspirations and dreams through life-coaching and colour therapy, and I now help people to find their own pathways towards the light through a meditation group, and other spiritual workshops.

Wolves are also extremely compassionate family creatures, and never neglect the helpless in their packs whether these be their young, their elderly, the injured or dying. As a family woman myself, not to mention my career as a social worker and healer, these are qualities that I both admire, and strive to emulate.

I’ve never really understood how wolves got their terrifying reputation when other canines haven’t, other than through their natural instinct to survive in harsh conditions, I expect. Certainly I do not understand why they are considered evil, or have given rise to Werewolf legend.

During my university days I came across a book which has remained my ‘bible’ – it is called Women who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Clarissa is an archetypal psychologist with shamanic undertones. She urges women to liberate their inner wild wolf – an image I adore. Her advice to allow my wolvish ears to wriggle beneath my hat, twitch my whiskers, wag the tail hidden beneath my skirt (or jeans in my case) and howl at the moon is advice that enabled me to survive divorce, bereavement, and a whole heap of other lesser or greater traumas. Try howling at the moon – it is so empowering, and fun, though perhaps do it silently if you live, as I do, in a city with neighbours who consider me weird enough already.

Some of my favourite novels have been about wolves … whether fantasy ie Werewolves, or novels based on real wolf lives such as Dorothy Hearst’s two books Spirit of the Wolves, & Secrets of the Wolves (‘realistic’ or set in a real landscape anyway, no-one to date having heard wolves talk to each other in words, I presume); Anne Rice’s The Wolf Gift trilogy (adult fantasy – remember Anne Rice, she wrote Interview with a Vampire); Chanda Hahn’s The Steel Wolf (teen fiction), Victoria Danann’s Moonlight (adult romance and one of 7 books set in an alternate universe – you have to read them in order though, this is book 4)  and  Maggie Stiefvater’s trilogy (teen romantic fiction but worth reading as it’s such a different take on Werewolves) – Shiver; Linger; and Forever. Yes I know most of society consider fantasy books rubbish – they don’t know what they are missing, and is why I have never really gelled with a Book Club.

wolf eyes

Aren’t wolf eyes gorgeously intense and intelligent? (illustration scanned from Anne Rice’s book – see above)

The Christmas card I sent out last year (2013) was a print of a watercolour painting I did of a fantasy landscape, not really existing except in my head, with wolves in the foreground, and I have plans to paint a portrait from the photo I received of my sponsored wolf (that young female wolf named Poppy), and the photo I keep on my desk/painting table/dining table – to make a pair to frame and put on my studio (conservatory)wall.

Wolves of Winter

There are three wolves in my painting – one hidden in the reeds beneath the standing wolf – at this scale you can hardly see her, sorry.

As a retired woman living alone I am finding it difficult to live on my state pension, my private one being virtually worthless thanks to the recession. So I am desperately trying to devise ways to make money without going out to work for an employer. My wolf is here leaning affectionately against me as I paint, and put my paintings up for sale; nuzzling his head against my side as I plan meditation and empowerment workshops, and dare to advertise them to the public; and licking my hand as I finish writing my first novel, drawing nearer to the time when I must dare to try and get it published. My Grey Wolf Friend will be here walking beside me every step of the way, and will help me release my fear of failure and move on into yet another, satisfying stage of my life.  Wolves are like that, they care.

moon wolf

www.wwuk.org