The Longest Night

The title of this magical animation by paper cut artist Angie Pickman refers to the winter solstice, but it's also symbolic of other "long nights" we face in life: a mental or physical health crisis...a period of grief, hardship, or trauma...or the week leading to a troubling transition of power in Washington DC.

"We are always on a journey from darkness into light," the Irish poet/philosopher John O'Donohue reminds us. "At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother's womb. You lived the first nine months in there. Your birth was the first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born of darkness. Each day is a journey. We come out of the night into the day. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover the balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm."

Copyright by Karen Davis

In the mythic sense, we practice moving from darkness into light every morning of our lives. The task now is make that movement larger, to join together to carry the entire world through the long night to the dawn.

Stray by Jeanie Tomanek

Capturing the Moon by Jeanie Tomanek

The art above is"The Spirit Within" by Karen Davis (UK); "Stray" and "Capturing the Moon" by Jeanie Tomanek (US). The video is by Angie Pickman (US); go here to see more of her work. The quote is from Anam Cara (Bantam Books, 1997) by John O'Donhue (1956-2008, Ireland). All right to the video and art above are reserved by the artists; all rights to O'Donohue's text are reserved by his estate.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Awake  Awake by Marry Waterson

Today, music from four different counties, illustrated or animated in four different ways....

Above, a charming video with paper cut art and simple animation by Marry Waterson, an artist & musician from the famous Waterson family of folk musicians in Yorkshire. The song is "Awake, Awake," performed by Cumbrian folksinger Maz O'Connor on her debut album, This Willowed Light -- which makes Waterson's use of William Morris' "Willow" design in the video rather clever. "Awake, Awake" is a traditional folk song also known as "The Drowsy Sleeper" and "The Silver Dagger." There's another fine version of it sung acappella on the Full English album, which I also highly recommend.

Below, a touching video by graphic artist & filmmaker Monkmus, from Los Angeles, for "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by the American indie band Death Cab for Cutie, from Bellingham, Washington. I love the story (life-affirming and heart-breaking all at once), and the whole notebook/sketchbook theme.

Below, a thoroughly delightful stop-motion animation by artist Sydney Smith & filmmaker Jason Levangie, both based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The song is "Horska," exuberantly performed by the Gypsy jazz band Gypsophilia, also from Halifax. It's Smith & Levangie's second collaboration with the band; the first was "Agricola & Sarah" in 2009.

And to end with, a lovely little piece of black-and-white animation by Esteban Diácono, who comes from Córdoba, Argentina, and is now based in Buenos Aires. The music is "Slowly, Slowly Comes the Light" by Ólafur Arnalds, from Mosfellsbær, Iceland.

This one, so simple and yet so beautiful, just lifts my heart.


The dance of joy and grief, part II: a meditation on loss

Thumbelina by Lisbeth Zwerger

"Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive."  - Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

"All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes."  - Cormac McCarthy (The Road)

"[In The Lord of the Rings,] Frodo's quest is a middle-aged man's quest, to lose something and to give something up, which is what you start to realize in your thirties is going to happen to you. Part of the rest of your life is learning to give things up."  - Ellen Kushner (Locus interview)

"It is Story that heals us, that shapeshifts us, that saves us."  - Sylvia V. Linsteadt

Thumbelina by Lisbeth Zwerger

 The paintings today are by the great Austrian book illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger, for Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina.

The video below is "Thought of You," an animation by Ryan Woodward, with music by The Weepies. I've posted it once before, but that was way back in 2011, and it's worth a re-visit.

Thumbelina by Lisbeth Zwerger


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Howard and I discovered the beautiful music of the Crow Puppets last month, when they shared a stage with Howard's band, the Nosey Crows, at aSummer crow by Rima music festival in north Devon.  (There seems to have been a bit of a crow theme that day.) Crow Puppets consists of singer/songwriters Cara Roxanne and Em Marshall, who "first met when they moved into a haunted house by a crumbling castle fringing Dartmoor." Their "homespun folk music" has a mythic and magical bent, and I recommend their new album, Whispering Hills, Tangled Hair. The Crow Puppets are based in Ashburton, Devon, which is just across the moor from Chagford.

Above, Cara Roxanne's animation for their song "Red Ribbons" - a rather cold and wintry song for a mild summer day, but nevermind.  Below, The Crow Puppets perform "Whispering Hills" at last year's Accoustica Festival in Exeter.  The artwork on the left is "Summer Crow" by Rima Staines.

The Crow Puppets' music reminds me a little of another wonderful West Country musician, Martha Tilston, who is based in Cornwall. Her most recent CDs are Lucy and the Wolves and Machines of Love and Grace, but all of her albums are lovely.

Above: Martha and her band perform "More" (a song whose sentiments I agree with wholeheartedly) for Folk Radio UK last autumn.

Below: Martha performs "The Golden Surfer" back in 2006. It's not particularly well filmed, but the song is terrific: an updating of an old English folk ballad to reflect surfer culture on the Cornish coast. (Previous Monday Tunes from Martha are here and here.)

And one last piece today:

The charming video by Martha's brother, Joe Tilston, for his song "Liza and Henry." It comes from Embers (2013) -- another recommended album, influenced both by Joe's punk rock past and his family roots in the English folk scene. (There's an interesting post on the album's art and design by Tim Rickaby here.)


The Dog's Tale

Tilly in Nattadon WoodsThe Dog's Tales are a series of post in which Tilly has her say....

My Person is still dealing with some Big Stuff that even I can't help her with, except to see that she gets properly walked twice a day. So I thought I'd step in and leave a post for her. Here's the quote I've chosen for you, which comes from John Grogan's Marley and Me:

"A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things -- a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”

One day at a time, I keep telling my Person. Just one day at a time.

It's a good thing she has me.

"Bubble" by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, animation directed by Elliot Dear @ Blinkink

My Person will be back on Myth & Moor sometime next week...we hope.


Tune for a Monday Morning

Today's tune comes with a "yarn animation" by the BAFTA nominsated writer/director/animator Ainslie Henderson, created for "Moving On" by James, the Britpop band out of Manchester. It's absolutely beautiful...and hard to get through with dry eyes.

"Ainslie’s animation is wonderful, heartfelt, truthful, innocent, and reveals a true storyteller," says James' lead singer, Tim Booth. "As a band we were determined to work with him even if it meant dipping into our own pockets. Animation takes weeks and is painstaking work, for the animator, compared to that of most videos. I remember standing in a back garden in Highbury, mobile burning my ear, as I told him in detail of my mother’s death and that of my friend Gabrielle – the twin inspirations for 'Moving On.' My mother’s death was clearly a birth of some kind and that description caught Ainslie’s imagination.

"Two days later, with perfect timing, his video script came through on my email, as I was having a meeting with our manager Peter, trying to persuade him that we should pay the extra needed to work with Ainslie. I tried reading it to Peter but couldn’t complete it due to tears. Peter read it and welled up. That Ainslie found such a perfect medium to fit our song blows us away."

And Ainslie Henderson says: "My connection with James is a long and evolving one. The first time I heard their music was sitting at a friend’s house, aged 18, stoned and confused. ‘Sometimes’ was playing, I remember feeling something that until then I didn’t know pop music could make you feel. I thought crying was only for when you feel loss or sadness. Pop music, but woven with something sincere and yearning, passionate and beautiful."

Moving On by Ainslie Henderson and James


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today's music is from The Staves, an alt-folk trio of sisters (Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor) from Watford, Hertfordshire. All three songs come from their debut CD, Dead & Born & Grown.

Above: "Winter Trees," with an enchanting video from Aardman Animations in Bristol.

Below: "Mexico," another magical video -- in a dreamlike, Tord Boontje kind of way.

And one more...

Below: a (mostly) a capella song, "Wisely and Slow."