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June 2010

Banjos and Crows

The other distressing thing about illness (to continue from yesterday's post) is the number of things that it causes you to miss. (I turn into a mopey little five year old, I swear, when others are having fun and I can't come.) On Sunday, it was the Sir Lanval wrap party, kicked off with a talk by my friend Ari Berk (writer and mythologist), who co-wrote the film's screenplay and is in town with his family for a couple of weeks. Last night, it was Howard's band, Nosey Crows, playing tunes at an old pub in the next village over . . . which is precisely the sort of evening that I love best. <sigh>

Once again I look to Guru Tilly for guidance. She doesn't like being left out either, she vastly prefers it whenever we take her along. But she doesn't waste time regretting what she can't have, or regretting things that have passed; she's a little zen master in the art of Living in the Present. Most other animals are too, of course; and it's among the many things they have to teach us two-legged folk.

One of the songs that the Nosey Crows do well is a cover of the Pogues' classic, Dirty Old Town (above). This one goes out to all of the crows this morning, musical and otherwise. . . including the crows in this poem, and this one. It's a beautiful morning, in a hushed and misty way. I'm still sick, but it's okay. I'm breathing in these green hills, and I'm living in the present. And it's all good.

   Bird Girls

June 2010 6

June 2010

We've been having beautiful weather here in Devon, which Tilly is enjoying above by helping Howard water the garden and doing the Summer Dance (a companion piece to her Winter Dance, here). As for me, I'm down with a nasty summer cold. Ugh. It always seemed to me that those of us with chronic health problems should be exempt from getting ordinary illnesses too -- kind of a Get Out of Jail Free card for time already served. Ah well. Someone please pass the tissues....

On the subject of illness, I love this post on Andrew Sullivan's blog. (This sentence stopped me in my tracks: "You have to own the illness and then own an identity that is so much more than the illness." Lordy, that's so true.) And I'm determined to appreciate this beautiful summer day despite illness, deadline worries, and a head full of cotton wool. Tilly is my Guru in this ambition. Nothing, absolutely nothing, diminishes her joy, open-heartedness, and love of life.

I've added two novels to the On the Shelf column to the right, by the way, which you must not miss. They are fantastic in every sense of the word.

Faerie Escape

Rackham 1

The good folks who produced the Mythic Journeys conferences asked me to post the following information:

Mythic Imagination Sponsors First Faerie Escape


Mythic Journeys guests Charles Vess, Ari Berk, Honora Foah, Kristen McDermott, Bill Bridges and others plan to reunite August 14 - 15, 2010 in Atlanta for the first Faerie Escape in the United States. The faerie-themed convention brings together conversations on faeries, fairy tales and their psychological and ecological themes. It also includes workshops on costuming, writing, faerie house construction and more; children's programming; and celebrations of all things faerie-related. 

"Faeries symbolize far more than just the mischievous, irrepressible side of human nature. Fairy tales have always taught lessons of importance to all people, be it respect for our environment, secrets of our psyches, or even not to travel alone into dark woods," said Andrew Greenberg, director of Faerie Escape: Atlanta and co-director of Mythic Journeys. "The lessons apply as well now as they did 1000 years ago."


The Escape's theme, "Into the Woods, into the Alleys," reflects both traditional thoughts on faeries as well as more modern interpretations presented in Vess's work in "Stardust" and Berk's in "Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters." It also examines how ideas about faeries and fairy tales now encompass both rural and urban settings.

More information can be found at


ALee4 (small)


It sounds terrific, doesn't it? I won't be there myself, alas. My only trip to the U.S. this year is for the Sirens conference, where I'm a Guest of Honor along with Holly Black and Marie Brennan, and where the focus is on faeries in fantasy literature. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman have promised to come along too. Sirens takes place in Vail, Colorado in October. Perhaps I'll see some of you there?

The art at the top of the post is one of my favorite paintings by Golden Age illustrator Arthur Rackham. The little bird critters are by Alan Lee, and come from Faeries, the now-classic volume by Alan and Brian Froud.

The Fairy Handmaidens

In the Meadow by Terri Windling "In the Meadow," full size: 16 x 20 inches (click on the art to view a larger version)

The collage above is the piece I've contributed to an exhibition that will appear at venues in France and England when "Sir Lanval," a film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group, premiers this autumn. It's all part of the Shared Legends Project, a collaboration between the CFG here in Devon and the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany.

Ten French artists and ten Devon-based artists were asked to contribute works based on "Sir Lanval," a 12th century lay by Marie de France about a poor Arthurian knight and a beautiful fairy queen. I struggled for inspiration at first, for my art these days is a long ways away from Arthurian castles and knights in armor. . . but Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (the film's director) assured me that they weren't looking for illustrations of the film, but rather wanted each artist to interpret the lay and depict fairyland in his or her own personal style. In other words, they'd known they would get a "Windling" and not a "Burne-Jones" or an "Alan Lee" when they asked me. Whew!

In the Meadow detail

I originally sketched out some ideas for paintings, but then my thoughts turned to collage instead. There are many other painters in the show (along with sculptors, dollmakers, and other artists), and I thought perhaps one of my hand-sewn assemblages might be useful in striking a slightly different note. I collect old damaged books of myths and fairy tales as source material for my collages (I wouldn't want to rip up a book otherwise) -- and you can imagine my delight when I found a retelling of "Sir Lanval" in one of them. Perfect! Considering the obscurity of the tale, this felt like a gift from the fairies themselves and made me feel I was on the right track.

IMG_0423I chose the scene in which two fairy handmaidens appear in a meadow, carrying a golden basin and a towel. Later in the tale, we learn that the fairy queen rides with greyhounds, so I put a somewhat comical fairy greyhound in there too. And some bunny girls, because in my version of fairyland there are animal critters who follow in the fairies' wake. The twigs and pressed wildflowers come from the meadow behind my studio. The lace comes from my mother-in-law, a theatrical costume maker, who was busily sewing medieval costumes for the film while I was working on my piece.

Four of my village neighbors have also contributed to the exhibition: Alan Lee, Brian & Wendy Froud, and Rima Staines. You can see a preview of Rima's gorgeous, gorgeous Sir Lanval paintings over on her blog, and read a fascinating post about how she created them. For more information on the show itself, go here. There will be a "Meet the Artist" event in Brittany in July; I'll post more information about that as it becomes available.

Edited to add: Here's a link to the promised post on the Sir Lanval event in Brittany.

On What Makes a Family

Fairies c by T Windling Thoughts from a Foster Family is a terrific blog that I've been following, on and off, for a long while now. I'm not sure how I first stumbled across it, but I suppose it grabbed my interest partly because I spent a bit of time in foster care myself, and partly because I'm fascinated by the many nontraditional ways that families are formed. Yondalla, who writes the blog, is a foster parent with a particular commitment to GLBT teens. I was particularly moved by her post "Being his mom..." (dated May 18th; I'm a little behind on my reading), which I can relate to through my own experience of becoming a step-mother this past year. It's a lovely post and I thought I'd share it with you -- for the creativity required to make a family work is not entirely unrelated to the creativity of making a novel or a painting or any other form of art. They are all works of craft, design, and intent leavened by faith, patience, and a dollop of magic.

Speaking of GLBT teens, here's a passionate post by a teen blogger/book reviewer looking for more GLBT books in his local library in Kentucky.