Ripening like trees
On Artistic Inspiration

Breathing room for the spirit

'Oncoming Traffic' by Sarah Howes

"I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head. "  - John Updike

Dartmoor Foal by Sarah Howes

“Whatever art offered the men and women of previous eras, what it offers our own, it seems to me, is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit. "- John Updike

Guardian on the Path by Sarah Howes

“What art ought to do is tell stories which are moment-by-moment wonderful, which are true to human experience, and which in no way explain human experience.”  ― John Gardner

At the Cottage Window by Sarah Howes

"If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic."  - Toni Morrison

The beautiful Dartmoor pictures above are by my friend and village neighbor Sarah Howes. From top to bottom: Oncoming Traffic, Dartmoor Foal, The Guardian on the Path, and At the Cottage Window.


I have feet that itch to walk that lane and fingers that itch to paint the scenery. Thank you for a bit of natural wine for the soul each morning.

Oh my gracious those pictures are beautiful. Such a different landscape than my Canadian sea coast, and breathing room for the spirit indeed.

Beautiful photos, makes me want to visit Dartmoor. And fab quotes as always. 'Breathing room for the spirit,' yes, that's what I go to art for, yes.

Had to pause at the Gardner quote (-always find Gardner brilliant and maddening equally) as I go to fiction precisely because it helps explain the human experience for me, but I get what he's saying, not to over-explain it, not to pin it down, to leave a bit of the mystery of life intact. The 'awe and reverence and mystery and magic' that Morrison speaks of. Thanks for the reminder this morning. I go back to my own work refreshed.

Beautiful photos and wonderful quotes. Thank you, Terri. They lead my thoughts to Keats's 'Negative Capability' - that opening up of the imagination when we are '...capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason' - that expansive acceptance of the ambiguity and mystery which breaks out of the limits we impose, opening us to possibility...

You have the loveliest quotes. (And your neighbor is a wonderful photographer.)

I've been in the midst of a move and reading along but rushing off to do the next move-related thing rather than commenting much so I just want to slow down, as the quotes suggest, for the moment and let you know how much I appreciate your blog. Thank you.

Thanks for all of these wonderful quotes. They are tea and scone for the artist's soul. I love Updike's quote about breathing room for the spirit.

Hey, I'm wondering-- I notice you've written lots of wonderful stuff about animal-human transformation stories, the ones where people marry animals, become animals, speak to animals. Do you have some suggestions for collections of such stories? I want to do some deeper research into these kinds of tales, tales that seem to reflect what Gary Snyder calls a "Trans-species erotics." Any suggestions? Where did you look when writing your essays? -Sylvia

Sylvia, I don't actually know of any folklore collection devoted exclusively to animal-transformation stories (if you find one, let me know!)...all the tales I know have been culled from myth and folktale collections from various cultures, which often contain a few animal-transformation stories. There are some good nonfiction books on the subject, such as those by Boria Sax. Check out the Reading List at the end of my article on Shape-Shifters on the JoMA site:

For modern fiction based on animal-transformation myths, try Bruce Colville's anthology More Than Human and the anthology I edited with Ellen Datlow, The Beastly Bride, if you haven't come across them already. (Both are YA books, but really these stories are ageless.)

I love Gary Snyder's phrase "trans-species erotics." That's perfect. Have you read his delicious poem "Charms" (which he kindly allowed us to publish on the JoMA site)? Here's a link:

I also love the essay collection "Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals" edited by Linda Hogan, Deena Metzger, and Brenda Peterson...not necessarily mythic, per se, but wonderful. "Animals in Celtic Life and Myth" by Miranda Green is also very good. And Desmond Morris' Animal Series, published by Reaktion Books in the UK, is a terrific resource...I'm slowly collecting them all.

Does that help?

One more: The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson is great for hare lore.

Oh wonderful! I'll head off to the library with these suggestions. Thank you so much, how excellent.

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