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September 2012

The animals that we are


From "A Prayer for a Wild Millennium" by Terry Tempest Williams (an essay published in Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert):

"I believe we need wilderness in order to be more complete human beings, to not be fearful of the animals that we are, an animal who bows to the incomparable power of natural forces when standing on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, an animal who understands a sense of humility when watching a grizzly overturn a stump with its front paw to forage for grubs in the lodgepole pines of the northern Rockies, an animal who weeps over the sheer beauty of migrating cranes above the Bosque del Apache in November, an animal who is not afraid to cry with delight in the middle of a midnight swim in a phospherescent tide, an animal who has not forgotten what it means to pray before the unfurled blossom of the sacred datura, remembering the source of all true visions.

Brooklyn street art by Ericailcane

"As we step over the threshold of the twenty-first century, let us acknowledge that the preservation of wilderness is not so much a political process as a spiritual one, that the language of law and science used so successfully to define and defend what wilderness has been in the past century must now be fully joined with the language of the heart to illuminate what these lands mean to the future."


Mythic fiction and mythic art speak "the language of the heart," and can, I believe, play an important role in the fight to preserve wilderness and the wild for our children's children's children.

The wonderful paintings and drawing above are by the Italian street artist Ericailcane, based in Bologna. Please visit his website to see more of his work.

Mythic Arts/Speculative Fiction community alert:


The artist who makes these lovely and practical Knitting Counting Bracelets (and is also a copy-editor in the NY publishing field) is having a medical emergency, and (like so many Americans) has no medical insurance to cover it. This is the perfect time to do some early Christmas shopping to support her. Or, if you'd like to simply make a donation to the cause, there's more info and a paypal button here. If you can help this member of our community in need (by making a purchasing, donation, or passing these links on), please join me in doing so.

About the bracelets, she says: "Knitting Counting Bracelets are a way to keep count of your knitting rows or (for lace knitting) pattern repeats, worn on your wrist as jewelry. Other row counters can be dropped, lost easily, buried in your knitting basket or purse—this one you can leave on your wrist when you get up from knitting because it's actually jewelry."


White Kite Hovering by Jane Rosen.jpg

From Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths:

"The wild. I have drunk it, deep and raw, and heard it's primal, unforgettable roar. We know it in our dreams, when our mind is off the leash, running wild. 'Outwardly, the equivalent of the unconscious is the wilderness: both of these terms meet, one step even further on, as one,' wrote Gary Snyder. 'It is in vain to dream of a wildness distinct from ourselves. There is none such,' wrote Thoreau. 'It is the bog in our brains and bowls, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires the dream.'

"And as dreams are essential to the psyche, wildness is to life.

Change of Coat by Jane Rosen

"We are animal in our blood and in our skin. We were not born for pavements and escalators but for thunder and mud. More. We are animal not only in body but in spirit. Our minds are the minds of wild animals. Artists, who remember their wildness better than most, are animal artists, lifting their heads to sniff a quick wild scent in the air, and they know it unmistakably, they know the tug of wildness to be followed through your life is buckled by that strange and absolute obedience. ('You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star,' wrote Nietzsche.) Children know it as magic and timeless play. Shamans of all sorts and inveterate misbehavers know it; those who cannot trammel themselves into a sensible job and life in the suburbs know it.

"What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakeable, unforgettable, unshamable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quitessence, pure spirit, resolving into no contituents. Don't waste your wildness: it is precious and necessary."

A Class of Birds by Jane Rosen

Lamb Girl and Fox Girl by Jane Rosen

The gorgeous drawings and sculptures above are by Jane Rosen, who works from a ranch in northern California. "Now art for me--when I see a shell, or I see a horse, when I see two weather systems meeting--I don't understand it with words," she says (in an interview with Richard Whittaker). "I feel something. I experience something. I am aware of it, but I can't say what it is. When I try to understand it with my hands, something in the alchemy--the process of working--engages a kind of listening, the underwater life connects. It registers something and begins to lead me. And so rather than impose, I follow. For me that is the art process."

To see more of her work, please visit her beautiful website and online gallery.

Cycles and crescent moons

Image copyright by Cathrine Hyde

From Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams:

"Flocks of magpies have descended on our yard. I cannot sleep for all their raucous behavior. Perched on weathered fences, their green-black tales, long as rulers, wave up and down, reprimanding me for all I have not done.

"I have done nothing for weeks. I have no work. I don't want to see anyone much less talk. All I want to do is sleep.

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde

"Monday, I hit rock-bottom, different from bedrock, which is solid, expansive, full of light and originality. Rock-bottom is the bottom of the rock, the underbelly that rarely gets turned over; but when it does, I am the spider that scurries from daylight to find another place to hide.

"Today I feel stronger, learning to live with the natural cycles of a day and to not expect so much from myself. As women, we hold the moon in our bellies. It is too much to ask to operate on full-moon energy three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I am in a crescent phase. And the energy we expend emotionally belong belongs to the hidden side of the moon...."

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde

The luminous paintings here are by Catherine Hyde, who lives and works in Cornwall. 

“I am constantly attempting to convey the landscape in a state of suspension," she says, "in order to gain glimpses of its interconnectedness, its history and beauty. Within the images I use the archetypical hare, stag, owl and fish as emblems of wildness, fertility and permanence: their movements and journeys through the paintings act as vehicles that bind the elements and the seasons together."

You can see more of Catherine's work in her online gallery, and on the Sisterhood of Ruralists Facebook page.

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde

Going home

Nattadon Hill

“The desire to go home is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.”  - Rebecca Solnit

Nattadon Hill

“Home is not where you have to go but where you want to go; nor is it a place where you are sullenly admitted, but rather where you are welcomed – by the people, the walls, the tiles on the floor, the followers beside the door, the play of life, the very grass.” - Scott Russell Sanders

Meldon Hill (view from Nattadon)

"I don't mean what other people mean when they speak of a home, because I don't regard a home as a...well, as a place, a building...a house...of wood, bricks, stone. I think of a home as being a thing that two people have between them in which each can...well, nest." - Tennessee Williams

Nattadon Hill

“For me a house or an apartment becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog.”  - Roger Caras

Staying home


"It just may be that the most radical act we can commit is to stay home. What does that mean to finally commit to a place, to a people, to a community?

"It doesn't mean it's easy, but it does mean you can live with patience, because you're not going to go away. It also means commitment to bear witness, and engaging in 'casserole diplomacy' by sharing food among neighbors, by playing with the children and mending feuds and caring for the sick. These kinds of commitment are real. They are tangible. They are not esoteric or idealistic, but rooted  in the bedrock existence of where we choose to maintain our lives.

Plums ready to harvest

"That way we begin to know the predictability of a place. We anticipate a species long before we see them. We can chart the changes, because we have a memory of cycles and seasons; we gain a capacity for both pleasure and pain, and we find the stregnth within ourselves and each other to hold these lines.

"That's my definition of family. And that's my definition of love."

- Terry Tempest Williams
(interviewed by Derrick Jensen in Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture, and Ethos)

Under the plum tree

The Coyote Clan

copyright by T. Windling

From An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams:

copyright by T. Windling

"Members of the Coyote Clan are not easily identified, but there are clues. You can see it in their eyes. They are joyful and they are fierce.  They can cry louder and laugh harder than anyone on the planet. And they have an enormous range.

"The Coyote Clan is a raucous bunch: they have drunk from desert potholes and belched forth toads. copyright by T. WindlingThey tell stories with such virtuosity that you'll swear you've been in the presence of preachers.

"The Coyote Clan is also serene. They can float on their backs down the length of any river or lose entire afternoons to the contemplation of stone.

"Members of the Clan court risk and will dance on slickrock as flash floods erode the ground beneath their feet. It doesn't matter. They understand the earth re-creates itself day after day."

Their range is wide indeed...all the way to the green hills of Devon, and far beyond. Here in the Mythic Arts field, I like to think there's a little coyote in us all.

copyright by Shreve StocktonPaintings above: "Coyote and the Dog Spirits," "The Coyote Clan," and  "Coyote Woman."  Photograph: "Howling Away at the Gray" by Shreve Stockton, from her wonderful Daily Coyote site. I also highly, highly recommend her book of the same title. More coyote reading: articles here and here; poetry here, here, and here.