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Elucidating the world

Waterfall 1

''I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. Have you? We all feel unhoused in some sense. That’s part of why we write. We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it. Different experiences in our lives may enforce or ameliorate that, but I think if they ameliorate it totally, we stop writing. You don’t need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world. We write about the world because it doesn’t make sense to us. Through writing, maybe we can penetrate it, elucidate it, somehow make it comprehensible. If I had ever found the place where I was perfectly at home, who knows what I would have done? Maybe I would have been a biologist after all.'' – Andrea Barrett

Waterfall 2

Waterfall 3

“If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then the next day you probably do much the same again -- if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time....

"[T]he proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us." — Ursula K. Le Guin

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''Stories nurture our connection to place and to each other. They show us where we have been and where we can go. They remind us of how to be human, how to live alongside the other lives that animate this planet.... When we lose stories, our understanding of the world is less rich, less true.''  - Susan J. Tweit

Waterall 6

"Maybe the most important reason for writing is to prevent the erosion of time, so that memories will not be blown away by the wind. Write to register history, and name each thing. Write what should not be forgotten." - Isabel Allende

Waterfall 7Images above: Black dog in an Alan Lee landscape, March 2013.

Comments

Thank you for this today, Terri. In two days it will be the seventh anniversary of David's death. You startled me into this poem:

Holding On

“A book holds words. Words hold things”
—Ursula K. Le Guin


We are the holders of the world,
containers of eternity, the great stewpot
where everyone can feed.

When he died, I dipped my long spoon
into the pot, bringing up the seasoning,
leaving the rind.

I hold him even now in my old bones,
the soup of me still being stirred,
woman, bowl.

Sometimes the only thing we have left
Is holding up, holding in,
holding on.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

may I intrude on what is obviously a highly personal poem, Jane, to say how beautiful and moving. Thank you.

As for the theory that writers write because they feel that they somehow don't belong in this world...well, perhaps. Certainly many fantasy writers are well known for 'World Building'; making something where they might feel more at home. Though when you think of the hideous war-torn domains that some authors have made, they must have a very odd concept of the domestic!

Oh, Jane.

Terri,
The scenes and the feel of the water that moves through your Tilly-landscapes quench my thirsts.
Thank-you.

Late eve here, as I begin to read this, after a very long day, and finally I am sitting eating a bowl of homemade soup. As I idle through the quotes and the photos, I savor soup, and my drowsing eyes meander, drinking, too. I hit Jane's poem, and suddenly feel like a wonderful mother-verse, with a giant bowl for a belly, a cranebag, a rune cup, infinite possibilities. Thinking of spoons and what they might dip into, stir up, shakes me with silent laughter.

The pictures, so restful, echo the way of the soup. I am very comfortable, sleepy, and fat on the quotes. And that last picture of Tilly, with the glint in her eyes matching what looks to be new buds on the tips of the branches next to her, all gel into a fine serenity to take to bed. Thank you.

I'm deeply moved by this, Jane.

Yes, I'm curious to know what others here will make of Andrea Barrett's words in the first quote. My own response to it is in the picture captions.

(For those may not know, the picture captions appear if you put your cursor over the pictures. I often put a little something extra into them. My husband calls this my blog's "brucie bonus," which is one of those British expressions that makes no sense to me whatsoever....)

Oh my heavens, those pictures!

Terri, surely you must know Bruce "Brucie" Forsythe; the mainstay of Saturday night TV in Britain? He's famous for many things including his "Brucie Bonus". In fact the deepest recesses of the British psyche can never be truly understood by anyone unless they can quote "Nice to see you; to see you, nice" accompanied by a suitably prominent chin!

No, I don't know Bruce Forsythe. There's a lot of British popular culture I've missed completely....

Thank you for lighting the path. OCD that I am I'll now have to go back through all of your blogs for the Brucie Bonus on the photos!

Such a beautiful landscape, thank you for sharing your pictures. I think when my little ones have bigger legs I'll have to seek this place out for them to walk through, it's absolutely stunning.

hi, first time visitor, via the lovely art propelled, thank you so much this really helped me on a difficult day:
http://singingbirdartist.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/bundles-make-home/
and to Jane, yesterday was the 12th anniversary of meeting my husband, he's been dead 4 1/2 years now... creativity helps...that's why i think makers make (in whatever form) we lose the pain in the flow of creation, doesn't matter what the pain is, creativity helps ;)

Thank you deeply for that light. As my last parent has now traveled to hopefully the land of peace I am left so wide open so adrift. so many years taking care of them both. I want to wander into the world..thank you Terri for letting me wander in yours while i am waiting...Blessings always & ever

I love your caption-response.

Anais Nin said, "The role of the writer is not to say what we all can say, but to say what we are unable to say." And I think that most people don't feel at home and at ease (even many biologists, I'd wager). And stories can sometimes create a space of rest and ease. And sometimes they so explain the feeling of not truly being at home. The longing for a home, or the restlessness that comes from being uprooted. Artists can channel this so well sometimes that all it takes is for a painting or song or a poem to bring me to that, to tears.

Well, I think in a sense, we're all a little uprooted from our wild origins. Maybe we're all not quite at home. Creative people might know this more intimately, and that's why they can say what can't be said.

I understand that first quotation but I don't resonate with it at all; not at all.

I love the world and feel deeply at home in it. There is no other place!

The world of imagination is an interactive subset of reality that is naturally in constant dialogue with the outer world. It's the way we roll with things. That's good.

But it is not a substitute or an alternative. To give greater meaning to imagined things leads to a polarization of experience and a system of values which is schizophrenic; resulting in the destruction of Nature, the denigration of the body and the despising of evidence-based knowledge for whatever fancy you have. It makes one's ego the king of the universe.

Included in being okay with the world are all the difficulties, conflicts, misunderstandings, disappointments and struggles of every kind - largely the product of contact with other humans - but those I am comfortable with as necessary within this one reality.

Escapism is dangerous for ourselves and others. In mythic terms, the hero enters into the Otherworld not to escape reality but to return to it properly understanding what it is, united with it and reconciled to it. If he flits off to faery and never comes back, he is not a hero but a runaway, dismal failure and another casualty of faery glamour.

I read myth and write stories to explore reality, to get up closer, to get intimate with it in direct, experiential ways. Scientific study of reality is equally as important. Possibly more so.

But I am no 'deep' writer, just a teller of tales and a rhymer of rhymes.

I feel very strongly about this. I think the 'run away to faery, write to escape because you don't like Nature/reality as She is' school is really missing something.

It's mistaking the map for the treasure itself.

And paradise is waiting for you, right there where you left it, when you leave the Other/Underworld and come back home.

With love,

A.

This is wonderful and interesting, Austin. I really like your point about how dangerous it can be to run away to an imagination-built home. Myths taken to dogmatic extremes have resulted in this, what you call and rightly so, 'ego as the king of the universe'.

But now as I've gone about my day more, I've been thinking about the original Barrett quotation a great deal. And while I see escapism as 'missing something', as well, I also see the realm of the origins of Story as a tool for giving a sense of home where there isn't one. Not a replacement of home, perhaps, but a web of wisdom built through metaphor and symbol as a guidepost for one's home, while we are here. I think particularly of the culture of my mother and its machismo tendencies, and how the women must have felt so not at home in a place where their role and bodies and experiences were and are made little and insignificant. And while I know you do discuss the hardships of life, I see in them-- in my female ancestors-- that in many ways, stories helped them to survive those hardships. And while scientific study of the world is important, perhaps more so, in many instances, it is not understood or an option.

I really don't think I'm arguing against anything you've written. I agree with everything you've said. In the same example of my family, there are those who never returned from Faerie, those who resorted to suicide to escape. I just felt the need to contribute more. Maybe what I need to say is that while giving imagined worlds more weight may have resulted in fragmented values, sometimes those imagined worlds can truly help in navigating a worldview based on fragmented values, especially a world in which the groundedness of science is just not within reach.

Yes, deeply moving.

I was so happy to find the "Brucie Bonus" on the photos... it was like a secret, magic message - or a conversation between us that no one else could see. And I resonated with your words so much. The second to last photo of Tilly on the hilly bank, looking up is spectacular!

That's how I think of them too! And like Alexandra above, when I first discvovered the "Brucie Bonus" messages I had to go back and find them in the older posts too.

Raquel,

You shouldn't be surprised that I completely agree with you.

There is no conflict there in what we each have written. I think if there was some way to merge together both comments we would have something very closely resembling truth.

Good thoughts, well formed and clearly stated,elucidating beautiful and important perspectives. What a pleasure! Thank you.

:)

A.

My heaven, too.

Very interesting, Austin, you've coherently put into words much of what I believe. Thank you for your eloquence.

It's easy enough to feel ill at ease in the world, in one way it's natural, perhaps an inevitable part of growing up because where you happen to first arrive isn't necessarily the place you ultimstely choose to stand - if you're fortunate enough to be able to have that choice.

Your comment on the hero travelling to and from the Otherworld is a powerful observation. As with story telling and writing, so with play - we go to our imaginations to test ourselves and find out what we are like, our natures and opinions and beliefs.

Then it's back to this world and all it's beauty, marvels and terror. (And jam sandwiches, hugs, and cups of tea.)

So many answers. I think it is not so much the world with all it's beauty and to me, visible magic, calls
to be at one with the senses, and secrets. But my personal world was chaotic and I never got used to it
except through making up stories and trying to learn how to write poems because that was what the natural world was telling me. No, it was the lack of a home of my own that led me to writing both the light of understanding and the dark of confusion. I really had two not wicked but odd stepmothers and two step siblings who had, we might say, strange to me issues. We were also in an uneasy wariness which turned out to be our living on credit which dissolved. Some dystopias may reflect inner despair, and writing about it like a curse, "Go away. Get thee behind me." I just walk the maze and hold a
fierce love for life of all kinds.

Yes, David.

I think the works of imagination are *about* reality, not an alternative to it.

After a journey to the Underworld (which usually involves a degree of painful dismemberment after all) all heroes require jam sandwiches, hugs and a cup of tea.

Funnily enough, I just got back today from my most recent trip thereunto!
:)

A.

Jane.

I have no words.

Love,

A.

Institution though he is "culture" and "Brucie" need to go together with your fingers and eyes crossed and your tongue firmly in your cheek.

Just ask your husband if it conjures up memories of Sunday afternoons, purple carpets, and lettuce dressed with malt vinegar. The sign of the seventies child.

That is so deeply moving; for anyone who has loved and lost their loved one too early you articulate those feelings in the most beautiful way.

Welcome. And I completely agree with you: whatever the pain is, creativity helps.

As someone who bounced between relatives and foster care as a child, I very much understand what you mean about the lack of home leading to "writing both the light of understanding and the dark of confusion." Virtually everything I write has an underlying theme of finding home, place, family, and/or tribe. (Though I should add that the members of my birth family that I'm still in touch with are thoroughly lovely.)

And I *love* your last line:

"I just walk the maze and hold a fierce love for life of all kinds."

Yes. Yes.

Raquel and Austin: I've nothing to add here, except to say that I've really enjoyed this discussion.

I know this is a hard time for you, Janette, and Tilly and I send you love from the Devon hills.

Yes, that last line is wonderful. Wonderful.

Oh Terri...i love walking through these hills even though on page. After being on such high alert care for so long it is like being given a picture of the world that is calling. Wrapping up lawyers/taxes today...then planning a trip out into the world...thank you for opening that garden gate !

Yes, Phyllis, just an abounding yes.


The Center of the Maze

I walk the Maze, my past held
fiercely between my fingers.
At the center, I unlace my hands,
letting those autumnal leaves go,
into the fire of forgiveness.
They burn into the space,
beneath the breastbone, where once
I had a heart.

I feel a phantom beating, hesitations
that slowly turn into a steady rhythm.
Only when we let go can we reclaim.
Only when we burn the old
can we build the new.

Ashes to ashes,
heart to heart.

For Phyllis, for Terri,
for the armless maidens.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights etc.

I don't understand the 'Brucie' bit either, so I'll leave that aside and respond to the first bit!

I wonder whether it this feeling of not quite belonging is something that all people who have enough imagination to imagine something other than what is (and maybe that is all of us) experience. Sorry, that was a bit of an unwieldy sentence! Perhaps that's what drives not only writers and artists and musicians, but also the great social changers, the Gandhis and MLKs of this world. I sometimes wonder whether that's the bottom line difference between non-conservative and conservative politics. The ability to see a future that doesn't exist yet (hopefully a better one), and to work towards creating it, as opposed to the desire to hang on to what is known now, or go back to what was known in the past, because anything different cannot be imagined, and therefore is dangerous and terrifying. I don't know, but for me, I have spent my whole life feeling I was in the wrong place, or the wrong time, or the wrong...something. I think it does push us to create. We create the worlds we would feel comfortable in. Places where we truly belong.

Jane, thank you so much. This is the second poem you've written (one third of) for me
and I will cherish it as I cherish the one about my terror about sending out queries. I
learned something about the latter. The right tone appeared at last for my query letter.
It came from the same place stories and poems do, so I am not fearful any more. I am
sure I will get rejections but much acceptance of late has made me serene.

Thank you so much. Whitman-like, do I praise you again for just being here? Very well,
I do so. MYth and Moor has given me a lot of strength and ways of writing I might not
have considered. And I would not trade my story and my life with anyone.

Oh, Jane, I'm floored. Thank you.

And this is why I love it here at Myth & Moor so much... I came back and LOOK at all these gifts!

I tried to post a thank you but my big orange cat Marlowe decided he needed to jump
on the keys and I had to quit Mac until today. So, thank you.

Actually it is Mac Schmendrick, a sort of part Scottish wizard who sometimes is not a
master of magic, which I suspected would be my computer's features. True. My Printer
is the reliable Mollie Grue.

oh such beautiful, magical people you all are!
That was an amazing discussion, it's always such a joy to come here xx

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