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Messengers and mysteries

Circles, stones, stories

Princep's Folly  Gidleigh Wood  Dartmoor  by Stu Jenks

From Dwellings, an essay collection by Linda Hogan of the Chickasaw nation:

" 'All beginnings wear their endings like dark shadows," says astronomer-physicist Chet Raymo. And maybe they do. If endings are foreshadowed by their beginnings, or are in some way the same thing, it is important that we circle around and come back to look at our human myths and stories. Unlike the cyclical nature of time for the Maya, the Western tradition of beliefs within a straight line of history leads to an apocalyptic end. And stories of the end, like those of the beginning, tell something about the people who created them....

"Without deep reflection, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here. From this position, fear, bereavement, and denial keeps us in the state of estrangement from our natural connection with land.

"We need new stories, new terms and conditions that are relevant to the love of land, a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world. It would mean we, like the corn people of the Maya, give praise and nurture creation.

"Indian people must not be the only ones who remember the agreement with the land, the sacred pact to honor and care for the life that, in turn, provides for us. We need to reach a hand back through time and a hand forward , stand at the zero point of creation to be certain we do not create the absence of life, of any species, no matter how inconsequential they might appear to be. "

Scorhill Circle, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

Scorhill in Twilight Mist, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

"It is in our nature to need stories," inventor/philosopher Jag Bhalla agrees. "They are our earliest sciences, a kind of people-physics. Their logic is how we naturally think. They configure our biology, and how we feel, in ways long essential for our survival. Like our language instinct, a story drive -- an inborn hunger for story hearing and story making -- emerges untutored universally in healthy children. Every culture bathes their children in stories to explain how the world works and to engage and educate their emotions. Perhaps story patterns could be considered another higher layer of language. A sort of meta-grammar shaped by and shaping conventions of character types, plots, and social-rule dilemmas prevalent in our culture."

"The sense of being immersed in a sentient world is preserved in the oral stories and songs of indigenous peoples," writes cultural ecologist David Abram, "in the belief that sensible phenomena are all alive and aware, in the assumption that all things have the capacity of speech. Language, for oral peoples, is not a human invention but a gift of the land itself."

Meldon Hill, Chagford, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

East of Merrivale, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

The Mangler's Tower  Dartmoor  by Stu JenksThe lands around my dwelling
Are more beautiful
From the day
When it is given me to see
Faces I have never seen before.
All is more beautiful.
All is more beautiful.
And life is thankfulness.
These guests of mine
Make my house grand. 

- Eskimo song

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.

- Gaelic blessing 

Standing Stone near Merrivale, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

The Dartmoor imagery in this post is by American photographer Stu Jenks, who visited Chagford recently and found much inspiration on the moor. Stu and I have been friends since my Arizona days, when our studios were in the art-infested Tooleshed Building in downtown Tucson. To see more of his work, please visit his Fezziwig website & blog, where he'll be adding other images from his travels in England and France in the days to come.

Ancient Oaks in Wistman's Wood  Dartmoor  by Stu Jenks

Tilly and the Daffordils, Nattadon Woods, Dartmoor, by Stu Jenks

The passage by Linda Hogan is from Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007). The quote by by Jag Bhalla is from "It is Our Nature to Need Stories" (Scientific American blog, May 8, 2013). The quote by David Abram is from The Spell of the Sensuous (Pantheon, 1996). Photograph titles are identified in the picture captions (Run your cursor over the images to see them.) All rights to the text and art above reserved by the authors and photographer.


Our Natures

"It is our nature to need stories"
--Jag Bhalla in Scientific American

It is our nature that leads us to stories,
As nightingale’s nature recalls it to song,
As bee’s nature leads to the honey,
Coyote’s nature that lopes to the kill.

It is our future that comes from the past,
Club in the hand heading straight to the slaughter,
Flint’s remnant edge pointing to battle,
Arrow’s fine fletching that ends at the war.

It is our rapture that leads to revision,
Babe at the breast who signs to the mother,
Bard in the garden who sings about Eden,
Man in the furrow who looks to the land,

And me at my desk scribbling the tale
You at your leisure reading my heart.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Simply stunning. And those last two lines are just wonderful.

I love these images--how tiny tilly seems amongst the daffodils--how tiny we are too in this immense world dreaming--telling our dreams to one another around the campfires of blogland--we happy many--"Just stop for a minute and you'll realize you're happy just being. I think it's the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it's right here." James Hillman

Terri--you cannot imagine how much I wait to see if you like my poem since I often feel as if I am hijacking your blog.


Thank you Terri for your generosity in a hundred different ways. My visit to Chagford with your friends and your land was spiritually renewing and more will unfold in the coming days, weeks and months. Kind of feels that way.

I came for stones and friends. I left with a larger heart and a bigger soul. Give Howard a hug and Tilly a kiss.

Love, Stu.

P.S. More photos to come once the jetlag passes.

I am always thrilled to see them here, Jane. You are *not* hijacking the blog, so please don't stop!

I love the conversation between the posts and the poems, the call and response of it...over miles and oceans...

...which, in turn, is a part of our own long creative conversation, over three decades now.


responding to you both-this conversation, words and pictures, has moved me deeply. thank you, thank you.

All the images are stunning! No surpise to me, the one of Wistman's Wood tells me the most magical stories.

"I came for stones and friends...." beautiful, Stu.

Thank you Terri and Stu!

Stu, I love your work, and it makes any place you photograph even more magical. It is as if you have zeroed in on the mythic essence of Place.


What a powerful way to begin the day. The generosity of Jane giving us so many striking poems,
the stones and places on our earth, the Eskimo chant and the water, air, earth, fire of a Gaelic blessing.
It makes me want to travel to the crags and magical places so few see on the Oregon High Desert. I
did see them in the film, Meek's Cutoff, a fine historical reenactment of pioneers getting lost on the
Oregon Trail in 1845. When I saw the film I was back at home imagining craggy stones rising up to great height as ancient castles, and sacred.

Great post. x

Beautiful, beautiful words and pictures!

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