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May 2014

Archaic values

Bluebells in Nattadon Woods

Wild poppies in Nattadon Wood

''Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain. Human awareness folds in upon itself, and the senses – once the crucial site of our engagement with the wild and animate earth – become mere adjuncts of an isolate and abstract mind bent on overcoming an organic reality that now seems disturbingly aloof and arbitrary."

  - David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous)

Wildflowers in the studio

''I wonder how it is we have come to this place in our society where art and nature are spoke in terms of what is optional, the pastime and concern of the elite?'' - Terry Tempest Williams (Leap)

Tilly in the studio

Tilly in the studio

 ''As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth...the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.''  -  Gary Snyder (The Practice of the Wild)

Practice of the Wild

The Unmapped Country

Nattadon Hill

"We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger or the sadness preventing us returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes it’s easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always, we are found."  - Cecelia Ahern (Thanks for the Memories)

Nattadon Hill

''There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.''  - George Eliot (Daniel Deronda)

Nattadon Hill

''To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away...To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.'' - Rebecca Solnit (A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

Nattadon Hill

"One thing has led to the next in my life, but like lines of a poem. I suppose I've thrown in my lot with love, and don't know any other way to go on breathing.''  - David Guterson (The Other)

Nattadon Hill

"We must hold in our minds these utterly contradictory thoughts: not one of us matters at all; each of us is infinitely precious."  -  Janice Emily Bowers (A Full Life in a Small Place: Essays from a Desert Garden)

Nattadon Hill

Beauty, grace, and morning mist

Tilly on the rocks

"The beauty of the world...has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.''  - Virginia Woolf (A Room of One's Own)

Tilly on the Rocks

"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."  - Buckminster Fuller

Tilly on the Rocks

"You can have the other words –- chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it."  - Mary Oliver (Winter Hours)

Tilly on the Rocks

"In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.''   - Siddhartha Guatama Buddha

Tilly on the Rocks

Today, as Tilly and I climb through mist, and dawn breaks over Nattadon Hill, I am grateful for beauty. Attempting to live gently. And striving, always, for grace.

Tune for a Monday Morning

Today's tune comes with a "yarn animation" by the BAFTA nominsated writer/director/animator Ainslie Henderson, created for "Moving On" by James, the Britpop band out of Manchester. It's absolutely beautiful...and hard to get through with dry eyes.

"Ainslie’s animation is wonderful, heartfelt, truthful, innocent, and reveals a true storyteller," says James' lead singer, Tim Booth. "As a band we were determined to work with him even if it meant dipping into our own pockets. Animation takes weeks and is painstaking work, for the animator, compared to that of most videos. I remember standing in a back garden in Highbury, mobile burning my ear, as I told him in detail of my mother’s death and that of my friend Gabrielle – the twin inspirations for 'Moving On.' My mother’s death was clearly a birth of some kind and that description caught Ainslie’s imagination.

"Two days later, with perfect timing, his video script came through on my email, as I was having a meeting with our manager Peter, trying to persuade him that we should pay the extra needed to work with Ainslie. I tried reading it to Peter but couldn’t complete it due to tears. Peter read it and welled up. That Ainslie found such a perfect medium to fit our song blows us away."

And Ainslie Henderson says: "My connection with James is a long and evolving one. The first time I heard their music was sitting at a friend’s house, aged 18, stoned and confused. ‘Sometimes’ was playing, I remember feeling something that until then I didn’t know pop music could make you feel. I thought crying was only for when you feel loss or sadness. Pop music, but woven with something sincere and yearning, passionate and beautiful."

Moving On by Ainslie Henderson and James

True beauty

Muntjac fawn

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"Life to too short not to create, not to love, and not to lend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters." - Eric Maisel


Terri Windling, Devon

This quote from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book The Gift has been running through my mind today:

"An essential portion of any artist's labor is not creation so much as invocation. Part of the work cannot be made, it must be received; and we cannot have this gift except, perhaps, by supplication, by courting, by creating within ourselves that 'begging bowl' to which the gift is drawn."

In stressful times, like the one I'm in right now, it's important to remember this. To stand quiet and still, soft as well as strong, receptive as well as active, open minded, open hearted. To "walk in beauty," as the Navajo say, breathe deep...then carry on.

The ongoing Life Stuff I've been dealing with lately is demanding my full attention again, and so posting will be sporadic for the next week or so. Thank you for your patience. The fairy-tale-like picture above, which I call "The Begging Bowl," was taken by my husband, Howard.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

We're heading to the sea for our music today....

Above: "Ready for the Storm" by Dougie MacLean (from Perthshire, Scotland), performed with Bluegrass singer Kathy Mattea (from Nashville, Tennessee). They're backed up by Jerry Douglas on dobro, Russ Barenberg on mandolin, and Danny Thompson on bass, with Molly Mason providing background vocals. The song comes from MacLean's early solo album Craigie Dhu. The video was filmed in Scotland.

Below: "The Storm," written by Seth Lakeman, who performs it with his band at the atmospheric Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Lakeman grew up here on Dartmoor, and his music is inspired by the legends and history of the West Country. This song (from his 2004 album, Kitty Jay) is based on a true story about a captain and his crew who sailed out of Plymouth Sound while a storm was brewing.

Next: Irish singer/songwriter Susan McKeown sings "Albatross" from her 1995 album, Bones. McKcKeown was born and raised in Dublin, and now lives in New York City.

And last: "Highland Drifting" by Ben Howard and his band, filmed up in the Highlands of Scotland. Howard has one album, Every Kingdom, and several EPs, the most recent of which is Burgh Island. He grew up across the moor in Totnes, Devon, and his music is truly enchanting.

Tilly on the south Devon coastTilly dancing in the waves on the south Devon coast, near Burgh Island.

The Dog's Tale

Coffee spotThe Dog's Tales: a series of posts in which Tilly has her say....

What's this coming through the woods, disturbing the quiet of our Morning Coffee spot?

The Very Big dog

Guarding the path

It appears to be a Very Large dog. She isn't barking......but the question is, should I?


My Person makes the hand gesture that means: Just wait, Tilly. Be calm, be still.


Shy creature

The big dog passes quietly. I examine her prints. What breed has paws like this?

Inspecting the prints

When the creature is gone, my Person settles down with her coffee thermos, notebook, and pen. "Good girl," she tells me as she offers me a treat. Good girl, I tell her I as I take it from her hand. 

I munch on a tasty carrot stick, pleased. My Person's training is going very well.

Standing Guard

Taking the quieter path

Woodland gate

From May Sarton's Journal of Solitude:

"It is only when we can believe we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it -- and I do and always have -- then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it. I have become convinced since that horrible review* (unimportant in itself) that it is a message, however deviously presented, to tell me I have been overconcerned with the materialistic aspects of bringing out this novel, the dangerous hope that it become a best seller, or that, for once, I might get a leg up from the critics, the establishment, and not have once more to see the work itself stand alone and make its way, heart by heart, as it is discovered by a few people with all the excitement of a person who finds a wildflower in the woods that he has discovered on his own.

"From my isolation to the isolation of someone somewhere who will find my work there exists a true communion. I have not lacked it these last years and it is a blessing. It is free of 'ambition' and it 'makes the world go away,' as the popular song says. That is what I can hope for and I must hope for nothing more and nothing less.

Bluebells and wild orchids

"Thinking of writers I cherish -- Traherne, George Herbert, Simone Weil, and the novelists Turgenev, Trollope, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, all of them modest, private, 'self-actualizers' -- I see that they are all outside the main stream of what is expected now. The moderate human voice, what might be called 'the human milieu' -- this is supremely unfashionable and appears even to be irrelevant. But there have always been and will always be people who can breathe only there and who are starved for nourishment.


"I am one of those readers and I am also one who can occasionally provide this food. That is all that really matters to me this morning."

Woodland window* The "horrible review" was of Sarton's novel Kinds of Love in the Sunday New York Times