The Blessing of Otters
Crossing borders

Where dreams are born

Ellen Kushner and Tilly

For today's post on the subject of edge-lands and borders, I'd like to send you to another web page to listen to a podcast of Ellen Kushner exploring "Borders: The Debatable Lands"  in an episode of her award-winning radio program, Sound & Spirit. Here's the episode description:

"Sound & Spirit invites you to walk the Borderlands: a shared space between two worlds, a place where they meet and combine to make something new and vital. Explore the lively music and blend of traditions of the Tex/Mex border [and the English/Scottish border], the misty border between myth and reality where dreams are born, and the borders in our lives when we pass from one stage of life to the next."

Ellen's brilliant series has ended, but past episodes are available online. Go here to have a listen. I also recommend two related episodes of Sound & Spirit, Exile and Homesickness, about those who have crossed over the border and cannot go home again.

Ellen KushnerPhotographs above: Ellen and Tilly in my studio, on one of her many visits to Chagford.


I have listened to Ellen's show many times on WGBH in Boston. Always insightful and uplifting.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Hi Terri

What an extraordinary set of podcasts. I love the technique "Sound & Spirit" uses to showcase each topic. Thank you so much for sharing these exquisite broadcast. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them. Also some more thoughts on exile, crossing borders, and the waiting.

Today, I thought I would share this poem written a few days ago after hearing the folk music about refugees on Monday's blog. After crossing one's own homeland border into the unknown and than crossing over from sea to land, comes the waiting period, the clustering in the way station. Here is the mingling pause of people, thoughts, and shadows. Exiled from the familiar, they feel disoriented and displaced. The waiting must be abided yet it seems long and unbearable. People occupy their time with lament, ordinary habits of living and maybe, finding temporary hope or solace in small tokens of beauty /brightness that lies in front of them.

Recently, CNN featured a docu-drama which followed a group of immigrants from their journey in Syria through Macedonia to a way station in Serbia. They featured the young man who lamented his ordeal on an Arab lute ( the oud), a woman tending to her young daughter and others simply smoking a cigarette, writing, and refilling bottles of water. This poem encapsulates that scene through language that is rather simple but lyrical on purpose.

The Raft

Selkie’s internal turbulence seemed to echo the real life struggles of people, both in the news headlines and that I met personally. These were the stories of refugees and displaced people, far from home with all the loneliness and chaos, grief and loss that comes with enforced migration.
Rachel Taylor Beals

They came here from the tide in their selkie skin
carrying a lute, a lighter, a booklet stamped
with their name. And most precious, a soul packed
among bones, blood tissue and dreams. On land, they sat
poor and displaced in an Autumn park
pavillioned with light and trees. One of them, a young man,
lamented their wayfaring on wire strings. Another
lit his cigarette and watched its smoke raveling
as if it were the rope of an untied boat
moving out to sea. And a mother braided her girl's hair
(with bruised hands) tucking in a few gold leaves
that had fallen there from an ancient tree.

Many thanks
I hope you are feeling better!!!

Take care

That's exquisite, Wendy. And heart-breaking. I'm going to be thinking about this poem all day...

Speaking of heart-breaking, have you read "The Things We Carry," an essay on the psychological impact of refugee journeys by Marie Myung-Ok Lee on the NY Times site? Jennifer Ambrose recommended it, and it's a beautiful piece.

Hi Wendy,
Terri just let me know that you'd written this wonderful poem (it brought tears to my eyes reading it) in response to the music and words she'd blogged about on Monday- It moves me to know that my own Stone's Throw song has in some way connected with you and your personal reflections to inspire such a heartfelt and tenderly written poem about the horrific situation that so many refugees are facing right now.
All the best, Rachel

PS Wendy Please may I share your words on my music Facebook and other sites?

I listened to all three of Ellen Kushner's shows while house cleaning this morning. Truly wonderful.

A very moving poem, Wendy. The subject makes my heart hurt but we've got to keep talking about it, we've got to keep trying to do something about it.

Ms. Taylor Beale, I was deeply moved by your song in Monday's post as well and the connections you've made between selkie legends and refugees. I've never thought of the tale that way before.

Hi Rachel

It's wonderful hearing from you and I am so delighted you liked the poem and were touched or moved by its content. And YES!!!! ABSOLUTLEY I would be trilled, honored, to have you share it on your music facebook page.

Again, Thank you, so, so much!!
My Best

Hi Terri!

Thank you so much for reading my poem and for your generous and kind words toward it!! And no, I haven't read the article but I am very interested in reading it and am going over to that link soon. It's 826 am here in California and I am just waking up to full consciousness with a strong cup of coffee!

Again, thanks so much,
Take care

Hi Rachel,

I am thrilled/so grateful Terri shared my poem with you!! Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful response!I am sincerely touched by your words. And your Song is gorgeous and beautifully haunting!! It deeply moved me as you have seen.

Take care,
My Best

Hi Cynthia,

Thank you so much for reading my poem and for these kind words toward it!! And I agree, we must strive to help these people and find a way to alleviate the suffering and brutality they have known. It such a tragic situation and one the requires a global effort and response.

And I,too, agree, the connections Rachel has made between
the selkie myth and the refugee condition is brilliant and so pertinent. Again proving, how myth often reflects or expresses aspects of our human story and condition.

Thank you so much!

Oh! Terri

This is such a poignant article and so beautifully written. What her mother suffered leaving Korea was heart-wrenching. And what she left behind may have been the physical things, but the mental anguish haunts forever and shapes future perspectives. This idea of the scars and how we don't realize that children grow with them and hide them as well as adults, haunted me and is something we must also realize as the second journey refugees/immigrants take, the long road to stability and trust, after they have been resettled. These words from the article are riveting and so significant --

I’m realizing she may not be able to change — the scars that were inflicted on her psyche when she was 14, instead of getting smaller with time have only grown with her.

As our past and present American attitudes toward immigration have shown, countries and their people have differing ways they receive their fellow humans in need. Children, we tell ourselves, are resilient. What we don’t think about is that one’s worldview becomes formed in this period, and early experiences, even if not understood, maybe especially if not fully understood, become part of the things carried into adulthood, that haunt a person, every day."

Thank you so much

Hi Cynthia

I,too, listened today and yesterday to a number of them and was completely enthralled. What a marvelous set of podcasts, fascinating, provocative and more! Thanks again Terri for leading us there!!

My Best

And, of course, Rachel

I not only meant the facebook music page in the upper response of mine, but also other sites as your stated in your request. It's still the early part of the morning here in Southern California and I am waking up with another cup of coffee!

Again many thanks

A beautiful short video of poetry about refugees:

Thanks so much x

Thanks Wendy x

Hi Terri

What a stunning and beautifully presented video and poetic
narrative! "The blue desert" gives me such chills and what they have suffered through as well. Thank you for sharing this!!

My Best

Thank you for your kind words about Sound & Spirit, everyone! It was a huge part of my life, and meant a great deal to me.

You can learn more about the show and its author here:
and here:

There are more than 100 shows archived (in alphabetical order) on the WGBH site! To find them, just keep clicking "FIND MORE" ;)

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