The genius of the community
The Folklore of Nettles

On a misty morning in the Devon hills

Nattadon Hill

Bluebells and bracken

"There exists a glamorized view of hardship and artistic achievement," notes the American writer Chris Offutt. "Young people who believe this can easily become self-destructive in their desire to 'suffer for their art.' They think they need hardship. But we all have hardship in our own way. Genuine suffering can lead to wisdom. It can also lead to despair and cruelty, drug addiction and violence. Artists are people who manage to take all this and turn it into something new. They make something. All artists excel for the same reasons: they are disciplined, diligent, and possess endurance.

"In order to develop artistic skill, you must have time to do so. Due to circumstances, some people simply don’t have the time and energy. Others who do, squander it."

Path to the stream

Oak beside the stream

Time and energy. The raw ingredients of art, for without them, inspiration and intention are ephemeral things. We all know people who squander their energy, time, and talent. And we all struggle not to be those people.

I am deeply grateful to have time to work, and for the circumstances, support, self-discipline and sheer luck that makes it possible. Energy, however, remains in short supply...or rather, my body is using its energy to heal and thus has only a little to spare for things it considers less vital. There is no arguing with the body. My work may be vastly important to me, but healing has its own priorities...and its requisition of the body's energy stores must not only be accepted, but respected.

So here is my prayer as I walk the hills, winding through the bluebells and bracken, led by a black-furred bundle of joy:

Let me not waste time and life on self-pity, kicking against physical disability. Let me use what energy I have wisely and well, working within the haiku of limitation -- crafting new work out of these materials. Working with the life I have, and not against it.

Oak elder

Gold water

Wild violets

Into the trees

"I write every day," says my wise friend Jane Yolen. "Every single day....Even if I am ill, traveling, caring for a sick husband, running around a convention, walking the Royal Mile -- even then I will manage to write something. Because being a writer means that kind of commitment. It doesn't have to be something for publication (though what does get published is almost always a surprise). It is something to get the brain, the heart, the imagination, and the fingers coordinated, working together. Not strangers but a good team.

"After my big back operation, part of my recovery was to walk a mile (or more) a day. As the amazing nurse Donna explained it to me: if you walk a mile at a good steady pace (mine is fast) outside, taking in the fresh oxygen, your spinal fluid moves up and down oiling the spine. Well, that's what writing every day does. It keeps the fluid moving about our brain, oiling its parts. Writing needs such fluidity.

Wildflower path


Wanderer's path

"Yes, life happens," Jane continues. "It interrupts all our careful plans. A person from Porlock, an auto accident, a shooter in the movie theater, or more happily twins born, a friend stopping in for tea, your book winning the Caldecott, your editor calling to say you won the Nebula, your agent messaging that you sold a book, falling in love. But the bottomest of lines is this: if you are a writer, you write. And you turn all of life's hiccups into poetry or prose.

"How lucky are we -- accidents, incidents, handicaps, heartbreaks all become research, become prompts. So don't ignore them, but use them. Every day.

"Every single glorious, bloody day."

Pathside dwelling


Tilly by the wayside


P1300484cThe quote by Chris Offut is from an interview in Salon magazine (March, 2016). The quote by Jane Yolen is from a post on her Facebook page (August, 2015). The poem in the picture captions is from Twelve Moons by Mary Oliver (Little, Brown, & Co., 1978).  All rights reserved by the authors.


What a beautiful post, and such a lovely, lovely prayer.
I hope that both you and Tilly are healing well. x

That Old Haiku

".. .working within the
haiku of limitation. . ."-
-Terri Windling

We are all working
within that poem,
wishing for an epic,
settling for a haiku.

Life is a mere few lines,
syllables of hesitation.
Choose your format
with care, celebrate
each foot, each strophe

Sometimes the fewer words
the greatest impact.
Mozart had half a verse
and look what he managed.
The Kardashians wander
in an unpunctuated triolet,
endlessly repeating.

My life may be a simple verse
but I am not at the verso yet.
I still may write
the perfect poem.
It will not be
from a lack of trying.

©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

All good stuff here, Terri and Jane. Whatever we have, whatever we're given; using a little efficiently, is so much better than squandering and wasting a lot.

I can't say enough "YesYesYeses" to this post. There's always a way to draw, to paint, to sculpt, the only thing stopping you is yourself. And if you're still looking for the 'perfect' place to start creating you can stop looking. It is always and forever directly in front of you.

I so relate to needing to work with the life I have... I find it challenging to go through the ups and downs of a chronic illness. I have felt pretty good through the year while teaching, now, I have time and I am in a bit of a crash. I worry that I will go way down. Its discouraging, and there is nothing I can do about it but let be. Wishing you well and much inspiration in those hills.

Such profound words. Thank you so much for writing them. Indeed, in our heart of hearts we know them to be true. Sometimes it just takes someone else saying them to us to make an impact. Sending bright blessings to you all.

Working within the haiku of limitation.

I'm keeping these words, repeating them as I would a mantra, close to my heart.

Wonderful, inspirational post! Thank you.

Ah ... another beautifully wet, thirst-quenching post with comments for this one blessed day. Never more appreciative of the haiku. Thank you. And to Tilly in those arches: You melt my heart, dear Hound.

As I read your post I was reminded of John Maltby a ceramic artist that had to alter the way he worked due to illness,

"He has exhibited widely in the UK, Europe and1996, due to ill health, John Maltby was unable to continue in his established direction and was forced, for a while, to make small individual objects on the kitchen table! John found these small sculptures so much more interesting and continues to makethis new work, the flexibility of idea and image can be explored more freely. Constraints of function are no longer present and I feel newly liberated from some of the limitations of the ceramic tradition."

As I get older I am becoming more realistic in the pieces that I make but it doesn't mean that I have to be less creative. Often the mistakes can be the most beautiful. So, I'm off to the studio once again!

my favourite book about dealing wih deep illness is "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elizabeth Tolva Bailey, she described weeks on end when it would take all day just to turn over in bed and how watching the little snail in it's terrarium that a friend had given her was more than a metaphor for the slowing down of a near death experience with illness. Over 10 years ago I was brought to my knees by a waltz with Jimmy Dancer. It's a very humbling experience to be so weakened that I couldn't read, write, walk or draw for months and still gives a fine appreciation of every single moment of good health ever since.

Tova not Tolva...and with not wih

I appreciated that book for similar reasons. "Every single moment" exactly. Thanks for the reminder of the snail:)

Once again thank you for such inspirational thoughts - the words you choose or use so often feed my mind and lift my spirit. Your prayer is now written on an inspiration card propped up on my desk as a constant reminder of what is important in my life.

Beautiful prayer, Terri. And such wise words from Jane. I too cherish your generous reminders.

So splendid and true! And I am enamored of Tilly's bower. Sigh...

So strange. I always think of you as what some call a Master and I will call you Mistress of many beautiful stories and poems. What if all your poems are perfect, each in their own way?

The Perfect Poem

Only in my dreams.
There is receive chapbooks
Of my poems adorned with
Violets and roses never dying.

About the perfect story
I once wrote in a dream
Was typed out on something
That looked like a barrel,
So the story sprouted out
Onto a tray, gems on paper

Recently in a dream I
Was a spirit on another
Planet. I was a sort of
Secretary for guiding
Kings and Queens
In lengthy planet times.

I might add that they
Were all beautiful and
Had brown skin, black hair,
And we saw as they came
And went in dark red air.

When I woke up
It was another dream
To puzzle about. Demons
And lovely spirits airy
Gifts given to mind.

This was beautiful. I've made myself sick thinking I have to suffer for my writing. I have a life and it's filled with kids, and work and friends and cooking and exercising... and writing. I love it and wish I could do it full time, but after 8 books, I barely can scrape together enough money a month for a few cups of coffee. If I were to hit it big, I'd dedicate the daytime hours to writing too, but like you say above, "Life happens." I have to take it when I can get it. I have to write when I need to write - if it's at 10:00 PM, so be it. But I have to stop getting upset at myself when I can't find the time. It is not that I'm slacking, but that we are living life and "life happens."

This is all so true, inspiring, and a nudge in the creative ribs. But I will add one quiet word of dissent, with apology: writing doesn't always mean putting words on paper, at least not for me. I spend many days - weeks - sometimes even a whole summer - creating story in my mind, with imagery and mood, tracking through plot, building character, finding a way - before I commit anything to material existence. It probably looks like "squandering time" to other, more visibly productive writers. But this is what works best for me. It keeps the story soft-hearted and flexible until it is ready to be written down. It also enables me to work through unsuccessful stories thoroughly, to the point where they can be safely discarded, without destroying my wrist joints with lots of scribbling of notes. :-)

I am with Sarah, above. Although I love writing, I can't do it all the time. I teach, and teaching is good too, there are moments of love and inspiration in the sea of noise (I teach oral language). And I love music, love my friends. . . I am going through menopause and my brain is just slowing down incredibly too. Also, I know my father used his writing as a kind of identity: his father abandoned him, and his mother abused him, and so he had to say 'I am a writer' to survive.
But I am a person in time, and the gift of life to me is the very experience of it. Clouds, a crescent moon, spring jasmine and orange blossom, the gifts of everyday; communion with friends, even this very OCD cat that wanders around my house on some strange patrol sometimes; for me life is the blessing.
I wish you well Terry-san, you write so very beautifully. I hope your health keeps get better. And please say hello to your fine dog.

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