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Jumping in....

Going to ground

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Here in Chagford, surrounded by woodland and moorland, by rain-soaked hills and fields full of flowers and sheep, we tend to live half-a-step removed from the pace and preoccupations of modern life. Time itself moves differently. The lanes to the village are winding and narrow, slowing cars down as they make the approach, or stopping them altogether when sheep, cows or ponies are crowding the road. Village shops are small, service leisurely as neighbors chitchat over the counters (while city folk check their watches impatiently). Internet and mobile phone services don't always work here, and the rest of the world can seem very far away....

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But it's not, of course. And when bad news comes relentlessly, as it has this past month, it reaches us here in Brigadoon too. And it has been relentless. The mass shooting of gay citizens in Orlando. The assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox in Yorkshire. The bombing in Turkey. The EU Refendum. The smoldering racism encouraged by self-serving figures like Trump, Farage, and Le Pen. So many people shouting. So few people listening. And the polar ice caps quietly melting away all the while.

I keep "going to ground," and I mean that literally: going out to the woods to find solace and strength, to find calm and clarity. In such times, I believe, we need art more than ever. So I turn to nature, and I turn to stories, for guidance. For insight. For healing.

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"A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves," says Ben Okri. "Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose it’s moorings or orientation....Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger."

"Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines," Jeanette Winterson concurs. "What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination."

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Earlier this month, before the world went crazy, I posted these words by Ursula K. Le Guin:

"Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom -- poets, visionaries -- realists of a larger reality.''

I didn't realize those hard times would be quite so soon.


The late, great Lloyd Alexander also spoke about truths best conveyed through magical modes of storytelling. " 'True to life' may not always be true enough," he said. "The difficulty is perhaps in confusing truth with objectivity. By its very nature, art can never be objective. Try as we might, we can't 'tell it like it is.' We can only tell it the way it seems to us. And this, of course, is what we must do -- in realism or in fantasy -- if we hope to create anything of durable value. We have always needed good art to sustain us, to strengthen us, even to console us for being born human. Where better can we learn to see through the eyes of others, to gain compassion, to try to make sense of the world outside ourselves and the world within ourselves?"

"To open our eyes, to see with our inner fire and light, is what saves us," says Chickasaw poet & novelist Linda Hogan. "Even if it makes us vulnerable. Opening the eyes is the job of storytellers, witnesses, and the keepers of accounts. The stories we know and tell are reservoirs of light and fire that brighten and illuminate the darkness of human night, the unseen."

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If you, too, are struggling with your creative work during this unsettled time, this is what I advise:

First, do whatever you need to right now to find hózhó (balance), stillness, center ground. Once you've found it, or even a whisper of it, then take a deep breath. Let it out. And begin. No matter what medium you are using to weave new stories, remember that this is good work to be doing. The world needs more light, more beauty, more wonder. More compassion for the Other. More understanding of the darkness.

Together, we'll light a path for those coming after. Breathe deep. And again.

And begin.

Hillside 9The Ben Okri quote is from his essay collection A Way of Being Free (Phoenix, 1998). The Jeanette Winterson quote is from her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Vintage, 2012). The Ursula Le Guin quote is from her National Book Award acceptance speech (November, 2014). The Lloyd Alexander quote is from Innocence & Experience: Essays & Conversations on Children's Literature, edited by Barbara Harrison & Gregory Maguire (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1987). The Linda Hogan quote is from her memoir The Woman Who Watches Over the World (WW Norton, 2001). The poem in the picture captions is from Anam Cara by John O'Donohue (Harper Perennial, 1998). All rights reserved by the authors.


thank you, terri, yet again, but especially now.

Very true words. It's tempting sometimes to give into despair but I was watching a movie the other day (alright, it was Star Wars. It's a good story too!) and something a character said really struck me.
Essentially we're always fighting the same fight - the fight against darkness, both within and without. It takes many forms from age to age, and is always there to be fought... and beaten. It can always be beaten. Beaten and re-beaten. And that I learned from Chesterton :)

Now dark things raise their heads again. Those of us that intend to push back should go settle our hearts, find the fierce calm that sits under all our other flightier emotions. Mine's found most easily in the ground and the woods, so I go there and sit under the trees and gather my strength before going out into the world. I retreat, so that I may advance.

white light

As I know I've said many times before, I live in the heart of the city, and yet buzzards have swooped low over the garden, sparrowhawks have stood sentinel in our trees, foxes and hedghogs have quartered the lawn in search of food, and a tawny owl sometimes roosts in the hawthorns. But does any of this hold back the increasing depravity and insanity of the world? Well, in all reality, no it doesn't, but somehow it does make it easier to bear. Sitting on the grass, beer in hand, watching the bullfinches eating sunflower seeds from the feeder makes me understand that no gun-carrying extremist (of whatever twisting of whichever original belief), no race-hating bigot and no self-serving politician will ever stop such simple beauty. They have neither the ability nor the strength.

Thank you, Terri, for this spiritual bolstering.

Our yard is benefiting from the world unrest. I read about Trump and go out and pull weeds; about the upcoming election and prune the &*$# out of the bushes. And the house is quite clean also. Not being a writer or artist, this is my way of making some good out of the mess we have made. Now I think I'll do some beading.

Your light touches me. Mahalo! I pass it on.

Thank you Terri. Your light is bright, and touches me. I pass it on.

Thank-you. Because creating matters...even though the nasty little voices inside says "what's the point?"
I guess it's just like terrorism, it only completely wins when we let ourselves change and BE guess we need to make and do and read and laugh and dance and write and squish clay..because we can, we should. There might not be any point to it beyond a tiny moment of not letting the evils of the world win by taking away our creativity.

beautiful <3


Being there with you and Tilly, even virtually, lifts my weary spirit. I shared on Face book to lift others. ((((sigh)))

Beautiful, thankyou Terri, just what I needed today xxx

Thank you, everyone. You've touched my heart with your kind words.

It's very important to check in with your fairy princess every once in a while...

Thanks for all you share, Terri. Grouphug!!

Just love this. Needed to hear it, especially now. Thank you, Terri.

Even Walking Outside

Even walking outside does not cure
the cancer of these days,
The words that wound, the exit of sense.
We look to green salve, but it does not help.

We carry burdens of the world
like a burr that clings to the folds
of our skirts as we walk the green
corridors of the world.

Why not stay inside then, locked
there by the cold iron of keys;
under the covers of our ignorance,
caged by our fears?

Because it is the walk that matters,
not the path's end; the grass underfoot,
the trees weeping solace on to our skins.
It is the dapple of sun on the ground.

©2016 Jane Yolen

Thank you. These words were just what I needed this morning. People often seem to think of cheerful literature, light-filled stories, happy endings, as being "escapism". But I believe they can be medicine.

It is good to read this again...thank you. And yes. We can find a way, and show a way in so doing.

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