Welcoming the reader in
The stories that take root

The things that unite us

Alexandra Dvornikova

It's Day 3 of my cold, and though it seems ridiculous that something as simple as a cold is keeping me out of the studio (especially since I regularly keep working despite more serious health issues), this one seems to have me in its tight grip for another day.

Alexandra Dvornikova

Here's a thought I'd like to leave you with today, from Kathryn Miles (author of a lovely book about dogs and nature, Adventures with Ari):

In an interview on Terrain.org, Miles is asked about her belief that environmental writers are charged with inspiring "an ethic of care" in their readers. What, the interviewer wonders, might an ethic of care look like?

"An ethic of care," Miles responds, "is based on ideas of interdependence, and the belief that the most vulnerable among us deserve the most consideration. Writers are uniquely suited to raise awareness about both: we can show what unites us, and we can remind people about narratives that have been forgotten or might otherwise become overlooked. There’s that poignant moment in Mary Oliver’s [poem] "Wild Geese," where she says, 'Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.' That’s what writing from an ethic of care looks like. And it broadens this behest even further: tell me about what you love and what you hate; tell me what frightens you and what you’re willing to fight for. Then, if you’re willing to listen, I’ll tell you about those things in my life. And maybe then we both will understand."

I'm thinking about what an ethic of care might look like in relation to fiction, fantasy, and Mythic Arts. And about how questions like this become more urgent during dark political times.

Your thoughts...?

Alexandra Dvornikova

Speaking of "urgent" art and literature, I stumbled across a lovely book blog the other day that I'd like to recommend to you, if you don't know it already: Books Can Save a Life by Valorie Grace Hallinan.

Alexandra Dvornikova

The magical art today is by Alexandra Dvornikova, a young Russian artist, designer, and printmaker. Dvornikova trained at the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, and is now studying art-therapy, with a focus on autism. She lives with her husband, a red cat, and two jackdaws in St. Petersburg.

She says: "I think the most inspiring things for me are these: Forest, music, animals, wilderness, moss and lichens, mushrooms, Russian fairy tales that I’ve heard when i was a child, masks, rituals, night dreams, childhood experience, folklore, medieval art, archetypes, psychiatry, human’s brain, carnivorous plants, venomous or dangerous things, lonelyness, mori girls, vintage dresses. Also I inspired by Simona Kossak’s story, the woman who lived more than 30 years in a wooden hut in the Bialowieza Forest, without electricity or access to running water. A lynx slept in her bed, and a tamed boar lived under the same roof with her. She was able talk to wild animals."

Please go here to see more of her work, and here to read an interview with the artist.

Alexandra Dvornikova

Ritual

Comments

Thank you for sharing these thoughts and this art. I consider your blog essential, soul-filling reading, that I was introduced to by my friend Sarah Froud, but I've not yet commented.

My favorite writer/thinker/psychologist/iconoclast James Hillman has a lot to say that speaks to an ethic of care. Along with him, I believe that an ethic of care originates in falling in love with the world and depends on being aesthetically alive to it. We cannot care and we cannot be responsible (literally, able to respond) to the soul of the world, the soul of the land, the souls of those around us in the more-than-human world, if we are not aesthetically alive. And in these dark times we are tragically numbed and we keep ourselves anesthetized.
Writers and artists and psychologists and all healers can help restore our senses to us and quicken our aesthetic aliveness. So that we can fall in love with the world. And from that love, from the love of our embodied senses, we can practice an ethic of care.

I do hope your cold relents soon! In the meantime, you can hear James Hillman speak more about the deep faults of sustainability, the kosmos, and the imperative of our aesthetic aliveness in this interview: On Changing the Object of Our Desire.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFa0X06hLOU

I've enjoyed his words in conjunction with this post this morning.

-Sarah Peters

i thoroughly enjoyed reading about simona kossak! and dvornikova's art---magical!

thanks, as always...

Hello!

I think that the ethic of care for fiction, and particularly fantasty fiction, in the current climate is that it needs to keep us all honest. I think so many people feel outraged right now and feel like it's so obvious who the bad guys are - the orcs, the goblins, Brexiteers, the Trump administration. I am trying hard to understand and look beneath, but of course that's so hard because I might find out that maybe I have the same root prejudice, just in reverse, if you see what I mean? So I think fiction has a duty if care to help make "the bad guys" understandable. Maybe show us some tough love?
There is a quote from a brilliant indie comic from the 00s called Serenity Rose by Aaron Alexovich, and I do apologise because it's a long quote but it has always stayed with me because it was the first time I really considered my reactionary opinions and thought about what might be beneath them - and other people's.
The conversation takes place between Serenity and her mentor, a witch called Vicious.
Vicious says: Here is a list of things I Don't hate. Frat boys. Republicans. The Government. Big Business. Porn stars. Druggies and smokers. Limosines. High heels, Mardi Gras and Hip Hop. Bling. Yuppies. Hunters, handguns, hillbillies, rednecks, hicks and townies. Politics and housewives. SUVs. Suburbia, Starbucks, Homecoming dances, Communists, Captialists, Hollywood. The Olsen twins. people who won't eat the crust of their pizza....
And Serenity says, Wait, this is a list of things you don't hate?
Vicious says: This is a list of things I do hate: Ignorance. Irrationality. Fundamentalism. Misogyny. Racism. Dishonesty. Greed. War. Agression. Cruelty. Abuse. Intolerance. Nationalism. Homophobia..... And that's a pretty complete list. But you've got to learn to carve away all the gut reaction and take a good hard look at the heart of the beast and ask yourself: is this thing really worthy of my hatred or am I the bigot?
I know you have amazing readers on this blog and they are going to be so much more eloquent on this subject than me. For myself, as a reader, reading has always been the best way to start having 2 contradictory ideas in my mind at one time. As in, I consider I am totally against the idea of X, and the magic of a gifted writed showing me that, hey maybe X is like that because... Or maybe X is an unforgivable idea but here is why someone thinks it. I am worried right now about how certain sections of the liberal media are portraying current events as "us vs them" . I think the ethics of fiction is to help tolerance and try to stay unbiased.

Thank you Terri. It's an interesting question to consider the ethics of fiction. I find that fiction, or better yet, myth, to be the place(s) where as a writer I can 'live the myth, and unlock the metaphor.' All around me in the everyday there is myth: can I imagine not counting on the moon instead of media? In spring Dandelion and Stinging Nettle fling their saw teeth and barbed leaves out of the damp black dirt, so moss encased only a moon's cycle ago. The contradictions: saw toothed greens and yellow-headed flowers of the Lion that turn to parachuted seeds are chased by silly toddlers and sprayed by Round-up totting fathers. In the mundane world I have watched (and listened) to the toddler in blissful delight when seeing his first parachuting Dandelion seed (thank you Michelle from NYC for the link), and too, been rousted from my sleep by a truck filled with chemicals. Came at dawn ... must kill those pesky weeds. Oh damn the foul insanity of it all.

Meryl Streep in her 2017 Golden Globe Awards speech, spoke of an ethic from the stand point of actors, and artists. It was her final line (credited to 'Princess Leia'/Carrie Fisher) that sums up an ethic for fiction and the mythic arts that I find true for me: "Take your broken heart, turn it into art." Writing story medicine, medicine stories make it possible for me to live the myth and unlock the metaphor and through that long and short tale-making my brokenness turns to art. Like Dandelion parachutes.

To listen to Meryl Streep:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6auwxRuFjZk
To listen to my mentor Hawaiian Cultural Elder Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele speak of "Living the myth and unlocking the metaphor":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PDipPnD2d8

I think "ethic care" instinctively becomes reflective in our work as poets and writers when we choose the human condition and nature as our subject or theme. Delving into the ills of the landscape or the complexity of humanity's mind and conflicts evokes our care and empathy. Where fiction and mythic arts play a role is in the expression of what we feel and wish to accomplish . Employing, for example, certain motifs and tales from ancient myth and its related cultures can provide symbolism and meaning that underscores the particular theme or story we are engaged in presenting. Many of these tales, have animals as spirit guides, guardians or harbingers. I personally have relied on this concept to convey what lies beneath the surface of an idea, an experience or dream. This happens in some of my poems related to human suffering and injustice, especially those situations regarding indigenous people, refugees and immigrants. I am able to let the "ethic care" evolve through the species' action or voice. This month I have used the presence of a stray cat in a work about deportation. The feline is seen or inferred as a wild animal that came into the lives of undocumented workers for a reason. Not only to provide companionship but also to endow them with a sense of clairvoyancy, heightened instinct or primal awareness in these times of political uncertainty. The immigrant's angst is palpable and his or her constant vigilance seen in their eyes and behavior. Like them, the stray cat is always on the move, looking to survive by its adaptability and its innate sense of things happening beyond its immediate environs.. From Persian times, the feline has been associated with mysticism and the ability to connect to the "unseen" world. I believe when in constant danger, human beings also develop that aspect of a sixth sense in order to survive and escape what they feel may be inevitable. Animals can abet them in fostering this craft or skill.


The Bay Window

My eyes migrate through the foliage
Antoine Cassar

Everyday we watched our stray cat
watching the street
from the window's belly. Curled

behind the bulging glass
and still as a stillborn,
she stared into the familiar: shade trees
parked cars, fire hydrant and people
who belonged on our block.

Sometimes. you could sense
she saw something different
when the sun stretched through leaves;
and its cord of light connected her
to the unseen. Ghosts in the glare or pollen
carried by the wind.

Today, we hunch in the same place,
our pet having gone back to Santa
Muerte; and watch for something to come -
or maybe hear before it happens.

A knock, a warrant flapping against
a woman's wrist, a car door closing with bodies
sinking into leather and paralysis -- all a few days

or weeks away. No mention of a raid, no reason
except we've learned to sense the imminent,
owned a cat who had crossed over lives
and borders more than nine times. And as we wait
.
the window glitters
partially covered by a membrane of dust.
___________________________________________

I hope Terri you are feeling better soon and will keep your health in my prayers and thoughts. Thank you so much today and yesterday's posts. They are really very interesting as well as inspirational!

Take care
My best,
Wendy


Terri,

Oh I've missed Myth & Moor! I've strayed away a bit since giving birth 18 months ago. But my first thought to your question... In my belief, in the mythic arts, the ethics of care is inherent in the myth and the fantasy, in all those things that *speak* to the subconscious using ancient symbols and tales our souls and dna recognize. We can only change (minds, readers, beliefs) by hitting the mark *deeply*, by going into the dark of the wood. And it is our responsibility to make certain that the message that comes across is one that supports connection and compassion (most of which is *inside* the stories anyhow). I suppose our ethics of care is to *maintain* that which binds us, that long, wild coil that we share just by being alive.

Sending you so much love.

Raquel

Terri, thank you so much for recommending my blog. I'm so glad you found your way there! I am mesmerized by your site here. I love that you've written about Mary Oliver and an ethic of care - lots to think about. Oddly enough, Mary Oliver and I grew up in the same town. We were 20 years apart however, and never knew each other! i was astonished when she won the Pulitzer - a few years later I really began reading her poetry.

It's Day Three of my head cold too, so you have all my sympathies.

I am continually amazed by Russian illustration these days. It's absolutely glorious.

"Imagine not counting on the moon instead of media" I love that. Media - shiver,,,,Moon sacred.

What a visible poem/// I see the cat out of the window, and sorrows of no home for million of people.
Sad. When I needed something good, when I was 13, a cat between kitten and tomcat came out of the junipers
and thick weeds by our house, very shy, orange with a crooked tail & a squeaky meow. I brought him water and later, food, and eventually he was pal, Not a house cat, except sometimes. I named him Squeaky, and
when I wept, he comforted me. But I left Bend, Oregon and I think he really needed to find some-one else who really needed.

The idea of an ethic of care, and of considering the most vulnerable amongst us ("us" being more than most people think) was what drove my last project. For me, it's about love, and the strengthening conviction that, in these dark times,anyone with the ability to do good, even in the smallest measure, ought to. But then, that's less an opinion of my own mind but what it seems to me Story itself is calling for.

The art in this post is beyond beautiful.

I hope so much you feel better soon.

I have been away from your blog, and the world in general, for a while and I feel so welcome back by your posts to a thoughtful and gracefilled place. Thanks for posting. I hope you feel better shortly.

Hi Phyllis

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story about the influence of a cat in your life. I think animals can make a significant difference and I love this story you have told. I am also glad to hear the poem works. I deeply appreciate your perspective and your thoughtfulness. I hope and pray you are feeling better. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers!

Take care
Wendy

Hi Mokihana

I totally agree with you perspective here and love how you show the comparison using the child/father's reaction to the dandelions. Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm on my way to listen to the two links you have provided!

My Best
wendy

An ethic of tending and care...your words bring a quickened heartbeat to me. To devote a life to this picture, no matter how large or small, finds a land of home in my swirling spirit of these times. Thank you so.

All I can say is that I believe Myth & Moor embodies a profound ethics of care. I wish I had more ability to read every comment, to listen and be present and respond to each post, but since I don't, all I can say is that I sense a connection with other readers and writers here. That connection is built on tenderness, vulnerability, truth-telling, and artful living. My sense, Terri, is that you and others can build such communities through example, gentle but disciplined work, self-love, generosity, and grace. I certainly feel you've helped teach me a great deal about compassion for myself, for all artists, and for our precious earth. Thank you.

Just exploring your blog - wonderful and evocative! Thanks. We spent time along the River Dart a few years ago - wonderful and evocative too.

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