Cycles, seasons, and daffodils
Happy Spring Holidays everyone!

An ode to slowness

Between the Fox and the Owl by Donna Howell-Sickles

Fridays are my day for re-visiting posts from the Myth & Moor archves, often ones that touch on themes we've been discussing during the week. This post first appeared in the autumn of 2012, presented today with new art. 

From "Ode to Slowness" by Terry Tempest Williams:

"I want my life to be a celebration of slowness.

"Walking through the sage from our front door, I am gradually drawn into the well-worn paths of deer. They lead me to Round Mountain and the bloodred side canyons below Castle Rock. Sometimes I see them, but often I don't. Deer are quiet creatures, who, when left to their own nature, move slowly. Their large black eyes absorb all shadows, especially the flash of predators. And their ears catch each word spoken. But today they walk ahead with their halting prance, one leg raised, then another, and allow me to follow them. I am learning how to not provoke fear and flight among deer. We move into a pink, sandy wash, their black-tipped tails like eagle feathers. I lose sight of them as they disappear around the bend.

Three Does and a Kid by Donna Howell-Sickles

"On the top of the ridge I can see for miles... Inside this erosional landscape where all colors eventually bleed into the river, it is hard to desire anything but time and space.

"Time and space. In the desert there is space. Space is the twin sister of time. If we have open space then we have open time to breath, to dream, to dare, to play, to pray to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember. Time and space. This partnership is holy. In these redrock canyons, time creates space--an arch, an eye, this blue eye of sky. We remember why we love the desert; it is our tactile response to light, to silence, and to stillness.

"Hand on stone -- patience.

"Hand on water -- music.

"Hand raised to the wind --  Is this the birthplace of inspiration?"

Desert Mule-eared Deer

Yes, I believe it is.

I firmly believe that inspiration is born in the land, born of the land, and borne to us on the sacred winds: in the Utah desert where Williams lives, here on my beloved Dartmoor, in the green spaces of London and Manhattan, and wherever you are too. We all need the land and we all need the wild, in all of its various manifestations -- for creative work, and for the art we make everyday of the lives we live.

That's not to say there aren't other forms of inspiration, or artists who make good use of them. But right now, for me, on this beautiful and ailing planet, this is one of the forms of inspiration we need the most, and that matters the most. I think about this constantly as I work with the tools of myth and fantasy. How can I use them in service to the land? How do I let the land speak through me?

I start by living a little more slowly, a little more attentively -- for my art cannot speak for wild lands or wild neighbors if I'm not listening to what they have to say.

In Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit extolls the value of moving through the world more slowly:

"Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination," she writes, "a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use...time spent there is not work time, yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space -- for wilderness and public space -- must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space."


And Then There Were Three by Donna Howell-Sickles

The art today is by Donna Howell-Sickles, who was born and raised on a 900-acre farm in Texas.Watching the Big Bear by Donna Howell-Sickles

While studying for a BFA at Texas Tech University, she came across a postcard of a cowgirl from the 1930s and became fascinated with the history, iconography, and mythology of cowgirls throughout the American West. Her distinctive art is now shown in galleries and museums across the United States and Europe.

Although she's best known for vibrant pictures of cowgirls and their horses, I'm especially drawn to her imagery of additional animals and birds: dogs, deer, bear, crows, owls, and the like. The artist is conscious of their mythological connotations, and often employs such imagery to tell symbolic stories about the inner journeys of the women in her work.

Please visit her website if you'd like to see more; or look for her book: Cowgirl Rising: The Art of Donna Howell-Sickles (from Greenwich Workshop Press, 1997).

It is Written in the Stars by Donna Howell-Sickles

Deer by Donna Howell-SicklesThe passage by Terry Tempest Williams is from an essay in Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Pantheon, 2001). The passage by Rebecca Solnit is from Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Viking, 1997). Both books are highly recommended. All rights to the text and art above reserved by the authors and artist.


Beautiful post as always Terri! I love the artwork. A friend of mine has a large print of hers which she found in Taos at a shop there. Such strong characters in her work. Her animal figures also remind me of the work by Rebecca Haines whom I met a while back in Santa Fe. You'd love her work as well I think!
Hope this finds you well over there in Dartmoor!

Hi Terri

Love the idea of slowness leading us into a better place of thought and well being. And the phrasing of Hand on stone, on water, on and raised to the wind is breathtaking. I believe as artists and simply human beings we need to walk a path in the desert or woods to pause and reflect, to renew our creative energies and find inspiration. Not only by touching stone or tree, do we connect to a larger sense of ourselves and nature; but also leave something of ourselves behind. Some part of our spirit remains with that rock or branch; and even more so when we shed our thoughts in that same place. We shed them like skin and they linger to coil into memory , tighten into secrets that are meant to be discovered on another walk, another encounter. Such occurrences often become the origin of an idea or theme we later incorporate into our art. The poem below takes me pack to the woodland paths of my home in upper New York State; but I have also found, as this gorgeous essay emphasizes ,such peace, stillness and inspiration in the high desert.

The Origin Of An Idea

Does the walker chose the path
or the path the walker?
Garth Nix

It begins
with an orchard wall
and in the center
a large rock that keeps

a woman's shadow
as she stops to rest.
Apples sweeten
in the amber light
of Fall

while her presence
blends with moss
and water stains,

seeds and snail
soon to draw the crow
and the sun's heat
soon to fetch the snake.

Yet, what matters now
is her sleek hunger
probing the nuances
of a fossil,

and shedding her thoughts
only to leave
their skin porous on stone
as it breathes and coils
into memory

ready to strike
when she returns
on another hike. The bite

or flash turning
the woman
into someone with wings,

and a rattle
to tremble the senses.
The art work, too, is breathtaking. Just love her pieces, they speak to me in so many different ways. Thank you for this post, it touches deeply!!

Take care

This is so very beautiful. You have no idea how blessed I feel to be able to open my computer and read such beauty, such inspiration, on an ordinary Saturday morning. What a treasure trove the internet can be! I especially love what you wrote about using your art to be in service to the land at this time in particular. I too have the same wish.

This has so much of all strong senses, I could smell, hear, touch. And I have dreams of being a flash turned woman with wings. You have caught the strangeness of what we desperately need.

Deserts and Greenland

Two lives, often to call when needed.
The child I was in the desert, when
If it rained everybody ran out
To lift their faces, and then we
Would wait for months of snow.

Not quite a cowgirl, but we did have
Milk cows on our farm/forest, And
Horses, one a beautiful palomino
My dad never tames, and our mare,
Who was mild and friendly.

Later, in my teens, eight acres, and
Horses, Arab, big mare Dad rescued,
And her surprise colt I named April.
And I was small and round, out to
Catch the wicked funny Arabians.

"Come out and see the new horse,"
Dad said. "Oh." but there at the fence
A red and brown black tail and when
I reached out to him, he did not run away.
Shy Guy. To groom and ride, my horse.

Comments and post like a warm bath for my aching bones.

Hi Phyllis

I am so glad you liked the poem and deeply appreciate your beautiful comment. Thank you so much!!

My Best

Hi Phyllis

Thanks for sharing this beautiful and personal poem! I really enjoyed reading it and love the way you characterize the horses and the terrain!!

Take care

shedding her thoughts
only to leave
their skin porous on stone
as it breathes and coils
into memory

ready to strike
when she returns
on another hike. The bite

or flash turning
the woman
into someone with wings,

and a rattle
to tremble the senses.

You have captured the ineffable magic of a hike in the woods. Thank you for this beautiful poem, Wendy.

"Hand on stone -- patience.

"Hand on water -- music.

"Hand raised to the wind -- Is this the birthplace of inspiration?"

I believe it is, too, Terri.

A few days ago I set my intention to be alert for those moments when I'm obeying some sense of chronic urgency, moving quickly, a bit breathlessly--moving being both physical and mental, and, when I notice, pausing for three deep breaths, then moving forward slowly, with eyes wide open for the wonders I've been too rushed to see. So far I'm finding joy in more deeply engaging in my life. So sweet! The magic of slowing down.

This post is reinforcing my intention!

Thank you, Wendy. A sort of short story I love to remember; the past I still hold as full of wonders, before
the beginning some kind of adult and such different wonders.

Thank you so much Candace

I am glad you enjoyed the poem and deeply appreciate your lovely comments!

My Best

The beauty of this:
"probing the nuances
of a fossil,"
slow and subtle, and then the flash of possible terror with the snake and rattle. . .brilliant.

Thanks in a trembling sort of way.


Lovely poem about a first meeting. . .


Thanks so much Jane

Glad you enjoyed this one and thank you so much for your intuitive and wonderful comments!!

Take care

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