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September 2017

Tilly & the fairies

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The Dogs Tales are a series of posts in which Tilly has her say....

When I take my Person out walking in the woods it is my job to scout the path ahead, to lead us through the dark of the forest and bring us safely home again. With my good, furry ears and my keen, clever nose, I pick up on all the news of the forest: of foxes and badgers who have passed this way...squirrels rattling high above us in the trees...fine spiders' silk spun from leaf to leaf...coarse sheeps' wool caught in the bramble thorns...and the distinctive scent of the hillside's fairies: sweet, pungent, mushroomy and sour, all at once.

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But what kind of fairies? Friends or foes? I sniff more closely, but I can't quite tell.  Shy moss fairies, kindly root fairies, giggly fungi fairies: all these I do not mind. But the winged ones, buzzing through the air like overgrown bees, are tricksy, and they bite.

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I follow their spoor through oak and ash, all the way to the forest boundary wall. The stink of fairies is overwhelming, and yet my Person walks on without concern. She's a gentle, absent-minded creature, unaware of danger. I must guard her closely.

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Now fairies, as you know, love boundaries and borders; they love places that lie betwixt and between; and so the wall is riddled with fairy burrows and the evidence of fairy hands and fairy feet. I climb the wall, push my sensitive snout into the ivy, and find moss fairies curled in beds of lichen, green and plump and fast asleep. A root fairy, brown and wrinkled as a walnut, peers up with eyes the pale green of new leaves.

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But this is not the danger I've been scenting. My hackles rise and I don't know why. My Person is drifting up the path behind me when I hear the buzz of fairy wings....

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Suddenly a fairy swarm surrounds me, visible only as sparks of light, and I bark in warning: Stay back! Stay back! These are not the slow, soft creature of root and soil but the quick, sharp spirits of the forest canopy:  shifty, capricious, and volatile. They bear no love for the Canine Tribe, and their fondness for mortals cannot be trusted.

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My tail is pulled, my ears are tweaked, and sharp little fairy teeth nip my flanks. I growl and snap. I crunch. I swallow. I've eaten a fairy! I've eaten a fairy!

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Uh oh. I've eaten a fairy. And my Person will not be pleased.

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The swarm, taking fright, vanishes into the forest. The moss fairies snore. The root fairy smiles. My Person is safe now. She whistles and we walk on.

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She never needs to know.

Woodland 14This post originally appeared in April, 2015. The poem in the picture captions is from Poetry Magazine (December 2007); all rights reserved by the author.

The Peace of Wild Things


Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK -- a day to celebrate and share old and new works of poetry. The theme this year is "freedom." Here's my own favourite poem on the subject:

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


What are your favourite poems about freedom, in any sense of the word? Please share in the Comments...or post one of your own.



The poem above is from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint Press, 1999). The poem in the picture captions is from The Armless Maiden (Tor Books, 1995) and The Poets' Grimm: 21st Century Poems from the Grimms Fairy Tales (Story Line Press, 2003). All rights reserved by the authors.

Out of the studio

Howard's Puppets

I'm having a low-health day today, and working from home. Nothing too serious, don't worry; I expect to be back in the studio tomorrow. I wish you all a peaceful and creative day -- or else an exciting and creative one, whichever you prefer.

Howard's Puppets

Photos above: The tools of Howard's trade (a Commedia mask, Commedia puppets, Punch & Judy puppets) on a living room chair.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Henry Justice Ford


Music for the magic hours...

Above: "In the Magic Hour" by American singer/songwriter Aoife O'Donovan, from her gorgeous album of the same name.

Below: "Weep" by American pianist & composer Minna Cho and the Magik Magik Orchestra, from Magik Magik. (There's a nice interview with the video's director, Nathan Johnson, here. The dancer is Coco Karol.)

Above: "Fuel to Fire" by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel, from her second album, Aventine.

Below: "Thomas County Law" by Iron & Wine (American singer/songwriter Sam Beam), from his new album, Beast Epic.

Above: "Something Familiar" by English folk duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker,  from their new album, Overnight. (More of their music here.)

Below: "Midnight Feast" by the English & Scottish folk trio Lau (Kris Drever, Martin Green, Aidan O'Rourke), accompanied by Aoife O'Donovan.

Laurence Housman

The illustrations above are by Henry Justice Ford (1860-1941) and Lauence Housman (1865-1959).