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March 2020

Myth & Moor update

Benji

Friends have been urging me to stop apologizing for my absence from Myth & Moor due to circumstances beyond my control (health issues and a death in my family), but I can't help it. I am sorry that I haven't been here with you during the worldwide spread of Covid-19, when daily posts from the Dartmoor countryside might have provided some welcome distraction and comfort.

Tilly by David WyattI'm back in the studio now, catching up with work, intending to be with you in a more regular way . . . provided the Little Gods of telephone wires and Internet connectivity are kind to us. Our rural Internet service has always been slow and affected by storms; but lately, with the entire UK on lock-down and demands for connectivity rising, our service has gone from slow to a crawl. We are currently switching service providers, hoping to find a more lasting solution. While we wait for the switch to take place, however, our Internet access remains unpredictable. I'll post when I can, but it's likely to be erratic -- and that's another thing beyond my control. Okay, I won't apologize again, but I do thank you for your patience.

Benji 2

I also want to say a big thank you to all of you who have kept conversation going here (in the Comments section) while I've been away. Conversation maintains community; and community, to me, is everything. 

American naturalist Barry Lopez writes:

"Conversations are efforts toward good relations. They are an elementary form of reciprocity. They are the exercise of our love for each other. They are the enemies of our loneliness, our doubt, our anxiety, our tendencies to abdicate. To continue to be in good conversation over our enormous and terrifying problems is to be calling out to each other in the night. If we attend with imagination and devotion to our conversations, we will find what we need; and someone among us will act -- it does not matter whom -- and we will survive."

He is speaking of ecological crisis here, but his words could apply to a global pandemic as well. Coming together in our various communities is how we take care of and nurture each other.

I'm glad to return to this conversation. Stay safe, everyone. And let's keep talking.

Benji 3

Words: The quote is from"Meditations on Living in These Times" by Barry Lopez, published in Hope Beneath Our Feet, edited by Martin Keogh (North Atlantic Books, 2010).

Pictures:  A visit with sweet Benji, the elderly horse who lives down the road. The little drawing of Tilly is by her good friend (and ours) David Wyatt.


A celebration of slowness

Bunny Girl Time (sculpture by Wendy Froud)

Since self-isolation and lock-down is causing so many of us to slow down the pace of our lives, here's a post from the Myth & Moor archives in praise of slowness, stillness, and moments of quiet....

From Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001):

"[My friend] Sono's truck had been stolen from her West Oakland studio, and she told me that although everyone responded to it as a disaster, she wasn't all that sorry it was gone, or in a hurry to replace it. There was a joy, she said, to finding that her body was adequate to get her where she was going, and it was a gift to develop a more tangible, concrete relationship to her neighborhood and its residents. We talked about the more stately pace of time one has on foot and on public transportation, where things must be planned and scheduled beforehand, rather than rushed through at the last minute, and about the sense of place that can only be gained on foot. Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors -- home, car, gym, office, shops -- disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than interiors built up against it....

The Look

"I had told Sono about an ad I found in the Los Angeles Times a few months ago that I'd been thinking about ever since. It was for a CD-ROM encyclopedia, and the text that occupied a whole page read, 'You used to walk across town in the pouring rain to use our encyclopedias. We're pretty confident that we can get your kid to click and drag.' I think it was the kid's walk in the rain that constituted the real education, at least of the senses and the imagination. Perhaps the child with the CD-ROM encyclopedia will stray from the task at hand, but wandering in a book or a computer takes place within more constricted and less sensual parameters. It's the unpredictable incidents between official events that add up to a life, the incalculable that gives it value. Both rural and urban walking have for two centuries been prime ways of exploring the unpredictable and incalculable, but now they are under assault on many fronts.

My desk

Bear & woman image by Katrina Plotnikova

"The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency is actually eradicating free time by making it possible to maximize the time and place for production and minimize the unstructured travel time between. New time-saving technologies make most workers more productive, not more free, in a world that seems to be accelerating around them. Too, the rhetoric of efficiency around these technologies suggests that what cannot be quantified cannot be valued -- that that vast array of pleasures which fall into the category of doing nothing in particular, of woolgathering, cloud-gazing, wandering, window-shopping, are nothing but voids to be filled by something more definite, more productive, or faster paced....

"The indeterminacy of a ramble, on which much may be discovered, is being replaced by the determinate shortest distance to be transversed with all possible speed, as well as by electronic transmissions that make real travel less necessary. As a member of the self-employed whose time saved by technology can be lavished on daydreams and meanders, I know these things have their uses, and use them -- a truck, a computer, a modem -- myself, but I fear their false urgency, their call to speed, their insistence that travel is less important than arrival. I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness."

The Look, again

Bunny girl sculpture by Wendy Froud, collage by Lynn Hardaker, card by Jeanie Tomanek

Solnit returned to the subject of time in an essay for the London Review of Books:

"Nearly everyone I know feels that some quality of concentration they once possessed has been destroyed. Reading books has become hard; the mind keeps wanting to shift from whatever it is paying attention to to pay attention to something else. A restlessness has seized hold of many of us, a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing, or doing at least two things at once, or going to check some other medium. It’s an anxiety about keeping up, about not being left out or getting behind. (Maybe it was a landmark when Paris Hilton answered her mobile phone while having sex while being videotaped a decade ago.)

"The older people I know are less affected because they don’t partake so much of new media, or because their habits of mind and time are entrenched. The really young swim like fish through the new media and hardly seem to know that life was ever different. But those of us in the middle feel a sense of loss. I think it is for a quality of time we no longer have, and that is hard to name and harder to imagine reclaiming. My time does not come in large, focused blocks, but in fragments and shards. The fault is my own, arguably, but it’s yours too – it’s the fault of everyone I know who rarely finds herself or himself with uninterrupted hours. We’re shattered. We’re breaking up.

At the studio door

"It’s hard, now, to be with someone else wholly, uninterruptedly, and it’s hard to be truly alone. The fine art of doing nothing in particular, also known as thinking, or musing, or introspection, or simply moments of being, was part of what happened when you walked from here to there alone, or stared out the train window, or contemplated the road, but the new technologies have flooded those open spaces."

Studio

Later in the piece she wonders

"if there will be a revolt against the quality of time the new technologies have brought us, as well as the corporations in charge of those technologies. Or perhaps there already has been, in a small, quiet way. The real point about the slow food movement was often missed. It wasn’t food. It was about doing something from scratch, with pleasure, all the way through, in the old methodical way we used to do things. That didn’t merely produce better food; it produced a better relationship to materials, processes and labour, notably your own, before the spoon reached your mouth. It produced pleasure in production as well as consumption. It made whole what is broken."

Spying on cats

In "7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living," Maria Popova notes:

"Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, 'how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.' "

Stairway to the stream

Behind the studio

A stairway of roots

Terry Tempest Williams, too, has questioned our culture's emphasis on speed, ease, productivity, and consumption. In her beautiful essay "Ode to Slowness" (Red, 2001), she reflects on her transition from the urban pace of Salt Lake City to the quiet rhythms of a village in the Utah desert, using language that echoes my own transition from Boston and New York City to the Arizona desert and rural England:

"My husband and I were comfortable in our urban routine," she writes," but one night over dinner her said, 'What if we are only living half-lives? What if there is something more?'

"We wanted more.

"We wanted less.

"We wanted more time, fewer distractions. We wanted more time together, time to write, to breathe, to be more conscious with our lives. We wanted to be closer to wild places where we could walk and witness the seasonal changes, even the changing constellations. And so we banked on the idea of a simpler life away from the city near the slickrock country we love. What we would lose in income, we would gain in sanity."

Dog and sun

Time, she discovered, (as I, too, discovered), moves differently outside of the city.

"I am not so easily seduced by speed as I once was. I find that I have lost the desire to move that quickly in the world. To see how much I can get done in a day does not impress me any more. I don't think it's about getting older. It feels more like honoring the gravity in my own body in relationship to place. Survival. A rattlesnake coils; its tail shakes; the emptiness of the desert is evoked.

"I want my life to be a celebration of  s l o w n e s s ."

Woodland gate

As do I. Oh, as do I.

Hill and sun

Works by Terry Tempest Williams, Maria Popova, & Rebecca Solnit

Tilly, being slow

Bunny Girl (by Wendy Froud)

The Bunny Girl on my desk (and in the grass) is by Wendy Froud, the collage art by Lynn Hardaker, and the "woman with dog" card by Jeanie Tomanek. They were gifts, all of them, and much treasured.


Myth & Moor update

Desktop

Thank you for your patience while I've been away dealing with sad family matters. I'll resume the publishing schedule for Myth & Moor just as soon as I possibly can, and catch up on Patreon too (for those of you who subscribe). It's been a tough month, and I'm looking forward to being back in the studio at last.

"The lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life."

 - Gretel Ehrlich (The Solace of Open Spaces)

The Bumblehill Studio

Studio muse


Tunes for a Monday Afternoon

I won't let you fall.

I'm still struggling with low spirits due to the death of my youngest brother, so I wasn't sure I was up to chosing the "Monday Music" this week ... and yet music is often the very thing that I turn to for solace, understanding, and healing. So I send these songs out for Keith, my brother who is gone; to Vic, my brother who is missing; to Michael, my brother recently found; and to any of you who might resonate with it too. Art lifts us. And that's why we need it. 

Above: "Bubble" by King Creosote and John Hopkins, from their collaborative album Diamond Mine (2001). The animated video, with its doppleganger of Tilly, was directed by Elliot Dear. 

Below: "Wherever I Go" by the great British guitarist Mark Knopfler, with Australian-born bluegrass musician Ruth Moody, now based in Canada. The song appeared on Knopfler's album Tracker (2015).

Above: "Dear Brother" by Nahko Bear, with two members of his band, Medicine for the People: Max Ribner and Tim Snider. Nahko is singer-songwriter of mixed Apache, Mohawk, Puerto Rican & Filipino heritage. The song was recorded live in New York in 2018.

Below: "Tus Pies" by Nahko Bear, recorded live in New York in 2016.

Above: "No Hard Feelings" by The Avett Brothers ( Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon) from North Carolina. The song was filmed for the Live from Here television program in 2017, with back-up from the Live from Here band.

Below: "Time After Time" by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper, from her first album, She's So Unusual (1983). When I was a young editor in New York City in the '80s, my youngest brother used to call me "Terri Lauper" to tease me for my '80s fashion sense. The original video for "Time After Time" reminded him of me, he once said, for I'd always been something of a misfit in our family and left it at a very young age. The haunting version below, filmed in 2004, seems the right song to end with today.