Previous month:
November 2020
Next month:
January 2021

December 2020

We are storied folk

Nattadon at dawn

"I write to tell stories," says Finnish author Eppu Nuotio. "I believe that there are some professions in the world that will last forever: doctor or nurse, teacher, builder, and storyteller. I write also to become myself, more so day by day. Writing is a way to shape the visible and invisible, in myself as well as in the world."

Here on Nattadon Hill, dawn shapes the visible and invisible...

Nattadon 2

telling stories of light and shadow.

Natadon 3

Tilly translates the land's stories for me. She is a trickster, a boundary crosser, moving between the human world and the numinous landscape, its language formed of light, rain, scent, and time.

Nattadon 4

 "Love and translation look alike in their grammar," notes the Spanish-Argentian poet Andrés Neuman. "To love someone implies transforming their words into ours. Making an effort to understand the other person and, inevitably, to misinterpret them. To construct a precarious language together."

Nattadon 5

Each morning, Tilly and I walk the land and construct a language, a story, all our own.

Nattadon 6

"We are storied folk," states anthropologist Arthur Kleinman. "Stories are what we are; telling and listening to stories is what we do."

Nattadon 7


Sweet silence

The Dreamer of Dreams by Edmund Dulac

Stressful family business has been filling my time, agitating my dreams, and interrupting my work for several weeks running, but there's light at the end of this particular tunnel and I look forward to calmer days ahead. Back in the studio this morning, I find I don't want to start with the usual "Monday tunes," but to relish the silence of solitude, broken only by birdsong from the woods and the snoring of the little black hound stretched out beside me as I type....

Daydreaming hound

"Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”

- Norton Juster (The Phantom Toolbooth)

Blanket of Snow by Virginia Lee

The White Bear by Kay Nielsen

“After a time I found that I could almost listen to the silence, which had a dimension all of its own. I started to attend to its strange and beautiful texture, which of course, it was impossible to express in words. I discovered that I felt at home and alive in the silence, which compelled me to enter my interior world and around there. Without the distraction of constant conversation, the words on the page began to speak directly to my inner self. They were no long expressing ideas that were simply interesting intellectually, but were talking directly to my own yearning and perplexity.”

- Karen Armstrong

A Silence Like Intimacy by Jackie Morris

"I am obsessed by the idea of silence. I went through an entire library studying art, artists and their critics, philosophers, too, on the meaning and significance of the color white. I dreamed of white birds and white bears. I thought about the white pages of my mother’s journals. I became enthralled with John Cage and his work, 4’33”, his masterpiece of ambient sound. Rauschenberg, too. And then at some point I let go. What sticks to the soul is what gets placed on the page. Maybe that’s the unknown part, the mystery, the power of the empty page."

- Terry Tempest Williams

The Night Before the Journey to England by Carl Larsson

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”

- Virginia Woolf

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Pictures:"The Dreamer of Dreams" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), "Blanket of Snow" by Virginia Lee, "The White Bear" (from East of the Sun, West of the Moon) by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957), "A Silence Like Intimacy" by Jackie Morris,  "The Night Before the Journey to England" by Carl Larsson (1853-1919), and a pen & ink skerch by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

Words: The Terry Tempest Williams quote comes from an interview, On Writing as an Act of Living (Brevity Magazine, Jan. 11, 2013), which I highly recommend. 


Breaking open

Waterfall 1

From Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore:

" 'There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature,' Rachel Carson wrote. 'The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.'

"I have never felt this so strongly as I do now, waiting for the sun to warm my back. The bottom may drop out of my life, what I trusted may fall away completely, leaving me astonished and shaken. But still, sticky leaves emerge from bud scales that curl off the tree as the sun crosses the sky. Darkness pools and drains away, and the curve of the new moon points to the place where the sun will rise again. There is wild comfort in the cycles and the intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world.

Waterfall 2

Waterall 3

"I settle back on the rock and drag my sleeping bag over my knees. Diffuse light silvers the water; I can just make out a dragonfly nymph that crawls toward the surface with no expectation of flight beyond maybe a tightness in the carapace across its back. No matter how hard it tries or doesn't, there will come a time when the dragonfly pumps the crinkles out of its wings, and there they will be, luminous as mica, threaded with lapis and gold.

Waterfall 5

Waterfall 6

Waterfall 7

Waterfall 8

 "No measure of human grief can stop Earth in its tracks. Earth rolls into sunlight and rolls away again, continents glowing green and gold under the clouds. Trust this, and there will come a time when dogged, desperate trust in the world will break open into wonder. Wonder leads to gratitude. Gratitude into peace." 

Waterfall 9

Waterfall 10

Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore

Waterfall 11

Where, or how, do you find wild comfort?

Leap

 The passage above is from Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature, essays by Kathleen Dean Moore (Trumpeter Books, 2010); all rights reserved by the author. The text is the picture captions is adapted from a  post after winter storms in 2012.


Wild Prayer

Rainbow 1

After many days of rain and mist, there is blue sky and a rainbow over our village. In a darkening season of water-soaked fields and foot trails ankle-deep in mud, it feels a blessing.

The sky is blue over Meldon Hill,  though a bank of dark clouds hovers over the moor. Sun or rain, I am ready for both. Rainbow-blessed and vision restored, I'm reminded to love the earth's full palette: the delicacy of winter blue, the wet vibrancy of green and gold, but also the spectrum of color that gives us grey days, comfortless as they sometimes seem. Grey is the color of mist, mystery, mythic entrances to the Otherworld. Grey is the hidden and the unseen -- which we sometimes need to be ourselves.

Meldon Hill

In her essay collection Wild Comfort, Kathleen Dean Moore takes sorrow and the hardships of life into nature, seeking clarity, solace, and a form of prayer unattached to the religion she was raised in and no longer practices. Alone in her kayak on a small mountain lake, she is enclosed in the grey world of falling snow, cut off from sight of the land by the storm. In the thick of the snow squall, she writes:

"a frog began to sing. It must have been a tree frog, Hyla regilla. Of course I couldn't see it; I couldn't see anything but snow beyond my vanished bow. But I knew that song, and I could imagine the tiny frog up to its eyes in water, snowflaked falling on its head fiery green enough to melt the snow.

 "As long as the frog sings, I will not be lost in the squall. The song tells me where the cattails are, and the cattails mark the shore. I am sure of this much, that Earth lights these small signal fires -- not for us, but among us -- and we can find them if we look. If we are not afraid, if we keep our balance, if we let our anxious selves dissolve into the beauties and mysteries of the night, we will find a way to peace and assurance. Signal fires burn all over the land."

Rainbow 2

Here is the prayer Moore finds in the middle of the storm, and that she offers to us:

"May the light that reflects on this water be a wild prayer. May water lift us with its unexpected strength. May we find comfort in the 'repeated strains of nature,' the softly sheeting snow, the changing seasons, the return of blackbirds to the marsh. May we find strength in light that pours under the snow and laughter that breaks through the tears. May we go out into the light-filled snow, among meadows in bloom, with a gratitude for life that is deep and alive. May Earth's fires burn in our hearts, and may we know ourselves to be part of this flame -- one thing, never alone, never weary of life."

May it be so. Mitakuye Oyasin.

Rainbow 3

Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore

The two passages quoted above are from Kathleen Dean Moore's essay "Never Alone or Weary" in Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature (Trumpeter Books, 2010); the poem in the picture captions is from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (New Directions, 2013); all rights reserved by the authors. I wrote about rainbows in my own personal symbology here, back in 2010.


Climbing into the clouds

Nattadon Hill

Today Tilly joined me for my birthday walk to the top of the hill behind our house. I'm grateful that life has brought me to this age, this place, this landscape, this story.

Nattadon 2

When is one officially "old," I wonder? To me, being "old" seems to come and go, present one day and not the next. There were times as a child when I felt as old as the hills -- and there are times now when I feel like the downiest of fledgling chicks, still flapping my wings, and still just beginning.

Nattadon 3

"The great secret that all old people share," wrote Doris Lessing, "is that you really don't change in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion."

An old neighbour of mine, sharp and vigorous well into her nineties, would have disagreed with this, however. She felt that changing as you age is exactly the point. "The thing about growing older, dear," she once told me, "is that you don't ever stop being the age you were, you just add each new age to it. So I never envy the young, because I'm still twenty years old myself, and thirty, and forty, and so on. By the time you're my age, you have so many selves to be, and draw upon, and enjoy, that I can only feel compassion for young people, who still have so very few."

Nattadon 5

Sometimes I'm actually glad that health traumas caused me to doubt, at times, if I'd live to grow old -- for ageing to me is precious and magical, and I'm grateful for it. Thus I love these words from rock-and-roller Pat Benatar's memoir (Between a Heart and a Rock Place):

"I've enjoyed every age I've been," she says, "and each has had its own individual merit. Every laugh line, every scar, is a badge I wear to show I've been present, the inner rings of my personal tree trunk that I display proudly for all to see. Nowadays, I don't want a 'perfect' face and body; I want to wear the life I've lived.” 

Nattadon 5

Time writes across the body in a language that we must all come to know as we grow and age: the language of experience, loss, revelation, endurance, and mortality. Today, I'm simply thankful for the roads, dark and bright, that brought me to the miraculous present; as well as for the unknown roads, dark and bright, that still lie ahead of me.

I'm another year older. I'm travelling a little slower. I carry multitudes inside. But I'm here, well-worn like the stones of Nattadon Hill. And I am only just beginning.

Nattadon 6