We've been speaking about the giving and receiving of gifts in previous posts, and of shifting our perception of art and life away from our culture's fixation on the the market economy as the primary arbitrator of value, to one of gift exchange, reciprocity, generosity and community.
Today is my birthday, and I grew up in the tradition of receiving birthday presents each year (I expect that you did too) -- but as a folklorist I'm aware that this old folk custom is not universal. In some cultures, children present gifts to their mothers, or to both parents, in gratitude for the gift of life. In others, a birthday marks the opportunity for a giveaway: food, flowers, or gifts ceremoniously distributed to everyone in the family or tribe.
In the spirit of the latter, I want to gift you all with the poem/chant/prayer pictured above: "A Spell for Opening." It's from my little book Seven Little Tales, which is part of the Seven Doors in an Unyielding Stone series from Hedgespoken Press, curated by Tom Hirons and Rima Staines. The poem was inspired by the series' name; I loved the mystery of doors in stone. I pictured this particular door in one of my favourite places on the moor: Scorhill, a circle of standing stones. What would it take, I wondered, to find that door and open it up...?
Please accept this gift of words...and then pass on a gift of your own to someone, somewhere, some day.
The beautiful imagery in this post is by local artist Simon Blackbourn, photographer and co-founder of the excellent Dartmoor Collective. Simon has spent the last ten years immersed in the wilds of the moor, photographing its colours, shapes, textures and moods, its trees, rocks, bogs, rivers, wildlife, and weather. To see more of his work, please visit his Instagram page and the Dartmoor Collective Gallery
For more on the subject of gift exchange, I recommend Lewis Hyde's seminal book The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Informs the World, and Robin Wall Kimmerer's remarkable Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants.
The photographs by Simon Blackbourn are: Back to the Stone (Scorhill), Dartmoor Hawthorn, Dartmoor Pony, and The North Teign River. All rights to the text and imagery above reserved by the author and artist.