Light and shadow

The Oak elder in spring

Springtime in Devon is beautiful: the greening of the hills, the budding of the oaks, the bluebells emerging in the woods, the wild ponies giving birth to their leggy foals. Yesterday a neighbour stopped by our gate to ask, "How are you coping with it all?" 

"Locked-down in paradise?" I answered. "How could I possibly complain?" 

But of course it's not really paradise, and we're not immune from the world's travails. The UK's death rate rises and rises, with no clear government strategy in sight. Friends working for the NHS and other essential services are looking increasingly haggard and discouraged. Much of Howard's theatre work has been cancelled. The bills keep coming while income keeps disappearing. Community life in the village has halted. Family life has closed down too: we see our daughter and other loved ones only on phone and computer screens, with no idea when we'll next be together. My youngest brother's ashes are sitting in a box; no one can gather for a memorial now. We're surrounded by beauty, and it sustains me, but the shadow side of life is equally vivid, equally present. 

Bluebells and brambles

Dartmoor pony and foal, Chagford

Most days I focus on all that's good: the gentle rhythms of the countryside, the daily miracle of spring unfolding, the quiet hours in my studio coaxing a Eleanor Vere Boylenovel into shape, and the small domestic pleasures that I share with Howard and Tilly. But there are days when the shadows press too close, and refuse to be ignored or reasoned with. All I can do then is breathe deeply, accept their presence, and carry on.

What I didn't say to my neighbour is that I am coping, even on the hard days, because this is all strangely familiar -- and I suspect that those of you who have also experienced personal (rather than global) medical crisis know what I mean. This is not the first springtime in our lives when beauty and fear have co-existed; when simply being alive each day is a wonder to be grateful for; and when love for family, friends, and community assumes its rightful place at the center of our existence, holding the shadows at bay.

Tilly and the Oak elder

How do we balance light and shadow when crisis puts us on the narrow path between them? How do we avoid despair's passivity, or optimism's blindness to the challenges ahead? The ecological writer Joanna Macy suggests that despair and hope are not oppositional, but two sides of the same coin:

"By honoring our despair, and not trying to suppress it or pave over it as some personal pathology, we open a gateway into our full vitality and to our connection with all of life. Beneath what I call our 'pain for the world,' which includes sorrow and outrage and dread, is the instinct for the preservation of life. When we are unafraid of the suffering of our world, and brave enough to sustain the gaze and speak out, there is a redemptive sanity at work.

"The other side of that pain for our world is a love for our world. That love is bigger than you would ever guess from what our consumer society conditions us to want. It's a love so raw, so ancient, so deep that if you get in touch with it, you can just ride it; you can just be there and it doesn't matter. Then nothing can stop you. But to get to that, you have to stop being afraid of hurting. The price of reaching that is tears and outrage, because the tears and the power to keep on going, they come from the same source."

Misty hillside 1

Misty hillside 2

The transformation of despair into hope is alchemical work, creative work. And what all transformations have in common, writes Rebecca Solnit, is that they begin in the imagination:

"To hope is to gamble. It's to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty are better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk. I say all this to you because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say this because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope."

Misty hillside 3

Misty hillside 4

As I rise and follow Tilly back home, she dances ahead of me on the trail, a four-footed embodiment of exuberance, joy, and living fully in the present. I have known despair, we have all known despair, but on this misty morning I am choosing hope. I am choosing movement, action, transformation. Art is the "ax" I choose to carry: sharp and not too heavy, fit to the limited strength I have. Stories are the light I choose to guide me. They won't banish the shadows completely; nothing and no one can do that. But they keep the light and dark in balance, and help me find meaning in it all .

The pathway home

"It is Story that heals us, that shapeshifts us, that saves us," writes author and artist Sylvia Linsteadt.

Tilly waits on the path ahead.  I take a deep breath. And carry on.

Gorse blossoms

Are you coming?

Words: The Joanna Macy quote above is from "Women Reimagining the World" (in Moonrise, edited by Nina Simons, 2010). The Rebecca Solnit quote is from her book Hope in the Dark (2004). The quotes in the picture captions are from a variety of sources. All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: Our hill on a misty day, and a drawing by Scottish illustrator Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916).


On disaster, joy, and re-creating the world

Dartmoor journey

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster was the one Rebecca Solnit book that I hadn't gotten around to reading yet; but with a global pandemic unfolding, I decided that this might be the appropriate time. Despite loving all of her other books, I admit I hesitated over this one because it sounded . . . well, depressing. It turns out that I needn't have worried, and nor should anyone else: A Paradise Built in Hell is engrossing, surprising, and ultimately both hopeful and inspiring.

Solnit's aim is to dispel the misconception that disasters (whether natural or man-made) bring out the worst in people, reducing "the masses" to brutish, selfish behaviour in the scramble for survival -- when in fact, as the historical record makes clear, it generally does just the opposite: bringing out the best in the vast majority of us, providing a forum in which our most compassionate, co-operative, community-oriented selves emerge and flourish. This truth has been affirmed over and over by historians and sociologists who have studied disasters all over the world. Yet the tenor of media coverage of disasters tends to perpetuate the darker myth -- as do most fictional representations. (Think of virtually every disaster movie you have ever seen.) In reality, the shared experience of calamity serves to pull people together, not drive them apart. It summons the better angels of human nature, as we see around us every day during the current pandemic. The "fights for loo roll" tutted over in the media are a minority reaction to the emergency at hand, when in fact people all over the world are responding to the crisis with good sense and thoughtfulness, while inventing ways to ease its strain constructively and creatively.

A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit"In the wake of an earthquake, a bombing, or a major storm, most people are altruistic," Solnit writes, "urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbours as well as friends and loved ones. The image of the selfish, panicky, or regressive savage human beings in times of disaster has little truth to it. Decades of meticulous sociological research on behaviour in disasters, from the bombings of World War II to floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and storms across the [North American] continent and around the world, have demonstrated this. But belief lags behind, and often the worst behaviour in the wake of calamity is on the part of those who believe that others will act savagely and that they themselves are taking defensive measures against barbarism. From earthquake-shattered San Francisco in 1906 to flooded New Orleans in 2005, innocents have been killed by people who believed or asserted that their victims were the criminals and that they themselves were the protectors of the shaken order. Beliefs matter."

Dartmoor 2

Dartmoor 3

Dartmoor 4

"Today Cain is still killing his brother proclaims a faded church mural in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which was so devastated by the failure of the government levees," Solnit continues. "In quick succession, the Book of Genesis gives us the creation of the universe, the illicit acquisition of knowledge, the expulsion from Paradise, and the slaying of Abel by Cain, a second fall from grace into jealousy, competition, alienation, and violence. When God asks Cain where his brother is, Cain asks back, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' He is refusing to say what God already knows: that the spilled blood of Abel cries out from the ground that has absorbed it. He is also raising one of the perennial social questions: are we beholden to each other, must we take care of each other, or is it every man for himself?

P1080028

"Most traditional societies have deeply entrenched commitments and connections between individuals, families, and groups. The very concept of society rests on the idea of networks of affinity and affection, and the freestanding individual exists largely as an outcast or exile. Mobile and individualistic modern societies shed some of these old ties and vacillate about taking on others, especially those expressed through economic arrangements -- including provisions for the aged and vulnerable, the mitigation of poverty and desperation -- the keeping of one's brothers and sisters. The argument against such keeping is often framed as an argument about human nature: we are essentially selfish, and because you will not care for me, I cannot care for you. I will not feed you because I must hoard against starvation, since I too cannot count on others. Better yet, I will take your wealth and add it to mine -- if I believe that my well-being is independent of yours or pitted against yours -- and justify my conduct as natural law. If I am not my brother's keeper, than we have been expelled from paradise, a paradise of unbroken solidarities.

"Thus does everyday life become a social disaster. Sometimes disaster intensifies this; sometimes it provides a remarkable reprieve from it, a view into another world for our other selves. When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up -- not all, but the great preponderance -- to become their brothers' keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amid death, chaos, fear, and loss. Were we to know and believe this, our sense of what is possible at any time might change. The astonishing gap between common beliefs and actualities about disaster behavior limits the possibilities, and changing beliefs could fundamentally change much more. Horrible in themselves, disaster is sometimes a back door into paradise, the paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and each are our sister's and brother's keeper."

Dartmoor 6

Dartmoor 7

Solnit chronicles the spontaneous communities that spring up in disaster's wake, as neighbour helps neighbour and strangers band together, casting aside rigid divisions of class, gender, and ethnicity, to feed and tend and nurse one another, sharing labour, resources, and a common sense of purpose. Survivors' accounts, both historic and contemporary, tell of loss, hardship, and tragedy, yes, but also of laughter, fellowship, and joy. The latter is referenced over and over. "This book," writes Solnit, "is about that emotion, as important as it is surprising, and the circumstances that arouse it and those that it generates."

She adds that these things matter "as we enter an era of increasing and intensifying disaster. And more than that, they matter as we enter an era when questions about everyday social possibilities and human nature arise again, as they often had during turbulent times."

Dartmoor 8

Dartmoor

Dartmoor 9

"The existing system is built on fear of each other and scarcity," she writes, "and it has created more scarcity and more to be afraid of. It is mitigated every day by altruism, mutual aid, and solidarity, by the acts of individuals and organizations who are motivated by hope and by love rather than fear. They are akin to a shadow government -- another system ready to do more were they voted into power. Disaster votes them in, in a sense, because in an emergency these skills and ties work while fear and divisiveness do not. Disaster reveals what else the world could be like -- reveals the strength of that hope, that generosity, and that solidarity. It reveals mutual aid as a default operating principle and civil society as something waiting in the wings when it's absent from the stage.

"A world could be build on that basis, and to do so would redress the long divides that produce everyday pain, poverty, and loneliness and in times of crisis homicidal fear and opportunism. This is the only paradise that is possible, and it will never exist whole, stable, and complete. It is always coming into being in response to trouble and suffering; making paradise is the work we were meant to do."

Dartmoor 10

Dartmoor 11

The pictures in this post were taken on Dartmoor on a cold, crisp day. Walking a labyrinth, according to local folklore, helps to set the world back on its rightful path. Here's Howard, doing his folkloric duty, dreaming a new world into being.

Dartmoor 12 - Labyrinth

Dartmoor 13

The passages quotes above are from A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, 2009). The poem in the picture captions is How We Became Human by American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo of the Muscogee/Creek Nation (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004). All rights reserved by the authors.


Doing it for love

Love is Enough

In yesterday's post, Wendell Berry argue for the importance of love (that old-fashioned word) in maintaining the bonds of community; and what could be more important when facing the challenges of a global pandemic?

Today, I'd like to focus on love as a vital part of the art-making process too. Love is the fuel that keeps us creating in fearful, uncertain times -- despite isolation, despite worries for loved ones, despite the desperate loss of income, despite projects halted and performance tours cancelled, despite theaters, studios, galleries, classrooms and concert halls shutting their doors. I see so many artist friends struggling right now and yet they keep on going: working at home, working online, working in any manner they can. In a world grown dark, their art provides sparks of light, and they do it for love.

Novelist, poet, and memoirist Erica Jong once wrote:

"Despite all the cynical things writers have said about writing for money, the truth is we write for love. That is why it is so easy to exploit us. That is also why we pretend to be hard-boiled, saying things like: 'No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money' (Samuel Johnson). Not true. No one except a blockhead ever wrote except for love.

"There are plenty of easier ways to make money. Almost anything is less labor-intensive and better paid than writing. Almost anything is safer. Reveal yourself on the page repeatedly, and you are likely to be rewarded with exile, prison or neglect. Ask Dante or Oscar Wilde or Emily Dickinson. Scheme and betray, and you are likely to be rewarded with wealth, publicity and homage; but tell the truth and you are likely to be a pariah within your family, a semi-criminal to authorities and damned with faint praise by your peers. So why do we do it? Because saying what you think is the only freedom. 'Liberty,' said Camus, 'is the right not to lie.'

"In society in which everything is for sale, in which deals and auctions make the biggest news, doing it for love is the only remaining liberty. Do it for love and you cannot be censored. Do it for love and you cannot be stopped. Do it for love and the rich will envy no one more than you. In a world of tuxedos the naked man is king. In a world of bookkeepers with spreadsheets, the one who gives it away without counting the cost is God."

Love is Enough

A couple of years ago when I first read those words, I was feeling a bit cynical myself. " 'Do it for love, not money," I grumbled to Tilly. (I admit it, I talk to my dog.) "Well, that's easy for Erica Jong to say when her very first novel was a best-seller. She's not fretting about electricity bills or putting food on the table."  But in fact, Jong's essay is not about the business of earning a living through art; it's about the deep, complex, mysterious feelings that cause us to make art at all. And when I ponder her words from this different perspective, I couldn't agree with her more.

We do it for love, of one kind or another. Love of the work, of the practice of our craft. Love of the painstaking process of bringing interior visions out into the world. Love of the various tools we use: ink, paper, paint, clay, fiddler's bow, photographer's light, the finely trained bodies of dancers and actors. Love of the solitary trance of creation, or the buzzy give-and-take of collaboration. Love of the first idea, of the rendering process, and then of the final product...followed by a reader's, viewer's, or listener's engagement. Love of completion, success, and achievement; and the harder love of set-back, failure, rejection, and all the things they teach.

Doing our work, with commitment and focus, is what makes us writers, visual artists, performers -- not the size of the paycheck our art-making earns. Most of the writers I've edited over the years (and these include well-known authors with multiple books, devoted readers, and prestigious awards) don't make enough to life on by writing alone. I wish they did. In a better world they would. They are writing for love.

Tulip and Willow

And yes, most writers write with the intention of being published and read -- which usually means putting on our business hats and venturing out into the marketplace. This is the part of the art-making process that separates "real" artists from amateurs -- or so, in a hyper-capitalist, transactional culture we are led to believe. When I meet someone new and they learn I'm a writer, often the very first thing I am asked is: Have you published anything? Followed by: What name do you write under? Would I have heard of you? And sometimes, baldly: Does it pay?

No, I say gently, you probably won't have heard of me...unless fairy tales and myth-oriented fantasy happens to be your cup of tea. No, I don't make my living entirely from writing; I also work as an editor to get by. This generally ends the conversation. My querent's suspicions are now confirmed: I am not a "real" writer after all. Or else I'm just not a very good one, since I'm neither rich nor famous. I could protest that I've published many books and essays, won a clutch of awards in my field, been translated into ten languages. But I don't say any of this of course. A list of achievements isn't what matters. It isn't what makes me a writer.

I am a writer because I love words, and the process of shaping words into stories. I am an artist because I love line, color, and the process of pictures growing under my fingers. I am a writer, artist, and anthologist because I took the time, over many years, to learn the technical skills these crafts require; and because I work at them seriously and persistently. If you do as well, then you are qualified to call yourself a "real" artist too.

The money I earn through creative work matters each month when bills are due; I won't pretend that it doesn't. And it buys me the time to make more art. But it doesn't measure the worth of my work -- and it is not the measure of yours. I've made art, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember: good art, bad art, successes and failures. Art that paid the rent, and art that cost me money. I do it out of love, and out of need. I do it because it is who I am. I do it because it's what I do best, and I'm not well suited for anything else. I do it because the tales I hold inside me want to be passed on.

Pomegranate

"I never remember a time when I didn't write," says Jong. "Notebooks, stories, journals, poems -- the act of writing always made me feel centered and whole. It still does. It is my meditation, my medicine, my prayer, my solace. I was lucky enough to learn early (with my first two books of poetry and my first novel) that if you are relentlessly honest about what you feel and fear, you can become a mouthpiece for something more than your own feelings."

I know this to be true.

"People are remarkably similar at the heart-level -- where it counts," she adds. "Writers are born to voice what we all feel. That is the gift. And we keep it alive by giving it away."

Indeed.

This is why all over the Internet you see artists offering their work for free right now (stories, concerts, workshops, and more), an outpouring of creativity to brighten the gloom, turn straw into gold, and strengthen the ties that bind us all. Those on the front-lines of fighting Covid-19 (doctors, nurses, medical staff), as well as those keeping vital services going, are the true heroes of these challenging times -- but I'm proud of the arts community too. And I am grateful to every one of you who continues to tell the world's stories, re-imagine the future, and keep wonder alive. 

Honeysuckle

The artwork today is by William Morris (1834-1896), a man who has long been a hero of mine not only for his vision (rooted in nature and myth), and the astonishing range of creative endeavors he mastered, but because Morris firmly believed art belongs to everyone, rich and poor alike. As a leading figure in Britain's early Socialist movement, his writing and art was entwined (like the intricate vinework in his designs) with his tireless social activism. He left the world a better, kinder, more beautiful place. May we all do the same.

Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris

Willow design by William Morris

''Sweetbriar'' pattern by William Morris

Pictures: The "Love is Enough" book cover design by William Morris, with gold stamping on a forest green cloth (via The Victorian Web). The "Love is Enough" pattern by Morris reproduced on cloth. Morris' "Tulip & Willow," "Pomegranate," and "Honeysuckle" designs in progress. A photograph of Ned (Edward Burne-Jones) and Topsy (William Morris), best friends since their university days. Morris' ''Willow" design; and the "Sweetbriar" design, with quote.

Words: The passage by Erica Jong is from "Doing It for Love," an essay published in The Writing Life, edited by Marie Arana (Public Affairs, 2003). All rights reserved by the author.


I think it is love

Wild words 1

We've often talked here about the value of slowing down, paying attention, being fully present in the place where we live, the lives that we create, and the work that we do. Yet sometimes -- like now, in a world-wide pandemic -- life knocks us off-center and we struggle to regain our sense of hózhó (as the Navajo call it): of balance and "walking in beauty." How do we re-center ourselves in the art-making process (or, indeed, in the life-making process) when this happens?

Daffodil Fairy by Cicely BarkerWendell Berry proffers this insight in his essay collection Standing by Words:

"What can turn us . . . back into the sphere of our being, the great dance that joins us to our home, to each other and to other creatures, to the dead and unborn? I think it is love. I am perforce aware how baldly and embarrassingly that word now lies on the page -- for we have learned at once to overuse it, abuse it,  and hold it in suspicion. But I do not mean any kind of abstract love (adolescent, romantic, or 'religious'), which is probably a contradiction in terms, but particular love for particular things, places, creatures, and people, requiring stands, acts, showing its successes and failures in practical or tangible effects. And it implies a responsibility just as particular, not grim or merely dutiful, but rising out of generosity. I think that this sort of love defines the effective range of human intelligence, the range within its works can be dependably beneficent. Only the action that is moved by love for the good at hand has the hope of being responsible and generous. Desire for the future produces words that cannot be stood by. But love makes language exact, because one loves only what one knows."

Wild writing 2

For Berry, it all comes back to place (whether rural or urban), and our intricate web of connection to the human and more-than-human neighbours we share it with.

"I stand for what I stand on," he says, "the local landscape, the local community: human, animal, and vegetable alike. I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. We are alive within mystery, by miracle."

Wild writing 3

That, for me, is precisely where art, inspiration, balance and beauty can be found: within mystery, by miracle: the everyday miracles of the place we call home. Spring flowers emerging. A partner's sweet smile. The good scent of coffee on a crisp April morning. A wild spot in the woods to write wild words while Tilly pads quietly nearby.

Wild writing 4

In his poem "Healing" (2006), Berry writes:

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.

One's inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one's most intimate sources.

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.

One returns from solitude laden with the gifts of circumstance.

Wild daffodils on my desk

Words: The two Wendell Berry passages above are from Standing By Words: Essays (Counterpoint, 2011) and What Are People For: Essays (Counterpoint, 2010).  The last quote is from "Healing," published in Given: Poems (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006). The poem in the picture captions is from This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems (Counterpoint, 2013). All rights reserved by the author.

Pictures: Writing in the woods behind my studio. The "Daffodil Fairy" painting is by Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973).


Wintering

Ponies 1

Here in Devon, we're on the cusp of spring (daffodils in the woods, new lambs in fields, wild Dartmoor ponies beginning to foal), but I'm reading a book about about winter right now and finding it full of interest. Wintering by Katherine May explores the winter season metaphorically (as a symbol for those hard times in life that I refer to as the Dark Forest), as well as the actuality of winter as it is experienced in northern climes. She weaves her meditations on the cold and dark with a personal memoir about her own period of  "wintering," when illness in her family -- first her husband's, and then her own -- shook every foundation they had built their lives on.

"There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world," May writes, "and sometimes they open up and you fall through them into Somewhere Else. Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on. Somwhere Else is where ghosts live, concealed from view and only glimpsed by people in the real world. Somewhere Else exists at a delay, so that you can't quite keep pace. Perhaps I was already teetering on the brink of Somewhere Else anyway; but now I fell through, as simply and discreetly as dust sifting between the floorboards."

Ponies 2

Ponies 3

"Everybody winters at one time or another," she explains; "some winter over and over again.

"Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you're cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of the outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness; perhaps from a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humilation or failure. Perhaps you're in a period of transition, and have temporararily fallen between two worlds. Some winterings creep upon us, accompanying the protracted death of a relationship, the gradual ratcheting up of care responsibilities as our parents age, the drip-drip-drip of lost confidence. Some are appallingly sudden, like discovering one day that your skills are considered obsolete, the company you worked for has gone bankrupt, or your partner is in love with someone new. However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely and deeply painful.

Ponies 4

Ponies 5

Ponies 6

"Yet it's also inevitable. We'd like to imagine it's possible for life to be one eternal summer, and that we have uniquely failed to achieve that for ourselves. We dream of equatorial habits, forever close to the sun; an endless, unvarying high season. But life's not like that. Emotionally, we're prone to stifling summers and low, dark winters, to sudden drops in temperature, to light and shade. Even if, by some extraordinary stroke of self-control and good luck, we were able to keep control of our own health and happiness for an entire lifetime, we still couldn't avoid the winter. Our parents would age and die; our friends would undertake minor acts of betrayal; the machinations of the world would eventually weigh against us. Somewhere along the line, we would screw up. Winter would quietly roll in....

Ponies 7

"In our relentlessly busy contemporary world, we are forever trying the defer the onset of winter. We don't ever dare to feel its full bit, and we don't dare to show the way that it ravages us. A sharp wintering, sometimes, would do us good. We must stop believing that these times in our life are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We must stop trying to ignore them or dispose them. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite winter in."

Ponies 8

That's what her new book is about, May says: "learning to recognize the process, engage with it mindfully, and even to cherish it. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how."

I recommend this wise and beautiful text for those going through their own wintering...which I expect may be a lot of us now, facing the life-altering consequences imposed by a global pandemic.

Ponies 9

As the Great Wheel turns from winter to spring, I've been contemplating my own winterings and the gifts they have given me, over and over. Those gifts are going to be useful now as we cope with unimaginable challenges ahead. Eager for springtime's warmth and sun, I celebrate each flower, each lamb, each foal affirming the steady turning of the seasons....

But I'm also grateful for the dark and cold, and the lessons of slowness, of quiet, of healing.

Ponies 10

Ponies 11

Ponies 12

Wintering by Katherine May

Words: The passage above is from Wintering: How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen by English novelist/memoirist Katherine May (Penguin/Random House, 2020). The poem in the picture captions is from Fugitive Colours by Scottish poet Liz Lochhead (Polygon, 2016). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: Our local herd of Dartmoor ponies, many of them pregnant with this year's foals. I love encountering them on walks with Tilly, grazing on the village Commons and roaming the hills behind my studio.