For National Poetry Day....

The Night Journey by Terri Windling

If you'd like to make the image larger for ease of reading, click on the image, and then click on it again.

A "coombe" (or "combe"), in case you're wondering, is a small, steep valley. In some places it means a valley without a watercourse, but here in Devon it also refers to valleys with streams at the bottom. The word is pronounced "koom." 

"The Night Journey" first appeard in Xanadu III, edited by Jane Yolen (Tor Books).


Moon stories (for Beltane)

Celestial Pablum by Remedios Varo

Personaje Astral by Remedios VaroMoon Gathering

by Eleanor Wilner


And they will gather by the well,
its dark water a mirror to catch whatever
stars slide by in the slow precession of
the skies, the tilting dome of time,
over all, a light mist like a scrim,
and here and there some clouds
that will open at the last and let
the moon shine through; it will be
at the wheel’s turning, when
three zeros stand like paw-prints
in the snow; it will be a crescent
moon, and it will shine up from
the dark water like a silver hook
without a fish -- until, as we lean closer,
swimming up from the well, something
dark but glowing, animate, like live coals --
it is our own eyes staring up at us,
as the moon sets its hook;
and they, whose dim shapes are no more
than what we will become, take up
their long-handled dippers
of brass, and one by one, they catch
Born Again by Remedios Varothe moon in the cup-shaped bowls,
and they raise its floating light
to their lips, and with it, they drink back
our eyes, burning with desire to see
into the gullet of night: each one
dips and drinks, and dips, and drinks,
until there is only dark water,
until there is only the dark.


The paintings here are by the great Surrealist painter Remedios Varo (1908-1963), who was born in Girona, Spain, studied art in Madrid, fled to Paris during the Spanish Civil War and to Mexico when the Germans occupied France. She then spent the rest of her life in Mexico, where she worked closely with the English Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. For more information on this wonderful artist, I  recommend Janet A. Kaplan's fine biography, Unexpected Journeys; and Surreal Friends, by Joanna Moorhead & Sefan van Raay, about the friendship between Varo, Carrington, and photographer Kati Horna. (Varo, by the way, was a formative influence on the character of Anna Navarro in my novel The Wood Wife.)

Personaje by Remedios Varo

The poem above is from The Girl With Bees in Her Hair by Eleanor Wilner (Copper Canyon Press); it appeared online on poets.org. All rights are reserved by the author.


After the dark...

Saint Lucia's Day by Carl Larsson

Painting by Kay Nielsen...light.

The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color...

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
Marianna and the Whippits by David WyattThe fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

- John O'Donohue (from "Let Us Praise this Earth")

"It could be said that this is a hellish moment on earth environmentally, but I don't choose to see it that way. We are definitely disconnected. We know the litany of horrors: the degredation of resources, the level of consumption...I could go on and on. My grandfather would always say, 'I'm as low as a snake's belly.' So what do we do to pick ourselves up from the realities of the world we live in? I believe it is through art we can find our lifeline."  - Terry Tempest Williams (from A Voice in the Wilderness

And so do I.

St. Lucia's Day by Carl LarssonWith thanks to Michelle, who provided the title for this post in her comment yesterday. The first and last paintings above are by Carl Larsson (Swedish, 853-1919), illustrating the annual Saint Lucia day celebrations in his family. The second painting is a detail from "Out Popped the Moon" by Kay Nielsen (Danish, 1886-1957), and the third is a detail from "Marianna and the Whippets" by my friend and village neighbor David Wyatt.


Into the Woods, 16: By the Light of the Moon and Stars

John Bauer

"The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Night-time is womb-time. Our souls come out to play."
    - John O'Donohue (Anam Cara)

Remedios Varo

“Sometimes, when you're deep in the countryside, you meet three girls, walking along the hill tracks in the dusk, spinning. They each have a spindle, and on to these they are spinning their wool, milk-white, like the moonlight. In fact, it is the moonlight, the moon itself, which is why they don't carry a distaff. They're not Fates, or anything terrible; they don't affect the lives of men; all they have to do is to see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grown on the spindles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest."  - Mary Stewart (The Moonspinners)

Jeanie Tomanek

Edmund Dulac

Virginia Lee

“Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. A wool blanket.”  - Margaret Atwood (A Handmaid's Tale)

Arthur Rackham

Sulamith Wulfing

Adrienne Segur

“Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep.”  - David Almond (My Name is Mina)

Vladislav Erko

Kelly Louise Judd

"Night does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbes and surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces within us which are dominated by our reason during the daytime.” - Brassaï

Arthur Rackham

Charles Vess

"Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night. Primitive folk, gathered at a cave mouth round a fire, do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power; we of the age of the machines, having delivered ourselves of nocturnal enemies, now have a dislike of night itself. With lights and ever more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Having made themselves at home in a civilization obsessed with power, which explains its whole world in terms of energy, do they fear at night for their dull acquiescence and the pattern of their beliefs? Be the answer what it will, today's civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day.”   -  Henry Beston (The Outermost House) 

David Wyatt

Catherine Hyde

Look, as the day slows towards the space
that draws it into dusk: rising became
upstanding, standing a laying down, and then
that which accepts its lying blurs to darkness.

Mountains rest, outgloried be the stars -
but even there, time’s transition glimmers.
Ah, nightly refuged in my wild heart,
roofless, the imperishable lingers.

- Rainer Maria Rilke (Uncollected Poems: 1912-1922, translation by Susan Ranson & Marielle Sutherland)

Karen Davis

'This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away.”  - J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)

Inga Moore

Julia Gukova

The illustrations above are : "Trolls" by John Bauer (1882-1918), "Celestial Pablum" by Remedios Varo (1908-1963), "Capturing the Moon: by Jeanie Tomanek, Descent: The Arabian Nights by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), a drawing from the "Inner Seasons" series by Virginia Lee, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Arthur Rackham (1887-1969), "Nature Spirits and the Angel" by Sulamith Wülfing (1901-1989), "Kip the Enchanted Cat" by Adrienne Ségur (1901-1981), "The Tin Soldier: The Dog Carries the Princess on His Back" by Vladislav Erko,  "Forest Sleep" by Kelly Louise Judd, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: Oberon and Titania" by Arthur Rackham (1887-1969), "The Fairy Procession" by Charles Vess, "Marianna and the Whippets" by David Wyatt, "Crossing the River" by Catherine Hyde, "The Moonrakers" by Karen Davis (of the lovely Moonlight and Hares blog), "The Wind and the Willows" by Inga Moore, and "The Legendary Unicorn" by Julia Gukova.


Cycles and crescent moons

Image copyright by Cathrine Hyde

From Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams:

"Flocks of magpies have descended on our yard. I cannot sleep for all their raucous behavior. Perched on weathered fences, their green-black tales, long as rulers, wave up and down, reprimanding me for all I have not done.

"I have done nothing for weeks. I have no work. I don't want to see anyone much less talk. All I want to do is sleep.

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde

"Monday, I hit rock-bottom, different from bedrock, which is solid, expansive, full of light and originality. Rock-bottom is the bottom of the rock, the underbelly that rarely gets turned over; but when it does, I am the spider that scurries from daylight to find another place to hide.

"Today I feel stronger, learning to live with the natural cycles of a day and to not expect so much from myself. As women, we hold the moon in our bellies. It is too much to ask to operate on full-moon energy three hundred and sixty-five days a year. I am in a crescent phase. And the energy we expend emotionally belong belongs to the hidden side of the moon...."

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde

The luminous paintings here are by Catherine Hyde, who lives and works in Cornwall. 

“I am constantly attempting to convey the landscape in a state of suspension," she says, "in order to gain glimpses of its interconnectedness, its history and beauty. Within the images I use the archetypical hare, stag, owl and fish as emblems of wildness, fertility and permanence: their movements and journeys through the paintings act as vehicles that bind the elements and the seasons together."

You can see more of Catherine's work in her online gallery, and on the Sisterhood of Ruralists Facebook page.

Image copyright by Catherine Hyde