I Weave with Words

[I’m reading Max Dashu’s amazing book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion,700-1100]

I weave with words

Letters skein across the page
like the wild flight of geese in autumn,
letters turned into words
on the distaff of inspiration,
trailing ideas
ready for the loom
of the mind.

I weave with words.

Dangerous am I
as the weaving women of old
discrete words becoming incantations,
the singing of thought
and perception into form,
altering the reality of the page,
from the blank white leaf
into the mottled sheet
with images drawn out
and curling under each other.

I weave with words.

By setting out the warp and woof
of line and length,
that which moved me into the
gilded light of flow and form,
the dark recesses of passion
impassive before the shuttle
thrown back and forth line on line,
the pen creating
the garment of imagination,
the tapestry of alliteration,
metaphor and rhythm
maybe only I can hear
as I sway at the paper loom
and dream aloud
for others.

I weave with words.

Word -weaving
from my word hoard,
language neutral until
contextualised in pattern,
shaping ideas into form,
leaving no dangling threads
to unravel my inspired thoughts,
cutting the last thread
at just the right place.

I
weave
with
words.

Knowing When

Knowing when it’s time to let go doesn’t make doing it any easier.

Whether it’s a relationship with a person or a project to walk away when it no longer works, is no longer appropriate or viable, is a drain on one’s energetic resources, is terribly difficult and will involve some level of pain, disappointment and even guilt.

The idea, the names, the title, the plot all came at once in 2002. I did research for the parts that I needed to. I wrote the four main characters back stories. I had maps. I had notes and ‘scene’ frames.

I moved from the area where the story came to me. When I returned there was not real opportunity to make progress. It was a work of fiction with an historical grounding. Intermittently I took out the maps and notes and worked on bits of it.

Since then I have moved far from the head, heart and soul space that would have made writing the novel possible. I have lots of other projects that are definitely not receding but actively pushing forward.

The challenge is that the characters were quite real to me. They came with me with their story. But I was not able to tell it for them. Part of me feels as though I let them down. Nevertheless, I know I could no longer do it justice, I may not have been able to do it fifteen years ago, but I was closer to it and close to the place in my life when I was able to engage them in their spiritual frame.

Now, as I am getting a bigger study in the house, the room of my own large enough to use for writing and engaging more fully in my spiritual practice, I am ready to work on projects put on hold whilst my life was in chaos. The result of preparing to re-engage is that I have to put some works aside.

So, it’s time to cut the tie that has linked me to A Wintering of Swans and say farewell to the characters. I am sad not to have done this work, but it was not one I could any longer do justice. On the other hand, I am looking forward with great anticipation to re-entering the worlds and lives of stories that I am able and willing to invest my heart, soul and energy.

On this day, Imbolc, a day of turning and change is the right day to do both things: to release and rededicate.

Emerge

Emerge from the fog.
Merge with the mist.
Appear in dream.
Disappear at dawn.

Elusive,
secretive,
unsure
if the call has been heard,
if the presence will be heeded,
if the images can be held.

Waking from the wandering of sleep,
rising from the repose of night,
aware of the new day
away drift the words
given as the lights went out.

The head goes down,
the eyelids close,
the body refuses
to respond to the
desire, need, demand
to record the words,
capture the idea,
harness the images
before they drift away
slip beyond the gate of memory,
lost to the dark
of restless sleep,
fretful waking.

GM Words

 

For some reason today I began to think about the whole issue of GM words, that is Grammatically Modified words. Words that used to be one sort of word, usually a noun that have been altered to become a verb.

One of the first I encountered one day over a decade ago whilst strolling around PCWorld. I was looking at the accessories area and came across ‘a mousing surface’. I just went nuts. I was fine with mouse mat, since that was something my computer mouse (and I’m fine with calling it a mouse since it looks sort of like one) could scurry about on, but ‘mousing surface’! Well, when I wondered did mouse become a verb? Whose idea was it to modify is grammatical framework?

In my horror I began to conjugate the verb ‘to mouse’:

I mouse; I am mousing; I moused; I was mousing; I shall mouse; I have moused; I had moused; I shall have moused; I might mouse; I might have moused . . . . you get the idea.

Your feline companion may be a mouser. But I doubt you would say to a friend that last night your cat mouses or  went out and moused, any more than that he went on a mousing rampage.

It might be that I am a lexicographical Luddite, I grammatical throw-back, but I do have a hard time with GM words, and I mourn the attempts to drive adverbs to extinction. There are times when writing poetry that I have tinkered with a word or an idea because I needed a nuance that was not available in English. Sometimes English is a bit limiting. There is one word for love. I love grilled artichokes and I love my partner. Clearly the same word, but let’s face it not the same quality of affection is being expressed. So, there are times when I needs must and I am emboldened.

Never, however, do I desire or anticipate that anyone else would use the word. It would not be appropriate in any context other than the one for which I crafted it. GM words, on the other hand become part of our everyday vocabulary. We do it sometimes with adjectives and turn them into nouns, the modifier becomes the modified.

Then there are also words whose meaning, though remaining the same part of speech, change in such a way that it is no longer rooted as they once were. Not all such words make me feel like I’ve heard nails run over a blackboard. See, I still remember chalkboards, dust, smeared words illegible from the back row of the class. However, two such words for me are interdict/interdiction and anathema/anathematize. Look up the original meanings and see how they relate to how one uses them now. I was trained as a Mediaevalist, who also studied Latin and Greek, so those two words particularly make me cringe.

Now hold on, I am well aware that new things, experiences and realities require new words. But they require new words, not recycled old ones. Language evolves. It is not stagnant, but dynamic. I have no problem with expanding the dictionary, it gives lexicographers work and writers more options. That is more akin to me of exploring the rainforest and finding a new species that needs a name. But for me there is a vast difference between that and taking a perfectly useful word and adapting to increase its yield in usage units instead of taking the time discover a new and wondrous word that will save the language from starvation.

GM words – for me they are a step too far, and I will boycott them in my writing in favour of those words that have maintained their integrity in form and meaning, or news ones that speak with vitality and vigour about the world in which I live and about which I write.

Unsettling Metaphor

One of my recent posts was a poem about Orion and I going ‘dream hunting’ during the night. However, the next night I hardly slept at all. Images and ideas, words and phrases, whole poems bolted into my awareness. As the long night wore on, I realised that I was not losing them. I still held them waking. I sat in with a notebook furiously writing, drawing them from the cauldron filled during the night.

So, the metaphor came to me of how I approach writing, poetry as well as fiction. It is not an agrarian/gardening model. I do not take the fragile seeds of ideas, plant them in the rich soil of my imagination and wait for them to grow to harvest. I do not water them with attendance nor weed out extraneous material.

No, for me it is about the hunt. And I knew that when I realised the Orion image for ‘dream hunting’ also applied to writing, ‘word hunting’. I set out on a path, that is the idea. I track various aspects of it. I seek out words, images, phrases in the undergrowth of my imagination. When I find the one I want, I take it. I shoot the arrow of my intention from the bow of my desire to create. If it is the wrong word, or what have you, my shot will miss wildly and the word will safely run free from me.

When I have retrieved the words, images and phrases after a successful hunt I bring them home, as it were. I strip the meat of them to the bones, work with the sinew stretching and shaping. The meat goes into the cauldron. I add a few wild berries, herbs or tubers for contrast and embellishment, for accent to the stew I am preparing. When done I serve up the finished product.

Now, this is not a pretty scenario, and one would think totally antithetical for a person who eats vegetarian/veganish/rawish. A person who abhors hunting, the cruelty of it and the waste of it, bracketing those who really do need to do so for survival. I am a creative hunter/gatherer. I am not a creative agriculturalist.

For me creating is a wild activity. It puts me in touch with the wild, untamed energies of the Awen. I must track through the deep woods, follow the fast running rivers and test my worth against forces with the ability to enrich or destroy me, to nourish or devour me by their power. For me creativity is facing the wildness of myself as well as that of lexicon and grammar. It is about the hunt for the right word; the weak, the underdeveloped, the those too young or old are not what I seek. And I do not take all of the words that might work. I crawl across the page stalking, waiting, feeling deep inside, viscerally for the words I am seeking.

It is then and only then that I notch my arrow. It is only then I release the tension on my bow. It is only then that I take for myself the word I need. You may wonder why I don’t just trap and set free. Well that image and understanding of the process is to cautious. When I need a word, it does me no good to set it free. I need it and it does not work in the context that I understand the process now to borrow it, as it were. Its life and being, that of the word, image or phrase, I must take into myself. For it to nourish my work and my creative endeavour, I have to be able to plunge it into the cauldron so it can be part of the stew which I will serve to others.

It came to me as I wrestled with these images, that perhaps the reason I don’t eat flesh, food obtained originally from the hunt, is that it has become some sort of geis for me. It was framed as a a prohibition to me in a meditation, which fits.

I find these images and understanding very freeing, if initially unsettling, but am doing a lot more writing since I came to apprehend and accept this is how I work. Creativity isn’t always a pretty process. It is arduous. It can eat people alive. It can spit them out broken and mad. I have chosen to be proactive here. Whilst drawn down the paths and tracks where my ‘prey’ awaits me, I am able to work with the Awen as a partner, not a victim, not a slave. The Awen and I become co-creators. There is balance here and sanity for me. Nurture and nourishment. It frames the struggles as ones I can deal with. Yes, sometimes the trails are cold on the path and I come home empty, but I go out again and again, and on days I am fortunate, the cauldron will be full and the stew rich.

Chalice Well

Monday we went to Chalice Well, a favourite haunt in Glastonbury, where we are Companions. Whilst I did not initiate the idea of this venture, not that far from where we live, I was enthusiastic. When we stepped into the space I understood the reason it was so important to go there, though that was not known to me until we arrived.

My partner lay in the sun on the hill at the bottom of the precinct near the new gift shop. I, however, had things to do, things to hear and I had to do them alone.

First of all, I went back to the entrance and bought a small bottle to collect water from at the lion head fount. Then walked back up the incline to stand between the two yews that stand sentinel as one prepares to go to the healing pool. They had been staunchly reassuring as I came to stand with them occasionally during the nearly six months I had to await the final decision on my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. They had assured me that I was rooted here. That my roots were entangled with those of the gods, ancestors and spirits of this land. They made it clear that no one had the power to remove me once I had been thus claimed. And yes I did trust them, but part of me wondered how the Home Office officials would know. Given they were working with documents well prepared and presented I must say by my immigration solicitor, who to be fair also thought I would have no trouble, but you never knew for sure until they said yes.

Moving with deliberation and openness I walked past the pool and instead took of my shoes and socks and walked in the water that flowed into it from above. It was cool and refreshing. There it was clear to me that I was cleansing myself of all the accumulated gunge that had adhered to me in the 15-year process to gain settlement in the UK. That was granted on the Autumnal Equinox, though I did not find out about it until the day after the 15th anniversary of my arrival in the UK. In the flow of that water that had stained the surface of the trough a rusty amber colour over years of mineral exposure I found I was walking into a new life. It was a stunningly simple act, but one with complexly amazing ramifications. For a while I just sat.

When it felt the time was right, I moved on up the steps to the lion’s head where the two glasses sat waters from the spring lemniscating between them. I sat on the bench hidden by the beech bower. I wrote in my journal. I was clear that a bargain had been struck between me and the gods, ancestors and spirits of the land. In that clarity I knew that because they had kept their word to me, I was now free. Freedom, however in this and every other instance entails responsibility. My freedom is granted so that I might be able to fulfil my destiny, in its fullest and broadest, widest and deepest sense. I just sat there staring at the water pouring through the lion’s mouth. Grateful, humble, terrified, cautious and joyful.

In that frame I walked to the fountainhead. I first took a drink out of each glass, then replacing them filled my little official water bottle with some lemniscated water. I washed my hands and with the glass poured water over my forehead and let it run down my face. It was truly a baptism, a cleansing and dedicatory action. I drank some more water then went to sit down before proceeding to the final stop on this impromptu pilgrimage.

Again, waiting until I felt the time was right, I moved on to the Chalice Well herself. I was able to sit with the Vesica Piscis facing me and under another yew. I just sat and listened. The birds sang and I heard sheep bleating.

The Well gave me one message: I am a Well of Wisdom, who partakes of my gifts receives my blessing. For you it is the Awen who flows from my depths. This is a source place for you and so you must come here often. I am for you the Mother of Awen.

What can I say to that?

Except to express my gratitude by honing my gifts and strengthening my creative skills. Write poems. Write stories. And, write more. Learn the art of linocut, become a more proficient calligrapher and accomplished photographer. In all things be humble and live in a state of grateful awareness.

Beyond the Day of Balance

Yesterday was an amazing day, the beginning of which I wrote about and posted in the morning.

It was of course followed by the rest of the day . . .

A day marked by intensity and contrasts, of emotions and reactions. I felt myself open, or being opened to a far deeper experience of the world around me, particularly the natural world. The terrain of my gods, those of this land and its memory. The landscape of my ancestors here and their wisdom. The spirits of the land upon which I live and who share with and sustain me as engage them walking  the fields and the footpaths near my home.

The opening up further, sensing more deeply, apprehending more fully came as a bit of a shock. I heard more that would be unuttered but for the the rustling Maize Maidens in the wind, the beating of the bird’s wing, the whistling of the breeze through the corvid feathers in my hat (that sometimes I mistake for the buzzing of bees). The longings of the small ones to be safe; the worry of the badgers, tucked in their setts along the path I walk, for their kin in the midst of the cull; and the relief of the apple boughs released from the burden of the fruit bending them nearly to breaking.

The happiness my cats feel at the demise of the fleas that have tormented them and me for too much of the summer, is palpable in the cottage. Their purrs are freer and more freely given as they stretched out in the morning sunshine in the middle of the floor in the same room within touching distance of each other. This I rejoiced to sense and to hear – their gratitude.

I looked at the various writing projects that have stacked up for far too long. Projects I could not face. Did not know where to start engaging. I looked at the stories and the worlds renewed before me. The characters, whose names I have heard for so long, reached out to me from the pages both typed and handwritten. I was able to renew the relationships, friendships with these individuals who have trusted me for so long to share their lives in story, history, poetry and song. Again, profound gratitude and a sense of responsibility — trusts remaining unbetrayed, and promises made, yet unfulfilled. I hope they wait in an orderly queue.

I am ready, with the experiences of yesterday, to embrace the disciple to fulfill those promises and keep faith with the trusts granted me. And for me to write more poetry, and share my insights in case there is meaning in my words not only for me, but for you who read them.

I feel still as if either I have burst some inhibiting bonds, or they have been shattered for me. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do with this newly found and new felt freedom. It is the time to do, more than to be. For me being, in the sense of the opposite of doing, is not a good place for me to stay. It is stagnating. I need The Awen to flow,  and more importantly, for me to flow with and be immersed in it. I can no longer just watch it go past, or ride it but to no creative result. The flow has certainly burst its banks. I have engaged The Awen and pledged myself to its work for me, but until yesterday I was somehow constrained in the fulfillment of my pledge, unable to work constructively with the energy. Even though I knew and know it is the energy that is at the centre of my life, the core of my being and the shaper of my soul.

I don’t really have any idea what happened in the intervening months, but they are then and this is now and yet beckons me onward. I am sure there were some lessons I had to learn, and I sincerely hope I have learned them and have, in ways I do not comprehend, assimilated them into my life to help carry me onward.

Beyond the Day of Balance is living with the full awareness that whilst balance allows renewal, it is not a place to create from or in, but a place to go where insight flares demanding acknowledgement, then from the few hours of refuge to begin once more the journeying forth into the next adventures and even more meaning.