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.



I have searched for an image to go with this post, but none are as clear as the one I saw inspiring these words. I got up at 0300 to see the special eclipse not sure what to expect. In my pajamas, jumper and furry slippers I walked out of my little porch. Immediately in front of me was Orion. There were not lots of other stars confusing the view it was pretty much Orion standing tall above the Maize Mothers. There appeared ever so briefly a shooting star reminding me of the depth of space/time.

Although I got up to watch the moon slip into totality, and stood looking up in awe of her colour wreathed in darkness, but I was most taken by the view of Orion.

I made the acquaintance of Orion properly on Iona nearly 20 years ago. It was the first place he was close enough to touch. As I visited the island most often in October, it is not surprising that he was there to greet me. For me, his energy is quite powerful and mysterious. I look forward to my first sighting each Autumn and on such a special night this year, when the energies of the space/time were so evident made the moment even more powerful.

Orion 1

I revere your presence,
leader of the Sky hunt
through the wastes of Winter,
gathering your power
in the nights of Autumn.

I honour your authority,
caller of the Sky hunt
through the wilderness of galaxies,
focusing your strength
in the darkening of nights.

I respect your dignity,
master of the Sky hunt
through the mysteries of space/time,
holding your nerve
in the density of darkness.

Orion 2

I greet you, Orion,
this clear bright night,
ever deepening to the
cold harsh heart
of Winter.

I ask you, Orion,
to share your energy,
celestial light blazing
through the frozen sky
of Winter.

I thank you, Orion,
for offering your presence,
to sustain the fearful and weary
during every night
of Winter.

Orion 3

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

The Hunter and the Gatherer paired
provision the larder,
enabling the tribe
to be sustained and healthy,
year on year
through every season,
moon and moment.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

No longer able
to partake the flesh Beasts,
for in these days
it is neither freely given
nor reverently taken,
I still require
this energy to survive.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

When I greet and reverence you,
with grace and gratitude
I am able to receive this energy,
these gifts the Beasts
can only provide if taken
with respect when given the dignity
of a freely surrendered death.

You are the Hunter
to my Gatherer.

* * * *

Even for me the third poem raises issues and paradoxes that are complex and not easily resolved. What I am able to do is articulate and then wrestle with them. And always, always eat with an open and grateful heart.