Monday, 28 May 2018

Wise Words: Equilibrium

... ‘Do you see, Arren, how an act is not, as young men think, like a rock that one picks up and throws, and it hits or misses, and that’s the end of it. When that rock is lifted the earth is lighter, the hand that bears it heavier. When it is thrown the circuits of the stars respond, and where it strikes or falls the universe is changed. On every act the balance of the whole depends. The winds and seas, the powers of water and earth and light, all that these do, is well done, and rightly done. All these act within the Equilibrium. From the hurricane and the great whale’s sounding to the fall of a dry leaf and the gnat’s flight, all they do is done within the balance of the whole. But we, in so far as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I – though I have the power to do it – to punish and reward, playing with men’s destinies?’
‘But then,’ said the boy, frowning at the stars, ‘is the balance to be kept by doing nothing? Surely a man must act, even not knowing all the consequences of his act, if anything is to be done at all?’
‘Never fear. It is much easier for men to act than to refrain from acting. We will continue to do good, and to do evil . . . But if there were a king over us all again, and he sought counsel of a mage, as in the days of old, and I were that mage, I would say to him : My lord, do nothing because it is righteous, or praiseworthy, or noble, to do so; do nothing because it seems good to do so; do only that which you must do, and which you cannot do in any other way.’

(Ursula Le Guin, from The Farthest Shore, in The Earthsea Quartet, Puffin Books: London, 1993, p. pp. 361–362)

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Lakeside Sights

Recently I took myself on a walk to the lake, in search of ducks—but I saw so much more!

This Pacific Black Duck made a beeline straight for me, perhaps hoping I had some food.

There were many Welcome Swallows swooping and gliding.

So many sleepy ducks.

Eurasian Coots, with the cutest little feet.

Majestic cormorants. It was only when I got home and looked through my photos that I realised that, of the three cormorants I saw, there were two different species. As far as I can tell—after consulting my field guide—the first and third pictured here are Little Black Cormorants, while the middle one, with the yellow bill, is a Great Cormorant.

A Great White Egret.

A Welcome Swallow at rest.

A cheeky Crimson Rosella.

And gorgeous Galahs.

So much birdlife in one place! What a privilege to call the Blue Mountains home.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Wise Words: Make It Fair!

“Westerners are fond of the saying, ‘Life isn’t fair.’ Then, they end in a snide triumphant: ‘So get used to it!’ What a cruel, sadistic notion to revel in! What a terrible, patriarchal response to a child’s budding sense of ethics. Announce to an Iroquois, ‘Life isn’t fair,’ and her response will be: ‘Then make it fair!’ This is the matriarchal approach to learning.”

(Haudenosaunee/Iroquois woman, Barbara Alice Mann, quoted in Derrick Jensen, Dreams, Seven Stories Press: New York, 2011, p. 459)

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Elder: A Story

A little story-vignette I wrote three years ago, which I think is rather apt for the season.

The Elder

A crystal dawn. An amber glow piercing the dense blue air of night. 
The elder stood on the edge of the grassy field, her feet wet with dew and her sloe-eyes twinkling as the stars above winked out, one by one. Her feathery hair haloed languidly around her, blown by the soft breath of an early morning breeze. She knew she was coming to the end of her life, her sun-browned skin furrowed with wrinkles from her time outdoors, her limbs now thin as twigs, though her eyes were still as sharp as ever. It had not been a long life, by some estimations, but it had been a full one, glutted with blossomings and fruitings and the passing of many, many moons—glowing and fading, waxing and waning—too many to remember. She had stood her ground in this place for decades, rooted, embedded, and she thrived. 
She often spent her time feeding birds, and had an uncanny way with bees and butterflies, not to mention the badgers and rabbits whose burrow entrances pocked the surrounding fields. She knew this place well. Nearby neighbours sometimes came to ask for her sweet drinks and remedies: spring-scented cordials and heady wines, thick and glossy syrups to ward against winter illnesses, and salves for healing wounds. She was well-regarded in the community for her culinary and healing knowledge and skill, though fewer people came to visit her nowadays.
Summer’s presence still permeated the air, but today the elder proudly wore her autumn finery, a decoration of dark sprays of lustrous beads, worn here and there as she pleased. She could never decide, though, whether she preferred the slowing blush of autumn or the quickening thrill of spring, with her springtime garb, all pale and wispy white, in readiness for sunshine and the resurgence of warmth. She particularly loved to wear perfume in spring. In summer she wore green, the kind that changes hue when the light passes through it, that merges with the patchwork of flourishing that sprawls across the landscape of that season. She knew she would not see another summer, which saddened her, but in the end she decided that each season had its charms, even winter, when her attire was unadorned and grey. 
As the sun rose higher into the clear sky she saw her old friend Rowan in the next field, leaning on his trusty walking stick. He waved to her, and she waved back in greeting and farewell. He had always been such a steadfast companion, with his own unique knowledge to share, and a great many feasts and celebrations had taken place in his presence once upon a time. Though he was older, he was smooth-skinned and red-cheeked, plenty of life in him still. She was sorry to be leaving him behind, but she would have to pass on soon. 
She constantly had visions of her death and a great pyre, built by Rowan himself, on which her dry old bones would blaze and turn to ash, while mourners played reedy music on handmade flutes to sing her to the other side. Then her remains would be scattered into the wind and she would fly before settling back down onto the earth to become one with the soil. She would not be gone, as her children and grandchildren, and a scattering of great-grandchildren, populated the district, and she intended to provide for them as her mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers had nourished her. She would live on through them and she hoped her knowledge would too, an heirloom passed down through the generations. She could ask for nothing more.

The birds came to eat from her hands, and she spread food for the bold rabbits who came to feed at her feet, but as the day turned and came to its dusky end, the wise elder took one last look at the blue sky and then closed her eyes.

Elderberries, Sambucus nigra (Source: Wikimedia, by Isidre blanc)

Monday, 14 May 2018

Wise Words: A Minded World

This is a minded world, where the spiritual world is only just contained in the actual world, the symbolic world is splitting at the seams to get out, bursting the confines of the real.

(Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey, Penguin: London, 2006, p. 151)


… many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or “mind,” not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and plants, the mountains and the clouds.

(David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, Vintage Books: New York, 1996, p. 227)


[Mind] is not a noun, not something that exists somewhere inside us. It is verb: something that occurs through our interactions with the world around us, a weave of immersion. 

(David Hinton, Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape, Shambhala: Boston, 2012, p. 57) 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Witchlines: Crowning The Blossoming Body

This is is the fourth creative piece I have completed as part of my Witchlines studies, this time imagining the clothing and adornments that may have been worn by a young girl of Old Europe as she enters into womanhood.  

Crowning the Blossoming Body

Her bleeding had begun, just after midwinter, and with the return of spring, she knew it was her time to dance with the other women, to waken new life, and herself. She entered the temple where they waited, in the inner room, and there they were: her mother and grandmother, her sister and aunt—all of the women who had danced the dance before her. She sank into their embraces, bathed in their kind words. She was becoming one of them. 
In the warmth of the room, by the oven which glowed within, and in sight of Her, they removed her clothing, then anointed her body with herb-infused water, gently combing it through her hair, which fell loose down her bare back. Around her waist they draped an ankle-length skirt, newly woven by her grandmother, the fabric the colour of river sand. Over this they tied a belt of clay medallions, their heaviness pleasing on her hips; and from this belt hung a fringe of leather cords, weighted at the ends with small clay beads, which would click and jangle as she swayed. 
Encircling her upper arms, woven bands of hemp were tied, three on each side—the number of She who is one, who is two, who is three. On her small, firm breasts, her mother painted spirals of red ochre, giving her eyes, moons, whirls of energy, with which to pass into womanhood. Over her breasts were hung long bead necklaces of greenstone and white spondylus shell—precious things that said earth and water and beauty. And last of all, they set a garland of woven greenery on her head, the first emergence of early spring, to crown her blossoming body. 
Then, dressed in their finery, smelling of wild thyme, with hair flowing, breasts bare, long fringes undulating, and beads clinking, the women emerged into the chill of the spring morning to dance.

Figurine from the Vinča culture, c. 4500–3500 BCE
(Source: Wikimedia, by Sailko)
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