Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Cauldron

As I trudged along the empty road, through a grey landscape bare of features, I was pulled out of dull reverie by the smell of smoke in my nostrils. Peering ahead, I saw a crossroads, where choices lay—straight ahead, left, right, or back the way I had come. The thought of having to choose a direction wearied me. How would I know which way to go in such a dreary landscape as this? With no landmarks to guide the way, no beauty to lure me on. 

Then I saw it, an old gypsy wagon by the road, painted with red and green and gold, and a white horse grazing nearby. And mingled with the smoke of a campfire was the scent of something else, something savoury and enticing.
I realised that I was hungry, famished, starved to the bone.

As I approached the fire I saw it—a big black cauldron, curved belly full, almost to the brim, with something delicious. And sitting on a low wooden stool beside the fire, elbows resting on bony knees, wrinkled skin glowing in the flickering light, was an old woman.

‘I knew you’d come,’ she said, her voice husky, as if she’d not used it for a long time. She reached forward and began to stir the contents of the pot with a large wooden spoon, and gestured for me to sit down on a rug strewn on the ground.
‘Look at you! You’re skin and bones, my dear. You’ll never get to where you’re going without your strength.’

I wanted to tell her that I didn’t know where I was going, that the choice posed by the crossroads was one I didn’t know how to face, but in my hunger and anticipation, I remained silent. I stared at the cauldron, and my mouth began to water.

‘But,’ the woman uttered, a ludic glint in her eye, ‘you’ll have to wait. This here stew isn’t done yet, and I think you know it.’

I was puzzled at this, and frustrated. So much for the kindness of strangers. My belly growled in protest.  

‘This cauldron,’ the crone said, ‘all blackened from use and dented about the sides, this cauldron is your life. And the stew bubbling away inside, isn’t ready at all. If you tasted it now, you’d only be disappointed. Far too bland for your taste, it would be—and mine too. And I don’t want you thinking I am a terrible cook. Oh no! You’ll have to wait, because this stew needs to be boiled down, reduced, condensed, until all that is left is a strong, dark brew, so full of flavour it will knock your socks off. It needs to be simmered down to almost nothing, until you find that almost nothing is in fact everything; and it takes time and patience for that. Yes! What you’ll be left with will be so potent, so pungent, so exquisite in flavour, that you’ll never want for anything else.’

She stirred the pot once more, turning the spoon anticlockwise, as fragrant steam curled upwards, and grinned, her face rippling with a topography of time-worn lines.

‘You have come this far, through the empty land, and the vital ingredients are all cooking down as they should. It won’t be long now, and then you will be strong. You will know which way to go. Are you prepared to wait, my dear?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

(Developed from an idea I wrote down over three years ago, when I was just beginning my journey as a writer.)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sometimes the Soul: A Poem

Sometimes the soul 
seeks silence 

seeks a chrysalic hush 

for speech is coarse 

to the senses 
that want
but peace 

and a sleep 
that descends 
and heals 

so that the holy words 
of silence 
can flow

Silence by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1870 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Pledge of Summers to Come

The red leaves take the green leaves’ place, and the landscape yields. We go to sleep with the peach in our hands and wake with the stone, but the stone is the pledge of summers to come. 
~Emily Dickinson (from a letter to the Rev. J. L. Jenkins and Mrs Jenkins, 187–) 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The I I Once Was

I am no longer the “I” of that episode; but it is still possible for me to remember what happened, perhaps even to tell it. I am still, however incompletely, Borges.
From ‘The Zahir’ in Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, New Direction Books: New York, 2007, p. 156


Time inexorably moves forwards and we all change. I am not the person that I used to be; nor am I my past lives in which, perhaps, I was a wolf padding through a northern forest, or a dragonfly that only lived for three light-filled summer days. Yet, something of the I I once was must still exist in the I I am now, for time spirals indefinitely, circling over lost ground never actually lost, coming back to where it started, and beginning again.

Therefore, some part of me is capable of remembering the events of my past, remembering my thoughts and feelings, even reliving them, and is thus capable of telling my story—though it may be interspersed with fiction masquerading as fact, incorrect recollections, dreams permeating memory.

I will make an attempt at relating the tale of who I once was, though I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

October 2014


Because I haven’t been able to write much recently I’ve been led to seek inspiration by looking back at past work, such as the short piece of writing above, which I think is rather special, but also some of my old art. When I created this blog, I did hope (perhaps a little too optimistically) that it would motivate me to make more art, to share some of my creative explorations, but so far there has been little of that. Yet I thought I would take this opportunity to share some of the art from my past, to give you some vague impressions of who I once was, what interested me, and what I loved.

I am, and am not, the girl who created these works.

Page from art diary, 1997; oil pastels, watercolours, pen and pencil

Page from art diary, 1997; pencil and gold pen, and featuring a quote about dragons from Ursula Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore (Earthsea #3)

Study of arm (after Michelangelo), page from art diary, 1998; pencil

Argea, the Fateful Faery (sketch after Brian Froud), 1999; pencil

The Green Lady of the Faery Knoll (sketch after Brian Froud), 1999; pencil

Rock Painting, etching, 1999; the acid bit into my plate a little unevenly, so I struggled to get any decent prints, but I do love this design

Reflections, 1999; photograph created by sandwiching two negatives together (one of a tree, the other of ripples in water)—this image was published in Sydney University’s literary and creative arts journal, Hermes, in 2001

Page from art diary (faerie sketches after Brian Froud), 2000; pencil, ink, watercolours and pen

Page from art diary, 2000; collage and pen

Waterlilies, 2000; photograph

Tree, page from art diary, 2001; watercolours and ink

Four trees, page from art diary, 2001; pen and ink

Page from art diary, 2001; pencil

Goddess figures, page from art diary, 2001; pencil (I was clearly inspired by the Venus of Willendorf and other such figures)

Four abstract works, 2002; acrylic paint and Japanese ink

Girl, page from art diary, 2002; gouache

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Books & Beauty

In recent weeks, the postman has brought me some beautiful things.

First came a spotted pardalote necklace, which is also a whistle, for my birthday. Though I have never seen one, in theory these birds do make their home in the Blue Mountains, so I shall have to keep an eye out for them from now on.

Then came Sylvia Linsteadt’s long-awaited Tatterdemalion, a post-apocalyptic novel inspired by the art of Rima Staines. 

I’ve been waiting for this book since I first read Witch Bottle, an excerpt from the then novel-in-progress, published in Dark Mountain: Issue 4, in the northern summer of 2013—almost four years ago! Then the publishing process, after a month of crowd-funding, took over a year, so the wait has been long and expectations have been high. The book I now have in my hands is a thing of beauty, filled with Rima’s extraordinary, earthy and strange art, from which Sylvia’s poetic, wild, myth-filled story was birthed. 

For more information about the book and how it came to be, please click here and watch the video, in which Sylvia says:

The novel is really a call to attention. Right now we’re surrounded by environmental, cultural, social collapse, and embedded in this dominant narrative, that really treats land and animals, plants, stones, water, people, and especially marginalised peoples, as objects to be used, rather than subjects to be honoured and respected in their own right. So we’re really in great need of new narratives and new stories to help us reimagine what it means to be human in a more-than-human world.

I've said it before myself—we desperately need new stories. So, if you are interested in reading this greatly needed new story, special editions of Tatterdemalion can still be purchased via Unbound, though a trade edition has also just been released. Most importantly, you will be supporting a young writer in making a living from her craft.

And if you are not familiar with the work of either Sylvia or Rima, I suggest you take a look at their magnificent blogs, which have partially inspired my own humble efforts in the blogosphere. They are both wise and talented women: Sylvia at The Gleewoman’s Notes and Rima at The Hermitage

Next came Kate Walters’s Iona Notebooks, a limited edition book published by Guillemot Press, composed of paintings, drawings and writing that Kate made during residencies on the Hebridean island of Iona.

I first came across Kate’s work through the Dark Mountain books (with works published in issues 6 and 10), and (the sadly now defunct) EarthLines magazine, in issues 10 and 12, as well as gracing the front and back covers of the very last issue.

What intrigued me about her work was not just the subject matter, style and aesthetic, but her working methods, which are shamanic in nature, drawing forth imagery from a womb-like and unknown place. She uses a technique which she calls ‘becoming the hollow bone’, in which she

instruct[s her] ego and personality to step aside to allow other voices to come through. Using the drum, strong intention, and the drawn mark [she is] able to respond in the moment to humans or trees or place … (‘Featured Artist: Kate Walters – Riding into Darkness on my Horse-of-Music-Body’, EarthLines, Issue 12: July 2015, p. 66). 

She often works with her eyes closed and with her non-dominant hand (a technique I have been inspired to try myself), and especially explores the connections and interactions between humans and animals, and the Divine Feminine.

I bought the Iona Notebooks, which came with six postcards as well, as a birthday present to myself. It is a book of beauty, shamanic wisdom and inspiration which I will treasure.

For more information about Kate and her work, please pay a visit to her website.

Lastly, a friend gave me a pure white cyclamen to congratulate me on my first year of blogging.

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