Midwinter

Here’s the sister piece to my last post. I know we’re well past the Solstice, but winter goes on. The cold and the dark can seem relentless so stay warm, find some time to enjoy the stillness and remember that below ground spring is gently stirring. .

Winter puts down her bag

spreads out her cloak

settles in.

The earth stills, draws in to rest.

Light fades early, returns late,

inky shadows swallow sunsets and cloud bears down

with impossible, ephemeral weight.

When the Holly King is in full charge

and the earth slumbers in the cold

we long for Yule

the turn of the wheel

the return on the light.

We are halfway through the dark.

Midsummer

Here’s a poem. Just in case you’ve not come across hag stones before, they’re stones with naturally worn holes through them . It is said that if you look through the hole, you can see faeries and the world of the fey.

To see the world with faery sight

The mirrored streams and crystal skies

Lift your hag stone to your eye

Look through it and believe.

This wood’s a labyrinth of ancient trees

winding thorny vine

With twisted limbs and time gnarled hands

That grasp and shake like dearest friends

And shade the velvet floor

As ivy winds and courses up

To drip green gems from higher boughs

Sends shards of light like softest silk

To render edges black blade sharp

The sun falls through the sylvan net

twistiing thorny vine

And calls the starlings home to roost

The edges blur, long shadows ink

Their runes upon the trunks

The moon begins her silent flight

Across a star encrusted field

And calls forth from the underglow

All forms of beings dark and light

Dryads slip through cracks in bark

twistiing thorny vine

An owl swoops low on ghost like wing

Naiad, hedgehog, oakman, hare

Come to greet the Summer King

Old spirits rise from stone and soil

They dance a heartbeat through the earth

They sing the water and the sky

And plant their feet on old, old paths

twistiing thorny vine

As spiders spin their silver charms

To catch the jewels of the dawn

Like early mist the visions drift

And disappear down hidden lanes

And yet they leave a resonance,

A thrum in soft, green scented air

So lift your hag stone to your eye

You may yet see them there.

Reflections on the Apocalypse

I wrote this in 2016 but it seems just as relevant now. Given what’s been happening recently in terms of climate change awareness, I thought I’d share it. Perhaps there is some hope after all.

gold and blue earth globe apocalyptic

The apocalypse, when it came, took most people by surprise, even though it had long been predicted.

Well, people can be as selective with their science as they are with their statistics, and we all know that you can make statistics say whatever you like.

Plus the fact there were far more important things to think about, like who was to blame for the refugee crisis and what colour lipstick Kim Kardashian was wearing.

Anyway, it was quiet and gradual, the apocalypse, no catastrophic events (hurricanes and earthquakes notwithstanding), no nuclear war, no asteroid collision; an apocalypse by stealth if you will. Not enough people paid attention until it was too late.

You see, times were troubled. People didn’t know what to believe any more, so much fake news and political spin. The truth was in there somewhere, but so well buried it couldn’t dig itself out. Opinions were the new black and so opinions disguised as truth became the new truth and people believed what they chose to, what fitted with their world view. It was more comfortable that way than asking questions, looking beyond the reflection and into the room.

So, as we are what we eat, people fed on a diet of fear, anger and false assurances were more likely to worry about whether their neighbour of years had become a terrorist than the extinction of countless little known species of insect, and whether immigration was really the root of all evil rather than the loss of the planet’s lungs to palm oil and cattle feed.

People everywhere were afraid but they didn’t know what they were really afraid of. People were angry but they didn’t know exactly what they were angry about. Fear and anger do not make good bedfellows. People turned against their neighbours. Communities turned against each other. There was squabbling and unrest, laws made and pacts broken, wars fought and blame cast. And all the while the seas were rising and the weather was changing and the ecosystems were breaking down.

But those in power were rich and getting richer while the general populace was distracted, so that was OK. And those people that did notice? The ones that did protest and make a fuss, march with their banners, sign petitions and sit in fields day in, day out to protect the land? A minor irritation, nothing that a negligent media and some juicy celebrity gossip couldn’t handle.

When the last rhino died, it didn’t even make the front pages. The demise of the orangutans caused a bit more of a stir. ‘Very sad’ was the general consensus on Twitter. The tigers, well, that was a shame, magnificent animals but then again they do kill people so, you know. Maybe not such a loss…

It was the bees that finished it. There were warnings, many warnings, but they were largely ignored. When they went, along with countless other pollinators, the multi nationals finally realised that you can’t hand pollinate enough food for seven billion people and chemicals alone won’t make stuff grow. Shrinking land mass and changes in air quality didn’t help. And so the apocalypse had arrived, a slow and painful demise of humanity and most other life on the planet. There are very few of us left now, clinging on to barely nothing. Soon we’ll be like the dinosaurs, history conserved in the bones of the world.

And Earth? She’ll be all right. She’ll just start all over again…

The Demon Of Self Doubt

Red Monster eyes and fangs

Self doubt.

Most of us know this demon far better than we would like. For writers, he’s that niggle at the back of your mind, the little negative voice in your ear, the shadow over all you do. He’s insidious and nasty, souring any sense of achievement and tempting you to consign everything immediately to the bin.

I haven’t been on here for a while. He and I have been having a bit of a to-do. You see my mojo went on sabbatical in December and took my self confidence along for the ride, leaving me to face the sharp claws of winter alone. Self doubt took full advantage.

Consequently, everything I’ve written over the past few months has been consigned to the recycling bin or hidden in the virtual drawer awaiting redrafting. Nothing seems to work. I have a head full of ideas, of characters clamouring for attention, but it all falls apart on the page.

Self doubt is really enjoying himself. He pokes me frequently. “That’s rubbish,” he says. “It’s boring and derivative. You’re better at procrastinating than writing. Why do you bother?”

It’s a good question. And he’s right, I’m very good at procrastinating. So I ask myself, why do I bother? Why do I write and think about writing and find characters feeding me information even when I’m trying to focus on other things.

I get the same answer that I always do.

Because I can’t not write. Because I can’t imagine not being immersed in other worlds, other lives, in all those stories flying around just waiting to be told. Even though it can be frustrating and lonely and antisocial and time consuming, I still want to write. Even when I think I don’t. Even when that pesky demon is hissing in my ear.

We all have things that we love to do, love to put time and effort into. Why should self doubt undermine that? Why should he stand in the way?

So. My mojo may not be back yet but at least she left me my Doc Martens. Time to put them on and assist that demon out of the door with a carefully placed boot!

Future Calling

Sometimes you need to listen to that quiet inner voice…

Steampunk Clock

 

 

Hey you. Yes, you. It’s your future calling.

Well, one possibility anyway. The best, I’d like to think.

I’ve seen some of the others and they’re not…

 

So anyway

I was watching you sleep earlier

Peaceful, your arm thrown over your forehead.

Now you’re eating breakfast, toast, marmalade,

Unaware that later today she’s going to call you

And offer you an opportunity, a chance

The one you secretly long for.

I so hope you take it

I know what’s most likely to happen

And it’s me.

 

But of course you don’t know that.

I have the benefit of hindsight and you, well,

You have questions and concerns

All those other possible futures crowding in with their

Doubts and insecurities, their what ifs and wherefores.

I can see an alternative now, one of many, and it’s OK

Nothing spectacular but comfortable

Safe.

If you choose that path at the fork, you’ll be all right,

Happy even.

But you’ll always wonder.

 

Yes, I know nothing’s certain, even me.

But this. This is so important.

This is your dream.

It could be your life.

Trust yourself.

It won’t all be roses, it won’t all be easy,

But I see those other futures and most of them

Are tinged with regret for the step not taken,

The no instead of yes.

Please.

It’s a leap of faith but take it.

Let yourself fly.

The Myth of Turret Shells

I bought this beautiful card several years ago and it planted the seed for this little tale which is part of a collection I’m working on entitled Great Grandmother’s Tales From The Shore.

Sea Unicorn by Brett. Card by Sunrise Publications Inc.

 

“We always collected things when we went to the beach, shells, stones, driftwood, bits of sea worn glass. Treasures from the deep, Great Grandma called them. Gifts from the sea. They all have a tale to tell, a secret history. You just have to open yourself to it.

I love the turret shells because they aren’t really shells at all. People only think they are because they’ve lost the ability to believe in anything that can’t be proved. And maybe they do get seconded by homeless invertebrates from time to time. Maybe the hermit crab isn’t the only thing in the sea that lives as a squatter. I don’t know. But I do know they’re not shells.

Because they’re horns.

See, when the white horses are first born out in the waves, they all have a horn, just the one, in the centre of their foreheads above their eyes. And to start with, they live out there amongst the rollers and the breakers, learning to trot and canter and gallop, to race the winds as they whip the surface, to swim in the deep blue as the sun turns it to gold.

But when they come of age, they reach the time of the calling. It is a choice that each and every one must make. They are drawn towards the shore and, in the in between, where the water changes colour as the earth rises beneath it, they must decide whether to stay in the sea or forge a new path on the land.

Those that come ashore hide in forests and green places. We call them unicorns.

Those that remain behind lose their horns. They stay and play out in the open water. We only see them as white caps on the waves.

The horns become houses for little shellfish. Or mementos picked up on a day at the beach.

There are less of them now. Far less than when I was a child. I wonder why that might be.”

The Swallows

“They’re here! They’re here!”

swallows in flight

Her cry had us all running from wherever we were, the kitchen, the barn, the vegetable garden, the hen house, running, up the pocked, rough track that served as a driveway, to the wide wooden gate.

“Look, look,” she was calling, pointing upwards with both hands at once. “They’re really here. At last.”

I stopped and squinted into the sky, the brightness hurting my eyes after the dimness of the barn. Occasional ribbons of white cloud broke the aching blue, straggling across it with no urgency whatsoever.  The tops of the trees were utterly still, not a whisper of a breeze to stir them. The grass was dry and brown, the dust heavy on the track and the road beyond. It had been like this for days. As if the world was holding its breath, just waiting for them. Continue reading

Drinking The Sky

sunset, drink the sky, distil the colours

Once there was a girl who had a rainbow heart.

It called to the sunrise, lavender and soft rose birthing a new day.

It soared in the shocking blue of a clear summer sky.

It drifted with the cirrus and the cumulus and roared with the steel grey storm clouds.

It remembered whirling snowflakes and floating mist, heavy raindrops and gentle breezes.

It danced as low mellow light fell through branches and turned fallen beech leaves into rivers of molten copper.

When the sun gilded the horizon with gold, it sang.

It inhaled the sunset, the deep reds and oranges lasting only a few moments before the cloak of twilight hid them away.

It slumbered beneath the indigo night and dreamt of stars.

Wouldn’t you like one? A heart like hers?

 

 

An Excerpt FromThree Words

A little bit from Three Words as promised.

rose in heart shape

 

“I’m so excited.” It was Tuesday evening and Tallie flung herself down beside Seth on Gaia’s big sofa. “A little bird just told me who’s playing at the Hare next Saturday.” Her eyes twinkled. “Pause for effect.”

“You do look more excited than normal,” Gaia commented, “which is a worry in itself.” She ignored the face Tallie pulled at her. “And as much fun as it would be not to ask you who but just to watch you try not to tell us, I will be kind and gracious and put you out of your misery. Who is it?”

“You’re fiendishly mean,” Tallie retorted, “But right of course. I’m nearly beside myself. It’s Underhill.”

Rob was grinning as Gaia, Ethan and Seth’s faces lit up. Serena was baffled.

“Really?” Gaia was elated. “Oh, I haven’t seen them in way too long,”

“Me neither,” Seth agreed. “Still the same guys?”

“As far as I know,” Tallie confirmed. “Well, Luke, Holly and Bryn for sure. Maybe Jonno, maybe April. Maybe both.”

Gaia rubbed her hands together. “That’s so great.”

Ethan nodded agreement, then noticed Serena’s puzzled look.

“They’re a band based in Cornwall,” he said. “Folky metally fusion.”

“Oh, but they’re so much more than that,” Tallie said pointedly, poking Gaia in the ribs with her elbow. “Aren’t they?” She grinned at Serena. “They’re the reason these two,” she gestured at Gaia and Ethan, “are together.”

Rob laughed and Seth was smiling. Gaia explained.

“Tallie and I were at uni together. She was the year above me but we were in the same flat. Luke was in her year, he’s the drummer. We were all good friends and Luke’s band got booked to play at the Summer Ball. Ethan and Seth came down and, well…” She took Ethan’s hand.

“The rest is history,” Tallie finished for her. “Oh, I can’t wait.”

Underhill did not disappoint. Serena had never seen a band quite like them. The energy seemed to crackle off the stage; most of their stuff was quite fast and heavy but the few ballads they played were hauntingly beautiful. the sound of the pipes seemed to reach right into her, touch her soul and the empty place beside it where her magic had once lived. She enjoyed chatting to them afterward when they came over to catch up with the others. Ethan noticed how Holly, who played the pipes and whistles, seemed to be watching Serena with interest. He moved to stand next to him.

“Picking something up, are you?” he asked quietly.

Holly grinned. “That could be taken in more than one way, but if you’re asking about magic, then yes.”

“I thought so.” Ethan was oddly pleased that he’d been right. After all, he’d picked it up about Holly, so he wasn’t sure why he doubted himself. Still… it sounded so farfetched. Holly wasn’t human, he was one of the fey, moving between the realm of magic and the human world as he chose. Despite his psychic gift, Ethan had been truly shocked when he’d realised how close true magic really was. He had never told anyone; Holly had asked him not to.

“I’m not sure what it is,” Holly went on, “But there’s something wild and mysterious there. I have no doubt you’ll find out.” He grinned impishly. “Didn’t take you long to find out about me, now did it?”

 

It’s World Book Day

Yes it is, and in celebration of all things literary I thought I’d share some of my favourite books. Please do add your favourites in the comments; I’m always on the lookout for a good read!

5 books

Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint. Anything by Charles de Lint really, he’s exceptionally talented, but this particular one is a collection of urban fantasy short stories and is my go to book for comfort when I’m feeling in need.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman. She writes exquisitely and this novella is particularly haunting.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. Full of extraordinary desert magic, you can almost feel the heat rising from the pages. I love this so much I have two copies (one for lending, the other for me!)

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. This is a children’s book but don’t let that stop you; the lyrical prose and intriguing story will leave you thinking.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. You will never take the letters of the alphabet for granted again.

Skellig by David Almond. A beautifully wrought modern fairy tale.

The Miracles of Santo Fico by D. L. Smith. Funny, unexpected and uplifting.

The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in South Carolina in the sixties, it’s a sensitive coming of age tale.

Julie And Romeo by Jeanne Ray. A romance like no other and very funny to boot.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I adored this when I was a kid and still do now.

Guess I’d better stop now. There are just so many great books out there; happy reading!