Harvesting stories

Flowers and hills  Corrary Farm

From Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin:

"Gary Snyder gave us the image of experience as compost. Compost is stuff, junk, garbage, anything, that's turned to dirt by sitting around a while. It involves silence, darkness, time, and patience. From compost, whole gardens grow.

"It can be useful to think of writing as gardening. You plant the seeds, but each plant will take its own way and shape. The gardener's in control, yes; but plants are living, willful things. Every story has to find its own way to the light. Your great tool as a gardener is your imagination.

Corrary Farm

"Young writers often think -- are taught to think -- that a story starts with a message. That is not my experience. What's important when you start is simply this: you have a story you want to tell. A seedling that wants to grow. Something in your inner experience is forcing itself towards the light. Attentively and carefully and patiently, you can encourage that, let it happen. Don't force it; trust it. Watch it, water it, let it grow.

Polytunnels  Corrary Farm  

Organic vegetables

"As you write a story, if you can let it become itself, tell itself fully and truly, you may discover what its really about, what it says, why you wanted to tell it. It may be a surprise to you. You may have thought you planted a dahlia, and look what came up, an eggplant! Fiction is not information transmission; it is not message-sending. The writing of fiction is endlessly surprising to the writer.

Corrary Farm  turf-roofed office

"Like a poem, a story says what it has to say it the only way it can be said, and that is the exact words of the story itself. Why is why the words are so important, why it takes so long to learn how to get the words right. Why you need silence, darkness, time, patience, and a real solid knowledge of English vocabulary and grammar.

"Truthful imagining from experience is recognizable, shared by its readers."

Howard in the yurt cafe  Corrary Farm

Welcoming committee

Words: The passage above is from "Making Up Stories," published in Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life & Books by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer Press, 2016). The poem in the picture captions is from Circles on the Water by Marge Piercy (Knopf, 1988). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: Corray Farm on Scotland's west coast, near Glenelg, photographed on our trip north in June: polytunnels, turf-roofed office, Howard reading in the yurt cafe, and the four-footed welcoming committee.


Recommended reading (and listening)

Tilly in the studio

The hound and I are back in the studio, with apologies for being away so long -- due to a combination of health issues (getting better now) and an over-full schedule that I'm just barely keeping up with.

Drawing by Arthur Rackham

Here are some articles, videos, and podcasts I'd like to recommend, a seasonal round-up of my magpie gleanings from hither and yon:

* Sharon Blackie follows Myrddin, Mis, and other wild folk into the woods (The Art of Enchantment)

* Rob Maslen goes deep into William Morris' Wood Beyond the World (City of Lost Books)

* Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk, pens a beautiful essay on the forbidden wonder of birds' nests and eggs (The Guardian)

* Jeremy Miller finds a new understanding of wilderness in an Irish bog (Orion)

Peter Pan in Kensington Garden by Arthur Rackham

* Naomi Shihab Nye discusses poetry and kindness (BrainPickings)

* David Grossman discusses the Holocaust, empathy, and the importance of literature (The Guardian)

* George Saunders discusses the art storytelling (Aeon video)

* Mary Hofffman discusses fairy tales with Katherine Langrish (Seven Miles of Steel Thistles)

* Kate Forsyth returns to Beauty & the Beast by way Anne Frank (Kate's blog)

* Meg Roscoff tells us why we still need fairy tales (The Guardian)

Alice in Wonderland by Arthur Rackham

* Robert Minto reviews No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin (New Republic)

* Cally Calloman reviews Folk Song in England by Steve Roud (Caught by the River)

* Jon Wilks interviews Steve Roud, asking: "What is folk music, exactly?" (Grizzly Folk)

* Yaoyao Ma Van As captures the over-looked joys of living alone (My Modern Met)

* John Bedell looks at Leonora Carrington's incredible sculptures (Bensozia)

* Skye Sherman looks at a new exhibition of Käthe Kollwitz’s powerful art (The Guardian)

May Colven by Arthur Rackham

And one more:

My erudite friend and up-the-road neighbor Earl Fontainelle has launched a fascinating podcast series on The Secret History of Western Esotericism, exploring "cutting-edge academic research in the study of Platonism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, the Kabbalah, alchemy, occultism, magic, and related currents of thought."

The first four episodes of the series are online now, and I highly recommend it. 

The Fairies' Tiff with the Birds by Arthur Rackham

The art today is by the great English book illustrator Arthur Rackham, born on this day in south London in 1867. A new exhibition of his work has just opened at the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy.

Undine by Arthur Rackham


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Light

Today, two British songwriters whose work, though thoroughly contemporary, is grounded in English folk and American roots music: Sam Brookes and Johnny Flynn. The songs explore darkness, light, and the healing powers of love and the land.

Above: "Numb" by Sam Brookes -- a gorgeous song about love and loss from Brookes' first album, Kairos.

Below: Brookes' version of "Black-Eyed Dog" by the great Nick Drake. The "black dog" and the "black-eyed dog" are terms for depression, which Drake suffered and died from.

Above: "Crazy World and You" by Sam Brookes, a song about being a light in the darkness ourselves.

Below: "Country Mile" by the wonderful Johnny Flynn,  from his album of the same name. Like the song above, this one leads us to the solace of open spaces.

The final two songs are from Johnny Flynn's most recent album, Sillion. Both touch on the healing power of human connection to the more-than-human world.

Above is "Wandering Aengus," Flynn's 21st-century take on the classic poem by William Butler Yates. Below is his achingly poignant new song and video, "Raising the Dead."

Globe Clustered Confluence by Rune Guneriussen

The last image is by Norwegian photographer & installation artist Rune Guneriussen.

 


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Sketches of donkeys. Gerard ter Borch  c1612

While the daily news remains disheartening, let's start the week with lively, toe-tapping, spirit-lifting tunes from Ireland, England, and Scotland...and some charming donkeys.

Above: "Leads" by Moxie, an alt-trad band from Sligo and Limerick, Ireland. The band members are Cillian Doheny, Jos Kelly, Darren Roche, Ted Kelly, and Paddy Hazel. The video was shot in the beautiful Irish landscape and, yes, includes a donkey.

Below: "The Bonny Ship, the Diamond," recorded by Beoga for their seventh album, Before We Change our Mind.  The band members are Liam Bradley, Sean Og Graham, Damian McKee, Eamon Murray, and singer/fiddler Niamh Dunne. They're from County Kerry, Ireland.

Above: "The Greenland Whale," recorded by Sam Kelly & the Lost Boys for their new album, Pretty Peggy. Kelly (from Norfolk, England) is backed by Ciaran Algar, Evan Carson, Graham Coe, and Jamie Francis.

Below, another song about whaling history: "Race to Be King" by Seth Lakeman, performed at the Minack open-air theatre on the Cornish coast. Seth hails from here in Devon, on the other side of Dartmoor. The song is from his fourth album, Poor Man's Heaven.

And a tune to end with on this wet and windy morning:

"Wet Field Day" by Elephant Sessions, from the Scottish highlands. The band members are Greg Barry, Mark Bruce, Euan Smillie, Alasdair Taylor, and Seth Tinsley. The young man in the video is Shaun Somerville. 

The donkey sketches today are by Dutch genre painter Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681) and English illustrator Sean Briggs. For more donkeys, check out the donkeycams at the Donkey Sanctuary on Devon's south coast.  There are other lovely creatures up the road from us at Dartmoor's Miniature Pony Centre: shaggy little ponies, shire horses, and more. The video on their homepage is a delight.

Donkey sketch by Sean Briggs