Thursday, May 23, 2013

The One Year Anniversary of the Indigo Vat!

My heavens, the date actually passed me by entirely, so this is a slightly belated but no less enthusiastic note of gratitude to each and every soul who has wandered the deep blue vats, the thimbleberry thickets, the deer skins and elk bones and roseblossom tales of this blog over the last year, since it popped its head above the soil on May 15th of 2012. Magnificent webs of connection have already been spun in this single turning around the sun with individuals far and wide who trot through here and find something that stitches true in their own hearts. It is a pleasure and a joy to share my meanderings, my makings and my thoughts with you here, and I look forward to the web only widening with the morning sun of this coming year!

photo from the Bug Guide
A side note—the above furred wonder is a Western Tussock Moth caterpillar, muncher of coast live oak leaves. I just saw my very first one this Sunday, and it simply blew me away. I have been looking forward to sharing this discovery with you since then! It looked like a whimsical circus-being, some magical messenger of all Night Moths and their occult knowledge, of red stars and oak histories, utterly protected from bird predation, a yellow-spiked transforming wonder; apparently these caterpillars pull out their own hairs and use them as a part of their cocoons. This little one is a magic-bearer, it seems to me. A reminder that all of the wild is—the little and the big— bearing magic to our hearts, reminding us of our place in the family of things.

Blue lupine at the edge of the world, where the fog-bank rolls off the Pacific Ocean and up the steep hills of Mt. Tamalpais
Anyhow, one of the most exciting things to come out of this Indigo Vat for me has been the success of the Gray Fox Epistles, my Wild Tails by Mail project, in which I send subscribers, on each new moon, a retelling of an old myth, fairytale or folktale, rewilded and rerooted in the ecologies of the lands I call home—mixed fir forest, coast strand, chaparral, sagebrush, redwood forest, salty lagoon. These letters are beautifully hand-packaged, wax-sealed, with scraps of leaf and petal in them. I am truly inspired already by the community of ecology and myth lovers that has grown around this project, and it has only been three months!  I am also moved by the fact that the making of Art, both for the love of it and as a (partial) living, can be so straightforward—I write a tale, you ask to receive it in the mail in exchange for a small price, everybody goes away happy. No middle-people (though of course there is nothing wrong with a novel published by a press as well!). Only that it makes me happy that these avenues can exist together.

So in the spirit of this gratitude, and also with the desire to spread the word far and wide about the Gray Fox Epistles, so that this rerooting of old magic tales can drop its seeds further and further afield, I am offering a giveaway! If you share the word of this Gray Fox Epistles project (here is a link to the page with all the details, and another link to an essay I wrote for Dark Mountain on the subject, called Turning Our Fairytales Feral Again), on your blog, facebook, whatever— any kind of description you like!— and let me know in the comments section here, with a link, I will put all your names in a hat and draw one to receive a gift-package. This will include either a hand-felted infinity scarf/ headdress, naturally dyed...

or a set of 2 hand-felted tea-coasters... (depending on your preference)

plus a two-month subscription to the Gray Fox Epistles!

You have until June 1st, when I will draw the names and contact the "winner"!

May the little lemon-yellow birds of spring-summer sing sweet songs out the windows of your heart. Bless you all for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Wisdom of Cobwebby Thistles & the Young Brush Rabbits in the Canes

The young brush rabbits are about, darting through the lush salmonberry canes. Oh, oh, to be so small, so soft, and to fit inside those thickets! What a world it must be in there. A gateway to the Otherworld, I always thought as a girl (and, well, still do!).

It seems the summertime is already upon us here—the hills have gone dry gold already, except where the cows graze them, and the fog is thickening out along the coast, muting the land to gentle pastels, to a dream of sand and dune and lupine.

“In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?”

-David Whyte

Oh, what beautiful beautiful words. I've encountered them more than once these past weeks and so I thought I would share them here. "To remember the other world in this world"— here it is in the young brush rabbits loping across the dunes, the snakes napping in tall grass, the beach strawberries holding gently a network of roots over the sand, the lupines almost unbearably sweet to smell (somehow they smell sweeter than ever). Each one knowing perfectly the seed of itself.

Here, that other world, that opening into the new day: the heart of the wild dune strawberry, star-perfect, where the bee knows just how to land.

Each wild one, living its Way out on the land, is an opening to that Other World that is nested into this one. The blue and yellow lupines, seeking moisture, sloughing off salt winds, smelling intoxicating, turning this dune rambler completely away from the tracks she was following to touch their blossoms and bury her face in them—they wake daily to the bumble bees and the ocean, they move through time with all of their being Right There, no Plan except to open when it is time to open, to lose petals when it is time to lose petals, to start again.

I think we have much to learn from them, these plants with their roots down, ever opening their arms, time and again.

And my goodness, if this cobwebby thistle (cirisum occidentale) isn't himself a magnificent unfurling doorway into the magic of the everyday, and of the languid drying summer, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Climb Up To the Rooftop & Look For the Spiderweb Stars

A morning recently, I watched this tiny spider at the creation of her beautiful, new web. It was an act of great careful order, with certain stages of the web already laid out, cornerstones, so she could weave back and forth between them with the heddle of her perfect body. I always get a bit overwhelmed, choked up with beauty, when I see spiders at their webs; it feels like watching the creation of a universe and its myriad stars. How, how, I always wonder desperately, full of some kind of unnameable longing (the kind Rumi is always speaking of), does that silk emerge, and how does she know the way?

"The stars come up spinning
every night, bewildered in love.
They’d grow tired
with that revolving, if they weren’t.
They’d say,
“How long do we have to do this!”

God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
a passion, a longing-pain.
Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.

Go up on the roof at night
in this city of the soul.

Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes!

Sing loud!"

- Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks), from Each Note

I've been returning to this poem recently, standing atop some ancient rooftop in my mind, the sort I imagine Rumi would have known, sandstone, the heat of summer evenings and big indigo blue skies above, whistling and singing out to the stars, the whole spin of galaxy, spider-made, each strand a bit of love-longing.

Old fort rooftop, Malta
Something about the idea of the rooftop, looking out over some old city, the supposed "pinnacle" of human progress, (which really seem to impede our view of the skies with all those tall structures and all that light pollution!) and singing until everybody else is on their roofs too, above the fray, praising with love the stars and the night and the moon and the wildness, the true life-source, in each heart—this really gets me. 

When I was younger I loved climbing to the roof of our house with my brother and my dad, making sure he always held the ladder tight for me because I didn't like going down backwards, or that lip as you clambered away from the rungs and onto the shingles. But once up there, with cups of tea balanced carefully, we all got swept up in the sky. The rooftops, the whole neighborhood, looked like a different landscape entirely, the shingles like scales, all the houses capable of suddenly turning into great beasts and lumbering off with lanterns for eyes and music playing from their stove-top hearts. It was like you'd walked up into a different part of the same place, a doorway through the everyday and into the sublime: back to shingles, nothing else between you and the stars.

May we all climb to the spider-web rooftops of ourselves and sing and get everybody else itching to clamber up there too, whistling for the things we love.

All of this rambling about spider-webs, about rooftops, about the sublime, reminded me of a piece of the book-project I've been working on with the truly wondrous Rima Staines. More on that later—in brief it is a novel in pieces based each on her paintings, which themselves each are Doorways into the Other just through the thicket, just atop your very roof. I am very excited about its soon-to-be finished state. One of the tales, based on the painting below, has much to do with spiders, magic, and otherness.

For indeed, "there is no excellent beauty that hath not strangeness in the proportion"—I believe it is through the strange edges of the world, the ragged rooftops where madwomen sing and the loose-stone cracks in our hearts, that our brightest souls dwell. 

Leg-Wheel and Jew Harp,  by Rima Staines

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Elk Mamas in the Wild Iris on Beltane Morn

Today, I rose early, made a thermos of tea, and drove north to sit among the tule elk cows on Beltane morning. I'm not sure why this need washed over me so fully, but I wanted to be near them, wise ladies with their growing calves. 

I found the world out there warm and languid, the irises a deep and luscious purple, the elk cows napping amidst them, chewing their cud. Not a wind, and the ocean thundering.

I wanted to heap blessings on these elk mamas in the growing spring. If you look closely on the right hand side of the photo, you will see two fuzzy lighter ears sticking up from the grass-- a very young calf! One of the cows watched me very closely as I sat down among the irises. I wanted to cry at the beauty of their tawny bodies, their dark eyes, their grazing big-eared grace. I remembered something David Abram wrote in his Becoming Animal, about easing the nervousness of wild ones with singing, or humming-- you can communicate so much more to another creature that way. Your intentions, the state of your body, they can all be detected in the vibrations of your voice. So I whistled as I sat by the side of the road at 8:00 am with the elk ladies, and then I sang a song, and they watched me very intently, very alert, ears big and pointed, but they did not move, though I was but 15 feet away. It felt so good, so natural, so enlivening, though it is not something I do often—to sit and sing to elk.

When I turned, I found more behind me, on the other side of the road, peering at my strange whistling. What an odd creature I must have been to them! 

Eventually I tried to sneak out my thermos of tea and my cup, but they would have none of my fiddling around, silly human, and the one who had been watching me most closely led the way, off to quieter dreaming-ground.

I can only say that the grace of their gazes upon me felt ancient, and holy. It went right into my bones. It went right into my womb. It felt like medicine: the gaze of the sacred elk (or deer, reindeer, moose, camel)—sustenance, wild god, source of life—when it rests gently upon you, stirs up some kind of ancient sacramental bond. We do not need to hunt elk or deer here now, for our survival. But maybe we still need, for the survival of our wild souls, to shimmy close to them, to eye each other, to remember one another's faces. To exchange a song.

Just up the road, I climbed a hill near an old watertank by the historic structures of Pierce Point Ranch (now home to barn swallows). I had my tea, I looked out at Tomales Bay (a big blue ribbon-scar marking the San Andreas Fault), I lay in the sun and I wondered at the dreams of Point Reyes, this land moving and moving along the North American plate, never truly at rest.

Everything felt dreamy, bursting, like these little lupine pods, with potential magic; Beltane, day of honoring the growth of plants, the good health of herds, the fertility of land and people & love, day when the veils are thin and wild ones wander in, translucent and horned—this day was a warm wind upon the land, a heady hot silence and stillness across hills normally blustering with ocean winds or fog. Together, we dreamed a little while.

May the irises, the cow parsnips and wild radishes of your dreams grow beautifully toward the sun and flower with all of their essential richness. May your wild elk soul wander truly, finding just the right grasses and sweet tubers, the perfect places to lay, to chew the cud, to dream whatever the land dreams beneath its hooves. 

Here's a poem, which I read this morning out on the back steps, to honor all the little nest-builders flying about us as the spring grows. It seems to suit the day....

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

- e.e. cummings