Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Juniper Way & Some Changes Afoot

A year or so ago, I wrote here about one of my very favorite books, Wise Child, by Monica Furlong. Those ramblings sum up rather well my adoration for the wisdom, the wildness, the strange beauty, of that slim book. Since around that time, a little phrase, "the Juniper Way"  has hung about my heart and mind, my feet and my hands like a guiding light. I can't articulate precisely what walking the Juniper Way means, but it is surely a way, as in the Taoist concept of the term. It is inspired by the wise Juniper, mentor to Wise Child, who is a doran. 

Juniper and Wise Child, from the cover of Wise Child

Juniper explains to Wise Child that a doran is the true word for what she is (not a witch, which can mean many things, and only sometimes what doran means). She tells Wise Child that a doran is one who has found a way into seeing or perceiving, and that the word comes from the old Gaelic root dorus, an entrance, gate or way. When Wise Child asks what is seen or perceived by these dorans, Juniper tells her "the pattern," and I imagine she means the great web of connection between all beings, that hitches the bobcat to the brush rabbit to the oatgrass to the dry soil to the earthworm to the magma heart of the earth, and the other way too, from the bobcat to the fir tree its carcass will one day feed to the oxygen the fir tree makes and the moon far above. And us, too, tangled somewhere in the middle of it all. 

When Wise Child asks what dorans do, Juniper then tells her: Some of us do healing things, like me and my herbs. Some of us sing, or write poetry, or make beautiful things. Some don't do anything at all. They often stay in one place, and they just know [...] how things are" (83). 

Each day, she schools Wise Child subtly in the ways of the doran. They gather herbs together, process them, milk the goat, learn the stars, the old stories of the world, the lives of animals. They engage deeply, joyfully, and with great hard work, with the simple everyday tasks of life, from sweeping to root-scrubbing to wildcrafting. 

Pearly Everlasting along the Muddy Hollow Trail-- a native summer medicine!

I try to bring the wisdom of Juniper into my every day, and so I've decided to share a bit of that Way in a slightly more orderly manner here. If you all enjoy, I shall carry on with it! My plan is to have three to four different themes, under which I will post new thoughts and images two to four times per week (!). They will obviously be little bit shorter than usual! And yes, things are going to be much busier around here than before...

The categories are as follows: 

Catskin, by Arthur Rackham

Patchwork Coat of Muses— in which inspirations, learnings, and small scraps of my own stories are shared. This will generally mean passages from wonderful books, ranging from fiction to ancient, medieval & indigenous history, ecology, natural history, folklore, etc. The personal writings will generally come from my morning exercises, in which I often choose a painting (from all over the place) or symbol (from my Book of Symbols) to spin a small yarn. (Wise Child learning astronomy, geography, poetry, calligraphy...)

Hands & Hearthin which makings of the hand, held within the sphere of hearth and home, are explored, from felting to embroidering, herbalism, spinning, plant-dyeing, rabbit-tending. Tea too. (Wise Child milking the cow, sweeping the floor, learning to weave and dye, tending the herbs in the garden)

Notes from the Wild Folkin which the Songlines of the wild land beyond my back yard are explored, from the tracks of coyotes, brush rabbits and ravens to the fruiting of the manzanita bushes, and the language of wrentit, towhee, robin, & more, and their places in the great web of being. (Wise Child and Juniper wandering the woods and heath, wildcrafting and learning the ways of the animals and plants of the self-willed land beyond the fence.)

Elk Linesin which I share more occasional explorations of my latest Wild Tales by Mail project, this rewilding of the Handless Maiden fairy tale. Insights into the process, excerpts and some illustrations will be posted like small windows into this strange writerly realm. 

And finally, I would like to invite all of you dear and blessed readers to come join the strange blue gathering-place of my new Facebook page for Wild Talewort. This was a very big and difficult decision for me. I have resisted and avoided this for many, many years. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel and flee from the entire internet, for the way it dissociates and deadens, distracts and destroys, as much as it also connects and empowers individuals, artists, activists, in ways never seen before. And yet I must thank it, that I can make my living and my path as a tale-weaver in this world. This is an enormous blessing, a great gift, and sometimes a very difficult way to walk, let me tell you! 

And yes, surely Juniper had no blog, no Facebook, no none of it, but this is the world in which I live, and you live, and I am trying to navigate it the best I can, because it is where we all seem to increasingly gather. I know it is a very complicated and fraught issue, but at the end of the day I say to myself—yes indeed, old girl, you & your love could run off alá Juniper to the woods and meadows happily for the rest of your days, making do, milking goats, growing herbs, tending fires, off the human grid and deep in the wild grid (no easy feat, I should, and also one that I do dream of, and see somewhere down the line, if a bit far off), and maybe one day the world will shift and these Internet webs will be no more, nor many of the structures we so depend on. But for now, I am a writer, and a tale-maker, and it is no fun writing stories for yourself, nor is that quite the point, not in my heart. So there you have it, and here I am, on the Book of Faces, trying very hard not to run away again with my tail between my legs in terror. Do come and say hello!

If you would like to read some truly brilliant and more in-depth thoughts about said Book of Faces (a term I borrowed from Rima Staines), come along and read her excellent post on the subject here. You won't regret it. 

And you can expect the first of these Juniper Way sharings tomorrow! 


  1. How wonderful to be getting more writing and sharing from you!

  2. Wise and beautiful Sylvia,
    Thank you for this treasure of a blog, for sharing your heart and inspired ways. Xo

  3. Thank you for being a Guiding Light as I travel along the way

    1. Thank you so for your kind words, Trace, & for your warm welcome over on Facebook. They mean so much to me! (& I'm right with you on this Way, whatever it may be! Glad of the company) xo

  4. I love the term Book of Faces! |It's nice to have a re-visioning of social media applications.