Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Gathering Time

This week, I am penning the words of my thirteen Gray Fox Epistle. Thirteen makes a complete lunar year of thirteen moons. I can hardly articulate the joy and gratitude I feel, that for the past thirteen months, these tales have been so deeply supported, and have found their way into hands all over the world. This work has filled up my heart so fully, as moonlight does, as sunlight, as stars through the fir branches and fox tracks and the morning songs of robins. It has re-wilded my own soul as much as it has the old stories, tale by tale, a little deeper with each word into this land I call home. And so I want to offer my love to the Stories, to the Readers, to all whose hands and hearts have touched this wild work for thirteen beautiful moons. It feels just right to offer up this thanks, and these words here, on the day of the Spring Equinox, when sun and moon are balanced, when day and night are of equal length, and all the land begins to burst into bloom.

With each story and moon, I've learned a little bit more about the cycles of creativity that move within me (and in all of us)—in my hand and heart and head and body and soul. Like the moon, and like the field where the squash and runner beans grow, the place where the St. John's wort and mint and chamomile and thyme reach for sun, each creation has its seasons, its waxings and wanings, its seed to flower to fruit and back down into the roots again, to begin once more.

The very first month of Gray Fox Epistles, March 2013, specially wrapped!
Part of birthing a story is to find out where it ends, and where something new can begin. And so, with this imminent collection of all thirteen Epistles, thirteen new moon seeds sown far and wide throughout the world, this marks the final month of the Gray Fox Epistles. But never fear, dear friends! This ending (of sorts) has a new beginning tucked right there in its paws, in its petals, and down in its roots. I only close this circle of thirteen Epistles in order to make way for a new one to bloom! I only tie off one story-thread, in order to begin to sew another, and straight-away!

(And indeed, the Thirteen Epistles aren't going anywhere-- any and all back issues can always be purchased at Wild Talewort!)

For as a writer and a maker—and as in all of our lives in one way or another—the way I create a story is to follow my feet and my senses along the path, and gather as I go of the light and kinglet-song, the dirt-smells and the sounds of faraway trains, and let the material tell me what to do next.  It is clear to me that the Gray Fox Epistles always intended to be a family of thirteen nested moons, and has no desire to be anything but, and so I must bow to her, grinning, already leaping up in my heart to begin the path-wander, and the gathering, for the next Project.

As to its specifics, this new-born Project held in the paws of the Gray Fox Epistles, it is still a little bit of a secret, both to you and to me! Well, it is not entirely a secret to me; it is more like a very shy creature who lives in the garden and shows me flashes of her auburn fur from time to time, a slender ear, the marks of teeth upon the nasturtiums, the runes of her tracks.

The point is, I need to get to know her a bit before I give her back to any and all of you. I need to drink dew from the same tulips she frequents, and learn of her dreams, and the small stories under her tongue.

In plainer English, on the new moon of March 31st, which marks the 13th Epistle, I will be starting a 2-month Gathering Time before sending out the first installment of a New Project on the summer solstice, June 21st.

This New Project will differ little in external appearance from the Gray Fox Epistles--it will arrive in your postbox with a wax seal and a tale of deep wildness and mythic resonance within. The main difference will be that this New Project will be a continuous piece, either chapters or linked stories that must be read chronologically, that build upon each other. It will be a story to sink deep into over many months. In addition, it will arrive on the eight seasonal festivals (Sabbats) that make up the pagan-Celtic Wheel of the Year (June 21st, August 1st, September 21st, November 1st, December 21st, February 1st, March 21st, May 1st), instead of the new moons, to explore a different sense of time and cyclicality!

Just to give you a little bit more to chew on, this New Project will be based in some way upon a single old myth or folktale. You can think of it like one of the Gray Fox Epistles—a re-wilded fairytale, set in the ecologies of the North-Western lands I know— expanded into something of novel length and breadth, with countless mole tunnels and oak-roots and flowering persimmon tips branching out from it.

As a final hint, this project will explore deeply the concept of Time, and the Seasons, and the way the bushtits gathering cobwebs from under the drainpipes for nests, the alder trees pushing out catkins, the coyotes courting on the dunes, and us human-folk—how together we are part of this skein of the seasons and weathers of the place we live. The phrase "an Almanac of Place" keeps coming into my mind in this regard; this new project will have an Almanac-like quality to it.

But first, before the Writing, comes the Gathering, and that's what the next few months are going to be all about.

Because in order to win the trust, and learn the story, of the wild, auburn-furred creature at the edges of my mind, nibbling the nasturtiums and the vetch there, I must first gather inspiration, like the bushtits gathering cobwebs for their nest. After all, without a nest, there's nowhere for the eggs to be held, and to be nourished and protected, once they are laid!

There are so very many metaphors for this beautiful stage in the creative process. It is, on the one hand, like the making of a nest that will hold the story-to-come. It is also like the building of a compost-pile, to feed the springtime plants. It is like the planting of nitrogen-fixing pea-vines and oats in the fields of last year to nourish the new seeds of this.

For me specifically, this will be a time of Gathering every sort of inspiration into my basket that you can imagine--deep research into my many books of lore and myth and history, ecology, botany, and herbalism, balanced equally by inquiry and exploration ever deeper into the unfolding lives of the plants and animals and weather patterns on the land of my huge tangled garden, and the big wild hills. It will be one part woolgathering (sifting through daydreams and nightdreams and the dreams passing by on wooly clouds), one part historygathering (inside the Books), and two parts wildgathering (What is the natural history of that bewick's wren who keeps visiting the lemon tree? What do the cumulus clouds indicate? What are the bobcats eating out on the land in the waning moon of April?)

I will be making a Wild Almanac of Days.

I will be gathering all of these things into my basket like seedheads, like red buttons, like ocean-smoothed granite.

I will be searching for them under the bark of trees, in the wet places of the forest, inside the gills of mushrooms and under rocks where the newts hide.

I will be gathering like the bees with pollen-baskets at their legs, from every flower I can find that sings in some way to my story-making heart.

And like those bees who bring pollen back to the hive, I will be sharing some of my findings with you, dear readers, right here on The Indigo Vat, my online journal of everyday musings. This will provide utterly crucial structure for me, and a window for any of you who are interested into this time between the Gray Fox Epistles and the New Project she holds in her paws.

Every Friday, beginning April 4th, I will be sharing at least one (if not more!) of the Gathered bits from the week. This might mean the life-history of the western fence lizard; this might mean the forest-ritual roots of the old stories of Robin Hood; this might mean the medicinal proporties and growing habits of the motherwort in my garden. And most definitely, this will include photographs, perhaps a scrap of poem or story-start here and there, and some illustrations too, which I will be doing regularly in my journal (and which I feel a tad shy to share!).

Here are some samples from journals-past, to give you a taste.

Sharing with you each week will give a skeletal structure to this Gathering Time, a set of drawers (rather like my old apothecary's cabinet here)  instead of great big messy basket. By the end of May, I hope that all of these drawers are full of the most nourishing food for thought, food for heart, food for soul, and most importantly, food for the story!

And then, when the summer sun is longest in the sky, you can expect a brand new Story-by-Mail in your postbox, fresh as the first elderberries.

In the meantime, I will be climbing every tree, metaphoric or no, that I can find in search of just the right mosses and lichens for the nest into which this New Project is soon to be laid! What a joy it will be.

And what gratitude and fullness of heart I feel, to get to share this process, and this work, with you. I feel so full of happiness, and thanks, that in this way, walking this Wild Talewort path, I can let the beauty of what I love be what I do (with a big bow to Rumi there!), kissing the ground every day.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

translated by Coleman Barks


  1. Bravo Sylvia! Truly inspiring dear friend. I am so excited to see what waits to be gathered by you...

  2. thank you for taking us on this marvelous journey with you!!

  3. What an exciting new venture! You can count me in for sure! I am also very excited that you are offering the Gray Fox Epistles as back issues that way I'll be able to complete the set :-) Your journal pages are wonderful and what a beautiful picture of yourself in the tree. I wish you happy gathering and bright blessings, dear Sylvia.

  4. Sylvia, thank you so much for Gray Fox Epistles over this past year. I can't tell you what an encouragement and inspiration it's been to me, in so many ways. I do look forward to your new project. Thank you for being brave enough to share your creative process with us. Your journals are beautiful, as is your book collection (George MacDonald and Italo Calvino - I approve!)
    May the blessing of the rain be on us
    the sweet soft rain.
    May it fall upon our spirits
    so that all the little flowers may spring up
    and she'd their sweetness on the air.
    May the blessing of the great rains be upon us
    so that they beat upon our spirits
    and wash them fair and clean
    and leave there many a shining pool
    where the blue of heaven shines,
    and sometimes a star.
    (Community of Aiden and Hilda)

  5. oh no! to the ending of the Epistles--
    but yes to Sacred New Beginnings.
    I'm was so upset to learn that-- I'd been silly enough to let so many go-- but to know they're still available is amazing. Thanks for allowing this!
    And I am so excited about the magic you are brewing now.
    Sending you much blessings!

  6. p.s. Sylvia, your paintings are magnificent!
    'not a painter'-hmmph!

  7. If I was a monthly grey fox epistle subscriber,do I need to do anything to continue with your new venture?

    1. Hi Lisa! Nope, not to worry, I will be in contact with all Gray Fox subscribers come June to get anyone interested signed up for the new project! Thank you so much for your wonderful support. xx

    2. Well, I am interested,so please keep me subscribed if possible.

  8. Silvia,
    You give great hope to a woman that has no words for such beauty that is around me. I live in your world with my own ways of seeing the beauty, but you deepen my senses with your sharing and storytelling. I'm so excited to explore with you and see more and differently than my brain has been seeing. Please invite me to be apart of your new project. I can't wait, much love to you, Molly

  9. Sylvia, Dear Friend, Weaver of Tales, Inspiratrice~These 13 moons with their 13 tales are an absolute creative feat. What a journey you have been on, and what an incredible gift you have given us. The richness and the soulfulness and wildness that these tales infuse in the lives of your readers overfloweth. There is a great medicine in your stories. They offer great nourishment for hungry souls living in modern times. They soothe. They remind. They awaken. They illumine. They feed.They enrich. Thank you, thank you dear Sylvia, for following your wild-wood-heart, for in doing so, we too can begin to hear the beat of our own wild hearts. And thank goodness there is another story brewing deep within you, bubbling up through the landscape of formlessness and into manifestation. This news is a great relief. May this gathering time be one of great delight and soul-filling nourishment. Bless you beautiful woman and thank you for the work you do in the world. What a great gift it is and how lucky we are to receive it. Blessings and birdsong from the Northwest Coast of Vancouver Island.