The Art of
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If I’ve learned anything from my deep, deep relationships with place, I’ve learned this: sometimes you have to stay, and sometimes you have to go. If you have to go, if there’s a new lesson to learn, a new phase of life to enter into, there’s no virtue in insisting on staying. Those of us who are apprenticed to place know this to be true.
Samhain, for me, is many things – but it is above all a Trickster Time. A time when, if there’s a need for it, or even the slightest glimmer of an openness to it, I tend to be shaken out of my complacency and challenged in new directions. And I like that. Stasis has never had much resonance for me. I like the surprising things in life. I need to shift, to flow, to transform, and grow.
It’s deep, this apprenticeship – it’s deep. You walk out into the wild each day, and you start talking. Or singing, or dancing. Waltz with the wild western wind, and what a partner you’ll find. Screech your heart out to a scald crow, and she’ll out-Trickster you anyway. So laugh – above all, always laugh, and wherever possible, at yourself – and sit, then, and just listen. Never mind your stories: listen to the land’s.
Sometimes, I think I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet. As well as living in a place I love, with a family I love (husband, dogs, cat and all), I also deeply love my work. After a few early decades of twists and turns and too much time off the path, now my...
I am thinking about all that. About the skins we still have to shed, the journeys we still have to undertake, the transformations we still have to undergo, in the last third of our lives. Our culture tells us that we’re all washed up, washed out after menopause. Excuse me if I don’t think so. Excuse me if I actually think that we’re potentially at our very best, our ripest, our feistiest, our wisest and our most wonderful.
We think we make them up, the myths, stories and dreams which so richly define the human imagination. But what if they have an existence that’s independent of us? What if they come to us as psychopomps – a beautiful old word of Greek origins which means ‘soul guide’?
‘Rememory’ differs from ‘memory’, which is always presumed (incorrectly) to be in some fundamental sense independent of the rememberer. Rememory is a response to the continued ghostly presence of something which has disappeared or been forgotten, and in this sense is an act of re-membering – of adding flesh and bones to a shadow. It is also an act of restoration – and so of re-storying. Re-storying, in the same way, is revisiting a story, reconstructing it, remembering something we have forgotten we knew. It is not only about keeping the old stories alive, but about letting the old stories grow by transforming them for our times.
Images work on us all in different ways, carry different associations, depending on who we are and how we have lived. Archetypal images, characters and themes aren’t fixed: they’re potentials. How those potentials are manifested in different cultures or individual lives can vary enormously.
The imaginal world, the Otherworld. The mundus imaginalis, or mundus archetypalis. There are so many words and phrases to describe it, that place where the others live. The archetypal energies and beings which, when clothed in the garments of a particular culture, we sometimes call gods and goddesses.
The land carries its own memory, and a rich, earthy, planetary wisdom. The memory and wisdom of the ages. And we’re made up of it. At some very deep level, each one of us participates in that wisdom borne by the land.
The geology of a place profoundly influences the spirit of a place, and the ways in which we respond to it. We understand this, whether or not we vocalise it, from an archetypal perspective.
That sense of a landscape stripping you bare, allowing you no place to hide from whatever reality you’re inhabiting, requiring you to confront whatever it is that needs confronting in your life – that’s what I love about the desert. It takes no prisoners.
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