Being a feminist killjoy

About a month ago I heard Lola Olufemi, women’s officer for Cambridge student’s union, being interviewed on BBC radio 4, about her anger at being singled out by a right-wing newspaper from an active group of students working to broaden the literature curriculum , and misrepresented as trying to get rid of ‘white authors’.  She identified herself a feminist killjoy and referred to Sara Ahmed’s arguments for this.  Her proud use of this label prompted me  to revisit Ahmed’s work on happiness as a social norm, especially as the media interview

BOURgeois NY Times

Louise Bourgeois

did not give any space for her to explain this work.  Going back to Ahmed’s arguments about the unequal, conditional ‘promise’ of happiness made me realise how relevant they are right now, when the injustices of workplace sexual harassment and violence are at last being brought into public view. 

Ahmed’s argument about happiness as a kind of social norm is philosophically precise, and that makes it a challenge to summarise here.  You can find some references at the end of this post for you to read in full.  She asks us to look at which social groups get to define what happiness is – what kind of lives and objects are pushed as desirable, to be wished for.  What do we do when what is supposed to make us happy is not what we are experiencing?

renoir

Renoir’s the boating party from theartstory.org

Ahmed argues that happiness gets attached to what she calls ‘happy objects’.  These can be things we do as well as things we have.  These objects are pointers towards an end point of happiness.  They point  to the path that will lead to happiness if you follow it.  Think of the wedding day, or the exciting new job or role, of balancing career and children in your perfect home.  Such paths have become social goods; they are what we all should desire.  If you experience unhappiness while following them, if there is a gap between what you actually feel and what you think you should feel – then voicing that unhappiness is seen as a threat; as spoiling the happiness of others.  You become the source of tension, the breaker of solidarity, the troublemaker.  And you feel like a stranger.  We can see the reality of this in the experiences of those who are at last coming forward in significant numbers to talk about being treated primarily as sexual objects by those who have power over them in the workplace, what ever their gender.  The happiness of these men with a little bit, or a lot of power, is finally being challenged.

This kind of trouble making is the inevitable role of the feminist says Ahmed.  If you protest against sexual harassment or even assault, or against unequal pay, or work practices that don’t take a man’s responsibilities as a parent into account, then the defense is that you are the problem.  Don’t rock the boat!

Your complaint is turned back on you.  mona-lisaDon’t complain about that powerful man if you want to be successful in your job – find your own ways to deal with it and smile!  This was the message received by many of those who did voice their unhappiness, their hurt and anger, at the way they were being treated.

Ahmed says that instead of the promise of happiness being laid down for us in advance, we can think about the idea of happiness as a sense of possibility,  a sense of opening up new ways of being, rather than following paths that restrict the possibilities of so many of us.

The more of us that do this, the more change we can make, and we can see this now, in the strength of the numbers of people coming forward now, to make public the unhappiness, distress and anger that has been a hidden part of our workplaces.

LIPS Choir

 

Sara Ahmed

article – ‘Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness’, Signs, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Spring 2010), pp. 571-594

book – ‘The Promise of Happiness’ Duke University Press

blog – feministkilljoys.com

 

 

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Noticing 2: walking with other species

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the dogs listen to the forest

In  my last post I was thinking about our observation of the world about us, and the other beings in it.  Here I want to consider how this noticing is shaped by the bodies we inhabit.

In the photo above, taken in a Scottish winter, the dogs are ahead of me on the forest path.  They are listening intently, their ears held erect and swivelling to hone in on interesting sounds in the thick of the trees.  While I am noticing the way the winter sun lights up the snowy path, and thickens the darkness of the surrounding forest, they are noticing the presence of other creatures within its dense growth.  As usual on our walks together, they are engaging with this place differently from me, using senses that are common to all us mammals, but differently attuned  Watching them respond to the world makes me aware of my own human-ness.

Wittgenstein said: ‘if a lion could talk, we could not understand him.’  Other species that dwell on this planet have their own cultures, interests and ways of communicating.  But he also said: ‘If I see someone writhing in pain with evident cause I do not think: all the same, his feelings are hidden from me.’    This is an example of a context in which we can understand the feelings of others, through their actions.  For this philosopher the context drives the communication. Regarding other species, we know the causes of many of our dogs actions because they are part of our daily lives. We share a long history together.

hare_hound getty.edu

medieval illumination http://www.getty.edu

As countless books demonstrate, we know a lot about this particular species, and they know a lot about us humans.  Alexandra Horowitz’s ‘Inside of a Dog’, for example, explores how dogs perceive their worlds and our relationships with them.  From childhood, we build up our consciousness of self and other through our interactions.  These interactions are not only with other humans, but also with other species and the plants and places we spend time with.

I am in a wood with the dogs and I have stepped to the side of the path and crouched down to look closely at some pale fungi sprouting from a fallen log.  The lurcher runs back to look for me.  I watch silently as she runs right past me, even though I am in plain sight.  I notice that she is looking upwards to a height which I realise is roughly where my eyes are when standing.  This unusual direction of her gaze makes visible my upright, two-legged position; how I carry my main sense and communication organs perched on the top of my body.   In contrast dogs mainly keep theirs close to the earth that their four limbs are firmly planted on.

garden and Shell Island August 2016 004

Their noticing is led by their noses, jampacked with sensory cells.  What makes a walk an aesthetic experience for me is most often what I see – the sunlight dancing on the water, the blue mountains melting into the far horizon.  The sharp tang of seaweed and salt water, or the coconut perfume of the gorse flowers may add to my pleasure.  For the dogs though, beauty is to be found in a heady mix of fragrances.  Potentially edible ones are exciting, maybe leading to a sun-cured rabbit carcass or the remains of a picnic.  Places frequented by other dogs are also of great interest to them, and they study the messages splashed onto gate posts and rocks with the same absorption as my contemplation of a graceful tree, or bank of bluebells.

As we walked along the river one day I glanced up the wooded slope to the right of the path.  Half way up, amongst the young saplings, my eyes slowly focussed on a motionless deer, almost blending into the dappled shade.  I then made out two more nearby, as immobile as statues.  The dogs were just in front of me, noses to the ground, unaware.  They discovered the scent trail of the deer some minutes later, by which time the deer had disappeared. 

Similarly, in another wood an old fox and I stared at each other for what seemed like a goodly amount of time, plenty enough for me to admire his red pelt and bushy tail.  I don’t know what he was thinking about me.  This silent interaction was abruptly terminated by the dogs rushing back down the path, ears and tails up, their noses now full of his particularly pungent perfume.  The fox made a quick exit through the undergrowth.  Dogs need movement to trigger their visual attention, whether they are looking for their human friend, or for the opportunity for the kind of chase that lies deep within their bones.

We humans also have in our minds imagination and language, through which we can enter into other consciousness, to amplify our perception of this world We use these for creative purposes as I said in the last post.  We are also slowly discovering that other species too have complex communication systems and creativity.  Sharing our time with other species can remind us that we are embodied beings too.

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our musical selves

georges-braque-www-guggenheim-org

Georges Braque ‘Guitar, Glass and Fruit Dish on Sideboard from http://www.guggenheim.org

I have been thinking for some time of writing about music as part of our set of ‘selves’, long before Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature!  Since music is an everyday part of most people’s lives, and universal to all cultures in our diverse human world, it should have its own space on this blog.

Music is certainly the basis for more than one of my everyday identities.  For over ten years I’ve been a member of a variety of local choirs, formal and informal. (I am currently part of a small ‘chamber’ choir).  With these different groups I have sung a wide range of music from traditional African songs to large, choral works by Berlioz, Handel, Karl Jenkins, and Brahms.

193222batala-croppedA year ago I also joined a samba/reggae drum band and entered into a new world of rhythms and movement.  According to Ian Cross, a musicologist, the Igbo word, nqwa, which we translate as ‘music’, encompasses singing, playing instruments and dancing.  The sum of these is what ‘music’ means to these people in Nigeria.  Singing is a tiny part of the music we make in the band, but choreographed movement is as important as the drumming, unlike the choir, where embodied action is much more static, and concerned with the lungs, throat and mouth rather than the whole body.  Being part of this band, and performing outside of buildings, in our public spaces, feels like this wider kind of music making, which is not surprising as our rhythms originate from the mixed cultural spaces of North Brazil.

After lengthy periods of ‘apprenticeship’, I can now say I belong to both of these groups.  They draw on quite separate parts of the local community, and my ‘drumming’ self feels distant from my ‘choir’ self – two groups of people making different kinds of music that draw on distinct cultural traditions and networks.

LIPS Choir

Lips Choir, London, (not one of the choirs I have been a member of), photo taken by Michael Eden, on Timeout blog 2014

There is little spatial or social overlap between the two, yet, I move comfortably between them, unifying them within my particular body and mind, and adding them to my other ‘selves’ that I have chosen, or inherited.

For most of my life though, I didn’t actively make music – I was not able to think of myself as having anything ‘musical’ to contribute.  Possibly, I was too busy taking risks in other ways.  But music has always been a part of my everyday life, intertwined with all my experiences, through listening, and through dancing.  Certain concerts I’ve been to are like memory markers in my mind – such as those by Leonard Cohen and Salif Keita in Barcelona, and Ella Fitzgerald in Manchester – mental places I can go back to, and catch the ghosts of fleeting happiness.

Music, however you define it, is, of course, so important in our lives because of its intimacy with our emotions.  It expresses them, and produces them in the listeners, in complex ways. Ludwig Wittegenstein, who could be said to be an epitome of ‘the intellectual’, spending his life wrestling with theory, was also passionate about music (although he limited this passion to a handful of German composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms).  His involvement in this music was as just as intense as his engagement with trying to change the way we see things, such as the language we use.  He became a ‘virtuoso’ whistler, and could whistle whole movements of symphonies.  Listening to, and performing music in this way helped him through his periods of black despair and depression.

Apparently, some evolutionary theorists argue that music is just a ‘by-product’ of other human survival competencies, because it does not ‘produce’ anything essential to survival. They say its disappearance from our worlds would change nothing.  For me, this kind of reasoning results from a detachment from the theorists’ own bodies and emotions, and from the everyday world that surrounds them.  It ignores the ways music can rescue us from emotional darkness, as it did with Wittgenstein,  as well as the ways it is threaded through our celebrations on being alive, of longing and belonging.

vermeer-the-concert

Jan Vermeer ‘The music lesson’ from commons.wikimedia.org

Reading

‘Music, Cognition, Culture, and Evolution’.  Ian Cross, Annals New York Academy of Sciences, 2006, 930.

‘The Imaginary African: Music, identity and Race’.  Nicholas Cook, Samuel Colerigde-Taylor Newsletter, 2015, 38.

‘Ludwig Wittgenstein: the duty of genius.’  Ray Monk, 1990, Vintage.

Green Man: past and present

This is the Green Man that oversees my garden, courtesy of a local artist.

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I knew he had to be there as soon as I laid eyes on him, but I didn’t know much about his origins, apart from a vague association with pre-Christian beliefs.

UprootedSo I was happy to read Nina Lyon’s recently published book ‘UpRooted’.  This is a book about what little is known about this enigmatic figure, and its current revival.  It’s also about being English and Welsh in these first decades of this century and at times Lyon’s wry descriptions of some of our contemporary rites and rituals (and her own attempts to construct these) made me laugh out loud.  She weaves into these discussions of past and present philosophies about the relationships between Nature and spirituality.

This book is about place, as well as people and their ideas, especially the woods and valleys of the border lands between England and Wales, where the Green Man once had a significant presence.

She takes us to places where images of the Green Man were incorporated into the early medieval buildings of the newer Christian religion, in order, perhaps, to curtail the power of these earlier deities.

Her main focus is on the old kingdom of Archenfield, once a centre for Celtic beliefs, located in what we now call Herefordshire.  She takes us to Garway church, where there is a carving of a horned Green Man.  The church was built by the Knights Templar in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries on the site of an earlier wooden one, .

Garway_Church_-_Green_Man

By Kxjan – Photographed from ancient stone carving., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37015203

This early Green Man is on an arch dated to around 1200 and why he is there is not known, but the warring activities of the Templars connect this rural building and place with countries and beliefs far away to the East.  Lyon gives us a detailed description of this image in her book but I wanted to see him for myself, at least digitally for now.   That is the main reason I am writing this post – not to attempt to summarise Lyon’s book (I’d rather you read it for yourself), but to look at these Green men she discusses and reflect on some of what she says about them.

She also takes us to the nearby Kilpeck church, built by local masons in the twelfth century.  These masons are thought to have been overseen by someone who trained, or worked in South West France, so we can see how two small, institutional buildings were part of global networks and set me thinking of William Golding’s richly imaginative account of this earlier time of building in ‘The Spire’.  Like globalising movements today, Kilpeck shows us the local in the global with its rich carvings from pre-Christian life and worship.  There are at least two Green Men, among a wonderful array of Celtic images.  Here is the one you see on the doorway, before going in:

Kilpeck_Green_Man

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=434197

These two powerful images in Garway and Kilpeck are given a more abstracted, distancing human form, in strikingmy garden 2010 comparison to the contemporary Green Man who guards the fertility of my small garden, and oversees my desire to encourage wildness within it, with as light a management as my neighbours will tolerate.

However, the Green Man that was originally on the roof of Dore Abbey, built in the same century as those above, is more recognisably human and approachable :

This is what Nina Lyons says about this Green Man:

He had the demeanour of a laughing Buddha, or an anthropomorphised Sun. This was the Green Man of pub signs and summer-worship.

He is a Green Man made by the Cistercians, formed from within their beliefs of working with the land, and with animals, his smile and colour symbolising the beneficence of Nature, with blue skies and rich harvests.  He reminds me of the version of the old Roman god, Bacchus, who officiated over the drinking of wine and free for all sex, the powers of fertility and creation.  The two Green Men of Garway and Kilpeck, in contrast, index the havoc-wreaking power of Nature we have no control over – the roaring winds, the floods and droughts, the tree roots cracking through concrete and the joyous mass of plants that take back places we have abandoned.

I would like to know what the people who made these images called them, what the people who went into these buildings during that time thought and said about them in their Welsh or medieval English tongues.  They certainly wouldn’t have called them ‘the Green Man’.  As Lyon said, this is a very recent name, invented by Julia Hamilton, writing about folklore in 1939.  Lyon argues that much of the writing about figures such as the Green Man, like Hamilton’s, and those of the Late Victorian, have created new myths, based on speculation, because all we have is a diverse set of images like the ones I have included here, and a rag-bag of remnants of old tales and rites.

Still, as Lyon says, the Green Man himself, representing our relationship with the very force or soul of Nature, has always been with us, ‘It had been there all along, hidden at the edges, doing its own thing, like a wild man of the woods.

These days he is coming out of the edges and into our garden centres and our festivals in new forms, as this photo from the Pilton Green Man day shows.   I think the Green Man, in his multiple guises, is as important for us today as he was to our ancestors, local and global.

Here is a friend’s Green Man,  who watches over her garden – a very ‘foliate’ man, but also less alien than the early medieval representations. green man Mary

 

Green Man 2013 by Mary

‘Words are things’: Mary Kelly’s Multi-Story house

 

IMG_20150226_133142 mary kelly

Mary Kelly: Multi-Story House

Last month I went to the refurbished Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.  I enjoyed the space and light that has been opened up in the development of this old red brick building, and the way it now blurs the boundaries between the park and gardens outside and the wide, white spaces inside.  I was especially struck by the way they have put together specific portraits from their permanent collection – where studies from the eighteenth century are hung next to contemporary paintings, sketches by unknown artists alongside the powerful works of Freud and Bacon.  Here is the link to this exhibition on their website: Whitworth Gallery: Portraits

The majority of the works are drawings and paintings that hang on walls, but they have also included less conventional ‘portraits’ such as the mix of feminist voices in the stories that are central to Mary Kelly’s ‘Multi-Story House’ (2007).  This small, warmly lit ‘glass house’ (the size of a garden shed) is what I want to focus on here.

In contrast with the images of all types of people on the surrounding walls, this bright object creates its portraits through words.  Instead of responding to a representation of a specific body, reading these ‘stories’ summons up a hubbub of different voices.  The words are all carved into acrylic panels in the same cursive style, all are in (or translated into) English, and all address the theme of feminism.  But the words in each extract conjure up a myriad of mouths, because each speaker draws on a differing choice of words and set of contexts.

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The narratives are taken from conversations with women of different generations about being a feminist, and to read them you have to move around all the sides of the house, look up at the sloping roof, go inside to read those that present their back to you from the outside.  So it is a physical experience as well as a mental and emotional one, and one I felt I could ‘control’ by choosing which stories to read, by walking away to think about them, and returning later.  However, the artist directs your experience of  the relations between past and present by presenting all the younger women’s narratives on the outside, and the older generation of women (the same generation as the artist herself) on the inside.

Kelly said of this arrangement of time ‘you can’t be in both places‘ in a conversation with Paula McCloskey at the Whitworth in 2011.  She also said that through this ‘dialogue’ between generations of women she is addressing the question of ‘what (-) you feel that you’re obliged to carry on in terms of the legacy.

Questions are fundamental to her work as an artist, she stated in this interview: ‘I recognised that if an artist has a brief, it’s to ask the question – so that’s where I began in my work. It’s not about the answers,’

I like that approach – it makes sense to me – and perhaps helps me work through why I find some art works so stimulating, so thought-provoking.  They fill my mind with questions, they make me look again, physically or mentally.

Words are things

This is the title to a catalogue of an exhibition of her work in Warsaw in 2008.  I don’t know if Kelly chose this title or not, but it caught my eye as it is so central to her work, especially in Multi-Story House, where we are in the collective presence of other feminists through their words.  Words that you can see through, into the interior of the house, carved material symbols that take us on a journey into ourselves and into other selves.

In her conversation with McCloskey, Mary Kelly talked about the re-staging of a street theatre event, originally enacted in 1971, and she referred to the pleasure she remembered of being in the company of women acting together as feminists, a pleasure that re-occurred between the women involved in the re-staging in this century – the pleasure of a ‘collective presence‘.  This kind of pleasure describes well how I felt as I read the stories, and walked round and peered into her Multi-Story House.  I identified with the dialogue on the panels, and a felt a sense of belonging with these speakers from around the world, all actively embracing and re-affirming an identity that means so much to me too.

56_MaryKelly_Mea Culpa_Detail_Johannesburg_2

Mary Kelly: Mea Culpa 1997 from marykellyartist.com

Reference

Paula McCloskey, in conversation with Mary Kelly, Studies in the Maternal, 4(1), 2012, http://www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk

Missing my creative self

P: but then I did hit a point where I had to carry on, carry on with something

K: it was like a real need?

P: yes, definitely, absolutely and having dreams about drawings.  It became a really strong thing.  It’s like a different part of yourself sort of shouting out for some attention.

from Wikiart.com

Paul Klee, ‘Evening shows’, Wikiart.com

The  extract above comes from an interview I did with an artist when researching into creativity and the words we use to talk about it.  Here P is referring to when she became a mother of twins and had no time for her art for a few years (see the page on my book ‘Sourcing the Self’ for more about this research).

I have been thinking about P’s words as I have currently been having to give most of main daily energy to work that gives me a basic income.  At certain times of the year these commitments don’t leave me enough space in the day to continue with my own creative work – in my case, writing. In these periods  I don’t dream about writing, as P did about drawing.  In fact, I’m more likely to dream about my work when I am engaged in daily writing, as I find myself living in the world I am creating through words.

Joyce Kozloff 'voyages 21 Pohnpei' 2004 at wikiart.com

Joyce Kozloff ‘voyages 21 Pohnpei’ 2004 at wikiart.com

I don’t experience such a clear inner voice as P either.  For me it’s more of an indistinct ‘malaise’,  more as if something – not quite tangible – is missing.  Life feels incomplete. During periods where I am working creatively every day I feel much more in balance, and I’m more likely to have an underlying feeling of contentment or something like ‘rightness’, even though I will often be struggling with the writing, and frequently frustrated with my lack of ability to find the right words or to keep going at a steady pace (instead of staring out of the window).

When I don’t have enough time in a week to work creatively then I often question the ‘meaningfulness’ of my life and have many doubts about the value of it, even though I don’t have any illusions that any creative writing of mine will be seen to be of any value to anyone else.  But at least I’m giving it a go, and, more importantly, I get absorbed in it and my experience of time changes dramatically.

Do you have similar experiences, I wonder?

J.Audubon 'Birds of America'

J.Audubon ‘Birds of America’

In praise of trees

Eaves wood, Lancs.

Eaves Wood, Lancashire

‘The Chinese count wood as the fifth element, and Jung considered trees as an archetype. Nothing can compete with these larger-than–life organisms for signalling the changes in the natural world. (…) Trees have a capacity to rise to the heavens and to connect us to the sky, to endure, to renew, to bear fruit, and to burn and warm us through the winter.’
Roger Deakin, ‘Wildwood’.

I can’t imagine living without trees.  As a child I used to climb them, and feel safe among the green leaves, hidden from view and supported by their strong limbs.  As an adult I walk in local woods and make trips to visit venerable and ancient trees.

Martindale yew, Cumbria

Martindale yew, Cumbria

This is one huge branch of the ancient yew tree at Martindale, in the Lake District, reaching out to support itself.    The stone chapel you can see in the photo was built in the twelfth century to accompany it and together they have co-existed in this small Cumbrian valley down the centuries.

This yew could be up to 2000 years old, like at least one of the three remaining standing of Wordsworth’s ‘Fraternal Four’ in Borrowdale, which I also had the privilege to visit.  I was lucky enough to be alone with them for a few hours one Christmas day, probably because it was pouring with rain.  The muscled, reddish-brown trunks glistened with raindrops as the wind blew curtains of rain through the valley.  Hard it was to take in the length of time they had spent in this place, shaped it.  Beneath the wind and rain, in the shelter of these huge yews, there was a hush, a serenity, that these old beings emanated.  I felt that Wordsworth might step out of the mist and into this grove, notebook in hand, as he did a mere one and a half centuries earlier.

Nan Shepherd (The Living Mountain) said of the fir trees of the Cairngorms:

‘the fragrance is the sap, is the very life itself. When the aromatic savour of the pine goes searching into the deepest recesses of my lungs, I know it is life that is entering.’

On that wild winter day in Borrowdale I felt that I was touching, and breathing in, not life, but the essence of time itself.

autumn woods

autumn woods

Walking through woods is a sensual experience, whatever the season.

Kicking up piles of crisp, golden leaves, hopping over knotted roots, listening to the woodpecker’s energetic drilling, breathing in the heady scent of bluebells or wild garlic, Middlewood walk May 2015 002tiptoeing past the tree hollow with its nest of shy owlets, sitting on a fallen log listening to the intense summer hum of insects, 2007_0922septemberB070034glimpsing a fox with a glorious brush tail pause as it sees you and the dogs then silently slip away,  resting in the cool green shade on a hot day, rejoicing in the shapely, frosted outlines of bare trees shimmering in the low winter sun.

Here is Nan Shepherd again, on the magic of birch woods:

‘Exquisite when the opening leaves just fleck them with points of green flame, or the thinning leaves turn them to a golden lace, (birch trees) are loveliest of all when naked. In a low sun, the spun silk floss of their twigs seems to be created out of light. Without transfiguration, they are seen to be purple – when the sap is rising, a purple so glowing that I have caught sight of a birchwood on a hillside and for one incredulous moment thought the heather was in bloom.’  (The Living Mountain).

Woods in the daytime and at dusk, woods in winter, spring, summer and autumn – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Under the Greenwood Tree, Wind in the Willows, Teddybears’ picnic….. but what about woods when darkness falls, when Hansel and Gretel are lost, the owls call and mysterious shapes loom in the shadows?

fir wood in Dumfries and Galloway

fir wood in Dumfries and Galloway

When the light goes, and the trees become an undifferentitiated dark mass then all the sounds in a wood become more noticeable, and the imagination gears up.  Where our eyes could see the crows on the low branches, now we only hear the rustle of bush and leaf.  Where we could see the path stretching out empty, now who knows what may be ahead or behind us?  Our imagination – or at least, my imagination – has been fed by all those old fairy tales I read as a child.  Tales that go way back into the past when stories were told, not written, and we all lived surrounded by large dark forests, where you really could get lost, meet strangers, face danger.

2014-04-22 15 05 23As Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes when discussing the tale of the handless maiden, these forests were often the very places where the protagonists had to face their fears and discover their individual psyche or self (Women who run with the wolves):

This large wild forest that the maiden finds is the archetypal sacred initiatory ground.  It is like Leuce, the wild forest the ancient Greeks said grew in the underworld, filled with the sacred and ancestral trees and full of beasts, both wild and human.

It is also in the middle of forests that you need to go to seek out the Baba Yaga, the wild woman who knows about both life and death, learn the powers of intuition, as part of your journey towards maturation.

Spending time in the much smaller woods we have around us today, working to protect them, getting a little lost in the process of getting to know them in all their seasons, is one way to get to know yourself, as well as the trees that create the enchantment of these special places.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes urges us to go out into the woods;

If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.’  (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

crab apples

crab apples