Morning Forest

I keep looking for a way to describe this forest in the early morning — clearly, concisely, poetically — because the forest is like a poem, rich and enchanting. But it constantly changes, and it’s very difficult to wrap words around something that is continually rebirthing. While I’m writing a word, the forest keeps evolving, needing other words instead.

The light is, of course, everchanging. There are no city lights here to make a continual glow — even the street lights are so distant I can’t see them. The birds know when morning is coming long before I do. They sing their chorus of many lightsome songs to greet it. This forest is part of a long migratory route with birds and butterflies and goddess only knows who else passing through at times of their own choices. The dawn confabulation changes with them. Three days ago there was a mountain blue jay outside my window — black crest above a brilliant blue feathers, brighter blue than the sky or ocean. I hadn’t seen him before nor have I since.

Marzipan, the tiny ginger cat, sits on the window ledge, wide-eyed every dawning. We watch together as trees begin to appear out of the dark shadows, but it will be a long time before the sun sends long, searching fingers in to light up the sides of a few trees while the rest remain shadowed. The sun may not get through for hours. It may not come through at all if the day stays cloudy.

Although I can’t see it happening, there is as much growing and stirring underneath the ground as there is above it. If I go outside and quietly stand barefoot, the life below is quite apparent. And there are liminal voices, like the voices in the trees and bushes, that are whispering just at the far edge of hearing. Even human feet can know they are standing on the threshold of… something. Fascinating things are always going on below, beside, and above us.

One day when life was seeming especially difficult, I asked the trees for help in staying calm and perhaps even balanced. It was a quiet day, and it seemed that they might be willing to share that stillness and silence. Standing there I became aware, that I was resting on a net of energy — roots, fungus, mycelium and things I couldn’t name — were creating a supportive, solid web and accepting me as part of the forest. The same net was woven between the trees and bushes, even the tiny mushrooms and flowers. It extended up to the tops of the trees, where it covered all of us. Protected. Safe. Sheltered. It was a most breathtakingly wondrous sensation to be held in the arms of Mother Nature.

I can connect with that same feeling anytime, any place, if I just remember to keep being who I am — a part of the forest.

I thought I was finished writing this, as much as I could be, but Marzipan just got excited, ran to the window, and started chirping in her own little purry voice. I looked out past her, and the mountain blue jay is back. We are both curious — what is it doing here besides eating suet? We’re down close to the ocean, though we can’t quite see the water. We’re certainly not in the mountains. O, I’d forgotten but I’m being reminded — so many feet of altitude equals so many miles northward in climate — I forget the ratio. Perhaps it is reasonable then to find mountain blue jays here in the Northwest at a low altitude. I grew up in the South where they are only high in the mountains.

Well, that’s one mystery solved. Millions of them remain.

© Copyright 2017 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved

That Does It!

God/dess was quietly sipping Hir chamomile tea and thinking S/He would like to dream another new world, a better world. S/He liked to challenge Hirself to make each world better than the one before. That was what S/He did to comfort Hirself when things got difficult. It had been another rough week. It was, of course, the Earthlings still at it.

It seemed such a shame. They made so many sweet babies (too many really), but things just kept getting worse there. You had to give them credit — wrecking the climate worldwide while simultaneously making global war based purely on bigotry and greed had taken a lot of ingenuity. But you had to deduct all those points and more because they had actually done exactly that.

God/dess knew that poor Earthmother was doing the best she could, but everyone was realizing that something had gone seriously amiss there. Giving them total freedom to develop had seemed like a good idea — after all, it had worked well in so many other worlds. Didn’t they realize that they needed to fix things for themselves? That freedom included responsibility for themselves?

Just then the computer alarm went off — again. Prayers were flooding in at an unprecedented rate. S/He shifted Hir focus of awareness and found the office and courtyard outside full of doves, with an occasional cuckoo scattered among them. S/He held out a finger to the closest bird and it hopped on. Fluttering, it gasped out, “Florida, nightclub, 50 plus shot dead, more inj—” and fainted dead away.

“I’m on it,” S/He whispered grimly. Thousands, possibly millions of birds immediately disappeared, their message delivered. There were still thousands more. Possibly millions. Each one carried a message of unnecessary death and sorrow. S/He took a message from one of the cuckoos. “Please, we need a complete reset. This is just getting worse.” God/dess almost smiled. Trust a pagan to say “please”. They did like to keep up the old traditions — when they remembered them.

S/He wiped a tear from Hir eye.

That was it. No more.

The keyboard clicked >Earth>Humans>…. Hmmm. S/He thought about it for a full millisecond in all dimensions simultaneously, flipping through the possibilities far faster than light could move. DNA? No… it was so flawed — complexity upon complexity. Healers? Too few. Purge guns from the world? That might help temporarily, but not enough. There were so many parts of this, but it boiled down to a fundamental double-sided flaw in so very many humans — believing that they mattered more than other people and thinking that it was their right to do whatever they wanted to others. No empathy; no compassion, no true feeling for the community of all earth.

A few more keys clicked. The big green key went down and stayed there. Throughout the multiverse, the Powers converged on Earth. Within three milliseconds, they had checked all life forms and deleted those lacking empathy or compassion. God/dess was pleased to note that the population problem was immediately eliminated. But there needed to be healing as well. This would require finesse…

As dawn rolled around the planet, people woke and were astonished to find the world so still, rather like that silence that falls with the snow. Only this stillness had a crystalline quality as if everything were waiting to burst into song. And there was a subliminal sound of something — of comfort, of joy, of loving — a subdued and mellow rumble and roar.

Nearly everywhere there were people missing. The U.S. Congress, the various Houses of Parliament all over the world, and many other governing bodies and bureaucracies were decimated. Some were empty but for the tea ladies and floor sweepers. Rulers — kings, dictators, generalissimos — had all vanished. Armed forces were left almost without officers and some of their men had vanished — and those who were left were happily using the bombers to dump explosives into volcanoes and cheering at the fireworks.

Some pulpits were empty. God/dess hesitated a moment here. Grinning, S/He set up a subroutine that would instantly stamp the word LIAR in flashing florescent letters on the forehead of anyone misusing Hir Word out of insanity or for personal power. S/He thought of a certain comb-over and Hir grin grew wider.

The presses of the big newspapers were nearly silent. Among the smaller news distributors, some were buzzing busily and in others the computers and presses had melted into a stinking, smoking heap of slag. In many businesses, some offices were empty, especially the bigger and more luxurious ones on the higher floors. Wall Street and other stock exchanges were less populated than the moon. Banks… well, we don’t want to even think about the bigger banks. No, not at all. It was that way everywhere — the people who cared about others survived, even the ones who needed a lot of improvement and had foolishly followed false “leaders”.

But…

In the place of each and every missing person, there was a small ginger and cream cat. Fluffy. With big eyes and very endearing ways. And the tiny cats purred. Everywhere. Their purr was bigger than they were — that was the rumble heard around the world. And the purr made all hearts beat together — that was the soft roar in everyone’s ears.

infant Marzipan

God/dess watched. And purred. If this didn’t work, they weren’t worth saving.

People just stood around, blissfully smiling at the sky, at the trees, at each other. Smiling. It would be hours before they realized that they wanted breakfast. And they wanted breakfast together.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Faery Gifts, Faery Rings

Once upon a time I made a Journey to the Isle of Iona in Scotland. In fact I made a lot of trips there because Iona is one of my heart’s homes. But this journey was special, though short, partly because it was a particularly Interesting Time in my life and partly because it seemed improbable that I’d ever get to go back to Iona again. So, it seemed that I needed something I could carry with me for a memento, though I’m in no danger of forgetting the sacred isle.

While there I looked at all the pebbles on the beaches (well, nearly all). None felt right. The summer flowers were considered and some seeds falling from the tiny purple ones on the nunnery wall were gathered to plant at home, but that wasn’t it either. After looking in all the gift shops at everything, the right choice seemed to be a ring — a silver Celtic ring with endless knotwork on it. Good symbolism. It was a typical touristy bit of jewelry, nothing special, inexpensive, but it breathed “Iona…” And it fit. I was so pleased to have found it! Goal achieved!

I wore the ring as I left the island. Ferry to Mull, bus to Craignure, ferry to Oban… and then rebellion set in. No more public transport for now! I wanted to savor the back country roads on the way back to town. So, I walked up the hill and out on the back road from Oban, a light pack with just a change of clothes on my back, some fruit and water, and a heavy heart. I’d driven it before but I wanted to walk it this time. There were plenty of back roads to get me to Balloch at the foot of Loch Lomand and then back to Glasgow by bus through all the industrial and crowded area. I’d decided to accept rides if offered and to hitchhike when it got late in the long summer day, but to walk as much as possible while still getting back on time.

Walking felt good. Resting when needed and munching apples bought in Oban, I made my way along single track roads peacefully and happily. This part of Scotland has an abundance of ancient stones and monuments — cairns, standing stones, many and varied stone circles. My route took me past a small circle that I’d never seen before. These stones were smallish and low in the grass, the circle not more than nine feet or so across, and not very visible from the road unless one happened to be walking slowly and looking at everything. It seemed to be radiating a strong call to come closer, to linger in the circle for a while. I don’t turn down enticements like that. Over the knee-high drystone wall I went, and stopped just outside the circle, waiting until certain that I was truly welcome into the center.

At last, sitting in the circle’s center I began to feel a subtle pressure to do something. There was, without words, a request — not for something for the Powers of the circle, but to do something that would be helpful to me. I sat and listened meditatively. Reluctantly, but bit by bit, I got it that it would be appropriate and healing for me to put all my past, especially including my time on Iona, into my ring — and bury it in the center of the circle, a small place of power in the network of light that runs from circles to megaliths, to cairns, to standing stones, to whatever else has been rooted in Earthmother with healing intentions.

I. Did. Not. Want. To. Do. This. No way!

Just leaving without gifting anything to the circle seemed quite impossible. Nothing else I had seemed really acceptable. There were disgraceful tears and pleadings. Now I am older and far more experienced, but then, in my forties, I hadn’t fully learned that the only sacrifice that matters is oneself, from the heart. It wasn’t about the ring; it was about me — the ring was only a holder of energy — and I didn’t know that. Finally, I let myself be aware of how much love there was in this asking. It felt unbounded. This was all intended to help me, to strengthen me.

I needed for the ring to be there, just there and nowhere else. Not on my finger but in the earth. I can’t say that I believed this or that it made any sense, but it felt right so I dug a small hole at the center of hard-packed earth of the circle. It wasn’t very deep, but there was nothing around to use to help in digging. It was only a couple of inches down. With a trickle of tears, the ring went into the earth from which it had once come, was covered over, and the earth tamped well down above it so the digging left no mark. Left to my own devices I’d probably have piled a cairn of large stones over it, but that was gently refused. Someone smiled at the idea, but I wasn’t in an appreciative nor grateful mood.

Back on the road, I turned back once to say a small and wordless prayer for what I’d done to be right. It felt like the light had gone out of the day, though the sun still shone. I’d had enough. It was easy to walk to the nearest main road and hitch a lift to Balloch. There I had a fish and chips supper while looking out over Loch Lomand. Walking toward the nearest bus stop to catch the bus to Glasgow, the sun was in my eyes. I almost ignored the glitter of something in the gutter, but the second or third time it sparkled, I became curious and stepped into the street to fish it out of the mud. Wiping off the mud, I stood there transfixed. Silver gleamed and there in my grubby hand was a muddy silver ring — out of the earth and cobblestones of the road.

The muddy ring was the right size and slid easily onto my finger, but the design was different from the Iona ring. Instead of the typical Celtic pattern of endless knots, this ring had stars and moons raised from a dark bed, like a night sky. I had a vague thought of turning it in at the local police station, but though it had gone on so easily it wouldn’t come off my finger. This woke me up out of my shocked daze enough to realize that this ring was for me. With stars and moons in the night sky — something that connects all the sacred spaces of the world, wherever we may be. (Now, of course, I’m seeing that as a symbol of non-local consciousness as well as of faery, but then I only saw the faery sky.)

Some years after receiving the ring but many years ago now, I sat in a barrow in England a few miles from Bath. Sitting there, wearing my faery ring, I made an inner journey to see what was wanted of me at that time. Instead of being asked for things, I was shown gifts. One of them came to me then, but others were in reserve for later. One of the “later on” gifts was a small ginger cat, who was described as “the firecat”. The sword I was given then was placed in my spine, the hilt across the hips. Invisible. Mysterious. Strengthening. The cat stayed asleep in a small curl in a niche in the barrow wall.

Then, years later I learned about Richard’s ring. I was telling the story of my ring on Facebook and Richard, a real life friend as well as a Facebook friend, said, “You won’t believe this… Oh, I guess you will. I think I have a ring just like that.” He took a photo and posted it on Facebook. And, yes, it’s like mine. Of course, I asked him how he got it. I’d never seen another one anywhere. Now I wonder how many people have them and how they happened to get them?

It seems that he was in college at the time, having a difficult time figuring out where he was going in life and why. Especially in question was his spiritual path. One day he was lying on his back on the grass in the sunshine. He felt something under his back, poking at him. When he looked to see what it was, it was the silver ring, deep in the grass. It, too, was a gift from EarthMother, and of course, it fit him perfectly. The same stars and moons on the night sky. Earthmother and the fae. This was the message he needed about his spiritual path.

The word “pagan” comes from a Greek word meaning “arising from the Earth” — but you knew that, didn’t you?

At that time, I’d just recently found my ring among some old jewelry that had been packed away for several years — this was why I was writing about it and thinking about what it meant to me now. Richard hadn’t been wearing his either at that point. We both wondered, really, what were we thinking? We wanted to have them on all of the time. I’ve been wearing mine since.

Today, sitting here writing, my miniature ginger cat, Marzipan, is on my knee. She watches me type, her eyes wise and wide and deep — like moons. Marzipan was born to be a star. Everyone who meets her knows that she is a natural star, a tiny, fiery cat of creativity and wisdom and mischief. Right now, she is sitting on my knee, but sometimes when I’m typing, she puts one paw on my hand. It’s probably not a co-incidence that she usually puts it right on my faery ring of moons and stars, is it?

I'm back…

It has been a while since I posted here. Several blogs have been partly written, but none were finished due to a sudden outbreak of stress and chaos and distress in my life. (There may be more about that later, but then again, there may not.)

As some of you know, I joined the July NaNoWriMo frenzy. (NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month in which you write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel. It has gone international.) Unfortunately, I didn’t frenz — too many distractions, too many things to do. I’d set my goal (you can do that in July but not in November) at 30,000 words — 1000 a day. Even I can do that, I thought. What’s more it would be easy to keep track of, which 1667 words a day last November wasn’t. I was wrong.

It was easy to keep track of, mostly because I hardly wrote anything. Six hundred and ninety-five words the first day and nothing for a week after. And more nothing the week after that. I’d planned to do the whole second draft of Marzipan’s True Adventures but was still stuck on how to sneak in the back-story without becoming turgidly tedious. I thought I might do it with a prologue, but it kept trying to turn into an entire prequel. Arrrgh.

Okay, I thought, I’ll just write the wretched prequel instead, a whole book in itself, and then I’ll do the second draft of the real story. Noooo. The prequel folk simply ran wild, busily doing things and becoming real characters but without a trace of a plot. Entertaining for Marzipan and me, but not probably not publishable. But even with spurts of prequel, the word count remained down in the few-and-far-between, barely visible with a microscope.

I’d so many great excuses, ranging from welcome guests to minor surgery to the now-usual chaos at home to wiltingly hot weather. I began to despair. In fact, I was on the verge of withdrawing from the whole NaNoWriMo thing and digging a deep, cool hole in my forest (like a modern fogou but without the stone walls). But that was too much work in hot weather. So.

All this finally led to a decision to simply give up on NaNoWriMo this time as an act of kindness to myself and to everyone listening to me moan about it, but I drew one of the oracle cards (from my (unfinished, unpublished) oracle in Second Life — actually Marzipan drew it for me) (now that I think about it, I’m a little suspicious of her motives). Anyway, the card very firmly advised me not to give up. So I’m going to change my goal to not-a-word-count-at-all, but to getting a fairly good version of a short prologue. I may be able to do that.

I dunno. Writing short and scintillating and like a sybil is tough stuff! I’ve come near to writing an entire prequel while trying to write the dratted prologue. One intended, concise, sparkling paragraph kept turning into pages and pages of unnecessary detail. Writing short is easier in poetry where you expect to sweat blood over every word. What if I wrote it in blank verse then? KISS — Keeping It Simple, Sweetie. Then taking the line breaks out would… No, it didn’t. It just kept getting longer. And writing a book in blank verse is just not what I wanted to do.

At last, one night several days ago at bedtime, looking for a book to read myself to sleep, I came across Mike Resnick’s Santiago on my bookshelves. Its orange cover glowed temptingly at me. Without wondering why a color I normally dislike looked so alluring, I headed for bed with it and a cup of hot cocoa.

Resnick is an excellent writer. I always liked his writing, but as I’ve learned more about technique, now I can see more about why much of his work that I read before seemed so good (in spite of his female characters usually being either non-entities or bitches). The surprise was that three pages into it I was out of bed again and pacing the floor, muttering to myself. Resnick had done it in his prologue; he had accomplished what I was finding so impossible in my own prologue — a back story/stage setting in brief and with sizzle.

I read it over and over trying to see how he’d done it. Now I’m trying to do something equally as compelling — which perhaps is not so easy when you’re writing about faery kittens and other faery gentry as it might be when writing about bounty hunters and legendary giants on the galactic frontier. Or maybe it is, and I just haven’t gotten it yet.

I’m still working on the beginning of the beginning, but I have hope and a few short paragraphs of a start. It sings to me. It sounds, I hope, like the myth it is supposed to become. My Megan Granddaughter said, “Wow!”

But, you know, even with all this I’m completely delighted to be co-writing a book (or a series) with Marzipan. If you haven’t already you might want to check out her Facebook page though she actually has more followers than this blog does — and gets a lot more comments. She is also much more cute and fluffy than I, but she is a cat and that is only to be expected. I was going to put a photo of her here, but there are lots of both the virtual and the earthly photos of her on Facebook and her own web pages. Happy Tuesday!