Finding Sanctuary


Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, Ireland

In these times, when the energy in our world is frenetic (and I mean that in a most ancient sense) we long for sanctuary of body and mind. One way to soothe this yearning is through pilgrimage…a walk on holy ground. For some, this happens when we visit an ancient site, walk the sacred path of a holy being, or wander a wild landscape. Still others may journey in mind through reading or meditation, or bathe in the natural energy of the elements.

Where and how do you restore your equilibrium? 

What follows is a post written by Michael Maxwell Steer that brought me some peace this morning. Thanks to Philip Carr-Gomm for sharing these words.

via Holystone Well, Northumbria National Park | Philip Carr-Gomm


PS: Frenetic

“When life gets frenetic, things can seem absolutely insane – at least that seems to be what folks in the Middle Ages thought. Frenetik, in Middle English, meant “insane.” When the word no longer denoted stark raving madness, it conjured up fanatical zealots. Today its seriousness has been downgraded to something more akin to hectic. But if you trace frenetic back through Anglo-French and Latin, you’ll find that it comes from Greek phrenitis, a term describing an inflammation of the brain. Phrēn, the Greek word for “mind,” is a root you will recognize in schizophrenic. As for frenzied and frantic, they’re not only synonyms of frenetic but relatives as well. Frantic comes from frenetik, and frenzied traces back to phrenitis.” Merriam-Webster

Friday: Words from Faerie

Another poem from my beloved, Yeats.

In 1897, WB Yeats began his literary liaison with Lady Gregory at Coole Park (south of Galway, in Ireland).


The Ruined Gates of Coole Park (Lady Gregory’s Estate)

I’ve wandered there myself, and hope these words were penned there, near the rushes beside the grassy sea.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I WENT out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

WB Yeats, 1899

Friday: Words from Faerie


Canadian author, Charles de Lint is, perhaps, my favourite urban fantasy writer–at least, he’s the first one that hooked me. And, of all his books, Widdershins is the one I return to time and again. He’s a poet and musician; both talents seep through his work. Interweaving the fantastical world of humans and faeries (both European and Indigenous) with Celtic traditional music, de Lint’s pure voice catches my heart.




Here are three favourite quotes from Widdershins:

Music needs to live and breathe; it’s only pure when it’s performed live with nothing hidden–neither its virtuosity nor the inevitable mistakes that come when you try to push it into some new, as yet unexplored place. It’s improvisational jazz. It’s the jam, the session. The best music is played on street corners and pubs, in kitchens and on porches, in the backrooms of concert halls and in the corner of a field, behind the stage, at a music festival. It’s played for the joy and the sadness and the connection it makes between listeners and players.

The fates of men and fairies weren’t inexorably etched in stone. If there were weavers, making a pattern on their looms of how lives were lived, they could only nudge and hint, not force fate to unfold on some strict schedule. And a seer’s vision saw only probabilities, not truth. The only truth was now. The past was clouded by memory; the future, in the end forever a mystery. Even to a seer.

As I was straightening up, my gaze became level with that of one of the small twig and leaf fairies that were regulars at the mall revels. She was lying on the roof of the car, pixie-featured and grinning, head propped on her elbows, her vine-like hair pulled back into a thick Rasta ponytail. She wasn’t really made of twigs and leaves and vines–or at least I didn’t think so–but her skin was the mottled colour of a forest, all greens and browns. (Hazel)


Rachel Carson: prophet and lover

Have you ever met someone you knew was a kindred spirit? Someone, for whom you felt an immediate kinship, mutual love, and joyous understanding?

rachelcarson1I want to share this beautiful post by Maria Popova which includes many quotes from Rachel Carson’s letters to Dorothy Freeman.

Rachel’s heart–intense with love, not just for our Mother Earth, but for her friend–was too soon broken.

We owe this pioneering woman our respect, our gratitude, and our loyalty. If you’ve never read Silent Spring (1962), you should.

Rachel Carson was a prophet, as well as a naturalist and marine biologist.

These letters reveal the woman.

via Rachel Carson’s Touching Farewell to Her Dearest Friend and Beloved – Brain Pickings


President Obama: Why Read?

When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.

via Transcript: President Obama on What Books Mean to Him – The New York Times

Thanks Kristen Twardowski for sharing this amazing interview. It really does provide insight into the man and the current state of our world.


There is Danger in the Binding

The Theme of Binding

Twice this week, I’ve noticed a similar theme in fantasy stories. It is the theme of binding. Out of fear, a mother binds her daughter. Out of fear, she tells her that what she is experiencing isn’t real. Out of fear, she buries the joy of magic and imagination, and crushes her spirit.


In The Moral Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare creates a parallel world of demons and Shadowhunters.  Clary Frey is a powerful Shadowhunter—Nephilim who were created when angels mated with humans. But, she doesn’t know this until her fifteenth birthday, when she begins drawing symbols, and seeing people mundanes cannot see. To protect her, Clary’s mother bound her as a child. Took her to the warlock, Magnus Bane, to have her memories removed time and time again. There is something sinister lurking in this stunting act of love.

Deborah Harkness explores a similar theme in A Discovery of Witches. Her protagonist, Diana Bishop discovers that as a child, she had incredible powers. She could control the elemental forces of fire, water, and air. She could fly. She could manipulate time. To protect her from herself, her mother, who was also a powerful witch, performs “spellbinding”so Diana is no longer aware of her abilities. Once she forgets her powers, Diana becomes locked inside herself until her mother’s prophecy unravels and the “shadowman” appears.

Charming Prince or Shadowman?

In the archetypes of Faerie, the charming prince must rescue and free the spellbound princess so they can live happily ever after. This happens to both of these young women, who only discover their true nature when they meet their beloved. Clary begins to see the Shadowhunter world when she meets Jace. Though secrets have been kept from Jace as well, he has grown up in this reality. He’s been trained, and understands how to wield his power. He introduces Clary to the world of her birthright, and she discovers her true self.

Diana Bishop is enacting a prophecy when she falls in love with Matthew Clairmont, a fifteen-hundred-year old vampire. Clairmont, her “shadowman” keeps a firm grip on Diana when her powers start seeping through the “spellbinding”. By the end of the book, he’s decided that she needs a mentor to teach her how to use her powers. But there are dangers lurking in this binding and unbinding. Clairmont is controlling and abusive. He is not the charming prince we want for our daughters.

By binding, we send our vulnerable girls into a dangerous world without their inherent power, where they become easy prey for the shadowman.

Why must we continue to bind children?  Is this a phenomenon of fear passed down through generations? Is it cultural? For it is not just mothers who bind daughters, but fathers and brothers, and the religious and secular community. And we bind our sons as well.I remember as a child feeling that I could fly. I used to dream of flying…of running along a grassy clifftop, pushing out with my arms, and grasping the air as I lifted off. I loved my flying dreams and I wonder when and how they became suppressed. I also had an “invisible” friend, and so was never alone. I was at home in the forest and believed in faeries and angels. But, somehow in the crack between childhood and puberty, I became bound: disillusioned, restrained, and retrained. Like Clary, I fought against those restraints and searched for Shadowhunters to help me break free. Sometimes, I found the shadowman instead. And therein lies the danger.


Is the fantasy genre so popular with girls because they feel the bite of their bindings?The emptiness of memories removed? Are girls searching for a way out; or perhaps, trying to remember a way back in? In their unbinding, will they be fortunate enough to find a “Jace” or will they become prey for the “shadowman”? 

And what would happen if we didn’t bind them at all; if we nurtured and developed their passion, their bliss, and their power? 

There is no containment. The knowing never vanishes. That is what the stories tell us. There is only this pushing against the forces that bind us; this overwhelming desire to be free, to be our true selves, to feel our power, and to remember what we knew when we came into this world.

Friday: Words From Faerie Fluster

fairy-flusterThis book was one of my favourites when I was a little girl. I never forgot it. My mother used to read it to me before I could read it myself. Published in London, in 1956, it is a hardcover rife with sketches on newsprint-like paper, but has this wonderful colour image of Fairy Fluster upsetting a bus full of people with one of her mixed-up spells. I was able to find a copy on

I find that the things that inspired us in childhood rarely change as we grow older; sometimes we just forget what they are. And sometimes, we “put away childish things” when really, we should keep them close to our heart. They are the essence of our bliss.

There was once a fairy whose name was Fluster. She was a very kind-hearted little fairy, but she could never remember how to do her spells. Just as some of us can’t do sums or read long words, so Fluster couldn’t learn her spells properly. Whenever she forgot a spell, she would get in a dreadful fluster trying to remember it. And that was how she came to be called Fairy Fluster.

All the other fairies in Fairyland were very fond of Fluster. She was such a kind little fairy, and always ready to help anyone or to do them a good turn. But, to tell the truth, the other fairies always hoped that Fluster wouldn’t try to do them good turns, because she often turned her friends into hedgehogs or tadpoles, when she really only meant to give them a new pair of magic slippers because their old ones were worn out.



Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan

Some excellent techniques to transform description into art (borrowed from Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan and posted by K.D. Dowdall)

Karen Dowdall

Word PaintingHere are 11 secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description that Rebecca finds to be very important in writing descriptively.

  1. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”

When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or 

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Ireland, I Come

I am planning a research trip to Ireland, and this beautiful land is haunting me. Last week, I spent hours creating a photo book of Irish trips gone by. Then came hours of perusing maps, choice places to stay, tidy villages, sacred sites, and flights for the Ireland to come. At last, I booked my ticket!


I am spending my first seven nights at Trinity College in downtown Dublin. This university was created in the Priority of All Hallows in 1592. The original brick buildings still stand in the front square. And, despite political upheavals (such as Cromwell) and a tempestuous religious and political history, the 16th Century college continues to flourish. Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, and Oscar Wilde all are graduates.


James Joyce is not. He completed his BA at University College Dublin, focussing on modern languages. He spoke seventeen. After graduation, he fled to Paris, and eventually settled in Italy, with his Galway bride, Nora Barnacle. Dubliners was published in 1914. Herein, Joyce tells tales of the city in which he was born and raised, yet could not manage to live. Were he as immortal as his words, February 2nd would be Joyce’s 135th birthday.

The poem below weeps with a “terrible beauty” as Yeats would say.  It is an old Irish verse translated by Lady Gregory, one of the key players in the Irish Literary Revival at the turn of the century:

 It was late last night the dog was speaking of you
The snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh
You promised me and you said a lie to me.
You promised me a thing that is not possible
That you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish
That you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird
And a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland
You have taken the east from me
You have taken the west from me
You have taken what is before me and what is behind me
You have taken the moon from me
You have taken the sun from me
And my fear is great that you have taken god from me

Recited in The Dead, a John Huston film (1987) based on a short story by James Joyce (Dubliners 1914), the characters who hear this poem sit mystified, enthralled by its haunting beauty, yet unable to understand. They are “The Dead”: citizens of a turbulent Ireland turned in on itself.

Faintly falling spectral beings like those who followed Lucifer from heaven, yet never found their way to hell; Joyce’s Dubliners, like the Fey, are caught in the nether-rocks; drinking, dancing, eating nether-food, stealing and sporting, but Dead.

Joyce was no Romantic. He did his Dubliners no favours. Without spirit, without direction, they wander the streets from pub to pub. It is my favourite work by Joyce; simple, clear, eloquent, and…understandable.

The Dead. Some days are like this for me. Pavement and plastic. A grey haze of technology and garish supermarkets, fantastic politicians, fierce traffic, tragedy and turmoil.

Others are not.

Others are moments of perfection, when I feel passion

In the preening heron, the sandpainting by the sea,

In the green oak leaf, and the flicker of the honeyed candle flame.

Or the phrase on the page that stirs my soul.

And I know that, I am very much not one of “The Dead”.

Eire 06 Clew Bay Sand Paintings

Clew Bay Sandpainting 2006

Friday: Words from Faerie


The Hills Above Glen-Car 2005

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.