Nonsense and Foolery

Fool and flower

Fool and bear

My husband, Howard, a theatre director and performer, is about to embark on a year-long Journey into the Heart of the Fool -- via the Nomadic Academy of Fooling (NOA), led by the extraordinary Jonathan Kay. In order to achieve this, we've set up a fund-raising page to help cover the NOA tuition cost, and I hope, dear readers, that some of you might consider contributing. Even the smallest donation will help to get this creative, kind, and lovely man on the road to making magic.

The GoFundMe page is here.

In the video below, filmed in my studio, Howard and I discuss fooling, clowning, Commedia, and a particularly fateful trip to Arizona. A certain hound makes a cameo appearance at the end...and also contributes enthusiastic water-slurping noises in the middle, bless her.

Foolery

In the spirit of nonsense and foolery, here is some further reading on the subject of tricksters, transgressors, and clowns:

A Chorus of Clowns in Masked Comic Theater by the always-brilliant Midori Snyder

Shaking Up the World: Trickster Tales by me (with a recommended reading list)

Merry Robin: The Native British Trickster by mythic scholar John Matthews

Transgression: a conversation on the subject of tricksters & transgressors

Dare to be Foolish: because all artists need to be fools sometimes

Also, if you're feeling very brave, here's a video clip of the Grey Gnomes, some deucedly odd little characters found infesting Howard's studio a few years ago. Don't worry, we've had the fumigators in since then and they haven't dared to come back....

Ophaboom

Me and the Fool I married

And of course, any help you can give us in passing on news of the fundraiser would be very, very appreciated by our whole foolish family.

Fool in training

The colour photographs above (except for the last one) are from Howard's work with the Daughters of Elvin medieval music & dance troupe, directed by Katy Marchant. performing in Devon and Northern Ireland. The black and white pictures are of Howard and his Commedia company, Ophaboom Theatre, performing on the streets of Denmark.


Stories in the woods

Nattadon Woods

My husband is often on the road with theatre work, and our daughter is grown and living in the city, so the hound and I are frequently on our own for days or weeks at a time now. I have always loved silence and solitude, so marriage to a peripatetic thespian suits me fine -- gifting me with quiet swathes of time to sink down deep into my work...or to disappear into the woods...punctuated by sweet reunions when our tiny house
overflows with family life.

Writing, says novelist Paul Auster, is "an odd way to spend your life -- sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist, except in your head. Why on earth would Fox by Inga Mooreanyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice."

But for some of us, sitting alone in a room (or in the woods) is one of the pleasures of the writing life. It's not something I endure in order to write, it's something I crave, and the writing rises from it. That's not to say I'm not sociable at other times, but creativity for me (as opposed to the collaborative nature of my husband's theatre work) is a process born from solitude, nested in silence.

"It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words," says poet Naomi Shihab Nye. "Even if you don't have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in."

Nattadon Woods 2

Wild Words series

What about you? Are you a solitary artist? A collaborative one? Where do you instinctively go to find the stories you live inside of...?

Nattadon Woods 3

Wild Words series

Words: The quotes above are from "I Want to Tell You a Story" by Paul Auster (The Guardian, November, 2006) and I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You Okay? by Naomi Shihab Nye (HarperCollins, 2007). The poem excerpt in the picture captions is from "Valentine for Ernest Mann" by Naomi Shihab Nye, published in Red Suitcase (Perfection, 1994). All rights reserved by the authors. Pictures: Nattadon Woods in early autumn. The fox is by Inga Moore.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

The lane to Chagford

American and Canadian roots music today, both old and new....

Above: "Better for You" by Kalyna Rake, in a video filmed by Myles O'Reilly in West Cork, Ireland (during the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival) earlier this month.

Below: "The Art of Forgetting" by Kyle Carey, from her album of the same name (2018).

Above: "Glory Bound" and "Wildflowers" by The Wailin' Jennys (Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta, and Heather Masse), performed for the Attic Sessions (2018).

Below: "Trouble and Woe" by Ruth Moody, performed for Live from the Great Hall (2013).

Above: "St. Elizabeth" by Kaia Kater, from her album Nine Pin (2016).

Below: "Cuckoo" by Rising Appalachia (sisters Leah and Chloe Smith), from their new album Leylines (2019).

Devon gate

(If you'd like one more today, I recommend "Colorado" by the Brother Brothers with Sarah Jarosz, which cannot be embedded here.)


The stories that take root

Tilly and the Oak Elder

From "Testimony Against Gertrude Stein," an essay by Jeanette Winterson:

"We mostly understand ourselves through an endless series of stories told to ourselves by ourselves and others. The so-called facts of our individual words  are highly colored and arbitrary, facts that fit whatever fiction we have chosen to believe in. It is necessary to have a story, an alibi that gets us through the day, but what happens when the story becomes scripture? When we can no longer recognize anything outside our own reality?

Oak Elder 2

"We have to be careful not to live in a state of constant self-censorship, where whatever conflicts with our world view is dismissed or diluted until it ceases to be a bother. Struggling against the limitations we place on our minds is our own imaginative capacity, a recognition of an inner life often at odds with the internal figurings we spend so much energy supporting.

"When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves."

Oak Elder 3

Oak children

The passage just quoted nails, for me, precisely why we need art in our lives and not just the familiar, repetitive stories of mass entertainment, enjoyable as they may be. Entertainment amuses, distracts, and consoles us, and that has its use and it has its value, but it's not the same use or value as art. Art enlarges us. Transforms us. Heals what is broken inside us. Deepens our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Oak child by T. Windling

"Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off and educated, " Winterson once said in an interview. "I know that from my own story, and from the evidence of every child ever born -- they all want to hear and to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to paint pictures, to make sculptures. This is born in and we breed it out. And then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, and at the same time we either fetishize art -- the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility -- or we ignore it. The truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, and that is a heritage and a birthright of all of our lives."

A smile full of leaves and sun

Words: The first quote above is from "Testimony Against Gertrude Stein," published in Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson (Knopf, 1996). The second is from "Upfront: Talking with Jeanette Winterson" (The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Dec. 19, 2008). All rights reserved by the author.

Pictures: Tilly and the Oak Elder, acorns in early autumn, and an Oak Child from one of my sketchbooks.