Shaping stories, and being shaped by them in turn

The secret handshake

Stream 1

“Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing. Every great record or novel or comic book convenes the first meeting of a fan club whose membership stands forever at one but which maintains chapters in every city -- in every cranium -- in the world. Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude. The novelist, the cartoonist, the songwriter, knows the gesture is doomed from the beginning but makes it anyway, flashes his or her bit of mirror, not on the chance that the signal will be seen or understood but as if such a chance existed.” ― Michael Chabon

Stream 2

“A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.” ― Jorge Luis Borges

Stream 3

“I think every work of art is an act of faith, or we wouldn't bother to do it. It is a message in a bottle, a shout in the dark. It's saying, 'I'm here and I believe that you are somewhere and that you will answer if necessary across time, not necessarily in my lifetime.' ” - Jeanette Winterson

Stream 4

"Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more human world." - André Maurois

Stream 5 Images above: The stream that runs behind my studio, photographed yesterday. Holly, ivy, and moss keep the woodland green throughout the winter months. Last week's snow has vanished completely.


Those photos so strongly remind me of the forest on the back of the farm I grew up on that I had to mention it. Marvelous pictures and quotes. Thanks for sharing them.

Thought provoking quotes and beautiful pictures. It makes me think I should spend more time in the creek behind my pasture. Thanks for sharing.

Terri, I could be more than a little envious! My studio is a battered old kitchen table, and no stream runs behind it, just a railway line that transports stone from the local quarry.
Out front is a large and busy road carrying disgruntled workers to factories, offices and shops, and in the distance I can hear the muted roar of a motorway.

But before you think that this is just some sort of exercise in inverted snobbery, I'd like to say that I'm perfectly happy where I live. The railway embankment that borders my garden is densely populated with native species trees and is rich with bird-life that ranges from sparrow hawks and tawny owls, to goldfinches and long-tailed tits. We even get the occasional buzzard flying through. There are foxes too and there've been reports of munt jac deer (do you spell it that way?)

I could almost believe that when the navvies raised this railway line back in the nineteenth century, they cut through one of the last stands of the 'Wild Wood' in the area, and that the trees that stand on the embankment now are direct descendants of the oaks and ash, linden and beech that stood under ancient skies.

So though I don't have easy access to the beautiful countryside of the West Country, there are other compensations: the industrial city where I live has a splendid history, and even now we're all waiting to hear if the bones found in a council car-park really are those of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King. How wonderful would that be?!


YES and YES and YES again.

I have already written a few words on this anarchic way of sharing stories. A communication that allows teller and listener to build the tale between them. A web of pearls spun body to body, heart to heart.



thank you Terri--for, almost daily, gathering all these thoughts from the makers of stories, the throwers of notes-in-bottles from the realm of doer/dreamers. It is a generous answer to all the calls and mirror-glints that go out from everywhere in the dusk, the dawn, and in my case the thundery, siren-shot morning of lower Manhattan.

Piling on Mia's comment--this page often feels mythic in itself, an ongoing fairytale with tendrils that enwrap each reader in layers of stories within stories: word stories, quote, art, poem, and photo stories, caption stories, and comment stories—all woven together in counterpoint and complement and unfurled like a great tapestry in a banquet hall. Of which I partake from the crystalline-cold-waving-branch-tips-sky on the last day of January in a frozen northern city.

Terri, you are on a roll. You've inspired me, once again, to get out in the dark and take a pic, (almost did, but it was very cold, but I commit to tonight) or go to the studio and write a word or two (That one is easy). Well done, honey. Love to the boys.


a fellow 'chisit/beanbelly... choose your epithet.

So nice to know you are still rich in wildlife. Where abouts on the line do you live?
We could hear the railway line from school at the back of the field.

"for, almost daily ... a generous answer to all the calls and mirror-glints ... from everywhere."

YES, thank you again for the quotes and the loving pats to my back like this one: It is a message in a bottle, a shout in the dark. It's saying, 'I'm here and I believe that you are somewhere and that you will answer if necessary across time, not necessarily in my lifetime.' ” - Jeanette Winterson

Hi Charlotte, Yes I'm a native of the "Lost City of Leicester". Perhaps I should greet you with the local "Eh up me duck!" I actually live in the Western Park area, though I was brought up in the less green area of Woodgate.

Stuart Hill

Dear Terri,

Thank you for this blog - for the effort you put in writing and collecting words, for your intuitive knack of knowing which images will inspire. Thank you for faithfully carrying and sharing light with those who feel like barely a flicker. You help people have the courage to burn a little brighter.

That first image reminds me strongly of a very vivid dream I had several years ago. I followed a riverbed exactly like that to overgrown ruins, where I was drawn inexorably to the carved face of a woman in the stone whose gaze transfixed me. The longer I was caught unable to break that gaze, the faster the stone face seemed to gain flesh and come to life, all the while a growing murmuration of whisperings gained dread urgency.... I woke before the voice formed coherant words and before the stone lady became fully flesh, and I wondered for days afterwards what might have happened next!

Thankyou for reminding me of this.... I have just linked to your post about stories shaping us in a small blog post I've just finished about words and stories...
I don't comment often here but always take a great deal from your thoughtful and inspiring posts, so thankyou!

We are once again upon....this time...

This reminds me of the haunting little bedroom by the rattling trains in the film
"Howard's End." Like living in an Alice In Wonderland episode.

Telling a story is like calling down into a canyon and waiting for the echo.

Same here, Wigston born and bred. although now in Snottingham up the road. Sadly it should not be a lost city, it is one of glorious stories and history that it never makes the most of.

Am hoping the bones are Richard's always thought him a much maligned king.

I totally agree that Leicester never makes the most of its history/culture. If any other city could lay claim to links with Richard III and King Lear (buried under the river Soar according to legend) then they'd have the Royal Shakespeare Company putting on a festival of plays every year.

Oh, goodness, that Winterson quotation just tugged at my soul. When I think of the passage of time and art, my mind always wanders to the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux and beyond... especially the hand print/silhouette of red ochre. It haunts me, that hand of a man or woman, and how I have the same hand, how we are both humans making marks on a surface, separated by thousands and thousands of years.

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