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May 2014

True beauty

Muntjac fawn

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"Life to too short not to create, not to love, and not to lend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters." - Eric Maisel


Terri Windling, Devon

This quote from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book The Gift has been running through my mind today:

"An essential portion of any artist's labor is not creation so much as invocation. Part of the work cannot be made, it must be received; and we cannot have this gift except, perhaps, by supplication, by courting, by creating within ourselves that 'begging bowl' to which the gift is drawn."

In stressful times, like the one I'm in right now, it's important to remember this. To stand quiet and still, soft as well as strong, receptive as well as active, open minded, open hearted. To "walk in beauty," as the Navajo say, breathe deep...then carry on.

The ongoing Life Stuff I've been dealing with lately is demanding my full attention again, and so posting will be sporadic for the next week or so. Thank you for your patience. The fairy-tale-like picture above, which I call "The Begging Bowl," was taken by my husband, Howard.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

We're heading to the sea for our music today....

Above: "Ready for the Storm" by Dougie MacLean (from Perthshire, Scotland), performed with Bluegrass singer Kathy Mattea (from Nashville, Tennessee). They're backed up by Jerry Douglas on dobro, Russ Barenberg on mandolin, and Danny Thompson on bass, with Molly Mason providing background vocals. The song comes from MacLean's early solo album Craigie Dhu. The video was filmed in Scotland.

Below: "The Storm," written by Seth Lakeman, who performs it with his band at the atmospheric Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Lakeman grew up here on Dartmoor, and his music is inspired by the legends and history of the West Country. This song (from his 2004 album, Kitty Jay) is based on a true story about a captain and his crew who sailed out of Plymouth Sound while a storm was brewing.

Next: Irish singer/songwriter Susan McKeown sings "Albatross" from her 1995 album, Bones. McKcKeown was born and raised in Dublin, and now lives in New York City.

And last: "Highland Drifting" by Ben Howard and his band, filmed up in the Highlands of Scotland. Howard has one album, Every Kingdom, and several EPs, the most recent of which is Burgh Island. He grew up across the moor in Totnes, Devon, and his music is truly enchanting.

Tilly on the south Devon coastTilly dancing in the waves on the south Devon coast, near Burgh Island.

The Dog's Tale

Coffee spotThe Dog's Tales: a series of posts in which Tilly has her say....

What's this coming through the woods, disturbing the quiet of our Morning Coffee spot?

The Very Big dog

Guarding the path

It appears to be a Very Large dog. She isn't barking......but the question is, should I?


My Person makes the hand gesture that means: Just wait, Tilly. Be calm, be still.


Shy creature

The big dog passes quietly. I examine her prints. What breed has paws like this?

Inspecting the prints

When the creature is gone, my Person settles down with her coffee thermos, notebook, and pen. "Good girl," she tells me as she offers me a treat. Good girl, I tell her I as I take it from her hand. 

I munch on a tasty carrot stick, pleased. My Person's training is going very well.

Standing Guard

Taking the quieter path

Woodland gate

From May Sarton's Journal of Solitude:

"It is only when we can believe we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it -- and I do and always have -- then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it. I have become convinced since that horrible review* (unimportant in itself) that it is a message, however deviously presented, to tell me I have been overconcerned with the materialistic aspects of bringing out this novel, the dangerous hope that it become a best seller, or that, for once, I might get a leg up from the critics, the establishment, and not have once more to see the work itself stand alone and make its way, heart by heart, as it is discovered by a few people with all the excitement of a person who finds a wildflower in the woods that he has discovered on his own.

"From my isolation to the isolation of someone somewhere who will find my work there exists a true communion. I have not lacked it these last years and it is a blessing. It is free of 'ambition' and it 'makes the world go away,' as the popular song says. That is what I can hope for and I must hope for nothing more and nothing less.

Bluebells and wild orchids

"Thinking of writers I cherish -- Traherne, George Herbert, Simone Weil, and the novelists Turgenev, Trollope, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, all of them modest, private, 'self-actualizers' -- I see that they are all outside the main stream of what is expected now. The moderate human voice, what might be called 'the human milieu' -- this is supremely unfashionable and appears even to be irrelevant. But there have always been and will always be people who can breathe only there and who are starved for nourishment.


"I am one of those readers and I am also one who can occasionally provide this food. That is all that really matters to me this morning."

Woodland window* The "horrible review" was of Sarton's novel Kinds of Love in the Sunday New York Times