Dartmoor: a few days’ retreat in a cabin: some images and reflections. October 2020.

Dartmoor. Teign valley.

I dream of eating the jellied milk from the spirit foal’s belly. It is set in the stomach to the form of the digesting vessel. I ask: Do my words set in my mouth? Do they find a form to congeal into? Are they jelly, a frogspawn of phrases, of eggs black and tiny and stuck together, stilling my tongue? Or are they caught in a jelly from a muscular cascade, are they spilling out from my lips, finding the edges of yours?

I wash fruit for my breakfast in the white enamel bucket outside, beneath the stately, sinuous birch.
There’s a firm green pear, and a soft ripe persimmon, so thin-skinned. I add syrupy sesame paste, and dates.

In a new painting I’ve begun, I’m thinking about a mother putting her head into her own pouch – does she find her own nipple inside?

I think about how nipples can be for receiving signals from the sky. And: the nipple in the pouch, the crackling of hot fire. Feeding oneself, like a pelican.

In another painting I’m thinking about – having brought their traces with me – the thunderbolt, ejaculation, or orange stream – going up through the top of her head, falling like rain, or a new leg; showing a new way to the feet of the Man.

It’s heart-opening to listen to a friend, to think this: to open like a flower when I become his hand touched by sacredness. I don’t need to turn away from the phallus, I don’t need to stop clothing myself in the creamy stalk. I can be my own tower, move around in my own world. I can make good it’s form around mine.

The man who brings me salt in my waking dream: A painting or a series of drawings of a man bringing me salt to fill my holes, to keep my wounds open. He’s bringing me earth, the earthing of myself, the ballast, the place for roots and rootedness.


Dartmoor. 27.10.20
I send out a wave to you – from my brow to yours – as I sit with wind, sun, cold air, hearing, a taste of blood, a torn finger, a fern cut; deer, squirrels, bees, flies, a blue tit from this morning, and a bee sleeping between the sheets of paper in my car.

Flies in my hair. Dizziness. Shafts of light. Tracks I follow. Peat, thin soil. Stones, ash, dark fire; wood, axe, I split wood into tiny shards. I dig holes. Have short sleeps. Think of you. Magical pull. Caressing the stone. The sculptures. A man’s chest, his back, the way he moves, decisively. My focus. The sinking sun. The coming dark. Lighting the fire. The blackening hill. Sun scooping out a hollow in the hillside and in me. I wait for you to come, to bring the salt and your briny kisses, your dry air, the smell of you. We watch each other move. We’d like it here together.
A raven calls. Black as boughs. I’m writing for you and for me, just as I paint. A songbird above me. A plane, a propeller, I think of you remarking on it, perhaps. It flew over you too. I’ll never know if you’ve been thinking of me, dreaming of me. You’ll never tell me. It’s why I write for the two of us. But of course I’d like to see the words you write with your night-writing, your dusky pattern, your black insistent stroke.

All the trees reaching upwards are my arms. The sun’s last rays kiss their tips. The sound of a breaking branch, a bird’s call of alarm. A buzz. Endless water, a river. Hiding. You’ll never find me. I’m near you.
Tiny green moss growing, showing tiny pointed tips. The sun is going down. Tomorrow I’ll watch it rise. I’ll hear the birds. I’ll think of you. Tonight I’ll listen for foxes and deer; I’ll ask for dreams.
The air cools. I smell smoke. Are you nearby? I must put this ache to work. I sit by open windows. I feel tired. The sun is sinking, the colours fade, there’s an owl calling. My flesh calls for you. I’m that animal calling. You won’t hear me.

The sunlight is like a net across the path. It’s gauze, a perfume, plant scent in my pages. It’s the sense of you crossing the room to put wood on the fire. You’re crossing the room, you’re near me. You hesitate, you feel my antennae.

There’s a draft under the door. I lay my coat across it. I light candles. They’re a joy.

The windows are dark now. No curtains. My view bisected by a pale wash of fading light and a tree’s bare branches. The owl persists. Candle light reflected in the panes. A room full of shadows and the sound of tiny feet in the fire, the endless subdued river below. Glass, metal and flame gleam. There’s a blanket on my legs. Soon I’ll climb the wooden ladder to my bed, and I’ll listen for a while to the sounds of the night. It’s early and I’ll wait for my words to wake me before the dawn. I know friends are thinking of me and sending me love. I’m comforted by that.

There’s a heavy pink-bodied moth flying into the candle flame, pink and white and the colour of sand, she brushes my hand and burns herself.
She sits in my lap, in the shadows. She keeps me company.

A creature chatters in the corner of the room. I don’t know what she is. I look in the corner with a torch. There are colossal spiders webs heavy with time and golden seeds, matrices.
It’s almost completely dark now, apart from the moon and stars. I’m going to sleep on a mattress suspended. I should get out my paper and my paints; I should draw for the evening.

28th October
Dartmoor

On a table with wax and the crackling fire. Early morning. I slept up a ladder. I felt my body strong, felt all my muscles working to help me climb. Sleeping suspended then, a squirrel, a knot in the trees, my hands tight, I’m still. I hang like a chrysalis, wound in sleep or thoughts of you. High up I see stars and the night sky changing. Calls of animals close by, I’m in their home.
My hands smell of smoke and garlic and ginger. I peel the knob of ginger, see the juice at his heart as I squeeze then cut the flesh. My finger stings as his juice enters my bloodstream. I’ve cut my finger. I drink hot water and ginger and tea. I’m not hungry. I’ve forgotten my bread.
I go out across the yellowing grass among the silver trees shaking their skirts of gold. So many tails hang between me and the sky. A black-bodied deer skips stiffly away on the hill. She takes the night with her. I follow her path, it descends down rocky ribbony trails amongst oaks and pine. The bracken goldens, her russet hair.

Through my writing I stalk my feelings around you. They’re a creature hiding. They’re that toothy beast in the corner at night, chattering. Then she purrs, my body opens, you’re here. The door creaks as you lift the latch. I hear your voice first, I’m so glad its you.
I sit at the table strewn with wax and socks and candles. Through the window I see the yellowing palette.
My buttocks ache from holding my body in place in the night when I didn’t sleep. The wood speaks around me, creaking, groaning, settling, firing off sparks in the stove, crackling in tiny voices.
I listen for the sounds of bees waking up. The warmth from the stove seems to be waking them, one by one. Then they fly heavily, slowly, as if hovering, towards the window, looking immense and dark. I open the window, release them to the day.
I suddenly think of Venice. Of last year, of being there beside the water and the painted boats and the bells. The flat water, the pink street lamps. The open churches with their wide doors, great slabs of tree brought here across water. The greetings, the shouting, the singing, the warmth of people, families. I sit by the vaporetto stop in Murano, drinking hot chocolate. The big church there is closed, the mosaic floors flooded by aqua alta, the high water. I enter in by a side door. All the pews are piled high, chaotically, an umber mountain. Light streams through the windows, but the treasures, the paintings, the altar, are not to be seen. I walk around until I see two tall dark men wearing long black vestments. They tell me I have to leave.

I go for a walk. I’m looking for a way to cast away the garment of longing which I’m wearing about myself. It’s drawn together at the front, it’s a sumptuous robe of velvet, silk and leather. It’s long, it has a high collar which is drawn up. My hair falls over the edges of it. At the front my hair makes a golden web against the light. The robe does not let go of me. It’s many shades of red, pink, carmine, and black. It’s trimmed in white and yellow.
The trees have eyes. They’re mandorlas, or wounds, they open as the tree grows. You have to wait a while before you can see them, and before they see you.
The leaves fall, a shiver of yellow.
The trunk of a tree lying down like a sleeping horse.
Tree throat.
You find your way because you’ve noticed a golden tree amongst a thicket of green. The fire burns and I can’t get in. A raven calls from the sun. He’s come to tell me a story. I lie on the wet grass to listen. The sun is bright. I have to be with myself, and in the moment. The shadows soft blades, your shoulders. I roll a broken stem between my fingers. I’m sitting in the sun, in a crown of trees. I think of you.
There’s vitality in you even you’re still. In fact, especially when you’re still. It’s perching in you, haunches coiled; it’s ready to pounce, always.
I dream of a woman telling me my urine and my faeces are pure, clean, transparent.
I’m still sitting here with the silver birch and her outstretched, burly arm. I’m locked out, the latch has fallen and I can’t open the door. My buttocks are damp from the grass. Another raven calls. The leaves disintegrate into the air. Flies touch my arm for a moment, as if to reassure. The sun shines. I recline onto my right elbow, to dampen another part of my body. A red leaf falls in front of me. Clouds come. The wetness insists against my thighs. A blackbird.
The silver birch and her black mane. A single petal in my notebook. My garden, so soft, far away. There are diamond marks on the body of the birch, they’re tattoos on her legs, her belly and her trunk. They’re like the leaded-light windows of my childhood home, and the prints from swans feet, some celestial bird walking heaven-wards. They’re where the skin splits. They begin as mandorlas and grow wider, larger. They’re diamonds and triangles, drawings of tents on the ground.

To just stand in the sunshine watching the choruses of leaves taking one last flight. To see the up-turned tree ribs shine, full of another light. And the countless oranges, russets, purples; your high cloud.
I want the pain over with; to not keep picking at this same wound, and having you stand near me with your armfuls of salt. I’m hungry. Locked out.
The robe hangs around me.

4.31 pm
Growing dark. The owl has begun. I draw with oil pastels and watercolours. A man and a woman, they’re playing with each other in an erotic way. They’re lovers.
I eat rice cooked slowly on the stove with eggs and rose harissa. Then tahini and a persimmon. The room is full of candles and darkness. It becomes colder, I do not feed the fire. I hear animals outside the cabin. My ears are pricked.
The hillside is a drum, it bounces sounds around: barks, cries, hoots, moans.

29.10.20 Dartmoor
Lay awake before sleep sure of the sounds of buzzing in my left ear. Have the bees set up home in the roof, the wall, or even inside my head? Thoughts fixate on you, then sleep comes and I have a brief respite: apart from a dream in which I’m captured for some reason, have my papers searched, and a politically dangerous/combustible paper is found in my bag: I haven’t even read it; I just picked it up, and I have to try to explain this to the woman who is questioning me. I wonder if it is a reflection of anxiety I might have about my writing?

I woke at 5.03 to early, faint light through the trees and the sound of rain pattering, dripping and pouring. Below the sound of the rushing river coming off the moor. Above, the thin sound of a bird. I think of the mandorlas in the tree, I see faces within them, and the body of the tree is an aroused woman, she is all her many limbs curling in ecstacy. She’s showing her many openings; her head has disappeared. She’s delighting at your touch.

Owl’s been hooting all night long. I picture her whiteness in the trees above.

I am in anguish over the wave of desire which is carrying me, and not subsiding. With a flash of inspiration I turn to my spirit guide for help. Instantly the feeling in my groin is intensified: it glows with a white light, expands, becomes a clear fire, radiating outwards. And a bird began a sweet song. I accept the feeling: it’s mine and it belongs to all.

I climbed down the ladder. I washed my face in the rain falling from the porch of the cabin, cupping my hands beneath the fat drops as they fell from the wooden tiles. I stood there trying to guess where they’d fall from next. The air was delicious: soft, sweet, full of the breath of trees and the rising spirits of spent plants.
I decided not to light the fire this morning, hoping the bees will continue their sleep. I wear a hat to write, and several layers of clothes. I saw a bat fly around the roof, while the light was still dim; I wonder if the chattering I heard was from a bat?
I watched the light come: a blackish-green, grey, yellow – full of rain; washed my hands. I walk across the yellow grass to be out in the air. I think of you, are you walking across yellow grass, watching the leaves fall? 08.36.

19.50
The sounds of buzzing have returned. I’m not sure if its my imagination, a nest, or a musical sound set up by the response of the wood to the wind and the sound of the river.
I read Hillman and Alchemical Psychology. About blackness, and yesterday, salt. My passion is flattening, cooling. It will be good if I can manage it, find a way to be with the current, as you said.
30.10.20
Another night of little sleep. Stormy winds and rain, so many creatures tapping on the roof, all the fingers of the trees are dragging their nails over the cinders. I lie and think of the huge trees behind my head, I feel their leafy fountains above. I am full of longing, and sadness again. It’s reaching into an empty cave, a hollowed out place, dark, at the far end of the tunnel. People have crept up there before, it’s where they take lumps of burning fat on sticks, and they press their hands into plant and earthy stores of colour, they leave their mark. Your sign is deep inside me, its etched into my insides, little stuttering dashes and pulls of madder on flesh, almost invisible, one sinks into another, teeth into fruit. The cave is warm. It’s hard to get to, and no tears are shed there. I’m in there now, with my colours and my pictures. There’s a couple in bright magnesium white, they’re burning, they’re spirits, they’re pre-occupied, making love, and together.
I look at the pictures we’ve done by candle-light in this wild place. In one I see that you’re conjuring me from your hands. You’re rubbing them together, in front of my belly (I’m pale, a half-formed thing, bear-like), so I’m growing from that place, I’m growing sun-rise from the navel you see as you meditate. Your phallus grows full, changes colour; it sees me and turns towards me. It’s also focused on my coming into being, into my growing fully. My head was lost.
The dark creature carrying you is the cave, the animal body. It’s dancing, head lost in umber.

In another picture you’re wearing the red legs of the dancer. Your heart-arm, a rush of tears, arcs towards me. I’m the spirit baby, pink of face, flying above.
Your red hand supports the stream, it opens like a flower. We don’t know if the fluid comes from you, or goes to you. Both are nourished. You need many legs to keep your balance. I have no legs, I fly in the ether. You are afraid of me when I fly above you. But you love me too.

I might be learning to stand in a different place.

I go outside after sweeping the floor. My feet are bare. The grass is covered with fallen leaves and drops of moisture. The air is damp, you can see clouds of tiny rain coming up the valley from the moor. I can see the trees changing and they drop their leaves, each day it is different, they are changed. In a week they’ll be bare. The nightly winds are stripping them. They test their roots in the dampening ground.
They are full of song. Long-tailed tits with their shimmering songs – fluted, sharp – dart from tree to tree, nibbling the manna beneath curling leaves and lichened twigs. I think to myself: O lucky birds to be born in this place!
They circle the cabin, flitting from branch to branch. Overhead, a pair of ravens. I saw them yesterday on my walk through the woods: they circled me. I’ve seen them each day I’ve been here.
I feel deeply sad.
My tears won’t come. I feel a prolonged sense of shock. A shock like a bar of steel, which won’t give. It’s so thick. The heat can’t bend it or soften it.

going to the wild; a little more writing.

I recently posted a request for a few days in a hut in the wild for a bit of time away. My very good friends and connections have given me leads which I hope will lead to days away soon, on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, and more locally at Prussia cove.
I’ve three books on the go at the moment, and I feel some time to take a high view over them would be good.
Here is an excerpt from my writing entitled ‘Love Letters.’

At the ends of your rounded fingertips there are creases, or little seams (I might ask, if I were sunshine, may I sit beside you with tiny snippers , and open up the seams? Will you tell me your secrets?)

Your fingers grow daily in the garden, their blunt ends emerge brown and pink from the dark soil. I watch them morning and evening. I drop onto my knees, onto the grass, then onto my palms, spread on the damp green, so I can watch you emerge. Each day you grow a little more.
As you reach upwards towards the sky the seam along the end of your finger opens, revealing gatherings of further petal-y finger-buds which become pink as they open. I smell the grass, I smell the earth, I can smell the bones of creatures asleep, fading, some hand-spans down beneath me. Bees come. The stems of your fingers grow longer and thicker. The buds swell and the flowers emerge, one after another. You are broad, luscious, soft. The skin of your petals, some cloud seme – cloud seed – a breath of semen, a seed gathering, falling upwards into my lap. I see you swirling in the space between us, all the tiny hanging be-skirted seeds, looking for this palm – or that one – to land upon, to nestle into, to set up home. The seeds are all the words I say; they fill my mouth, they land here after floating for so many cold seasons; the currents of your breath dispel them over my body before they gather and spill softly around my belly.
The entrance point: my umbilicus – the golden cord goes through here, little hands follow each other through the door.

Your petals stroke my legs as I stand near you. I think to be an animal, and I stand over all of you, this forest of hands growing in my garden. Your petals stroke my belly, and my thighs. I can be the sky for a while, you will be my earth. You are the man in the garden with the broad chest of dark fronds I would lie on in joy, moving snake-like; or wriggling like an infant, sucking drops of moisture from the ends of all your stems.

A man who melts

Awake in the night again, before dawn. My lover comes, the man of butter, the man who is golden, whose fluids run over my body, who settles in all the creases of my skin, who anoints me before the morning. He tells me of his time in the mountains, of the golden cow who made him. She spends her days with her calf and golden ponies on mountain pastures, in the fields of summer grasses and wildflowers. I went there to meet them, I stroked their brows, we told each other stories. He watches over them. He watches over me. Wolves, boar and bears still roam. The air is clean. I see gentians, those flowers who recall the sky and your eyes. I think of my pictures, of the creamy milky colour of the spirit horse who stopped for a moment on her journey yesterday. She’s a foal and she’s old. She covers the child with her body; a spirit line hovers between her ears, dancing in sound.

The golden cow with her calf stands quietly beside the refuge, on the side of the toothy mountain. Some of her milk is drawn off into a jug. It is churned into butter by the men who tend the enormous ceramic stove, and who cook dumplings; the rooms are warm, and panelled in wood. Outside, amongst the rocks, the golden herdsman sits in the gateway; it’s where I met him in my dream. My mother brought spirit cakes. I took off my skin. He likes me; he likes the cakes. Butter runs in his veins, seeps from his pores. I meet him in the gateway each morning.

In his hands there’s a swarm of bees. He holds the swarm gently, it is a cloud, a black song. A man of honey too, the hives in the chestnut forests below the tree line were built by him. Great jars of honey and oil are kept by the bridge where the swifts scream. I stayed there when I was young, my body still asleep. A nun kissed me on arrival. I watched her care for bright geraniums through a window screen of linen. The airy rooms were roofed in prayer.

Packing the wound; a garden I’ve been in love with; the colour yellow; and a love letter to painting

…you pack me away into the hollow of a tree, the hull of a rudderless boat, and cast me adrift; you thread me into a blade of grass with your needle; I sew.

My breasts became two little animals before I slept. They were longing to be touched, to be stroked, and also to suckle. They were brown and furry, quite small, rounded noses, gentle; they kept me company when I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to find you,have you stroke my animals. I was wondering before sleep which animal would consume me tonight, would take me inside for safety.

15.8.20
I’m awake again at 5 am thinking of you.
Then I sleep, and in a dream I’m a little dog, you’re painting the top of my head with a large, pointed-tipped soft brush. You’re painting my crown with generous sweeps of the brush; you’re gathering up all my dryness, catching all the dust with the brush; you make my crown glisten and shine. My head is a flower, you’re pollinating it, the fruit will swell, become a sun.
I lie here and I can feel you shape the contours with the brush, you’re enjoying the marriage of paint and oil, the way the paint comes to your rescue, the form you thought lost arrives. You’re shown something beyond thinking.
………………………

The tall dusky stems of the belladonna gather twilight. I’m in a garden, far away. I’m young again. The air is scented with datura, vast cups of moonlight hanging down pendulously, nipples sucked by pale stems. I brush past them, and their haloes of moths. The cups of scent are miraculous, and poisonous.
When you arrive at Clos du Peyronnet the first thing you notice is the smell – of generations of pine, cypress, ash, smoke, and tree resins.
I sit beneath the pergola and tree rats rustle the leaves above.
You bring bread, cheese and cool red wine. In the pool lotus flowers sway on their tall stems. Their seed heads showing green still, the heart of the flowers. Their curious shape, like some magician’s rattle, fascinate me. Their holes must surely be for the sprinkling of love dust….
Terrapins and kingfishers keep me company. I am fascinated beyond words by this paradise, this garden made by sad people to heal themselves.
Inside the house it is cool. Stone floors and heavy wooden doors. Old undulating dusty mirrors, shutters, huge fireplaces full of ash from olive trees. The tiny dark kitchen is scented with oil and garlic. The cool green tiles of the windowless bathroom. Outside the countless terracotta pots filled with bulbs. Lemon trees and avocados. Great boughs hanging with round orange kaki – so many summer suns! – we gather into baskets; I learn to eat the luscious fleshy fruit soft, with a spoon…the evening with the fireflies, years later…the walks into the mountains with the dogs and seeing eagles; drinking beer and water from streams. I heard the call of the eagle for the first time.
One evening you take me into the garden. We go to an arching cuypressus avenue. Nearby stands of pink flowers sway on stems of livid purple, which look wet and dusty at the same time. With the knife you carefully cut the stems of the belladonna, warning me not to touch the stems, or I will mark them. You take them to the terrace and place them into a glass jug on the table where we’ll sit.
I’m young. My legs are bare. There’s a photo of me sitting there, beside the huge stone pillars, with the sun behind me. I was in love with the garden, with the scented air, the pools tumbling into the sea, the lotus plants, the dusty paths, and above all the scent of the union of trees. I’m always arriving there, with the crunch of the dry stones, and the jumping onto me of little dogs.

The belladonna are flowering in my garden here. Like evening primrose, rosemary, arum lilies and Florentine tomatoes they accompany me through my life. Like sisters they arrive each year with their gifts. And the others whose names I can’t remember. Those little dry bundles of root I planted in the cold spring, into cool damp compost. Here they are, tall and triumphant, with their crowns of white or deep pink starry flowers. I’d stood alone by the compost bins with my pots, seeds and bulbs arrayed around me. I was planting summer.
…………..

I’m calling back my heart, she is pulling her head out of the lion’s gape, his mane is not the sun rays, she is not the centre of the sun hurtling towards you. In you I became something unwanted, like a stone thrown into soft flesh. A peach perhaps. You hold me in your hand. My skin is furry, pink, fragrant. You peel away my skin, we’re on a balcony in France, with shiny silver knives; my hair is cut short, we eat the hearts of trees. I swim in a pool of frogs, my hand is cut, there’s a storm; I make a friend of a young goat in the wood of yellow mushrooms.

I go to sleep with a warm stone in my hand. I found it in Shetland. It is like a heart, it glitters and feels good, filling my palm. I sleep with it to help me dream. In my painting yesterday I held the leather in my mouth, the stirrup around my foot. The sun spins above my head, unwrapping my crown.

Yellow, inner gold

I realised that I’d been taking buckets of liquid gold, scooping it out of myself, and tipping it all over your head. I’ve poured it all over you.

I gather gold from all the yellow things I see around me : from countless eggs, the clear white dribbled off into bowls made of skulls; the yolk I store, wrapping it around pebbles I heap into cairns; or glueing it to animals’ scent I’ve gathered from trails. The sun yellow I take from my outstretched palm, roll it into my mouth, curling my tongue around it, feeling it between my lips hard and shiny, hot.
The yellow from the corner of the fledgling bird’s beak, who gave it to me in the garden, after I called to him, when he’d learned to fly alone; the yellow remembered from early spring, the narcissus, the jonquil, the reflexive petals peeling back in a yellow smile from their waists. The leaf who finished early, full of regret, but happy nevertheless; the yellow pony, the one from the high northern moor, the colour of winter sun, the dun, with the black stripe I rode as a girl….the yellow light of winter dusk: foggy, thick as cream;
There’s the Indian yellow paint I smooth down limbs in my paintings, transparent, shining; and the pale yellow butter I melt when I cook eggs and tomatoes. The yellow light of this lamp beside me, the Italian lamp from my grandmother, with its faded, torn shade. And the legs of alpine choughs which flew around me in the Dolomiti, yellow shanks and bright sunshine feet on white snow, black rock. The bright golden halo around the head of Madonna della Salute, on the print which I look at each morning, shining over my bed. The pale yellow pillowcase beneath my head or between my legs; looking at my books now, rarely are they yellow, except for the old french ones I remember, with their pale yellow paper covers – volumes of poetry?

In my late summer garden a few faded lilies recall yellow, their golden shining centres and deep yellow pollen, almost brown; the sunflowers drooping, their morning petals shining with promise, already curled in August; and of course the evening primrose, stately chaotic moth-bearing flowers, the genus I’ve carried from home to home, the gift from Dorset and a country woman who taught me about plants. Pregnant then, I’d gone into the darkening evening to stand near the budding flowers, and listen to the not-quite-silent unfurling of the petals, the crisp, sudden revelation of lemon against dusk, the hand opening, the smile pinned like a moth on a violet parchment; the petalled dance embraced by arms of night. The point would hold erect in the night, a lemon pen or tapered bud, and then in seconds, the form would be released, twirling into a wide open ecstasy, shivering with delight, dancing with herself. Each night a few flowers would greet the night, be initiated.
Very young I’d loved the story of the tiger who ran around a tree until he melted into butter…

There are yellow threads sewn into darns over worn-out skin: mine, and my horses’.

There was a dream of meeting my animus who is golden yellow in the alpine meadows with the holy cows, my mother, and the spirit cakes.

1.9.20
I lie awake curled in your large hands which I saw today for the first time. With blunt rounded ends, they’re like beaver paddles or belladonna stems emerging from their sleep: a ruddy brown, comforting. I see them wrap themselves around my fruiting parts; you hold them all so gently, you hold my fruits as they ripen, and softly open. You carry my fruits to your mouth and breathe deeply, enjoying their perfume. (I know you are a sensuous man, I can just glimpse him). You caress the silky skin of the fruits with your lips, then using your tongue and your teeth you gently nibble away the top layer of pink skin and scoop out the soft yielding flesh.
Your tongue is a petal
Your navel has a petal planted,
It’s the showing tip of the garden within you.

In another picture I sit on your broad palm: you have just hatched me. I ask: Are you the big father bird, the deep dark feathered one of story, of my bones, my spirit-blood family? Are you both father and lover? Did you sit over me in some starry nest, lined with deep sea-dark, iron-scented leaves gathered from the deepest sea? Did you wait for me to hatch, as you incubated me so patiently?

I’m pale, feathery, round, and I gaze into your face with silent joy. You look at me with a fierce love; my wings are yet to fill with sap, they fold awkwardly into the blue. Your wings are deep brown, they merge with the trees of the forest where you are home. The bones of your wings are tree limbs, roots both water-net and a skein of shadow dropping from some celestial weaver. I see you as eagle-man, with your dark brown feathers and your knowing of the high places.
I wanted to say how good it was to see you, but I didn’t.

In the night after seeing you I woke with my right eye wet with tears. This involuntary weeping of my eye, usually the right one, happens quite often. My cheek is wet, and my eyes are swollen with tiny sacs of unshed tears, carried like ballast in my face. Three days ago a caterpillar squirted green sap into this eye; I’m reminded of the time I bit into a tomato and sent a jet of pink fluid into another’s eye, some cold time ago in Denmark. There were dancers; I liked the Spanish dance, it was erotic and we’d lain back in space, tipped into eternity for an hour or two.
In the garden as I gathered berries, my eyes went green from the caterpillar’s ejaculation. A bird inhabited my hand and its beak closed around the grub as it curled on the leaf. As I move about the garden you do not completely fill my thoughts. In the studio though: you and the act of painting seem almost to be one. As I paint your face moving closer to kiss my mouth, my pulse races and my belly churns. My hands become urgent as they seek to call you to be present, your lips to animate, to send your tongue to meet mine.

The wet black confined creature hatching from my dream, I see now is desire sleeping, curled up. It’s the thought of the dark wet phallus confined in me, the creature of desire resting between thrusts. Alive, life force strong, indestructible even, but not fully conscious. Waiting to be brought to temperature, to be cooked, made edible, palatable. ‘Eat’ he’d said in the piazza, in San Giovanni di Val d’Arno, as he held out the pomodoro di Fiorentino, all of which I’d forgotten until I saw you plunge your face into the brown bag full of tomatoes I’d grown. I fertilised each flower by hand, with a soft paint brush, almost painting each fruit into round, red being. Your face I glimpse in its response; I can hardly allow myself time to fully inhale the picture of you receiving what I’ve brought you. I skate away, I fizz into tiny bubbles which burst at my edges: I can’t contain myself.

I’ve stopped tipping my gold all over your head, now it washes all over the floor around us; it seeps from my pores, it drips from my words, it rises as an incoming tide from the sheepfold of my lap and the meadow between my legs. The perfume of your sweet chant brings the gold to the surface of me, like fish to the surface of the lagoon in Venice when the drummer comes. I cannot contain it.

Le Jardin Clos du Peyronnet – William Waterfield’s garden

Venus on horseback

Venus on horseback
It’s two o’clock in the morning. Awake again with the currents swirling in my belly, a dream called me to waken, a self portrait as Venus: oranges and yellows shining, strips of colour like light through trees, sunshine through water as I swim, my arms golden – young again – pulling me through the sea. Then I’m lying in the shallows, the water warm, sun dancing around my shoulders as I rise.

It’s night, and I look at the moon; tonight she’s full (4.8.20). She’s a light dancing over a golden mare’s dappled bottom, a celestial roundness, the Milky Way her tail. Your kisses brighten the dark stable she stands in, waiting for the morning.

The white horse of sacrifice has returned. This time I ride her as Venus, my mouth weeping with words. They make a veil which falls around me, pale as morning. I must speak even as I’m led towards the white trees, those smoking, deathly towers.
I’d come to want to know you, in all the tiny gardens of your heart. All the hidden places; I’ve longed for all the ungovernable kisses. I’ve felt the unswept arm not rising over my shoulders or across my breasts; I’ve sensed unswallowed scents of stomach sweat, all the laughter lost in the hills; the happy footstep not trodden, the call of arrival not uttered. The sleeping sigh, the conscious kiss, the undisguised gaze, all lost. I’ve followed my dream’s bidding, and I have come to leave your house.

For the first time I’ve put on the night light, I’ve sat up in bed, my mouth full of sadness. This time I’m catching the tails of all the running beasts which encircle your hut and my heart. I’ve taken my pen and drawn out the creatures of longing from my belly and my heart, and I’m setting them down alive. They’re moving under my hands as I write, I can feel their warm skin between my legs, their breath against my neck. They’re not worried over for hours as the sun rises; I’ve sat with them this night, I’ve stroked their paws, gently set down their hooves, allowed them expression. I’m not waiting for them to die. I’ll watch over them as they return to sleep.

Thoughts of you, minute by minute, hour by hour, they’re with me every day and night. They’re alive with so many creatures of so many worlds.
I’ve always thought of us as two luminous souls. You’re the fire standing in front of me, that blazing such brightness, I become ignition itself.

In the dream I leave your house. You follow me, we talk, and laugh together as we used to. You place your hands around the back of my head, your fingers massage the dreaming place, above my neck, and my hair springs up between your fingers as we fall together onto a yellow ground.

There are so many things I would tell you, and so many things I want to hear from you. I’m always in that first moment, when you stood in front of me and my eyes opened wide, opened fully for the first time. My vision took you in, but you had seen me first. I was in you before this time.

Night writing

31.07.20
I’m awake again in the night, before dawn. Sea scent surrounds me. I’m sliding within, and riding upon, a snake or a serpent. My face grows into and is behind the face of the snake. Time happens twice, watches itself, echoes with child, gives suck. I am clothed in white, a shimmering powdery luminescence glows from my scales. My arms are by my sides, hands wrapped about me; I hold myself within the body of the snake. I swim in the snake, my whole body undulates, I’m a thick sea-muscle; fish-like, body encased, cool.
A green juice of snake serum moves like oil around me. I’m feeling the serpentine force, the slippery steminess of him between my legs; I’m pulling him in, I’m aware for the first time of how my organs work, I see them as they come now to a place of change: I feel them, I rejoice in them and their forces, their currents; their muscles, their smooth pink skin, their mouth, their lips, their saliva. The way they rise and fall, the way they connect me to the wild forces, the unstoppable forces of wild nature, untamed and untame-able.
I am become the pink lips of horses, nostrils round gulping air; I see bluish gums, hard and smooth, and their galloping legs, their huge lungs beneath me sucking air, expanding into the space of young trees; the landscape of rocks, the head of the seal dark and shiny emerging from the frothy swell; your fingers through my hair, the pads of your fingers pressing against my scalp, the thick weed of the gushing tide around our legs, the dreaming ones ahead of us when we become fish or swimming horses, tidal creatures. I feel your gaze across the days and months. It does not weaken.
The serpent stems are my plant lovers in my wakefulness: thick and pliant, stroking my back, tendrils waving all around me like my heavy hair. They are my desert companions. They grow from the same root as me. They share my store of water, my vat of food. We have a large rhizome at our feet, it is our home, our yolk, the source we tap. It is enough. All around us is desert, a vast flat empty landscape, no one else is here.
This is where I was born, and how I grew.

Notes on love and sacrifice

After swimming, my son rescued a bee from my bedroom. I find sugar crystals; he rolls his finger in them – the sugar sticks. The bee is pale, fading, and exhausted. Then she finds the sugar, and a long, strong, silvery tongue begins to feed. Her tongue goes backwards and forwards, sucking up the sugar for a few minutes before her little body begins to shine, regaining colour and lustre. Then she washes her legs, tries out her buzz, and flies away.

…………………………………………………….

I’m reminded of circumcising the heart- the time in Assisi. Standing in the white room with the bright altar and the monk and the dry Old Testament pages. There was a jug of arum lilies, erect on thick stems, white and red, waxy, sensuous, they had stiff yellow stamens. Early morning, sun shining, bells ringing and outside the screaming swifts carved the hot scented air into heavenly segments. The pink of bougainvillea in the pots at the door. My heart becomes a penis engorged as I pray; I remember as I write that the heart has no skin to lift, no foreskin to pull back; the heart is an organ exposed, so tender to touch.
When I left he hugged me and said quietly “come back.”

…………………………………………………….

I remember the burning bush kindling at my knees: men stood there, lit the taper. The flames breathe out of time with my heart. Yellow fire shapes my pregnant belly, stains the underside of my milky udders like a lick of pollen; I’m a horse of the plains led by you between smouldering silver birch branches; I’m white with blackened limbs; smoking handfuls of leaves and empty stalks fill my mouth: my tongue is crisp, wordless. Dried seed-cases and shrivelled flowers are pushed into my ears: the man’s arm thrusts endlessly into my heart, autumn comes in June.

Some more writing from Italy and home, 2006/2020

Here’s a little more writing, a first draft from 2006, reflecting time spent near Montevarchi, in Tuscany, and some recent exploratory notes from home.

Walk to Croce de Pratomagno 1,591m
All day. Starting at Gorgito then through the silent forest where every sound seemed to be muffled. I heard wolves howling in the distance, filling the silence, eerie, thrilling. Cool air, we enter pockets of earthy scent. It wraps us; we walk softly on thick carpets of leaves beneath thousands of chestnut trees. Climbing a steep route, C.A.(Club Alpino) No. 1. Paths, shrines, look-out spots over tiny Renaissance villages, yellow ochre and geranium red only; tiny gardens in corners, hilltop cemetery, water man with spring, mushrooms, springy turf, white long-legged cattle, violas, spiky sun disc thistle flowers, dianthus, refuge huts, eagle.

Red tree creature, tiny houses at Rocca, the Germans at the summit, they took our photo; the enormous hare, like a jack-rabbit, hopping slowly into the shadows, on the edge of that sweeping alpine meadow; horses, waterhole, potato fields, chestnut terraces, more horses, late return, becoming lost (way-markers, little red and white painted marks on trees – cut down!); missed the bus.

Blue trees with red necklaces and pink crowns. An old woman skinning a rabbit against the wall of a stone barn.

Pregnant Darkness (by Monika Wikman), p. 87
“any masculine spirit in us that thinks it ‘knows how it is’ can become the dominating thought form that kills experiential connection with the numinosum. The dominant culture can kill the most precious gift Jung pointed to – a felt, instinctual living relationship with the spirit of imagination…”

Creativity as when spirits enter. “As a mythopoetic symbol, then, the navel signifies that the centred ness of human existence is constructed over a gap, a fissure, a void.” The Knotted Subject by Elisabeth Bronfen.

Extracts from some new writing.
Your voice is an animal: brown as pelt. You step gently into my ear. I don’t answer; you speak again.
Charge me with your voice I say, with that very particular timbre, those notes. I tell you I want to suck the animal pelt into all my cells with my hearing. I want to survive.

I’m in bed again, with my books. It is night.

I’m a deep valley, with steep wooded sides in shadow; animals gather here, there’s a rounded pit where the boar lies, and a form for the hare; deer lie, forelegs folded, amongst the scrub; I hear hoglets squeak, and their mothers grunt. Ants have made a dusty tower; it gleams orange with moving eggs when the sun reaches this part of the wood. The river bed is wide; towering teeth broken from a great mouth have come to rest here. There’s a pale stream trickling down this channel, and a sense of yielding. I feel you rest there, dark, hairy, painting on my belly with your brush.

You are human and male. I, a shamaness.

I’m making a pale new land. A yellow snake stands up, joining earth and sky. It travels from between her legs, through her back, up the man’s belly before entering his heart.
The man is close behind the woman (I’d thought he was hiding, but now, I’m not so sure); she is bent over the dark horse, who is painted vigorously. Her hand rests on the horse’s back.

The new place she is breathing out: she’s forming it with her breath. It is cool, grey, featureless. In days ahead she’ll sit with him. Her chest will rise and fall. The birds will sing. She’ll wear a red cloth over her head.

Emergency Arts Council funding; Notes from my studio book; Beep painting prize, and Covid-related news…

I’m very happy, relieved and grateful to the Arts Council for awarding me funding from their Emergency fund, to help in these times of lockdown and the loss of income from many sources. I have been spending this time immersed in my work, enjoying my return to oil painting and working on a larger scale. I’ve also begun writing another book, which will explore my inner process and how it relates to, and is informed and energised by my painting and drawing.

In the Time of Coronavirus a Great Tit cheeps
The sparrows bathe, and rub their bellies in dust

I find a card in my notebook – it recalls the uncorrupted Tongue of St. Anthony; I remember visits to Padua, of the horse skeleton cradling the warrior; and Otranto Cathedral with the miraculous tenth century mosaic floor…I feel confined in my thoughts about travel being forbidden; I escape within.
We create in our bodies, in their bodies; the snake carries matter, undefined mass. Drawings from Otranto Cathedral, there’s a woman with a horse coming from one breast, and a snake from another. She is astride another creature.
My drawings of horses swallowing a vortex; a pregnant woman with many breasts rides a low-slung horse; she has a furry penis, and a long tail.
The horse I bred who died, I remember him, with pain, in my therapy time, just before lockdown. Loss is pain. My therapist speaks of sacrifice. I research horse sacrifice. The man uses a knife to cut just behind the breastbone, then plunges his arm in, severs the horse’s heart from all its connections, and pulls it out…(Jeremiah Curtin, A Journey into southern Siberia)… “The Altaic shamans of NE Asia, on the other hand, killed horses for ceremonial use by breaking their necks.” Or “No blood was spilled. The horse was skinned bloodlessly and its hide removed as completely as possible so that the form of the horse could be reconstructed by draping the hide over a bench or trestle…signified the presence of the animal as if it were alive, and at one stage of the ceremony the shaman mounted this effigy and pretended to ride it skyward.” The horses which were sacrificed were always pale grey, or white.
At home, I receive a look of anger, I turn away.
*I have a dream of looking up and seeing a glorious snake-dance above me. Two snakes are kissing, dancing, very erotically; I knew each snake’s body held a human (male and female, one in each). They were coloured like a clouded Leopard.
Standing on the tips of flowers in my drawings.

The deathly male needs to come alive in order for the fertility to be activated. Part of me is not alive (yet). The penis still hooded. I remember Assisi and the reading about circumcising the heart, my shock at this notion, these words. I’d stood in a pure white room, simple, with an altar made of pale wood; it was early in the morning, and light streamed in. The monk stood beside me and spoke the words.
Part of me that has survived without the male needs to die in order for that other masculine to live (sacrifice? a ritual?).


This picture and another, below, have been accepted into this year’s Beep Painting Prize, in Wales; we are hoping this will go ahead in the Autumn of this year.

Memories of Italy

Unable to travel anywhere, in this time of Covid, I’ve been reading again old notebooks, which accompanied me on journeys to Italy, and time spent in precious places.
Here are some notes from 2017 when I was in Puglia:
Lunch of open textured bread,castagno honey, cheese – soft and creamy from Norcia – pistachio nuts and red pepper.
I’m almost beneath the ground, in a cave, beside a circular space where the horses would have been gathered. The ground is soft to touch, there’s a tiny river bed, and orange and lemon trees are hanging with fruit; an old broken mill wheel is propped up nearby.
The cave with its soft brown animal floor, stone licked by horse’s tongues, the mill-stone’s memory traced in the stone ceiling, sun-white revolving; all your feet together you ponies, your hot breath, quivering mouse-brown noses, your shoulders straining against leather and weight of rock (sasso).
The ramp you walked down is behind me. You were led by men, short of stature, their elbows pressing into your hairy hot damp necks, your hindquarters slipping, hocks bent, little pointed toes digging in.
How long did you walk in this cave, circling beneath the rock sun, pressing olives for oil?
The ground in here is wet and cold, a rich chestnut brown, holding. Your hooves would have sucked into it before slipping on the white rock.

In Ostuni, in the empty white streets, I remember the old man with the Capriolo skull I should have bought.It was impossibly elegant and beautiful. I wasn’t fully present. We returned several times to find him, but he’d gone.

Castagno honey scents recall walks in ancient forests, where the air was thick with tree pollen and quiet; all bird song muffled. They were resting. The path was quiet, long, pine-scented, leafy, endless.
Monks tended bees in multi-coloured hives.
In the valley their immense jars were filled with oils.