…if my mothers were alive…



if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to search for the bones.

i would sit, my grandmother’s skull on my desk,

gossiping me the secrets of her world.


if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to lay the bones out, so in death as in life.

i would wear a necklace of her knuckle bones,

and howl in my back garden, on a moonlit night.


if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to sing them whole.

their voices would sit at the back of my throat,

a growl, a gasp, a song for every work task,

a lick of my lips.


i am doing a course on art journaling, i thought, if i don’t do it, i will not fill my pages with drawings… i love the written word, but sometimes it sticks you to the page… sometimes only am image will do to unfurl a flag… to lever up those ideas from the unconscious…

so i signed up for the Get Messy (https://getmessyartjournal.com/) season on fairy tales… i haven’t felt the flow of writing on this for a while now, work gets in the way (time and energy wise), i get easily distracted by social media… i found out about Get Messy through the blog “Follow the Brush:explorations in creativity” – https://divyamchayabernstein.wordpress.com/ … it has not disappointed so far… i have not disappointed myself… i have a thousand unfinished, sometimes unstarted, ideas of art projects i want to do – this makes me get shit done – and for that i am immensely scared and immensely thankful…

i spent the first week feeling overwhelmed and undertalented… the thousand ideas and then not one that sticks. flapping around my head but never landing.

then i read an excellent article by amber sparks on “the useful dangers of fairy tales” (http://lithub.com/the-useful-dangers-of-fairy-tales/), on the absence of living mothers in fairy tales, she wrote this:

“Someday, my daughter will ask me why there are no mothers in these fairy tales, and I will tell her that the world was a dangerous place for women back then.

Back then, I will say, and I will load that phrase with as much meaning as I can. I will not add, “and now.” I’ll let her come to that conclusion just as I did, just as the fairy tale readers before me and before me and before me did, all the way back to the beginnings of the tales themselves. She won’t be scared, I hope—and she’ll be empowered as hell, I hope—but also, grimly ready to go into the world and do battle with all she finds there. Kings and queens and witches and magic mirrors and stepmothers and passive fathers and disguises and huntsman and, yes—beautiful, dangerous wolves.”

and i thought about how all those mothers die or are already dead… about how the step-mothers don’t get it, or are distant, or actively cruel – those damaged women who inhabit the spaces where our mothers should be, those imposters, those sheep in wolves clothing… where did all that nourishment of women for the ones who are to follow them go? why do we judge each other so much? what is the nature of that “wound” that gets passed down if you don’t choose not to… and that is so very hard, how not to pass on the damage done to you down the line… if the mothering was alive and not squished into too small shoes, or doing a stupid father-king’s bidding when he decides he just as to marry you, his own daughter, or avoiding the wolves who look like our grandmothers, or the ones who don’t – the ones who sing to the birds…

but I was not yet settled, so, i painted wardrobe doors and listened to clarissa pinkola estes talk about those lupine women (http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/bio.htm) …

3 phrases came to me, in this order:

  1. put my bones in order
  2. if my mothers were still alive
  3. i sing me whole

i thought, yes! finally something comes, something i can work with… and so i did…

and finally she crept in, and she wouldn’t leave… vasilisa, sometimes the wise, sometimes the beautiful… always interesting… hence the russian doll in the picture.and the crow… a postcard from Perrin Sparks (http://www.perrinsparks.com/etchings.htm#) because, crows… you can do nothing without them.. and the cut outs, i did until the picture felt ready…


sleeping beauty

There is something about the lure of sleep. The body gets this at times of huge changes. I can no longer remember my adolescence, but I know my menopause. Sometimes the creaking of my body gets too loud and too heavy and I can sleep for 10, 11, 12 hours at a time. I dream of things symbolising discernment. I dream of the falling apart and the fear. And then I dream of the mending and the blending of my different parts into synchronicitous wholes. I dream of monsters who turn out to be only teenage boys who need feeding. I lean into the moon and let her brightness hold me. I let her swell my body into larger places. The ebb and flow of the flesh. As I am lost to her push and pull. I feel the beginning of a need to take up less space, be thin, recede a little. I am given the knowledge on how to let it leave me altogether, should I decide to work on it, should I accept this challenge. And through these internal conversations and revelations I sleep. I roll myself into a foetal position and hang onto myself. I clamber into the den. The igloo. The cold slows my heartbeat. I sleep. I preserve my energy by moving little and stilling my self. I move as if underwater. Yet I find I can breathe. That the stillness is home. I sleep. I dream. Sometimes I see people through a glass but at other times I find myself hugging them and laughing and swearing and crying. The connections are heart to heart or not at all. The test is now, immediate, I have precious little time left on the beauty of this green earth with its mystery and its settling amongst the stars, in the glare of the white moon. Either you accept me as a gin-swigging, foul-mouthed, women-loving near-grandmother hag, curves an all. Or you can circle out of my orbit. I care not for you if you care not for me. In every relationship, I ask myself what are you expecting from me that you are also offering me? Where are we in relationship to each other? Do you stand in good relation to me?


‘I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference’ (Wild Words Writing)

‘I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference’

Robert Frost ‘The Road Not Taken’

I thought I chose that path. Turned towards it, as a sun-worshipper to that wondrous firey globe in the sky after months of cloud. I liked to think I saw myself, thumb outstretched for the next lift to the next life, and found my situation wanting…

When I was young, the autobahns and autoroutes held my dreams. The fast, faster, fastest pace of travel. Had you asked me then if I thought myself as “a hitcher, a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway” (Joni Mitchell song), I would have held you locked into a fire-breathing gaze and told you firmly, no. Then I would’ve retreated. Talked myself back up from the fear that I wasn’t anybody’s captive but furiously my own person. I am and, undoubtedly, was. But, as I suspected, only deep beneath my otherwise insistent exterior, I was limited to where the white lines would take me. However quickly I travelled. I held within my bones a small unspoken niggle she was right.

There were places where I wasn’t going. I was never lost enough, always a little too ‘found’, too safe, even though most people seemed to think that a young woman, hitching, alone, was the riskiest thing I could do. I only hitched on days when I felt brave enough. Bravadoed it out when it got dicey. There were times. But I knew, being a lone woman would mean not waiting long. People worried that some weirdo might find me before they did. Screeching to a halt to do their saviour act. This, obviously, I never minded. Most would be fascinated by me, they would be dying to ask why. Sniffing around the question, a dog searching out the bone marrow. I rewarded their curiosity with a flash of my cloak of brash defiance. I pointed out that they had picked me up so, unless they were dangerous, surely I was ok? I would also inform them that, statistically, marriage was a more perilous project than lone hitchhiking. I repeated this often, a mantra, or prayer to an unrecognised goddess.

In later years, mulling this recklessness over, I wondered whether I was proving something to myself. But what? Was I fleeing constraints? Knowing, in a space between body and consciousness, I wanted to put as much distance between me and what I now know as the scene of the crime. The original one, anyway. Escape? Was it evidencing to myself that I was free and alive? Ignoring the spirits, goddesses and gods that ran alongside me, protecting me… or maybe egging me on… Would I live faithlessly as antidote to my upbringing? Did I want to prove the world was safe, or my worst fear, that the world was a profoundly dangerous place and I just needed a twisted way to discover this? I couldn’t trust everything was going to be fine, but was unaware this was what I was doing? Maybe none of these, maybe all of them…

Getting older, irritation crept in, an eyelash caught under my eyelid. A suspicion that Joni had a point about the white lines. Restriction not liberation. Although I had given voice to the thought that the most dangerous wolves were the ones who ensnared you in marriage, I didn’t really believe it. I deployed it as a defence. I had it right, aright, but didn’t know it. Comparing wolf with wolf. Wolves in marriage with wolves behind the wheel. I wondered if I had seen the mask of a wolf and mistook its cunning, yellow eyes for the real thing. What I had actually seen was a werewolf, hybrid of man and wolf, much more perilous. “Oh grandma, what big teeth you have!” I had defined my life by slipping in and out of the white lines, or teeth, of a man-made being. Partly taunting it, partly giving myself the chance to escape what I couldn’t when younger. But I never escaped, only defined myself by what I thought I wasn’t. What I was not, not what I was. Not what I could be. I had clipped my own wings but pretended I was flying. Even in my wildest freedoms, I had managed to grip on until my knuckles were white with the strain.

I stood at the side of the road. Feeling the rush of exhaust-fumed air from every accelerating car. One of them pulled over. Usually, I would have run towards the sleek black object, throwing protection spells around my tensing shoulders. Then I realised that I hadn’t had my thumb out. I hadn’t been asking. Its toothy number plate and chrome lips glinted in the morning sun.

I turned my back.

I threw my rucksack over the fence. Tyres threw gravel at me in disgust, screeching  disappointment. I walked. It was as if I had taken a baby’s first breath in the world. An insect welcoming party accompanied me, singing songs of recognition. A crow chided me from a nearby oak, “About time.” I looked at her, but took it.  She was right. Grasses clung to my trousers in long lost welcome. Tree branches brushed my head, the well-done pat from aunt to small child. Distant but the promise of future familiarity. I could taste potential like salt on a sea-breeze.

A small dirt track started at the field-edge, winding into the trees. I could smell badger and hare. Leaves promised a dark coolness. There would be wolves. Real ones, fur all their own. I raised my chin and howled. My voice cracked glass, a sore-throated dog. Home yet as wild as I could be.

I thought I chose that path. Now I know it claimed me. I follow the moonlight through the forest. It is time. Time to follow the stars. Time to get lost.

This was my piece for the Wild Words Solstice Competition that earned me one of the runner up prizes. I was very honoured to get this.

Lots of lovely Wildness and Words on their website.

Info on past winners, runners up etc. here –


How to enter the competition here –




they say i come from a time before time itself.

myself, i do not know.

my memory stretches back,

a sea-shore flattened into

miles of long, glistening horizon.

i smell of meadowsweet and yarrow,

its strength my brow.

i taste dark-brown earth behind my teeth,

it grits on my gums.

a long, slow rumble,

an eternal yawn.

the ephemeral and solid

hold me in their grasp.

i laid down the land for you.

you walk my flesh.

you tread my backbone.

Written at a workshop at WoodSpirit Camp in Silverdale. Lorna Smithers took us on a guided meditative journey to the Giant’s Seat, then left us for a little while for us to see what we got from it… She then led us through some quickfire writing with some prompting from her… this is what I got, these are the bones from the sprawling flesh… this is her piece – https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/blog/

The Song of Mother Earth

Haida Gwaii 16-24 jul 10 036

for all those days when

your salt water rolls down to meet the ocean’s tears

I will hold you

for all those times when

life’s meaning is stretched to a skin far too thin

I will be still for you

for all those moments when

the roughness of humans jolts your nerve endings

know that

you will leave me

long before I leave you

good songs


words written sit along lines,

cutting through brain, a circular saw,

only bits remembered.

but good songs grab like nothing else.

songs follow looping “g”,

“s” twisting back. joined-together

words flow, pull themselves along sounds

looping high, then

low around edges – thummering

bass notes circle pelvic bowls,

pure, high note runs down spinal bones

skipping over some in transit.

songs creep into ears

find ways into cauliflowered grey matter’s

hills and valleys.

never take straight lines,

meander. rest in gentle valleys.

truth tripped from tongues

slips under closed doors,

hand-written envelope,

kissed by lipsticked mouth,

pushed by quiet hand in

space between wood and floor.

old fashioned love.

hand touching hand. real contact.

taken bodily, sat in that chair,

doesn’t let you leave until

your heart has wept a thousand times

in a single heartbeat,

leapt a thousand times

in a pure note of unutterable joy,

your guts have been strummed

like a mandolin,

your sinews have rung out

with each corresponding note.

good songs leave you

shipwrecked, torn,

tattered, in rags, in love,

on the edge, over the edge,

between worlds.

longing for home you

never knew you had,

until now.