The Season of Fairy Tales

what you can do with art and fairy tales – this is gorgeous stuff from https://divyamchayabernstein.wordpress.com

Follow the brush

If you go deep,
deep into the heart,
the heart of the forest,
you will find her.

I have loved The Season of Fairy Tales at Get Messy so much, I don’t want it to end. It is a subject very close to my heart and I feel that during the last two months I have only just begun exploring the realm of fairy tales in the pages of my art journal.

‘The Heart of the Forest’ – While some of my pages touched upon specific fairy tales, many of them drew upon the images that exist across many tales. I was particularly attracted by the image of the forest. I loved the idea of the heart of the forest as a place where all the juicy stuff happens in a fairy tale. It is an external setting and at the same time it is a place within us, a…

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…these hands…

these hands have been cut and slashed. have held knives and swords and swung a battle axe. thes ehands have seen bood. these hands have pulled babies’ bodies from women’s cunts, cradling their shell-like heads, bones still vulnerably soft. these hands have kneaded dough, stirred the cauldron, scrubbed the pot – with horsehair, with plastic bristles, with sponges. these hands have rubbed themselves together to keep warm and held them selves over the fire to chase away the chill. these hands have wiped away tears, held small babies to their body, settled and calmed and soothed. these hands have stroked heads and foreheads. these hands have entered the warm, inviting, wet places. have teased the hardened skin. in all kinds of places. these hands have felt skin soft as down, and stoked the fire underneath it. these hands have rolled in the bed, and on the sofa, and brought gass of hard, soaking, riotess pleasure. these hands have felt the bark of many a tree. have pulled aside the plants to snap and break off medicine. these hands have dug deep into the earth, through mud and humus and the bones of old leaves. these hands have closed the eyes of the newly dead. have gently and with honour, washed their bodies and laid them too, to the earth. these hands have twirled and danced to the music. have clapped together to show their approval. these hands are smooth. these hands are rough. these hands are mine, these hands are yours. these hands have pulled and shaped the red clay into figures, into pots. these hands have held paintbrushes, pulled themselves along in the paint itself. these hands channel everything you were and everything i could be. these hands are mine and yet, somehow not… these hands hold the mysteries of all of time. these hands leap up for joy or cover my mouth in censorship, or sadness, or contemplation. these hands, that were yours. these hands…

What Makes a Fairytale “A Fairytale”?

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“I burned to learn to read novels and I tortured my mother into telling me the meaning of every strange word I saw”… “because it was the gateway to a forbidden and enchanting land”.       Robert Wright

What Makes a Fairytale “A Fairytale”? Get Messy Season of Fairytales prompt 2 from week 3 by EMK.

I was in Lisbon and the fairytales were closing in all around me and opening up like petals in front of me. A woman with a tattoo of a woman’s hand offering an apple on her shoulder stood next to me on the tube, a russian doll on the other arm, the woman who got off 2 stops after her with 3 russian dolls on her purse.

I wandered aroud Sintra’s Quinta da Regaleira… drinking in the crazy millionaire’s scattered visions and experiments in various esoteric traditions. Nods to the mysticism of the Tarot rubbed shoulders with the promenading Greek and Roman Goddesses and Gods, Initiation Wells or upside down towers replete with masonic and alchemic references, grottoes, watery and dry caves, dark underground passageways, Knights Templar symbols jostled churches depicting Jesus Christ, and, most surreally, dragons suggestively hanging onto a conch shell…

and then… the fairytale tower – THE tower – where, as a girl of 8, I would have seen myself lifting my skirts to show my ankles… to skip (princesses always skip, never run) the circular staircase wound around the tower. I would have been a particular style of princess, dressed in the long, crinkling dress… with a pointy hat with veil flowing from its tip.

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I was trying to draw the fairytale tower… it failed… or rather, I didn’t like what I drew… The shape of a fairytale is always winding, there are towers, or steps, or a path through a forest. You always find the path, even if you lose your way. The path is always there and it always winds. It is really a circular path that spirals in. I saw my perspective shift, and I drew the spiralling path, the tower and its stairs winding around it, from above. The well from the bottom. You always find yourself journeying to the centre. You end at the centre, you are alive and whole. You have escaped death, sometimes by acheiving impossible tasks, sometimes by your wits and sometimes with the help of other beings. You grow a little more – you start outward, go inward, and mature that little bit more. You move towards your centre. Maybe you move toward the moon…

You can set a trail, but it won’t help you, you have to have the adventure first, and, even though you may think yourself lost, the lesson is always just around the corner, and it will not lose you. I think it strange and beautifully ephemeral that people so often talk about Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs and not the white stones, when they recall the tale. Even though the successful trail was the white stones, their home was no longer theirs and they had to leave. The breadcrumbs had to be eaten by the birds (probably crows) so that they could get lost in the forest and find the next stage of ther lives, however dangerous it was.

Fairytales are full of extreme colours. Metallics – gold, silver, bronze – or the severe contrasts of whites and blacks. Look for fairytale images on the internet and your search will come back full of red – apples, blood, roses and a shock of red cloak. Red, the colour of fire and youth – the colour of extremes… of adventure and danger, of anger and passion, of potential violence, of breaking and birthing, of sex and its scarier cousin, love…

We set off on our inner spiralling adventure, not knowing which version of the tale we will end up in. Will we be eaten by the wolf? Will we unwittingly eat our grandmother? Will a wolf encourage us to throw our clothes on the fire? Can we use our cunning to slip the wolf’s grasp, tying the string he winds around us to a tree-stump and making our escape? Who will our tale be told by?

 

“Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality — for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.”

Terri Windling

…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?

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‘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 –

http://www.wildwords.org/blog?category=Writing%20Competition

How to enter the competition here –

http://www.wildwords.org/wild-words-writing-competition