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 –

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.

The Princess and the Witch

They told me… Don’t get yourself too noticed. We think you need to make yourself a little bit smaller. You take up too much room with your funny girl smells and your big bones and your loud mouth. You know what happens to these kinds of girls in fairy tales. Remember that girl in the red cape from round the corner, what was her name again? Sit. Stay. Here. In this corner. On the floor. Around this chair leg. They said they were worried about me. They said that bad things happen to girls that draw attention to themselves. Be good. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Give yourself but one thought – give your thoughts to others. Care for them. Like Cinderella sitting in the ashes existing only to serve her sisters and her step-mother. Obey the rules the king said. Obey his rules, the queen said.

I said… May as well. After all, you are a princess now. Be grateful for this. So , I drew my ragged clothes around me like a flag. I settled into my corner of foolish ash. Broom sweeping. And I made it my home. For a good while. But eventually the time came to seek my fortune. Even princesses have to move out. Apparently.

Everyone agreed to call it… Achievement. There are ways to hold your place in this world. There are ways to stride out along the well trodden paths of fairy tale heros. That is where you make your mark. Achieve they said. As long as you walk the straight line. As long as you walk to the top of that hill. As long as you crown logic as your king. As long as whenever you do the tasks set to you, you complete them fully. And achieve I did. I knew I was better than those serfs, those peasants. For I was born a princess. Straw to gold, no problem. Tiny shirts spun from nettle and embroidered with cleaver. Ten a penny. We agreed not to let anything sway me from my path. Ignore the bird song – it means… nothing. Ignore the tracks through the forest, they will only divert you from your one true path. And never, ever talk to any of those old women. You know what we mean. We shouldn’t have to explain that one. Besides they only speak in riddles that can never be understood. And some of them are downright dangerous. Those who look for trouble find it. And we knew, that at the end of the path. Whichever one I took. Stood a prince, with twopointtwo chubby, clean-faced angelic children, a dog named “rover,” a house with a door in the middle and two cars.

But this is what I know… I had dressed me in but rags. In my spotted handkerchief tied to the stick held at a jaunty angle, I’d put nothing of any sustenance. Well, a princess doesn’t need to eat, does she? What about her svelte figure? She has no real needs. After a while, when the dried bread ran out and darkness had fallen, I sat in the dust and grass at the side of the road. Fearful of every unfamiliar night noise away from my straight path. I rummaged in the bottom of the handkerchief. Desperate. For something. I found a tiny scrap of brown paper. It spoke out loud to me, saying “is this the life you want?” I hugged myself hard and cried myself to sleep.

What really happened was… I had dreams of not having any hands. That I was a mermaid who had to lose her voice in order to get her man and walk on magicked legs, every footstep like pushing her sole onto a sharpened knife. I dreamt of covering myself in pieces of sown-together fur, rubbing my face with soil and running into the night. Waking up at dawn, covered in dew, I saw I had three choices, so I took the last one. I heard a bird singing her name out loud. I knew she was my grandmother as I had her name. And I knew that she held truth. I followed her on a path that led deep into the woods. I found a tiny house with woodsmoke whisping up between the tree branches. A woman looking very much like a witch came out. A broom in her hand. She grinned when she saw me. She came up to me and kissed me. Full. On the lips. I dropped my map and my compass. They sit deep in the grass rusting. I still live there to this day. This tale is true as the day I entered the forest, as true as the east wind that carried my words to you and as true as a summer’s day. I tell you this tale so that you can pass it on to your daughters and granddaughters. But, I must tell you this, what really happened was that all this took place without one word being spoken.