All posts by Angela

Dark matter mystery: The crystal in a golden cave

It might seem strange to launch into a post about dark matter, having not written here for over a year?

To explain, it’s not because I have had nothing to write about. I’ve had another long episode of balance and neurological issues during 2021. There is confusion, speculation and debate amongst specialists about whether this is Meniere’s disease or something else. I’m caught in the middle of theories. I’m not ready to write about any of that yet. It hijacks my life for months at a time and I fight it each time. I’m not entirely comfortable with the not-knowing.

After ten years of mystery, I’m not hopeful of an explanation any time soon.

I’m also running out of the energy I use trying to hide constant disequilibrium. My brain is tired of keeping up the perception of uprightness. With this in mind, I’ve started to try to reveal it more to others. To accept it as part of me. Additionally, I can console myself by pondering that Earth’s jaunty tilt of 23 degrees is a vital attribute for life on this planet. Feeling the world always slightly off-kilter and defying straight lines of navigation is like experiencing a fundamental truth.

What I do seem to enjoy while all of this is going on, is is running full pelt into learning about topics that I am comfortable with not-knowing. In other words, the entire universe! Sorry everyone, I’m reading about dark matter again!

Dark matter.

It’s the invisible mass in our universe that we are striving to understand and make visible.

It is a concept of science (astrophysics and particle physics) that I jump into through popular science explanations for pure enjoyment.

While my journey of understanding has taken place over many years, I don’t document my learning, except in messy scrawled notebooks. I periodically mention dark matter on this blog, because it tends to surface in my writing and thinking (2016, 2017, 2018). Each time I explore, I try to delve a bit deeper and push my understanding. I read books and watch talks. Most recently, I caught up on Dark Matter: Crash Course Astronomy #44 [12 mins]. This is a great quick round-up if you are new to the idea of dark matter.

I think about the concept of dark matter in different ways. I try to grapple with the maths here and there. It is such a slow understanding for me to shift into mathematics. I don’t think that I will ever have the mathematical language to explain it, but I listen to those who do and can. I push my brain to its limits to understand.

Theories about dark matter are something I think about frequently. They are part of my inner wonder. Significantly, when I look at the night sky, I try to pay more attention to the dark. I try to expand my understanding of the science of Indigenous people who know that the dark parts of the sky are the areas that matter more, because there is more matter! I watch the rotation curves in the pattern of spiral galaxies that form on the surface of hot chocolate and wonder.

A hot cup of physics

I will keep asking dumb questions, even if I don’t always get answers:

Watching spiral galaxies forms in a cup

With attention to all of this, it seems that questions and clues about the invisible universe are all around us.

Ghosts in the dark

I also recently indulged in a Royal Society of Victoria talk The Universe and its Dark Materials [1 hour 20 mins] by Professor Alan Duffy. He explains some of the ways that we are looking for the ‘ghost’ that is dark matter. There is also a shorter 10-minute version if you can’t stretch to the longer video.

Some of the key concepts to understand about the evidence for dark matter seem to be gravitational lensing, rotation curves of spiral galaxies, modified gravity, cosmic microwave background, large scales structures, gamma-ray emissions and direct detection. I can get my head around most of these. I just stare at the equations, hoping that one day they will make sense.

A crystal in a cave

The Royal Society talk includes a mention of the very exciting direct detection experiment, SABRE (Sodium Iodide with Active Background Rejection Experiment). This project involves a spectacular underground lab site here in Australia. On an extremely simplistic level, the idea of SABRE is that over three years, this deep underground experiment is watching to see a crystal glow to observe dark matter. The Stawell Underground Dark Matter Lab is nearing completion. It should begin operation in 2022 and I will be following, even though I don’t understand even half of what they are doing down there.

I don’t know how anyone can stroll past the idea – a crystal shielded deep an old gold mine, that could detect the invisible mass in the universe! I find this story impossible to ignore!

A comet in the sky

This week, gazing through my astro-binoculars at the light of Comet Leonard that last passed us 80,000 years ago is another humble lesson. Certainly, the observable universe is astonishing as much as the unobservable universe is baffling.

We live in incredible times for understanding the universe through the most bonkers and compelling ideas in physics. Physics is thrilling and mind-boggling and I feel sorry that I am arriving late at this party. Hopefully it is never really too late fall under the enchantment of science.

Book Review: Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

After surfacing from the spell of the related novella, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, I could not stop thinking about the opportunity to return to the leafy paths of Greenhollow Wood in Drowned Country. I have never been so eager to be lost in the woods.

Cover Image Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country is a story of epic love, and the complexity of the burden of love too. Set within an ancient mythic forest, every character seems to have an archetypal echo. Yet they battle with the boundaries of their power so entangled in human flaws. The deep love between Henry Silver and Tobias, both enigmas to each other, is not just their love story, but the timeless ever told tales of the wild man of the woods, green man stories and the kings and queens of fairy.

In Drowned Country, more of Greenhollow’s folklore is unearthed to readers, from supernatural dryads and demon lords to the human folklorists who have both kept and destroyed the history and stories of the forest. Perhaps the most fearsome power of all is Henry Silver’s mother, who despite being quite mortal, seems to have the most formidable control of all.

The seasonal cycle of dark and light in the forest and the recurring patterns of folklore and myth whirl the reader along with Henry Silver, Tobias and company, as they venture across the threshold of the wildwood into faery to find a missing girl, Maud Lindhurst. There are unforeseen and epic consequences. Although an expedition tale, I love the pace of this story that pauses for delightful dialogue and description of Greenhollow’s forest glades. It’s a tale told in the mystery of old forest-time, over aeons and day.

I could read so much more of Greenhollow Wood, and Tobias and Henry Silver. I hope that Drowned Country isn’t the last time the thorny thickets and brambles beckon readers through a gap and into this world of wild gods.

The forest of Greenhollow feels like a personality in itself, alive and interacting in the story. In this way Drowned Country reminds me of powerful mythopoetic stories of portal woods, such as Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. Lovers of the likes of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke will particularly enjoy the dark brooding menace of fairy in this adventure beyond the mortal boundaries of Greenhollow Wood.

This review of Drowned Country by Emily Tesh was originally published on Netgalley with thanks to Tor for the advanced reading copy.

An unexpected adventure in sustainable living

From mid-July to October, my life is temporarily shifting gear a bit. We were asked to use up excess leave at work. Usually, this leave would be preciously cached for school holidays. I’d use it to look after my children in the summer holidays or family trips to see our loved ones who are overseas. Things are of course very different in 2020.

Whilst I could usually easily fill the time with house chores, cooking, D.I.Y., reading novels and walks to wild places, I have also been facing a new health challenge since March this year. It means that I really don’t know how much physical work I’ll be capable of over the next few months. I’m immunocompromised and my physical abilities have fluctuated over the last few months. Things may get worse before they get better. I know it’s time to be serious about it and to properly respect my limits. I start a journey of seeing specialists next week and I have really no idea about what this will involve.

To tackle a period of uncertainty like this, I just need a plan. At the core is something to keep my mind engaged, with a bonus if my body will allow me to do anything practical.

Frugally hedonistic retro suburban sustainable living (!)

Mind-bending. I’m starting the University of Tasmania Diploma of Sustainable Living distance course.

Two particular books will also be my inspiration for the next few months:

  1. RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide to a resilient future by David Holmgren
  2. The Art of Frugal Hedonism: a guide to spending less while enjoying everything more by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb

I’ll be setting goals based on my learning experiences and aiming to write regularly to keep myself motivated and to share the learning adventure.

My steps may be small and slow, but I feel like I am taking new leaps into something I started a few years ago with the Living Smart sustainable living course and Geoff Lawton’s permaculture design certificate course.

Perhaps my focus will be mostly about how to take our current front-yard and back-yard farming approach just even further into the realms of permaculture and self-sustainability.

To me, this seems like a particularly basic but brilliant use of the most precious resource of all – time.

A magical potting shed – The Burrow

Creating a magical potting shed

Back in February 2020, my husband converted the bespoke kid’s cubby house at the bottom of the garden into a roomier version that would be a potting shed for me. The kids had outgrown it and he achieved the transformation by dropping the floor height and cutting a larger door and patching up the floor.

I had never had my own shed before. I decorated the inside with things that I have had forever and leftover paint. I probably got slightly carried away, because The Burrow became something far more than I imagined.

The front of the potting shed showing a stone plaque of a green man and a handmade sign 'The Burrow'
A green man I’ve had for years from the UK. I made the sign from scrap wood

Potting sheds for practical magic

I didn’t imagine how important having a potting shed would be. I didn’t imagine loving a shed.

The front of the wooden potting shed showing a wooden door with a dragonfly knocker.
The door is recycled from an old house, split to form a barn door. The door handle from a different old door, the door knocker was a gift.

It is practical for gardening, because it makes seed keeping and sowing easier. I can now always find my tools and access things to keep my chickens happy.

Inside the potting shed with garden tools hooked onto spaces on the walls.
Places for some simple tools

But also, on another level, because I made it a place of whimsy, it’s just a quirky little space, a sanctuary where I can just have a cup of tea for five minutes. Where I feel connected to growing, the garden and permaculture thinking.

A few simple tools

I can fit regular small-scale seed sowing in more easily to life because it is an organised space. The kids have used the potting shed too, planting radishes and drawing art for inside it.

A panoramic photograph of the wooden bench in the shed.
Practicality – a potting bench with storage underneath

There is just something about it that feels…otherworldly. Looking at it, and stepping inside is strangely comforting. It’s real magic.

Reusing and upcycling

What I loved about this project was that we reused and recycled what we could. We bought the minimum items needed where we could not source second hand. My husband found an incredible old door for sale nearby and converted it into a half-opening barn door.

A photo of the potting shed with evening sun lighting the door.
Evening sun on the beautiful reclaimed door

Inspiration for “The Burrow”

Our chicken coop is called “The Bothy” so I needed a name for my potting shed. It felt right to call my potting shed “The Burrow” – a name borrowed from the Harry Potter series.

The window of the potting shed looking out to a young lemon tree.
The southern window, peeking out to the lemon tree

“The Burrow” potting shed is inspired by the quirky Weasley family home in the Harry Potter novels with a twist of Newt Scamander’s shed from Fantastic Beasts (alas, without the suitcase entry!). It’s also a bit of a Hobbity place somehow and a bit Beatrix Potter.

All fantastic worlds collide in my head, and my shed!

Looking in through the window, with cobwebs and a solar light inside.
Solar lights in a jar for a little light inside, cobwebbed windows encouraged
A leaf-shaped plate with the words of W B Yeats inscribed "The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our sense to grow sharper".
A quirky plate with a quote from my favourite poet, W.B. Yeats
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
Seeds organised in old shoe boxes, flower presses
Saved Black hollyhock seeds with a bit of imagination and a broken but beloved mug.
An insect hotel made from bamboo sticks, attached to the outside of the potting shed.
Open to all fantastic mini-beasts – the insect hotel
A Beatrix Potter window decal.
Mixing in a bit of a Beatrix Potter

I used anything I had in the house – like a teapot that I loved but being clumsy, I had dropped it and broken the handle. Perfect for a bit of fun in the potting shed…

Mr Todd in a teapot. Peter Rabbit is on the shelf below.

Gardening like farmer, farming like a gardener

With a green man keeping a watchful eye on the outside of the burrow, it seemed right to have one on the inside. Who better than the source of inspiration for all my gardening adventures in Australia, but Costa Georgiadis!

I had a magazine page (from Earth Garden magazine) that I had stuck onto an old baking tray with a quote from Costa Georgiadis…

“And at the end of the day, it’s all about gardening like a farmer and farming like a gardener”

Costa Georgiadis
The potting shed wall with a portrait of Costa Georgiadis by Adelaide artists Joan and Rose.
A magazine page (Earth Garden) stuck onto an old baking tray
with a quote from Costa Georgiadis…

My brother and sister in law know I am a Costa Georgiadis fan and had bought me this beautiful art by local artist Joan and Rose. It just felt right to have Costa as a green man in the potting shed and I’m fairly sure it’s why the chickens love visiting the shed so much.

I had an epiphany learning how to build soil through his series ‘Costa’s Garden Odyssey’. Having Costa as the Southern Hemisphere green man of the inside of my potting shed seems right and I hope he doesn’t mind.

The potting shed wall with a portrait of Costa Georgiadis by Adelaide artists Joan and Rose.
Beautiful art by local artist Joan and Rose.

On a sunny day I can brew water for tea in my Sun Rocket solar camping kettle. The potting trolley (“Any plants from the trolley?”) was our second child’s baby change table, which my husband converted into a moveable potting table.

A Sun Rocket solar kettle outside the potting shed.
Sun Rocket solar camping kettle and the potting trolley.
A chicken sitting on the open barn door of the potting shed.
The chickens know that there is a chamber of secrets – a tasty cache of sunflower seeds inside.
Looking out from the potting shed in autumn.
Late autumn from inside the potting shed – the plum tree just losing its leaves
The Burrow, nestled at the bottom of the garden.
Our block is 874m2.

During the project, I kept a Potting Shed Pinterest board with images that were inspiration for the inside.

I hope sharing this modest little potting shed, “The Burrow” will give some of you some inspiration to pursue your own idea of a little magical upcycled potting shed.

You never know when you might need a little space for some spells of green magic in your life.

The turn of the year

Although months later than usual, today I did one of my favourite annual rituals of taking a yield of beautifully scented wood from the Vitex agnus-castus known along the ages as Chaste Tree, Abraham’s Balm, Monk’s pepper amongst other mysterious names.

History of The Chaste Tree

Chaste Tree has an ancient history, with its use referenced in literature and poetry. It is still used today in herbal medicine practices.

In a medieval poem The Floure and the Leafe which was written anonymously in Middle English, a beautiful lady in white wears a crown of Vitex agnus:

“On her head, of leves fresh and grene,
So wele wrought, and so mervelously,
That it was a noble sight to sene.
Some of laurer, and some ful pleasantly
Had chapelets of woodbind, and sadly
Some of Agnus castus were also
Chapelets fresh. 

According to its effect on the human body, if Chaucer’s characters for example, had ingested this herb more, let’s just say that The Canterbury Tales would certainly have less rudey-bits and rumpy-pumpy! This herb could have saved me from SO MUCH blushing as a Medieval Literature student when having to read Chaucer aloud!

Harvesting Vitex agnus

I have written about this annual task before because of how seasonal the task feels as a ritual. I only began to value it in this way, as a recurring seasonal task after spending six months with my head in a permaculture course. I discovered that the actual yield is not about measuring the yield of wood…which is quite small.

It’s more about connection to the cycle of seasons. Thinking about the ancient history of this tree, valued enough to be in poem and story. A sensory trigger from the feel and scent of the beautiful wood.

You can cut Vitex down to ground level and you can grow it as a single trunk tree or shrub.

The Wood

What I love about this task is the scent of this wood. It is really unique and hard to describe. It reminds me of patchouli wood perhaps mixed with pine but far more distinct. When dried it retains its scent and burns sweetly.

The Floure

Stunning blooms of Vitex agnus

The white spikes of summer flowers are very similar to Buddleia and attract many butterflies, bees and hover flies. I’ve observed that native Australian blue-banded bees seem to find the white flowers fascinating, even though their preference is for blue hues.

Vitex agnus is just one of those quiet plants that I don’t see often, but is a special, brilliant and appreciated part of my small permaculture inspired garden.

Removing spindly flower tops

The start of a little scented stick pile which becomes a small armful.

The first phase, now ready for each branch to be taken.

Cloud hypnosis

I was lucky enough to spend a few months wandering wild places and towns in England, Scotland and Wales in April and May with my little family.

With little time for writing, it is probably all going to emerge in bits and bobs and scratched together from hasty notes and reflections.

….

My first 6am cup of tea in the very early morning outdoors in the mountains of Scotland was magical. It is a time to listen and watch, so I fight the urge to photograph, and just try to etch mornings like these in memory.

Although tempting to gaze south-east at the stunning Ben Nevis range, which I certainly did photograph (above), I turned my back on such well-known beauty, clutched my tea and crunched through frosted grass to the edge of the western boundary. From there, the edge, I could watch the cloud transform the smaller mountains to the North and West, where the sun and cloud were playing.

I have no words for the morning. There was bright and complex bird song in the forest. Birds I can’t yet name. The light on the mountains was salmon-pink and sherbert-orange. I stood still and saw cloud spilling down the hillside, creating almost the sense of a rainbow as it played with sunlight on slopes. I heard the wings of birds in the stillness. Nearby, below the grassy slope, I heard the soft tread of sheep.

Wispy and slow, cloud came curling down towards me, brushing the tips of pine trees, before quietly and secretly seeping through every branch. Dampening everything from birdsong to vision, there is nothing more gentle in nature that steals away so much beauty, creating a new beauty of its own. It was hypnotising, leaving nothing but a veil of white in its wake. The gentlest wave.

Tea in cold dregs, I turned around to go back to the cottage to find the cloud had also been creeping down my neck behind me.

All was cloud and cloud was all, and that is all. For now.

Epic authors: Charles de Lint

I discovered Charles de Lint books when I really needed to.

A bookish life

It was 1995. I was an undergraduate uni student, studying librarianship and majoring in literary studies. I had never imagined going to university. No one in my family had been. I was shy and scared of people. I felt a sense of awe and terror that I was actually studying James Joyce and Chaucer in heritage listed buildings in the city. I also felt very so very out of place there. I thought someone was going to wake me up and tell me there had been an admissions mistake. I even began to have panic attacks on the way to Middle English literature tutorials because I didn’t feel good enough to be there.

Struggling financially to afford textbooks,  living at home and travelling into the city each day to study books felt like a fanciful luxury. An income would have been preferable to help our household. I needed work to stay in uni, at a time when part-time jobs were hard to find in Adelaide.

I had always dreamed of working in a bookshop.  I could be brave in writing, so I wrote to all the bookshops in the city and told them how much I wanted to work there. I received lots of rejections.

However, for one shop, the timing had been perfect. I met the bookshop owner and soon had my own set of keys to the shop in my first job! It was an hour on the bus which gave me plenty of time to read two novels a week. I had taken on an extra literature subject at uni so that I could study more genres.

Every minute of the day was about books!

The bookshop dream

The book shop I worked in itself wasn’t fancy. It had bright red carpet, trestle tables stacked with books and chipboard shelving around the edges. It was a small business in the city, run by a mother and father who had a baby daughter. It was partly a remainder book shop. The owner would sometimes travel to the UK to buy remainders and bring them back to Adelaide to sell. Our collection is what made us. If you could look beyond our lack of high-brow atmosphere, you could find sought after quirky titles, gorgeous art books and hard to find gems. We had a loyal band of customers ranging from bargain hunters, people just waiting on a bus, to those who knew what they were looking for. Our word of mouth trade was amazing.

The shop also had a few small shelves of full price novels.

Moonheart

It was at those shelves, in my first week there that Moonheart written in 1984 by Charles de Lint cast its spell. It fell onto the floor at my feet. Whilst this wasn’t unusual with our packed shelves, I still get an odd feeling when I think about that moment. As if this book actually wanted to be read. The cover art by David Bergen was undeniably part of the enchantment.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint Cover art by David Bergen, Pan Books, 1990.

Finding Charles de Lint

The funny thing about finding Charles de Lint was that in 1998, Charles de Lint was impossible to find in Adelaide in other bookshops.  I know because I tried. We stocked them even though our fantasy section was incredibly small.

I was allowed to read a little in the shop, if it was quiet. I think we sold more Charles de Lint books by having them noticed on the counter. The magic of those David Bergen covers. As I had so much other reading to do for my studies, this is how I read de Lint. In snatches of time, in the in-between places. Late night buses home.

It may have been the cover that grabbed me, but it was Charles de Lint’s writing that owned me.

The mythical and magical woods

After that one book, Charles de Lint catapulted to be being my favourite author.  I read Greenmantle, SpiritWalk, The Little Country, everything, until we ran out of de Lint paperbacks. De Lint stories taught me something that changed the way I looked at the world. I found a way to celebrate always feeling like a misfit at a time when I was in a place where I felt that I didn’t really belong.

Urban fantasy

Charles de Lint’s urban fantasy stories are rich with relatable folk musicians, bikers, creative thinkers, fringe dwellers, down to earth and relatable female characters and wild gods that walk in urban neighbourhoods. They are true-hearted everyday dreamers and artists. Urban places in countries far away are linked to the magical mythologies of others. In Moonheart, that began with modern downtown Ottawa to the wild mythology of Wales.

The sound of reading

Charles de Lint also included references to celtic folk music, a love that spawned in my 20s. Characters tapped their toes to real bands like Silly Wizard in the text. In the Author’s notes he cited other musical influences the book was written along to.

Greenmantle and Yarrow, Pan Books. Cover art David Bergen.

Those stories helped me see the magic in everyday little things, wherever I was. They also helped me overcome my shyness. At the time, I learned to value the interesting wanderers who would come into the shop on Sunday afternoons especially. Those who wanted small talk with their books. My favourite became a bearded wizardly gentleman who I secretly affectionately called ‘Merlin’. He would come in on the weekends and there would be conversations about some very esoteric philosophy. He could have walked right out of a de Lintian novel as an echo of ancient Taliesin.

Newford and Tamson House

A series of Charles de Lint books is known as The Newford series. They are all set in a fictional version of Ottawa which straddles the Otherworld, with characters that return throughout the series.

Newford, although fictional became part of my inner cache of imaginary geography. Tamson House, an immense artist share-house with three towers and a “sense of Gothic” still feels like a real place years after reading these books. I would love to wander in the four acre wild garden in the middle, filled with fruit trees, ivy, birch and oak trees and vegetable beds accessed by cobblestone paths.

I’m wasn’t alone in my enchantment with Tamson House. 1998 was the dawn of the graphical web. I found other fans running a mailing list based on the fictional house in the books, Tamson House mailing list (viewable but most hyperlinks are dead)

Someone has now even mapped the theoretical location of Tamson House in Google Maps.

De Lint taught me that hectic urban everyday environments, have their own gentle undercurrent of magic and mystery. You just need to notice it. Sometimes I would even imagine that our humble shop might also magically straddle the Otherworld too. Perhaps the shop would lead right into the Merry Dancers Old Bookshop and Emporium from de Lint’s books. Charles Vess has created a very beautiful illustration of that shop it in the 20th anniversary illustrated edition of Moonheart. One day, I hope a copy falls at my feet in a bookshop.

Some twenty years later

Ouch, that’s a lot of time. In 1998 you couldn’t just order books online easily. I couldn’t find them in my local library either, so it would be a few years before I moved to the UK and had enough disposable income to continue to explore Charle de Lint’s incredible output.

Now I have a modest shelf of Charles de Lint books, including some special editions I have bought over the years. How I see the world is still influenced every day by these stories that showed me the wonder and wild of everyday magic. A reminder that there is always some way of belonging exactly where you are.


The Wild Wood Charles de Lint. Cover art Stephen T. Johnson Orb Books, 1994.

 

Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint. Illustrated by Charles Vess. Little, Brown and Company. 2014.

 

Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint. Cover art Mike Dringenberg. Subterranean Press, 2009.

 

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint. Illustrated by Charles Vess. Little, Brown and Company. 2013.

 

Charles de Lint has given readers decades of stories that have a power far beyond what he might have ever intended to send out into the world. They reached a young girl, living in a council house with her mum and brother and stepfather in the suburban outskirts of a city in Australia. They made the feeling of being an outsider, that feeling of being from the wrong side of the tracks, something to be proud of. I learned to tap deeply into those dream trees growing all around me. I understood how to grow other people through writing.

If I ever met Charles de Lint, I would try feebly to say how lucky I am that those stories came to me in my 20s. I would not be a wisp of the person I am today, without them.

Find out more about Charles de Lint’s magical writing at charlesdelint.com

Mythopoeia

I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

Tolkien – Mythopoeia

I can remember the first time I discovered my favourite word, over twenty years ago.

I had never heard of it before. It was like a spell and a word that I have revisited in wonder, trying to understand it.

mythopoeia

I didn’t discover this word in a place that made me feel connected to something else.

It wasn’t when I was standing in the ancient forest of Broceliande.

Or The Old Library in Trinity College.

Or when a gilt title of a book glinted out of the corner of my eye in a bookshop in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Or among the stones of the Ring of Brodgar on the Orkneys .

Or in a thunderstorm at the tomb of Newgrange in Ireland.

Or when a dragonfly landed on my hand, when I had just asked it to.

Or the moment in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland when I realised I had come to in Rivendell-on-earth.

Not even in the dawn, as the sun rose on the raw red rock face of the rugged outback landscape that I was born surrounded by.

No. It was in an unexordinary discount city-centre bookshop in the city of Adelaide,  rummaging through the sale bin.

There, I found a book. Just one copy. In 1998.

A word jumped out at me

mythopoeia

The book was The Magical World of the Inklings by Gareth Knight, about J RR Tolkien, C S Lewis, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield written in 1990.

The preface is titled On Mythopoeia and Magic.

Mythopoeia as I first understood it, standing in that bookshop, is a word that Gareth Knight equates to the word magical in the introduction.

Writers who were “capable of creating a ‘magical world’…a way of evoking the creative imagination of the reader to participate through story and landscape and characters in a deeper level of truth or reality.” (p.4 Gareth Knight)

This treasured book helped me understand the deep power of storytelling, the power of language and how some writers quest to create a sense of myth and legend in imagined worlds.

It is a word on the tip of my tongue in every landscape that moves me as I grapple to find words for what feeling is. It is the love and the longing to explore literary landscapes.

In more recent years, the word mythopoeia has been conjured through reading mythologist and storyteller Martin Shaw’s books, particularly Scatterlings (which I will one day write an entire post about!)

For the last 20 years I’ve been taking people out into the wild places, the few remaining wild places in Britain. And also that to a certain curiosity into where does wildness still reside in language itself? Could there be places witin stanzas, within stories, within poems where old gods still reside? And so quite naturally I’ve been brought back into story as a way of articulating wild information. Information from the ages.

Martin Shaw – Storytelling from the edge

I still don’t understand what I mean when I say mythopoeia, or try to describe it. I do know what it feels like.