Welcome to my Library and Hello to your Dragon Nature

I’ve started a personal library! It’s called the Greenwood Library in Forest Halls. The first book I scanned into the collection was the children’s herbal fantasy, Wise Child, (wise woman Juniper also plays the harp!) and the first book loaned is Flowers and Fables: a Welsh Herbal (both pictured here). You’re invited to browse the library. I’ll be adding many more items over the coming weeks — so easy to do with the app on my phone! Loans are available to on-islanders and other local folk. If you live out of the area (as many of you do), I hope this library will point you to some of the great resources that are available out in the world.

Greenwood Library "Firsts"
First book  entered into the system, first book loaned. Bookmarks are serve as reminders that these are library loans.

My 11-year-old self is in heaven. As a sixth-grader abandoned at the start of the school year by my until-then best friends (who, during the previous summer, had embarked on a mission to become popular), I deepened my friendship with the girl across the street. We spent  many recesses, lunch hours, and after school hours reading and imagining together, and much of that time was in our school library. My best friend Jenny had been helping the librarian with the circulation cards. When Jenny shared this part of her world with me and I started helping too, well, that opened the door to a new kind of awesomeness!

With my library, with its online catalog linked to the global world of books, my twenties self is in heaven too. The jobs I loved most as a young adult were the years I worked as a Library Specialist in Interlibrary Services at the Stanford University’s Green Library. My work involved tracking down and retrieving books and making photocopies of articles from the myriad campus libraries and from Green Library’s mysterious stacks and labyrinthine regions (some so little used and remote that you had to snap on the lights when you entered some  areas, and snap them off when you left).

And quite happy too, thank you very much, is my inner dragon and voracious lifelong learner self who has always loved books, gathering information, and prowling the long shadowed corridors of the anima mundi, nudging open the compact shelving of the heart with secret words, and discovering the hidden treasures that nestle within each one of us and which glimmer and ring with the true nature that is the world.

It seems that with the opening of this library, I’m saying yes to my imagination. So here is fair warning to you, and an invitation. With the opening of this library, I dedicate this blog to fully expressing my magical life and peculiar take on this world, and to welcoming you into a story of myth and medicine, true nature and kindness. This walk through the woods and words, however, isn’t a one-directional path. It, I hope, is a conversation, a polyphonic and polyrhythmic musical improvisation, a reciprocal sharing of resources in terms of tales and imaginings and illuminations, such as is enjoyed in book and article form by the research libraries for whom I once served.  I look forward to hearing your stories, your ways of perception, the heart of the world as it expresses within your singular and beautiful dragon nature.

Water Snake Wonderings - art
Wonders at the Heart of our Nature – art by Jane Valencia

How is magic and sweet surprise alive and well in your world? How do you live it out in your daily life with family, friends, community, and with nature? How does your unique take on life and your way of being nourish the children, help heal culture, and better our world? How do you experience yourself as Nature, as a child of the earth, imagination, and the Sacred? How can you and I grow our magical nature — our medicine selves — in service to living out our responses to questions such as these? What are your dragon nature questions?

These wonderings are the waters from which this blog springs.

I invite you to record your musings in the comments box below.

Visit the Greenwood Library in Forest Halls here.

Books Are Magical Doors

Yes, a Place Exists in Today’s World for Epic Storytelling

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of being one of 16 storytellers from the Seattle Storytellers Guild who performed the epic Finnish myth, the Kalevala, at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. What a fun and amazing experience!

The whole Kalevala took six hours to tell, with two intermissions. Listeners — including myself — truly entered a magical world — one of wonder, humor, adventure, and human foibles — presented against a backdrop of times past or perhaps never were. I personally felt something wake up: my human nature that knows and expects to have an immersive storytelling experience that resounds with layers of myth. For an afternoon the Finnish mythic roots became my own — or perhaps stirred recognition of a similar fabric in my own ancestral and soul psyche. I loved the sense of “passing the story” — one teller to the next — with each teller bring their own “color” and sensibilities to the tale, while also tending the weave of the whole.

One of the tellers, Jill Johnson, well captures the scope and spirit of the event. Read her blog post, An Epic Revisited.

Kalevala tellers - photo by Barry McWilliams
Seattle Storytelllers Guild Epic Tellers for The Kalevala at Nordic Heritage Museum March 25th 2017

Tellers from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California, all came together to perform this wondrous event. The show is over, but I believe it will air on the radio. I’ll let you know details about that airing when I get them! Also, consider joining the Seattle Storytellers Guild next year, when our 2018 epic storytelling features tales from The Thousand and One Nights!

Jane Valencia performing the Kalevala - photo by Barry McWilliams
Jane Valencia performing “Aino and the Queen of the Lake” from the Kalevala – photo by Barry McWilliams

A Wander into the Green Chapel

I first met this middle English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when I was studying the History of the English Language and Medieval Literature in college. Soon after, I studied the medieval Welsh tales, The Mabinogi, and I was struck by the similarity of themes and motifs in the first part of the First Branch, Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfyd with some that appeared in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The lord of the Otherworld/the Green Man, the Beheading Game, the Hunt, the intelligence of nature … images and snippets of tales from these two pieces wove themselves into my soul or found resonance in it. The original version of my children’s fantasy novel, Because of the Red Fox, was closely sourced from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In working on that first version, I longed to walk the terrain of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, specific as it is in the poem, and discover for myself the Green Chapel (though I was not keen to meet up with the Green Knight and face a potential beheading!).

Decades later, poet Simon Armitage — who created a masterful poetic translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight — created a documentary about seeking the landscape of the poem. As I watch the last section, in which he enters the Green Chapel, I’m stunned to discover how the landscape closely resembles what I’d imagined for my original tale.

About the documentary:

“Poet Simon Armitage goes on the trail of one of the jewels in the crown of British poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written about 600 years ago by an unknown author. The poem has got just about everything – it is an action-packed adventure, a ghost story, a steamy romance, a morality tale and the world’s first eco-poem. Armitage follows in the footsteps of the poem’s hero, Gawain, through some of Britain’s most beautiful and mystical landscapes and reveals why an absurd tale of a knight beheading a green giant is as relevant and compelling today as when it was written.”

Here is a link to some of my writings, stories, and art related to the Green Man and entering the realm of wild nature.

… and here is a snippet of Deb Knodel’s and my Forest show, which begins with a meeting with the Green Man.

Just thought you’d enjoy a ramble into the mystery of the turning of the year and the greenwood!