June 22, 2020 • No Comments
Synchronicity is an odd thing. I’ve always been interested in astrology, tarot, earth religions, feminism, and folklore. They have a lot to say about how the psyche works and–especially for followers of Joseph Campbell–how stories function. After all, reality is the tales we tell ourselves.
As an author, this subject is an important wellspring. Hence my interest in dreams and symbols and imagery that crosses cultures and the boundaries of time. I investigate these subjects, drift away, and come back like a migratory creature on the way to an unexplained destination. Maybe I’m ready for the next layer of information. Maybe I just like sparkly crystals. However, sometimes odd synchronicities happen.
I signed up for a 3-session course on Jungian psychology and alchemy from the Embassy of the Free Mind. With those two subjects combined, how could I not? I’ve attended two sessions so far, and the course addresses the stages of alchemy from a psychological perspective. In a very small nutshell, our personal growth follows the stages of death and rebirth and coming into wisdom through inner work. I love the international nature of the experience (yay for Zoom) and the wide-ranging references to mythology and culture. To be clear, there is no physical chemistry involved. It’s all dreamwork and navel-gazing, but right at this moment in time–after fire, plague, and TP shortages–it’s powerful. We’ve been forced to sit and think about things, and here is a chance to use that introspection. What’s working? What’s the source of unhappiness? How can we be more whole?
At the same time, completely randomly, I picked a DVD off the shelf that had sat there for years unwatched. I got a copy of The Hero’s Two Journeys on a Black Friday sale some time ago but never found the time to play it. I wanted something for a blog review so picked it off the TBR pile. It’s Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler talking about story structure. Surprise, surprise, the map of the inner journey (particularly Vogler’s analysis using Joseph Campbell’s work) closely parallels the alchemical path. That tidbit was a huge “whoah!” for me, especially when it showed up in such random fashion.
Apparently, I need to pay attention here. Just as a confirmation, I pulled a card from the Wildwood Tarot and got the Nine of Stones (tradition). Part of the meaning is “reverence for past wisdom and sacrifice. The ability to relate to ancient knowledge and pass on the lessons of ancestral memory and ritual.”
I’ve got some thinking to do.
March 1, 2020 • No Comments
I have a long list of “I really should watch that someday” documentaries, especially ones about lifestyle and stuff.
Forks Over Knives
Last week I finally watched Fork Over Knives (2011, Virgil Films), which talks about the virtues of a whole-foods, plant-based diet. It’s a few years old but some of the scientific studies cited were new to me. The film spells out why chronic diseases can be reversed through lifestyle. Given my family’s incidence of cancer, this caught my attention. For example, casein, an animal protein, “switched on” cancerous growths in test animals when it formed more than 5% of their diet. When it dropped back down to 5%, the disease retreated.
I know that no study is perfect (for instance, I have strong feelings about animal testing) but it infuriates me that there isn’t more focus on this kind of evidence. There is an epidemic of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Something like one in three adults develop diabetes in North America. Diet will at the very least alleviate the symptoms in most victims. Why don’t we see the same action on this file as on, say, a virus that kills a mere few thousand world-wide? Because the virus doesn’t have a corporation to lobby on its behalf? I resist conspiracy theories, but one has to wonder.
Will I become vegan? I’ll definitely explore the diet and see how I respond. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for decades but never seriously considered dropping all animal-based foods. I know many people who have and their health is amazing. What’s important, I think, is to have a handful of reliable recipes in advance. That’s how I cut out meat without feeling deprived. I was already able to turn to familiar dishes. Click here for more on Forks Over Knives and its community.
Two other great documentaries I’ve watched recently while doing my ironing are:
Playing With Fire, which is all about the “Financial Independence, Retire Early” movement. This is inspirational and so common-sense, especially if one has a rebellious streak. It definitely made me rethink my savings plan!
What’s With Wheat I saw this one on Amazon Prime. The approach here isn’t “wheat is bad” so much as “what the heck have we done to this crop?” With the recent rise of gluten intolerance, it’s a good question. Some friends who have eaten bread while visiting Europe don’t notice the same side effects, which lends credence to the idea that it’s hybridization and agricultural practice, not so much wheat itself, that’s the problem. Interesting stuff.
As you might have guessed, I’m fascinated by food, lifestyles, and other health stuff. Especially food, because it’s the cornerstone of health, pleasure, and social interaction.
October 12, 2019 • No Comments
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
There are lovely aspects to every season, but autumn is by far my favorite. The cooler weather sharpens my mind and ambition and brings back so many good things.
June 1, 2019 • 2 Comments
I love illustrated books, especially older ones with hand-drawn and tinted plates. While lots of my favorites are illustrations of novels and children’s stories, I’m fond of old scientific works as well. Botany texts, seed catalogues, and gardening manuals offer a wealth of gorgeous illustrations (as well as information on how to grow things without a boatload of chemicals). Some varieties that show up aren’t that common in modern gardens, so they are great references when looking for heritage specimens.
Recently I brought home a lovely old English (1843) volume because, y’know, book research.
Here’s a sample page of The Floricultural Cabinet and Florist’s Magazine, conducted by Joseph Harrison, editor of the Gardener’s Record, etc.:
I find a quick dose of happiness in the New York Botanical Garden page a day calendar (willowcreekpress.com). It alternates modern photographs of their amazing facility with antique botanical illustrations. I keep this on my desk at the day job so I can take a quick mental vacation to a beautiful green space as required.
Here’s a link to the garden itself: https://www.nybg.org/. The online shop is fun for gardening fans.
May 22, 2018 • No Comments
We all know the past has a pull on us. We write about literal ghosts, but there are plenty of metaphorical ones as well. Some are even more powerful and/or frightening than a chain-rattling specter. These haunts are the echoes of past selves that—for good or ill—we’ve somehow left behind. Memories, emotions, past selves we’ve given up for a higher good or a harder road—nothing is ever truly gone when it’s a part of our soul. Sometimes that’s a relief, or an ache, or both.
Dreams delayed are the strangest of these shades. This weekend was full of open-air concerts and sunshine and the first flush of the festival season. I took time away from my desk to bask in the warmth and watch one of my favorite bands. As a creative, I had two loves—writing and music, and I had to make a choice between the two. I could only nurture one properly and still hold down a full-time job. I chose storytelling, in part because it was an easier fit with a workaday schedule, and I still believe it was the sensible choice. I can’t say that music is a road not taken, because I took that path as far as I could go at the time. I think of it as a road with a bridge temporary closed for maintenance. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the ache every time the ghost of my musical soul stirs.
I’m not alone, of course. The demands we face as creative entrepreneurs aren’t easy, especially when responsibilities tie us to corporate jobs and all that reality entails. Creativity in that context is an extraordinary quest—one that takes us through feats of time-bending, identity-shifting, and fiscal sleight-of-hand. We transform in metaphorical phone booths, unleashing our true selves in the privacy of hidden spaces. We might not conquer literal armies, but we defend our kingdoms all the same. There are precious things inside us, and creatives fight to keep them alive.
We live in hope for eventual freedom, of a victory before it’s too late. Only then can we be whole again, returning all those lost ghosts to the hearth of our souls.
It’s a dream, but we have to believe it.
March 19, 2018 • No Comments
March is springtime, the moment of renewal, the return of cherry blossoms and the perfect excuse to refresh our wardrobes. After a winter of rain and gloom, blue sky and flowers are welcome indeed. For the locals, there is also the annual running of the goats.
In the spirit of sparkly new things, there was of course our weekend retreat detailed in our newsletter, plus the standing room only Collaborative Creativity workshop March 10 in Nanaimo. Note the celebratory beverage:
Other new things include many plans for future stories—more Corsair’s Cove as well as my solo projects. There’s a brand new calendar on my wall, and I spent part of this past weekend making sure all my dates are captured in multi-colored inks. I also amalgamated a zillion notes, lists and stickies into a coherent one-pager. Now I can see at least a little of my desk. It would be easier if I was able to use electronic prompts effectively, but I seem to enjoy the comfort of physical lists that I can scribble on and cross out.
I’d say this was simple in the extreme and not worth mentioning except for the amount of paper I recycled by the end. Trees died in the name of my productivity. So here you go–proof of the semi-tidy desk with obligatory teacup, stuffed toys and the topic list to the right. I can actually see wood!
January 8, 2018 • No Comments
Monday is back to work for me after a nice long vacation. I realized how much I needed the break based on how much sleeping I did. Now that I’ve caught up on some R&R, I notice myself doing two important things: dreaming and having ideas. Apparently whatever passes for my subconscious mind is showing movies again.
To stave off the post-holiday blues, I’m reviewing the things I accomplished over my break. I’m focusing on the boxes checked, because there were definitely some nice wins. And yes, of course I need a plan to finish up the almost-done stuff. What’s that they say about 10% of the work takes 90% of the time?
I also need a plan to cover everything I want to do in 2018, and there’s a lot on that list. Some of that’s just my A-type personality, and some is a reflection of my well-rested enthusiasm. I have a shiny new planner, and I’m not afraid to use it. I’m on the alert for opportunities.
Sure, there will be obstacles, but if there’s a wall, there’s a door. If there’s a door, there’s a way through it. That sounds a bit like a motivational poster, but this is the point in the year when optimism is key to jump-start all my plans. The impossible is always subject to redefinition. It just hasn’t met me yet.
October 30, 2017 • No Comments
Hallowe’en is almost upon us and I thought, “Oh, this post should be easy.” After all, the events of Kiss in the Dark revolve around an October 31 ball, complete with curses, ticking clocks, and doomed spirits. Plenty of material there. And, in truth, many of my books reference Samhain or Hallowe’en, and most of them have some supernatural goings-on. Plus, I live down the street from a graveyard in a very haunted town. I am spoiled for choice of spooky material.
So, I’ll restrict myself to two favorite images I’ve taken in the cemetery. Both were taken with an older camera and aren’t the best resolution, but to me they show the fantasy world peeping through to our own. The crow on the obelisk should definitely be quoting Poe. As for the angel–could the sky be any more perfect for a heavenly backdrop?
Sure, on Hallowe’en the veil between the worlds is thinnest. That doesn’t mean the other 364 days are completely free of magic sprinkles. We just have to stay alert.
August 18, 2017 • No Comments
Those who follow me on Instagram (RowanAshArt) will know that I have a great interest in plants and flowers. It’s not just because the botanical world is photogenic enough to overcome my poor photography skills. Somewhere in the distant mists of childhood I decided I wanted to become a herbologist. Why? Maybe it was all the herbal healers that showed up in the fantasy books I read. Anyhow, herbology got laughed right out of the career counsellor’s office and I took an English degree instead because, y’know, we have to be practical.
Fast forward to the present. I’m still interested and have done some learning along the way. I’m in a pitched battle with Things That Munch in the garden, but have had a few victories, including a very healthy bay tree and a rosemary that will eventually take over Vancouver Island. With luck, I may even have tomatoes this year. It’s all about figuring out what plants go in what location and how many plants it takes to yield enough material to be useful once the deer, bugs, and rabbits help themselves.
But beyond all that, I’ve grown interested in the history and literary applications of gardening. There’s the whole murder mystery connection, with Brother Cadfael and his herbarium. There’s also the metaphor of gardening and the mind. I’m in the very early stages of developing a character with an exceptional garden, but it’s as much an expression of her past and her aspirations as of her green thumb. It’s a historical setting, so the extravagant Victorian glass houses and hand-drawn etchings of botanical specimens are part of her world. That Victorian mix of science, superstition, and adventure—not to mention their mania for collecting and codifying everything—are intoxicating to me. It’s great fun to have something in common with a character because we can both enjoy ourselves during the research process.
June 19, 2016 • No Comments
Father’s Day is an odd thing for me. I’ve grown used to the endless advertisements celebrating Dads. I certainly don’t begrudge the holiday, but it does highlight the fact that my own father passed away some time ago and each reminder gives me a twinge. But, I’m happy to say I remember the good times we shared more strongly than any sadness I might feel. I adored my father. Yes, I saw his flaws and the chaos he sometimes caused but I was still a Daddy’s girl. He taught me a lot, including how to cling to my round-peg self in a world full of square holes.
He would have been an inveterate steampunk given the chance. He loved Monty Python, waistcoats, the Pre-Raphaelites, marmalade, British mysteries, tea, sausage rolls, and books. And books. And books.
Happy Father’s Day. Surely the afterlife is a library with easy chairs and a tea trolley.