Saturday 5 October 2013


THE ROWANS this Autumn have burst out redder and more abundantly fruiting than I remember seeing them ever before. The berries make you stop in your tracks - tempting handfuls of redness shone-on by the September sun as it moves across the September sky, slowly climbing the greygreen Jacob's Ladders of the Rowan's leaves.

The year's turning offers us a harvest-basket of berries and fruits and fungus as the Dartmoor mizzle comes down, soaking into our boots and thoughts, slowly making an umber patchwork of sludge from the year's bright leaves.

As the days roll on and the light leans low; I rummage in my harvest basket of this year, and find many things to nourish me, many things that are dark and mushroomy and hidden underneath, and many things that I have not yet shared with you all.
So here is a small selection of berries from the year's basket - a post of remembering and Septembering (even though it's now October!)...

I haven't told you about my beautiful niece, Anna Francesca, who was born to my brother Jan and his wife Maria back when the May blossom was frothing. I am amazed at the arrival of new little humans into my family, and the way the years turn.

The last time you heard about Jan and Maria's offspring, it was at the birth of their first child, Lukas, who has grown to be a dear and thoughtful little boy and a proud brother...

...almost as tall has his tall father...

... with a fascination for snails and worms and all the tiny things at the bottom of the garden. 

I haven't told you about our very dear friends Andy and Nomi moving from Oxford where we saw them too infrequently to be our neighbours here on Dartmoor.

So often, dear friends can be scattered by the miles, and so we are delighted beyond words that these hills of granite-and-moss called them loud enough that they heard, and that we now get to spend our days with them as the bluebells turn to berries.

I haven't told you about this year's Weird & Wonderful Wood Fair - our favourite of the season, and no disappointment this spring either.

The weather was kind, and the crowds thronged. My stall was pitched under a crop of mistletoe, next to the den-building in the trees. And my newly painted sign hung in the canvas emporium to much admiration. I even got to play music around a fire with Rory McLeod!

The fair brought its usual jumble of delight and wonder...

... and most exciting of all - the Insect Circus was there!

I have wanted to see the Insect Circus for years, but somehow it has contrived to be where I'm not, until now! It is an incredible colourful travelling museum in a Bedford TK horse lorry (which longtime readers will know I am quite fond of!), all adorned with quirk and circus, in just the way I like.

Inside (for a fee of 50p) you get to peer into mysterious boxes which come to life at the press of a button, read about the feats of wasp tamers and dancing snails and bearded ladybirds and see the bugs perform their tricks before your very eyes!

And the exterior is painted with Entomological Enchantment of many kinds...

I haven't told you about all the cold Dartmoor rivers we swam in throughout the blessedly hot Dartmoor summer...

...where the light fell like sky-treasure through the green leaves into the peaty golden pools where we bathed, and the air around us was quiet and loud with birdsong and river-rush all at once.

I haven't told you about walking in Wistman's Wood as the summer ended, and finding that the wisht was still there ... creeping through the rare mosses, and blooming between the gnarly toes of the stunted oaks.

I haven't told you about a marvellous trip to Wales we had. A weekend packed full with art shows and puppetry and circus, and the meeting of new friends.

We were invited by artist, theatre designer, dancer, puppet-creator and all-round inspirational man Clive Hicks-Jenkins to the first showing of a musical puppetry theatre performance with the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra which he directed - The Mare's Tale. The whole show grew out of a series of drawings Clive did some years ago based on a fearful experience from his father's childhood of the local Welsh midwinter folk mumming tradition of the Mari Lwyd which involves a horse skull and a white sheet calling in on villagers as part of a luck-bringing ritual. The stage was shared by the orchestra and one main actor-narrator Eric Roberts, who was incredible, and puppetry was performed around these others, fairly small-scale, but then filmed live and projected onto a large screen above the orchestra. Clive's puppets were beautiful and moving, and the whole show was a treat to experience.

We had driven all the way from Dartmoor to Brecon to see this, and stopped on the way in Abergavenny to briefly catch the opening night of Philippa Robbins' exhibition Magical Thinking at the wonderful Art Shop and Gallery which was curated by Clive's partner Peter Wakelin. Phillipa's work has a fabulous puppety, folky flavour to it. There were Russian Matryoshka dolls painted as characters from fairy tales, there were crows and babies in baskets, there were small votive items in ornate frames...

And then we dashed under the setting sun to Brecon where as well as Clive's Mare's Tale at Teatr Brycheiniog, there also happened to be pitched the The NoFit State Circus, who had brought their amazing show Bianco to the middle of Wales, and we would have been mad to miss it.

Inside the big tent was a huge open space filled with a enormous moving framework, and the audience stood all around. The show began with high-energy live music and an onslaught of leaping and swinging bodies above us. Ushers directed where the audience should stand and move according to what was going on overhead, and the next two hours were a sensory cascade of eye-popping feats of beautifully honed humans in impossible positions. I particularly loved the exquisite juggling. Photos were not allowed, so those shown here are the few I managed to sneak before being asked to put away my camera(!) and the rest are from the NoFit State website.

photo © NoFit State Circus 
photo © NoFit State Circus 
photo © NoFit State Circus

The morning following Clive's show he invited us back to an incredible house where he and Peter had been staying for the duration of The Mare's Tale's creation, as he felt sure we'd be enchanted.

We were! This is Ciliau, and it belongs to a friend of theirs. It is a medieval gem of the like I thought no longer existed. Its owner has uncovered beautiful medieval wall paintings, and found leather patches used to repair the wooden floors. All over, it has been kept in the spirit of what it once was, with a unique delight in worn paintwork and ramshackle. 

We felt so lucky to have seen this place, and spend time with Clive and Peter over lunch there before we returned to Devon. Whilst the others prepared food, I played some accordion tunes in the kitchen...

... and Clive brought out the puppets from the previous evening's performance to show us. There and then, this puppet Jane and I had a moment which Clive describes at his blog. Clive is one of those hugely talented artists who is generous with his talent and encouragement, and it makes all the difference for those of us still unconfident about aspects of our practice. The encouragement Clive gave me about my feel for pupptery in this moment has really helped to launch me into a wonderful fledgling puppetry project amongst friends back at home in Dartmoor with Andy and Nomi which Howard Gayton has instigated. Stay tuned for more on that front... there is magic afoot!

these photos by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Our journeyings in Wales were filled with goodness, and we paused on top of a hill to smile about it all.
portrait of Tom and me by my nephew Lukas, aged 3

... returning to Devon to September's autumnal unfolding.

In which I have celebrated my 34th birthday riding horses on the moor (a gift from Tom),

sharing a tiny cozy rural pub space with friends and some Dartmoor cider,

and climbing through splits in boulders to the darker half of the year.

These are strange days in which we have been extortionately busy and tired from a year of busyness. Tom has just a few weeks left of his long years of acupuncture study, and is crawling toward the finishing line with very tired legs, though he has already co-founded a thriving community acupuncture clinic here on Dartmoor - Source Point - where he and his colleagues are bringing health and wholeness to folks who would not normally be able to afford the more expensive treatments of one-to-one consultations. More on this venture anon, but suffice to say that we are looking towards next year with excitement for more space between all the things we are doing, in which to sit atop hills.

The truck still awaits our attentions, but we hope with a little more energy and time, we shall be on wheels next year. My studio continues to bring me joy, and in this room-beyond-a-trapdoor, I am nurturing projects which will be long in the completion, but hopefully jangling with magic.

A spider crawled across our living room wall the other day carrying a bundle. I don't know where she was going, but her little precious sack presaged a possible home upheaval of our own in which we may be moving our lodgings just a few miles due in part to problems with chimneys. This brings with it many unknowns, and inevitable box-lugging, so bear with me over the next few weeks if I am yet again not frequenting this place as much as I'd like.

But the harvest is good this year. The days have been full, and I hope that the syrups we make from that which we have gathered will be nourishing and help fight the cold of the dark months. The mushrooms are coming now, fruiting from the old and the dead, hinting at a vast unknown web of magic connecting it all, just beneath our feet.


Heather said...

Another magical post full of wonderful images. It's always a delight to have a new baby in the family and friends who become neighbours.
Ciliau is a beautiful treasure - how amazing that it survives in so much of it's original state.
I love the ancient trackway and Luka's portrait.

Unknown said...

Lots to enjoy in this post, but that house - just incredible! i hope it is always cherished and protected.

helen said...

Hey hey from Wales Rima and Tom :~) What a thoroughly delightful journey of 'I haven't told you yet'. Every word and photo made me smile and brought happiness ~ diolch yn fawr :~))

Unknown said...

You are so beautiful, and the mystic, simple gorgeousness of your life reflects this.

Ronnie (RR) said...

Such a wonderfully fun filled year you seem to have had. Thank you for sharing it with us. Happy belated birthday, horses and cider, what a delight! I look forward to see your puppets. Best of luck to Tom on his final stretch. And congratulations on becoming an aunt again. The photo of you two is beautiful, such love in your eyes.

Charlotte said...

It is so easy to fall in love with your life stories each week. Thank you for sharing them. Particularly the autumnal abundance and creative harvest. To all you and yours our very best from the Midlands.

Teresa Kasner said...

Everytime I read one of your posts you perform the magic of transporting me from my old farmhouse in the Oregon countryside to where you are living your fantastic life. You live well! I loved that old old old house, talk about photo opportunities abounding! I am going to be working on my studio today as it needs much organizing. I just posted on my blog photos of it half done.. my daughter-in-law is helping me. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear girl, what an amazing post! So much to wonder at here! Your life looks very good, which is as it should be.


Priya Sebastian said...

What an incredible post this is. To me here, it seems as if you live in an enchanted fairyland full of intriguing people and marvellous adventures like the stories I knew from childhood.

Ms. said...

That WAS just lovely, a film story full of love and beauty was just what I needed tonight. I am refreshed.

Ruthie Redden said...

Dear Rima, tis always an inspiration to stop by and so lovely to read of your happenings, i do love the stories your words weave. We were on travels of our own down in your wee corner of the world not so very long ago and i felt the pull of ancient magic from such lovely surroundings. I look forward to the fruition of your new projects.

Tiffany D. Davidson said...


This was *quite* a joy to read!
It is all wonderful and much of it I did too over the past couple of months. But I must say, the medieval house you walked us through absolutely blew my mind. Talk about aesthetic fulfillment!

Much warmth to you, as always.
x Tiff

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

You're a sweetie and I love you!

What a beautiful image of you and Tom together, smiling. Heathcliff and Kathy!


Rowan said...

Sounds as though you've had a wonderful summer. The Wood Fair looks so great, I wish I lived near enough to go, we don't seem to have that sort of event up here in the north. We do have the rowan trees though and they have been fabulous this autumn, like you I don't ever remember seeing them so full of berries. Good news for the birds this winter.

Lynn said...

I am fair drunk on beauty and wonderment after this!
Many thanks, Rima.

Karen said...

A feast of imagery. What a jam packed inspiring few months you have had.
I love the rowans and that house!.. wow such a treasure.
Thanks for sharing. I hope your move goes smoothly. :)x

Velma Bolyard said...

i came over here this evening thinking, well, maybe rima's written, and WHAT a post. so rich and full and moving into lovely things. i'm so happy here in autumn, that i always feel like it's my season, though i was born at the tail end of it all, it is my time! i'm curious about the puppets!

Jess said...

Beautiful photos, extraordinary events and people, thankyou so much for sharing it all here! I'd never heard of the Insect Circus, how fantastic! I love the way they've presented it, wonderful stuff!
Jess xx

Mokihana Calizar said...

You are a magic maker, Rima. I am filled up. Thank you, once more.

Willow said...

Such wonderment, beauty and merry times dwell here in this post !

Katalin said...

gratulálok a babához szeretettel

Unknown said...

I have come to wait until i am sufficiently sad to read your posts to take in your tonic words like warm spice tea on my lips and morning sunshine on my face, I am always remedied here in cheer and happy things forgotten stir awake!

Wyld Oak said...

Holy cats, that Insect Circus is utterly charming! Made me smile. Thank you for sharing your adventures and travels and photos with us all!

Mo Crow said...

a fabulous post!

R.Mason said...

I love The Insect Circus Truck, seen them on the festival circuit, how is your lorry coming along?
Ciliau is the best house I've ever seen! I want to go there.