Thursday 17 November 2011

Autumn Aflame

YELLOW FIRE licks the clear blue skies of these short November days in a last farewell. At the year's retirement, branches give up their last sparks to light the winter fire that will burn for us and in us throughout the cold coming months, and warm us with red ember-spice and cinnabar-stories from deep within the hearth of winter.

Hedges crackle with golden fire and bracken burns its last in the low sunlight.

Eventually the flames fall, and there is fire under our feet. 

We kick and leap in the auburn embers of the trees' last celebration.

And we lay on this soft red carpet thinking toward the day when it will turn hard and white.

 Our Autumn has been firelit from September onward...

For my birthday, Tom took me to the circus for the first time in my life.

We drove in our little red van to Cirencester for the last night of the season of the extraordinary Giffords Circus, who had circled their wagons in a field on the edge of town, ready to perform for the last time their astonishing production of Tolstoy's War & Peace.

All the vehicles were painted traditional burgundy and cream, and the wagons around the big tops served home made pizzas and programmes and Wurlitzer wonders.

Giffords are a traditional progressive circus, meaning their setup incorporates all the beauty of a traditional circus without the animal cruelty. The animals in the show were their own horses and birds, trained and loved and happy.

I was as wide-mouthed as the children in the front row throughout the show. Gasping at the feats and grinning at the magnificent Russian-flavoured music.

There was a man who tap-danced on his hands, a knifethrower and a dove-tamer, a Hungarian who galloped around the ring standing astride two horses at once, and a woman who played the violin upside-down in mid air, dangling from a rope; there was a goose who followed a horse, a hawk and a brilliant clown,  who wove the whole rambling story of War & Peace incredibly, madly together.

I was most wowed by an incredibly athletic troupe of Russian acrobats who flung each other into the air with breathtaking dare. Seconds after I took the photo below, this tiny woman - one of that troupe - tossed the flaming hoop high into the air, then she herself was flung up high by the two fellows supporting the narrow bendy board on which she stood, and she somersaulted mid-air through the flaming hoop only to land upright and un-singed on the narrow board again!

Outside the big top in the dark, the circus-glow made us grin...

... and we returned to our van to sleep, bellies full of Giffords' own hand-reared hog roast and vodka. 

These pumpkins were grown for our community by Chagfood - an amazing local food initiative here, where fruit, vegetables and flowers are grown for this area's residents and we sign up for a share of the harvest, year round, receiving an abundant box every week. The wonderful organic veg are grown by lovely people (and a horse) in a field just down the road a bit. When they reach our plates, the vegetables have not been out of the ground for longer than a few hours. The vegetables we receive are seasonal and so amounts fluctuate according to yields throughout the year. It is one of the most inspiring and nourishing (in all senses of the word) projects I've come across, and I'm proud to support it and have it as part of our community. The blooming veg boxes we receive every week really do make our hearts smile. I'll write again at some point about Chagfood in more detail, because it's important to me, but meanwhile you can see some wonderful photos of the land, the people, the project and the food at this lovely Chagfood blog.

To celebrate this year's harvest, Chagfood held an October gathering at their field, with fire and pumpkin soup and local cider sold from their hand-built vardo. As the sun set, we lit candles for a story and folks gathered on straw bales around the fire to be taken into Baba Yaga's forest. 

As ever, the evidence that we told a story is hazy at best. But you should be able to just make out our shapes by the wagon - me illustrating Tom's wonderful story with my accordion. It was a different tale this time, though our favourite Russian witch featured again of course. This time we had a chase (with suitable Russian um-pah chase-music) through the forest, and even squeezebox-witch-snoring. 
Thanks to Miriam Boy for taking these photos of us. I particularly like the candle-lit face of the child to the right of the photo above.

As the evening drew on, we sat in happy circle with the people of this place with whom we share vegetables, and looked into the fire.

The magnificent Kes Tor String Band played bluegrass into the night.

And the fire burned higher.

On the fifth of November, we attended another local spectacle - the Sticklepath Fireshow - a yearly performance of puppet-ghouls and papier-mâché skellingtons in front of an audience of thousands. 

The fireworks that followed the death-parade stitched the black sky with fire-stars, dancing their extravagant crackles about the white moon, who stood still up there and watched.

And after it all, the enormous wooden hotel-façade that they'd built for the performance, was burnt to the ground. What a strange and powerful thing it was to stand in a crowd of thousands watching a house burn. Watching the way the rafters and stairs burnt through, the burning rocking chair which had contained Guy Fawkes, and the hot hot dancing changes in the glowing wood, disintegrating in the fire, we wondered at how odd it was that this old fire tradition had got so knotted up with a character in a seventeenth century Catholic plot to assassinate the Protestant king. 

If you thought about it too hard, you realised it was quite a horrific scene - all these people standing calmly watching a house burn to the ground. But it had power too - at the Inbetween place straddling the old and new years, the ghostly place, where the dead and the Others are much closer than usual, we gave our unwanted things to the burning house of the old year, and were warmed by the flames into the new. 

That new year's day, November the first, we climbed the hill we climbed last Samhain, and saw the sun up with fried eggs and toast on a fire.

This new sun painted our edges with gold...

... as we stood together looking over the auburning of our land in the sun of the year to come.

Now, at home, as the fogs roll in, we see the flame burn on in the pith of the pumpkins and in the shadows on a leaf. 

I am preparing for upcoming winter fairs where I'll be selling prints and originals and Christmas cards too! Over the next two weekends I'll have stalls at two Steiner School fairs in Devon: Exeter Steiner School on the 26th November and this coming Saturday, 19th November, at the South Devon Steiner School in Totnes, who are holding what looks to be an extravagant advent fair, with marquees and tents of local crafts and chai and music and mulled punch and more! Here's the poster to the left, above that for another event we'll be selling our wares at: Dartmoor Frost & Fire - A Yuletide celebration on December 11th, hosted by Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer, mythic musicians of Seventh Wave Music. There'll be medieval music from the wonderful Daughters of Elvin, transporting bardic harping from Elizabeth-Jane Baldry and many more warming wintry wonders.
For the whole of December, I'll have my work exhibited again at Chagford's wonderful Wholefood cafe - The Courtyard, where on December 13th, we'll have a mini fair over a couple of hours in the evening for the community's late night opening hours where aromas of hog roast and carol singing waft across the square and both wine and gift giving are mulled. Please come along to any of these events if you are nearby. If you are not, keep an eye out on my virtual stall for wintry creations in the weeks to come.

If you look in through the damp window of our studio these days, you can see that the flames of autumn have leapt into my latest painting. 

May the flame keep burning, gold and copper and red, in your core as the nights close in.


Ms. said...

whewwww--today, a day of mass protest actions all over the world, and here in New York City, I enter your beautiful, elemental, visceral and joyous world like a thirsty long distance swimmer. By the last photo, I'm in tears. I don't want to leave, but I am on the outside of that framed familial warmth, and a long way away sending love and gratitude over the hills to thee.

Hussam Elsherif said...

I'm lost once again in the beauty of your world, imagery and words.. ..thank you,Rima for sharing all the beauty of your world and words.

yew tree nights said...

Oh that circus looks lovely... well everything does, actually! I tend to find that by the end of your posts there are always so many things I want to comment on that I don't know what to say at all. But I will say that I hope you do write about your organic farm sometime. We have something similar up here in Aberdeen, and so fresh, local organic food appears on our door step every Wednesday. I love it... though I'd love it even more if they also brought us Baba Yaga stories and accordion music!
Wishing you a crazy happy new year!

Anonymous said...

Your words never cease to take me on a journey, and those pictures, all the fire, and lights, and oranges and warm autumn colours are wonderful.

Rochelle said...

What a most beautiful way to celebrate Samhain! Your world is magical.

Heather said...

Another magical post Rima. I had no idea that Giffords Circus was such an amazing piece of entertainment. Your autumn photos are stunning and full of heartwarming imagery. Thankyou so much for letting us share your celebrations.

Harlequin said...

Wow what a wonderful place The Hermitage is to escape to. I always have such a lovely sense of anticipation when you post a new blog, and save it up for a time when I can truly sink into your world. Thankyou for your scrumptious posts.

trish said...

So beautiful...your words and photos. Gosh, what wonderful events you have been to, and what a fantastic thing to do on November 1st...climb that hill and eat fried eggs and toast and watch the sun rise....soul satisfying indeed.
Blessings to you.

Dan G said...

Thank you. I needed that.

Joel Le Blanc said...

If Rima was to write a book about her life, I believe a LOT of people would love to have a copy.

Penny said...

What an interesting post. About the circus, I spent the week end with a friend who is a member of one of our old Australian circus families, now disbanded, he now breeds excellent Welsh ponies, but in some of the chat I asked him about the liberty ponies, he said that when the circus finally broke up(mostly due to insurance) within 3 years all the ponies had died, in his opinion not from old age or neglect, because they were well looked after but because they missed all the attention they had when they were peforming.

Teresa Kasner said...

I can't imagine how wonderful that circus was. You are so lucky that you have the opportunity to see such a wondrous thing. Wonderful post, as always.
Teresa from Oregon, USA

Anonymous said...

You do live life with a certain restlessness. It shines in your words and your choices of photo's. Coming here is like being snatched into an ancient fairy tale. I never know what I am going to find. Thank you for the wonderful distraction, and the powerful sharing.
Blessed be......

Oh, and I love your dogs face, he suits you in fullness of expression..*smile*

Anonymous said...

Fantastic m'deario ! I'm still not convinced that Chagford doesn't belong permanently to some Otherworld ! Such marvellous traditions and community spirit. I loved the burning house - such a strong image. Good luck to you with all your endeavours. With love from us three here xxx

mycuriousteaparty said...

Hi Rima, sounds like you had the best birthday gift ever... Your Tom must be a real sweetheart.. Hold on to each other tightly..

Els said...

THANKS Rima, for all of this !

Ronnie (RR) said...

I love this time of the year when the leaves are turning, and your lovely photos capture their beauty. Also love the pumpkin shots, am glad you had a great time at the circus, such a wondeful present.

Tiffany D. Davidson said...

Incredibly WARM words and images, my friend!
I have been hoop dancing on my own out under the sky every now and again so your description of the flaming flying hoopstress has me astounded!!
And bluegrass! Here in Kentucky, the Bluegrass state, banjo & fiddle & wailing bounce from the sides of the Appalachians all over this river valley!

There is a familiarity in your words and I find we spend our days doing many of the same sorts of things. Cozy things. Taking in of things.
I loved the very last photo - when I was younger, one of my favorite things to do was walk around and look in windows (heheee does that sound creepy?!) I mean, from a "proper" sidewalk distance of course ;)
Anyway, Dartmoor is on our list of places to visit when funds and time one day allow - and then just maybe we can all sit down around a cast iron tripod and dutch oven and break out squeeze boxes and clarinets and flute & hurdy gurdy and make merry!

"My soul, do not seek eternal life, but exhaust the realm of the possible!"

Very best to you'uns over there :)

laoi gaul~williams said...

oh rima, its been great catching up with your posts after a while away.
your views remind me of my own here in my ancient forest with the gorgeous copper beech although the dog in my world is more spaniel shaped!

Jess said...

Breathtakingly beautiful photos. I loved my visit to Chagford, it has a special magical atmosphere that I haven't forgotten. It was lovely to meet you in the summer and if I'm lucky I'll pop over to Totnes tomorrow!
Good luck with all the sales!
Jess xx

Tiffany D. Davidson said...

p.s.: Christmas cards!! Hooray!! The other day when I created that "Once Upon a Time in the North" treasury on Etsy, I thought "Man! I wish Rima would sell boxes of christmas cards"

Look at my wishes coming true!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your totally lovely blog Rima! It completely epitomises England at that time of year. I missed Guy Fawkes, obviously, being in the wrong country, but your amazing photos have given me what I always crave from the experience; the theatre of it, the magic, the streams of light, the heat. I don't know how you captured those images, but I'm very glad you did. Usually, when I'm watching I'm so caught up in it all that impressions flash through my mind with such rapidity that I have forgotten them all by the end of it, but your stills powerfully convey the essence of the fire and movement and have given me something mystically real to hold onto : ) My very favourite photo in the whole post was the one of your and Tom's shadows against the trees, like a giant and giantess surveying their territory!

I, too, am looking forward to your Christmas cards; you know I can't draw snow to save my life, and in some way I am comforted by the fact that you can! The Father Christmas climbing down the chimney you gave me brings such satisfaction; I love the gingerbready sort of feeling I get when I look at it. So I am awaiting the cards with eager anticipation; the sooner, the better...

Give a woof or a snuffle or whatever to Macha for me; she always steals the show, doesn't she? I think that's one of the best portraits of her so far. And give love too to the other show-stealer or (show-sharer I suppose we should say these days) - the admirer of Baba Yaga, the giver of circus tickets, the other shadow; my brother xxxx

Melissa said...

Your posts always come at the most perfect times in my life. This time, when I have just returned to the corporate world and can already feel it trying to steal the magic and wonder from my soul (customer support is a special hell), your words and photos arrive to remind me that it is all still there. Thank you so very much for sharing the wonderfully enchanted life you live with the rest of us. It is so very much appreciated.

gz said...

Celebrating the ending of the year, and the rise of the next, phoenix-like in the flames.

Bright Blessings to you and yours.

Southern Witch said...

What a beautiful post sharing so much...and the pictures were stunning!

Sorayonn said...

Your blog never fails to move me. Such wonders to behold.

Owen said...

Ah Rima, this post just goes on and on and on... and wonders never cease.

HKatz said...

In your photos the colors glow and the fireworks have texture. I feel like I'm on a wonderful journey - thank you!

And the photos of the countryside are gentle and enchanting; I love walking and hiking, so those call to me especially.

Claire Dean said...

Thank you for such a wonder-filled, beautiful post. On a drizzly grey November morning, it's reminded me of everything there is to love about autumn.

herhimnbryn said...

Glory, glory what a wonderful post. I am filled with Autumnal images and heart sick for England.
Thankyou Lady R.

MakingSpace said...

Every time I read your writing and see your photos and your art I feel as if I've been transported to a magical world. It's a world I very much want to live in... thank you for sharing. Blessings for the new year and the holiday season.

jenni said...

Just thought i would tell you, this is the most beautiful blog ive ever seen. your drawings are amazing. You inspire me.
thank you.


Acornmoon said...

Rima you do the longest blog posts on record! I have been quite transported to your world of wonder and winter. Lovely as always, keep warm x

rochambeau said...

Thank you Rima,
For sharing your photographs and thoughts. Especially of Giffords Circus!
You look nice holding your accordion!