Feather, Leaf, Bark & Stone

By Jackie Morris

A pillow book of poems, dreams & stories typed on sheets of gold leaf.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

How time passes too swiftly

So much happens each week, some things that I can share, others that must remain secret for a while longer. That is how my small corner of the world is. In the wider world also so much happens and so much uncertainty swirls around what might happen at Christmas and beyond and I do not wish to worry, only to live, and try to enjoy each moment. So, long overdue for an update, I will try not to miss things out.

I had thought the design for Feather, Leaf would be a simple thing, but the book is so dependant on its reproduction, and how the work is presented that it has taken a long while to settle.

We are now approaching having a cover, and at present this is what the cover looks like:

There is an elegant simplicity about it. I would like the name and title to be simply de-bossed in white so they are more of a texture and less visible. But we will see.

And the inside repro has gone around in circles. I scanned all the images, but somehow the scanning destroyed the fragility of each piece. Alison tried to reproduce some of the 'lightness', but then, really I might as well have produced everything in photoshop.  It was hard work for Alison, but it just didn't look right. But, this focus on light brought the enlightenment of the 'how'. And so I waited, for the wind to die down, the rain to cease and took the manuscript out into the light. Each piece was originaly conceived whilst outside, mostly in Pembrokeshire, sometimes in Cornwall. One by one I took each sheet and photographed. And sometimes the gentle breeze lifted it and blew the sheet onto the grass where it collected small droplets of water, and sometimes an insect landed on the gold. And all the time the light moved, changed, because it does, with each passing second. Birds sang in the hedges. A rook came and conversed with itself, a curious bubbling conversation. A raven flew and the wind caught in their wingfeathers and sang a different song. It is sheltered in the garden, but I could hear as gusts of wind ran over the fields and through the grass, aware to the slightest breeze.

It took about four hours.

I had only meant to do a sample of about ten, to see if this would work, if this was the way to make the book work. But I realised that these days of calm and quiet are so rare that I must chance it, do each sheet. Below is one that blew onto the grass and collected tiny pearls of water.

It is a curious way to work, and yet it seems so right. I wish now I had photographed each in this way as I worked and recorded the place, time and co-ordinates. It's all about light and time, I think, this book that is Feather, Leaf, Bark & Stone.

The feathers are so much harder to photograph outside as the faintest breath of breeze tries to lift them skywards.

And so the pages begin to take place, and Alison is working hard to clean up my photos and bring as much 'light and lightness' into each piece.

And in the meantime Die Winter Konigin und andere Traume has been published in Germany, translated from English into German by Sibylle Schmidt.

The Song That Sings Us came out, published by Firefly and written by Nicola Davies. Nic and I travelled up to Kendal Mountain Festival to talk to school children about the book, and left signed copies in Booka in Oswestry, Sam Reads in Grasmere. There's also some in Haverfordwest in Victoria Bookshop, and in Falcon Boats in St Davids.

In Grasmere I made a pilgrimage to Wordsworth's grave. I took a leaf from there, and left a labyrinth stone nearby. I typed on the leaf and returned it to leave it on the grave. Who knows where it is now. It was a curious, meditative pilgrimage.

We sat for a while, watched a nuthatch in the tree.

In Kendal Nicola and I ended up, by default, speaking at a Letters to the Earth event. I read the piece I wrote for the pilgrims who walked the length of this land to reach Glasgow.

We also saw the UK premier of the film River, written by my good friend Robert Macfarlane. It was an astonishing thing. Each frame so beautifully shot, the music just divine, and the words, spoken by Willem Dafoe spare and perfect. 

Whilst at Kendal I saw goosanders, kingfishers, a big fish, and I heard a dipper sing, which was so beautiful. Also, I can only conclude that I am Macfarlane's worst nightmare, as I was in Room 101. Oh, and we had a wonderful supper with Matthew Scott and Jamie Normington, turning down an offer to 'gatecrash' another supper........ not the most thoughtfully worded invitation to share food I have ever been offered. The less said about that the better I think. It was lovely to catch up with old friends instead. 

I read Treacle Walker by Alan Garner. He is a writer who has inhabited my dreams and imagination for years. When I was young I had to stop reading The Owl Service, and take it back to the library. I didn't want the book in the house as it terrified me. Much later I summoned courage, bought a copy of the same edition, a hardback, with endpapers of the plates. I read every word and loved it, and now would far rather be owl than flowers. Who wouldn't want to hunt at night on wild wings, with claws! Treacle Walker is short, but also long, time twisted and deeper than many a book. It is a portal into another way of thinking. Towards the end the boy asks Treacle Walker a question. I know how that answer feels. 

One of the things I love about Garner is how he makes objects of every day working class life so filled with magic that it spills out of the pages. I remember my gran scrubbing her doorstep with a donkey stone. If you love Garner then get it, read it slowly, put your expectations away and accept what is given as a gift, and learn. If you don't know his books then read The Stone Book Quartet first, and listen to The Beauty Things and then, when you've read Treacle Walker listen to the Backlisted Special about the book. But not before. 

Before setting off for Kendal I received a late birthday present from my friend Karin. It is a beautiful small book crafted by two women who live aboard a longboat.

I know Jinny and Chris from Facebook, SkyRavenWolf. I first met their work when I saw a bag that Tamsin Abbott had, and got in touch to ask if they might make one for me. The resulting bag is a work of art that I carry my ink, paints and brushes in.

Chris made me a second, smaller bag, with kingfishers and goldfinches.

I read the book by the fireside. It is a beautiful, calm creature, filled with Chris's pictures. It sings of a different kind of life, a life close to the water, a life of movement. I don't think it is available through shops, I think you need to get it directly from them. A complete antidote to the greed of Black Friday, the perfect present for someone in your life who loves books, beauty, calm, peaceful and poetic prose and a glimpse into someone else's life.

On Friday I had another birthday present. This one from Robin. He had bought tickets to see Seckou Kieta and Omar Sosa at Theatre Mwldan.

It was a wild night out, with all kinds of weather warnings and a wild wind blowing, but inside the theatre the music was divine. It is music to fill the heart and soul and get the blood moving. Such joy in the being together and the making of sound. We stayed at Llys Meddyg on the way home, and in the morning as we checked out we were chatting to the receptionist who asked if I had seen Seckou in Spellsongs. Which reminds me, the new album is out on 10th December. It is a beautiful thing.

Around all of this I have been painting for the bird book. Here is one of the pieces from that, almost, but not quite, a finished painting. 

Seek out Snow Bunting on youtube. Let your ears rest in the music. And I will be reading this by the fire in the evenings. It ambushed me in Seaways Bookshop in Fishguard when I called in on the way home yesterday. I knew nothing about this book, but it quietly demanded to come home with me and be read. 

I blame this first paragraph.


This is also happening, tomorrow, streaming from Facebook.

I'm curious to see whether Feather Leaf will get to 1000 backers or 200% first. If you would like to share this post, help me spread the word, that would be wonderful.

Thank you for reading. I'm away to cook some fish.



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Gabriela Steinke
 Gabriela Steinke says:

You've had me in tears! What a wonderful time you've had, beautifully told!

posted 29th November 2021

Wendy Love Hinds
 Wendy Love Hinds says:

So much beauty and creativity in one update, the artwork, the writing, those bags! Feeling completely enriched, thank you!

posted 6th December 2021

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