The Unwinding

By Jackie Morris

A beautiful new pillow book, from the Kate Greenaway Award winning author Jackie Morris.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Unwinding in the age of uncertainty

Today The Unwinding goes to press. 

Soon it will be printed, bound, boxed and shipped. Soon there will be signing, packing and posting. Soon. 

In these uncertain times it is difficult to fix on precise dates. But we have plans.

In these uncertain times, these times of bee-quiet and birdsong, I have discovered that I am blessed to live in a place of peace and space where I can walk from my door to sit on the hilltop, watch birds and think. But they are days of struggle, sometimes bliss-filled to a point of ecstacy, sometimes dark, deep dark, nightmarish, where I feel I have wires threaded through my veins, taught, sharp, hot. Some days pass in peace, and others I need to move slowly from a  breath to a breath as grief engulfs. But this is how it should be, what makes life the sweeter.

Yesterday I took my teapot for a walk, to the top of the hill. The wonderful Sherston Tea had sent me a package, a box of tea and a card to say how sorry they were to hear about my pa, and how touched I was by this is hard to say, and the tea is just wonderful, especially the Wuyi Rock Oolong, with a scent a bit like chocolate and a smooth taste. This is what was in the pot yesterday.  I took The House Without Windows too. Books are curious things. When you are working on them you are so deeply into their world that you live the pages. Then you move on, and its months, sometimes a year before they are published. The House Without Windows is a miracle of a book, written by a child, published when she was twelve. It really LIVES in the open air. And now there is an audio book version. If you can download it and get yourself outside in safety, in a garden, on a balcony, in a park, then do. If you can't then this, a book about a child who goes out and doesn't come back ( in the best of possible ways) might be just what you need. She wrote it in her small bedroom, inside, day after day, but it is all about escape, and even better, self escape, and who doesn't need that now?

This week I also took part in a livestream chat for The Listening Club with Hudson Records. It was just wonderful ( you will have to spool back to the beginning of the film if you click the link and wish to hear it all.) All through the listen through I was knitting away. There's something quite theraputic about the repetative nature of knitting. Gives me time to think. I stock-piled wool a few years back, when I was working on The Wild Swans, taking my knitting for walks, so I have a glorious pallette of Rowan Tweed and Rowan Felted Tweed. There was talk of Lost Words Spellsongs tanktops, but I think the band are just dreaming on really. I've painting to do, of birds, can't be spending my time knitting goldfinch tanktops for Kris Drever and co.

I've been playing with pages of The Silent Unwinding today, cheating a bit as this is an unbound set of proofs, no pun intended. You know when people say, in a spiteful way, 'well, you've had a taste of your own medicine now'? Well, it was a bit like that, but without the spite.... and it works to settle the head, settle the heart.

So, I drew:

and I wrote, in both pen ( drawing words) 

and with my typewriter- this first one is for Sam Read's Bookshop, who supported the Unwinding during the crowdfunding stage and will have copies to sell. The tea in my pot today is lavender tea, from the Himalayas, via Faeryland in Grasmere. Calming,  it enhances dreams and visions. They also have pre-orders for Mrs Noah's Garden, also publishing in May.

And there is this quiet in-between, which I think is for Number Seven, Dulverton:

These are small added fragments of stories and questions, just for you, to give you ideas of how to use The Silent Unwinding when it arrives, words typed into the pages ( and I know this isn't possible once the book is bound, but you could type, cut and paste in a physical way, or simply, write. Handwriting is such a wonderful thing.)

A meeting with John from Unbound happened. I was supposed to have one yesterday, but I wandered off to the beach instead and sent him a picture of the sea, saying, sorry.

Meanwhile, something unusual had happened with the funding for The Unwinding. In the years I have worked, and there are many, many years, my main supporters in the bookselling world have been a handful of galleries, Solva Woollen Mill and independent bookshops. They have kept my books in print by handselling to readers. Many of these indies came on board and pledged for the special edition of The Unwinding. It won't be available through Amazon. Only the cheaper version is. But you will be able to get copies either by pledging here, on the Unbound site, or from this list of wonderful publishers. Please note there is only ONE shop in USA and that is Point Reyes Books and I think they only have ten, maybe twenty copies, so if you want/need one best be swift. If you click on the image it will enlarge. 

If you want to support indie publishing, indie bookshops, then you can order direct from them, help keep bookshops alive for the times that are to come. I feel that we will need books more than ever. 

There's going to be a big announcement on 23rd April about another book I have worked on. Perhaps the best way to follow that is through my twitter account or Robert Macfarlane's.

I've been reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, author of the wonderful, magical The Night Circus. It's such a gem of an escapist book. Beautiful to hold, beautiful to read and astonishingly well matched colourwise with my knitting. Davina at Number Seven Dulverton advised me not to read it before The Unwinding had gone to press. I see why now. It has curious echoes, we have curious echoes, of our visions. In the way that Max Porter's Lanny somehow feels like the brother of The House Without Windows, so this feels like close kin, though more richly woven in word, to The Unwinding.

In the meantime there's a symphony of birdsong outside my windows including many goldfinches. When you are outside remember you can't catch Corona Virus by meeting someone's eye and smiling at them. 

I'm away to draw for a while.

Thank you for reading this.

Today I asked on twitter:

Tell me, in this strange and curious time, when the world of humans is restricted, but the wild world thrives, bees abundant, birds singing, the flit of wings in the world heard as traffic stills to silence, how are you? Because I would like to know you fare. 

I also found this, which looks curiously like one of my paintings, whilst 'tidying up'. I didn't get far with my tidying.


So, I am asking here, now, and wondering. Let me know, how do you fare? It's always good to hear from you.



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Leti Hawthorn
 Leti Hawthorn says:

Such aching beauty in your words and images, and even more so in the energy, the spirit that drives you. In loving kindness, I thank you xxx

posted 21st April 2020

Janice Ellis-Brown
 Janice Ellis-Brown says:

Thank you Jackie for sharing your kind to yourself.xx

posted 21st April 2020

Heather Hurt
 Heather Hurt says:

How do I fare? I am choreographing my sanity Jackie! Living on the beautiful Isle of Man I get to walk in some beautiful places, with peregrines, kestrels, wheatear and goldfinches, and the constantly changing sea. I am reading, wet felting, walking my dog and gardening, and also spending time meditating and doing yoga.
All of this dovetailing in with my marriage which, whilst very good, is moving to a different beat in these days.
I think that we are in a god-given space reflect, restore and rejuvenate, and hope that I’m using the time wisely.
Thank you for your beautiful words and images that feed my soul. xxx

posted 21st April 2020

Maria Lewis
 Maria Lewis says:

Kindness is so important, perhaps more so than ever right now. It’s a pleasure to read your words and observations. I’m sorry to hear of your loss and hope memories are like beacons of light for you and offer you solace.
We have not met, you and I, though you have dedicated books for me through Solva and I watched you conjure Fox in London.
It sometimes feels odd to write words to someone who is a stranger to me in real life but whose images and words have made me feel I know a little of you, so forgive the intrusion if that’s how it feels. I hope not. Life is quite dark at the moment for me as ma works to recover from illness and I cannot be by her side in hospital. But I absorb these images and thoughts and they fill me with goodness and ideas for my own conversations with her as I try to be gentle and kind and yet keep her morale positive, her dreams of new adventures alive. And we will find a way forward.
Magpies are our friends in common right now - at least one in the space she can see from her hospital window, and two here in the tiny space I call garden.
I believe them to be the same birds in spirit, carrying sights and sounds, as they sharpen their beaks, drink water and outstretch their wings. Though we are hundreds of miles apart our tales of the magpies unite us.
Did I say thank you?
Thank you again.
Stay safe and well Jackie.

posted 21st April 2020

Margina Jones
 Margina Jones says:

I am very much looking forward to the unwinding. I enjoy reading your words and seeing your beautiful art. My world noticed about 6-7 years ago, I saw a print of a polar bear with a girl hugging him. I saved that clipping and it has been stashed away in a box. Life for me happened, although things were unsettled for years, I am now in a place where I’m starting to feel healing, at home and creative. A few months ago as I was unpacking I found this clipping and then found you again :)
I feel very strongly, it is important for our words to be spoken and heard. Our words meaning men and women who have this knowledge inside. A wisdom of listening, honoring and gentle understanding.
I am very grateful for your wonderful mind.
Thank you for asking, how we fare. I am very fortunate to live in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. So I am able to go for long walks without seeing anyone. I can hear all the birds very easily now (this is normally the start to our busy season) Here we are having the red shoulder black birds, chickadee’s, Violet green sparrow, Robbins, the usual juncos and Ravens, the pileated woodpecker and flicker, even a great grey owl flew over a friend of mine recently. Just to name a few that I have been seeing lately.
I’ve seen cougar tracks, fox tracks, Bear tracks. I have very much been enjoying my tea and recently taken up nature journaling. I found a class on Cornell lab of ornithology. Oh, you would make an amazing nature journal, You probably have already. It is very enjoyable to sit and journal about what’s around you.
Thanks you again for sharing your wisdom
Have some soup and be well

posted 21st April 2020

Sarah Bytyci
 Sarah Bytyci says:

This was just the medicine I needed to read today, I’m so looking forward to receiving my copies of the book. I am so lucky to have a lovely garden to potter in, in between “homeschooling” my children (I take a somewhat relaxed approach to this!). I’m enjoying listening to birdsong, watching them hop around the borders and the thrill of seeing seeds germinate.

I just loved the Starless Sea, it so inspired me and has stayed with me in ways many other books don’t.

Much kindness

posted 21st April 2020

Shona Fraser
 Shona Fraser says:

Thank you for sharing your news of the hills and seas. How am I faring? Like so many of us I'm breathing in the pause. I walk each day from a treeless terrace to the local park and allow the new green to fill me up. I chat to squirrels, made friends with a crow and photograph the Spring for friends who must stay indoors. When my brain is tangled up like brambles an hour amongst the cow parsley with birdsong overhead is all that works to soothe and focus. I've not long finished reading Richard Powers' 'The Overstory', I'm painting, writing, stitching and starting, finally, to find my own voice whispering through the paint and thread. It may even give me the courage to draw and write a little in my copy of the Silent Unwinding when it arrives,
Thank you again for your inspiring words and for sharing the journey of this new book
Shona xxx

posted 21st April 2020

Caroline Driver
 Caroline Driver says:

I loved The Starless Sea, ( and the Night Circus before it), so glad that you love it too. And what you say about it, makes me anticiapte my copy of the Unwinding even more

posted 21st April 2020

Fiona Fletcher
 Fiona Fletcher says:

I am feeling more myself this week, thank you for asking.
As a teacher the transition to teaching from home using remote learning has been a difficult and strange journey. I had only just returned to work after a major operation as the schools closed. Planting vegetable seeds and watching them grow is soothing, as are my first steps up the garden path each day to check on my garden early morning. I live next to a main road and I too here bumble bees clearly now, as well as a woodpecker in the wood across the fields. I've not seen a hare this year yet but the crows that nest 2 doors away and visit our garden daily for scraps are welcome companions, as are the baby bunnies that I fear will soon be eating my vegetables unless I can get some netting!

I love reading your notes hear. you have a beautiful space full of tranquillity.

posted 21st April 2020

Charlotte Tefft
 Charlotte Tefft says:

Such a uplifting up date. My life is content with living amongst nature. I can always find a spark of joy, be it a budding red Oak leaf with tassels all fluffy with yellow pollen. My eyes will water and I will blow my nose. There is discomfort yet no complaint. For I know this turns to a larger leaf of green ,that will give shade this Summer. This is my way of looking at this global HARD time. It helps me to persevere and look for a brighter side to be my focus. It lessens my anger at those that show such disrespect of life of all kinds. So wish I could read A House with No Windows. Is there any means that you could have some copies sent to Point Reyes? This is where I purchased Braiding Sweetgrass. Such a fine way to drift off to sleep. Thank you for the recommendation.
I am a textile artist and hope to write in my unwinding about the threads of colour that binds us together. The threads of Solva Mills with all 16 heddles to weave a Welsh tradition. A treasured memory of my time across the puddle.

posted 21st April 2020

Sarah Quiatt
 Sarah Quiatt says:

Just chiming in to express, also, my appreciation for your words and pictures! I love to walk the Southwest Coastal Path, and so, since I cannot go there now, my day is brightened by the pictures from your walks near your home. (I'm also fortunate to have beautiful walks out my backdoor in Colorado!) I have shared many of your books with my 4th grade students, and am eagerly awaiting The Unwinding. Thank you for sharing your work and thoughts.

posted 22nd April 2020

Mary Jordan-Smith
 Mary Jordan-Smith says:

Thank you for being so open and so kind. I have been really enjoying my solitude during this time, sometimes spending several days not going outside or communicating with anyone beyond work. I've realised that perhaps I am a hermit at heart and that gives me confidence to look into how I can continue to nurture that part of me once "normal life" creeps back in. Reading your latest update has inspired me to try to go out every day; I have been taking my early morning coffee down to the beach near me in Southend. I can see the industrial stacks of Kent across the water and the empty container ships heading out of the Thames and in the foreground the mile or so of mud flats shining in the early light where I can watch the wading birds and gulls going about their business.
I've also just ordered a copy of the Starless Sea. It sounds wonderful.

posted 24th April 2020

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