Wild Folk: Tales from the Stones

By Jackie Morris and Tamsin Abbott

An exquisite collection of shape-shifting tales from two magical artist-storytellers.

Sunday, 17 September 2023

Riversong, an extract, and I, still shapeshifting.

In recovery mode I have found it hard to sit at my desk and paint, and all of my attention has been turned to Wild Folk. The Selkie Song is done. The Riversong too, and in this film I read a little from it. A different form, this piece became a communication with the ghost of a poet, Yeats. I need to learn more about him; poet, mystic, shaman.

I first knew Song of Wandering Aengus as a song by Christie Moore and in my ignorance assumed he had written it. The words are these:

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

And I have long loved this and the music of it and the mystery. And so, over the last few weeks have sought answers to the dreamings the words of Yeats, written over a hundred years ago, inspired. At the time of my writing this my collaborator on the bird book, Robert Macfarlane, was travelling down a fierce river far away. His world was wild water, white water, forest, loon and rapids, along the river-road and to the sea where seals sang. His search was words for a book he is working on that I cannot wait to read. His world was movement with water, while mine was sitting beside the river as the river moved past me, and perhaps this was what helped to shape my thinking. In part I envied Rob, his fleetness of movement, his fitness. He is, perhaps, one of the finest writers of his time, shaping place and thought, ideas and dreams, spinning them to help a generation to connect with place. Fleet of mind and fleet of foot he is, while I, well, I was pleased to climb over a stile onto some land that said 'permit holders only'. (Robin has a parking permit for outside his house, and as it didn't specify what kind of permit was required to step onto the riverbank we figured this would surfice.) ( I also felt a sense of achievement at making it back over the stile!)

I sat, stone still beside the flow, listening to the riversong, as water and dippers moved past, and small fish, and light on the water, and the trees spoke, and bees fed on blossoms. And I wrote.

For each thing I write I begin with a pen and paper. I think better that way. And this piece flowed like a river, and tangled and swirled. ( the hare in the image below is from another story- for Wild Folk. Tamsin will make an update soon. It is an utterly magnificent and glowing soul)

I grew so tangled with this tale, unsure of where they moved, but wishing to leave space, and the writing became a different form as I read extracts and sent to Tamsin to listen to. But eventually all became clear, I think, so in the film on this update I have read the first part. It makes me want to read the audio book for this. Perhaps we should have a stretch target to fund an audio book, with music? Maybe.

I wrote much of Feather, Leaf, Bark & Stone in these small notebooks and they seem perfect for these short, and longer tales for Wild Folk. They are small enough to be carried easily, and though expensive, perhaps for their size, I just find them a lovely shape, and love the blank and lined pages, and the ribbon. Infact, perfect. They are from a small press called Notting Hill Editions.

And while I am here, two more things.

1. Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Riku Onda. Utterly magnificent book about music, art, life. I bought a copy for my friend Helen who has played piano all her life, feeling she would understand it more than me, and now find myself buying a copy for each of our Spellsong group. I found mine in the Old Electric Shop in Hay on Wye. It was one of those books that whispers to you as you pass it, 'pick me up'. I say reading it, started drawing in it, thought I had best buy it before I got thrown out of the shop, and it is simply remarkable. 

2. I had been sending Rob Macfarlane extracts, sound files, snippets and images of Wild Folk over the past few months. We are usually in close contact, talking feathers, wings, flight and birds as well as nonsense. In return he has sent this quote, which we hope to use a part of on the cover of the book: 

"Wild Folk is a wondrous weaving of story and image, glass and ink, dream and song, created together by two makers at the height of their huge powers, who also happen to be dear friends with one another. Born of love and collaboration, the art here holds light that spills and fills, and spaces in which to breathe and swim."

He also said, 'it is a beautiful thing you are both making'. 

I need to get back to Birds now. But also I still have The Black Fox to wrestle with, and Hrafen's Eye. White raven, black raven, and all the stories in between. 

I will be at Seven Fables on 7th October to celebrate their 21st birthday with them. Come and see us. Will be reading from Wild Folk, new works, will be painting. There may be a type writer to hand. There will be cake. 

I leave you, for now, with this:


The breath of the otter

is held by the river,

small exhalations

that rise to the surface,

bubble the river's skin,

burst into air,

and the otter swims on.




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Kathy Jones
 Kathy Jones says:

So beautiful…. Brings tears.

posted 18th September 2023

Kate Calico
 Kate Calico says:

Hello Jackie- Can you tell me more about the Birds? Is it another book that I have, perhaps, missed? Thanks so much for your creativity. I love it and I love you xxx

posted 18th September 2023

Catherine Holland
 Catherine Holland says:

What a beautiful piece. Truly moving. I am falling more in love with this creation every time I get to hear it.

posted 18th September 2023

Sabine Voßkamp
 Sabine Voßkamp says:

Thank you so much for these precious gems that you share! And I love the idea of an audio book with music ❤️!

posted 18th September 2023

Bernie Bell
 Bernie Bell says:

I recognize the sense of achievement on getting over a stile after not being able to – I’m still thwarted by some – but can manage most.

And…..I sent your Permit story to ‘Right to Roam’ as I think it’s crackin’! https://www.righttoroam.org.uk/

posted 19th September 2023

Jackie Morris
 Jackie Morris says:

To reply to Kate Calico, the Book of Birds is my next collaboration with Rob Macfarlane and has been a long time in the making. Trying to push through the pain barrier and looking forward to finishing it now.

posted 19th September 2023

Vicki Gottlieb
 Vicki Gottlieb says:

Thought you'd appreciate this https://www.bradshawsculpture.com/the-red-queen

posted 20th September 2023

Karry Hrysicos
 Karry Hrysicos says:

Dear Jackie, this came up on my Facebook news feed - so beautiful to listen to and read.
I fractured my neck by rolling my car last Sunday.
The house without windows has been my gentle companion which has been such a blessing in these early stages of healing x

posted 20th September 2023

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