We love our Wild Women conversations so much that we have decided to make a space here for all those wonderful ideas, passions, inpirations and insights to be shared. Together, we want to create a Wild Woman Web and we want to bring you into the circle!
To start this off, we will be posting one blog a month, from a member of Wild Women or Wild Guest. There isn't a set theme -- think of it rather as a conversation around the cauldron, a gathering space for women to share stories, songs, howls, and hopes -- with each blog being another thread in the web.
If you would like to be part of the Wild Woman Web, please give us a howl in the contact form below with a brief message about yourself and what you would like to share. If we are able to thread it into the web, we will get back in touch with more information.
Meanwhile, welcome to the Wild Woman Web -- we look forward to spinning magic with you...
By Elizabeth Rimmer
To all intents and purposes, the growing season in the territory of rain is coming to an end. We have had two early morning frosts, and the leaves are beginning to fall in the equinoctial gales. There are still flowers in the garden – marigolds, nasturtiums, evening primroses and Japanese anemones, and the Michaelmas daisies are just picking up – but most of the colour is coming from the bright red leaves of blueberry and witch hazel, and it’s berry time now.
It has been a wonderful year for berries – brambles, rowans, rose hips and haws in abundance, and the elderberries that mark the end of summer. The last of the wheat and barley has been harvested and the fields are already being ploughed. On a telegraph pole along the edge of the field, there is a kestrel watching the small birds and mice scattering for cover, very pale in the morning light, and a cloud of black-headed gulls following the plough. The geese are back, and although there is still a house-martin’s nest with young in it under an eave across the river, almost all the summer birds have gone.
It has been a good summer for wildlife too. The birds have thrived, with almost all the species I notice raising their broods successfully. I’ve seen more bees and butterflies this year than for a long time, even some honey bees, which have been absent for the last few summers. Orange tips in the spring and painted ladies in early autumn were rarities when we moved here, but this year they have been frequent visitors, and peacock and red admirals have been everywhere.
Their patterns of behaviour have shifted now, though. Birds, apart from jackdaws and gulls, are leaving the fields and coming into the gardens. Tree sparrows, which disappear during the summer, have come back, and are getting bullied off the feeders by the new generation of house sparrows trying to claim squatters’ rights. I have smelled fox taint in the early morning, and cormorants and goosanders are back on the river. Hares, which were so shy for years that I thought they had gone, are coming closer to the houses, and the deer are leaving the hill to browse in the fields. They came into the village for the first time last winter, but I think they will concentrate on gardens backing onto the fields. Ours is too small, surrounded by buildings on all sides, and enclosed with high hedges.
It is the time for harvesting – the blackberries are in the freezer, and apples have been dried and pureed or made into chutney with the green tomatoes that won’t ripen now. I’m saving seeds – not only the marigold and poppy I do every year, but wych elm and hawthorn, and weld seed I took from a plant growing along the road-side. I’ve brought the tender pot plants into the greenhouse, and I’m turning my attention to roots.
These are orris roots. They will be peeled and dried, and then ground to powder. They have a scent of their own, similar to that of violets, but like violets, it is fleeting – our brains seem to turn it off after the first tantalising breath. But their chief use is as a fixative for other scents. You mix them with lavender or pot pourri, and it brings together all the varied floral and spicy notes, giving them depth and richness, and making them last longer. There is a poem in my latest collection, Haggards, called Instructions to the Laundrymaid, which begins:
If you boil your sheets in summer
with well-dried roots of orris,
in winter, they will be perfumed
with the fleeting scent of violets.
There are others I’m saving for dyes – dandelion and woodruff, which promise shades of pink and red, yellow flag and meadowsweet for black. I’m not optimistic – reds and blacks are hard to create, and I am fairly sure they will give me only various shades of beige and yellow. But in the cold and damp of the winter yet to come, I will have tastes and scents and colours from the territory of rain.
Elizabeth Rimmer has published three collections of poetry with Red Squirrel Press, Wherever We Live Now, (2011), The Territory of Rain, (2015), and Haggards in 2018.She has always taken an interest in herbs and how we use them as symbols for the values we cherish, and produced a modern translation of the Old English Charm of Nine Herbs in 2017. She has edited three poetry collections for Red Squirrel Press, and the 2017 anthology of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) Landfall. She is a member of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics.
By Dal Kular
There comes a moment when the secret life you have squished inside of your skin and bones refuses to be silenced any longer. The anger, the passion, the dissonant and the dissident must be expressed. It has to howl blood red and moonlight. It knows that a single howl awakens a pack. And that a howling pack ignites a movement.
I’m Dal Kular, curatrix of the She Howls Women Writing Circles, She Howls Women’s Online Open mic and She Howls 1-1 sessions. These projects were born out of the long howling winter of 2017/18.
2017 was a year of NO’s and knocks. A year of attempted silencing. Too northern, too working class, too Indian, too westernised, too female, too old, too skint – my stereotyped identities often walked in the room long before I did. How hard is it to be YOU in a world that constantly others you?
My post-graduate funding for the second year of my MSc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes fell through 10 days before I was due to re-commence. I couldn’t afford to continue as I was unable to secure quick alternative funding. Undeterred, I secured a bursary to attend a residential writing retreat with a nationally recognised writing charity to work on my novel-in-progress only to be emotionally brutalised by the male Booker Prize short-listed author (I was not the only one). I left that week feeling bewildered and broken.
I set up a local women’s therapeutic writing group which then then got ‘mobbed’ and I was not so subtly pushed out to the fringes.
I arrived for my first day in a new job that I had successfully interviewed for and felt passionate about to find out it had been given to a young white male instead who had NO relevant work experience, compared to my 20 years of very relevant experience! I’d been allocated a different ‘desk job’ instead (I’m not even exaggerating). I said NO.
Familial patriarchy was playing out like a dysfunctional Bollywood movie and a diagnosis of a disabling gynaecological disorder was made. That should have kept me silenced and shamed, because we must never ever talk about our furry cunts after all. And finally, I thoroughly burnt-out of my 23 year career in Social Work one and for all.
I could feel the anger and passion rising within me. I refused to be silent. That may have been comfortable for those around me. But I’m not here to make the silencers comfortable anymore. I refused to be convenient. I spoke out. And I howled. A passionate, angry howl. A howl in to the unknown-out-there to connect with a defiant pack. To my surprise, some She Wolves howled back.
What 2017 taught me was that there were many incredible women who felt like me. Who despite the guise of ‘equality’ were still being silenced and being shoved in to tight, pointy shoes. And like me, these women were no longer prepared to put up with that. Our furry feet needed to be free and dance. Our claws needed to scratch poems in to the earth leaving tracks of our experiences. And to send our poetic words out in to the ethers through our howls and find each other.
My She Howls projects are creative activism, the response to 2017 and the angry howl that my bones could no longer contain. I began to think and create outside of ‘mainstream’ opportunities so that I didn’t have to limit myself or attempt to fit in. I was tired of trying to fit in, be obedient and comply. So I stopped waiting and decided to do my own thing. That’s what my Dad did when he arrived in England in 1954, an uneducated immigrant from rural India. His options were a life on the factory floor or flipping his own chapattis like coins tossed in the air. He side stepped the mainstream and created from his own fire. And I had his blood in my bones.
Creating from my own fire and inner activist means that the only person who can exclude me or hold me back is ME. And I was a hungry She Wolf on the prowl.
She Howls is where (extra)ordinary women like you and me who love words and writing gather online. We are women who dare to write dangerously and raw. We are women who write with the dirt on, from where we are glued together, from where we lust and laugh and dream. We write for ourselves and for each other, to uplift, empower and ignite. We make each other stronger. The glue sings remarkable stories through the nibs of our pens. We write in menstrual blood and tears and kisses. Our howls contain secret language.
Writing from our howls, our wilder-ness heals us, transforms us, allowing us to transcend multiple oppressions in that brief moment. We don’t care about where the full stops go or whether it will win a national poetry competition. We write to win our own hearts. And sometime we don’t win that but we write it anyway. But we do touch each other’s hearts.
Though it sounds contradictory, to allow wild words to flow requires a safe and carefully curated space. A space where you have permission to be yourself and be respected. In She Howls Writing Circles and Online Open Mics I offer clear boundaries to enable creativity to flourish. We are inclusive and welcome all women (and women-identified) regardless of ethnicity, age, religion, class, sexuality, education, ability – the main criteria is we respect and acknowledge each other’s unique experience and identity. By joining the pack we acknowledge that our experiences and the oppression(s) and privilege(s) that we have experienced are diverse and we are always learning from each other every session. Howling and writing together allows the opportunity to be deeply heard and to hear others. It builds trust, community and solidarity.
Does this all sounds idealistic? It is. This work is real and it’s empowering lives. Women coming together to create unapologetically through the nib of their pen, letting the glue soften just a little bit and allowing fragments of lightening and possibility in. I don’t always get it right, there are often technical hitches but I am always open to learning and it comes from a good heart.
These feral She Wolves from around the world are now my pack and every month we howl TOGETHER. These women uplift and empower me and inspire me to keep going and keep creating for none of this would happen without any one of these She Wolves.
She Howls is here to stay to empower us women to keep writing wildly for the transformational potential it holds. Future mischief-making includes a book and an online course. She Howls, was a project I initially created out of anger and injustice. Now it’s a mission that is creating me, day by day.
And every day my howl gets louder.
Dal Kular is a Yorkshire-based poem-maker, word lover, and curatrix of the She Howls Online Open Mic & Writing Circles. She is (still) studying for Msc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Her mission is ‘telling it like it is’, bringing women together online and in person so ‘we feel less alone and can rabble rouse together through words’. Dal is a volunteer mentor for Arts Emergency and co-editor of the forthcoming fundraising anthology of essays, ‘I Wrote it Anyway’.
For further details on She Howls events and for Dal’s blog visit www.dalkular.com.
By Ruth Snowden -- writer, artist, Wild Woman and granny
This is The Wood. A narrow strip of trees, nothing very big or remarkable. But it’s full of red squirrels and deer and jays and bullfinches and sometimes a tawny owl, oh and bats and...I could go on and on. But what I want to tell you about right now is The Field. The Field above the wood, that you can just glimpse in the photograph below. Just a soggy, boggy field with clumps of marsh grass, on a bleak hillside in northern England. But...
...purple orchids grow there. And in the summer millions of brilliant yellow buttercups, gleaming gold, bright as suns. Fat orb spiders build their webs there, and on a damp morning these webs all magically appear, festooned with a myriad rainbow dewdrops, misty, mysterious and perfect. Tiny blue butterflies dance among the clover and unassuming velvet meadow browns and fierce speckled woods, fighting furiously in and out the edges of the trees. Once I found a woodcock there, frozen dead in snow, the feathers on its back a rich pattern of bracken and leaves.
When I first lived here, skylarks nested, their endless dreaming, drifting, reeling song the rich sound of summer, high high up in the air. It was always a game, to see if you could spot one, a tiny black dot, sailing joyously in the ether. But they are gone. Gone too are the lapwings - and the barn owls that drifted white, moth like, ghost like, along the hedgerows late on still evenings. My children have gone too. All grown, flown the nest. But they used to play up there for hours, hidden excitedly among the tall grasses. They never came home til tea-time, when I rang the old brass hand bell and they would appear, hot and grubby with earth and secrets, with grass and dock seeds twisted in their hair. Once they said they discovered some of the tumbled stones from the ancient stone circle, rooted deep in grass and moss. They played among them for a while, shouting, imagining, dreaming, until a strange silence fell and they realised that Something was watching. They never saw what it was, but it chased them, stumbling and breathless, down the field. They tumbled in at the back door shrieking - only half with laughter.
I have never found the stones. They vanished centuries ago, no doubt made into stout walls and lintels for Standings Farm, now gone in its turn, faded into days past on time’s great turning wheel, not even an outhouse remaining. I have found pottery though - rough earthenware from the sixteenth century - and once a small thin square of pale green, faded glass, that I kind of hope might be Roman and treasure just in case. But the field has always been there. I have looked out across it often, as I washed up at the kitchen sink, or pegged out the washing, or weeded the vegetable patch. I have lain on my back up there, stretched out on the earth as it turned vast and slow beneath me, staring up at limitless blue summer sky, wracked with grief, letting my agony soak away into the ground. The field has been my friend. Horses graze there, people walk their dogs, and the lad who works up the back runs down it and back up again every day for his dinner. And now..
...Now they want to build houses on it. My soul is torn open. People are forgetting that they need wild spaces. Places where nothing much is going on until you really listen, sit there a while alone. When I was four years old I had a terrifying recurring dream that tormented me night after night. The whole world had become one huge, gigantic factory apart from one field. In that field was one remaining flower. And I picked that flower and utter doom fell about me. A strange dream for a long ago north country child in a huge rambling house in the country with no television - where nobody ever mentioned green field sites vanishing under urban sprawl or oceans drowning in plastic or anything like that. A strange dream.
Ruth Snowden was was born in Cumbria, UK, at the edge of the Lake District, and has lived there most of my life. The long-inhabited, rural landscape has given her an interest in the folklore and culture of her British ancestors, which is reflected in her writing and art. She loves nature and walks often by the sea, in woods and by the shores of the lakes - which inspires both her art and writing.
She has kept a journal and dream diary for many years and finds that this is one of the most important keys to personal growth and spiritual development, as well as a great source of creativity. She is an original member of Wild Women and creator of Granny's House, sharing wise and wild knowledge. (image by Ruth Snowden)