February’s writing prompt was all about landscapes, both inner and outer. The places we visit in our dreams or in real life, childhood haunts and spirit lands - the places where we felt ourselves. Reading over the month’s responses I’ve been transported to magical woods, a wintry fishing port, a glorious Japanese dawn and the most intimate corners of a writer’s soul.
I am humbled that so many talented writers chose to participate in February’s Month of Words and show readers the map of their souls. Below I have chosen my favourite responses to this month’s tag with links to places where you can read more of the writer’s work.
There is a huge tree outside our living room/kitchen windows, I like to look at it when I drink my tea, holding my cat in my arms. Witnessing it change every day is like observing the Earth journey around the Sun and my journey towards having my own old trees outside my own windows. I tried to talk to it but instantly I felt a searing embarrassment on my cheeks so I decided to just start thinking of it tenderly. Inside my head I call places I love mine. And I flinch at the thought that other people may own them as well.
Jackdows often choose this tree as theirs and I love how grimly they look, their pitchy black feathers on a fresh, white snow. I can share my tree with jackdows.
‘Inside my head I call places I love mine’ – in one line qwasia elegantly sums up all I hoped to capture with Landscape of the Soul. Landscapes can become so connected with who we are as people that we become possessive of ‘our’ places, seeing any development or abuse of them as a threat to our identities. I loved the final assertion of, ‘I can share my tree with jackdaws’, which places the speaker firmly within the spirit land of nature, somewhere beyond human reach.
You can read more of the above in full at qwasia’s beautiful blog.
Under the boughs of the yew tree the world was a gallery.
She stood with her back to its trunk, hands running over warm bark like the hide of some great slumbering animal. The snow began to fall in thick, wet clumps; forming a protective circle around the tree that grew more vibrantly green the longer she stared at it.
The robins stopped singing. The squirrels stopped scooping at the ground.
All was still and captured in ice. The garden that had seen 500 winters was held fast by the regularity of season.
She couldn’t remember how long she had stood there - back pressed into the curves of the tree. She could barely recall what year it was. Her mind was as full of snow flurries as the air around her.
Time tiptoed past her.
She observed it all and smiled.
I am drawn in to the sheer wintriness of Abigail’s prose and intrigued by the female character who seems unperturbed by the natural forces strengthening around her. Snow stops time and the world stills as she senses the life in the tree behind her. The animals detect something strange in the icy air and yet the woman smiles – I think I can relate to this woodland soul.
Words of hurting and words of healing gathered in her arms, ink garlanding her skin. Myths whispered in her ear, barely audible, almost forgotten. Legends and tales that sprayed her lips with sea salt and her hair with a thousand jewels. Some of the words she pieced together, albeit clumsily. These stories staggered, and fell and broke. She stitched them together again and again, in the hopes that one day they would rise.
This is a beautiful piece from @theunofficialblurber about the act of creation, those hard-won sentences mined from soul and imagination, the act of engineering a story piece by piece while still retaining a sense of magic. It roots one in the most important landscape of all – the wild, untamed and unpredictable land of the creator’s soul. This is one to print and stick on my inspiration wall to remind myself that though stories may fall apart something can always be created out of the broken pieces.
Maybe I am a dream, lost in a moment, trying to be everything I can possibly imagine, stretched far beyond a single flicker of light.
Brevity is beauty when it comes to this response from Beth. ‘Maybe I am a dream, lost in a moment’ is a line so poetically perfect I wish I had written it! If you do one thing today it should be to look at Beth’s Instagram account and read some of her longer captions, where she writes with passion about the natural world and how it connects us to our inner selves – in fact, her entire account embodies Landscape of the Soul!
Feel everything. Feel the wind tearing through your hair. Feel the rain on your skin in summer. Feel the softness of petals brushing against your fingertips. Feel the smile on your face when a dog wags its tail to see you. Feel the warmth of the sun on your back after a long, dark winter. Feel the relief of a hot shower after a difficult day. Feel the words of a really good book nestling themselves in your heart. Feel your heart breaking when you hear something awful. Feel the tears on your cheek when things don’t go the way you expected them to. Feel the lack of air in your lungs when someone walks out of your life forever. Feel everything. Do not numb your pain or block out your emotions. It will only make the pain last longer, cut deeper. Be vulnerable, open yourself up, only then will you get to experience the true beauty of this planet.
I’ve long admired Chloe’s writing and this response to Landscape of the Soul is a perfect example of why. The refrain ‘Feel everything’ is a fitting mantra for her creative output as a whole – where life must be experienced to its fullest to derive meaning, even if that means feeling the depths of sadness and difficulty. Whatever Chloe’s feeling she always turns those emotions into something beautiful, and reading her work becomes a cathartic experience – the storm passes and I feel less alone.
Kintsugi // The Japanese art of repairing cracked ceramic with gold lacquer.
“Dawn breaks over the mara trees,
Bespeckled are the dewdrops on the cypress.
Throws page after page of carpet dales;
And roll after roll of bubbling starlit rivers,
into a copper and cornflower wonderland.
Dawn brings forth the wealth of the land of my people,
It paints us gold, embellishing our blemishes in the sunlight lacquer until they are blemishes no more.
Until they become the monoliths of our identity.
Until we embrace what makes us unique.
When we trace the cracks with bruised fingertips.”
‘Bubbling starlit rivers’, ‘the monoliths of our identity’, ‘trace the cracks with bruised fingertips’ – what beauty and power in these images. I’ve been privileged enough to read a lot of Dashie’s writing over the past few months and I’m consistently in awe of not only the beauty of her writing but her skill at weaving solid plot and characters. She is one to watch!
I woke with a dream gnawing at the edges of me: an upland moor where the air was busy with snowflakes, and the land fell away into shattered granite cliffs. At their base, the sea, and a little fishing village caught in the jaws of the wind, streets too steep for anything but a grim climb. There were boats in the harbour, and a sense of life came up out of it in columns of woodsmoke from each chimney, but it was a thin sort of living: all wet rock and salt fish and a dour grey sky over everything. Up on the moor skylarks lifted from the long grass. The snow eddied but never seemed to settle. I stood at the edge of the cliff, and the exhilaration of high places was in me.
I love the sense of nature in Rhiannon’s writing, and how every line builds into the next. No word is wasted. When reading her pieces I get the sense that she observes the world with a writer’s eye, noticing the little details from which a story or poem might emerge. If you enjoy #mymonthofwords you might like to try Rhiannon’s writing prompt #inkandeffort – though there are no new weekly prompts the tag is still active if you wish to try previous prompts.
I had to include two from Bri because these poems are like jewels which shine bright in the dark on their own, but side by side illuminate the sky. Her delightful haikus are a joy to read - I wholeheartedly recommend scrolling back through her Instagram feed to read them all.
For those who wish to continue with the monthly prompt, or join in for the first time, March’s theme has been decided as Voices of the Past. In your prompt writing sessions you could consider the following:
What childhood voices are calling you?
Is there a dominant voice from the past that never leaves your head? Who does the voice belong to, and is it time to ignore them?