Betwixt and Between

By Christina Lay

We writers spend a lot of time down the rabbit holes of our imagination. Isolated and alone, huddled in attic garrets or converted rumpus rooms, we struggle to transcribe what we find on our solo wanderings into something that will transcend the limits of language and resonate beyond the mere telling. The gulf between writer and reader might be vast or it might be as thin as a dragonfly’s wing, but it is there, and often, it is impenetrable.

We design elaborate enticements in the form of dashes, lines and squiggles on paper, otherwise known as words, to attract the ever elusive reader. Our chosen medium is language but we write stories and craft poems because what we are trying to express lies beyond the reach of language, just out of grasp, betwixt and between the lines, flashing out of sight like sunlight on a river and every bit as fast.

What in the hell are you talking about, Christina? I hear you asking. I wish I knew. As often happens to me when I am thrust into a situation as ripe with inspiration, stimulation and fodder for thought as an event like Mythic Realms, I find myself honing in on one scrap of information, or phrase, or idea, and worrying at it until I arrive at some tenuous understanding of a greater thought that eludes me like starlight on a shadowed forest floor. Then I write about it, because confusion loves company.

Last year at Mythic Realms (then Fairie Con) my point of obsession was “The avatar of unknowing” a phrase spoken most innocently by the artist Stehpanie Pui-Mun Law and you can read my musings on the subject here if this blog hasn’t already hurt your brain.

This year I’ve been digesting something said by conjure man Orion Foxwood– “Intimacy is in the invisible, the silent places.”

The Intimacy of which Orion spoke, or at least as I heard it, is a shared but hidden reality that unites us not only with each other, but with the past all the way back to the original bonfire, a forgotten knowing that not only writers, but all artists seek to describe with inadequate means.

Listening to Orion talk about his experiences “walking between worlds” and hearing the voices of spirits, fae, beings of other dimensions, I was struck by how much what he describes sounds like what we do as writers. Not always, but sometimes, when things are going well and the rabbit hole is an exciting, welcoming place rather than a dusty, disorganized rumpus room of despair, doesn’t it feel like we’re simply recording the voices of our characters? Transcribing a vision? Yes? No?

I’m working my way towards believing the writer’s most important skill is this ability to detect and listen to the silence in those intimate thresholds between worlds. The second most important skill is how to carry that vitality, that shared and perhaps lost knowing, back into our above ground world of story. How we translate, communicate, and express those silences is where our individuality and voice come in to play.

Another bit of wisdom I gleaned from Mr. Foxwood is the idea that magic is the art of conscious creation. Are we writers working magic when we create stories? Whether we are envisioning fantastic landscapes, recreating lost worlds, lovingly sketching a kitchen with a man, a woman, rain on the window, aren’t we retrieving story gold after a journey through the treacherous landscape of doubt, fear, ego and the clamor of too noisy lives?

To write or create any kind of art is to be in intimate communion with the deepest strata of ourselves. Creation is an underworld, inner world practice. So even though we lock ourselves away in order to go within, it appears the deeper we go, the further out we extend, across thresholds, into the shared spaces of a universal imagination.

The Forgotten Gods©Yoann Lossel. This year's artistic inspiration.

The Forgotten Gods © Yoann Lossel. This year’s artistic inspiration.

A gathering of so many artists, musicians, writers, dancers, craftspeople and wisdom workers in one place such as Mythic Realms is a fascinating study in how we humans attempt to express the inexpressible. The experience reminds me of the importance of not only the perfect word, but the significance of every gesture, beat, rhythm, brush stroke, color, and stitch in our attempts to understand and to be understood. It also assures me what I’m doing has value as I listen for what is silent, look for what is invisible and then use my craft, my skills and my magic to translate what I discover into our shared medium of story.

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