In the early dawn of the fourth day, Erran was awakened by a puff of warm air across his cheek.
He rolled over and found himself gazing into the dark eyes of a young woman. Waves of brown hair fell over her shoulders and around his face as she smiled at him.
“Good morning,” she murmured.
Well, the Circuit Minister finally arrived.
And so has Chapter 4, after a hiatus for backstage issues. It tells the story of Erran Fox’s roughest day so far – and was this writer’s roughest chapter so far as well. Questions fill Erran’s head as discrepancies emerge in the villagers’ claims, and the pressure on him mounts.
It’s been a while, so visit the Index to revisit the earlier chapters here: Index of Chapters.
Happy Year of the Water Rabbit, on the Chinese lunar calendar!
This morning, I finished my first art of the year, “Rabbit and Moon” (working title; I may change it).
It’s about 9 x 12 inches, on paper, mixed media – watercolor, graphite, and ink. The asemic writing in the upper right corner is actually my real, gloriously illegible handwriting, turned on its end. This time I’m quoting Robert Frost, a line from “Mending Wall” (1914):
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding to please the yelping dogs
In the verse containing that line, Frost talks about going out in spring with his neighbor to repair the damage that happens to their boundary wall over the winter, including the vandalism of hunters who knock down the stones to flush out their prey, because “they would have the rabbit out of hiding.” (Click here for the full text, off-site.)
That poem also gives us the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost’s neighbor repeats that saying, and the poet Frost wonders why good neighbors need fences at all. Shouldn’t they be able to rely on their mutual understanding?
Myself, I’m a little on the fence about that (har-har), but I do appreciate that, even though Frost might not like the barrier between people, by mending the wall, he’s evening the odds for the rabbits.
Jumping back from West to East, Chinese astrology says that the Water Rabbit brings in peaceful, patient, and creative energies and encourages us to rely on our inner wisdom and trust our instincts. We should approach this year’s challenges calmly and rationally, and be kind and considerate to each other and to ourselves.
Water Rabbit Year 2023 could turn out to be all about good neighbors – having them and being them. Just remember that the barriers that delineate our personal boundaries are best when everyone finds safety in them – us and the rabbits.
I buy into the old superstition that whatever you find yourself doing on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the whole year to come. So I make sure I spend every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day doing just want I want to do and nothing else. Generally, this consists of being in my studio, in my pajamas, with a cup of something caffeinated, some music playing, doing creative work.
Which is exactly what I’m doing right now – working on An Alchemy of Dragons. I just took a short break to post this note to my readers and friends.
I made a quick check of the auspices, and it seems my instincts are in track, at least for the start of 2023. See, we’ve all been through a lot of changes – both setbacks and advances – and I’ve had a hell of a time coming up with resolutions, plans, all that sort of thing. So I’ve decided that, for me, 2023 is going to be a year of figuring things out. Analyzing trends. Taking stock of changes and new contexts. Choosing where to go next, and picking how I want to get there.
And it turns out the divinatory signs agree with me.
Numerology says 2023 boils down to the number 7, a number of deep analysis and the search for wisdom, of questioning, examining, thinking things through, making decisions.
In Tarot, the 7th card of the Major Arcana, the Chariot, signifies the force of will joined with action, the path forward, doing our best with what we have, guided by what’s within us.
The 7’s of the Minor suits are similarly suggestive. The 7 of Pentacles is the nervous optimism of the farmer devoting labor now for future goals, setting aside anxieties to nurture his work. The 7 of Swords encourages us to grab opportunities when we find them, while being cautious of distracting blather out in the world. Don’t be shy, but don’t get too tricky at the same time. The 7 of Wands promises success if we stick to our principles and put in the work, no matter how daunting. And the 7 of Cups shows us all the options open to us. The challenge is to think before we choose.
Finally, the Chinese lunar new year on January 22 will usher in the Year of the Rabbit, predicted to start a period of relative calming and growth – a good time to approach our plans with optimism tempered by patience and planning.
Are things guaranteed to be easier? No. But I have a feeling this could be a better year, if we make it so. I feel like 2023 is one of those starting-a-new-chapter kind of years – a chance for us to stock of where the past few years have brought us, what real options we have on hand, and what suits us best in our lives right now.
Personally, I’m looking forward to it.
So in keeping with the holiday, I raise a figurative glass from me to you. Happy New Year!
Merry meet and merry part, I drink to you with all my heart.
And this time, I’m only a little late! Like many other people, I am just winging it wildly this holiday season, and it turns out I am a terrible business person. I should have had all this Yuletide stuff done months ago, so I could share it with you all before actual and literal Christmas Day.
But Christmas, Yule, and all the other winter holidays are really not about business, so rather than leading into the season with various “calls to action” and whatnot, I’m just offering you a gift from me to you.
From today until December 31st, please feel free to download printable copies of the original line drawings for the four winter cards I painted yesterday. New art! Fresh out of the artist’s brain! All four images are in a single-page pdf file, accessible at the link below. Use them as-is or color them as you like. They are just rough drawings, suitable for tags, bookmarks, or cards. Personal use only, naturally.
Download the winter cards here.
By the way, do you realize we have four new year events running relatively close together this winter? The Winter Solstice on December 21st was the solar new year. January 1st is the calendar new year. The next Perihelion (Earth’s closest orbit point to the Sun) comes on January 4th and may be considered the astronomical new year (I decree). Finally, January 22nd is the lunar new year on the Chinese calendar – Year of the Water Rabbit.
I’m taking this as a sign that this mid-winter is an optimal time for fresh starts and attitude shifts. So maybe next year, I’ll have winter cards ready in time for you to use them. 😉
Meanwhile, please enjoy your holidays and multiple new years. Below are the final paintings of the cards, which should be available as prints and cards next winter. See? I’m not late, I’m early.
And the start of another next-winter project – a Partridge in a Pear Tree. I plan to do the whole Twelve Days, and will offer them next year as prints and perhaps even a book.
All of these small paintings are done in watercolor, pastel, and ink.
Wishing you all happy, merry, and joyous holidays.
Three new abstracts I made this fall. Let’s take a walk through them.
Abstract Landscape 8
Watercolor and ink, half painting, half monotype print, 5 x 7 inches. I printed Prussian blue over a dilute Prussian wash, then incised color with a palette knife. It’s one of my more purely abstracted things, but you know me – I can’t really do abstracts. To me, this small painting suggests city lights reflected in water.
Abstract Landscape 9
Watercolor and ink. 9 x 12 inches. Definitely a seascape, to my eye, winter, the surf viewed through dried grasses. What do you think?
Abstract Landscape 10
Mixed media – watercolor, pastel, and collage, 12 x 9 inches. In this one, I altered the original abstract watercolor to pick out the image I saw in it – a pine forest, full of mist pierced by light.
My series of abstract landscapes get at the heart of my creative practice. They’re about following and exploring, not directing the process. They’re about finding the images that resonate most naturally with me, like a kind of Rorschach test to reveal how I see the world.
These three works will be in my shop in a couple of days.
Also coming up, Chapter 4 of An Alchemy of Dragons, and a gift for all of you, connected to a Yuletide painting in progress.
…woke Erran in the early dawn on his second day in Chesny Wold.
His meeting with the wyvern the day before had been brief, dominated by beak and teeth, colorful head frills, huge eyes rising above him on a snake-ish neck, and shrieks like a hundred raging harpies. Finding the human amongst the leftovers of its meal, the wyvern had sought no introduction, but lunged straightaway. Erran instinctively dropped down among the deer bones, rolled under the trunk of a fallen tree, and froze behind it.
The massive head did not appear above him, and after about a minute of listening to angry thrashing and growling, Erran took a deep breath and a chance. He jumped up and shot his arrow into the bushes. The beast’s head whipped around after the sound, and Erran took off in the opposite direction, leaving the wyvern entangled in brambles.
It had been encounter enough, though, and he had spent most of that night in the caravan in the stable yard of the Old Ram, going through his books and crafting spells.
Now, summoned by the incessant knocking, he climbed from his bed, shaking papers from the blankets, and stepped out to find most of the Chesny Council with more questions and complaints.
He could at least tell them what kind of dragon it was.
“It’s a blood wyvern,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“A what?” was the chorused response.
Things go downhill from there for Erran Fox, Ranger of the Beast Goddess.
The illustrations for An Alchemy of Dragons draw on traditional Celtic patterns and Medieval illuminations. I got on a bit of a roll this month, and also added another illustration to Chapter 2, along with ornamental section separators in all the chapters, copied from 14th century French manuscripts.
Happy October! Tonight, the full Hunter’s Moon is shining side by side with Jupiter at its closest and brightest, and Halloween is coming up fast.
I’ve always been inspired by things associated with this time of year. Magic and the occult. Myths and monsters. Dreams and the night. The masks we wear and what lies beneath them. And above it all, the beautiful, changing, eternal Moon.
To start the celebration of my favorite month and my favorite season, here is a selection of artworks I’ve made through the years, exploring these themes.
Chesny Wold was a soft land of green meadows dotted with flowers. The undulating terrain rose and dipped like waves in motion. They had landed near one of the Temple’s shrines, a water hole circled by standing stones carved with Nimrie’s symbols. All creatures might stop here as they pleased and be blessed by the place’s sacred aura. Yet no beasts grazed these pastures, as far as Erran could see.
Nearby in one direction, a line of trees marked a road, and in another, a soft sound and a fresh, earthy smell suggested a swift-running stream. Over one hill rose a faint haze of chimney smoke. On the slopes and ridge of another stood a dark mass that seemed to resist the dawn. Shadow and tension radiated into the air above it like a different kind of smoke.
“I would keep clear of that place, brother,” a voice called out.