I’ve been luxuriating in the current Enchanted Living Autumn Witch issue and have now savored all the articles and images from front to back and back to front … making sure not to miss anything! It is magnificent. All this beauty and magic has put me in my witchy vibe and has made me want to share my autumnal writings, ponderings, and art with you.
That is an easy thing to do, as so much of my work is inspired by the seasons, and autumn is my favorite. So I will be including two poems and one excerpt from my three books, and, at the end, a very apropos poem and illustration from my current work in progress, Fascinations, the working name for this project. I’m close to the halfway mark. It is a work of love and will have taken me two years when it is complete: 40 new poems and 40 full page illustrations, one for each poem. I write them back and forth together, each influencing the other, so they become a single unit, woven together. It is as much an art book as a book of poetry.
But first I will share about our trip to Scotland with our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters. It was late this summer, as autumn was beginning to make herself known. The heather was opening everywhere and the mornings and evenings required a light jacket. We heard owls more than once. Briana Saussy’s wonderful article from the Autumn Witch issue, “Ancestors and Owls,” brought back a special experience we had on our vacation. To quote her, “Knowing that ancestors don’t always show up at perfectly constructed altars, and that more often than not you may find them watching you through the eyes of an owl.” That is just how I felt in Scotland, when we all got a chance to work with predator birds. Our favorite was the baby owl and I was sure we knew each other. There seemed to be a sense of recognition between us. A powerful feeling and one even of trust.
I also loved the illustration of the Barred Owl by Vasilisa Romanenko that’s adjacent to Saussy’s article. Owls always make me think of autumn.
My granddaughter Kayleigh did her own kind of magic. We spent an afternoon in gothic St. Andrew’s and after strolling the ancient graveyard and abbey and enjoying the sea, we did a little shopping. Kayleigh got a Harry Potter costume and later that day managed to conjure a rainbow!
We even paid respect at the Maggie Wall Memorial in the ancient town of Dunning, the site of her execution as a witch, one of the last burnings in Scotland in 1657.
Then it was home, back-to-school for the girls (2nd grade!) and back to work on my book. I wrote two poems in Scotland and illustrated them when I got home, using photos I took, drawing and editing back-and-forth, making them as one. I’ll be sharing one of those inspirations at the end of the newsletter.
I haven’t shared from my first book of poetry in a while, Seeds of the Pomegranate. I find the transitions of seasons particularly stirring and autumn brings with it so much excitement, uplifting beauty as well as its dark side of descent. There are moments when the atmosphere seems charged with electric energy as this shift occurs. I think my poem “Endings” captures it well for me.
Between the edge of the red leaf and the
start of the surrounding space
lies a fine line of shimmer, an unstable place
where you may pass through into the mystery.
Branches, half empty,
weave a tangle of black lace across
dusk, hold back that final storm
meant to sweep clean the last of autumn.
I take the front path and break the long
day’s labor of a spider’s intricate work. The
threads make me jump, tickle unpleasantly.
I wipe my face instinctively many times.
These signs say an era ends. The air’s
breath is harsh and beautiful, strong and sharp.
Cold clouds contract, celestial density, clear design,
they move with purpose and resolve.
There can be great excitement in endings –
especially in that instant just before the end,
when mystery passes through your edges,
then moves on.
And it’s been even longer since I’ve given my children’s fantasy novel any love, The Vinetrope Adventures: Return of the Vinetropes.
It’s an original fairy tale adventure, sprinkled with sci-fi surprises and a brand new kind of fairy—a vinetrope. Vinetropes are sentient plant life! 12-year-old Sara Umberland meets Lucinda Vinetrope in her own back yard. And of course, Lucinda’s birth takes place in the autumn. In fact, one of my young fans’ favorite chapters is Chapter 8, Trick-or-Treat. Below is an excerpt from this chapter. It is just before a huge reveal for Sara and Lucinda. No more clues.
Trick or Treat
Sara put the key in the lock and turned it. The door clicked open and she stepped inside. All the bulbs in the impressive hall chandelier had been changed to blue and they flickered and sent strange shadows into the corners; emitting just enough twilight to show off the cobwebs, spiders, bats, and skeletons that thickly draped the hallway and the staircase. Then, a dark shadow on the staircase stood up and moved down the steps toward Sara. A frightful witch in a ragged but elaborate witch’s costume emerged out of the darkness and into the eerie hall light. She stopped under the chandelier and faced Sara.
“Hello my dear. I’m assuming you are a brave little girl if you have ventured this far inside for a simple treat” said a cackling and sorrowful voice that sounded a lot like Mrs. Capiello with a sore throat.
This full-length novel is richly illustrated by the much loved and internationally renowned artist Julie Bell. Below is her fabulous illustration for my Halloween chapter.
And my most recent book of poetry, Falling Through Time, offers an emotional and philosophical journey set in three parts: Relative Time (Yes, a pun!), Story Time, and Cosmic Time. Here’s what Amazon best selling author Steve Griffinhad to say about it:
“Falling Through Time is a masterful collection of poems, which could only have been written by a poet at the height of their powers…The poems in this deeply personal volume move from the sharp, detailed vignettes of remembered moments to a more abstract, transcendental finale, reminiscent of the Northumbrian poet, Kathleen Raine.”
Here is a lighter reflection on seasonal transition from this collection. It is called “First Fall.”
A spotted orange leaf
avant-garde and witty
flew itself, stem first,
through the open
summer window and
atop my dormant pen.
Here we go once
again after a slow
It’s so good to feel
this rush of coming
change, like an un-
expected gift placed
upon my desk,
In the fall
time is like an
So I’ve saved the most recent work for the last. It is a poem from my work in progress: Fascinations. It was inspired during our trip to Scotland at a very special cemetery I’ve visited many times before in the town of Muthill. We encountered a couple of lovely cats. And oh how we love our cats. It is called “Cats in a Graveyard.”
First I will share my illustration, then the poem:
CATS IN A GRAVEYARD
They gather in the graveyard … the cats,
every shade and stripe and size,
always near the village church
where the head stones are the
oldest, titling precariously into
tomorrow, the trees shedding
their autumn leaves.
Feats of cats fill our lore, feared or
passionately loved, filial companions or
wicked consorts, they have made history.
Royal, they were buried with the pharaohs:
Bastet their Queen.
What of the legends of cat people?
Imagine, in the moonlight, that your
neighbors transform. Pet a tabby at
twilight and he might just be John.
And peeking round a lichen crusted
stone, Little Jill crouches in anticipation.
Who then is the leopard,
Mistress of the Night?
These days to say “cat people”
most always means people who love cats.
Oh, I do love them, have lived with nine:
Allie, Jenny, Thimble, Opal, Erin, Lilac, Rupert,
Sam and Adam, I call out your names, dear ones.
October, and there is nothing sweeter than
cats rambling in a graveyard
just like me.
And in conclusion I will mention that yes, we are having a big family Halloween party and costumes are encouraged!
My daughter is hosting. I’ve been doing a bit of decorating of my own, with the granddaughters helping. Here is a close-up of a miniature Halloween scene we arranged on my antique wine cabinet, a favorite spot for decorating. The ghost on the walkway is made of air-dry clay.
My final photo is of my three books looking beautiful, I think!
I am wishing everyone a beautiful autumn, rich with family get-togethers, abundance, and especially appreciation and gratitude.
Link for Falling Through Time:
You can go to my Utube channel:
Seeds of the Pomegranate:
www.artrenewal.org (a non-profit art educational site where Sherry is an editor)