Saturday, March 20, 2010


© 2010 Oona McOuat

Spring has come early to the Pacific Northwest. Outside my window, birds are cheerfully making their nests on branches already thick with foliage.

It was a good winter for me - a mix of touring - Hawaii in November and the Yukon just last month - and focussing on ways to carve out space for creativity and pleasure while streamlining the time spent managing my business.

Our last show in the Yukon really gelled and afterwards the audience reflected back to me the reasons why I do this. They spoke of "a healing voice" , "a room full of magic" and "being touched and transported by the stories and the songs."

I want to perform more. I want my music to get more airplay. I want to grow as an artist and move more fully into my potential. My summer touring plans are up in the air now as I recently found out I was denied a Canada Council travel grant to play up North. But today I learned I and four amazing artists will be receiving funding from that same organization to co-create an interdiscplinary performance piece which we will tour. I am still not sure how to dance around or best meet the gatekeepers - the festival directors, the grant givers and radio programmers that control who hears my music.

(If you have any suggestions for radio airplay or bookings, or people who help artists get airplay and bookings, I'd love to hear them!)

I think this self-promoting indie artist extravaganza is a big experiment for all of us engaging in it. Despite the plethora of life coaches out there making a very good living off artists' dreams, there is no set path to manifesting them. But a couple of things are clear. Success takes vision, faith, surrender and a whole lot of hard work, and the computer is still an indie artist's best friend and biggest distraction.

Last week I unplugged and spent 5 glorious and grounding days with 13 little girls studying and making art, music and medicine with wild plants. As the week progressed I grew deeper, stiller and more whole.

Faevan the Green Tree Faerie

I touched the place within that knew that simple is best, that pure is possible, and that a career, like a dandelion, moves through cycles of stillness, harvest and celebration.

May you have a few moments of stillness to sit and read the story that follows which was inspired by Green Faeire Camp . May your spring shimmer with vitality, dance with goodness and bless you with balance,

Blessed Be,


© 2010 Oona McOuat

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six....five, four, three, two, one!  Ready or not, here I come!”

How did it happen?  How did I journey from my land of glowing sunlit fields and moss to this place of shadows and silver? Life here is cloaked in grey without a glimmer of green.

Photo by Dra. Mabuse

Was it only this morning that I sat hidden in the hollow tree, waiting breathlessly for my sister Spring to find me as we played our Equinox game of Seek and Ye Shall Find?  The last few moments of winter were passing.  One touch of my sister’s warm breath on my cheek and it would be Spring. 

Photo by Energy07

But instead, I fell into the spring.  Still crouched inside the tree, I was reaching across the water for the biggest, brightest dandelion I'd ever seen - I wanted to give it to my sister to wear in her long, golden hair - when I somersaulted in headfirst and fell down, down into the water’s darkening depths. 

When I surfaced, sputtering for air, I was floating in a white stone fountain. For as far as I could see, a silver ribbon stretched across the earth. Honking metal and people in dark costumes were scurrying along it.

Photo by Mookio

I climbed out of the fountain, wringing the water from my pink gown, noticing there weren't any flowers here and no bird’s song, only tall towers that reflected the slate coloured sky.

Photo by twentyeight

The worst of it was, when I approached a woman who had white vines growing from her ears and was talking to herself, she didn’t seem to see me.  I tried again, this time approaching a youth in tight black leggings and a jacket made of hide.  Not only did he not seem to hear me, he would have walked right over me if I had not swiftly leapt out of the way.  Again and again I tried to ask for help, but no one knew I was there.

Photo by stroboscopo

I began to think about home, about the first ripe berries and honey my sister and I had shared for breakfast; about the Balance song we had sung to the rising sun on this day of equal dark and equal light.  I thought about my sister’s light and laughter, about the nettles and bittersweet dandelions we had gathered after sunrise for lunch. 

photo by la tartine

I thought about the fawn who had played with us in the meadow, a carpet of perfumed violets at our feet.  For the first time in my life I sighed, and as I sighed I felt a breeze come and gently lift my hair. 
“Ah wind,” I said, “If only you could carry me back home.”

“Perhaps I can,” she answered, “But for now you are needed here.”

I looked up, expecting to see the wind’s kind, familiar face but in this land, the wind too appeared to be invisible.  Instead, I was looking into a pair of curious blue eyes.  They were attached to a small nose splattered with freckles, a head of unruly red curls and a smile.  This girl was smiling right at me.  As if she knew I was there!

The child was wearing a smoke coloured rain slicker and black rubber boots.  She was struggling to keep up with a woman in bell-shaped leggings and dangerous looking pointy heeled shoes.   I decided to follow them.

Photo by Mark Waddington

“Do hurry, Melissa,” the woman called over her shoulder.  “My meeting starts in 15 minutes.  Of all the days for me to have to pick you up early from school!  And there isn’t even time to get you to the doctor's so he could give you something to help.”
“To help with what, Mama?”

“Your teacher is very concerned.  She said you were singing under your breath all day.  And the songs were in major keys!  And that during art you used some of your beets from lunch to colour instead of the charcoal provided.”

“I was tired of black and white, Mama.  Today, I feel..... happy!”

“Happy?” her mother asked worriedly, yanking off her dark skin glove and touching the back of her hand to her daughter’s forehead. “How horrible!”

“Actually, it’s really, really neat,” said Melissa.  “And do you want to know how it all started?  Well, this morning, poking out of the cement of the playground, I found.......”

The little girl reached into her coat pocket but her mother was once again several feet in front of her, hurriedly punching numbers and talking into a small piece of ore she held to her head.

I moved closer to the child.  She smelled like yellow, like sunshine. She smelled like my sister Spring.  

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

The girl turned to me and smiled.

Photo by

“Hello.  I am Melissa.  That is certainly a pretty dress you're wearing.  It’s the colour of my best friend Maggie’s cheeks!  Where did you get it? And how did it get so wet?  And oh my goodness!  You’ve lost your shoes! Maybe my mom could call your mom and she could come and bring you another pair.  Oh my, I am asking you an awful lot of questions but I have never met anyone quite like you before.... Where do you live? And what’s your name?”

“My dress is wet because I toppled into the spring this morning,” I answered. “My Aunt Clara made it for me on Summer Solstice by stitching together nine hundred and ninety nine rose petals.  I live on the other side of the fountain and where I come from, we never wear shoes.  And my name, my name is Hope.”

“Hope – that is a beautiful name! What does it mean? And rose petals? What’s a rose?  Never mind...  Hope, would you like to see what I found this morning?”

Melissa carefully reached into her pocket and pulled out a dandelion. It was even bigger and brighter than the one I’d been trying to pick when I fell into the water.

Photo by MrCLean1982

“I don’t know what it is,” she whispered, “but it is beautiful.  I call it Joy.”

As I gazed into the flower – so sunny and pure, so out of place in this grey, sterile land - I missed my sister and my home more than ever.  A dull, heavy ache began in my heart and moved up to my eyes and the next thing I knew I was crying - me, Hope who had never shed a tear in her life!

“Why, Hope!”Melissa exclaimed, “Whatever is the matter? I thought Joy would make you happy too!  Why are you so sad?”
“I...I guess I am homesick,” I sobbed.  “I miss the deer and the birds and the trees and the sweet smells. I miss my sister Spring.”

Photo by Ben

I sighed, and as before, the wind answered me, but this time she was bitter cold.

“Oh dear,” said Melissa. “I am sorry.  Is there anything I can do to help?  I was just about to show you the second thing I found today, the thing I do not know what to do with, but now I am afraid it will only make you sadder.  Because although it is beautiful in its own way, it is grey like everything else and it is delicate, and I am afraid that it is dying.  That is why I call it Sorrow.”

photo by Nicki Bennie

Melissa opened the outside compartment of the shell she wore on her back and carefully pulled out another dandelion.  This one was as silver as the other was gold.  While the first was sassy and shining, this flower was fragile and whispered of flight.

“Sorrow,” I said softly. 

In my land we spoke of Dandelion’s ghostly sister but we had never seen her face.  We believed she was a mythic being, a part of the dark sky clan, emerging to take her place in the dance of balance that was done twice a year in the otherworlds by the earth and the sun.   I reached out and held her in my hand, awed by her quiet beauty.  Again I sighed, my breath joined by the wind, causing a few of the feather white seeds of the flower in my hand to take flight.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

Suddenly, I knew why I was there.  On this day of equal dark and night, I understood the relationship between Joy and Sorrow, between Melissa, the golden child in black clothing, and me, Hope, a now sombre girl in soggy pink.  I understood the relationship between this grey world and my world of green.

“Green,” I said to Melissa.  “We need to conjure up the colour green.”

“Green?” she asked quizzically.  “As in green with envy?  Or green around the gills?  Or greenbacks?  Ms. Smith said dollars were called that once, before all money became grey....and Greens...that’s the old name for the people who tried to save the forests from being cut down and the oceans from turning so acidic.... “

“Well your last definition is closest,” I said, “but it's still not quite it. Think about seeing someone you love across a room, about the smell of a baby, and the warmth in your tummy when you’ve laughed and laughed. “

I could see Melissa was struggling, and then it came to me. 
“Joy’s stem is green. Look at it as you think about waking up on the morning of your birthday, about giving your best friend a hug.  Now take these thoughts and feelings, this colour, and stretch them out around you.  Paint with your heart.  Surround the grey with green.”

I closed my eyes.  I did not need the dandelion’s stem to show me the colour green.  I returned to the meadow where we gathered plantain for our salves, to the fern covered pool where I bathed.   I dipped into the vibrant, purposeful pulse of green - tall grass and pungent basil, apple leaves and wild kale. Carrying their essence from my world to this, I filled the shadows with light.

Photos by Phillip Klinger

When I opened my eyes, everything was new again.  The walkway we stood on was breaking open, lemon balm and chamomile pushing through the cracks.   The sky was the same endless blue it was at home.  The rain had stopped and the sun was turning puddles into rainbows.

Melissa stood beside me, her mouth agape.  Her slicker was the colour of a daffodil now, her boots a shiny antherium red.

photo by lomoD.xx

“It’s all so beautiful,” she whispered.  “Thank you, Hope.  Thank you for bringing life back to the land.”

Melissa’s mother slowly walked over to us, her black garb transformed to a brilliant magenta. The piece of ore fell from her hand as she reached out to hold her daughter, a thrumming hummingbird circling excitedly around them.

Photo by Dennis J2007

I sighed again, this time in contentment, and the wind sighed too, brushing my cheek with her words.

“It is time for you to go home.  Your sister Spring needs you, Hope, in order to bring the season of light and warmth to your people.  Hold Sorrow in your hand.  Let me lift and carry you both.  As we fly, Sorrow will scatter her seeds.  In time, they will grow into flowers of Joy, which in turn will become Sorrow.  And so the cycle goes, Joy and Sorrow, Sorrow and Joy. And it is good.”

Photo by Luigi FVD

Sorrow and I rose up and over the patchwork land of grey and fresh new colour, Sorrow releasing her milky white seeds of Joy until at last I let her go.  Landing on a cloud, I travelled through its moist curtain back to the icy waters of the spring, back to the hollow tree.  

“Hope, where on earth are you hiding?” I heard my sister Spring call across the meadow.  In any moment, she would find me.  Or I would let her find me.  We would laugh and embrace, and then give the gift of Green to the waiting, wondrous land.

                                                  Photo by Leigh Hilbert

I found this poem in my inbox right after I wrote the above story. Now that's synchronicity!

The Name of a Fish
by Faith Shearin

If winter is a house then summer is a window
in the bedroom of that house. Sorrow is a river
behind the house and happiness is the name

of a fish who swims downstream. The unborn child
who plays in the fragrant garden is named Mavis:
her red hair is made of future and her sleek feet

are wet with dreams. The cat who naps
in the bedroom has his paws in the sun of summer
and his tail in the moonlight of change. You and I

spend years walking up and down the dusty stairs
of the house. Sometimes we stand in the bedroom
and the cat walks towards us like a message.

Sometimes we pick dandelions from the garden
and watch the white heads blow open
in our hands. We are learning to fish in the river
of sorrow; we are undressing for a swim.

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