It’s hard to imagine, but in 1949 Hollywood descended on my little home town of Much Wenlock. Both its locations and inhabitants featured in David O. Selznick’s screen version of Mary Webb’s 1917 novel, Gone to Earth. The film’s star, Oscar-winner Jennifer Jones, certainly looks the part, and in this respect she well conjures the book’s central character, the untamed but doomed spirit that is Shropshire lass, Hazel Woodus.
As an American, Jones of course had to receive specialist drilling in the Shropshire dialect, a form of speech which these days is scarcely heard, but would have been the norm during Webb’s childhood. She writes it very clearly in the book’s dialogue, and Jones makes a good stab at it, but it perhaps sounds overdone to modern ears. People in England do not speak like this any more.
Mary Webb herself spent her adolescence in Much Wenlock, and for the rest of her too-short life lived in various parts of rural Shropshire. She knew country ways intimately. Her writing is rooted always in the landscapes of her own growing up – the upland wilds and rugged long-gone lead-mining and peasant farming communities, the small market towns. But although she observes the hardship and poverty with a keen eye, she has tended to be dismissed as a writer of the romantic and rustic, her work parodied in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm.
In her day, though, she had some very well known literary admirers including Rebecca West and John Buchan (Thirty-Nine Steps). I think her novels deserve a rediscovery. Her themes are still relevant today: male attitudes to women being one of them; human cruelty and wilful destructiveness for another.
In Gone to Earth, the central character, Hazel Woodus, is eighteen, motherless, and living in an isolated cottage with her coffin-making, bee-keeping father, Abel. Her only companion is a tame fox, Foxy, and her only guidance in life is dubiously received from her dead mother’s book of gypsy spells.
Two men want her: the Baptist Minister who marries her and tries to protect what he sees as her innocent spirit, and the fox-hunting landowner who wants only bodily possession. Hazel herself is torn between respectable conformity and her growing sexual awareness. And if I tell you that the term ‘gone to earth’ is the huntsman’s cry when a fox goes underground to escape the hounds, you will know that the story does not end well.
In other senses the book’s plot may be purely allegorical. Above all, it is about the pointless destruction of natural beauty and freedom. Webb was writing it at a time when three of her younger brothers were fighting in the World War 1 trenches.
Much Wenlock 1949 in outside and inside the medieval Guildhall: scenes from Gone to Earth, director Michael Powell
The making of the film did not run altogether smoothly, and there are perhaps some parallels between Hazel as an object of male possession and control , and the position of the film’s star, Jennifer Jones. She had had an affair with the executive producer, David O. Selznik, and by 1949 they were married. He wanted Gone to Earth to be solely a showcase for her, and he did not think the film’s makers, the fabulous storytelling team of director Michael Powell, and screenwriter, Emeric Pressburger, (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) had done her justice. He even took them to court for not producing what was in the script. He lost the case, but he still had the right to make an alternative version.
The upshot was that for the 1952 American release, renamed The Wild Heart , he chopped all the scenes that did not make the most of Jones, had new scenes shot, and to make sense of the makeover added a commentary by Joseph Cotton. The film was not well received, and so did not serve his purpose. Only recently has the original Powell and Pressburger version been fully restored.
Hazel goes to the Devil’s Chair
For more on Mary Webb:
“This year’s discovery has been Mary Webb, author of Gone to Earth. She is a genius, and I shouldn’t mind wagering that she is going to be the most distinguished writer of our generation.” — Rebecca West, review of Gone to Earth in the Times Literary Supplement, August 30, 1917
TISH FARRELL (Writer on the Edge) ~ is an award-winning English writer of fiction and non-fiction for young adults. In the 1990s, after a career in Museum Education, she went to live in Kenya, East Africa. It was here that she began writing for the African Children’s Literature market. An anthropologist by training, she was dismayed at the lack of contemporary fiction that reflected young Africans’ lives in their increasingly urbanised world.
Her first short novel, Jessicah the Mountain Slayer, about a Nairobi street girl, and a picture book Flame Tree Market were published by Zimbabwe Publishing House, Zimbabwe and Phoenix Publishing, Kenya. Both books won awards at the 1996 Zimbabwe International Book Fair and have remained in print in both countries ever since. In the United States her short fiction has appeared in the multi-award winning Cricket and Cicada Magazines. Now living back in England, she writes novelised short stories for reluctant teen readers for Ransom Publishing. The most recent title, Mau Mau Brother, tells the story of the 1950s Kenya uprising from the viewpoint of a Kikuyu boy. She has also just published a Kindle novella e-book, Losing Kui. This new edition was originally published by Cicada Magazine and is suitable for adults and young adults alike. Go here for more about her Books
Horrific. Devastating. Unflinching. Earthlings goes where our willful ignorancefears to tread. Using undercover cameras it takes us inside of farms, dairies, slaughterhouses, labs that do animal testing, fur ranches and circuses. It shows us the pain our younger brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom suffer for our sake.
This documentary also shows us just how far we humans can go to debase ourselves: at least that was my reaction to seeing people skinning animals alive and leaving them to die slowly, hanging live cattle by the leg and slitting their throats, tossing live male chicks into a grinder to make feed, getting a laugh out of swinging chickens on a hook or tossing a live dog into the back of a garbage truck, and digging hooks into elephants to train them …
It was painful to see calves that are separated from their mothers to prepare them to be veal and of dairy cows, pigs and chickens going insane packed into small indoor spaces and never walking the good earth or seeing the blue sky.
A key point this movie makes is about the link between our ability to be cruel dominators of our fellow creatures in the animal kingdom with our ability to be cruel to other human beings. It shows the damage done to the environment as we pursue dominance over nature and not stewardship of it. Both thumbs up on this one. It’s the movie to watch – however difficult – for the sake of our humanity. I watched it to strengthen my vegan resolve.
Earthlings is an antidote to willful ignorance.
The video below is the trailer for the movie. You can view the entire movie for free HERE.
Narrated by Academy Award Nominee Joaquin Phoenix and featuring music by the critically acclaimed platinum artist Moby, EARTHLINGS is a documentary film about humankind’s complete economic dependence on animals raised for pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.
With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collaborative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.
“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge
If you haven’t read or heard the tale, “The Man Who Planted Trees” by French author Jean Giono, it is a wonderful story about how one person can have a tremendous impact on the world! It’s also a story of how everything in nature, including man, is connected.
“The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono. Image borrowed from Wikipedia Commons, fair use agreement.
It tells about how a single, reclusive shepherd manages to successfully re-forest a barren and desolate area in the foothills of the Alps. Elzéard Bouffier, the shepherd, dedicates the latter half of his life to re-planting acorns, beech nuts and other tree seeds, one by one, patiently walking the land where nothing would grow and no water flowed, and the people who lived there were a hard, bitter folk.
When I first heard the tale, I thought that it was based on a true story. I later discovered that it is not. However, there have been real life counterparts! There is a man in Assam, India, named Jadav Payeng, who single-handedly managed to plant a forest covering 1,360 acres. Abdul Karim is yet another man in India who used the same method of planting trees as the shepherd in the story, and over a period of 19 years, created an entire forest from nothing. Another man, Ma Yongshun, was a forestry worker in China who planted more than 50,000 trees in his lifetime!
If you haven’t read or heard the story, may I suggest that you pick up a copy from your local library, or even better, watch the short, animated film below. It is an uplifting story full of hope and reassurance that no matter who or where you are, you CAN make a difference as only a single entity! Best of all, your actions may inspire others and create a ripple effect of good. 🙂
About dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.
The days are lengthening; the intense cold of the winter thus far has receded for the time being. Overnight a light snow fell, fluffy and bright, the form of snow that arrives with temperatures in the upper 20’s.
Yesterday a Six Nations friend dropped by with a film, Edge of America. I’ve been stuck at home for the past week, following some surgery, and I was beginning to feel a touch of cabin fever. I had managed to go the the university library for 45 minutes and out for a quick cup of coffee earlier in the week, but mostly I have been sleeping and reading.
I had missed the film when it played in the theaters here briefly several years ago. Then, as has been my habit for a number of years, I never got around to borrowing a copy. The plot is pretty basic. A Black man arrives to teach English on the Res, revives the high school women’s’ basketball team (they have not won a game in years), finds a home, and creates the conditions for a good deal of much needed healing. On the road to redemption he tramples all over his team, his friends, the local medicine woman, and his spirit. I sure could relate!
Watching the film I was carried back to my middle school days in rural Illinois where the world turns around basketball and agriculture. I was the manager of the basketball team; when I was in eight grade we won the state tourney in double overtime. The women of our film lose in the state finals (in double overtime) to a team that is racist and represented the very worst of the dominant culture. None-the-less, our heroines are greeted on their return home by the entire Res community. The view of people and vehicles lining the highway brought a flood of memories. (Somewhere I have a memorial book that includes photos of the victory parade. The other team had one, too.)
Just before the team arrives home they have a conversation about winning and losing. They are bitterly disappointed, working hard to resist recriminations. They have lost sight of just how much they have accomplished. The community, however, remembers and reminds them. They are winners.
They are also women. Most of our Indian cultures are women centered; healing arises from the strength and wisdom of women, just as life arose from the sacrifices of Falling Woman. We men are definitely the weaker gender. (Then there are the two-spirits but that is another story.)
Edge of America addresses the hard parts of life on and off the Res: alcohol, violence, poverty, and crushing racism, drawing connections between Indian and Black experience. It also explores the inevitable tension between the healer’s need to remain traditional while nurturing the future. And yes, there is a strong undercurrent of good old Indian spirituality. (There is a priceless scene in which the medicine woman (whose daughter plays for the team) and her friends, are listening to the women’s game on their transistor radio, in a beautiful, spacious, hogan far from anywhere. One of the players has been “witched”, has required a healing ceremony, and now must make crucial free throws. The healer switches from rambunctious fan to medicine person, does what is needed, and returns to fandom, all in maybe 20 seconds.)
So there we sat, two light skinned male Indians who have never lived anywhere close to the Res. We are well in to our sixties, reasonably affluent, over-educated urban professionals. We’re laughing, crying, and hooting for the good guys. (I remember as a kid wanting to be a cowboy so I could win occasionally.) We are also noting the racism and just plain viciousness coming from all the guys: Indian, White, and Black. No holds barred there. At the film’s conclusion I am choked with emotion.
I believe that at the very heart of human experience lies story. Sitting in my living room, wrapped in my electric blanket, gazing at the TV screen, I was blessed to be told a remarkably good story. In the process I was reminded that together a good friend, a community, and a great tale can be remarkably healing. Last night my dreams carried that notion forward. In my dreams the spirits and Ancestors came to remind me that these things are good to live and good to think about. They are indeed profoundly healing.
MICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.
Our thanks to Laurel D. for contributing this film clip.
The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most inspirational stories ever told. 109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, shares her views on how to live a long happy life. She discusses the vital importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life. This powerfully inspirational video tells her remarkable story of survival and how she managed to use her time in a Nazi concentration camp to empower herself and others with music. See the entire documentary at: https://twitter.com/AliceTheFilm
“The apricot throws itself on the ground. It is crushed and trampled for its next life.” Yang Mija “sees” while walking through an orchard and takes notes in her poetry notebook
This movie speaks quietly about life and art, devastation and redemption. Like the most refined poetry, it is nuanced, honest and dramatic without being melodramatic or manipulative. It is a spare work, whittled down to essentials. It whispers. It never shouts. Its pacing is leisurely and thoughtful. There is no suggestive music here to help you grasp the story’s progression. There are no stars who have been nipped, tucked, brushed, trussed and boosted. These people are real. They could be me or you or our next-door neighbor. The story could be anyone’s story anywhere in the world. Indeed, Director Lee Chang-dong got the basic idea for the screenplay from a news report..
“ … this story was finally born from a combination of different elements: the sexual assault case, the suicide of a girl, and the lady in her 60s writing a poem.” Lee Chang-dong in an interview HERE
Yoon Jeong-hee stars in the leading role (Yang Mija) and it is the lean script (though the movie is over two hours long) and Jeon-hee’s exquisitely understated acting that transfix us. Watch her face. Watch her body movements. These also are a kind of poetry.
“I’m quite a poet. I do like flowers and say odd things.” Yang Mija
Yang Mija is a sixty-six year-old grandmother charged with the care of a teenaged grandson, Jongwook – or Wook – whose mother is divorced and living in Busan. Wook is lazy and ungrateful and shows no respect for his grandmother or sensitivity to her age and her loneliness.
“You’re sprouting a mustache but acting like a child.” Yang Mija to Wook
Wook is part of a “gang” of male friends, fellow students, who over the course of six months repeatedly rape a young woman who subsequently drowns herself. News of this comes coincident with Yang Mija’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and her first poetry class. It is her poetry classes and effort to write a poem that provide the through-line for this story.
“The most important thing is seeing.” the poetry instructor to the class on the first day
We walk alongside Yang Mija as she struggles with these multiple challenges – not without some humor – and sorts through her emotions regarding her grandson’s actions, her sympathy for the drowned girl, and the desire of other parents to hide the boys’ culpability by buying off the drowned girl’s mother. While Yang Mija may be suffering the early stages of memory loss, she hasn’t lost her moral compass.
As she moves from one experience to the next, Yang Mija questions: How do you write a poem? Where does the poetry come from? When she decides how she is going to handle her grandson, she is finally able to write her poem.
How is it over there?
How lonely is it?
Is it still glowing red at sunset?
Are the birds still singing on
the way to the forest?
Can you receive the letter
I dared not send?
Can I convey the confession
I dared not make?
Will time pass and roses fade?
Now it is time to say goodbye,
Like the wind that lingers
And then goes, just like shadows.
To promises that never came,
To the love sealed till the end,
To the grass kissing my weary ankles,
and to the tiny footsteps following me,
It is time to say goodbye.
Now as darkness falls
will a candle be lit again?
Here I pray nobody shall cry
and for you to know
how deeply I loved you.
The long wait in the middle
of a hot summer day.
An old path resembling my father’s face.
Even the lonesome wild flower
shyly turning away.
How deeply I loved.
How my heart fluttered at
hearing your faint song.
I bless you
before crossing the black river
with my soul’s last breath.
I am beginning to dream…
A bright sunny morning again I awake,
blinded by the light and meet you
standing by me.
– Yang Mija
“It is not difficult to write a poem. It is difficult to have the heart to write a poem.” the poetry instructor on the last day of class. Yang Meja is not in attendance but has left a bouquet of flowers and her poem
Both thumbs up on this one.
There are probably a lot of places you can go to rent or buy this, but I streamed it from Amazon.
JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight. Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.
I am so charmed by this six-minute moving-image film – you will be too – that I had to post it on Into the Bardo. I first shared it some time ago on at my primary playground, (Musing by Moonlight), where it was well received. If you can’t access YouTube or this specific video from your country, this film and The Hidden Beauty of Pollination are both on the TED talks site.
THE WISE AND GRACE-FILLED NARRATIVE
THE HEART OF THE FILM
The heart of this little gem is the gift of the very dear Br. David Steindl-Rast. If you are familiar with Br. David’s philosophy, writing, and voice, you will have immediately recognized who wrote and delivered the narrative.
Louie Schwartzberg, the film-maker, is an American and well-known for his time-lapse photography. The short-film here is one of several – each with a different theme – which you can find on YouTube.
The mood music background is by composer Gary Malkin. “He is founder of Musaic and Wisdom of the World™, a media production company and web site. He is also the co-founder of Care for the Journey, a care-for-the-caregiver initiative for healthcare professionals.” MORE
The front The Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York. After services, writer Bill Logan stepped out the front door with a young woman he was trying to impress. The Very Reverand James Morton greeted them and asked Bill what he would like to write about. Bill said “Well… about Dirt”, On the spot the prelate offered him a room in which to write such a book. Which he did… (as well as wed the earthy young woman who came to services with him.) When published the book was graced by loud praise. One reviewer wrote, “A gleeful, poetic book…. Dirt is kind of a prayer.” And Bill Logan went on to marry the young woman … MORE
Four billion years of evolution have created the dirt that recycles our water, gives us food, provides us shelter, and that can be used as a source of medicine, beauty and culture. However, people have become greedy and careless, endangering this vital living resource with destructive methods of agriculture, mining practices, and urban development. The Movie uncovers the surprising ways we can repair our relationship with dirt and create new possibilities for all life on earth. You may never look at the ground beneath your feet quite the same. MORE
Our film adapted the spirit of the book: we filmed with pilgrims going to The Sanctuario de Chimayo to feel the hand of God by touching dirt, and taking some home with them.
Our film suggests that our connection to dirt and the natural world goes beyond stewardship to interconnectivity and a deep spiritual connection. As Okenagan writer, artist and teacher Jeannette Armstrong puts it: “ I am that river, I am that mountain, I am that dirt. I could pick a hand of dirt and that’s, that’s what my grandmother used to say. She, she’d pick up a hand of dirt and she’d say, “this is my flesh.” MORE
Directed by Gene Rosow and Bill Benenson, Dirt! tells it’s environmental call-to-action tale with interviews, stirring cinematography, and googly-eyed or storybook animation (images of fertile fields swaying with plants, giddy spade-holding babies, cracked deserts, third-world slums, and giggly, poo-shaped and -colored cartoon blobs posing as dirt particles; the latter are most disturbing when wielding knives to kill other dirt particles or lobbying with gavel and pickets to vote humans off the planet). Ultimately Dirt! does what a good environmental documentary should: enlighten, galvanize, and entertain audiences, and in this case, make them want to get dirty. Chrisine Champ, Seattle PI.com, review MORE