I read the opening chapters of Martin Shaw’s, A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness, at an altitude, speeding across the world in a jet plane.
Perhaps days of sleep interruption and exhaustion caught up with me, I found myself in tears with the beauty, not only of Martin Shaw’s writing, but at the foreword, written by Daniel Deardorff. In a few pages describing the essence of Shaw’s book, he manages to make me feel like I did not find this book, but that it may have found me.
However, if you, like me, desire a life filled with breathtaking and inexplicable meaning, then I implore you, read on.
It can happen to anyone: in silent midnight a migratory moth brushes a velvet wing across our skin and the soul is called out of the house and into the wide and starlit unknown.
And Shaw’s opening chapters are about the transition from childhood into adulthood, and the role that myth has through our teenage years.
I’m thinking of a poem I wrote about this feeling when I was 15 or 16 called “Suburban moth” and I wish I had it here to read alongside this book. I’m also thinking of my recent encounter with a white moth which I called “a ghost of autumn”, because one of my favourite Yeats poems is called into the foreword,
white moths are on the wing and moth like starts are flickering out
It has me thinking of moths as a myth symbol.
In stale, recycled air of the airplane cabin, one of the most artificial atmospheres possible, and on my way to a part of the world where I explicably feel more connected to wildness and myth, more keenly than my birth home, Deardroff’s final words, call my attention to the timing of this book having fluttered into my life:
Distance does not make you falter
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
Imagination so clearly has to play in our connection to wild, and this is going to be in my thoughts as I traverse these woods and meadows.
Shaw says in his introduction
This is not a book purely about rites-of-passage. It’s more about wildness itself: how it flutters between language, landscape and ritual, and the wild…here you won’t find long lists of how-to’s. The gifts to work with are impacted in the images so as to activate your unconsciousness as well as your conscious mind.
Finally, so much of Shaw’s opening chapters have phrases that link back to thinking about rhizomatic learning, where we began thinking about content as myth – that it feels like I am on a leafy path in the right forest.
Shaw’s phrases that flutter around me…
Leaving the village, finding the forest
The uncanny freshness of disorientation
Boundaries, thresholds of initiation
Coming back changed after a descent into uncertainity
Waves not caught
The mythography of crossroads
Myth as subterraean
The ability to change shape