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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wales Album: tiny portals

Close by was a little table with the words DRINK ME
written on the table in gold letters.
At Castell Powis, near Welshpool, Powys, Wales.

A tiny, tiny house belonging to little Alis
and her family at Ceinws--
but who could live in a house so small?

Clive Hicks Jenkins
invites me to climb up and pass through a portal
between two worlds--
one of them inhabited by strange beings.
At Meri Wells's house.

"'One side of what? The other side of what?'
thought Alice to herself."
In this case, it is one side of the portal.

The other side of the portal.

Dave Bonta, as curious as Alice (or Alis)
at a tiny portal in the "amorphous shrubbery."
Castell Powis.

Look at that Bonta-tongue!
(Click for a closer inspection...)
Here I think Dave must be a Green Man,
vomiting the vegetative world,
as the Green Man does so often in medieval church carvings.

Dave snug in the portal, content between worlds.


  1. I didn't catch the tongue! Love the way you've presented these, Marly - the words and the pictures. The idea of portals is such an enticing one.

  2. How mysterious and how fitting those words are! Perhaps Dave is a gargoyle? He's rather too nice looking for one though, and I've never seen one wearing glasses. A studious gargoyle?

  3. I'm so enjoying these photos. Wales looks wonderfully like Wales. Very beautiful.
    Clive Hicks-Jenkins looks mischievous (and almost as if he might turn around and do something magical any minute).
    Dave Bonta looks like the kind of fellow who might know something about those hedges - and how to communicate with them too (which would be alarming if it were anyone else).
    The doors look fantastically other-worldly - as does everything here!
    What shenanigans is this? !()

  4. Hi Clare,

    You have to click on the picture to make it enlarge--then you can see his mischievous face better!

    And thanks. I seem to have a great many pictures of doors and entrances, so expect more...

  5. Robbi,

    I thought a Green Man (which is also a cathedral decoration), but you go ahead and tell him he is a gargoyle!

  6. Paul,

    Yes, Wales is so satisfyingly worn-looking, beautified by the occupations of human beings. However, Dave would tell us that is very bad: particularly when those occupations have to do with sheep, who are bad for the meadows and streams.

    Well, Clive was inviting me into another world, after all. That is magical.

    I wish Dave had communicated with the "amorphous topiary." Me, I longed to do a little dance with some of the smaller (but very large ones.) They come from the realm "Where the Wild Things Are."

  7. wow! those portals are far out!

    I have really enjoyed your travel photos. YOu have a really great eye.

    And wow, there are so many awesome artists of various kinds in your blog and life right now.

  8. Marly, we have as much right to alter the courses of rivers as beavers do. As much right in the air as birds and under the oceans as fish do.
    Just as beavers and birds and fish do.
    And sheep.
    It is natural for us to screw up nature! As much in our nature to exfoliate the planet as locust do.

    It's mainly the fault of sheep, mind you. Dace has a point there!

  9. I won't even begin to explain the reasons for so many typos, and wayward communication problems with my last comment. Other than to say it's a very nice red : )

  10. Susanna,


    And yes, I have been lucky of late.

  11. Paul,

    The Dace is, I believe, a little fish that lives in fast-running water and, I think, responsible for preventing a number of power plants out west. (Either that or I am making it up.) And I think that is highly appropriate for Dave who does, indeed, have a point about the sheep.

  12. For more of the Bonta tongue, look at

  13. You are right about the dace, Marly. It is one kind of what we vaguely term a "minnow," in other words, bait for a fisherman, though rather small for the hook.

  14. Lucy,

    Thanks for that! Shall have to go inspect him... It's the only time I recall him sticking out his tongue, but perhaps it is part of being a Bontasaurus?


    Minnowy was indeed the picture in my head. Thanks!

  15. Great find, Lucy!!

    vomiting?? the green world? That's an unpleasant thought, that our beloved green world is always seems to me that the green world is growing out of Green Man.

    Anyway...The photo of Dave brought to my mind Jack-in-the-Green.

  16. zephyr,

    I hate to tell you this, but if you look at a lot of images of the cathedral carvings, the Green Man definitely is vomiting the world!

    Of course, being the Green Man, his is not like ours. But it is very dramatic.

    While I was in Wales, I dragged all the Green Man and Jack-in-the-Green books up to my room...

  17. i've seen several...and vomit never came to mind...but now, i suppose it will!

    uh-oh! the word verification is "under".

  18. Perhaps "hurling" is a better word... more ambiguous.

  19. My imagination sees it completely differently:i see the green world growing out of the green man as a quick growing vine or stalk of corn will in July...not vomiting, hurling or spewing forth.

  20. That is definitely bugging you!

    I agree that it sometimes does look that way, particularly in our contemporary renditions, which tend toward the lovely. Sometimes in the old carvings.

    But quite often the carvings are much more violent-looking and . . . well, vomit-like. I am sorry, but that's what those medieval men carved, as far as I can tell. And I can't do anything about those old medieval fellows!

    But yes, it is easy to prefer to think of it the other way.

  21. i'm not as "bugged" as you seem to think. Just engaging in friendly (i hope you see it that way) debate. i have no need to persuade you to see them the way i do...on the other hand, you seem determined to convince me that vomit is what i should see.

    i do see wildness in the eyes and faces--i guess where you see violence and therefore vomit.

    The word, vomit, makes me think of "sick being expelled"...and i wouldn't have guessed that that's how green man was seen. but i certainly haven't studied Pagan writings to figure it all out. So, yes, i could be wrong and you could be right. Perhaps he is green because he is ill!!

  22. just had another thought. Maybe the ones in churches where considered symbols of evil and sinner, rather than nature and creation. Or, as warnings against following one's "natural" inclinations in spring?? Hence, spewing out sick/vomiting?

    Just took a quick look around the 'net and it seems there is no definitive, single folklore--pagan or Christian--assigned to the green men. But did also see references to and photos of ancient "gentle" and/or peaceful ones. And one or two of them were in old churches.


    i found all of this interesting. Sorry if it seemed otherwise to you.

  23. zephyr,

    Never worry--I am not easily offended!

    And oh, no. I think it's fine to see what you see. I just think those medieval carvers were sometimes a little bit excessive! One of the books I lugged up to my room catalogued most of the green men in the UK and many elsewhere, and I was rather surprised by some of them. They come in all guises. Some are gentle, some are quite forceful.

    And I don't think the leaves are literally vomit. Vomiting just expresses the force of something brought up from the roots. And some of those faces look that way--gripped by that kind of power.

    I am very fond of Green Men and have no wish to do them a disservice...


  24. Oh, yes, the meaning of the Green Man is not really clear to researchers. Though he is often assigned links to this or that, a great deal is not known.

    But think about the Green Man in "Gawain and the Green Knight." He is a mighty and a perilous man!

  25. How kind of you, Marly, to swing over into the garden to make sure all is swell. i'm glad we're friends...and you're right, sometimes things are clear on the 'net. All is well, all is well between me and thee!

    ha! word verification: "gestr"

  26. I agree with Marly re: vomit. I think such carvings were essentially carnivalistic images, inasmuch as they involved the sort of boundary-crossing (e.g. between civilized/human world and the wild) that was only permitted in the upside-down world of carnival. Bodies were porous and mutable then in a way they weren't in more Christian or classical contexts, and excess was encouraged.

    As for photos, here's one of Marly inside one of those montrous yew things, and here's another of Marly and Clare in front of the yews.

    My tongue has a life of its own, what can I say.

  27. Pax tecum, zephyr!


    Your tongue... flipping and flopping like an energetic fish. Something amazing.

    Fun to see those pictures: what a lovely day.

    I agree with you, though I also think the Green Man has his own reverberations and resonances in a Christian milieu, and now doubt that is why he found himself repeated and proliferating so often in churches--for what he is he but the renewer of the world, the resurrection boy, the one with the vegetative crown (like a crown of thorns, anybody?), the make-it-new fellow. And in that way he is not so very strange to a church. Hmm, think I need to write something about all this. It is interesting.

    And if you look at them from an entirely different end of the telescope, perhaps we ourselves are the green men, overtaken and ruled by nature, our bodies gone to earth and breaking into leaves and stems. Some of the heads look quite agonized.

    I do suspect that all the New Agers who have clutched the Green Man to their respective bosoms have simply assumed the Green Man as pagan link and have written about him in that way quite often, and with rather fuzzy thinking. Of course there are predecessors, but there has to be reason behind the great church and cathedral flowering of those heads!

  28. Couldn't agree more about the fuzziness of newage (rhymes with "sewage") thinking, and I like the suggestion in your second paragraph a lot! As for your first paragraph, you could be right, but don't be over-eager to domesticate him. After all, stone carvers in churches and cathedrals were given all sorts of leeway to carve devils and gargoyles, too.

  29. No, shan't be!

    But I always think about the Green Man in Gawain--he's not simple, not just one thing. He has his feet in more than one world.

    And I believe we are incapable from this distance of pinning the Green Man down. We can make arguments, but that's all they are--arguments and possibilities.

  30. But evidently it's fun and sometimes a living to just make it up!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.