Wednesday, 20 March 2013


Spring is springing in Northern California, as the family and i begin to turn our attention to an imminent return to Devon (early next week in fact). It's been an amazingly rich trip: whale watching, early morning animal tracking across beaches, an endless array of great tasting and amazingly nourishing food, evening fires underneath a hundred thousand stars, music, many new friendships, the adrenal clanging shock of learning to drive on the other side of the road so as to complete my two hour commute through San Francisco to Palo Alto, herds of Elk leisurely clashing antlers then the tribe stopping as one to watch, absolutely still, the sun going down. We are awash with memories, sand in our boots and moss in our hair. Point Reyes seashore rocks - but shhh.. please don't tell anyone.

This weekend is the last gathering of the MYTHTELLER INTENSIVE in Point Reyes - we are groaning above and beyond capacity and will be exploring PSYCHE AND EROS (which will shortly lead me to this blogs main point). Also- the night before we leave there will be one, final evening - a house concert no less - with just a few seats left, in Berkeley - organized by the writer and storyteller Leah Lamb. Every idea i haven't explored or story told will be in the mix for this final U.S. evening. If you are in the Bay Area next Tuesday why not try and score a ticket? Details at:

Tomorrow morning, the film director Haydn Reiss makes his way with crew through the bay area fog up to Inverness (not the Scottish one), for my interview in his upcoming Robert Bly documentary - Details at:

Thinking about Bly always brings me back to the conference he founded way back in the seventies, and one i find myself deeply involved in now........

So, here is the main event, the golden fleece, the tremulous journey into a wild-flower underworld of story, poetry, body, singing and the wild, genius music and deep fellowship. The Great Mother Conference.

I don't always ask this, but please share this, forward it on as a link, bang a drum - this wine is too rich not to share. This extraordinary conference in Maine in the first week in June is almost 40 years young, but still deepening, still vibrant, still the only place to go. I've never been anywhere quite like this.



The Four Tasks of Desire
The Great Mother Conference June 1st-9th 2013

“Between my breasts there are quails, they must think I’m a tree. The swans think I’m a fountain, they all come down and drink when I talk”
Gloria Fuertes

Teachers: Coleman Barks, Alicia Ostriker, Michael Stoker, Gioia Timpanelli, Fran Quinn, Lisa Starr, Tony Hoagland, Martin Lowenthal, Marcus Wise and David Whetstone, Susan Littlefield, Jay Leeming, Doug Von Koss. Miguel Rivera, Tim Frantzich and more....also about a 100 others in the shape of beloved participants.

We live in an era frantic with news of scarcity – economic and emotional. That there is never enough of anything. This year we drive our horses in quite another direction – that we are in fact a cosmos. In many ancient cultures, a woman was clear that she was connected to the intelligence of a hawk or the bend in a river, a man just knew that he walked with bears. In Greece, legend persists that there is a series of tasks to experience before you encounter this level of awareness – what some call the inner-marriage. They require acute discipline. They are not easy. They are as diligent and quiet as they are ecstatic. But from these four tasks true culture is awoken – we experience ourselves as connected, and therefore of service.

The story? Eros and Psyche. A story of woman’s difficult awakening, a man’s deepening into love, and the four tasks required of Psyche to enter a deeper relationship to Eros.
We ask: like Psyche, what great tasks do we undergo that are clarifying our own desire, our own relationship to Eros? We could see that desire as what in us reaches out to the world, feels vital and awake.

What also of a damaged-eros? when a mythology of love falls, what is its replacement? Lack of eros is far more than erotic: it indicates lack of connection to the living world, the dis-location of pornography, decline of intimacy in the family.

A host of artists, poets, musicians and thinkers are gathering to explore the deepest implications of this story. Through our mutual art we will participate in a celebration of desire, and learn something of the labors that have led to its flowering. We will ask each participant to bring four tasks gathered from their own life – What labors have tested and confirmed and continue to provide an eros renewed?

Dare to see yourself as a kind of cultural historian of your
own life.

On arrival at the conference we will all find a partner to exchange these wisdom seeds with – at certain points over the wider week. Small groups will also be a vehicle for this. So this is a call out to all the boat builders, poets, gardeners, storytellers, mechanics, philosophers, dancers, hedgerow dreamers, quilt makers, secret nomads, introverted musicians, wise children, foolish grown ups,
and all we have momentarily forgotten to join us.

We leave at dusk. Bring your dancing shoes.

Over nine days we will gather by a lake in Maine and through poetry, discussion, storytelling, astrology, time outdoors, music, movement and private reflection we continue the work of nourishing the soul and lifting the spirit. For almost forty years this conference has seen some of the most agile minds of poetry, mythology and the wider arts pass through its doors, creating a robust container for a thriving community of artists, thinkers, ecologists, children, and passing animals.

Through its rich history the Conference has been honored to welcome such teachers as: Joseph Campbell, Marion Woodman, William Stafford, Jane Hirshfield, Galway Kinnell, Naomi Shihab Nye, Li Young Lee, James Hillman, Coleman Barks and many others.

It has long been speculated that the gathering is secretly a longship of gypsy-souled troublemakers dreaming of Persia pretending to be a conference. We can neither confirm nor deny. What we do say is:

Bring your dancing shoes, a revolution of the heart is afoot!

“We knew that gypsies were properly another race. They inhabited the land of Eros – as if a gate had been left open in the usual life, as if something may get in or out”. Seamus Heaney

Reading List:
Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine. Erich Neumann
Alchemy of the Soul: The Eros and Psyche Myth as a Guide to Transformation. Martin Lowenthal
The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man. Marie-Louise Von Franz
The Myth of Analysis. James Hillman
The Moon and the Virgin. Nor Hall
Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic. Alicia Ostriker
Writing Like a Woman Alicia Ostriker
Talking into the Ear of a Donkey. Robert Bly

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