Artist Spotlight - Meet Paul Nixon

This month’s Artist Spotlight shines on Irish born, multi-talented artist, Paul Nixon.

Divas, Elementals, Fairies, Elves, Wee Folk, Sidhe, Ghosts, Witches, and Dryads are brought to life through Paul’s art as a skilled woodcarver, sculptor, and photographer.

Check out his enchanting work below, and find out more about Paul, in his own words:

As a young child, I would often stay with my grandparents who lived in a thatched cottage in the Sligo Mountains in Ireland. My grandmother believed in the fairy-world, and her stories, sometimes fearful, left a powerful impression with me. Buried close by is the grave of William Butler Yeats, a renowned Irish poet, story collector, and writer. Yeats spent much time collecting fairy stories from around this mountain range that, he too, left an impression with me.

20 years ago, my wife Francesca and I left New York to start a new life together in Greensboro, North Carolina. About 17 years ago, in an effort to make my wife's aunt Mary a gift of a walking stick, I discovered that I could carve wood. This discovery soon changed my life in a profound way.

I evolved into a self taught artist whose work quickly expanded into other mediums and became recognizable here in this region. I have created several bronze public monuments as well as creating works for churches and bishops throughout the United States. My favorite of all was being able to carve and sculpt fairies from my grandmothers world. I saw a means of bringing to life her stories and her inspirations in a very unique way.

All of the images here were hand-carved in Cedar wood. In fact they all exist on the same tree which is a sculpture in itself which I titled: Watchers in the Wood. My next evolution is in photography which, I believe you will agree, brings more mystery and life to my characters. My website; Home will attest to my broad range of skills and will also provide you with many more of my whimsical characters in my whimsical photography.


As an artist/sculptor I have been accused of being a bit of a chameleon, with my subject matter and style running the gamut from Contemporary/Abstract to Classical Renaissance.

I am a deep rooted visionary that is talented in all mediums which include wood, bronze, resins, cements, glass and photography. I like to feel that I am in a constant state of discovery, savoring the excitement of exploration and experimentation. My work is what I am
and what I know. To live without fear, to be open, present and aware. My passion is to inspire, design, and produce art that stirs the emotion and have a positive impact on the viewer.
See more of Paul's work at his website:
Paul Nixon Art
Check out his VIDEO
and
Follow him on Twitter @paulnixonart

Fairy Tale Flash Monday - The Princess Who Wanted Nothing and Everything

What is the gift 
of nothing and everything?
There was once a beautiful princess named Epiphany who lived with her parents, the king and queen of the kingdom. The king had decided it was time for her to be married and announced that the princes of all the lands come forth to see who was worthy of his daughter’s hand. The princess did not want to marry just any prince. Epiphany wanted to marry someone who was kind. She told her father that she would only marry a young man who came offering a special present for her.

When the king asked her what she would ask from them she responded, “I want nothing and everything.”


The king was flustered but decided to go along with his daughter’s wishes. He announced alongside the queen that all possible suitors must bring a present containing nothing and everything.


Soon afterwards princes began to arrive. The first ten all brought approximately the same thing. Trunks filled with jewelry, silk dresses, gold coins, spices, and perfume were presented to Epiphany.


Upon observing their offerings she responded, “You have brought everything, but you did not bring nothing. Therefore, I cannot marry you.”

The next ten hopeful princes brought nothing. One by one they greeted the king, queen, and the Princess Epiphany with empty hands.

She said to them, “You brought nothing, but you did not bring everything. Therefore, I cannot marry you.”

Many more princes came but they all received rejections. The king and queen began to feel nervous as they worried that no prince would be the correct one.
As everyone despaired, one morning changed everything. A handsome prince named Seldry was presented. He was humble and seemed trustworthy.
“Princess Epiphany, it is an honor to meet you,” he began. “I bring you a present that I hope you will enjoy.”
He opened his hand to show the gift. The princess and her parents leaned forward in their seats and squinted but could not see anything.
“I knew it,” sighed the king. “This one is no different than the others. He has brought nothing!”
Epiphany was not so sure. She felt he was different than the other princes.
Seldry spoke again, “Forgive me, but I did bring a gift. What I have in my hand is very small.” He walked closer so they could see.
He continued, “This is a seed for a tree that will bring delicious fruit when it is grown. From the fruit, more seeds will come which can be used to plant more trees. As the years pass, the gardens of this kingdom will have a grand orchard. By then this present would have turned into everything, such as food or shade, and even more. So you see, I brought nothing, accompanied with a promise for everything.”
Epiphany smiled with joy, “Prince Seldry, you have brought nothing and everything. Therefore, I can marry you.”
The king and queen rejoiced, and soon, the young couple was wed with a promise to care for their orchard together.
Carmen Redondo took several writing courses during her college career where she enjoyed learning about different styles of writing. She has always loved reading fairy tales, incorporating elements of fantasy and magic in her writing. She has a soft spot for fairy tales that are sweet love stories.

Story Graphics: Amanda Bergloff

When Geography is Mythology by William Gilmer

How did that get there?
It’s an honest enough question, considering we live on a world where pieces of the ground shoot
miles into the sky, chasms form beneath our feet, and land appears in the middle of the ocean for no apparent reason. When faced with the breathtaking splendors of the world, what imagination wouldn't run wild with stories of giants and demi-gods? Physical geography is the starting place for some of the most interesting myths on the planet. These are some of my favorites, they mix cultural tradition with sheer fantasy to make a perfect slurry of folklore.


One of the best examples, and probably the one with the most landmarks to his credit, is Paul Bunyan. Paul was said to be a giant lumberjack who could chop down a forest with a single swing of his ax. His legend got its start around the logging campfires of Southern Canada, quickly spread into Michigan, and eventually the rest of the United States. Some of the landmarks he is credited with making are; The Grand Canyon which he carved by dragging his ax behind him as he walked, the Finger Lakes that formed when he pressed his hand into the ground to brace himself from a fall, Mount Hood was formed when he stacked up stones to extinguish a campfire, and Niagara Falls, constructed from the Niagara River so he could have a place to bathe his equally large babies. There are no less than a dozen other North American features attributed to this big man and his blue ox, making him one of the most prolific characters in American folklore.



Moving over to the Northern Island of New Zealand, home of some of the country’s most iconic mountains, the Māori tell an interesting story of how the mountains ended up where they are today. The most beautiful of the mountains was Pihanga, who was covered in lush forests of the deepest green. The other mountains pursued her affection rather aggressively, culminating in a fight between the two mountains Tongariro and Taranaki. After a battle that shook the island, Tongariro defeated Taranaki and forced to him to flee to the coast. His retreat carved out the Whanganui river. The people of the island don’t advise living between the two mountains, claiming that one day Taranaki will return to battle Tongariro again.


Islands are odd things themselves. How does land appear in the middle of an ocean? Well the Hawaiian Islands were supposedly formed by Māui, an ancient chief and avid fisherman. One day he took his brothers fishing, and with the help of his magical fishhook Manaiakalani, managed to snag the bottom of the ocean floor. He told his brothers that he had hooked a giant fish and they all pulled until the ocean floor separated and floated to the surface. Māui was successful in repeating this trick until all the Hawaiian Islands were hauled up from the bottom.


Although it is larger than what we think of when we hear the term “island”, all of North America was generally referred to as Turtle Island by the Indigenous people. The story of its creation uses a familiar theme in mythology, the flood. Like most other flood myths, the Creator, in this case The Great Spirit, became angered with the chaos and violence present in the world, and attempted to wash the Earth clean. In this version of the story a loon, a beaver, and an otter all tried to swim to the bottom of the ocean to gather dirt for a new land. Everyone who tried failed, until the humble muskrat answered the call. Though smaller and weaker than the animals that had tried before, the muskrat, through its resolve and bravery, managed to reach the bottom and gather the dirt that would be formed into Turtle Island.  
In the same way that it is curious when land appears in the middle of the water, likewise, it’s a wonder when water forms in the middle of the land. Crater Lake is a caldera lake in Oregon. It is the deepest lake in the United States, so deep in fact, that it might reach down into the underworld. The indigenous Klamath people of the region describe the creation of the lake after a fierce battle between Llao, the god of the underworld, and Skell, the god of the sky. The caldera of Mount Mazama served as a gateway to the underworld that Llao would use to terrorize the surface world. After a fierce battle that involved two medicine men sacrificing themselves to end the struggle, Skell was able to force Llao back through the caldera. The god then sealed up the pit and placed Crater Lake on top of it to ensure that Llao would never be able to return.

Traveling over to the always entertaining mythology of Ireland, we find Lough Sheelin, one of the Ireland’s largest county lakes. Local lore says that a spring favored by fairies used to flow here. The fairies allowed the nearby villagers to drink from the spring as long as they replaced the rock that served as a stopper. One day a careless villager forgot to put the stone back in place, and as punishment, the fairies allowed the spring to flow until it caused a flood that covered the village and formed Lough Sheelin. If mythology can teach us anything, remember to always listen to fairies.




Landscapes have always been an inspiration.
They spark an almost ancient curiosity as people struggle to understand why the world looks the way it does. This is just a small sample of the myths that cover famous geological structures. Chances are there is a legend or two floating around your local area about the lakes, mountains, or rivers. Do some research, you might be surprised to find folklore sitting right outside your door, and when you do find it, turn it into a Fairy Tale Flash story and send it in to us!
William Gilmer is a contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine and a writer and poet currently living in Michigan.
Follow him on Twitter @willwritethings 

Cover layout by Amanda Bergloff

Double Fairy Tale Flash - Pennies Dropping AND Midnight

This week, Enchanted Conversation Magazine 
is featuring two Fairy Tale Flash stories:
Pennies Dropping by A.M. Offenwanger
and 
Midnight by Fanni Sütő.
We hope you enjoy them and share your thoughts
with the authors of these tales in the comments section below.
“So, has the penny finally dropped?” her grandmother would say bitingly. “You cannot give money away to riffraff, or you are left with nothing!”

Then Grandmother died, and she was truly left with nothing—just the cloak on her back. And that she gave to the poor woman with the baby, who sat by the side of the road shivering. The gratitude in their eyes warmed her so much, a corner of the heart that Grandmother had frozen began to thaw.

Her last piece of bread went to a beggar boy rooting through the refuse heap, and through the growling of her stomach she heard her heart singing.

An old woman with chilblains on her feet received her shoes; a blind young one, dressed in rags, her skirt. Her linen shirt, last legacy of her mother, she gave to a poor young bride; the joy in the girl’s eyes lit up her soul.

She stood in nothing but her thin, worn shift in the dark of the night where only the stars could see her, her heart glowing with a wealth of warmth.

A penny dropped, right from the stars. And another, and another, clinging to her shift, forming a cloak of silver, covering her. She stretched out her hands, singing her joy into the night.
A.M. Offenwanger, contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine, is a writer, reader, blogger, and editor.
Follow her blog Amo Vitam
and follow her on Twitter @amoffenwanger
and on Facebook here


Her steps fell on the street softly like seconds rushing by.

It was an otherwise silent night and the houses of the sleepy town turned their eyes discreetly, while the stars hid their face in the dark drape of clouds. Midnight pulled her sorrow-red cape tighter and hurried towards the castle where her older sister, Prima was waiting for her impatiently. Midnight didn’t feel like going home, her heart rang like an empty bell inside her chest, and the memory of an unsure kiss lingered in the corner of her lips.


She met him in the masquerade; he wore a silver waistcoat and a dark blue mask. When they danced, his fingers felt so light on her waist as if they were just passing thoughts and when he stepped closer to her, Midnight could feel the smell of summer mornings on his clothes.


She knew that this one night full of music was the only thing they would ever have. The cello cried when their hands parted and Midnight only realised that she was still holding his glove when he had long disappeared in the crowd of dancers. She held the aetherial material against her face, it felt lighter than hope, and she hurried out of the hall. When Midnight stepped into the trembling light of street lamps, she realised that the boy was Daybreak, the eldest son of the Morning. Rumor had it that he ignored the strict rules of their people and had broken countless hearts. Maybe Midnight would also end up like that, but she didn’t care about the future, only the few minutes in the day when she could be herself. The cobblestones purred sympathetically under her feet and her sister let out a relieved sigh when the clock struck twelve.


Midnight was home and Prima set out to enjoy the sixty minutes that was her due, an hour full of dreams she would mourn in the remaining twenty three hours of the day.


Fanni Sütő writes poetry, short stories and a growing number of novels-in-progress. She publishes in English and Hungarian and finds inspiration in reading, paintings and music. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. She tries to find the magical in the everyday and likes to spy on the secret life of cities and their inhabitants. Previous publications include:The Casket of Fictional Delights, Tincture Journal, Enchanted Conversation Magazine, and Fundead Publications.
Website: www.inkmapsandmacarons.com
Follow her on Twitter: @Fanni_Pumpkin

Story graphics by Amanda Bergloff

Fairy Tales and Social Consciousness by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines

"As story-tellers we have an obligation to tell the truth..."
Author, Kiyomi Appleton Gaines, shares her thoughts 
on fairy tales and social consciousness.
I was playing around with a story that I have been getting nice rejection letters about, and I realized that it can't be published now. At least not for a while. In it, a flood devastates an entire community. When I wrote it, the August 2017 flood hadn't happened yet here in New Orleans, nor Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria. Now the parallel, though loose, seems too close.

Too soon, I thought, re-reading it.

So away it goes, into the proverbial desk drawer for a time. Maybe when it feels okay to bring it out again, I'll know just how to tweak it for publication. At least, I am pleased to find, I still like what I wrote months ago.

As story-tellers we have an obligation to tell the truth - our truth, and greater Truth as we are able to - honestly, even when it's frightening and when it hurts. Yet we also have a more essential, human call to be gentle when it is in our power to be. We have a choice in the stories we tell, and how and when we choose to tell them. When discourse becomes volatile and raw, or when we don't know what to say, fairy stories remain essentially a source of comfort as things we remember from childhood, things that tie us to our distant past, and as a point of entry to our common desires. Like religious rituals, they commemorate that time in our lives when they first came to us, and all the times they were revisited, because something of them continues to resonate in us - Cinderella gone from a young child's imaginings of a beautiful ball and escape from the unfairness of chores, to learning that first love is never really a knight on a white horse, to a spouse rejecting traditional gender roles perhaps. In any event, our favorite stories shape us, as our experiences shape our understandings of what they mean, or what they might mean.

I like to say that I love fairy tales because they teach us about being human. These stories, many - though not all - with an ancient heritage, endure for a reason. They show us people who are trying to cheat death, to make the most of their lot, to bargain with fate; people who are just trying. Of course there's magic, and gods, and even fairies, but each of those also say something about what is important to us - or at least what was at one time. The morality lessons are there of course - be kind to the old, and the frail, and the ugly, because whether witch or godmother, you'll be better off if you're polite! But so, too, are those examples of strength and persistence in the face of incredible adversity, commentary on equality, and - since so many deal in nobility and rulership - the responsibility that attends great privilege. They tell us about the hopes and aspirations of people who came before us, not individually but corporately. And I think when we examine them, and turn them around, and approach them in a different way, when we share them from a different perspective, we can change, corporately, the way we see ourselves, and each other, as we move forward.

So while that story of nature's destructive power is put away for now, there are others waiting to be told.
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines is a contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine who writes stories and articles inspired by folklore and fairy tales. 
Find more of her writing at A Work of Heart

and follow her on Twitter @ThatKiyomi

Cover by Amanda Bergloff 

MYTHS OF A FEATHER: Birds in Folklore & Myths by William Gilmer

Birds have enamored mankind since our earliest days. Thousand year old petroglyphs of Thunderbirds decorate cave walls in Wisconsin, and depictions of a bird headed man drawn in southwestern France date as far back as 15,000 BC. Our eyes have always gazed at the sky and wondered about the possibilities. It’s no surprise then, that many of our myths center on the most abundant symbol of flight in our world. Our mythological relationship with birds is truly ancient. They have been used in storytelling since there were stories to tell. Some, like Poe’s “The Raven” or Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling”, find themselves cemented into our collective consciousness and are retold for generations.

Listed below are some great pieces of folklore featuring birds. Let these avian imaginings lift your muse into the clouds and give your inspiration wings.
The Cherokee have a touching tale that explains why pine trees keep their foliage during winter. One year, during the change of seasons, there was an injured swallow who was unable to make the long migration south. The swallow sent the rest of its family on their way and began trying to find a place to build a nest to ride out the winter months.

The swallow approached a mighty oak and politely asked if it could build a house in its leaves. The oak, tired from housing many birds throughout the spring and summer, refused the swallow claiming that it needed a break from nesting birds. To add insult to injury, the oak shed all of its leaves, ensuring that the swallow wouldn’t be able to make its home there.

The swallow approached the maple, the elm, and the other trees of the forest, only to receive the same response. It was only after the trees of the forest were bare, that it noticed the humble pine. Limping to the pine, tired and exhausted, the swallow explained that without a tree for its nest, it would surely die in the cold. The pine took pity on the poor sparrow and offered up its branches, promising to never shed its needles, in case it ever needed a home again.

The Jingwei is a story that comes to us from the Shan Hai Jing, a classic Chinese text concerning geography and mythology. The text has been around in some form or another since the 4th century BC.


The story tells of Nüwa, daughter of the Yan Emperor, who tragically drowns in the Eastern Sea. Nüwa is brought back to life in the body of a white beaked, red footed bird, called the Jingwei. In this new body she spends her days picking up twigs and pebbles and dropping them into the Eastern Sea. Her goal is to fill the entire sea, in an effort to prevent anyone from sharing her fate. Occasionally, the sea makes various comments, letting her know that her task is futile, that she could not hope to fill the sea even if she worked for a million years. The Jingwei doesn’t disagree, but replies that even if it takes 100 million years it’ll be worth it if she can save a single life. This folktale has actually inspired a Chinese idiom "Jingwei Tries to Fill the Sea" meaning determination against nearly impossible odds.

Birds and death have always been folkloric bedfellows. While there are innumerable instances
where birds have been labeled as bad omens (namely the crow and raven), people have seen fit to
brand them as psychopomps. Psychopomps are beings responsible for escorting souls to the afterlife. The Cahuilla people of southern California believe their personification of death, Muut, comes to people in the form of a man with an owl’s head. Owls, in fact, are regarded worldwide as guides to the beyond. The ancient Greeks considered cranes otherworldly ambassadors, while the Romans preferred eagles, which were said to fly out of the funeral pyres of famous leaders.

In eastern North America, there is an unlikely little bird that acts as a psychopomp. It is said that the call of the whippoorwill, or the presence of a flock, signifies that someone is going to die. Upon their passing, it is said that the whippoorwill swoops down and fetches up their soul. The idea that whippoorwills carry souls to the afterlife seemed to catch fire after the publication and positive reception of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”, where it is used as a plot device.  Prior to this, it seems that the only other common recorded reference was 40 years previous in Clifton Johnson’s, “What They Say in New England”. Johnson was a folklorist who is responsible for popularizing many sayings, most notably “in like a lion out like a lamb” used to describe March weather, although the saying was coined in Britain over 100 years prior.

While birds can get a bad rap through their association with death, they can also be symbols of rebirth. The classic example of this is the Phoenix which is continually reborn from its own ashes. Many other birds, like the robin, are associated with spring, the season of new life. The robin also has close ties to Jesus who is famously claimed to have risen from the dead.

While many birds can symbolize life, none do it better than the one that delivers it to your doorstep (or chimney based on what version of the myth you read). The stork has been the Amazon delivery drone of babies for hundreds of years. This reputation seems to have its origin in Germany and the surrounding Eastern European countries. The basis for the myth is linked to the stork’s annual migration pattern. It is thought that during the celebration of the Summer Solstice (a popular time for marriage and wedding night activities) a disproportionate number of babies would be conceived. These mothers would give birth nine months later in March or April right in time for the stork’s return. Over time, people made a correlation between the arrival of the birds and an influx of births.

Birds make easy fodder for folklore. Their variety of colors and behaviors leave them open to many questions that can have creative answers. Have you ever looked out your window and wondered why the blue jay is blue, or the blackbird black? Why does the Junco only arrive in winter, or the swallow fly low when it’s about to rain? Sure you might be able to find scientific (boring) reasons, but wouldn’t it be more fun to come up with your own Enchanted answers? Let your imagination soar and give wings to your words! Just don’t forget to send your stories our way for our Fairy Tale Flash feature. We’d love to add them our beautiful brood.
William Gilmer is a contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine, and a writer and poet currently living in Michigan.
Follow him on Twitter @willwritethings 

Cover layout by Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff


FAIRY TALE FOOD: Apples & RECIPE OF THE MONTH: Fairy Tale Apple Pie by A.M. Offenwanger


February, my local produce store informs me every year, is Apple Month. It might be only British Columbia who celebrates apples now, at the half-way point when last year’s harvest is just a memory and this year’s not even a twinkle in the honeybees’ eyes yet. The rest of the Northern hemisphere seems to celebrate Apple Month more logically in October. However, February is a good month for apples.

So I was thinking of food in fairy tales, and apples were one of the first things that came to mind. There are lots of them, fairy tales with apples, I mean (here, for example, one blogger made a list of some of them). One of them is the story of “The Golden Bird” (Grimms #57), which is similar to the Russian “Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf”. Both stories begin with a king’s magic tree being robbed of its golden apples, and a young man being sent out to capture the thief, a golden or Firebird, depending on the version. It’s a quite extensive story with escalating robbery that eventually results in the young man getting a beautiful princess to marry, which just goes to show that you never know what you’re going to get when you start with apples. I would recommend Golden Delicious for this purpose.

The best-known fairy tale apple in Western culture, however, has to be the one from “Snow White”. I don’t think that the witch used any currently known apple variety, as the Grimms specifically state that she “made” the apple, with one red cheek and one white one (which was smart of her, as it allowed her to identify the poisoned bit so she could get Snow White with the “Look, it’s safe! I’m eating it too!” trick). Ambrosia apples might fit the bill as far as the two-tone variety goes, but I can assure you that our local ones are not-at-all toxic.

If you’re too greedy about eating one, though, you could still end up with the Snow White effect, which was in essence to choke on the apple piece. In the Grimms’ version, the breaking of the curse comes about not through True Love’s Kiss (sorry if that destroys any romantic illusions for anyone), but through one of the dwarfs tripping while carrying the coffin, which makes the poisoned apple piece pop out of Snow White’s throat. When you think of it, that’s much more logical than having the poison neutralized by smooching, but I guess Disney wanted to go with the romantic version and give the poor prince something to do other than just be decorative.

Here is another thing that Disney introduced into their version: the witch gets to Snow White through her housewife’s ambitions. “It’s apple pies that make the menfolks’ mouths water!” she says to the girl, who is busily baking gooseberry pies for the dwarfs. (Why Snow White doesn’t get suspicious when the witch offers her the one bright red apple in her basket instead of one of the green ones is anyone’s guess…) Well, the witch might be wicked and devious, but she’s got a point. Gooseberries are all fine and dandy, but apple pies are truly wonderful.

So here’s my version of apple pie, guaranteed toxin-free if you don’t buy your apples from a warty-nosed old peddler at the door.

Ingredients

6 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 6-8 large) - I like using Mackintosh or Spartans

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2/3 cup brown sugar

FOR THE CRUST: Your favorite recipe for a 9 inch double-crust pie - I use this one. You can also skip the crust and bake the filling in a covered dish for a lighter version.



Steps



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)

2. Put the filling ingredients together in a big bowl, toss until the apples are coated.

3. Put into the pie shell, top with the lid, seal the edges.

4. Poke holes in the top crust (I would not recommend cutting out a death’s head shape; it tends to put off the audience).

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes until it’s golden brown and the juice bubbles up through the holes in the crust.

Serve warm to friends of any height, sex, or level of handsomeness.
Let us know if you try this recipe. We'd love to hear from you. Happy baking!
A.M. Offenwanger, contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine, is a writer, reader, blogger, and editor.
Follow her blog Amo Vitam
and follow her on Twitter @amoffenwanger
and on Facebook here

Cover apple photo and recipe photos by A.M. Offenwanger

Cover layout by Amanda Bergloff