Excerpts

These are a few excerpts from Mowzl v2 - First Purlings

Dungle and the Acorn


Whenever Emmy needs a nap, he snuggles into his pouch in the bowl of things. It might be his bowl, or it might be LuLu’s or Pip’s, it doesn’t matter. If his pouch isn’t there, he curls up in a bundle of wool threads. Within moments of going to sleep, he will be purling.

He can never tell where purling will take him – except when he is being called by someone. He might find himself in Tillings Wood or in the open fields; in the town or by the sea, or even high in the sky. He meets creatures when he’s purling and talks with them, learning about their lives and the wild web.

Emmy has been thinking a lot about Dungl; he knows that Dungl isn’t dangerous, he’s not a threat, he’s lost and angry – like Billy. Emmy drifts off to sleep asking the great wave for help.

He finds himself purling over fields and looking down, he sees Dungl. What is he doing? Dungl is standing on the wreck of an old car whacking what remains of the glass in the windows with a stick. Hovering above, just out of reach of the stick, Emmy watches. Dungl doesn’t notice him because he is working so hard at smashing up the old car. It’s hot work and after a while he stops for a rest.

“I’s very ’appy seein’ you smashin’ up masheen,” says Emmy, “’coz I’s nevva ’avin’ big luv ov masheenz.”

Dungl looks around in all directions, except upwards, trying to see where this strange voice is coming from. Even though he’d spied on Billy and Larky and seen the mouse purling, he hadn’t heard the mouse’s voice properly.

“Who’s there? Where are ya?”

“You’s lookin’ all evry way but nevva mi way. I’s up ’ere.” The boy looks upwards – and gasps!

“I’s seein’ fairies ’n all!”

“Iz you Dungl?”

“Who’s askin’?”

“Mi name’s Mowzl Emmy n I’s a mouse from uvva world. I’s only toy mouse in ooman world but I’s a real mouse bak ’ome.”

Careful to stay just out of reach, Emmy moves as close as he can to Dungl’s face. Both boy and mouse are quiet, looking at each other.

“Be comin’ wiv Emmy,” says Emmy, purling slowly up and away. Dungl shrugs and jumps down from the car to follow the mouse.

“Must be gettin’ soft or summat,” he mutters out loud. “But I’s ’avin’ a feelin’.”

The place where Dungl has been smashing up the abandoned car is at the end of a track where there’s a gate to a field. The sheep grazing in the field take no notice of Emmy as he purls towards the trees growing on the other side, but they move away as Dungl climbs over the gate to follow.

Emmy goes on into the woods, waits while Dungl scrambles over the fence, and all the time silently calls Rattltap with his heart. They move on and come to a clearing in the woods.

“Pleez be sittin’,” says Emmy. Dungl sits on a fallen branch.

They are quiet; Dungl fidgets, feeling uneasy.

With a loud ‘tchak’ and the sound of wingbeats, Rattltap flies down from the treetops to cling to the

bark of the nearest tree.

“Good morning, Mowzl Emmy. I see that you are with another human cub, would you please introduce

us?”

“’Allo, Rattltap, pleez be meetin’ Dungl.”

“Greetings, Dungl, welcome to the wild talk. You are a lucky human to have met up with the flying mouse.”

Dungl is surprised and puzzled. Perhaps it’s because there are no other humans around making him feel angry, perhaps it’s to do with the magic that the mouse brings, but whatever it is, Dungl is interested in spite of himself. If there were other humans there, Dungl would have sneered and snorted and would have broken the spell, because that’s what he’s used to doing, but not this time. This time he’s interested.

“Dungl, I’s needin’ your ’elp. Rattltap, pleez be ’xplaynin’,” says Emmy.

Rattltap clears his throat with a ‘tchack’ or two.

“Wild creatures are not happy with what humans are doing to the wild web. What humans are doing is tearing the wild web, and it has become so badly injured that something has to be done. The problem is that humans have closed their hearts and no longer listen to the wild talk, and so they can no longer hear us, or understand us, even if they want to. Please help us by learning the wild talk.”

“’Ow come I’s gettin’ it now?” asks Dungl, finding his voice.

“That’s because of the magic that Mowzl Emmy brings. If the mouse were not here, you would not understand a thing I’m saying. But you can learn, if you want to.”

“’Ow does I learn it? ’n what then?”

“Be tellin’ wot’z in yor ’eart, Dungl,” says Emmy.

“What’s it matter?”

“Dungl, pleez be tellin’ Emmy wot’z in yor ’eart.”

“What’s it to you? It ain’t none of your business!”

Silence.

Rattltap shinters up and down the tree trunk, making a soft churring sound under his breath. Dungl feels the sound like something tickling the inside of his head.

“Dungl, pleez be tellin’ wot’z in yor ’eart,” says Emmy again.

Dungl is feeling defensive and cross; he can feel the anger rising up inside, but there are other feelings coming up too that he would normally cover up. He feels confused and all the feelings boil up––suddenly he shouts it all out.

“Why can’t you leave me alone? I ’ates everyone, I ’ate ’em ’n I ’ates you! Leave me alone!” Dungl shrinks down, his anger spilling out of him as tears pour down his face. “I ’ates bein’ me,” he says quietly.

“Dungl, you’s bein’ truly brave.”

Emmy comes close to Dungl now, right up close; and looks deep into his eyes.

“All of wot’z wild iz livin’ in yor ’eart, n iz real n troof. Growd up oomans iz tellin’ you uvvawize n yor ’eart iz in darkniss. I’s needin’ you to be livin’ in yor ’eart, Dungl, livin’ wild troof.”

Dungl is quiet, his shoulders hunched; he stares at the ground.

Rattltap flies from his tree trunk to settle on the fallen branch next to him. Dungl has never seen a wild bird so close before and he sneaks a look at the beautiful pattern of colours in the feathers, and at the wild aliveness of Rattltap’s eyes and movements.

“From this day onwards,” says Rattltap. “Think not about the anger that has lived in your heart for so long but think about all the things that bring the light and wild truth to your heart. Think about that acorn just there on the ground among the leaves; you have been staring at that acorn and your tears have fallen upon the acorn. Take this acorn with you now and plant it in two places: first, plant it in a place where it will be able to grow and not be interfered with so that it can become a mighty oak and live for a thousand winters; second, plant the acorn in your heart and feel that mighty oak growing in the very middle of your being.”

Rattltap pauses for a moment, before continuing.

“This acorn is your key to the wild web.”

With these words, Rattltap jumps down to the ground, picks up the acorn in his bill and flies back to the broken branch; he hops onto Dungl’s knee, dropping the acorn into his hand.

“Until we meet again, goodbye, young human cub,” says Rattltap, and off he flies.

Dungl is stunned. Emmy breaks the silence.

“Dungl, you’s very brave.”

Dungl watches Emmy fade away and disappear. He remains sitting on the fallen branch for a long time, his mind a blank. Tears stream down his face and his heart aches.

Suddenly he is awake! He knows exactly where to plant the acorn! Up he jumps, setting off at a run to plant his acorn – in two places at once.




Stomper’s First Purling


Stomper Jack sometimes goes for a walk close to home along the footpath beside the railway line. There’s a bit where the railway goes through a cutting and the footpath goes uphill steeply. On one side of the path wooden fence panels close off people’s back gardens, but on the railway side there’s a strong fence made with upright metal strips with spiky tops. It’s called palisade fencing and it’s really hard to climb over unless there’s something to stand on to climb up – and something to climb down again on the other side. There’s nowhere to do that.

Near the top of the slope the fence has been bent by a branch that fell from a tree that once grew on the railway side of the fence. The tree was cut down to a stump when the men with chainsaws came to tidy up the fallen branch. The vertical metal strips in the fence got bent and two of them bent different ways, making a squeezy gap that Stomper Jack can just get through.

Early one morning, when she is out on one of her ‘being alone’ walks, Stomper squeezes through the gap in the fence and wriggles her way through the tangle of undergrowth growing on the slope of the railway cutting.

She goes to the big tree stump where she has a den. It’s all that remains of the tree that was cut down after the fence got damaged. It’s still alive and growing, but the railway people come every year or two and cut the new growth, so it never gets tall. You can see some of the tree roots above the ground because of the steep slope of the railway cutting; the rain and burrowing creatures have washed and scraped the soil downhill, bit by bit, exposing the roots more and more. The roots are entwined together in a lattice, but there is a gap where Stomper can wriggle through to get inside. There she can sit or curl up, but not stand.

Stomper loves this place. She thinks of it as her lair. A lair is like a den, but wilder. Even though it’s close to the path she can’t be seen, especially now that it’s summer and the leaves protect her. Stomper loves to feel safe like this, and alone, so that she can daydream properly.

Today she sits in the lair enjoying the secure feeling that she has surrounded by the roots; she likes the smell of the tree and the rich, earthy smell of the ground. Looking out through the lattice of roots she watches the wind moving twigs and leaves in the bushes; she listens to the secret sounds that come from the wind, and from birds and insects all around. She can make the town noises disappear when she’s in her lair, but not the trains. When the trains come, they are too loud to make disappear, but she doesn’t mind; they are dragons passing by.

A dunnock appears, flicking from twig to twig close to the ground. Some people call this bird a hedge sparrow, but it isn’t a sparrow; it’s got a thin, sharp beak for eating insects, not like a sparrow with its strong beak for eating seeds.

The dunnock sees Stomper and comes right up close to have a look. Stomper notices that the feathers aren’t all brown; when the light moves on them they are blue, the breast and the head are blue-grey and the legs are pink. It’s gorgeous, Stomper thinks, as she gazes in wonder at the little bird as she begins to do what she calls proper daydreaming.

“Hallo, little bird, you are very beautiful. I’ve never seen a bird like you before.”

“I’ve never seen a whatever-you-are before!” says the dunnock. “My name is Tinkalin, what are you?”

“My name is Jackie,” says Stomper. “I’m a human.”

“A human! Ha! Humans are big and clumsy and break things, but you are no bigger than me and you can fly without wings!”

Stomper Jack is shocked to hear this, and she backs away from Tinkalin, bumping into the roots of the lair. She turns to see what she’s bumped into – and gasps.

“What’s happening to me?”

The tree stump is right in front of her, and sitting inside is a girl, daydreaming. The girl looks exactly like Stomper. It is Stomper!

“I must be dreaming,” she says.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes and no, Tinkalin. What do I look like to you?” says Stomper, turning to look at the bird.

“You look like a fairy with red hair and green eyes, but you haven’t got any legs that I can see.”

Stomper looks down at her legs – and sees her pouch!

“Tinkalin, I’m very alright! I’m purling! Hooray!”

She turns back to look at herself sitting in the lair, purling closer to examine herself.

“Do I really look like that? Ha-ha! Hallo, me, are you awake? Hmm, if you wake up I’ll disappear, won’t I?”

The life-sized Stomper that she’s looking at doesn’t move or talk. It’s a shock. It’s not like looking in a mirror, not at all. A mirror makes everything the wrong way round, so this is a bit like looking at a stranger. Purling Stomper sees that full-sized Stomper is a bit scruffy and wild-looking; her red hair and the determined look on her face make her look fierce!

“I like you!” says purling Stomper to full-sized Stomper. She turns back to Tinkalin.

“I’m alright now, Tinkalin. I just had to say hallo to myself.”

“Hmm. Strange indeed,” says Tinkalin. “What are you feeling now, Jackie?”

“Different, light, excited! I don’t know ‘me’ anymore, but I feel at home.”

“The heaviness is your full-sized human body,” says Tinkalin. “You are light now because you are all heart-thought.”

“Is that why my fingers don’t really touch anything? Look! If I try to touch your feathers, it’s like my fingers are seeing.”

“Yes! You are seeing in a new way. You’re lucky, Jackie!”

“Except it will end, and full-size Stomper will wake up.”

“You must go to the Glade, Jackie, before you wake up.”

“The Glade? That’s miles away in Tillings Wood!”

“You will be taken there by your heart-thoughts. Go now!”

“I’m being pulled! Oh, Tinkalin, what’s happening?”

“Jackie, be like the wind! Goodbye!”

“Bye, Tinkalin, thanks...”

Stomper is moving – well, her pouch is moving and she’s inside it – and rising out of the thicket of bushes on the slope of the railway cutting. She can see the railway tracks glinting in the sun, and she sees houses with small gardens backing onto the railway. She gets higher, seeing more of the town spread out below; she sees the network of little roads that join up to bigger roads, and she sees parks with swings and slides and grass to play on.

“There’s my house!” she cries out loud. “There’s Mummy in the garden! Hallo, Mummy! Oh, she can’t hear me.”

Stomper looks down at the familiar roads that she often walks along to get to school, and to the local shop, and she sees the park where she goes to play with school friends sometimes. Maybe purling does give a new way of seeing. Whatever it is, she looks down on the patchwork pattern of her hometown, and she feels for the first time that she is beginning to understand what Emmy has been saying about the wild web. She looks harder, trying to put her finger on what it is but can’t quite get it.

She sees the labyrinth of roads and houses and she sees how tidy it all is; every scrap of space has been built on or covered in concrete or tarmac for cars to park on, except for little bits of mown grass beside the roads, and the gardens at the back of the houses. Some of the gardens are empty, just a lawn or paved patio or gravel, and some of them are planted with fancy things bought in pots from the garden centre; just a few gardens, here and there, are little jungles where you could hide and play and make a den and daydream properly.

The pouch carries Stomper on towards the edge of town and towards open country, crossing bigger roads and roundabouts, purling over factories and huge car parks next to supermarkets and warehouses. There are little patches of grass here and there and a few shrubs and trees dotted about, but that’s it really. At the edge of town, she sees whole fields being bulldozed and roads being built for the new houses and shops and factories that will be built.

Purling on into the countryside, Stomper looks down on a beautiful tapestry of fields divided by hedgerows and country lanes. Some fields are brown earth with crops just beginning to emerge, other fields are shimmering with luscious grass or young wheat or barley. She sees the wind writing secret stories into the young barley, the wind-words rippling across the silvery fields.

She purls on, lower now, and she feels the truth of Pip’s ‘ecology lesson’. She can see that these fields have only the crop that is grown for humans. She can see that there is no room for wildness and because she is purling, she can feel how wildness is squashed down; the wildness is trying to push up towards the sun again, but is always cut, or ploughed or poisoned. Even the hedgerows are trimmed, like in a town garden, and will not make fruit or seeds for the birds and creatures in winter.

The farmland is nearly as tidy as the town! she thinks. Wildness is squashed... Why do we humans do that? It’s like humans want to get rid of nature. It hurts me...

The pouch carries Stomper on across the fields, past small copses and stands of trees on ground too steep for tractors to plough. From a distance they look nice and it’s a relief to see some trees, but when she gets close up, she sees that beneath the trees nothing grows; there are no homes for creatures at all. The land is used for what humans and their farm animals need.

Stomper purls on with a heavy heart. She has never seen the world like this before and she feels a terrible sadness because wildness is missing. It’s so bewildering. Everything looks right and normal and she realises that it would be right and normal to her if she hadn’t met Emmy. Humans have to grow food to eat, and they need homes to live in – but so do wild creatures and plants! What’s the problem? Humans are just taking too much, that’s what it is, ’cos there’s so many of us, she thinks. What was it Mr Pip said? Give land back to Nature, that’s what he said, but how can we do that? Oh dear.

She sees woodland in the distance – Tillings Wood – and she remembers how good she always feels when she’s there. She frowns, thinking of the network of roads she has just been flying over. Why can’t there be a network of wild woodland coming right into town, bringing the wildness of Tillings Wood right to her own street? To her back door?

The instant that Stomper has this thought, she finds herself in Tillings Wood. The wild web is strong and fills her heart with happiness, and yet she bursts into tears because of the sadness she has been feeling.

“So, purlers can cry real tears!” she says, laughing and crying at the same time.

“Yes, Stomper Jack, welcome to the Glade; my name is Rindill.”

“Thank you, Rindill,” says Stomper, watching Rindill flick his body from one position to another, as wrens do. “I don’t quite believe this is happening, perhaps I’ll wake up in a minute.”

“You won’t wake up yet, you are purling. This is the Glade, you’ve been here before, do you remember? What do you see?”

“Yes, I remember the Glade, Rindill, and I remember you, Rindill, and the gathering of creatures, but now everything feels strange. I’m feeling everything I see – it’s like – it’s like I haven’t got any skin, and instead of touching things I’m joined to them. It’s making me dizzy.”

“You’re feeling the wild web, Stomper Jack, and your human I-ness is melting. You are feeling the isness that you are.”

“Emmy didn’t say that it would be like this, that it would hurt.”

“He didn’t say anything because every human will find their own way to isness, and it will be different for each one. For some it will be harder than it is for you.”

“Why does it have to be so difficult?”

“For a long time, humans have been so clever that they have thought themselves to be separate from the wild web; humans believe that everything in Nature is for humans to control, and to take, and to use. Humans have become separated and can think ‘I am’ as though they exist without the wild web, but that is an illusion. We don’t know if all this is good or bad, or right or wrong, but we do know that humans are destroying the wild web. Humans are not noticing because they are thinking without their hearts.

“Stomper Jack, it is difficult and painful for you to feel the wild web, but you can do it. Your I-ness will melt, and you will learn how to be a human with I-ness and isness together. This will be your task.”

“Rindill, your words float through me and I don’t know where they go, but the meaning just happens inside like the sun coming from behind a cloud.”

“That’s the unwords. You are learning fast, Stomper. You should return now and rest. This place is where you will come to when the gathering is called.”

“How will I know?”

“You will know.”

“Goodbye, Rindill, thank you.”

“Thank you, too, little human isness. Until we meet again.”

Rindill flies up to a favourite high twig and trills his trill so loud that Stomper covers her ears. She watches as Rindill drops down, disappearing into the undergrowth. She heaves a great sigh and as her breath flows out, she vanishes from the Glade with a little pop.

Stomper wakes from her daydreaming in her lair under the tree roots by the railway. She can hear Tinkalin singing a little way off in the blackthorn scrub, the sound clearer and sweeter than she has ever noticed before.

She crawls out of the lair, feeling the earth and stones under her hands and smelling the sweet smell of the ground. She rubs her hands into the earth and touches the bark on the roots of the tree, feeling the texture and the life surging inside. Her body is seeing as though she is still purling, her senses alert as never before.

Standing up, she looks at the sunlight cascading through the leaves above her, making many shades of green. Pushing through the bushes, she scratches a forearm on some thorns; beads of blood appear on her skin and she sucks the wounds clean, relishing the metallic smell and taste of her blood. The crisp pain reminds her that she has skin again.

Memories of purling come flooding back and she laughs out loud in her happiness to be alive. Squeezing back through the palisade fence, she runs down the footpath beside the railway embankment heading home. Hungry and thirsty, she’s looking forward to a snack. She is amazed, when she arrives home, to discover that after what feels like a long and exciting day, it is just midday.

Tinkalin

Rindill





© 2020 Paul Thornycroft

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