Come in, they are waiting . . .

Welcome to The Garret, Joanne. Let me find you a quiet seat by the window. My Muses can be flighty.

You recognise them, I’m sure. One can be called Thought and the other Memory – though their true natures shimmer and shapeshift as much as they do. I could never call them tame – they come when they come. But they do drop by.

Sometimes, Thought will upend herself and hang from the gable to peer at me. She checks the quality of my daydreaming with an obsidian eye. The progress of ink across paper is inspected and a tap of a thick beak will alert me.

Other times, they announce themselves with a heavy tread along the ridge tiles. Their cawing prevents sleepiness. Memory is apt to sneak up in the garden, sidestepping along the trellis, disturbing the honeysuckle and its fragrance. Reminiscences follow.

She fossicks in the humus, throws skeletons of old leaves and recollections in the air. Kicks the fragments into a heap, and brings me a squirrel-buried kernel now and then.

Thought insists I sit still. Often she will brush my eyelids with the leading edge of her wing, make the pictures play on their blood-veined insides. It has taken years of being in one place to regain their wary, fleeting trust. Day after day I come and in loneness, effort and hope I wait. After all, they know me from their ragged twig-stores swaying in the mast-tall ash trees of my childhood. But I grew up ill-mannered and forgot to put out bacon rind. I had to leave my homeland, and did not know to seek out their other forms.

On good days, I am forgiven. They both swoop in with treasures. A narrow silk ribbon of poetry, a single image bright with many facets, a knotted string of events. These come from some ragged wildwood nest or bleak cliffs. I smell the traces on their wings: pine, moorland gusts, damp gritstone, carrion.

They will not have it cosy. A scaly claw levers up the skylight up if I am too snug. A dropped and oozing snail shell will remind me to look up and out. And should my words become safe, a feather may fall, gleaming with sheen from Hel’s shadowy home.

No slacking either, or they plunge in the pond, loud and urgently calling.

If I honour them duly, keep my eyes as wide and questioning as theirs, I may see them in another shape. As deer reflected in the flooded rifes, perhaps glimpsed deep in the pebble eyes of seals or hidden in someone else’s art.

The marvel is they come at all, creeping up behind my chair.  I open a snow-covered page and they hop over my shoulder unseen to leave inky tracks I did not write.

I know they visit you. They tell me the North is one of their richest territories. They have a fondness for shifting guises and sounds: black cats, amber-eyed hares, and the sloe-sharp call of twilight robins. They can even carry colour and scents trapped in their beaks and let them fall as they will.

They have no fear of sheds. You may find their calling card at any time.

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