Category Archives: Nature / Nurture Project

Hubble and Bubble and Remembering Loved Ones

I keep seeing frogs.  Live ones and even a dead one.  Could this mean I’m about to find my Prince Charming?  Unlikely.

Only the other day I rescued this little beauty that had fallen into a bucket of water.

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What could be more appropriate as a Halloween animal spirit?  As we all know, many a poor frog has been sacrificed in a special witches brew.  As the thin veil between the world of the living and the dead draws near, it is a moment to celebrate the lives of loves ones and special animals friends who have left us: my darling brother, Tim; my sweetest whippet, Sadie; Mitzi the black cat; the rare-breed chicken; and Horus, the pig, to name but a few. They will all be sadly missed but not forgotten.

In all my correspondence with my brother, he called me 'sis' and I called him 'bro'.

In all the correspondence with my brother, he called me ‘sis’ and I called him ‘bro’.

This is a photo of me and my brother (circa 1959), when we lived in Australia

This is a photo of me and my brother (circa 1959), when we lived in Australia

Then I googled and found this on-line meaning for Frog Spirit which seems completely appropriate:

“The frog as spirit animal or totem reminds us of the transient nature of our lives. As symbol of transition and transformation, this spirit animal supports us in times of change. Strongly associated with the water element, it connects us with the world of emotions and feminine energies, as well as the process of cleansing, whether it’s physical, emotional, or more spiritual or energetic.

The frog spirit animal and rebirth

The frog totem symbolizes the cycles of life, in particular the rebirth stage. Its own journey through life, from tadpole to the adult state, reminds us of the many cycles of transformation and rebirth in our lives.

The symbolism of the frog as animal associated with birth and rebirth can be traced in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and other cultures from antiquity. The frog was a popular symbol for fertility, as well as rebirth or resurrection. For example, in the Ancient Egypt mythology, the frog was associated with resurrection; the Roman Venus, goddess of Love, was often depicted with a frog.

The frog, symbol of transformation

The frog is an amphibian and goes easily from water to earth during its life. By extension, it has been often revered as a symbol of transition. If you see the frog as your animal totem or spirit guide, you may be called to experience change in your life. Those changes might be with regards to how you lead your life and can also be of spiritual nature.

Call on the frog spirit animal to guide you through times of transition and help you smoothly go from one state to the next. It will support your transformation or metamorphosis in a subtle yet powerful way.”

If you would like to know about Rabbit Spirit, hop over to the latest post on my Pilgrim on Horseback blog.

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A Creative Retreat: Part One

Discovering a visual feast for mind, body and soul.

walking across the shallows to Tresco on the low Spring tide

walking across the shallows to Tresco on the low Spring tide

I have found a paradise here on earth!  Surprisingly, I have lived in Cornwall for 14 years but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit the Isles of Scilly.  It’s a first for the dogs too.  First time on a big boat for them, let alone the island hoppers.  The noise of the engine is a little alarming at first but they soon get used to that.

We are staying on the small island of Bryher, based in a cottage at Hillside Farm.  My hosts are delightful and they have farmed this land for several generations.  I, my bags and dogs are collected from the small jetty, all bundled into the back of an old red Landrover for the short, bumpy ride back to the farm.

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Aptly named, this small farm overlooks its own fields surrounded by high, pittosporum-hedged windbreaks.  In the past, the fields of Bryher supplied the mainland with early Spring flowers like daffodils and anemones before cheap imports from South Africa put them out of business.  Now, the produce from Hillside Farm supplies both islanders and visitors with fresh vegetables and eggs.

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Beyond these tiny fields lying in a low sandy neck of land, is Sampson Hill, from the top of which, the twin peaks of Sampson Island can be viewed on the other side.  From my South-facing balcony, I can see the sea on both sides of this spit of land – the Atlantic on the right in the west and the island of Tresco on the left in the east.  (scroll down to see 2nd ‘pano’ below)

Birds use this area as a corridor.  The whu whu coming from the pair of swans that live on the pool in front of Hell Bay Hotel just around the corner makes me look up from my sketch books as they fly backwards and forwards on their daily comings and goings.  A young blackbird comes to my breakfast table every morning, fluttering its wings and asking to be fed.  Thrushes.  I haven’t seen these songsters for years, and sparrows. The air is just bursting with a multi-toned symphony of sound which is all overlaid with a more raucous stave of tunes from a variety of seabirds: Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls and pretty little Kittiwakes.

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They are so close, I am forever peering into the shrubbery or tops of boulders to see who is making these wonderful avian sounds.   If you are not careful, it is all too easy to stumble on a nest half-hidden in rocks on the foreshore or know I am near one by the screeching alarm calls from anxious parents.

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On our first day, we were able to walk across the sand banks to Tresco and back again, thanks to the low Spring tide.  Being brought up on the beaches of Cornwall, the dogs are in their element too.  Wading, knee-deep in the channels, Tammi wild with excitement, darting across the sand banks and jumping into the water to splosh her way across, whilst Sadie sticks to me like a shadow.  I am pretty excited too.  It is a hot, crystal-clear, perfect day.  I thought life just couldn’t get any better than this.

If ever there was a time when I wished I had a camera with a zoom lens or the ability to make panoramas, then this is it.

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I tried to make some with the ‘pano’ App on my iPhone.   They make some strangely distorted images but I like these unusual angles.  (Click on them for a better look.)  All the photographs in this post are from my iPhone camera and I haven’t ‘doctored’ any of them.

 

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These islands are only a few square miles at most, so everything is on a human scale.  Scan the horizon and most of what you see is within a single viewpoint.  There is no need to adjust the settings on your camera to ‘toy-town’ scales.  It is a ready-made landscape in miniature.  It is Les Ecrehous, Les Minquiers and Jersey, with a dash of Barbadian beach idyll, all rolled into one.

I also tried the traditional 4-photograph panoramas.

Everywhere you looked, there is some treat in store.  (spot the goat)

Either feasting the eyes on distant views (spot the whippet)

 

Or things up close and more detailed, highlighting some of the amazing colours and textures.  (spot the Cornish colours)

 

I was surprised just how often I found myself alone on these desert island beaches feeling like a castaway.  I could fancifully imagine myself as a Mrs Robinson Crusoe.  Even found his abandoned camp, complete with fire pit.

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This is a place that is hard to leave.  Physically, I have returned with an old gig-racing oar that the farmer turfed out of his barn having deemed it of no use to anyone any more.  With little thought about how to get it home together with 2 cases (one for clothes, one for art materials), a rucksack and 2 dogs, it is £2.50 worth of island history that I just had to have as a souvenir.  Plus a handful of white sand to view under the microscope.

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Spiritually, this place has seeped into my being, through the pores of my skin and found its way into my heart.  The question is not if, but when can I come back again?

(See part two coming shortly: the creative journey.)

 

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Side-Tracked

Have you ever stopped to think how many of our most used ‘sayings’ come from the activity of walking?  Phrases such as: off the beaten track; wrong-footed; beat a path; leave a footprint; on the right track, etc,.  How many more can you think of?

Track 4 (playfulness in the dunes)

Track 4 (playfulness in the dunes)

I wonder if this is the same in all languages?  After all, walking is a fundamental part of being human, as is eating and sleeping etc,.  We even celebrate being able to do it for the first time as a right of passage from crawling baby to upright toddler.  (So that’s what our ‘pins’ are for.)

But let’s not get side-tracked!  That’s the point.  As we all know, sometimes when on a mission, it is very easy to get side-tracked often ending up down a blind alley and wasting a lot of time in the process.  When I am out walking, I become increasingly aware of the little paths that suddenly shoot off the main track.  These unsolicited paths immediately pique my interest.  Why are they there?  If time permits, my inclination is to follow the side-track to discover the reason for it.  A bit like trying to discover what lies at the end of the rainbow.  The thinking is that there must be a jolly good reason for it to exist because so many people have ventured ‘off-piste’ that a new path has been forged in the process.

some have been worn to the bone

some have been worn to the bone

Maybe a search for the perfect viewpoint; a track into a secret coven; a lover’s dell, a detour to avoid a boggy patch or a ‘comfort break’ bush!   Maybe it is an animal track or simply a short cut to crop the corner off an approved path.  I love this sort of anarchy.  Although in extreme circumstances such as a war zone, I wouldn’t recommend taking this line of action for fear of stepping on a land mine or coming into someone’s line of fire.  War besides, it just proves that many of us are always willing to make our own diversions (because to us, it is the most obvious route) even when there is a clear sign saying ‘keep off the grass’.  There I go again…..another ‘path’ metaphor!

many undesignated and precarious tracks lead off this one to secret coves and beaches below.

many undesignated and precarious tracks lead off this one to secret coves and beaches along this stretch of the north Cornish coast.

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On the Right Track

Track 1 (Baker's Pit)

Track 1 (Baker’s Pit Puddles)

If you think you have suddenly landed on the wrong page in the wrong blog, then ‘bear with’ dear friends.   You haven’t gone mad.   It is I who have decided it is time for a minor change!  After not much deliberation, I have opted for a more fitting title for this blog.

Track 2 (scorched earth, Bodrifty)

Track 2 (scorched earth, Mulfra)

My sketchbook pages will, from this moment onwards, be ‘morphed’ into: The Artist as Pilgrim.

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

This change of title marks a shift in emphasis from a retrospective view of my artistic practice to a more reflective view of what the future might hold in store and in particular, what is currently happening ‘now’.    Much less about a sketch pad and more about the philosophical splutterings of my mind.  As I enter into this new phase, I wanted to mirror more closely what is going on in my creative world.   Ideally, you will not notice much of a change because the content will continue in the usual vein following the same threads of enquiry, visual notes, occasional pontifications on my understanding about the meaning of life and sometimes, rare snippets from the internal workings of my soul, recorded in the ordinary textures and patterns of my often, extra-ordinary daily life.  Yes, and sometimes ‘sketches’ too!

The Nature of Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage is a journey embarked upon in which an expectation that inner change or transformation will take place along the way.  For example, the writing of this blog has become a kind of metamorphosis in itself.

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To Be A Pilgrim

Unlike the title of this famous Christian hymn, my quest is a secular one.   People have many different reasons for undertaking a pilgrimage.  Apart from adopting the pilgrimage as the creative theme for this blog, I do also intend to undertake an actual, physical pilgrimage at some stage, quite soon.  It has been a secret ambition of mine for many years and I feel that time is drawing nearer to a reality.  The nature of the journey will be revealed to me when I am ready, as will the actual route / place.  For the moment, I have no idea where, when and how this might take place.  All I know for sure is that it will happen.  (see the ‘brief encounter‘ when this was first revealed to me).

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An American ‘wise’ woman called Mildrid Norman, otherwise known as the Peace Pilgrim (check out video on YouTube), crisscrossed the American Continent 7 times and gave up counting the miles after 25,000, convinced that her message of peace would prevail.

She said, ‘a pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose.  A pilgrimage can be either: to a place or for a thing.‘  Hers of course was for a thing: Peace.

My motives are far less altruistic, I’m afraid.  I intend to use my pilgrimage as a means of finding a framework for a new aesthetic by investigating our sensory connections to landscape.

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As much as I like the idea of following in the steps of countless other pilgrims on well-worn paths such as the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain or walking to the mouth of the Ganges in India, I feel drawn to finding a path less well trodden.  Perhaps another sort of wilderness, or rediscover a path that has been hidden for generations.  A creative path I can call my own in which I can make my own discoveries ‘unburdened’ by the souls who have gone before.  And in the process add to the pool of knowledge by making a  contribution (albeit small) to the understanding of our presence in this world.  I hope you will continue to keep me company as I navigate this new path?

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Filed under About My Blog, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Paths of Enlightenment, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

We Shall not Cease from Exploration

We shall not cease from exploration 
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 

T.S. Eliot — “Little Gidding” (the last of his Four Quartets)

I found this quote on Liz Davidson’s blog, as she rightly says you stumble across things when you need them.  And I found this quote particularly poignant.

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sage, mange-tout, red cabbage, summer broccoli, white cabbage, lettuces, tarragon.

After two months and 8 drafts of refining and honing, I have finally sent off my proposal for a place as a research student.   I confess, my body prickles with heat as I press the send button.

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curry plant, thyme, summer broccoli, red cabbage, mange-tout, lettuces, white cabbage.

I am truly heartened by all the positive messages (from the universe) I have been receiving recently, ( see previous post).   Now with my ‘potager’ tubs planted out with edibles happily established and romping away, tell me am I not right to feel positive, if not a little daunted at what I might be letting myself in for?

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rosemary, red lettuces, white cabbage, red cabbage, mange-tout.

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Mindfulness in Sky Space

It is indeed strange and a source of wonder how life can often take sudden twists and turns.  When I began this particular venture I didn’t realise it would reveal to me the rainbow of Chakra colours in all their magnificence (only the orange being noticeable by its absence!).   The full extent of this would only become apparent during the process of writing up this post.  Such is the nature of blogging.

Mindfull Meditation in James Turrell's 'sky scape'.

Poster advertising Mindfull Meditation in James Turrell’s ‘sky space’.

It all began when I saw this ‘poster’ on one of my trawls through fb.  Now, I am not particularly feeling the need to join a meditation group at the moment but Richard Ballinger’s image just grabbed my attention.  I have always thought that James Turrell’s rotunda – open to the sky – would be a unique place to meditate.  (Some have even called it a ‘camera obscura’)  I was also aware that the ‘still small voice’ within (that I like to think are my collective guardian angels) was urging me to go.  I was sufficiently intrigued enough to make a mental note that come Sunday, if it wasn’t raining, I would go along to the Sculpture Garden for a bit of quiet contemplation.

an early morning walk through the gardens

my early morning walk through the gardens, a symphony of luscious greens, greys and blues

I have meditated on and off all my adult life.  I remember when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first came to the attention of the world back in the 60’s.   My real induction began in my early 20’s when my first husband, Graeme, was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer.  This devastating news began a period of deep enquiry for him into the ‘how come’, the ‘why me’ and the struggle to understand the meaning of life / death and his place in the scheme of things.  It helped a little but in the end the only real solace for him was listening to classical music, such as this Chopin Nocturne, and the only time I ever saw him at peace with himself throughout this difficult time.  Sadly, he lost his fight and died at the age of 24.

The light catching an iris showing off its magnificent bee attracting patterns.

near the entrance to the sky space I found this beautiful purple iris.  I have included it as a tribute to Graeme because the colour represents psychic development and the release of grief – the yellow for learning – as I’m sure his journey continues in another spiritual dimension. Then I decided to delve a little deeper.  In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky. Iris links the gods to humanity.  As a goddess, Iris is associated with communication, messages, the rainbow and new endeavors.  Was this a message for me also?  Of course I was not conscious of any of this at the time, just remember vaguely thinking why had I been drawn to these irises?

The spiritual quest that Graeme had begun lived on in me and over the years I have taken several paths down the esoteric route in my search for the ‘meaning of life’, embracing alternative healing, psychic enquiries, aspects of Eastern Mysticism and philosophies, and dowsing (earth energy lines and sacred sites, see elemental energies).  I have come to the conclusion that they all spring from the same source and that dowsing is the key to unlocking the spaces between the material and the spiritual.  The space that quantum physics is trying to explain.  For me this is the liminal space, the pause just before a new discovery is about to take place, or a ‘sub’-conscious thought hovers before becoming conscious.  A place which holds the space of ‘nothingness’ yet possesses the potential for everything.  It is also the metaphysical area in which I have chosen to focus on in my creative practice, so relevant to me at the moment.

the yellow 'flag' iris, another one I found on my way to the sky scape.

the yellow ‘flag’ iris, another find on my way to the sky space.  (I was surprised it didn’t have its feet in water).  Chakra meanings: yellow is the colour that represents the Solar Plexus, assimilates experience and has the power to manifest goals. (Also, in the art spectrum, yellow and purple are complimentary colours).

So Sunday dawned with a limpid sun but no rain.  Living just a 5 minute drive from Tremenheere, I was the first to arrive and walked up through the garden to the top, startling a pair of buzzards (although they looked bigger than buzzards?) that flew off into the woods.  (The eagle represents wisdom in ancient cultures).  The view from the top of the garden takes in the sweep of Mounts Bay with St Michael’s Mount standing sentinel in the sea but which only a couple of days ago, because of some strange optical illusion, had appeared to be hovering in space.  I entered the sky scape space and took these photographs.

the view of the sky through the oval

the view of the sky through the oval opening : blue represents communication

Soon, the others arrived and Chris Priest guided us through a beautiful ‘mindful’ meditation.  At one point, he talked about being in the ‘now’ and ‘the space between’.  (I thought that’s a bit of a coincidence as ‘the space between’ is what my research is all about.  Perhaps I will have to make this my new title).  I am getting vibrant, pulsating circles of colour in my third eye area above the bridge of my nose: indigo and ultramarine blues and vivid magenta tinged with a brilliant pink glow around the edge.  And then  a sort of vintage yellow – like the tint on Richard’s poster – which brought to mind ‘old’ learning / knowledge, or previous grief now in the past.

the 'eye' of the sky

the ‘eye’ of the sky

This is how Chris described it afterwards in an email.  ‘What came to me primarily was this ‘space between’: space between sound, sensation, thought and breath, which was something we touched upon after our sitting practice.  It seems that this is almost the only space that gives rise to a pure awareness.  I believe when we connect with space we are in fact connecting with the vast and profound emptiness / nothingness that only love can exist within.  I believe this ‘space’ is a wordless state of awareness / being.’

This is major Tom to Ground Control....

This is major Tom to Ground Control….

Over coffee, cake and chat in the cafe afterwards, it dawns on me that all the participants are artists (let’s face it, who in Cornwall isn’t?) and like-minded people.  From that moment, all the unanswered pieces in the puzzle just seemed to tumble into place.  Why I had come: the conducive gathering; The Space Between; the Chakra colours; the irises; the reminder to be mindful; the sea, the sky.  So many little synchronisaties making me believe they have a meaning beyond a series of mere coincidences.

the space between the sky and the beam of light on the wall

The Space Between the sky and the beam of light illuminating  the wall

So you see, this little episode has revealed a host of things that I might have completely overlooked if I had not become ‘mindful’ of everything that was going on.  It’s like a game of hide and seek.  If you stop your ‘babbling’ thoughts for long enough these things will be revealed to you, because they are meant, especially for you.  In true Greek mythological fashion, messages from the Gods.  And I give thanks, wholeheartedly, for these simple, brilliant gifts.

the space between 3

the space between 3 (dark matter)

The next meeting is planned for 9th June.  If anyone is interested in joining the group the contact numbers are on the poster above (enlarge the image).

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space between 4

As a finale to the synchronicity, have a listen to Martin Cook talking about his mindfulness garden at the Chelsea Flower Show on a ‘learn to be silent’ blog post.

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Corroded Quarry Doors: A New Surface Landscape Narrative

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a layered history of degraded paint and rusting metal

“….I began to photograph the detail in the huge rusting metal doors belonging to the largest building on the site when I heard what I at first thought to be people working inside.  Squinting into the interior gloom through a hole in the rust, I realised it must be some loose shuttering banging in the breeze (or was it?  I’m really not so sure)”. 
Extract taken from previous post, Quarry Dot Drawing

a 'forest' of rust

a ‘forest’ of rust

the bite of erosion

the bite of corrosion

a smudged drawing

a smudgy drawing, deeply etched with rust

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