Category Archives: Paths of Enlightenment

Pointing the Way

Signs. The subject for this weeks WordPress photo challenge.  All these photos were taken over the course of my week-long reconnoitre trip up to the Holy island of Lindisfarne during Michaelmas last week.  (see also Pilgrim on Horseback for the back story).  Click on any of the photos if you wish to read the messages more clearly!

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Normally, I would jump at the chance to use a title like this to go down the esoteric route and interpret it as ‘signs as symbols’.  Something I am always seeking to find in the landscape as personal messages for me.  These, however, are signs that are literally pointing the way.

this is one I hope to become very familiar with

this is one I hope to become very familiar with

Some are warning signs, some have been defaced: a sheep turned into some of rhinoceros. Information boards, a scratched dedication to a loved one on a bench, and a way marker looking like a crucifix.

Then, on a wild and desolate moor in the North Yorkshire Dales, I come across the Red Flag which stopped me in my tracks.

On the Holy island of Lindisfarne, the signage becomes grand and imposing to shepherd the thousands of visitors around the island as well as marking the way for pilgrims wanting to follow in the Saintly footsteps of Cuthbert.  A couple of the signs, however, are cracked and old-fashioned and seem oddly out-of-place against the ‘corporate’ signage of a place that has become a major tourist attraction.  (Naively, something I was not expecting and found rather disturbing).  For me, these signs seem more home-spun and real and speak of the people behind them.  (Like the dedication on the bench, above)

And looking at them all again, collectively, there is an element of deep symbology for me in them, each one unique in its own way telling their own story.  On my epic journey, I shall be looking for these signs to guide me along the right path, both physically and spiritually.  Not least as a little bit of entertainment to also delight and amuse.

 

To see how other people have interpreted signs, here.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Personal Philosophy, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Layered Textures of a Pilgrimage

Exploring physical textures is a constant theme that runs through my life like a thread that gets woven into every aspect of what I am doing, thinking or creating.  Last month that ‘textures thread’ was ‘grown’ in a digital 3D lab to create a collaborative artwork for the The All Makers Now ? Conference exhibition at Trelissick House, Cornwall.  (see previous post).

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a mechanical device that is programmed to reproduce objects out of extruded plastic, fine enough to replicate fine details and surface textures.

Then, by way of a complete contrast from the mechanical manufacturing of 3D digital textures my focus moves to the spiritual texture of a pilgrimage.  On another one of Richard Dealler’s, 6 day guided Pilgrimages following the Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route.  This time across Bodmin Moor from St. Austell to Liskeard, walking between the pyramids of spoil and aqua waters of China clay mining country to the pony and sheep dotted wilderness that is Bodmin Moor.

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As the days pass, the biggest pyramid gets smaller and smaller as we get further and further away from our starting point until finally it is obliterated from view by the mist.

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I relish the chance to walk once more in silence.  The chance to journey inwards and rekindle that still place within me whilst making visible and felt connections to the natural world around us.  And once more happy to relinquish responsibility for where we are going to our leader, Richard, who has found a new oak staff to walk with.  The one which he had abandoned out of guilt for breaking it free from its mother tree, only to find it again propped up on the gate post where it had been carried by an unknown individual to await his passing by the following day.

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Each overnight camp is marked by a different farm animal and its dung: in order of appearance, cow, horse, dog (heard in the distance only from a rescue centre nearby) and sheep.  Waste products seems to have been a theme running through this pilgrimage.  My shadow on a slurry strewn dairy farmyard on our first camp making a beautiful pattern.  The aroma that stuck to our boots hung around for days.

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Another theme that begins to emerge is that this land has apparently been fashioned by giants.  Lying on the ground as if some giant had just tossed them there with abandonment, are these huge boulders.  They lie scattered across the fields all across this area and have somehow been built into the field boundary walls.

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And then in a clearing in some unidentified wood, there is what is believed to be the largest free-standing boulder in the British Isles.  It lies as if suspended in mid-air, propped up by lesser boulders, huge in their own right.

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This daddy of them all is so big, I struggle to find an angle in which to photograph the whole thing.  It dwarfed us all in its magnificence.  When we toned inside its open chamber, the stones hummed back as if in gratitude of our acknowledgement.

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In this land of giants, we crossed an old viaduct built out of huge blocks of granite.  What is Richard saying?  (Chance for a caption competition here?)

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In the cool, dark woods at Bolitha Falls, we found a spot away from the madding crowd, to sit and eat our lunch.  The deafening sound of rushing white water made having any kind of conversation impossible, anyway.

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We made a mandala of pilgrim feet on the leaf litter in the woods.  The trees giving up their old leaves to be recycled into humus as the circle of life goes on.

a mandala of pilgrim feet

We feed our bodies with nature’s bounty, and Christoffer’s delicious suppers,

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and the porridge bowls are always polished clean.

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We replenish our souls with holy water from sacred wells,

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finding solace, peace and a cool retreat as well as reliving poignant memories inside churches we visit,

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captivated by human stories of war-time heroes,

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or by the patterns and symbols, in the tracery of window panes

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and in the crosses we find outside in the churchyards, like this one at Lostwithiel.

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Or along the way, where the old and the new jostle for our attention alongside each other to signpost our way.

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We walked across many fields of sun-burned grasses,

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and barefoot up scraggy hills to relieve blistered feet.

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Or stopped to meditate or doze away an hour, propped up by the stones in an ancient stone circle of circles that is the Hurlers and shared sacred heart prayers on a node point buzzing with energy.  Here Richard relinquishes his heavy oak staff for someone else to pick up.   Then on to marvel at the stack of boulders that is the Cheesewring on top of Bodmin Moor where the giants seem to have been at work once more.

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But no sign of the Beast.  Only muddy tractor tyre tracks to be found.

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and rusting pieces of old farm machinery seemingly abandoned by the wayside.

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On the final day, we begin our walk with a shamanic walking practice led by Andrew.  Walking with a creeping, cat-like stalk, this very slow, high-stepping crocodile, connected by an imaginary thread begins its snaking progress along the path.  What a sight this must have been and after I managed to suppress my initial urge to giggle, it did provide an opportunity for us to stop and really observe the details in the landscape around us.  To appreciate the ‘accidental beauty’.   Something that I felt up until that moment, because of the pressure to reach our destinations, had been somewhat missing.

And those observations, for me, summed up the sensory textures of this pilgrimage: noticing the variety of grasses with their different seed heads swaying together in the gentle breeze.  Noticing underfoot, the contrast between the dry, ruminant-nibbled grasses and the cool squelchiness of the boggy patches of moss and reed, or the sharp, stoney graveliness of the farm track, remembering the ‘trudge’ through the rain on our first day.  As we turned in unison to gaze upon the slope of the hill rising before us, seeing it as if for the first time: the fields divided by remains of old, crumbling stone walls now dotted with pristine white, sheared sheep, no doubt washed clean by the very squally wind and rain that had blown through the night before.  It was a biblical scene to be sure.  The symphony of bleating notes as ewes and their lambs call to one another, echoing around the hills.

In this place of sleeping giants and semi-wilderness, and in this very moment, the silence is both deafening and beautiful, the scenery both harsh and nurturing.  Wiping the sheep poo off my boots, I am minded to relinquish the old, the wasted, in order to replenish the new as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is an ever-present element that is woven into the textural fabric of our evolving lives.  Every breath we take is an acknowledgement of that.

 

 

For more WordPress photo challenge: Texture here

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Filed under Digital, Mandalas, Paths of Enlightenment, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

A Creative Retreat: Part Two

Room to Grow

My intention is to use my time on Bryher (see part one) as a space to make work.  That’s fine, but I discover that when it comes to it, I am left wondering, is that what I really want to do?  I unpack my boxes of materials, open my sketch books, but when I start going through the motions, the old routines, I feel strangely numb, the actions robotic.  What is causing this impotence?  I am in a stunning location but I feel powerless to render so much beauty with any sense of justification.   Is a fear of failure causing this inertia?  Is my own judgement getting in the way of my creative intentions?  What am I actually trying to do?

An aerial view of an island?  Or the hull of a boat being prepared for painting at a boatyard at Porthloo, St Mary's?

An aerial view of an island? Or the hull of a boat being prepared for painting at a boatyard in Porthloo, St Mary’s?

While I was pondering my condition this quote popped up out of the blue. “I believe it was John Cage who once told me, ‘When you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you’re lucky, even you leave.”  Philip Guston.

But I recognise some of these inhibiting factors from past experience, so I revert to my default mode and concentrate on getting a feel for this place, its people, its history, its topography, before I even attempt to tackle what is in front of me head-on: more a quest to decode the sign language this landscape presents to me.

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a long, thin dog walking in a large pebble labyrinth just above the beach.

But first, in order to break through this temporary creative blockage and chase away this Bryher-sized mountain of expectations, I need to ground myself and establish my bearings by walking the landscape and scrutinising the cartography.   The first couple of days here on Bryher I have felt strangely unsettled.  My North / South internal orientation has flipped and it takes a while to re-adjust to the magnetic North within my own body.

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As you can see from this image above (taken from one of the guide books kindly left for visitors in my cottage), the Scilly Isles looked very different 5,000 years ago when sea levels were lower.

from my 'Isles of Scilly Guidebook' (Friendly Guides, 2011)

from my ‘Isles of Scilly Guidebook’ (Friendly Guides, 2011)

Compare that with a current map of the Scillies and I begin to imagine how prehistoric Scillonians might have lived their lives.  For instance, areas of land dedicated to the dead, such as the northern section of Bryher, would have once served a larger community and is echoed by the Northern slopes of Tresco, now separated from Bryher only by a narrow channel of water (see above map).

The duality of opposites:  my desire creates a battle between the opposite twins of hope (intention) and despair (fear).

In terms of creative inspiration, in the past, I have found that exploring opposites is fertile ground for me: light / shadow; above / below; beauty / imperfection (arguably the same); staccato / slow movement; colour / absence of colour; composition / chaos; stasis / flow, etc. etc., and this retreat is no exception.

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I wasn’t looking for opposites, certainly not expecting to find them, but the more I walk around Bryher, exploring its nooks and crannies and feeling its voices echoing back at me through the ages, I begin to feel a distinct pattern emerging.  A notion that this is an island story of two halves.  Take its extremes of weather: it faces the full brunt of winter storms thrown at it from the Atlantic, yet a peaceful idyll when the seas are calm and the sun blazes down on deserted, bleached beaches.  This sense of calm in a time of peace also belies the amount of ships that have floundered off these treacherously rocky shores, thwarted by rows of jagged teeth that emerge from the waters along its western coastline, aptly nicknamed the Wreckers.  This is a place that can bite back and gobble you up if you are not careful.

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looking towards twin peaks of Samson island

Even this seemingly benign island is divided by its topography.  The gentle southern slopes of Bryher are sheltered, verdant and inhabited.  Flowering succulents grow in profusion like weeds in the hedgerows and the air is scented with herbage.  (Similar conditions to the famous Abbey Gardens on Tresco, just across the small channel that separates these two islands).  You would be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a garden paradise which time had forgotten.

By contrast, the northern plateau of Bryher feels like a shadow land: a desolate and eerie place where the terrifying might of the waves gouge out huge, black gaping holes in the coastline and the thin layer of vegetation hugs the ground to escape the desiccating winds.

I begin to realise why this northern place, inhospitable to man as a place to live, the exceptional concentration of cairns here indicating it was probably much more suited as a place to bury the dead, even though in the Bronze Age this would have been good agricultural land due to the mini heat wave conditions at the time.  It was also used for defensive purposes with names such as Badplace Hill, and House of the Head (a chilling reminder of the Iron Age Celts and their cult of head worship) which can be reached only by going over The Gulf.

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Shipman Head Down, underfoot a thin, springy carpet of vegetation, eroded into crevices and cracks on its north-western slopes

Entering into this place that overlooks Hell Bay, is like going over a threshold.  There is even a demarkation line where the vegetation clearly changes from small, neatly mown fields to untamed scrubland with a spider’s web network of paths strung over it.  I didn’t meet another soul on my visit here, even on a warm Spring day, when the wind was moderate, and the sea slight.  I was constantly worried about the dogs disappearing over the edge of the cliffs and was pleased to leave this plateau and its ghosts behind me.

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But it didn’t leave me.  I was left pondering about this landscape.  On top of Shipman Down Head, lying amongst the many cairns, I come across a long row of granite standing stones.  Was it a stone row or ceremonial way, a defensive boundary, or a tribal boundary?  Who Knows?  It echoes the row of stones I found on the beach at Green Bay in the south, which were the remains of prehistoric field walls, now submerged by the tide twice a day.

This discovery threw up another contrast, this time extremes of tones: the stone row standing starkly ‘white’ amidst the darker vegetation, contrasting with the submerged field boundary, its seaweed covered boulders marching into the sea, broodingly ‘dark’ against the blonde, sandy beach.

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Having explored as much of the island as I can, going from granite outcrops, entrance graves, cairns, beaches, hilltops, sand banks, even a Hangman Island and back, I am beginning to get a feel for the place and add my sketch books, pencils and pen to the collection of dog bags and old stick of lip slave in my pockets before I set off on my daily roamings.   And just draw.  Anything.

No drawing takes more than a few seconds to do.  I have to work quickly especially when rain drops fall onto my paper wanting to make their own contribution to my presence.

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A boulder on the beach, a line of rocks in the sea, a tree blown into shape by the wind, and in the process, I realise that my drawing is a way of looking, a way of seeing the landscape around me.  A way into a process.  What could be more elemental than that?  Each mark made with the pencil or pen comes from an unconscious place, unfettered by judgement or notions of precision.  A simple interpretation of what is in front of me rendered by a line, a scratchy mark, a dash, a smudge.  A shaded patch here or a line going off at a tangent there.  I am beginning to be ‘left completely alone‘.

And tried a few simple mono prints based on my drawings.

Back home, I may not have achieved what I had set out to do but I have returned buzzing with new ideas, consumed by the names of that shadow land: The Gulf, Hell Bay, House of the Head.  Entering that dark place via a Threshold (my word): A Gateway between this and the Otherworld, between normal consciousness and a spiritualised consciousness.

Combined with insights that emerged from my recent pilgrimage, these are the things that fire my imagination, the places that I want to inhabit, re-visit, to explore what they mean to me in my own deep places, and it is to these very places where I shall be heading with my next body of work.  Where the visible and the invisible meet in me and find an outlet in my practice.   And in that free-flow, reach that still point in my heart, the meeting point between heaven and earth: the only really meaningful meeting of opposites.

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This retreat has served to remind me that my desire to create can only be achieved once I have let go of any expected outcome.  Where hope and despair dissolve into simple, clear vision.  Something, obviously, I need to keep reminding myself.  And it is in this process where, if I’m very lucky, ‘I’, the judgemental part of ‘me’, will leave.

To visit other ideas about ‘room’, this weeks photo challenge, see here.

 

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Filed under Drawings, Paths of Enlightenment, Studio Practice, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

Piety and Blisters

In the post today, I received a Sunday Telegraph article from a friend, dated 1st December 2013.  She had saved it and promised to send it to me so when I picked the letter out of my mailbox, recognising the writing and feeling its crackley paper contents, I knew what it was.

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The article is about the nature of pilgrimage, ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’, and was written to accompany Simon Reeve’s TV programme that was aired about the same time.  It was a three-parter in which “Simon Reeve retraces the adventures of our ancestors, and learns about the forgotten aspects of pilgrimage – including the vice, thrills and …” delving into the minds of early ‘spiritual’ travellers and why they sought to make pilgrimages.  Simon Reeve’s own journey in the making of the programme turned out to be a revelation to him.  ‘Like many of us, I had associated pilgrimage only with piety and blisters‘.

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So, in this most holy of holy weeks, it seems fitting to ask why many of us still seek spiritual enlightenment through pilgrimage, even though, like Simon Reeve, my own pilgrimage is also of a secular nature?  And how might I define my own interest in the nature of pilgrimage?

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To answer this question, I revisited some of the ideas I put together to form the basis of my research project.  (As it is written in academic speak, I have since created a more easily digestible version, have a look at my website: terra incognito).  And quite by chance, I took these 3 pictures when I recently took shelter from the rain in the doorway of the former Bucca Gallery in Newlyn.  It appears that someone has made a bonfire in this space and taken wood from the door surrounds to fuel the fire.  It struck me that the blistered and peeling paint represented a liminal space so I have included them in this post to illustrate my point.

peeling paintwork: state of suspension

cracked and peeling paintwork: state of suspension

burnt paintwork: state of suspension

burnt and blistered paintwork: state of suspension

crumbling paintwork: state of suspension

crumbling and brittle paintwork: state of suspension

The most difficult thing in any research project, is to find the right questions to ask (and this is before the addition of a horse entered the equation even though it makes no difference to the fundamental question).  Perhaps the question can only be fully formed when I am closer to the answer?  Even the title has gone through many variations – with many more to come, I’ll vouch.  But my thinking at the time was along these abridged lines:

To Be A Pilgrim? : the thin veil between Gravity and Grace.

In a post Descartian world, how might an aesthetic framework that relates to the duality of immanence and transcendence associated with the activity of walking be conceived?  For research based on a visual arts practice, how might advances in science and digital technology be used to visualize an art form that expresses an abstract metaphysical state of being which is understood intuitively? 

Outline of Proposed Research:  Initially, my aim is to examine some of the ways in which people seek transformation through the activity of walking, where the liminal space might simply be the distance between ‘A’ and ‘B’.  In particular how the embodied landscape experience might transcend connection with materiality and how that might be represented within my own practice that uses blogging, drawing, collage, light, video, photography and emerging digital technologies?  It will form the culmination of 10 years of research and experimentation in a personal area of interest.  Pilgrimage as ‘threshold’ to New Realities.  The desire for pilgrimage is a defining feature of humanity and sets the journeying nature of walking apart from man’s primal need to gather food or building materials for shelter.  The anticipation is that a transformation of some kind is expected to take place.  This will form the fulcrum of my research.   The state of suspension between one level of consciousness and another.  Noting the growing trend towards the tourist-pilgrim who is looking elsewhere for realities far removed from the mundane, everyday existence, ‘in search for a revitalising centre’ (pg. 298, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice, (2001), by Francesco Careri).  And John Brincherhoff Jackson, an observer of landscape, ‘roads no longer merely lead to places, they are places.’ (ibid, pg.14).  For the purposes of this thesis, the act of pilgrimage will be used as a metaphor for a symbolic walk in the journey towards spiritual awakening: paths in a landscape as trains of thought.   Which poses the question, how might one image such an activity which at its core requires no outside assistance?    etc.etc.

If you would like to check out this particular pilgrim’s progress, follow my journal blog: pilgrim on horseback.

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Terra Firma: 10 Shades of Grey

 

Fudge Factor No. 4

Fudge Factor No. 4

Whilst walking the familiar paths today, underfoot, the mud has dried in places to a soft sludge, sinking slightly under the pressure of my foot.  This is in sharp contrast to the sloppy quagmire and rivulets that were evident only a week or two ago.  In racing terms, this would be considered ‘good to firm’ going.  Then I wondered if there was an equivalent terrain rating for walkers?  I know walks are rated in terms of difficulty such as rocky, uneven tracks and steep inclines, but not the actual physical sensation of walking over bare, ‘earthen’ tracks which change from day-to-day according to the weather and the seasons.  If there is then I’m not aware of it.  So how could you rate it?  What measure could you use – at a glance – if someone wanted a daily update?

Crackle glaze, FF 4

Crackle glaze, FF 3

Lets take a closer look.  The earth beneath our feet is made up with a mixture of fine-grained particles of rock (sand and clay) and other organic matter (dying vegetation, decomposing animals and other organic waste products).  We tend to take it for granted but if you think about it, soil is one of the most important substances on our planet.  Along with water, clean air and sunlight, it forms the basic matrix for life itself.   Walkers, or anyone else who crosses over this important matrix, are connected to it in a fundamental way.   Forget about its importance on a global level at our peril.  Perhaps we can become more aware of it by noticing its condition?

A hoof-print divot made when the mud was soft, now baked solid.

A hoof-print divot made when the mud was soft, now baked solid.

So for walkers, how could you rate it in terms of a sensation underfoot?  When soil gets wet, it turns to mud.  If you think of mud as being the consistency of fudge, what about a ‘fudge factor’?  You could rate it in terms of squelchyness from 1 to 10.   1 being arid, desert conditions or solid concrete; 5 – the midway point – ‘good to firm’ and in ‘fudgey’ terms a perfect eating consistency.  10 would represent the danger of being completely submerged in the gloop (Dawn French style).  The two extremes of the scale represent a significant danger to life.  In Cornwall, our soil has a built-in colour-code on a scale of white to a rich burnt umber: chalky white in the driest of conditions to a rich black in its most saturated state.  Somewhere in the middle is a furry-chocolate grey.

This is my imagined table of Conditions for Fudge Factor on a scale of 1-10:

Fudge Factor

Description of Terra Firma

one

Dry, dust-bowl conditions, cracked earth. Concrete and tarmac.

two

Ground rock hard, dried and baked to a crust.  Ideal medium for making earth, pigment-based paints.

three

A little moisture in the ground making good to firm going

four

Firm underfoot but not hard.

five

A little ‘give’ in the ground when pressure applied. (Perfect fudge conditions)

six

Deeper ‘cut’ in the ground when pressure applied.

seven

Ground wetter with small puddles appearing.  In racing terms, good to soft.

eight

Puddles getting bigger and more boggy conditions

nine

Quagmire conditions and danger of loosing footwear in the bog.

ten

Worst case scenario.  Fine grained sand, silt or clay and water forming colloidal mass causing quicksand conditions.

 

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Signs and Sigels

Signs and Sigels is the title for the ‘Notebook‘ (part 1) I am currently working on, inspired by my St. Michael’s Way walk back in July, The Adventure Starts HereI have submitted it for The Newlyn / Exchange Collective Exhibition by artist volunteers at the Newlyn Gallery, even though it is still a work ‘in progress’.  It will be accompanied by Part 2 which will take a similar format, and explore my visit to St Michael’s Mount.

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Frontal piece for Artists’ Notebook: Signs & Sigels, a mixed media work in progress, 7.5cm x 7.5cm, 2013.  Notice the sun symbol on this waymarker representing a path of enlightenment (?)

I believe that we are gifted with insight by the accumulated ‘wisdom’ of the universe.  Messages from ‘angels’, departed loved ones or a shamanic guide / teacher is how some people like to understand it.  No matter how you view it, the results are just as pertinent for the individual.  Tapping into this rich seam of knowledge that our Celtic ancestors would have been very familiar with is something that needs a little practice.  You need both a belief in this system and the patience to notice the signs.  Our ancestors would have called on the wisdom of their fathers for such insights, possibly gathered together in a stone circle, or looked to the heavens for answers.  Living closer to the rhythms of nature and the cycle of the seasons than we do today, this would have come quite naturally.  It might have taken the form of some sophisticated mathematical calculations based on the constellations, or the simple sighting of a fox, the call of an eagle, seeing a particular shape in a cloud formation or witnessing a plant flowering out of season would have all meant something profound and meaningful and would have been regarded as a ‘sign’ or portent of things to come.  It forms the basis of our deep superstitions today.   How many people still count magpie sightings?  One for sorrow, two for joy……etc.

my 'life-line' journey

my ‘life-line’ journey

I do most of my joined-up thinking when I am walking and the landscape serves as an abundant source of clues for the answers to many of life’s quandaries, both big and small.  I don’t consciously go out looking for signs, but I know when I get one.  For instance, I was puzzling over something the other day and just happened to be walking past a Buddleia bush that was alive with Red Admiral butterflies feasting on the flowers.  This was a powerful message for me as the Red Admiral is particularly associated with the soul of a departed loved one and seeing them gave me great comfort.  This Notebook is about the signs that I was gifted with on that particular walk, that hot Summer’s day back in July.

a foggy start

a foggy start

Sigel is an old English word meaning ‘the sun’.  In the old Viking language of the Runes it is Sowelu and the ancient runic symbol that represents the Sun: a signifier of wholeness and the life force derived from the energy of the sun.  Drawing this rune marks a ‘time for regeneration down to the cellular level’,  (Ralph Blum) and a quest for wholeness for the ‘Spiritual Warrior’.  I like to think of it as another variant for the word ‘signal’, and its graphic similarity to a bolt of lightning is not lost on my senses, (tho’ I’m not so keen on its former Nazi connotations).  I like to think of it more as a reference to ‘seeing the light’, as in finding the answer.

sketchy 'sigel' graphics

sketchy ‘sigel’ graphics

The sign for sigel is also a graphic representation of two chevrons pointing in opposite directions but joined together in the middle.  Chevrons are a potent symbol, (see previous post, Solitude), and I have included them in my Notebook.  In this symbol, they point both backwards and forwards: forwards to the next part that I am currently working on, but also drawing on what I have already learned from my walk along this path thus far.

end-trails

end-trails (reverse page of sewn chevrons)

Do visit the Picture Room at Newlyn Gallery if you are in the area, and anyone is welcome to take a look at my Notebook if you ask the assistant on the desk to open the case where it is displayed.  The exhibition of artist volunteers work runs from 5th to 19th October, (with the PV on Friday, 4th, 7pm), with the Newlyn Festival works in the main gallery.

one of the page spreads on display in the Picture Room, Newlyn Gallery.

one of the page spreads on display in The Picture Room, Newlyn Gallery.

(P.S.  On a note about style, the WordPress writing challenge today is about adverbs.  As a style of writing, I do tend to try and avoid them where possible preferring to use a better verb to describe an action.   (adverbs)

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Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, Drawings, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

Getting Lost in a ‘Labyrinth of Solitude’

The other evening whilst I was sitting quietly in a circle with friends (see entry for 19th September), into my head popped the image of a labyrinth.  The strange thing is, it was imprinted onto the right side of my forehead and this seemed to be important for some reason.  With it came a long line of black chevrons closely spaced together.  The chevrons were the ones you get on the road to indicate a bend ahead and point in the direction you need to go, although these ones were not pointing in any particular direction.  It seemed perfectly logical to marry the chevrons with the image of a labyrinth which after all, is all to do with going round in circles.

I'itol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O'odham people who reside in the Tohono O'odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona.  This symbol (actually a a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person's journey through life with it's many twists and turns that represent choices we face.  The journey is one from darkness to light and the man at the top depicts birth and a guide for your journey until you reach the centre where you die where you are transported to the afterlife.

The I’itol symbol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O’odham people who reside in the Tohono O’odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona. This symbol (actually a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person’s journey through life with its many twists and turns that represent the many choices we face along the way. The journey is one from darkness towards enlightenment and the man at the top depicts your guide who is with you on your journey from your birth until you reach your death at the centre from where you will be transported to the afterlife.  I wonder where I am / you are on that journey?

The next day in my studio, I open the page in the book I am currently working on (about my St. Michael’s Way Walk), which is all about getting lost.  Getting lost is only a problem and a cause for anxiety when there are constraints on time, such as reaching your destination within a calculated time-span or arranging to meet someone at a specified time and not being able to make it.  Then it struck me that getting lost is very much like being in a labyrinth.  And I am reminded of a quote by the Mexican writer, Octavio Paz, in his book of essays, ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude‘ in which he delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as ‘hidden behind masks of solitude’:

“Man is nostalgia and (in) a search for communion.  Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.”

'Stop, Look, Listen, work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen’, work in progress

And the more I think about it the more I realise that getting lost is in fact getting found!   It is only in that solitude that I am able to find my true voice.  Far from being fearful of finding my way back to the path, I am beginning, more and more to relish the peace that being alone brings: a space in which I can commune with my creative urges.  Perhaps we should learn to cherish those moments of getting lost more: how else might we stumble upon the unexpected, discover new directions or see a familiar thing from a different angle?  Often, getting lost, forces us to ask for help, something a lot of us are not very good at doing.

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock)  work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock) work in progress

Although this post doesn’t strictly speaking, fit into a conventional ‘photo challenge’ I felt it was appropriate.  For other ideas on this weeks Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns, see here.

P.S.  23rd September.  Walking the dogs today I notice that someone has been out flaying the edges of the paths (as they are wont to do).  In the debris lying on the ground, I rescued a few sprigs of purple heather (Cornish Heath) which I decided to take home and put in a little pot vase.  Being mildly aware that ‘someone’ has prompted me to do this (I often get this feeling), when I got home I went on-line to find out what the flower meaning for heather is, only to discover that it is ‘Solitude’.  What a lovely poetic endorsement.  Thank you!

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Filed under Dpchallenge, Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge