Category Archives: Wordpress Photo Challenge

My Nativity, a Soupy Opera

I remember my father saying that before I was conceived I was just the twinkle in his eye.  So its true then, we really are created out of star dust?

IMG_4541

Recently, I decided to record the experience of going through a car-wash.  I am mesmerised as miles of accumulated grime is scuffed and rinsed away.  From my space capsule’s insiders view, I marvel at how something so mechanically mundane could produce such a beautiful spectacle.  I watch the ebb and flow of water and suds, glint and sparkle around me in the light, every foamy streak unique in its formation yet producing beautiful, minuscule galaxies and mobile symmetries.  Rinsing water is sprayed and squirted, misting into a liquid film on the windscreen like the wrinkled surface of a lake, whilst black rotating rubber flanges beat and flail their way along the panels and side windows gently rocking me from side to side.

Finally the giant drier blasts the remaining droplets of water into oblivion and the muddy residue vanishes down into the drains.  After what seems like no time at all, the machines just stop and there is a moment of eerie quiet.  The green light comes on and I turn the key to start up my engine, emerging from my reverie back into the world, my carapace duly cleansed, dried and polished and ready for the next journey along the road.

I hope you enjoy this sequence of images: A symphony of light and shadow, water, sparkle and movement punctuated by a soapy froth and passages of frenzied blackness.  Inspiration in the twinkle of my eye.  This is my Nativity.

IMG_4542

IMG_4545

IMG_4549

IMG_4551

IMG_4559

IMG_4564

IMG_4567

IMG_4569

IMG_4571

IMG_4573

IMG_4575

IMG_4589

IMG_4592

“You come to us from another world, from beyond the Stars and void of space. Transcendent. Pure. Of unimaginable Beauty, bringing with you the Essence of Love.
– Rumi

To see other ‘twinkle’ posts, this week’s photo challenge, see here.

1 Comment

Filed under Wordpress Photo Challenge

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!

IMG_5551

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.

3 Comments

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).

IMG_3860

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.

IMG_4382

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.

IMG_4363

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.

IMG_4406

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.

IMG_4350

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.

IMG_4320

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.

IMG_4335

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.

IMG_4327

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?)

IMG_4309

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.

IMG_4399

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,

IMG_4394

and the porridge bowls are always polished clean.

IMG_4404

We replenish our souls with holy water from sacred wells,

IMG_4388

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

IMG_4374

captivated by human stories of war-time heroes,

IMG_4358

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

IMG_4376

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

IMG_4378

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

IMG_4391

We walked across many fields of sun-burned grasses,

IMG_4385

and barefoot up scraggy hills to relieve blistered feet.

IMG_4411

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.

IMG_4410

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

IMG_4314

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

IMG_4379

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

4 Comments

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

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

Summer Solstice, 21st June, 2014:  Walking on Dartmoor.

IMG_3498

a pilgrims view of her feet – her most important asset!

This is the third day of a 4 day pilgrimage across Dartmoor, beginning at the church on the hill, St. Michael de Rupe at Brentor and finishing at the Church of the Holy Cross, Crediton, following the Mary/Michael Line.

IMG_3477

It is also the Summer Solstice and promises to be another hot, dry day on Dartmoor.  By the time we have finished tucking into Caroline’s delicious breakfast, the mist has dissipated from the tops of the distant moors.   With sun cream liberally applied to exposed areas of skin and full of anticipation for the day ahead, we leave Moorgate Cottage behind us and walk up once more onto the open moorland heading towards a stone circle near Belstone called Nine Stones Cairn Circle.  A couple of pilgrims stop for a quick dip in the stream at Gulliver Steps on the way where I am only prepared to bare my feet to dip into the cooling water.  Nine Stones is a small and intimate circle where we place a couple of heart-shaped stones picked up along the way in celebration of this, the longest day, and re-arrange a bunch of wild flowers left by a previous visitor into a mandala shape around them.

IMG_3590

an offering of thanks for the Summer Solstice

I am reminded of the many Summer Solstices I have celebrated in the past at Boscawen-un Stone Circle in Cornwall.

As we head out on the other side of Belstone towards what will be our steepest climb of the pilgrimage, to Cosdon Hill (550 metres above sea level), I am wondering what I should do with the stone that is still in the bottom of my backpack.  It was discovered lying on the river bed at the base of the waterfall at Lydford Gorge which we visited a couple of days ago.  It bears the cross of St Piran on it, the Patron Saint of Cornwall and has been given to me presumably because of my Cornish connections.  I know there has to be a place along the way where I must leave it, but at this point, I don’t know where that place is.  Somehow, I know that when the time comes, it will become clear what I should do with it.

IMG_3485

the falls at Lydford Gorge, like a stream of light which reminds me of the depiction of the holy light in the stained-glass window above the altar in Belstone church.

It is a long and hot trudge up to Cosdon, with the benefit of a cooling breeze the higher we climb.  The 6 kilos of weight I am carrying on my back feels more like 12, and sun hats are dunked into Lady Brook on the way up to cool over-heated brows.  The footpath is not always clear, either breaking up into animals tracks or we find ourselves making our way across rough, tussocky ground  between squelchy boggy patches of springy heath and cotton grass.

This long climb is easily the most challenging part of the whole pilgrimage and just before we reach the summit, my mobile phone rings.  I manage to dig it out from one of my zipped trouser pockets.  It is Paul, the vet who is treating Sadie for a ‘spontaneous prolapsed disc’.   He tells me her condition has deteriorated and there is nothing we can do now to reverse the situation.  That the time has come for us to end her suffering.   Barely able to splutter out the words, I make David promise to hold Sadie for both of us so that I can be with her too in her last moments.  In that moment, I understand why I have been carrying the ‘Cornish’ stone.

IMG_3583

After my cooling bathe, I decide to walk barefoot up the stone row

On the descent from Cosdon on the other side of the hill, we stop to walk up an ancient stone row.  With the Cornish stone now burning in my hand, I walk up the narrow alley between the stones, imagining Sadie by my side, running up the track for the last time.   I see her elegant body gliding along in slowed, poetic motion, embodying all the runs she has ever done, in joyous harmony.

At the end of this stone row is a small cist or burial mound.  Here I carefully place this stone which now represents my little Cornish whippet, tucking it into a cosy corner amongst the fallen boulders and vegetation that covers the mound.

IMG_3610

cotton grass grows in boggy moorland patches (photo taken from image on greetings card)

I discovered later that this stone row is known as ‘the graveyard’.  I know I will come back to this place one day.   After that, the remainder of this joyous Solstice day is a bit vague, except I remember the large granite standing stones at Spinsters’ Rock (Burial Chamber).  I remember them particularly because they were humming.  A low-level hum in response to some toning we had done which I found strangely comforting, and something I have never heard before.  It was hard to comprehend why I was the only one that seemed to hear them.  Then the long road walk to Drewstaignton, and welcome rest.

IMG_4968

long winter beach shadows of long narrow dogs – Sadie feels like that shadow now

Sadie’s body now lies buried in a shady corner of my paddock where she once frolicked with her pack.  And I am reminded of the stained glass image of St Michael in the chapel on top of the hill at Brentor at the start of our pilgrimage.   In one hand he holds up a sword-cross and in the other hand he carries a pair of scales.  A reminder that life is a precarious balancing act.  In St Michael’s case, a balancing act between the forces of good and evil: lightness and darkness.   I do not think it is possible to have the one without the other.

Even so, perhaps I should have been more prepared for what was to come knowing that the best laid plans can go wrong.  Before I had even begun this pilgrimage, I had missed my train connection and the bus I was travelling on to catch up with the rest of the party had broken down, its engine simply ‘cutting out’, as if to reinforce the notion that rare incidents do happen.

IMG_3469

passengers waiting by the broken down bus for the next one to come along

This pilgrimage for me has represented the fragility of life, the acceptance of unexpected things that happen that probably have some meaning for us if we care to examine them.  The synchronicity of being in certain places at what felt like the right times, and how in a single day, it is possible to experience both the joy of nature at its zenith, and the sadness we feel at the premature passing of a precious life from this earthly world.  Yet another poignant reminder that the cycle of life (and death) goes on regardless of our best laid plans.  Rest in peace, my darling Sadie.

Contrasts

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Whippet Story, Wordpress Photo Challenge

A Potpourri of Observations

This weeks photo challenge is ‘extra’.  Last week I posted off a package of work for a mixed show in Jersey, in the Channel Island, as a guest artist in Observations with Art in the Frame, at The Harbour Gallery, opening this weekend.  I hope the show goes well.

So I present a few ‘extras’ for you: a potpourri selection of details from some of the work I sent off as my contribution.  (click on images for a larger view).

Seven + One, concertina ‘book’

From the Ancient Landscape Series:

Divided Cells:

IMG_3321

IMG_3322

From the Membrane Portals Series:

For other ‘extras’, see here.

3 Comments

Filed under Art Works, Exhibitions, The Art Business, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge

‘Holding the Light’ for Angela on St. Michael’s Mount

'Holding the Light', Photograph taken with a pinhole camera, by Angela Shaw.

‘Holding the Light’,
photograph taken with a pinhole camera, by Angela Shaw.

In the middle of Mounts Bay in West Cornwall, there is a tiny island that rises out of the sea just off-shore, near Penzance.   It is here, on top of this Mount in 495 AD, that the vision of Archangel Michael appeared to a group of fisherman in the Bay below.  8th May marks the anniversary of this sighting.

IMG_0330

View of Mounts Bay, St Michael’s Mount in the distance

Living on the hill above the bay, I can see the castellations of the castle on top of the Mount and catch whole glimpses of it when I walk the moors around my home, or the dogs along the beach at Longrock.  The storms this winter exposed remnants of the petrified forest that is normally covered by sand in the bay, reminding us of a time when it was merely a hill in the midst of a landlocked forest.

IMG_3847IMG_3425

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island 366 m off the Mount’s Bay coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is a civil parish and is united with the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water’ (Wiki). 

The causeway that links the island with the mainland

The causeway that links the island with the mainland

There is something rather magical about the Mount.  Standing alone in the bay like a figure from Arthurian legend, I feel its constant presence and is always a comforting reminder of home.

 

 

This tiny island has a twin, connected by an invisible thread across the Channel, which lies just off the coast of France.  ‘Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country’s northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. 100 hectares in size, the island has a population of 44′ (Wiki).   Here, I have been told, the tide races in at the speed of a galloping horse.  Both St. Michael islands get cut off from the mainland twice in every 24 hours.  Both have been monasteries at some time in their lives and both are dedicated to the Archangel, Michael.  More significantly for me, both lie on the Michael earth energy line where it crosses with its sister, the Mary Line, making them both pivotal points of powerful Gaia energy.

8th May, 2014.  ‘Holding the Light’.

Lantern and pin-hole camera placed on the Michael Line, St Michael's Mount.

Angela’s Lantern and pin-hole camera placed on the Mary / Michael Line, St Michael’s Mount.

 

The lantern on the Michael line, looking out to sea at the spot where the fisherman in the Bay first saw the vision of St. Michael.

The lantern looking out to sea at the spot where the fisherman in the Bay first saw the vision of St. Michael.

Angela's carefully prepared pinhole, primed and ready to go a few minutes before the 8pm start

Angela’s carefully prepared pinhole camera, primed and ready to go a few minutes before the 8pm start

 

Last week I met up with Angela Shaw (www.angelashaw.org), an MA student on the Art & Environment course at Falmouth, for a special visit to the Mount.  Angela was on a recce to check out a suitable location for her ‘Holding the Light’ project and I was on a mission to identify ‘chakra’ points for a walk I am organising for FFT (more later in a new post).  It turned out to be a very fruitful visit for both of us and I ended up offering to help in her ‘Holding the Light’ project: an 8-point photo work and light sculpture.

The 8 positions of Light

The 8 positions of Light Holders (Cudden Point is just off the map in the bottom right corner, my crop!)

IMG_2551

Angela’s invitation to join in the ‘Light Sculpture’.

I was given charge of the St Michael’s Mount ‘watch’.  In her ‘Guidelines for light holders/ witnesses, Thursday, 8th May, 2014’, she explains, ‘the aim is to ‘hold the light’ metaphorically, to give time and attention to the light……in a synchronised pause, knowing that 7 other light holders, over a 10 mile radius are doing the same’.  Each light holder is issued with a lantern, candle and matches, a pinhole camera, notepad and pen to record thoughts and impressions.

8th May arrived and at 7.30 in the evening, I was picked up from the slip at Marazion by a castle Landrover and driven over the causeway to the Mount, now closed to daily visitors.  From there, the castle manager, Pete, and I jumped into a golf buggy and bumped up the cobbled pilgrim path to the castle at the top where I laid out the lantern and pinhole in exactly the place Angela had identified as the chosen spot on our previous visit together, the very same spot where the Archangel had appeared to the fisherman below.

the setting sun just bursting through the mist before sinking behind the horizon

on the boat back, watching the setting sun just bursting through the mist before sinking behind the horizon.  (For more ‘on the move’ pics for this weeks photo challenge see here).

At 8 pm precisely, I opened the aperture on the pinhole camera and whilst I watched the family of Ravens playing on the cliffs just below us, Pete and Adam (and his lovely dog, Eve) went to turn on the spotlights to illuminate the castle.  At exactly 8.20, the tab was replaced over the hole in the pinhole, the candle extinguished and with the lantern packed away, we bumped our way back down the path from where I climbed into the motor craft that was waiting to take me back across the now flooded bay to the mainland, being dropped off at Chapel Rock where Victoria was recording my arrival with her film camera.

leaving the island behind me

leaving the island behind me

With the light now beginning to fade, Victoria and I walked up the hill above Marazion to watch Angela light the prepared beacon.  A few gusts of wind and the fire roared into life, easily sustaining the 20 minutes for the pinhole there to do its work.  The gentle light from the chalky lanterns now replaced by the larger flames of the beacon.  Standing there completely mesmerised by the spriggans dancing in the gloom and the glowing flames fill the darkness, I felt it had all been a rather wonderful experience and a privilege to have been part of something really special.  So thank you, Angela, for inviting me to take part in your project.  I have particularly enjoyed being a ‘light worker’.  And particularly grateful to all those who had made my visit to the Mount possible.  I can’t wait to see the resulting images from the pinholes and how Angela finally interprets her ‘synchronised pause’.

Angela lights the beacon

Angela lights the beacon.

Victoria recording the event, the lit up castle on St Michael's Mount illuminated in the distance.

Victoria recording the event, the illuminated castle on St Michael’s Mount in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light is fading as the fire burns brighter

Light is fading as the fire burns brighter

IMG_2548

20 minutes later and the mission is accomplished.

6 Comments

Filed under Art Works, Earth Goddess, St. Michael's Way, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Inside Blue

This week’s photo challenge is ‘Inside’.   I’ve been updating my elemental energies website with photos that represent chakra colours using my materials box for inspiration.  So my contribution to ‘Inside’ is Blue.  It is the colour of communication so I think at the moment that is appropriate for me.  Do check it out here

scree-shot of website

scree-shot of website

or click on the above image.   To see more ‘Inside’ photos, here.

18 Comments

Filed under my sketchbook pages, Wordpress Photo Challenge