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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Filed under Found Objects, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project

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

Allowing Silence to Speak

Inspired by this:

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver
Today, I came up with these words:
Brollies, Balloons, Bunting and Bicycles.
In my ‘patchwork’ of words, I enjoy the repeating sound of the ‘b’s, like a babbling brook.   The seemingly random connection of their meanings.  They hint of party-time and celebration.  They are, in fact, the things that I have been working with in the training ‘room’ (which is the round pen) with my horse and I have used them as the title for a new post in my blog, Pilgrim on Horseback.  They represent the things that occupy that ‘silence’ in my days at the moment.
The words on their own conjure up colourful imagery: rounded, twirling shapes, triangular shapes, flowing ribbons and farting balloons: an expectation of fun and giggles.  I am very grateful for these words.  This is my ‘other’ voice speaking, quietly with joy.
And because these words are so full of imagined colour and fun, I have decided not to illustrate this post with any imagery at all, preferring to let the words do the picturing for you.  This last has been difficult but a first for me!  Read them again.  What do they represent for you, I wonder?

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Professional Development

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

Magnolia Leaves, Copeland China & Lily Pads

By tradition, this time of year is always very busy and this past month has been no exception.  Hence no posting.  Just thinking about what I have done in that time makes my head spin.  With delight.  And to spare you the dizziness of adding to your own busy times, I’ve just outlined a few things as an aid-memoir for me or for you to dip into if any of it takes your interest.

  • SOIL CULTURE FORUM

Making a Vessel to travel into the Other World (In memoriam 1)

Result of  the Slow Poem Workshop at Soil Culture Forum, Falmouth University.

My response to the Slow Poem, Composted Thoughts Workshop led by Mat Osmond & Tom Scott at the Soil Culture Forum, Falmouth University.  Layers of notes on one sheet of paper, torn up and placed in a dried magnolia leaf before being buried.

The Soil Culture Forum – using the arts to revitalise a resource we take for granted.  In brief, the presentations ranged from a captivating performance by Fraulein Brehms on the humble earth worm, Lumbricus Terrestris, to Yuli Somme, a felt maker from Devon who makes beautiful felt shrouds.  The creative workshops were absorbing and the whole Forum was thought-provoking, not least the key-note presentation about the state of our soils by Patrick Holden, of the Sustainable Food Trust.  (Note to self…must find out if I can get hold of a transcript of his presentation, it was so good).

making paint from mud

a workshop participant making painterly patterns from mud

my notes showing the mud and water mixtures using earth pigments from Peter Ward's workshop .

my notes showing the mud and water mixtures using earth pigments from Peter Ward‘s workshop .

Making shiny mud balls on a Hikaru Dorodango workshop led by Emma  Saffy Wilson

Making shiny mud balls on a Hikaru Dorodango  workshop (the link describes the art of Japanese perfection), a workshop led by Emma Saffy Wilson.

 

  • ALL MAKERS NOW? conference workshop

Trelissick Gardens (In memoriam 2)

Also at Falmouth University was The All Makers Now ? Conference A two-day conference exploring craft values in 21st century production.  I was fortunate enough to be offered one of the 12 available places open to craft makers, museum curators, technicians and artists, on the 2 day workshop held at Autanomatic, the 3D Digital Production research cluster at Falmouth, just prior to the conference.

Each group of 4 people worked on an idea for an artwork to be included in the exhibition at Trelissick House, timed to coincide with the conference.

With help from the skilled technicians, we had just two days in which to see our ideas go from the initial brain-storming session to  material realisation in a finished artwork before our very eyes.  We shaped and fashioned our way through the suite of cutting edge digital production technologies including Rapid Prototyping, Lazer Cutting, 3D Scanning and Computer-Numerically-Controlled Milling and Routing machines.

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The concept our group came up with was inspired by the famous Copeland China collection which was sold when the contents of Trelissick House were auctioned off.   As the exhibition was being held in the now empty library, we decided that a book would be a suitable matrix to contain the now lost textures of remembered objects.  A Bonhams lot ticket was the template on which areas of texture were either ‘imprinted’, embossed or ‘grown’, such as a section of a fire surround in the house, a small section of leaf pattern taken from a piece of china  or a section of the topography of the river and the land sweeping up to the house.  Even the wear marks on a piece of china, all telling some aspect of the story of Trelissick House and its famous garden.

The whole process was extraordinary and every aspect new to me.  The question we posed was: Can objects produced through the use of digital technologies (over the course of a two-day creative workshop), recapture the character of artefacts that have been displaced?

The Work for inclusion in The All Makers Now Conference Exhibition,

Trelissick House, Truro.  10th / 11th July, 2014

Title:  In Memoriam, 2014

materials: paper, acrylic, hardwood, plaster, ABS, canvas, card

processes: laser cutting, CNC milling, 3D printing, laser etching, (clay cast? if time)

Makers: Armando Chant, Barney Townsend, Rebecca Skeels, Caro Woods

 

  • CODING FOR WOMEN

A workshop delivered by Katrin and Shauna of MzTEK, a non-profit organisation with the aim of addressing the imbalance of women artists working in the fields of new media, computer arts and technology.  This workshop thanks to Creative Skills, Cornwall.

The idea was to build our own wearable synthesiser by programming a small ‘lilypad’ computer to output movement data as sound using the freely downloaded Arduino software.  Over the two days, some truly weird and wonderful inventions were created.

Finally, I managed to combine a few days of family time with the search for my horse.

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Rose has taken a liking to Tammie’s bed

Plus an unexpected and last-minute invitation to spend the weekend at Womad thanks to someone who had  dropped out of a party of friends because of ill-health.  Wasn’t I just the lucky one?  Three days immersed in a cauldron of melting heat, a rich array of costumes and heart thumping beats.  A mass of chilled-out humanity soaking up all the colourful sights and sounds.   I loved it.

I also had use of the 'posh' loos.  Luxury.

I also had use of the ‘posh’ loos. Luxury.

So that’s me up to date.  I’ve scarcely drawn breath and I’m off again tomorrow for the next 6 days with Richard Dealler (Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route) and crew walking over Bodmin Moor. The forecast is for rain but I’m a seasoned camper now.  (She says brazenly but without conviction).

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The good news is, when I return, I will be welcoming my new horse, Tommy, to Trezelah.  This is him being vetted on Monday.  (see my blog pilgrimonhorseback.wordpress.com for more details of that).  Exciting times.

 

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Professional Development, The Artist as Pilgrim

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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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:

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From the Membrane Portals Series:

For other ‘extras’, see here.

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