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Turtle Dreaming Fire

Turtle Dreaming fire
It’s been a year of fire – campfires and fires in the garden. It’s great to sit beside a fire, gaze into embers, muse, discuss, contemplate, dream.

While sitting beside a fire beneath a silver moon while camping in Gloucestershre, I thought about my story, ‘Turtle Dreaming’ and how I could begin the story with a group sitting beside a campfire beneath a starry sky.

I’m glad that I’ve returned to the story. I’ve changed my drawing style a bit and it may all change again once the story has been hashed and rehashed. Anyway, I’ve drawn a picture that could begin the story. Here it is.

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Dancing in the woods

I’ve been riding a sinuous wave, up and down and then thrown about in some crazy whirlpool. Then quiet, life shifting below the cool surface of things. Blue butterflies again. And blue dragonflies; not so many this year it seems. Drawing a sort of butterfly mandala — a night sky of wings and stars.

Mary Oliver’s words seem so apt:
Butterfly Blue

“..to have wings
blue ones — ribbons of flame.
How I would like to open
them, and rise
from the black rainwater.”

Sultan Valad’s words too:

“…Sufferings are wings for the
bird of the soul
A bird without wings cannot take flight
So weep and groan and lament my friend
So you can free yourself
from this prison
And fly to that placeless
place …”

I’ve had such a need to feel free.

I thought,

What am I not doing? I paint, draw, spend plenty of time in the sunshine and out in nature. One thing I’m not doing is moving.

I went to the woods, with Kevin with a camera, to find a space to move, dance and be free!

I found a spot amongst sycamores and dog’s mercury, sharing sunshine with hoverflies holding their own in shafts of light.

It felt good to be moving. Here is my spontaneous dance in the woods. Perhaps I should have called this post “Bimbling about in the woods” :)

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A chance butterfly encounter

White Letter Hairstreak on handButterflies continue to be a theme in my life. I couldn’t resist writing about a butterfly that I nearly trod on on my way to the allotment. Here it is, a White Letter Hairstreak that was sitting cryptically on the pavement, the first one of this species I’ve seen.

I knew they were flying around the elm trees around now – and we have plenty of elms in Brighton. The larvae live on their leaves.

I picked the butterfly up and put it on an elm leaf. It then flew off. I was meant to find it as on my return journey, there it was again! Or another one. So I picked it up and carried it home to take these photos. You can see the white ‘W’ on its hindwing quite clearly. I put it again on an elm tree leaf for shelter. No doubt it’ll fly off and find some privet blossom or bramble flowers and return to the elms to mate and/or lay eggs.

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A butterfly trapped in stone….?

LabradoriteA couple of weeks ago I had some Shamanic healing. I was told to choose a stone from a selection of different stones and crystals laid out on a lovely homemade felt square. I felt very drawn to a dark stone that seemed to have a mere hint of blue to it. When I took it and examined it more closely, the stone flashed the most beautiful irridescent blue at me. The rest of the healing ceremony was interesting – but it was the significance of the stone that I took away with me. I found out that it was Labradorite.

According to The Crystal Bible, Labradorite is said to be a highly mystical and protective stone, raising consciousness and connecting with universal energies. It is a stone of transformation and esoteric knowledge. It calms an overactive mind, energizes the imagination and dispells illusions.

Morpho on bootI couldn’t help thinking about a butterfly trapped in stone. The stone flashed like a butterfly, a Blue Morpho. Morpho is a genus of brilliant irridescent blue butterflies found in Central and South America. A meandering path of memories came to me of my visits to Costa Rica and Ecuador where I’ve seen many Morphos before. Perhaps, those places have more to teach me…? I feel like writing a story about a butterfly trapped in stone….watch this space :)

Release the butterfly. If there’s such a thing as a totem animal, I think mine might just be a butterfly right now – even a Morpho. Perhaps the butterfly is teaching me that changes can be good and bring freedom, lightness and detachment. Perhaps it teaches me to listen to my soul. (Psyche means both soul and butterfly in Greek.)

I recall a few memorable butterfly encounters. I spent years butterfly monitoring at a nearby nature reserve. I became very familiar with the chalk downland butterflies, mainly the “blues”, including the fabulous Adonis! It is like a meditation walking through grassland with butterflies flying up all around, noting each one and moving on. Walking through tea plantations near Munnar with Kevin on a visit to Kerala in India, a swarm of light blue butterflies as far as the eye could see enveloped us. A joyous occasion! In a forest in Mexico, I came across a strange butterfly that made a clicking sound with its wings. I found out that it was a Cracker butterfly, genus Hamadryas. And then there were the stunning Morpho butterflies.

River of Memory 2

Blues of Morphos, Adonis butterflies and labradorite have ignited my passion to paint in bright blue. I’ve developed my “River of Memory” painting to make it somewhat more aqueous – they could be ‘swimming’ with butterflies instead of birds. I’m not sure I like the dots, I may have to merge them somehow.

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Marine dreaming

Water: Origin of Life by Diego Rivera

Marine DreamingA recent television programme, Timewatch: Atlantis: The Evidence has fired my imagination. A summary of the documentary is as follows:

‘Around 1620 BC, a gigantic volcano in the Aegean Sea stirred from its nineteen-thousand year slumber. The eruption tore the island of Thera apart, producing massive tsunamis that flooded the nearby island of Crete, the centre of Europe’s first great civilisation – the Minoans. This apocalyptic event, many experts now believe, led to the eventual downfall of the Minoans, and provided the inspiration for Plato when he later wrote about the people of a mighty island, Atlantis, which sank beneath the waves and was lost forever, ‘in a single day and a night of misfortune’.

Minoan ceramic jar after Thera explosion

I’m once again back into drawing. I wanted the woman in my picture to be “awash in a pearly dream” of sea creatures – just like the sea creatures on the Minoan ceramics after the Thera explosion that caused a tsunami to reach the shores of Crete. I thought I could perhaps use the idea in my Turtle Dreaming story.

I have been inspired by other art namely Diego Rivera’s Water: Origin of Life mural, my favourite mural that sadly no longer exists as it was painted in Mexico City’s water system and has now been washed away. The theme was homage to the life-creating power of water. I like the hands, the myriad of protoplasmic life forms, the crabs, lobsters, representations to people and god-like figures and the cross-section nature of it.

And recently, I have dreamt of boats leaving their moorings and the arms of the harbour, setting out to sea on voyages into the unknown. It is good to feel as though I’m once again going somewhere :)

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Seeds….

Holding elm seedsThousands of elm seeds have fallen in great drifts in my street.

Wind dances
crazy seeds
A flitting,
chattering,
chase
on to steps and porches,
patios,
through windows,
like children, they play,
covering carpets
with the wild gift of
Spring confetti.

A girl scoots through an elm seed drift
as though through snow;

This is the time of Elm,
through its dance, it speaks.

Inside an elm tree

Brighton has many elms, they are famous survivors. We have possibly the oldest surviving English Elms in the world in Preston Park just down the road. They’re called The Preston Twins. Hollow giants, they’re home to bats and, if one is lucky, one may see a White Letter Hairstreak butterfly flitting among the canopy leaves in early summer. There are few mature English Elms beyond Brighton because Dutch elm disease has wiped out all but the odd one.

Seeds of Inspiration

“Dreams are the seeds of change.
Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.” (Debby Boone)

I have seeds of inspiration…

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River, sand and tree goddesses

Nadalian's Rock of FairiesI have recently discovered the lovely work of Iranian environmental artist, Ahmad Nadalian. He carves stones with fish, other creatures and goddess-like images associated with rivers and the sea around the world. He carries out rituals of returning his carved fish rocks to rivers to raise awareness of pollution. In his words:

I was in search of my lost paradise. I wished to spend time surrounded by nature and living with nature. Upon my return to the land of my forefather I found that my paradise no longer existed. The wellspring was polluted and river no longer had fish. The rivers are sown and the meadows are planted with villas.… I have created hundreds goddesses and fish on the stones of the river and have dedicated them to nature. I wanted to build his own paradise. I liked to believe that these fish are alive, and were swimming against the tides… they are metaphors for nature and the life of living creatures who endure pain, suffering, and are destroyed by the evils of our time.

I have taken refuge in the deep ravines where I can overcome evil. There is a temple where I am at peace to worship water. I am not tired. I am determined as ever to build my paradise.

Sand Goddess

Words to ponder on. I too want a paradise, a beautiful natural place in which to dream, to take refuge. And I need to dream. Nadalian’s Rock of Fairies done in France captures my imagination the most. See the photo above.

I need nature, earth, leaves, grass, rock, water. And I sense a return of my interest in goddess imagery. I wanted to find and connect with some rocks somewhere. I like the idea of creating with natural materials that are present wherever I happen to be – beneath my feet; to make a small gesture in nature that arises from and belongs to the place.

I visited the nearby Blackrock beach to look at the cliffs, the sea-sculpted chalk shore. I found myself doodling in some patches of sand,… moulding.. a Sand Goddess figure that the tide will return to the sea!

Tree woman carving Cae Mabon

Alexi engraving rock

I’ve just had a replenishing trip to Wales staying at Cae Mabon eco-retreat. It is a place to dream, indeed, to reconnect with oneself and nature. I love the wonderful round cob buildings, the rushing river, the peace; the moss covered hillside and lichen-loaded trees; the fires each night beneath the moon shrouded in its “winter halo”…

Someone had carved a beautiful woman in a tree beside the river; she holds a heart above her head… a River Goddess?

Kevin and I spent some special time there in nature – pottering about the river and woods. I even found a lichened rock to scribble on :)

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Springtime dance in an orchard

Pink candle

I have a yearning for beauty, a yearning for Spring and finally it’s arrived. Sunshine, birdsong, cherry blossom in the park – it’s beautiful and I want to soak it up! And I want to move, dance somewhere beautiful in nature too.

I love the beautiful dance prayer for Japan by Lee Atwell. Inspired by Butoh, Lee dances to celebrate our connection with the Earth and has recorded her beautiful and inspirational dances since 2009, The 50th anniversary of Butoh, on her blog.

Inspired by Lee’s dances, I went to the Stanmer Park estate to find a quiet space in which to move in nature. I discovered an apple orchard that I didn’t know about tucked away near the church. I like orchards, there is something magical about them. There are ghost memories in the moss, the lichen, the contorted branches and earthy dampness; …lovers meeting in secret, children steeling in to play beneath the blossom or to scrump, …a quiet pause in time, a moment captured forever. There’s a hint of something forbidden too – perhaps I was trespassing! Apple trees are steeped in folklore and symbolism.

Orchard dance I felt awkward at first but soon allowed myself to simply move naturally feeling a mixture of joy and sadness. With Spring here I feel like celebrating but there has been some sad news for my partner Kevin. I danced both this joy and grief in the orchard amongst the knarled and lichened Bramleys and Cox’s Pippins all awaiting to flourish their first leaves and blossoms.

Feeling grass beneath my feet – a tingling sting of young nettle, a dampness of moss. I moved to a light mosaic of birdsong and the silent conversation of trees.

Spring dancing woman

I am including this painting, Spring Dancing Woman, that was painted around New Year. Its definitely about Spring. It has a dotty technique, unlike some of my other dancing women paintings. I like the colours but I’m not sure about the technique!

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Roots to the Sky – Upside down tree

Roots to the skyI have been inspired by my visit to Seahenge to draw two pictures of the tree that links two worlds. Neither drawing quite captures what I wanted to convey, but I like the bright blues and the birds – free to fly wherever – in the colour version. I included a few figures of “souls” in the pen and ink drawing, small amongst the other-world branches, like dancers.

Roots to the Sky

The figures remind me of a project I discovered a while ago called “TreeSpiritProject”, by photographer Jack Gescheidt.

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Seahenge reflections

Norfolk tree

I have been suffering from nature-deficit-disorder. Surrounded each day by concrete, I have badly needed to get away. My chance came last weekend when Kevin and I took off for Norfolk to stay in a tiny little cottage for two called “The Retreat”.

Rainy and grey it didn’t matter as the low lying landscape had great atmosphere. Solitary trees — including a few stag-headed oaks – naked of their leaves, stood silhouetted against vast skies. And crows, rooks and seagulls milled over ploughed land and created a clamouring parliament in the trees. The fields were wet, soggy under foot and shifting rivers and lines of broken Crack willow gave the landscape a shabby, neglected feel. But it was so good to get away and reconnect a bit with nature.

Seahenge before it was moved

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for ages is visit Seahenge which was discovered at Holme-next-to-the-Sea on the North Norfolk coast. I didn’t know much about it other than it was a circle of 55 wooden posts with a central tree stump exposed in the mud at a lowtide back in 1998. It was a romantic find, but it was removed from its site back then and part of it ended up in a museum at King’s Lynn. It was there that we went to find out more about it.

Seahenge has been dated to the early Bronze Age, 2049 BC, a similar age to Stonehenge. The tree stumps – including the central stump – are of oak . It’s interesting that the central stump was deliberately placed upside down. (Apparently it was lowered into the ground with rope made of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle rope…. there’s something lovely about that.) One theory states that this could have been an altar for placing the dead thereby exposing the body to the elements and wild animals, which would liberate the dead person’s spirit, a practice called excarnation. On the other hand, it may have been a shrine to trees instead, perhaps.

Seahenge tree with reflection

According to Dr Francis Pryor, inverting the oak is like taking a symbol of life and returning the life forces to the earth, the source of life. The release of possibly ‘dangerous’ energies required containment, hence the circle of stumps. Intriguing, turning life upside down! Certain mythologies like those of the Lapps, have a three part cosmos — a world above, around and below us. An inverted tree would have roots in our world but it would be growing into the underworld. The tree would be seen as drawing different worlds together, a way of communicating between our world and the world below the ground — a paralell world. A world inhabited by the ancestors?

Pondering on the oak stumps in the museum, the deep past, something so old, from so long ago, I caught my reflection in the glass.

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