Thursday, 23 April 2009
Dates for the diary exhibition is from 3rd to 31st July 2009. Please join us if you can for an opening on Sunday 5th July between 3 and 6pm...more about that nearer the time!
The Celtic Year exhibition is going to held at the Garden Cafe and Gallery in Lydbrook. It a lovely spot on beside of the River Wye here in the Forest of Dean. More information about the venue here Garden Cafe
Here are some photos I took yesterday...the only day that hasn't been sunny for ages...still easy to see what a lovely venue it is with loads of interesting places outdoors...pictures of the interior to follow (sorry I forgot! or perhaps it was 'cos Fi and I were talking too much). Final picture is the lovely Missy...ever hopeful that you will have time to play ball.
The exhibition is part of the Forest and Valley Open Studios, a trail of artist studios open in July more details of other venues are here Open Studios
The second of my Ogham tree flags. This one is for the silver birch...a tree of enchantment known as the the 'lady of the wood'. There are so many legends and ancient uses of the birch tree....including its use as a living maypole at Beltain. From the first Ogham inscription in Ireland the birch is associated with the sun god Lugh this first inscription was to warn him that his wife was being taken away to the land of the faerie....some may think that is appropriate in my garden.
I used a white Tibetan Prayer flag in my flag. White symbolising air and wind and the Windhorse image at the centre of the flag galloping like the wind carrying the wish fulfilling jewel which radiates peace, wealth and harmony.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
It's an online members-only all-women international writing group.
I've been in it for nearly a year.
I love it because of its rigour - we're all professional writers, there are membership rules - a minimum of 2 submitted pieces of writing per month, 2 detailed critiques of other members' work per 1 submission of our own.
The critiquing process also maintains a professional approach, no 'attagirl' stuff.
Belonging to the group raises my game.
There are some optional extras to the sub/critique process. These extras are posted for any member to use if they want to for flexing the creative muscles.
There are regular 'writing exercises' for example
And there's the weekly 'random word'. We all take turns being the random-worder for the month. The random-worder chooses a word at random (bet this surprised ya :-)), posts it so that members can 'come on it unawares', and then free-write for 10 minutes in response.
It can be a valuable mini-workout.
There are no expectations on this sort of freewrite, it's completely unedited material.
Anyways, I'm the random-worder for April, and I've been cheating in that I've been posting 2-word phrases that catch my eye in one of the books I'm reading - The Essential Gore Vidal, Ed by Fred Kaplan.
Below is my random word April #3, belower is my freewrite response to it (remember, it's completely unedited, it's as it comes ...)
RW = Behind Curtains
My freewrite ...
She's standing in the hall.
It's a long hall, a gallery.
On either side of the hall, adorning the walls are no pictures, no ancient portraits, just floor to ceiling curtains, not continuous, pairs of curtains with varying amounts of bare wall in between.
She's tried to walk down the hall but can't as if there's an invisible force-field stopping her. So there's nothing for it, she supposes, and she approaches the first set of curtains.
They are striped, candy striped, apart from in the middle, where the fabric is still striped but red and white and swirly stripes, like the sign outside a barbershop.
She opens the curtains and walks forward, she's stepping out of a beach hut onto the beach. It's a summer beach, it looks like Folkestone, it's early in the season because there are people there but it's not crowded. A long row of candy-striped deck chairs cuts the beach like an equator. All the chairs are taken. Although she can see everyone's having fun and see their mouths move as they talk to each other, she can't hear anything other than the noise of the waves, the seagulls crying in the air. She makes to walk down to the sea, when all of a sudden four men jump out of nowhere and block her way. they start to sing. They are a barbershop quartet. She is enchanted by the a capella singing. She sways to the music, closes her eyes
And is back in the hall
She starts to cry for absolutely no reason that she can think of, so she stops
She has another go at walking down the hall but can't pass beyond another pair of curtains. They are tartan, red and green with a touch of yellow in it. It's an attractive tartan, she thinks she's seen it somewhere before.
She opens the curtains and walks forward. She is in a ballroom in what looks to be a Scottish castle, with antlered stags' heads all around the walls, above wood panelling. There's some celebration going on. Men in kilts, regimental uniforms, bagpipes playing, couples dancing a reel in the middle of the floor. It's winter, the air is cold, in spite of two roaring log fires at either end of the room.
Here, says somebody, and she's handed a steaming bowl of porridge. She's hungry, not having eaten since she stumbled into the hall so very long ago. She eats the porridge, it's delicious, and she's swaying to the music, closing her eyes
Clearly I haven't been wandering the street of Monmouth all night, although actually I know people who have, but that's a whole other set of stories.
Actually, before I leave the distractions, I must mention that I have a secret.
I've a very simple and effective way of avoiding distractions.
I turn them into 'work'.
I do this using one or more of three vital pieces of equipment
Firstly, and most commonly, is The Notebook, in which I make jottings of something I've seen, heard or thought during what would otherwise be a Distracting Activity.
For example, while in Monmouth I happened to be walking behind a young couple where she was demonstrating to him, as they walked, and with running (no pun intended) commentary, the different ways she moved so that she didn't fall out of her flip-flops. It was entertaining and illuminating. I stopped in the high street to make notes. Look for these 2 characters in a sketch some time in the future.
Secondly, the Mp3 player, and more to the point, recorder. By which I make recordings of general sound like 'In the high street', or specific like '3 seagulls on the Monnow Bridge'. Such recordings to be utilised when appropriate for sonic-inspiration or as a necessary accompaniment for a short film that I'm bound to make at some point.
Thirdly, the camera, which I use to take extract-angle shots of what my sister refers to as my 'miscellaneous architecture' images. For example, the base of the wall in between Ruby Tuesday's and what used to be Woolies. I store these images for rainy days when I'm wanting to do site-specific work but it's too wet.
And now for my WAC work ... more later ...
Friday, 17 April 2009
The eucalyptus so very much part of the Australian landscape...its bark looks like the earth itself.
Sue is in Ireland now hopefully seeing some the Celtic crosses depicted on this piece and connecting to her Irish roots.
They are of a piece of stone that was left over when we had our fireplace re built and has been left outside for over a year, leaning on a wall. I had noticed that the weathering seemed to be bringing out the colours, especially in that 'just about to be dusk, but its a spring sun' sort of light, so I have tried to capture it.
The camera hasn't caught the colours quite as vibrantly as they appeared, but I'm pleased with the results.
Is it a stormy sea side? Or a rocky sunset? Hmmm. One of them looks like there's a person in the corner.....
Photos and text from Liz.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
The stillness of ice and water
reflects the depth of soul
trapped in winter solitude
waiting to grow
Going back in time a bit.....this is a poem for Imbolc from Linsdsay to accompany the Imbolc photographs taken by Liz. There are more beautiful photograhs on Liz's own blog here. Sally
Ishtar sighed; she was cold and fed up. Rua’s droning voice had lost its fear over the last few days and Ishtar was longing for the warmth of her home and a bowl of her mother’s broth.
Sensing her student’s distraction the elderly Rua paused and hissed loudly in Ishtar’s direction. She knew the pressure on Ishtar was great but time was short and there was much to learn if the ceremony was to be a success.
Several minutes later Ishtar conquered her concentration and her tongue and was able to recite the ancient words in an acceptable form. Learning to pronounce the invocations correctly had required all her time and effort over the past week; both physical and mental. Their deeper meanings were lost to her; in time Rua would educate her new understudy.
Ishtar’s knees were numb; she had been kneeling since shortly after dawn. Pins and needles had set in quickly, followed by shooting pains up her thighs which had lasted until the numbness took hold and gave her some relief.
“You may leave now but be back here an hour before dawn,” Rua snapped at the exhausted child. Realising her harshness, she held Ishtar’s arm gently for a moment and said, “You’re doing well. Don’t worry; the Gods will help you when the time comes.”
Ishtar hurried home, her mind full of ancient verses and her empty belly. She had not eaten since the first streaks of dawn had interrupted the night sky. Rua had insisted that throughout the training she broke her fast with only dry bread and water. A full stomach was a distraction and bought on lethargy, according to the wise woman.
The vernal equinox ceremony was to take place in the sacred grove tomorrow at first light. The whole clan would be there to welcome The Great Mother and pray for her gift of hope and new life. A gift that was sorely needed; the clan had suffered during winter, starvation and fever had taken the oldest and youngest members of the small tribe. Ishtar’s baby sister had faded and quietened as the shadow of her soul passed into the care of Morrigan, goddess of death. Now as a crow spirit, she flew free over their settlement.
Her grandfather too had left their world; his toothless mouth had receded and his eyes sunk until he resembled the skeleton he was soon to become. Shortly before he died he had called Ishtar to him and grasping her hand with a firm grip he had stared deep into her eyes.
“I have something for you my precious star. Be true to your namesake and safeguard the honour of the tribe. You are our future.”
As the tears had slid down Ishtar’s solemn face, he pushed a smooth, grey stone into her tiny, cold hand.
“Keep this with you always, it is the rock from which our family was spawned and it must be guarded with your life until it is your turn to pass it to the youngest family member.”
“But how will I know when it’s the right time?” she had stuttered through her sorrow.
“You will know as I know now. I will be with you always as will the ancient ones who have been with me always,” he paused, breathing heavily, “Now, return to your mother and tell her I wish to speak to her.”
Ishtar had placed the priceless stone carefully into her leather pouch and turned to leave, feeling the stone grow heavier as she perceived the responsibility of holding it.
Although she had lived only eight summers she understood that her grandfather was dying and her self control was no match for her grief. The man who had taught her so much, who had held her hand when the nightmares came and who had taught her the names of all the stars was leaving her and there was nothing she could do.
Throwing herself onto his frail body she had clung to him; her tears and sobs shaking her body until finally exhaustion had left her limp in his arms. He had sung to her, stroking her head as gently as he could with his gnarled, work toughened hands.
She had woken hours later, alone in her hut. She knew he had gone before she heard the chanting.
Her mother Graine was singing as she stirred a large pot of steaming soup. Ishtar smiled; it had been a while since song had visited their home. The death of Graine’s second daughter had affected her deeply, following so closely after the death of her father.
Graine was proud of her daughter, leading the ceremony was a duty not usually required of one so young. Only the premature death of the other pre-pubescent girls in their dwindling clan had forced the honour on Ishtar.
“Did the practise go well today? Was Rua satisfied with your progress?” Graine asked anxiously as she poured the ever thinner herb broth into a wooden bowl.
Ishtar described the endless chanting and Rua’s harsh words between gulps of broth, careful not to waste any of the liquid which was beginning to penetrate her icy bones and relax her tense muscles.
“Its time to rest, Ishtar; lie down and I’ll sing of your success in gaining the favour of the Great Mother.”
Ishtar crawled onto the straw matt, pulled the bear fur over her head and listened to Graine’s soothing voice. Sleep took her so quickly that she wasn’t aware of it until the dreams came.
Graine watched anxiously as her only child slept. Rua had sworn the Fly Agaric potion would be safe despite Ishtar’s slight frame, but she was fearful. Sitting by her daughter’s side all night, occasionally touching her sweat beaded forehead, Graine prepared the pouches of seeds to be blessed during the ceremony.
Ishtar’s dreams were vivid yet muddled; colours and shapes pixelated across her fluttering eyelids, voices fought with each other as they tried to whisper in her ears. Yet, she was not afraid; her grandfather sat beside her, their hands entwined as the spirits danced in her mind.
Graine’s husband Bith returned shortly before light stretched its fingers across their village, a new staff in his hand. He was ready for the ceremony; his face freshly painted yellow, pink and green as befitted the time of year.
They neither kissed nor touched as tradition taught; the time for this would come after the ceremony and feasting. Their eyes locked, Bith’s full of concern. Graine smiled and nodded reassuringly in reply.
Unconsciously she put a hand to her belly. Hope wriggled inside.
It was time to wake Ishtar.
The family walked to the sacred grove, home of the goddess Nemetona. As they walked, other members of the clan joined them, until all four family groups had taken their places amongst the trees. At its centre grew an alder tree and around the tree grew gorse bushes, symbols of fertility.
The men banged their new staffs rhythmically on the ground as they chanted slowly in a hypnotising baritone to wake the sleeping spring. The women keened, lamenting and honouring the death of winter.
Ishtar had not spoken since they had wakened her; a trance-like state had transformed her child’s face into that of a young woman. Head erect and eyes wide, she walked confidently to her destiny.
Rua needlessly beckoned Ishtar to her place in the centre of the circle and began the ceremonial words.
“To the Great Mother, maiden of the spring, we call upon your wisdom and request your energy, love and compassion. We have come to honour your power, nature, the balance of warrior and inner spirit, and give thanks for this season of renewal and rebirth.”
The tribe responded with the customary chants which echoed Rua’s to give them strength and power.
Ishtar took the sacred birch wand from Rua’s outstretched hand and walked to the far northern part of the circle, the place where the sun never reached. She tapped on the ground three times. Her mouth was not her own, the words came from somewhere inside where the voices of the ancestors swirled. Her heart pounded and she wondered disconnectedly how she could speak when her mouth felt full of ash.
“Watchers of the North, we call upon your wisdom and power to witness this celebration of divine balance.”
Repeating the tapping three times, Ishtar moved to each cardinal point and voiced the words that Rua had taught her. Her actions and words created a circle bordered by the clan and opened a doorway between the worlds.
She felt the clan’s eyes upon her and shivered involuntarily even as sweat began to form on her forehead. She returned sedately to a chanting Rua at the centre of the ring.
Looking solemn, Ishtar held out a copper bowl while Rua blessed it, waving her rowan wand across it three times.
“By the power of the four elements, I consecrate this vessel in the name of the Great Mother.”
One by one, the fertile women of the tribe walked to Ishtar and placed pouches filled with seeds and dried berries in the bowl. The men followed, placing spear heads and leather animal traps on top.
Graine’s eyes met Rua’s and she held them for what felt like eternity.
“From death, life will come,” the tribe chanted steadily, as they had done since time began.
“Great Mother, bless these seeds and ensure the continuation of your children. Bless these weapons to feed and protect your children. Accept our offerings as we show the depth of our honour for you.”
Rua turned to Ishtar; this was the most sacred and important part of the ceremony and Rua prayed that Ishtar would not fail.
“Eostre, Great Goddess, be with me now,” Ishtar began in a whisper, “fair one, who brings life and renewal; bless our clan with the gift of new life.”
As she spoke, her voice became stronger.
“May the strength of the old bring life to the new,” she continued the long incantation in a steady, haunting tone.
The men in the circle drummed steadily throughout the ceremony and the clan answered each invocation with the appropriate solemn response.
Ishtar found her spirit was detached from her body. From her new vantage point above the group she could see herself, Rua and the clan standing in the grove. She could hear the drums and the rhythm of her own speech in a distant part of her mind, yet she wasn’t afraid.
“Awake, all creatures and seeds, herald the spring. The winter is over, look only to the future,” her voice didn’t falter.
As if in a dream, Ishtar became aware that her spirit was standing beside her mother. Graine looked serene and enveloping her body was an aura of pulsing blue light. As Ishtar reached out to touch the magic she was instantly transported to the side of her aunt, who was also surrounded by glowing light, steady and more subtle than her mother’s aura and the colour of a mid summer sky.
As Ishtar began to wonder if she was dreaming and really still snuggled under the bear skin, she felt herself drawn forward and propelled into her body with a sharp jolt. Once more she could see only through her physical eyes; the doorway was closed and the ceremony was over.
Rua gave thanks to the tribe for their efforts to make the ceremony a success and thanked Ishtar for completing her task.
“I also have something else to say. A message from the Goddess, bought to us by Ishtar.”
Ishtar felt herself freeze as an excited murmur bubbled through the group. She wondered what message was, or if she had forgotten something.
Rua went on once the tribe had quietened, “we have been blessed; there is new life growing amongst us. Give thanks to the Goddess as we celebrate.”
Ishtar thought she had worked it out just as her body folded, like a limp napkin, to the ground.
When she opened her eyes moments later, the first thing she saw was her mother and the first thing she felt was her mother’s hand, tightly holding her own. Rua and the rest of her family stood close by protectively.
“Welcome back,” Graine’s creased brow relaxed and she smiled, “I was so worried, Rua said you’d be well but …”
Her voice tailed off as she drew Ishtar into her arms. Ishtar buried her face in Graine’s hair and smiled. Now she understood the message; there were three babies growing in two women. Her aunt who had the weaker aura must be carrying one child and her mother with the much darker, stronger aura had to be carrying twins; a double blessing for her family and their clan.
Rua gently pulled Graine to one side and knelt down close to Ishtar’s head. She examined her eyes, lifting the lids and peering deep inside, as if seeking another message. She put a hand on her brow and bent close to her ear.
“Say nothing of what you know; there are no guarantees.”
Ishtar nodded solemnly, promising silence with a look.
Later, in the darkness, the clan ate well for the first time in many months. A steaming cauldron of rabbit stew had been gently simmering most of the day. The women had baked bread sweetened with honey and sprinkled with the few seeds that could be spared from their meagre store, for the occasion.
The sound of drums and singing out matched the roar of the fire, as it burned orange-red-black, throughout the night in the centre of the settlement. Fragrant wood smoked and spit fireworks into the sky as the clan danced themselves into a frenzy of worship and euphoria.
Ishtar fell into a deep sleep by the fire after she had eaten her fill, one hand holding the pouch with the ancestors’ stone within. Bith lifted her gently and carried her into their hut, with Graine hurrying behind.
Once they were sure Ishtar was settled comfortably under her bear skin, Graine and Blith retired to their own sleeping straw and furs.
“I wonder who has the new life?” mused Blith as Graine snuggled in beside him.
“I wonder,” said Graine slowly, smiling to herself as Blith began to explore her body in celebration.
A story for the spring Equinox from Liz.
Spring arrives and winter must go
Doubt, confusion, fills my mind
I yearn for life afresh
Clinging to the past
For what I’ve lost
Trembling, sweating, I try to progress
Fear for the future holds me back
My brain searches for the past
Alder trees line the sky
A new moon rises
My bleeding stops
Life moves on
*In ancient Greece Cronus was represented by the Alder tree. One of his names was Fearinus. The Irish/ Gaelic ogham name for the Alder is Fearn. Fearinus is an Alder God. Translated, literally Fearinus means the dawn of the year. Therefore he is the spirit of the Spring Equinox.
Welcome Marie, this beautiful poem and image is a first contribution from Marie that arrived today. She presented the poem printed in white over the tree image....the shape of the poem and the tree enhancing each other perfectly. Unfortunately harder to read in blog format so I have separated them before posting, I hope you don't mind Marie, but words and images will be together for the exhibition. Sally
Monday, 6 April 2009
The willow, tree of enchantment, inspirational to poets, artist, musicians, priests and priestesses...at least according to my favourite book on the subject, 'A Tree in your Pocket' by Jacqueline Memory Paterson (actually this is Ian's book but I'm hoping he's forgotten).
Also inspiration for first tree flag...made to adorn the willow at the bottom of my garden, not hung there yet but will be when all the plants are planted and seeds sown....just in time to celebrate the arrival of friends from Australia.
Ogam or Ohgam is the secret language of the Celts. Coded symbols with many different subtle layers. It was used for name tags, for marking boundaries and for other more mystical purposes.
As someone who has always been interested in codes and in communication and symbols it was of obvious interest to me. It’s something I have use in my art work before and one of the things Ian and I used in a whole forest series a couple of years ago (must see if I can find some pics).
Well it reappeared....as Tree Flags...more about those soon.
Above is the ogam for Beith (or beth) Silver Birch.
Image drawn using scribbler
...as much fun and time consuming as wordle...why not try scribbler
basically the same principle complete your scribble then use the Alt and the PrtSc keys to copy the image on to the clipboard, then then paste into the a drawing program. These are the simplified instructions! feel free to ignore and just scribble
my original drawing...I have heard all the comments about 'my son/daughter can do better and their only 5' before...
Saturday, 4 April 2009
I got the last place on a textile workshop with the wonderful India Flint....
'maker of marks, forest wanderer & tumbleweed, stargazer & stitcher, botanical alchemist & string twiner, dreamer and occasional poet'
later this month I will be splashing around in eco colour – ecologically sustainable natural dyes for textiles
then later this year when my meadow is growing abundantly I can make my own dyes and clothes and integrate textiles into my work....well that’s what i think now, ever the optimist ;)
just seen that she is trying to organise a workshop in Belgium...i know a few people out there...