"What amazes me about landscape, landscape recalls you into a mindful mode of stillness, solitude, and silence where you can truly receive time." - John O'Donohue
We have returned from the Drakensberg feeling soothed and replenished. The first thing I did once the car was unpacked and we had enjoyed a cup of tea was clean my work table. Now that's a first! Quiet time has done me a lot of good if I'm feeling the need to get back to work so soon.
A profusion of wildflowers were out wherever we looked...
....as were the baboons. The pastures and hillsides were alive with them. Eating, sun bathing, grooming, chasing. They were not happy having a camera pointed at them.
The fields were dotted with Sacred Ibis. Everything in flocks, herds, troops, clusters and strings. I had forgotten a group of ponies was called a string of ponies, but it makes sense!
"....you look up into a blue sky and, in a moment of grace, imagine a worthwhile tomorrow." - Dianne Crumbaker
We experienced every season in one day. Even snow which melted the moment the sun came up so that we thought we had imagined it. Many storms, day and night but short and cleansing. The beauty of the landscape sparkling after rain caught my breath every time I stepped outside and walked on squelching earth to look at the lush farmlands.
"there is a certain shimmering essence that nearly breaks the heart" - Dianne Crumbaker
"I would like to step out of my heart and go walking beneath the enormous sky" - Rainer Maria Rilke
My friend Dianne Crumbaker has written a beautiful poem which I have quoted a few times in this post. I would love to share the whole poem with you.
The point at which heaven and earth meet.
There are other definitions. But think about this one.
Better yet, think of it this way:
"A" point at which heaven and earth meet.
There is a point at the base of a baby's neck where heaven meets
when fall moves into winter,
in the late afternoon light filtering through not-quite-bare
there is a certain shimmering essence that nearly breaks the
Consider the point at which,
lying on your back,
you look up into a blue sky and, in a moment of grace, imagine a
Or when an unexpected wind sweeps around a corner and brings
with it a hint of some distant unknown sea
Maroon and gray and gold strata on a rocky headland
above a green-gray sea.
Tea in a special cup.
Points at which heaven and earth meet.
A string of points, connected, make a line.
A line can be followed, to a destination,
can draw us in.
- Dianne Crumbaker
These fragments of a tile were once part of a highly decorated floor at Chertsey Abbey, Surrey. Pavements of decorated ceramic tiles were a medieval innovation. They were used to add richness and splendour to great churches initially but they were subsequently used in secular contexts, including castles and royal residences. Click
In the early years of my marriage I always threw broken china away because I wanted everything to be perfect. Over the years I've grown to love cracked and broken things. My marriage is in tact (in case you wondered:-) and I have drawers and bowls full of fragments from china, glass, wood, shells and other natural gatherings.
Ancient Shards by Christina Wiese. See website here
I love this poem about broken things by Alice Walker.
I will keep broken
the big clay pot
with raised iguanas
of their wise
heads sheared off;
I will keep broken things:
the old slave market basket brought to my door by Mississippi a jagged
in it's sturdy dark
I will keep broken things:
The memory of
those long delicious night swims with you;
I will keep broken things:
In my house
there remains an honored shelf
on which i will keep broken things.
Their beauty is
they need not ever be "fixed."
I will keep your wild
free laughter though it is now missing its
I will keep broken things:
I will keep broken things.
I will keep you:
pilgrim of sorrow.
I will keep myself.
- Alice Walker, "I will keep broken things"
Fragments, Monestry of Hadda, Afghanistan, 4th century. Click
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with a mixture of lacquer and powdered gold or silver. The philosophy behind this reparation is that things should not be discarded just because they are broken. There is beauty in broken, cracked and chipped objects.
Exquisite chipped bowl. Click for more here
Weathered and broken Woman's Grave Marker, Philippines. Click
Egyptian Woven Fragment: 13th - 14th century. medium: Linen, silk, metal wrapped thread. Click
Mary Ann Lehrer Plansky stitches exquisite fragments inspired by ancient cloths, the antiquities of forgotten tribes, archaeological artifacts and ruins. My heart races when I read the stories behind her pieces. Do yourself a favour and visit Mary Ann's blog here.
Mary Anne Lehrer Plansky's beautiful work. Click
Sand & Bone by Mary Ann Lehrer Plansky. Click
Jan Goodey has created an intriguing ceramic series, "The Museum of Conjecture."
"The Museum of Conjecture" by Jan Goodey .
" ....every broken thing is an opportunity for reinvention and reinterpretation. Putting the pieces together in a new way, or for a new purpose or by adding new or different parts encourages a "Science of Incomplete" to emerge." - Jan Goodey
Shards. Vessel series by Jan Goodey
Newly completed Healing Goddess (next to Nigerian helmet mask) by Robyn Gordon
"Our work as artists is courageous and scary. There is no brief that comes along with it, no problem solving that's given as a task....An artist's work is almost entirely inquiry based and self-regulated. It is a fragile process of teaching oneself to work alone, and focusing on how to hone your quirky creative obsessions so that they eventually become so oddly specific that they can only be our own." - Teresita Fernandez
Since I've just completed carving my healing goddess I thought I would share with those interested about what initially inspired me to carve her. The new carving is a late addition to a series of Healing Goddesses I carved several years ago.
From an old series several years ago.
A primitive Songye figure or Nkisi (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) started my thought process about doing a series.
Image courtesy of Boris Kegel-Konietzko
I thought he was rather ugly at first though some would disagree because he has a raw, primitive energy and charm and in any case he was not created to be a work of art but an Nkisi. An Nkisi is a power figure that is believed to have protective powers for the owner and his family.
Wrapped around the large figure are a number of smaller figures which could be handed out to those who needed protection from evil or misfortune. When the need for protection had disappeared the small figures would then be returned to the bigger figure.
I fell in love with this Songye Ceremonial vessel. It is a gourd with an inner basket (containing potatoes, I think) and several miniature power figures attached to the outside.
I think the vessel has a feel-good quality about it as opposed to the slightly uneasy feeling I get from the Nkisi.
Nestled amidst the wood shavings on my worktable .... a favourite place to photograph my carvings.
It was important to me that my Healing Goddesses exuded a feel good energy and I can only hope that I've achieved that. It was certainly therapeutic to carve them.
A collection of West African Islamic Teaching Tablets used by students in West Africa. Click
"I collect these objects to learn from them. In some moments these things are going to teach me something. For me, this is like a library. These are my books." - Jose Bedia, Art News
Though I don't own these beautiful artifacts
I can gaze at the images,
feeling the history and stories within them
.... feeling some satisfaction that they exist somewhere
and hoping that they are being preserved
so that others can share in the wonder.
Ancient Indian Manuscript. Click here
"I may have some pieces that are considered important, but most of the objects are things that evoke a feeling of visual pleasure. I think that part of the pleasure of collecting is to go out and find that great object and then introduce it into your environment." - James Marinaccio in Art and Antiques
This ancient book is part of a collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire. They could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity. Found in a cave in Jordan. Click here
Sea Excavated Artifact
Some of these tactile pieces invite holding but alas I can only look.
Ivory Inuit Amulets. click
Arrowhead, Tanzania click
Antique Afghani bone Spindle Whorls. click
Bamana Granary Door, Mali Click
"Certain objects are difficult to tame yet it is their very strangeness that perpetuates my curiosity and their appeal in my eyes." - Unknown Collector in Tribal Art
Wooden Atie Boat from the Ivory Coast click
"In age, variety and beauty, art from Africa is second to none. Africa had traditions of abstract art, performance art, installation art and conceptual art centuries before the West ever dreamed up the names." - Holland Cotter, The New York Times
Deena Haynes. Click
"Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it's about creating a clearing. It's opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question..." - Brene Brown
The sense of peace we achieved on holiday is already seeping away. My chiropractor who has to deal with my tense shoulders suggested I find something that instills peace closer to home since we can't go racing off to the Wild Coast (a 7 hours journey away), every time I feel tense. I'm taking the advise of Brene Brown and trying to create a clearing within the busyness of life.
Jessica Rimondi. Click
Recently I discovered the work of Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis, an artist who is inspired by nature and the surrounding countryside of the Sussex Downs.
Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis. Website here
"The artists deep affection for place and rural history is the antithesis of sentimental pastoral, as she seeks to understand all that is complex and valuable in our landscape heritage. Giving as much or more attention to the detail of a sycamore leaf as she does to a classic sweep of downs or a tempestuous sky, Aytoun-Ellis shows us how to look at landscape and nature with compassion, fairness and honesty. These are vital ways of thinking about our countryside as it continues to be threatened by creeping urbanization." - Clare Best #
Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis Click
Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis
"Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion. A filling up." - Anne C LeClaire
I enjoyed Anne LeClaire's book, Listening Below The Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence. It "offers readers the possibility of finding grace and peace in the natural world". Find it on Amazon here
The beautiful art of Jeanie Tomanek. Website
"Silence is something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands. In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think, and so sink below our selves into a place far deeper than mere thought allows..." - Pico Iyer
I have started reading The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer. Find it on Amazon here
"Accept what comes from silence. Make the best you can of it. Of the little words that come out of the silence, like prayers prayed back to the one who prays, make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came." - Wendell Berry
The imposing Mennesket ved Havet (Men at Sea), Denmark. Photo by Marco Franchino. Click
"Be secluded in your secret heart-house, that bowl of silence..." - Rumi
We have returned from three glorious weeks at the Wild Coast, feeling replenished and at peace with the world.
Most days were soft and meditative, filled with winter sunshine and the hushed unfolding of waves on the sand.
I learned a new word from Mo yesterday.
Apricity: The word apricity represents a simple and familiar yet a very specific phenomenon - the sun's warmth on a cold winter's day. (Click on the word to read further)
It seems appropriate to introduce the word here since, the world and his wife..... dog.....goat and cow, within a kilometer's radius, seemed to wander down to the beach to stand in the sun, .....relishing apricity on a winter's day.
I walked around this bull several times, clicking my camera and he remained unperturbed. Just a twitch of tail and ear.
I can't imagine our holidays without the resident dogs. They add much joy and tail wagging to our days.
The sea poems of Pablo Neruda also seem appropriate here. Follow the link if you wish to read a few more.
The Sea by Pablo Neruda
I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don't know if I learn music or awareness,
if it's a single wave or it's existence,
or only it's harsh voice or it's shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
It's not simply the shells crunched
as if some shivering planet
were giving signs of it's gradual death;
no, I reconstruct the day out of a fragment,
the stalactite from the silver of salt,
and the great god out of a spoonful.
What it taught me before, I keep. It's air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.
It seems a small thing for a young man,
to have come here to live with his own fire,
nevertheless, the pulse that rose
and fell in it's abyss,
the crackling of the blue cold,
the gradual wearing away of the star,
the soft unfolding of the wave
squandering snow with it's foam,
the quiet power out there, sure
as a stone shrine in the depths,
replaced my world in which were growing
stubborn sorrow, gathering oblivion,
and my life changed suddenly:
as I became part of it's movement.
Need I say, this weathered plank and broken shell returned home with me
"Among the things the sea throws up,
let us hunt for the most petrified,
violet claws of crabs,
little skulls of dead fish,
smooth syllables of wood,
small countries of mother-of-pearl;
let us look for what the sea undid
what it broke up and abandoned,
and left behind us."
- Forget about Me by Pablo Neruda
More chiton shells to add to my collection
Limpets doing what limpets do.
An ox drawn sled (made out of branches) carries fire wood home
Cows in the mist
Fish for supper.
A misty end to the day
The SILVER SUMMER show begins tomorrow at FILLINGDON FINE ART in PIDDINGTON, UK. Details here. I have a few pieces on the show, including the tall story panel below.
"Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degrees of presence." - Alan Watts