Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Forgotten Little Me.

Reflections on five days immersed in Nature.

How long is it since I lay with my face in the grass
breathing in the sharp green smell whose tendrils weave into my fibres
pull me back into the forgotten Little Me that I see mirrored in my youngest one.

How long since I muddied my knees
felt the rain on my face
dug up a worm
lay in the lee of a tree
examined a daisy
played all day, rain or shine?

I woke up this morning and it felt like a dream
a sun dappled, green dream
that had hidden
somewhere in the neglected silence
of the Little Me.

That place where mud and flowers and creepy crawlies live
Where their simple existence is a reminder of our insignificance
Our place in the grand scheme of things.

I was reminded to stop and look
to listen
And not just to the trees and the wind and the turning year
but to listen to my children
and to listen to myself.

For the first time in years my hand was taken in a childlike way
I was grounded
given roots
given permission
to not have answers
to be wrong
and most of all
to be Little Me again.

I woke up this morning and it felt like a dream,
a sun dappled, green dream
that has followed me into my day.

For anyone in Ireland interested in finding out more about 
Forest School Leadership Training, look here

Or in the UK look here 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

This Mending & Stitchery Thing.

A word on the name, Mending and Stitchery.
These words have a multitude of meanings in my life, and somehow seemed best for tying together the different parts of my life that I'll be blogging about here.
The most obvious one is the fact that I sew. My primary medium as an artist is textile based, I adore stitches, thread, wool, I make my marks with them. And I love mending things. Visible mending is my latest addiction, partly because I never had the patience to do things perfectly, but also because I love imperfect things, I love unfinished, I love half things, I love when the making is visible in the end piece. And I was delighted to discover the Japanese have a name for this (but of course they do) which is Wabi-Sabi.
  1. Wabi-sabiWabi-sabi ( わび·さび) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".
You can read a lovely piece explaining Wabi-Sabi in the links below. It's wonderful to see this concept creep into western mainstream. (I believe Pinterest may be hugely responsible...)

Over on Milkmoon, a regular analogy that crept in to my writings was the idea of how Life is made up of a Great Weaving of Threads, a concept I love. The people and relationships in our lives, events, journeys, phases, each a different colour and texture, I love to think about how those threads weave together to make this tapestry of my life, of pulling those threads tighter, tucking them in nice and secure when they loosen, and on occasion, perhaps, loosening or snipping them, if needs be. (If anyone has read the wonderful Alvin Maker books, this was a concept that was used beautifully in the Native American story arc, for the world and how people have roles, and how their lives play out.)
This blog is about many things that are blooming in my life right now, things that for a long time seemed too diverse to reconcile into one place, but they have now come together into a Thing cohesive enough to stitch together, under the loose mantle of Sustainable Living. (I'm not sure I want to really use that term, but it will do for the time being. I'm hoping another word emerges over time).

I wrote before on Milkmoon too, about Common Ground, and my thoughts on community, and building community, and what it means to me, and to us as humans. We have helped create a thriving hub here in our town, a place where people can connect with one another, to find others who are on the same wavelength (I always loved the imagery of that phrase ~ wavelength ~), and where we can get projects and ideas off the ground. A tying together of threads, as it were.

And a word on that word 'Thing'. I do love a good Thing. It just seems to perfectly sum up so many different...things. It originally comes from the Old Norse word for 'assembly', and in Dublin, until 1685, the Thingmote was a mound, 40ft high and 240ft in circumference, where the Norsemen assembled and made their laws. It was eventually taken down at great expense, and the mass of earth and stone was used to raise up what is now called Nassau St. (ever wonder why it is so much higher up than Trinity?), at the time called St. Patrick's Well Lane, a place prone to flooding (more reading here, if you fancy). I'm not sure how the word came to it's present day, all encompassing meaning, (I'm sure it's long winded and interesting), but I love that it originally meant a place to gather, something which means a lot to me. I love gatherings. I love bringing people together.  I love talking with people and exploring ideas. And this is something I hope to do here.

People are gathering at Common Ground and talking about sustainable living, and they are gathering at Another Way and talking about sustainable, nurturing eduction for our children, and this Thing here is really just somewhere that I can flesh out some of the ideas that are driving my involvement with these, and other, projects, such as how we can house ourselves, feed ourselves, and the impact our daily choices have on the world around us.
And this is where the Mending part comes in. We need to mend this broken society we have, the beautiful planet we are destroying, the childhood which is being rubbed out for children across the world. We know these things are happening, and with that knowledge comes responsibility, we cannot ignore them any longer and we now must act.
And Together is the only way.

Reconnecting : 

Japanese style :

Norwegian style : 

Friday, 9 January 2015

First We Get Away.

This post was originally written back in October for Another Way. Myself and Martin Hodges, of Square Sunshine, had set up a Facebook Group under this name, which is proving to be the most active thing amongst all my social media. It's a place where people can share their thoughts, and posts they find online, around the topic of educating our children. This is a subject that has been taking up a lot of my headspace over the last year in particular, and one I will be writing about here regularly, and one which, clearly, a lot of people have a lot to say about. Parents are passionate about this, about what they perceive to be wrong with today's system, and the conclusion we are coming to is we are going to have to sort it out for ourselves.
So, my ranting sparked some lively connections, and a bunch of us like-minded folk got together one weekend to just get outdoors with our children and eat, play, love, and just hang out together. It was great. And out of it I wrote the following piece - the first time I'd written a blogpost in the best part of a year, which is what has finally led to the existence of this Thing.


Last weekend, we drove out into the autumn mountains, the winding road taking us up away from the sea and into the wild wilds of Wicklow, down into deep, green valleys where the trees are just beginning to turn, that first melting of green into yellow and ochre and brown. 
Down we came, down the steep roads, across the rushing river, and the place we found ourselves arriving at felt like a refuge, literally the last house in the valley. No electricity, no running water, no phone signal. Perfect.

Here was a gathering of folk, families much like ourselves, many of whom had never met one another before but who were there because they wanted to talk, to connect with others who shared the same concerns of today: how do we guide our children, and ourselves, through this very new experience of parenting the first ‘touch-screen generation’, or Digital Natives, as they are being called. In the last couple of years having two older teenagers no longer gives me the sure footing of the experienced parent, as our knowledge garnered from parenting them in the late 90’s and into the first decade of the 2000’s, doesn’t cover this most recent, all encompassing development, (and indeed leaves us totally unprepared for what the teens are experiencing, but that’s another days discussion). 

Alongside this growing concern, is a strange dichotomy, whereby this digital age is, on the positive side, allowing us to put our voice out into the ether, and to hear common voices that others are putting out too. Suddenly topics that need to be addressed are gaining ground. Topics that before may have felt like a voice in the wilderness for those that were searching for communal ground and a place to be heard. Suddenly we are finding one another. We are connecting with one another, discovering we are not alone in our questions. For me now, the questions and uneasy feelings are about something we have never questioned before: our education system. And how does it fit in with this new app-for-everything age. It’s confusing, right? The pros and cons, the good and the bad, the amazing advantages and the horrendous disadvantages of this digital age. How do we find the right balance? 
Here’s something I don’t understand: we want the newest gadget, the latest update, the most recent version, of everything else in our lives, yet why are we not looking for the same for our children? There are countless writings out there on the latest studies on how children learn best, and yet, as the wonderful Ken Robinson points out, we are still using an education system that was devised for the industrial age, an antiquated system who’s purpose is to turn out workers. 
We know better. We do. But it’s so huge no one wants to tackle it. 

But what if we did? Us parents, and educators, what would we do? What are we already doing? It’s as simple as starting a conversation, because that is where the seeds are sown. If you have read this far, chances are you are on this journey with us already. 

Last weekend we started a conversation. We talked, shared ideas, and who knows where it will lead, but it is definitely a beginning. And here on this blog, and over in our Another Way Facebook group, we've started a conversation, and although we are all scattered around the world, we are all thinking the same thing, and that's what reassures me that change is on it's way.
And in the meantime we can get our children off those screens and outside into nature, back into the wild where they know how to learn without being told how or when or what goals they have to reach in order to be deemed successful. We owe them that much at least.

So, back in the valley, while the grown ups warmed themselves up, cooked up some food to share, got the fires going, and talked up a storm, our children ran wild. They forged the river, chased one another in the dying light as the sun sank behind the towering mountainsides, and even the darkness did not slow them down. Later, before we made our way to our candlelit beds, we sat by the river, around the campfire, and the conversations continued, our thoughts and ideas carried along with the rushing water, like prayer flags taking our wishes and dreams to the future. 

In the morning there is frost, the gorse festooned with dewey spiderwebs, a spider city revealed to us as though our time here has granted us special Nature Powers to see, really see the world around us. Driving home the road steams, mist drifting into the sunlight, and the trees across the valley seem to fall away from us, as though we are skybound. We feel energised, renewed, cleansed. In the back of the car, Billy (age 7) cannot stop talking, and do I imagine his voice is lighter and clearer than yesterday? There has been no mention of the iPad in the time we’ve been here. ‘When we get home can we smash the iPad with a hammer?!’ he calls out with slightly manic glee in his voice. There’s a moments silence and we all burst out laughing at his uncharacteristic drama.

And as we pause at a crossroads on the road, turning towards home but for a moment gazing at the further mountains that seem all too inviting,  all at once we see them, a pair of sika deer hidden among the trees, the dappled light almost fooling our eyes. They pause in the dim glade, gaze at us shyly, and for that moment we are held captive, connected to this creature who’s curious eyes meet ours with calm acceptance. 

Eyes shining, hearts singing, we make for home, yet he takes us with him when he turns and melts into the deep green of the woods. 

Edit: Since writing this we have set up a more local group called Wicklow Hedge School for anyone in the area interested in taking this further. You can find us here: Wicklow Hedge School. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

About This Thing.

For six years my blog home was Milkmoon, a place where I wrote about being an artist and a parent, the beautiful environment I found myself living in, the weather, and my musings and reflections on these things. I stopped writing there when my life took a very new direction following a number of changes that happened in our lives which I found difficult to navigate for a while, a significant one being leaving the beautiful place we had grown our family in. But now, almost two years after moving, and a year after winding up Milkmoon, I have a new sense of where things are going, as though my head has finally just broken the surface of the fast, muddied eddy that I have been caught in. I'm not clear yet, there is still murky, choppy waters ahead to negotiate, but it's a move in the right direction.

I am an artist, first and foremost. I stitch and mend things. Thread, needle, wool. I make. I also use words. I use them as I would a paintbrush, suggestions rather than hard lines, and I love to use them to reflect on those things such as what I mentioned above. The path I weave in my art is patchy and only faintly consistent, as I suffer from distraction and great ideas that have nothing to do with art, that pull me off down into exciting rabbit holes of adventure, and which I gladly explore and always love to share with others.

Over this last, difficult year a number of different things have begun to take root, and not only are opening up exciting ventures both personally and as a family, but are prompting me to examine more than ever how we live, and our response-ability in the choices we make. How do we do this thing, this Living In The Modern World? The time has gone when we can just look the other way, or stick our heads in the sand and pretend that all will be well if everything looks good. We now need to put up our hand and say 'I pledge to strive to live a sustainable life', to do the best we can, no matter what, and, to paraphrase Paul Kingsnorth, author of One No, Many Yeses, a book which was a turning point for me and one I refer to again and again, to figure out our own Yes in the multitude of yeses that are in response to the one resounding NO. The no, in this case, being 'NO, we won't be part of this plunder any more, we won't buy into the rampant consumerism that has it's claws in every one of us and is sucking the meaning and joy and poetry out of Life, and (insanely) is destroying the only damn thing we have to keep us alive, this beautiful planet of ours. The insane part of it is that we all know this, yet those insidious claws go deep and most of us haven't a clue how to extract ourselves because it's all so neatly sewn up that it appears we cannot.

But we all do our bit, in however small a way, and here in these pages I am attempting to create a place where I can bring together the many different strands of this new, resolute part of my cloth that I am weaving now; how we eat, how we educate our children, how we live, how we commune, and how we express ourselves on these subjects. I am no expert on any of these things, but I muddle through, and am willing to try, and to share this journey with whoever is doing the same.
Because I for one am not ready to give up and walk away, as Mr. Kingsnorth has. I understand why he has, and some part of me thinks he is right, but I'm just not there yet. I need to have hope. And so I will keep trying, I'll keep on trying to figure how the how, for whatever good it does. Because our children shall inherit this earth, and when my child turns to me, as has happened, and cries and asks why we are so beholden to money and why we believe we can only do what we are told we can and cannot do, and not what we know is right for us, I want to be able to say that, at the very least, we did our best to do what is right, to do things our way, and that will have to be good enough.

Some Recent Reading/Viewing.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A Year In Pictures.













Some Recent Inspiration.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Starting Over.

A year ago I stopped blogging. What had once been a successful, vibrant, and focussing element in my life had slowly stuttered to a stop, whether I liked it or not, and much like a boat cut loose from it's moorings I drifted on, not really sure where I was going, but soon caught up in a very new, very busy phase of my life that quickly gained a momentum I now know to be unsustainable.
On three occasions this year my body yelled at me to stop, the most recent just last week on Christmas Eve, once I knew everything that needed to be was done (of course), and my back seized up without warning. 
The two previous occasions this happened, I went straight back to the same pace afterwards and did nothing to change how I was doing things. This time, however, perhaps it's the time of year, as I lie in bed, feeling restless and impatient, unable to focus, something changed. 
Today I stop trying.
I lie there.
The window is open on a cold day. There is frost, still, in the shade, the sky that impossible, perfect winter blue that falls away to milkyness at it's hem, golden sun skimming the tips of the trees, rooftops, hills, as somewhere on the other side of the house I know it's already melting into the mountains.
Downstairs music hums indistinctly up through the floorboards, an upbeat, sunny, somewhat dated sound, and I lie and listen to it, the sounds of Jay humming along, pottering, moving around the house.
The quiet house.

I realise I need to change things. I realise that there is no coincidence to the articles that have come my way over the last few days as I finally find the time to read, (some of which I have linked to below) and yes, this reflective time between the years does call for something of a review, doesn't it? 
One phrase that leaps out at me in my reading is 'Busyness is a decision.' This stops me in my tracks. I realise I must take responsibility for the choices I make, the too many yeses and the not enough nos. In the chaotic, difficult year that was 2014, I now see how frenetic, and actually quite manic, I had become, the troubles of the world becoming my own, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all just became my State of Being. I think this is probably what happens to a lot of people who stop and look at the reality of the world we live in. How do I live a sustainable life? How do I feed my family healthfully? How do I educate my children? How do I ensure their experience is as real and healthful as it can possibly be? How do I practice right livelihood, with full responsibility? How on earth can we ever reverse or stop this hellbound capitalist consumerist roller coaster....! You see where I was? Yep. 
All of this, though, made certain things happen. Wonderful things. Things which are the cornerstones of some really amazing, significant presences in my life now, which you will be hearing more about here, as we strive to simplify and reduce, to make sense of this modern life.
So, here we are at the end of this year, and about to start a new one, and for the first time in an age I am approaching it in the spirit of New Beginnings, because I have to. It's time. Time to take all the good stuff and bring it together. Time to refocus. 
I stopped blogging over on Milkmoon, in part because my life had changed so much that it didn't fit any more, but also because I didn't know what the focus was. But now I do. And it's that there kind of isn't one. There is just Life, and me muddling my way through and figuring it out as I go.
I hope some of you join me, join the conversation, add your voice. For the most important task ahead of us is communion. Finding Common+Unity and building a new global Community together.

Some recent Reading of Great Inspiration:

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Pause.

Walking out of the deep silence;
a deer skeleton lying by the side of the rushing river.
Bone, antler, hoof.
Stark and severe after the rich decay of the forest floor.
We fall into stillness.