Saturday, 17 September 2011

Flowers in the Hair of Summer, Songs in the River of Green


THESE GREEN EYES have looked out over my summer and seen the fire in the river, the wind in the song, the sky in the feet of our days. Our summer has worn flowers in her hair and uncoiled her jubilant tendrils through our thoughts. Mother to the scrapings-of-crickets and leaping-naked-into-streams, this World Woman has been leaving us small gifts in the grass and humming us songs of late evening under the wild open sky.



She stepped out of the summer and appeared under my paintbrush one afternoon whilst I was making the largest ever Once Upon O'Clock yet. The long and beautiful piece of Yew I painted it on was given to me by the commissioner - tipi-maker Ian Hamilton - who had asked for this clock as an anniversary gift for his wife, Merle. He told me many lovely things about his family, and the flavour of their lives, not least the fact that he and Merle were expecting a child, welcome but unexpected in their later parenthood. And then, in the shape of the piece of wood, I saw the pregnant belly of some sort of Mother Earth figure who gradually took shape as I drew...


Her left arm reached to the sun, where a hummingbird drank from a flower in her hand. Her legs curled into night time, and stars shone on her knees. Trees grew from her earth-flesh at all angles, pushing their roots into her armpits and between her toes. If you looked down on her round belly, you could see Ian and Merle's family dancing around a tipi-clock and all the while, flowers grew in her hair. 
 

For me there's something lovely in her face, something kind and sad and powerful. Painting faces is my favourite of all things, but it is at the same time a strange phenomenon: an enormous strength of feeling is born in the process of creating a character, an empathic understanding with this just-met person. And all the while you shape them, darken their eye-sockets, choose the sparkle in their eye, they look back and consider you in turn.





You might remember that this clock had already been paid for in part with an enormous ex-army Arctic bell tent, and we took this very tent out again along the lanes of this land to Hampshire and the Uncivilisation Festival where we met Ian and Merle and handed over the clock. I'm happy to say they were delighted indeed, and I hope its ticking brings them abundance in their happiness, stars at their knees and flowers in their hair.

Our wonderful tent, a-smoking in the sunshine. Photo by Andy Broomfield, used with kind permission.


As ever, I seem to have been too knotted up in festival-overwhelm to take many decent pictures of Uncivilisation. Here above is my only photograph of our display, before we displayed any wares! (That easel held the original Dark Mountain painting.) And here below - a view from inside our tent - is the only one of my photos showing any evidence that there were other people at the festival!


 

We pitched our temporary home right in the middle of the action, which meant we had to retreat at intervals for a breather and tea and toast on the wonderful folding Frontier Stove.



This festival was one of the most interesting, conversation-provoking, soul-affecting gatherings I've been to yet. Whilst sharing a lot of perspectives with people at Uncivilisation, I had worried that I might find it too cerebral and discursive, that I'd feel an imbalance in favour of analysis against grubbiness... Indeed there was a heavy emphasis on talking about things to be done, but there was also scything and storytelling and foraging and a feral choir! The place was beautiful and wooded, and home to wonderful woodland structures like this, built by Ben Law...


Some of the land at Hampshire's Sustainability Centre is used as a natural burial ground, which saw us wandering on the Friday afternoon in nervous anticipation for that evening's storytelling performance unable to find a people-less corner for our last rehearsal. We walked further and further until we slowly began to realise that there were body-shaped mounds amongst the trees. Our search for a perch away from the graves was fruitless, and so I sat with my accordion at the far end of the land on a bench that looked like it had not been sat on in some time whilst Tom [do click - he has a fantastic new blog!] tied on his bear-mask and we told the story one last time without a live audience to the ears of the dead.
By the time the stars were out and the music had finished, people were gathering around our fire to be transported to that place somewhere in between Story and Old Russia under the dark dark sky.
I had made a very rudimentary projection device from a shoebox painted black, a torch and an old magic lantern lens; inside it I had taped an upside-down silhouette painting on perspex. And so behind our expectant firelit story-circle, a warm and undulating circle of light shone Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut in the trees onto a white cob wall...



And then as I played the first few strains of a Slavic folk tune into the night, Tom emerged from the forest blackness in his magnificent bone-toothed bear mask ringing a bell...
What followed was a journey through worlds, meetings with bears and giants, otherworldly birds and Baba Yaga herself; not to mention a beautiful maiden, strips of flesh and a very deep hole...
The audience was entranced, Tom's telling was artful sorcery of the highest degree, brave youngsters announced themselves not at all scared, and my fingers only made one mistake. Our story, Ivashko Medvedko - Little Ivan, Bear Child, though apparently amongst many people's highlights of the weekend, seems to have become like a mythical beast, glimpsed only in grainy photographs in books about The Unexplained. Though over a hundred people watched, there's not a skerrick of video evidence, and just a couple of dark photographs of people's firelit faces listening. A million thanks to Helen Harrop who took this below and also snatched a recording of the end of the story as she walked towards the fire. It's quiet but there... Even the photograph of my projection is one I took during experiments at home! 

Firelit faces, lost in a story. Photo by Helen Harrop, used with kind permission



I'm sure you'll know that duplications of these experiences can never be an adequate or fair substitute, and I think that what you imagine of this event is in fact truer than a video ever could be.
Sadly, we were busy with our stall for much of the weekend, and so missed things we'd have loved to have seen. We did, however, experience the wondrous Liminal - Dougie Strang's performance-experience in the woods at night, where we were led a merry dance through candlelit forest paths past strange-familiar glowing images in the trees and in the earth, otherworldly grunts, people on the wayside offering, asking, laying with the bones, and all the while we followed the sound of a flute...

The other powerful experience for me was on the last day - hearing Jay Griffiths speak eloquently and beautifully about the Songlines of West Papua, alongside Benny Wenda, an exiled West Papuan living in the UK, who spoke very movingly about his people's fight for freedom against Indonesia's brutal occupation, which is happening right now - still - in support of American gold mining companies who alongside sickeningly offensive Christian missionaries are raping the land and silencing the songs of its people.
We were also shown a film about the West Papuan struggle: Forgotten Bird of Paradise, made by Dominic Brown.


The whole film can be seen here.
This is a struggle we should not ignore - a genocide likened to that of the Aboriginal Australians whose land sings just 150 miles south of West Papua.

Many people who were at Uncivilisation have written artfully about their experience of it, notably Catherine Lupton, Amelia Gregory (+ here) and Charlotte du Cann who also wrote about the festival for the Independent and mentioned a certain Russian Storytelling. Paul Kingsnorth has collected reflections of the festival here and here and these all will give you a much better idea of the whole event than I can offer.
But I will say that no other festival has remained with me as a feeling long after the event as this one did. We made good friends there and talked a great deal about the ways and ideas of it all after returning home. I was left with a fondness for the honesty and unusualness of this thing, whatever it is.. for these people who are climbing the Dark Mountain.

~


The loudest song of our summer, however, has been the song of the moor. Dartmoor becomes more and more beloved the more time we spend out there.


When the days were longer than now, we took quite a lot of heavy belongings up into this wild wide place for three days to sleep under the sky.




We carried our chattels in short bursts past grazing Dartmoor ponies in the evening sun, and headed down into a river valley through bracken and granite.


We found an island in the middle of the river, all granite-bouldered and hidden in the willows.
There we lost time and found Dartmoor. 




Cold cold water crashed past us on either side, and eddied and rushed and trickled and gushed... Granite river rocks made triangles of white water foaming over moss and lichen. Every stone changed the river's direction. It swerved and pushed, as quick as it could, under and over and round and through. Some rocks had stood in the river for so long that the river had run through them, leaving behind legends of fertility and disease-cure for those who passed through after it.




I loved the water. Cold on hot skin. Rocks slippery with moss and river. Hours crouched in the rushing, catching small waterfalls over granite in my hands.
 



 By day and night we cooked over a fire in our cast iron dutch oven hanging from a tripod.





We washed potatoes in the river and tied hammocks to the low trees.



Buzzards called to us from the sky as we cooked dinner, and we glowed in our woodsmoked Skins Of Outside. All the small things mattered. Feet bare on warm stone, or sunken in boggy grass. Small pieces of bracken made strange shadow-symbols on the canvas. And the days and nights stretched long past each other.


 



Untented as we were, midges came to eat us in the mornings and we drove them away with a dawn fire and a cup of tea too early.
Then we'd sleep again and our dreams were strange. Not-roofed dreams. Dreams of this wide place that held us.


 And all the while she looked on...



Finally, a great going-sadness on us, we packed up, leaving promises to return and charcoal-written thanks on the rocks.

When we walked out of that time, strong and full, we came to the edge of Dartmoor, which ended abruptly as the fields began.



And we returned home to our thatch-fringed sunlit morning window which now brings us a different air. That changing sunlight which looks the same but smells different... Autumn approaches.


A new batch of beautiful high quality giclée prints is for sale now at the gate of my shop. I've chosen my favourite few paintings and had them printed in archival inks on 310gsm Hahnemuhle German Etching paper and framed with an ivory coloured mount. Each print is signed and hand embellished, and I'm tremendously pleased with them. The limited edition for sale at The Imagine Gallery is beginning to sell at prices of £400 and up, so if you'd like a good quality giclée print of any of these six paintings at a lower price, now is your chance! These are slightly smaller and unframed, and an open edition, but the quality's just as good!





In a couple of days I turn thirty two. I'm happy. This year I've heard all the songs of the seasons' changing clearer than ever, I've felt known and loved by the one I love, and more deeply in love with the land.

The sun has made beautiful shadows through the branches and grasses of this year... I step boldly into the auburn months with my face to the wind, arm in arm with my beloved, under the high green cathedral of trees.

Photograph by Tom's talented artist sister Hita Hirons

64 comments:

Ellen Kushner said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely - wish I were there . . . and for a moment, I was!

Anita said...

I was delighted to see you had posted a story this evening...my bedtime storie. The clock is beyond wonderful. I love the flowers...of course the entire concept which I will visit time and time again to look at all of the detail. (still hoping you will make a print of hedgehog under umbrella clock...hint) You do have a wonderful life and are so generous to share it with all who wish to come along. I loved hearing your poet/love read and had a brilliant idea...Set up a video camera at campfire and record (so we can hear) Tom reading his stories. I would love that...I know you already give me so much so I must seem greedy asking for more...Thank-you for taking me along I loved every moment..

Meeka said...

Stunning, both how you capture living nature and emotion with your beautiful art, and the amazing little view into Dartmoor that you shared, thankyou xo

Von said...

Thank you Rima, wonderful and magical as always.

Royboy said...

yes, thanks so much. your word-paintings are as exquisite as your brush-paintings and they both give great pleasure. I sense a deep happiness/ease behind your words, and I'm glad for you ...

Hussam Elsherif said...

Happy birthday,Rima, may you be blessed with many more, and thank you for all the magic pouring from your words and imagery

mythopolis said...

I don't even have any words for this. There is such enchantment in your world. It is quite wonderful, and enough to know it exists.

Wayward Harper said...

absolutely beautiful Rima, thank you so much for these magical glimpses :)

by Teresa said...

Happy Birthday to you.. you are young, I am 62, but feel young in spirit. I have been a lifelong artist and lover of nature. I live in Oregon, USA.. and there is much to find here to love. The sea, the mountains and the desert - we have it all. Love your art, you're magic.
((hugs)), Teresa :-)

psycheinhell said...

Thank you for the magic — hearing from your world is such a treasured treat...

This new creation of yours is wonderful, I'm in awe, and so grateful that this Woman has been given passage to our World and our marvelling eyes.

Are you curious about me? said...

Your tale is like a whisper of magic through grey clouds... Thank you. x

Charlotte said...

Once again a beautiful journey through your days, this is a generous sharing.

I loved the story, your Tom is a word weaver; we could do with him at school to show children what a real story should sound like.

Thank you also for the memories, I spent many happy childhood holidays at that clapper bridge, in and around the moor.

You also capture perfectly the feelings and langour that come with heavy pregnancy. I remembered my first, the way my son sat beneath my heart and the soft waiting for him to arrive and join in our family dance. Lovely!

Seymour said...

Beautiful words and photographs, so evocative, I also lost myself for a while as I was reading. Thank you for posting this.

Martin said...

Such a fruitful summer, Rima. So glad you enjoyed your stay in my home county of Hampshire.

Sparkless said...

Your clock is stunning! And your summer story made me yearn to visit Dartmoor and see for myself.

Heather said...

A breath-taking post Rima. The Festival must have been a life changing event for many. Your images of Dartmoor bring back many happy memories. I love the moors, lichen covered rocks and tumbling water. Wonderful to live so closely with nature even for a short time.
Best of all is Merle's clock, for which all superlatives sound banal. It is truly magical and you are a weaver of magic.

Aoife.Troxel said...

The excitement I feel every time I notice you have posted again is wonderful. It is as though I have been starving and not noticed it until the smell of food cooking wafts by. I love reading your stories and seeing your paintings and wishing I were able to travel where you are travelling. The Festival sounds divine and the clock is amazing. But, as Heather said, for it, all superlatives sound banal. Happy, happy birthday.

Andy Letcher said...

Good to see you back in the bloggin - been wondering how you are - glad all is well!

Happy birthday! So glad the moor, and the Dark Mountain, are nourishing you. See you soon xxx

Ciara said...

Oh my, Rima. By the time I finished reading this I felt I had just been on a wonderful, long trip with you!

Thank you.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, as ever. :-)

C x x

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a beautiful clock, so much loving detail in the drawing.

Beautiful photos of Dartmoor too, must be wonderful to spend time totally in the wild there.

Karen said...

This was such a welcome tale, a lovely immersive read just when I really needed it. Thank-you very much! I love the moors so much, but when I come back to reality I feel a bit daft about the way I felt when I was up there - it's good to see that they evidently have an equally strong effect on others!

Lunar Hine said...

All of this is infused with wonder and magic; maybe my favourite clock (but do I always think that?), inspiration and medication for the crazier shades of me; but my favourite part is this: 'I'm happy.' No more than you deserve, dear lady.

Snippety Giblets said...

Your post had me welling up twice, m'dear: once at the wonder of that beautiful clock, when I saw the dancing family - what a fabulous idea - and again at the end when I saw the lovely picture of you & Tom :) Joyful, hopeful, wonderful stuff to lead us all into autumn xxx

ruthie said...

Thank you for these heart singingly beautiful words, they wind deep into my bones and make my heart ache from the loveliness. I wonder did you read "witch Light" by susan fletcher, such a story of a wild girl living in the mountains of Scotland. Corag a hazy folkloric figure. The descriptions of her wilderness filled days i think you may like. . . Have a delicious birthday x x ruthie x

Lynn said...

The magic that you live and create is almost heartbreaking in its beauty and ability to inspire. I love the haunting eyes of your flower-haired woman. She's stunning. Thank you for yet another wonderful post.
Best birthday wishes.

A mermaid in the attic said...

Oh...and OHHHHHH...is all I can manage about your wonderful clock, the most wonderful yet. And once again, your spiral dancing words have spun me away to the moors, to faerie, and I don't want to come back! Such pure magic, such deep real magic!

And if your performance at Uncivilisation did not make it onto a video, I'm sure it's only because it was too magic to be captured, too perfect, for those lucky enough to hear it, to waste a moment in breathing too heavily, let alone getting out any kind of modern electrickery to record it!

Abeille à miel said...

What a wonderful post to read this morning while still in my cozy bed this almost-autumn morning :) I love your words, and the photographs bring such music to the story. Thank you, Rima!

Trish said...

That sure was a beautiful read, thank you.
Your photos are lovely. I love the lichen on the rock.
Oh to sleep outdoors, I long to as I haven't for several years.
The clock you mad is so beautiful, just stunning.
Goodbye magical lady who loves the earth. Have a wonderful birthday.

Wild C said...

Happy birthday, weaver of written and painted tales. Your clock is 'precioso' :)

Swan Artworks said...

What a wonderful wending way of summer you have shared with us! The glimpses of your time sleeping under the sky on Dartmoor look so precious and soul-rooting, I do envy your unfetteredness!
The clock is just beautiful, in so many ways, and her gaze did indeed seem to be with you all through these posts, the whole clock appeals to me a great deal and I'm sure her new owners are thrilled...
Those last pictures of you both are so lovely, all the joy flowing from this post is so heartening, thankyou Rima and happy Autumn!
Carrie... :)

Rochelle said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The smell of Autumn is one of my favorite smells!

herhimnbryn said...

After a night of hacking coughs and a sore shoulder, your tale was balm indeed!

Tha clock is stunning and your words took me on a journey away from my wide brown land, to a land of green grasses, roundy rocks in streams, firelight and a kettle on the hob.

Thankyou Lady R.

jodi said...

What a dream of gorgeous summertime that was. I do feel like I travelled a little ways just reading that, thanks for bringing us all along with the two of you! Also, the new clock is wonderful. I'll be sure to come back later and explore through the many interesting seeming links.

Wishing you a very happy birthday indeed!

Gavin said...

"I was sensitive to all things, to the earth under, and the star-hollow round about; to the least blade of grass, to the largest oak. They seemed like exterior nerves and veins for the conveyance of feeling to me. Sometimes a very ecstasy of exquisite enjoyment of the entire visible universe filled me. I was aware that in reality the feeling and the thought were in me, and not in the earth or sun; yet I was more conscious of it when in company with these."

http://richardjefferiessociety.co.uk/Story%20of%20My%20Heart.pdf

steelweaver said...

Ach, this is making me yearn for the west... been watching the season change from a small suburban garden and dreaming of the bigger green.

3rd photo after you say "By day and night we cooked over a fire in our cast iron dutch oven hanging from a tripod", there is a small green-headed water sprite on the left of the picture running through the air just above the rock, heading towards the pool, looking back over his shoulder and beckoning his friends to follow him. His name is "Grennell". You should draw him. :)

Zen Forest said...

Riiima :)

Exquisite photos and a much enjoyed post, as always.

We're planning an overseas venture (hopefully sooner than later) and dartmoor is on our list of places to walk with tents and tripods on back. Your sharing of days and nights spent there helped solidify that decision even more!

Listen - I adore all of your paintings but I swear, SOMEHOW, they just get better and better and BETTER. How do you do it? Brilliant work, stranger-friend. Carry on :)

p.s. Came across this some days ago and wanted to share, you may be another who enjoys it like I did (psst: there are clocks on wheels!): http://www.klockwerks.com/

Owen said...

Rima, everything you touch, every stroke of your brush, all that you share with us here, is pure magic. The purest of pure magic. We can do naught but fall under your spell.

Bree said...

Hello - I am so pleased tonight to arrive home from my own stay in the wilderness to read of yours in your lovely words. Your new clock is wondrous! Such serenity and knowingness in her gaze, such grace and fluidity in her gesture. I love the amount of detail in the flowers and trees. Wishing you a wonderful birthday, Rima.
Bree

wildish woman said...

Thank you for sharing this beauty, words, painting, photographs, the whole experience. I was transported to your green land, so far away from mine. The clock is beautiful beyond words.

gz said...

That woodland building is stunning.

Your words are welcome and calming and invigorating.
Your images of Dartmoor are beautiful and remind me that I need to go on our mountain again soon. One feels stretched thin without it.
Blessings be, and enjoy your birthday

Jenny said...

What words can I find after the magical tale you have enchanted me with? Just two: thank you...

Kim said...

I have only been to Dartmoor once, long ago, and I left a part of my heart there. Your tale has taken me back, and refreshed my memories, renewing my heart! Thank you!

ramona said...

The tenderest of emotions is in her eyes. I see forgiveness, love, compassion, playfulness, and a willingness to embrace all that comes. The one who receives this clock will be abundantly blessed. Wonderful, wonderful painting!

So much in this post I love. Suffice it to say that there is power and influence in the written word and the arts, and may I say that you do both exceptionally well.
Thank you for extending your happiness.
Best wishes on your Birthday

Josh said...

Okay, I'd already been craving a dutch oven, and now I'm just going to have to scavenge up an iron tripod.

I wonder if I can cobble together something that can support 3 bubbling pots/kettles at once...

Harnett-Hargrove said...

I feel like I've spent the month with you! -J

Anonymous said...

Hello dearest Rima

beautifully worded.

The Hummingbird Clock tick-tocks between wonderous joys and blessings every day.

blessings to you both and we hope to see you again soon.

Ian & Merle xx

Lauren said...

Enchanting, your world, and thank you for sharing it with us. Happiest of birthdays to you too!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Prompted by Owen with his Magic Lantern Show, to visit your Blog, (often noted on his side bar), I'm here and enchanted: to find commonality from the other side of the world. I hope you had a lovely birthday. Your paintings are fantastic!

acornmoon said...

Congratulations on the wonderful prints and the most amazing clock!

Purpletreebird said...

Thankyou for transporting me back to Dartmoor, a special place for me. I can imagine the smells and feel the autumn air just looking at your photos. Thanks Rima. :)
Jess xx

Stickup Artist said...

Hi Rima, I just popped over from Owen's Magic Lantern Show for a quick peek and quite overstayed for a long, enchanted visit. I love the whole ambiance of your blog, the moody, untouched natural surroundings, the tents and cooking utensils, and of course, your amazing clock with the pregnant woman who seems to give birth to life and time itself. Your world seems a place I recognize, an ancient one that lies deep in my cells or spirit, and one that I'm longing to get back home to. What a great way to start my day! You have awoken the best in me...

Joseph Magnuson said...

Wow. How can I sum up my reactions to this post with just a few words? Amazing. Inspirational? Beautiful...perfect! Thank you for the lovely updates and thank you for all of the inspiration that comes out of these pages and breathes life into the world! Many blessings and good luck to you Rima!

-Joseph Magnuson

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I am curled up in bed, with Edward asleep beside me, reading your wonderful words and listening to your footsteps in the dark. Pure enchantment. I know I will have wonderful dreams tonight. And I think the clock is magical.

Bohemian Zsi Zsi said...

Lovely post. Your life is full of stars and southern wind. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

Ronnie Rabbit said...

I hope that you had a wonderful birthday, thank you for sharing your lovely photographs with us all. The clock is fantastic, perfect painting for that certain peice of wood, am sure the new owners are over the moon :)

joanasoares said...

One of the most beautiful post I've ever read! We can feel the magic...oh yes!
Thank you!
joana

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

Ooooh--I want a clock---I still want a clock---an old wise woman clock that will make me wiser than my years--I want a meadow too, and a campfire and tent. What a lovely escape from the canyons of NYC USA this bright Friday morning!

Vikki said...

Rima many happy returns, I am so glad that you are contented in the wilds of Dartmoor. This blog continues to be a true place of wonderment and delight for me and I'm sure the many others who visit. Thank you Vikki x

Anonymous said...

Follow this blog periodically from a link found on the Tribal Living site. Absolutely lovely work that you do. Takes one away to some whimsical magical place if only for a moment or two. Dartmoor sounds like a special place, I've wanted to visit there for years. Living in the US, it may take a while still before I do =). Keep the magic alive.

peace

thom

steven said...

rima thankyou for tracing the twists and turns of your journey with such a very small brush! steven

honeygrovefarm said...

Rima,

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

Inspiring and soulful as always.

Sending Harvest Blessings your Way~
Happy Belated Birthday.
Nao

Kay said...

what an incredible magical post..like someone else said 'my bedtime story'..you are such an amazing talent in words and your art, that clock is just stunningly beautiful....and my favorite photo is you lovely hound sniffing the Dartmoor air....x

mama p said...

it's amazing ~ any visit to your spot here, and i return to my day feeling such love for this life. :) oh, and the clock? gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. i can smell the earth growing in her hair. so much wonder!

Muñoz Bautista said...

Increible your blog and your art work!!!
Fantastic and wonderfull!
CONGRATULATIONS from Spain
MB