WONDERING ABOUT PLACE & STORY

We’ve been having what we used to call “unseasonably” warm days this week — up in the low 70s, which feels ridiculous for December even here in central North Carolina (where, of course, the winters never produce the snow & ice that formed my template of the season when I was a child in Iowa). I am dismayed by what these lovely warm days are telling me about Earth’s reaction to our human irresponsibility, but I’ve enjoyed them nevertheless. It’s been good to spend time outside putting some of the summer’s growth to bed for the winter — although one of my cone flowers has just put forth new blossoms and the iris & daffodils are sending up what they must think are spring shoots. I’ve also been planting more pansies for winter blooming. I love their little faces & all their different colors. Pansies remind me of my childhood when, each spring, I got to choose my own pansies to plant. (No hope of winter blossoms under the prairie snows in those days!)

Not much new on the fiber-front this week. Mostly I’ve been procrastinating. I’m so well-practiced at that, it often feels like the easiest path — until I realize once again how much energy it takes to not-do something. I did finish — to the best of my ability — finding the shape of my most recent mask/person. I was excited to discover that he is very different from & much more interesting than my early imaginings & expectations. The name that came surprised me. I think it is “Ochre: Sacred Red Earth,” so — naturally — I had to spend time learning more about ochre & the role it has played in humanity’s unfolding story. Some surprises there too!

Ochre: Sacred Red Earth — the actual colors are more subtle

This mask, this Spirit of Sacred Red Earth, has sent my imagination careening in some new directions. I’m curious & eager to see what will happen and have done a little playing with fibers in that direction — but the few unfinished details on 2 old projects have kept nagging at me. I finally found the will/intention or just plain gumption needed and told myself — in no uncertain terms — that I must finish the old before chasing after the new. Why is it so hard for me to take the final step that says “Done”? I guess there are several Life Lessons somewhere in there.

Yesterday I finally felted the tabs that are necessary to hang both “Conversing With Forest; Becoming Tree” & “Thalassa.” Thalassa was easy, since her tabs won’t show, but I wanted to hang Forest/Tree on an old twisted stick that had been gifted to me decades ago. Since the tabs for this have to be integrated visually with the piece as it already existed, I’ve had some trouble envisioning them. I haven’t yet sewed the tabs on & will probably experiment a bit more before I do, but at least I’ve started the forward movement!

Much of my “creative energy” this week has gone wandering down thought-paths that lead me in directions I find troubling. During the past several months, I have been wondering about how Story (or any Making, including my masks) relates to or perhaps emerges from Place. I keep running into more and more readings that, directly or tangentially, raise questions of Place with increasing urgency. Then, more recently, another issue that has begun to arise with increasing frequency in both my readings & my thoughts is Shape-Shifting. For instance, last week this link to a podcast on Shape-Shifters flew to my mail inbox: https://www.ttbook.org/show/shapeshifting?utm_source=Join+the+Center%27s+e-mail+list&utm_campaign=c2d49256a5-March_5_e_newsletter_QRF_Launch_3_1_2014_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e050879c3d-c2d49256a5-418457636 )

I am curious about how these 2 areas of exploration might be connected. Already my pondering has gone too far for a single blog post. This is something I’m going to have to dive into more deeply & extensively.

I’ve been re-reading David Abram’s spectacular classic work Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, in which he points to the way that not only stories but, even more fundamentally, languages themselves have grown out of the Place in which they have been formed. Abram’s words, examples, experiences, and images are so rich & complex that I hate trying to condense or summarize them. I’ll just quote some of his sentences from pp.61-86 to show the starting place for some of my meandering thoughts:

Our senses “are divergent modalities of a single and unitary living body, …complementary powers evolved in complex interdependence with one another.’

“My senses connect up with each other in the things I perceive, or rather each perceived thing gathers my senses together in a coherent way, and it is this that enables me to experience the thing itself as a center of forces, as another nexus of experience, as an Other. [….] …[M]y body is a sort of open circuit that completes itself only in things, in others, in the encompassing earth.”

“In contact with the native forms of the earth, one’s senses are slowly energized and awakened, combining and recombining in ever-shifting patterns.”

“It is this dynamic, interconnected reality that provokes and sustains all our speaking, lending something of its structure to all our various languages. [….] Ultimately, then, it is not the human body alone but rather the whole on the sensuous world that provides the deep structure of language.”

“As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. [….] For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.”

Following trends in western cultures, the English language seems to have become more & more skewed to reflect precise analysis (separation into discrete parts rather than systems & wholes) and technology (rather than the actual living world). For an example, consider the recent changes in words included in the Oxford Junior Dictionary — https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/13/oxford-junior-dictionary-replacement-natural-words .

I’m often frustrated by my inability to express in English the wildness of living Earth & the nature of the relationships within her web of being. Pronouns (especially possessives) can be a problem & words like “nature” & “environment” seem to deliberately hide the wonderful intertwingling of us all. Just as I was beginning to think the situation hopeless, I remembered some of the ecstatic poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889, English poet & priest), whose attentiveness to the other-than-human world flowed into his exuberant words. I found this poem (and photos of the actual location described, which unfortunately I couldn’t copy here) at https://hopkinspoetry.com/poem/inversnaid/ :


    Inversnaid

    This darksome burn, horseback brown,
    His rollrock highroad roaring down,
    In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
    Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
    A windpuff-bonnet of fáawn-fróth
    Turns and twindles over the broth
    Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
    It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
    Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
    Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
    Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
    And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
    What would the world be, once bereft
    Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
    O let them be left, wildness and wet;
    Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

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