Celebrating National Tree Week… in a small, but significant way.

Fired up by David Attenborough talks and BBC Podcasts all about trees and National Tree Weekmy idea was  to find ‘a tree a day’ in different local woodland areas, and study and blog about them for the whole of the Week.  Unfortunately, the idea very soon went for a burton when I realised a)how unfit I had become during this year of isolations and lockdowns, and b)how much else I had to do this week.

So this is an account of what actually happened: some words and pictures of a short walk from my house down towards the Torridge Estuary, down a steep muddy track, that is fringed with trees and scrub and brambles and ancient overgrown hedges.

Here, the branches of the trees meet and tangle overhead, forming a dense protective roof, giving a sense of a safe, secluded tunnel.  Like so many of the old tracks round here, this one makes me feel like a small creature, scuttling and foraging between the built-up areas. On one side of the wooded fringe lie gentle green hills and  fields sometimes used for grazing.  The other side, thankfully,  screens the walker off from sprawling housing development, and the sound of road traffic in the distance.

I left the house, as empty-handed as possible: with small jotter and pen and pencil, and my phone, complete with useful apps, including the Woodland Trust’s Tree App (you will find it on their Search Page)… I have used this app before – sometimes successfully managing to identify a particular tree – but sometimes not, and I end up without the foggiest idea what I have been looking at. But it is fun, and for sure, gives me an increased appreciation of nature’s amazing processes.

The only other thing I stuffed into my pocket was a supermarket bag for gathering up anything I fancied taking home…

At the start of the track I was drawn as if by a magnet to a massively complex network of bare branches against the grey sky – a peaceful feeling of connection and familiarity: a feeling of the same life-force flowing through my inner systems as through the branches of the trees.

But there was no chance of identifying anything whatsoever from this tangled and intricate network…. And that is when my grandiose idea finally bit the dust.

I suppose (I tell myself), I am really more interested in the invisible, underlying energies at play,  and the philosophical aspects of walking among the trees, than in analysing and labelling. This is perfectly true of course. Yet I am also aware that both practical and philosophical approaches are needed for a full understanding of anything.

So – I set off with the attitude ‘let’s see what I can notice and learn here…’.

Most noticeably, a huge variety of plant life, and copious ivy and other creepers clinging to trunks and branches everywhere.

A pervading protective stillness; small birds chattering quietly up above.

A nearby blackbird chirping hopefully as I passed.

Subtle shifts in temperature; shifts in distant traffic sound as I move from place to place; rain nearly beginning to fall.

Berries. A scattering of dead oak leaves on the muddy path, which drew my attention to the tree in question.

Having to watch my step very carefully on the steep muddy, stony path (I have already broken my thumb once on terrain such as this).

Hundreds of deep boot-prints that had churned up the ground, leaving a narrow strip of grass right down the centre of the track, where boots never trod.

Old dead branches that had been moved out of the way, to one side of the track.

A little patch of fungus growing right in the path of all those boots.

One bright berry planted in a deep footprint.

All this told me how life’s cycles and processes are continually at work, even in the dead of winter.

I neared a little gateway, that leads to a bench where people can sit and look down over the river.

As I squeezed through, the tiniest robin redbreast I have ever seen came scuttling up to me, and stopped right at the edge of my foot, gazing up to me with bright wistful little eyes. I felt dreadful, like a mean monster because I had completely forgotten to bring some bird food in my pocket.

I did not want to frighten the bird by attempting to take a photo – so I backed off and went home.


 At the time of writing, the BBC programme ‘Podcast Radio Hour, Trees & Forests: Podcasts for National Tree Week’ is still available for listening and downloading – but I don’t know for how long.

Also, if you were wondering what I took home in my supermarket bag after my walk – I grabbed a handful of mud, as I thought it might come in handy…

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Breathing Space

I am very happy to have one of my photos of ‘Breathing Space’ featured in the 2021 calendar of ‘Environmental Art: Contemporary Art in the Natural World’.  It is published by Amber Lotus Publishing in USA.

You may have seen this image (or parts of it) in various places, as I tend to use it in my profiles or as my avatar. It comes from a series of work that is still ongoing….

artwork by Linda Gordon
‘Breathing Space’ my original artwork.

 Amber Lotus produce earth-friedly material, such as calendars, greetings cards, journals and colouring books featuring a diverse range of artists and authors. They offset their carbon footprint by planting trees.  To date, they have had over a million trees planted!

If you would like to purchase the calendar, or find out more about their products and activities, you can explore their website here: Amber Lotus Publishing.

Here’s the front of their Environmental Art Calendar 2021.

cover of calendar

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Drifting

A thick even layer of grey cloud

is falling gently as rain all around

sounding like one of those recordings

designed to soothe and relax and send one drifting off to sleep.

I run up to the top window to watch the rainbow:

a double rainbow emerging, stretching bright across my field of vision

and growing in intensity.

Meanwhile, the fumes from a neighbour’s boiler drift upwards into the air,

as a solitary gull wings its way across the empty sky.

Sky slowly almost imperceptibly becoming lighter

until I can pick out the shapes of white clouds drifting against the grey.

More birds start to fly around, and I hear tweeting noises.

Then the sun appears.

Written & photographed early in the morning,

whilst I drink my first cup of tea of the day.

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Pulse of Life

As the tide recedes

People appear down below in the distance, relaxing on emerging sand

Dogs, set free, run helter-skelter along the whole length of the beach

High above, I lie back on sea-worn pebbles –

Gazing up at the vast soft blue sky

Put a large stone under my neck to take the weight of my head

Slow down my breath to breathe in time with the waves

Here, close to the ground

The ocean rhythms are muffled and indistinct

I feel the strong beat of my heart underneath the camera balanced on my chest.

Then, sitting up, cool breeze ruffling my hair

I feel the rhythm of the airwaves, the pulses within my body –

Whilst my heart thumps inside my chest insistently.

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Climate and Ecological Crisis

Climate and Ecological Crisis? What’s all the Fuss about?’ A week or so ago, I attended this sobering online talk by David Ramsden, MBE, an inspiring speaker who has worked in nature conservation for over 30 years. The talk was organised and hosted by the Barnstaple and District Local Group of the Devon Wildlife Trust. It was designed as an introduction to the whole subject, for all of us who were unclear about the many interlocking aspects of this issue, and wanted more information.

David spelt out in an interesting and readily understandable manner just how serious is the situation today regarding our environment and our continuing life on earth… and crucially, that time is not on our side. It made such a deep impression on me that it got me digging up my dear old blog again, and dusting it off, ready for a new lease of life.

Serious? Running out of time? What exactly IS all this fuss about? It is certainly terrible and upsetting to hear of wildfires sweeping across vast swathes of land; or of hurricanes, melting Polar icecaps or devastating floods, but surely this sort of thing, horrible though it is, has always been going on, hasn’t it… as a natural part of living on this planet?

Winter Storm-hurricane: from all-free-download.com

David began by explaining that Earth is only habitable because of its balanced climate, which is dependent upon ecological systems, such as land, water, and the air that we breathe. The crucial factor here, from what I can see, is balance, without which we are in deep trouble. Then, going into more specific detail, he showed us some alarming and verifiable data concerning all of these inescapably inter-related systems.

He spoke first of fossil fuels, which when burnt, release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. We know CO2 is a greenhouse gas, i.e. it traps solar radiation bouncing off the earth surface and acts like a greenhouse, thus warming the air. The earth’s air has warmed by about 1.10 C. This may not sound much, but in fact, it has devastating knock-on effects, causing storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and ocean acidification in many parts of the planet.

In addition, the Arctic temperature has risen a great deal more than the rest of the planet, causing irregular shifts in the Jet Stream, resulting in even more extreme weather – as well as causing Polar ice to melt, resulting inevitably in rising sea levels, more floods…

CO2 is also a major contributor to air pollution. We have probably seen those images online of terribly polluted cities, and we know that air pollution kills thousands of people every year and shortens the life-expectancy of many more.

It sounds to me as though there is something not quite right going on here.

Science tells us today that carbon dioxide levels are much higher now than at any other time during the last 800,000 years. Not only that, but the speed that levels are rising is phenomenal. The diagram below shows fluctuating levels over the millennia, with a top level of 300ppm (parts per million), to suddenly shoot up to 415ppm in the last 50 years or so.  That is 100 times faster than the previous natural increases – which makes it pretty clear that the dramatic rise can only have been caused by human activity.

Photo: climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources
(None of the images in this post are from David’s talk, but from the internet or other source, and are appropriately credited).

Scientific research now clearly predicts that changes in temperature and sea levels will accelerate in alignment with the rapidly increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. In the worst-case scenario, and following scientific projections, it is almost certain that most life on earth would be wiped out by the end of the century. It is essential for us to be carbon neutral by then. Unfortunately, from our current position, this looks impossible to achieve.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was a great step forward in reducing carbon emissions – but is nowhere near stringent enough. In fact, the most recent data shows that we are firmly placed upon the worst-case scenario trajectory (top of the chart). We need to achieve carbon neutral in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees or less (bottom of chart).

chart

from: ourworldindata.org

I am not planning to go into any more detail here about all the profoundly important aspects of the climate crisis covered in David’s talk… There is a full previous version of the talk available on YouTube, where we can learn and reflect quietly upon the issues involved and think about possible action.

As he talked and with each new image or diagram, I realised more and more the fact that what we are facing now is a global emergency of immense proportions, caused undoubtedly by human behaviour. Two important factors amongst the many seem to be fast-growing populations and gross over-consumption prevalent in our materialistic culture. We cannot avoid the unpalatable facts any longer. Time is not on our side, and humanity needs to make massive changes in lifestyle as a matter of extreme urgency. This is the conclusion I reached, given the data and irrefutable scientific evidence that David produced.

       Photo: jasperwilde -unsplash.com

You may have noticed there are many people all over the internet, who would have us believe there are two sides to the story and it just depends how we look at it. This is not true. It is, of course, what they want us to believe, and David advised us to avoid the ‘deniers’ on the web. A good resource for gaining real knowledge about climate change is www.skepticalscience.com.

Things look bad for us. But even at this late stage, we, as human beings, have amazing inner resources to transform and turn things around: to create a vibrant and peaceful life on earth for us and all of earth’s lifeforms. A massive task lies ahead of us.

David gave us a few ideas about what we, as ordinary members of the public can do to change the situation. Even quite small actions will help to make a big difference. We can write to our MP’s for instance… and perhaps lobby them, and remind them that their job is to protect the public.  A good first step for finding out what is happening in Parliament is the website: www.theyworkforyou.com.

By putting in your postcode, you will connect with a page relating to your local MP.  Then you can research this MP’s Parliamentary voting record, and figure out his/her attitudes relating to relevant issues: fossil fuels, for example, or transport, or agricultural practices and the food industry, health, proliferating housing developments… and not forgetting the wildlife: just where are the declining numbers of living creatures and plants supposed to go? (Some of this was not necessarily in David’s talk – they are just my personal gripes).

We can talk about the situation with our friends, say, in relation to wildlife – how certain favourite birds or butterflies don’t seem to be around these days. Or talk about the weather (always a favourite topic of conversation round here) – and changing weather patterns.

Finally, to cut down on our gross over-consumption and waste of the earth’s  depleting resources, David gave some practical suggestions, which I am sure many of us are already doing, including:
Give up meat-eating
Buy local and organic
Don’t buy fashion items
Don’t buy unnecessary consumer goods.

For some reason,  a memory from my youth, many years ago, just popped into my head – memory of a passing remark by a teacher at school, that has somehow stuck with me ever since…  “We interfere with the balance of nature at our peril”.

He was right.

     Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

I am grateful for the opportuntity to see David Ramsden’s talk, which helped me gain a clear picture of the crisis now facing us. Even though I have only touched briefly on the talk, I hope it is enough to convey just how serious our situation is, and that it will arouse interest in looking deeper.

On YouTube you can find the full version of his previous talk: ‘Climate and Ecological Crisis… Version 8’. (The one we watched last week was Version 9, which was slightly updated).  On the Version 8 video – as you go along, you can pick out written references on the screen, to find further information and sources.

And below the video are a couple of helpful links giving useful practical information and possible action steps.

 

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Rising Tide: A Weekend with Extinction Rebellion

detail of group artwork

detail of group artwork

I had been invited to lead a land art workshop using natural materials at The Rising Tide Festival, organised and hosted by Extinction Rebellion South West. It all happened last month over a perfect weekend in late summer sunshine, in the beautiful surroundings of Tapeley Park overlooking the Torridge Estuary, North Devon.

The whole Festival was characterised by fun and relaxation, underpinned by some important and serious talks: some covering aspects of the gathering climate and ecological crisis we are facing; others giving guidance on how best to bring about change, and on the role of XR.

You can read my full original post here, on ClimateCultures – creative conversations for the Anthropocene, –  from the time I arrived when I had no idea what to expect, to the final poignant moments of the Festival’s closing ceremony.

Procession setting off for the closing ceremony in the woods.

procession setting off for the closing ceremony in the woods.

ClimateCultures is a place where artists, researchers and curators connect, to share and discuss their responses to environmental changes, and perhaps point new ways forward through an unsettling, uncertain, rapidly changing world.

If you would like to receive their monthly Newsletter, sign up here – where you can also become a member and write for the blog.

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Fleeting Impressions: Knowing my Place

Over the last month or so, I have been making little explorations around my home ground. Not going very far afield.

6.7.18
BUCKS VALLEY WOODS – hoverflies
After the long, dry, sunny summer: flowers, birds, butterflies, verdant greenery – I come once again to the quiet woods. Despite human encroachment, there is still deep peace here among the trees.

faint trickling of water… occasional small bird sounds…
the high pitched whining of thousands of tiny hoverflies, sparkling and shining gold in the dappled sunlight.

The Woods

13.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – skylarks
A leisurely morning walking across the Burrows, organised by the North Devon AONB.
Enjoying life all around, from the tiniest little white shells to the blue skies and wide expansive views across the Atlantic.

Evening Primrose

across the grassland
skylarks rising and dropping down
as I walked towards the group meeting place

 

moths

snails, spiders

hydrobia

Ragwort

Lady’s Bedstraw

Burnet moths on ragwort

skylarks
as I walked back out of the Burrows, and home.

14.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – little white crabs
As I arrived at the Burrows, the first drops of fine cool rain began to fall. I knew it would not come to much, and after a while, blue skies and sunshine appeared once again. It grew gradually hotter.

A lady accosted me, wanting to walk with me because she thought she might be getting followed. Personally, I prefer to be alone, but happily walked along for a while, offering well-meaning, but I think, unwanted advice about joining some of the group activities organised from the Visitor Centre. Eventually I realised the lady was heading off rapidly in a different direction, and I didn’t follow her.

I couldn’t find the tiny hydrobia shells that were here yesterday. I wandered up and down the beach, gathering ideas for artwork – but didn’t feel like embarking on anything substantial.

I made a quick assemblage: Little White Crabs, intending it to be the first part of a larger collection.

I regretted not being able to spend the last month or so coming here, when I could have worked quietly  during all that hot summer weather in relative solitude. But now the tides are getting high at my usual visiting times, and next week the schools break up for their summer holiday…

Skylarks still singing. All is well.

16.7.18
ABBOTSHAM – seaweed
A beach survey organised by Coastwise for The Shore Thing project.

Amazed to see a beautiful chough in a field as we walked along  along the Coast Path from Westward Ho! to Abbotsham. Then a scramble down the stony beach, where we used quadrats to estimate the percentages present of an astonishing variety of marine life.

This was the first time I had taken part, and i had not much idea what I was doing. My mind was mostly taken up with trying to keep my balance on the seaweed-covered rocks, and with trying to memorise and recognise the different forms of marine life, and the multitude of small creatures we discovered. I was captivated by this insight into a whole miniature universe, and it led directly to my recent nature artwork with cockle shells: Landing Place – and indeed to ideas for a forthcoming photographic project.

So beautiful, poised and elegant – even with my rubbish photo taken quick with my phone.


31.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – Samphire
Cut a bit of samphire and took it home for dinner. Delicious, nutritious, hot with pepper and butter.

The Burrows looked so different in the early evening sunlight. I have been here in the evening before- but normally I would tend to come during the morning. Today, in this warm evening air, there seemed a quite different atmosphere – almost foreign. It was strange to see all the shadows going the ‘wrong’ way – not at all matching the familiar images I had fixed in my mind.

I usually avoid coming here much during the holiday season, not because I have anything against visitors and dogs in general, but because I find it all too distracting from my main focus on the natural surroundings, and my creative responses.

As a matter of fact, I hardly went to Northam Burrows at all last year, largely because it was a year of dark skies and rain (unlike this year when we have enjoyed a long summer heatwave) – but also because I remembered vividly an earlier encounter with two women and their dog:

Out taking photos, I sat down on the beach to rest, took off my shoes and sat gazing out to sea. The beach was completely empty, apart from two tiny figures and a dog appearing far away to my left.  It seemed the figures were making a line straight towards me – and I wondered why on earth, with an entire empty beach to walk in, they had to aim in my direction. Eventually, the dog raced ahead, came up to me, making a bit of a nuisance of itself, and obviously wanted me to play. I firmly encouraged it to clear off,  but it just lay down behind me, leaning against my back.

At last, the two women caught up and passed close by, and as the dog got up to leave, it left me a parting gift, by pee’ing on my bare feet…

Sheep on samphire at Northam Burrows

7.8.18
PENHILL POINT by FREMINGTON QUAY – Buzzard
A lovely evening walk with local members of the Devon Wildlife Trust

A buzzard drifted slowly over our heads as we approached the Taw estuary.
Again, a familiar landscape, seen in the evening, an unfamiliar time for me – when the low light and the different position of the sun gave me a whole new perspective on the scene.

And a palpable sense of recent human history: importing and exporting, ceramics,  lime burning, agriculture… and signs of the old railway that used to run along here over a century ago. (It has now become the Tarka Trail, a pleasant walking and cycle path through the Devon landscape).

Sea Lavender

Sea Purslane (plants able to tolerate saltwater conditions,  I learned were called halophytes).
Rock Samphire
Blue sky – fast moving cloud
The dark silhouette of the old wrecked boat against the fading light
Crumbling stonework of the old lime kiln
Peace of the wide water

 

11.8.18
Woodland at ROSEMOOR- Tarka
Another fabulous walk with the Devon Wildlife Trust

First we passed a larch plantation that had been felled and cleared, partly because of disease and partly to encourage the growth of native British trees. It was interesting to see the stage it was at: recently planted young birch, and other saplings whose seeds had been long buried underground, growing up through the bracken.

A nice little butterfly

We passed an old quarry, and I was fascinated to observe the sandstone and shale layers sloping steeply downwards, and to mentally relate this to other local areas I knew, and to hear why road subsidence could sometimes occur when built across folded rock layers such as this.

We crossed the stone bridge of the old canal, which used to serve now derelict lime kilns along the River Torridge, and also connect leats to mills at Town Mills (now Orford Mill), Torrington, Weare Giffard… Many local places were mentioned. Names I first encountered after reading Henry Williamson’s powerful novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ in my youth when I barely knew Devon existed. Names still vivid in my memory and imagination today, many years later, after coming to live here around 12 years ago.

We paused at the Dark Weir by Darkham Woods, where Tarka’s final hunt began. After walking for some time through woodland tracks, looking closely at the land and wildlife, and remembering this story,  I thought that Henry Williamson must have known this land as intimately as an otter or any wild animal.

Gazing down at the river flowing over the weir, I was reminded once again how inextricably entwined we are with the natural world all around.

 

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Drifting through Springtime

I have been coming to these woods for a number of years now, and I know that I’ve arrived when I step into the peaceful atmosphere of the trees and the sounds of woodland birds and the stream running fast over stone.

Always I am amazed at the changes I see on every visit. Perhaps it is because I am so familiar with the place that I have become attuned to its subtle shifts – the processes of growth and disintegration; the ever-changing light, weather, ground conditions etc…. not to mention my own changing moods and perceptions.

Over the last couple of months, the changes have been even more astonishing. Early March saw us engulfed in heavy snow – very unusual – just as we were beginning to think Spring was on its way. It hardly ever snows here in this part of Devon, and I had never managed to get a single photo of the woods in snow. The challenge was irresistible…

I do not wish to talk about how, when trying to park the car, the back wheels somehow skidded over the edge of a little stone bridge… Suffice it to say, that I returned to the woods the following day for a second attempt. By then, much of the snow had melted with rain – but I had a good time and I got some pictures!


 

A mild morning in April, some wind high above. Alternating sunshine and showers, warm and cold.

Standing under a favourite tree, I was captivated by the newly emerged fresh green leaves sprouting all around on bare branches. I looked closely. I could see them growing! Tiny hairs around the edges of the leaves seemed to vibrate and shimmer in the sunshine. I watched the play of shadows projected through this soft new greenery, and as always, I relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

I noticed that everything was actually a little bit later than normal and decided this was probably caused by the unusual wintry weather we have been having recently.


 

May begins. After days of rainy weather, it was good to feel the warm sunshine seeping into my bones.
Arriving at the woods, I saw the sea mist beginning to creep through the trees – cool, grey, soft.
A blackbird singing nearby, a chorus of other woodland birds.
Running water.

Putting on my backpack, I started to climb up a steep bank at the side of the track, telling myself it was a shortcut to where I wanted to go.

But it was slippery with mud and I kept sliding downwards again on hands and knees. Oh no! I grabbed sticks lying on the ground for support, but they just broke under my weight. I refused to return back down to the bottom again, so I hauled myself up inch by inch, tree by tree, hanging on to anything relatively strong and stable: big roots, low growing branches, fallen trees… What kept me going (apart from stubborn insistance) was the thought of sliding down the hill on my stomach, and landing at the feet of someone out for a nice woodland walk.
I reached the top, brushed myself down and regained my dignity. I stood looking across the valley below and watched the grey sea mist billowing in fast. The sun had by now completely disappeared. A cold wind got up.

Sheltered within the trees, I began to explore old half-forgotten haunts – fallen branches, trees decomposing, disintegrating into the ground, covered with thick green mosses and ferns – taking many casual shots with my phone as I went along.

I came out into a more open space, where I had made several works before, and was now spread all over with a mass of primroses and bluebells. Their beautiful subtle scent filled the air, and I lingered here for a long time. This was probably my favourite place in the woods. Why? Because I could see through the trees, right down the valley to the Atlantic beyond. Because it was quiet and secluded and familiar, and I knew all the trees and the lie of the land. And also, because it held deeply significant  memories for me.

 



As I said, I have been coming to Bucks Valley Woods fairly frequently for several years, and I have enjoyed its endless changes and transformations, and the subtly shifting relationship I have with this peaceful place. Memories I am sure that I shall recall at the end of my days.

Now, it feels a particularly poignant time, as the continuing threat of ever-encroaching building development is fast becoming a reality. Already, even though the population of the local villages is extremely small, a large-scale academy school has been built at the edge of the woods, complete with extensive accompanying pipe-laying and road widening.

I feel sad that, the main thrust of our noisy, short-sighted culture gives so little value to the fundamental human need to connect fully with nature, to draw deep nourishment from walking silently among the trees, either alone or with a few congenial friends – and I wonder how much longer I shall arrive to the gentle sounds of the breeze in the treetops, the sparkling water in the stream and the songs of woodland birds high above.

 


I originally published this post on my Blogspot blog: ‘Yatooi Talk-Linda’. Yatooi is an international membership organisation dedicated to nature art. Use a Google search if you wish to find out more.

Posted in Earth, North Devon, North Devon Coast, Woodland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Line of Least Resistance

A glimmer of blue sky appeared through the heavy dark cloud. I seized the opportunity, and drove to the woods 
Stone, mud, water, trees – here and there, little clusters of frozen snowflakes 
The sound of rushing water from the nearby stream. 

I walked about for a bit, looking at stones, dreaming grandiose ideas of massive stone assemblages… 
And making those sorts of instantaneous calculations, without really thinking about it, that I suppose is second nature to most of us here: 

How much time did I have? Did I really want to carry bags of stones through the woods to a more ideal site? What was my current state of fitness? What was the weather going to do? Could I get a good photo angle? 
And noticing some parked cars in the distance, realising that this was a school holiday week, therefore I was unlikely to be left alone…  

My grandiose ideas grew smaller and smaller in scale. I kicked a few stones around. I fiddled about with a piece of string that I found in my pocket. My nose, hands and feet grew colder and colder. 

Finally, heavy dark clouds gathered overhead and it began to sleet. 
A happy noisy group of young people approached with children and a frisky dog.. 

So I decided to take the line of least resistance 

And went home. 


Two days later, I came back and made this piece:

Line of Least Resistance

Posted in Earth, North Devon, stone, winter, Woodland | Comments Off on Line of Least Resistance

Nature and Art in North Devon

Nature:
I have spent most of the morning trying to get a photo of the small birds flying around the bird-feeder in our garden, but without much luck!

There seemed to be hundreds of them, flying about and having a good time. Every time I got the camera out, even from inside the house, they flew away. I tried leaning casually against the wall outside, but they just disappeared, and I got very cold, waiting. I tried shooting from upstairs, but that was no good – then just as I got settled and one or two birds began to return, a large, very noisy vehicle with flashing lights came along, and some men started digging up the road behind the garden.

I bought the bird feeder before the winter started, because I felt sorry for them and wanted to help them through the winter months.  It can be difficult for birds to get food when there is not much vegetation, and the ground is cold and hard. Admittedly, winter is never terribly severe here in North Devon, but nature and wildlife are also under another threat to their existence:  a continuing onslaught of ill-considered ‘building developments’.

I managed to get a couple of photos through the window.

Once they got used to it, one or two birds started to come to the bird-feeder – then a few more, and a few more – and suddenly, quite a crowd started to come. Their names I do not know (I am not good with names), but include all the traditional garden birds – sparrows, dunnocks, finches, bluetits and great tits, robin, blackbird… It has been fabulous to watch them from my kitchen window early in the morning, and to listen to the beautiful song of the blackbird, telling the world that Spring is on its way.
I have been amazed how quickly the bird food has been disappearing. More and more birds are coming all the time.  It even includes a family of excessively friendly wood pigeons, who really shouldn’t be here, but they have been driven here by the destruction of their proper woodland habitat.
Where have all these birds come from?  I never saw so many, before we got the bird-feeder. Some of them must have come from miles away. Do they have some sort of secret interconnected telepathy going on? Or is it because birds can fly up high, and can see what is happening far below?
There is a downside to having all these entertaining little visitors: they are destroying the plants, especially our flowering clematis arch, where they love breaking off the twigs and scattering them on the ground. Plus… they have covered the ground with a multitude of little white droppings!
Which do you think is best – which would you choose?
a) a lovely clematis arch with lots of flowers in the summer,  
or b) lots of charming little birds, who sing nicely?

  
Art:
I have been very much enjoying everybody’s images, sent in for the Winter Workshop. I enjoy recognising the processes of nature everywhere and feeling the creative connection between all of us members.
It is great to have this opportunity of seeing people’s artworks from many different countries, and I am intrigued to know more about them!
More locally – I would like to mention a super exhibition, ‘Wave/ Particle’ by my friend, Duncan Hopkins, who lives nearby, down the road. I am not a painter, and this is not my usual type of work – but I was captivated not only by his skill, but by his amazing ability to convey, in paint, the fleeting moment, the power, the movement and the infinite transformations of nature – especially of water and light.
Duncan’s work comes from years of deep, close attention to the elements in this landscape – earth, air, water, sky – and most of all, light.
Although I took some photos of the exhibition with my phone, I decided the best way of giving you an impression of his work was to give you this link to his website:
Thanks, Duncan for permission to reproduce.

And thanks everyone for reading. Looking forward to hearing all your news!

Posted in North Devon Coast, painting | 2 Comments