Plum leaves brushing a bedroom window
Always enough for a child’s appetite
Playing with an endless bounty
I now see patterns in the layering of these leaves
The many textures that bring me
To where I am today
I start and the end
To find my beginnings
It is early summer, and in true Melbourne fashion, or perhaps it is in the bleakness of the lived experience of Climate Change, a month of rain has fallen in a day. I have departed from my tent that was a week ago, too hot to dwell in for the heat wave that weighed upon us. Now I leave ensuring all the zips are fastened so as to not return home to soggy rugs and wet beds.
I spent the yesterday’s afternoon out in the tumbling rains, gathering bracken, gums and native cherry from the forest about me, and pansies from the small kitchen garden I have set up outside our Tiny House, Alice.
Foliage in rain is indescribably magic, the glisten upon green against an overcast sky reminds me that I don’t have to move to the moors of Scotland to inhale the melancholic form of solitude that seems to whisper my name.
I am glad that I endured the drenching the day before, not only to soak up the romance and watch armies of little snails trekking across the paths, but because today it is good to simply scoop up the bundle of leaves and arrive at my studio only slightly damp.
It has been a long week of steady rains falling from my heart and eyes. Months of unshed tears echoing the fall in the world around me. I am thankful that my work today, it to land in the nest of my studio with two yet- to- become – friends, and facilitate a day of eco-printing and self care. I have recently re-arranged my studio to make space for more small group work. And as the two women folk arrive, we find our way together around the large solid hardwood table that has supported art processes in many other studios.
It feels good, to be able to gather like this, in the flurry of leaves silks, papers and candles. The scent of roses fills the air and stories of intentions for the day are shared. Intentions to honour the endless love of a mother now parted and create gifts imbued with this, to send to loved ones abroad.
Intentions to be open to the process of personal reflection through creativity; whatever that may bring. I am humbled by an openness to and trust in the process I am offering.
We begin by selecting a card from eco-printed works I have already completed, an invitation to find one of resonance and write a little about this. Immediate fears of “will I do the writing correctly?” silently emerge, yet soon, we discover a prolific spilling as we respond to the prompts “what do I see?” and “what do I feel?”
Layers of stories begin to emerge, unknown to me, but shared by the two friends who have companioned one another through twenty years of life.
This opening carries itself into the eco-printing process, the way leaves are selected and how things are bundled. One of the friends, creates three bundles; “One of the wood”- honouring the interplay between the earth, represented in the botanical matter and human ingenuity, represented by wrapping around a railway sleeper bolt. She also creates a “Zen bundle”, inspired by the soft and subtle print she was drawn to. The final bundle is “family bundle”, wrapped in the love of a mother for her diaspora of children.
The other friend layers in many chapters of life; silk upon paper, and paper upon wool , all the while carrying the thread of the plum leaf. As a child, she would feast on these plums outside her bedroom window. In those days, the supply seemed endless. Alongside these she layers events and family members and straight lines of equanimity. All these she wraps into one large bundle. It is big and heavy. No wonder, as it is wrapped around an iron weight.
We place them in our already boiling dye pots, along with cabbage and tansy and leave them to brew for an hour. We return to the studio, cups of tea and art supplies out to reflect on what we have come to know so far; what sits with us now.
It always warms me to watch people taken ownership of their creative inquiry.
I have plenty of ideas available to support people if they feel unable to access their flow, but today, all I simply need do is make available the supplies- pastels, charcoal, watercolours and sit with them, also crafting around what has emerged for me so far. We share ideas around leaf rubbings and layering charcoal and pastels and wetting these. It’s an out breath after the generative moment of bundling. Words and images land, giving form to the experiencing, and before we know, it is time to unwrap our bundles.
I lay the hot beauties out on the table- richly hued in forest greens, Prussian blues and luminescent violets. Astounded gasps and an immersive feeling of magic fill the room as the stories of the bundles are untold in their unveiling.
For me I see the diligence of these women, surrendering to process and playing, being richly rewarded in satisfying collaborations with the natural world.
With a mystified sigh we come to a close to record what stays with us now. I always encourage a pause to give form to knowings learnt in the creative process that, without a little attention, fade in the world outside the studio;
“Simple and Gentle”
“Honour your knowings”
are the pearls gleaned and recorded on the prints first selected at the beginning of the day.
It is good for me, to remember and write these now. The great gifts that eco-printing nourishes me with. Our challenge in an increasingly unstable world is to continue to embody gentleness and trust in one’s intuition. In the ups and downs of the heat waves and down pours the endlessly beset us, how to find that path of equanimity, honour the endless bounty of love and be with the patterns that layers themselves through our lives. Trust in the abundance of plums that tap upon our bedroom window.