Here be Midnight

Monday, 29 October 2018

Harsh Winters, Retreats and the Exploration of Silence

It's been a long time since my last blog post. And, for those kind souls who read this blog regularly I am truly apologetic for vanishing without explanation.

Life has its seasons I guess and sometimes a very harsh Winter comes our way. It forces a kind of hibernation, a withdrawal from our normal lives. It can be a very testing time - providing little in the way of nourishment and using up all your reserves. Survival depends on something beyond our control and a kind of surrender begins to develop.

I feel that it's possible that good things can come from that which at first glance might appear bad.  Watching the people around me, there are those that have emerged from tough times with a new depth, their eyes shining and their hearts warm and open.  They are so inspiring.

During this time I have taken the opportunity to participate in some retreats and explore the Silence of being and in a way I am grateful for the gifts cloaked by misfortune. There are strange paradoxes that occur within Silence that can transform great pain into great joy, it isn't easy at all and I feel ill-equipped to explain it any further. There are small sentences that come out of me that feel right and then there are large monologues that come out of me that miss the mark entirely - So amongst most people I know I have been quite quiet of late.

Silence, for me, has become more than just the mere absence of sound - it is a sort of felt sense of something quite serene and joyful, beautiful and uncomplicated that is always under the everythingness that we see, feel and experience.

Only yesterday I came across some powerful words from Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi - One line from his poem, an Ocean without shore...

 I courted a Secret which existence did not alter; for it was asked of me:
' Has thought enchanted you?'

Artwork has been happening but I guess it is only recently that I have felt up to sharing. This one is one of my favourites so far. It is a little picture that emerged after a retreat early this year. When I look at it I can feel  a gentle Silence, I hope that others will sense it too... It's not completely finished yet but I'm nearly there...

The initial sketch came on a bright sunny day. It always amuses me how often stars appear in my work.

And Silence swam as starlight between the trees

Monday, 27 November 2017

Timeless Connections

It sometimes appears to me that those with the simplest lives are the most beautiful. Of course I mean beauty as a quality that can be acquired through our deepest openness and surrender to life. A beauty that can be felt and heard as well as seen. The kind of beauty that fills the heart and makes everything around it seem beautiful also.

My husband has a natural facility with photography. He affectionately calls it light writing but he captures so much more. 

Like all artwork, photography captures a little of the subject and little of the artist and that indescribable third something that arises between the two. 

Here are some of his beautiful photographs and his explanation of his latest exhibition which will continue to be on show until the end of December at The Eskdalemuir Hub in Dumfries and Galloway.


Through over three decades of photography and many thousands of
images taken I have begun to see very clearly that occasionally some
photos belong to the realm of the ‘Timeless’.

India has always felt like home to me. It is a place full of amazing souls.There the veil of Western anxiety seems to be nonexistent and in its place is an effortless openness. 
When you can tune in with that, a doorway opens through which you have an opportunity to make a ‘Timeless Connection’.
For me this is a simple feeling of knowing that is hard to describe. A feeling of having ‘been here before’, a warm ease, a truth, an exhalation. A sense of no separateness. 

Many of the photos you see here are taken on early morning walks before the temperature rises. Stall holders are setting up their shops, people are taking baths in rivers and doing puja. Rickshaws are eager for business and beggars sit full of faith on their roadside squares of cardboard. So much for the senses to take in, the vibration of spirituality on every corner.

I feel at ease amongst the realness of these people who wear no masks, I see contentedness in these souls which somehow makes me feel content too. We might have a chai together or a laugh but always I feel we have added value to each others lives.

I  feel very fortunate to have met and connected with some amazing souls on my journeys. It is my hope that you will make a connection too.. 


Monday, 16 October 2017

Pattern, Rhythm and Harmony

A little sneak peek into the latest project. It is part of  an innovative plan by a lady who lives in Edinburgh and I will fill you in when the time is right.

But for now here is a little sneak preview of some designs...

I have always loved pattern and ornament and am so happy to be able to turn my paint brush in that direction. I love the rhythm and harmony of pattern and repetition, like a mantra for the eyes and an invitation to slip away from thought into imagination or silence. 

The paintings I have done are destined to be transferred onto a 3 dimensional dome with a magical purpose. There is the possibility of mixing and matching designs. 

 A Hare's Tale

A Bear's Tale

The Speaking and Listening Wreath

A Ravens Tale

A Little Colour

A Sirin's Tale


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Monsters in the dark

Shadows amongst tree trunks, groaning like a low wind. Many of the paintings that come out of me take place in a dark forest. I find comfort there - powerlessness amongst Nature's greater force gives me back my smallness and sets me free. The paradoxical result of which is great strength, willingness to stand alone and yet a feeling of being undivided.

Many Folk-tales take place in dark woods. Some schools of Psychology and Shamanism have a perspective that says that the dark forest is a place where our demons hang out, a place where we are afraid to visit but where we may go and face them if we have courage. I'm not sure courage is required - but a leap of faith is necessary.

Faith is an amazing experience - I'm not talking about religious faith or a faith in anything in particular. More that faith is an arising of a sense of comfort that when faced with anything external feels absolutely unthreatened for no particular reason. An undeniable underlying feeling of peace.

And yet sometimes I quiver and feel overwhelmed with fear for these shadows. 

One of my favourite teachers talks briefly about faith and belief here ...

I found myself sketching these demons for the next part of 'Troll Song'. A chapter of the book in which Unn, under the guidance of the Forester, has the chance to face her demons. A right of passage we must all pass through to some degree if we are to live or die peacefully. ( for those who are new to this blog you can find a little more of Troll Song here)

The demons themselves didn't come out anywhere near as scary as I had in intended but I think they are in keeping with the rest of the book in so far as it has grown, all be it very slowly.

The chapter is not written but it may go a little along the lines of this...

The Forester crouched low before Unn so that his eyes could meet hers. His gentle voice spoke weighty words.

 "There will be forked tongues flickering in the darkness Unn, the sound of skin tasting the air. Their sole intent is to stir up deep fear from within you. But, do not misjudge them Unn,  Demons are beyond the realm of providing satisfaction for human desires in the ordinary way. They mirror our fears and provide an opportunity to realise who we are without them."

"You will be afraid Unn, you will meet great fear but, it is also just possible that great courage and peace will arise within you for no reason whatsoever and then you will be grateful for the monsters in your life."

The Foresters hands pressed into the earth as he leveraged himself to standing. Stroking Unn's hair and saying nothing more he took two giant strides and was gone from the forest clearing, leaving Unn alone in the nearly-dark-light.

Shadows began to groan and the Demons moistened their tongues in readiness for a feast of fear.

Feast of Fear

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A sense of wonder

I love the feeling of wondering. That sort of light-hearted curiosity that happens when the Unknown is present. Just as the eyes twinkle before an adventure, it sets the imagination free. 

Painting  kindles my curiousity and I cannot help but follow the sparks of imagination as they fly through the endless sky of mind. Images and tales are born and some manage to find their way to paper and font.

 Sometimes I paint a little then write a little, then I paint some more. The wonderings and imaginings feed the painting and the painting feeds the story. Round and round it goes. 

Simple questions appear: "Who is this character?" "What is happening here?" "What lies beyond the land in the picture I can see before me?" Mind Scribbles become words until I feel satisfied that I know enough about that picture for that moment but there is still some space left for wondering if I'm ever in need of a little adventure. It's a lovely terrain to be in, full of space and potential.

Perhaps inside out and back to front, I don't know, but that is often the truth of how it all unfolds here in The Old Burrow..

So here is a painting and the fragment of that slow growing fable (Troll Song) that arrived a couple of weeks ago... I invite you to hide in the forest just beyond the painted glade and watch as a patch of story unfolds...

Unn entered the dark glade timidly, The Forester's eyes were closed but he had known she was coming - of course.

"Thirty days in this place" thought Unn nervously. Her skin shivered,  the air between the trees was full the kind of quiet that occurs just before a happening of great magnitude. It felt to her as though the Forest's unknown darkness might just swallow her whole. 

"She surely would leave here a different person to the one who had arrived - if she ever left at all. Something was going to get lost in here and it was probably going to be her." And somehow that was okay.

 She was both frightened and curious but still there was the sense of a small warrior within - and with this she stepped forward onto a low rock and looked up.

The Forester opened his eyes, they moved softly and deeply over Unns face. Such warmth and kindness, unlike anything in her life so far. Wild and rolling eyes were the kind she was used to. Or others covered by a kind of emotional cataract, cloudy and withdrawn. Eleven long years under their gaze but no more. She blinked herself back into the forest.

The gentle man of the forest produced a small and humble branch from somewhere. His movements were so mesmerising that like a master magician it was difficult to be sure of anything the eyes saw. Smooth and effortless gestures that were at once slow and swift. Just like everything that had happened since meeting the Troll it was as if Time was not the master anymore. Just a mere servant employed irregularly for the baking of pies and striking of beautiful clocks, admired but not cherished.

From the end of the branch a pale spider began to drop slowly along a line of invisible silk. Unn swore she could hear its tiny feet moving skillfully along the sticky thread. What she had taken for granted her entire life suddenly revealed itself as the magic it truly was. And then came another sort of magic altogether - a star began to form at the end of the thread. It hummed softly, the forest branches quivered with delight.

"What can you hear?" the Forester asked. His voice so normal, so unexpectedly genuine that it conjured up a deep feeling of trust.

Unn listened to the soft humming of the star as it rippled through the air but there was something much louder, much more obvious, an enormous, vast, penetrating silence.

"I can hear the sound that silence makes." the words left her lips all by themselves. They were new even to her own ears.

The Forester smiled. He sat upon the large boulder as though he had known it since it was a small pebble. As though they had known each other all their lives the boulder effortlessly and lovingly supported him. Wriggling his toes he tickled the rocks surface affectionately before standing tall amongst the night sky. And then, just as a fisherman casually retrieves a fish from his line so he effortlessly picked the star from its silk and popped it into his pocket. 

The spider crawled away into the forest.

Climbing down off the boulder, he reached for Unn's hand and they walked away from the glade, into the trees. The gentle glow of starlight leaked from his blue pocket - just enough to lead the way and not too much to disturb the night.

There was a fondness in the way they moved though the forest. Hands and leaves caressed each other as they walked amongst the branches. Feet fell into an embrace with earth at each step. A feeling of home began to grow inside her and shine gently like starlight from a pocket.
"Now lets see where those demons are hiding" winked the Forester.

* excerpt from Innan Tordid (a 30,000 year old book of wisdom from the Underworld)

Always smiling and rarely speaking the Forester is somehow more than just human. His movements are as effortless as the stars crossing the night sky and he is capable of curious magic if the mood takes him. His heart is kindness itself and occasionally he lets visitors find him.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Fire of Life

Last year I prepared a little wooden book for Spring Fling, a large open studios event we have here in Dumfries and Galloway. In it were the first two chapters of the slow growing tale called 'Troll Song'- some paintings and some sketches as well as a little bit of a commentary about how the story and artwork evolved. And it is still  growing and evolving...

'Troll Song' appears to me to be a human tale set in an Other -World. Winding through Forest and Sky it throws a new perspective on the very common and ever growing human experience of yearning for deep contentment and a feeling of home. I suppose a synopsis might go something like this...

Unn is a young Wayfarer in search of a true home. She is a bridgewalker - one who can travel between worlds. In the Over world the animal kingdom guards her seemingly lifeless body while the wise Troll of the Mountains takes her deep into the Underworld to find her place of true belonging.

Another painting has appeared and I am in love with the orange sky and the quivering branches that dance within it.

The picture shows Unn's first glimpse into a new way of seeing - a gift of sight that few experience.

To see the sketches you can visit the blog post here.

The first draft chapter of the story is here and the second is here

He's really only about 3cm high!

"How amazing the forest looked from up high..."

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Where the winds blow

I finished another piece today.

Quite some years ago now I began this painting. A few unusually carefree brush strokes and experimental scribblings and I could see something good was emerging - and that was it -  I screeched to a halt. 

For fear of ruining the picture that was emerging I lost the ability to move freely without fear and so it lay sitting in a drawer for years until I no longer cared if it worked out or not.
From that space I could paint without worry - my attention gently focused on the painting and the movement of the brush, I even became a little curious about what was growing before my eyes and it was for the first time in quite a while that I have felt relaxed whilst painting.

It was so long ago that I drew this piece that now when I look at it I am left wondering what fortune and bravery really are. In the culture I was brought up in, bravery was definitely linked with a 'go-getter' attitude. A sort of feisty, energetic quality that could bend Life's happenings to its will. But as we all know or all learn sooner or later Life succumbs to no ones will forever and fear and bravery may as well sit on the shelf twiddling their thumbs together for all the use they are. Maybe, sometimes, it is the absence of fear and bravery that allows people to move effortlessly and freely like the wind, and that which seems like Luck blows in through the gaps where fear and bravery once were.

So now I have a painting I am happy with but in all honesty I would change the words if I could...

“The Truth is the only thing you’ll ever run into that has no agenda.”

Adyashanti - Emptiness Dancing