Friday, 30 May 2008

Animals

As I mentioned yesterday I've been working on a few characters and I worked up a few more of them at the cafe before work this morning. Here is part of my sketchbook. I'm trying to establish a more contemporary and easier way to do cartoon/illustrations that can be a bit more cutting edge and more unique to me. It takes a bit of doing - I've been working on them for years it seems. I'm quite excited by them now.....!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Be still............

"be still............", these were the only words in an email that popped into my inbox today.

Without knowing the background what inspired the sender to send these words to me, I can only assume something in my blog must have inspired the thought. Thank you, "g". I think perhaps I needed them this week as I had been feeling rather unsettled again, perhaps more than normal. I think that my work place is very claustrophobic and by the end of the day I am feeling a bit stressed and then I get tired, and then I worry about me, work, driving, the family, the increasing cost of living, the cost of petrol, where do I go next and how awful I think the world is!

I have to really battle my way through this sort of depressive thinking at times. I can be a hugely positive person but I am lacking that positive people energy that stimulates me. I can see why the internet is so popular now - it enables people to communicate and form interconnections that are more meaningful than those that life sometimes gives us. We have more opportunities to connect and just inspire people, if only with a two-word email.

"Be still": I know all the theory and I do try and set aside quiet moments each day and try to not get bogged down in just day to day living 'stuff'. Being a mystic appeals, and I suppose what I should do is to get my journaling back on track. That created hugely special "quiet times" of prayer, peace and contemplation.

When I think of a tree, strong, peaceful, quiet, tuned into nature herself I find a good analogy with "being still".

I sat out in the summerhouse this evening with the rain tapping on the roof (4 days of rain have just passed) and did some character development work on a big sketchpad just before the daylight disappeared. I love working outside, or with fresh air around me. I feel I am at last birthing something new, but I need to work on it more - it's some sort of contemporary characters that can work well as humans, birds or a wide assortment of animals.

I love "being still". I love being active. Finding balance and recognising the value of each is important. As is having a positive outlook on life and not getting bogged down with the tiny details.

Thank you for this day.

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Warrior God

I have always had a problem with the 'Warrior', 'Battle' and 'Army' language used in Christian terminology. Its use is stong, common and possibly increasing. I find it aggressive, self-centered, insensitive and disrespectful of 'non-believers'. I don't doubt that there may be battles to be had against the 'spirits of darkness', but I'm not going to dwell on this particular thought today (as I can't deal with it).

I came across some writing a while ago that differentiated between warriors and hunters and I have been thinking about it in the light of my current blogs and the 'Wild at Heart' men's course I am on at church. Warriors rampage into battle regardless of who they kill, where as a hunter reveres its prey, undertands it and takes only what is needed. According the the 'Wild at Heart' course, Jesus was a warrior. My only purpose supposedly here in life, as it emphasises whilst the men on the DVD play at clay pigeon shooting with their rifles, is to claim the ground for Jesus, fight the battle against Satan and be a warrior for God. After all, the Bible is full of people going to war, and that is what God wanted then, and wants of me now. Jesus was not meek and mild, he was a warrior.

But...

I'd rather be a hunter. Know my enemy, know myself, know my environment, know my strengths and weaknesses, know my enemies strengths and weaknesses, tread silently, stealthily, and pounce when the time was right. Well, sort of.

Sooo....

Out of the box thinking:
If, as I pondered in my last blog, God was Nature then Nature must be a warrior. I've talked about plants (and other animals) colonising land and growing rapidly - are they on a mission to take over the planet? Are we in the way? Are we their enemy? If God is Nature, does that include us humans, or are we separate from the 'others'? Humans are definately set apart in many ways and if there is this division that, possibly the Holy Spirit bridges, then what other questions does it raise? And Nature has many seeming cruel facets within itself and towards humans (viruses, mosquitos, earthquakes.... etc). It isn't all just a pretty 'God made the world, isn't it beautiful' sort of thing.

OK, I am just enjoying a run of thinking a few things that I find interesting. I am not advocating them as facts, true or the basis of a belief system. It is just fun to have few things running through my mind at the moment.

Next thought please....!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Understanding

From March/April 'Resurgence Magazine':
'Explanation is rational, understanding is intuitive'

'Knowledge is fragmented, understanding is holistic'

When studying for my degree course Environmental studies, a good few years ago now, I wish I had had more of an understanding of the way in which the environment and our lives interact at a cultural, social, spiritual and emotional level. It has taken me many years to finally grasp that there might be more to nature than just identifying plants and measuring clumps of grasses. Building links between psychology, spirituality and nature has, for me anyway, taken around 20 years.

Although it may have said it before, I think that being in an envangelical Christian environment for those 20 years denied me of the ability to take responsibility for my life's journey and to search openly for what I feel is in tune with my soul. Have I now come to a point of understanding? I certainly don't feel at a point of knowledge. I feel like a learner, a trainee, an explorer - in everything - from the garden, to designing, to my faith. For me, I just understand that I am part of this great thing called Gaia, Earth, or whatever you may like to call it, I don't know how though.

I have to develop a language that enables me to communicate with the environment. I can communicate with other people (well, sometimes!) but can I communicate with the bigger sense of belonging that I have? This probably leads on from my previous post about the language of Nature.

I just caught the first few minutes of a programme on TV about Christian fundamentalism this evening but my stress levels rose too high for me to be able to continue to watch it! But I have to ask myself, what would Jesus' view have been to Nature. Where was 'Love Nature as thyself' in the sermon on the mount? How did he empathise with the earth around him? His philosphies and those of the gospels are hugely people-centric. I am not, so I need a different language with which to identify his teachings. Intimate knowledge of the Bible has never been of interest to me - i just don't get it I'm afraid, but I can approach it from an earth perspective when I am in the right mood or get inspired by others who have done so.

People get passionate about their connection with the Bible and Jesus. I get passionate about my search for belonging between my soul and the Earth. They may tell me I will perish in Hell and may deny my search for understanding. I seek understanding, and the still quiet voice of intuition from within, that confirms my path. It is there.

Man clearly does not understand Nature. As the recent flooding Burma and the earthquake in China shows, we have a lot to learn about the clouds around us and the earth beneath our feet, and we ignore it at our peril. I believe we have no right to be on this earth, we have been given it for a short time, but somehow we just don't get it.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Language of Nature

The March/April 2008 edition of 'Resurgence' magazine has an interesting article about the language of nature by Liz Hosken (www.gaiafoundation.org):
... Our fragmented thinking, which denies the primacy of the earth as the source of all life, is now our greatest impediment in meeting the challenge of the moment... ... The great challenge that climate change presents the Western industrial mind is to learn the language of the earth... ...reconnect with the natural world, her cycles, abundance and intelligence... ... the Earth is understood as the primary source of nourishment and meaning... ... we need to reconnect with the poetic language of the imagination through which we can feel for those other than ourselves and our own species...

In 'Animate Earth' Stephan Harding writes:
...the human organism is inherently predisposed to seeing nature as alive and full of soul, and that we repress this fundamental mode of perception at the expense of our own health, and that of the natural world.

He also quotes Thomas Berry as saying "Nature... is a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects".

A couple of weeks ago I put some canes up against a fence by the summerhouse for the bindweed to grow up. To see this plant twist around the cane at almost a foot a day was amazing. The vigor and compulsion that this plant has to grow is amazing. I encourage it to grow up the garden fence as I love its white trumpet like flowers and its heart shaped leaves. It produces a rapid wall of green. In the time it has taken the bindweed to grow 6ft, my carrots have grown about 1cm!

A couple of days ago I was walking near work and looked at the areas of trees and shrubs growing in and around the industrial estate - taking hold and colonizing the small unwanted patches of land between roads, car parks and warehouses.

Nature takes hold. It has its own agenda - to grow, to spread out, to reproduce, to seed, to expand its own kind. Does each individual plant have its own will to live, or is there some inherent 'consciousness' that pervades the whole of the plant world. There is obviously a network of interrelationships between plants (and others) of the same and different species as can be seen in any ' wild' ecosystem when nature has freedom to establish herself. Does this happen purely by chance, or by a process of evolution?

When I stand in a patch of woodland, in the garden, in an orchard full of blossom or a field of corn waving in a breeze and sense a deep silent movement of life around me, am I just anthropomorphosising what I see - projecting a wishful sense of joy of my own life and emotions onto the life around me? Does nature have a language that it uses to talk amongst itself and am I tapping into a whisper of that language caught by my soul? Many people claim to be able communicate with nature though a variety of means (spirits, devas, gods etc) but that path isn't for me. Perhaps it is intuition that catches my psyche. The language that Nature uses, if it has one may be one we will never actually be able to communicate with. But, if we are evolved from similar cells way, way back in the past perhaps we have a vestigial gene somewhere that calls to us in rare moments. But perhaps we don't have to look that far back when we realise that it was only around 200 years ago that our whole world was still predominantly rural, agrarian and nature-centric.

Living in a town and having to commute by car to work in an office all day makes trying to tap into the language of nature a challenge. It takes time for me to try and tune it. Even when I am out for a walk or a bike ride and I only have a few hours seems almost too little time to sense the rhythm of nature around me. I need to slow down and enter the pace of nature - to begin to tune into her language. I only feel I can do so in the way that means something to me. Sometime you get special moments when nature seems to reach out to you and realy inspire you. This is when I feel I have my awareness of the Divine Spirit. Ooo! Er.. soooo... as those last few words seemed to come from no-where.... perhaps it is... the Holy Spirit that.... for me... acts like a translation service between nature and myself. It is a bridge between me and my belonging in nature. That might need a bit of thinking about.....! So is God actually Nature. Is God the essense, the life force, the actual Language of Nature.... Hmmm.... this is too difficult to think about now...

Spring Blessings.

Monday, 5 May 2008

A Challenge in Recycling


I didn't quite manage to make a wendy house for nothing, but for probably less than £40, I almost managed to do it. Using old pallets and chipboard from work, other odd bits of wood lying around the house and a pile of nails handed down from my Father I had tried to make a outdoor playhouse for my daughter for nothing. In the end I had to buy some timber for the framework, roofing felt and, most expensively of all, paint.

The design had been circulating round my mind for several months but once I begun to build it, it seemed to find its own way of how it wanted to be constructed. With a dryish forecast and a bank holiday weekend ahead of me, I set to work armed with a couple of saws, and electric jigsaw and jars of assorted nails. I think it took around 12 hours in total, and there are still a few finishing touches to be added, such as a proper opening window, decorated eaves, a letter box, shelves and anything else that may be neccessary or requested by the little one!

It has been a success with my daughter taking to it with glee. It makes an excellent shop, with the window being the selling counter for ice cream, cakes, cusions and soft toys. I wish I had made it a bit bigger as it is a bit of a squash when we both sit inside but I didn't want to take over the garden or push myself too much. It was hard work, but great to see the result!