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A 35 second dream drawing
time-lapse & dream-
inspired Christmas image

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A guest post on finding
light and story within
darkness and difficulty

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1.11 timelapse:
a tiny temple is

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4.38 video in honour
of my aunt…& all our
winged relations

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Casting the Zhouyi's
winged and tailed
ancestors in glass

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How my studio
floor came to have
a mind of its own

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Layers of cyclical
change enfold
the still-point

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Time to move away
from our linear
model of time

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A twenty-second
celebration of all things
summery, light & free :)

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2.32: bubbles on the River
Ribble: a video sketch of
Rodriguez's song

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Two videos in honour
of Rennaldburn
on misty mornings

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3.56 video filmed at
the Loupin Stanes in
a snowy Eskdalemuir

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3.12 time-lapse &
video of a St Brigid's
cross Imbolc offering

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Introducing my new, improved blog
with a wee dream-sketch video


    "Life, religion and art all converge in Bali. They have no word
    in their language for 'artist' or 'art.' Everyone is an artist."
    ~ Anais Nin

    This is how Bali struck me when I went there aged twenty one: visiting a land where spirituality and creativity live at the heart of life had a formative and transformative effect on me. (That journey was one in which I ended up shipwrecked on a small island in the Indian Ocean…but that’s another story :)
    This time round, I was going for a month with my betrothed, in the faith that he would feel this unique, vibrant spirit too.
    “Baliiiiiii!” is how someone in security at gargantuan Jakarta airport pronounced it; playfully, but with the feel of a mythical, sacred place. And we were enchanted from the very first morning, when a stroll along a Kuta beach, minutes from the airport, revealed a multitude of wildlife…including a very handsome pair of snakes we filmed from up close, only discovering later that they were sea snakes with a lethal venom.

    We’ve arrived back inspired to move forward with our various works, so I won’t turn this into too epic a post…but just share a few snapshots into Bali life as we experienced it:

    jungle temples...

    sacred monkeys...

    horse-washing at dawn...

    loving daily offerings...

    (this one by Ketut Sumiarti, our homestay hostess. Here's the link if you ever want to stay with a lovely family high in Bali's mountains :)

    shrines by every doorway...

    a cats-only island...

    painting with Mada, Ketut, Wili & Putu...

    ...and misty mountains beneath us as we flew North again.

    Sometimes, the inner truth of a journey unfolds after returning home once more...and, with dreams of flying turtles and extravagantly coloured butterflies, Bali is still working its magic on us as we walk by Rennaldburn's clear waters and frosted swathes of snowdrops. Now is time to get creating again :)

    Mada swinging on a vine at sunset

    The Christmas artist

    I’ve always felt a rich synthesis between dreams and art; a winding track leads from one to the other through beautiful wilderlands, with infinite unfoldments along the way. The very nature of the fusion, though ~ exactly how each permeates and informs the other ~ is largely beyond words; it’s the images themselves which open a space for a deeper truth to grow.

    In an all-encompassing sense, I like to keep the channel open as much as possible between the fertile, star-lit world in which all things are possible, and waking life…in which all things are also possible, but can feel less so.

    More specifically, I love to literally create my dreams. Sometimes with songs or through other mediums, but often by painting or drawing them.

    Here’s an illustration taking form, of a dream I had in the Autumn. In it, I'm given a choice of tracks to follow through a carpet of young sweet chestnut saplings, and choose the middle, least travelled one. It is a beautiful pathway.

    Not long after travelling the sweet chestnut path, I had a dream filled with rich interior imagery. In it, I visit my good friend and fellow valley girl Catkin. She’s absorbed in painting a beautiful miniature arched Christmas painting in a room filled with light, colour and living trees; as well as a Christmas tree, there is a pear and a laurel.

    So many kinds of goodness are embodied in this simple dream scene. A verdant creativity; abundance rooted in a deep inner peace rather than merely matter; an all-encompassing sense of a warm and welcoming home; nature as an intrinsic and honoured part of life.

    May everyone be blessed with a Solstice and Christmas this bright…and a year similarly filled with goodness, creativity, peace and abundance, with the holiness of nature at its heart.


    Harsh Winters, Retreats and the Exploration of Silence ~ by Cathy van Hoppe

    It's been a long time since I've had a guest post on returntotheway...nearly two years ago, when Cathy van Hoppe shared sketches for a winter's tale.

    Here's a recent work coming into being; midnight magic, kinship and starlight born from silence and winter stillness.

    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


    temple building

    Fairy Tale of Kings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1909

    From now on ~ interspersed with small tales about artwork creation ~ there will be rolling updates about the building of a tiny temple at Rennaldburn.

    I've been inspired about the idea of building small, simple but beautiful shelters since I was a teenager. Here's a more expanded version of what I still hope to do someday:

    On a part of the earth which expresses many different energies ~ rugged high outcrops, streams running through gentle meadows, woodland hollows leading to open ocean shore ~ my dream is to create a soulful centre of creative, spiritual exploration, an abundant garden of possibility.

    I’ll honour the spirit running through the varied energies, staying open to working with different approaches for each. One place may call for a sacred grove in mandalic form, following the principles of permaculture and forest gardening so that fruit and nut trees, flowers and berry bushes entwine with one another, while another may desire a water garden, streams snaking around boulders into pools teeming with life and lotus flowers.

    And within each energy of earth, thunder, water, lake, mountain, fire, wood/wind and heaven, I’ll construct a small dwelling place which personifies its surroundings as well as harmonises with them, simple yet beautiful, each a work of art and also functioning “as a device or space where we would not only experience Nature more deeply but also where Nature would speak out, where we might come to better understand the language of Nature.”

    (This quote's from sacred land artist Bill Witherspoon’s visionary Art as Technology, available only on this site: on this page; scroll down to 'Bill' for a free PDF download.)

    Kahil Gibran perfectly expresses what I yearn to embody in his poem, On Houses:

    Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness
    ere you build a house within the city walls.
    For even as you have home-comings in your twilight,
    so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
    Your house is your larger body.
    It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night;
    and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream?
    and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top?
    Would that I could gather your houses into my hand,
    and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.
    Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths
    your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards,
    and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments...

    As I create these ‘bowers in the wilderness’ I’ll begin to live in them, moving from one to the next as the seasons shift. I’ll be doing this using a calendar of the four fixed points of the year of the summer and winter solstices, spring and autumn equinoxes coupled with fire and thunder, lake and heaven ~ and the lunar cross-quarters of the year of Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain coupled with water, mountain, wood/wind and earth.

    I've been using this framework for several years to help me to understand, explore and celebrate the world of the I Ching, or Zhouyi as it expresses within cyclical change. As I do, I also journey through the chakras, starting with earth for the body of the earth (not a chakra), thunder for the base chakra, water for the sacral, lake for the solar, mountain for the heart, fire for the throat, wood/wind for the brow and heaven for the crown/heaven itself.

    I’m fascinated to take the life-changing paradigm shift of the vision quest and marry it with the idea of living rooted to one particular part of the earth in such a way that I’m seasonally present to different aspects, thus allowing them to be more fully present to me and enabling an expansive creative synthesis of presence to evolve.

    I imagine insights continuing to deepen as I spiral into this way of being one with the earth while moving with seasonal changes ~ and I also envisage the time becoming right for others to come and share the experience, taking back an embodied understanding of the wisdom of Nature seen through a multifaceted lens and rooted in time and space.

    Back from my envisionings to this moment, though, I realised that I could simply reverse the belief that this was something that would have to wait until circumstances conspired to make it possible...simply beginning by making it possible.

    Here, then, is the inauguration of Altair air Abhainn (Gaelic for Alter by the stream). It's on the site of Rennaldburn's hillside fireplace; if you look at the bottom right corner of the video you can just see the final fire burning there as the space is prepared.


    I'll fly away

    This Samhain new moon, as our ancestors are nearer the forefront of our awareness, here's a small tale about a gravestone I made my Great Aunt Ecila this Summer.

    She died forty years ago, but ~ having matter-of-factly donated her body to science ~ never had a funeral or grave...and the time felt right for my mother and myself to redress the balance. (Since I carved a stone in memory of my father a couple of years ago, I'm quite the expert now ;)

    I decided to try a multimedia offering this time, with a glass rosy cross inset into the sandstone, along with a little metal Scotty dog broach...and we made the pilgrimage down to North Curry, Somerset to sneak it into the family plot.

    There we stayed with a family friend who had one of those wild, rambling and chaotically glorious gardens that have a timeless quality to them (you could imagine it being the same in medieval or victorian times)

    (The same could be said for many interior views, such as this nook, ode to glass and dragons :)

    I spent much of my time filming the abundance of winged creatures who made their home there and on the local waterways...

    These sun-infused interactions became this little video, made as an offering to Aunt Ecila ~ and all our relations who are now more winged than earthbound.


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    © shenpen chökyi 2013