Shared roots and scattered seeds

Before any major growth spirt can occur, before we can look to the new growth, the branches and the seeds, one thing has to happen and it’s important. We have to take a long hard look at our roots to appraise “how are they doing, how strong and healthy are they feeling, how grounded and deep; will they withstand and provide the sustenance we need as we grip onto the soil for the next stage of expansion…especially a big one”.

The thing about roots is that they have the strangest habit of being entangled with other roots, touching in places we can’t see above the surface…so what we think of as many trees is actually one giant organism, joined at the source-point. Yet not everyone seems to notice this (or wants to); some would have our roots transplanted to individual grow bags with impermeable walls. Yet, like any giant tree, our strength relies on our touching points, the overlaps, the healthy entanglements …and I notice a whole lot of musical artists are realising this, through their projects, too.

Its why collaborative music is one of my BIGGEST passions. in fact, I love almost all music (at least, melodious, non-production-line music) with a high-degree of passionate, eclectic, bubbling over the top enthusiasm…which then comes crashing back to earth and dies just a little when I share all my enthusiasm on social media yet get no comments or likes from amongst even my closest friends. Friendships bonded via music are the most potent I know; my husband and I are such and I used to have them years ago but they seem to have died back in my corner of the woods as I reached maturity. The same enthusiasm that surrounded me in my student days is simply not there any more and this leaves me feeling more sadness than I can adequately express.

I just don’t get its absence, or its watered-down-ness, in other people’s lives; to me, love of music is everything, though I am not a musician (would love to be; my problem being I want to play everything, brilliantly, so I play nothing but an Irish whistle in my own amateur way). As I see it, its also one of the best routes to our collective understanding, healing and salvation so why aren’t we all paying it due attention? Because, in the kind of musical collaborations I gravitate to (apart from discovering exquisite sensory experiences that provide blessed relief from all the other painful stuff…) I find reasons to hope that our roots are, indeed, strong enough to carry us forwards and also find evidence of abundant new shoots growing above that surface from old-hardy root stock…partly because of the way these artists own-up to our shared roots, whether they are shared across genre, culture or even species; and because they don’t flinch to go where politicians fear to go. While walls are being built, they are busy unpicking all the joists…so I want to shout about it; to get everyone else noticing and taking their cue from such messages of possibility….and then joining in, since that is what music is all about, when it comes down to it.

Screenshot 2019-11-24 at 16.51.44Last night I was at a wonderful concert witnessing such collaboration in action. Appreciating Rhiannon Giddens as I do, I pounced on tickets for this concert in which she partners with Italian pianist, percussionist, accordion player and tambourine enthusiast (described as a ‘musical alchemist’ by the Irish Times) Francesco Turrisi. They met in in Ireland and found that her reclaimed 19th century American minstrel banjo tunes (what can’t she tell you about the real history of the banjo with its African origins…before it was commandeered by minstrel shows as part of a rather bad-taste and long-running joke at the expense of Afro Americans; this girl takes dot-joining and history exposing to a whole other level) and his traditional Sicilian tambourine rhythms fit naturally together. In other words, they realised that, when we collaborate across cultures (instead of locking antlers), we mostly discover that the roots are all shared…the origins all the same. From that point on, and with many a WhatsApp geek-a-thon to keep their conversation open, they both began drawing on their roots and finding new inspiration in the cross-overs, leading to an album There is No Other (link to whole album on YouTube). This concert is the result; and it has that unmistakable tingle-factor of a project born of great enthusiasm and vision…not to do with revering the path but shining light towards the future. From the very moment Giddens opened her throat to fill the auditorium with her incredible voice, delivering her own composition Ten Thousand Voices, she had everybody rapt, caught in a spell of multi-lifetime overview and at least the start of some semblance of greater understanding.

What ensued was a concert you didn’t want to end, filled brim-full with variety and unexpected overlap. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to, no exaggeration: filled with so much skin tingling and quite jaw-dropping talent on one stage (a trio that included a wonderful double bass player); so much movement in the cross cultural pot; and so much inspirational chit-chat and story telling, dot joining and musical geeking about the deeper cultural history and the instruments, where they derived from, what they were used for…and not always obvious uses at that! Plus not a small amount of reference to where we are now, how we all feel at 3am in the morning and the importance of taking our moments of beauty and joy where we can, through…yes…music, collaboration and recognition of glorious things held in common; our healthy entanglements at the root (since so many of those same entanglements look far less healthy above the soil). It included jazz, opera, folk, gospel and music from Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Africa, the middle east…cultural ingredients which only went on to throw up wonderful new flavours when blended. Who knew there were so many types of tambourine, that you could have a tambourine solo (instrument of the goddesses, 8000 years ago…my favourite era…I learned) and that it could be so riveting. And oh Gidden’s voice, layered with all the experience, poignancy and wisdom of her cultural roots and of women’s voices across multiple centuries. It was a potent mix.

Yet I get it; you weren’t there so how could I expect you to be as enthusiastic as I am…I do see. I know, when I spill my excitement all over social media and in my writing, the only people likely to respond are those who like Gidden’s music or who were there…I understand, that’s logical I suppose. Yet this seems so self-limiting. How would I have known about Giddens myself if I hadn’t followed some clue dropped by another person; picked up the titbit from somewhere (and I think it might have been because I found her tingle-inducing version of Dido’s Lament, as performed live last night…one of my all-time favourite pieces of opera) but whatever it was that grabbed me, it was the key to the door of her broad repertoire. Something must have served as the tail end of a thread and I followed it; I had the curiosity to explore and, being me, I would have delved deep, whenever that was (four years ago?).

81XE-24NOyLIn fact, I constantly follow such threads in music; like yesterday, when I discovered a folk song about a selkie (I collect them…loving selkie stories as I do) and it lead to another collaboration called ‘The Lost Words“, made up of Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Kris Dever, Kerry Andrews, Rachel Newton, Beth Porton and Jim Molyneu. This got my attention because all of these are familiar folk; I saw Kris Drever in concert just last month and had been looking out for a live performance from Karine Polwart as I would dearly love to see her perform and here they all were together…for a cause close to my heart.

Because The Lost Words” turns out to be a collaboration whose intention is to bring to the stage the oh-so important message of a book by the same name; here’s the “about” section from their website:

“Once Upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on a stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren…all of them gone! The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”

This is the intriguing introduction to The Lost Words: A Spell Book by writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris. Described by the Guardian as a ‘cultural phenomenon’ this book holds “spells of many kinds that might just, by the old strong magic of being spoken aloud, unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye”.

The Lost Words: Spell Songs is a new musical companion piece to The Lost Words book where musicians unfold the “dreams and songs” living within the pages of the book.

The book began as a response to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary, but then grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their characterful glory.

I glanced at Jackie Morris’ artwork style across the website and got goosebumps…immediately recognising the connection with a loose thread in my year. There was a book on the shelf at the B&B where I stayed with my sister in Malvern at the start of April. It caught my eye because of the beautiful depiction of goldfinches on the cover. Goldfinches are so important to me; feeling symbolic, as they do (their arrivals in my garden are rare but well timed…) of something important we are on the verge of allowing to slip through our hands….

“Charm on goldfinch, charm on. Heaven help us when all your gold is gone…” (From Charm on, Goldfinch – The Lost Words: Spell Songs.)

A charm, by the way, is the collective noun for a group of goldfinches…did you know that? Not many people do any more.

For some time, I had been almost desperate to manifest some sort of artwork to convey this goldfinch message and those of all the other birds that “speak” so much to me but inspiration had remained elusive…like I didn’t know where to start, fussing over my medium. Suddenly, there in my peripheral vision over dinner was this glorious book cover looking pretty-much as I had imagined; a book I didn’t even get to lift off the shelf of our host’s collection as there was never a good moment. Then I remembered in the night….must look at book over breakfast…but I got sidetracked as were leaving that day and got home kicking myself; tried to find such book on Amazon from a description of the cover but didn’t get anywhere.

Helen White Artist

© Helen White www.helenwhite.org

Still, it had lit a torch in me and so I immediately started on my series of bird-themed digital paintings – my king-of-song blackbird, my robin with his divine song (I added the detail of the robin’s breath to convey this, following an experience I had with a robin’s song at Glastonbury – see my post Crystalising and its follow-up The frequency of Birds), my musically-mute but important magpie sat in stately balance and my little wren…always oh so important to me, with her powerful voice, though she is seldom noticed due to being so small, plain and brown; like me, she always has much to say but tends to remain invisible. But for some reason, I have encircled (even as recently as a couple of weeks ago) yet not started the goldfinch artwork that still flutters in my head…

So, of course, when I found Jackie Morris’ illustrations for the book “The Lost Words” yesterday, there it was (as I knew in my gut would be the case…) the very same book I had seen on the shelf all those months ago – now found at last through a piece of serendipity – and, on the cover of the related album “Spell Songs”, my little wren with a tiny curl of song breath from her mouth, just as I had given to my robin. The synchronicities were so undeniably powerful. Within an hour, I had ordered the book and tickets to see “The Lost Words” being performed live next year; I was following my path.

songlines-best-album-for-instagram-1.jpgBecause when music speaks to me like this,  I don’t hesitate, am impulsive, lack the usual need for careful consideration that turns other parts of my life into a series of long hesitations and stutters. When its music, the message goes beyond the “tune” or even “the lyrics”. Its a wide-ranging conspiracy of happy coincidences, of meaningful overlaps, potent undercurrents, powerful harmonies, juxtapositions and collaborations. Rigidity and rules get overidden. The heart gets recruited, first…not as an afterthought. These are powerful tools at the hands of music; and musicians who weald them for the good of our planet do important work that I want to support with all that I have, including my enthusiasm.

My passion for dandelions as the wild and much maligned hedgerow dwellers, for instance (after all, what constitutes “a weed” except this entirely oppressive idea devised by those who would have all the world under their control…) is a longstanding one. It has fed my writing and art for years; I wrote about it once here. Kris Drever’s tribute to the dandelion “Scatterseed” was part of his set at the gig we went to last month…oh happy goosebumps…but then he talked about how the many charming names these familiar friends of mine once had (lions tooth, windblow, milkwych, parachute, evening glow); only, now they are all being written out of the dictionary, even the obvious ones. We are part of a reductionist machine and text-speak will be all before we know it; but its more than that….is so much bigger and all pervasive. This kind of negative momentum makes me so desperately sad….does it make you sad; do other people react when they hear this kind of thing? I don’t understand why they wouldn’t see its import; because the loss of these words and references is symptomatic of so much more that is being pushed aside, lost, written out of all the books and erased before our very eyes…

“Scatterseed scatterseed, the fallen star of the football field…I never called you just a  weed”. (From “Scatterseed” – Kris Drever.)

Now, I discover, the song is part of the “Lost Words” line-up. Having these songsters “call out” what would otherwise be the “tiny”, almost imperceptible crimes of the mainstream monster, as words get swept away to extinction just as carelessly as do wildflowers, trees and entire species of birds, animals and insects, is just so important in these times. Through music and yes art (my part) they draw attention to what is just so desperately amiss in our world, in the face of a machine that is dogmatic but not so very good at playing the heart strings so, for goodness sake, lets keep playing those strings before rigamortis sets in; let’s work some magic with all our special powers! The book’s artwork delivers a triptych of watercolour paintings of each creature or plant, first depicting its absence, then the “spell” (rather than poem) to accompany its portrait surrounded by sumptuous gold leaf and lastly the creature or plant embedded in its natural habitat; a powerful transformation as it is returned to life before the very eyes.

Since published, there has been a powerful movement to ensure every school has a copy of “The Lost Words” for its children to familiarise themselves with so many words now written out of dictionaries and the endangered natural world they make reference to…and, so far, this campaign has grown across Scotland, five boroughs in London and several counties whilst “Spell Songs” is not the only musical effort to grow out of it, including classical interpretations:

“Since the Lost Words’ publication in October 2017, this book has had a transformative effect on all who have come in contact with it. Described as a ‘cultural phenomenon’ in the Guardian, it has become a huge bestseller, has taken root in thousands of schools across Britain, been widely acclaimed as an instant classic, won numerous prizes, and inspired many creative thinkers, young and old. It was shortlisted in 2017 as one of Britain’s favourite books of all time on the natural world (alongside titles including Tarka the Otter and Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne).”

I salute such momentum and want to be part of it in any small way that I can.

DandelionAfter I listened to “Spell Songs” yesterday, Spotify did that marvellous thing that it does (and I don’t know how I would exist without it now) whereby it continues playing artists from the algorithm of my previous choice; so I gathered, in just the space of an hour, four new artists of a similar ilk to try out today; already they have me tingling with anticipation at my afternoon ahead. One already saved to a playlist is poet Kate Tempest’s “People’s Faces”, oh wow….just follow the link to experience it, please.  People tell me they don’t have Spotify…well, get it then (even the free version is better than not) or try YouTube, just try. “When I write I am visited by a higher self” says Tempest (and a more apt name is hard to imagine). I had never heard anything quite like her delivery before but I cant seem to put “People’s Faces” down…

As such, my ever evolving taste and the adventure it takes me on is an exponential thing and this reflects who and how I am; deep at my core. I grow and I expand, I explore and I join dots, I notice and I question, I put out feelers and I experiment, constantly…with such enthusiasm, excitement and joy. If I must be overwhelmed by sensations then I choose to be overwhelmed by music; its how I have learned to cope with my sensory adroitness. The only pleasurable way I can be around crowds of other people (as I know I should try to be, at least some of the time…) is to be at concerts, where the music carries me away and the oneness with “other” is the primary sensation I get from being in that audience, sharing an experience that makes us all at least similar, for a time. This overrides, for a couple of hours, all my usual challenges with proximity and electromagnetic spaces plus a sea of mobile phones though, OK, I really struggled last night with somebody’s overwhelming perfume, which I could taste as though I had been drinking it because it was just so chemical and strong, but it was a small price to pay to be there. The sensations that course though my body when at a live music performance compensate for all other challenges I experience as a sensitive and, somehow, bring new coherence to the moshpit of life such that I can navigate between one gig and the next on a cloud of joy and enthusiasm, including a sense of having mingled with others on a similar wavelength, even without meeting them as such. Its no wonder I have liberally dotted this year’s diary and next (already) with tickets for numerous gigs to see performances I’m so excited about; I would rather this than a dozen holidays.

I know, the intensity of my “focused interest” around all this and the degree of passion and insistence I bring to it when I share my enthusiasm with others, hoping for some sort of equal or similar response (though, sometimes, any response would do), is all part of my autism, my naive optimism, my inbuilt expectation of sameness and understanding. I do know, now (at my ripe old age) that I can’t expect everyone or even most people to be be wired like me; to get so excited, so vibed-up, by an experience that, like a child, I simply want to share it with others…like holding up a picture I just drew for them to see or offering a handful of sweets…in order to offer them a portion of my experience by inducing them to join me in it, as I’m having it, so that my experience and theirs can mingle and be all the greater. Sometimes, I suspect they think I am boasting about what I am experiencing (a neurotypical interpretation of motivation that never occurs to me at the time) when it only ever comes from this longing to share and to infect them with my high-vibe and joy; to offer them an opening. Yet I know all these hopes of mine are nonsense except amongst exceptionally open minds; they can’t and they won’t come in to my realm, being wired differently and I have to mitigate my expectations to limit the heartbreak of this truth. I know all this longing is illogical, the world being what it is, but I just sometimes wish with all my heart that other people would try harder to be more than just “typical” around this, my favourite topic, and join me in my sensory explosion, if only for just a short while but perhaps its not relatable when your senses around music (“hearing” doesn’t even cover it) aren’t so acute, so orgasmic.  Even then, I feel that I know music’s worth as a transformation aid in this world; I know how it can break through ceilings and to the heart, so I wish that, just because I say its worth sampling, they would trust me and try it; or, like when they announce they have great news (a promotion, a grandchild, a funny thing) they could get enthusiastic about my biggest events which, nine times out of ten (no, really) are about experiences involving music…or art…or a bird on my walk; but they never seem to be able to meet me there; to them, those things are only peripheral and to me they are utterly pivotal. So I’ve yet to find my people; the ones who could gush and gush about this stuff and make it bigger in the sharing, even though they don’t play an instrument (I envy those who do since they find their folk amongst other artists; like Giddens and Turrisi). Next time, I’m quite determined, I’m coming back as a multi-instrumentalist; and a good one at that!

dandelion-335222.pngIt’s like I spend my whole life longing to curate an experience for other people, one that might help them see new stuff or experience profound breakthroughs, but I can’t even get them through the door of it. So as ever (with all my favourite topics) I continue to long to have people around me that I can enthuse with (a common longing amongst Asperger types, I read) but can hear a pin drop when I talk about my musical taste or share links to performances; perhaps more so than with any other topic, I’ve noticed. I’m not sure but I sense its not considered polite amongst neurotypicals to inflict your music taste on others but what if its your primary interest? So, how many years have I suppressed this interest, for lack of collaborators? Thankfully, it’s how my husband and I came together; and we’re working on spending more time at events where our kind of folk gather but its slower work than I would like since it involves finding all new friends, which neither of us are good at. In part, I am sad for me and, in part, in despair for the way the world is going….like its a sign that humanity is becoming desensitised, en masse; for where is the curiosity and the thrill-factor gathered around such overwhelming talent and beauty? How come most people are so easily pleased with processed music that all sounds the same and came out of a factory; or, they fixate on TV “talent” shows with their orchestrated outcomes; or, they listen to what is safe and nostalgic to them, from years ago, a happy place…when there is so much that is new and exciting organically breaking open the soil from around beautiful old root stock; new growth from down deep where we all join together in remembrance of who we really are.

It was bewildering to notice last night, for instance that for all Giddens is what I would consider a young artist, the audience was largely made up of people above the age of 60, most of whom seemed (from overheard conversation) like they had come because it was in a mailing and not because they knew her work…and though its great they were all there, its a demographic I notice a lot at live music. Why oh why were there almost no 20, 30 or 40 somethings, the avid following of youth I expected, given this music is lively and sexy, political, gutsy, soulful, challenging, sensual, boundary-pushing, feisty and oh-so of these times. In the sea of white hair, there was just one younger woman that I noticed; she had come all alone and brought her book for the interval…as I would done ten or fifteen years ago, if I didn’t have my husband…yet her aloneness spoke volumes. People like us are dotted around; we don’t operate in packs…or, not until we mellow beyond all the fire and energy to make change that this music deserves for its audience. For all we have more choices than we ever had, and more going on than ever where the arts in general are concerned, most people still seem to be content with mainstream and almost desperately afraid of deviating from it in their youth. They don’t seem to want to be taxed by deeper “meaning”, preferring to hear predictable ditties and love songs on the radio; but there’s no challenge, no passion, no story telling, no guts and no rally call in any of that mainstream heap (which is why folk, roots and alternative seem to be central to my genres). Parenthood seems to distract them for years and then, all too often, I hear from other women that they don’t feel they have a particular musical taste at all anymore, or that they listen to whatever the radio or their offspring happen to play at them.

It bewilders me into silence, almost shuts down the potential for friendship, when I hear such admissions because music speaks such volumes to, and for, me that I would hardly know who I was without it. An absence of interest or preference suggests no discernment or curiosity and next to no physical/emotional response to something that elicits a massively physical/emotional repose from me, therefore I need to know that the other person feels at least some degree of response to it before I can get on any communication wavelength with them at all.

As ever, it all seems to come down to how we are not all wired the same way in this, as in any other, regard and that there are those who feel more than others; like having a completely different kind of experience, as science is now proving through patterns in the brain and nervous system. It seems, some people simply don’t get chills from music, though they can be proved to perceive it the same. The new research suggests, patterns of brain regions specifically activated by music pleasure, including the connection from auditory regions which perceive music to the reward centres, are slightly different in these individuals than in other people who get goosebumps, chills and other sensory responses that register as intense pleasure throughout their body (which is how it is for me; quite intensely so).  “People who get the chills have an enhanced ability to experience intense emotions,” reports Matthew Sachs, a PhD student conducting his research on this topic . He has also found that people who are open to experience – as well as people who have more musical training – are more likely report strong emotional responses. Their reward circuitry seems to work better and more intensely than those other people, the most extreme of which seem to have something labelled “musical anhedonia” (music doesn’t reward them in the same way as those who respond to it; another study on that here).

Of course, some scientists have suggested this goosebumpy reaction I get is a primitive throw-back to hairy ancestors who relied on their skin to prickle when faced with a fight or flight situation but, as ever, I shovel salt all over such theories since they are much the same ones that consider autism to be “brokenness”. Rather, I consider any genetics that phased out such reactions as a tragic loss to humanity but hold out that a great many of people’s reactions (or lack thereof) are learned behaviours and can be modified  by encouraging people to expand their perceptions, relearning how to open themselves up to more diversity and greater depth of experience, through variety and relevance (as when music becomes associated to a cause that is meaningful to them) and by mixing up and extending their experiences from the narrow “norm”.  This is exactly what I have been trying to say about these new musical collaborations which s-t-r-e-t-c-h what we are used to hearing. New synapses can grow and sensory experiences to do with empathy, unconditional love beyond boundaries, and a whole range of positive emotions can be intensified, I feel sure…and then who knows what humanity could achieve. Music could weave its spell in ways that we have yet to fully imagine or realise in this world…

Well, for one, I certainly know how to be open and affected by all sensations more than most (often to my detriment), so if this is a reward for my often over-stimulated nervous system, I will happily take it. I’m not complaining…its just that I would like to be in contact with more people who are also wired this way at some point in my life, so we can share the experience and so I can feel less lonely in it; a pursuit that has been a life-long endeavour since it is mostly absent amongst my existing friends. I guess it’s what my primary friendship filter is all about, which I still use, if rather more subtly than before (for years, before I learned any better, my opening question was likely to be “so, what music do you like?” but I gave this up on sensing, as above, that it is a line of enquiry that is frowned upon or considered a bore). Moving on…

Other powerful collaborations I have got into over the years include the wonderfully blended sound of The Imagined Village, the Nest Collective and Sam Lee, who quotes Gustav Mahler on his website “Tradition is tending the flame, not worshipping the ashes”. Through his project, Singing with Nightingales he demonstrates that collaborations can bridge species as well as culture. Through these wonderfully intimate gatherings in woodland at night, singing along with the ever-rarer song of the nightingale (there’s been an 80% decline in 30-40 years), he is endeavouring to draw attention to the plight of these and so many other bird species at the hands of human beings. These things really, really matter to me…no, I mean REALLY…keeping me awake at night, and so the music built around such endeavours is extra-powerful for me and, I hope, others, being compelling in a way other rebellion methods tend to fall on deaf ears. When he staged his Singing with Nightingales event in London’s Berkley Square as part of Extinction Rebellion last summer, this sing-along music broadcast amplified through speakers to a gathering crowd was a protest as powerful, or more so, than anything else going on as part of that mass event, garnering interest from spontaneous crowds drawn by his warmth and obvious passion, not to mention his incredibly gifted and contagious musicality (those magic tools for engaging people again). How many people even know what a nightingale sounds like; but there he is helping them out and those who still don’t had better hurry up if they want to have the opportunity. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the importance of bird song is one of my other “grand passions” and I collect recordings and collaborations of that variety too.

I could go on and on as this is clearly one of my “potential to bang on” topics (interestingly, Giddens made two references to possessing that very trait….”I’m that girl at the party” she kept saying; “oh no , here she comes…”). Should you happen to find me on Spotify, you will gain a far better sense of my eclectic and ever-expanding music taste there. An accessible way in to the deep pool of my mind is via the playlists that I compile as an ongoing project (currently up to number XXII and all pretty varied and diverse; my own collaboration project) known as the Badger Lists; available to explore by searching them out on Spotify. They have no set agenda except to induce the tingle factor in me and perhaps others who trip upon them; and I can’t help but imagine some sort of audience I have yet to meet enjoying the experience of them as I put them together, though I have yet to have a single hit from anyone “out there”. In their way, their curatorship is as much a part of my creative output as are my words or my art since they are an all-important expression of me and we can each do no more profound work than to discover who we truly are, from roots to tip, via such multi-sensory, cross-boundary, means, regardless of who happens to join in or notice.

On my walk today, having offloaded these “few” words I heard a song thrush singing so enthusiastically in the late afternoon glow just as the white mist started to come down thickly across the fields by the river; an experience I had never had before (I hadn’t heard a thrush for months and can’t remember ever hearing one outside of summer). I also saw four little wrens, an unusual count for one walk; and one so close to my ear it almost passed for a falling leaf. I like to think these intimate encounters mark a refreshing of the global song quota, and it’s potency, from today; perhaps they sense my renewed enthusiasm around this topic and wanted to give me the nod. Perhaps tomorrow I will get back to my bird art…

Please explore my links 🙂

About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. While Spinning the Light is a free-for-all covering a multitude of playful and positive subjects, Living Whole is primarily a forum for health and lifestyle topics focussed on recovery from the chronic health challenges she has lived with for a number of years. Needless to say, their subjects cross over quite often.
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8 Responses to Shared roots and scattered seeds

  1. clivebennett796 says:

    There is so much I could comment on here Helen, suffice to say I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. The artists you talk about with such enthusiasm are ones I’ve not come across before so yes I will follow the links … And the book does seem to be a runaway success. My own kids grew up surrounded by nature and wildlife in the foothills of Snowdonia but have inherited much of their feeling for wildlife and the countryside from my west country roots. My maternal grandmother was what has become to be known as a hedgewitch – there was nothing she didn’t know about the plants and birds and animals that lived in the fields woods and hedges around where she lived in Wiltshire. But above all she and my Mum had a great love and understanding of nature.

    I love your paintings – you have a gift for capturing the light, and the mood … . Your digital pictures of birds are stunning. I do hope you do paint your Goldfinch.

    You may have read this before on one of my posts but here is my haiku of a wren …

    drifting snow …
    shattering the silence
    a wren sings

    Written after a walk in the snow down our lane – when a Wren suddenly burst out singing very loudly from the briar by the field gate … the only sound in the snowstorm.

    And here is a link to my post which has a piece by Messiaen about a Blackbird. You may already know of this but if not it’s a short piece for piano and flute. His music is not everyone’s cup of tea but he was passionate about his music and the colours he saw in birdsong, and the part birds play in our lives.

    https://artin.artinnature.co.uk/musical-interlude-sounds-summer/

    As always I enjoy your posts and am finding your new insights deeply fascinating and resonant. My son was diagnosed when he was around 14 and I too am on the Spectrum but never formally diagnosed

    • Helen White says:

      Your words, and sharings, as ever are very deeply appreciated Clive, they always feel like the other side of a conversation I am having and writing what I do (or even painting what I do) would not feel so deeply pleasurable without such interactions as we have over common themes! Apologies for the late response as I have been away and them as is typical, in pulled-in recovery mode for a few days and hadnt seen the notification of your comment.

      • clivebennett796 says:

        Glad you’re back – no apologies needed. I know, from your writing, just how much a few days away can affect you. Hope you are back on track now.

      • Helen White says:

        Thanks Clive and by the way your haiku of the wren really stayed with me…it occurred to me, as I was pondering it this morning, that I had never seen a wren in snow or against against a white backdrop (started playing with the idea of a new artwork) and then on my walk today I saw one flit against the white frosted fields and hedgerows all sparkling in morning sunshine (just before she sang out so sweetly). Magical!

  2. cathytea says:

    Wrens and dandelions are among my favorite! Your digital art is amazing… really speaks to me, representing those moments of magic that birds deliver.

    Music is literally my lifeline…. well, music, birds, and dandelions!

    • Helen White says:

      I LOVE that we have all these things in common! It almost seems to me they are the marker of a very particular kind of soul, like a trail to find one another, whenever we notice these things in common….as I always prick up ears when people start talking about birds and so on when I am with them (like our airbnb hosts at the weekend where we were staying…I knew, immediately, we were going to get on more than averagely well as they started commenting on such things in conversation and indeed we we then all relaxed together….like it was established, “ah you’re one of us”…and so we felt like old friends by the end of the visit).

  3. clivebennett796 says:

    Dear Helen,

    I wrote, admittedly rather a long reply to your post. It’s disappeared somewhere! That’s not an issue. But I am worried that it was inappropriate or you found it upsetting or hurtful. I am truly sorry if that is so. Rarely for me I wrote it without ‘moderating’ it first. Normally I write and rewrite posts and comments on others posts many times over before ‘hitting the button’. I have not kept a copy so I can’t review it. Your post did strike a chord deep within me and I think I was, rather clumsily, reaching out …

    I’m sorry.

    Best Wishes

    Clive

    On Mon, 25 Nov 2019 at 22:08, spinning the light wrote:

    > Helen White posted: “Before any major growth spirt can occur, before we > can look to the new growth, the branches and the seeds, one thing has to > happen and it’s important. We have to take a long hard look at our roots to > appraise “how are they doing, how strong and healthy ar” >

    • Helen White says:

      Am so sorry to have been tardy approving your previous comment Clive, I just found it, prompted by this message. I have been away on a rather tiring family visit and then pulled into a quiet space since I got back (and my emails, meanwhile, have stacked up horribly) but, on finding both comments, I am so thrilled at what you shared especially since I had somehow missed your post in August…I enjoyed ALL the links! Whenever I write a post about nature or birds, I almost feel as though we are sat down chatting to one another as I know we share these interest so closely and I am thrilled to hear your grandmother was a hedgewitch as I have often sensed I have been one (more than once) in other lifetimes too! The goldfinch artwork is underway and in fact I intend to get on with it today. Thank you, as ever, for sharing such heartfelt thoughts in response to my words, blogging wouldnt be the same without them.

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