Let’s Start with a Poem

Extract from my recent presentation for the Women and Wetlands Panel Discussion

When Petrified Trees Stand Up and March Into the Sea

I carve out solitude to wander
wide open shores

sanddunes, pebbles and
wooden limbs

Submerged
a forest of trees
so tall they flowed
above the clouds

what we cannot control,
we destroy and call it progress.

We advance like the tide
to claim what
we have
no right to claim

concrete blocks,
seaweed and dead seals,
emerge from
frothy waves
and marram grass.

unseasonal storms
uproot ancient trees
while manmade
concrete lines
remain in tact
in place in defence

here a legion of
foreign bodies marched
to expand an empire,
build a wall
then leave it to moss.

Bizzing dragonflies,
shrubs of wax mirtle
and the coconut vanilla
scent of golden gorse

Some day soon
all this will be gone,

gorse, grass, concrete wall,

washed away like blood
as the sea returns to the source,

returns to where it belongs.

There’s a small hamlet, Low Hauxley nestled behind sand dunes along a long and quiet stretch of sandy beach on the Northumberland coast.
Here along the high tide line stumps of an ancient forest are visible.

It is believed the stumps were preserved by peat and sand and are believed to date back to more than 7000 years and are the remains of Doggerland- an area of bogs, marches and forest that connected the British Isles to mainland Europe.

Archaeologists have also uncovered animal footprints and it is believed red deer, wild boar and brown bears would have roamed ancient Doggerland forest.

These petrified trees. This really blew my mind.

My name is Dr. Sheree Mack. I’m Creatrix : she who makes.

My practice manifests through poetry, storytelling, image and the unfolding histories of black people. I engage audiences around black women’s voices and bodies, black feminism, grief and healing, nature, identity and memory.

I advocate for black women’s voices, facilitating national and international creative workshops and retreats in the landscape, encouraging and supporting women on their journey of remembrance back to their bodies and authentic selves. This journey is supported and recognised by Mother Nature.

I’m the founder of Earth Sea Love, which is a social enterprise, offering opportunities to People of the Global Majority living in the north east of England to develop a deeper connection with/in nature.

The Earth Sea Love Podcast has developed out of these experiences and aims to change the narrative around who has a right to have a relationship with nature. I’ve recently been writer in residence for Northumberland National Park Authority. A black-led nature project I will add. At the moment I’m Creatrix in Residence for Hadrian’s Wall part of the 1900 years festival.

My Practice is a Healing Practice.

The Practice of ::SLOW:: is how I engage with my work and the world. Living within White Supremacy Culture, we are indoctrinated into certain principles and practices which benefit the few rather than the many.

Leaving aside racism and the systematic destruction of Black, brown and indigenous peoples, White Supremacy Culture, perpetuates the pursuit of perfectionism, product over process, and quantity over quality, to name but a few.

This means that the majority of us live our lives at speed, with a greater sense of urgency, with feelings of never being or doing enough, resulting in reduced contact to ourselves, our intuition and inner wisdom.

Slowing down supports me on my journey back to self and ultimately self-love and healing. Being and walking with/in nature teaches me how to slowdown and pay attention and just be.

Nature shows me that there is an abundance rather than a scarcity. It is through these practices that I fell in love with nature.

Nature and I are connected. We are one, therefore falling in love with nature, I fell in love with myself. This in turn means I turn up in life, in connection with others not only as a better version of myself but in a better place to offer love to other people.

Women and Wetlands

Last night I was part of a panel discussion which tackled the subject of women and wetlands.

Crag Lough, seen from Peel Crags, Hadrian’s Wall

I was asked by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett at Northumbria University to be part of this event and share my work around my residence at Northumberland National Park and my explorations of peat bogs.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect about this event or what I was going to share. But on reflection now, I’m so glad that I was invited to take part because I learned so much about peatlands within the UK, around the world and the special place they hold within the global climate crisis.

So much of my language around nature and the environment has been formed through white supremacy culture which has been biased on colonialism and imperialism and capitalist consumption. And of which I am at great pains now to unlearn and find a new language or it is just a re-memory of the language of my ancestors where there is no separation between us and nature.

Something that was raised last night by Khairani Barokka, which was totally new to my knowledge and way of thinking was that within indigenous communities gender was much more fluid and diverse. The binary system of male and female/ he and she which we take as a given now, as the norm, is a construction and part of the colonist program.

That the idea of “the coloniality of gender,” which might have seen the binary gender system in Europe but was not the case for indigenous populations around the world who were brutalised, moved off the lands and eliminated through genocide. This is going to require more reading on my part but it will be completed eagerly as it’s more evidence of how this system to live and breathe is a construct of power for a few white people over the rest of us all.

I share an extract of my presentation here.

Another day another page

Visual Journaling Through The Night – 05/05

Can’t sleep. Won’t sleep. Story of my life at the moment.

Could be the change. Could be tummy pains. Could be anxiety. Who knows.

I just know sleep will not come. So instead of mindlessly scrolling I got the journal out again and explored the thoughts and feelings that were at the forefront of my mind.

To go to Paris again in June or not? I fell in LOVE in Paris when I booked a few days there in August 2009 to complete the PhD.

I needed to get away and just focus on the manuscript and be done with it. And Paris was the ideal place to go as it was quick and easy and cheap to get to but it would have plenty of sights and sound and tastes so feed my soul as I dredged it all of everything goes in order to complete the PhD.

It was such a magical time where I would walk most of them day, stop for food and drink and work on the manuscript and then walk some more. Photos galore. And then I would run during the evening through the streets enjoying the fading light and voices and sights of families coming out to socialise.

It also holds a dear place in my heart as I was pregnant with Miss Ella during this trip and didn’t even know. She was definitely a gift.

So I’ve been itching to travel again and go back to Paris now as I’m much older and wiser and have more of a sense of self to really appreciate all this beautiful city has to offer my thirsty soul.

But as my late night/early morning muses explored, I can’t justify the expense of going at the moment, well June, as money is tight after a few weeks of little work due to sickness and tiredness and lack of forward planning on my behalf.

So I’ll continue to dream of Paris hopefully be able to share my plans to re-visit this magical place somewhere in the near future.

Until then I’ll dream about it with my eyes open. As there’s no sleep coming my way.

Can’t sleep. Won’t sleep!

Late Night/ Early Morning

Visual journal 03/05

I couldn’t sleep last night. Not sure why but sleep evaded me.

I read. I surfed the net and then I just gave in, got up brewed fresh coffee (yes I know not conducive to sleep) and broke out my visual journaling supplies.

I was no longer tired or annoyed or frustrated about the lack of sleep. I was wired and alert. My energy has shifted up a gear and I was in the flow.

Outside was dark and silent. Inside was just as silent but the lights were on and I was dreaming with my eyes wide open.

I felt as if I was stealing back time from my day. Getting a head start on the day ahead by already connecting with myself before the sun was even up.

I felt I’d been given a gift to be at my journal at this time of night/day. This totally shifted my mood into gratitude and joy.

Try it next time you can’t sleep. See how you feel afterwards. Something would have shifted in the process. Guaranteed!

Hopping Mad Today

visual journaling 02/05

Morning pages: visual journaling/ journaling done for now.

I like to get to the page first thing, the first thing I do each day after going for a pee and brewing some coffee. This is the ritual that is in place. Not every day can I fulfil this ritual, but most days, yes.

I find when I come to the page in this state, my night dreams are still hanging around me. I can still grasp onto them and explore them on the page. What do they mean? What is causing friction in my subconscious mind?

Today’s ramblings where not difficult to decipher as they relate to an email I received yesterday evening. I must bring back the ‘no email checking after a certain time’ rule. It just disrupts my calm flow state of mind when I do read an email late at night and allow it to work it’s way into my brain just before bed.

Anyway, I dreamt on it and was trying to find people who were in agreement with me about it. Hence waking this morning hopping mad as I’m not sure anyone did eventually agree with me. But I stand my ground this morning and go with my gut as she’s never seen me wrong.

It’s just tired really, having to point out yet again how the way someone is treating someone else is not okay. Maybe it’s okay to them and maybe no one has mentioned this to them before and so they continue to treat people this way. But common decency man, it costs nothing but goes a long way.

And maybe I’m taking it personally, maybe they act this way with everybody and not just with me and not because I’m a Black woman and viewed as less than. Maybe maybe maybe. This is how I’ve spent years making allowances for other people’s behaviour and treatment of me. Giving them the benefit of the doubt at the detriment to my sanity and my treatment of myself.

But no more. No one owes me nothing and no one owns me. I do not have to pussy foot around worried about causing offence because they’ve already caused offence to me so that shows me that they do not respect me and they do not see me. Therefore, you do not deserve my allowances, my excuses for your behaviour, or me trying to make you feel/ remain comfortable.

I’m not going to be rude or disrespect them but I will be speaking plainly to them. It will be interesting how they respond when I tell them my truth.

But all in good time, as another one of my practices is ::SLOW:: . Just because it suits someone to send an email at such and such a time, it doesn’t mean that it suits my timeframe and mind set to reply immediately and engage with their requests now. On their timetable, at their sense of urgency.

All in good time means all in good time for ME. Which isn’t at the exact moment as I think it’s another coffee for me and another few pages of visual journaling as I’ve got some shit to work out still.

Ah the beauty of visual journaling. Welcome to my world! See you tomorrow!

Close up of visual journaling 02/05

Caribbean Queen

Caribbean Queen, 2020, Blue Curry

After Blue Curry and Billy Ocean

systematically punching holes in dried palm-tree frond flesh, traditional craft works, it may be

but what about leaving me to my natural beauty?

weaving in dark cassette tape chorusing Caribbean Queen, a fusion of soul, reggae, R & B and Pop, is this a sign of respect or ridicule?

imitation gold earrings, massive hoops that weigh me down at the same time as being ingrained in my identity.

do you mock the tourists who flock to buy these artefacts or do you mock my style handcrafted out of colonial oppression to mark the self as subject of self, rather than object, chattal?

This poem is part of a series of poems created during the month of April, 2022, as part of the poem a day challenge. You can read the rest of the poems created during this time here.

In Honour of Slow ( a quiet protest)

Patreon Page Facelift

I’m Creatrix: she who makes.

”The speed at which we do something – anything – changes our experience of it.”
The Tyranny of Email, John Freeman

Over the last few years, I’m been practicing ::SLOW:: within my creative work, homelife, movements, relationships, thoughts and feelings. I’ve been turning away from the speed of 21st century society and the urgency of others to embrace my own pace.

This pace is ::SLOW:: which is not laziness or tardiness but is all about embracing balance, calm and sinking deeper into the creative process.

When we slow down and get off the carousel of productivity, perfection and quantity there is #radicaljoy to be experienced. There is a less is more mindset. There are richer moments of attention and awareness and connection. There is quality over quantity.

I’m Creatrix: she who makes with her hands, heart and soul.

My practice manifests through poetry, storytelling, image, walking, zine-making, mending and stitching, and the unfolding histories of black people. I engage audiences around black women’s voices and bodies, black feminism, ecology, trauma and memory, nature and connection, anti-racism, healing and joy.

I’m working within the system to challenge White Supremacy Culture and all it’s many guises. Dismantle and destroy. ::SLOW:: by it’s very nature is a quiet protest against this system of brainwashing and oppression and destruction.
At the same time, I’m re-centre-ing myself and creating outside the system. I’m exploring my own ways of working with me at the centre. Not marginalised and never minoritised. Doing my own thing on my own terms. I’m becoming whole through taking back my power and refusing to jump to other peoples demands, expectations and perceptions.

The underlining principle of this revolution is the practice of ::SLOW::

The ‘Slow Movement’ leans into the pleasures that are to be enjoyed by slowing down the process of everything. This connects me to my true nature as well as nature herself along with sustainability, simplicity, reflection and my rich multicultural ancestral traditions, rituals and practices.
Slowing the pace of how I live my life and create my life in the process is taking/ making a deliberate decision to do so. It’s a philosophy which embraces the local and seasonal rhythms and leaves room for and values thinking and feeling time. As well as REST.

::SLOW:: celebrates the process of bringing about work which has reflection at it’s heart and the time it takes to develop and nurture the necessary skills to create. There is being present throughout the journey and recognition of the becoming all along the path.

Funds from Patreon will go toward supporting – this quiet revolution of the practice of ::SLOW::

Your support is helping me to stick two figures up at the establishment, stating that there is another way of being.
We’ve all experienced it during the last two years of a global pandemic.

It has been shown that capitalism can be brought to a standstill and life can be lived at a slower pace. That we can connect with ourselves, each other and nature on a deeper level. Why can’t this be the ‘new normal’ instead of reverting back to the old ways of working and producing and exploiting?
Your support will help me to continue to embrace the practice of ::SLOW:: as I bring into the world my creations through word, text, fabric, film, audio and movement.

What you get for supporting this quiet revolution is a shining example of someone who is working on her own terms to bring about changes within herself and everyone else she serves and touches.

You get to share in the musings, and happenings, the breakthroughs and the heartbreak. I’ll be sharing my creations and developments here along with the resources and readings I’ll be exploring to lean into the practice of ::SLOW::

I hope with that you are inspired to take a stand against White Supremacy Culture in your own small and slow ways. As you have the power, we all have the power in our own way, to make a difference, to bring about changes in our lives and the lives of others.
And it starts with ourselves, with who we choose be, as we all have a choice.

I’m here now, sharing who I be with you.
Thank you for being here.

“The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance […] Seek to live at what the musicians call the tempo guisto – the right speed […] Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.” In Praise of Slow, Carl Honoré

Storm Coming

Storm Coming by Paula Dunn

After Paula Dunn

based on the weather
handing over a landscape like a veil,

a limited palette
to keep things simple

but storm coming on, clouds layered,
winds textured

and dark low lying land brushmarked
and glazed for atmosphere

the yellows, oranges and browns brood
within depths of time and place

searching for a flick of white
to rest and breathe

Old Memories/ New Strategy

Old Boat/ New Money by Lubaina Himid

After Lubaina Himid

Worn timber, cowrie shells,
currency and shoreline,
you sound like waves
and the creaking hull of death.

I try to imagine, she said, what it would be like to be taken from all that I knew, moving in a stinking wooden vessel over something I knew not what to call but it swallows our bodies whole. See sea, sea see. Propped against a white wall to suggest a wave in motion, the angle of pleasure, as I witness it, from the other side, here and now, I rumble with displaced memories. Memories that traumatise but hold onto me like seeds buried within my hair, bearing into my flesh.