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.

“Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor I would like to share with you this poem of the late president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor. This poem is an ode to the…

“Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

I reblog this post African Heritage here as a marker. As a tag. As a note to follow up in conjunction with a project/commission I’m working on. All will become clear when I create a new project page within my portfolio.

But for now, enjoy this beautiful poem from Léopold Sédar Senghor, which speaks of the Black Woman which can also be read as the country, Senegal. Enjoy. More details coming soon.

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

An Alternative Narrative

As mentioned in my last post, we have the Black Nature In Residence Showcase coming up on the evening of 28 October.

This is the first event in a series that identity on tyne through their Earth Sea Love project are collaborating with Northumberland National Park to host.

Other events offered as an alternative to the Future Landscape Programme that will run at the same tine at COP26 in Glasgow, will provide diverse voices to the environmental and conservation movement and makes those all important links between the local and global in terms of the climate crisis.

Starting on 11 November, 7.30-8.30pm – Decolonising the Environmental Movement

I’ll be hosting a conversation with Sarah Hussain and Serayna Solanki

Through their projects and research, both Sarah Hussain and Serayna
Solanki are providing spaces for marginalised communities and people of
colour to engage with nature as a means of changing the narrative around
who has a say in the Climate Change Movement. They are working within
education and research, community and organisational partnerships, to create
and highlight dialogue around climate justice through personal and community
storytelling.

Then 18 November, 7-8pm, Nature Writing Reading

Join me , as host again, with Jo Clement and Zakiya McKenzie for a reading and discussion of literature which explores place, environment, belonging and identity as both writers read from and talk about their recent collections.

Then on 22 November, 7-8pm – A keynote lecture with Grace Hull, Holistic Sustainability

What is holistic sustainability?

Grace Hull created Green Grace Soul to share her journey to living sustainably in a holistic way. Grace attempts to balance the food she eats, the products she uses and the things she buys with the most beneficial outcomes for her health, the health of the planet, and the others living on it.

Sustainable living and Climate Change activism have many faces, and by centring holistic sustainability Grace engages with intersectionality and the social and historical context of climate change through the reflections of her journey that she shares on her website, podcast and DIY projects.

This will be a keynote lecture followed by a Q and A.

Honouring My Wholeness

It’s nearly been a couple of weeks now since we, Olwen Wilson and myself, completed facilitating our online visual journaling retreat called Honouring Our Wholeness. For three sessions spread over six weeks, we created space for a self-care visual journaling retreat for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour.

This was a unique and well-needed safe space for us to come together and just be. To let down our loads and know that we weren’t going to be judged but held. It was such a nourishing and nurturing space that without it, I feel a bit remiss. This space came along at the right time when I needed to take things slow and lean back into my visual journaling practice. What I need now is to remember what I learned from this experience and continue the journey; this healing journey I’ve been on for over six years now.

Six years ago, I started my visual journaling practice through a virtual course run by Lisa Sonora called Dreaming on Paper, at that point. It came into my life when I needed to explore my voice. When I needed time and space to get in touch, probably for the first time, with my true self. It provided me with an anchor when everything around me was disappearing, had been destroyed. Visual journaling kept me afloat, when I could have easily drown.

These are the things I need to remember when I do get a bit lost because of outside demands, or when I’m being far too critical on my own arse. Self-compassion. self-care and self-love are waiting for me when I open my journal and just play. Just try. Just turn up for me.

It was such an honour to be gather with these beautiful and generous people during Honouring Our Wholeness because that’s what we did for each other and ourselves, we showed up and offered ourselves compassion, care, grace and love.

All I can say now is MORE. I WANT MORE.

Emotional Labour

‘It’s hard to be calm in a world made for whiteness. ‘ Austin Channing Brown

My last post, Black Fatigue, was written in a moment of anger, hence all the mistakes. Not mistakes in the argument or feelings but in the spellings and grammar. But I make no apologies. Sometimes it’s good for the soul, or good for me to let the anger out that I’m carrying around, moment to moment, daily.

It’s probably one of the rare occasions, I’ve allowed myself to vent as I have learned through years and experiences being an angry Black woman gets me nowhere. But the flip side, where has being an amicable and amenable Black woman got me? Probably well down the road of mental health issues and questionable wellbeing.

A week on, and I’m still sick and tired of the things playing out in my life as I move through this world in the body of a Black woman but still not recognised or treated as a fellow human being. I could even say that things have gotten worse as with time, more slights and ignorance and lack of awareness of their actions and inactions accumulate. Continue to accumulate as I get older but also as I attempt and fight to be met eye to eye with others as a human being deserving of living and striving within this world.

I oscillate between exhaustion and anger. Being depleted and fired up. And the worse thing of all is those that cause this suffering are oblivious to it. And even when I take the time and energy to point it out to them, how their actions are being unfair, unjust, unreasonable, and not seeing the situation in it’s totality they get on the defensive, do not engage with the issue, but deflect it away with comments like, ‘ I won’t engage with you when you’re being so aggressive.’

I stand by my post Black Fatigue. I just wish I’d mentioned emotional labour too. I can see now, as I reach 50 years old this year, that I have spent my lifetime trying to fit in. That means trying to be white. That is the only way to be let / given an inch in this game/ society/ life. I’m expected to be white because this is the cultural way of being. White people believe being white is right and good. Anything ‘other’ is wrong and should do everything right to become more white.

Now as I continue to question this standard, the way of operating in society, in the world, I’m going to become more and more angry and exhausted because I’m constantly being judged for being a Black female in a world made for whiteness. Everywhere I turn, in the street, on social media, on the TV, my self-esteem is being chipped away while living with the disparities in job opportunities, health care, education, and in the justice system. And I’m supposed to be happy and grateful when someone white talks about diversity and offers a crumb as if it’s taking a risk.
And then if I have the audacity to ask for more, there’s tears.

I’ve taken a break from social media as I was falling into the comparison spiral trap as well as putting pressure on myself to produce. But I see now what I was doing was performing. This is my pain and this is my joy. I was striving for the viewer, for you, to see me, treat me, like a fellow human being. It appears it’s the only dance I know. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be white at the same time as trying to convince/explain/ argue that I’m worthy, that I’m a fully functioning and feeling human being who deserves to be here for your discarded crumb. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

I’m taking back control and my power so I can control my rage. Not to protect others but myself. I’ve got to make sure now that my anger doesn’t destroy me. I’m putting in emotional labour with me, for me now.

Black Fatigue

It’s been one hell of a week. And it isn’t over yet. I just feel exhausted, drained and a bit bruised and a battered with the world. Can I say the system?

No. I’ve stopped using these kind of non-descriptive terms along with the likes of ‘institutional racism’. As these are terms used to conceal the truth, to deflect attention away from the people who create racist policies and practices. Who act on their racists attitudes and ideas. Who internalise racism and reflect it outwards against others that look like them.

I’m so sick and tired of being made to feel grateful for the crumbs that are thrown my way. That I should shut up and put up and a smile sweetly if I’m invited to the table. That I shouldn’t rock the boat, that I should be shamed or struck by fear into silence. Smile sweetly and just nod my head.

I’ve played the game and helped others tick their boxes as at the time I believed it would bring about change. That once I’d convinced them of my humanity, explained my existence and displayed my intelligence and worth then they would have to listen to me and take me seriously.

I’m sick and tired of this being played out again and again. All I can do is speak up. All I can do is work hard to create opportunities and experiences that weren’t there before for others and myself.

All I can do is call out injustices and imbalances in power and access where I see them. To not stand on the sidelines bickering but creating change on my own terms to make society a more equitable place.

I’m no longer gonna allow others to be putting their labels, insecurities and lenses on me. I know what my intentions are and I know they come from my heart. And I’m not sure everyone can say that when we live in a world which celebrates the achievements of one over the many and rewards the ones who are amenable saying the words that others want to to hear rather than speak their truth.

Guilty was the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial for another bad apple. This is hardly justice if the murders of Black and People of Colour by the Police, through state sponsored terror continues. There needs to be more accountability, there needs to be a cutting down of the whole rotten tree, there needs to be a redistribution of power.

I’m so sick and tired of the infighting, of the lack of listening, of the personal agendas and vested interests. Why are we living as if everything is scarcity, therefore everyone’s in cut-throat competition. Instead of embracing the reality of abundance. There is more than enough to go around except a few insist on hoarding a majority share. If everyone was given the right conditions, their rightful share/ place/ space to thrive, we would each fulfil our own potential.

Just like nature displays. Just as she sets the example. Today on International Earth Day, I just wish more individuals connected with nature, and therefore themselves and each other. The most powerful energy is love. But too many people continue to feed and act on hate.

And I’m just sick and tired of this being the case.

June Readings

I’ve started, so I’ll finish. My thoughts when I think about coming here to record my readings for last month; June. This is the only way I’m keeping track of what I’m reading in terms of books, and when I started I felt it would be a worthwhile pursuit. Something to look back at, at the end of the year, and be proud at the achievement. At the fact of reading so many books. I didn’t set a target I don’t think. But forgive if I’m wrong as January feels so far away now. And thank God for this practice as I can’t remember what I read back then. Or even last month if I think about it. Hence being here now, before any more days of July rolls by and I haven’t marked down what books I read in June.

So here is the list of completed reads. And I’ve got so many other books on the go at the moment that I won’t be able to share them all, but I’ll share a smattering of them to give you an idea. There have been times when it’s been difficult to concentrate on a long read. I’d read a chapter and then skip off to do something else, or read something else. Concentration and focus have been elusive. I think that’s where poetry collections come into play. Quick and easy and brief.

Books read this month:

1. Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful by Alice Walker

2. Mama Amazonica by Pascal Petit

3. Between the Islands by Philip Gross

4. Hare Soup by Dorothy Molloy

5. Ledger by Jane Hirshfield

6. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

7. The Creative Doer by Anna Lovid

Books in progress this month:

1. Overstory by Richard Powers

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

3. Grassling by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

4. The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare

5. Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

6. Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist