Talking Things Through

BALTIC commission process journal

This week saw me meeting with one of the curators of the Hinterlands exhibition to talk about my commission. If I’m being honest, I was and wasn’t looking forward to meeting. I felt as if I was no further forward than the last time we talked. I felt as if I had nothing to show for my research, reading and thinking.

As it happened, the meeting turned out to be really productive and inspiring and encouraging as I appreciated the time and space to talk through my thoughts and ideas. To think about the concepts and themes and logistics with someone else is a valuable resource I’d forgotten about or taken for granted. So I was super grateful to come out of the meeting, not so much everything pinned down, but more of an idea of the next step.

My next best step, which really is all I should be focusing on as a means of not allowing this commission to run away from me is to take my forthcoming residency at Cornwall Zine Library @ Fish Factory Arts as an opportunity to gain some clarity and produce a project proposal that will communicate my vision to others.

That is my next step, a big one, but a really exciting one as once I have it pinned down what I want to do, I can start executing it to the best of my ability.

Onwards!

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.

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

Colour is Mine

Van Gogh, 1959 by Althea McNish

After Althea McNish

Sunflowers

big and bold

inspired by Van Gogh’s

brandished

across a

yellow and white

striped field

black lines

outline floppy leaves

and dozing closed heads

bright colour carried to

this grey isle

not a luxury but a necessity

for survival

for blooming

another time

uprooted

sunflowers

7 Reasons Why …

“ I dwell in possibility…”. – Emily Dickinson

7 reasons why me and alcohol are simply not a match any longer: –

1. In case of emergencies and who knows when there might be another one, I don’t want to be incapacitated because of having a drink.

2. Drinking alcohol no longer brings me joy.

3. Lately, I’ve been using alcohol to gain courage and gumption therefore showing up and not being genuine.

4. Alcohol is a gateway to other destructive behaviours and actions.

5. I’m no longer tasting it, really tasting it.

6. It’s been getting earlier and earlier in the day when I start drinking alcohol.

7. I’m drinking for all the wrong reasons.

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.

My Voice in Virtual Places

During these changing working conditions of moving into visual spaces to connect and share and create, I’ve been enjoying a lovely run of being a guest on a number of different podcasts, separate from The Earth Sea Love Podcast, connecting women of colour and nature.

As mentioned before, I was welcomed onto the Prompted By Nature Podcast with Helen Forester where we talked about working to get more black bodies out into nature with funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Since the first one, I’ve gone on to be a guest with Yarrow Magdalena with Daydreaming Wolves, where I enjoyed the opportunity to share about my creative practice and sea swimming and not being able to foretell the future but being okay with that.

On Speak from the Body, a podcast on practical ways to reconnect with the body and nourish your soul, hosted by Avni Trivedi, I had the opportunity to speak at length about my creative practice, visual journalling and how it saved my life, 5 years ago now.

And the final one I’ll share with you today, as there are more to come, is from the countryside charity CPRE, Campaign to Protect Rural England. In this episode I’m a guest with Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, where we discuss the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in the countryside and nature.

Summer Writing Intensive

Many moons ago, I went to Washington State to visit a new friend, Sarah Spaeth, who I met while picking grapes on Monteleone in Lazio, Italy. That was over 10 years Aga now and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve had some adventures in the States, over here in Scotland and also Iceland.

While I was in residence with the Jefferson Land Trust, where Sarah was the Executive Director at the time, I fell in love with Fort Walden which was just down the road from where I was staying. It’s a national park with the sea, beach and trees and a creative centre, called Centrum.

I remember Sarah talking about this centre while in Italy and how much I would love it there and to come and see. She was right, I felt right at home there. And when I took my family over there, we spent plenty of hours hanging out there. It was my dream to sometime return and do a writing retreat there, or attend their summer writing program.

The summer writing program is just like going back to college for a week. Writing workshops in the morning and afternoon and then evening readings. To be immersed in writing for a whole week, with other writers, bliss. Obviously this year, it’s had to be cancelled. So instead they’re offering a Summer Writing Intensive but virtually. The next best thing. And something I could so attend.

So I am, starting tomorrow, I’m going to writing college and going to spend the week in poetry and fiction workshops. Go to some readings in the evening, but totally live the writer’s life and I do so from the comfort of my own home. And what’s even neater is that I’ve been given a scholarship to take part for which I am so grateful.

So apologies not is you don’t see me here next week, as I’ll be soaking up the writing atmosphere and vibes from across the pond.

 

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