A day of meetings

Today was a good day for forward planning.

It’s good when you can have meetings with other people, particularly women, and find that you are on the same page and one idea leads to the next and the next and then before you know it you have a full year planned out with activities and events.

What was good about today is that the meetings were not for personal gain but were plans to share the great outdoors with others, the less fortunate, who might not otherwise have these opportunities.

It’s a good day when you can share what you love with others.

Launch Event

I was invited to the launch event of an exhibition bring the book Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane to life at the Sill this week. I’d seen the book and have admired the images, but I hadn’t spent much time with the text.

The premise is that generations of children are growing up not knowing the names of things in nature, or being able to recognise them. That this knowledge has slipped out of existence and this book was created as a way of recapturing the magic, bringing these lost words back to life. Such words and natural living things as bramble, conker and fern.

I had the most enjoyable evening talking to fellow visitors as well as hearing some of the spells within the book being read aloud. It was inspiring so much so that I intended to link into the idea of lost words, and lost worlds as I return this weekend to the Sill to facilitate a storytelling session about the multicultural communities from ether past who lived and worked around Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

Fern

Fern’s first form is furled,
Each frond fast as a fiddle-head.
Reach, roll and unfold follows.
Fern flares.
Now fern is fully fanned.

Robert MacFarlane

January Reading

I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.

January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.

But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.

Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.

I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.

Completed January books include:

1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)

2. Turned Out Nice AgainOne Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey

3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross

4. Angel – LJ Ross

5. High Force – LJ Ross

6. Cragside – LJ Ross

7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross

8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross

Ongoing January reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir

Book review in the next post. Thanks.

Work in Progress: Guildford from the banks of the Wey

Guildford from the banks of the Wey, JMW Turner

Guildford Castle on an elevated mound seen in the distance,
Turner chooses to focus on trees and sky. Planes and sycamore,
alder and birch.
Rich oily greens, olive and mustard dominate the abundant scene as the Wey flows on.

Nature captured up close in all her splendpur rendered for the casual viewer on mahogany veneer mounted onto cedar panel.
Majestic and full, there’s the
desire to connect rather than control; be within rather than without.

Flaneuse roundup and other things

The month draws to an end. And so does my challenge of walking out every day, taking photographs and reflecting on the practice. I didn’t manage it every day as mid-way through sickness hit our household. But I do think I completed more walks than if I wasn’t trying to complete the challenge.

Today was a glorious window of light, that I’d be a fool to miss out on. So it was a quick dip in the bay and it was bitterly cold. And then a brisk walk along the shore to warm up. It was a great way to start my day and help with productivity for the rest of it.

As promised to my Patreon sponsors, I delivered my first essay from the forthcoming mixed genre memoir. I’ve made a commitment to share one essay and reading list that I used to complete the essay at the end of each month for the rest of the year. Yes only four months but still that’s four essays done than not.

The theme was climate justice this month and I enjoyed writing it once I got into it. This essay’s been brewing since I first came across the work of Wretched of the Earth. So the time and space and audience to finally complete the beginnings of an essay around this. This is just a draft but at least I now have something to work with moving forward. Making this commitment made me accountable. For which I am thankful.

You can jump on Patreon for as little as $1 to read it if you want. And as always, I appreciate feedback, comments and arguments.

Here comes October, my birthday month. Yay!

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

The Re-Education of Sheree Mack

Fires broke out in 131 indigenous reserves from 15-20 August, 2019*

I considered myself to be an educated person. A person with a certain degree of knowledge, with recognisable qualifications which would signal knowledge and expertise. I’ve talked before about my eyes being opened and becoming wise to the system. At no point did I think I knew it all but when you’ve spent so long in the educational system as a learner and teacher, you do build up the belief that you know a thing or two. However, what I’ve learned or had to be re-educate myself about in the last few months is how this world, not my small insular world, but this global space we occupy and share with millions of diverse species is through an unfair and unjust and unequal and corrupt system.

Blazes have been seen on the Araribóia indigenous reserve in Maranhão state – a heavily deforested reserve on the Amazon’s eastern fringes, which is home to about 80 people from an isolated group of Awá indigenous people, described by the NGO Survival International as the world’s most endangered tribe.

I thought I had a handle on power and who has it and who doesn’t but I have to admit, my understandings were naive and academic. I’ve experienced inequalities and injustice and discrimination and prejudice. I know I’m at the bottom of the pile being a black working class woman in the U.K. But when I see black and brown people who look like me but who are losing their homes and livelihoods and lives because of big business, fossil fuel companies; because we in the global north demand material goods and lavish lifestyles at half the price then I know I enjoy a certain level of privileges.
I choose to be a vegan for environmental and animal welfare reasons. I can make this choice because I enjoy a certain level of income that allows me to pay for these select choices in what I eat or don’t eat. People surviving in poverty do not enjoy this luxury.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been widely criticised for failing to respond quickly to the crisis, issued a
decree on Thursday banning fires in the Amazon for 60 days – a move environmentalists described as largely symbolic.

So yes my eyes have been opened to the disportionate distribution of wealth in the world but I still have so much to learn. Consider this the re-education of Sheree Mack because I realise now that I have been indoctrinated into a Western way of thinking and being. And it’s a total
mindfuck. Basically, I’ve been thinking and living as if I’m a white person but really I’m a Black Woman. And always will be. No amount of education and striving and hustling and appeasement is gonna change this fact. This reality. I‘ve been acting as my own thought Police within myself, keeping myself in check with blinkers on, trying to make others comfortable and not really questioning or analysing the news and information I’ve been fed and digesting.

The fires are often used to clear pasture and deforested areas in the Amazon during dry winter months, but there have been 28,000 this month – more than any August since 2010.

I’ve been fed a warped set of norms and values that places colonialism, imperialism and capitalism as the mordus operandi and the only way of operating that is worth my attention and respect and love. The Global South did not exist on my radar except as primitive, backward and unworthy. I’ve been ignorant of my people, my cultures, my heritage, my lineage. That connection was severed 500 years ago and it suits the minority in power to continue that disconnection by any means necessary be that through education, media, culture, science, policing; the system. The system in which I, and those that look like me, will always be viewed as ‘other’ and deemed inferior, not of value on a human level, but worthy enough to be exploited and oppressed and eradicated.

Fiona Watson, advocacy director at Survival International, said land grabbers are targeting indigenous reserves because they are often remote, well-conserved and unprotected.
“It’s clear to me that a lot of these fires are set off deliberately,” she said. “The difference now is that with Bolsonaro’s message, the Amazon is up for grabs.”

This story. This task. This re-education is not linear. Nature isn’t linear. Spiralling. I came here after actively reading and engaging with the fires in the Amazon. I was lead to believe that this was a natural disaster; lightning storms after such high temperatures etc. The reality is all about the climate, but not climate crisis but climate justice. I might be coming late to the discussion but this is better than never. And my eyes are wide open now.

*These quotes are taken from Dom Philips an article printed in The Guardian 29/08/2019 here (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/29/brazil-amazon-wildfires-indigenous-reserves-remote-areas)

A month in ( nearly) of the new 100 day project and this is what I want

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At the beginning of August I started my third and final #100daysproject of 2019.
I started 2019, painting 100, A3 sized abstracts. Then come April when the official #the100dayproject took place, I jumped on board with painting and drawing Black women’s faces and bodies. I’ve found these practices challenging at times, especially when I’ve been traveling and had a shortage of time. But the flip side has been such a overflowing pot of creativity which has had a knock on effect with my writing and general outlook. 
Now nearly 30 days into photographing my golden goddess statue, I‘m figuring out how this practice works in anchoring as well as inspiring me. 
With these 100 days, I‘m carrying my beautiful goddess statue out into nature and taking instant photographs of her there. I’m using her as a surrogate for my own body in nature. She takes up space so confidently and with such a ‘don’t care less’ attitude, that her essence is rubbing off onto me. 
How she behaves and holds herself is how I want to behave all the time when I’m out there in society, hustling and getting by. I want to have her self-confidence and self-awareness and magnitude. She is badass but so gracious with it. To have what she has, to be so in love with self and grateful for it is how I want to live my life. 
Hopefully, from the practice and folllowing the goddess‘s lead, I could get there, well slightly there, over the next 100 days.
We’ll see.

Wow – time flies!

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I come here today not realising how long ago I was here. It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, updated the website etc. My head has been down. July saw me trying to get through the last days of the school term before the holidays. And then the holidays come and all I want to do is rest.
But have I got to that stage of rest yet when I let all of my load down? I’m not sure I even know what that state is never mind feels like, as I’m always carrying around something; some project, some event, some concern. So is life and I accept it rather than spend time and energy trying to run from it.
Anyway, August is here and I’ve feeling the moving at a slower pace. The sharp angles at the edge of my consciousness have softened and become hazy in a sense as they lose focus and I become more present in my here and now and relax. I realise I have some time now to focus on me, my passions and my desires, those things that make me sing from the inside out.
I’ve started my third #100daysproject over on Instagram and it’s all about the goddess and love. #100daysofthegoddessandlove.
I’ll be sharing come creations here too but initially it’s all about black bodies in nature, my body in nature and how I use a surrogate of a golden goddess statue to go places I might feel I don’t belong or won’t be welcomed. She’s pushing me into places where I might fear to go in both internal and external landscapes. I’m excited to see where she takes me. More to follow on this project in time.
For now, I’m off to enjoy these long lazy days of summer and hope to pop back here more regularly as I shift my focus and attention towards my joys and passions. Happy summer.