I am learning to heal myself. I am leaning to turn pain into medicine. I may be at another crossroads. And I may to taking longer to get up as I am getting older and in need of rest. But I am learning to walk in uncharted territory. I am learning to let responsibility go. I am learning to let the guilt go.
I’m learning to not be afraid of death. I’m learning to accept myself. I’m learning to love myself. I’m learning to not limit myself. I’m learning to be free. I’m learning to fly.
I’m learning to shine my light for myself first and foremost. I’m learning to shed past selves, past skins, past traumas, in order to let my light shine brighter.
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.
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.
James Baldwin when interviewed after the SNCC Freedom Day demonstration in Selma, Alabama, October 1963 described what he saw there.
When was asked if he was afraid in the moment when the police were moving in on the African Americans waiting patiently to vote with guns and clubs and cattle prodders, Baldwin replied,
“ The thing is you get – you’re so scared – I was scared in the morning. Before it all began. And I was scared the first time I walked around there. But, later on, I wasn’t scared at all … Your fear is swallowed up by, you know … fury. What you really want to do is kill all those people.”*
* Quoted in Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America And It’s Urgent Lessons For Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
I’m feeling a shift in how I’m showing up in the world. How I use language. How I communicate and connect with self and others.
It isn’t just happening now, this isn’t the beginning. There can be no true beginnings because we always come to things, projects, conversations, issues in the middle of our experience of it.
We’ve already been thinking about it, feeling it, ruminating about it. So when we say we’re starting on something or embarking on something, it’s not the beginning but the next step on that journey we began many many moons ago.
So when I say I’m feeling a shift, the foundations of such were laid down and built upon from time. Maybe it’s just a case of seeing and feeling the repercussions or effects of it now. Things are become tangible now.
But yes, I’m believing and acting as if it were possible. That anything is possible. Always.
After a really busy November, I was looking forward to a quiet December. It has been a slower pace to last month, but there has still been deadlines and events that I’ve needed to prepare for and attend and reflect on.
So past mid-December already, and I just feel as if I can slow down again now. But I say this but I must have been resting in some kind of way because I went back to my art journaling practice yesterday.
My art journal practice is different to my visual journaling practice only in the fact that I use fewer words and these Black women always seem to show up in the midst of the page somehow.
Here we have another one, who showed up yesterday out of the darkness that was developing on the page. And isn’t she delightful. She’s got a twinkle in her eye and a wish in her heart.
To be in the studio yesterday, playing on the page, I even completing a handmade zine which will be on display in the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, was a joy and much needed. As it signalled to me that I’m back to listening within. That I’m back to creating for me and just for the hell of it. That I’m coming home.
Thank you, Sheree. Now continue to rest. And create.