Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sound of Walking

A late winter walk on Mowry beach, Lubec.
When you walk on stones do you ever think about just how ancient they are?

 Sea Witch Juju
Mowry Beach, Lubec, Maine

 Spirals in nature.

 Herring Collectors Series
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

Ink and Charcoal, 18"x24"
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

 Phenomenal women, partners in a journey at the Heartwood College of Art MFA program.

 Paste Paper workshop with instructor Bonnie Faulkner
at Heartwood College of Art.
Another fabulous residency weekend on the Biddeford campus!
I sure do love that mill and the creative energy that abounds. I come!

Colorful paste paper used for a bookmaking.

 How cool is this? The Whiz Bang Popcorn Machine. 
We are well fed during our MFA weekend residencies.

Thrilled to have my djembe back in my hands! It sounds fabulous with a new head, and looks great too.  Resounding Rhythms in Bath did a wonderful job with the repairs!!!!

Counsel of the Stones
I walked the beach this morning and happened upon the Counsel of the Stones. They are the oldest of souls, you know, and therefore the most wise. Hoping to hear an answer, I waited my turn as each element, plant, and shell lined up to beg their question. The Seaweed lolled back and forth like a teenage girl, looking at her feet, trying to muster the courage to speak. Water rolled and swirled about, eager and impatient, talking out of turn. Shells opened bearing all, and sea grass whispered in the breeze. A lone feather tumbled amongst the crowd but did not speak. Finally it was my turn. I wanted to know why they, embedded deep in the clay, would choose such stillness. They replied “It is from our stillness that we are kissed by the wind, the earth, the feet of you. When the tide draws in, we are surrounded by the plants, the fish, the water and all of the beginnings of life. We are softened by the elements, and we are worn. Fragments of our soul split and meander, tumble, roll, and journey. When they are ready they come back to us and teach what they have learned.”  I bowed my head in reverence, appeased and humbled. Then the stones asked me “Why is it that you avoid the stillness?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I love to walk. It is probably one of the few things that I do that catapults me into silence. Not silence as in the absence of sound, but the type of silence that is more difficult for me to experience, the kind that erases the chatter that swirls inside my mind. I envy those who claim to be able to meditate. When a thought enters they say "to let it go". How does one do that? I mean if you let one thought go, and you make a conscious effort to do so, aren't you just replacing one thought with another? I have been practicing this "letting it go" a bit of late and thought perhaps I was meeting with some success, but somehow a song has slipped into my mind for the past four nights while laying in bed. I suppose that wouldn't be so bad, being a song that I like and all, except for the fact that I only know one or two lines from the chorus. Maybe, just maybe, this repetition which has become a sort of nocturnal mantra, has in effect cleared my mind of all other thought and in essence become a form of meditation in and of itself?

Like I said, I love to walk. A simple act, one foot in front of the other and off I go. When I meet up with friends to walk in a group it is like a finely orchestrated round of roller derby. We start as a cohesive unit but take turns falling back or moving forward engaging in varied conversations that change with each new coupling or small group within.

Walking alone is different though. Sometimes I walk to work out a specific idea. This kind of walk has a bit more physical speed to match mind's pace. I have a mission and that is to within a relatively short time frame figure out, usually, the technical aspects of a particular project. There is a problem to be solved and walking offers that focus away from the studio and the usual visual clutter.

All good, but the best, the absolute BEST walks are the ones where I feel simply compelled to walk, to keep walking, and there is nothing to be done other than to be in the moment. My mind silences and I am able to listen to nature's conversation, and if I am so fortunate, hear some of her wisdom. Sometimes she speaks in the chatter of a squirrel or the call of a bird. Sometimes her words are heard in the wind moving through the trees, or the crunch and snap of fallen twigs as stepped upon by a four legged. Sometimes she is more subtle and metaphoric, begging to be heard in the warmth of sun, shine of the moon, or in the puffed white formations against the blue sky.

Walking on the beach offers a different kind of sound, different from that of the woods or road. Softness underfoot makes one aware of every step, creating a somewhat syncopated rhythm that works in tandem with the consistent bass line of the waves rolling into shore. This embodies a meditative quality likened to sounds of mother's womb and water-echoed heartbeat. Water, such a gentle fluid presence but with the strength to smooth the most hardened of her shoreline partners, the stones. The coupling of these two, the water and the stones, creates a soulful song with bits of brushed sharpness as they methodically clack against one another.

Living in a city these sounds are replaced by whizzing wheels, honking horns, ringing cell phones, multiples of voices, and banging equipment. I suppose we have these same sounds in our rural part, too, but somehow the sounds of a haying tractor or hum of a sea vessel's engine out on the waves complements the landscape in the way an artist knows how to use just the right combination of hues. I am reminded every day just how fortunate I am to be living amongst one of many of nature's masterpieces and, on the most fortunate of days to hear, and hopefully, understand  the wisdom of her words.


Ajijaak said...

The sound of walking ~ wisdom all around. I've always felt the healing of the rocks along the shore.


Good to see you again Cecelia! I noted today that different beaches have different sounds. You would have loved today's walk with all the gorgeous tumbled stones.

Ajijaak said...

Yes I am looking forward to walking/running on the shore of Lake Michigan soon. I've been under the weather the past few days and its been rainy here. That is true that each beach has different sounds.