art : nature : words
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
Take a walk through woodland in November and it can sometimes take longer to find the usual well-worn pathways. Whilst the tracks may be obscured by rusting leaves we are also presented with the opportunity to make our own path. Shuffling or kicking our way though the leaf-litter can have us transported back to our childhood in an instant. Cold air rubs at our noses, as we snuffle and rustle along our way.
We mostly think of pathways crossing over land, but they are also carved through water and drawn upon the sky – passageways that have been repeated for millennia. Migrating birds arrive from arctic regions once their breeding season is over. Waders and wildfowl can be seen on our lakes and estuaries, their invisible, sky-bound tracks now replaced by more down-to earth footprint trails across the mud flats. Salmon return to spawn, their famous, final throes ensuring the cycle of life is started anew. Redwings and fieldfares arrive to feast on plump hawthorn berries. A delight to witness, they are easily disturbed if you approach to close. Flocks of roaming tits and finches (such as chaffinch and brambling) flit and dart from hedgerow to hedgerow in search of food.
Science is only just beginning to offer us answers to how these amazing creatures instinctively find their way – year-after-year to the same location from disparate points around the globe – using the Earth’s magnetic fields.
Whilst these animals and birds have their favourite place to reside on our shores, we too often have a preferred landscape: the open expanse of grasslands, the confines of woodland, the exhilaration of the mountain peak. We have many different ways of navigating these landscapes and a myriad ways we connect to them, connections that form landscapes in our own minds.
Much of our language that we use to describe our mental processes reflects our passage across the physical terrain. We can describe ourselves as being stuck in a rut, when our habits – one’s we seem unable to shake – stop us making the necessary changes to our lives. Our minds may wander off or we may become a stick-in-the-mud – our values no longer in step with contemporary thinking. Loosing one’s way or walking around in circles denotes actions of futility. Whereas, a walk in the park – a task with which it is easy to engage – is very different from taking a walk on the wild side. Walking off into the sunset can mean we are about to start a happy, new life. The golden glow of sunsets is often used in pictures (moving and still) to describe the warm-glow feeling of having over-come numerous obstacles to achieve our goals. The word depression can either describe a hollow in the landscape or persistent, sad feelings – either way, we are in a place filled with dark shadows.
On life’s journey we may be described as carrying too much baggage, a someone judgemental description of being burdened with unnecessarily emotional challenges. We may be aware that we carry a burden, seeking release but cannot find a way to let go. It may take us sometime to discover exactly what it is that we drag around with us. Finding a way to make our journey easier often starts with exploring how we came to pick up the unnecessary psychic load in the first place. Our baggage can sometimes have been passed on to us by our parents. Tired of their own burden, back bent with the effort, they unwittingly try to pass on their emotional encumbrances on to their children. Unwanted aspects of themselves, old psychic possessions– shame, humiliation, hurt – are heaped and piled on to the next generation’s shoulders. It is only when we can recognise the procession of unwanted feelings across the generations can we free ourselves, finally relinquishing our emotional baggage.
Making our way across a landscapes can provide powerful metaphors for how we navigate life’s challenges. Life is often about finding a balance between carving out our own individual path and sometimes walking in someone else’s footsteps.
How would you use your favourite natural landscape to express your own journey? You may wish to shuffle through autumn leaves; make subtler tracks across dew-laden meadows or build a stone pathway across open ground.
As you make your path you may wish to consider what peaks and troughs you have encountered on the way; when you have struck out for yourself or followed in the footsteps of others and if you are ready, perhaps contemplate that which you would wish to let go of as you weave a path through time and place.