Smoke and Gold

At the time of writing, it is winter in the North of England and lately there’s been snow, hail, sleet, frosty mornings and icy winds.  I’m glad to be able to light a coal fire sometimes and sit and watch the flames. There’s a whole process of clearing ashes, chopping kindling wood and fetching coal and this led me to consider a few things about tending the hearth.  Recently the chimney-sweep came and I was reminded of my father, who used to be a fireman.  He had often attended chimney fires and warned me of the dangers.

Sitting in the flickering firelight, I recalled a day when my dad was driving me through the English countryside that he loved so much.  He nodded towards the horizon on my side of the car and said: “There’s a fire over there.”  I looked out but couldn’t see anything.  I had plenty of time to stare out of the side window whereas he had only caught a glimpse, yet it took me quite a while to make out the smoke on the far horizon.  I peered into the distance where it merged with clouds.  I realised that he had been able to quickly read the landscape, the swirls of smoke and the way it was travelling when he said: “That’ll be a barn on fire.”  I asked how he knew and he answered: “Because I’ve driven towards a lot of fires in my time!”

It may seem obvious that we notice things that are familiar to us or to which we’ve trained ourselves to pay attention.  Yet it shows how particular our perception is and reveals the importance of focus and attention.  A fisherman looks at a river with knowing eyes and sees it differently from a casual passerby.  We look out upon the world and pick out those threads that are important or attractive to us.

We interpret and overlay what we see according to our memories and beliefs, preconceptions and preoccupations.  You could say that everyone is looking through an individual pair of glasses.  Then we each go on to select different details; bringing together fragments, threads and slivers; binding them into strands; creating a particular weaving.  We all perceive reality differently and create our own personal tapestry.

So much is to do with perception and focus. Recently I discovered that the word ‘focus’ has a Latin root meaning ‘hearth’.  And I noticed that the word ‘hearth’ contains the words ‘hear, ear, heart, art and earth’.  I had been writing about art and healing and considering the importance of listening.  It had occurred to me that when I am working on a painting or a collage, it is as much a process of ‘listening’ as it is of looking.  There is a way of tuning in and hearing the story that the picture wants to tell;  of shifting attention from the thinking mind to begin listening to the heart and opening to the flow of intuition.  In the creative process we bring focus, we attend to the ‘hearth’ and can be connected to ‘hear, ear, heart, art and earth’.

In ‘Art and Alignment’, I write about art and healing and tell of my own recovery from a life-threatening illness.   The manual gives details of how practising the Emerald Alignment, as well as a simple method of meditation, assists with this connection to our intuition, our ‘inner tutor’.  It also contains personal stories from Friends of Rainbow Light Trust, Nancy Wait and Betty Warters.  The thread that runs throughout is of the many ways that art and creativity can help us in healing the wounds that we carry and in restoring the soul.  The soul knows how to heal itself when we can get ourselves out of the way and help provide the right environment and tools.  Sometimes we are brought low and broken before we find the resolve to dig deeply, do some mending and discover some gold.  We are threaded through with gold and it is our task to add these threads to the weave of the world.  Here is a short extract on the subject of releasing memory:

“In Japan, kintsukuroi refers to the act of repairing broken pottery by filling in the cracks with gold.  The cracks reveal the history of the pot and instead of trying to hide the damage, the delicate practice of kintsukuroi illuminates it.  Gold suggests the luminous energy of consciousness.

There is an understanding that in the broken places there is a unique beauty and that there is an art to the act of mending.  When we mend, we make meaning from our experiences and shed light into the dark corners.  We are walking memory banks and art has huge healing potential in the way that it carries the power to assist in the release of memory.  In the healing process we attend to our wounds, reveal our scars and allow stories to emerge.  There are hidden and forgotten parts in each one of us waiting to be reclaimed and through expression there can be transformation.  We need to dig deep and become like archaeologists or deep sea divers!”