Take me to the river ::: Being (t)here, with India Flint


"Have you ever had that feeling ~ that you'd like to go to a whole different place
and become a whole different self?"
~ Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

While I stood on the edge of that beautiful tidal river for the first time
 - the expansive and ever-changing River Tay in Newburgh, Fife -
I had many thoughts about being more than 4,500 miles from home;
how far away that was, continents separated by great bodies of water.
Still, THIS place, somehow, felt so familiar ...
This was Scotland.
And after a long wait filled with the ups and downs that life dishes,
I had finally made it to
this river.

Two things ahead were certain, I mused: the first,
I intended to have a grand adventure ... no suitcase was big enough
to contain that excitement !  And second, 
India Flint was teaching a textile master class called
which I knew would alter my perception of 'place' forever.
Although I wasn't exactly sure  how  she would do this
there was no doubt in my mind that she most definitely would.

Why was I so certain?
'Twas an enchanting video [view here] that I watched last year,
a culmination of India's three week residency at Big Cat Textiles
describing her impressions of the river ... showing how her work was
influenced, guided by landscape ...
as she described, "...infused with the indefinable, individual essence of place."

So we began ...
our next few days were a gentle process of mirroring all the attributes of this river
using the materials at hand;
watching and listening, sensing, observing, smelling,
but mainly  paying attention ...
slowing down enough, taking time for that to happen.
Thirteen of us from different parts of the 'whirled' were about to interpret
just what being t(here) meant.

I thought a lot about how in my own work I use photography as a way to illustrate
how a subject  feels ...  not necessarily rendering true to appearances, but
making my world look the way it looks to me.
Perhaps I could express something similar with cloth, paper, stitch, local plant dyes
and a collection of written words ?

Each day included much walking ... mainly alone,
although I was very happy to make the acquaintance of an adorable
dog friend who also happened to need time walking.
I was lucky - she knew quite a few back roads
and was ever eager for one more jaunt to the river ....
so I spent a good deal of time down there.

"All the technique in the world doesn't compensate for
the inability to notice."
- Elliott Erwitt, photographer

While the River Tay daily ebbed & flowed
we made a few ripples of our own in the local alleyway
[much to the amusement of local residents]
with the beginnings of our stitched concertina books ...
the first of several environmental displays we would assemble in the village
and as it turned out, a potent way to stay melded as a group.

As anyone who knows India a bit may have already surmised,
well, things don't stay white around her for very long ...

~ our paper books wrapped in hand stitched silk bags ~ 

Ecoprinting on paper was new for me and I had purposely avoided doing any of it on my own
beforehand, wanting instead to attend this workshop as a "clean slate" in that regard.
But it wasn't long before I fell under the spell of those paper marks, just like with cloth ...
swooning & exclaiming along with my class-mates over the gifts from Newburgh plants,
both subtle and bold.

~ folded paper fresh from the dyepot, still wet ~

The studio atmosphere was sublime for concentrated work ... the old stone walls of
the [former] church leant an air of solidity with the added advantage of providing
fine acoustics for the eclectic range of music India brought along.

I don't believe I have ever worked within
a more friendly, generous & supportive group of gals.
Many of us spoke of this phenomenon afterwards ... what a truly special group this was ...
somehow - given our diverse backgrounds & locations - a perfect mix of temperaments,
creativity, good humor, and all out camaraderie was shared & appreciated by each of us.

I miss you all !
[and I do hope we carry on with our "pinkie" agreement ... winkwink]

: : :
"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you,
spend a lot of time with them and it will change your life.
No one is here today because they did it on their own.  You're all here
because someone gave you strength.  Helped you.  Held you in the palm of their hand."
- Amy Poehler, Harvard University commencement address
: : :

Part of our daily process was listening to verse & selections from great writers.
India provided a rich & varied mix,
reading softly to us for a few minutes each day.
Later, after writing our own impressions gleaned from the common experience of walking,
we read our chosen words aloud to the circle, each person's words
adding a unique cadence to the shared story.

Words from "accidental" poems written on my walks became new poems, reassembled.

This writing practice stayed with me throughout my journey through Scotland 
and has now come home with me ...
a powerful tool that I didn't even know I was in need of ...

~ torn scraps from one of my poems ~

Occasionally when something entertaining was happening with us below
we'd catch a little giggling from above.  These two sweeties, who run Big Cat Textiles
and Hat in the Cat [in Perth], took amazingly wonderful care of us during our stay ...
Alison [on right] fed us the most deliciously yummy healthful food - catering to 
all food restrictions, I might add - and Netti provided for any needs tossed in her path,
including places to lay our heads and doggy therapy.  Both went 
above and beyond the call of normal hosting duty
in every way.
Rockin' wonderful, the both of you !

~ Molly's flowers, morning inspiration, surrounded by class books ~

Book work progressed through many stages ... 
experimentation with useful mordants & clever solutions for resists,
unusual mark-making with found objects,
stitching with a wide range of thread sizes & types [Big Cat Textiles had lovely offers on hand],
and the addition of textile scraps ... silks, wool, lace & crochet.

The table displays at the end of each day were steadily growing more beautiful
and our bundle 'displays' in the village were sights to behold.

~ double exposure, India laying out bundles ~

~ below the Newburgh railway arch ~

As we neared completion of our river books
India presented us with one more surprise [our workshop was full of them, bless her] ...
an unexpected technique for felting a small blue "river,"
a long piece of textile goodness to tie around our finished books.
Having just attended Michel Garcia's indigo dye workshop the previous week,
India recycled the spent dye liquid [that which usually goes down the drain]
thinking perhaps it might still be useful ... and this was to be our color source.
We were thrilled to give it a try.

positive results and a very pleased dye master ...

Finished books in hand, we walked down together as a group
and joined our self-made rivers
with the great River Tay.
Seemed a supremely fitting way to draw our time together to a close,
by making this symbolic gesture.  I know I'm not alone when I confess
these were some very emotional moments.
I won't be forgetting this experience any time soon for not only
have I come home with new & important tools, I've brought home
a deeper understanding of how to *be* ...

Thank you, India.

~ my river book ~

: : : 

The second day into our class, Maya Stein's weekly '10-Line Tuesday' poem arrived
via email.  I've included Maya's poems several times on this blog & made mention
of how often her words are completely perfect in their timing, apropos to life in that moment.
So it was with this one.
I'd like to make special note of it
for posterity ...


Just east of certainty.  A little south of courage.  A hair's
width from ease.  Clicks away from ready.  A turn
or two from acceptance.  A shuffle from faith.  A set of stairs
from achievement.  A riverbed from happiness.  A handspan from
peace.  A wink away from freedom.  A few lines until the poem's
done.  A highway, a night's sleep, a phone call, a touch, a rotation
of gears away from that certain yes that tells you where you are is
exactly where you need to be.  I know, the signs can look as if they're missing,
and the map so distant and unclear.
But I'm telling you, you aren't lost.  You're never lost.  You're always here.

: : :


  1. The words and images of this post, the flowing river, your experience, your river book, Maya's poem, India's teaching, the close community of like-minded and like-hearted, the appreciation of mindfulness... all these wonderments challenge my ability to comment... so I will just use your own beautiful words...


    she waits.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Robin.
      [the doggy in Scotland was a dear one & helped me immensely to not have
      withdrawal symptoms from missing Isla]

  2. welll that is certainly a swoon inducing post if ever I saw/read one.......

    1. Very much liked your Glenfiddich suggestion -
      or any of the other dang fine stuff from over there would work too ;-D

  3. I'm pretty much breathless at this moment. I'm lost for words of praise at how you captured your experience, both with words and feeling pictures……'orientation' left me casting left and right and pulled forward as I became centered reading it…..thank you dear one, for taking the time and reaching deep to tell this story. ox

    1. golly o-t-r ... that means a lot. Thank you for that.

  4. I would love to have been there, but since I wasn't I'm wallowing in your lovely post, feeling the buzz. The studio setting is exactly what I would have expected for this workshop. How wonderful! Looking forward to seeing how you continue this journey now that you are home.

    1. Me too, yes, thank you - came home a bit on fire, Robyn. No time for beadwork while there
      so you might imagine the current state of things.

  5. Thanks for sharing this glimpse...Yet another reason to love Scotland! More?

    1. More coming, Panayoti! I went to EBG and thought about you & all your
      earlier posts about the plant collections .... ahhh, and such magnificent trees ...
      and their rockeries ... all gorgeous. Some tidbits in next post.
      And oh, did I love Scotland just like you promised !

  6. What a beautiful post, so full of feeling and experience. I have done a short course with India in another beautiful setting in the south west of England so know where you are coming from, she is so inspiring.

    1. I think India has a way of walking through / in places that the rest of us have much to learn from
      and are definitely inspired by ...
      thank you, Debbie.

  7. you've captured this beautifully. india's gifts as a teacher are many. didn't you feel special throughout? she does that!

    1. Yes, exactly like that, Velma ~ all of us did, I'm fairly certain ...

  8. Once again your words have captured the spirit of a place, people, beauty and your wonderfully captivating perspective. I'll be reading this post several times -- for its beauty, its strength and it magic.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Penny.
      I value your perspective very much.

  9. Replies
    1. aww, Rachelle, that means a great deal coming from you.
      Hugely appreciate you saying so.

  10. Woke up with the beginnings of a migraine. After reading this, the pain is gone. Washed away with the flow of the river and your beautiful words.

    1. Goodness me - I knew that was a powerful river, Peggy - and that effect is pretty darn terrific ;>]
      Sure hope you are [still] feeling better ... I get them too, so I know just how debilitating
      they can be.

  11. I'm agog about your whole experience. Thanks for sharing, and the gorgeous (as always) photos. xo

    1. "agog" ... now that is one peach of a word !
      thanx, Connie, my pleasure entirely.

  12. thank you for sharing this special space & place

  13. Hey Christi, what a lovely memory trip. Thank you for reminding me how good it all was for the soul. We had a great group and I feel we will keep in touch if only through the ether. Hope you will return some day. India seems to work magic.

    1. Thanks so much for swinging by, Molly ... gosh we were lucky, weren't we? Such a fine group
      and yes, India's magic. I hope to come back, you bet. Your little corner of the world is very
      special indeed. Stay in touch !

  14. try again , a thousand thank you for your thoughts about being (t)here and the lovely fotos , the river Tay means a lot i think for everyone who came there also for all of us , not all so good to write down as you are and take so lovely pictures , the river are a kind of meditation i t is a time you will have always in your soul and mind , i will !!!!

    1. Oh Bodil, my dear class-mate AND flat-mate, I think our experiences by the river are going to
      live within us for a long, long time. I still feel like I am "processing" everything ... SO MUCH GOOD.
      I get a huge grin whenever I think of you in that gorgeous green dress !!
      Take good care of yourself & I hope we meet again one day.

  15. try again , a thousand thank you for the blog here and being (t) here and the lovely pictures, the river Tay means a lot for all of us i think , maybee we all have it in soul and mind , i will , thank you

  16. Replies
    1. ... now that's a word that certainly sums up much of what happened ;>]]

  17. Christi, what a lovely post...thank you for letting us be (t)here with you. Your photos and portraits have the loveliest way of conveying not just reality, but depth of the experience as well. And the doggy companion! and your river book!

    1. Thank you for popping by to *walk by the river* with me, Suzanna ... oh how you would have loved that place,
      I'm sure of it. Jazzy [the dog] was an emotional life saver [not to mention very good walker]. Am very grateful
      to have had her canine companionship.
      Hope all's well with you in your neck of the woods. Pats to Gilly !

  18. oh now I am swooning. All kinds of wonderful here.

    1. Many thanks, Deb. 'Twas a special place & a special time.
      You would have greatly admired the beauteous skeins of wool
      for sale in all the shops over there ... you knitters would be spoiled for choice !

  19. Thank you for this most wondrous post! I fell head over heels in love with Newburgh and the River Tay last year when I took Sandra Brownlee's Tactile Notebooks and the Written Word class at Big Cat. The Tay flows into one's soul and stays. It did mine. I've dreamed of Newburgh and the red boat ever since. And I so badly wanted to take India's being (t)here class. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. It's an easy place to love that's for sure, Jennifer. Pretty certain your sentiments are shared by many ;>]
      I'd never spent that amount of time near a *tidal* river ... quite a different beast from lakes or even
      rushing rivers. Almost like it has another kind of life force [hopefully I'm not sounding too corny].

      And you're welcome. Very pleased to share.

    2. You're not sounding corny at all. It was my first time being around a tidal river as well and it was a magnificent experience...and probably one reason why the Tay has effected me so. Enjoy!

  20. wonderful photo's ! you are truly gifted with the camera . your vision gives me a feeling of being there . i would love to do this workshop in Scotland . thank you for sharing your trip .

  21. Fondly recalling my time at Big Cat and the River Tay. Your photos are dreamy and make me wistful for that experience and that place. Thank you for sharing Christi.

  22. I have just come across your 'walk by the river post' and it has taken me on the journey with your. I found a quiet place inside the story to just be and settle. You have a gift with the story telling.
    I am about to begin a residency at The Rocks (Sydney, Australia not far from where I live). Experiencing your journey via your writing has given the idea to be 'there' and record that experience through my work. Thank you, I feel inspired no more than that I feel as though I have a mission.

  23. such an amazing work. I love this work and the experience you have shared here. truly inspiring for us.