Riversong :: Being (t)here, again ... with India Flint


I've had trouble writing about my recent time in Scotland.  I've been home
well over two months and I'm still struggling to find words
to explain that place, the people, and what happens for me when I am there.

It's proven difficult to describe how completely that country has stolen my heart.
Yes, the breath-taking scenery is a huge part of the equation, but all told
it is the breath it gives me back that keeps the calling acute.

When the thought first came to return this year and re-enroll in the 'Being (t)here' masterclass
tutored by India Flint and offered at Big Cat Textiles, I wondered
if maybe I was being a bit looney ...
yet in the end I felt I wasn't anywhere near done with spending time by the great River Tay.
So much good came from slowing down there, wandering along her banks with an eye
to detail and a heart set on paying attention.
I knew that although I'd be repeating a workshop I'd just recently taken
there was no way it would be the same.

By the completion of day one I knew this to be fact, for India
had taken what I'd thought was already a perfect course and bumped it up by a couple
dozen notches. This time around was going to be altogether different.

This little bell nudged us to attention innumerable times over the
five days together - I grew very fond of its sound.  Although I wasn't expecting to have
the company of so many pleasant classmates again, just like before these gals
were a splendidly supportive group who shared, inspired, cajoled, laughed
and even splashed about in a great deal of river mud,
all with immense amounts of joy ...

and this time there was also a great deal of singing!

A tidal river seems to me to have its own particular song, rising & retreating
as it does, like clockwork.  Add the voices of women who are happy to be (t)here
and the effect is close to sublime.  I'm not blessed with a singing voice
(those who know me well will know to find me singing in the car)
so I was especially moved by these impromptu choirs taking place
(even in the classroom).
Thank you all for that!

Hear for yourself.
Tracy McConnell-Wood made a lovely three minute video of our group mudlarking
and breaking into song:
Tay Tide Cairns

Newburgh is such a beautiful locale for giving oneself the permission to take time
for personal work.  There are ample opportunities for scenic walking ...

and for me, studying the ways of water ... exploring edges as I like to do.

Looking for ways to translate a notion of distance
or interpret a sensation of walking ...

You are a sage,
a river at its deepest
and most nourishing.
Sit by a river bank some time
and watch attentively as the river
tells you of your life.

~ from Lao Tzu ~

We ebbed and flowed in & out of the classroom not unlike the river's currents.
  Days were intense in meaningful and productive ways: Poetry was read and written,
bundles wrapped & dyed, mark-making explored & discovered, stitching techniques shared,
and all the while India responded to a thousand questions with patience & gentle humor.

We took breaks as we needed them. One of the delights was 'local shopping' ...

Alison & Jeannette, owners of Big Cat Textiles and Hat In The Cat (in Perth),
 look after the students in countless ways and I must admit
one of my favorites is all the lovelies they keep on hand for purchase.
That's the entry hall above which is chock full of vintage linens & clothes, 
baskets of hand-dyed yarn, roving, bits of this & that - everything useful for workshop supply needs
or to bring back home.  Some may have jumped into my suitcase.

There's even more in the adjoining studio ... racks of pre-loved clothing, beautiful finished
knitwear including cowls & socks made from local wool, countless notions
including buttons, trims, threads (many repurposed), even feathers; every kind of embellishment for
textile work that one might imagine.  I discovered last year that the displays can change daily
which makes it quite the dangerous place to wander through.

Sorry, is a wee bit blurry, gals ... sure we were giggling
and I shook the camera.

There they are - the special ladies who look after everyone so well.
Alison (on the left); thank you again for the glorious & nutritious meals;
Netti, thank you again for loaning the dog-less aunties your sweet Jazz
and for the comfy night's sleeps and car taxis ... and ... and ......
To you both: I sincerely appreciate the environment you've created that's so nurturing
and encouraging and filled with both of your good vibes - it doesn't get better than you two!

In the span of a week there were many walks taken down to the river
& ofttimes our dog pal led the way.  I'm quite fond of this image of India & Jazz
having a saunter one evening - one reason is that it shows off the quite incredible apron 
India wore to class.  If I remember correctly, I believe there was a collective gasp
when she first put it on ....

Look at the magnificent detail. 

Such a fascination has grown surrounding this garment, including a general clamoring to learn
the construction techniques, that now a workshop has been formed around it:
The Amuletic Apron
October 8-10, 2016
All the details over on the Big Cat Textile Masterclass Schedule

Student tables were looking more like museum collections by week's end. Some of the found
objects developed deeper meanings after being immortalized in poems or
used as utilitarian drawing tools.  Objects buried in the river scooped up at low tide
became special keepsakes to all of us.

~ student work ~

Perhaps because I'm in my 'older' years now, I'm especially appreciative of a tutor
who guides rather than directs; who presents options & inspiration rather than 
written in stone how-to's.  The voyage of discovery then becomes no one else's but my own.
It's more personal because I've found my own way of stepping through a process,
one that suits my own hands, my own particular way of seeing, and my own heart.
Thank you, India, for that freedom.

So it went.
(t)here on one of my favorite seats in the entire world I whispered a farewell
to the Tay ... "See ya later, my friend."  I always say it that way when I don't want to say "goodbye"...
always to people I'll miss and I guess now, even to rivers.
Then I photographed the lichen patch growing on the wall just off my right shoulder
so I could compare the growth rate from now to when next we meet.

I won't be away for long, Scotland.  You have my heart.


Night and day the river flows.  If time is the mind of space, the
River is the soul of the desert.  Brave boatmen come, they go,
they die, the voyage flows on forever.  We are all canyoneers.
We are all passengers on this little mossy ship, this delicate
dory sailing around the sun that humans call the earth.
Joy, shipmates, joy.

~ Edward Abbey,  The Hidden Canyon - A River Journey ~