Looking….and Seeing

The weekend has been one of taking stock and making plans……more of which I will tell you when they come to fruition….(note I said ‘when’ not ‘if’… how’s that for positivity?)

I have also been reflecting on my art practice – having to write an artist’s statement does concentrate the mind – and where and how I draw my inspiration from…

I have always been an avid reader and at present I am enthralled by the writings of Robert MacFarlane. I love the countryside and wild places and having devoured The Old Ways I am now reading Landmarks.

I like these because, not only does MacFarlane have a wonderfully descriptive prose style, he has a love of language, for the forgotten words, the archaic turn of phrase, for local dialect. I too love words and learning the etymology of words….

How can you not be inspired by such descriptive terms as:

summer geese – steam that rises from the moor when the rain is followed by hot sunshine (North Yorkshire) or

ammil – ‘The icy casings of leaves and grasses and blades and sprigs were glowing and hid in a mist of sun-fire. Moor folk call this morning glory the ammil (Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter 1927 Exmoor…)

(both of the above were taken from MacFarlane’s ‘Landmarks’)

Last night I read this excerpt from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain quoted in ‘Landmarks’..

(Apologies for the wonky camera angle…)

These writings are making me stop and think about how I look at the world around me but sometimes don’t really see….

With these thoughts ringing in my head I took myself out for a walk…now I don’t live in a wild place, I live in middle England, Leicestershire where the drone of the A6 is a constant….

….but at the end of my road is the River Soar

..so I walked, I sat, I listened, I made notes….







Now I don’t profess to have the same turn of phrase as Robert MacFarlane but these are some of the words that sprung to mind as I sat, watched, listened, searched for the details…

reflection, glinting, ripples, sunlight, flow…

…although you can’t really see in the above, there was a wonderful ribbon of silver between the river and the far bank..

Reeds, shadows, pale, leaning, swept against the bank, seed heads..

Celandines (I think…correct me if I am wrong) and lichen..

and wonderful furry stars…

A country girl born and bred, my ability to identify birdsong is shameful…but I did hear the caw of the raucous crows, a magpie and the odd, ubiquitous gull amongst the ‘whee, whee’, chirrups and calls, some more strident…

..even spotted a lone crow atop a tree…perhaps on the look out for a nest site. Most of the trees are still skeletons..

..but their density provides a solid delineation between land and sky..

There was one however, a willow, clinging to the river bank, which was beginning to show signs of it’s green, sweeping curtain…

Con trails criss-crossed the sky, the church bell called the hour, the distant neigh of a horse, the honking of nearby ducks…

The difference between looking and seeing….detail, and with that I think the essence of the place comes alive…

..will be fascinating to see how the above develops in my work…watch this space..



4 thoughts on “Looking….and Seeing

  1. Now that is just wonderful, I’m smiling from ear to ear 😁
    Nature is so inspiring and you can’t help being drawn in which in turn triggers the creator in all of us who stop,look,listen and feel.
    Breathe it in and let it out…through words, through drawings, paint or photographs… dance with it Carolyn .. I feel something exciting is about to happen ..💃😍

    1. Thx Sue! It was such a lovely morning & once I had blanked out the traffic noise & begun really looking,listening, watching…even our little patch of the river became somewhere magical!! Will be interesting to see how the colours, lines & feelings resolve themselves in my work!!

  2. Excited for you Carolyn and looking forward to what comes of it! What a lovely stretch of river too. Your experience of stopping and looking/listening is something I try to make part of my life too, its so life-affirming (and inspiring!). I too, love contemporary nature writing and have been meaning to look at Landmarks so am glad you shared a little of the fabulous words contained therein. I’ll make sure I get a copy now.

    1. Am really enjoying MacFarlane’s books – making me focus on the sometimes overlooked places/things.
      It is a lovely river and a constant reminder of how wonderful nature is, no matter how near urban life is!
      Now need to find a way to translate all of that onto paper…..simples!!!

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