It has been some time and I’m edging my way back to the Glen rebuilding lost connections, connections that appear fragile on the surface but I find are still running deep.
We have had some heavy rain and wild weather, the canopy of the Glen is opening up I spend some time with a hawthorn in the under story,
listening in to the Alder Pool and
observing the self-organisied constellation of berry and nut in the water combed twigs of the tideline
2022 has been a year of further explorations in the Glen, coming out of my daily walking practice, logging and observations I invited other artists to join in with proposals for the park … thanks Mark Heffernann for this lovely documentation of the Gleann a’ Phúca exhibition of proposals for the Glen and thanks to to the artists who made them… we will see if we can make this happen
Delicate things survive the crossing over from March to April
…days later, 13 April in the morning sun steam rises from the charred ground
Gorse making drawings, feelings of sweep sweep arabesque charcoal and ash, loose and light in the surrounds I feel my breath in the intersection where the 3 stalks rise.
Bulrushes are called coigeal na mban sí as gaeilge… the spindle of the banshee … their dense heads are bursting open this spring and spinning off in all directions… down in the wind …
The Glen is full of rich pickings after the plunder of illegal March fellings and Annie cradles a Y branch
The French word for bulrush is quenouille, which also translates as distaff – the twin tool of the spindle … distaff being the term for the maternal line of the family and also the woman’s realm (of work)…
Distaff, a device used in hand spinning in which individual fibres are drawn out of a mass of prepared fibres held on a stick (the distaff), twisted together to form a continuous strand, and wound on a second stick (the spindle).
On the June bank holiday, after a couple of days in delirium I was admitted to the Mercy hospital with cellulitis from nettle stings and pond water, my lower leg was twice it’s normal girth, I could barely see my toes. Working with nettle fibres was a way of getting the connection back after this hiatus.
Nettles and Time
I have begun again with the task of extracting the fibres from the nettle.
Rumplestiltskin comes to mind…(whispers) …say my name…
First one softens the stalk, pounding gently with stone or other blunt object
Then one splits open the stalk
The nettle yields and separates into a few long strands, often four sections
Pull a strand away
Next one extracts the pith, the woody hull from inside, nettle-flesh, spongiform
You bend back the bark and crack the pith then you can remove it in inch long segments, the pithy bits, discarded in the making of cordage
Then you have long strips of green bark, the bark is fibrous but tough, harsh to the touch
On the inside of the bark are the fine nettle fibres, they are white or palest of green
Best to dry the fibres now to allow for shrinkage, a couple of hours will do
Then soak, for a while, short or long, if longer than a day change water every once in a while (we are not making soup)
I am not sure what comes out in the water – it is strong stuff, and ….
I find, venomous,
like a bee sting or that of an ant.
The formic acid in nettles becomes an ally in textiles, neutralising pH, and being both antibacterial and preserving, so best not to over-soak
Soaking swells up the inner fibres, it renders them easier to see, and easier to pull away from the bark, still, it’s a long process
I am outdoors in the late summer sun and so I lay the fibres out on the bare skin of my thigh, they stick to the skin, nettle juice holding them in place in the breeze till they dry and want to fly away
A rhythm builds this way.
Some fibres still have bark attached, the good ones are fine as grandmother’s hair
I twist the fibres
I twist them again
This Stops Time
The rate of production is too slow to be significant on any grand scale
twist and twist again
I will not be adding much to the things of the world in this way
Time expands internally, takes on another dimension
Stills the world outside
I am in touch
The ancestors are around
How else would the girl in the story have conjured the name of that taskmaster goblin
(whispers) say my name again…..
from my blog Narratives with Nature on Glen2Creek
In the space under the bridge
river pulls right to left
moves between depth and reflection
a backwards reading
this velveteen resting place
Reading and images from my blog https://glen2creek.com/
wee dance in the days of muffled grey around the pinch of sun we had at the apex of our year in the Enchanted Valley
thanks to Katie Holten for the tree font