— Ecogeographer


Alexis Rockman rocks.
My dad would have treasured his round painting.
Mark Dion, how you would like his curiosities,
Would your mum have?
Your cabinet spoke.

Pam Longobardi, swimmer of caves, he would have thought you exotic,
You are an archaeological goddess.
Andy Hughes, you presented his room.
You read her favourite, Robert Frost.
The room was silent. I think?

Do you now Martin Parr? is chimed,
The Snow Queen glides past.
Knowingly a dog stares us out,
It is a sort of fairy tale.
On the dog mush, I realise,
They needed a sustainable product designer.
Would Howard agree?
We land in a glacier.

I picture the cockpit for him.
I take a GPS grab to show 500ft.
How to describe the blue ice?
Skating on a turquoise lake.
We see Turnagain in elevation and aerial.

Seattle mountains replace the Anchorage view –
I let the battery go flat, too many photographs of cups.
The map is followed in 3D, on all 3 chairs, for hours.
We land.
The suitcase is replaced.
Dad has gone.
(Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, what would you say about the plasticity of such a brain?)
My legs go hard. Sheets of ice really go past.

My sister and I sit either side of his slippers,
Everything seems sacred she says, I haven’t touched it.
Our eyes lift from the slippers to the box collection,
To the Valentine’s envelope ready,
To the candle that quietly smokes.

I drift to his rooms of ships and mermaids.
My eyes spill over his table,
I straighten a collection of silver.
I collect printed photographs.
In the past, I’m posted in the vestry window.

I’m stood on a box in the bell tower.
(He started the bell ringing again, George’s daughter just reminded mum.)
My sister and I listen to his singing voice past the rude screen,
She studies his performance.
I try and gain confidence in Alto.

I’m walked from Mullion to Kynance (something my sister and I have continued to do).
Paul Foot, Peter Long – they walk – other vicar’s names feature thereafter, and priests, monks, old ladies,
they gather.
As do Easter egg hoards,
Youth clubs,
Garden Fetes on croquet lawns.
I dress as a fox, my sister as a white rabbit.
The next year I make an Indian headdress from the goose feathers.

A Dragon fly garden,
A Tortoise garden.
We loose a roost of Guinea Fowl,
We eat supers of honey.
We are not allowed a tree house.
We climb out the small window in secret protest.
The victorian greenhouse holds the weight,
The tropical fish and banana tree look up.

I watch him paint. I listen to him tap on the typewriter.
We read his poems as requested.
We insert a celtic cross from deviant art.
Different denominations are present.
And different friends, many close.
You lay like a saint. We all see you.
We think of your hymn.
You have gone.

His hats dangle around, his clocks tick again.
The radio is back on.
The carpet pile moves,
I make porridge for one.
We miss the phone.
We miss the colour.
We miss hiding the bananas.
I read his books.

I notice the roundness,
The lack of plastic. I think, trad dancing.
I search the owls, the spiders, the big birds,
The hat pins, the fob watches, the socks,
The big boom.

The Irish travelling priest, The Snake Padre,
Dad, The King.
Old Man Yellow Beard,
Grando, Uncle Donald,
You lay like a saint.
We all see you.
We think of the hymn you wrote.
You have gone.

You stood me on a rock in Goonhilly,
Whilst looking for snakes.
A stare at that space in my daydreams.
Your smell is faint now.
You have a necklace of colour around your new neck. Your creativity still spills,
We have a new garden to tend. We feel love. We must not be lost.
You celebrated every occasion. We must.
But my pages of Chroma, still lands on pages of shadow.

Feb 2014-2015,

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Valentine Gilbert and GeorgePete Postlethwaite is sending an arrow through my heart. Romeo and Juliet, The Age of Stupid and Brassed off, in that order, keep running round my head. Not the New Year I had expected. To me it feels a slow year to get started. It’s been a cold white winter with some snow and an ever present frost that’s been drilling down to my herbs. My New Year plan was to set in some kind of ‘freeze’, my own personal green audit framework. I’ve been languishing instead. Not only because of the loss of Pete Postlethwaite on our theatre and TV platforms, but I’ve also been mourning the loss of our new gander on the garden stage. Only three, he was found dead one morning by my mum. A heart attack, maybe a weak heart because he was a runt. He was our first all white gander and had a high pitch gorgeous chime of a call (he was called Sarah!) I recorded the loss of the grey gander here.

I’ve been observing a white and pink plant this winter. The white of plants is a chalky white says Derek Jarmen*, and chalky white is great as it’s a warm white and so plants even if white, warm you… My granny Whisker (yes, that’s her real name) died of leukaemia, and Colchicum autumnale, Autumn Crocus is linked to some treatment associated with this disease, and so I choose to observe and paint it. It’s dedicated to her; she fired my imagination with poetry, gardens she themed for each one of my family, and unseen fairies that left presents on each of the Irish east coast sea shelled mornings.

On January 18, 2008, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (representing botanic gardens in 120 countries) stated that “400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease”. These included yew trees (the bark is used for cancer drugs, paclitaxel); Hoodia (from Namibia, source of weight loss drugs); half of Magnolia species (used as Chinese medicine for 5,000 years to fight cancer, dementia and heart disease); and Autumn Crocus (for gout).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, March 2001

Leukaemia has been successfully treated with Autumn Crocus, and the plant has also been used with some success to treat Bechet’s syndrome, a chronic disease marked by recurring ulcers and leukaemia.
From Plants For a Future

Observational work
Colchicum autumnale observational work (and further above, Gilbert & George Gorse Hearts by Dominica Williamson)

As I came into February, I started studying the leaves of this plant. Appropriately, they have a sheen and stand strong. Valentine’s day approached at this time, and so Romeo and Juliet came back, swimming through my head, Baz Luhrmann’s fast flying cuts swirling round, Pete’s wisdom was in front of me again. Arr, the Age of Stupid, yes, he would want me to stop languishing and get an audit framework started and to keep observing more and more. And my boyfriend must have felt that too, cos here’s a washed up badger brush from the tideline, which saved him £40 and answered my prayers about not buying badger but wanting quality and a girl’s version. And so the audit starts with a cold white winter behind me, but a warm white soul and a new green way to shave.

Badger shaving brush
My boyfriend found, painted and photographed the brush

*Nearly all white flowers are yellowish white and the comparatively few that are bluish white such examples as Omphalodes linifolia are of a texture so different from snow that one cannot compare them at all – I should say that most white flowers are near the colour of chalk; for although the words chalky white have been used in a rather contemptuous way, the colour is really a beautiful warm white, but by no means an intense white.

Derek Jarman, Chroma, p16

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Detail of European Gorse DissectionIt’s winter.
I am currently painting in a land that is winter yellow; Cornwall. It is surrounded by harsh explosive yellow gorse, then shades of yellow daffodils, prissy pale primroses, followed by powdery yellow willow.
I’m finishing a willow dissection, which harbours a gorgeous squat yellowy glistening nectary.
But first showing here is European Gorse dissected. The Gorse gave me beautiful objects to paint. I know Derek Jarman would appreciate them, especially the above detail.
The mechanical hinge of the keel is illustrated below.

…its five petals form the keel, wings and standard – the wings and keel interlocking. If we carefully dissect a flower we can see at the base of each half of the keel a great tooth, and a similar one at the base of each wing, by which the interlocking is effected. We further discover that all the stamens are here joined into a tube round a minute pod; they are monodelphous – “in one brotherhood” – say the botanists.*

European Gorse Dissection
Plant family: Fabaceae
Plant genus: Ulex
Plant species: U. europaeus
Plant cultivar: NA
Held: Eden Project Florilegium
Artist: Dominica Williamson

A friend and colleague, Matt Groshek, remarked, ‘Your work is reminding me of Jarman’. The last year I had periodically clutched his Garden book. It must have seeped in. I hadn’t realised.
Jarman would look at this not only for its form, he would wonder at the colour. It would take him to Prospect Cottage. It’s yellow window frames and the very way he framed the house with Gorse.

‘The milk-white sap bleeds, the yellow flowers turn brown in death.’
‘Daffodil yellow. Primrose yellow. The Yellow Rose of Texas. Canary bird.’
‘Spring comes with celandine and daffodil. The yellow rape sends the bees dizzy. Yellow is a difficult colour, fugitive as mimosa that sheds its dusty pollen as the sun sets.’
Yellow Lines the Kerbside. Yellow earth-moving equipment with flashing yellow lights, cutting a wound in the landscape.
excerpts from Jarman’s Chroma 1994

And it’s Matt who indirectly, through Leslie, took me to the Yellow Wallpaper. What a book. I think it’s because it shows the two extremities of the colour in huge depth – the two polar opposites of what the colour can do. Life and joy versus death and despair – summer versus winter. And now I am thinking of Jarman again.

Yellow has long been my favourite colour, and I am sure always will. (I believe it is Leslies too.)

* Quote taken from Knolik

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