Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Does This Place Know of Me: Connecting with the Landscape

Kultsjon Lake, Lapland, Sweden
 Here at Ricklundgarden in the little village of Saxnas Sweden in Southern Lapland, Rebecca Crowell and I have just finished teaching a 7-day painting workshop. It was an incredibly memorable week for us all, from a campfire in the Sami kåta to a hike in the snowy, dreamy, treeless landscape of Stekenjokk near the border with Norway, to working in the studio here at Ricklundgarden.

Ricklundgarden studio
Stekenjokk, Sweden

We saw late late sunsets that lasted long into the night, and early morning sunrises only a few hours later in this land so close to the Arctic Circle.

As a way of connecting to this powerful landscape, and as a time for contemplation and reflection, I asked the artists in the workshop to each find a quiet place to sit outdoors--a sit spot--where they would spend 15 minutes each day.  They were to return to the same spot each day at different times of day.  As part of that process, I posed a different question each day for them to contemplate as they sat in the landscape. Two of the questions were from Robert Macfarlane who wrote the book, Journey on Foot, about walking ancient pathways in Scotland. 

On the second day, I asked the question, What does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?

As we wrapped up the workshop on the last day, Mena Martini, shared her emotional poem with us that she wrote in response to this question.  She has given me permission to share it here.

This place knows that I wish to die in your arms, like the little bird in Andreas' palms.
This place knows the darkness inside me, the loneliness, raw and tender as the birches' bark.
It knows my heart, when my heart is frozen.
It knows the bendings of my thoughts, the void of my prejudices, the width of my anxiety.
It knows my inner voice, shrieking and flying like a mosquito on a whitewashed wall.
It knows my chirping, in the tiny leaves,
It knows my flesh, in the peeling bark,
it knows my sleep in the watching birches
It knows my faults in the melting snow
It knows my beauty in the frozen lake
In the still frozen
Frozen lake. 

~Mena Martini

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