Swoosh, Trickle, Sputsput, Ebb, Flow

OK folks. I’m gonna get all formal on you. Well – a bit more – how to put it? Staid? than our usual chatty approach.
Can you cope?
I’m sharing with you a piece I wrote for the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association newsletter. I hope you gain something of value from reading it.

Sally Swain art


It’s all about the ecotone.

The what?

The ecotone. A place full of life, bubble and vibrancy.

Read on if you feel inclined…

Swoosh, trickle, sputsput, ebb, flow.
Where the Sand Meets the Sea

Written with gratitude for Lynn Kapitan’s ‘Arts Therapies in the Ecotone: Contact, Collaboration and Creative Entanglement’ ANZATA conference keynote address

Swoosh, trickle, sputsput, ebb, flow.

What happens where sand and sea meet? Do they decide they don’t like each other, only to end this encounter? Does the sand lose its sense of self as the sea rushes in? Does the sea sacrifice its watery essence? I’m no scientist, but it seems the constant contact leads to elemental connection, interdependence, change and aliveness. Sand and sea affect each other, yet

do not forgo their individual integrity.
     In September, 2015, we SAAT (Sydney Area Arts Therapists) members are invited to create an artwork about our regional group experience, to be displayed at the upcoming conference.      

I close my eyes. An image appears – a sort of onion/bulb/flower in warm orange hues. I recall hearing that ‘saad’, pronounced ‘saat’, is the South African word for seed. I paint the flower. A seed sits sumptuously in the centre.

There are two sides, similar, yet distinct.
What might the two SAAT sides/forces/petals be?

heart and head
experiential and academic
expressive art-making and lecture-format presentation
sharing stories of arts therapy at the coalface and discussing readings
practice and theory
internal and external
valuing the expertise of group members and of outside presenters
building connections within our community and promoting arts therapies out in the world
art as therapy and art in therapy
visual art therapy and other creative arts therapy modalities
artist backgrounds and health practitioner backgrounds
UWS-trained art therapists and those with other training/experience
those employed as arts therapists and those who are not


In SAAT’s recent past, I perceive ecological tension between apparent dualities. I perceive we have been consciously and unconsciously working with these apparent dualities as best we can.

     I continue painting. A third entity unfurls from the meeting of the two sides. The third entity, born of the coming together of two ‘parent’ petals, is still forming, washy, yet has a discernible heart-like shape. It is a being-in-becoming.

Swoosh, trickle, sputsput, ebb, flow.

The ecotone is defined as the transition area between two biological communities. I dare to say that this is where we work and live as arts therapists, as SAAT members – in the uncertainty, spontaneity, risk; bringing together clearly or blurrily defined entities that affect each other in ways as yet unknown.
     Do sand and sea combine and merge? Do they collide and separate? Are they, as Lynn Kapitan suggests, in constant inter-animation, two ecologies in tension producing a third thing?

There is life at the ecotone – vibrant, scary life amidst the sandstorm and seaspray. Listen to it – sshkksshh – LIFE.

Through the act of writing this piece, I’ve further deepened into a knowing of the ecotone.

(There’s the power of creative process for you).

I recognise that the ecotone is not the edge of substance where the cliff drops away to nothingness. It is not about floating on the periphery. The shore is not an absence, but a place of presence, of ‘both/and’, rather than ‘neither/nor’. I see a glimmer of an empowering narrative for my professional self, for SAAT, for arts therapists. Could it be that where we may have seen ourselves as marginal or marginalised, we are right in the centre of the action?


What might this mean for our future?
Who knows what will be born in the ecotone.

Arts Therapists in the Eco(toe)ne – Amanda Levey, Jo Kelly, Romny Vandoros, Sally Swain

Arts Therapists in the Eco(toe)ne – Amanda Levey, Jo Kelly, Romny Vandoros, Sally Swain

Here’s the link to the newsletter –ANZATA News


8 thoughts on “Swoosh, Trickle, Sputsput, Ebb, Flow

Comments are closed.