Soft Sweet Rain and the

Net of Connectedness

Calm bubbles of Art Therapy First Aid

Dear Reader,

will you hang in there with me while I tell you nodes of story? Even I don’t know how the nodes connect; but connect they do and some of them are sparkly.

It rains soft, sweet rain.

Not scary harsh uproot-the-tree crash-the-power-pole flood-the-town rain, but soft, sweet rain. Not scary harsh laceratingly dry fire-cooker pyrocumulus air, but soft, sweet rain. Not choking smoke to fill your lungs, eyes and heart with poison. Just soft, sweet rain.

I attend Carla van Laar’s Art Therapy First Aid training, designed to resource Arts Therapists to assist in bushfire recovery.

Art Therapy First Aid
Mandala

We make a mandala to honour losses and griefs.

We bring healing, nurturing wishes to the mandala.

Art Therapy First Aid mandala of recovery

We explore the five core elements of Psychological First Aid: 

Safety, Calm, Connectedness, Self (or Group) Efficacy, Hope

And we conduct our explorations in collaborative, creative ways.

We work in small groups as if we are offering creative expressive stations at a community recovery and support event. My group of three is assigned Connectedness.

We organically, spontaneously, swiftly find ourselves creating a net.

We use thread, twine, wool, buttons, sparkly-bobbles. Our process is experiential, in-the-moment, relational, embodied, hands-on, alive, collaborative.

Connectedness
threading together our own little version of Indra’s net (well – the outcome doesn’t look as absolutely immersively engaging as the process was)

Indra’s net comes to mind. Indra’s net weaves itself from Hindu and Buddhist tradition into a bejewelled symbol of the interconnected universe.

Participants from other creative first aid stations join us.

We welcome them.

We sit, knot, tie, crochet, plait, yarn, remember, laugh, cry, exclaim,

make new and old connections.

The net that forms amongst us, between us, threads to, from and around time and place and across the universe.

Art therapy first aid
Connectedness
(OK. the background fabric doesn’t do it justice)

We speak of the world in a grain of sand,

of micro and macro worlds.

One woman talks of braiding her young daughter’s hair being an intimate, bonding experience. Another recalls her European grandmother who taught her to crochet. Someone teaches me to finger-knit. Someone else makes a little nest of eggs to attach to the net. I hold the end of strands of wool while someone makes a multi-coloured plait. I speak of my friend in Alaska braiding pink seaweed.

Stories come forth. Help is at hand.

wool thread twine sparkle plait knot weave

It’s a simple act,

this sitting together and making, even while we are expressing complexity.

We collaborate. We say yes to suggestions. Together, we make art with no rules; no right or wrong. Simply divine play with a purpose.

I am reminded of Art Heart Action – my initiative to bring together Arts Therapists to offer a recovery event to people affected by the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires. We too had a range of creative expressive stations for people to experience at their own pace, in their own way. Those fires were devastating for so many. We didn’t quite know how exponentially awful it would become in the Australia-wide furnace grounds of this recent summer.

More Calm Bubbles. What do you see? Maybe figures emerging?

I wish soft, sweet rain of care and love to all those fire-scourged folk all around. And animals, the poor animals. And plants. The trees that are able to regenerate and the trees that aren’t.

I think of the What is Collaboration? event coming up in April that I’m part of co-creating. It’s hosted by Anthropocene Transition Network. It is to include a Warm Data Lab and a reflective, life-affirming response from my Out of the Box Playback troupe.

All these ideas, stories, threads, people, possibilities – interwoven.

Meanwhile, at this very moment, my colleague and Leaf-by-Leaf team member Clemency Doyle, is running an Art and Wellbeing program for the fire-impacted communities of Eurobodalla shire.

Bubbles of watery calm

Meanwhile, I daily attempt to bring soft, sweet rain to the fires of distress that rage in the mind and heart of my primary care recipient.

Art Therapy First Aid
Mandala

Annie Kia writes in ‘Linkmore’, her allegory about the town of Lismore,

But all the long while, amongst the hard stuff and the good, a tissue grew between them, a warp of purpose, a weft of connection. It grew between them, invisible, threaded through the districts, woven everywhere, looped between their houses and their families……

And even now, on full moon nights, up on the hill behind the hospital, if you looked with a sidewise kind of look, you could see the silvery threads, the warp and weft, the tissue of connectedness still there threaded through Linkmore, shimmering.

….. The warp of purpose, and weft of connectivity. 

Because the tissue that prevents harm will heal us from catastrophe.

Please feel free to respond to any of this Soft, Sweet Rain post.

Write in the comments box below if you wish. Let’s stay connected.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

No smoke without feathers

Art Helps

If you can see a red-brown feather, it’s Climate Heart Art by Sally Swain. 

Climate Heart Art
Sally Swain

I buy a cushion from Vinnies.

It’s feathery, velvety, russet, very fake. Turns out that it moults – not an endearing feature. Still, I rather love it. Fragments of dyed red-brown fluff stick to the cream couch. They make themselves right at home, camouflaged, on the patterned rug, while those feathers that remain attached to the cushion riffle in the machine-made breeze of ceiling fan-plus-air-purifier in the confined indoor world of this smokey Sydney summer.

I like the riffling.

It’s a substitute

for the old-fashioned,

pre-scorched-summer activity of

going for a walk in the actual air,

enjoying leaves on trees

rustling in the breeze.

Climate Heart Art
in emergence

Beyond my little lounge room? Beyond Sydney’s inner west?

It’s been the summer of No-Return.

Fires fires, devastating fires have eaten trees, flowers, fungi, lizards, koalas, echidnas, wombats, kangaroos, birds, dogs, cats, people, paper, iron, brick, mortar, memories, homes, townships, livelihoods, lives. Once you’ve seen a photo of five burned platypus corpses on a rock, you can’t un-see it.

And that’s just me – a delicate, milksop city-slicker artist and art therapist who hasn’t had to stare a fire-nado in its deathly face.

Climate Heart Art
in emergence

Russet feathers float off the cushion. They jemmy their way into creases and crevices. For some unknown reason, I start to collect them.

I pile feathers into a miniature plastic garbage bin,

these small fluffy pieces of escaped bird, artificially coloured

in a strange new hot-house blend

of human-induced environment

and nature as we knew it.

November 12th 2019 was the first-ever declared Catastrophic fire danger day in Sydney. Hell – they only just invented a category stronger than Very High, Severe and Extreme and we got to apply it, in the Big (ahem) Smoke, even before summer properly started.

Climate Heart Art
fly, little bird

Through summer

I feel the need to soothe myself and others.

I try to paint only blues and greens; calm and watery colours.

Soothe, soothe, breathe, soothe.

For weeks, I can’t bring myself to wear any of my many red or orange clothes. My movement impro group dances for rain.

The climate cushion keeps moulting. The fires keep burning.

I am obliged to name my grief, fear, rage.

I am compelled

to dedicate my creative practice

to alleviating the suffering

of living beings

impacted by fire

and other climate crises.

I consciously begin making Climate Heart Art. Turns out I’d been doing it unconsciously for a while, with odd, hybrid survival creatures appearing. I coin the term ‘inter-elemental’ for my frogs of the air and fish of the earth.

Climate Heart Art
fragments from a magazine

 

Climate Heart Art
what will the frog become?

The feathers find their way into my art.

This is the art of emergence, of listening for respite and the possibility of new life.

The russet feathers.

Each feather, though oh-so fluffy and innocent, looks like fire. Each feather placed in a painting conjures the ever-present hot, demonically dry fire-scape that manufactures mass extinctions and catastrophic trauma.

Climate emergency? We’re in it. No matter how small the painting or the lounge room; no matter what fear you try to shut out; what peace you try to seal in, the feathers of fire are here, inside the frame.

Climate Heart Art
hybrid creature
Sally Swain

Have I pushed you away, dear reader, with the pulse of negativity; the pelt of despair? Where is that Sally joyfulness? Oh, it’s there. Lightness too, lives in the life of the feather, the watercolour, the chance to express and to support others ongoingly in their authentic expression.

And how are you going in this time?

 

I am facilitating an Art and Soul Climate Circle on 22nd February in Sydney. Kindness, respect, connection, realness.

I am delighted to offer you a safe space to be, to breathe, to gather and create from your art’s heart.

Would you like to come along?

Climate Heart Art
Sally Swain

Here are some links for your emotional/creative support, knowledge and validation:

Climate Psychology Alliance podcasts

Psychology for a Safe Climate

Mindfully Facing Climate Change

FireFeels blog

Artists and Climate Change

with love, Art and Soul

from Sally

Broken Arted

It is no joke, the Sydney smoke

It is no joke,

the Sydney smoke –

an evil cloud,

a rainless cloak.

 

We grasp for breath,

we rasp and croak.

Our eyeballs sting.

Our spirits choke.

 

We cannot sleep,

yet

if we woke,

we’d see

our fiery climate

broke.

Please go over to my Sally Swain Art Facebook page

in the next few days I hope to put up artwork for sale to raise money for the Rural Fire Service – an organisation filled with completely amazing volunteer firefighters.

Thank you.

Also, stay tuned for Art and Soul opportunities

to give voice to feelings around the climate crisis; to be with creativity in community.

Mapping our World
unfinished art that’s been sitting around, leaning against walls.  It turned out to be a perfect background for Broken Arted

Broken Arted
What to do?
What can I/we offer?

with love, art and soul

from Sally

Celebrating Women Artists

and 

Saint Greta of Earth Action
Penny Ryan
from Still/Rage exhibition

our

Two stories did collide; oyster beds
Dr Sarah-Jane Moore
from exhibition
I Know Where Oysters Lie

creative

Art and Soul
a woman creates
in Art Garden playshop

power.

bush truck
Janine McAullay Bott
from Sculpture by the Sea

What  

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Sometimes you’ve just gotta

go to your Happy Place.

Pink and Green
Ode to a Tree
Sally Swain art

Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
Get out of the house, your worrybrain, your care duties and connect with nature.

Once there, you don’t know what you might do.

Turns out, Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady lurks in a small soft corner of your soul. Out she comes! No shame, that one. No self-consciousness. She will direct you.

So you

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What we stand for is what we stand on

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Listen to the voices.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Speak the words.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Be together.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Extinction Rebellion’s
Red Rebels at the Climate Strike Sydney September

You

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Glee

How does art make you feel?
Viewing it, I mean.

My true confession? I don’t go to too many exhibitions. I should. I’d like to. I just don’t.

Mostly,

I prefer to MAKE art

or to witness other people

(often those who don’t see themselves as artists)

make art.

I guess I’m a good match for my very own Art and Soul practice, where I get to witness AND facilitate. 

Cartonography FNQ
Sean Rafferty

I chanced upon The National exhibition in Sydney at Carriageworks
earlier in the year.

I noticed an abundance of installations, groupings of similar objects. Can’t think of the specific name for that type of work. 

Who knew there were so many styles of banana box?
Cartonography FNQ just made me feel plain happy.

Cartonography FNQ
Sean Rafferty
The National

A Sorcerer’s Dress obliged me to explore, inspect, discover. It activated my inner tactility. And spoke to my spiritual nature. 

A Sorcerer’s Dress    detail
Clare Peake
The National

Months later, I saw more of The National. This time at Art Gallery of NSW.
There were more installation groupings of similar stuff. I still couldn’t think of the name of that type of work, but I liked a lot of it. Koji Ryui’s glassy work touched my beauty nerve.

TOT
Koji Ryui
The National

TOT
Koji Ryui

Another grouped glass found objects sculpture brought glazed glimmers of beauty, expansion, possibility…

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We are Stepping Stones

We are community

We are Stepping Stones
We are Community

If you are feeling sad, scared, angry,
dispirited, devastated, disgusted,
please know you are not alone.

‘We are Stepping Stones.
We are Community.’

Who knew the little picture I painted yesterday,
alongside two art therapist pals, would resonate today?

You take one step at a time.
The stones are in the water.
You take one step at a time.
The water separates, connects, flows, nourishes.
You take one step at a time.
Each stone has space around it, yet is close to others.
You take one step at at a time.
You do not fall in the water.
You do not drown.

Who knows what is beyond this picture?
You take one step at a time.
For the moment, you are not alone.

Thank you for reading this, Art and Soul Space friend.

It was an aftermath expression from the recent Australian election weekend.

I share it with you with the intention of inspiring connection, hope, creativity, community.

In the words of a speaker on a post-election

Australian Conservation Foundation video,

‘Take time to grieve, reflect and connect….

Connect with your community, rest and recharge.

We’re really going to need you.

We need to look after each other so that we can be dangerous together’.

Here’s a link to a post-election article from the wise Stephanie Dowrick

Feel free to voice your responses.

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Climate Hope?

We see

the devastating effects of climate change.

We are beginning to know

climate grief, anxiety, loss, despair.

Is climate hope possible?

It’s the Ides of March. I attend the School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney.

My body propels me there.

The soul

of my being

ignites me

to join the throng of passionate youth.

School Strike 4 Climate
March, 2019 in Sydney

It is a privilege. I am moved.

John Lennon’s Imagine plays over the sound system. Thousands sing along. Those who know the song best are the mainly older women supporting the mainly younger women who form the phalanx, the guts, the heart, the mass movement.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

How can I not cry, given the presence of considered, compassionate youthful force, coupled with That Song? Lucky I’m not the mother or grandmother of a self-conscious teen, as my river of tears pours down, down, into our damaged earth.

My thirteen year old self would have said, ‘How embarrassing’, and shrunk behind a rock.

However, self-consciousness doesn’t appear to dominate the scene.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Amazing, inspiring young women such as Jean Hinchliffe, age fifteen, host the huge rally and speak with extraordinary clarity and strength.

They are the sensible ones.

They are the alert, proactive, reality-based ones.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

The old, right, white, male politicians? The new old Roman emperors who loll and bumble on their hot beds of greed, corruption and inaction? Or even take retrograde, destructive, willful action on a large scale?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Do they care?

Do they care about the world, or not-world, they are leaving for their progeny?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

I won’t bang on. This is Art and Soul Space, after all. A place of light, but deep sharing of creative connection.

Meaningful creative connection

permeates the rally.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

See Jean’s TEDx talk here. Her talk begins after about 25 minutes of proceedings.

As she says, she and her colleagues

might be too young to vote,

but they are not too young to take action.

See an article by Mary Robinson (ex-president of Ireland) here. Climate Change Denial is Evil.

See Artists and Climate Change blog site here.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

And the thousands of young women and men, the school children? They are considerate and polite, as well as fierce.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Listen…

What is that sound?

Could it?

No, surely not. Could it be

the tinkle, the rustle, the whisper

of Climate Hope?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Sea of Compassion

aka Keep Your Feet on the Ground and Your Brush on the Page

*thank you to last fortnight’s 3 poets

Last week, politicians stirred up a nasty brew of disruption and destabilisation in the nation’s central cauldron.

I was blessed with downtime. I kept my ear to the radio, my feet on the ground and my brush on the page. Still besotted with my near-new ‘Brilliants’, I self-soothed in the pleasantly safe, contained space of a small Art Journal. I followed the brush, the play and flow of watercolour. I did not plan my pictures. I stayed open.

I had a cuppa and chanced upon a Hugh Mackay article about compassion as a form of love. Compassion. Possibly a missing ingredient from the approaches and actions of the country’s main destabilisers. He says,

‘It is normal for humans to show compassion towards each other, because, in the end, we are each other.’

compassion sea art creativity

Sea of Compassion
with Heartfish
Sally Swain © art

Hugh Mackay is not the first or the only person to express such a sentiment. Poets, philosophers, religious guides have said the same thing countlessly. However, his words spoke to my bruised brush, my ailing spirit. His words spoke to my dismay that those who dehumanise and brutalise innocent asylum seekers are those who ruthlessly engineer to rule a country.

‘Although we like to think of ourselves as independent, we are more like islands in the sea – separate on the surface but connected to each other deep down.’

We are each other
Sally Swain © art
inspired by Hugh Mackay’s words

My bruised yet bountiful brush, my ailing yet

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