Turning our attention to water
The magic of the world made visible

Shaped by water

No Turning Back by Jason Decaires Taylor, Punta Nizuc, Mexico

From Singing to the Sound: Visions of Nature, Animals, & Spirit by Brenda Peterson, a beautiful collection of essays about life on America's Northwest coast:

"If landscape is character, then Northwesterners are most like water. We are shaped by the voluptuous shores and salt tides of Puget Sound, the deep currents of the Columbia, Salmon, and Snake rivers. Northwesterners have always been water folk, shaped by this Sound and also by the sounds of rapid rivers and dousing rains. Our tales are syncopated with rhythms of tide and wind, cries of seagulls, ospreys, and eagles, the mystical breath of whales, and grieving argpeggios of foghorns. Northwesterners are held back from falling off the proverbial edge of the world by a Pacific coastline whose nurturing rain forests and rocky peninsulas face the sea like guardians.

"Our intimacy with water is crucial to understanding our Northwest character; we are more changed by the environment than it is by us....When we try to spell out our 'rainy day intimacies' to outsiders, they cannot believe we actually enjoy living for many months aswirl in great, flowing gowns of gray mist. To survive here without the daily illumination of sunlight, we must have an inner life bright with hidden worlds.

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

"Northwest Coast Natives tell stories of sea creatures and underwater tribes that shape-shift into humans then return to the original People -- the animals. For example, the Salmon People are an underwater tribe who also spend a season on land; the whales and seals can metamorphose into humans as easily as the ever-present mist and clouds change shape. Many Northwest coast tribes tell of merpeople, part human, part mammal, who mediate between the worlds to keep a watery balance. One of the most common gods was called 'Changer.' Many native tribes began their mythologies with water -- floods and seas creating what we now call The People. A Skagit myth details this beginning, when Changer decided 'to make all the rivers flow only one way' and that 'there should be bends in the rivers, so that there would be eddies where the fish could stop and rest. Changer decided that beasts should be placed in the forests. Human beings would have to keep out of their way.' "

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

"Northwesterners not only reckon with water shaping our physical boundaries, but also our heavens," Peterson writes a little later in the essay. "Rain is a Northwest native. One recent winter, we had twenty-seven inches of rain in three months and mudslides are now as familiar as side streets. Northwesterners live like slowly drowning people. We are well aware of the predictions that in the next millennium our Pacific Rim shores will sink from the volcanic tsunami waves copright by by Jason deCaires Taylorinto an Atlantis-like abyss. Our famous rainfall is perhaps all that shelters us from the massive population and industrial exploitations of nearby California. The rain is so ominpresent, especially between late October and even into June, that most Northwesterners disdain umbrella, the true sign of any tourist.

"One must be rather fluid to live underwater; one must learn to flow with a pulse greater than one's own. A tolerance for misting gray days means an acceptance that life itself is not black and white, but in between. If the horizons outside one's window are not sharply defined but ease into a sky intimately merged with sea and soft landscape, then perhaps shadows, both personal and collective, are not so terrifying. After all, most of the year Northwesterners can't even see their own literal shadows cast on the ground. We live inside the rain shadow. We tolerate edges and difference in people and places perhaps because our landscape blends and blurs as it embraces.

copyright Jason deCaries Taylor

"Widely acclaimed Port Angeles poet Tess Gallagher tells it this way: 'It is a faithful rain. You feel that it has some allegiance to the trees and the people....It brings an ongoing thoughtfulness to their faces, a meditativeness that causes them to fall silent for long periods, to stand at their windows looking out at nothing in particular. The people walk in the rain as within some spirit they wish not to offend with resistence.' "

copyright by Jason deCaires Taylor

The-gardener-05-jason-decaires-taylor-sculpture

copyright by Jason deCaires Taylor

My morning prayer: Let me learn to live the grey days of Dartmoor's "faithful rain" without resistence. May these long, wet winter months teach me to be more fluid, more meditative, unafraid of change and metamorphosis.

copyright by Jason deCaires Taylor

The extraordinary photographs today are by Jason deCaires Taylor, an artist and naturalist known for creating living underwater sculptures that evolve over time into coral reefs, intended "to portray how human intervention or interaction with nature can be positive and sustainable." Born to a British father and Guyanese mother, Taylor was raised in England and Asia, studied sculpture and ceramics in London, then trained as a diving instructor and marine conservationist before bringing all of his interests together in the making of environmental art. He is also the co-founder of an underwater sculpture park in the West Indies, and an underwater museum in Mexico. Currently based in the Canary Islands, he's at work on an new underwater museum for the Atlantic Ocean.

"Working in conservation, I am very concerned with all the associated effects of climate change and the state of peril our seas are in," says Taylor. “If we walked past a forest that was disintegrating every day, with animals dead by the side of the road, we would be much more aware of our actions. But underwater life is out of our sight and the problem is easily ignored. So a big part of my work is to bring people's focus and awareness to the destruction of our seas and of the natural world."

copyright by Jason deCaires Taylor

copyright by Jason deCaires Taylor

copyright by Jason deCaires TaylorThe passage above is from Brenda Peterson's essay "Faithful Rain," in Singing to the Sound (NewSage Press, 2000). I highly recommend her books -- including three wonderful fantasy novels about mermaids and silkies: The Drowning World, Tattoo Master, and The Secret Journal of Kate Morag. All rights to the text and art above is reserved by their respective creators.

Comments

Northwester Water

Where I lived, water was precious;
It hid under sand of the High Desert,
It trickled and flowed under green grass
And moss, where the magic lived, if
You stood very still and listened.

The blue Columbia River wide as wishes.
Strong home for the Salmon, who performed
Their mating and their eventual death,
Long ago, praised and prayed to, thanked
In dances and drumming. Heartbeat to
Live with, to not let death be sad, no
Think of the going and returning.

When at last I met the Pacific Ocean,
Like visiting a place for gods and goddesses;
And moved from the Northwest to this city,
Where much can change but not the
White waves, dark blue sparkle of water,
The many birds, swimming creatures,
The remnants of homes for little creatures,
Like large white magic coins to keep.

The rain that came to us and we danced
Out on the sidewalks, and felt a prayer had
Shifted out to the Ocean gods and Goddesses
To bless us, before we turned to dust,
Oh waters of the Northwest, longtime
Old, renewed and circulating as I write this.


CALM WATERS.

Swimming this sea
is like pulling on a second skin.
It moulds itself to every curve
and contour;
It cups and caresses
Every line and lineament.

Perhaps,
if we’re lucky,
dolphins will come,
Wearing the sea
Like a saint wears it soul,
Diving skywards
In champagnes of spray.

But if not
We may float instead
in the arms of this peace,
like a child nursed
at the breast
of the world.

To bless us before we turn to dust. . .indeed. Thanks.

Jane

I liked this--every line and lineament.

Jane


Faithful Rain


“It is a faithful rain. “–Tess Gallagher
speaking of rain in the pacific Northwest.


Scottish rain is like that,
Faithful to its people,
Arriving in shifts of grey.

It makes little noise
Beyond a pattering,
A lover’s whisper.

It falls like lotion
On the cheeks of children
Who look up at the sky.

It does not weep or seep,
But gentles the feathers
Of the sleeping owl.

Plays lullabyes on rooftops.
Makes small rivulets
Along the macadam.

People walk, heads uncovered,
In the meditative mist,
Their thoughts full of comfort.

Each bit of sun becomes a prayer.

©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved



By the way Terri--those sculptures are simply breathtaking. But how does one see them in the real, except by learning to scuba dive?

Jane

I feel a little sad leaving a mere prose comment after all the poetic beauty above. And I could infact poetise at length about the rain, were it not so early in the morning - I love it, and wish I lived in a place with "a faithful rain." Here, the rain is always begrudged, no matter how much the land and beasts need it. But then, people here go camping on the one week in New Year when a storm is practically guaranteed, and then complain when they get flooded out. :)

Love those white magic coins. Such a lovely movement in this one, Phyllis. Swirling, almost.

"In the arms of this peace". Yes. Thank you, Stuart. Swimming does soothe the spirit.

Oh, Jane. The moments that stopped me were "like lotion" and "gentles the feathers". My "thoughts full of comfort" after reading this poem. Thank you.

Big grin here, Edith. Thanks.

Jane

I'm very moved by this post Terri. I live in the Northwest now, but grew up in warmer waters. There's so much here that resonates. Thank you.

The People
for Jason deCaires Taylor

Standing on the seafloor,
They wait for change.
The gentle coloring, fuzzing
Of fine line.
At once, and always,
They grow miraculous.
Sunken glory.
All coral and scale-
Spine and strand-
Treasure too rich for gold.


Thank you. Got a little drunk on words...

Thank you, Edith - Actually, at a Renaissance Faire, long ago a green faced witch told me my fortune and gave me a seashell 'dollar' I still have. She told me it was the only dollar I needed. She some how knew I was always worried about money.

Lovely - all the ways of being in the sea -second skin, dolphins wild come, wearing the sea like a saint wears' it's soul and ending with the nursing child. Wonderful.

What a lovely sea sprayed lullaby. Made out of dreams wakening to walk around in.

Imagination rises up here...they do look so real and magical. Love this one.

Hi Terri

what breathtaking sculptures and views of the sea underwater! It depicts a sense of waiting and ecological vulnerability. These haunt with such intensity and beautiful
poignancy. Thank you so much for sharing them along with those exceptional writings on the essence, spirit and blessing of water. These are very moving. Awhile back I came across an ecological sculptress named Susan Saladino who sculptures are mannequins made from natural materials of the sea and earth. She strives to make a statement about our need and responsibility to become shepherds of our planet's environment. Like these, her work is evocative, brilliant and moving. I wrote a poem about her sculptures two years ago and changed the sculptor's character from female to male simply not to confuse the use of "she" referring to the mannequin with another "she" meaning the artist in the poem. So it was a matter of clarity and distinction. But I think it kind of fits in with today's topic about how the elements shape us, our art and our lives. In her own words she decries

'I have come to believe that as stewards of this planet we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. The kinship we have with all life "must be expressed in action, since belief is no longer enough."
Susan Saladino

A New Kind Of Pygmalion

He creates
the sculpture of italics
using things that have a tendency
to slant or stress detail.

Plants, feathers, coral, bark and silt
(all manipulated by keen hands)
shape his mannequin who kneels
crinolined in bleached roots and raising
a sea bird in her palm.

With eyes shut, dreams
lapping against the shoreline of her lashes
she seems oblivious, meant
by her creator to be set apart.

But still,
she looks through us -- knowing if
we can change to keep
the sun safe, the waters level,

and if not..a shattering
beyond eardrums of dolphin or shark.
__________________________________________________
Again, many thanks for this!
My Best
Wendy

Hi Edith

A perfect depiction of these sculptures and the soul that exists within them and the water that surrounds them. Lovely and lyrical this poem haunts with a spiritual beauty!

Much enjoyed
Wendy

Hi Jane

People walk, heads uncovered,
In the meditative mist,
Their thoughts full of comfort.

Each bit of sun becomes a prayer.

This beautiful poem, itself, reads like a psalm. The rain is a blessing and is characterized with such reverence and
gorgeous detail. I feel as if I know this rain, its comfort, its character, its sacred presence.

Thank you!
I loved this
Wendy

Hi Stuart

The title drew me right in and the poem held my attention from start to end. I can relate to its message and think the last strophe sums up its impact and loveliness with gentle force and beauty --

We may float instead
in the arms of this peace,
like a child nursed
at the breast
of the world.

Thank you
Wendy

Thank you, Wendy, always pleased by your positive reviews.

Jane

Hi Phyllis

The rain that came to us and we danced
Out on the sidewalks, and felt a prayer had
Shifted out to the Ocean gods and Goddesses
To bless us,

Yes --Indeed that is exactly how I feel about the rain that is now visiting the high desert of Southern California. You capture the spirit, magic and blessing of water with awe, respect and a wonder that we first feel in childhood. Something that makes us imagine and appreciate the vastness of its nourishment and transformative powers.

Much enjoyed!
Wendy

Thank you Jane, Phyllis, Edith and Wendy for your comments about my poem. I think the beautiful sculptures, like aquatic Muses, have nudged you all into producing some fine poetic responses. A real bouquet of them in fact.

You're point about access to the sculptures being possible only by means of scuba diving is a good one Jane. Perhaps there should be a second display on land for those not trained as divers...perhaps in an aquarium if the artists insists on the medium of water.


Such amazing work here today!!! I will come back and comment on the individual poems (and yesterday's too) as soon as my heavy work-load today permits....

Thank you each and all. <3

Wendy! I had to read this multiple times to believe it wasn't about the sculptures in Terri's post. I googled Saladino and am equally inspired by her work. Wondrous! As for this poem, it too is gorgeous and connects so profoundly to today's post. Well done! These lines stood out for me:

"With eyes shut, dreams
lapping against the shoreline of her lashes"

Yes. Yes indeed.

I love the mythic resonances in this one, and the sense of a life lived in tune with them. Bravo.

You should be writing more poetry, Stuart. This is perfectly lovely.

And now you've got me happily carried away in wondering what the difference between Scottish and West Country rain might be... Just wonderful.

The artist is also a scuba dive instructor, so that's likely to be one way to see them. He's also a photographer, the photographic documentation of the pieces over time is part of the work.

I write poems only very rarely, so I'm in awe of others here who seem to do it like breathing. But I'm a big fan of your prose, as you know, and for some of us that's just how we roll...

We've had so much rain this winter that I have found myself grudging it, I admit; so I decided to do a week of posts about the wonders of water in order to turn my own attitude around. After years in the desert, where water is so precious, I should know better than to turn my nose up at the rain that keeps these Devon hills so green.

Do you know the Nanci Griffth/Rick West song "Trouble in the Fields," about the Dust Bowl days in America? Your words reminded me of this verse:

There's a book up on the shelf about the dust bowl days,
and there's a little bit of you and a little bit of me
in the photos on every page.
Now our children live in the city and they rest upon our shoulders;
they never want the rain to fall or the weather to get colder.

All this trouble in our fields.
If the rain can fall, these wounds can heal...

Beautiful, Edith. Oh, how I wish he could read it!

Wendy, I didn't know Saladino's work; thank you for this fine introduction to it. I have an eye on it now for Myth & Moor, thanks to you.

If I keep telling you your poems are gorgeous, will you please keep believing me? I just *love* your use of language.

Hi Edith

Thanks so much for reading this one! I am glad you enjoyed it and could relate to this lines. Susan Saladino's work is unique and beautifully crafted as well a moving. I am glad you enjoyed it, too!

My Best
Take care
Wendy

Hi Terri

So glad you liked her work and look forward to seeing it used in some way, sometime on Myth and Moor. I discovered her a couple of years ago while googling ecological art. She definitely made an impression!

And thank you so much for the encouragement toward my writing. I absolutely believe you and am so delighted you enjoy the ways I use language.

Take care,
Many thanks!
Wendy

Thank you so much!

I love the sea. Brenda Peterson's writing is just beautiful. Thank you for introducing me to it.

A pleasure.

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