Entering the Wild Landscape

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Poet, editor and publisher Autumn Richardson recently came to the Ashram from Britain for a month-long Artist Retreat. She and her husband Richard Skelton created Corbel Stone Press, which is based on their passion for nature, conservation and poetry. Autumn describes her process.

We want to share the overlooked, the forgotten and the hidden in nature. This prompt, this intuitive leaning, became Corbel Stone Press. The form that our work takes is diverse and multi-sensory, encompassing poetry, literature, music, film, art, research and forms of medicine. Behind all of this, our primary focus is landscape and nature, poetics of place, conservation, ecology and mythology. We immerse ourselves in a landscape and try to learn from it.

For myself, the work becomes a process of uncovering worlds beneath worlds. It involves undermining my own sense of certainty regarding ‘What Is’. I want to understand a landscape as more than what I’m now seeing in front of me; to uncover its history, revealing the layers of time and life that once existed there—to acknowledge absence, and to try to understand how what is missing has helped shape the ecosystem I’m experiencing today.

I believe we can learn from the past to create a more vital and bio-diverse future. In Canada, for example, we share our landscape with many animals that are now extinct in Britain and much of the Old World. It’s clear we need to protect other forms of life from our habitual expansion into, and alteration of, wild environments. Although we don’t seem to realize it, we would benefit immensely from leaving much of the world as a wild place.

Returning to Yasodhara Ashram gifted me the time I deeply needed to rest my mind and my heart. It allowed me to get back to my own work, my own poems, which I had so often put aside while engaged with all of the other work involved in running a press. I was able to focus again upon the teachings, which have been deeply influential to my creative process. I’ve learned so much from Swami Radha’s teachings, and find the practices of mantra, reflection and dream work especially powerful. Being within this natural environment, upon the lake, surrounded by trees and immersed in this incredibly diverse ecosystem has been infinitely nourishing – a time to refill.

Though much of what I write is elegy – wanting to not forget – there is also a celebration of, and a single-pointed focus upon, what is present; what has sprung forth to cover the wounded. My hope is to introduce readers to something they may not be aware of, and in so doing, that this something may then become valuable to them, and that they would wish to protect it. If you can focus on something being of immense value, even if it is very subtle and very small — a watershed, a medicinal plant, a changing weather pattern, a small bird — if you share that gem-like quality of each small thing, it creates relationships. Even if somebody is in a large city they can still engage with something wild by finding these fragments — words, music, poetry. Through learning of the past they may become instrumental in creating a more vital, diverse and resilient future – for all of us.

“The work becomes a process of uncovering worlds beneath worlds. It involves undermining my own sense of certainty regarding ‘What Is’. I want to understand a landscape as more than what I’m now seeing in front of me; to uncover its history, revealing the layers of time and life that once existed there—to acknowledge absence, and to try to understand how what is missing has helped shape the ecosystem I’m experiencing today.”

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