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An open invitation

Letters: An open invitation

Come to me today beautiful ones and breathe.
Breathe, just breathe.

This residency arrived on the eighth year of my time in this place. The end of a seven year cycle that began as an escape that became a creative retreat which turned into a spiritual adventure and continues to be the story of a raw, most visceral homecoming. I feel it is now time to open the doors to the internal workings of a modern day monastery formed from shadows of a memory of Charleston House and the dust of a thousand years of sacred places.

When I sketched on a piece of paper the feelings surrounding that sense of calling on a warm spring day many years ago, a heart inside a house inside a mountain was the nearest I could get to an approximation of the deep and tonal beat that was telling me to find my place on this earth. To find that place and make peace with myself. Find that place and dig in.

The roots. It’s in the roots.
The fire at the foot of the mountain.

The refugi residency is something new to me. Something new and old. A she-bear waking from a warm, winter bed. Tentative and strong. I know it and yet here we are at that stage of dancing where the new partners face each other for the first time. The old habits of doubt begin to circle and I wonder if someone else has said it better than this before.

Should I try to emulate an Artist’s Residency and then try to explain why this is not that? It is of that, and it is not.

It finds it roots in the traditions of gathering in the spirit of a place. The homes of artists. The foundations of a church. The hermit monks with flaming torches who came together in divine inspiration and action to raise monasteries from the earth. The homestead women of the americas building homes and the first stones of communities in far away, isolated places. The old stories of desert mothers and cave dwellers. Heretics and mystics and pirates. The bear, the wolf and the lamb.

Open the doors. Open the doors to the forest.
Sit in rapture.

I have had my fair share of visitors to the mountain over the years and now is the time to invite the next reveal. To say I am here. I am ready. To invite you to be in this place over the seasons; the comings and goings of humans need time and space to settle and see clarity from once muddy waters.

The residency runs all year round with no single intake date. It is an ongoing salon. If it calls to you, it is time. You become a member of the household and share the kitchen, eat at the table and sit by the fire. We give each other space and come together as the experience takes us. There are gardens to tend and pathways to sweep. Animals to care for. An art studio and workshop. A barn to raise, a founders hall to take form and a cathedral to build.

Put on your robes.

A gathering of souls in a quiet mountain place. Deep in practice. It is a sangha. A group who remind each other of the path when one amongst us has lost our way. An exercise in Dharma. An exercise in love and living. Dedicated to art, beauty and truth.

We cook, we eat, we clean. We sweep, we write, we walk. We spend time together by the fire and make art. We pray, we sit, we sleep. We grow vegetables. We visit the market. We love our neighbours and greet them with a kiss. We swim in the rivers and lie in the sun. We read, we spend time under trees and by waterfalls. We walk the boundaries of this place, every footstep a prayer for protection and healing.

This is holy ground.

And when we are ready, when our time in the womb of the earth leaves us feeling ripe and replenished, we go out into the world changed. We look into the eyes of strangers and see only ourselves. We learn and we love and we live.

Grace. The goal is sublime grace.
Grace in the hills and gardens.
Grace is the fire at the foot of the mountain.

Emma Wallace, Winter 2017/2018

I am the fiery life of the essence of God; I am the flame above the beauty in the fields; I shine in the waters; I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars. And with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally by an unseen, all-sustaining life.” 
― Hildegard of Bingen

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How to build a (House) Church

On Practices and props for Church Building, March 2018.

The thing I’m most passionate about with regards to the Church is her table practice. Every day I hear the church has a crisis of this, & a crisis of that. I rarely agree. I see one crisis: we mostly don’t believe in The Lord’s Supper, or orient our communities around the meal. – Johnathan Martin

How to build a house church using a table (and a bell, book and a candle)

Upon the rather unnerving and yet delightful realisation* that I was actually here to build a church of sorts; a holy and sacred establishment in the middle of nowhere, it came to my attention that it would be wise to look to the practices, rituals and processes of the towers of faith that we already have.

In order to establish a church, temple and convent for the faithless and the hungry and the lost, what exactly was one to do? It is true to say that many of these towers of faith have been (rightly so perhaps) rejected, denied or despised following their corruption and the advent of The God of Science. But surely, in amongst all that, they did create some of the most profoundly beautiful spaces, places, processes and practices humanity has ever seen. In our attempts to commune with the Divine, we have made some serious wonder of our own.

So, like all good artists, I could steal and borrow. Of course I could. To borrow from the things that have longevity, efficacy and are proven. The things that work. The things that have magic in them.

I could take what I needed, mix it up with what I wanted, blend it with what I deeply desire. I could gently and ferociously demand it into the world.

I could raise a cathedral from the earth with my bare bear hands and my heart and my tears.

All I had to do was learn how that was done.

So I went back to the beginnings. And the beginnings always begin with a Calling.

A Call to Practice. A Call to Prayer. A Call to Silence.

That is how to begin.

That is how you start to build a church.

Emma, March 2018
in Hampshire in the rain after Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church Berlin and Chichester.

*due in the most part to much prophetic and mystical adventure up a mountain (which, for the record, requires sleeping a great deal and eating a lot of pancakes).

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A Manifesto for Grace

I am the fiery life of the essence of God; I am the flame above the beauty in the fields; I shine in the waters; I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars. And with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally by an unseen, all-sustaining life.” 
― Hildegard of Bingen

Today, this morning, I can feel the fear and the hope of humanity. Calling out in equal measure. The voices are loud. Even up here in this quiet place.  

Millions of voices, hearts and minds. I hear them in the towns and the cities, in the villages, the fields and in the desert. Deep in the forests and from the mountaintops.   All over this blue planet we call Home. Spinning in space, I swear our voices can be heard across the Cosmos.

The calls of victory and defeat. Shock, despair, frustration.  Pride, joy, love, hate, surprise. Grief, disgust, shame, indignation, wonder. Togetherness. You can taste it in the air. The full and extraordinary remit of the human emotional spectrum is here, right now, on display and amplified for all of us to see.

And yet, most of all, what I feel is movement.  That sense of rocking back and forth until you make the jump or you are pushed. My hands get sweaty and I feel alive in the darkness. It doesn't feel good, but it doesn't feel bad either. I know what that feeling is. It's electric. It's anticipation. It's desire. An overwhelming desire for change. Evolution.

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the drums calling for it. It's our tribal nature. Dividing us and bringing us together. Both, at the same time.

This change is wanted by all tribes. You can see it in our desire to return to a nostalgic past or for things to just-stay-the-same. You can see it in the dystopian nightmares we see on screen.  It is there in our desire to build a better future for our children or create a euphoric utopian dream. Whatever it looks like to you, this change is wanted. We all want it.

Why? Because in the end we humans live, or we die. In the grand scheme of deep time, odds are we will have the answer, either way, pretty soon. And that's pretty scary. That's something to be afraid of. It's the thing most of us are afraid of the most. In the end.

There are a thousand things we could choose to do. Sign our name on one of a million petitions, switch on the television or read a newspaper, take to the streets, run away to the circus. Or simply go back to bed and wait until it's all over. But this won't be over. It won't pass by quietly. Most things I could do seem pretty out of reach or pointless to me. A click here, a signature there. We watch it, over and over again and we detach from it.

Even a vote in the ballot box feels pretty Meh right now. You win some, you loose some. Of course we do things we think will help, lots of little things that make bigger things. And all of this is good. But this thing, this thing asks for more. From everyone.

Nobody else is going to fix this for you. There is no knight on a white horse. There is no mysterious, as yet unidentified social/political/environmental/religious/cultural superhero waiting in the wings ready to jump on stage and shout "Ta dah! I got this."

So I resolve to do something in my power to do. I resolve not to let fear get the last word. For it not to get me and stop me in my tracks. Or make me miss the present moment. I resolve to do the work I am here to do. And do more of it. And to keep doing it.

To bring together the tribes of Humanity by whatever means necessary and to honour and respect our differences and our diversity. Even when we don't agree or like each other all that much.

I resolve to wake up, rise up and stand into grace.

Written in the mountains on November 12, 2016 on a clear, blue day after a storm.

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