The Process of Re-Wilding Myself
The Art of Re-Wilding is what I call my work and it is also the name I give the journey I began ten years ago. Today I'm a Re-Wilding facilitator and practitioner, designing and leading courses and continuously upskilling in a range of contexts.
But like all meaningful things, it begins with a story and the following are key moments:
It’s winter. I am in the French Alps, off the main ski-season track. I am familiar with this peripheral place as I’ve visited it many times as a girl, but although I have spent much time here over the years as a skier, I haven’t appreciated it much beyond that aspect. This is the first time I see beneath the veneer of its functionality as a ski resort and begin to appreciate the enduring landscape for its own sake. Most of my time I spend hiking alone, just me and my camera, far away from the crowds. The slow spaciousness and soft diffuse light permeate everything the way that snow effects sound, and the interior of caves. This unexpected but welcome way of paying attention to, and appreciating the landscape allows an opening. The camera galvanises my attention in such a way that I become sort-of re-enchanted. In retrospect, looking at the quiet, understated aesthetic of the images I make, I realise that my meditation practice has fallen off the cushion and into the sensate world around me. To my delight, I begin to fall in love with the everyday, the quiet and the previously overlooked.
I'm in the centre of Paris, spitting distance from the Seine. It's the private view for my first solo photographic show. I'm smiling, chatting with guests and sipping cheap red wine. Even though Art has been central to my life since my teens I have only relatively recently ‘gone for it’ - a decision that emerged out of the shift in my photographic practice that took place in 2006. I have just completed a two year masters degree and begun to exhibit nationally and internationally. This is the moment I have been working towards. This is it, but I feel remarkably untouched by it all. I stand outside in the dark, on that quintessential Parisian pavement - wondering to myself about this emptiness. I ask myself, ‘if this isn’t it, then what is?’. All I can hear are the words ‘I want to be outside in nature.’
It's summer, I'm back in the French Alps again, a decade later.
My intention is to spend a month mainly in solitude, mainly outdoors engaging in wilderness and arts practices, in part, informed by the work of Bill Plotkin who I began training with the previous year. The first evening I arrive I have a dream. This is no ordinary dream. Rather than dreaming it feels as though I have been dreamt. My intention to 'show up' has been noticed and something, in turn, also 'shows up'.
What immerges over the following month is a mysterious dialogue, an improvisation-of-sorts that comes to life in places where myth and archetype can breathe.I record the dreams, often paint them, then offer the work to the landscape and wait for the next dream clue to turn up. Much of my time I feel I’m in a spontaneous open-ended treasure hunt, and I’m a go-between with my dreams and the landscape. It’s a process in which the dream seems to travel through my body and into the earth, imbuing both with meaning. At times, I feel utterly lost and ridiculous – in those moments all I can do is lift my chin up a centimeter, put one foot in front of the other, and walk. Without a map, surrendering to being lost, opening to this slow and numinous process which seems to be rooted somewhere between my open chest and the mountain forest valley.
My Work Today and Influences
In some ways I'm still making sense of this latter experience, attempting to keep the embers of it alive and exploring how it might integrate it into my everyday life.
I love Bruce Chatwin's, The Songlines, and at times wonder if I am engaging in a contemporary version of a songline, with specific stretches of land. I document these experiences in the wild mostly through photography, as this has been my primary mode of artistic expression, but latterly also through audio recordings, painting and poetry. Apart from Chatwin, I also draw inspiration from the relevant work of various artists and practitioners: Charles Eisenstein; Bill Plotkin; Annie Bloom and Martin Shaw who call this variously ‘soul work’, ‘deep’ or ‘cultural ecology’. From an art history point of view, I place this way of working as informed by Susie Gablik's Re-enchantment of Art and Lucy Lippard’s Overlay of Contemporary Symbols and Ancient Cultures.
In the field, I am committed to a lifetime of learning, and my training thus far includes completing the year-long foundation in experiential outdoor facilitation at Schumacher College, ongoing work with Bill Plotkin from the Animas Valley Institute, and mentoring from Annie Bloom. Alongside this in 2015, I completed the The River of Soul course and in 2016, the year long at The West Country School of Myth.
Passing It On
Motivated by a deep-seated care for community, deep ecology, and a desire to live a meaningful and connected life, I have been gathering these threads into what I see as the next chapter in my facilitation practice, and I am increasingly ready and involved in the important job of sharing the insights I have been so fortunate to gain. Teaching is a precious opportunity to synthesize my extensive background in the arts, mindfulness and facilitation, along with my more feral side and innate connection to the natural world. In the Autumn of 2016 I piloted a ten-week Re-Wilding Course, with great results. The group I was fortunate to work with exceeded all my expectations, as can be seen many of the photos and testimonials here. I have two new courses, 'Re-Wild Yourself’, and 'Re-Wilding & The Artists Way’ coming up in April 2017 at The Art of Re-Wilding and Evolution Arts Centre respectively.
The Next Step
Early Spring, I head to Utah to spend 5 weeks with my mentor Annie Bloom. My stay is to take the form of a nature-based arts residency and I see it as a precious opportunity to be in VAST landscapes - an essential ingredient for the evolving of, and emersion in, my personal arts practice. Feeding this reflective engagement will help incorporate the ‘personal’ into the ‘public’ elements of my artistic endeavor, and prepare me for leading my courses in April.
As you can probably imagine I have been to, and returned from Utah... Much has occurred in the intervening time including a move off-grid to live in a cabin in the woods in Germany with my partner. Living in the city and taking excursions to vaster landscapes, for me, was becoming increasing untenable. Though I know this need not be the case for everyone, the deeper I immersed myself in wilderness practices the greater the tension I felt returning to my home in an urban landscape. There is so much I could say about 2017 and also about how this new 'Cabin' chapter has begun, and I will...
once the wood stock is higher and our routines are more established here.
"Re-wilding the Artist's Way" has been fundamentally the most soul nourishing thing I have ever done for myself. It has led me on a journey of self-discovery, self-appreciation and courage. I long for being in the wilderness like never before, and notice the peace and feeling of being alive that it brings me. Natasha is patient, encouraging and very human in the way she leads this course and I am forever grateful to her.
It's great to have quality teaching which is accessible and close to home. Natasha is obviously a gifted facilitator. She ran the session creatively with a varied tempo which held my attention and seemed to draw from a wide range of teachings. In just a few hours, I feel re-inspired with my own practice and wanting more of this kind of thing.
Thank you for a wonderful evening. The part with the trees in the darkness was amazing! It which gave me a much needed nature boost, and a new relationship - with tree. Natasha was knowledgeable, but also relaxed, caring and playful. She held the space and the group with a good mix of strength and flexibility. I have learnt to appreciate Stanmer Park (my local wild space) in a new and deeper way. The feeling and new awareness from this event will stay with me. Thank you
Natasha's incredible skills in transformative learning, using a gentle-and-yet-strong approach are so rare, I feel very lucky to have experienced this.
It's completely different to anything I have ever done - and I can't believe it. Nature, I feel is an integral place to creativity and with so much busyness around and everywhere, it is amazing and vital to restore myself through being out and exploring creativity outdoors in the wild.
There's a peace and openness that you get from studying outdoors that I haven't experienced before. Thanks Natasha
I know that participating in this course is me being in exactly the right place at the right time
Natasha is amazing at what she does. She manages to combine fun with all kinds of ways of seeing into you and getting you to keep your feet on the ground, your head in the clouds, and follow your dreams.
Thanks for this evening. Even though it was freezing cold, it was a magical evening.
Natasha brings a light touch and embodied wisdom to the serious work of transformation.
Thanks for EVERYTHING. You've been a truly inspiring, loving, and supportive mentor. Don't ever stop doing what you do so well.
Natasha is an absolute mistress of holding space. She holds space really really well. She’s very intuitive in the sense of not having a rigid structure for what we are going to do but just feels what everybody needs in the groups session and comes up with the most perfect exercises just when they are needed.
About the course - ABSOLUTELY BLOODY NECESSARY
Natasha's course is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with our creative selves and our natural surroundings at the same time. Being outside gave the space, for self-expansion needed, to be able to reconnect with my creativity.