The Musings of An Ecological Artist: Ashleigh Downey, Current Bringing it Home Immersion Student
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs
Deep nature connection requires patience. A willingness to observe nature without judgment or
expectation. Deep connection is an invitation to slow down so our senses can awaken to the
subtle nuances in our environment. It requires us to commune with nature, returning again and
again to observe and connect – present to each moment.
Developing this kind of nature awareness helps us tap into the wild variety of natural rhythms all
around us. It enables us to tune into what I refer to as ‘nature time’.
A rhythm connected with ‘nature time’ encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. Tuning into this
rhythm opens us to another way of being with nature. It evokes a deep desire (and need) for
Contrary to the rhythm(s) of nature our contemporary culture is one of technological noise. It is a
constant buss of activity, to do lists, and digital distractions, not the kind of beautiful bussing
business we hear from bees or insects, but that of overstimulated minds and overburdened
bodies. Our current pace of life continues to increase in momentum, and sadly anxiety has
become the new buzz word. This is the rhythm of our society, disconnect from nature: a linear
rhythm that moves from mind to body and body to mind. No spirit. No soul. Well at least in my
Deep nature connection invites us to expand the constraints of ‘human time’ so we can embody,
or at least gain a deeper understanding of, ‘nature time’. That which is our natural state of being –
that of (self)awareness and connectivity. That which is in flow…Interconnected.
“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed
in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.” Henry David Thoreau
Deepen The Connection : Held by Mother Nature
For the South West direction we were invited to go on a solo journey, into the wild. To my
surprise I became quite anxious preparing for this journey, and the idea of camping alone, as I had choosen the longer 24hr option rather than the dawn to dusk.
Worry, stress, and fear were all part of my immediate response. Where would I camp? Will I be
safe? Will I be warm at night? Will I have enough food? Will I be safe after dark? What should I
bring? What if I get bored? Should I light a fire or not?
I was in Spain leading up to my solo journey. It was hot, hot, hot, and I saw the direct effects of
wildfires. One so close it half circled where I was staying. Fire fighters flying overhead, back and
forth with water so many times I lost count… …Naturally more feelings of concern set in…
Luckily when the time finally arrived I was feeling much calmer. I had an idea of where I was
going and with friends living near by my concern for safety was somewhat addressed. I had
simplified, packing only the essentials. Well perhaps a little more than the essentials if I
measured it in weight, though I did carry little to no distractions. Only a notebook, pencil case,
incense, and a few candles. I was growing excited. Feeling prepared, and quite a bit more
relaxed about going into the ‘wild’ alone.
I met my anchor a couple of days beforehand – a person you trust to hold you, & help support you
on the journey. My anchor created the perfect holding place. With candle lit, incense burning,
and a wonderful capacity for deep listening she created a much needed grounding experience.
On reflection, this, coupled with taking contemplative time to set an intention, were the most
deepening and valuable parts of my preparations. Her reflection back to me brought particular
questions to the fore. Questions to consider while alone in the wild.
What would it be like to allow myself to be held by Mother Nature?
What would it be like to allow Mother Nature to hold me?
Where are the edges in nature?
What can these edges – boundaries (or barriers) – tell me?
What might it be like to push through the barriers?
The weekend of my solo journey was hot, hot, hot. When I first arrived at my destination the first
thing I spotted was a small fire, smoke rising in the woodlands near where I planned to camp.
For a brief moment I was back in Spain, feelings of concern creeping in. I got out of the car, and
gazed across a field of tall overgrown ferns towards the valley of trees. The time was heading
toward dusk, so I looked towards the sun, which had just dipped behind the trees. The light in
the sky reflected a soft pink. The air felt fresh and invigorating. The view, spectacular. Despite
the fire and the rather large swarm of flies that had surrounded me – buzzing frantically about my
face – I began to feel more relaxed. My anxieties soon dissipated. Standing there, in absolute
awe of the wondrous landscape, I finally felt ready to embrace my inner ‘wild’.
Once again I felt excited, open and eager to journey to a sacred place of timeless wandering…
With deep breathe I entered the Glencree Valley, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Timeless Wandering : Deep Nature Time
Timeless wandering was an important aspect of the solo journey… Inviting me to drop in – deep.
My attempts to retell the story of this solo journey has been challenging. To ‘construct’ what felt like
an enchanted, almost ephemeral experience seems near impossible. While it was no heroes
journey, it was deeply personal, and surprisingly profound in terms of the intention I sent out. In an
attempt to share the experience, and express the story of this timeless wandering in Glencree
Valley, a visual representation seems most fitting.
Verse and visual are dotted throughout this text…
With the presence of a full moon and a golden sun it was the perfect time, for a deep relaxation
… magical moments held by nature… insightful…
… … journey(ing)…
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” Henry David Thoreau
‘Visual Mind Maps’ : drawn in a Royal Horticultural Society diary (2022)
which combines beautiful orchid illustrations by botanical illustrator Deborah Lambkin
Held by mother nature. Insights revealed… Questions to ponder… Many things to wonder… … …
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed
between man and the universe.” Anatole France
The Kingdom of Living Things : Identification
I continue to develop a species list of those who come during each direction, from the course content and personally. This time I also noted those I connected with during my deep nature time (solo journey).
Water (precious, flowing) Swallows (playful)
Trees (shady) Dog (chilled)
Sea Breeze (refreshing) Dragonfly (curious, transformative)
Meadowsweet (romantic) Woodpecker (wood wood woody)
Rowan Tree (red berries, protecting in Celtic tradition)
(black & yellow, tiny little green)
Berries (overflowing) Feline (spirited, fluffy)
Raspberries * freeing movements
Redcurrants (jewel-like) Sloth (do-nothing)
Blackberries (juicy, delicious) Dragonflies
Cherry Tree (shady) Birds
Blueberries Spiders (spiders webs)
Blackberries (delicious) Insects (flying)
Cherries (wild) Fawn
Cherry Tree (shady) Flies
Apple (juicy) Midges
Acorns (tiny ones) Butterflies
Sycamore Tree (heaving) Flying Ants
Brambles (luscious) Dogs
Rain (pattering) Humans
Grass (dry & prickly) SOLO JOURNEY
Hypericum (yellow abundance) Gorse
Hydrangeas Many people would not take this path
Soapwort (soapy) Sharp, yet gentle on the skin
Flowers (blooming) Naked
Meadowsweet No fire
Knapweed LIGHT of the silvery FULL MOON
Comfrey (spiky stems, juicy beautiful purple flowers) FAWN Disturbed by HUMAN voices
Fern (comforting, warmth)
Forest (burning) Enchanted
Crop Fields (harvested, empty, desolation) The majestic OAK TREE
Stream (quite empty due to the heat a sign it is very dry) … … … I fell fast asleep
Air (cooling)* Soft comforting ground
Star (soul searching)* Hugged by Ivy
Lemon Balm (tasty) Curious , Fairytale
Squash (bountiful) The edge between to worlds
Fern (tall & overgrown) Mono – culture
Oak Tree (majestic) Breathing life
Ivy (hugging) Sound of the river
Evergreen Being held
River (soothing sound of trickling water)* Natural boundaries
Moon (full)* Natures’ barrier
Mother Earth* Going beyond the vail
Sun (heat)* Sunshine
Soil* Winged Creatures
Rock / Stone* Sunset – Sunrise
Sunrise – Sunset
Spiders (spiders web)
- What is the intention I would like to receive guidance on?
- How long can I slow down, becoming present in the moment?
- How long can I take to get somewhere?
- How many species can I meet along the way?
- How do I recognise boundaries (or barriers)?
- How do I move through these boundaries?
- What things am I looking at in my life & thinking they are something else?
- What am I still holding – journeying with? What questions? What wonders?
- I wonder, does the grasshopper know the spiderweb was there?
- Did he see it as he jumped away from me?
Curious encounter with a Fawn. Enchanted.
Held by the Oak, who is hugged by Ivy
Deep sleep, falling… Soft underneath
threading, knot on my dreams
…the threshold between two directions…
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” Anatole France
The musings of an ecological artist, Ashleigh Downey
Reflecting on 8 shields, 2022
Bringing it Home (year long course)