top of page
  • Amy Winstanley

Edited version of my Master of Fine Arts Thesis, 2019

Water (flowing - shivering - singing)

There was something gestural about the way the water fell in to the pool, the white froth dancing hectically around where it went in. I could see fine bubbles being pushed in to the dark water and then alighting again on the surface in a mess of white and brown. For such a torrent of activity, it is always surprising how calm the water is mere yards away. This was peaty water, dense with silted earth and minerals that it felt almost soft to touch. It was brown as strong tea when I cupped it in my hands, black as Guinness when I looked at it from above. This made it somewhat scary to enter, my eyes had to adjust to see the rocks that sat beneath the surface of the shore. My feet slid a little on the silted stones disturbing the fine brown dust, ruffling it up into small clouds before settling back on to my feet.

It was hot, a hot day for Scotland, a day of jubilant sun and fluffed clouds that sat high, seemingly not wanting to move. Birch trees, oak, rowan and ash clung to rocks above, reaching over the waterfall and pool in an attempt to meet the branches on the other side. The sun placed shapes upon the water’s surface of the gaps between the leaves which penetrated a little in to the darkness of the water at diagonal shafts, making the impression of thin moving stalactites just under the surface. This place had activity, but also peace. Despite the serenity, I hesitated. I had swam these dark Galloway waters all of my life, but now the indeterminate bottom of the river bed seemed to rise up to approach me, lodging a ball of fear in my throat. All manner of ridiculous notions swam through my mind, “What if there was something that sucked me under? Nobody would know I was here.” My bike was hidden in the small strip of woodland half a mile away and I hadn’t told anyone where I was. I felt as naked as my body to the exhilarating fear of the idea. “All that would be left of me would be my meagre pile of clothes underneath that tree.” But as fast as these thoughts came they left as the repetitive clash of the waterfall seemed to shout in urgency. I plunged in.

Galloway is abundant with water: there are rivers and streams, waterfalls and pools, bogs and lochs, estuaries, battered shorelines and beaches, reservoirs and of course, lots of rain. In the 1930’s the Galloway Hydro Scheme was introduced and the rivers of Loch Doon, Water of Deugh, River Ken, Carsfad, Earlstoun, Clatteringshaws and later Tongland were dammed to create Britain’s first large scale hydro-electric complex. Every few years they have to carry out maintenance work on the dams and in order to do so drain the water from the lochs to inspect the side of the dam that normally sits beneath the water. When this happens I am giddy with excitement to walk down to where the original river flows. I am transfixed by the apocalyptic scene, all brown and grey with mud and sludge covering the old fields, the rocks surrounding the original river and the river itself, winding through the horror of the scene with complete indifference. I can see the stumps of trees that were felled before the water arrived, petrified in time, and the stone dykes where the fields would have continued down; even the seeds of grass from the old fields spurt forth a new attempt at life now there is oxygen and light. Geese wade out into the mud, my boots are caked and I stand where millions of tons of water would normally be. It was less than a hundred years ago that this river was submerged, will the dam still be in use in another hundred? Would it be dismantled and the original valley claimed back? Would there be some new technology in place of it, continuing the assertion of humanity’s power over this part of the world? What about in a thousand years? Ten thousand? The valley that is imprinted on my mind as surely as my name, would be something I know not were my spirit to pass through it in an age away.

I remember hearing about an elderly woman in the village who could recall what the valley was like before the river was dammed. She said it was called the “Fairy Glen” on an account of the beauty of the place holding a mystical, somewhat awesome quality. Perhaps this ‘beauty’ the woman held in such esteem, was something felt that could not be explained, and the word ‘fairy’ had to suffice within place of something enigmatic. It makes me think about what we perceive as ‘beautiful’ and therefore should be saved. The ‘beauty experience’ being something that happens almost involuntarily. Maybe the beauty experience is like a little death warning light that goes off in my experiential space. Maybe beauty is death, in a way. It’s a reminder that things are fragile, because when one thing envelops another thing, that other thing might be overwhelmed or destroyed. So when I experience beauty, I am coexisting with at least one thing that isn’t me, and doesn’t have to be conscious or alive, in a non-coercive way, in which the possibility of death is vivid yet diluted and suspended.[i] I like this idea as I stand on the mud of the “Fairy Glen” suspended between three times; the present view of the original ‘beautiful’ glen sullied by humanity’s intervention and made ‘ugly’, enfolded on to a past of the very glen I see but don’t see, and the future of the glen how I normally see it, as I know it will be in a few weeks’ time when the water rises to cover it up once again.

It was always by water where we would play, somehow drawn to the edge where woodland met the river, where sea met sand or stone, where river met the sea, where the loch met the field. Our friendship was forged by the water’s edge. In the hours spent by a woodland burn that ran dipping and twisting through the trees to the rest of the world. Where rotting sticks, branches, moss and leaves, the flesh of the woods, were our toys. Here was our world condensed to waterside and earth, but this only opened up our world to a tangled mesh of interconnectivity. Our compass started from there and spread out with the movements of the weather. It was by water we excavated the riches of our imaginations. We created islands and continents, sought shelters and made homes, mapped our lives and lost our bearings until hunger and cold made us find our way back to the village.

It was by water, twenty two years later, I took you to camp with me by the softly winding river those two April days. It was by water I found solace in the world I knew there, the comfortable familiarity, the woods that seemed to remember my name, at a time when I was utterly lost.

[i]“Maybe the beauty experience ……vivid yet diluted and suspended” Being Ecological, Timothy Morton, p130-131

Weather (changing - listening - tangling)

When I walk in the wind, along these cliffs, I am reaching for a bounty of sensation. I want to stand and listen to this part of the world, how it sounds; the sea, the wind. How the colours match and mingle, the patterns in the rocks, the ripple of stratum, scars of millennial activity, giant fissures. I want to hear the song of the landscape. Is this nontheistic spirituality? An alternative to a religion? Am I ‘romantising’ nature in the sense that I am wanting it to be something overtly powerful, sublime and therefore separate from me? Am I even doing that? I just want to remember what feels true and real. Although that should be something I question too, why is this ‘wild nature’ more real to me than cycling to college? Than sitting here typing this at my laptop?

On these cliffs I am poised on an edge of death that only makes me feel more alive; one slip, one stumble, one step too late and my body would be a mere bag of crushed flesh and bones strewn on the rocks below. In Bjork’s song of such things, every morning she would throw cutlery and car parts over the cliff and imagine what her body would sound like as it smashed against the rocks, a sensation to feel happier that she is safe and in the world before her lover wakes up.[i] The wind and cliffs brews these thoughts, because I am so, so small against natures might and there is something wonderfully comforting in that. To be at the mercy of something so unpredictable, to be next to a precarious line of safety and a freefall to death is to put literally yourself in to perspective; in to a scale that defiles our sentimentality, our preposterous routines and consummation with our beliefs, our perpetual struggles and light ecstasies.

We walked down to the beach to spread some of my mums ashes and the clouds had been tumultuous all morning, grey and rolling rain around so wet it covered every angle of tree and grass. We couldn’t make much conversation and reading felt like a distraction. Our minds stood on the edge of something unsteadying as the wind. Our indecisiveness as to when to go out seemed to gather a storm. The clouds concealed most of the island of Rhum’s mountains so its low body appeared to sit patiently on the seas surface till it could get up and move again. “Maybe we should just go, now, and if it’s raining when we get there we will just have to do it anyway,” it was suggested. The dice were cast, a decision made. Now or never.

When we were walking along the beach to where the river splayed itself on the sand and spread about the pebbles and rocks ever thinner until it met the sea, I felt that all the thirty two years of playing, swimming, sitting and walking on this beach seemed bound up in to this one moment. I could feel all the memory imbued in the landscape, in the landscape that held a whole childhood of memories, in a landscape that shaped an adulthood; the landscape was the memory. The two went hand in hand, woven in to a tiny piece of the colossal web. And now my mum’s ashes would mix and mingle with the sand. “How similar the two seem,” I reflected, “her ashes look just like Laig bay.” And with that, as the flicker of the thought illuminated my cognition, rays of the sun pierced through the grey of the clouds and we said our partings, each scattering a part of her ashes to the river and the sea in a glory of fleeting light. A bird, a common plover, watched us the whole time and only flew off out over the sea towards Rhum once all the ashes where cast.

Maybe we do personalise the elements, maybe we want to see a connection to the people we loose and the ‘nature’ we revere. Maybe my mum’s spirit parted the clouds that day and she was in the bird listening to us which then flew away. All I know is that when I enter in to a deep relationship with a place, to Laig Bay, to the Isle of Eigg, to the Hebridean landscape, over many years and with many friends, family and lovers, I can’t help but feel a part of my spirit lives there just as much as a part of my mum’s spirit does, and if this is not comforting I don’t know what is. This is perhaps close to indigenous ‘Place-Thought,’ which is the non-distinctive space where place and thought were never separated because they never could or can be separated. Place-Thought is based upon the premise that land is alive and thinking and that humans and non-humans derive agency through the extensions of these thoughts. [ii] It is a sacred connection between place, non-human and human that is passed down from generation and affirmed through experience, ritual and story. This agency affects me, affects my loved ones and provides a place for our profound emotions to reside. We go back to it as matter and sweep out over it as spirit.

The clouds where high, the sun strong, the wind was fierce but reliant. The breakers on the waves dazzled a brilliant white, potent with energy. Shadows moved with stealth as they curled and slid over the neighboring island and the sea between. The sound of the waves were prominent once again, not insipid like the day before. Nor mighty like an incessant roar but rolling, consistent, hopeful, assertive. There is a security in the plain language of the sea, a kind of mad consistency. There, true. I can read it with ease. It doesn’t interfere or intrude. But the opposite. It provides an opening, a sort of introduction to thought. I stood on the solidified flow of lava, now shaped to a satisfying oval where the sea combed the seaweed that clung to the volcanic rock, washing it through, smoothing its texture so it danced to its tune; the consorting seaweed and the sea, the serenity of the movement, their compatibility flowing like no end will come. I looked out over the water, the never ending undulations of the surface of the sea and all those colours it seems to magically hold: all those blues, purples, silvers, whites and greys, greens. I had an urge to hover above and place a palm on the rippling surface, to feel the hello of the water as gravity pulled it up and down, up and down. I shut my eyes and tuned my ear to the water’s pliancy. I could hear my mum singing.

A breeze caught my hair loosening a strand which flew away to add to the sand. “I am here,” I thought, “I am in the world, with the lid off. There is a universe in my pupil. My skin can flake off to the ground where I stand and it doesn’t need swept up, it nourishes the grass. It helps create the next blade. This air is so refreshing here, like taking a long sip. It is everywhere, this air. It is not stifled by four walls. I am standing in no room, or the biggest room, that has no end or beginning. My skin feels alive, my bones feel part of the rocks.”

[i]From the song Hyperballad by Bjork, released by One Little Indian records in 1996

[ii]“the non-distinctive space…..extensions of these thoughts” Indigenous Place-Thought and agency amongst humans and non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman go on a European world tour!), Vanessa Watts, 2013

Rock (staying - speaking - imagining)

You show me continents

I see the islands

You count in centuries

I blink my eyes[i]

The Lewisian gneiss is some of the oldest rock in the world, formed in the pre-Cambrian era which makes up almost 90% of the geological history of the Earth.[ii] I mulled this word over in my head, “pre-Cambrian,” repeating its satisfying roll as I walked down to the rocky shoreline. I stood on the gneiss, with the waves forcing themselves upon the unforgiving rock, the meeting of sea and land so brutal, so repetitive, so meditative. The low winter sun had almost no heat in it. But it shined off the surface of the rock and sea for a silver effect that kind of burned my eyes. It felt like I might actually be looking at a pre-Cambrian sea, a time of almost no life forms, no sounds of birds, no grasses or mammals, just sea and rock, sun, weather. Alien, but familiar. Rock that is older than thought.[iii]

I picked small rocks from the pebbly beach round the corner from this house, from the side of the gorge by that waterfall in Canada, from the bottom of that clear blue pool I swam in Corsica, from the side of the road where we stopped for lunch that time. They collect dust on my shelves or soil in my plant pots. Some are small enough to be kept in the pockets of my jackets so I can caress them at will whilst no one notices. I have an oval rock that sits on my bedside table. I don’t remember where I picked it up from but it is the size of my palm, flattened to about half a centimeter and so luxuriously smooth I like to flip it over in my hand as if to remind myself with each turn how curved the edges really are. This is the stone I place on my floor to alert myself in the morning of the important thought I had in the night. I don’t poses these rocks, I am only borrowing them until I fade away from memory and they be placed somewhere else to eventually dissolve to sand.

I am remembering, when I was fourteen, the pebbles I carefully selected to paint a set of Runes on to. I convinced myself each one had significance and therefore should be handled with reverence. I remember when I was eleven, the rocks my dad placed carefully over the tiny grave of my cat to mark where she lay at the bottom of the garden. And the small granite rocks that are placed on the graves of many in Bragar on Lewis that bear no stone masons mark to say who lies beneath. This is only known through word of mouth. I fancied they looked like the stumps of granite teeth not yet pulled out in amongst the grave stones of later bodies.

Today I crouched under a large boulder of granite that sat proudly on top of a small cliff. Not really to get shelter from the rain but just to look at the sea and landscape from its point of view. It was a shelter for sheep, I could tell by the way the grass was worn about the base. The angle of the rock meant it looked like it would only take a breath as easily as blowing out birthday candles to wake it from its ancient slumber and start rolling over the cliff. With me right under it. Shuddering at the violent thought I got up and moved on.

Rock that is older than thought. Rock that is a heavy mass of history yet vulnerable to the attritions of time.[iv] Rock that is a magnificent instrument of story.[v] Rock that leaps to eons and flattens our present. Rocks speak to me, I am drawn in to their orbit, they are vital players in the world[vi] as things, non-humans and humans overlap in the tangled mesh of everything. They are not inert matter but lively forces, communicating with us across deep time[vii] with the visible strata of the different ages of the world. Rocks hold dizzying geological time frames that the human mind can’t fully comprehend. Geologist have to tune themselves to the concept of deep time. They see the unbelievable swiftness with which one evolving species on the earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747s into the sky. They see the thin band in which are the all but indiscernible stratifications of Cro-Magnon, Moses, Leonardo, and now. Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialised themselves to death. Tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planets times scale is a kind of companionship with the earth.[viii]

Rocks play with my sense of self, pulling my consciousness to a level where I am a water molecule floating past their birth in a volcanic spill; a fire, a water. I am ice pushing a boulder out over tundra to an outpost of nowhere. I am grit in the teeth of a mountain, scree that cascades down to a river bed where algae will take hold upon my surface. I am a seabed of crushed crustaceans smoothed and polished now I am a column of a building. The streets of Glasgow have plenty of Permian and pre-Cambrian rocks propping up banks and museums, institutions and consumerist heavens. People busying themselves past monstrously huge time gaps between them and the environment they confide their reality in. After all, the human-chimp boundary occurred as recently as six million years ago, which is last week from Earth’s point of view.[ix]

Companionship with the earth; does this require donning geological lenses to oscillate between millions or billions of years and the beating of my own heart? Imagining it anyway, without proper geological knowledge, is that not a way to travel in time? Is this a worthwhile companionship? I’ll place my oval rock by the bed to remember this in the morning.

[i]From the song Ocenaniaby Bjork, released by One Little Indian records in 2004


[iii]“Rock that is older than thought”, Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shephard, Charlotte Peacock quoting Nan Shephard, p224

[iv]“vulnerable to the attritions of time.” Mountains of the Mind, Robert MacFarlane, p43

[v]“a magnificent instrument of story”, Islands of Decolonial Love, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, p132

[vi]“vital players in the world”,Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett, p4

[vii]“They are not inert…..with us across deep time”,Speaking Substances: Rocks, Dana Luciano, p2

[viii]“They see the unbelievable swiftness.…is a kind of companionship with the earth” Basin and Range, John McPhee, p134-135

[ix]“After all, the human-chimp…..from Earth’s point of view” The Ecological Thought, Timothy Morton, p89

Darkness (looking - adjusting - connecting)

When I stepped out of the small bothy I left behind the heat and light, comfort and human, graspable proportions of furniture and floor, books and rugs. The dark outside was thick, it almost felt like a being in itself, something I could never fully understand or get to know. But after a few minutes I could begin to discern the outline of the cliffs above, and I recalled in the book I had just put down that no matter how dark it is outside, even with the absence of a moon, the sky is never as dark as the landscape. It was a comforting thought. I can always look up and see a sky meeting an earth. I began to walk. All my attention was in my feet. I had to let them read the ground for it was uneven and it felt like I was walking on a surface I had never stood on before. In the dark the edges of the trees, the volume of the bushes, the mounds of tussocks, the ripple of the burn, all take on a life. I feel their presence like something is looking back at me, keeping an eye on where I go, maybe changing form when I have moved on. After thousands of years, we’re still strangers to darkness, fearful aliens in an enemy camp with our arms crossed over our chests[i]. In the darkness I am burrowing through the very bones of existence. Something primal is awake in the landscape and in me. My senses are in a different gear; grounding my stake in to the very earth I sleep on, I am as present as the child learning to stand, the darkness waking me from my heavy slumber of usual routine and I have to enter in to a new relationship with the world. Like the child I have to learn to balance, to navigate, to see a recognisable world that is all but unrecognisable. We push at the darkness with our blazing light, with our laughter, but it is undeniable as death. When I look back up at the bothy I see how the dark sees me and I realise, in those small four walls I am surrounded by light surrounded by darkness.

We had been in the caravan for most of the day, deciding not to decide on what to do or when, enjoying the company of each other’s silence. The evening stretched its limbs and settled in to night. We stood outside, the cool air rasped our slumbered eyes. Though summer, the night there reminded us autumn is but a day dream away. He lit a cigarette and the smoke made its journey up over our heads. I looked skyward, over the dark landscape to the outline of the cliffs and further up at the stars. The moon rested on the top of the horizon like it had found where it would sleep for the night. The stars were few but more would come, and more did when my eyes adjusted to the deep hues of the night sky. “From this view,” I thought, “I could be looking at any age within the history of humans as agricultural beings, for that is not long enough to shake the heavens from their seats. Only about 12,500 years,”[ii] I thought. The Sgurr, a jutting lump of rock making up the backbone of the island, protruding out of the land like a defiant fist, is actually an inverted valley. When the volcanoes that make up Rhum spurted out their fury, the volcanic lava and ash flowed and landed in between basaltic cliffs that had been carved by a river. The pitchstone lava cooled and over millennia the softer basalt stone on either side eroded away to leave the mass seen today.[iii] With that thought I put my hand on his shoulder, as though to steady myself from the very notion. It takes just one tiny second, I often think, and an entire epoch passes.[iv]

The two of us arrived at the Callanish stone circle late that short January day, when twilight was stroking its velvet hand over the landscape, rendering all things darker, strange; as though walking into a dream anointed with slight fear, slight amazement at the familiar slipping into the unknown. We walked slowly weaving our paths in and around the stones. The seeming permanence of them, each one a distinct character, each one with a trillion stories. To touch them with our boney fingers was to feel time fold in on itself – our hands were touching ancient hands that hewn the stones from the ancient earth. Our bodies felt like mere vessels embroiled in a dance of intimacy with this ancestry. Our new feelings of love; a quivering thing that is wild and burning, unsteadying, stretching out beyond the horizon, slipped and slid in and out of the gaps between. The ancient next to the fleeting. All those rituals performed here, all the meaning given to the stones and the land, all the strength and might of muscle used to shape a minute part of the vast Earth. All accentuated our want for each other forcing us to kiss like hungry wolves, to create a prelude to later tenderness.

When we returned to the cottage, now enveloped in darkness, the door creaked open and we saw loves wide eyes staring back.

I dreamt I saw my mum walking past a window. I was in some place that was familiar but not mine. It was dark outside, perhaps an afternoon winter darkness, where it is not yet night. I could see her coming up the path by the house, I knew she was not alive and that it must be her spirit, I knew I was dreaming yet I knew it was her, fully her with all her subtle mannerisms and nuances, her clothes and how she walked. I felt a wonder and excitement that it was her coming to visit me, even if it was just in my dream. I couldn’t take my eyes from her, I wanted to drink in every second. She gave me a small wave as she passed the window, acknowledging me but moving on, like she was aware she needed to come in and say hello, but she was just off to do something else first. I woke up. A couple of days later I relayed the dream to my auntie on the phone, “Some say this is the illusion and the other stuff is real” she said.

That night in the cottage I awoke in the dark as sleep slipped away like a snake making its way out of frame. The irresistible tide of love swelled within me. Maybe the cold outside would steady me. Leaving him sleeping, I put on my robe and stood outside in the quiet still air. Now we had met, I thought, there was no going back. This love, if it lasted forever, or just a day, would define how I saw the world for the rest of my life.

[i]“After thousands of years….crossed over our chests” The Abundance, Annie Dillard, p160

[ii]12,500 years is about the time humans have been agricultural from the Neolithic era till now. Sourced fromBeing Ecological, Timothy Morton, p72


[iv]“It takes just one awful second, I often think, and an entire epoch passes.” The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald, p31

Light (being - living - believing)

The interdependence between animated and in-animated matter was so deeply understood by the Blackfoot people that life was felt in everything and death regarded as merely a descriptive name for another way of life.[i]

The day my mum died there was the most beautiful sunset. Strong, bright, burning light of a clear March air. The heather covered granite mounds of the hills silhouetted, sitting as though at the bottom of a sea, met the yellow tone of sky that melted into the watery depths of space. The pink bruised clouds swimming above the line of hills changed like chameleons to the speed of the suns decent, curiously slow, curiously fast. “Mums spirit is leaving her broken body” I thought. The sunset greeted us as we neared home, just over the lip of the hill where the landscape flowed out before us as a familiar face lights up upon meeting friendly eyes; “it is as though mum’s spirit is waiting for us there” I thought. Where land and sky, still loch water fed from running streams, naked birches and their fallen leaves feeding the ground they suckle from, cool evening dew dots on the tips of birch branches, moss covered oak limbs twisting for sunlight, stone dykes built with cold hands slipping over the brows of fields, the house tucked neatly into the angle of the hill, the birds that peck around the pots of dormant flowers my mum planted, the silent piano, the earmarked books, the stuff she put away days before, the dust. All were waiting for us. There but with a deep absence I couldn’t yet fathom.

Perhaps death is a movement from one state into another, and in a sense death is a term for when a thing actually and wholly becomes its surroundings.[ii] Where body moves to matter and consciousness moves to spirit. Where our parts become the whole, where one door closes and another door opens.

The light right now is a melting of baby pink, mauve, peach, blue with a hint of green, this all in the sky, all in the water. The sea has slipped in to the cove almost before I could notice. We were picking cockles from the sand to eat; the infinite surprise that there is a being here and that it has this particular form, so small or so large, this form that is also a tension and a warmth, a rhythm and a grasping: some life has been caught and condensed, has ended up finding a place in a corner of space-time; the reservoir of existence that connects us to creatures also passes through this universal condition of breathing and fever.[iii]

The light right now is a diffused grey, a sweep of silver, the clouds are rushing to get past, the delicate yellow clouds behind promise flighty winter light if given a chance.

The light right now is a shaft of soft coral peach red that extends its beam on to the flat looking purple mountain, a search light over familiar terrain, accentuating a crevice line here, a shoulder of rock there, till you see everything anew.

The light right now is something serious, it breathes its own life over the battered grasses. It is deepening with every second to an angry blue.

The light right now is a space between the storm, a milky hue, a hug of calm.

The light here seizes your attention, grasps moments and steals you away from sleepy eyes to say “here, you can remember how to live!”

Look over your left shoulder to see the sunset and breathe over your cup of tea to see the sun rise. These are blessings, these should be normal, maybe that is too assuming, maybe not.

The light here is a tension chiseling detail into memory.[iv] I only want to look and look and look. Each new wave of light, shadow, beat of wing, glisten of stone unfurls a small wonder.

And when we walk on the heather, when we strike the insects away, when we cook for each other we love and kill instantaneously. We live this life teeming and abundant with different temporal beings all wrapped and wriggling within its frame. When we deeply acknowledge this there’s no going back.[v] We take the lid off our world and open up to an even bigger one. Our minds swarm with doing. But really we are being. We are transient and overlapping. We are zoomed in to our infinitesimal place in some sort of time. We swell, move, circle, slow and vanish.[vi]

The light is so fleeting in winter on the island, I feel privileged to see it strike at the earth at such low angles, elongating shadows that stretch to fine filaments.

During the writing of this my grandmother died peacefully in her sleep. She was 93. Born in 1925 she witnessed the Second World War, the invention of plastic, mobile phones and the internet. From the roaring twenties to social media, she outlived her husband by 23 years and her eldest daughter, my mum, by nearly 3. She lived a long life.

This is the first day of a new life, another spoke of the rising wheel. But my body passes vagrant as a bird’s shadow. I should be transient as the shadow on the meadow, soon fading, soon darkening and dying there where it meets the wood, were it not that I coerce my brain to form in my forehead: I force myself to state, if only in one line of unwritten poetry, this moment; to mark this inch in the long, long history….[vii]

[i] “The interdependence between….descriptive name for another way of life”, Those Who Know, Dianne Meili, p137

[ii]Taken from “In every single-celled organism there is a chemical representation, more or less accurate, of the realm in which it is floating. A perfect match – exactly the same chemicals – would equal death, which in a sense is a term for when a thing actually and wholly becomes its surroundings” Being Ecological, Timothy Morton, p143

[iii]“the infinite surprise that….condition of breathing and fever” The Animal Side, Jean-Christophe Bailly, p42

[iv]“tension chiseling detail into memory.” Whereas, Layli Long Soldier, p69

[v] Taken from “Realising that there are lots of different temporality formats is basically what ecological awareness is. It’s equivalent to acknowledging in a deep way the existence of beings that aren’t you, with whom you coexist. Once you’ve done that you can’t un-acknowledge it. There’s no going back” Being Ecological, Timothy Morton, p127/8

[vi] Taken from “it moves, circles, slows, and vanishes. This is your life.” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard, p145

[vii] “This is the first day of a new life….to mark this inch in the long, long history”, The Waves, Virginia Wolf, p42



· Bailly,Jean-Christophe, The Animal Side(New York: Fordham University Press, 2011)

· Bennett, Jane,Vibrant Matter, chapter 1The Force of Things (London: Duke University Press, 2010)

· Betasamosake Simpson,Leanne, Islands of Decolonial Love (Canada: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2015)

· Bloom, William, The Power of Modern Spirituality (London: Piatkus, 2011)

· David Peat, F,Blackfoot Physics, A Journey into the Native American Universe (London: Fourth Estate Limited, 1996)

· Davis,Wade,The Wayfinders, Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc, 2009)

· Dillard,Annie, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974; New York, HarperPerennial, 1998)

· Dillard,Annie, The Abundance (New York: HarperCollins, 2016)

· Dressler, Camille, Eigg The Story of an Island, chapter 1 Origins (1998; Edinburgh, Polygon: 2016)

· Hawkes, Jaquetta,A Land (1951; London: Collins Nature Library, 2012)

· Long Soldier, Layli, Whereas (Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2017)

· Macfarlane,Robert,Mountains of the Mind (2003; London, Granta Publications, 2008)

· McIntosh,Alistair, Soil and Soul, People versus CorporatePower (2001; London: Aurum Press Ltd, 2002)

· McPhee,John, Basin and Range (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981)

· Meili, Dianne,Those Who Know, Profiles of Alberta’s Aboriginal Elders (1991; Alberta: NeWest Press, 2012)

· Morton,Timothy, Being Ecological (UK: Penguin Random House, 2018)

· Morton,Timothy, The Ecological Thought (USA: Harvard University Press, 2012)

· Peacock, Charlotte, Into the Mountain:A Life of Nan Shephard (Cambridge: Galileo Publishers, 2017)

· Sallins,Marshal,Stone Age Economics, chapter 1 The Original Affluent Society (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, Routledge, 1974)

· Sebald,W.G, The Rings of Saturn (1995; London: Vintage, 2002)

· Sennett,Richard, Flesh and Stone, The Body and the City in Western Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd, 1994)

· Shepard, Nan,The Living Mountain (1977; Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2011)

· Wall Kimmerer, Robin,Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,chapter 1 Skywoman Falling (Canada: Milkweed Editions, 2013)

· Wolf,Virginia, The Waves (1931; London: Vintage, 2004)


· Horn, Roni, Among Essential Furnishings, from Interiorsed by Johanna Burton, Lynne Cooke, and Josiah McElheny, Centre for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Sternberg Press 2012

· Luciano, Dana, Speaking Substances: Rocks, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 12 2016

· Luciano, Dana, Sacred Theories of Earth: Matters of Spirit in ‘The Soul of Things’, Duke University Press, 2014

· Roudeau,Cecile, How the Earth Feels:A Conversation with Dana Luciano, Transatlantica American Studies Journal, 2015

· Thompkins, Kyla,On the Limits and Promise of New Materialist Philosophy, from Lateral Journal of the Cultural Studies Association, Issue 5.1, 2016

· Todd, Zoe, An Indigenous Feminist’s Take on the Ontological Turn: ‘Ontology’ is Just Another Word For Colonialism, from Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol 29, No 1, March 2016

· Todd,Zoe, Indigenising the Anthropocene, from Art in the Anthropocene, Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologiesedited by Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities press, London 2015

· Todd, Zoe, Fish, Kin and Hope: Tending to Water Violations in amiskwaciwaskahikan and Treaty Six Territory, from Afterall, A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry, Volume 43, University of Chicago Press, March 2017

· Watts, Vanessa, Indigenous Place-Thought and agency amongst humans and non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman go on a European world tour!), from Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, Vol. 2, No. 1, Queen’s University, Canada, 2013

bottom of page