Hide & Seek contributor Thalia Brown, discusses the changing landscape of the Avalon Marshes and the bird hide as a ‘storehouse of memories.’
What are you experiences of bird hides? Do you frequent them?
My encounters with bird hides began in 2000 on my first visits to the Avalon Marshes. At first there were a few box hides, in recent years they have grown in size and number. The new hides can be double storey, contoured to blend with the landscape, others are like wooden boats moored at the water’s edge. I often walk in the marshes and visit two or three hides each time, they are a window into the rich tapestry of life in the wetlands. I have been lucky to see these hides develop their own character over the seasons, to experience how the landscape changes around them, so that twenty years on, each bird hide contains a storehouse of memories: the shifting colours of the seasons and breath-taking encounters with wildlife. The hide is a peaceful space where I may rest and come to my senses.
Do you find bird hides welcoming or intimidating spaces?
The bird hides of the marshes sit in a liminal place where earth, sky and water meet. In stormy weather they provide shelter from the wild dance of the elements. The hide is a place of sanctuary where I let go of things to be done, anxieties and future plans, to become absorbed in the present moment. Nestled in the fluid landscape at the water’s edge, sounds erupt and move all around the hide, strong peaty aromas and colours of mirrored reflections awaken the senses. Often, it is a place of peaceful solitude, then suddenly a place of excitement and surprise; when an otter appears, hobbies are sky diving after dragonflies, or the bitterns are booming. Then the hides are busy and filled with people. A natural camaraderie arises, as tales of wildlife adventures are shared in between the moments of hushed silence.
Have you ever used a bird hide in a creative capacity, to write, draw, think or create? If not, would you like to?
When a hide is empty it is a favourite place for yoga meditation and contemplation. I carry a small notebook and simply let the words flow, as a spontaneous record of what is happening in the marshes at that moment. The notes can be used as inspiration for poetry, guided relaxation and handmade books.
Are there any other manmade structures within nature that you are drawn to or which feature in your writing? (bothies, cabins, caravans, sheds, huts, pillboxes etc)
I am drawn to the Treehouse Library at the Dove Studios. It is built amongst the trees at the edge of the Tree Circle. Standing on the platform of the Treehouse, is like being onboard a boat that sails through the air, gently rocking to the song of the trees as they dance in the wind whilst dappled light and shadow play across the surface of larch and oak, that clad the house. Inside the Library the leaves can be seen rustling through glass windows, creating an impression of being nestled amongst the trees. Sitting in contemplation within the Dove Treehouse, it becomes a ship to sail the currents of the mind, for the shelves are filled with artists books that contain a seedbank of ideas and creativity. My poem Alder, Alnus Glutinosa is in one of the books in the Treehouse Library, called ‘Circle of Trees’ by the ABCD group of artists and writers.
How would you describe your relationship with nature? Does the natural world inspire your work?
In nature I am immersed in a shimmering multifaceted web of life, it is where I find peace, as I come home to myself. In my poetry and handmade books, I explore the natural world and our relationship to it. I weave together observations with myths and history, exploring the threads of connections to celebrate the wonder of life. I design my yoga classes and meditations in response to the rhythmic dance of the seasons, as I feel that many of the stresses of modern life are caused by our alienation from nature, so much so, that we are now in danger of destroying the natural world that supports us. As my work evolves, I would like to envision a human culture that values the multi diversity of life and lives in harmony with the natural world.
Finally, your poem Alder, ALNUS GLUTINOSA features as part of the Hide & Seek Project, could you describe the inspiration behind the poem and your process in writing it?
Each member of the ABCD group was commissioned to make a book for the Dove Tree house at the Dove Studios in Barton St David. This would create a set of books to represent the Tree Circle at the Dove. The inspiration for the Tree Circle was the Ogham Tree Calendar in ‘The White Goddess’ by Robert Graves. We chose the tree for our birthday month and mine was Fearn or Alder tree.
I set out to visit the Alder trees in the Avalon Marshes and was delighted to find that they were growing in all my favourite places. The Alder had been an invisible presence when I was looking for bees, butterflies and birds. Each week from autumn to summer I visited the trees, making observations with my camera, using macro photography. These became a sequence of visual notes, a box set of books without words, called ‘Serenade to Alder’. However, the inspiration for the Tree Circle was a study of the first Irish alphabet, the Ogham in which each tree represents a sound or letter. Trees were highly valued in every part of Irish society at the time of the Ogham. In my poem I wanted to evoke a sense of the forgotten history, of our intimate connection with trees. ‘F’ or ‘V’ are the letters of Fearn / Alder, so woven throughout the poem are words that begin with the letters F or V, which also describe the qualities of the Alder in legends and life.
Thalia Brown is an artist, poet, yoga and meditation teacher. She is a member of the ABCD group of artists and writers who create artists books and exhibit regularly. Her books on the Alder were part of The Circle of Trees exhibition at the ACE gallery, Somerton in August 2019. Thalia is a Bard of the Druid Clan of Dana and of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. She weaves poetry into her classes and talks, teaching gentle yoga and meditation that is attuned to the rhythms of nature. For more information please visit www.threehillsyoga.com