Post by Wendy Martin, Retreat Facilitator
I’ve always been intrigued by rhythms and cycles and the way the planet rearranges herself so often; the way the quiet of winter is so palpable & spacious to the nervous system. How the peak of summer reminds us of simple abundance, not the kind of abundance measured by wealth, but the kind present in ripe juicy watermelons, local honey and fat drunk peony blossoms. The kind of natural abundance that reminds us that we are a part of all things.
When the pandemic forced us into our individual silos of existence my relationship with nature became essential to my well being, so did my relationship to the necessity of creativity. Over the years of exploring natural dyeing and wild ink making, I have cultivated relationships with many local plants and trees within my neighbourhood. I pay attention to when they bloom and for how long, I know how to only forage for what I can use and how to honor that process. Somehow this simple, yet committed act of witnessing, noticing and observing is teaching me about my relation to all living things.
I am reminded often that seed to bloom, and bloom to decay is a staggered process, a cyclical event. I know now that the violets come first, along with horsetail and lupins, followed by vetch and peonies. I know when the oak trees are ready to drop their acorns, and when to collect the silver birch leaves for winter printing. For me, this is part of the magic of natural dyeing – the relationship nurtured & built upon with the natural world. I have learned to take my cues from nature, to lean into each cycle and to not rush past it, to seek the creativity within each phase.
Creativity & abundance in some form is always there, yet so often our minds are skipping ahead which causes the beauty of the moment (and the phase) to be eclipsed by the desire of the future.
When I feel overwhelmed (usually right about now, with the last exhales of winter) I remember the slow sure coming of Spring. How she takes her time, she knows her purpose, her natural unfolding leads to the unfolding of Summer and so on and so on, all intertwined by a quiet unseen quivering energy.
Learning about lunations and the pacing of seasons helps me to better understand my own inner evolution. We can’t always be in bloom and surely we do not stay in the mud season forever.
I now honour the ‘season of rest’ without feeling ‘lazy’ because I know that when the propulsion of ‘summer energy’ arrives, my feet barely touch the ground because I am so inspired.
The first time you create color from flowers and plants is pure elation. The color and prints can be unpredictable which enhances the joy factor and helps us with the practice of non attachment. A deeply essential skill for living creatively, in my opinion.
Part of the joy for me in sharing the natural dye process is that everyone can do it, and usually with very little investment. Deepening the individual relationship to place, nature & simplicity, has an impact on our sense of belonging. When we observe, & admire nature & its many faces we naturally feel calm, settled and rooted in the present.
This formula of nature appreciation, curious creative living, and the chemistry & whimsy of wild natural color is something I wish for everyone to experience. Save your onion skins and your avocado pits and peels – they yield awesome natural colour. Keep your heart and mind open to creativity showing up in unusual ways, in the bold orange of the sulfur cosmos, or in the insight delivered to you under a beam of moonlight. Or to the feeling of calm and safety offered by the canopy of trees.
There is magic all around us, we just have to pay attention.
Create with Wendy at a Natural Dye Retreat
Join Wendy at Northern Edge Algonquin for 4 days in August for September to nurture a sustainable and conscious relationship with nature, through the inquiry of intuitive art making in the form of natural dye: nature, art, creativity and spirituality. Over the course of the weekend you will learn the basics (and beyond) of selecting and preparing natural textile fibers to receive colour, and the slow, patient art of extracting colour from a variety of plant materials, including discarded food items from the kitchen! You will learn how to fix natural dyes to fabric, and which dyes are colourfast (ones that last) or fugitive (ones that don’t). We’ll explore several methods of folding, tying & dyeing to create patterns yield incredible designs.
Register for September 22-25, 2022
Learn More about the Botanical Bounty Natural Dye Retreat
– steward sustainable interactions with the land
– play with the natural colour spectrum
– invite gentle movement and breath practices
– work with natural textiles
– consciously forage for flowers, berries, and barks
– explore creatively with plant materials