We live in troubled times. The news is frequently dismal. Sometimes it seems our beautiful blue planet is under threat from all sides and I for one feel helpless when I hear of plans to send more and more young people to foreign countries as cannon fodder.
Spending a week in the arid lands of South Australia, revisiting a place I left nearly 24 years ago, gave me quiet time away from the depressing news bombardments. Time to think. It gave me solace.
And it gave me an idea.
Reflecting on Emily Dickinson’s “Gorgeous Nothings”, on the beauty of Tibetan Prayer Flags, on Claudia Grau’s lovely wishing trees and on the aleatory [impromptu or randomly generated] poetry that plays a role in my teaching I came up with the solace project.
The notion of a collective impromptu poem, recorded on cloth, to sing in the winds.
Participation is open to anyone and is quite simple.
Make a triangular flag or pennon [meaning a personal ensign, derived from the Latin penna meaning a wing or a feather] preferably using a piece of pre-loved cloth.
Stitch on it a word or a phrase or a sentence that might act as a wish for peace or an acknowledgement of beauty, imply a sense of stillness or simply something that gives you solace. It can be as brief or as long as you like. A haiku, a snatch of song, a word that takes you where you want to be.
Attach ties to the tethering end of your flag as in the sketch below.
Post the flag [preferably packaged in paper* not plastic] to :
c/- The Observatory
PO Box 96
and what happens next?
and what happens next?
During June next year I will be in residence at The Observatory.
I shall spend time connecting each of the flags in the sequence of their arrival, recording the words on them as one complete circular poem.
Following this I shall prepare an organic indigo vat and on the day of the southern midwinter solstice in 2015 will overdye the flags in the blue of the heavens before installing them as a circle. if there are hundreds, then a series of concentric circles :-))
The flags will be documented photographically over time and the images and text will be available online as well as in a limited edition book. It may even be possible to make a short film. While I do not have the financial resources to distribute free books to participants, each person who makes and sends a flag will receive a limited edition postcard image of the installation, personally addressed to them and posted from the Andamooka post office. [remember to include your address if you hope for a postcard!]
It is important the flags be made from natural fibre fabrics as they will remain in place following prayer flag tradition, to dispense blessings and good wishes to the four winds...any shreds that part company from the whole must be bio-degradable. Additional decorations such as stone or glass beads, shell or wooden buttons are welcome, but please, no plastic.
Some of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the remainder will go toward maintaining The Observatory. The solace project might not solve any of the world’s long-term problems; I see it more as a simple and beautiful collective gesture of goodwill...a glorious blue installation in the red dust lands.
and I hope you join me.
*paper-based packaging from flags will be used in a subsequent project