The subversive power of ‘flow’

The subversive power of ‘flow’

What is that creative itch that keeps wanting scratched? Why do we get fretful when life's obligations keep pulling us away from the creative work we want to do? Why is it we expend so much of our time and energy on activities, sometimes quite demanding, that have...

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How to draw attention

How to draw attention

  ...A musical composition does the same for listening. Art is a summoning of attention. To create it requires the highest directed focus, as does experiencing it. So writes Sven Birkerts in his essay 'Attending the dragonfly', one of the essays gathered in his...

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Like a puppy, joy is not just for Christmas

Like a puppy, joy is not just for Christmas

  A few years ago we received this beautiful hand-printed letterpress Christmas card from Carol Dunbar, an artist friend here in Orkney, with just a single word on the front, in emphatic, berry-red letters pressed deeply into the thick paper. Ever since then the...

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In praise of following one’s nose…

In praise of following one’s nose…

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve been raving about George Saunders' book “A Swim in A Pond in the Rain” lately. I can’t tell you how much I love this book. Actually I can. In fact I’m going to, right now! This book is a real masterclass. Saunders takes a...

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Learning to walk in the dark

Learning to walk in the dark

Do you welcome the coming of the dark nights as Autumn closes in? Or do you rage, rage against the dying of the light? At this time of year, when I pull the curtains closed of an evening, I can still hear my mother’s voice commenting doomily, “The nights are drawing...

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What is Water?

What is Water?

The answer seems obvious. But it’s not so simple. In Scotland’s mild, damp climate we tend to take water for granted. But just now the loch beside our house is as low as I’ve ever seen it. The expanse of dried mud and stone all around its shore keeps on getting wider...

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Do You Paddle Your Own Canoe?

Do You Paddle Your Own Canoe?

I made a canoe! Isn't she fine? Have you ever had an ambition to do something but realised you needed help? Well, I had some help. Quite a lot actually, from the fine folk at Archipelago Folkschool on the Isle of Mull. I love their ethos of' 'connecting people with...

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Shimmeringness

Shimmeringness

There's a very particular quality to the light here in Orkney, as anyone who has been here will know. Maybe it's to do with the Northerly latitude, or the open landscape and big skies, or the presence of the sea and bright lochs all around us. Orcadian writer George...

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Silver leaf, moths and mending

Silver leaf, moths and mending

It's been a slow spring here in Orkney, with the cold dragging its heels even as the light floods back and the evenings open up. But memories of the extraordinary blue-and-silver days of snow and hard frost we had back in February and March are coming back in the...

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How to Hold a Cloud

How to Hold a Cloud

"How to Hold a Cloud" is a new short piece of writing which, along with the accompanying drawing (shown below) is included in the new issue of Dark Mountain, Issue 19: Requiem. I'm delighted to be alongside writers such as Jay Griffiths. Kerri ni Dochartaigh and Nancy...

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The Clearing out now in paperback

The Clearing out now in paperback

The Clearing is now available in a beautiful paperback edition. It positively sparkles with gold! I recently had a chance to speak to and thank Sophie Harris, whose beautiful design for the cover has garnered such lavish praise from so many people. It was lovely to...

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Time, boredom and that 4am feeling

Time, boredom and that 4am feeling

When I was a kid, stuck in the family caravan in the Trossachs on yet another rainy weekend I’d get fed up of reading or drawing or staring out the window, and complain to my parents of boredom. I can remember my mother answering briskly “If you’re bored it’s because...

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