If you go down to the woods today...

This the chapel/meditation space at the Forest of Peace (in Sand Springs, near Tulsa, Oklahoma) that is an ashram modeled after that founded by Father Bede Griffiths in India.

It is set in a beautiful ground of trees that stretch out and down towards the Arkansas river. While being a Christian place, it quietly, symbolically embraces the signs of other traditions, fingers pointing to the one light that transcends all, what that remarkable German mystic, Jakob Boehme, called the inner centre that embraces all outwardness.

It is a beautiful, peaceful spot, and I have sat there in silence, singularly and communally, for many hours but it has always been the woods that have been the space of greatest peace - to step out into them, walk and wander, lose oneself in their mixture of light and shade, to sit still, look out and down at the distance river, restored to a sense of unity.

I was thinking of this as I walked among trees this morning on the Welsh borders, wondering why it is that for me this is 'my' space: my 'desert' is a wood!

This beautifully chimed with my reason for being there - picking up a painting that I had bought last autumn, and had now finally found time to collect. It is entitled 'Conigree' by the painter, Andrea McLean (http://andreamclean.org/).

Conigree is both a particular wood (near Ledbury) and naming a wood that is known (and preserved) as a place where rabbits live, breed and gather. Like much of her art it is a complex weaving of particular place seen, of the narratives accreted around and within a particular place:its stories, legends and myths; and, the vision (and dream) of a place.

Andrea has a loving inquisitive engagement with maps - especially those imagined spaces that were the maps of the Middle Ages where both cartography and imagination met.

The painting from a distance is a vivid weaving of colour that solves, as you approach into delicate forms, both natural and ones that suggest a translucence between this world and others - and that each figure might, does partake of more than one world. A young girl stands in the centre, emerging from colourful foliage, merging into foliage, is she a girl in the wood, a dyad of the tree, a fairy playfully transmuting before your eyes. All three it suggests, all possibilities, to the inner eye.

The world is always yielding to its inherent magic, its true imaginative form, as Blake would say, in Andrea's painting. The invitation is always: will your perception go with it, will it free itself into the dance and light.

The Visionary Map by Andrea McLean


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