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Monday, February 11, 2019

The man on the bridge

It was on a humpback bridge and he was struggling up as we were passing him on a fresh early morning in Algarrobo. He was pushing an old bike stretched over which were two huge conga eels which he told us he'd caught that night. We helped him push his bike up to the top of the bridge and he went on his way, hobbling along on his wobbly legs and angled feet.
As we walked away, my daughter told me that he is an artist and that a few days before that he had fallen on the bridge and that she had helped him to his feet and that he had asked her not to mention the incident to his mother that he had taken a spill, that she was against him going out onto the street because of his unsteadiness and that she was tired of always having to fetch him when folks called her out to take him home.
And so,over the days I spent there, my daughter told me more about him and we would pass him every now and then and always found him full of stories and happy to share our company if only for a brief while.
I learned that his name is Jave and that he had lived in Algarropo all of his life and that he was also a fisherman, one who supported his art by selling the fish he caught. He would fish at night and sell his catch to buy art materials.
I learned too that he suffers from Parkinson's disease and I was humbled by the courage of this brave man who did not simple just sink into his illness; just give up, but that he pushed himself almost to the limit of endurance to keep his creativity alive.
His output was prodigious and the images and sculptures he makes are of his fascinations for the sea;in painting and sculpture, drawing his living and his art from this same source. My daughter and I took a walk along the seafront on the last evening of my stay and passed his studio where we found him making art objects from pieces of cable he'd found on the beach that day. And one of these he gave to her as a gift for her kindness to him

This is a tale of courage, but it is also about the a state of creativity,
'That wonderful state which makes art inevitable', to quote Robert Henri.
It is a story of a unique human being and it is a sharp reminder of life's truer values, a sort of wake up tonic-thought, ideal to kickstart the day, I would say,

To seize the day.

                                 Jave and his concha shells

                 Jave and his musical shell

She told me that on News Years Day at sun rise he laid out his collection of conch shells on the wall, from the smallest to the largest and as he did so he polished them, at lunch time he took them down again and that evening as the sun went down he blew a huge conch shell and the noise floated across the ocean...She wasn't quite sure what that ritual was but it was beautiful.

For Jave, life is continuous action, despite his health issues. He is creating beyond himself.
I found it to be a humbling experience to have met him and to witness his incredible output and energy

Look out for our creativity workshops in Italy this summer; photography and painting

Friday, December 21, 2018

The return of the light

    My countryside

Today is December 21st, the Solstice, the stilling of the sun, which continues for three days. And I register the shadow of a drainpipe with a mark now, black line in indelible ink on the outside kitchen wall. This I do at the very same spot every year. It's my mini Stonehenge. I have to be sure that the planet has returned to the same place as ever after its long orbit. I need the reassurance that everything is the same as it ever was.
I need to know that the snow has covered our Sibillini mountains as it always does a few days before Christmas and that there will be enough water in the Spring for the lakes up there and the animals that depend on them.
I need to see the starlings fill the skies with their poetic murmurations (but these are so few and thin and scattered this year and this saddens me).
Where I live between the mountains and the sea in Italy there is little industry and the air and water are clean, (especially so because most farmers use animal manure to fertilise their fields). A plus.
So, in this sense we are fortunate. But we know what is happening in the world outside and we cannot and must not delude ourselves that the impending dangers which threaten the planet are not our concerns
Sound gloomy don't I?
I do.
But all is not lost, because a message arrives as I am typing this, from Ant in Spain.
It is our serendipity at work again.
I call him back and he enthuses about a book he has found which I must, must get and which I've already ordered.
It's entitled 'Abundance' and is written by Peter Diamandis
It turns on its head the gloom and doom we are becoming addicted to, says he, and is about how innovation, creativity and fantastic breakthroughs in technology are abounding and that, although currently unsung, that they will be our salvation.
So as quick as you can, on to Amazon where you find the book second hand for a few pence.
Read it, and then we can all discuss it together.
You find him on TED too. Well worth watching as he succinctly runs through a verbal precis of what his philosophy, his life view is: 
My take on it this solstice, is it is good that we are challenged and bumped off any negative addictions; shed them from our minds before we enter the New Year.
Because we need to put our hearts and energy into new engines of survival and no longer waste our time fixing rusty old bikes.
I am happy about the return of the light.
And the celebration of Abundance.
It starts today, at the winter Solstice

Two workshops in the Sibillini Mountains in early summer which you might like to experience....

Wild Photography

A workshop with a Wabi Sabi edge to it.

The Tango of Creativity.

To dance the dance of creativity, because it is we who make manifest the

the imagery, the poetry and the song that the Gods of creativity whisper to us.

Buon Natale,


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Happiness is like the wind

I once lived on a hill in Tuscany above the Abbey of San Galgano. There was talk locally of a Russian Film Director who had been making a film thereabouts and I learned that it was Andrei Tarkovsky, an art school hero of mine. The protagonist in the film, Andrei Gorchakov is a poet in exile and he is struggling with the superficiality of life in Italy and longs for the deeper darker melancholia of his  life in Russia. There is a scene in the film Nostalghia (1hr.24 mins in) where, in a rain drenched ruin, he meets a little girl, and he asks her 'Are you happy?' And she answers ' 'Happy with what?'. He says with life, and she answers 'With life yes'

The subject of happiness has popped up a lot these past weeks.
Initially, I was asked by a friend if I was happy and I gave the answer that happiness, to me, is like the wind, that it blows sometimes warm and fragrant, sometimes cold and brittle and in fact that it is never the same, never constant.
But the question has made me want to define it to myself.

If I catch the wind in my hand, is it still the wind?

Questions then, that I have begun to ask myself.
When am I most happy?
In which situations am I not happy?
Do I think some people are born happy and others not?
Isn't perhaps the pursuit of happiness a more noble aspiration?
Are happy children more likely to become happy adults?
Does schooling take away a child's happiness?
Is a simple life a happier life?
Are gardeners happy souls?
Are creative people happier than social media addicts?
Are dog owners happier than most other folks?
(The Dalai Lama was once asked the secret of happiness, and he answered 'Buy a dog')

So there you are, go out and buy a dog.

Alternatively, you  might like to sign up for one of our workshops in Italy.
Springtime and early summer breaks in the mountains of La Sibilla, the Nature Goddess.

Write to Michael for further info about our retreats and workshops

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Watch out for Jellyfish

My morning swim

In moral support of Lewis Pugh, I returned to my morning swim in the sea regime this morning, after a sojourn in London. He says that courage is a muscle that improves in strength when practised.
And he's dead right about that. This morning in particular.
I was late arriving at my swimming beach because my mind was making excuses, the excuse of a burned foot (small accident with flaming plastic bag before London trip) and my mind said, take it easy, stay in bed, go tomorrow. Then I remembered that it's Lewis's last stretch of coastline morning. So I took his wise words as a spur to action and drove down to the sea. And what a difference an hour makes of a morning. Four times as many cars, ten times as many people, and, sad to say, Georgio, my seagull friend had given up on me and wasn't on his perch out at sea.
But I swam out to him anyway in his absence and sang his song to him, thinking he might hear me and fly to his black post, but alas not. He's sulking I guess.
The water is crystal clear, the air morning clean and fresh and I realise how lucky we are here in Le Marche, between the sea and the mountains. Read yesterday that 95% of city people in Europe breathe polluted air and that this effects the brain's function, that children are affected most of all. Great!

Which takes us down to Sicily.
Do you know Sicily?
You do?
You don't!
It is a place like no other
Folks there are intensely protective of the environment, the land, the surrounding sea, air quality, water quality, flora and fauna, and they are pro-active about these issues. And once they have fixed their awful roads and all drive electric cars, I think I will be singing their praises endlessly.

You might like to know that Gianni Girotto and I are running our BreathingArt workshop down there in October.
It's at the spectacular Bannata Centre
Here is an info link

So,here's a toast to Lewis Pugh, who at this very moment is finishing his super human swim and meeting Michael Gove at Dover.
Watch out for jellyfish Lewis.

Michael at 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Breathing Art in Sicily

So, we all know how to eat well.
How we should limit our alcohol intake.
How to keep sun exposure in check.
How much we should exercise.
How to be conscious of our carbon footprints.
How much water we should drink each day.

Do we know how to breathe properly?
Gianni Girotto.. has taught right breathing in Italy for many years and this October in Sicily he is collaborating with artist Michael Eldridge in an experiental workshop which explores the relationship between right breathing and the creative impulse.
What does this mean?
Gianni has found that the very practice of correct breathing triggers off a profound and powerful
release of energy and clarity of mind; this followed by a desire to do and make and to create in some form or fashion.
Michael has followed Gianni for years now and he has jumped at the prospect of working with him in Sicily. On this workshop he will show folks how to galvinise this energy and how such alchemy
can produce art work in the form of painting.

You don't have to be a a painter to come on the course, nor do you have to have had previous knowledge of right breathing techniques.
You just need to be curious, adventurous and to delight in the prospect of working with like minded people at the remarkable Centre of Bannata in central Sicily

Flights in Italy, Ryanair to Catania from most Italian airports, check also Volea and Vologratis
From UK, Ryanair to Catania from Bristol, East Midlands and Edinburgh, check also British Airways and EasyJet

Workshop dates October 16 to 21

The workshop is in both Italian and English

Find out more here

                                               BOOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Michael's email
Whatsapp +39 3283535358

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

George the seagull

This is my friend George.
He is a seagull
And the photo above is a portrait of him.
Perched on top of the black post

Every morning at daybreak I swim out to him and sing him a song
Why, it could be 'I'm not in love' by 10cc.
Or, 'True love will find you in the end' by Daniel Johnson
Maybe 'Wild Thing' by the Troggs
Always love songs

You see, I play this game. 'My last day on earth'
I guess it's just a mind game like any other, but I like it because it intensifies every day.

What I do is experiment with my mind, to see what it's up to.

You see, it gets in the way all of the time, so I figure if I pretend that this is my last day on earth, then I'm gonna miss so much of just plain ordinary stuff.
Like waking to watch the sun rise.
Like driving to the sea on traffic free roads
Like whispering HI to cats and dogs I pass.
Especially the two Cocker Spaniels at Civitanova Alta
Doing Tai Chi on an empty beach.
And singing to George as I swim towards the black post

A note; this wonder of living in the day for the day, is what we practice on our workshops, because you see, that is where creativity finds us, because we go looking for her in the mountains, by the rivers and lakes of the magnificent Sibillini mountains.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A feeling for water

Sivert and the effect of water
Sivert, walking one evening by the river, stops on a sudden; there on the water are a pair of ducks,male and female. They have sighted him; they are aware of man, and afraid; one of them says something, utters a little sound, a melody in three tones, and the other answers with the same. Then they rise, whirl off like two little wheels a stone's throw up the river, and settle again. Then, as before, one speaks and the other answers; the same speech as at first, but mark a new delight: it is set in two octaves higher! Sivert stands looking at the birds,looking past them, far into a dream. A sound has floated through him, a sweetness of something wild and splendid, something he had known before, and forgotten again. He walks home in silence, says no word of it, makes no boast of it, t'was not for wordly speech. And it was but young Sivert from Sellanraa, went out one evening, young and ordinary as he was, and met with this.

On reading this, as I am at this moment it time, in a book by Knut Hamsun 'Growth of the soil' it struck me how it links with some experiences in my past and present life.

Driving through the low Sierras in California with a friend some years back, I'd left him to sulk by a river, a mountain stream in a wooded glade, and walked off to take some photographs. I returned to find him in a state of between shock and wonder. Oddly, I thought at the time, he did not wish to talk about what he would only say was a visitation of some sort. So I let it go.

Years earlier I'd witnessed a similar occurrence whilst visiting with my sister, a once sacred Celtic grove in mid Wales. It was a sort of cul de sac valley with a waterfall at its head. She was having trouble walking and I'd left her by a babbling brook to walk as far as the waterfall. On returning, I found her in a similar state as I had found my friend. Not wishing to talk to me but just that the brook had spoken to her in some fashion. Also on the way back to her house she'd asked me not to talk to her until that evening when she had poured through a dictionary of old Celtic, after which she told me that she had received a blessing, that was all.

So you gather from the above that I am drawn to water and old sacred places. And to jump to the present, this summer, in two of my workshops in The Sibillini mountains in Italy, I took participants to rivers and waterfalls associated with the old nature religions; to paint and photograph and to write poetry. Stranger things indeed, creative things, which manifested themselves in quite astounding work and the experience of which has had a profound effect on the folks involved.
Nowadays, we call these experiences mindfulness and re-wilding the self, but I have noticed that these experiences cannot be sought after and I never, ever put these notions into people's minds beforehand; this I must emphasise. They simply just happen when we are in that state of receptiveness which is most powerful when we are absorbed in the rhythms of nature. They come to us.

Let me leave you with a quote by Oliver Sacks

'The primeval, the sublime, are much better words here — for they indicate realms remote from the moral or the human, realms which force us to gaze into immense vistas of space and time, where the beginnings and originations of all things lie hidden. Now, as I wandered in the cycad forest on Rota, it seemed as if my senses were actually enlarging, as if a new sense, a time sense, was opening within me, something which might allow me to appreciate millennia or eons as directly as I had experienced seconds or minutes.'

You can follow Michael's Blogs here
And click here for workshops coming up in painting, photography, ceramics, poetry and more

(above photo Duncan Campbell)