John Muir was born in Dunbar. He wrote wonderful diaries of his wilderness explorations. He was a farmer, inventor, botanist, geologist, explorer, mountaineer, writer and pioneer of nature conservation. He founded the national parks in the USA. Did I mention I like him? I quoted John thoughout my Greeneleith wilderness exploration scholarship.
On Saturday, we went for a wilderness exploration right here in Leith. We journeyed along the bike tracks from the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop all the way to the John Muir Grove at the Botanic Gardens.
As we walked and talked we shared John Muir facts starting with the phrase “My mate John Muir” (I like facts too). Something suprizing awaited us at five ways junction, there was a man with a guitar and he sung about our John. It was brilliant.
On the way back we had a new task, it was to make a punk John Muir song. We each took a photo of something ‘wild’ with the digital camera and we all recorded a sound with the dictaphone. Over lunch our walk facilitator Rocca Gutteridge stitched the sounds and sites together in a soundscape (the word song doesn’t quite do it justice).
Tribute to John Muir on Youtube
My photo is the purple flowers taking over the old red telephone box, it reminded me of exploring nature taking over in Warriston Cemetery. My sound is someone walking past (I did try to get birds but they shut up whenever I help the dicterphone towards them).
After lunch we had an introducation to the Steep Trail project, our Art Eco Lab is part of a physical and metaphorical journey up the East coast of Scotland through Art Eco Labs. The project is a colloboration between Polarcap, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Fife Contemporary Art and Crafts. Chris Fremantle has writen more about the project on eco/art/scotland.
Lastly we watched short informal presentations from the lab attendees including local artist Natalie Taylor who cast a pregnat woman in soil and grew potatoes from her belly and Emma Herman Smith who grafitied golden bees around Austrialia and sailed seed boats down the Water of Leith with artist Andrea Geile. It was fascinating to explore their creative concepts and see how environmental themes inspired their work. I did a short presentation on GreenerLeith and my interests in art, science, writing, the environment (and John Muir).
Here’s what Polarcap Director Liz Adamson said about the Leith Lab:
“I thought today was terrific, time flew past, bringing people together who had never met each other, scientists, artist, under the umbrella that we believe John Muir is a cultural leader and that we should examine his legacy and see what we can learn from it.”
The Steep Trail Eco Lab project culminates in a conference, exhibition and publication next year. Our Leith Eco lab was just one stop on what’s set to be an exciting Scottish journey.
Image Credit Emily Dodd