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ordinary gifts

Gleann a' Phúca

The Six Artist Propositions for Gleann a’ Phúca

Ordinary Gifts

Like many people I have been thinking a lot over the past few years about how we can profoundly change the ways we experience and act toward ‘ The Greater Community of Life’ and cultivate a more respectful attitude. The looming threat of climate change adds an urgency but also brings anxiety that I have learned through many years as an activist is not always conductive to creative responses and solutions.
So how do we encourage the kind of relationship with other life forms that allows us to feel joy-full, empowered and willing to take action ?
This project addresses these questions in relation to the Glen River that runs through The Glen River Park a much used and well-loved semi-wild area on the North side of Cork City.

Elinor Rivers ordinary gifts Poster

River Rights

I have been Inspired by the world wide movement supported by the Universal Declaration of River Rights 2017 to give legal personhood to rivers while looking to Irish mythology and folklore that records that rivers here were once personified as Goddesses and Gods
Through experiencing a series of creative art and science based activities which will take play along the river over one year with groups and individuals from the local area I aim to encourage participants to deepen their perception and sensitivity, increase their understanding of and create a richer relationship with the river and its water.
Ultimately the aim of the project is that people will become advocates for the river which will include rethinking what is discharged as greywater from households and taking action on local sources of pollution in the river.

Tears of The River

Activities include Water Divining as a tool to reclaim and experience the inherent sensitivity to water as a human ability. A walk with a botanist / herbalist to observe plant life along the banks and water course including the water cleansing abilities of reed beds and Sensory walks focusing on listening and smelling as well as observing. There will be a performative event ‘Tears of the River’ which will highlight pollution at one spot. The project will culminate in a walk to the rivers source for a picnic and sharing of local knowledge and folklore with music and poetry. As the area around the Source was traditionally one for Traveller encampments this would be an important element of this community sharing.

Advocates for the River

Through a series of Sensory, creative, science based and celebratory activities spread over one year I intend to enable and encourage participants to increase their sensitivity and perception and knowledge and understanding of the life of the river.
Ultimately the aim is that people will become advocates for the Glen River and rethink what is discharged from their homes as grey water while becoming more aware of local sources of pollution in the river.
We also intend to look at the International movement for the rights of rivers and Environmental personhood through the Universal Declaration of River Rights 2017 while looking at the relationship we have to rivers in Ireland through the lens of mythology and folklore.

About Elinor Rivers

Elinor Rivers has worked as a socially engaged artist with a wide range of groups and organisations largely on Cork City’s north side, for over twenty-five years . This work has ranged from photography projects that deconstructed the medical model of disability through the sharing and discussion of images taken by people with disabilities, to programs that raised awareness of local ecologies through activities that focused participants on micro environments.

She has created several large-scale land-based projects including the Cork Mandala of Community Gardens project, which was commissioned for Cork European Capital of Culture 2005, which she co-managed/facilitated over three years. It’s aim was to seed the concept of community gardens in Cork City and work with communities in urban council housing estates, schools and residential centers to create gardens. More recently she has worked on the PLoT socially engaged art project with Artists Marilyn Lennon and Colette Lewis which explores the uses and ownership of urban land 200 years in the future and investigating the possibilities of Community Land Trusts.

She brings a strong ethos of participatory practice and methodologies to her work and projects that comes in part from having engaged in grass roots social and environmental activism for many years. Over the years of working with groups through art and horticulture she has experimented with the use of sensory ‘art games’ and exercises which increase visual and sensory awareness and sensitivity, often witnessing a profound shift in participants’ perception, understanding and enjoyment of the natural world.

Elinor has also worked as a social, political and environmental activist for many years primarily at a grassroots level often combining this work with her art practice through installations, interventions and DIY publishing.

As an artist who has spent her life experiencing the world through the lens of dyslexia she is interested in exploring Neuro Diversity and states of consciousness in her practice and with other artists.

Glen Water Day 5 November 2023

Ordinary Gifts Event 1

A flyer for the Glen Water day event
A flyer for the Glen Water day event

Glen Water Day Sunday 5th November 2023

On this the first session of ‘Ordinary Gifts The River’ I led an introduction to Water Divining using various devices, following a walk with Herbalist and Botanist Jo Goodyear. The aim was to get a good feel for divining, what works for each individual and how it feels in the body leading to a greater sense of our electro magnetic sensitivities and inherent connections with ‘the greater community of life’

Resources for further exploration:

Girl water diviner (1954 ) You Tube

Jack Maloney Irish Diviner Film by artist Michael Fortune

There are countless other excellent and fascinating videos to explore online.

Drawings illustrating how to hold divining rods

Water divining

This little book is an excellent introduction to divining – published in 1980 but available online.

Discovering Dowsing and Divining by Peter Naylor
The art of dowsing or divining – the tracing of underground water, minerals, pipes or cables – has fascinated people for centuries and today there is a renewed interest in the subject. This book is intended to help the would-be dowser to enter into the mystery of dowsing. The book sets out to prove that anyone can dowse, and it also dispels the commonly accepted myths that dowsing is a gift enjoyed by a few practitioners, that it is always associated with water and that hazel twigs are the only media.

The cover of a Book "Dowsing and Divining

Blog Post about the Glen Water Day

See the blog post  about The Glen Water Day here


a photograph of purple jelly fungi on an oak stumpstump

World Wetlands Day 4 February 2024

Ordinary Gifts Event 2

A flyer for World Wetlands Day event in the Glen Park
The flyer for World Wetlands Day event in the Glen Park

World Wetlands Family Event in the Glen

The second event for ‘Ordinary Gifts The River’ was an experiential workshop that explored 3 tools for resetting ourselves to a receptive sensitive  beingness  in order to deepen our perception of the River as a living entity.
A deep listening exercise aimed to extend our attention while benefiting from the rivers gifts ie the affects of the sound of rushing water on the brain (Blue Mind ) The exposure to negative ions created by turbulence of the water and the enchanted air quality among them.
The website for Pauline Oliveros ,the originator of the term Deep Listening

The traditions and more recent Art approaches to leaving gifts of flowers and natural materials in resonant places.

An introduction to artist Andy Goldsworthy
The tradition of sacred Rangoli in India for example
And well dressing in Northern England a bit more formal !
For  the third tool see water divining under the first Ordinary Gifts event

Blog Post about Glen Wetlands Day

See the Blog post about Ordinary Gifts Wetlands Day in the Glen here

a photo of the Brigid's cross mandala

SLOW Walk worls Water Weekend 23 March

Ordinary Gifts Event 3

A poster announcing the Slow Walk event
SLOW Walk Poster

The 'Ordinary Gifts The River'  World Water Day Event

We practised four activities that were designed to shift our consciousness in various ways and create a joyful state of mind.
A Slow Silent walk preceded by a simple short meditation
Walk slowly, be aware of your breath and your feet’s contact with the earth with each step. Notice your thoughts but let them go. If you feel too distracted to pay full attention to the environment stop and direct attention to a plant, a tree, the water or a creature looking intently and or listening until your attention shifts.
We walked for around 20 minutes but choose a duration that suits. You will be amazed by how differently you perceive the world. Many people experience more vivid colour, sharper sounds and a timelessness among other lovely sensations.
There are traditions of this practice all around the world often in a religious context. meditation
Walking a labyrinth in Catholic and other traditions
The longer version of a pilgrimage in every spiritual practice
 and a Tai Chi practice that I do myself.

Blind Drawing river currents

We followed the walk with Blind Drawing the currents in the river. This is a variation on Blind Contour drawing a practice used by artists to deepen attention when drawing often used as a warm up or as a way to improve drawing technique as in ‘Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain’ a classic book by Betty Edwards
We simply focused on the patterns of currents in the river while tracing them on a sheet paper on a board without looking at the drawing.

Story Sharing

Following the blind drawing we gently eased back to a more linear verbal state by sharing early memories of wild water and our relationships to it.
A photo of a pencil drawing on paper

Boat Making  (Prayer Boats in some cultures)

Finally we brought our ‘Childish’ Joyful selves into play by making small boats from a collection of materials Bark (which floats really well ! ) bamboo, twigs, leaves and feathers among them. A sharp spike and awl and some fine twine are handy for construction but let your creativity loose ! as we launched them we sent an intention down river.

Blog post about SLOW walk

See Julie’s blog about the Ordinary Gifts SLOW walk  here

World Water Weekend SLOW walk

A photo of a toy boat made from bark and corks floating on water in the rain