Noel Ashton - A Life of Creativity with Purpose
Who am I in this infinite universe of circling suns and stars...
I have travelled deep into the African wilderness, not in search of big game or the latest kill, but rather to venture into the silent landscape and to seek its voice, to listen to the song of the wind, to taste the dew upon the lips of the dawn, and to then sit under the rising full moon and ask who am I in this infinite wilderness of circling suns and stars.
But first I had to find a route back into wilderness from a world that has forgotten the way...
So I learned to walk in the footsteps of the custodians of the first stories, the San peoples who also followed these sandy tracks across the landscapes of time, and in the silence I listened for their whisper in the grasses, and sought their way of connecting to the infinity of now. And as an artist I looked through the eyes of the painters who left the extraordinary gallery of images upon the weathered rocks, of the mighty eland and the passage of game moving between this world and the next, and I saw that I must look at them with fresh eyes.
And in the first light I sought the tracks in the sand and followed them into the lives of the mongoose, the genet, and the elusive porcupine. I walked in the footsteps of the leopard, the baboon and of course, the mighty eland, and I began to know their stories as well. And slowly my spirit began to soar upon the call of a circling buzzard, and with the coming of the full African moon I made a fire and watched the world turn slowly towards another dawn.
I set off again, for the tracks that cross the landscapes are many, from shelter to water, from famine to feast, from valley to the highest peak, and there are some that follow a route to the edge of the distant sea, and here I encountered the greatest of mysteries, the giants of the oceans that appear and disappear each year, and I sought the stories of the whales and dolphins as a way to enter their world beneath the surface of the seas.
Along the way something extraordinary happened, for it was in nature that I started to understand what it means to be human, but to do this I had to leave the world of man, to quieten the wish to win, to compete and the persistent rush towards tomorrow. It was in the footsteps of our ancestors that I was reminded to slow down to the speed of walking, to listen to the sound between heartbeats, and to then seek out the memories in the ancient cultures across the globe that hold the truths of lives lived through countless generations of self discovery, for this is a whisper that comes from deep within the shared soul, and I knew that in listening I could find a pathway back to my own truth.
There were of course universities and places of learning, courses and accreditations, there were exhibitions and books, talks and interviews, but the real work was done in silence and alone, often in a cave high up in the mountains of the Cedarberg, in a place where the eland still leave footprints upon these sacred lands of the ancestors, where, sheltering under a rock overhang is a painting of people travelling across the landscape of their belonging.
And then I crossed the equator and entered the gentleness of the England countryside, and here I learned to look into the eyes of the fox, to listen to the call of the raven, and sought out the life of the forest and the hedgerows, for I had to learn again what it is to find my place, to read a landscape, to hear its songs and the melody of the seasons upon the leaf in the wind. And what I found was that, although the language was different, the song was the same, for it was the ancient rhythm of the earth in conversation with the sun and the moon.
It is an artwork that, like so many others in this remote and majestic place, invite us to pause and reflect, and it is to this cave that I often return to contemplate. And when I look back at the many pathways that brought me here, I have come to see that my own journey of life should not be judged by how far I have walked or where I have been, but rather by the questions I have asked along the way, for these have been the signposts that have offered me direction, and they have also become the cornerstones of what I seek to offer to the world.
For they are the signposts to my own belonging.
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