Inesa Vėlavičiūtė has created a series of creative responses to Canalside Stories, a series of four workshops brought by Fountainbridge Canalside Community Trust and creative practitioners as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2023. The workshops invited people to creatively explore and experience the value and role of green and blue spaces in looking after and improving mental health. 

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

William Butler Yeats

At the start of the workshop we are encouraged to let our senses tap into nature’s grand design through the art of noticing. There’s much to observe and enjoy in the changing of the seasons. Encapsulating everything we see, hear and smell at the given time, we deepen our bodies and minds’ ability to tune into the micro-moments woven into the fabric of the world’s landscape and people’s lives.

Next, we move on to exploring the plants, large and small, around us, their interesting forms and shapes. We look at the seeds, finding childlike wonder, and discussing their vital role in sustaining life as we know it. There’s something almost magical about looking at these microscopic marvels… the fact you have to lean in close to view them and engage with them creates a kind of intimate personal discovery, as if observing a world within a world. We are also told how to save and sow these seeds from the plants we encounter along the way.

Collage of photographs taken during a creative workshop inspired by seeds.

We talk about stories and the power they hold over how we understand the organic rhythm of life. We gather them while walking along the side of the canal and thinking about the lessons the plants share about the innate wisdom of nature as we transition from autumn into winter. They remind us about the importance of rest and re-emergence, a constant change and resilience. And maybe, they’re also reminding us that while we might sometimes feel small and our presence in the world unimportant, we too, individually and collectively, can make a difference.

To celebrate the beauty of nature and the change it inspires, I’ve put together a small garden of my own: the collages are made out of dried leaves and flowers, decorated with metallic colour pens, and seeds.

Collage made from decorated dried leaves and seeds, with the handwritten title "Where the Wild Things Grow".

Inesa Vėlavičiūtė is a Talking Heads volunteer living in Edinburgh. A translator and ESL teacher as well as visual theatre and puppetry critic, she is passionate about words, storytelling and communication around mental health and other social issues we face. Wanting to contribute her skills to build an informed, sustainable and caring society we all want to live in, she currently also works for Community Justice Scotland on the Restorative Justice service project delivery. You can follow her on Twitter @IVelaviciute and Facebook.

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