Artist in Residence – Calmscape

Artist in Residence – Calmscape

This post is for everyone needing to relax during the conference, specifically written to accompany the Mindfulness Hour pop-up event on Thursday 29th April at 17:00 CEST.


Amidst the chaos of a conference, it can be hard to find peace, to stop and switch off. If you know where to look, even the hubbub. hustling, bustling corridors of the Austria Center hides a place of calm. Dart through the crowds, zip and zigzag against the termite procession, quickly now, down and around the corner that nobody turns, the distant din diminishing behind you, until you see a door. Next to the door is a plaque. It reads “Viennirvana”.

The heavy fire door swings open with surprising ease. Step through. Silently, gently, the door behind you swings shut.

You feel a warm breeze on your cheeks. Petrichor, precious, earth scent ascends to your sense of smell and deep into your soul. The breeze through the trees, a hushing, shushing susurrus, glides gently through the air, entwined with birdsong, to reach yours ears, pushing down through to your feet. You open your eyes, green, blue, pastel in hue, surrounding you. Pluck a ripe fruit from the tree, cherry, plum, apricot, mirabelle, savour the miracle flavour.

Breathe in. Breathe, really breathe. Inhale so deep that your world becomes the smell of damp soil after rainfall, the smell of spring. Let it go.

Look around you. The trees immerse you, surround you with ancient knowledge. They have stood here through deep time, diverse, boreal rainforest, canopy-shyness drawing dendritic drainage networks in the sky. Oak, ash, beech and birch, elm, whitebeam, alder. The floor is littered with leaves, beech mast, acorns. Through the litter, dew-tipped ribbons of thin leaves poke up, topped by bluebells, wood anemone, snowdrops, a thick shag-pile of pale blue woven with wonderous white.

The crunching of leaf below your feet subsides as you stop to drink it all in. Stop, feel, not with your touch, but with your entire sensory system. Feel, really feel.

Warm, fluted melodies tumble down from high branches, blackbird song, nightingale harmony, an aria of great tit, chaffinch, blackcap, goldcrest. Feathered opus, soft yet viscous, slowing you down, slowing your heart rate as it flows through your veins.

Breathe, really breathe.

It has just stopped raining, the air is pleasantly humid, like a tropical greenhouse. Butterflies whirl and wheel playfully between branch and bough, alighting on gnarled trunks of bark-paved oak to flutter their wings at you, every colour glistening, swirling around and around on their gossamer wings, a mesmeric beauty.

Feel, really feel.

Keep breathing deeply, slow everything down until you notice every facet of the forest. You lie down in a deep bank of grass, there is no pollen here. As your body and mind relax and unwind, the ancient wisdom of the trees flows through your outstretched fingers, absorbed into your brain, ready to solve complex geoscientific problems. This is your calmscape.

Reinvigorated, emerge into the corridors of the Austria Center, but this time, you float on a sea of tranquillity through the building, a calm wave. Your mind is empty of anguish and anxiety, ready to receive facts and figures, to learn and process, to deliberate and discuss, to advance geosciences.

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Geologist for offshore renewables, and author using creative writing to emotively communicate geosciences for a sustainable future. Artist (not) in Residence for #vEGU21.

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