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Confluences: On Endings

Welcome to Confluences, a weekly column on art, kinship and life. Each week we approach one of the themes of the magazine’s current print issue by looking at a creative event, endeavour or body of work that links to that theme and taps into a larger conversation with the world around us.

In her poem Everything Has Two Endings, Jane Hirshfield writes: “Everything has two endings— / a horse, a piece of string, a phone call.”

I take this to mean that endings are actually - though they may not superficially appear to be - a sign of connection. To end requires having begun, having existed, having mattered.

It’s the end of an era for this column. For the past two years, it’s been my distinct pleasure to write a weekly dispatch: first as an email newsletter under the name The Rhizome, and more recently in the form of this online column, Confluences. In my very first Rhizome newsletter, I wrote: “We’re all connected, to each other and to the earth, whether or not we admit it. That’s the guiding principle behind the name of this newsletter. In botany, rhizomes are plant stems running horizontally through soil, sending out roots and shoots. A rhizome is the central subterranean hub of a plant, connecting that which is seemingly disparate. The philosophers Deleuze and Guattari were inspired by this concept - their definition of rhizomatic philosophy envisions knowledge as something multiplicitous, expansive, and egalitarian. Rhizomatically speaking (in both botany and philosophy), systems are holistically connected.”

Two years and exactly 100 columns since writing those words, I look back with pride at the breadth and depth of creative ideas, practitioners, and conversations that have been drawn into connection as part of this rhizomatic network - as part of this confluence. All things come to an end, but perhaps - as Hirshfield writes - they come to two ends, one of which isn’t really an ending at all, because what we think about, and engage in, lives on within us.

As we wrap up, I’m thinking about how I’ve been changed by writing this column. I come away with a keener awareness of how art, nature and our varied experiences of both are all irrevocably intertwined. Scratch that: they are not only intertwined but are also, more often, the same thing. I used to think the key question was how to live responsibly and thoughtfully, as a human, amongst the natural world. Now I see that we are part of the natural world, and the natural world is part of us. If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s to dissolve that distinction in my mind; instead, to understand (as Daiara Tukano told me in a previous column) that “the Earth is a living organism”.

How to live well on Earth? Ultimately that’s the question that this column, in its various and meandering shapes and ways, has always been asking and seeking answers to. With or without a weekly column, I know I will continue to ask this question of myself and the world around me, and to catalogue the myriad understandings it can bring. In all this asking, I’ve become even more curious about the world. I wish the same for you, too.

Going forward, I'll continue to write on the intersection of arts and environment for various publications. You can keep up-to-date on what I'm working on by following me on Instagram or Twitter.

And if you've particularly enjoyed the columns I've written on poetry, please take a gander at Field Guide: my Substack newsletter on poetry through the lens of ecopoetics/spiritual ecology, where I will continue to tackle these ongoing questions about living in, and as, nature. I hope to see some of you there.

Signing off with care and appreciation,

Madeleine

Columnist

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