Who - or what? - is Fern Hill?
Here's the background on an intimate concept I have begun to express in different ways.
Fern Hill is my mind palace.
Have you ever heard of a mind palace? It is a memory technique which dates to Ancient Greece, a time long before the printing press which largely replaced many individuals’ method of storing information.
If you think about a library of books with the titles facing out in reference to the many words within a book; or if you think about icons on the desktop of a computer, which simulate actual objects and papers on a real desktop, that's a sort of representational virtualization.
In a mind palace, your brain is the storage device rather than the writing on paper in a book or the electronic p.c. of a desktop application. In practice, a single room in this imagined palace would be used as a memory device to store a poem, for instance, and as you recite the poem, each line is cued by the various objects placed about the room - so that fragments result in a whole, reconstructed from representational cues. Like remembering a really, really long password.
And so, a mind palace is an imagined place stocked with virtual cues to memories symbolized in the kind of objects found in the kind of imagined room. And you can have as many rooms as you need to remember what you are willing to store. So you reconstruct in your mind a real place, with walls and objects, and each object is a cue to say facts or ideas you have memorized by virtualized association.
I learned about this concept from Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In college, I was listening to this series on audio books on librivox.org. I was always making things with my hands as my degree is in Craft/Material Studies. Quite often there'd be repetitive tasks, and there are quite a few Sherlock Holmes stories, so I listened to the multiple series on librivox.org. I admit to being a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan girl and I think that this interest has served me well for a number of reasons associated with cognition and observation.
This idea of the mind palace is one of my favorite correlations with the works and it relates closely to focused intention and the use we can all have for harnessing our imagination. Sherlock Holmes has been adapted into lots of TV shows and movies and one of my favorites is the modern BBC rendition.
And there was one episode in which Sherlock finally finds the mansion of his nemesis. And so Sherlock Sherlock bursts into this particular room and, and he knows it's it's going to be full of computers and, those sorts of complicated paper mind maps up on the wall that will help the hero figure out what the villain will do next next.
And he burst into this this control room, this command center, and it's nothing but an empty White Room with a chair because the bad guy is just imagining all of these things in his own mind palace, called Appledore in the case of this BBC rendition if you're interested.
And Fern Hill for me is my mind palace and I'm just beginning to populate it. It is based on the actual place where I grew up. There was a stream between two steep hills. And it is a sandy bottomed stream and there are trees all around and the sunlight is dappled through the leaves. And there are lush ferns all along the banks and tangled laurels and furry woodland creatures that would hide from a kid like me growing up, but in my mind, nowadays, my enhanced hippocampus, I imagine different creatures.
This is my safe place, and it’s where I go for grounding exercises, imagining the networks of roots and mycelia and all the microbiota and the freshness of the leaves above with the silt of healthy composting soil.
I’ve began to share stories that I've written, comics that I've drawn, starring these creatures, these non human entities. And it's all me just as much as I am Fern Hill. Our human bodies are super organisms, like the earth is host to us, so too we are host to many microbiological entities which aren’t human but allow us to be healthy in the world.
Fern Hill is a super organism, a particular ancient magical place I carry with me, even as I am it - possessed by the spirit of the trees and the fresh water bubbled up from an ancient aquifer. Fern hill is simply an anthropomorphized Hill covered with ferns, home and alter ego in one. A hypersigil, hopeful representation that I am working to develop by listening to my quiet voice and following these creatures’ stories in my sketchbooks, as they reveal them to me through my chosen skillset of comics.
And the project I'm working on now is really coming into that and using my imaginative powers to help explain things about cultivating emotional resilience, curiosity and courage through journaling, and radical self-love and honesty through art and daily inner dialogue - these things that I take for granted like the air I breathe, though so much effort went in to generating these concepts which have gotten me through some serious existential funk.
And so if I have these other creatures, these other beings who say things or narrate stories, it's easier for me to speak in a their voice to help simplify ideas that I would otherwise say in too many words with weird vocabulary that's very specific to me, my internal dialogue.
So Fern Hill is very much me, I am very much Fern Hill, and all the different creatures are aspects of myself or my experience as a very sensitive, observant person who's done a lot of internal work made external via creative expression.
So this is all so fresh and it's in development, and my art always is, this way that I’m expressing the consciousness of the universe which I have access to is my current manifestation of following the Journal Stew method.
And that's a glimpse into what Fern Hill is for me. It's my mind palace. It's my way to use imagination so that I can break down complex ideas and not get too tangled up in the nuances, in order to lay the more abstract groundwork so that you can follow along with me toward more nuance.
I want to share what I've learned because I think it can be really helpful for other people and hopefully for you. So thanks for listening. That is all for now. Happy journaling