RUTH LE GEAR – WATER HEALER – AQUATIC ALCHEMIST – HYBRID ARTIST
Ruth le Gear is a hybrid artist working at the interface of nature, water remedy intervention, and environmental art. Her work has emerged from a unique combination of research, collaboration and fieldwork based around water and its potential, held within various water bodies from Arctic Icebergs, the Baltic sea and Irish lakes and waterfalls. I met her at her art studio at the Model in Sligo on the north-west coast of Ireland. We discovered a shared attraction to water’s healing properties and how that has shaped our personal journey. The sea is our sanctuary and we have woven that innate water connection into how we live and work, in different ways. I was excited to learn more about Ruth’s creative healing process, and how she moves through life like water.
What is lighting you up right now, what are you most excited by?
Water makes me sparkle on so many levels, diving in mostly but also making remedies from water and seeing their potentials unfold and how that ripples out into the world, through land work with the water remedies as well as treating people with them. I am currently working with my love Graham Reid on creating glass vessels for holding these water remedies (which range from Arctic iceberg remedies to Irish lake water remedies) so that people can wear them. He’s a master glassblower and I am just so excited about the potential of these orbs.
I am also hugely excited about collaboration in all its forms. It can be tricky at times, as ego and ownership are often the first things to raise their heads, but it is also very rewarding I am very excited to be working with Kaitlin Bryson in the new year, we met on a Land Arts of the American west expedition last year and are going to collaborate in January when she travels from the New Mexico desert to the North West of Ireland. We will work with the waters of the San Juan river which I collected last year.
Kaitlin and I were both profoundly affected by learning of Gold King Mine Spill and its outcomes. Through group reflections and our own private discussions, we realized that our complimentary art practices and epistemological perspectives could be connected to draw attention to the spill and demonstrate how artwork can heal both lands and people to ultimately help revitalize impacted communities.
What is challenging you right now what are you most exhausted by?
Exhaustion is actually my biggest challenge and something I am very familiar with. I have been sick since I was 15 after receiving a vaccine. Everyone gets exhausted, from life, from the threatening shadows that surround us in the world, from climbing a mountain or a late night with friends. For me this is an entirely different exhaustion that is a part of my illness. I almost wish there was another word to describe it. I had two swims in one day last year. I swam in Glenade in the morning and later in the day pushed myself to swim to inis free because my friends were (I hate missing out on swims) I can nearly always do it at the time but I pay for it afterwards. That extra 8 minutes in the water set me back about 5 weeks. 5 weeks where not much happened, I didn’t swim or work, I was not happy. I was just in pain and battling a fever. People often say to me oh I would love to spend as much time resting as you do and I often just smile and take a deep breath because its not resting, its not cosy, it is painful and miserable but I have given up on explaining this most of the time. At the beginning of my journey with all this exhaustion, I began to collect tears. I was very interested in homeopathy and water memory and I was interested to see if there was an emotional content held within a tear. I was in college at the time, studying sculpture in GMIT and I had a bed in my studio so I could be there (I lived right beside the college) I collected tears from myself and from the public, I created these little tear collecting packages and sent them to people, who returned them to me. I then made a remedy from them. This piece teardrops in wonderscape is still my favorite piece which I have created. There is a surface tension which holds the waters inside, this invisible threshold just waiting to drop, a weight of water that should fall upon you but does not. Tears have the same composition as sea water and amniotic fluid. This was the beginning of my journey in so many ways to give expression to my path, my pain and exhaustion and to try and understand it as a remedy, in homeopathy you treat like with like, I wanted to see what the equal opposite of all this might be and to create work. I need to create in order to exist in this world. Even though I am a lot better than I was 17 years ago, I still get exhausted and time is always my challenge.
What is it that you are most afraid of? What might your world look like if you gave into that fear?
Speaking my truth is my biggest fear but I am slowly learning that the more I do it the more the right people listen, and the people who I fear judgment from are not my tribe. Being an artist allows me a lot of freedom of expression. There are a lot of definitions of an artist and I feel that Joseph Campbell’s idea of artist as mythmaker is the one that resonates with me most. The shaman is the person who has in his late childhood, early youth, could be male or female, had an overwhelming psychological experience that turns them totally inward. The whole unconscious has opened up and they’ve fallen into it. He wrote about the role of artist as shaman and the decline of ritual in today’s society. Campbell explains how ancient myths were designed to “put the mind in accord with the body, and the way of life in accord with the way nature dictates.” As one example, Campbell explains how myths bring humans to understand and accept birth, growth and death. He speaks of an old romantic idea, in German, das Volktische. That’s that the poetry of the traditional cultures and the ideas come out of an experience, the experience of people, whose ears are open to the song of the universe. And they speak to the folk and there is an answer from the folk which is then received, there’s an interaction, but the first impulse comes from above, not from below.
I like this and in my practice I work in a shamanic way. I speak to water, I work with spirit. I have conversations with places and I listen, listening to the mystical, mythical and metaphysical forces that act upon and interact with water on Earth. My work explores water memory and waters’ potential. I use methods of homeopathy in order to release the stories and potential from the waters. I wish to open up the landscape
to different ways of interpretation and exploration of ways of being- there are multiple and competing interpretations afloat in the world.
I actually can’t imagine a world where I did not do this work, which makes me smile and realize there is no fear.
Also I have a fear of not being able to swim, when I was in New Mexico last year I faced this. The San Juan river was so polluted from the 2015 Gold King Mine Spill near Silverton, Colorado. During the disaster, over 3 million gallons of mining waste water spilled into the Animas, polluting it with highly toxic and dangerous heavy metals. In the years since, little has been done to reverse these impacts, and much of these metals still line the river bottom, often getting stirred into the water stream and poisoning aquatic life. I arrived there thinking mostly of myself. I was hot, at altitude and way out of my element in the desert. When I saw that we were camping by a river my heart soared and I thought I would swim but I could not.
I was devastated by this, it looked cool and calm and in lots of ways I just wanted to jump in but alas no, by just collecting a water sample from the river my whole hand hurt for days.
The local Navajo people view water as a living being. They could not use the waters for many their ceremonies that hold their way of life. They also could not drink the water or use it on their farms. There are so many alternatives to mining and fracking and all the things that are destroying these lands and rivers, there are no alternatives to water.
What does the sea mean to you?
Sanctuary, the sea really is my spiritual home. I begin to feel very far from myself if I have not seen the sea in a few weeks never mind not swimming in it. Salt water, tears and amniotic fluids, all spaces of holding nurturing and letting go. The water on this planet is also a way of communicating with ourselves and our waters. We are mostly water so being in a body of water is the best place to listen to ourselves I feel.
I swim in the water and the deeper I go into its world the clearer my being becomes. It is a magical place that lifts layers and layers off you once you enter the water. Swimming in the water is a part of my practice, even on freezing cold winter days. Diving into a icy lake or the sea and pulling myself out seconds later leaves me with the brightest smile on my face.
Sometimes I think it is the cold that shocks my body into feeling really alive and sparkly. This in part may be true but there is an energy in the place that I have an affinity to; it calls to my being and restores me. Being in water is a spiritual home for me; I can reconnect with myself by going to the water.
Do you have an early memory of the sea that stands out for you?
Running into the sea.
I grew up in Limerick near the Shannon and we used to spend all our weekends and summers or what felt like my entire early childhood in Spanish point. Driving there we used to play a game to see who could see the sea first, and looking out from the back of the van we would shout I see the SEA! As a family we have a particular way of entering the water or so I am told. We run at it and gather all that energy up to meet an oncoming wave which we dive under – meeting the waters. There is nothing that matches that feeling for me, when you surface, it lifts everything I don’t want to me holding and fills me with joy. I have been recognised as a descendant of Tess Canavan by the way I enter the water, my great grandmother who swam everyday in Salthill. The smallest cousins in our family have the same movements, the same joy and the same expression in the water.
We tend to celebrate out family rituals in in the sea (water) Sea swims at christenings, birthdays, just a picnic or swims in the river after a funeral. There is something fascinating about joining people in the water. Sometimes there can be 30 of us in there and sometimes by oneself you can feel connected to all those gulves all those dips, meeting that same energy when you meet a wave.
How do you see the connection between water and y(our) health and well being?
The work with the water remedies has been transformational for me. To be able to work with landscape as well as people has allowed me to work from a place of connection with spirit which is really important to me. My first conversation with a place is with the waters. The time I spent in the Arctic in 2012 was the most profound experience that has left me continually searching for ways to return there; it was the closest place to a spiritual home I have experienced.
I spent my time on a tall ship travelling around Svalbard, a remote archipelago between the north of Norway and the North Pole. I had always wanted to go there and experience the primal purity of the icebergs and the wilderness. It wasa pivotal point in my practice. I had been exploring the landscape through methodologies of homeopathy, unraveling stories and emotions from the land. I wanted to start making remedies from water, seeing as the process of homeopathy involves serial dilutions. There is a paradox in this somehow, to make a water remedy with water. I decided that if I was going to do this and make water remedies, then icebergs were the water I would start to make them from. There was something in me awaiting to see the icebergs, and
the experience outshone that of seeing the Northern lights, which was otherworldly and sublime. While on board the
ship I felt like I was internalising everything delicately. It was a pure crystalline environment we were immersed in. The importance of simple moments became more apparent. I collected a number of iceberg and seawater samples throughout the journey and made water remedies from them. These intimately scaled ice and water remedies are poetic and theoretical as well as being catalysts for healing within the waters.
I made one remedy from the waters just after a glacier had birthed an Iceberg, which is releasing the past and bearing witness to the last phase of its life. This remedy is like a gently comforting, lasting embrace. It is for people who work with others, who are likely to attract strong challenges from diverse and sometimes dark energies from time to time. As well as this there is the global situation that is increasingly shrouded in threatening shadows. This calving glacier remedy provides a soul shield protection on multiple levels while helping us to bring the light we carry within safely through with strength and certainty.
The Iceberg water collected at Magdalene fjord in Gravneset has the most majestic energy; this was the first remedy
to be given to Glenade lough. I made a remedy from the iceberg waters. As a remedy this iceberg seems to be universal and needed by all, in particular this water body.
Its potential properties for those that wish to take it are far ranging. It raises consciousness of those that take the remedy and grounds them. It brings clarity to those that take the remedy. It also works with all the waters in the body, and has a capacity to release emotions that have stagnated in the landscape. The remedy enables deep rest. I started working with the Magdalena water remedy in Glenade, Leitrim when I first arrived there in September of 2013. I start by having conversations with the waters, remedy treatments as such, and then giving specific Iceberg remedies to the waters in frozen form. The Magdalena remedy resonates with the hidden path and after working with the waters in Glenade over the last few years it is interesting to see that the two remedies are resonant with each other and how both have brought me on such a journey. This all culminated in a book/box/publication which I launched earlier in the year called Water Senses. Water Senses is a boxed publication which contains a unique water remedy, a booklet, a series of postcards and a map. First edition print of 100.
One of the seven remedies that I made from Glenade is the Heartache remedy :
What are the consequences of not speaking out? What are the consequences of guilt, shame, and doubt?
This essence is for those who feel they are not seen or heard; a deep heartache that comes from not speaking one’s truth. Your silences will not protect you. This remedy helps to give a voice to that silence. The speaking will get easier and easier and you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realised you had. This remedy is a helpful relief in these challenging circumstances. What is most important is that your truth must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. The issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that we can still run into those demands whenever we try to find and use our voices. There is a sense of an upward lift that comes with taking this remedy: it opens the crown chakra. This is a very helpful essence when self-confidence is needed, and helps one to move forward with projects and goals. It provides a liberating feeling as we move out of old patterns of defensiveness into universal connectedness through the waters and into a pattern of endless flow.
What does it mean to be like water?
Water holds the emotions of the landscape, distilled down the mountain into the lake and out to the sea. Water is altered by everything that has passed through it, in its chemical nature as well as alchemical and its capacity for influencing us. The present is linked with the past and the future through waters.
Implicit in my work is the idea that water is an element deserving much greater consideration than it is currently given. I think that the manner in which water is regarded and mistreated in the contemporary global sphere typifies the general condition of our self-destructive techno rational society and our relationship with the spirituality that is intrinsic to natural phenomena. Water to me shows what we can otherwise never quite take in, the submerged, the visible and the invisible. The universe reflects itself through the waters. The water remedy work has transformative powers, which subvert determined physical structures by inviting a growing awareness of the imperceptible and temporal forces that surround the human.
What does it mean to be a woman who runs with waves?
I feel it is a privilege, to be able to swim, to do this work. To listen to the waters and go with the flow, to follow the work and see where it leads you. This is something I have learned along the way, to really listen and take myself out of it, and then one winds up with the most magical outcomes. To be a part of the waters is the most magical thing.
Follow Ruth on Instagram @arctic_dreaming
To find your own water remedy check out these beautiful glass orb creations: celestialaquatics.com