THE WOMAN AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD – a dialogue between nature/the living world and capitalism, in which we see capitalism transformed.

The woman in the Woods [Sara – nature/the living world]

The woman at the top of the World [Sally – capitalism]

[Sally] Earlier this year I had an email from local artist, Mari Writh, about an exhibition she was involved with about climate change, with an invitation to connect with Bob Gelsthorpe, the curator.

In conversation with Bob, the idea emerged to create an event series which saw a weaving of words through conversation, the collaborative creation of a spoken word poem and a performance of that poem.

Involve Earth: Poetry and Perspectives on Joy and Connection came into being. Heartfelt thanks to those of you who came to the conversations, offering your words as a contribution to the poem that we will perform today. I’m grateful for your openness and willingness to be involved in this artful playing, which I view as a form of climate action.

We’d like to open up a space for you to respond, and share, before we go home.

In the story that follows we find ourselves immersed in a conversation between nature, or as I prefer to say, the living world (played by The Woman in the Woods) and capitalism (played by The Woman at the Top of the World), who by some sublime twist of fate, have become friends.

The Woman at the Top of the World is dying, she knows she has to transform to live any longer, but she’s holding on tightly to the threads of the past.

The conversation, which is at times ironic, and encapsulated in the beauty and generosity of the living world, is an unfolding of The Woman at the Top of the World’s realisation, through the dialogue with The Woman in the Woods, that change would bring her into a kinder world, a world of longing, and belonging.

As we begin, we find The Woman at the Top of the World, alone, lost in the woods. What emerges when she happens upon the only other being she has seen for days and days? And the conversation unfolds…..

Setting the scene:

Sally goes upstairs on the balcony

Sara in front of drift rope, to the left, steps into a circle of wild flowers.

Two books (our lines)

One in a circle of wild flowers under the drift rope (Rebecca Wyn Kelly’s installation, Cuckoo Land), another hung from a long string.

We begin by seeing Sally pull the rope up to her, and open. 

Then Sara opens hers too.

Sara turns to the audience and says:

[SaraTo the audience

The wind blew in from the East

Carrying whispers.

The people hushed

Their tears, coming more now

For what has been lost

And cannot be recovered.

Whisper (loudly) to each other

[Sally] Lynx

[Sara] Wolf

[Sally] Elk

[Sara] Bison

[Sally] Tree frog

[Sara] Brown bear

[Sally] Great auk

[Sara] Grey whale

[Sally] Terrapin

[Sara] White stork

[Sally]  To the audience

The woman in the woods

Could see

The shift, the change, was coming.

[SaraTo Sally on the balcony

The Woman at the top of the World had other ideas

“You’ve had things to make things easy for you all along”

[Sally] To Sara

But we’ve just been settling in

Making ourselves comfortable.

[SaraTo Sally

You’ve made yourselves comfortable, alright

But you haven’t thought of the others while

You have been doing that.

Moorhen told me the other day that

She’s fed up with the blue plastic in her

Nest, because her chicks find it itchy.

Are you happy to be responsible for that?

[Sally] To Sara

We do not take our responsibilities lightly.

We have to organise society!

We have a job to do.

Our job is to privatise, create division, and accumulate wealth

Our market is free.

We create opportunities for individuals to earn, our role is liberation.

What would life be without all the choice?

What would Christmas be without all the shopping!

Our job is to make a profit.

[Sara] To Sally

But what is profit if you have no home?

Pause, whilst Sally comes downstairs to join Sara in front of the drift rope.

[Sally] To the audience

I am the Woman at the Top of the World

[SaraTo the audience

I am the Woman in the Woods

[Sally] To the audience

I came to the woods from the city

I couldn’t breathe the air anymore,

So, I came here.

I’m tired, I’m so tired.

Lost and tired.

I’ve been travelling through the woods for days

and I’ve seen no other being.

Except the trees.

The two grand old oaks

Who’ve been watching us all this time, wondering.

[SaraTo Sally, with sadness, as if a mother to her child

Your words, they conjure images of a desolate place within our hearts.


[SaraTo the audience

What sort of future are we creating for ourselves,

With our actions now, in the present?

Is that the future we want

for ourselves, each other and our children?

[Sara] To Sally

Knock yourself out, destroy the place, destroy yourself

If what you want is doom and gloom

And isolation.

[Sally] To the audience

The moon waxed,

And the moon waned.

Many seasons passed.

It took time to break the trance.

The rising and setting of the sun

Cast shadows on the landscape, where

Leaves fell, and grew once more into the

Aliveness of Spring.

The Woman at the Top of the World fell hard into her vulnerability.

She went to the wilder fringes of her heart,

The deep roots were hard to disentangle.

The mountains of her mind were dark,

Resistance bound it’s twisted hand around

The place of her unfolding.

[Sally] To Sara

What was lost for our humanity?

For our right to consume without end?

Sally holds herself, drops her head as if thinking, as if having an opening in her heart.

[Sally] To the audience. This is the moment of her realisation, the turning point.

We thought we were gods.

All along, we were animals too.

Building our homes

Hunting our food.

[Sally] To Sara

It’s overwhelming

Feeling like we are past any help

We’ve lost our connection

We are anaesthetised, numb.

Pause. She realises what we have done, and she’s scared.

[Sally] To the audience

Everything will end up in landfill!

[Sally] To Sara

What have we done?

[SaraTo Sally

Economy, economy, economy

That’s what you’ve preached.

We will be in service to your

Obsession with your kind of growth no more

We seek a different, kinder, gentler form of growth

One that takes a long view

To the seven generations hence.

[Sally] To the audience

The voices from the sidelines are becoming louder

Day by day.

[SaraTo the audience

Look, how beautiful the world is!

Pause for reflection.

[Sally] To Sara

Those of us who want change are



We have no agency.

[Sara] To Sally

We have agency!

We are here, now, we can act!

[Sally] To Sara

The hard thing is working out what that action can be.

[SaraTo Sally

Go out into the living world

And feel yourself transformed.

Let go,

And feel again,


Trust yourself with the energies of the Earth.


[SaraTo Sally

If you think you can be trusted?

[Sally] To the audience

The message came on the wind

arriving in the deepest part of me,

where there is no language with which to communicate.

So instead of speaking, I just danced.

Sally moves around a bit.

[SaraTo Sally

And then you started dancing with me.

Before long we were all dancing together.

Dancing ourselves back to life…

[Sally] To Sara

To live again, like we belong.


[SaraTo Sally

We have always belonged here.

[Sally] To Sara

Too much has been forgotten.

So much, it feels like the world doesn’t need us anymore.

[Sally] To the audience

But that can’t be true? Can it?

Pause. Move your body to face the audience.

[Sally] To the audience

The whisper came on the wind from the East.

We will work no more

Toiling in front of screens.

We will work the soil,

Scythe the meadows in long lines

Following the songlines

of our ancestors.

[Sally] To Sara

Snippets of remembering,

Cries from the Earth.

Sally crumbles, her body bending over in the pain and the joy of it.

Sally unfolds her body, and takes in the new knowing of the world

Re-emerges singing

[BothTo each other

Hush little baby don’t you cry

Hush little baby don’t you cry

Hush little baby don’t you cry

Turn towards Sara. Looking at her lovingly, longingly. Like a daughter, knowing that her mother was right. Then turns to the audience.

[Sally] To the audience

The Woman in the Woods,

She held me in her understanding.

Her hopes, desires, longings

For the world she had been dreaming of for so long.

She called…

[SaraTo Sally. Strongly and with gumption, smiling..

Be like Ivy.

Climb over the walls that divide us!

[Sally] To the audience

Nature finds her way into the cracks and the crevices.

[SaraTo Sally. Strongly and with gumption, smiling..

Be like chamomile!

Find a crack in the fabric of the city,

Fall into the crack as a seed.

Then unfurl, fill into the crack

Grow, grow,

Nurture, nourish.

Grow into the crack and then,

Set seed.

[Sally] To the audience

No longer caught up in the darkness,

We are all needed.

The kite offers direction for travel

In our fragile realities.

Through maps of unexplored terrain.

[SaraTo Sally

Find your common ground,

Pathways back to community.

Moving in the places where you feel comfortable.

Accept, adapt,

Adjust your sails.

And move into the whispers.

[Sally] To the audience

Seeking gentle joyful interventions

Our human capacity grows when we are in connection.

Our ability to understand

And comprehend

Expands into friendship

and solidarity.

[SaraTo the audience, reassuringly

We are here.

We are alright.


One foot in front of the other

Carried by the whispers on the wind

To the better life that we all know is possible.

[Sally] To the audience

Holding our worries, fears

Our shared concerns.

We show our support for those pushing

for the changes we would like to see in the world.

[SaraTo Sally, like a wise mother, supportively encouraging her daughter out in the world.

Embrace your radical ideas!

Be not afraid

Of the shouting coming from the other direction.

The screams of a dying world,

Beautiful and cruel

At the same time.

[Sally] To Sara

I am in awe of you, Woman in the Woods

‘Where do we go with it?’

[SaraTo Sally

I will offer you stepping stones

If you seek them out.

Go tenderly

And playfully,

Hold on tightly to the beauty

And the joy.

And, share your stories,

Engage your deepest passions,

Hold your convictions.

[Sally] To Sara

I am in reverence to you, Woman at the Top of the World.

But what about all the suffering and anger, anxiety

And pain?

[SaraTo Sally. Deeply, strongly, boldly. Your final word of advice. Move your shoulders back, stand firmly in your body, grounded, from your belly..

Be like standing stones.

Strong, rooted, together.

In our landscapes of longing, and belonging.

[Sally] To the audience

How do we start living again, like we belong?

Sally turns back to Sara, they look at one another and hold each other’s hands. They drop their hand clasp, Sally turns to the audience and says

[Sally] Thank you for listening.

We ended with a question ‘How do we start living again, like we belong?’

This feels like it’s worth holding. In the pursuit of regenerative cultures, holding good questions is an effective tool for gaining new insights to move us forward. I wonder if there is a way for us to hold this question together?

This is an invitation for us to connect beyond this moment, beyond these walls, as we go back out into our lives.

I’d like to express once again my heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to this, especially Sara for being brave. We have both stepped out of our comfort zones today. I’m also hugely grateful to Bob, for opening up a space for this experimentation, and to Mari for making the connection between us, as well as to those of you who have offered support and feedback in the process of writing, and to you for being here.

Now, we’d like to open it up to you, if you have any questions, or thoughts to share.

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