‘Fire up Water down’ covers the many and varied aspects of the ‘elements’ – fire, water, earth, air, aether/void/space, metal, wood, spirit/consciousness – and related subjects. Something fundamental about these ‘intuitive’ elements resonates with human-kind. They create and shape the world we live in. People often know or sense them without the use of rational processes, by using perceptive insight. For much of human history these elements have been viewed as the building blocks of nature and the universe. The essence of life. The embodiment of energy. Eastern and western cultures, the ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds, indigenous cultures, all have embraced them. Despite the recent ascendancy of science and rational thought in the west, the attraction of the elements persists. They generate a sense of awe and wonder and appear to be an integral part of being human. We are hard wired-in to relate to them one could say. Since March 2014 I have written over 80 posts about the elements – their story is one that deserves to be told.
This blog ranges across diverse topics related to the elements. These include, or will do, alchemy, astrology, astronomy, architecture, cartography, chemistry, ecology, education, food, indigenous belief systems, magic, martial arts, medicine, music, mysticism, nature, performing arts, personal experiences, philosophy, popular culture (including Apps, video games, clothing and shoes!), psychology, religion, science, visual arts, well-being and witchcraft. The blog explores the wonder and interconnectedness of the elements, their pervasiveness in space and time, and our often sub-conscious responses to them. By tapping into this instinctive response, the aim is to build stronger connections between people and the natural world. The universal language of the elements has the potential and power to achieve this.
Fire and water, which are described as both complementary and opposite, are often ‘paired’ as elements; as they are in the title of this blog. It is the nature of water to move downwards, to find the lowest point, and for fire to move upwards as the heated gas becomes less dense. Fire up Water down. For those interested in following these elemental explorations, the easiest way is to ‘follow’ my blog(s). In March 2014 when I started ‘Fire up Water down’ my goal was to compose one post a week on average. While that turned out to be a dream, I continue to share my elemental stories as often as I can. My ability to do so regularly has been tempered by my increasing focus on the elements in Japan, as described next. I will continue to write about the elements in other places however, when I am able.
On May 1st 2016 I started a complementary blog titled ‘Elemental Japan‘. This is the elemental topic that I’m delving into in greater detail. The sister blog is an informal way of sharing my journey to gather research material for a book, or books, along the same theme. It draws principally on my experiences travelling in Japan, seen through the lens of the elements. As of November 2020, 36 posts have been written about this diverse, fascinating and complex subject.
The posts on my two blogs illustrate and celebrate the instinctive connections between people and the natural world and explore what we can learn from them. An improved understanding of our interdependence with nature is vital for creating a sustainable planet.
My name is Jann Williams, the creator of ‘Fire up Water down’. I am a writer, photographer, and foremost an elemental ecologist, with a Doctorate of Philosophy in ecosystem dynamics from the Australian National University. A Victorian by birth, my home is now in Tasmania, Australia. Between 2001 and 2021 I held the position of Adjunct Professor at Latrobe University, the University of Tasmania and the University of Western Australia respectively. Since 2014 I have been a member of Writers in Kyoto and co-edited and designed their third Anthology, published in June 2019.
I have written and spoken widely about biodiversity conservation, fire ecology and management, eucalyptus ecology, restoration ecology, climate change, ecosystem services, linking science and practice and the human dimension of natural resource management. In November 2019 I was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) for my significant contribution to ecology in Australia. My Plenary Address given at the ESA 2019 conference is accessible here.
For more details about my professional career see my LinkedIn profile. I love researching and synthesising material from many sources and making it accessible to a broad audience. Through this blog I am using these skills to share my passion for nature, art, beauty and the elements.
I am very much learning as I go. In covering such a broad area there are bound to be slip-ups, hopefully only minor, from time to time! Please let me know if you pick any up. Once discovered, these will be rectified.
Unless otherwise stated, all images used in the blog posts are mine. If you would like to use share these images with others, they should be attributed to myself or the original source. Thank-you.
I just found your blog and enjoyed the ‘Metal, the evolving element’ post. Thanks for mentioning my MOFO performance. Your post described a lot of what I think about with my music. In fact, I often refer to what I do as ‘sonic alchemy.’
Cheers! ~ MB
Hi Michael, Great to hear from you and to learn that my post on metal as an element struck a chord. ‘Sonic alchemy’ is a perfect description for your sound creations. Alchemy is an extremely elemental process as you would know. Having now discovered your gongtopia website I will add a link in my metal post so that people can discover more about your mesmerising music.
Dear Jann, I recently interviewed a student of Malidoma Somé, and I would like to use your image of the five elements as a background shot for the interview, which will be used only for educational purposes in a class I teach on African Traditional Religions. Could I have your permission to use the image you adapted and have on your blog post about Dagara Cosmology?
Dear Mary, Thank-you for getting in touch. Including an interview in your class is an excellent idea and will enrich the experience for your students. Malidoma Some is a wise person who has much to share. I’m presuming that you are referring to the image of the Medicine Wheel in my post on Dagara Cosmology? The image I have used comes directly from the malidoma.com site, with no adaptation. I can see why you thought I may have altered it though – my comment about the slight modifications related to the difference between the version on their website and the one in Some’s book ‘The Healing Wisdom of Africa’. I have attributed the source of the image. For your purposes you may like to contact the malidoma.com site directly. The blog on the Dagara has been my most popular post out of the nearly 80 that I have written so far on the elements. It’s encouraging that there is so much interest in African traditional religions.
Hi, I have enjoyed reading your blog so far. I have managed to locate a copy of the Hinduism and Ecology book, but I was wondering if you would have a copy of the original “Fire, air, water, earth – An elemental ecology of Tasmania” publication? I can’t seem to locate it in any library or repository and would be curious to read it for myself.
Thank-you for your interest and comment Lucy. The article by Jackson is a difficult one to track down. The Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia it was published in has not been digitised anywhere – hopefully it will be one day. I managed to get a photocopy of the paper from a colleague in Tasmania and will send it to your email address. I look forward to learning more about what drew you to explore the elements.:-)