Still suffering toe torture. Fortunately weather glorious again so kayaking was a very attractive alternative to a walk. Particularly after hearing on Zoom church that we have a Covid cluster in Parish, hence church closures til March. So many folk walking locally it felt better out on the river.
Clear still morning, reflections so crisp as to be disconcerting. Something weird about watching a bird flying below in a sky below you and the land reflection so like the solid original that you feel you may bump into its solid form.
Disturbed a red shank on the shore but saw him again on my return, legs highlighted in the sun. His not mine. Head colder than wet feet. The air temperature very low, particularly ok nice I paddled into shadow of the woodland bank opposite. Welcome to emerge again into the broad open space of the Pool. Drifted to appreciate the peace and beauty.
Today was to be an exercise walk, spurred on by the fact that I got exactly zero intensity minutes yesterday I was determined to make up for it. I chose the hilliest routes and strode forth, taking no prisoners. I barely hesitated to great neighbours but stomped upwards inexorably.
I reached the edge of the woods having gathered pace downhill when I suddenly stopped. I have no idea why, but as I took in my surroundings I realised that incredibly close to me, hiding in plain sight was a flock of long-tailed tits. We each maintained the silence as the birds tried to disguise themselves in leafless trees. There was an evident though subtle retreat, but still some of them couldn’t resist hanging upside down like tree baubles to feed, or maybe they were drinking the dew. Whilst so absorbed I was almost hit in the face by a couple of birds in chase. Fast and tiny, my first thought was wrens, but as they giddied around the tree, too intent on each other to notice me I was able to identify a coal tit in pursuit of what I would have said was a crested tit.
Birds were running up and down trunks of trees in the distance, I photographed them and looking at photo I think they were wood warblers. The wood seemed alive! I thought perhaps the whole woodland area was like this and maybe I just needed to stop and look more frequently but throughout the rest of my walk the woods were still and silent apart from the mournful cry of crows.
I have had it drilled into me since childhood not to talk to strangers. All the fairytales caution against talking to strangers in the woods and naturally lone women don’t talk to strange men in the woods. Yet today I broke with convention and had chats with two strangers prompted by bird sightings. Having spent some time watching a group of oystercatchers at my feet, though safely down a steep bank, I couldn’t resist pointing them out. Close to their beaks are striking in the brilliance of their red and in their length and strength, not surprising if you are going to open an oyster! The second encounter was another stranger pointing out to me a couple of cormorants that he had been watching fish together working their way out with the tide.
Hard to Swallow
This morning from my hide- under the duvet with the sun pouring in through the window- I watched the progress along the shoreline of a single greenshank. A transient visitor it usually betrays its presence by its distinctive call when disturbed. This morning it drew my attention as it seemed to have something it was still trying to swallow as it kept throwing its head up, contorting its neck. It was simultaneously still feeding so obviously not too hindered. Any birdwatchers care to explain what might have been going on. There are many small shore-crabs so maybe it was just trying to force one down.
Walk in the rainRain patterns water surface.Releasing stored aromas into moist air.Weed, mud, sea-water, treesAll heightened, rising like coastal incense.Palpable quiet, gentle orchestration -Oars dipping, fish jumping, Rooks telling each other where th
First kayak in a couple of months I made it gentle and not too long, as I paddled back I realised that I didn't want to go in just yet. The sun warmed from a clear blue sky and blinded me with sparkles. I carried on paddling into the wind until I ran out of depth at the head of the creek. Returned reluctantly and then stopped. I sat in the middle of the river in silence. Then realised how noisy my paddling had been, I listened to the spring birds surrounding me. The banks on either side rose up steeply, mostly gardens here in this most sheltered last curve of the estuary. Gardens so steep that a couple had already succumbed and crumpled onto the beach. I drifted, caught between easterly wind and outgoing tide fighting to see who would take control. This made my progress stately, the wind drifted me home. I passed the place where once, a lifetime ago, I had moored my Devon yawl. I was newly widowed, hopeful that I might one day resume sailing. I visualized the painting I had done to capture the view from my buoy and looked down the river to compare with my image. Satisfied I took up the paddle and headed for the quay.
I Crossed the Border Today
I didn’t ask, I knew the answer.
I crossed the border today
To a new life
Not that I won’t miss my old
But I have to keep moving.
I can’t let them ask me.
I don’t have the right answers.
So darkness, wire cutters.
Walking walking in the dark.
Towards a chance to start again.
A white van, unmarked.
No uniform, no identity.
I don’t struggle
Or ask who they are.
Bundled back across the border
I crossed the border today.
After a period of procrastination I have made final edits to the story I’ve been writing. See references in earlier blogs. A friend kindly proof-read it and I made amendments. We both agreed however that it does require a few more illustrations to introduce characters and set scenes. I’ve made a start on these. Look carefully to find the birds in the riverscape.
21st January 2020
Studio space restored to pristine condition we arrived, day 2, ready for more. Faye was with us again and introduced Kate Waters, our tutor for the afternoon.
Once again we were asked to build on yesterday’s work pushing it as far as we could led by, and continuing to explore, the materials. Our processes began to further diverge, informed in my case by my one to one mentoring session with Marie Claire.
I cut and re-positioned elements either over another background or on fresh paper. Further marks were added. Still experimenting with large brush marks, rollers, dragging and printing and a selection of paints, charcoal, bars and inks, spraying with water, scraping back, further editing by covering with paint or torn/ cut paper of varying opacity.
We worked independently, engrossed in our own work but there was a freedom to wander the room and engage with others. We discussed were encouraged or encouraged others, made suggestions, offered and received praise. It felt a safe encouraging, stimulating environment.
Kate gave us an insight into her life and work through a powerpoint talk. It was humbling to be granted insight into the very personal route to her challenging sometimes disturbing images.
Her hunger for knowledge about our human spiritual heritage leading to explorations in place and time. Her dedication to mastering Shamanic practice and her visceral responses in the most delicate watercolours. She shared that occasional very vivid dreams inspired or acted as prompts to her instinctive, intuitive way of working.
She showed us some of the small sketchbooks which accompany her everywhere. Filled and constantly edited. Pages brought forward from earlier books which turn out to have been ‘future flagging’. Many of them full of words with visual material a small element. We were invited to look at Kate’s illustrations for works of poetry, CD covers, books and book covers. Her images are direct but unsettling, delicate but with a power which lingers.
Throughout the 2 days, in smaller groups and pairings, we found out more about each other’s lives. How each of us had come to apply for this particular course, which part of the country we travelled from, something of our careers, families. A few shared images of their work on phones. Discussion ensued about the challenges of working in different media, selling work, use of colour, economies around framing.
It had been a tiring, intense but exhilarating two days. To draw it’s strands together Faye went around to each of us asking what surprised us about the experience and to look at how we had responded. Finally we cleared our work stations, packed our pieces away, said our goodbyes and headed off to our various workspaces and studios to continue developing our personal practice.
20th January 2020
The studio was warm and welcoming, tables and floor covered, a huge, generous amount of materials ready and, most importantly, coffee brewed. After a nervous drive across the moor from St Ives, through icy lanes it was good to chat to fellow students. Most of whom had traversed the length of the country and a couple who were local. We expressed a mixture of excitement, anticipation and nervousness as we waited for our ‘first day at school’ to begin.
A brief introduction from tutors- Jesse, Faye and Marie Claire and our first session was underway.
Helpfully our first exercise was to overcome that moment of hesitation when faced with a clean white sheet of paper. Following a short demonstration of different approaches we tapped in to the less conscious, more playful side of our brains, experimenting with marks, colour, different media and methods. The emphasis was all on the process, we were discouraged from trying to work towards a product.
After the session the energy of the room had changed. Floor tables and walls now colourfully adorned. Everyone had taken a unique direction and for all of us it turned out to be one we had not intended or forseen.
In the afternoon we were privileged to visit Jesse’s studio as he shared with us something of his practice. He explained the themes on which he had based various series of paintings. He also showed us the resource books which he used to arrive at those themes. They were a revelation! So far from anything I had envisaged as a sketchbook. Jesse described how he read, studied and then re-purposed art books as a personal file. He opened them to show collages comprised of illustrations, sketches, photographs, scraps of paper. Anything which he considered relevant at the time. Pages were then edited by covering with paint or paper those areas which over time he came to see as less relevant, in order to leave the significant.
I found it both chastening and encouraging. No rush to produce, no haste from idea to product. Jesse said he spent 70% of his working time on research, collating and editing. What I took from it was the need to allow the input from our life experiences and life choices a space and a place to collect, settle and filter.
We had selected from our work at the end of the morning something from each of us to display around the walls. Back in our studio space we retrieved the ones we felt we wanted to work into or we started afresh. This session we were tasked with adding a drawn element, either something we could see in the room, Jesse demonstrated by drawing someone’s shoe, or something suggested by our work so far.
It can only have been the power of suggestion because I really have no particular interest in footwear, but I proceeded to ‘carve’ shoes out of the shapes and colours on two of my backgrounds. Others took inspiration from objects in the room, patterns or a chosen motif.
One to one
As part of the course each of us were allocated a half an hour individual session with one of the tutors. I followed Marie Claire through a rabbit warren of corridors to a back room lugging a portfolio of previous work so that we could develop a way forward. Something for me to work on over the six weeks until the next session.
One of my hopes for the course was to gain more confidence in the use of colour. Marie Claire suggested I work in the coming weeks on creating collages to play with proportions and composition of colour on a page. This fitted with my intention to follow Jesse’s example of collaging within books. For this latter I will have to overcome my strong aversion to despoiling books! I need to see it as another way of absorbing the content.
Lots of fun ahead cutting and sticking!
Supper & Socialising
We ate together at the Newlyn Film Centre. Excellent food and company. Chance to find out a bit more about each other’s lives outside this bubble. Facebook group established