Rain and low cloud this evening on the mountain – good conditions for observing (and trying to photograph) the moment when things become indeterminate and disappear. Inside cloud, up high near the top, wind blowing and shoving, light rain now on now off, water pooling all around my feet, and feeling myself to be standing at the centre of a circle of invisibility.
I’ve brought my mountain notebook in from the pocket of the car door, trying to make sense of the evening visits I’ve been making, maybe trying to find a pattern. I’m going to sort through, put the entries next to the photos and videos that I’ve made, see if anything starts to emerge.
On Wednesday evening I videoed a grimy sunset. It lasted longer than I expected. I balanced my phone on top of a stone at the centre of the bronze age burial circle close to the trig point, and which seemed to face into the sunset. All around me was sky and air and Westerly wind, too much of it that evening. I cowered behind the stone and forced myself to watch the sun slip right down to nothing, and meanwhile the wind numbed my exposed fingers to the bones.
I wrote quite a bit in my notebook back in the car, including that I saw
“clouds pillowing and piled up high, salmon and gold, south leaning. Distances disappearing out to smeary grey. Dirty sun set over the sea, slipping into fog.”
This evening it was warmer, soft rain came after the sunset. I wrote in my notebook
“The sea a shell bright line, pink and soft. Light filling the hollows of the land… Afterwards a soft rain, not cold. Two ravens on the wires.”
I went to the same stone circle, this time with a compass app installed on my phone (it didn’t seem very convincing). I found that the central stone, and also a large single standing stone further down are both aligned roughly the same, one ‘facing’ and one ‘pointing’ towards Caldey Island, just South of West.
(Or the first stone could be facing North of East, but the second stone is far below the brow of the hill, and in a shallow West-facing valley; so if its facing anywhere, it can only be to the South West).
I’d like to guess that the two stones are aligned the same, and for a reason, possibly to point to Caldey, or maybe to align with the direction of the sunset at the winter solstice, which I think might be that way. But I’ll have to get a better compass and consult with an astronomer, or otherwise wait at least eleven months to check, since I did not do it this year. I can at least say that there was no sunset this year at the solstice, only grey misty cloud and according to my mountain notebook:
“grey-white noise, indistinctness. All quiet and softened in, retreating.”
I have been thinking that I’ll draw the sky. Somehow. Or maybe not draw, but at least work with. Start from a feeling of immersion. My main problem : that drawing immersion in sky is a crazy and difficult job, and I don’t know how.
I made an earth drawing instead today – from a video of the mountain. I’d taken the video last night on the way home, just after what would have been sunset, but since it was a cloudy and gloomy evening there was no colour, little light. The drawing needs more work – for me to approach closer to the feeling of last night, and to the evidence of the video. I need to make it fuzzier, less distinct; have less contrast, less interest, less resemblance.
The video is strange and obscure, technically dreadful. I think that what interests me so much about it is just that, its poor quality. I’ve found the outside boundary of the technology, and then crossed over it. The light levels have gone down beyond my camera’s processing capacity – it’s having a breakdown, it can’t find this in its programming, its changing its mind every half a second – what is air and what is objects, what is the appropriate focal distance, what is the space of the mountain? Things recede and return, in and out of focus, all is flattened and fuzzy. Our eyes break down at that light level too, we can’t trust what we see. But we’re better adapted than our phones – we still perceive and still keep some clarity; still retain something of three-dimensionality, the volume of the space, enough to navigate through it.
To return to my idea of drawing immersion in sky, my drawing is a drawing of a place that, because of its shape, is basically all round sky. So I think I can call it an atomosphere drawing, if not a sky drawing.
Today I made a new stencil shape based on the kitchen window of the cottage where I grew up, and used it to look up at the evening sky.
Exploring hope again.
So I am continuing work on my essay, writing about hope in the work of visual artists, but I’m also thinking about hope in my own work. How that might be.
I have started a short writing workshop , and have been introduced to a powerful poem by Denise Levertov, ‘For the New Year, 1981’, starting with the line
‘I have a small grain of hope-‘
The poet also compares hope to a piece from the root of an iris, where she says
‘Please share your fagment
so that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
will hope increase’
Feeling my way towards the fine-grain texture of things, and the surprise of colour up close, and how that feels like hope.
For example, the flower of gorse in December, how a plant can flare up yellow in the grey-blue dusk light.
I started my daily post today at the end of the long day. I was sitting at my desk looking out of the window at a piece of the after-sunset sky, and I was thinking what can I possibly share by this point in this day? I am depleted, all shared out. I don’t have something to give that would be generous.
So I just opened the sash and I climbed out of the window and I sat on the flat roof with my back to the wall of the house, and I looked out to the west.
I started to listen. First I heard a sparrow in my roof calling. Then there was the song of a blackbird. After that the crows started up in the woods and flying, fussing and settling, their calls echoing across the back gardens. I wondered whether there were bats flying, and I started to watch the wide sky fading behind the woods and the first stars coming through. The light high clouds were streaking and spreading out to the west. I started to feel the cold autumn air on my bare feet, and I noticed that the smell of it was autumn. I started to notice the ordinary sounds of the street, and the lighted windows shining out of the night houses. I started to feel myself at home in my body, in the world.
I climbed back in the window and closed it behind me.