Wednesday, 19 May 2010


The wild studio is taking shape. It's changing shape, too, as I bring, alter and mix the materials depending what's on-hand. So far I've done it with roots, branches, stones, moss, abandoned posts and - most usefully, it seems - clay, which I've dug out from the middle. The plans change as I work with the different materials, learning about their different properties, strengths and weaknesses. I've re-orientated it, with the entrance and approach from the side. I've got to decide where to place the fire soon, before bringing-in any more combustible material for the walls/sides.

The stones come mainly from the stream, where I'm creating a small pool and a ledge, in the hope that at some stage I'll want to cool down. Today was the first time I've been up there in a prevailing westerly breeze, and it was reassuring to find that the site I've chosen seems not to be affected. However, that may be a problem when the midges come out.

In the meantime, I'm making a gallon of nettle beer, and I've made a pot of wild garlic pesto in the hope that my breath will deter midges. I've been looking at other plants that I could use as well, although I might need to extend my range to include lower-lying land. Even up here, though, the wood sorrel is in flower. Yesterday I got involved in a forest school session at Calthwaite, where I learnt a lot more than I expected, including the construction of temporary shelters.

It truly amazes me how much this little patch of land is teaching me. The way things just are, the Dasein, and the evidence of bio-semiotics. I doubt if anyone could do the theory without the practice. I'm certainly no scientist, but I'm beginning to understand the meaning of deep ecology, and what my Buddhist friend Pete calls 'mindfulness'. It's visceral and it's meaningful, and it arouses strong passion. I have to remind myself to stop and reflect - and to wonder - from time to time.

This morning (20 May) I took up a sack, an old canopy cover and some string. I've got into the habit of taking up my sketchbook, but this morning was the first time I used it.

It's extremely humid today and difficult to believe I was walking on frost just last week. So I went bare-foot and the ground revealed itself to me instantly. Soggy bits, dry bits, spiky bits and soft mossy bits. I noticed wood sorrel, gentian, mollis, meadowsweet, geranium and water avens. Then I went bare-back and could feel the slightest of breezes on a still day. I heard and saw two plovers which performed a symphony of calls and wing-beats. The stereo effect was as marked as wearing a headset. Later I heard a cuckoo, quite close, and some skylarks. Then I went bare-arsed and made my first sketch, standing facing uphill. As I drew I sensed myself being totally absorbed and immersed in my surroundings, and sensed an almost overwhelming joy of oneness and harmony. People may mock when they talk about cranks like me connecting with nature, but the sense of interaction between all the elements was an exquisite experience, and my drawing became almost automatic.The drawing stopped imitating. Layers of convention about drawing slipped away. What something should look like didn't matter anymore, including the drawing itself.
Next time I come up I shall bring some containers with oils and some boards primed with gesso, and have a go at doing some clay and shale mark-making.

I continued with digging out clay and shale, molding them into the walls of the shelter, remembering to stop and think every now and then. After an hour or so, reluctantly, I gathered my belongings and went home.

I felt invigorated and super-alive, and now, several hours later, I'm still feeling the same way. Is this the chi flowing?


...ready to, (nearly)

May 21 - only a calendar month to the Summer Solstice - strong sun and a slight breeze - it would have been almost criminal not to have gone up to the wild studio today. I'm going to waymark the trail and call it the trequitra track. So anyone who wants to find it must find out what the trequitra is, and then where I've placed them. I'm doing this because there's no getting away from the power of three. I seem to navigate everything by it, and now I'm constructing the sides with it, or multiples of it; it's such a strong and stable number for weaving and for standing, since it shares its tensions with so much equilibrium, and three points are the least number to make a shape with straight lines. No point of a triangle has any more importance than another, which is probably why the Romans invented the Tribunal.
I abandoned my plan to make earth marks today. I thought it better to get some shelter from the sun. This is my first draft. There are all sorts of things wrong with it, so I will be changing it. It needs to be right before I start lining everything with moss.

I also made my little pool a little bigger, but I chickened-out of a dip in it - the water's still way too cold. I've taken a glass bottle of water up so I don't dehydrate or I'm not tempted to drink from the pool. It's in the side of the pool, keeping nice and cool.
All of this feels like being a child again, building a den. The difference is that I've gained a lot of life-experience, so the process feels like a balance between skill, intuition and knowledge - there we are - three again, in balance! I keep needing to remind myself that I'm aiming for minimal impact, and I have to curb the instinct to make grandiose and over-engineered gestures.


Back towards a colder spell (Tue 25 May), and the shelter hasn't suffered too much. Saw a deer taking an interest as I approached. Built some more - low impact means it's more like building a nest construction. Moss is an amazing substance.
All around seems to be coming apart, releasing and reconstituting into a different state. Roots, rock, seeds, shoots. Liaisons and relationships.
No time just now to wonder. It's nearly a full moon once more..

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