Behind Angelina’s garden the hills are alive with things that dart, skip, float, sway, creep and sting. A brown snake curls itself into a gap in the wall. From that moment I see them everywhere. Green black beetles, wasps, bees the size of golf balls, flowering thyme, pink orchids, violet scabious flowers, birdsfoot trefoil, blue butterflies and a cow. We meet, stare at each other – It wins, I scarper. In the village I take a look at the information board. I can’t read what it says but I recognise a drawing of a wolf and a bear…….
Lesions of lichened stone rain these fields. I lie in a hollow, a shallow scrape of earth bedded in clover and buttercups and the hill holds me still. Cow bells, chainsaws, dogs barking, church bells dawdle on the warm breeze. A pair of orange butterflies tumble . I hold in my hand a piece of lead glazed pot, turned green in the firing. A cuckoo calls my name.
I almost stand on it, sitting in the doorway like that. Without my glasses first thing in the morning I think it must be some mud I brought in on my shoes yesterday. Something says its not though. I step over it, fetch my glasses and peer down at the scorpion. Funny wee thing. I fetch the broom and gently sweep it away. It raises its tiny angry fists at me. Scolds me. I desist, leave it be. It goes back to its business, muttering… Upstairs I hear the crow tapping on the kitchen window, impatiently, insistently, furiously. I feel sure its beak will shatter the glass. I open the window to watch it fly away only to land in a puff of pollen on the branch of the walnut tree. We look at each other. Yes, what ? It flies away to the hill where I walk every day. No not today, I am here, washing and cleaning and trying to find words.
Three drawings – ink on paper -A4 landscape.
Above the wood on the plateau a battlefield of bleached bones of stones. Walls wide, thick coarse mortar dusts where green lizards flick their tails and disappear. I try whistling a blade of grass, clamped between thumbs I blow. Silence. I try again and then remember I don’t speak the language. In patches of bare earth shards of pottery, the grooves in the clay still visible from the wheel. A rim, a lip. My fingers touch where someones once did a thousand thousand moons ago.
up, up, stones, clear, cut, sharp. Lime stone. Poking through. Walls run hither, thither, back and forthing. White lines zig-zagging. Thunder draws a bow, releases fat curds of wetness, shelling the earth with the flowers of spring that trickle down the hillside. The walls bring us out past windows shuttered, notices of deaths in the houses roundabout. The coda. Returning along another path we meet kisses, soft, quick voices and birdsong.
Many thanks Tracy for a wonderful walk in the sun and the rain sharing this beautiful landscape.
Watercolour on paper. First drawing from Collemacchia. Looking across to the hillside above Filignano.
I am currently showing with Tatha Gallery in a group exhibition called ‘Courting the Muse’. Rebecca Sharp is writer in residence with Tatha Gallery and responds to each new exhibition with a piece of writing – poetry and/or prose. Rebecca has written this piece for the exhibition. –
April 2018 : Birch.
Courting the Muse : 31st March – 12th May
Dominique Cameron, Kim Canale, David Cass, Matthew Draper, Henry Kondracki.
I already knew and loved Dominique Cameron’s work, and enjoyed reading her statement for this exhibition about the Muse. She writes about being a teenager, drawn to walking around the edges of her rural environment to find meaning and adventure; which still informs her practice of walking and making work. You can see all kinds of edgelands in her work – road closures; boards, railings and fences; boundaries, slipways. The point of view poised at a fork in the road. Where we’re shown a path in a forest – a route through – the eye is drawn to the black tangle of trees and shrubbery at the sides. Light in the distance, but we haven’t emerged yet.
I think we share that inner teenage voice – our own versions of course. Though my experience was of growing up in Glasgow, my adventures still took me to the in-between places: climbing through holes in fences, finding the playgrounds and gardens I wasn’t supposed to use; stairways and lampposts on corners. They seemed like good places to hide, but in fact they were places of revelation.
My prose writing to date has been preoccupied with this childhood or teenage interest in risk and of seeking adventure and identity in peripheral spaces – especially in ‘Little Forks’(2012 ). I loved reading Dominique’s description of herself as still being ‘curious, and awkward and persistent‘ – which I certainly recognise in myself, and as a driving force behind my own work.
Seeing these connections, I remembered a piece of prose I had been playing around with – ‘Birch’. Something I’d often tinkered with and then left; revisited, but which hadn’t yet found a home. Recently, I’ve been starting to gather ideas for a novel, which itself feels like standing on the edge of a deep dark forest, taking that first step into the unknown. Reading Dominique’s own words and seeing her work again felt like an invitation to finish this extract, to bring it out to the light and into the beginnings of a story. I think ‘Birch’ ( and whatever it might become ) shares this same feeling of being on an adventure both outward and inward, not quite sure what’s going on, but being at home with uncertainty. Feeling compelled to go to places real and imagined, without needing to know what you might find there – giving yourself over to that inner voice.
I never knew there were two of you.
That you are completely incomplete. That you are what I think with.
You’re the sting across my face, the sudden underscore.
The sound of silver dug out from the leaves.
Imagine that I found you there, leaves veined with silver, seeping silver, branches swooping low to silver-tip the soil. To lead us underground to the tiny lit pools of what we might have thought was missing. And that we were glistening.
This could be a letter to your unsolved selves.
The one that still kneels under tables; with sounds of adults talking underwater through palms pressed tight against your ears. Keep pressing; find the point where the membrane is thinnest. Where time diminishes and the voices shrink back inside the speakers. The voices that once leant deadly against the hush of your blood, the crack as those hands pressed too tight.
And I know this isn’t real but that it could be, in the scatter of twigs in the cold air that drives you and the rain; the tread of that hillside and the one that’s inside you, that’s there when you open your eyes.
It’s as natural as any other kind of difference in the world.
It makes itself known; indicates its presence in the soil.
Wintergreen is the air you breathe.
Desire lines lead you between the pages, branches. Places you might have been before.
Blank, unplanned, alive in the cold.
This shouldn’t be happening.
The cold gets colder.
You never said whose hands they were.
Like deforestation it strips you clear; the sudden introduction of air to shadow.
You are the stark white timber: feel the stricture in your throat.
Something narrows at your ribs and something else is unearthed.
Now indicate your presence in the soil.
Rebecca Sharp 2018.
Acrylic and marker pen on the back of an A5 sketch book. A week today I start my three week residency in Collemacchia, Italy.