Oil on wood – 8 x 10 inch.
Dust rises walking along the track. Ragged robin in the ditches, sparrows jostling, clyping in the hedgerows while a thin old black cat slinks in between the barley. The sun is already hot and the the cumulus clouds bounce their way along pushed by the bright gusty winds from the north. A field further along sways a sea of green gold wheat that folds and bends, rises and falls . With the leaves in the full sailed trees it sounds of waves ssshhhing their way up a shingle beach.
I make a wee film of the field and something in me thinks I am starting to understand a little of this landscape. It is going to take a long time of repetition, of sitting, looking, drawing, painting, filming and writing before I cam claim to know the farm but it is early days and I am on the road. I am going to attempt to write more too, I feel this place requires an extended process of thought, the ways in which people and nature co-exist with the landscape, and my own reflections on walking, seeing and understanding. I will share some of my memories and thoughts.
This small memory of a field is a good place to start.
Sun flitting , wind strengthening from the west. Ian tells me about the fields, how many and whats growing at the moment. I walk up the track beside the sheep and young bullocks, who follow me and watch as I make a pencil sketch of the view to the west. A lamb gets its head stuck in the wire fence. I can’t free it so report back with the news. The turbines on the top of the hill are monsters, their short sharp breaths carving the air into ribbons. Swallows whip past my face causing me to start. I spot a black sheep in the field below the farmhouse, walk on. Sitting in a field of barley I paint a line of trees on the skyline with my fingers – I forgot to bring any brushes…
A silver rain cloaks the coast as it slips into evening. Fishing boats steam from the harbour mouth to grounds where the shoals dart, flash, switch; weaving their own nets, to catch the last embers of light from days end.
Today’s forecast – windy, very windy. Definitely a painting day so headed out to Fife Ness with big paper to try and record something of the sea. Even weighted down with stones the paper kept flying away either down the beach on in my face. Not laughing three hours later….. However a fabulous afternoon, and the finished painting looks a bit battered around the edges as I did walking back over the golf course not making eye contact with the golfers who probably had their own thoughts on how I looked .
Acrylic and charcoal on paper – 140 x 60 cm.
Oil on panel – 25 x 20 cm.
Last week I wrote a few lines about the hawthorn and the sheep’s wool. When I was thinking about this a picture came into my head of the Windrush – a small river that flows through the Cotswolds before it merges and becomes part of the Thames further west. I remember a summer, the water idly gliding, the earth, hard, dusty on its banks worn by sheep’s hooves and the reeds ticking, bristling, checking the waters flow at the margins. I sink my bare feet into the soft silt watching as they disappear. There are hawthorns and the sheep’s wool, like the wool on the farm has snagged on the bark. I take off bits and roll the wool in my hand, feeling its oily-ness, its smell of wet winter jumpers. Back to the present, I see if I can find any myths or stories about wool and discover this Greek tale about the golden sheep with poisonous bites. This is from Apuleius, The Golden Ass (trans Walsh )
Psyche had been commanded to bring back some of their fleece as penitent labour imposed by Aphrodite…. ‘their fleeces sprout with the glory of pure gold, I order you to go there at once and bring back to me a tuft of wool from the precious fleece. Psyche made her way with no intention of carrying out the task. She wanted to seek the cessation of her ills by throwing herself headlong from a cliff above the river. But from that stretch of stream one of the green reeds which foster sweet music was so divinely inspired by the gentle sound of a caressing breeze, and uttered this prophecy : ‘Even though you are harrowed by great trials, do not pollute my waters by a most wretched death. You must not approach the fearsome sheep at this hour of the day when they tend to be fired by the burning heat of the sun and charge about in ferocious rage; with their sharp horns, rock-hard heads and poisonous bites they wreak savage destruction on human folk. But once the hours past noon have quelled the sun’s heat, and the flocks have quieted down under the calming influence of the river- breeze you will be able to conceal yourself under that very tall plane tree, which sucks in the river water as I do myself. Then as soon as the sheep relax their fury and their disposition grows gentle, you must shake the foliage in the neighbouring grove and you will find golden wool clinging here and there to the curved stems.
This was how the reed, endowed with human qualities of human kindness, told Psyche in her extremity how to gain safety. She did not disregard this careful instruction and suffer accordingly; she followed out every detail, and the theft was easily accomplished. She gathered the soft substance of yellow gold in her dress and bought it back to Aphrodite.
I don’t know how Psyche fared after this, perhaps I’ll find out or if anyone knows her story …. ? But the point is my own memory and the Greek myth have woven together to make a new kind of story in my head and the connections to our past and the stories we make are as if one.
Bees woozy on the hawthorns mortal scent. Sheeps wool caught on its spiky armour, tokens of devotion for Aphrodite.
Ink on paper 76 x 56 cm.
Mixed media on paper -114 x 56 cm.
A warm breeze and bright sun this morning looking over the Forth to North Berwick Law. A hare sits on the track, its ears twitching. Swallows swoop low over the water and hawthorn blossom so full the branches are bent double. Sheep’s wool caught on the bark of Scots Pines. Fish rise, a dragonfly blue and a redstart sings high in a tree.