Due to spend the coming four hours of the Monday ahead in a meeting. Put dog out, make tea, assemble presentable outfit, wash and brush-up. Carried along by familiar force of preparation on automatic pilot.. I thoughtlessly bang my head, hard, on the shower controls.
Unsettled by the actions I was required to take..I suddenly realised I was not ‘required’ to take any of them; and certainly not being forced. The only force that was being applied was by me..on me. I broke out. Well, out of the garden anyway. At first.
I ditched the smart dress and jacket, the high-heeled boots and the rest of the disguise. Donning my oldest jeans and favourite t-shirt.. grabbing the book I’ve been rationing (because it’s so good), the camera, and the sunglasses I can’t do without – I headed out. No destination in mind. I knew I’d get there.
Inexplicably, I’m drawn to a beach I don’t often visit. It’s a local horse-shoe-shaped beach of no particular note – beyond the fame once bestowed upon it by a group of artists.. amongst them Kirkcudbright’s Edward Atkinson Hornel. It can’t lay claim to the fame of longer, wider, or wilder beaches of note. No matter. I wandered up a hill toward a broken statue – in a field – that turned out to be a piebald horse, not a statue, half-awake, and as surprised by me as I was by him.
Tracking the silver line in the grass, scattering sheep like rice dropped on the kitchen floor, I circle a standing stone. Tracing a hand across it’s warm granulated surface – promising it I’ll return. Cows watch lazily as I inspect the ruined farmhouse. The intricate layout and odd architectural details hinting at a once ordered and appreciated existence – long since crumbling into the burbling stream running fast to join the sea beyond. I could have walked forever in that field.
On the beach I remove my shoes, a collie runs up to lick my toes; a few words exchanged with his owner. Few words, in passing, but each imbued with the lovely conspiritorial flavour of time on an otherwise empty beach. Suddenly delighted with my small rebellion I lift my arms and let the warm breeze carry me like the petals of a poppy.. to the curiousity of a group of schoolchildren perched on the rocks listening to the wisdom of the Coastal Ranger. I’m thankful that their teacher is having his own break-out in the sun. Perhaps, as a songwriter and musician of repute, he is quietly penning his next song.
Life had once been simpler. I had allowed my time to be overtaken by notions of duty – to the point of martyrdom. As a girl, I once had the focus I now believed was lost. It wasn’t lost. But the girl was.
To draw and illustrate, in images and in writing.. the deep love of nature that began when lying on my stomach in the grass at the end of the garden, alone but for the cat’s constant company.. I wanted so badly to show others what I saw happening under my nose..the intricate natural world. To show that we humans are a minute part only of an extraordinary relationship between all living things.
Surely the well-being of the natural world necessitates as much attention as that of the well-being of humans – since we are but a small part of that natural world. As Gavin Maxwell said over 50 years ago:
“..I am convinced that man has suffered in his separation from the soil and from the other living creatures of the world; the evolution of his intellect has outrun his needs as an animal and as yet he must still for security, look upon some portion of the earth as it was before he tampered with it.”
The book I took to the beach is The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley, a book as profoundly affecting as Maxwell’s Ring Of Bright Water – published in 1960 and quoted by Crumley above.
Perhaps it’s all down to the earlier crack on the head.. but, I didn’t unpack the book on this morning. It was more important to break-out, go barefoot .. and be alive.