Anxious landscape

8.38am (awake since 7.00 am and awake in the early hours, read articles and listened to the owls till I felt settled enough to fall back to sleep)

I dreamt. I actually dreamt. I was in a cafe with a friend he was speaking to me from the opposite side of a table, we were talking quietly. I mentioned something and he became very angry with me because he thought it disloyal to discuss something so private in public, I thought that he was paranoid and oversensitive but I did not express this to him, instead of responding to his thoughts and feelings with words, I simply got up touched his shoulder gently and left the cafe.

Its a white day tinged with grey, no sunlight. The daffodil heads are dead. I picked off some of them. Their heads hang downwards towards the stone slabs of the pavement.

I see my neighbour returning from a walk with her dog, her key turns in the door, it closes. You can hear everything between her wall and mine. My life feels constantly under scrutiny by the thin of the wall and the sounds that I make. There is little privacy living on a terrace street. Everyone knows everyone else’s movements. The yards behind the houses are tiny, the road in front just wide enough to park the cars.

I don’t let the children play in the road anymore, there is not enough space to kick a ball or hit a bat or ride a bike without complaint. This is not a very family friendly street. Only one other resident has children, a baby almost a year old now, and they plan to move to a bigger house with a garden as soon as they can. I have been here for nine years, I had planned to be here for two. We have outgrown this home but we cannot move on. I am grateful, we have a home. I am grateful. Its not good to always want more, must always be content with what you have. I am lucky. I have shelter. I have food. I have the love of my children.

When I woke up I read an article by Robert Macfarlene The eeriness of the English countryside. An article that I had found whilst awake in the small hours listening to the owls hooting and feeling the warm night air on my face. Its a great read. I have been thinking about the presence of the landscape in this project, about its meaning. Its psychological meaning. Its always an escape. An escape from the maternal. Perhaps the maternal is disappearing into the bog. Perhaps it is slipping away the subject of my work is changing. Maybe I can find a way to forge the two elements together, or perhaps I am just loosing focus.

I left Naoise asleep in bed. He looked calm and content and peaceful. I miss watching him waking. I have to choose between the gaze and the writing.

He showed me where how he had fallen out of the willow tree that he had been climbing. He found the branch that had snapped as he grabbed it. He climbed up the tree with the broken branch in his hand, I helped him with it. He got the end of the branch and fixed it to the place that it had fallen from. The tree became a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

We talked about the accident and how he had fallen. He described it in great detail. He was obviously shaken by the incident, and so was I. The tree is not too high, but fall he did and landed on a branch just below. Naoise is as light as the wind, agile, delicate.

I do worry about him falling and hurting himself. I feel very anxious when I watch him climb. I cannot remember feeling quite as anxious as this with Syd. He was a robust six year old. He had accidents but never seemed to feel any pain. Naoise notices the slightest thing. He is tiny. His bone structure is very fine. I worry. I worry. I wish he was bigger, stronger, not quite so small.

Always a balance between protect and let go, let him be wild but let him be safe. Must not wrap him in cotton wool. My mother let me climb. I would climb high into the branches of the damson trees in the orchard and sat on a precipice of board balanced high in my neighbours beech tree. My mother did not watch. If you don’t watch, you cannot see the danger, and so the anxiety dissipates. I must turn my back more. Ignore. Let free. Don’t watch. Move further away. Come back. Check. Is it safe? Is it? Monitor. Try not to show fear. Fear is no good. Fear.

Back to the landscape. After reading the article I looked up the Dereck Jarman film Journey to Avebury (1971) that Robert Macfarlene mentioned, partly because it was made in 1971 the year of my birth and partly because I love Dereck Jarmans work, so I was intrigued. I lay in bed watching its yellow beauty, mesmerised.

This film also reminded me of some work that I made shortly after I separated from my first partner. I was interested in melancholy, the landscape, and loss of love, aloneness, finding a way to share how I felt. Strange how art work from the past haunts the present, how ideas come back and call out to be re-worked

I have been thinking more about the allotment in terms of a creative project, earth as canvas, place as sculpture, a site. I have a copy of Dereck Jarmans’ book The garden, many years ago, I visited Prospect Cottage, his place at Dungeness. I was mesmerised by its wild beauty. The flowers growing between stone, the sculptures, the simplicity, a humble paradise. The flat of the land. The stones of the beach. The clapper board houses.

I have been potting up lots of flower seedlings. I am bored of growing potatoes and courgettes. This year I hope for a small flower meadow to attract the bees. This year I hope to increase the herbs and the fruit bushes that Naoise loves. To take down the dilapidated shed. To build more beds. To mend the small pond and invite the frogs in to eat slugs.

In the cafe I found some images in the independent by Cig Harvey, that are about to be published in a photo book entitled Gardening at Night. I am always searching for ways to pull disparate stands of thought and thinking together. There is something in this. The landscape, the children, the domestic, the uncanny. The idea of the wild. The idea of the wild mother. The wild maternal. Nature and the maternal. Mother nature. Need to test it out. Test it out with images not with words. Look. See. Make. Test. Show. Start again.

Syd returns today, and the house will feel full. Full of sound. Full of music. Full of love. Balanced out. Two sons. One young boy. One young man. I will again feel at peace and not bereft.

His ghost hangs heavy on my heart when he is far from home. The anxiety of his parting hurts. His return always a relief.

Thinking of one other Dereck Jarman video. The video that he made for The Smiths. The Queen is Dead.


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