It is true that this blog is not a place I have chosen to inhabit for a long while. It is a place for my more spontaneous responses to the world around me, to events, people, ideas, activities. This past six months feel as though they have had a rhythm of their own – a slow throbbing which had to be. A lull in my normal energy as my cells reconfigured themselves, suspended in grief. A trip to Iceland at the end of summer was a cleansing flush – a wave of motion, newness, and knowing what is not, even if I do not yet know what is.
I have been writing. And I have been creating a dedicated space within which that writing can happen. I have known for a long time that I need to write a book about my experience in Iceland, but when that experience did not turn out as I had dreamed, it was too overwhelming a task to consider. Now, thanks to time, good friends and new perspectives I am beginning to pick out the gold dust in the darkness, and fan old embers which have waited so long to crackle again. In between the chapters of draft, I try to create shorter, whole pieces, which have been or will be published. My words have even been spoken out loud at Lancaster Spotlight – a monthly spoken word event. Here is a piece on Caught By The River, with more to come soon in various exciting journals.
I have made space by completing a project I stumbled into, which was a serendipitous extension of my Wayfaring. I had met a character in Cumbria named Walter Lloyd, an 89 year old former charcoal burner who lived in a bow top wagon built with his own hands. He had shown me his barn full of rusting everything, much of it paraphernalia to do with rural trades such as coppicing, coopering, tanning, blacksmithing, hay making, rope making…he had it all. It so happened that soon after my move to Cumbria a charity was awarded a small Heritage Lottery grant to restore these hand tools into a functioning tool library for free use by the public. So began Walter’s Tools, and I was asked to run it. It has been a fascinating and challenging way in to being in Cumbria, and through it I have met many fine people and deepened my knowledge. But now it feels time to return to my own unfinished business – writing about Iceland.
I have made space by getting a studio. At some point in their lives, preferably sooner than later, the artist in everyone deserves to be honoured by having a dedicated space to express, to procrastinate, to think, to not be disturbed, and to not have to tidy up to make way for the dinner plates. I do not know why I didn’t take this step sooner but it has been transformational. The space I now inhabit is tucked away in a cottage adjoining a former Victorian carpet factory, which has also been converted into artists’ studios.
I happened to call the developer one day back in Spring when my grief gave me a short break, knowing that all the spaces were most probably taken. That day, someone had just decided they did not need as much space as they had thought, and as if my magic the space was mine. I now sit and write with the clacking of weavers next door on one side, the whispered cross hatching of a Japanese painter on the other, and the shaving and hammering of a chair maker below. Matter is being transformed into beauty in this building, and it seeps under every door.
This weekend our doors shall be open to the public with our first ever Open Studios. Do pop in and say hello, if you would like to hear about Iceland or see what I make of it. As it is not that interesting to watch a writer tap away at their computer, I shall be selling winter cards with my photography from Iceland, jewellery I have made that was inspired by Iceland, and of course …Icelandic jumpers!
With the turning of the year upon us and another year older, I hope to drink deeply of my mulled liquids and clear paths to new open doors. It is all a journey, but I am glad to be striding again.