The day is windless and bright, perfect for our first attempt at installing the canvas. It looks serene, settled into the bracken-gold basin of Wythburn.
And the longer the piece is here the more strange it seems – also it is beautiful. There’s a strangeness I suppose in how neat and straight-lined it is, in a landscape that has no straight lines. And the way it’s most obvious hand-crafted nature seems at odds with the land, yet isn’t, because all this land is hand crafted – you start with the raw materials, and shape these …
… and there is the complexity of this national park, and many other areas: what has been done to shape the land over time, and how human decisions have had an impact – and how the value (positive or negative) of this impact is weighed: there will not be a single answer. And somewhere in the spinning wheel of complexity, of many issues, there are impacts that can be planned, others that can be guessed at, others that are unforeseen.
Sense – what’s the sense? How do we sense where we are? What’s our relationship to what’s around us, and what’s the relationship between different elements of a single place? What sense is there in decisions made about what happens with the land? Who agrees? Who has the power?
All these questions present themselves and, I suspect, will continue to do so, and will be added to, in the coming year. For now, I am here, my feet planted on frosted grass, and beside me the beck flowing slowly, clear water over bright green weeds. There is a deep sense of peace. Clear day. Quiet. Unhurried. The moment bringing my sense of place right here into my standing self, opposite a simple white canvas.
And just how big is here? Where are the limits of ‘here’, where are its boundaries? When do we let go of a ‘sense’ of ‘here’ being connected to ‘there’? Is there ownership over ‘Here’?
All these questions present themselves and, I suspect, will continue to do so, and will be added to.
For now, I am here. Feet planted on frosted grass, beck flowing slowly, clear water over bright green weeds. There is a deep sense of peace at the moment. Clear day. Quiet. Unhurried. The moment bringing my sense of place right here into my standing self, opposite a simple white canvas.
The solitude doesn’t last long: we’re joined by walkers who are passing by and, inevitably stop to talk. We discover what it is that has drawn these people here today – curiosity, an urge to be out in the big wide open, the draw of the day’s magical light, the first day off in weeks … we meet the local farmer who is driving his sheep from the lower fields onto the higher land, we talk to people from just a few miles away, and others who’ve travelled from much further afield to come and stay in this area for a week. Some are curious about environmental challenges, some are adding to their list of Wainwrights summited (there are 214 in total), some are celebrating a meeting of friends after many years. We meet families, groups of young people from Windermere, women from a walking club from Carlisle, a couple from Liverpool, Italians, and chat with them all. It’s something you do, generally, out on the hills – everyone says hello, people often stop to chat – but we’re bringing a particular curiosity to our conversations. We will feed what we discover about what brings people here, what they love about it, and what concerns them about local and global environmental issues into our thinking as the year goes on.