My mind isn’t a tangle, a tight knot with a loose end somewhere that if only I could find it and pull everything would be fine again. It’s an amorphous, dark, shifting soup. An end comes into focus, I grope for it and it disappears as easily as the sun does when I close my eyes. Clarity is an illusion; sleight of hand. It’s all a trickery.
My chest feels tight. I think I’m anxious about my mood. I’ve noticed small changes in behaviour, withdrawing, hiding, not communicating. I’m being impulsive, spending money I haven’t got because it’s easier than thinking. My sleep patterns are all over the place. Bed at 2am. Bed at 4am. 4 hours sleep or 12 hours sleep, it never feels enough. I’m losing a sense of the fragile daily rhythms I’d created. I feel like I’m beginning to have to swim against the tide; everything’s taking more energy and more concentration to hold on. But I am holding on. I can’t lose it again. Not now. Some help would be good right now, but that’s not going to happen. So, I’m just holding on. Tight.
I saw a rainbow from the cliff tops today. A big, full arc of intense colour. One end was out at sea and the other dropped down in front of St Agnes Beacon, disappearing into the undergrowth. Why do we say there’ll be a pot of gold at the end? Surely it’s obvious the rainbow itself is the treasure?
Katie and I stood transfixed. “Like a child’s drawing”, she said.
Still here, but long coastal walking has had to take a bit of a back seat for a good number of weeks now – my son’s exams, the usual round of heavy colds and tummy bugs and for the past 7 weeks I’ve been attending a business course. I’m getting very excited by the possibilities and it feels good to be well enough to be thinking ahead for a change. I have a ‘big’ birthday looming and I’ve decided that this is the year good things will begin to happen and it’s a good time to make positive changes. A milestone in more significant ways than the marking off of another passing decade.
Things may be a little quiet around here for a few more weeks yet (I’m half way through my course), but I will be back. I love it here, this little place of mine tucked away in a quiet corner of the internet. And there’s so much I want to share.
I went out for a few hours wander on the cliffs around St Agnes yesterday and took along a sketchbook and a few Conte pastels ‘just in case’. Walking along a familiar track I sat and watched the clouds taking shape around the hill; there’s something about this particular place that’s really getting under my skin lately. I won’t divulge any more yet, my thoughts are still quite amorphous, but I think I’ll be going back to look at it some more. Maybe I need to take a wider range of materials next time, or colours at least…
I made this gouache painting of the Beacon a few weeks ago:
and there are few more sketches here and here if you’d like to take a look.
Back soon with another instalment of my coastal path walks, this time from Penzance to Porthcurno.
I was a teenager when I came to the realisation that if I wanted to do something badly enough I’d better get used to doing it on my own: not everybody likes what I like and people don’t always want to join you if they do. It’s hard when you’re painfully shy as I was to put yourself out there, but I figured if I didn’t I’d have no fun at all. And no one to blame but myself. So I’ve ended up doing a lot of things on my own over the years; going to the cinema or the theatre, going for a meal, joining a class, or my running club…
Please don’t talk to me when I’ve just woken up. Actually, probably best to leave it for an hour and a half. Do not request a hair cut, even if it is “just a quick one”; don’t ask “have you got 80p in your bank account? There’s this Sonic the Hedgehog app I’d like”; please don’t request my help to decide how you can best waste £50 to make your new xbox controller work on your pc; in fact, just stop asking me anything. All I can hear is noise, and I really don’t like noise when I’ve just woken up.
“Why are you still in your pyjamas? I was planning on a long walk today, how am I going to do that now, if you’re not ready to leave? You were supposed to be meeting your friends at 11, it’s almost midday.” “What time do you want picking up? 4 o’clock? Well, that’s not gonna happen, I’m going to the Roseland for a walk, I told you.” And so it goes on…
I pull into the lay-by at Wrinkling Lane (don’t you love that name?) near Trelissick
Good concentration is still eluding me at the moment. How do you manage to focus when the creative things you usually do take time and thought? Do you have a strategy?
Mine is to do something physical, raise the heart rate (considerably) with a speed walk, a run or a bike ride (although I haven’t been motivated to get my bike out of the shed for the last couple of weeks…) and that seems to help for a short while afterwards. I’m also focussing on purposely small creative projects like these landscape sketches and the ones below. If I can produce a drawing that I can finish in an hour or so I feel like I’ve achieved something; working on bigger pieces, or ideas that take a lot of clear thinking leave me feeling frustrated and down, so my policy has been to put them on the back burner for a while.
I’ve been thinking a lot about walking lately (thinking as well as doing!) and most of the few sketches I’ve done have been made in a book when I’ve been out locally. This lonely hill, St Agnes Beacon, seems to be constantly in my line of sight! It’s not a large hill, but it’s distinctive and one that I’ve run, walked and biked over. From the top there’s a 360 degree view of the coast and countryside: dramatic cliffs and distant headlands, wind farms, villages, small networks of fields edged with stone hedges and stubby windswept trees. It feels raw, exposed. A tiny bit of wildness. I feel constantly drawn to it (no pun intended!).
Another piece of inspiring wildness near home is on a section of the South West Coast Path towards Perranporth. Cligga Head is a spectacular granite outcrop. Vast sheets of rock look like they’ve been snapped, leaving shards rising from the sea 90m below. The area is rich in rare minerals and the cliffs are riddled with mining tunnels; tungsten was mined as recently as the second world war. A quarry on the cliff edge breaks open the rock to reveal intricate folds and layering: you can literally see what ‘molten‘ means. But what draws me most to both these places lately are the colours.
The Beacon is swathed in heather and gorse, a deep vibrant purple and acid yellow when it’s in bloom, fantastic earthy burnt siennas once the flowers have died back. The colour on Cligga Head is jaw dropping. Iron has stained the cliffs a pinkish blood red; the colour seems to drip, ooze from the rock as though someone had been over it with an over-laden paint brush, full of watery alizarin paint. Next to it are rich, deep yellow ochres that I haven’t seen anywhere else except Peru. There are cliffs that are soft white, pale grey, pitted and knobbly. Some rocks are scarred with green copper and the layers of bright lush green moss, lichen and pink thrift are settled on them all. It’s a dynamic palette laid out before me and I can’t get enough of it – and frustratingly the palette of soft chalky pastels I have can’t be made to capture what I can see! Neither does the sketch for that matter – I plan to go back and do some more soon. (When I did this one my hands got too cold, despite wearing gloves, and guess what… I lost concentration!)
Maybe I’ll go back tomorrow; I want to go for a longish walk of 12 miles or so, but haven’t planned where yet. How about you, what will you be doing this Easter Sunday? Apart from eating chocolate! Hope you have a lovely day.
Last night I slept in the open. No companion, no shelter, just me, my sleeping bag and a book (Macfarlane’s The Wild Places) on top of a hill overlooking the sea.
Before the sun went down I wandered along the coast and made a few pastel sketches of St Agnes Beacon, the hill I slept on. They’re rudimentary; my hands began to get too cold too quickly, so I packed up and headed up the hill to watch the sunset unfurl over the sea, before I snuggled down inside my sleeping bag to read by torchlight.
As I flipped through the sketchbook this morning I realised I’d picked up an old one. A very old one. One of the earliest sketches was from 1996:
Still looking at telegraph poles 18 years later. Curious.