Wednesday, 25 September 2019
The Unwinding began in Dulverton, when I should have been writing the introduction for The House Without Windows. This past week I have been back in the house where the idea for the book began, writing, painting, listening to owls. My views from the windows have been those of trees and birds, and rain, after weeks of sunshine.
On arrival I set myself up to paint in the kitchen. The house is small, two up, two down. Small, but really rather perfect. Jane, who we are renting it from, came along and said, "oh, well, if you are wanting to be painting you will want the key to the studio," and handed me a key, and the most wonderful space in which to work. After two weeks of worrying and being able to work only in the margins of time it felt like such a blessing.
There was one painting I still wanted to do, one that had run through my work for years in one form or another, sometimes with berries, cherries, or rosehips, but that I have no high res scan of. Time to rework it and rest in its colours. My head is full of deep indigo at the moment.
I settled into the space by prepping a print of Out of the Woods that I need to post to America, all the while thinking of how I would write the words to accompany the image in The Unwinding. At the time the sun was still remembering how to shine and it was warm.
Painting began with sketches, working out the shape of things.
Then, gradually, I tried to remember how to paint.
It had been a couple of weeks since I had picked up a brush.
It felt strange in my hands, so I let the paint speak, and I listened.
Gradually memory came back, but still I thought it best to just let the paint speak. And now it's almost there. And all the while I was seeking words also, alongside the shape of the bear.
I wrote two pieces to go with this image. They overlap in places. Neither are 'right' so both need reworking, shaping, but this is how they are.
And so it seemed to her that he had always been part of the landscape of her life, this great white bear.
She brought him rosehips to sweeten his days, tried to explain how, once, they had been flowers, but now they were seeds.
He told her stories, coloured with every shade of white, and spoke of a sky that danced with lights.
She felt that he knew how the world began, how it would end.
And, even before they met, he walked in her dreams.
When he walked through her dreams moths rose from the earth where his paws touched the ground, as if born from his footfall. They followed him, a cloud of moths of all colours. And the music of their moth wings followed him.
And the dancing lights of the northern sky hung in his breath. In his eyes a world of wild. On his coat, the colour of snow. In his voice, the wisdom of wilderness.
And it seemed to him, also, that she had always been a small part of the landscape of his dreams, though for many years he could not understand her shape. So he told her the stories of colours and spoke with the gentle wings of moths, and walked through the world by her side.
He loved this red colour of the berries, like blood, but sweeter.
She loved the light of the wild in his eyes, the scent of frost in his fur, and the movement of wings.
She could never be sure that when she woke he would be there.
Was he a bear, or a dream of a bear?
And so she brought him rosehips to sit sweet on his tongue, and she told him how they had once been flowers, but now they were seeds. One day, she said, she would show him the soft petals of roses and their scent would fill him with perfume.
And she told him stories to try to keep him by her side. For isn't this always what love is like, until love turns to trust?
She taught him the names of moths, how something that flew, as delicate as ash in the wind, could be strong enough to fly. And moths were drawn to the brightness of him.
He carried the colours of the Northern Lights in his thick fur, and there were times when it seemed he rose up from the land, made of the earth and snow.
At night she felt as if the stars settled into the indigo shadows of his fur.
The painting is almost finished, but not quite. It's a joy to unexpectedly have such a place to unwind in. Tomorrow I will write and walk and think and I hope the rain might ease and give us a break in the weather. And tonight I hope there is a chorus of owls again.
Meanwhile I find beauty everywhere.
And although I haven't finished The Unwinding yet, The House Without Windows publishes next week, with its introduction, and ink illustrations by me, and this week has a launch for Barbara's book, with Number Seven Dulverton who have supported the Unwinding by buying in to it's print run with a bookshop visit ( as have Elementum and Kenilworth Books) There are piles of the book currently at Number Seven, glowing and twinkling in the autumnal Exmore light. You can read something of it here, from The Guardian, last week.
The Unwinding hardback
- Narrated by Bethany Porter
- Music by The Bookshop Band
- 18 tracks (including two new songs)