travelling across Mull…
After teaching my workshop (please see previous post)I spent two weeks on Iona working in the hostel at Lagandorain (the hollow of the otter) doing domestic work and tending the gardens. I walked most days to the beach with a wheelbarrow to gather seaweed to dress the currant and berry beds. For the rest of each day I worked in my nest-like room making drawings and writing; or cycling in the fading daylight to Abbey, Chapel or the beach at the back of the ocean. The hostel is surrounded by fields of close-cropped grass and a couple of dozen of small and wiry black Hebridean sheep. To go anywhere you must pass through a sheep gate or three, and at night ones’ dreams might be accompanied by the percussion of sheep – bottom or horn on corrugated iron.
At dusk I would walk or cycle to the abbey and St. Oran’s Chapel and then spend some time being quiet and drawing in the darkness. For water I used my saliva with watercolour sticks and then I developed drawings from these inchoate scribbling and writings.
Here is an example of my writing made in the chapel:
I sit beside a sealskin come to wrap me
Bird Spine rock
Spine Flower Ribs
Rock Bones Rock
Stem Blood Blood
St. Oran’s Chapel
Making My Earth Skin Bone Foot
with my face in the flame
Drawings with a teacher
here awake, every night shedding my skin
Breasts come down to carpet
the waves, quieten seas, comfort
Vessel which glides
As Ice and Blood
Stone Jug Put Throat Song
bone bird bolos
Lily blessure bud
blond sea breathe
I made a drawing of a horse turning to watch a birth, asking when the return to water will come… the blue tapping legs of lobsters stir my dreams, the horse turns on her side now, revealing her tender belly; she is pre-occupied with flowers gathering at her mushroom-coloured muzzle.
I gave a talk about my work in the Hostel to Islanders. I began with this text from the I Ching:
“The mare is strong, tireless and incomparably fast, and she is acutely sensitive to the subtlest cues. When you have a mare’s constancy, you will be steadily loyal to the truth, and always alert and responsive to guidance.”
Then I read aloud a piece I wrote two year ago, about the horse I knew so well:
“Thinking of Phaedra, of how the breath of the horse creates a kind of womb for me; holds me aloft, intact, supported, whole. A womb of air, a light-filled womb, perfumed, smelling of a horse’s grassy green breath.” And about how Iona used to be known as the Island of the horses/horse people so it is right that I should feel at home there. And this time many of the drawings which emerged were of horse forms, maternal, loving, protective.
In another drawing the horse weeps dark tears.
A man brought a plastic tray of fish for the suppers of women. I watched as they gathered in a circle around the fish. Amazed at the beauty and strangeness of the lobsters (which I have only eaten once, my father bought one just before he died)…..
I wrote about the lobsters.
When blue legs tap
which world responds?
Your blue legs are thin, hard, cool.
Blue legs little tubes of night sky, deep sea darkness you rattle in my world
A visitor you, one afternoon amongst women’s voices, a man’s hands and pale sun.
Strapped here in a plastic tray,
With your barrel-red body and your knowing of other worlds, I am sad for you.