Dartmoor: a few days’ retreat in a cabin: some images and reflections. October 2020.

Dartmoor. Teign valley.

I dream of eating the jellied milk from the spirit foal’s belly. It is set in the stomach to the form of the digesting vessel. I ask: Do my words set in my mouth? Do they find a form to congeal into? Are they jelly, a frogspawn of phrases, of eggs black and tiny and stuck together, stilling my tongue? Or are they caught in a jelly from a muscular cascade, are they spilling out from my lips, finding the edges of yours?

I wash fruit for my breakfast in the white enamel bucket outside, beneath the stately, sinuous birch.
There’s a firm green pear, and a soft ripe persimmon, so thin-skinned. I add syrupy sesame paste, and dates.

In a new painting I’ve begun, I’m thinking about a mother putting her head into her own pouch – does she find her own nipple inside?

I think about how nipples can be for receiving signals from the sky. And: the nipple in the pouch, the crackling of hot fire. Feeding oneself, like a pelican.

In another painting I’m thinking about – having brought their traces with me – the thunderbolt, ejaculation, or orange stream – going up through the top of her head, falling like rain, or a new leg; showing a new way to the feet of the Man.

It’s heart-opening to listen to a friend, to think this: to open like a flower when I become his hand touched by sacredness. I don’t need to turn away from the phallus, I don’t need to stop clothing myself in the creamy stalk. I can be my own tower, move around in my own world. I can make good it’s form around mine.

The man who brings me salt in my waking dream: A painting or a series of drawings of a man bringing me salt to fill my holes, to keep my wounds open. He’s bringing me earth, the earthing of myself, the ballast, the place for roots and rootedness.

Dartmoor. 27.10.20
I send out a wave to you – from my brow to yours – as I sit with wind, sun, cold air, hearing, a taste of blood, a torn finger, a fern cut; deer, squirrels, bees, flies, a blue tit from this morning, and a bee sleeping between the sheets of paper in my car.

Flies in my hair. Dizziness. Shafts of light. Tracks I follow. Peat, thin soil. Stones, ash, dark fire; wood, axe, I split wood into tiny shards. I dig holes. Have short sleeps. Think of you. Magical pull. Caressing the stone. The sculptures. A man’s chest, his back, the way he moves, decisively. My focus. The sinking sun. The coming dark. Lighting the fire. The blackening hill. Sun scooping out a hollow in the hillside and in me. I wait for you to come, to bring the salt and your briny kisses, your dry air, the smell of you. We watch each other move. We’d like it here together.
A raven calls. Black as boughs. I’m writing for you and for me, just as I paint. A songbird above me. A plane, a propeller, I think of you remarking on it, perhaps. It flew over you too. I’ll never know if you’ve been thinking of me, dreaming of me. You’ll never tell me. It’s why I write for the two of us. But of course I’d like to see the words you write with your night-writing, your dusky pattern, your black insistent stroke.

All the trees reaching upwards are my arms. The sun’s last rays kiss their tips. The sound of a breaking branch, a bird’s call of alarm. A buzz. Endless water, a river. Hiding. You’ll never find me. I’m near you.
Tiny green moss growing, showing tiny pointed tips. The sun is going down. Tomorrow I’ll watch it rise. I’ll hear the birds. I’ll think of you. Tonight I’ll listen for foxes and deer; I’ll ask for dreams.
The air cools. I smell smoke. Are you nearby? I must put this ache to work. I sit by open windows. I feel tired. The sun is sinking, the colours fade, there’s an owl calling. My flesh calls for you. I’m that animal calling. You won’t hear me.

The sunlight is like a net across the path. It’s gauze, a perfume, plant scent in my pages. It’s the sense of you crossing the room to put wood on the fire. You’re crossing the room, you’re near me. You hesitate, you feel my antennae.

There’s a draft under the door. I lay my coat across it. I light candles. They’re a joy.

The windows are dark now. No curtains. My view bisected by a pale wash of fading light and a tree’s bare branches. The owl persists. Candle light reflected in the panes. A room full of shadows and the sound of tiny feet in the fire, the endless subdued river below. Glass, metal and flame gleam. There’s a blanket on my legs. Soon I’ll climb the wooden ladder to my bed, and I’ll listen for a while to the sounds of the night. It’s early and I’ll wait for my words to wake me before the dawn. I know friends are thinking of me and sending me love. I’m comforted by that.

There’s a heavy pink-bodied moth flying into the candle flame, pink and white and the colour of sand, she brushes my hand and burns herself.
She sits in my lap, in the shadows. She keeps me company.

A creature chatters in the corner of the room. I don’t know what she is. I look in the corner with a torch. There are colossal spiders webs heavy with time and golden seeds, matrices.
It’s almost completely dark now, apart from the moon and stars. I’m going to sleep on a mattress suspended. I should get out my paper and my paints; I should draw for the evening.

28th October

On a table with wax and the crackling fire. Early morning. I slept up a ladder. I felt my body strong, felt all my muscles working to help me climb. Sleeping suspended then, a squirrel, a knot in the trees, my hands tight, I’m still. I hang like a chrysalis, wound in sleep or thoughts of you. High up I see stars and the night sky changing. Calls of animals close by, I’m in their home.
My hands smell of smoke and garlic and ginger. I peel the knob of ginger, see the juice at his heart as I squeeze then cut the flesh. My finger stings as his juice enters my bloodstream. I’ve cut my finger. I drink hot water and ginger and tea. I’m not hungry. I’ve forgotten my bread.
I go out across the yellowing grass among the silver trees shaking their skirts of gold. So many tails hang between me and the sky. A black-bodied deer skips stiffly away on the hill. She takes the night with her. I follow her path, it descends down rocky ribbony trails amongst oaks and pine. The bracken goldens, her russet hair.

Through my writing I stalk my feelings around you. They’re a creature hiding. They’re that toothy beast in the corner at night, chattering. Then she purrs, my body opens, you’re here. The door creaks as you lift the latch. I hear your voice first, I’m so glad its you.
I sit at the table strewn with wax and socks and candles. Through the window I see the yellowing palette.
My buttocks ache from holding my body in place in the night when I didn’t sleep. The wood speaks around me, creaking, groaning, settling, firing off sparks in the stove, crackling in tiny voices.
I listen for the sounds of bees waking up. The warmth from the stove seems to be waking them, one by one. Then they fly heavily, slowly, as if hovering, towards the window, looking immense and dark. I open the window, release them to the day.
I suddenly think of Venice. Of last year, of being there beside the water and the painted boats and the bells. The flat water, the pink street lamps. The open churches with their wide doors, great slabs of tree brought here across water. The greetings, the shouting, the singing, the warmth of people, families. I sit by the vaporetto stop in Murano, drinking hot chocolate. The big church there is closed, the mosaic floors flooded by aqua alta, the high water. I enter in by a side door. All the pews are piled high, chaotically, an umber mountain. Light streams through the windows, but the treasures, the paintings, the altar, are not to be seen. I walk around until I see two tall dark men wearing long black vestments. They tell me I have to leave.

I go for a walk. I’m looking for a way to cast away the garment of longing which I’m wearing about myself. It’s drawn together at the front, it’s a sumptuous robe of velvet, silk and leather. It’s long, it has a high collar which is drawn up. My hair falls over the edges of it. At the front my hair makes a golden web against the light. The robe does not let go of me. It’s many shades of red, pink, carmine, and black. It’s trimmed in white and yellow.
The trees have eyes. They’re mandorlas, or wounds, they open as the tree grows. You have to wait a while before you can see them, and before they see you.
The leaves fall, a shiver of yellow.
The trunk of a tree lying down like a sleeping horse.
Tree throat.
You find your way because you’ve noticed a golden tree amongst a thicket of green. The fire burns and I can’t get in. A raven calls from the sun. He’s come to tell me a story. I lie on the wet grass to listen. The sun is bright. I have to be with myself, and in the moment. The shadows soft blades, your shoulders. I roll a broken stem between my fingers. I’m sitting in the sun, in a crown of trees. I think of you.
There’s vitality in you even you’re still. In fact, especially when you’re still. It’s perching in you, haunches coiled; it’s ready to pounce, always.
I dream of a woman telling me my urine and my faeces are pure, clean, transparent.
I’m still sitting here with the silver birch and her outstretched, burly arm. I’m locked out, the latch has fallen and I can’t open the door. My buttocks are damp from the grass. Another raven calls. The leaves disintegrate into the air. Flies touch my arm for a moment, as if to reassure. The sun shines. I recline onto my right elbow, to dampen another part of my body. A red leaf falls in front of me. Clouds come. The wetness insists against my thighs. A blackbird.
The silver birch and her black mane. A single petal in my notebook. My garden, so soft, far away. There are diamond marks on the body of the birch, they’re tattoos on her legs, her belly and her trunk. They’re like the leaded-light windows of my childhood home, and the prints from swans feet, some celestial bird walking heaven-wards. They’re where the skin splits. They begin as mandorlas and grow wider, larger. They’re diamonds and triangles, drawings of tents on the ground.

To just stand in the sunshine watching the choruses of leaves taking one last flight. To see the up-turned tree ribs shine, full of another light. And the countless oranges, russets, purples; your high cloud.
I want the pain over with; to not keep picking at this same wound, and having you stand near me with your armfuls of salt. I’m hungry. Locked out.
The robe hangs around me.

4.31 pm
Growing dark. The owl has begun. I draw with oil pastels and watercolours. A man and a woman, they’re playing with each other in an erotic way. They’re lovers.
I eat rice cooked slowly on the stove with eggs and rose harissa. Then tahini and a persimmon. The room is full of candles and darkness. It becomes colder, I do not feed the fire. I hear animals outside the cabin. My ears are pricked.
The hillside is a drum, it bounces sounds around: barks, cries, hoots, moans.

29.10.20 Dartmoor
Lay awake before sleep sure of the sounds of buzzing in my left ear. Have the bees set up home in the roof, the wall, or even inside my head? Thoughts fixate on you, then sleep comes and I have a brief respite: apart from a dream in which I’m captured for some reason, have my papers searched, and a politically dangerous/combustible paper is found in my bag: I haven’t even read it; I just picked it up, and I have to try to explain this to the woman who is questioning me. I wonder if it is a reflection of anxiety I might have about my writing?

I woke at 5.03 to early, faint light through the trees and the sound of rain pattering, dripping and pouring. Below the sound of the rushing river coming off the moor. Above, the thin sound of a bird. I think of the mandorlas in the tree, I see faces within them, and the body of the tree is an aroused woman, she is all her many limbs curling in ecstacy. She’s showing her many openings; her head has disappeared. She’s delighting at your touch.

Owl’s been hooting all night long. I picture her whiteness in the trees above.

I am in anguish over the wave of desire which is carrying me, and not subsiding. With a flash of inspiration I turn to my spirit guide for help. Instantly the feeling in my groin is intensified: it glows with a white light, expands, becomes a clear fire, radiating outwards. And a bird began a sweet song. I accept the feeling: it’s mine and it belongs to all.

I climbed down the ladder. I washed my face in the rain falling from the porch of the cabin, cupping my hands beneath the fat drops as they fell from the wooden tiles. I stood there trying to guess where they’d fall from next. The air was delicious: soft, sweet, full of the breath of trees and the rising spirits of spent plants.
I decided not to light the fire this morning, hoping the bees will continue their sleep. I wear a hat to write, and several layers of clothes. I saw a bat fly around the roof, while the light was still dim; I wonder if the chattering I heard was from a bat?
I watched the light come: a blackish-green, grey, yellow – full of rain; washed my hands. I walk across the yellow grass to be out in the air. I think of you, are you walking across yellow grass, watching the leaves fall? 08.36.

The sounds of buzzing have returned. I’m not sure if its my imagination, a nest, or a musical sound set up by the response of the wood to the wind and the sound of the river.
I read Hillman and Alchemical Psychology. About blackness, and yesterday, salt. My passion is flattening, cooling. It will be good if I can manage it, find a way to be with the current, as you said.
Another night of little sleep. Stormy winds and rain, so many creatures tapping on the roof, all the fingers of the trees are dragging their nails over the cinders. I lie and think of the huge trees behind my head, I feel their leafy fountains above. I am full of longing, and sadness again. It’s reaching into an empty cave, a hollowed out place, dark, at the far end of the tunnel. People have crept up there before, it’s where they take lumps of burning fat on sticks, and they press their hands into plant and earthy stores of colour, they leave their mark. Your sign is deep inside me, its etched into my insides, little stuttering dashes and pulls of madder on flesh, almost invisible, one sinks into another, teeth into fruit. The cave is warm. It’s hard to get to, and no tears are shed there. I’m in there now, with my colours and my pictures. There’s a couple in bright magnesium white, they’re burning, they’re spirits, they’re pre-occupied, making love, and together.
I look at the pictures we’ve done by candle-light in this wild place. In one I see that you’re conjuring me from your hands. You’re rubbing them together, in front of my belly (I’m pale, a half-formed thing, bear-like), so I’m growing from that place, I’m growing sun-rise from the navel you see as you meditate. Your phallus grows full, changes colour; it sees me and turns towards me. It’s also focused on my coming into being, into my growing fully. My head was lost.
The dark creature carrying you is the cave, the animal body. It’s dancing, head lost in umber.

In another picture you’re wearing the red legs of the dancer. Your heart-arm, a rush of tears, arcs towards me. I’m the spirit baby, pink of face, flying above.
Your red hand supports the stream, it opens like a flower. We don’t know if the fluid comes from you, or goes to you. Both are nourished. You need many legs to keep your balance. I have no legs, I fly in the ether. You are afraid of me when I fly above you. But you love me too.

I might be learning to stand in a different place.

I go outside after sweeping the floor. My feet are bare. The grass is covered with fallen leaves and drops of moisture. The air is damp, you can see clouds of tiny rain coming up the valley from the moor. I can see the trees changing and they drop their leaves, each day it is different, they are changed. In a week they’ll be bare. The nightly winds are stripping them. They test their roots in the dampening ground.
They are full of song. Long-tailed tits with their shimmering songs – fluted, sharp – dart from tree to tree, nibbling the manna beneath curling leaves and lichened twigs. I think to myself: O lucky birds to be born in this place!
They circle the cabin, flitting from branch to branch. Overhead, a pair of ravens. I saw them yesterday on my walk through the woods: they circled me. I’ve seen them each day I’ve been here.
I feel deeply sad.
My tears won’t come. I feel a prolonged sense of shock. A shock like a bar of steel, which won’t give. It’s so thick. The heat can’t bend it or soften it.