Thursday, 13 June 2013

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.


I like to listen to the radio as I work.  I listen to a lot of music but also like to hear discussion and description.  By nature I am curious about ideas and the way that things work. I enjoy hearing debates and differing views on all sorts of topics.  I also find that focussing my conscious mind on the logic of the arguments and the speaker's personality helps me to paint subconsciously.  It prevents an inner dialogue about the work - which can be inhibiting - and postpones it for a point of critique or assessment later in the day.

Recently I have listened to three very interesting programmes on BBC Radio 4.  The first was about the dawn chorus and the other two were about walking.   The dawn chorus is something that I am particularly aware of here.  I often seem to wake just before the onset.  Apparently it peaks in mid-May and continues until July.  Following the programme, I decided not to miss the experience for another year and so, one day last week when I heard the first robin start to sing, I heaved myself out of bed and quickly got dressed.  It must have been around about 4am.  In the twilight of the garden I probably looked like a ghost, wandering around in a pale cream hoodie and faded jeans, but it was definitely worth the effort of getting up.  The volume and variety of song were amazing.  It rippled and echoed like water.  They were singing their hearts out!  We are surrounded by huge, ancient trees and farmland and live on the edge of a little valley with a lake about a mile away - so it is an ideal environment for an abundance of species.

The other two programmes were from the series "Ramblings".  The first was about a stonemason that goes barefoot walking in order to "earth" himself.  He believes that to do this regularly means that he maintains a high level of health and well-being by being in direct contact with the earth. The most recent interview was with the writer and environmentalist George Monbiot, the author of "Feral", a book about his attempt to "stave off the monochrome nature of everyday life" and his attempt to "rewild" his life by his contact with the natural world.  As someone that is very aware of the surrounding landscape each day, I found their descriptions about wanting to re-connect with the environment intriguing. They were both passionate about the positive and balancing effect that this has.

Interestingly enough, I couldn't have experienced much more of a contrast to this than on Monday of this week, as I was in hospital having a CT scan on my head and neck.  In this environment there is no natural light, no organic structures and almost no colour. It is a bit like a grey cave, lit in part by fluorescent tubes.  The room containing the scanner seemed to consist solely of metal and glass.  I felt a little like an extra from a science fiction film as I lay on a metal bed, being injected with a drug by a machine through a line in my arm, while my head was inside something resembling a large washing machine on spin.  It was a curious experience, especially as you are alone in the room and the voice that is speaking to you is recorded and coming from a speaker. I would find this an extremely difficult environment to work in.  Having grown up on a farm I am used to fresh air and freedom.  I am very grateful for the people that work in such a landscape, but I would feel like a caged animal.

As I continue to read my way through the anthology of poetry that I bought in Much Wenlock, I found this one by the American farmer, writer and poet Wendell Berry.  I read it on Tuesday morning, and it seemed to sum up much of the sentiment in those radio programmes and what I had been thinking.

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 
Wendell Berry

All text (except poem) and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson
"Ramblings" BBC Radio 4, Thursdays 15.00