I’ve been in touch with Pells Pool writer in residence, Tanya Shadrick, for over a year now. Since almost the start of her project we’ve been excited by each others work, noticing similarities in process and interests. I didn’t get to meet her last year despite several attempts to do so. Her project Wild Patience involves her kneeling at the side of the lido, writing on pool length scrolls of paper, a mile of them. An intention to mirror the physical demands of the swimmers she is an ‘endurance writer’.
We made plans to meet again, this year. I would visit her at Lewes.
I parked and made my way around the back of an industrial estate. I had probably not found the most direct route. The sky was falling and nothing about the day was telling me this was what I should be doing.
On arrival the pool had just been cleared of swimmers. Thunder was rumbling over head, lightening threatening. An uncanniness to our meeting had followed us around, last minute changes to plans scuppering things last year, and this time the skies were troubling us.
We went for tea elsewhere and returned to the pool after a conversation where neither of us came up for breath. The weather had cleared, atmosphere shifted, and I went for a swim.
I enjoy the physical demands, the movement of body in the water. It is different to exertion on land. I noticed much more than during many of my swims, a connection with the water. Perhaps because it is so much longer than the pool I usually swim in, perhaps because the water is fed by a spring, perhaps because it is outside, perhaps the anticipation of the meeting or the shift in air and drama of the thunder storms. It felt different.
Walking back to my car, along a stretch of the Ouse river at the back of the lido, I heard a splash. I watched more closely to see a carp leap upwards and completely out of the water. Three times it leapt. I looked around to see if anyone else was watching. A fish out of water. A fish adjusting its swim bladder a likely reason for the leaping. It needs air as I need water. The carp needs time above the surface as I need time below.
I’m still watching the sea, waiting for the tide to turn and retreat from the beach so I can watch the beach. Noticing how it effects it’s immediate environment, the activity as it changes, I go out looking for drawings. Lines in the sand.
I’ve seen the pretty feather shapes before, the weaving of dark sand into light too. There are grooves in the sand and in the rocks, what might have been the imprint of a star fish. Today I’m at the beach with a friend. We are crouching down, looking really closely. Silently watching for something to emerge. We both notice, I think at the same time. Whelks. Racing whelks. Lines made in the wake of their movement from rock to elsewhere. We stood and watched for some time, they struck me as being pretty speedy. Lines crissed and crossed each other, apparently without order. Several were at times following the same line created by the whelk at the front.
I offered one a line to follow. I drew in the sand with my toe. I drew another, offering a choice and waited to see which it took. Some tense moments followed. Slight rocking movement accompanies them, left to right, right to left, creeping across the surface. The whelk reached my first line and began to turn. It avoided the first line and pointed towards the second. It kept turning. It took a much longer route to avoid both of my choices. I tried not to feel too rejected, more curious about these tiny creatures and their activities between the tides.
Standing for so long in one spot my feet have begun to slip beneath the surface. This space which is neither land nor sea, but alternately both, body weight has displaced water. I now stand in a puddle of my own making. Imprints quickly disappear again as I move, shifting sands.
Piddocks making holes in stones and worms casting spirals.
A morning walk. Three men looking for lugworms and me.
It’s low tide but turning. On it’s way out stones were dragged across the sand, the sea taking what it could.
Springs further up the shingle erupt and run down to meet the ocean.
Marks are made in softer sand taken to the sea with the tide. Grooves trace their paths. Sculptural forms branch like roots.
The wind is blowing causing pools to ripple, making their own marks below.
I wonder what marks I would make in the sand if I lay down in the water when the tide was heading out.
Drawings made at the end of a series of dives collecting data on biodiversity, counting indicator species in the Bay of Roses, Spain.
On the back of my slate I began to experiment with, what I thought, was a better way to record what was there. I drew. It was more interesting to me than counting. I went to contribute to a citizen science project, but my reason for joining was to see and to stare, under water.
Restrictions of scale of the slate and the inability to hold still while drawing were interesting observations. Lines crash into each other and draw over the top of each other as I’m caught up in attempts to capture it all. My lines need to be stronger and more direct, I do not have much time. It may not have been a ‘better’ way to record the scene in front of me, the University of Barcelona would not find it as useful as the series of ‘I’s I had drawn on the other side for monitoring what’s living and growing on the sea bed, but it made me look differently. I looked at things in relation to each other, I picked out the shapes that interested me more, the creatures I had come to recognise and enjoy seeing. I noticed how quickly or slowly they move, under their own propulsion or that of the water around them. There’s no background or composition, I drew in the space I had in the time I had. I’m interested in how this could develop…