The prospect of a field visit these days brings with it new expectations. I’ve turned it into something else. Re-reading Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust and her exploration into our long and fascinating history with walking, chimes with me, for so many reasons.
In my own meanderings around this small area of land, I am brought to consider my own motivations. Do I walk to alter something within myself? Like a mini pilgrimage, am I searching for change, to emerge after each encounter a slightly more enlightened human being?
I have grown increasingly suspicious of my motivations and interpretations. The meanings I construct from this field come directly out of some internal monologue as I walk. As I near the field I think of my personal history with the edge places. Firstly, what are they? Somewhere touching the town but not part of it. Physically, a place created out of it’s proximity to the last garden fence, the last factory on the road, the borders of the motorway. The protrusions, visual and audible, from the town, mark it as a ‘next to’ place. Also physically marked by it’s nature. A little buzzing, tweeting, long grasses gently swaying in the breeze, the odd butterfly fluttering by, a little glimpse of idyllic. A hint of another time, in an old bit of farm machinery, left rusting in a view that looks constructed for a puzzle scene.
This edge place the one within my monologue, is my own fantasy within myself. I remember, and I think it is true, that when I was young (probably under 10 say) I started fantasising about the fields behind my house. They were agricultural land, large fields with hedgerows, we called them the tracks and we went there, for many different reasons. Walking, sledging, horse riding, bike riding, etc. but when I was home and under my covers at night in bed, I would imagine being there in the dark and strangely it gave me a feeling of safety and comfort. I thought if anything bad happened, if I got really sick or the end of the world came, I would go to the tracks and I could somehow sit in the grass and be sheltered from the chaos. Nothing could touch me.
Over time this fantasy has been tweaked and altered, at times it has housed the illicit love affair, allowed me to play archaeologist, explorer, flirt with new possibilities in identity and today, at this moment in time it allows me to be an artist, or at least fantasise that I can carve out that possibility again.
But there is a change now. This edge, this dividing line echoes with something that never use to be there, was never a conscious thought and that now is inherent within this meeting point between us and the natural earth. This small and insignificant edge, feels loaded with signs of our own imminent destruction. The edge is of course, all illusion and fantasy, one we have created because we see ourselves as something separate.
I took a walk with my dad and he walks with his mind continuously in the past. He narrates a story of this edge with memories of springs before they ran dry, populated by a vast variety of species that were once numerous. He views it all through a prism of destruction. He paints beautiful ghosts into what is there today. I physically struggle with this image and try not to disengage in despair. My feelings of sitting in the grass, sheltering from the end of the world look quite pitiful. This quiet, unassuming edge can look sinister from this angle.