Its 4pm, time to go, filling my back pack with the essentials, paint, string, my cameras, one, two, three, and begin my journey over the fields and farmland. It’s an upward struggle and despite my daily walks I find myself breathless when I reach the top. I allow myself a break. I eat some toffee. Then onward. Following a line of birch trees I’m led downhill towards the sea, two more misshapen wire fences and it’s a sharp decent down to the beach. I’ve timed this right. The tide is low, granting me entry to the cave interior. It’s not easy. I must crawl on all fours; keep my back low, don’t scrap it on the cave roof (I do).
I’m in the belly of the cave. The sound of the waves hitting the jagged coastline rumbles all around me. Its dark and damp, but warm enough to undress. I take out my box of paints and line each up along the waterline, then mixing the colour with the seawater I paint my body. Limb by limb, using my fingers as paint brushes leaving long streaks and hand prints over my flesh, my hair. I’m ready. I’m new. I’m a character, an object. More and less than human. I explore the cavity as a new born animal. Testing the walls, my weight, my skin against the cold rock. The painting ritual has transformed me and allowed me to sit below my normal level of consciousness. Thinking back, it feels
The incoming tide chases me back up the cave and the imminent danger of loosing my possessions to the sea brings me out of my dream. It’s now that I stop the camera rolling and I use my still camera to document the events.
But my mind is still clouded by the paint creature, (or the growing numbness in my hands) and working the camera self timer feels alien.
Pulling the masks and mirrors from my rucksack I bring the items into my recreation. But looking back the mask was only mask in its very essence – to mask out my face. (I hide my face not wanting to muddle the work with elements of vanity I know would creep in if my face was revealed.) The transformation had already happened in the painting and the additional tools felt superfluous, and forced. The incoming tide tickled my toes and the wet brings a chill. Leave.
Naked I crawled back through the rear entrance of the cave and returned blinking into the sunlight, failing to conceal a smile about how weird this must look to anyone who could have happened to come up my strange ritual. This time however, I have the beach to myself. I dress, then lie in the sun, admiring my paint covered limbs against the red sand. Warming my body like a lizard, I lay grinning in a blissful haze, now feels good. The sunlight licks the cliff tops and lazily winks at me through the gorse bushes, it’s settling down to sleep and I too should make my way back to my bed.
Two hours later and I’m enjoying a well-deserved shower, now feels good.