Sunday, 24 October 2010

Walking the Land, Walking the Sea

  Yesterday was a magic day that rose up out of the ocean.  I walked along the coast in the wind and golden October sunlight while gulls and crows and little specks of birds swam through the air like schools of fish,  far above me and the sea cliffs.  Two small towns sat almost on the waves.  I'm told the ocean stands up and crashes over the houses in the winter, they sit so close to the sea.  Behind the houses, great cliffs press in, the immovable giants that have forced the placement of the houses to be so precarious.

   Every turn of the coast was precious.  At each step I found the bones of poetry scattered about.  The words that relate to the sea are my favourites: whelks, limpets, creels, anemones, flotsam, coral, cockles. 

I picked round white stones from between the fingers of the tide, jumping back from the bigger waves. I scrambled over rocks, stepped over heaps of seaweed.

I came to this place with a group of landscape painters; we had all rented a studio together for the day.  The studio was halfway up a hill with windows that watched out over the whole of Gamrie Bay.  On cold days like yesterday one can sit up inside the studio and paint the reds and greens of the headlands, the white-capped ocean, the black rocks, or the grey stone roofs below.  My short morning walk lasted most of the day though, and so I only spent a couple of hours inside with the artists.

   First I went to the harbour.

I decided to set off to a second village down the coast, a single string of houses with a path in front of them, narrow enough that waves could leap up to it and lick you as you passed through the town.

When I had rounded a promontory and come across the town (which was really not a far walk, just that I was always stopping to look and look) I sat down and sketched a wee sketch in the cold air until my hands turned icy and I decided to keep on.

In the village everything smelled of sea air and coal fires.  Little lines with drying laundry sat in front of each house.

And then I turned back.

As I made my way towards the studio again, I discovered that the tide had risen and that my path home was becoming the sea floor.

 There was still time, when the waves receded, to pass. Just.

Distances are relative on the coast.  A town may sit in close view, in easy reach with a little walking, but then in the seaweed just nearby something moves and time and distance twist a little, and then the town is very far away indeed.  It might take another hour to reach the town.

Do you see them hunting their lunch in this tangle of seaweed?  Running across the beach in the ebb and flow pattern of the sea, like leaves in a wind, leaping out the way when a big wave surprises them.

And then it was back into the studio, to drink tea and look out of windows admiring the view, cheeks rosy from the cold wind, head full of dreams and wondering, thankful.

Just before we left to return home, a patch of mist appeared on the sea.  Then a rainbow, and then two.  Proof of a perfect day written out across the sky.  And then it was gone in a downpour that fogged up all the windows, and we were winding up and up, away and home.  

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Long Evenings of Candle Lighting

Cat on a roof behind the house.

   I've hermitted myself away this past little while.  The views have mostly been peering out through dusk and windows.

   There have been some exceptions, of course.  I started to take a Russian class, which so far has been very nice indeed.  I even love studying my small collection of vocabulary; it makes me feel like I am travelling.  There have been strolls down empty streets on misty nights.  A chimney sweep visited.  We went to a party full of the teachers from the French school that sits in an almost-castle not far away.  That was also a little like travelling.  But mostly I have been planning and reading and drawing, and so I almost forgot that I was all cloistered away.

   Two of the drawings you can see around you in the new layout (but others are secrets, for now).

Bigger version of the dandelion in the background.

  Tomorrow I think I'll have to rejoin the world a little. 

Monday, 4 October 2010

Some sea sits on the windowpane on cold nights.

The days have been blowing by faster and faster.  I keep meaning to post, and then the wind starts roaring up against the building, and the stars twinkle in through the window, and before long I am down by the misty shore listening to the roaring and groaning of the ocean, transfixed by the countless white fingers of the tide that fall back just before my shoes.  Before the moon rises, the white caps of the waves seem to shine with their own light.  The three lighthouses down the coast send their lights soaring out, jumping spaces, measuring.   On the walk to the sea, this grey city of many steeples and old towers seems to hang suspended in the twilight, fat yellow clocks like peering eyes in the dusk.  A ferris wheel sits next to the beach, frozen and delightfully garish.
   But the only pictures I have for you today are from a daytime trip out to a nearby fishing town, where we listened to a man who is building himself a beautiful wooden fishing boat in a traditional way.  We strolled past walls of piled up lobster creels and then found the little garden you see above.  Maybe you can see the little sign in the bottom right-hand corner.  It asks you if you can spot "3 fairy houses, 4 gnomes, 4 meerkats.... " and the list goes on for quite a while.

*   *   *

   October has always been my favourite month, and this October marks nine years since I first met my husband.  We met at eighteen; he lived across the hall from me.
   Also, this October I have two prints at the 78th Salon d'art in Etampes (it's a city not too far from Paris).  The man who taught me about etching, Mada Abderrahmane, is being featured there, and has invited 17 other etchers (one of whom is me) from the Atelier de Gravure de Belleville in Paris, where he teaches.  The show opened Sunday morning, and by early afternoon I had received an email saying that one of my prints had already sold! The show runs from October 3rd to 17th, if you should find yourself in the area.

    Other than that, my days have been full of strange and sundry things, bagpipe makers, eating oatcakes made on an open fire, planning, drawing, a day to celebrate the culture of the Travelling People of Scotland, watching the sky at sunset, leaves turning on lovely old trees, stargazing in the park.