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.  


  1. Such a beautiful post...
    And what a wonderful art you make, Jodi, I'm so happy to discover it.
    I haven't had time yet to explore everything. I love 'Communion' !! I love geese and old women :-) and you painted their power, joy and magic.
    Most of all I love your etching 'Changeling', it's an image that has its own life ... an enchanting whirlwind of lives on that small plate. Soon I will make etchings again myself :-) I wish you a sleep filled with wonders after your inspiring days.

  2. Thank you! I really want to look around more at your art too, I've only seen the tip of the iceberg, I think... one night very soon I plan to curl up in a million blankets and really explore! And I am very touched that you liked my little artworks.

  3. What a great place to soak in the world! Inspiration must abound here.
    Really though, don't those houses flood?!?

  4. What has struck me about your recent posts is how very different your environment is now. I was wondering if you miss it? If inspiration comes as strong everywhere you are? What are you favourite subjects? I have to say that I just love the dandelion, but I just can't put my finger on why... It almost has an echo of the Georgia O'Keeffe paintings that I love, but... not...
    I'm just interested in what it is that most moves you to create?

  5. Heisann!
    I just enjoy your beautiful pictures and drawing today, because my right eye is so tired that it see double!
    Have a nice week ;:OD)

  6. Summertime,
    There was a major storm not too long ago that did a lot of damage in the village I walked over to, but the people there returned and rebuilt everything. Other than things like that, I guess they must be alright if people keep living there.

    Oh! I hope your eye is much better today!


    I've left you until last since my response is so crazy long!

    I do miss Paris sometimes. But then, big cities are maybe nicer to visit than to live in, I think.
    As for inspiration, I find that, for me, it's more a question of internal than external matters. Sure, sometimes there are some things that might set me off thinking about this or that... but on the whole I find that inspiration often comes from creating, as strange and cyclical an idea as that is.
    If I am busy working I tend to get lots more ideas, while if I stop my ideas tend to pretty much stop too. The main struggle for me is fighting of tiredness and laziness.
    I don't know if I have favourite subjects, some things seem to recur in things I make, but I can't really say that I like them more or less than anything else. They are just what seems to me the best or most interesting way of communicating a particular idea at the time, a sort of translation.
    It's not easy to say what moves me to create. One the one hand I have just a basic need or compulsion to create, and where that comes from is beyond thought and is a mystery. That is probably an impulse common to everyone, though people express it (or hide from it) in many different ways. But besides that, I tend to believe that everyone has an impact, for better or for worse, as long as we are alive, and I, for my part, hope to add to the beauty.

  7. Oooh what a treat Jodie, glad you went for a walk rather than stay inside the studio you would have missed so would we ;) Love the birds amongst the seaweed and the double rainbow.