‘There comes a time when time is not enough:
a hand takes hold or a hand lets go; cells swarm,
cease; high and cryless a white bird blazes beyond
itself, to be itself, burning unconsumed.’
Friday 5 – Tuesday 9 May
Alternative summer calzoncino Adelaide; Albania.
‘Bound round with scald I’ve seen it fixed … I’ve seen the egg shells glitter through.’
Bridget Riley, Arround (1963)
Katherine Towers, Rain
Mackie’s Traditional ice cream … salted sugar popcorn sauce!
Purple shiny hoof oil
The colour blue; and green.
‘With one another | let’s play; so come, O sparrow | who has no mother.’ ( – Issa )
2007 Tel Aviv, Israel: 30 November Jerusalem, by Service Taxi;
the ‘Church of the Holy Sepulchre,’ also called the ‘Church of the Anastasis’ by Orthodox Christians, which according to tradition contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: Calvary – the site of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion – and the empty tomb that is believed to have once held his body before the resurrection;
the ‘Franciscan Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene,’ where Mary met Jesus after his resurrection; here, I prayed, proxy for my mother who was in Inverness, Scotland. ‘And the grey cherry tree turning in its wash of rain| tonight I shall ask it in| the feast of leaves turning a quiet song …’
the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate road, running the length of the ‘Couvent Armenien St. Jacques.’ As I walked along the street in bright sunshine – looking for a Service Taxi – a marble fell to the pavement from one of the windows of the convent and rolled to a stop between stones in front of me;
2017 Mallaig, Scotland; 6 April Tarbet, by mountain bike;
the ride is along one side of Loch Morar to the hamlet of Tarbet where a small ferry boat will take you back to Mallaig;
I often think of my mother when I see a white-haired old lady; when she is walking a dog, and always, if the dog is a black labrador. And so it was on this occasion at Inverie when the boat pulled in to pick up day-trippers to Knoydart;
I was inside the cabin when she and her husband sat down next to me. Her husband fell asleep almost immediately – the repetitive throbs of the engine, the rhythmic rise and fall of the waves, and the animal warmth of the cabin taking its toll. I wanted to say to her how warm and cosy her woollen gloves looked, and what a nice colour they were; gloves that were too big for her gentle and soft hands; gloves that she held on her knee crossed throughout the journey, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t find the words, couldn’t speak out loud;
in my guide pack along with an emergency shelter, SPOT beacon, first aid kit, bike repair tools, inner tubes, maps, waterproofs, spare and emergency clothing, food, water, more spare clothing, that is, along with all twelve kilo’s of the stuff I have to carry, I also, always, carry a glass marble – the glass marble – in a small tartan bag.
‘The events of my life would fill more than a novel. It would take an epic, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and a Homer to tell my story … I won’t recount it today, I don’t want to sadden you. I have fallen into an abyss. I live in a world so curious, so strange. Of the dream that was my life, this is the nightmare.’ (Camille Claudel to Eugène Blot| Montdevergues Asylum)
‘Camille Claudel: A Life,’ Odile Ayral-Clause—A life, romanticised in print and in film; this work of scholarship dispels some of the myths that have been woven around Claudel’s life, not least around her relationship with Auguste Rodin; it offers a more considered picture of her achievements as a major sculptor in the Paris art world of the late-nineteenth-century.
At night he dreamt| the smell of apples heaped on barges floating down the river| rough studies sleeping under some cloth.
‘He was unwrapped by her breathing; by the rise and fall of her eyelids.’ (Eugène Blot)
Littlemill, Fortnightly, Ardlach, Coulmony, Ferness …| Flo – requiescat
‘Now I tie my pyjamas loosely round me, and lie under this thin sheet afloat in the shallow light which is like a film of water drawn over my eyes by a wave.’
A hard and remote milky blue ceiling of sky over the field; cold tears standing behind my eyes.
It’s dark but the sky is coming up, peach grey, worm, and alizarin. And as far as Longforgan, and then nothing; a slow-moving cord of haar from floor to ceiling, a thick wall of water seeping deep into the cup of the hills, and it’s cold, and heavy and grey, while the smell of the fields is cold and heavy and astringent; humid and clean. Earth. Earth; stubble and a rotting mustard crop on one side of the lane, gouged ground on the other; wet, heavy earth, turned tidal into deep black welts. A blackbird sings over everything. (Wednesday 15 February)
‘But I will stretch my toes so that they touch the rail at the end of the bed; I will assure myself, touching the rail, of something hard. Now I cannot sink; cannot altogether fall through the thin sheet now. Now I spread my body on this frail mattress and hang suspended. I am above the earth now. I am no longer upright, to be knocked against and damaged.’
Now for the wet and the cloud. The field all-silent, as if offered from another world. Only birds and a bitter cold wind – against the wars and famines, the expulsions and forced migrations—A heartless and perfect beauty: the snowdrops ruby red; soft; silky to the touch, their green stems like veins outside a body; snowdrops on the graves; the field orange and tan; and the pure disembodied silence—In my life—nothing urgent, nothing pressing; only this soft sky above the village, all painted, and looking very near; running deer tracks in Kirkton Wood. Reading Carson – a woodpecker at the sardine tins. (Wednesday 22 February)
‘Let me pull myself out of these waters. But they heap themselves on me; they sweep me between their great shoulders; I am turned; I am tumbled; I am stretched, among these long lights, these long waves, these endless paths, with people pursuing, pursuing.’
Doris moves east from Ireland – a great storm; wet snow on the garden; slabs of thick white slush; air cleanliness, not a soap and water one. Oddly enough I woke up thinking of D.’s redhead hair; Pre-Raphaelites; the cramped room in Ballyfermot and the small farm in Kilkenny—the overflow pipe continues its metronomic dripping onto the shed roof; dot … dot … dot … Last night I made a start on an essay – in mind since October last year – with the line: ‘This essay is written – facing the wall – in the cramped tunnel beyond these dots; in the darkness that followed their creation.’ (The dots in question are The Six Red Dots found at the furthermost reaches of the Lascaux caves in France.) Now straight unbroken sleet. Trees red spotted with rowanberries – only just visible in the grey downpour. (Thursday 23 February)
What I give is fallen.
Spurs – visions of truth yield nothing but by occasion – the sempiternal façade of continuity to our selves; makes much of each flat and holy shadow, as of all our shadows.
Umber – raw sienna, orange, but it’s tubes of ‘dead pharaoh’ – ‘Mummy brown,’ that make the ploughed field; the voices of children like birds.
‘The day is stark and stiff as a linen shroud. But it will soften; it will warm. At this hour, this still early hour, I think I am the field, I am the barn, I am the trees; mine are the flocks of birds, and this young hare who leaps, at the last moment when I step almost on him. Mine is heron that stretches its vast wings lazily; and the cow that creaks as it pushes one foot before another munching; and the wild, swooping swallow; and the faint red in the sky, and the green when the red fades; the silence and the bell; the call of the man fetching cart-horses from the fields—all are mine.’
‘All that lies over the water in the brain of that ridiculous little man. Why ridiculous? Because none of it fits. Encloses no reality. Death & war & darkness representing nothing that any human being from the Pork butcher to the Prime Minister cares one straw about. Not liberty, not life … merely a housemaids dream. And we woke from that dream & have the Cenotaph to remind us of the fruits.’ (Monday 5 September 1938)
Roy Batty| back in the real world| Pygmalion| Vapour trails
‘Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of a candle … I think sometimes (I am not twenty yet) I am not a woman, but the light that falls on this gate, on this ground. I am the seasons, I think sometimes, January, May, November; the mud, the mist, the dawn.’
‘L. is doing the rhododendrons …’ (Monday 24 March 1941)
Grey day. Overslept, and not well. Read Brockington – on Bell. Set the fire; read over the fire; stayed in all day except to fill the pale with coal – dirty-yellow pale, black coal; straight unbroken rain; clay-coloured sky, the colour of ash over the field. The pillowcase a shade of blue that reminded me of Franz Marc’s Large Blue Horses – a welcome thought on a featureless, grey and wintery day, Bell’s paintings the exception. (Sunday 26 February)
The wasp byke, close up and out of focus—like the screen of a confessional; Moorish window architecture; Fellini’s 8 1/2; Abraham’s Motional—bits of desiccated wasp, near powder; brushed to the floor with a bookmark in the way that a cat pushes a pen or a clothes peg over the edge of a table. There have been no cumulus for a long time, only clear blue sky or grey impenetrable stratus … sky a dirty shade of wall pitted with a mould, pin holed to another universe where a painter pricks a charcoal cartoon for a late settlement of piety having received confirmation of Saint Helena’s vision of the true cross; Courbet’s Red Apples. (Monday 27 February)
‘When you are silent you are again beautiful. I shall never have anything but natural happiness. It will almost content me. I shall go to bed tired. I shall lie like a field bearing crops in rotation; in the summer heat will dance over me; in the winter I shall be cracked with the cold. But heat and cold will follow each other naturally without my willing or unwilling.’
March| Viridian, viridian, green, green, green
March| Silver, silver, green, viridian, turquoise …
‘Sharp stripes of shadow lay on the grass, and the dew dancing on the tips of the flowers and leaves made the garden like a mosaic of single sparks not yet formed into one whole. The birds, whose breasts were speckled canary and rose, now sang a strain or two together, wildly, like skaters rollicking arm-in-arm, and were suddenly silent, breaking asunder.’
‘In the garden where the trees stood thick over flowerbeds, ponds, and greenhouses the birds sang in the hot sunshine, each alone. One sang under the bedroom window; another on the topmost twig of the lilac bush; another on the edge of the wall. Each sang stridently, with passion, with vehemence, as if to let the song burst out of it, no matter if it shattered the song of another bird with harsh discord.’
‘The birds sang passionate songs addressed to one ear only and then stopped. Bubbling and chuckling they carried little bits of straw and twig to the dark knots in the higher branches of the trees. Gilt and purpled they perched in the garden where cones of laburnum and purple shook down gold and lilac, for now at midday the garden was all blossom and profusion and even the tunnels under the plants were green and purple and tawny as the sun beat through the red petal, or the broad yellow petal, or was barred by some thickly furred green stalk.’