My Secret Place

Before the onset of middle age and chronic caution, I often went out exploring the picturesque country lanes and tracks around the market town in North Yorkshire where I lived for ten years.  I would forget my chores, ignoring housework and assignments and set off in my old maroon Volvo 340 with my collie-cross dog, Flossy in the back seat. Sometimes I took a picnic. I would drive around for hours out of curiosity.  This resulted in a few scrapes such as getting stuck in mud, falling into ditches, trapped behind locked gates and lost on the moors. However, it was also the way I discovered wild and beautiful places hidden away off the beaten track. These were my secret places where I would go whenever I needed to recharge my energies.

One of these idyllic spots was by a crumbling stone bridge spanning a fast flowing stream and surrounded by a cluster of trees.

I would stay there all day, reading, dreaming and painting and see no-one at all other than birds, rabbits and the occasional fox. I felt completely relaxed and safe. Solitude to me is safety. My dog would run free, swim in the stream and then shake water all over me and my water colour pictures…often improving them in the process!

There was always a deep undisturbed silence free from the intrusion of traffic or human voices.  In the silence my anxious thoughts would unravel into peace and optimism. I would start to think and see more clearly.

According to the OS Map it was possible to ford the stream at this point but I never had the courage to try. I never found out what lay on the other side of the water or where the track would eventually lead.

 

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Photo by the author

Beauty in the Bleak

The Scots language has a perfect word to describe winter in the north highlands.  ‘Dreich’ (pronounced /dri:x/) is an adjective mostly used in relation to the weather.  It translates as bleak, dull, dreary, grey, comfortless, cold, overcast, miserable.  At least four of these conditions must apply for a day to qualify as truly dreich.  The origins of the word come from the Middle English ‘dreig, drih’ in the sense of ‘patient, long-suffering’ and correspond to the Old Norse ‘drjugr’ – enduring and lasting.

Certainly a great deal of endurance is necessary to survive a Scottish winter.  The endless grey skies and lack of light can be depressing.  I find my energy levels dwindle and I just want to hibernate at home, huddled by the fire.  But there’s also a strange beauty in the dreich days, a potential for change. When the mist dissolves and the clouds blow away the light will be brighter than ever.  Who knows what will be revealed.  Something fresh is germinating but we need to be patient.  It is a transition period between the old and the new, a time that can be used for self-reflection and healing.

Here are two of my favourite dreich photographs.  The first shows the section of an old gate leading to an overgrown field.  The second shows the windows of a disused filling station.  As well as the empty shelves you can see the reflection of a minimalist landscape.  If you look really hard you might see me.

 

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

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Photo by the author

Looking into the Dark

There’s a question I’m often asked about my art and poetry; why am I so interested  in dark subject matter when I could be writing and making images about ‘happy stuff’?

I’m not sure if I choose my themes or they choose me.  Inevitably my work reflects my life, my view of the world.  From early childhood I’ve experienced pain and trauma growing up within a dysfunctional family where I never felt safe and also at the hands of an uncaring medical establishment that treats disabled people as expendable.  Although I’ve been lucky enough to have love, friendship and joy in my life, it’s always been within the context of a threatening world.  I’ve spent most of my life in ‘survival mode’.

It’s important to me that my creative work tries to expose the truth as I see it.  I want to confront my reality head on, with all its flaws and sores.  I don’t want to retreat into a rose tinted bubble and pretend life is perfect which is what the State would prefer us to do.  It’s much easier to control a population that doesn’t ask difficult questions.  Of course, it’s also essential to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of humour.  To see into the dark we also need some light.  Before you descend into the subterranean depths of your pain make sure you have a torch.

 

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Original Photograph by the author

 

An attraction to the dark side of life may be a tendency among creative people. There certainly seems to be a link between poetry and pain. There’s a higher rate of depression, addiction and even suicide amongst poets.  Flick through any poetry book and you will find more poems about loss and pain than happiness.  Personally, I find cheerful ditties about love and rainbows rather tedious.  Misery is far more fascinating!  Perhaps truly happy people (if they actually exist in the real world) do not feel the need to agonise over choosing the right words in the right order on a piece of paper.  They’re probably too busy doing whatever it is that normal, happy people are supposed to do, making money, having sex and playing football or whatever (no disrespect to rich, sexy footballers intended!)

One of the reasons I write poetry and make art is the hope that sharing my experiences may help others in similar situations. It’s comforting to know you are not the only one with difficult thoughts and feelings. We can all learn from one another, we can all gain strength from one another. We don’t have to be alone. That is the beauty and power of art.

 

On Happiness

“Life is a circle of happiness, sadness, hard times and good times.  If you are going through hard times, have faith that good times are on the way”.

Buddhist Quote

 

To those of you who will be celebrating during the Festive Period whether that be Winter Solstice, Christmas or whatever your personal belief system may be, I wish you peace, joy, good health and happiness.

Thank you to everyone for supporting my new blog during the last three months.   I’m very grateful to all my followers, visitors, for your comments and likes.  It’s been a therapeutic, exciting experience to create this blog and a privilege to share my writing and images with you all.  I will be taking a few days off now to recharge my batteries and do some fresh writing.   I’m looking forward to returning to blogging land some time very soon!

 

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Original image created by the author