Friday, 4 February 2011

Draining the bog

Wind a bit on the wild side last night, and a dramatic thunderstorm to stir the spirit. Our new cabin, aka 'The Great Hall', is so well-insulated we had to open the windows to hear the gale roaring in the trees. After 12 years of living in a caravan we haven't got used to being safe inside, separated from the elements.

I spent last weekend digging ditches to the south of the cabin in the hope of draining the great squodgy sog of wetness around it, which we've been steadily plodging into a mudbath since the cabin was habitable in December. There's nothing quite so satisfying as digging up from the stream, turf by turf, getting muddier and muddier, and eventually taking out the final divot.

One last heave of the spade and the backed-up water gushed through, torrenting down into the stream and away. The ditches ran with water for days, and now after the downpours of last night, they're running again. It's gratifying to see, and I await spring with interest, hoping that as the grass grows in, the ground might turn out to be a bit less marshy than before.

When I lead creative workshops, one of the main metaphors that I use is the idea (which I first encountered from Julia Cameron) that our creativity is like water. Inside each of us we have the potential for a vast reservoir from which art can flow, and we should feed that reservoir at least weekly and preferably more often, with good things - treats, sensuous experiences, play, fun, excitement and beauty. The creative process happens when this water flows from the reservoir down our stream of consciousness. But this stream can easily get blocked up with detritus, with doubts and fear, with boredom and overwork, with demands and failure to be understood. To make creativity feel easier we need to work to keep the stream of consciousness free-flowing. Scribbling long-hand in a notebook daily is my preferred method. Perhaps there are others that also work - meditations of other kinds or physical labour where the mind can run free.

Digging the ditches, I pondered the metaphor. There was something happening, as I dug, that was connected to my own creative process. The ditches form a herringbone of short canals, an extension to the existing stream. This wasn't unblocking the main channel, but it was about seeing another area where I was bogged down, and freeing it up. It required pretty serious structural change. It caused a short-term flooding torrent. And it has created an as yet unknown potential.

It's no coincidence, surely, that Top Left Corner, the community arts company I helped to set up last year, is winding up. I've been feeling overwhelmed (bogged down) for months, by the work that the company required. And now, the company will end (structural change), there is a flood of final activity and who knows what the future will bring. Meanwhile, creatively, I'm feeling more energy than I've felt for ages - a sense of new creative areas opening up, a huge sense of relief.

There are risks, of course. The problem with the drains that I've dug is that they cut through a highly organic, peaty soil. We are not supposed to drain peatland as it stores carbon when wet and when it dries out the fibres in the peat can decompose, releasing the carbon they contain into the atmosphere with all the attendant climate change risks that means. Plus we don't like making interventions like this on the croft, which we are trying to manage in as light-touch a manner as we can, to help woodland regeneration and ecological restoration. Was this too heavy-handed an intervention? Will planting some trees make up for the damage? How do we tell?

Likewise what may I have lost by the death of Top Left Corner? What's the price of freedom? Quite aside from the financial risk to myself of being once again completely freelance, what will the knock-on impacts be on the cultural climate in these parts?

Is there more stormy weather in the forecast?

No comments:

Post a Comment