The midlife role for women and men is under the hammer. What will we bid for a life, a resonating life that inspires, rekindles purpose in our own lives and offers something of value to our people as we age.
In one sense, we could be seen as an empty seed pod… in another the possibility that this well-honed vessel is a rich and resounding space for deep listening, the sharing of stories, empathetic exchanges and creative outpourings. Less need to rush, to achieve, be noticed, more time perhaps to be.
How our world needs people who have come alive in this way.
To quote Kate Tempest as I heard her today, ‘ ..if you think you can listen well, listen harder! Seek out other people’s narratives, especially the ones we are not used to hearing…’
In order for me to access my creativity, to enable the seeds in my vessel to find fertile soil at this stage of my life, I know I need to wander in the natural world.
To this end I have taken time out and headed to my old home, the north east of Scotland. A treat in itself. Also, a necessity. I no longer know what my offering is in these challenging times. I have wrestled long and hard in the mainstream busy world to find it, to no avail. Following dream images, wise council and my need for clarity I open myself to the mystery of wind and wave, trees, earth and shoreline. Knowing their wisdom is waiting for me if I can stop long enough to hear it.
Today I rose at 5.15 and arrived at the coast for 6am. A wild wind and wilder sea bounds and leaps ashore, driven by an extraordinary energy. Scooping up sand, frothing and roaring I hear it before I see it… a crazy animal baying.
I layer up and retrieve a grey wool glove abandoned on the path. An instant gift indeed as my hands are already cold from carrying a big vessel…this vessel is fashioned from terracotta clay, rolled into coils forming the desired shape. She was then fired in a kiln, and packed in a dustbin with banana skins, coffee grounds and hard wood shavings, to simmer for a day and a night. Finally burnished with beeswax she is my first offering of which I am really proud.
Full of gifts now from her overnight vigil in the woods; bark of silver birch, skeleton leaves, feathers, elm seeds and curls of twig and nature we wind down a well-worn cart track to the shore.
I remember picnics here, swimming in icy pools, grubby children camping, blue lipped, teeth chattering and ecstatic faces shimmering with life. Canoes, skinny dipping and bonfires. Always bonfires with oddly assorted foods to roast and toast. Some days too hot to move days and others too cold to stay long days. This is one of them.
There is the fire pit, marked out with rocks and cradling some smashed Heineken bottles. I have paper and matches and then remember my flint and dry honeysuckle peelings in the car. Too late.
The wind roars cold; with zip zipped high and one hand blue I reflect that it is the merry month of May and a sun kissed balmy day is emerging ‘down there’ where I presently have a root. However, there is nowhere to be but here right now and nowhere I would rather be.
Hair torn back into a wild mass I climb a narrow sheep track up the side of the hillside. Wobbling and uncertain I perch on a tuft of grass and howl into the bowl as the wind howls in me, we howl and sing wildly together. Echoes roar back from the deep of all that is held within the dark space held in my arms. Coils of shining silver birch flutter and dance like butterflies escaping, the feather tremors as does my heart unsteadily perched as I am on this windswept scarp.
Round the top I meet the full force and cower behind a rock… retreating, wobbling back to the fire pit, singing all the while.
Then on, round the other side of the bay, up, up a slip of hoof worn earth teetering between two grassy clumps.
A new vista opens out; serried ranks of wild water beat a frothy tide up the wide beach beside a distant hamlet tucked in, shoulders side-on to the force. Spume shrouds the detail but no matter, I know it well.
We descend into a sandy cove where calmer picnics are well ingrained. Chastised waters skirt the point and rush like eager children over the smooth wet sand toward me, dragging seaweed in their wake.
I lay the vessel in all her simple solidity and tender vulnerability in its course and watch the ebb and flow, the land and sea swirling in… both forming and shifting the other.
She tilts, her sparse garland of honeysuckle slips and like to a child, I run and rescue her. It’s not yet her time.
We sing our way round this second bay along with the seagulls, danced by the wind.
At last, chilled and complete, here is the fire pit. Salt driftwood does not ignite easily. It groans, spits and protests before rumbling into flame thanks to a steady gust between the rocks. Skirting annihilation I add all my findings to the mix and then douse myself in the primal fragrance of smoke.
Suddenly it’s over. All energy gone the dogs get up to leave, all thought of rotting seabirds and rabbits forgotten. I am bemused. Lost. Curious as to what has happened.
Empty now we go to the highest spot, a look out post for all to see. And to be seen. I lay my beauty down in the grasses, and gaze one last time.
‘Fill her with your stories’ I shout to the wind. ‘Don’t hold back! Don’t be frightened! I will be back tomorrow!’
‘Fill her with your stories!’
This is not the outcome I expected. I imagined throwing her into the sea, smashing her on the rocks and scattering her body parts, anything but this.
But as an artist, a follower of the truth, this is what I have to do. I leave the questions with her and climb back to the car and breakfast.
“I think it’s important to play closer attention, to look again, to recognise that you’re part of something much bigger than yourself…” Kate Tempest