Monday, 2 April 2018

Field Notes on Hambidge

Yesterday was the last day of my residency at Hambidge and I drove out of the driveway in a cloud of gravel-dust and exhilaration. After a discombobulating day today, in which I wasn't quite sure where or who I was, I am now re-entering real life again. And when trying to decide what to write for this blog post, it occurred to me that I have already written an enormous amount this week: a conference paper, pages of prose on the natural landscape, six or seven new poems, and lots of field notes for future poems on the botanical theme that I proposed for my residency. Here are two excerpts from this final week.

Collection Sample No. 7, Dead-Nettle: Lamium purpureum 

From the time I arrived here I have kept an eye on them. At first a curly green and maroon stock of leaves like little mint leaves, slightly heart-shaped. Another rain and another few days of sun the flowers opened: tiny spotted pink flutes. Shaped so a tongue could curl out and it wouldn’t be surprising.

Lyn calls them birthday flowers after her birthday in April, the same day as mine. She keeps a vase of them on her bookshelf beside the botanical paintings that are so large she needs a ladder to hang them. Birthday flowers in pink and maroon, with green that’s yellowy but also evergreen dark.

Lori doesn’t know what they are, ‘but they’re growing next to the chickweed’. We walk to the metal arch near the Spring House where mountain water rushes day and night, runs the curves along the groove it’s carved down the lawn to Betty’s Creek. 

If I kneel there, the water smells cold, like loam and rust. It’s perfectly clear and washes my muddy hands clean. The stones are gunmetal grey, both banks marshy with moss, like walking on sprung ground.

Notes on Hambidge:

Here walking is the way to get everywhere: to get to the Weave Shed, to get your fresh eggs, to get to the mailbox, to get to the Rock House, to get to the wifi, to get to the Antinori, to get to the recycling, to get to the beaver dams, to get to the swimming hole, to get to the North Carolina border, to get to dinner, to get to someone’s house in the evening, to get home.

I have walked every single day for twenty days of my residency. I have walked when I didn't want to, I have walked in the rain and snow. I have walked in the freezing cold with a flashlight. I have walked on dirt paths, on gravel, on a carpet of leaves, over logs and boulders and muddy ground. I have walked along Betty's Creek. I have walked beneath brilliant white stars. I have walked with a friend and I have walked alone. I have walked with a four-legged and a three-legged dog. I have walked with a black cat many times. I have walked until I could barely breathe, I have walked until my feet and thighs and lungs ached, I have walked until I was sunburned, or talked out, or the trail ended in a bear or a snake or a fisherman. If I can walk here, I can walk anywhere.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Transitions of a Resident

In my third week at Hambidge, I can tell that I’ve changed gears: from happy-to-be-here energy where everything on the grounds was new and needed to be fully explored, to a get-down-to-serious-work energy now. 

The changeover of Residents here at Hambidge happens in a cyclical way that sees lots of overlap. Every Sunday, those who are leaving pack up and go, often after a goodbye evening meal or get together with the other Residents the night before. Then comes the lull of Monday where everything goes all slack water—no one going out, no one coming in, no lovely cook here to feed us. On Tuesday morning there is the slightly edgy anticipation of the newcomers who arrive after lunch and who are met by the rest of us at their first evening meal that night.

Depending on how many weeks or months you are here, depends on when and with whom you changeover. Tonight it is only me and the (fantastic) ceramicist Martha Cook from our own incoming group left. And it's all a bit weird being one of the only ones remaining.

Four new people have arrived to take the place of four others who I’ve spent the past two weeks with. Although great to have new faces and new discussions ahead of me, at dinner tonight I found myself really missing the others who I have gotten to know, whose work I have seen as it developed, whose company I have kept on walks and on late night chaperone trips back to my cabin in the woods.

But with this incoming energy, my creative drive has focused in the past two days and I’ve managed to finish one of the two major projects I came here to tackle. A needed transition, even if it means that I am now looking ahead to my own departure soon. 

And as I return to my cabin each evening, after the new conversations I know I’ll have, after the new names and faces I’ll undoubtedly be thankful to have met, I will look at this lovely poster that was left for me by the previous resident of my cabin, (with whom my time here partly crossed over), the artist and writer Mara Lefebvre. Thank you so much Mara for your words and thoughts and the little treasures left behind. I will leave some of my own for the resident who will come after me.