A Week of Rain is Forecast

Starting off Sunday next week, I plan to walk the West Highland Way, a well signposted trail from just north of Glasgow, Milngavie to the Highlands of Scotland, Fort William.

I tried to walk this trail about 8 years ago but failed at the mid point due to sickness. So this time, I plan to complete it by any means necessary. If that means someone else carries my bag with camping gear from one stop to the next then so be it. I’m not too proud to accept help.

But I’ve just checked the weather for next week. And apart from a sun shine sign on Sunday, the rest of the week is 50-60% rain each day. Every day until the following weekend.

Now I could let this put a dampener on the whole walk, pun intended. Or I could just carry on as I have been carrying on, full of excitement with a genuine positive mindset to complete the miles but to enjoy the process.

I’m going into this week of walking, shortest day 10 miles – longest day 21 miles, coming off the back of some good learning experiences which I want to bring to bear in this next challenge.

The first is my 100 days of practice to complete my commission for the BALTIC Hinterlands exhibition due to go live 22 October. I didn’t allow myself to get too far into my head, stress and worry about what I was creating. Instead, I really enjoyed the process of showing up each day and seeing what came out of it. I totally enjoyed the process and had fun.

The second is my recent completion of the Great North Run. I went into this event off the back of very little training and with the simple mission of completing the 13.1 miles by any means necessary. But I didn’t look upon it as something I had to get through, grin and bear it. No. I went into this endurance event with a healthy positive mental attitude. I wanted to enjoy the day. Get around with a smile on my face, really soaking up the atmosphere of the day.

These two learning experiences I will bring to my West Highland Way challenge. So it says it’s going to be rain for the whole week. I’m going to get wet. I’ll expect to get wet. No surprises then. So the flip side is when I see the sun, or glimpse a patch of blue sky, I’m going to feel gratitude and it’s going to put a spring in my step.

I’m prepared for the rain but if I get sunshine I’ll take it with a smile. I’m not going to cancel this trip I’ve been planning for months because of a spot of wetness. I’m going to get wet as I plan to get into the lochs along the way. I’m planning to take each mile as it comes and enjoy the journey. Rain or shine. I’m doing it.

Yes I’ll get wet. Yes I’ll be cold. Yes I might not dry out all week. But I’ll be out in the Scottish landscape soaking it all up.

Would I like more sunshine? Of course I would. Would I like to be stuck inside, head buried into a computer screen working for the man? Hell no. Give me a week of walking in the rain from the Lowlands to the Highlands of Scotland and I will gladly take it with a smile on my face.

When I took up a door to door sales jobwhile at University in London for extra cash, rain was sold to us sale reps. as “liquid sunshine”. I’m going to remember that as I trek through the miles.

Tune in and see how I get on next week.

Women and Wetlands

Last night I was part of a panel discussion which tackled the subject of women and wetlands.

Crag Lough, seen from Peel Crags, Hadrian’s Wall

I was asked by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett at Northumbria University to be part of this event and share my work around my residence at Northumberland National Park and my explorations of peat bogs.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect about this event or what I was going to share. But on reflection now, I’m so glad that I was invited to take part because I learned so much about peatlands within the UK, around the world and the special place they hold within the global climate crisis.

So much of my language around nature and the environment has been formed through white supremacy culture which has been biased on colonialism and imperialism and capitalist consumption. And of which I am at great pains now to unlearn and find a new language or it is just a re-memory of the language of my ancestors where there is no separation between us and nature.

Something that was raised last night by Khairani Barokka, which was totally new to my knowledge and way of thinking was that within indigenous communities gender was much more fluid and diverse. The binary system of male and female/ he and she which we take as a given now, as the norm, is a construction and part of the colonist program.

That the idea of “the coloniality of gender,” which might have seen the binary gender system in Europe but was not the case for indigenous populations around the world who were brutalised, moved off the lands and eliminated through genocide. This is going to require more reading on my part but it will be completed eagerly as it’s more evidence of how this system to live and breathe is a construct of power for a few white people over the rest of us all.

I share an extract of my presentation here.

Solvitur ambulando

Solvitur ambulando – “it is solved by walking.” Coined by the 4th-century-B.C. Greek philosopher Diogenes while attempting to response to the question of whether motion is real. Diogenes got up and started moving. He walked to try and solve the problem.

“It is solved by walking.”

The women from The Angelou Centre Walking

I read yesterday that there are no new beginnings. No beginnings because when we start something, we are already coming at it from the middle. We’ve already been in the thick of it, knee deep in the things that are important to our lives. The issues that hold our attentions and hearts. So when we start working on them, we’re already in the middle of the experience for us.

When we finish the project it’s not the end it’s just a marker on the journey. The journey will continue beyond this or that point. We keep on trying to make sense of our lives. To experience what is in our bodies, hearts and souls as long as we live. Is this not the whole point of our human existence? Of our creativity?

To get clear on our view of the world, or even our experience of the world as we move through the world and share these asides, moments and realisations with others through our creativity?

Solvitur ambulando

Diogenes of Sinope

There is nothing that cannot be solved through walking. There is a latin quote that says this phrase in just two words but who am I to know latin or even to hold this knowledge in my head. It is a foreign language, a foreign culture to me, living in my Black body but it is still passed off as something I should know. As an educated person in Western society that I should know. Not that it is alien to me and is not mine.

My heritage and culture, is denied to me, or is hidden, or re-constructed on a pile of lies. It takes my time and effort to unearth it all, for me and for others. Still through all that effort, to unearth and bring to light, fact and fiction, it’s not recognised. It’s not valued and is dismissed as not being good enough.

White Supremacy Culture is alive and kicking, And I keep kicking up against it no matter what I do or be. Try to do or try to be. I’ll always be found wanting.

Musing On Palimpsest

Within each moment, we are all these different layers of being, at the same time

Invoking palimpsests – composite surfaces, sutured landscapes, seamed memories and layered absence and presence.

Like palimpsest; a manuscript written on, lines and words laid down before to be reused and altered. Trace elements, remnants of the past words, lives and stories linger.

Just as within the landscape there is a layering of different landforms, reflecting different timeframes and influences, so too within our bodies there are layers of identities built upon over time and space, histories and legacies.

Look closely to see the different layers mingle and become one in the present. Echoes, cries and laughter move as one in memory and body. What’s happened and no longer happening defining me.

I’m a living memorial of a people who no long exist.
I cannot not and should not be wiped clear of their testimony.
I owe it to them to hold them in my body, heart and mind.

Laid down in our bodes and souls, in the fabric of my being like layers within the ocean, hidden depths of influences and meanings living, festering in the darkness, to someone erupt to the surface, seeking air seeking justice.

exquiste details

The older I get the more
the details move me.

Fresh golden sheafs
in the tall grass.

Greylag geese lifting
into flight. Tiny bits

of white shells in moist
sand. The brown and

cream stripes of horsetail.
The small orange berries

of sea buck thorn.
As I note these details

my body quivers with
recognition and joy.

My Voice in Virtual Places

During these changing working conditions of moving into visual spaces to connect and share and create, I’ve been enjoying a lovely run of being a guest on a number of different podcasts, separate from The Earth Sea Love Podcast, connecting women of colour and nature.

As mentioned before, I was welcomed onto the Prompted By Nature Podcast with Helen Forester where we talked about working to get more black bodies out into nature with funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Since the first one, I’ve gone on to be a guest with Yarrow Magdalena with Daydreaming Wolves, where I enjoyed the opportunity to share about my creative practice and sea swimming and not being able to foretell the future but being okay with that.

On Speak from the Body, a podcast on practical ways to reconnect with the body and nourish your soul, hosted by Avni Trivedi, I had the opportunity to speak at length about my creative practice, visual journalling and how it saved my life, 5 years ago now.

And the final one I’ll share with you today, as there are more to come, is from the countryside charity CPRE, Campaign to Protect Rural England. In this episode I’m a guest with Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, where we discuss the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in the countryside and nature.

Between Landscapes

Peel Crags

The walk is blustery. A chill sets in. The stone wall from centuries past worn into smooth layers, slips and trips around memories.

She breaths deep and releases aeons of pain. Her body relaxes into the currents. And with arms wide, she lets go. Her shadow is a moving dark mass across the landscape.

Her heart, the energetic space of unconditional love beats for all, pumping the blood of life throughout and between this landscape and hers.