Friday, July 23, 2010

Rowan Berry Swoosh

Rowan Berry Swoosh, originally uploaded by escher...(back).

I decided to take the day off today and it turned out to be a really good decision. After I'd become jaded with the good weather we had been having, it then decided to rain non-stop for a week but today was filled with sunshine and summer breezes and they both felt all the more special when set against the grey drizzle that filled the previous seven days.

So off we went to a favourite spot of mine to secrete ourselves amongst the twisted oaks and slabs of stone. On the way the Stonechat family complete with three fledged youngsters flitted from perch to perch amongst the heather and we stopped awhile to collect rowan berries.

It's the third year I've collected rowan berries from this spot and I am intrigued by the fact that I know where each colour will be present at the beginning of the ripening process. At the start of the walk the best reds are to be found, though they have a little way to go before they are at their best, and yellow is only present on a couple of trees, the same ones as the previous two years. They do eventually go red but it seems some of them go brown/green to red and some go yellow and some orange before scarlet. The colours I find are not all the stages from a single tree but instead reflect a number of different trees. Perhaps it is a species variation thing? Or perhaps it depends on their size or age? Or maybe location, drainage or availability of water? There is still so much to discover about these berries over the coming years.

When I made my first rowan berry sculpture I laid them out on a slab and the surface was pitted and it was very difficult to get them to lay as I placed them. They rolled again and again and I discovered that they are not the same colour all around. They do not ripen uinformly so there are often two stages of colour on each berry. So trying to place them onto a pitted surface made it extremely difficult to control the colours.

Since then I've developed the black mud frame idea and so my life was going to be considerably easier this time around especially as this particular spot also has the best mud for this purpose. I could now bore you with similar details about different sorts of mud but I may leave that for another time! But I will say one of the joys of land art is a developing and deepening understanding of different materials and along with that you also start to understand a place a little better each time you make something there. The constraint of only being able to use what you find is a real joy. There's freedom in not making the world conform to what you want but instead just seeing it as it is, interacting with it, trying to understand it just as you see it. Land art is all about this.

Despite learning a little more each time there will never ever be a point where there are no surprises. In fact the more you find the more you realise there is still to find. And there were certainly a couple of surprises today!

As you begin to make something your senses begin to open. The absorption from simply smearing mud onto a rock can be quite fulfilling, you should try it! Colours intensify and changes in light and temperature become more apparent, however joyful that might sound that isn't always a good thing. As I was just starting to press in the first line of berries, tuned in 100%, the ground shook as a Euro-fighter flew directly overhead, at the most 500 ft above me. Holy crap those fudgers are loud! It is pretty clear why they are called Typhoons, I've seen them circling higher before and even at distance there are very loud indeed, but just overhead they are quite something to behold, by far the loudest jet I've ever encountered and a first when I've been absorbed making something. Just as well I was wearing brown trousers.

Shortly after this I heard a rustle through the trees behind me and the flapping of wings. I turned round to see a startled pigeon clamber up the bank to shelter under a tree. This wasn't a wild pigeon but a racing one with rings on its legs. Peregrine Falcons are often on the hill behind and I wondered whether it was with them this poor pigeon had had an encounter or whether the Typhoon had stunned it out of the sky. It didn't seem to be injured and not at all perturbed by me so I left him to sit where he was underneath the rock slabs beneath the tree.

I became a bit obsessed with glancing behind me and seeing what he was up to but he just stood there watching what I was doing. If indeed he was a racing pigeon perhaps he liked human company and felt safe in our presence. It was a good few hours that he sat there and looked on at me and my sculpture.

At one point I looked over my shoulder and I saw him look agitated and I looked where he was looking and a handsome stoat galloped across the boulders seemingly unaware I was there and fortunately hadn't noticed my feathered friend either. Soon he was gone and pidge relaxed.

Once I was done and the sculpture was photographed I crossed the stream to take a closer look at him. He was very handsome and we went for a little walk. Me following slowly behind with my hands outstretched and him waddling in front of me just out of reach. He didn't seem too worried and I could have grabbed him if I needed to but he seemed fine and uninjured and eventually flew up onto a low branch. Satisfied that he wasn't injured I thought it would be best to just leave him. He sat on a wall and again just watched us packing up. He may be a homing pigeon but he obviously didn't fancy going home yet.

Perhaps he was just waiting for me to leave so he could go an eat all my delicately arranged berries!

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