Day thirteen and I’ve run out of steam as I sit down at 10.09pm to write in my journal, my Facebook journal, which is quite another medium to my favoured paper journal where the pen rushing across the page always seems to produce something raw and surprising. I don’t know how this special alchemy is achieved but with a pen in motion across the paper I find my thoughts run unfettered and free and mostly I like what transpires. Typing onto a screen on the other hand, black type appearing on a brightly lit white box, requires a mental adjustment, a change of gear. I seem to travel more slowly here. I pause more often and ponder my choice of words and that bothers me. When I teach I use a rapid writing technique to help people loosen up. I tell them there will be time for the edit immediately after - that’s when your editor can jump into action and consider the writing but right now in this moment, you need to write fast. There is no time using this method, to pay attention to the whispery, snakey voice of self doubt. With a timer on a writer is flying to capture the brilliant thoughts as they emerge. Then in the edit, it is possible to consider and craft.
Now in the time of Coronavirus we are all of us spending more time in the online realm. And so far everyone I’ve spoken to agrees about this: communicating in the virtual world is more intense, more wearying. There is eye strain. There is a buzzing in the head sometimes. Last week I used Skype for a mentoring session. The screen was divided in three, the piece of writing with my tracked edit visible to us both, and to the side two smaller boxes, one filled with the writer‘s face, his study curtains pulled at an angle behind him, and the other had an image of me, with my Ruth Castle hanging sculpture, a circular disk of wire holding a woven ball made from muehlenbeckia, floating above my head. Together we worked on the piece and it was a collaborative process, a kind of mutual dance where he bowed and I curtseyed, me asking questions of his text, him supplying the answers, me typing them quickly into the document. It was efficient and effective. But when the hour was up, I was absolutely exhausted and had to escape outside for air.
And it has been that kind of day today, sapping with too many tasks demanding attention, a home to find, a book to research, a writing course to complete... and so it goes. Thank goodness for the clement weather and a beautiful environment for exercising in. On my walk today I came upon a hedge that leaned right out across the footpath, like a building with a cantilevered portion. All of the street frontage here was composed of clipped hedges in different shapes and sizes with the roof over the pavement as the piece-de-resistance. When I passed under the green ceiling something unexpected happened. A succession of childhood memories bubbled up.
One of the distinctive features of the Canterbury landscape is its macrocarpa hedges. There is a work by Bill Sutton painted as though from above, that captures the green-blue blocks of macrocarpa and the golden fields of summer grain. That’s how I remember it in the district of Ellesmere where I grew up. Hedges and summer grasses and grain, the seedheads swelling In the heat. I remember the excitement of finding a rope swing inside the tall macrocarpa that grew like a tree on the front lawn at my Uncle Bertram and Auntie Pat’s house in Leeston. I remember crawling, with my friend, into the vault of a macrocarpa hedge that was so vast, on the inside, we imagined it was our mansion with many rooms - a butler’s pantry, a dining hall, a dressing room, even a ballroom... I remember when I was twelve and mad about a boy, we climbed inside the hedge that bordered the far school field and we kissed. And the wind blew through the cracks in the foliage and produced a soft and mournful sound as though it was the end of something, which it was. The next year he went off to a boarding school in the city and I was sent to board at the corresponding girls school. I didn’t see him again for decades and then at a school reunion just a few years ago, there he was with his wife, and I found myself, a grown woman, suddenly feeling shy and a little embarrassed. I remember thinking how silly but I couldn’t shake off the feeling because he seemed still essentially the same and just as lovely.