Monday, 28 January 2013

High Water

At 1151 today we have the highest high water for a fortnight.

9.2m isn't the highest this month (that went to 9.8m on the 12th) but the water will still suck at the sea-wall below Crook Farm. As I write the wind is southerly, so, coming off the shore, it leaves the estuary surface pretty flat. Which bodes well for the lovely insistant slurp of a unbullied high water. The waders disappear as the marsh submerges, so the bluring edge of grass and water is pretty much the only focal point. At a low-ish high water (a really low HW is around the 7.2m mark) much of the saltmarsh is still visible at the foot of the sea-wall, seemingly afloat from land, its true nature revealed. Even at low water (1.4m this afternoon) the marsh's sump holes are dark and sinister. And today there will be some grassheads visible where turf turns to shingle. Bouyant and surreal.

All very absorbing. And safe. The Environment Agency, after some persuasion, has agreed to protect the seawall this eastern side of the estuary for another 20 years (with the clock already having tocked for two years, we're down to 18). The other side of the estuary, Sunderland Point, has not been so ... what? Lucky? Argumentative? Economically viable? Whichever - they do not have agreement or financial aid to protect their sea defences, despite the efforts of My Coastline.

The Point has retreated by 75 metres since 1848, and with ice melt we can only assume that will quicken. Although with Morecambe Bay's peculiar channels and shifting sands, prediction for coastline behaviour is difficult. There is a village on the peninsular, of 30 odd houses. Some up for sale. I spoke to an engineer recently and apparently the government (and local council) is encouraging a stragetic retreat. The link above details the significance of Sunderland Point, but the main difference between here and there is that we've had a seawall in place for centuries, Sunderland Point has not. The seawall this side of the estuary is mainly built from the old sandstone that once made up Cockersand Abbey a leper hospital turned Presbyterian Abbey from the 12th Century.

The narrative from leprosy to sea defence is a poem that has eluded me for the past two years. I watch the sponging of tide and marsh at many high waters and suspect it's a subject that'll never settle into lines. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

If you can't improve on silence...

It's that time to look back on the past year and consider the coming one. The biggest project I was involved in, in 2012, was the Arc Ventures tour of 10 poets from 8 different countries around 28 UK venues in three weeks over October and November, reaching over 1000 people. It was the culmination of approximately six months' work. Exciting, fascinating, enriching and exhausting.

However, for my own creative work it was far quieter: I wrote a bit. Edited more. Read more. Retreated for a writing week. I am coming to the end of stage one of the sea project that has been absorbing me for the past few years, trying to look at it from different perspectives rather than the close up creation one. The impetus to write anything new is low.

One of the highlights of last year was a week-long silent retreat. An expansive and thrilling experience of resettling into myself, a reaquaintance with that part of me that seeks connection: with other people, with my environment and with my 'self'. I barely wrote through the week, just a few notes.

There is an obvious connection, to me, between these two points: silence and stillness can both engender ideas and let them go. Writing to process ideas, emotions and connections is something I undertake without too much questioning. It is how I am. Just as a child, I used to make sculptures and pictures from the shells, pebbles, twigs and bits and pieces I found around me. It was, as writing still is, my play - as well as my way of being in the world.

As a child one of the rules of our household was if you can't improve on the silence, don't. Harsh, perhaps, but more and more I come back to it, in writing terms. Considering all the words written out there, the world is a very very noisy place. And noise is far more bearable if it is melodious, or rhythmical: I prefer hammering over a chainsaw, a curlew to a great tit, lyric to narrative poetry. But most of all I prefer silence.

Where I live, on windless days I become aware of the deep silence around the house. Like blackness, it can be opening and limitless, also containing. Neutral. Not just a blank canvas, but a score in itself, that deserves a considered harmony, or counterpoint, layered upon it. And that requires deep listening, patience... while keeping rhythm and momentum. Stillness is, in the main, only apparent.