Thursday, November 6, 2008

Isle of Mull colour

A zig-zag in the path took the boy in red shoes in a moss-softened silence up between the trees. The narrow mud path led him through a port-hole fashioned by the interlacing of two beech trunks, and into the dark. A wall of trees pushed from his right and he was aware of a steep rock-tumbled slope on his other side where trees glinted luminous in the sub-marine sun that seeped through the canopy. He kept his eyes on the rise and fall of the strawberry-red Clarks shoes against grey, green, brown, copper, and he kept on looking…

But what is the boy with red shoes doing on that secretive high ‘pram walk’ in Aros Park, and what’s going to happen to him? I have no idea, at least not yet. But such are the things that happen when you take a pen for a walk, as a small group of us did last Saturday.

The purpose of the workshop I went to Mull to run in association with the Mull and Iona Ranger Service, and An Tobar, was to use the rhythm of walking and the opportunity to really look as we walk to sharpen our senses and release our imaginations.

We used blindfolds to deny sight, sensitising us to the feel and sound of our surroundings. We looked at colours – with autumn blazing at us, defying us to trap it in words – and searched for names for them as if for a paint chart. We developed metaphors as a way of describing difficult things – tree bark as dinosaur skin, and the naked core of the trunk as sinewy silk or cool marble. We gave voices to things – an argument surfaced between the abandoned roofless turbine and the jubilant burn that has escaped its power. And then we invented a character and took them along the pram walk to understand what they would see and feel and think. By the end of the walk, the alchemy of our feet on the land had kicked up stories, and we nursed them back to An Tobar where we crafted them into words.

As Rebecca Solnit says (Wanderlust, A History of Walking, Verso, 2001), ‘Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains’. On this visit to the Isle of Mull I witnessed minds sparking against autumn trees and clear skies, steps transforming into words.

Now back to the boy in the red shoes, where are his parents? What if…?

1 comment:

Ron Bloomquist said...

Very nice. I wish I were there.