Friday, December 5, 2008

The hard bit

The walks are done. The essays are written, at least to a certain level. I still have piles of books to read, but have already read my way through some bigger piles - Iain Sinclair, Gaston Bachelard, Rebecca Solnit, Robert Byron, Norman Lewis, Simon Schama, and so goes on my inspiring reading trail through the non-fiction world of landscape, walking, philosophy, travel.

Each of my walks has been a joy. I've never known what the walk will offer, what I'll want to write about, until I'm doing it - have been able to play and to let the journeys of feet and words kick up revelations and stories. I haven't tried to channel them in a particular direction or discipline.

Now, as I approach the end of official project time, I'm looking at the essays together - trying to polish, see how they iterate and work episodically, work out whether they make any sense and what exactly it is I've been doing for the last 16 months. It's hard, and it's lonely with my head inside the computer and words swimming chaotically before my eyes. My daily walk is probably what keeps me sane, and might just save me from public humiliation when I do leave my desk - picking my nose or exclaiming loudly to myself inthe Co-op.

Today, although I was mostly the only walker, snow that's lain for several days was like an archive documenting a community of usually invisible journeys. Boot prints led in all directions, dog pawprints close to them. The hare as anarchic as ever, loping tangentially; the forked signatures of crow and pheasant; deer striking long graceful lines across the hill. To them I added my own.

It reminded me of taking the same walk when I had first heard that I had a Creative Scotland Award to do this project, and had been asked to take some film and stills which represented my ideas. I walked after a fresh fall of snow and filmed the tick-tock rhythm of my feet falling, noting the pioneer prints on a fresh canvas, and talked about 'picking up whispers in the land'.

Today it was as if the texture of all those intersecting, layered prints was showing me the story of the project and its gathering of ideas, its maturing into an accumulation of journeys. Ghosts - raising some and laying some as I walk. Whispering ghosts. With footprints.

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