~ Henry David Thoreau
I currently live in a converted cow shed. Sitting here at my desk, the late afternoon sun dancing across the walls, I have the doors wide open and a view through the trees, down the valley, across the fields, all the way to Dartmoor. If I stand on the wall outside and stand on tip-toes, I can see the River Tamar snaking a silver path between Cornwall and Devon. From the bottom of my garden, through a path almost hidden by a tangle of wild early summer green, I can access an old wood, the trees bent and twisted and full of secrets.
It costs me very little to live here. And down in the valley my very own Huck Finn resides on the trawler, his raft of freedom, the Tamar in place of the Mississipi, for even less.
When I was a child, and later a teenager and young adult, I soothed my fears and anxieties by walking, by being alone, by seeking solace in the natural world. But as the world changed, as we as a species became more connected in our technology, I began to do what many people do and waste my time by surfing the internet. It is a seemingly easy fix. I read articles, I scroll through Facebook and Twitter, I watch Youtube.
It doesn't help. At least, it doesn't help me.
Recently, in this new part of Cornwall I now call home, I have been walking again. Seeking out new places. Exploring. Thinking. Rediscovering the things which soothe me when my head feels full of cotton wool and there are too many disjointed thoughts buzzing in my ears. In short, when I have 'Internet Brain'. Sometimes I am knotted up with anxiety, fearing that my need to live this life will unravel me, that I will end up so far outside the mainstream that I will never be able to get back in. Sometimes I fear that I will.
Walking does help. Going outside and being swallowed up by the sky, by the sea, by the rivers and the trees and the stars, being wholly immersed in that which is infinitely bigger and more mysterious than yourself. That. Yes. That helps.
So, I have been taking to the woods again lately, seeking inspiration, looking to clear my mind of anxieties and reconnect with my deeper self. A break from the ocean stories and a return to the forest. To the sheltering canopy of green. Solitude is so important to my imagination and my wellbeing. I had almost forgotten this. An ability to be alone and comfortable in your own company, far away from the laptop and the phone. To be able to sit and observe. To notice how the world beyond humankind goes about its day regardless. To feel small and unimportant in this way is a good thing. Out there in the woods it is the only thing. Huckleberry Finn and Robin Hood understood that.
From my wanderings and wonderings then, a new body of work is emerging. A series of photographs taken in the woods, zoomed in close the tiny insignificant details become a vast landscape into which I intend to draw the human figure, blissfully alone and tiny, revelling in their solitude and freedom. A book on this subject will follow, hopefully in time for my next group exhibition 'Stride' in August, a meditation on Loneliness Vs Aloneless, the importance of solitude and the need in all of us to unplug from the wall and venture out blinking into the sunshine ...