Jessica Wortley

The walk across Alston Moor was challenging, but beautiful. The experience of being out in the elements, doing something positive and pushing ourselves, was one I was grateful for. We didn’t let wet boots and the need to detour round cows dampen our spirits.

This was a journey I had long wanted to complete, and I took my friend Sally with me. We walked this section as part of a challenge to complete Isaac’s Tea Trail, in order to raise money for a child at our school who has neuroblastoma. It is the sort of adventure we love.

I was inspired to make the art in an effort to try and capture the feelings which were raised by the walk and by the three questions I pondered on the way. I wanted to capture a signpost, as we saw so many – a welcome confirmation that we weren’t lost after all. I loved the various teapot symbols we saw (and an actual teapot on one occasion), I loved the link to the past, and to others completing Isaac’s Tea Trail and to the sense of communion which takes place around tea.

As I thought of Isaac and the way he travelled, sharing news and connecting people, ideas for a poem began to form. I also like the idea of a signpost as a symbol of different paths or choices, and the possibilities these offer. The signposts on our journey reminded me of a children’s ‘choose your own adventure’ story. I was inspired to draw and write to best incorporate as much of these feelings, and my experiences, as possible.

Answering the three Artful questions

Creativity/Culture

Whilst walking we thought about how important culture, creativity and the arts are for us, as well as for the young people we teach. Creativity is a way in which we make sense of the world and our place in it. Creativity is self-expression, and I believe it to be the perfect partner to walking as a means for working through our thoughts and exploring our emotions. My art work, in all its forms, always incorporates the natural world. It is a positive circle of reinforcement: nature helps me be creative, and by using the landscape in my creativity, I then seek to return to the outdoors to capture it all again. Culture and creativity tell me who I am and where I belong. Creativity is a coping mechanism, a way to better understand ourselves, and a way to connect.

Connectivity

We connected with each other through our discussions (and our map reading), we touched upon the past and our hopes for the future. We connected with the people we met, such as a friendly farmer who came out and opened the gate for us, pointing the way as the rain set in. We connected with the many plants and animals we were lucky to see, including buzzards, grouse, hares and butterflies, as well as foxgloves, knapweed and marsh marigold. Through our neuroblastoma wrist bands we connected with Oliver and his two identical triplet brothers. We also reconnected with ourselves, with who we are when at our most elemental, and with what is important to us.

Without a connection to the natural world our lives are poor. Lockdowns emphasised this point to an extent I did not fully realise until they happened. The internet takes us to places beyond our physical reach, and there are times when that is truly wonderful. However, being present is necessary too: to see the sparrow alight on the phone wire, to hear the sheep bleating. I was grateful to be able to connect with the children of key workers who I taught during lockdown; they made my life richer. Connecting to the yellow iris, or the wild violets, or the drizzle, is important too. As necessary as the hug of a loved one, or a cup of tea with friends. By connecting we better understand each other, and the world, and we better share and care for this space.

Place

Whilst walking we discussed how lucky we were to be able to complete such a walk, and how we might help share this love and further environmental awareness with others. I believe it ought to start with children and young people, and that they should be immersed in both the natural world and the arts.

How can we expect someone to care for the natural world, if they have never experienced nature? How can we expect young people to grow into caring adults if they have not been given the gift of art as a means to understand themselves, if they have not shared their feelings and emotions with others, listening and being listened to?

Art and creativity enable connection. Connection leads to a feeling of belonging, and to belong is to care. This is true on the small scale, of a family, a group, or a community, and on a larger scale too. I love to encourage others to be as passionate as I am and to care as much as I do. For me, that involves as much immersion in creativity and in the natural world as possible. There is work to be done.

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