Here’s the poem I wrote whilst out on my walk. My walk began at National Trust’s Sticklebarn. The NT are a key player in the cultural landscape of the Lake District, so this seemed like a good place to start! I followed footpaths including a part of the Cumbria Way and ended up at Angle Tarn, where I camped for the night. The poem was inspired by walking bare foot around the tarn that evening – my walking boots had got soaked that day and I walked to get water from a stream feeding the tarn, and ended up journeying all the way round…
Answering the three Artful questions
For me, creativity comes from a place of quiet, a place that seeks truth deep inside, that connects with the natural world around me. When I am out walking in the fells the noise clattering around in my head fades out and I am just here, now. In this space I can put pen to paper and words come. At the time when I followed this Artful Way I was reading a book called Thin Places by Kerri Ní Dochartaigh. She speaks of ‘thin places’ as those places where you feel part of something bigger, something more than the here and now, connecting with forces beyond the human construct of time as it sits on a clock face. I think when I am in such places, that is where creativity comes to the surface in its rawest form.
Culture is something that often sits outside of what we see as nature, as things created by human hands as opposed to the forces of air, water, fire and earth. I find it hard to justify this separation – we are all part of the natural world and everything we bring it to it impacts the natural balance of things, as the natural world influences us as human beings. As I put one foot in front of the other on a section of the Cumbria Way this collision of the human and non-human passed through my mind – this path arguably sits on the ‘culture’ side of the divide, and yet it allows me to travel easily through a space that is indisputably part of ‘nature’. For me a new definition of culture is needed, one that breaks down the separation from the natural world and brings opportunities for healing ecological wounds through creative practice. So much of the places we call ‘cultural’ are tied inextricably to the natural world – pottery crafted from clay, paintings of landscapes, books that transport you from your sofa to a mountain top. If we use our creative practice to speak up for this wonderful planet we live on, we can create a culture that seats us firmly within nature, not in a place of dominance over all the non-human aspects of this world.
Covid-19 made my world a lot smaller. I couldn’t travel to the places I would normally go to decompress – I had to find new ways of finding the feelings I craved in places I could reach from my doorstep. I don’t live in Cumbria – I don’t have the luxury of the fells on my doorstep, I couldn’t climb mountains to quiet my mind as I usually would. At first it was hard, but then I saw an opportunity like many others – to learn what was close to home, places I’d never been or found joy in. My bike became my escape, and as time slowed down I could write, draw, and just be. I hope I can keep hold of some slow time – I don’t really have any desire to return to the fast paced life I lived before covid.
I am grateful that I can visit the fells again, reconnecting with friends and doing my mental health no end of good. But let us not forget the local communities we built during the darkest days of the pandemic, the connections we made and all the kinds of creativity it took to form new ways of being. This sense of coming together to survive is needed as we journey into an uncertain future where climate chaos and ecological crisis might be our norm, if we do not unite and act now to make the changes that are so desperately needed.