Marvelling at the night, and other things


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Posted on January 6, 2017


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you cannot see the ice
the air is light with it
making crystals from the owl’s call

2016: a year of walks, trees, farms, rivers, dawns, dusks, new friendships, exciting projects and continuing curiosity. We’d planned to give a month-by-month overview of what we’ve been up to but it began to look like an interminable list, so instead we’ll just give a few highlights of the year. We are also really proud that we have finally managed to create a newsletter so that should arrive in your inboxes soon and give an idea of what we're up to, with links to follow if something grabs your interest.

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This time last year we chose a clear day to wake at 5am. We walked under a starry sky and through thigh-deep snow to greet the sunrise from the fells above Kentmere Valley. It seemed to set the tone for what was to come – over the past year we have spent, as a rough estimate, probably as many as 150 days walking, mostly on our own but also in the company of others (over several months we’ve introduced around 350 to the trees from The Long View). It's difficult to isolate any indivdual walks and say they have been better than others, as we are never dissapointed once we're out, but perhaps the highlights for us have been the Light Walk and the Dark Walks – seven days of walking, making camp at a different tree each night, first over midsummer and and then over midwinter. This temporary extraction from the ‘normality’ of daily life in a house, with a computer, in contact with incessant ‘news’ reports, and our immersion in the outdoors dealing with whatever the weather threw at us, was an absolute delight. Some of the words and images we gathered have found their way onto The Long View blogs; but we have yet to fully distil our experiences. They will form a central part of The Long View exhibition which we’re excited to confirm will be launching in the galleries at Grizedale Forest on June 21st this year.

A long walk

there are some who wonder why we’d do this
see only hardship, feel the weight of the bags
dislike the idea of sore feet
overlook or just don't know
the way some things make me
                                                     feel alive
discover the truth of rock and bog
and wind that cannot be told in maps

lose sense of time and self
find a rhythm inside that's shaped by land
the pleasure of warm simple food
two cups of tea from the one teabag

all things paired down
excess discarded 

there is no room for wanting
when you know you have just enough
and in the absence of wanting more
comes the presence of being here

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Another highlight last year was the selection of Rob’s i-Porter film for Kendal Mountain Festival, relating the stories of the porters he worked with and met along the way, as well as his own trials and achievements. All those weeks of hard slog up to Everest base camp with 35kg on his back, and the months of editing that followed, did pay off. The i-Porter film is on vimeo if you want to take a peek.

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Back in England we began working on a project collecting voices and stories from farmers in the Yorkshire Dales (Voices from the Land) and are really excited about its development throughout this year. Beyond the confines of farm walls, auction marts and yards, we’ll be carrying on our walking, writing and photography related to trees, including night photography – one aspect that we think we have got better at this last year, but not without a lot of trial and error and quite a few stumbles. It can be tricky to work in the dark and sorting out the combination of not falling (we cannot use headtorches whilst moving around as it will be picked up on the camera) and carefully timing and positioning light from our Petzl head torches onto the tree (very high tech!). The poem below grew out of a conversation with Rob as he told me how he feels as he shoots the trees at night.

Shooting in the dark at the Glencoyne Pine

Last light on the larch
it’s like we're stalking these trees
always the anticipation
like breath on the back of your neck
waiting for the inevitable dark
when the work starts

instinct    /    skill    /    hunting out a shot

Stars are out
tree where it always stands
but the moon exactly where you don't want it

How do you work with what you've got?
It's to hide the moon behind the tree

All will be good
                               there are moonbows in the clouds

Sometimes you make your own luck
you just turn up and try

 

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For the year ahead we’re planning on keeping up with this blog a little more regularly with a Monday image and a Wednesday poem, as well as a scattering of newsy items about talks, exhibitions, walks and general observations. Posts from our projects will mostly appear on those sites (The Long View, Voices From the Land) and we will aim to send a newsletter every 8-12 weeks. 

We wish you a happy 2017.

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