The final day of my short break on the Norfolk coast. It has been a time of reflection; time to process some of the grief for Lewis but also a creative time.
I feel this each time I come, though never more than now. What is it about this place that encourages creativity?
For me, it’s the wide open spaces – the endless sky reaching out to the distant horizon. The horizontal lines of the marshes, clouds and water that draw the eye to the furthest points. The long slow curves of the coastal paths. Like the beaches in Northumberland, where I used to visit a lot, there is the sense of being right on the edge of things, but here it’s a quieter space. Muted. Which suits me and my aesthetic.
Spending so much time walking and watching the birds – in what feels like their space, down amongst the reeds – quietens the mind. Yesterday I saw a marsh harrier drop food mid-air into the talons of its mate; the kind of thing that only sitting and waiting brings. It’s as though the mind gets time to settle itself; things fall into place. So that when I get some creative time, there’s greater clarity about what I want to do.
Things seem connected – mind and hand, past and present, me and the world around me. A pretty good definition of peace and good conditions for creativity.
Even when it rains.
I’m working on my piece for Lewis in the background but here this week I’ve also made a stitch journal, taking the pressure of myself to work in a sketchbook (I enjoy it but it still doesn’t come naturally to me) and working purely in stitch – letting the needle doodle as I think about the lines and spaces around me. I also dyed some of the thread and fabric with mud picked up on the reedbeds and experimented with using threads pulled from the fabric itself for much of the stitching and printing using ashes from the fire.
Quiet, contemplative work that is really just for me – I’m going to stitch it to a background and mount it as a reminder of this point in time. Because it’s only the sudden loss of Lewis and the impact this has had on me that has opened me up to this work. In death as in life, he’s taught me the power of allowing yourself to feel your emotions, to be honest with yourself and to pursue what feels authentic. This feels like a beginning as well as an end.