"There is the silence before one just as difficult to disturb significantly as before.What one has learned is inadequate against the new silence presented."
('The Nightfisherman – Selected Letters of W.S.Graham (Carcanet, 1999).
Yesterday I arrived in Argyll for a two week residency, and I've spent today slowly settling in, starting coming to terms with the fact that "no outcomes" are expected. Pretty rare, that. Basically, you get paid to shack up with your own funny head for a few weeks and work if you feel like it. You're allowed to just sleep if you like. Now, it sounded very enlightened, but it turns out that 'no outcomes and nothing expected' isn't just as easy to accept as all that. If I don't work, what am I? So I've been a bit unsettled today: new place, working out where to start, how I'll begin to try and 'disturb the language'. Missing the cat.
Last night I walked down to the beach. Muddy shingle; hermit crabs; lots of spoot shells, but no sign of siphons. It would be good to forage here. The different light you get on water when there are mountains. Bewildering lack of wind and occasionally, an inexplicable urgent backwash on the shore, which gave me the willies as I considered it might be caused by submarines passing underwater to Coulport. Don't think I'll be swimming after all. But I gathered some dry seaweed and some of the everpresent plastic fishing fibre you find at the tideline, and today I've made rope out of them. The fibre is salmon pink, and nicely luminous within the red and coppery weed. I might get around to making a basket out of it. It's good to make rope out of seaweed: your hands slick with agar as if you were assisting a birth; or as if you were actually extruding the vegetable hawser from your own spinnarets, as a spider extrudes web.
Some reading today. Gerald Manley Hopkins, but I didn't have the patience for the God-bit, although I enjoyed his mania and the drubbing his verbs give you 'does so rinse and wring/The ear [...]' And I admire the way he couples those bleached abstracts with imagery that's weird enough to be compulsive. Can't imagine getting away with the opening line 'Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –' myself, and yet I love this, that follows 'When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush[...]'
Otherwise, I've snacked compulsively (the visibility of the little kitchen from the writing desk may be a problem) and napped (the visibility of the bed from the writing desk may be a problem.) But napping, I propped the notebook and pen on my knees and shut my eyes, and everytime I became aware of a bit of 'chatter' rising up through my subconscious, I wrenched my eyes open and wrote it down.
"No, I'm a member of staff! No, I'm not slow –"
"Phone your baby. I'm gonna di–"
"Keep crisscrossing for mixed stones and make sure they're all of one colour."
"So you're both Mrs B.S.?" (Checking my eyelids, friendly-like. )
"Bob, it'll only take you one minute" (American)
"Have you heard about the three Danes? There's one sitting where I'm sitting..."
Although it's tempting to try and use this stuff for divination, my fascination with it is that it's so aligned with my preoccupations in poetry just now. Obviously, it's the reverse of intention, it's a way of forgetting the self, and there's a spookiness about it. Where does it come from, after all? Who's doing the voices?
Then I passed out for real. 'Nap' seems an incongrously cute word for something you start up from with your heart pounding, trembling all over.
This evening there's going to be a kind of happy hour to meet the other residents...