Sunday, 29 March 2020

Time Trees and Bandages

The hour changed this morning - BST - but I was lying awake earlier than ever ( thank goodness that 'early' will be later tomorrow and I can get up) in that wonderful hinterland time developing my Sick Fool story, progressing from small figures into a landscape (figuratively speaking, no bucolic landscapes here) - to a Dante-esque wood...

I already sketched in the beginning of some trees yesterday on the small cuts and now they will be at Dante's crossroads: I am sure that when this virus crisis is over things are not going to be quite the same again - it feels, hopefully, like a sort of turning point that it would be crazy to ignore, and might, just might, lead to decisions for a better world. make us think and act more humanely.....we can but hope.....
Our vulnerability, always there, is now daily exposed on radio and screen in strong images...
My Fool is now lying on a hospital trolley; the images need to be larger if only so I can show him diminished in a dark wood and by events.

I spent the day scribble drawing people on trolleys, and bandaged trees.....I am feeling a need now to tear up strips of newspaper to glue onto some stronger paper, for painting and printing on - part of the unravelling process.....
Goodness how I have railed against hospital trolleys and wheelchairs in too many opera productions over the last few years, beginning with Peter Sellars wonderful Theodora, then Magic Flute, and thereafter ubiquitous - but perhaps they really are symbols for our times, used judiciously...

I just read a wonderful poem this morning too in bed, by Thomas Hardy, by chance evoking scars and bandages too as long ago as 1915 *

Logs On The Hearth
A Memory Of A Sister

The fire advances along the log
Of the tree we felled,
Which bloomed and bore striped apples by the peck
Till its last hour of bearing knelled.
The fork that first my hand would reach
And then my foot
In climbings upward inch by inch, lies now
Sawn, sapless, darkening with soot.

Where the bark chars is where, one year,
 It was pruned, and bled -
Then overgrew the wound. But now, at last,
Its growings all have stagnated.
My fellow-climber rises dim
From her chilly grave -

 Just as she was, her foot near mine on the bending limb,
Laughing, her young brown hand awave.

December 1915.

Fortunately I had just had a wonderful walk in a wood before lockdown, and taken lots of pictures to inspire had just been heavily coppiced, mixed feelings....

I was an inveterate tree climber as a child, a good excuse for hugging them  and can feel again the texture of the bark, knobs and ridges, sap seepings and congealings, scars of pruning, insect burrowing and infestations - I used to fantasize about creatures living in trees behind scars which looked like doors, and made libations of coloured sugar crystals stolen from my mother's 1950's coffee mornings - so magical....
The protective bindings around new saplings are like bandages too - I made a woodcut of some for use in Ship of Fools tho never added the bandages in the end - I was going to use bits of sellotape on the block to affect the printing more subtly than cutting - and still can if I use it in future...

woodblock with offset ink

Logs on the Hearth is about time too, and more time, albeit strange time, is what some of us have in our isolation...
* I am reading Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture by Jonathan Dollimore,  which is full of wonderful poetry, and its a good time to read it just now... Dollimore conflates desire with movement - and that is what for us at the moment is limited, just as bandaging limits movement while things heal.....

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