Once, I set up a makeshift studio in the spacious attic of my old family home. It was years ago and I was sheltering after a stormy time in my life. I was so happy to be back on the river Dart, which, throughout my childhood, I held close to me as my life-line to the sea. The sea being true home. Pole star - as in: “directs your path and pulls you forward”.
The attic had a floor-level window, just the size of a curled up woman and a small but serious black bear that befriended her (it could have been a dog - no one quite knows). This window is high up and looks out over - almost hovering above - the river and its confluence with the Wash, a smaller river, that joins it beneath an ancient stone bridge - where, the brown trout weave silty shadows into sunlight*.
When I was making my work in the attic, my lover would phone me, and after our hellos, he would say:
"The tide's out isn't it."
"How do you know?" I would ask.
"I can hear the tide in your voice”
At low tide the curlews and sand pipers - the air itself - seemed to cry wistful and something would tear inside. Other times when my lover calls, he guesses when the tide is in:
"When the tide is high, you can hear it in your voice - it's all excitement!”.
Now, years have flowed by, and I have slipped downstream to be closer to the sea. Here, the birds's cries of low tide are no longer plaintive, aching, longing, but are the joy - of home. And I notice, that sea calls me more than ever.
So, I make my work here with sea at his tidal edge - our tidal edge - where we meet. Our confluence. I make my work of sea, in sea, under sea, with sea. We often collaborate, and in the odd storm he will take a good many of the paper works away with him, leaving ripped scraps in my hands. It’s only fair. I owe him my life. I’ve been dragged out in rips a few times, but so far, I’ve always made it back. And this remarkable winter, I make it back to shore to find he has taken away the old migraines too.
So, like so many other souls, I swim most days - leaving the shore to swim with a friend, neighbour, cormorant, local seal, and most recently, with an otter. On the odd occasion I forget to look at the tide tables, I find it funny that the moment I make it to the water’s edge, if the tide’s not in, it’s coming in. You hear it first in his voice - it’s all excitement.
Tide must be under my skin.
*When we were young, my brother would feed the trout, and come Summer, when they were large and fat, he would catch them with a rod and line, or tickle them out onto the bank. He stopped taking me - my screams would only subside when the fish were set free.