Shedding and Self-Healing

A month since I’ve been to Llwyn Celyn. Much of the scaffolding is off, coming off, the roof is beautiful. First time I’ve seen the chimney. It looks ready for a fire. Stories get told around a fire, heart of the home.

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Scaffolding Being Taken Down

To the left, the corrugated sheets are being removed from the beast house now that the walls have been reinforced. There’s a symmetry here: roof on, roof off but the thread uniting that doing and undoing is the necessary exposure of the inner.

Today carpenter, Gareth Irwin was on site with a Welsh stick chair he was commissioned to make:

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Elm Slab and Ash Spindles

This beautiful piece of furniture demanded to be touched. But it was more than furniture, it was the passing down of history both in its ‘genre’ (the kind of chair tenth century king Hywel Dda had once owned) but also in the traditional way Gareth had made it, with some ancient tools and also tools he’d created. It caused me pause: making the tools in which to make your art. To be that connected. Gareth is a greenwood carpenter, goes into the forest, finds the tree, sees it in its tree-essence and after cutting it down, gives it another shape, form, longevity. ‘It’s not just timber’ he said, ‘it’s tree wood.’

I asked if it’s true trees heal themselves:

 

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The ‘T’ Reveals an Injury the Ash has Healed

When there is an abrasion, fire damage, an animal gash to the bark of a tree, all its senses set to closing that part of the tree off, sealing it over to stop bacteria seeping in through the open wound. Much like us, I suppose, except these scars are only seen when the tree is cut. No necessary exposure of the inner, here then.  Gareth told me, the self-healing of a tree is so intelligent that the scars from young shoots-that the tree kills off as they become unnecessary-actually lie dormant. If the tree’s crown is cut, these scars, these once-twigs, will be resurrected. Imagine what might grow from our scars if they were called back into opening.

At lunch, one of the volunteer’s Jack Russel, Todd, darts past and emerges from under the digger with a baby rabbit in its mouth. We try to get him to drop his squealing catch but there’s no way he’ll comply. With a few swift shakes of his head, the kit’s neck is broken and it lies jaw-clamped, limp. Todd pads off and deposits the lifeless creature right inside the beast house.

I took myself to the waste tump for quiet, away from the murder of rabbits and the bang of hammer, slide of corrugated sheets and blare of radio. I sat amongst muck and robin song and the sight of a red kite hungry for something.

 

Amongst all the debris from the house,  I find three random objects, try to force myself to write a poem connecting them (I often ask students to do this, why not try it myself?)

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I get as far as the thick willow crockery, a bowl perhaps that once offered apples from the orchard behind me. The breaking of the pattern renders the story indecipherable (didn’t I used to know it off by heart? My grandmother-who told it to me over and over-did). But I get stuck on the chunk of rusted metal in all its autumn bleed. What was it a part of? The blade from a plough? An old oil drum or a coal bucket. A coal bucket filled with coal and carried in all weathers and all conditions (pregnant, unwell, young or old) the never-ending heaving of coal. But in reality, coal was probably not used here, it was wood that lit the heart of this house, surely? No matter, my mind is thinking of the grandmother I never met who on carrying a bucket of coal lost the boy she was almost-ready to birth. Grandmothers and stories, labouring, crockery-and-hearts broken. Hard hats, protection. Irony.

As I set off down the hill, I see the field is wool-scattered.

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The sheep are shedding unnecessary coating, lightening themselves of that which got them through winter but no longer serves a purpose. Apparently, the tree sheds its bark too, Gareth told me. We shed skin. Medieval dust fell onto my book when I sat in the hall of the house, remnants of centuries of wood, grain, jackdaw nests, skin flakes of generations who lived and worked here. It’s instinctive this moulting. It’s both the letting go and evidence of renewal.

When I get home I find a poem in my inbox ‘Rimwalkers’ by Lesley Wheeler, the first line about the finding of a dying baby rabbit.

And I’m surprised/not surprised when I open Facebook to receive a notification of one of Mandy Lane’s latest sculptures:

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‘Elizabeth Andrew’s To-Do List’ at Duffryn Gardens Evokes the Problems of Still-births for Miner’s Wives in the Early Twentieth Century

I don’t know what to say about that: these connections, inner thoughts which manifest synchronistically or the fact that I could not make a poem, could not make the tools in which to capture those connections. The roof on, roof off =the coming and going of ideas which allows ideas, thoughts, to intersect. Sometimes, they reveal themselves to us with such precision there is no poem that will serve the encounter (at least none I could write).

No poem today to revive the beating heart of that rabbit; just an indication that things are being made, that there is an intelligence at work and that we/I do not always have to try to pin that down in a poem, that I can just acknowledge and let go.

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