For anyone who may be interested, and there may be some I suppose, I humbly offer an insight into the tortuous machinations of my fevered imagination when it is shaken awake by an Autumnal walk.
This was my thought process as near as I can recall on my morning sojourn today, 20th September 2019, in the rural Parish of St. Breward, Cornwall.
It is written quickly, in just under an hour, as this best translates the way the process works, so please excuse the random nature of it’s construction. It is fresh from the oven and largely unedited, except for correcting a few spelling mistakes brought about by feverish typing.
This process is common for me, and it teases, tortures, delights and inspires me by turns on an almost daily basis to a greater or lesser degree. I have no hope of keeping up with my ideas, as they occur to me half a dozen at a time, each one demanding hours, days or maybe months of work to bring to fruition, so I am left with the painful task of choosing between my newborn muses, shelving them for later use, discounting them altogether maybe… but one or two will get through to the point where they are made real. Maybe at this point the surplus ideas might in some form be incorporated into the project, flavouring the finished article, subtly adding depth to it.
The range of ideas is so exhaustingly wide however, that some are destined to remain just that, ideas. This is where writing has rescued me from despair on many occasions. Rather than just abandon them by the roadside with a regretful sigh I can write about them, incorporate them into a story…credit a character of my own creation with the thoughts and deeds that I cannot hope to achieve in the short span of my days. In this way, in some imagined world, the ideas are not spent uselessly, unseen and unheard. They live on.
The morning is fresh.
I have watched through the windows since 6am as the sky slowly lightened from stygian black through pastel orange to pale cloudless blue while preparing breakfast and getting my daughter ready for school. By 7.45am we had walked down the lane together, and she was safely aboard the school bus. The family dog Murphy and I continued our walk along the track by the river.
A golden light glazes the treetops on the other side of the valley in honey hues and a light breeze stirs the freshly fallen beech leaves around my feet. There is a tingling quickening in the air and in my blood.
Then, to my delight, the first proper Autumnal leaf shower of this year begins to flutter earthwards all around me and the air is filled with the dry rush of breeze and leaves. A broad smile spreads across my face, and then the old familiar urge begins to rise in me, volcanic, irrepressible, urgent.
How best to capture this moment?
I want to dig out my long neglected watercolours and paint a still life of the leaves, like I used to. Sketching and painting leaves has always given me great pleasure for as many Autumns as I can remember. Or maybe I could capture the intensity of the colours better with oils…maybe on a huge canvas filled with nothing but leaves. Or maybe I could make a wood engraving of a leaf, tiny and intimate for printing. I do love wood engraving, and it would lend itself so well to this subject….
Or perhaps I could pick out a block of limewood and carve a leaf, maybe a Sycamore leaf, curled and ragged at the edges, shaving it down so fine at the edges that it becomes almost transparent, like Grinling Gibbons or David Esterley might have.
I have some sheet brass, old drip trays rescued from a pub skip. Maybe I could experiment with engraving and bending that to make stylized leaves…I have copper too, an old water heater tank. I could make some leaves from that, for contrast.
Maybe I could add some carved acorns or Hazel nuts to them, fix them together in some sort of wall hanging or free standing sculpture…maybe even hanging from a ceiling !
An oak leaf falls at my feet.
Don’t leaves look like feathers. My mind flips back to a puppet idea that has slowly been forming over months…maybe years, I’m not sure. A Bird, a crow probably, realistic in it’s movements. How to make the feathers move realistically. Then it occurs to me, a fabric “sock”, loose fitting over a skeleton of wood, into which individual feathers are stitched so they can move over each other as real feathers would. The feathers could be made from wood veneers, with fine filaments carved into each one, so they can stand up to the closest scrutiny. Maybe they could be fabric, or maybe even plastic….no, not plastic. Plastic has no place in my Autumnal imagination landscape….. but maybe…I’ll save that idea for later…upcycling…. Taking single use plastics out of the environment… Oh, and I could incorporate that fantastic folding wing idea that I saw Laura Matthews use on her amazing puppets, and adapt it to my purposes.
It’s time to concentrate now. The ideas are coming too thick and fast. I can’t stop to write them down while Im walking, although I always carry a notebook for that exact purpose. Head down, quicken the pace, and carry these ideas home before I meet anyone who will engage me in conversation and knock these ideas from my mind. As It is I’m sure I’ve already dropped 3 or 4 ideas from my pockets on the way home, perhaps to be rediscovered on another day when the autumn breeze will gently blow the leaves off them as I pass by.
My thoughts return to other Autumn projects from previous years. The huge collection of dried leaves stored between the pages on an ancient set of encyclopaedias. Five years they have languished unused. They were collected to make a pressed leaf table top on an old round wooden table I bought and stored. Or perhaps they could be used as the base for a sign, pressed down onto plywood and varnished over, then signwritten with some suitably ripe autumnal verse. Or maybe I could make a green man image. Oh! That reminds me…no, stay focused on this. Nearly home now. There was that idea about making boards, a bit like sterling board, out of pressed leaves held together with a glue or resin, for a decorative sheet material… Stay on point, nearly home. Get home and write it down. Write it down. Before it gets diluted, write it down.
The game Is afoot.
Time to get to work.