I’m caught in the wind and there are moments when it feels as though nothing else is present. I’ve brought a sketchbook with me, but the gale is so strong that I can’t get it out of my bag without it being whipped around and becoming sodden in the spray from the sea and the rain.
The wind takes over my senses, filling my eyes and making them stream, blowing my hair (which was already a mess), pushing into my body as if testing my desire to be there. Can you still love a beach when it is trying to push you off it? Blasts of sand and freezing cold rain graze my cheeks as I look out into the pale emptiness of the off-season coastline.
What can I make in this environment? All I can experience is the physicality of the wind, my cold wet feet and the occasional piece of strangely shaped seaweed. I accept this and it becomes my muse, sometimes capturing it only in memory until I get back to the studio and away from the weather.
I use this time alone, to wander and think. I didn’t feel very well when I arrived, but the fresh air has partly cleared this up. The beach is my private therapist, providing me with the solitude to go within, to investigate distant memories, process them more deeply. The rhythmic sounds of the waves soothe each emotion that arises, and the wind reminds me that nothing is permanent, it’s always moving, all in flux and flow.
I read the book ‘Outrun’ at the start of the residency, about a woman on the Shetland Islands. The book moves between her memories and her present, not conflicted but rather more poetic and connected, like she and the land were one. In my own moments on the beach I can relate to this. My inner stirrings are mirrored by the natural movements of the sand, sea and rain. Even the hostility of the weather is like an echo of how unwell I felt at the start.
Later, on my wanderings, I listen to the audiobook of ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You’. Somewhat heavier than the first book, it takes me even more deeply into parts of myself, revealing how shame had impacted on my way of being as an adolescent. Shame has a heaviness to it that I can feel in my body, and it churns my stomach. Feeling like a hidden infection that is being addressed years later, making the healing more painful.
Between my beach walks I stop in cafes for steaming cups of tea that provide a welcome warmth. There is not much respite from the wind and the rain, just enough to catch my breath. The outside offers a totally sensory experience whereas inside I find myself contemplative and cosy.