It’s a windy day outside, my awareness drawn to it on the back of all the sunshine we’ve had here. Devon has been lit for weeks by the sharp light of the sun, and now I find myself back in the familiar damp, wet and windy wild of an average day. Some part of me wishes to rebel at the change, yet in all truth I welcome the wind and rain, sense in them their necessity, and in the cold clinging to me a demand to feel alive.
I regard myself as a tactile person, meaning not that I want to go around touching everybody, only that I value touch; a hand held, the feel of the wet on my face, a tool in my hand, of my body straining into the wind. It brings me a moment by moment relationship to the shifting rhythms around me, an ever changing texture to the world I inhabit. I feel I am an anolog being, a “mechanism or device in which information is represented by continuously variable physical qualities”.
When I make or write I feel also that I am in contact with these variables, with the changing textures and grain of the wood under the blade that I push over it, with the sense and emotion of the feelings that give life to my writing. My making, my words and my every moment are governed by the changing information I am receiving. I am most alive when I am most sensitive to these rhythms outside of myself.
The less resistance I feel through my tools in the grain of the wood I am working, the easier my task is, yet it demands less of me and though satisfying reveals less than a wood which offers me more resistance. A piece of straight grained Ash, cut from a plank cut from a tree that grew upright and fast, a companion to the other trees around it all competing with neighbouring trees for light, demands little from the sharp cutting edge of the plane. When felt and observed for the silky texture it reveals, it offers only a reflection of its limited experience of life.
Another piece of Ash, harvested from a tree twisting and adapting to the ever changing rhythms of light and wind exposure, reveals a different story, offers me a more demanding task in responding to its “continuously variable physical qualities”. When I cut through it, alter my cutting angle, the tools I use and access a more varied response to it, it reveals through that hard work a more dynamic and holographic result. It glistens where I have cut across its figure, where the sharp edge has revealed the story of its constant structural change. It comes alive as I look at it from different angles, shimmers in the light, reinventing how it appears as I move my vision across it.
It is similar when I write. If I seek to only describe what I see on the surface , to transliterate only my visual observations, then I will not have opened myself to the depth of possible experience. It is the undercurrents, invisible to the eye, that reflect back the spirit of what renders us human, that have formed the essence of who we are. The writer looks through the surface and seeks to reveal senses hidden to the eye. They respond to the constant variables they feel around them, to the essence of our human condition.
Having written my first book, MATERIAL and now shepherding it through the final stages of the editing process, I am very aware of how the writing of it has shaped me. Of how my responses to the subjects I bring to life in the book, have brought to me shifts and changes in the substance of myself. I am not the same person who started writing the book 18 months ago, but a newer version crafted by the variables that my experiences in writing it gave rise to. I have been continually shifting, altering, re-programming as my world view opens in the writing process.
As the manuscript becomes a proof, I the writer also morph to the new tasks required of him. I find myself in unfamiliar territory, asked to dig myself out of obscurity and present myself to the world on social media, to do webinars, videos and make podcasts. The confidence with which I can make or write vanishes, and I feel as a child in an unpredictable world. I feel as if I am an anolog human of another time dropped into a digital universe hurtling to a future that I cannot comprehend. Yet this is the resistance, the wind roaring around me, the rain clouds gathering, from which I might seek to hide, or to which I choose to expose myself.
I am unfamiliar, for my usual tools do not work here. I cannot communicate through the actions of my hands, I cannot feel another in the room, yet I am beginning to ask myself how different is it in reality. Is it only my fear of it, that holds me back, it’s unfamiliarity rather than any particular threat it poses?