For months now I have been filling my head and heart with all things of the far, distant North, and farthest South too. Increasingly, as the weeks go by, I have been dwelling, in my mind, in places of ice and water, reading of explorers of a frozen world few of us have seen, watching this drama about Ernest Shackleton, trying unsuccessfully, to see this exhibition about his journey, (although it will be on for two years, so I'm not worried about missing it!), being unexpectedly inspired by a talk I attended by a wonderful geologist-turned-textile-artist called Ann Fleeton, at this months Irish Guild of Embroiderers meeting, gathering books and images and inspiration.
|Dark Ice by Camille Seaman.|
But it all started with the happy coincidence of two things coming my way within days of each other, which settled onto the already lingering taste of two books I had read in the last year. The first book was The Stillpoint, by Amy Sackville, which I have to say is one of the finest written books I have read in many a year. It contains one of the most heartbreakingly romantic love stories, as well as descriptive writing that will make you swoon, and read and reread countless paragraphs again and again.
The other book is less to do with snow and ice, and more to do with the kind of desolate places that some of the characters of The Stillpoint find themselves. The book is by Judith Schalansky, and is called 'Atlas of Remote Islands, Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will.' Incredibly beautiful and thought-provoking, and in fact, winner of the German Arts Foundation prize for The Most Beautiful Book of the Year. It is a book I keep by my bedside and dip into continuously.
|The Last Iceberg Series by Camille Seaman.|
So, the two things. First, these incredible photographs by Camille Seaman, which are just majestic and beautiful and completely enthralling to me. (She also photographs clouds like no one I have seen before.)
And then this most wondrous thing that I found via the lovely Nancy, of The b In Subtle, which I now have my heart set on and will go on some day! A ship, The Noorderlicht, a century-old Dutch schooner, which carries a boatload of artists and scientists into waters around Norway's archipelago, who's mission is 'to seek out and foster areas of collaboration to engage in the central issues of our time'. In other words, to 'discuss' global warming and related issues, and to make art about it. The project is called The Arctic Circle , and well worth checking out. As I write this, Irish artist Ruth Le Gear is there now, collecting arctic water in tiny bottles.
I have not stopped thinking about it since first coming across it.
I would give anything to be there right now, in this magical place who's time is limited, and who's face is changing by the year. To record something of it in my own small way.
|The Last Iceberg Series by Camille Seaman.|
In all of this, my light relief has been rereading Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. So today, when I saw it, I could not help but purchase, and immediately immerse myself in, a very beautiful, small book by him called Once Upon Time In The North, a sort of precursor to Northern Lights. It was the small size of it, and the cover, that did it, a cloth-bound thing of beauty that had on it an engraving by John Lawrence. Indeed it is filled with such engravings, beautifully rendered, on almost every page.
So I sat in the hairdressers for a little over an hour, while the best kind of misty, autumnal rain quietly closed in around this seaside town of ours, a haze of silver and grey outside the window, and lost myself in a grim, desolate icebound island, where sour, suspicious people live alongside panserborne, or polar bears, a once proud, great culture, and now seen as nothing but drunkards, vagrants, who skulk the bleak streets of the dismal town.
When my time was up, I put away my book, and took a winding road up into the rain clouds, between two mountains, surprised at the lack of icebergs in the grey sea below, through the silent silver haze, listening, as I do most days, to music from the north lands, this time Sigur Rós, (Iceland is about as far north as my music taste goes, for I am well and truly stuck there, without hope, or desire, to be unstuck!), my head filled with snow and ice and frozen lands.
When I arrived at school, it was too wet to stand around chatting, so as I waited in my car I opened facebook on my phone, and the first thing I saw was a post from Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, a video called A Homeless Polar Bear in London. I had to take a look.
As I said, I love how these things all just come together like a beautiful dance that is perfectly choreographed, and suddenly your day just seems like a story, or a dream, with all things dovetailing beautifully.
This time a dream of expansive snowy landscapes, vast tundras of ice, blue icebergs and polar bears, and crowds of white sea birds relentlessly thronging the bitter air.