The Language of Birds

I was thinking of lines and circles and how all stories start there, when I noticed these circles of ice, each with a yolk, leading in a line to this little fall below a long-abandoned turf house at the end of the valley. Next stop the glacier.P1430219

 

I thought they were very nice indeed and stopped all my rushing around for a moment just to breathe in the same place as them, and then the whole world kind of stopped and fell into focus …

P1430247

Long stories of birds tracks, leading everywhere, even …

P1430251

… onto the ice floes! In this kind of talking, birds definitely have the advantage. For a while I followed the lines and sentences and song lines and line dancs of this story…

P1430228

The birds were writing a beautiful music. I felt I could almost read it …

P1430231

… and I knew it wasn’t random. There were too many stanzas and too much fine drawing work centred on stones, and I thought, well, isn’t that a beautiful thing: the delicate footsteps and the cold, hard stone …

P1430240

Somehow, it made the stone a lot more like air… really fascinating air. All this time, I was meditating on lines, of course, because Ken Blackburn, sculptor, put me up to that, and circles, so I thought, in my human way, that it would be a fine thing to follow those lines and learn the dance steps, so to speak. Who needed a mind. Let the body do the dancing, I thought. Well …

P1430234

… I could have paid more attention to this, I guess. But I was happy and out by the falls, with the water singing away, so I pulled my ball of wool out of my pocket, that I have been using as a very slow walking image-making tool — not a camera; something more physical and human than that, and I dipped it into the water …

P1430372

… and starting unwinding off of its bobbin. If you’ll remember, when I wound it there, I pulled the energy out of the Skriðuklaustur well, through the monastery garden, around and around the axle of the earth, through the church, and up to the carving of Mary (?) on the hill. Now I was unwinding that energy among the birds …

P1430309

… ah, yes, as you can see, the spiral of the first winding stayed with the wool. That made me realize I knew close to nothing. Then …

P1430273

… the wind demonstrated that I wasn’t going to follow the birds, no how, no when. The birds, for all their, I dunno, 90 grams of weight, could outgust the wind better than I. Maybe that randomness …

P1430271

… was a way of harnessing the wind. So, I thought, OK, I’ll be the human here, and let whatever lines I can make by pulling on the string, and whatever lines the wind teases out of it, lie against the lines of the birds and see what that’s all about. Well,

P1430316

… my line was awfully straight at times …

P1430321

… and retained a lot of memory at other times, and …

P1430324

… ooops!. But eventually my rather straight but colourful line seemed to frame the bird tracks nicely enough …

P1430330

… and sometimes even followed the birds …

P1430344

… even improvised …

P1430342

… and soared on flights of fancy …

P1430362

… in its own conversation with the rocks. Up into the rocks I led the string as it led me …

P1430300

… and when I looked back, I thought, well, I’m going quiet all over again, and I thought I had gone quiet before…

P1430311

Onward, up onto the sand …

P1430296

… and the grasses …

P1430291

… I went. Now, the thing about having 70 metres of Norwegian wool is that it has an end, and when you’re unwinding it off of the axle of the earth and get near that end, you start looking for a place to land, a place that has some physical meaning. The little birch trees, I thought, just like the spindle, but living, not dead! Well, I thought it, but the string ended here …

P1430290Wool, Spindle and Moss

at the end … or the beginning … of the line of blood and fire?

Yeah, which? Should I wind the spindle back from the water to the sky, or from the sky to the water, I wondered? Should I bring the well, through Mary, to the mountain stream, or the mountain stream, with Mary and the well, up to new life? Well, that was a no-brainer: to life! This story, I felt was not one that repeated itself three times to make a tight spell. It was going somewhere, although I did not know where. I had to trust it. So, I did, and I rolled that yarn up, slowly walking the path of the birds among the stones, over the thin ice, with the thinner creek below, and this time, I noticed this …

P1430386

… I didn’t make the first line in this place.

P1430388Or the second! Well, not counting the lines of the birds, but I think they were making more than a line, or a series of lines, but that’s skipping ahead in the story. For the moment…

P1430395Life! Richer than it was before.

The well in the Garden of Eden, the Monastery Church, the Baptismal Font, the Axle of the World, Mary (?) and now a flock of unseen birds, all right there, burning. 

The physicality of this method of slow photography charmed me: the wet wool on my fingers, the feel of the sheep’s hair on my fingertips, the cold, and the repetitive, meditative motion of winding it, and matching my footsteps to the winding had helped me to see this valley, and my place in it, intensely. And then, just when I thought I had been as quiet as I could be …

P1430418 … the birds came!

P1430423

They came by the hundreds, on and on, in a fast river, winding with the river upstream, weaving in the air, landing briefly, lifting, an tumbling on…

P1430425… and I went so silent that I just put my camera down and raised my arms into the stream of birds, as they came at me, materializing out of the water and the light, and laughed out loud. And then, as quickly as they came …

flyaway… they flew away over the fields. And that’s why it took me two days to get to the falls.

blue4

Strutafoss, Iceland

And that’s partly why they left me wordless with wonder.

~

The story of the wool comes to a powerful climax tomorrow. 

 

One thought on “The Language of Birds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s