Notes from a Diary, Inshriach Bothy, October 2013. I have just come back from a weeklong residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.
I was alone for a week, off grid, the longest time I’ve ever spent completely isolated. I had no plans for the week and no idea what to expect. I was both nervous and excited.
The following pages are taken from a diary, which I kept for the week.
Set up by the Bothy Project a few years ago the Bothy is a beautifully designed off-grid artists live-work space set on the banks of the river Spey in a quiet woodland area of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Bothy is heated using a wood–burning stove by which I also cooked all my food, boiled water for tea and my outdoor shower. Drinking water came from a natural spring on Inshriach Estate and water for washing from the rainwater harvesting system. Lighting was provided by a solar powered lamp and lots of tea lights. And the toilet was a surprisingly luxurious composting toilet a little walk from the Bothy.
After dinner of Fish and Chips and a couple of pints of Guinness, I’m well set for an adventure
Depart Euston 21:15
Caledonian Sleeper – upgraded – I have my own room
I settle in pretty quickly, top bunk of course, and begin reading John Irving’s Life of Garp before falling asleep
Strange dreams unsettled and anxious
Tiny video screen inside head – disjointed imagery, seen from within the body everything but the screen is pitch black rich muffled and velvety it feels like I’m watching from within a cocoon
2 shapes hover in the middle of the image one a glowing green viridian with a tiny touch of yellow the other icy pale blue and slightly grey, they both glow like transparencies the green more so.
Hovering between one world and the next
I wake up in the dark. The train creaking to a stop
Looking through a tiny hole in the blind I see we are standing by a platform not a soul in sight. The hole in the window framed the image like the video in my head. The train was my body this hole my eye.
Day 1: Aviemore 6 am
Misty, cold and frosty,
I want to walk like a ghost into it, disappearing in the mist.
I remember that Butoh walk; pulled forward, leaning ever so slightly, floating, head steady, body empty.
It feels great to be here; to give myself time to get lost in the world and go slightly crazy, space to see how that happens, how my mind works – and to discover the background film in my head.
Aviemore – a distant memory
Tramping as a group through deep snow, I’m following the footsteps of someone really tall, they’re wide apart, and deep. I have to awkwardly jump between them. Trying hard to keep up and find a rhythm.
Arrive Inshriach Bothy 10am
I meet Walter from Inshriach Farm who kindly drives me to the Bothy and shows me where everything is, The wood store, axes, water, toilet etc.
I set about chopping my first pile of wood. It’s fun I enjoy the physicality of it, swinging the axe, concentrating on the point where I want it to split. I light the fire and settle in.
The sounds are amplified and fascinating; I wish I had a sound recorder
Fire – Crackling Popping Breath
Chopping wood – splitting
Trees – Creaking Shuffling Rustling
Roof – Creek
River – Gurgling Deep guttural music
Squeak of door
Pee on sawdust
Feeling the need to capture everything – trying not to
Walk in forest – explore using my hand as a filter
I just go where I want to, there’s no path, I quickly begin to realise how big it is. It’s massive! I keep thinking about horror films and folklore and worry about getting lost.
My phone is completely dead.
Lying on the bank of the Spey after a long walk.
Warm in the sunshine, eyes closed, sunlight filtering through. Everything is pink, orangey-pink like looking through skin, it’s slightly opaque. The walk comes back in flashes through the pink, branches move in and out of focus, camera pull. Forms are mostly tonal, every now and then the memory breaks through clearly and then pulls back to pink
Nothing makes sense it’s not linear
Gurgling river nearby
Slipping, flickering through one to another, multiple levels, layers without hierarchy.
Sound and volume is key
Blurry visions, half-awake half-asleep, [it’s still dark] the ceiling is covered in geometric patterns I fall back to sleep they’ve gone when I wake up again but I keep thinking about them throughout the day…
In-between state, half waking, when the slippage between reality and dream world is most apparent. I want to make a pair of glasses that help hold on to that slippage throughout the day so I can keep moving between worlds.
Long walk in the woods again, take the main path in
Make some camera filters from things I’ve found
Today I read some Scottish fairytales and discover that Cold iron, red thread, running water, the rowan tree were thought to be protections against threats of the dark night, half seen or invisible real or imagined, malicious spirits or unexplained illnesses
I felt scared tonight for the first time–
I think through what’s nearby – The Rowan tree outside, The River, the cast iron stove (though I think it’s still hot) and I have some orange thread in my bag, not quite red I know. I convince myself I’m safe and soon fall asleep.
Gentle rain this morning. Smells earthy and slightly mouldy outside
Reading Justified Sinners – an archaeology of Scottish counter culture 1960-2000
‘The steel of logic has daily to be strengthened to contain the volcanic element within. It grows daily more hard to contain.
I AM A KIND OF BOMB’
Alexander Trocchi 1963 Cain’s book
‘What must occur, now, today, tomorrow. In those widely dispersed but vital centres of experience, is a revelation. At the present time, in which is often thought of as the age of the mass, we tend to fall into the habit of regarding history and evolution as something that goes relentlessly on, quite outwith our control. The immensity of the forces involved, we, the creative ones everywhere, must discard this paralytic posture and seize control of ourselves. We must reject the conventional fiction of ‘unchanging human nature’. There is in fact no such permanence anywhere, there is only becoming.’ –
Alexander Trocchi 1963 – Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds
Feel fired up by the book. Write some angsty poetry
Noticing the habits and structures I assume.
What voices do I listen to?
What structures my life
What ghosts do I carry with me?
Decide to make my own path. Become scared and explore my fears
Beautiful mist this morning.
Quiet pin prick crispness inviting you to walk in and in
Trees suspended barely moving
Everything almost frozen but not quite
Ghostly nets everywhere
Wrapping trees, shaping the space between things, trapping whatever moves through it
Sun creeps through trees
Eyes in the spider webs this morning
Feeling dreamy this morning but I let myself wake up. Light fire, make my tea and porridge, very quickly I notice I’ve lost my quiet half state, lost the magic line. I’ve followed a pre-set pattern. I want to crawl back to it, get hooked on its horns, dragged through the bracken, buried in the mist, half-awake between worlds.
Test out solar radio
Catching voices on the air, drifting in and out, other worlds
‘and they’re dropping off like dominoes they’re all just going away…’
[White noise, signal goes]
I remember being sick as a child, my ears would go funny first, sounds would warp, become intermittently distorted and make my head feel like it was swelling, spaces expanding and shrinking like a balloon… it’s easier to believe things and be disturbed by things like this.
‘Someone was looking to reverse a bus through a gap’
Walk To Loch Eileen
– happy leaving paths today and getting lost. Find some interesting filters to take pictures through and begin a collection of transportation objects (totems from the hidden world), they’re junk mostly.
Get lost as it’s getting dark. Try to check the map but don’t really know where I am. The mist is coming in…
Give up on the map and eventually find my path home.
The air thick, holding them up between every gap, every leaf
The thickness isn’t suffocating but heavy with anticipation
Drops of dew fall occasionally one leaf flickers, like an itch, murmurs through the tree
I think of Tadashi Endo speaking of Butoh –
‘The body is empty – only then can it be moved’
I’m anxious this morning, had some crazy dreams last night
I begin to wonder what I’ve achieved so far –always a useless thought process
I try to distract myself and go for a walk
This place feeds my imagination it’ feels good to blur the lines between dream and reality.
There’s some kind of story brewing in the back of my mind.
It’s disjointed. Hazy and Filmic.
Walking along a small track, I’m being pulled, led by something the string is invisible but it’s definitely there. I’m following in someone’s footsteps. Walking a track in their mind. Why did they choose to bend it this way? Why go down this hill? The track quickly disappears, it leads nowhere, I make my own path on.
My eyes are closed
I ‘m looking for something
Pink-orange filter of skin with patches of clarity, edges blurred
Sound is muffled, my breathing loud inside my head
Nothing is found
nothing makes sense
Mushroom hunt – I have become obsessed with the variety of mushrooms, they’re so strange Begin to make some drawings and spore prints.
Walk along banks of Spey
Filmed a pair of birds dancing on a branch in the river
Find the weirdest mushrooms yet
Come back to find that the spore prints made my drawings all soggy
Film the light fading to the sound of the crackling fire.
it’s so peaceful
Long walk in the woods again – only occasionally stumble across a path. Love getting lost
Sound of the woodpecker – I’ve never seen one before
Tricky to write it.
Tr – front roof of the mouth with tongue going backwards, mouth is held as if to say o
tr tro tro tro tr tro tro tro tro
The sound depends on the wood dead – flatter, hard – sing song
Filming along crag in the woods
cheek against the outcrop,
Taste of the textures
Amazing lines in the rocks, story lines and wrinkles. Interrupted and continuous.
Slab of rock overhead both protective shelter and foreboding weight above me
Sandwich: badly composed, not enough tomato. Soda bread can be really dry
It’s fun to walk with your eyes shut sometimes
You see differently
Slows you down
My footsteps are really noisy – quieter when I slow down
The front of my face is more sensitive than the sides
I notice the space between my feet and the road
My feet are intelligent
Walking like this clears my head
I sense something in front of me I jolt my eyes open, scared.
There’s nothing there
Pack up and take extra long over breakfast.
The slow pace feels luxurious.
I’m not quite ready to leave yet.
I leave early.
The train feels claustrophobic and noisy. Another world.
The 8 hour journey is long and slow. I finish my book half way back and wonder how to entertain myself.
There are so many conversations to listen to. I hear none of them and try to sleep.
My phone is dead again.
Arrive into Kings Cross Slap Bang into the heaving London bustle
I am super aware of the energy and feelings of people around me. My own mind is no longer separate.
There’s a driving buzz to it all, a sort of rush and speed which picks you up and swirls your head around and around
I feel quiet in the dizziness of it all
It’s been a great trip.