Field Notes.4 – Gian Paolo Cottino

Welcome to 2017. Here is the fourth and final set of notes from Gian Paolo Cottino during our Forest Residency in August 2016. These notes follow an early dawn walk and a remarkable time listening to the internal sounds of trees on the final day of our residency.

PART FOUR

Moving between sleep and wakefulness.
This morning we awake at four thirty and proceed to walk towards the east, towards dawn. We are experimenting with Petra’s proposition of moving between sleep and wakefulness and to witness one another in this place.

When we reach the open fields belonging to the estate (as does the plantation we have been camping in), our path is sided by a ditch or a trough, and a wall holds our path back and above this ditch in the earth. This is the Deer Leap that Charlotte had told us about. A system devised to keep the deer that would jump down into the estate’s grounds from ever being able to return to the surrounding common woods.

I stay back and watch the group descend a small distance into the open valley of the estate. There they settle in a sleepy and silent witnessing of dawn. They look east and watch the pink and orange glow of the sun rise as a ball into the sky.

I feel the desire not to join them in that silence and set about looking for a tree. I see an old oak towards the north with a small incline of earth to one side of it and I walk there to lie down on my poncho. As I move between sleep and wakefulness I watch below me a line of experiences looking into the sun.

I feel strongly aware of following my instincts, and I notice the judgement of my self as I separate from the main group.

Looking on from here, I see the awake sleepers as a pride of lions in the early light of a savannah.

To the heart through a tree.
After Petra’s Sweaties and Friskies exercise ( revolutionary fun), I walk toward a circle of ash trees. They are maybe six to eight metres tall, their circumference between 30 and 40 cm. There are perhaps eight of them and they are still young and supple enough to bend easily in the wind.

Placing my ear against it’s skin I listen to one of these trees and I become aware that I can hear it’s wood, it’s fibrous body, bending and stretching and creaking like a ship in a sea of earthly fluids. I hear it’s branches touching another’s. Then I hear my heart and I become aware that it is beating faster and faster, louder…and I sense also that the tree is aware of me. Extending Ben’s craniosacral exercise and practising it with a non human being, I touch the tree and move into the tree and then responsively allow the tree to move into me. The whole experience softens me and yet I simultaneously feel strengthened by the sensuous exchange . As the whole group embraces my proposition to repeat this exercise together, I see our experience of this time and place shift and go deeper still. And I am definitely thankful.

Field Notes.3 – Gian Paolo Cottino

Here is the third set of field notes from Gian Paolo Cottino. The fourth and final one will be published in the new year.

PART THREE

The Water Hole.
I plunged into a pool of water whose surface was being strimmed by the wind. I was my father as a younger and leaner self. I watched him disappear under the water, agitated and concerned. Then, he re-emerged, calm, knowing and un-movable by the forces that had gripped the younger man to become dependent on drugs.

This morning, at first light, I walk to the water hole we had seen on our initial hike through the plantation. I want to look deeper within me, I want to find the stillness in these waters…and from this stillness to know.

I find my place under a pine tree on the southern edge of the body of water. Facing the north and in the midst of morning practice I see a man approaching on the track to my left. Ahead of him a Staffie dog is running, excited and bashful, seemingly led by a contortion of irrepressible muscle. I notice the man has removed his shirt to bathe in the sun’s light even though the morning is still crisp. His body is muscular and tattooed, and his head is shaved. I can see the dog’s curiosity is leading him towards the area I am in, and for a moment I consider the possibility of my presence surprising him and causing him alarm and agitation. For a moment I consider also that this man might equally be surprised by me and become irritated by the otherness between us and perhaps even question my purpose. But then I watch in stillness and I notice I am invisible to them. I notice also that it is the choice to be grounded and still that means I have been unnoticed.

The man sits down on the large boulder to my left and bathes in the light of the sun. Concerned of startling him I introduce my presence with a greeting.

His voice is soft, his being suddenly startled by another’s. We converse tentatively, about the water, the deer, the fox and the dragonflies and then he carries on with his journey, leaving me in the peace we’d both sought.

Woodpecker.
I see your strong neck vibrate and repeat your heart’s desires into the hard wood and I notice that it is with this beat that you make your home within the tree.

Field Notes.2 – Gian Paolo Cottino

Here is the next installment of observations from our time in the King’s Wood in August 2016 from collaborator and artist, Gian Paolo Cottino.

PART TWO

I feel I belong
I belong when I allow myself to belong.
I belong when I have the courage to belong.
I belong when my authentic self is welcomed by others.
I belong when I acknowledge the other.
I belong when I can give thanks.
I belong when I accept differences and take joy in the connections.
I belong when my eyes meet another’s and I see them light up.
I belong when I utter my name to the earth and I speak my truth.
I belong when I dare to have desires and longings.
I belong when I step away from the stories I tell about who I am.
I belong with my ancestors.
I belong to my self.
I belong in the landscapes within me and in the folds of the body I caress and walk upon.
I belong when I do my best.
I belong when I witness the mystery and I allow it to see me, naked and raw.

Then I am well.

Watching.
Working to no logical conclusion, they appear as suspended in the experience of work. Are we all caught in a loop of performance?

I see big casted knots of plaster in varying colours float just above the ground, soft and doughy lengths having been worked into different configurations, yet each rooted in a practical task, each functioning in relation to the elements.