Each Others' Islands
1. about the project, the twinning idea. (Click here)
2. drawings of British and German islands together (Click here)
3. an excerpt of my first text about the project (Click here)
4. poetry about islands (Click here)
5.plunging into history: murky waters (Click here)
6. this one 😃
(all photos, drawing and writing mine - with much more in the pipeline).
contributions are welcome and will be collected, once we have fundraised for this project as part of a bigger thing, then will be more interactive! The 'we' is me with Simon Bradley, we work together as artcouple.co.uk. And this is my other blog: colourcirclesite.wordpress.com
Thursday, 30 May 2019
Water carries memory, murky waters carry history: names echo sad sea. And unexpected stories too.
Here comes the story of Borkum: the name of an island in Germany, war camp in the channel islands, and also that of a ship during the war... there were the traces and the routes of colonialism too, which went through the sea.
When you’re on an island
Or even once you reach a coast
You can see what it really is you’re living on
You see a side of the earth here
It’s the perspective of the land from the edge
So go to a coastline, have a look at sea-level
Look at the land from the edge
See at this level, look out for this dimension
Sea-points, viewing points, edges
Cutting edges that cut out the shadows of the moment
The surfaces of unconsciousness, in favour of
Direct, immediate exposure: sea-level to deep sea
Then there’s another possibility, a way of finding
What’s below: ground level to cave
Go there to seek your unconscious, you’re closer here
In this inside-oasis
Here you might find
That, overall, points of view
Are really points of you
And your hand, your palm, mirrors and echoes the landscape
With each line a river.
© Ursula Troche, 4.17
Seaweed grew tall
In the light of the evening sun
Gaining in height
As part of the ontology of the sea
And its attendant
Symphony of the land
Music and knowledge
Have made the landscape into what it is
Giving voice to the dream of the earth
Sending messages up to the feet of the seaweed
Growing into meaning-making
At the edge of the land
Landscape longing, I move to the end of land-ness
Taking this as a vantage point for our connectedness
With the sea, the seaweed, the world and the sun signs
Of growth, for the light is the midwife of all bloom
And water is another: essential element of energy
Nurturing, night and day, enacting freshness
Sea-listening occurs just as much
With my insight from the seaside side by side
With the land, looming large, and where invisible
Continuing under the sea, land everywhere
Seen and unseen, with our without sea.
© Ursula Troche, 4.17
The sound of the seals
Articulate the silence
So silence has attained a wide scope
Of meaning, interpretation and fascination
This side of the northern, sea, this seaside
Echoes the sound of seals, magnifying the magic
Of life in tune with the sounds of silence
© Ursula Troche, 4.17
Open ended, open minded
You recommended the sky
As a space to concentrate on
A place to look up to
I’d never expected to do just this,
And for long periods of time,
But there was a lot going on there
Clouds and birds and sun and moon
And even my hand, when I hold it up
I wave with it, addressing the sky
And perhaps I even
Make waves with it
Sky-waves, like airwaves
Transmission waves, waves like brushstrokes
On the beach, painting the land as it washes it
A special form of ephemeral water colour painting
And so we have reached the water
Waves operate in two dimensions, two elements
Agents of motion, wave-levels:
Air-level plus water-level equals wave-level
Its equations, reflections and reverberations too!
Sky, like the sea
Blue at last!
© Ursula Troche, 4.17
Water forms, not water falls: water-rivers even sometimes. Sometimes water even rises evenly, sometimes it rises suddenly, and sometimes it rises like this:
I divided the patches of grass and the patches of trees into water and land whilst sitting in a train in Poland. It’s the longevity of the view of exclusively grass and tree patches.
I’ve been imagining more and more spaces of water in my life: I’ve been thinking about the times I keep still for a life modelling pose as water – posing the process of swimming from one water’s edge to another, and the times around the pose as land-time, normal time, solid space. It’s exacerbated by the keeping of silence and nakedness whilst posing, the resumption of talking and of being dressed when not posing. When a pose finishes, I stop being dipped and submerged into my inner life on this intensive, intriguing and immense level.
© Ursula Troche, 12.16
The beginning of Each Others’ Islands
We tend not to know each other’s islands. They tend not to appear along the outlines of the maps of the countries we live in. Many islands are simply too small to be seen from a distance. At a distance, then, they become hidden islands, coming into existence only when taking a magnifier, or when a map is big enough to accommodate the details, the nitty-gritty, little nuances of the coastline.
The scales of our maps determine the schemes in our heads, and so we assume coastlines to be solid, not realizing how much is going on around a coastline, the rugged edges, and the shapes they make, sometimes with islands, and sometimes with lakes and lagoons around the line, that coastline. Then there are those countries, where the coastline in itself is an island. The UK is of course on of them, but it doesn’t disappear off the maps that we are familiar with. It’s big enough to count as mainland, with lots of little islands around itself. However, most Caribbean islands, for example, don’t stand out on maps, being rendered invisible by map scales. There are whole nations in the sea that seem to be invisible! Whole countries that appear only when you look closely! What is a nation in a state beyond visibility, a metaphor for marginalisation? What does it feel like to live somewhere which is invisible? To look at a globe and come from a country that appears as nothing but ocean! If we would only use larger maps, so we could only see all the dots of land in the water!
Even with the larger scale maps we use for the European continent, In Europe, lots of islands still go map-missing. Last year, I discovered Caldey Island, off Tenby, Wales, little islands in the Medway river mouth in Kent, and Tabarca, off Alicante in Spain! I first caught sight of the amazing outlines and shapes within the Medway Mouth whilst on a plane. Here where you have a view from the air, you have an overview, and so you can see shapes and arrangement of land and water, which you do not see from a land-perspective. Also on a plane, I saw Tabarca. I was flying to Alicante, and saw this island just before landing. Thinking it is too small and too close to the coast to be Mallorca, I kept wondering what it is I saw. It was Tabarca: off the shore near Alicante, just like Caldey island is off the shore opposite Tenby. For Tabarca island it was the aerial plane-view that made me discover the island, for Caldey Island it was its lighthouse. The blinking light at night I noticed got me enquire where it comes from, until I saw the next day that there is an island behind the coast! So here it was: another island that goes missing off the maps too frequently, not because it is not on the map but because the maps we use are too large-scale, and thus the details go missing!
One could go into yet more detail and find that both Caldey Island an Tabarca are more or less like twin islands: Caldey more and Tabarca less. This is so because Caldey Island has an edge of itself which is, at regular intervals, another island called St Margaret’s Island. In other words: at low tide there are two islands in the sea, and at high tide there is only one island. So island definitions are changeable, and island count depends on the tide. Outlines, hence, rise and fall, and are sometimes more out of line and sometimes more in line. The details depend on what is happening at each moment of looking. Pinning islands down to a particular arrangement, then, goes, ultimately, against the law of the tides. On the other hand though, if a coastline moves without coming back at the next tide, and does so again and again, then there are other factors at work, and the melting of the icecaps, for example, could have found a worrying echo here. So we have to try not to disrupt or pollute nature, in order to keep the (tidal) rhythms and outlines going!
Some islands have funny names, such as Rough Island, in the Solway Firth, and some islands appear to have no name, such an island I cannot mention, except to say that it’s an island that cannot be named! Some islands are just about islands, or rather islet-islands, such as four little ones further outside of Tabarca by Alicante. They are a little group of mini-islands with a group-name (los Farallones), so they have made it into the books and records, being solid enough to be known and seen! Some islands are just rocks or sandbanks, skerries or reefs, or too small to be any of those. Yet other islands are completely submerged under the sea – but these are not islands we are looking at, because we can’t look at them! They don’t count when it comes to island-counting; only land that you can see counts, land above sea-level. So it’s a sea-level too! This level is the limit. And literally, it’s a littoral matter!
Even on sea-and surface level, as we have seen, the shapes that we expect are in reality much more intricate. If you come closer, you get to know more, such as the spaces of land inside what you assume to be just water. Then there are the more stable water-and-land alternations: some coastlines are full to the brim with them in wavy to zigzaggy patterns and all sorts of amazing shapes and islands appearing everywhere around the coast like a dance along the side of the sea. It’s even arbitrary whether to speak about a coastline, because there is not always much of a line there at all, if we think of a line as more or less straight out/line. If we do not, we are closer to reality, for so many of those lines are wavy. It can even be confusing to figure out what is coast and what is island! That is to say, which details of the wavy shapes you can see on a detailed map form part of the coastline, and which of these forms are islands - and then, as a third option, which of them might be peninsulas! Peninsulas are then yet another kind of intermediate shape to look out for! Land and water alternations! There’s another option, and that is the shape of a lake. Some water areas that you see near the coast might not belong to the seaside directly but are lakes instead, showing no connection to the sea but being ‘framed’ by land all around. Lakes and lagoons: I was amazed to find lots of lagoons along the Mediterranean coast of France, so that when you’re on the train along the coastline, you don’t just see water on one side, but on both sides, with the train in the middle rather than on one side! In France, and elsewhere too, e.g.: Poland, Spain, lagoons just off the coastline occur next to a straight line, in other cases, there are no straight lines anywhere.
The whole picture can be so intricate, interesting and confusing, that you might get the impression that the coast, or the islands, are dancing! Or the coast is dancing with its islands and vice versa! Scotland and Norway are obvious coasts full of dancing islands. There’s a presumption of islands there, though some of these, too, go map-missing. Other coastlines keep their islands much more hidden to maps altogether. Such as the German coastline which looks rather straight on most maps, and only reveals islands upon closer inspection. The islands of the Netherlands are still more visible, and by the time, that group of islands reaches Germany, they look to have moved so close to the coast, as if non-existent. But once you get there, more similarities, apart from land-and-water and water-and-land, will arise to you, similarities and transitions – or similarities as evidence that transitions have occurred. Or transition as transmission!
We could spin dialogues around the sea, make a sea-ing and a see-ing forecast around the shipping forecast. We could name our own inner islands, and our sunken lands. We could name our oceans and our drowned elements. We could find that whilst no man and no woman is an island, we are all islands together. We could do all this and more, there is a lot more to be seen and to be said! We may be like privileged refugees, if having the choice to go on an island, and having the choice to return too. By being conscious of our choice, we might help the project of humankind-ness too, to get to know each other, through each other’s islands. Edges and coastlines as meeting points, and more importantly the land-outposts beyond the edges! The edge at the centre, the space between us!
So here are some ideas of island-twinnings.
Island Twins: these names thrown together might seem odd because we are not used to them, but these are our names - there's often some unexpected similarity in the name, even more than the shape.
Islandinsel is a double word with the same meaning...! it's an island, and then it's an island again!
That is, it's the same in English and German. 'Island' is an island in English, and 'Insel' is an island in German. So this blog is about islands in Britain and in Germany. It all started in Papay, a little island in Orkney, which is an amazing archipelago off the north coast of Scotland - that's when this project was born, and it grew from there. It was in Papay, where I was reminded most strongly of my 'childhood islands', which are the islands of the North Sea coast of Germany, which I spent holidays in as a child. And then, further north, in Papay (the long name for the island is Papa Westray) the coaat looked like when I was young! I looked into more ad more similarities, and I found more and more as well! There were similar names of other islands, and there were similar locations elsewhere. Such as the Uists in Scotland, which was like Juist in Friesland. Friesland and Scotland in terms being regions with more islands then other regions in the same countries. Then there's landmarks that have echo-landmarks in each other's islands, such as The Old Man of Hoy is echoed by Long Anna in Heligoland. So I thought we need an exchange here: can we talk about each others islands?