Pilgrimage #7: Notes From The Forest Floor

I just wrote an update for backers on the crowdfunder platform that I originally used to support this project. I thought some parts of it worth reproducing here as a brief overview of where I’m at.

I recently completed the fourth of five sections of the pilgrimage, and am looking forward to completing the final stretch to Canterbury in late April. For those who haven’t necessarily followed all the previous updates, the whole project re-formulated itself somewhat as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The pilgrimage itself has turned out to be a more inward-focused journey than the convivial and  communal experience that I had initially conceived, for obvious reasons. That said, I have found it an incredibly valuable space in which to renegotiate what it is that I do as an artist, and question what the role of an artist should be in these precarious times.

Aside from the walk itself, I have been queitly populating a simple website with diary entries from the pilgrimage and wider reflections. Each time I walk, I set out with a frame through which to focus my thinking. This is an emergent process, which I wanted to try and write about. The first of these frames was grief, and I was commissioned to write a piece about that for Dark Mountain, which appeared in early February and can be found on their website or reproduced on mine. For those unfamiliar with the work of Dark Mountain, but interested in the kind of thinking I am gravitiating towards, I would very much recommend checking out their work, which has been hugely influential.  

As my thoughts begin to turn towards the end of my physical journey, I start to turn over the question of what next? Like many of us, I have learnt the hard way over the last couple of years not to be in a rush. I’m used to being in  a rush. Modernity demands that we are in a rush. So to resist that, to trust in an unfolding process, and to move slowly and thoughtfully through my corner of the world feels like I’m engaging with the work that is mine to do. Pilgrimage helps with that. When I take time to stop and notice, and try not to push my own agenda, I’m finding that unexpected things spring up. I heard a phrase at some point over the last couple of years that Adrienne Maree Brown uses in Emergent Strategy – ‘moving at the speed of trust’ – and it’s something that I keep coming back to, something that keeps insisting that I carry it with me. Which I do, gladly. The connections and conversations that I’ve slowly nourished through this project are beginning to bear fruit in directions I could never have predicted. Dougald Hine talks about ‘close-to-the-groud culture’ and this work helps me get closer to the ground, helps me see the forest floor, notice where the funghi grows, sense the mycelial networks beneath and take a different view of the systems that I am entangled with. I will be writing about this more – ‘entanglement’ is the them of the next piece of writing – but I’ll leave it there for now.

See you on the road.

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Hello Ian
Lovely to read your piece and best foot forward to Canterbury. I have a CD recommendation for you. I have been to a couple of performances by Keith Christmas and I think you would enjoy his CD entitled ‘Life’. There are some terrific tracks and I particularly recommend ‘Book of Magic’. Good travelling and very best wishes. James Barnes (Simon’s Dad)

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