The Great Lines Project/Blog

Since November 2013 I have been chasing the history of a line.

Contour lines on maps were first invented 400 years ago, or perhaps only 250; depending on whether isobaths (the submarine version) count. If you stay above ground then Newcastle born Charles Hutton is the man.

I assumed foolishly that there would be a book – one academic – that had pulled together all the strands: who first, why, who saw their map and created the next evolution. But that book isn’t there. Instead I’ve been amassing leads in the Netherlands, Italy, Britain and France, slowly pulling together the threads of the story.

Bear with me, if you like maps, walking, art or detective stories you might like: The Great Lines Projectcontour 07

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Traces of Place

In the way one might prepare a garden for winter, I’ve begun tying loose ends; checking maintenance plans and photo updates from the ranger service, still following up ideas regarding how we might publish the story, updating my website with residency images (there’s never the ‘perfect shot’ – the one that would sum it all up).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd in my head I’ve switched already from woodland to wandering other estates, both urban housing and (post) industrial. 2 new residencies – temporally and geographically within a gnat’s crotchet of each other – warrants a new blog: Traces of Place, follow me there if you want!

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Pre-occupied with other projects, today was the first time in a while ‘my glade’ sprung to mind, perhaps because during an early walk I saw a scattering of cones on my path as if the woods were playing a haphazard game of marbles.

I realised there’s still many more images – interventions other than the cut leaves – that should be shared.reflection The burnt rings on the dead bushes are likely to remain looking the same, but I imagine their ‘leaf collars’ are long gone – unless someone with a sense of order has replaced them. All the cut segments of leaves had been caught, gathered up and strewn within a circle of leaf mould scuffled into a low perimeter – again with a collar of ‘aperture’ leaves – I imagine that too no longer exists; too many happy dogs tearing through in pursuit of a nameless smell. Hopefully other interventions are replacing mine where children, wind and trees – in a repeating cycle – play and rearrange and play.

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Invitation to Play

I have so many images from the launch now, yet when I think about publishing some I feel overwhelmed: which? How many? sbb Brodick signageBecause the reality is I would prefer to meet you there! We could explore and play in the glade together.

I get glimpses of other’s visits: who has followed the discrete signage made by the rangers, who has ‘liked’ their online invitations to go there, to play.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I wonder how many visitors passing the ‘gardener’s tree’ at reception notice the label: Rhododendron k arranensis?

Instinctively I bought a carnet of tickets for the ferry, knowing I’d have 2 journeys ‘left over’, I like this tangible connection and want to remain witness to the ongoing, changing nature of the project. Perhaps feeling so close to it still is inhibiting my ability to select images that could ‘sum it all up’.

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State of Play

The rhodi’s are growing, the terminal buds opening into leaves – not the flowers I had anticipated. The pink tip opens to momentarily form a crown of ‘petals’ around the pale soft baby leaves within. I cut some.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The phrase ‘kill your babies’ flits through my thoughts as I ruin the downy surface with clumsy fingers and watch sap tearing along my rough cuts, a disturbing experience and yet curiosity drives me on.

Beneath the trees older leaves have already fallen, one white, another bright yellow, the cut shape more startling off the tree than on it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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arranensis is here

The first Sorbus arranensis leaf I saw was a wet brown thing lifted from the mulch under the tree by the Ranger Centre. In my haste – amid preparing for the launch – I nearly missed re-visiting that tree now so resplendent in flower and with each new leaf exquisite – perfectly and uniquely ‘cut’.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo Sunday 2pm, there we were a small reception team huddled under the Rhododendron k arranensis in Cnocan Glade wondering if anyone would willingly join us in the rain. We watched the sky glow darker, the lightening flash through and fat drops of ‘tree rain’ plop into our prosecco cups and we toasted our unluck. The germans have a phrase: Glück im Unglück and that was ours, as the visitors arrived, the rain withdrew leaving globes of sunlight pooling wet leaves; a fitting backdrop as Sara read her story.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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The Story

The story is written, it’s incredible! And it’s unfair to give anything more than a flavour rowanhere:

“The Rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia, the mountain ash, the traveller’s tree; a laughing pioneer, it grows where other trees dare not go – further north, higher up in the free mountain air, crouching low against the vicious hill winds and the arctic blasts. Birches huddle together against the cold, but the rowan strides out alone, solitary and bold.”

I am really looking forward to hearing it read – by the author – on Sunday in Cnocan Glade. It’s about the place, the trees, the nature of change and so much more besides. Each time I read it another element – seamlessly woven in – leaps into life.

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