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Coming Home to Faversham

Faversham, 24 July 2014

Dear _____________

I hope this finds you well.

I have been back in Faversham for two weeks now. It has taken me a while to adjust to being here after nearly 3 weeks of walking for the Ideas Test Funded project Walk Swale Medway. There is still a lot to catch up with that project, as well as keeping up with other work – promised work, pending work, unfinished work, upcoming work. Work. Work. Work. You know when you say a word too often…

It has been a strange and rocky adjustment to being home after Walk Swale Medway. I was moody and depressed, tearful, and flat. I couldn’t explain how profound my experience over the time away had been. Worst of all, walking everyday began to feel like a chore. I even looked it up, and if Post Vacation Blues is on Wikipedia, then it’s a thing. Just to clarify, I wasn’t on a holiday with Walk Swale Medway – I was working – genuine, bona fide, art in action, but could I find Post-long-term-art-project-blues? Of course not. The closest thing to a search like this brings up the Federal Art Project, part of the Great Depression’s American New Deal Works Progress Administration, so at least it made for interesting reading. It also chimes well with the objectives of Ideas Test funding in Swale and Medway, which has a remit of increasing arts engagement and is employing artists to do so.

In 1936, the Federal Art Project employed over 5,300 artists at its peak for employment. “The Arts Service Division created illustrations and posters for the WPA writers, musicians, and theaters. The Exhibition Division had public exhibitions of artwork from the WPA, and artists from the Art Teaching Division were employed in settlement houses and community centers to give classes to an estimated 50,000 children and adults. They set up over 100 art centers around the country that served an estimated eight million individuals.”

I suspect my own statistics (more work on the list!) will be more modest, and I found the parallel interesting. But I serendipitously digress – such is the search engine world in which we live.

Back to the Back at home blues. This image and post from Instagram and Facebook a few days after returning sums it up a bit. Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 18.21.12

“Life has gone on without me, events unfolded for other people, and yet everything seems unchanged.”

I also realised that before I started walking, I had become used to making, and was returning home to SO MANY DECISIONS.
All the time, heaps of seemingly overwhelming decisions.

I had the joy of almost no decision making while walking. The most difficult thing to decide was which T-shirt wasn’t dirty. Or whether I would like a cup of tea from one of my lovely hosts. No decisions. Not many possessions. No make up. No fat clothes. No mirrors. Coming away from this and back into my life was overwhelming. Difficult. Embarrassing. How could I complain about such a great adventure filled with so much generosity, kindness, and encouragement? I had had the opportunity to give and receive such a profound experience. I only went for a walk. And now I felt displaced and odd in my own place.

I met someone recently who was concerned that his neighbours took an interest in him, and wanted to share their stories in return. He was uncomfortable with this and found it peculiar. I said, (on reflection, perhaps too sharply), that people probably weren’t really that interested in his business and have their own business to worry about. I thought about this today when I was walking home, and it reminded me of another neighbour who doesn’t greet me in the street – I suspect I was seen as nosy and too chatty after a meeting or two. Can’t please everybody. Like everyone, I want to have my privacy and autonomy over my life without feeling judged, but I also want to be content with my place in my family, my friendships, my community, my work, and the world. I guess it comes down to whether it’s about listening and human connection or empty chatter and passing the time. I’ll take both, because, for me, that’s what makes the world a place that’s good and kind. Perhaps what I think is empty chatter makes someone else’s day in sharing it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll learn something, maybe I’ll feel virtuous for being patient, maybe I’ll feel I belong somewhere for someone, if only for a moment. Whatever.

I always had these words on the wall when I was growing up (thanks Mom and the 1970’s) from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”

So, I’m coming out as what I am…chatty, interested, and yes I want to know people’s business, but don’t worry, I’ve got my own to keep me occupied, too. This is how I want to fit into my world, and these are my Desiderata, my desired things.

Write when you can,

Hope :)

Walking to Whitstable

Saxon Shore Way, Faversham Creek

Walking to Whitstable

Faversham, 18 June 2014

Dear ____________

I hope this finds you well.

Almost a week ago (how does this happen!?) I walked to Whitstable. I had arranged to take part in the Whitstable Satellite exhibition organised by Rod Lupton in his Summer house along with other artists who have been regularly involved with what has become known as Assembly, which was first organised by Rod in 2011 in Faversham’s Assembly Room in Preston St. The name has stuck, moving since to the Horsebridge in Whitstable, Beach Creative in Herne Bay, and finally the current Summer House. Another instalment is planned for July in Whitstable at the Horsebridge.

When Rod sent out an email about the Summer House idea, I was in the midst of imagining and planning for my upcoming Ideas Test funded Walk Swale Medway project, in which I will be walking across Swale and Medway for around 3 weeks, led largely by suggestions from social media connections and the people I meet. Walking to Whitstable and seeing how a longer walk might go in the lead up to the project seemed like a good idea. I suggested it, and planned to walk on the last weekend of the Biennale.

Although I walk everyday in Faversham, I felt a bit daunted by the thought of walking a longer than usual distance.  I wander, sometimes for shorter times, sometimes longer, noticing stuff, following the next interesting path I find, and stopping to chat to people. I have walked to date within a range I am physically comfortable with, so I worried that a longer walk might be difficult.

Physically, on arrival to Whitstable, I was ok. My expectations were that the walking would be difficult, but it wasn’t bad. I was tired by the end, and my knees ached a bit, but I walked steadily and my timing was my own. I sat on the sea wall for a bit, looking out at the incredibly low, low tide of the North Kent coast, and then I walked again. All very simple and straightforward.

What I didn’t expect was the mild jolt of arriving, the adjustment to talking with people after several hours of time and headspace that were completely my own.   I am naturally conversational, so finding it difficult to form a sentence was a surprise! It felt like a very odd displacement, and reminded me of an earlier time in my life when I returned to Cambridge, outside Boston, and thought how strange and unfamiliar very familiar things could be.

Rod was hospitality personified and patiently guided me to the Summerhouse after making sure I was fed and watered. It was a wonderful walk and I would encourage anyone considering it to go. And if you have already been – I get it now.  Amazing.

Vipers bugloss near the Sportsman, Seasalter

Vipers bugloss

Sunset at Whitstable

Whitstable Sunset

Sun and shadow

Sun between the beach huts

Whitstable Biennale satellite

Summerhouse morning

I woke in the Summerhouse next morning very early due to the daylight and went in search of the sunrise. I was feeling very smug about Faversham Creek and its sunrises, but Whitstable came up with the a beauty. There were a couple of surprises on the beach, too, in the form of late night/early morning swimmers, au natural, shall we say!

Sunrise Whitstable

Sunrise Whitstable

Early morning dip

Early morning dip

I’ll be keeping in touch more regularly through Walk Swale Medway over the next few weeks, so  pop over there if you’d like to keep in touch, and please do take part! I’ll be back in Faversham mid July, so write when you can!

Hope :)

Meeting the Neighbours

Faversham, 27 April 2014

Dear _____________

I hope this finds you well.  Walking continues alongside  the stuff of life – family, friends, thinking about projects and work. It’s been 10 months since I started walking and it remains a quietly surprising adventure that I feel sure will continue throughout my life.

This month I have been trying to capture more of the people I’ve met and talked to along the way. I’m practising for July’s Walk Swale Medway project, banking up courage to speak to strangers as I go, say what I am doing, and why I am doing it. As I go, this is constantly evolving as new conversations contribute to what may be.  I love the stories I get to hear. The generosity of people spending time to talk with me is lovely and reinforces what I want to believe – that there are more kind and good people in the world than not. Everyone hasn’t agreed to be photographed, but the conversations have been brilliant.

I hope that talking to people along the way and the photographs are a small way of sharing the joy it brings me to walk through and appreciate my surroundings, my community and the people in it. The process of sharing it only increases that pleasure in a self perpetuating circle. Thank you for taking even a small interest whether by reading, sharing, commenting, and liking stuff on social media or in conversation.  Every kind word of encouragement is greatly appreciated.

Here are some of my neighbours. Talk to yours – even just a smile is enough  sometimes! They might surprise you with a great story. You might make someone’s day with a kind word.  Let me know how it goes…

Write when you can.

Hope  :)

Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.07.07

~Click on the images below to see the original Instagram post~

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