This week I’ve been putting together a plan for my next Creative Scotland community workshop, while simultaneously delving into the mill archives on a totally different mission. As ever, some very interesting connections are beginning to form!
The workshop will be based around a sensory tour of Barry Mill, which raises the question; do writers and artists have (or need to have) more than their fair share of senses? I’ve touched on this previously in my post ‘Walking with rabbits and butterflies’. Back then, I was referring to the outside space, but what about the interior of the mill? It certainly lends itself to the ‘normal’ five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, taste – but what about that indefinable sixth sense?
Sometimes we need to be silent, to ‘listen’ with that inner ear, and to write with that inner voice. One of the objectives of my residency at the mill is to observe how people react to their surroundings. The mill building with its layers of history, its textures and shifting patterns of light and shade is sure to provoke some interesting responses, and I’m hoping as many folk as possible will turn up for Saturday’s challenge!
So what did I find in those archives? Former miller Peter Ellis (listen to his story here; The Miller’s Tale) has long been an avid collector of poetry, and several of the verses I discovered made me think about another way of relating to the mill; colour. Walter de la Mare’s miller, in the following lines, fears he is in danger of disappearing into the landscape:
Once was a Miller, and he would say,
‘I go as white as lambs in May!
I go as white as rose on bush!
White as the white convolvulus!’
He snapped his fingers, began to sing:-
‘ White, by my beard, is everything!
Meal and chalk, and frost, and hail;
Clouds and surf and ships and sail.
‘There’s nowt on earth that brighter shines
Than daisies, pinks and columbines;
But what of ME when full moon doth show
And mill and meadows are deep in snow?’
By Walter de la Mare
(From Collected Rhymes & Verses, 1944)
The repetition of the word white and the imagery it conjures up immediately stimulates the mind’s eye. The poet’s job is done without any need for complex structure or form. Similarly, if I mention the electric blue of the kingfisher darting across the mill pond…well, you get the picture. That’s all writing is, committing that feeling, that sense, to paper.
What colour will your week be?