Borderlands #3

Borderlands #3

Theme: What the Land Says

Extract from advance information:

‘Borderlands is a gathering of people concerned with nature, loosely inhabiting the borderlands from the South of Scotland to the North of England. It is open to anyone. Speakers are invited from the arts and sciences to share their research and practice on themes connected with the natural world (or the ‘more than human world’ as David Abram calls it). It is a chance to share work-in-progress, network with other practitioners and to contribute in some way to making the ‘state of nature’ part of a wider conversation. So far, gatherings have happened in Wooler 2015 (on an open theme) and Dumfries 2016 (Wetlands, Questions of Scale).

In 2017 we will meet at Burnlaw, near Allendale in Northumberland, to consider the general theme ‘What the Land Says’.  Over two days of the weekend of the 22nd– 23rd April, the speakers and workshops will take place on Saturday and there will be a walk on Sunday.’

Report of Borderlands #3 at Burnlaw by Richard Young

What the Land Says – an experience

A mixture of curiosity and excitement filled me on ‘Earth Day’, 22nd April 2017, as I went to Burnlaw above the Allen valley for the third Borderlands gathering. It was a beautiful day in a dry April. After a lovely welcome I enjoyed being part of an inspiring combination of over thirty people and the place, art and artists, sounds, poets and poetry, photographs, project members and policymakers, scientists, gardeners and storytellers, all with a deep and thoughtful relationship with our environment in the widest of senses.

Our senses were indeed opened – by hugs and greetings, by the persistent uplift of the call of local curlews and sheep (subsequently by songs of willow warblers and arriving redstarts too) smells of wild garlic focaccia from the kitchen, the feel of the ground under our feet and bodies, the sights of the fields, moorland and woods. All this was developed over the two days into a genuine sense of collaboration and listening, epitomised by the Renga walk Linda France led on the Sunday. We each attempted to respond to the six places we visited in two or three lines of poetry, helped by prompts including the four classical ‘elements’. The result, ably curated by Linda, is a poem that conveys much about what the land said to us that day.

The rest of the Saturday was a feast of environmental art, science and thinking – as well as Martha’s lovely food! I developed a deeply enhanced respect for such remarkable skills shown in listening to and recording “the land” in sound, image, research, story and poetry. Following a shared meal we were joined by others for the evening for Salmon Tales. The story, perhaps best described as a Norwegian meditative polemic, was interwoven with Torgeir’s electrifying Sami singing and playing. I retired to my small tent to hear a Barn Owl screeling overhead in the darkness.

I’m left with a surprisingly forceful awareness of an expectation laid upon me by “the land”: to really listen, to be aware, and to witness.

Richard Young, 25 May 2017