There were two parts of Northycote Farmhouse that really affected me when I took part in a drawing symposium run by the University of Wolverhampton recently. The first was the sittingroom in the farmhouse itself, the second was an area of Medieval pasture land just beyond the grounds of the farmhouse which, as participants of the symposium, we were lucky enough to have access to even though it isn’t normally open to the public.
On Day Two of the symposium, one of the other participants went into the field with a couple of others and returned seemingly enlightened, describing her experience as ‘Alice-in-Wonderland like’. She felt compelled to write a poem about how she had felt. This intrigued me. I wanted to feel the Alice-in-Wonderland effect also. I felt that I had to visit the field myself.
The following day, Day Three, I did get to visit the field. The Alice-in-Wonderland friend of mine came with me, and another friend came too. Shortly after we crawled through barbed wire into the field we felt an odd, profound, deeply moving sense of peace in that field. It is very hard to convey what that felt like. I wouldn’t generally describe myself as a deeply spiritual person. My life is too busy for such pausing for thought and hippy dippy reflection.
However, standing in the middle of that field I felt so moved by something that I still think about it quite a lot two weeks later. The best way to describe it would be to say that I felt as if I were actually, physically stepping back in time. Once beyond the initial boundary of the field, the atmosphere became calm, oddly quiet, still and steeped in something I can’t articulate. Was it history? It was the weight of something. It wasn’t unpleasant. It was extremely pleasant.
The grass has grown completely fallow and long, and bouncy. I think unless you feel it for yourself, it is hard to understand what walking on that grass was like. It was as if the ground was undulating (the ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ experience). The trees in that field feel old and ‘wise’. They loomed sedately and heavy with observation and knowledge. I felt aware that there was animal life in the field, yet I couldn’t see it. There were tracks left by furry animals of some variety. Yet I know not what they are and I could not see them. I could not hear them.
I will remember the experience of walking around that field for a long time. It was like nothing else I have felt before. I didn’t want to leave it. The grass wasn’t really ancient, even the trees have evolved a great deal since Medieval times, yet I felt as if I was there, back in time.
The philosopher’s brush, or the Ship of Theseus, strikes again.