a beach as project-space + a short story of place
Beach 100 is a little beach near me, which is located between two sort-of-piers, which used to be quays when there was a shipyard there. So now it has become a post-industrial former shipyard-beach. The stones on the beach still appear like boats in the harbour that once was: echoes carried forward! The two now-turned-piers are close to each other and the beach in between narrow, and when I first counted how many steps it would take me to get from one end of the beach to the other, I counted 100 steps! When I counted again the following day, it was only 95 steps, and the following day it was the same. But I stick to my 100 as this was the first count I did, so hence the name.
It’s great to have this unusually narrow beach as a local beach – it’s the perfect place for repetition and art-interventions. It’s got a view out – into the sea – and a view in, to a bit of the town behind the wall, the sea-wall. Beyond it on the land-side is a tree-stump in the bushes, which has become a place of intervention as well.
It is not kept well though: as it is so close to town, a lot of waste and empty bottles get thrown here. So at first sight the beach looks like a dirty bit of sand. I collect some of the thrown-on-the-beach bottles, both as a beach-clean and for art projects: this is where most of my bottles for my eco-art project come from, which started on World Earth Day, the 22nd April.
Then the stone-and shell collecting began, limpets and objects both bigger and more bizarre: fishing rope, toys and pieces. All these have given rise to a number of ideas, play
and assemblages. The limpets, the Irish Sea round. I walked and worked the beach too with Simon, we found objects here and found sounds of waves and seagulls and more. So it’s become a concentrated space of collaboration as well.
It’s a beach one can walk out of – during low tide one can walk all around the pier on the right hand side, where the pier structure boasts a Scottish flag-look, with its St. Andrews-style cross.
It’s a beach between Rivermouth, Firth and Sea: the rivermouth is to the left and is the River Ellen, the firth is to the right, the Solway Firth, and the sea is all around: the Irish Sea. A sea not often mentioned but always seen.
From this beach you can our local lighthouse, and behind it Scotland, in the shape of the mountains of Dumfries and Galloway.
On the 26th September this beach once again gave birth to a launch my Ortstory-project. An Ortstory is a short story of place: ‘short’ without ‘sh’ leaves ‘Ort, which is the word for ‘place’ in German – so here is a term made up of two languages.
So Ortstory is one words in my series of language-images as well, but as it’s bigger than my other ‘bilingual’ words, as I think of this as a genre: a new kind of short story, which is rooted in place: so, very much a psychogeographical story with a linguistic twist.
On this day when I went down to my local beach, this beach-space felt like a canvas to me, so this is my inaugural Ortstory then:
Ortstory on Beach 100:
A beach like a canvas, like an ever-changing painting, made by the tides, with low-and
high tide marks making moving spaces in time. Sand, stones and shells being splashes of paint, tides leaving marks, making changes.
Limpets and cockles, scallops and winkles distributed across the wet sand, this time not just wet from the sea but wet from the rain as well: and so waters meet frequently. Seaweed too, and seagulls gallivanting or flying through the wind. Moves occur in the air and the sea, boats appear not so frequently: the port is of the past, just the pier remains and a little harbour with a marina. Much is missed though seldom spoken, the past is silenced over long periods with short intervals. The canvas of the beach turns out to have paintings under it, readings too, like a palimpsest. Words might emerge, a story might stay for the short while of the intertidal exposure. A short story then: it won’t be long until the tide comes to hide the land and the patterns on this its sometimes-sea-less surface. Look and listen whilst you can.
So this is what happened today when I walked down along the estuary, then the sea. I went past the point of the low tide mark, not in space but in time – the low end of the stretch of the tide has just been. I went forth by the Firth, make my way to the Solway Firth, my soul and I, like hand in hand we go, soul in body, body by sea, water to water, gathering thoughts and dreams down at this edge of return, and ever turning tunes like sea-songs.
With each walk to the beach a poem in reach, then written down in wavy fragments, reflecting ripples on the beach bed, casting shadows between light fields on the sand.
I find limpets next to my writing place, and collect them, together with other shells. I look at the pattern of stones and shells in the sand and try to guess what has changed since the last time the tide was high. That was a few hours ago, and that would have meant, as always in this rhythm played out on the beach, a rearrangement of the details it causes. Details: the way in which stones and shells and seaweed lie there, where they have their place: the lie of this tidal land. Changes we might never notice as to exactly where they are, changes like the subconscious. Only occasionally found. Found out now, as I write, I might catch the secret before it rolls down again like the next high tide. After this it might reappear, that secret, here but not quite here, and hardly to be found, situated on the edge of oblivion, if it wasn’t for attention paid to it. All this, and if it wasn’t for the close observation of tidal transformation which might just hold on to my consciousness beyond itself – or so it may seem in this wet sand.
This wet sand of a beach like a canvas.
I go home with my hands full of shells – this is my catch for today. I don’t catch fish, I catch exteriors, my catch is what has once held little animals: their discarded exteriors I have caught, it’s their shells I gather and keep. Sea-life to sea-shell, living to housing. Structures that become obsolete to the animals and of interest to me. I delight in this, identify with it, I, the has-been animal, connecting on the beach.