Guest Post – Therese Doherty
Welcome to Therese, second of the guest-posters from A Big Stone Rolls Inside, with descriptions of two characters who emerged during the workshop. I’m intrigued by what might happen when these two characters meet – hopefully Therese is going to follow up and let us all know! I think that what I like most about them is that what they are doing – a daily ritual, compulsive movement – are things we have all done; I know why I did those things at the time, and reading these short pieces I’m left with that delicious sort of wondering about what is motivating these two. Over to you, Therese…
The first of these pieces was written after doing a physical exercise to get the blood pumping and remove inhibitions, and then sitting down, closing our eyes, and visualising someone. I found the image of the man standing on a ridge came to me straight away with the sun behind him and the golden landscape in front of him, and his particular stance with his hands held out to drink in the light. His sadness, or melancholy, was immediately apparent (a past transgression on his part is the cause of the sadness—and guilt—though it is still a mystery to me exactly what the transgression was). I have substantially re-written this passage as my initial writing was the bare bones and needed to be shaped into something tighter and clearer.
The second piece was written after another physical exercise where we walked around to the beat of a drum and attempted to embody a character, who in this case was someone that I had already imagined in a previous exercise—a young woman who turns up on the doorstep of the melancholy man, having lost her way and needing a place to stay for the night. Here I have written about her arrival in the small village, not far from the home of the man, and her heart-led decision to take a particular path onwards to her fate. I have made some minor changes to this passage, but overall it is as it was first written.
There is a man standing on the hill behind the stone house, his slim shape silhouetted as the sun sinks behind him, his hair blown by the slight breeze as he stands, palms facing forwards, held out reverently, as if soaking up the rays of light reflected off the landscape before him. He waits, still and calm, watching as the light moves, the shadows of the valley lengthening and deepening in intensity. His wide open hands are worn, for this is a man who has known hard work, no stranger to soil and tools and leaves and thorns, tilling the earth and picking the fruit of the harvest. But sadness hangs from him like clinging ivy, and this is the only time that he has to be free of it, briefly, facing away from the light, yet facing the landscape of light, the ever-changing, glowing hills, gleaming in the last golden rays of the dying sun, dying in readiness for rebirth tomorrow. His hands absorb the light, hands that will work again, day after day, covered in dirt and callouses; but his sadness cannot be cured by dirt, and perhaps not even by the setting sun, yet it is worth a try, climbing the hill each afternoon—when the sky is not overcast—and hoping, praying, in this time of golden silence, that something will change, that something will enter into him via his open palms and through his patient eyes. He hopes and prays that the sun will guide him and that the light will fill him up, fill the emptiness inside.
She was walking through the small village after alighting from the train. It was the end of the line and she was happy that she had come this far, had escaped from the soulless existence she had left behind, yet she still wasn’t satisfied that she had come far enough. From here, though, she had to walk, relying on her own two feet, and she strode with a determined gait, as if she knew exactly where she was headed, though in reality she had no idea. But movement was the key—just keep moving, keep travelling.
As she walked through the main street of the village she passed local people, some with friendly, curious faces, others ready with a scowl for someone who was new and unknown. She averted her eyes. People were not to be trusted for they only did harm. She was determined to be independent, to walk her own way, so she ignored them and looked down at her feet, putting one foot in front of the other.
She walked on through the town and along the bitumen road which then became dirt which then became a track, and she walked on and on. It was approaching noon and the light was glaring and mirages seemed to shimmer on the hills ahead of her. She felt hot and tired but she knew she couldn’t stop yet, for ground must be covered until she finally felt safe.
She came to a sign directing her along a path which would take her to the next village. She knew that was where she should go, somewhere that she could get food and a place to stay, but something in her head pinged and she turned and walked in the opposite direction, the way that went away from civilisation, away from what she knew and expected. She had been through danger, pain inflicted upon her, but this was a risk of another kind, a self-willed risk, something heart-led, a message from within: Go that way.
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