Find Your Crying Place
Do you have a happy place, a crying place, or both?
It is common to refer to ‘being in a happy place’ as a metaphor for feeling good, we are rarely referring to a location when we refer to our happy place.
A crying place is different. It is somewhere we visit, to lie low, like a wild animal. To calm anxiety, to release tears. More often than not, it is a specific location. It may be indoors or outside, in a cupboard under the stairs or at the top of a mountain. Whether the space is vast or enclosed, it must hold us. Because we are unable to hold ourselves and we brim over. It must allow us to have solitude.
A crying place is somewhere, where one can release emotion, often in private and feel safe, unobserved. It is a very important place.
Whilst we are confined to our homes due to the Covid19 pandemic feeling alone can be challenging. Some people may find being at home with family a wonderful opportunity to bond, others might be struggling badly for many reasons. Social media is flooding with videos of happy families singing together, communities getting together on conference platforms and reading poetry, doing yoga, discussing gardening. But not all families are so happy, and whereas previously they could walk out and escape, now they can’t so easily do that. Sometimes getting out is a necessity for vulnerable people.
As an antithesis to the parental mantra of ‘get outside to play and get off that screen’ we are now going to our computers in droves. They are our life line. After many years of social media being slammed and considered the devil because ‘people don’t get out any more’, it is now our only social centre, bar the telephone and letter-writing. No shops, libraries, gyms or community centres.
The saving grace is that we can go out for exercise once a day. So we need to make that outing enjoyable. And I do!
I decided to find a new crying place to visit. In my book, ‘Severnside – An Artist’s View of The Severn’, I mention a previous crying place, from which I looked out over the Severn.
Shepperdine was my bolthole, I went there when the currents of my emotions were dragging me down. I would walk along with my dogs and sing a favourite song from choir – “All will be well, all will be well”. The Severn lifts my spirits, always has, always will.
Initially, I had described it as my crying place, then dropped that term in favour of bolthole. The earlier drafts described how I would go there when I felt upset, take the dogs and lie on the slope of the flood-bank and sob. I remember how it felt, to get out of my home and release my feelings into the open air, unobserved by others. I smile now as I write this as I notice the word flood-bank is a very apt one. On reflection, by later editing out the lying on the grass sobbing part, even in my autobiographical book, I was unable to present myself as vulnerable. Instead, I described myself as a positive, optimistic, happy-clappy woman singing songs as I walked.
How hard it is to be honest with oneself about these things. Writing this is my self-imposed penance. Self-isolation is inclined to evoke contemplation of life and the universe.
When I finally left the east bank of the river to live on the west bank, I had to relocate myself in the local landscape too. Where I live now is very close the banks of the Severn, so I set off up into the hills behind the village to walk and explore and get the long view. On the way up to Pleasant Stile, across the meadows, there was a tree-stump at the top of the last field. It was high, about one and a half metres, and I used to climb up onto it and gaze at the horseshoe bend of the river below me and look over to the Cotswolds. It became my Forest of Dean crying place. I would sit and draw, breathe, cry and wonder at the world, then return home feeling lighter, relieved of my burdens. Looking the other way, I occasionally drew the view of May Hill in the distance.
What needs mentioning here, is that both of these places inspired me. When there, I took photos, did drawings, recorded sounds, collected flotsam and jetsam, read books. Not surprising that my professional work as a producer involves commissioning art for unusual locations and I wrote a book about the Severn.
Back to the now, this strange time when we are challenged by having both everything to do, and nothing to do, at the same time. One piece of exercise allowed outdoors a day, but where to go? The tree stump has been removed, to run a new track through the fields. Electric fences now zig-zag the hillside and the footpath is hard to follow. I miss it, but everything has its moment. Things change.
I decided I must relish my time outside, so I struck off for a walk in a direction I hadn’t been for many years, because last time I went the footpaths were untended and impossible to get through. I sought to try again, heartened by seeing someone from a distance walking there.
Suffice to say I have found a new crying place. At a time when everything else is moving fast and furious with unexpected twists and turns, I found the place to ground me, to escape to. Next to the Severn, my anchor. With open views and wildlife, washed up branches, quiet corners to lie down in, off the path.
My days of self-isolation are over. Yes, I am in my tiny house every day apart from the necessary outings for food. But now I have purpose – a new series of photographs and films so far, maybe some drawing when it gets warmer. There is a swing on a tree facing the river, with a railway behind it. The occasional passing trains fracture the soundscape, the roads are now very quiet. I swing. I film.
Sitting on the crooked wooden seat, I am in my happy place. Lying on the ground, looking up at the clouds, the tears scud down my face as I consider how special this world is, how good it is to be alive and to be able to lie there. Unseen, alone and coping (just).
The swing connects me with my creative inner child and lying on my back on the ground, my adult.
Right now, I need both, due to unstable horizons.
(also published onMedium)
associated video film:
PS I will have a new batch of copies of Severnside – An Artist’s View of The River for sale very soon. Get in touch if you want one – there will only be 100 copies available.