'As I follow the labyrinthine diversity of personal geography, lived experience grounded in nature, culture and history, forming landscape and place, I have to dream a little, as well as listen for the political wake-up calls.'
(Lippard, 1997 p5)
An evening walk into a soft twilight, full of promise. I follow the path down the edge of the fields towards the river, following tantalising ribbon tails tied to trees and bushes as way markers, and the snatches of song that rise up from the river bank intermittently. It feels like a taste of the bucolic, pastoral English estate that the Elmhirst's were looking for when they arrived at Dartington in the 1930's.
The idyllic scene is interrupted by a plume of dark black smoke unfurling above the fields to the right of the path. Is the ancient river of oaks that walk alongside the River Dart on fire? No. The smoke is rising from further afield, beyond the boundaries of the estate. I relax again, happy in the knowledge that the problem is 'outside' of this place. Of course the smoke doesn't know this, nor would the fire if it surged out of control. The estate 'boundary' is a concept unknowable to natural phenomena, yet as human's (thinking in the Western capitalist mindset at least), we so often use the notion of the limits of places to define them. These limits have to recognised as constructed of course, and constructed in relation to discourses of ownership, power and control, not to mention their relationship and mutability to the flows of history and memory.
I choose to forget about the fire 'elsewhere', and continue my walk alongside the river, and then back up through the wood to the brightly lit hall, warm and welcoming against the rapidly darkening skies.