Walking the Gyre
Greetings from Simon Persighetti (Wrights & Sites). Thanks for the FOOTWORK experience in Hayle, Cornwall, April 2015. and here is……
The trash vortex is an area the size of Texas in the North Pacific in which an estimated six kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural plankton, along with other slow degrading garbage, swirls slowly around like a clock, choked with dead fish, marine mammals, and birds who get snared. Some plastics in the gyre will not break down in the lifetimes of the grandchildren of the people who threw them away.
On my first day walking on the Riviere Towans, I meet a man walking the sand dunes lugging a bulging garbage bag and a hook. He tells me that he carries out this task everyday, collecting and clearing litter amidst the marram grasses and along the boundary of the campsite. The rubbish, mainly paper or plastic could among other sources, be the result of ignorant holidaymakers simply leaving their cares and trash behind them. He says with a smile, “It’s weird that people come to stay here because it looks like paradise yet some of them bring hell in their wake.” He tells me that he cannot help himself from doing this task every morning. His stance as he rakes his way through the emblematic logos of carrier bags and shimmering crisp packets portrays the stolid figure of some kind of apocalyptic pilgrims progress. This warrior of the trash vortex reminds me of a picture book Labours of Hercules or trials and impossible quests meted out in fairytales. We exchange conversation about pollution but I am struck by this man’s lightness and philosophical attitude to the litter almost as if it has simply become a way of the world like an unquestioned answer blowing in the wind.
During my sand dune and beach walks as part of the FOOTWORKS occupation of Hayle, this exchange remains with me, drifts with me and the poetics of this conversation act like a gyre in my thoughts. Plastic, the arch enemy of Greenpeace takes on a transcendental and ethereal quality. The acid reds and greens, the whole rainbow of drinks bottles, shredded fishing nets; parcel tape and crinkly ghosts of supermarkets remind me of Bower Bird architecture. This bird builds elegant palaces of twigs and coloured stones to lure a mate and like the fabled Magpie adopts the pretty gems and silver foil of consumerism to broker procreation.
Perversely this poisonous, earth-choking waste stops being an enemy and starts to become an intrinsic aspect of the world I know. The world of intertwined nature and plastic becomes for a short sojourn, the norm. Having said this I am not suggesting that this particular territory is worse littered than other stretches of coastline in these idyllic sandscapes of Cornwall. In the main, the impression one is left with on St Ives Bay is one of wonderment at the vast stretches of fine sand, the lack of overt commercialism that one might find at other seaside resorts. Rather, it is the very scale and beauty of this landscape that draws attention to its paradoxes or human-made contradictions.
On this route I become aware of walking as a means of embodied investigation by letting navigation go to the winds, letting my walk become a sensing action rather than a means to arrive at a pre-ordained destination. One of the provocations of the workshop came from Phil Smith who began a walk day by asking us to crawl around the house on our hand and knees. This was a tuning activity prior to going outside for a day designed to provoke and stimulate new senses in the art of walking and the walking as art. Of course an adult crawling under tables or up and down stairs immediately triggers regression to childhood and further back to a time when the Darwinian imperative to become an upright being is in its earlier evolutionary stages. As we crawl we sense the surfaces, the textures. We are low enough to ground level to catch the smells of things and to be looking up to the light. The personal associations will be different for all of us but the reminder that we learnt how to walk before we were able to name it, as an activity is palpable. I remember distinctly, my leaving home aged 17.
I remember standing at the front door saying goodbye to Mum and Dad without the knowledge of its profound significance to them. Perhaps the ultimate reason to learn how to walk had been in preparation for just such a decisive action. I am reminded now that my Father and Mother had themselves made such a departure at an even earlier age as evacuees during the Second World War. Walking and Memory/ Memory and Walking.